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feudatories were permitted to assume, with a distin- CHAP. guished name and rank, the exclusive privilege of choosing the Roman emperor; and these electors were the king of Bohemia, the duke of Saxony, the margrave of Brandenburgh, the count palatine of the Rhine, and the three archbishops of Mentz, of Treves, and of Cologne. II. The college of princes and prelates purged themselves of a promiscuous multitude: they reduced to four representative votes, the long series of independent counts, and excluded the nobles or equestrian order, sixty thousand of whom, as in the Polish diets, had appeared on horseback in the field of election. III. The pride of birth and dominion, of the sword and the mitre, wisely adopted the commons as the third branch of the legislature, and, in the progress of society, they were introduced about the same æra into the national assemblies of France, England, and Germany. The Hanseatic league commanded the trade and navigation of the north: the confederates of the Rhine secured the peace and intercourse of the inland country: the influence of the cities has been adequate to their wealth and policy, and their negative still invalidates the acts of the two superior colleges of electors and princes.”
It is in the fourteenth century that we may view Weakness in the strongest light the state and contrast of the of the certy Roman empire of Germany, which no longer held, man em
peror, Charles IV.
A. D. 1347 • In the immense labyrinth of the jus publicum of Gerinany, I must either —1378. quote one writer or a thousand; and I had rather trust to one faithful guide, than transcribe, on credit, a multitude of names and passages. That guide is M. Pfeffel, the author of the best legal and constitutional history that I know of any country (Nouvel Abrégé Chronologique de l'Histoire et du Droit Public d'Allemagne; Paris, 1776, 2 vols. in 4to). His learning and judgment have discerned the most interesting facts ; his simple brevity comprises them in a narrow space; his chronological order distributes them under the proper dates ; and an elaborate index collects them under their respective heads. To this work, in a less perfect state, Dr. Robertson was gratefully indebted for that masterly sketch which traces even the modern changes of the Germanic body. The Corpus Historiæ Germanicæ of Struvius has been likewise consulted, the more usefully, as that huge compilation is fortified in every page with the original texts.
CHAP. except on the borders of the Rhine and Danube, a
single province of Trajan or Constantine. Their unworthy successors were the counts of Hapsburgh, of Nassau, of Luxemburgh, and of Schwartzenburgh: the
emperor Henry the seventh procured for his son the crown of Bohemia, and his grandson Charles the fourth was born among a people, strange and barbarous in the estimation of the Germans themselves. After the excommunication of Lewis of Bavaria, he received the gift or promise of the vacant empire from the Roman pontiffs, who, in the exile and captivity of Avignon, affected the dominion of the earth. The death of his competitors united the electoral college, and Charles was unanimously saluted king of the Romans, and future emperor: a title which, in the same age, was prostituted to the Cæsars of Germany and Greece. The German emperor was no more than the elective and impotent magistrate of an aristocracy of princes, who had not left him a village that he might call his own. His best prerogative was the right of presiding and proposing in the national senate, which was convened at his summons; and his native kingdom of Bohemia, less opulent than the adjacent city of Nurembergh, was the firmest seat of
his power and the richest source of his revenue. The A. D. 1355. army with which he passed the Alps consisted of
three hundred horse. In the cathedral of St. Ambrose, Charles was crowned with the iron crown, which tradition ascribed to the Lombard monarchy; but he was admitted only with a peaceful train; the gates of the city were shut upon him; and the king of Italy was held a captive by the arms of the Visconti, whom he confirmed in the sovereignty of Milan.
+ Yet, personally, Charles IV. must not be considered as a barbarian. After his education at Paris, he recovered the use of the Bohemian, his native, idiom ; and the emperor conversed and wrote with equal facility in French, Latin, Italian, and German (Struvius, p. 615, 616). Petrarch always represents him as a polite and learned prince.
In the Vatican he was again crowned with the golden CHAP. crown of the empire; but, in obedience to a secret treaty, the Roman emperor immediately withdrew, without reposing a single night within the walls of Rome. The eloquent Petrarch," whose fancy revived the visionary glories of the Capitol, deplores and upbraids the ignominious flight of the Bohemian: and even his contemporaries could observe, that the sole exercise of his authority was in the lucrative sale of privileges and titles. The gold of Italy secured the election of his son; but such was the shameful poverty of the Roman emperor, that his
person was arrested by a butcher in the streets of Worms, and was detained in the public inn, as a pledge or hostage for the payment of his expenses.
From this humiliating scene, let us turn to the His ostenapparent majesty of the same Charles in the diets of A.D. 1356. the empire. The golden bull, which fixes the Germanic constitution, is promulgated in the style of a sovereign and legislator. A hundred princes bowed before his throne, and exalted their own dignity by the voluntary honours which they yielded to their chief or minister. At the royal banquet, the hereditary great officers, the seven electors, who in rank and title were equal to kings, performed their solemn and domestic service of the palace. The seals of the triple kingdom were borne in state by the archbishops of Mentz, Cologne, and Treves, the perpetual archchancellors of Germany, Italy, and Arles. The great marshal, on horseback, exercised his function with a silver measure of oats, which he emptied on the ground, and immediately dismounted to regulate the order of the guests. The great steward, the count palatine of the Rhine, placed the dishes on the table.
u Besides the German and Italian historians, the expedition of Charles IV. is painted in lively and original colours in the curious Memoires sur la Vie de Petrarque, tom. iii. p. 376—430, by the Abbé de Sade, whose prolixity has never been blamed by any reader of taste and curiosity.
CHAP. The great chamberlain, the margrave of Branden
burgh, presented, after the repast, the golden ewer and basin to wash. The king of Bohemia, as great cup-bearer, was represented by the emperor's brother, the duke of Luxemburgh and Brabant; and the procession was closed by the great huntsmen, who introduced a boar and a stag, with a loud chorus of horns and hounds." Nor was the supremacy of the emperor confined to Germany alone: the hereditary monarchs of Europe confessed the pre-eminence of his rank and dignity: he was the first of the Christian princes, the temporal head of the great republic of the West:" to his person the title of majesty was long appropriated; and he disputed with the pope the sublime prerogative of creating kings and assembling councils. The oracle of the civil law, the learned Bartolus, was a pensioner of Charles the fourth; and his school resounded with the doctrine, that the Roman emperor was the rightful sovereign of the earth, from the rising to the setting sun. The contrary opinion was condemned, not as an error, but as a heresy, since even the gospel had pronounced, “ And there went forth a decree from Cæsar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed.”
If we annihilate the interval of time and space and modesty between Augustus and Charles, strong and striking of Augus- will be the contrast between the two Cæsars; the
Bohemian, who concealed his weakness under the mask of ostentation, and the Roman, who disguised his strength under the semblance of modesty. At the head of his victorious legions, in his reign over the sea and land, from the Nile and Euphrates to the Atlantic ocean, Augustus professed himself the
"See the whole ceremony in Struvius, p. 629.
w The republic of Europe, with the pope and emperor at its head, was never represented with more dignity than in the council of Constance. See Lenfant's History of that assembly.
* Gravina, Origines Juris Civilis, p. 108.
servant of the state and the equal of his fellow-citizens. CHAP. The conqueror of Rome and her provinces assumed the popular and legal form of a censor, a consul, and a tribune. His will was the law of mankind, but in the declaration of his laws he borrowed the voice of the senate and people; and, from their decrees, their master accepted and renewed his temporary commission to administer the republic. In his dress, his domestics,' his titles, in all the offices of social life, Augustus maintained the character of a private Roman; and his most artful flatterers respected the secret of his absolute and perpetual monarchy.
y Six thousand urns have been discovered of the slaves and freedmen of Au. gustus and Livia. So minute was the division of office, that one slave was appointed to weigh the wool which was spun by the empress's maids, another for the care of her lap-dog, &c. (Camere Sepolchrale, by Bianchini. Extract of his work, in the Bibliotheque Italique, tom. iv. p. 175. His Eloge, by Fontenelle, tom. vi. p. 356). But these servants were of the same rank, and possibly not more numerous than those of Pollio or Lentulus. They only prove the general riches of the city.