CHAP. ties." Each city filled the measure of her diocese or * district: the jurisdiction of the counts and bishops, of the marquisses and counts, was banished from the land; and the proudest nobles were persuaded or compelled to desert their solitary castles, and to embrace the more honourable character of freemen and magistrates. The legislative authority was inherent in the general assembly; but the executive powers were intrusted to three consuls, annually chosen from the three orders of captains, valvassors," and commons, into which the republic was divided. Under the protection of equal law, the labours of agriculture and commerce were gradually revived; but the martial spirit of the Lombards was nourished by the presence of danger; and as often as the bell was rung, or the standard" erected, the gates of the city poured forth a numerous and intrepid band, whose zeal in their own cause was soon guided by the use and discipline of arms. At the foot of these popular ramparts the pride of the Caesars was overthrown; and the invincible genius of liberty prevailed over the two Frederics, the greatest princes of the middle age: the first, superior perhaps in military prowess; the second, who undoubtedly excelled in the softer accomplishments of peace and learning. Frederic Ambitious of restoring the splendour of the purple, ois, Frederic the first invaded the republics of Lom–1190. bardy, with the arts of a statesman, the valour of a soldier, and the cruelty of a tyrant. The recent discovery of the Pandects had renewed a science most * Otho, bishop of Frisingen, has left an important passage on the Italian cities (l. ii. c. 13, in Script. Ital. tom. vi. p. 707–710); and the rise, progress, and government, of these republics are perfectly illustrated by Muratori (Antiquitat. Ital. Medii AEvi, tom. iv. dissert. xlv.–lii. p. 1–675. Annal. tom. viii. ix. x.) * For these titles, see Selden (Titles of Honour, vol. iii. part i. p. 488), Ducange (Gloss. Latin. tom. ii. p. 140, tom. vi. p. 776), and St. Marc (Abrégé Chonologique, tom. ii. p. 719). • The Lombards invented and used the carocium, a standard planted on a car favourable to despotism; and his venal advocates CHAP.

or waggon, drawn by a team of oxen (Ducange, tom. ii. p. 194, 195. Muratori, Antiquitat. tom...ii. diss. xxvi. p. 489—493).

proclaimed the emperor the absolute master of the lives and properties of his subjects. His royal prerogatives, in a less odious sense, were acknowledged in the diet of Roncaglia; and the revenue of Italy was fixed at thirty thousand pounds of silver," which were multiplied to an indefinite demand, by the rapine of the fiscal officers. The obstinate cities were reduced by the terror or the force of his arms: his captives were delivered to the executioner, or shot from his military engines; and, after the siege and surrender of Milan, the buildings of that stately capital were razed to the ground, three hundred hostages were sent into Germany, and the inhabitants were dispersed in four villages, under the yoke of the inflexible conqueror." But Milan soon rose from her ashes; and the league of Lombardy was cemented by distress: their cause was espoused by Venice, pope Alexander the third, and the Greek emperor: the fabric of oppression was overturned in a day; and in the treaty of Constance, Frederic subscribed, with some reservations, the freedom of four-and-twenty

[ocr errors]

cities. His grandson contended with their vigour Frederic

and maturity: but Frederic the second’ was endowe

d the second, A. D. 1198

with some personal and peculiar advantages. His-1250.

birth and education recommended him to the Italians; and in the implacable discord of the two factions, the Ghibelins were attached to the emperor, while the Guelfs displayed the banner of liberty and the church. The court of Rome had slumbered, when his father Henry the sixth was permitted to unite with the empire the kingdoms of Naples and Sicily; and from these hereditary realms the son derived an ample and

P Gunther Ligurinus, l. viii. 584, et seq. apud Schmidt, tom. iii. p. 399.

* Solus imperator faciem suam firmavit ut petram (Burcard. de Excidio Mediolani, Script. Ital. tom. vi. p. 917). This volume of Muratori contains the originals of the history of Frederic the first, which must be compared with due regard to the circumstances and prejudices of each German or Lombard writer.

* For the history of Frederic II. and the house of Swabia at Naples, see Giannone, Istoria Civile, tom. ii. l. xiv.–xix.


Independence of the princes of Germany, A. D. 814 —1250, &c.

ready supply of troops and treasure. Yet Frederic
the second was finally oppressed by the arms of the
Lombards and the thunders of the Vatican; his king-
dom was given to a stranger, and the last of his family
was beheaded at Naples on a public scaffold. During
sixty years, no emperor appeared in Italy, and the
name was remembered only by the ignominious sale
of the last relics of sovereignty.
The barbarian conquerors of the West were pleased
to decorate their chief with the title of emperor; but
it was not their design to invest him with the de-
spotism of Constantine and Justinian. The persons
of the Germans were free, their conquests were their
own, and their national character was animated by a
spirit which scorned the servile jurisprudence of the
new or the ancient Rome. It would have been a
vain and dangerous attempt to impose a monarch on
the armed freemen, who were impatient of a magi-
strate; on the bold, who refused to obey; on the
powerful, who aspired to command. The empire
of Charlemagne and Otho was distributed among the
dukes of the nations or provinces, the counts of the
smaller districts, and the margraves of the marches
or frontiers, who all united the civil and military
authority as it had been delegated to the lieutenants
of the first Caesars. The Roman governors, who, for
the most part, were soldiers of fortune, seduced their
mercenary legions, assumed the imperial purple, and
either failed or succeeded in their revolt, without
wounding the power and unity of government. If
the dukes, margraves, and counts of Germany, were
less audacious in their claims, the consequences of
their success were more lasting and pernicious to
the state. Instead of aiming at the supreme rank,
they silently laboured to establish and appropriate
their provincial independence. Their ambition was
seconded by the weight of their estates and vassals,
their mutual example and support, the common in-

terest of the subordinate nobility, the change of CHAP. princes and families, the minorities of Otho the third *

and Henry the fourth, the ambition of the popes, and the vain pursuit of the fugitive crowns of Italy and Rome. All the attributes of regal and territorial jurisdiction were gradually usurped by the commanders of the provinces; the right of peace and war, of life and death, of coinage and taxation, of foreign alliance and domestic economy. Whatever had been seized by violence, was ratified by favour or distress, was granted as the price of a doubtful vote or a voluntary service; whatever had been granted to one, could not, without injury, be denied to his successor or equal; and every act of local or temporary possession was insensibly moulded into the constitution of the Germanic kingdom. In every province, the visible presence of the duke or count was interposed between the throne and the nobles; the subjects of the law became the vassals of a private chief; and the standard, which he received from his sovereign, was often raised against him in the field. The temporal power of the clergy was cherished and exalted by the superstition or policy of the Carlovingian and Saxon dynasties, who blindly depended on their moderation and fidelity; and the bishoprics of Germany were made equal in extent and privilege, superior in wealth and population, to the most ample states of the military order. As long as the emperors retained the prerogative of bestowing on every vacancy these ecclesiastic and secular benefices, their cause was maintained by the gratitude or ambition of their friends and favourites. But in the quarrel of the investitures, they were deprived of their influence over the episcopal chapters; the freedom of election was restored, and the sovereign was reduced, by a solemn mockery, to his first prayers, the recommendation, once in his reign, to a single prebend in each church. The secular governors, in

CHAP. stead of being recalled at the will of a superior, could * be degraded only by the sentence of their peers. In the first age of the monarchy, the appointment of the son to the duchy or county of his father was solicited as a favour; it was gradually obtained as a custom, and extorted as a right: the lineal succession was often extended to the collateral or female branches; the states of the empire (their popular, and at length their legal, appellation) were divided and alienated by testament and sale; and all idea of a public trust was lost in that of a private and perpetual inheritance. The emperor could not even be enriched by the casualties of forfeiture and extinction: within the term of a year, he was obliged to dispose of the vacant fief, and in the choice of the candidate, it was his duty to consult either the general or the provincial

diet. oo::... After the death of Frederic the second, Germany stitution, was left a monster with a hundred heads. A crowd *** of princes and prelates disputed the ruins of the empire: the lords of innumerable castles were less prone to obey, than to imitate, their superiors; and, according to the measure of their strength, their incessant hostilities received the names of conquest or robbery. Such anarchy was the inevitable consequence of the laws and manners of Europe; and the kingdoms of France and Italy were shivered into fragments by the violence of the same tempest. But the Italian cities and the French vassals were divided and destroyed, while the union of the Germans has produced, under the name of an empire, a great system of a federative republic. In the frequent and at last the perpetual institution of diets, a national spirit was kept alive, and the powers of a common legislature are still exercised by the three branches or colleges of the electors, the princes, and the free and imperial cities of Germany. I. Seven of the most powerful

« ForrigeFortsett »