Beacon Lights of History, Volume III, Part 1
John Lord

Part 1 out of 5

The numbering of volumes in the earlier set reflected
the order in which the lectures were given. In the
later version, volumes were numbered to put the subjects
in historical sequence.

Beacon Lights of History

by John Lord, LL.D.

Volume III.

Part I--The Middle Ages.




Change of public opinion about Mohammed
Astonishing triumph of Mohammedanism
Old religious systems of Arabia
Polytheism succeeds the doctrines of the Magians
The necessity of reform
Early life of Mohammed
Mohammed's meditations and dreams
His belief in a personal God
He preaches his new doctrines
The opposition and ridicule of his countrymen
The perseverance of Mohammed amid obstacles
His flight to Medina
The Koran and its doctrines
Change in Mohammed's mode of propagating his doctrines
Polygamy and a sensual paradise
Warlike means to convert Arabia
Mohammed accommodates his doctrines to the habits of his countrymen
Encourages martial fanaticism
Conquest of Arabia
Private life of Mohammed, after his success
Carlyle's apology for Mohammed
The conquest of Syria and Egypt
Conquest of Persia and India
Deductions in view of Saracenic conquests
Necessity of supernatural aid in the conversion of the world



Ancestry and early life of Charlemagne
The Merovingian princes
Condition of Europe on the accession of Charlemagne
Necessity for such a hero to arise
His perils and struggles
Wars with the Saxons
The difficulties of the Saxon conquest
Forced conversion of the Saxons
The Norman pirates
Conquest of the Avares
Unsuccessful war with the Saracens
The Lombard wars
Coronation of Charlemagne at Rome
Imperialism and its influences
The dismemberment of Charlemagne's empire
Foundation of Feudalism
Charlemagne as a legislator
His alliance with the clergy
His administrative abilities
Reasons why he patronized the clergy
Results of Charlemagne's policy
Hallam's splendid eulogy



Wonderful government of the Papacy
Its vitality
Its contradictions
Its fascinations
The crimes of which it is accused
General character of the popes
Gregory VII. the most famous
His personal history
His autocratic ideas
His reign at the right time
Society in Europe in the eleventh century
Character of the clergy
The monks, and the need of reform
Character of the popes before Gregory VII.
Celibacy of the clergy
Alliance of the Papacy and Monasticism
Opposition to the reforms of Hildebrand
Terrible power of excommunication
Simony and its evils
Secularization of the clergy
Separation of spiritual from temporal power
Henry IV. of Germany
Approaching strife between Henry and Hildebrand
Their respective weapons
Henry summoned to Rome
Excommunication of Henry
Henry deserted and disarmed
Compelled to yield to Hildebrand
His great mistake
Renewed contest
Humiliation of the Pope
Moral effects of the contest
Speculations about the Papal power



Antiquity of Monastic life
Causes which led to it
Oriental asceticism
Religious contemplation
Insoluble questions
Basil the founder of Monasticism
His interesting history
Gregory Nazianzen
Vows of the monks
Their antagonism to prevailing evils
Vow of Poverty opposed to money-making
That of Chastity a protest against prevailing impurity
Origin of celibacy
Its subsequent corruption
Necessity of the vow of Obedience
Benedict and the Monastery of Monte Casino
His rules generally adopted
Lofty and useful life of the early monks
Growth and wealth of Monastic institutions
Magnificence of Mediaeval convents
Privileges of the monks
Luxury of the Benedictines
Relaxation of discipline
Degeneracy of the monks
Compared with secular clergy
Benefits which Monasticism conferred
Learning of the monks
Their common life
Revival of Learning
Rise of Scholasticism
Saint Bernard
His early piety and great attainments.
His vast moral influence
His reforms and labors
Rise of Dominicans and Franciscans.
Zeal of the mendicant friars
General benefits of Monastic institutions



Birth and early life of Anselm
The Abbey of Bee
Scholarly life of Anselm
Visits of Anselm to England
Compared with Becket
Lanfranc, Archbishop of Canterbury
Privileges of the Archbishop
Unwillingness of Anselm to be elevated
Lanfranc succeeded by Anselm
Quarrel between Anselm and William Rufus
Despotic character of William
Disputed claims of Popes Urban and Clement
Council of Rockingham
Royal efforts to depose Anselm
Firmness and heroism of Anselm
Duplicity of the king
His intrigues with the Pope
Pretended reconciliation with Anselm
Appeals to Rome
Inordinate claims of the Pope
Allegiance of Anselm to the Pope
Anselm at Rome
Death of William and Accession of Henry I.
Royal encroachments
Henry quarrels with Anselm
Results of the quarrel
Anselm as a theologian
Theology of the Middle Ages
Monks become philosophers
Gotschalk and predestination
John Scotus Erigena
Revived spirit of inquiry
Services of Anselm to theology
He brings philosophy to support theology
Combats Nominalism
His philosophical deductions
His devout Christian spirit



Peter Abelard
Gives a new impulse to philosophy
Rationalistic tendency of his teachings
The hatreds he created
Peter Lombard
His "Book of Sentences"
Introduction of the writings of Aristotle into Europe
University of Paris
Character of the students
Their various studies
Aristotle's logic used
The method of the Schoolmen
The Dominicans and Franciscans
Innocent III.
Thomas Aquinas
His early life and studies
Albertus Magnus
Aquinas's first great work
Made Doctor of Theology
His "Summa Theologica"
Its vast learning
Parallel between Aquinas and Plato
Parallel between Plato and Aristotle
Influence of Scholasticism
Waste of intellectual life
Scholasticism attractive to the Middle Ages
To be admired like a cathedral



Becket a puzzle to historians
His early history
His gradual elevation
Friendship with Henry II.
Becket made Chancellor
Elevated to the See of Canterbury
Dignity of an archbishop of Canterbury
Becket in contrast
His ascetic habits as priest
His high-church principles
Upholds the spiritual courts
Defends the privileges of his order
Conflict with the king
Constitutions of Clarendon
Persecution of Becket
He yields at first to the king
His repentance
Defection of the bishops
Becket escapes to the Continent
Supported by Louis VII. of France
Insincerity of the Pope
Becket at Pontigny in exile
His indignant rebuke of the Pope
Who excommunicates the Archbishop of York
Henry obliged to compromise
Hollow reconciliation with Becket
Return of Becket to Canterbury
His triumphal procession
Annoyance of Henry
Assassination of Becket
Consequences of the murder


Anarchies of the Merovingian period
Society on the dissolution of Charlemagne's empire
Allodial tenure
Origin of Feudalism
Dependence and protection the principles of Feudalism
Peasants and their masters
The sentiment of loyalty
Contentment of the peasantry
Evils that cannot be redressed
Submission to them a necessity
Division of Charlemagne's empire
Life of the nobles
Pleasures and habits of feudal barons
Aristocratic character of Feudalism
Slavery of the people
Indirect blessings of Feudalism
Slavery not an unmixed evil
Influence of chivalry
Devotion to woman
The lady of the baronial castle
Reasons why women were worshipped
Dignity of the baronial home
The Christian woman contrasted with the pagan
Glory and beauty of Chivalry


The Crusades the great external event of the Middle Ages
A semi-religious and semi-military movement
What gives interest to wars?
Wars the exponents of prevailing ideas
The overruling of all wars
The majesty of Providence seen in war
Origin of the Crusades
Pilgrimages to Jerusalem
Miseries and insults of the pilgrims
Intense hatred of Mohammedanism
Peter of Amiens
Council of Clermont
The First Crusade
Its miseries and mistakes
The Second Crusade
The Third Crusade
The Fourth, Children's, Fifth, and Sixth Crusades
The Seventh Crusade
All alike unsuccessful, and wasteful of life and energies
Peculiarities and immense mistakes of the Crusaders
The moral evils of the Crusades
Ultimate results of the Crusades
Barrier made against Mohammedan conquests
Political necessity of the Crusades
Their effect in weakening the Feudal system
Effect of the Crusades on the growth of cities
On commerce and art and literature
They scatter the germs of a new civilization
They centralize power
They ultimately elevate the European races



Roman architecture
First form of a Christian church
The change to the Romanesque
Its peculiarities
Its connection with Monasticism
Gloomy aspect of the churches of the tenth and eleventh centuries
Effect of the Crusades on church architecture
Church architecture becomes cheerful
The Gothic churches of France and Germany
The English Mediaeval churches
Glories of the pointed arch
Effect of the Renaissance on architecture
Mongrel style of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries
Revival of the pure gothic
Churches should be adapted to their uses
Incongruity of Protestantism with ritualistic architecture
Protestantism demands a church for preaching
Gothic vaults unfavorable to oratory



Harmony of Protestant and Mediaeval creeds
The Reformation a moral movement
The evils of Papal institutions
The evils of monastic life
Quarrels and dissoluteness of monks
Birth of Wyclif
His scholastic attainments and honors
His political influence
The powers who have ruled the world
Wyclif sent on a mission to Bruges
Protection of John of Gaunt
Wyclif summoned to an ecclesiastical council
His defenders and foes
Triumph of Wyclif
He openly denounces the Pope
His translation of the Bible
Opposition to it by the higher clergy
Hostility of Roman Catholicism to the right of private judgment
Hostility to the Bible in vernacular tongues
Spread of the Bible in English
Wyclif as a doctrinal reformer
He attacks Transubstantiation
Deserted by the Duke of Lancaster
But dies peaceably in his parish
Wyclif contrasted with Luther
His great services to the church
Reasons why he escaped martyrdom


A. D. 570-632.


The most extraordinary man who arose after the fall of the Roman
Empire was doubtless Mohammed;* and his posthumous influence has
been greater than that of any man since Christianity was declared,
if we take into account the number of those who have received his
doctrines. Even Christianity never had so rapid a spread. More
than a sixth part of the human race are the professed followers of
the Arabian prophet.

* Spelled also Mahomet, Mahommed; but I prefer Mohammed.

In regard to Mohammed himself, a great change has taken place in
the opinions of critics within fifty years. It was the fashion
half a century ago to speak of this man as a hypocrite, an
impostor, even as Antichrist. Now he is generally regarded as a
reformer; that is, as a man who introduced into Arabia a religion
and a morality superior to what previously existed, and he is
regarded as an impostor only so far as he was visionary. Few
critics doubt his sincerity. He was no hypocrite, since he himself
believed in his mission; and his mission was benevolent,--to turn
his countrymen from a gross polytheism to the worship of one God.
Although his religion cannot compare with Christianity in purity
and loftiness, yet it enforced a higher morality than the old
Arabian religions, and assimilated to Christianity in many
important respects. The chief fault we have to find in Mohammed
was, the propagation of his doctrines by the sword, and the use of
wicked means to bring about a good end. The truths he declared
have had an immense influence on Asiatic nations, and these have
given vitality to his system, if we accept the position that truth
alone has vitality.

One remarkable fact stands out for the world to ponder,--that, for
more than fourteen hundred years, one hundred and eighty millions
(more than a sixth part of the human race) have adopted and
cherished the religion of Mohammed; that Christianity never had so
astonishing a triumph; and that even the adherents of Christianity,
in many countries, have not manifested the zeal of the Mohammedans
in most of the countries where it has been acknowledged. Now these
startling facts can be explained only on the ground that
Mohammedanism has great vital religious and moral truths underlying
its system which appeal to the consciousness of mankind, or else
that these truths are so blended with dangerous errors which appeal
to depraved passions and interests, that the religion spread in
consequence of these errors rather than of the truth itself.

The question to be considered, then, is whether Mohammedanism
spread in consequence of its truths or in consequence of its

In order to appreciate the influence of the Arabian prophet, we are
first led into the inquiry whether his religion was really an
improvement on the old systems which previously prevailed in
Arabia. If it was, he must be regarded as a benefactor and
reformer, even if we admit the glaring evils of his system, when
measured by the purer religion of the Cross. And it then simply
becomes a question whether it is better to have a prevalent
corrupted system of religion containing many important truths, or a
system of downright paganism with few truths at all.

In examining the religious systems of Arabia in the age preceding
the advent of the Prophet, it would seem that the most prominent of
them were the old doctrines of the Magians and Sabaeans, blended
with a gross idolatry and a senseless polytheism. Whatever may
have been the faith of the ancient Sabaean sages, who noted the
aspects of the stars, and supposed they were inhabited by angels
placed there by Almighty power to supervise and govern the
universe, yet history seems to record that this ancient faith was
practically subverted, and that the stars, where were supposed to
dwell deities to whom prayers were made, became themselves objects
of worship, and even graven images were made in honor of them.
Among the Arabs each tribe worshipped a particular star, and set up
its particular idol, so that a degrading polytheism was the
religion of the land. The object of greatest veneration was the
celebrated Black Stone, at Mecca, fabled to have fallen from heaven
at the same time with Adam. Over this stone was built the Kaabah,
a small oblong stone building, around which has been since built
the great mosque. It was ornamented with three hundred and sixty
idols. The guardianship of this pagan temple was intrusted to the
most ancient and honorable families of Mecca, and to it resorted
innumerable pilgrims bringing precious offerings. It was like the
shrine of Delphi, as a source of profit to its fortunate guardians.

Thus before Mohammed appeared polytheism was the prevalent religion
of Arabia,--a degradation even from the ancient Sabaean faith. It
is true there were also other religions. There were many Jews at
Medina; and there was also a corrupted form of Christianity in many
places, split up into hostile and wrangling sects, with but little
of the spirit of the divine Founder, with innumerable errors and
superstitions, so that in no part of the world was Christianity so
feeble a light. But the great body of the people were pagans. A
marked reform was imperatively needed to restore the belief in the
unity of God and set up a higher standard of morality.

It is claimed that Mohammed brought such a reform. He was born in
the year 570, of the family of Hashem and the tribe of Koreish, to
whom was intrusted the keeping of the Black Stone. He therefore
belonged to the highest Arabian aristocracy. Early left an orphan
and in poverty, he was reared in the family of one of his uncles,
under all the influences of idolatry. This uncle was a merchant,
and the youth made long journeys with him to distant fairs,
especially in Syria, where he probably became acquainted with the
Holy Scriptures, especially with the Old Testament. In his twenty-
fifth year he entered the service of Cadijeh, a very wealthy widow,
who sent to the fairs and towns great caravans, which Mohammed
accompanied in some humble capacity,--according to the tradition as
camel-driver. But his personal beauty, which was remarkable, and
probably also his intelligence and spirit, won the heart of this
powerful mistress, and she became his wife.

He was now second to none in the capital of Arabia, and great
thoughts began to fill his soul. His wife perceived his greatness,
and, like Josephine and the wife of Disraeli, forwarded the
fortunes of her husband, for he became rich as well as intellectual
and noble, and thus had time and leisure to accomplish more easily
his work. From twenty-five to forty he led chiefly a contemplative
life, spending months together in a cave, absorbed in his grand
reflections,--at intervals issuing from his retreat, visiting the
marts of commerce, and gaining knowledge from learned men. It is
seldom that very great men lead either a life of perpetual
contemplation or of perpetual activity. Without occasional rest,
and leisure to mature knowledge, no man can arm himself with the
weapons of the gods. To be truly great, a man must blend a life of
activity with a life of study,--like Moses, who matured the
knowledge he had gained in Egypt amid the deserts of Midian.

With all great men some leading idea rules the ordinary life. The
idea which took possession of the mind of Mohammed was the
degrading polytheism of his countrymen, the multitude of their
idols, the grossness of their worship, and the degrading morals
which usually accompany a false theology. He set himself to work
to produce a reform, but amid overwhelming obstacles. He talked
with his uncles, and they laughed at him. They would not even
admit the necessity of a reform. Only Cadijeh listened to him and
encouraged him and believed in him. And Mohammed was ever grateful
for this mark of confidence, and cherished the memory of his wife
in his subsequent apostasy,--if it be true that he fell, like
Solomon. Long afterwards, when she was dead, Ayesha, his young and
favorite wife, thus addressed him: "Am I not better than Cadijeh?
Do you not love me better than you did her? She was a widow, old
and ugly." "No, by Allah!" replied the Prophet; "she believed in
me when no one else did. In the whole world I had but one friend,
and she was that friend." No woman ever retained the affections of
a husband superior to herself, unless she had the spirit of
Cadijeh,--unless she proved herself his friend, and believed in
him. How miserable the life of Jane Carlyle would have been had
she not been proud of her husband! One reason why there is
frequent unhappiness in married life is because there is no mutual
appreciation. How often have we seen a noble, lofty, earnest man
fettered and chained by a frivolous woman who could not be made to
see the dignity and importance of the labors which gave to her
husband all his real power! Not so with the woman who assisted
Mohammed. Without her sympathy and faith he probably would have
failed. He told her, and her alone, his dreams, his ecstasies, his
visions; how that God at different times had sent prophets and
teachers to reveal new truths, by whom religion had been restored;
how this one God, who created the heavens and the earth, had never
left Himself without witnesses of His truth in the most degenerate
times; how that the universal recognition of this sovereign Power
and Providence was necessary to the salvation of society. He had
learned much from the study of the Talmud and the Jewish
Scriptures; he had reflected deeply in his isolated cave; he knew
that there was but one supreme God, and that there could be no
elevated morality without the sense of personal responsibility to
Him; that without the fear of this one God there could be neither
wisdom nor virtue.

Hence his soul burned to tell his countrymen his earnest belief in a
supreme and personal God, to whom alone prayers should be made, and
who alone could rescue by His almighty power. He pondered day and
night on this single and simple truth. His perpetual meditations
and ascetic habits induced dreams and ecstasies, such as marked
primitive monks, and Loyala in his Manresan cave. He became a
visionary man, but most intensely earnest, for his convictions were
overwhelming. He fancied himself the ambassador of this God, as the
ancient Jewish prophets were; that he was even greater than they,
his mission being to remove idolatry,--to his mind the greatest evil
under the sun, since it was the root of all vices and follies.
Idolatry is either a defiance or a forgetfulness of God,--high
treason to the majesty of Heaven, entailing the direst calamities.

At last, one day, in his fortieth year, after he had been shut up a
whole month in solitude, so that his soul was filled with ecstasy
and enthusiasm, he declared to Cadijeh that the night before, while
wrapped in his mantle, absorbed in reverie, a form of divine
beauty, in a flood of light, appeared to him, and, in the name of
the Almighty who created the heavens and the earth, thus spake: "O,
Mohammed! of a truth thou art the Prophet of God, and I am his
angel Gabriel." "This," says Carlyle, "is the soul of Islam. This
is what Mohammed felt and now declared to be of infinite moment,
that idols and formulas were nothing; that the jargon of
argumentative Greek sects, the vague traditions of Jews, the stupid
routine of Arab idolatry were a mockery and a delusion; that there
is but one God; that we must let idols alone and look to Him. He
alone is reality; He made us and sustains us. Our whole strength
lies in submission to Him. The thing He sends us, be it death
even, is good, is the best. We resign ourselves to Him."

Such were the truths which Mohammed, with preternatural
earnestness, now declared,--doctrines which would revolutionize
Arabia. And why not? They are the same substantially which Moses
declared, to those sensual and degraded slaves whom he led out of
Egypt,--yea, the doctrines of David and of Job. "Though He slay
me, yet will I trust in Him." What a grand and all-important truth
it is to impress upon people sunk in forgetfulness and sensuality
and pleasure-seeking and idle schemes of vanity and ambition, that
there is a supreme Intelligence who overrules, and whose laws
cannot be violated with impunity; from whom no one can escape, even
though he "take the wings of the morning and fly to the uttermost
parts of the sea." This is the one truth that Moses sought to
plant in the minds of the Jews,--a truth always forgotten when
there is slavery to epicurean pleasures or a false philosophy.

Now I maintain that Mohammed, in seeking to impress his degenerate
countrymen with the idea of the one supreme God, amid a most
degrading and almost universal polytheism, was a great reformer.
In preaching this he was neither fanatic nor hypocrite; he was a
very great man, and thus far a good man. He does not make an
original revelation; he reproduces an old truth,--as old as the
patriarchs, as old as Job, as old as the primitive religions,--but
an exceedingly important one, lost sight of by his countrymen,
gradually lost sight of by all peoples when divine grace is
withheld; indeed practically by people in Christian lands in times
of great degeneracy. "The fool has said in his heart there is no
God;" or, Let there be no God, that we may eat and drink before we
die. Epicureanism, in its pleasures or in its speculations, is
virtually atheism. It was so in Greece. It is so with us.

Mohammed was now at the mature age of forty, in the fulness of his
powers, in the prime of his life; and he began to preach everywhere
that there is but one God. Few, however, believed in him. Why not
acknowledge such a fundamental truth, appealing to the intellect as
well as the moral sense? But to confess there is a supreme God,
who rewards and punishes, and to whom all are responsible both for
words and actions, is to imply a confession of sinfulness and the
justice of retribution. Those degraded Arabians would not receive
willingly such a truth as this, even as the Israelites ever sought
to banish it from their hearts and minds, in spite of their
deliverance from slavery. The uncles and friends of Mohammed
treated his mission with scorn and derision. Nor do I read that
the common people heard him gladly, as they listened to the
teachings of Christ. Zealously he labored for three years with all
classes; and yet in three years of exalted labor, with all his
eloquence and fervor and sincerity, he converted only about
thirteen persons, one of whom was his slave. Think of such a man
declaring such a truth, and only gaining thirteen followers in
three years! How sickened must have been his enthusiastic soul!
His worldly relatives urged him to silence. Why attack idols; why
quarrel with his own interests; why destroy his popularity? Then
exclaimed that great hero: "If the sun stood on my right hand, and
the moon on my left, ordering me to hold my peace, I would still
declare there is but one God,"--a speech rivalled only by Luther at
the Diet of Worms. Why urge a great man to be silent on the very
thing which makes him great? He cannot be silent. His truth--from
which he cannot be separated--is greater than life or death, or
principalities or powers.

Buffeted and ridiculed, still Mohammed persevered. He used at
first only moral means. He appealed only to the minds and hearts
of the people, encouraged by his few believers and sustained by the
fancied voice of that angel who appeared to him in his retreat.
But his earnest voice was drowned by discordant noises. He was
regarded as a lunatic, a demented man, because he professed to
believe in a personal God. The angry mob covered his clothes with
dust and ashes. They demanded miracles. But at this time he had
only truths to declare,--those saving truths which are perpetual
miracles. At last hostilities began. He was threatened and he was
persecuted. They laid plots to take his life. He sought shelter
in the castle of his uncle, Abu Taleh; but he died. Then
Mohammed's wife Cadijeh died. The priests of an idolatrous
religion became furious. He had laid his hands on their idols. He
was regarded as a disorganizer, an innovator, a most dangerous man.
His fortunes became darker and darker; he was hated, persecuted,
and alone.

Thus thirteen years passed away in reproach, in persecution, in
fear. At last forty picked men swore to assassinate him. Should
he remain at Mecca and die, before his mission was accomplished, or
should he fly? He concluded to fly to Medina, where there were
Jews, and some nominal converts to Christianity,--a new ground.
This was in the year 622, and the flight is called the Hegira,--
from which the East dates its era, in the fifty-third year of the
Prophet's life. In this city he was cordially welcomed, and he
soon found himself surrounded with enthusiastic followers. He
built a mosque, and openly performed the rites of the new religion.

At this era a new phase appears in the Prophet's life and
teachings. Thus far, until his flight, it would seem that he
propagated his doctrines by moral force alone, and that these
doctrines, in the main, were elevated. He had earnestly declared
his great idea of the unity of God. He had pronounced the worship
of images to be idolatrous. He held idolatry of all kinds in
supreme abhorrence. He enjoined charity, justice, and forbearance.
He denounced all falsehood and all deception, especially in trade.
He declared that humility, benevolence, and self-abnegation were
the greatest virtues. He commanded his disciples to return good
for evil, to restrain the passions, to bridle the tongue, to be
patient under injuries, to be submissive to God. He enjoined
prayer, fastings, and meditation as a means of grace. He laid down
the necessity of rest on the seventh day. He copied the precepts
of the Bible in many of their essential features, and recognized
its greatest teachers as inspired prophets.

It was during these thirteen years at Mecca, amid persecution and
ridicule, and with few outward successes, that he probably wrote
the Koran,--a book without beginning and without end, disjecta
membra, regardless of all rules of art, full of repetitions, and
yet full of lofty precepts and noble truths of morality evidently
borrowed from the Jewish Scriptures,--in which his great ideas
stand out with singular eloquence and impressiveness: the unity of
God, His divine sovereignty, the necessity of prayer, the soul's
immortality, future rewards and punishments. His own private life
had been blameless. It was plain and simple. For a whole month he
did not light a fire to cook his food. He swept his chamber
himself and mended his own clothes. His life was that of an
ascetic enthusiast, profoundly impressed with the greatness and
dignity of his mission. Thus far his greatest error and fault was
in the supposition that he was inspired in the same sense as the
ancient Jewish prophets were inspired,--to declare the will and the
truth of God. Any man leading such a life of contemplative
asceticism and retirement is prone to fall into the belief of
special divine illumination. It characterized George Fox, the
Anabaptists, Ignatius Loyola, Saint Theresa, and even, to some
extent, Oliver Cromwell himself. Mohammed's supreme error was that
he was the greatest as well as the last of the prophets. This was
fanaticism, but he was probably honest in the belief. His brain
was turned by dreams, ecstasies, and ascetic devotions. But with
all his visionary ideas of his call, his own morality and his
teachings had been lofty, and apparently unsuccessful. Possibly he
was discouraged with the small progress he had made,--disgusted,
irritated, fierce.

Certainly, soon after he was established at Medina, a great change
took place in his mode of propagating his doctrines. His great
ideas remained the same, but he adopted a new way to spread them.
So that I can almost fancy that some Mephistopheles, some form of
Satanic agency, some lying Voice whispered to him in this wise: "O
Mohammed! of a truth thou art the Prophet of the living God. Thou
hast declared the grandest truths ever uttered in Arabia; but see
how powerless they are on the minds and hearts of thy countrymen,
with all thy eloquence, sincerity, and fervor. By moral means thou
hast effected comparatively nothing. Thou hast preached thirteen
years, and only made a few converts. Thy truths are too elevated
for a corrupt and wicked generation to accept. Even thine own life
is in danger. Thou hast been obliged to fly to these barren rocks
and sands. Thou hast failed. Why not pursue a new course, and
adapt thy doctrines to men as they are? Thy countrymen are wild,
fierce, and warlike: why not incite their martial passions in
defence of thy doctrines? They are an earnest people, and,
believing in the truths which thou now declarest, they will fight
for them and establish them by the sword, not merely in Arabia, but
throughout the East. They are a pleasure-loving and imaginative
people: why not promise the victors of thy faith a sensual bliss in
Paradise? They will not be subverters of your grand truths; they
will simply extend them, and jealously, if they have a reward in
what their passions crave. In short, use the proper means for a
great end. The end justifies the means."

Whether influenced by such specious sophistries, or disheartened by
his former method, or corrupted in his own heart, as Solomon was,
by his numerous wives,--for Mohammed permitted polygamy and
practised it himself,--it is certain that he now was bent on
achieving more signal and rapid victories. He resolved to adapt
his religion to the depraved hearts of his followers. He would mix
up truth with error; he would make truth palatable; he would use
the means which secure success. It was success he wanted, and
success he thus far had not secured. He was ambitious; he would
become a mighty spiritual potentate.

So he allowed polygamy,--the vice of Eastern nations from remote
periods; he promised a sensual Paradise to those who should die in
defence of his religion; he inflamed the imagination of the
Arabians with visions of sensual joys. He painted heaven as a land
whose soil was the finest wheaten flour, whose air was fragrant
with perfumes, whose streams were of crystal water or milk or wine
or honey, flowing over beds of musk and camphor,--a glorious garden
of fruits and flowers, whose inhabitants were clothed in garments
of gold, sparkling with rubies and diamonds, who reclined in
sumptuous palaces and silken pavilions, and on couches of
voluptuous ease, and who were served with viands which could be
eaten without satiety, and liquors which could be drunk without
inebriation; yea, where the blissful warrior for the faith should
enjoy an unending youth, and where he would be attended by houris,
with black and loving eyes, free from all defects, resplendent in
beauty and grace, and rejoicing in perpetual charms.

Such were the views, it is maintained, with which he inflamed the
faithful. And, more, he encouraged them to take up arms, and
penetrate, as warlike missionaries, to the utmost bounds of the
habitable world, in order to convert men to the faith of the one
God, whose Prophet he claimed to be. Moreover, he made new and
extraordinary "revelations,"--that he had ascended into the seventh
heaven and held converse with Gabriel; and he now added to his
creed that old lie of Eastern theogonies, that base element of all
false religions,--that man can propitiate the Deity by works of
supererogation; that man can purchase by ascetic labors and
sacrifices his future salvation. This falsity enters largely into
Mohammedanism. I need not add how discrepant it is with the
cheerful teachings of the apostles, especially to the poor, as seen
in the deeds of penance, prayers in the corners of the streets, the
ablutions, the fasts, and the pilgrimages to which the faithful are
exhorted. And moreover he accommodated his fasts and feasts and
holidays and pilgrimages to the old customs of the people, thereby
teaching lessons of worldly wisdom. Astarte, the old object of
Sabaean idolatry, was particularly worshipped on a Friday; and this
day was made the Mohammedan Sabbath. Again, the month Rhamadan,
from time immemorial, had been set apart for fastings; this month
the Prophet adopted, declaring that in it he had received his first
revelations. Pilgrimages to the Black Stone were favorite forms of
penance; and this was perpetuated in the pilgrimages to Mecca.

Thus it would appear that Mohammed, after his flight, accommodated
his doctrines to the customs and tastes of his countrymen,--
blending with the sublime truths he declared subtile and pernicious
errors. The early missionaries did the same thing in China and
Japan, thinking more of the number of their converts than of the
truth itself. Expediency--the utterly fallacious principle of the
end justifying the means--is seen in almost everything in this
world which blazes with success. It is seen in politics, in
philanthropy, in ecclesiasticism, and in education. So the earlier
missionaries, disregarding their vows, made the cause to which they
were consecrated subservient to their personal gain. What do you
think of a man, wearing the livery of a gospel minister, devoting
all his energies to money-making, versed in the ways of the
"heathen Chinee,"--"ways that are dark, and tricks that are vain,"--
all to succeed better in worldly thrift, using all means for that
single end,--is he not a traitor to his God, his Church, and his
fellowmen? "Truth forever on the scaffold, Wrong forever on the
throne." What would you think of a college which lowered the
standard of education in order to draw students, or selected, as
the guardians of its higher interests, those men who would
contribute the most money to its funds?

This spirit of expediency Mohammed entertained and utilized, in
order to gain success. Most of what is false in Mohammedanism is
based on expediency. The end was not lost sight of,--the
conversion of his countrymen to the belief in the unity and
sovereignty of God, but it was sought by means which would make
them fanatics or pharisees. He was not such a miserable creature
as one who seeks to make money by trading on the religious capital
of the community; but he did adapt his religion to the passions and
habits of the people in order that they might more readily be led
to accept it. He listened to that same wicked Voice which
afterwards appeared in the guise of an angel of light to mediaeval
ritualists. And it is thus that Satan has contrived to pervert the
best institutions of the world. The moment good men look to
outward and superficial triumphs, to the disregard of inward
purity, that moment do they accept the seductive lie of all ages,--
"The end justifies the means."

But the worst thing which the Prophet did in order to gain his end
was to make use of the sword. For thirteen years he appealed to
conscience. Now he makes it an inducement for men to fight for his
great idea. "Different prophets," said he, in his memorable
manifesto, "have been sent by God to illustrate His different
attributes: Moses, His providence; Solomon, His wisdom; Christ, His
righteousness; but I, the last of the prophets, am sent with the
sword. Let those who promulgate my faith enter into no arguments
or discussions, but slay all who refuse obedience. Whoever fights
for the true faith, whether he fall or conquer, will assuredly
receive a glorious reward, for the sword is the key of heaven. All
who draw it in defence of the faith shall receive temporal and
future blessings. Every drop of their blood, every peril and
hardship, will be registered on high as more meritorious than
fasting or prayer. If they fall in battle their sins will be
washed away, and they shall be transported into Paradise, to revel
in eternal pleasures, and in the arms of black-eyed houris." Thus
did he stimulate the martial fanaticism of a warlike and heroic
people with the promise of future happiness. What a monstrous
expediency,--worse than all the combined usurpations of the popes!

And what was the result? I need not point to the successive
conquests of the Saracens with such a mighty stimulus. They were
loyal to the truth for which they fought. They never afterwards
became idolaters; but their religion was built up on the miseries
of nations. To propagate the faith of Mohammed they overran the
world. Never were conquests more rapid and more terrible.

At first Mohammed's followers in Medina sallied out and attacked
the caravans of Arabia, and especially all belonging to Mecca (the
city which had rejected him), until all the various tribes
acknowledged the religion of the Prophet, for they were easily
converted to a faith which flattered their predatory inclinations
and promised them future immunities. The first cavalcade which
entered Medina with spoils made Mussulmans of all the inhabitants,
and gave Mohammed the control of the city. The battle of Moat gave
him a triumphal entrance into Mecca. He soon found himself the
sovereign of all Arabia; and when he died, at the age of 63, in the
eleventh year after his Hegira, or flight from Mecca, he was the
most successful founder of a religion the world has known, next to
Buddha. A religion appealing to truth alone had made only a few
converts in thirteen years; a religion which appealed to the sword
had made converts of a great nation in eleven years.

It is difficult to ascertain what the private life of the Prophet
was in these years of dazzling success. The authorities differ.
Some represent him as sunk in a miserable sensuality which
shortened his days. But I think this statement may be doubted. He
never lost the veneration of his countrymen,--and no veneration can
last for a man steeped in sensuality. Even Solomon lost his
prestige and popularity when he became vain and sensual. Those who
were nearest to the Prophet reverenced him most profoundly. With
his wife Ayesha he lived with great frugality. He was kindly, firm
in friendship, faithful and tender in his family, ready to forgive
enemies, just in decision. The caliphs who succeeded him, for some
time, were men of great simplicity, and sought to imitate his
virtues. He was doubtless warlike and fanatical, but conquests
such as he and his successors made are incompatible with luxury and
effeminacy. He stands arraigned at the bar of eternal justice for
perverting truth, for blending it with error, for making use of
wicked means to accomplish what he deemed a great end.

I have no patience with Mr. Carlyle, great and venerable as is his
authority, for seeming to justify Mohammed in assuming the sword.
"I care little for the sword," says this sophistical writer. "I
will allow a thing to struggle for itself in this world, with any
sword or tongue or implement it has or can lay hold on. What is
better than itself it cannot put away, but only what is worse. In
this great life-duel Nature herself is umpire, and can do no
wrong." That is, might makes right; only evil perishes in the
conflict of principles; whatever prevails is just. In other words,
if Mohammedanism, by any means it may choose to use, proves itself
more formidable than other religions, then it ought to prevail.
Suppose that the victories of the Saracens had extended over
Europe, as well as Asia and Africa,--had not been arrested by
Charles Martel,--would Carlyle then have preferred Mohammedanism to
the Christianity of degenerate nations? Was Mohammedanism a better
religion than the Christianity which existed in Asia Minor and in
various parts of the Greek empire in the sixth and seventh
centuries? Was it a good thing to convert the church of Saint
Sophia into a Saracenic mosque, and the city of the later Christian
emperors into the capital of the Turks? Is a united Saracenic
empire better than a divided, wrangling Christian empire?

But I will not enter upon that discussion. I confine myself to
facts. It is certain that Mohammedanism, by means of the sword,
spread with marvellous and unprecedented rapidity. The successors
of the Prophet carried their conquests even to India. Neither the
Syrians nor the Egyptians could cope with men who felt that the
sacrifice of life in battle would secure an eternity of bliss. The
armies of the Greek emperor melted away before the generals of the
caliph. The Cross waned before the Crescent. The banners of the
Moslems floated over the proudest battlements of ancient Roman

In the fifth year of the caliph Omar, only seventeen years from the
Prophet's flight from Mecca, the conquest of Syria was completed.
The Christians were forbidden to build churches, or speak openly of
their religion, or sit in the presence of a Mohammedan, or to sell
wine, or bear arms, or use the saddle in riding, or have a domestic
who had been in the Mohammedan service. The utter prostration of
all civil and religious liberty took place in the old scenes of
Christian triumph. This was an instance in which persecution
proved successful; and because it was successful it is a proof, in
the eyes of Carlyle, that the persecuting religion was the better,
because it was outwardly the stronger.

The conquest of Egypt rapidly followed that of Syria; and with the
fall of Alexandria perished the largest library of the world, the
thesaurus of all the intellectual treasures of antiquity.

Then followed the conquest of Persia. A single battle, as in the
time of Alexander, decided its fate. The marvel is that the people
should have changed their religion; but then, it was Mohammedanism
or death. And a still greater marvel it is,--an utter mystery to
me,--why that Oriental country should have continued faithful to
the new religion. It must have had some elements of vitality
almost worth fighting for, and which we do not comprehend.

Nor did Saracenic conquests end until the Arabs of the desert had
penetrated southward into India farther than had Alexander the
Great, and westward until they had subdued the northern kingdoms of
Africa, and carried their arms to the Pillars of Hercules; yea, to
the cities of the Goths in Spain, and were only finally arrested in
Europe by the heroism of Charles Martel.

Such were the rapid conquests of the Saracens--and permanent
conquests also--in Asia and Africa, under the stimulus of religious
fanaticism, until they had reduced thirty-six thousand cities,
towns, and castles, and built fourteen thousand mosques.

Now what are the deductions to be logically drawn from these
stupendous victories and the consolidation of the various religions
of the conquered into the creed of Mohammed,--not repudiated when
the pressure was removed, but apparently cherished by one hundred
and eighty millions of people for more than a thousand years?

We must take the ground that the religion of Mohammed has
marvellous and powerful truths, which we have overlooked and do not
understand, which appeal to the heart and conscience, and excite a
great enthusiasm,--so great as to stimulate successive generations
with an almost unexampled ardor, and to defend which they were
ready to die; a religion which has bound diverse nations together
for nearly fourteen hundred years. If so, it cannot be abused, or
ridiculed, or sneered at, any more than can the dominion of the
popes in the Middle Ages, but remains august in impressive mystery
to us, and even to future ages.

But if, in comparison with Christianity, it is a corrupt and false
religion, as many assume, then what deductions must we draw from
its amazing triumphs? For the fact stares us in the face that it
is rooted deeply in a large part of the Eastern world, or, at
least, has prevailed victorious for more than a thousand years.

First, we must conclude that the external triumph of a religion,
especially among ignorant or wicked people, is not so much owing to
the purity and loftiness of its truths, as to its harmony with
prevailing errors and corruptions. When Mohammed preached his
sublimest doctrines, and appealed to reason and conscience, he
converted about a score of people in thirteen years. When he
invoked demoralizing passions, he converted all Arabia in eleven
years. And does not this startling conclusion seem to be confirmed
by the whole history of mankind? How slow the progress of
Christianity for two hundred years, except when assisted by direct
supernatural influences! How rapid its triumphs when it became
adapted to the rude barbaric mind, or to the degenerate people of
the Empire! How popular and prevalent and widespread are those
religions which we are accustomed to regard as most corrupt!
Buddhism and Brahmanism have had more adherents than even
Mohammedanism. How difficult it was for Moses and the prophets to
keep the Jews from idolatry! What caused the rapid eclipse of
faith in the antediluvian world? Why could not Noah establish and
perpetuate his doctrines among his own descendants before he was
dead? Why was the Socratic philosophy unpopular? Why were the
Epicureans so fashionable? Why was Christianity itself most
eagerly embraced when its light was obscured by fables and
superstitions? Why did the Roman Empire perish, with all the aid
of a magnificent civilization; why did this civilization itself
retrograde; why did its art and literature decline? Why did the
grand triumphs of Protestantism stop in half a century after Luther
delivered his message? What made the mediaeval popes so powerful?
What gave such ascendency to the Jesuits? Why is the simple faith
of the primitive Christians so obnoxious to the wise, the mighty,
and the noble? What makes the most insidious heresies so
acceptable to the learned? Why is modern literature, when
fashionable and popular, so antichristian in its tone and spirit?
Why have not the doctrines of Luther held their own in Germany, and
those of Calvin in Geneva, and those of Cranmer in England, and
those of the Pilgrim Fathers in New England? Is it because, as men
become advanced in learning and culture, they are theologically
wiser than Moses and Abraham and Isaiah?

I do not cite the rapid decline of modern civilized society, in a
political or social view, in the most favored sections of
Christendom; I do not sing dirges over republican institutions; I
would not croak Jeremiads over the changes and developments of
mankind. I simply speak of the marvellous similarity which the
spread and triumph of Mohammedanism seem to bear to the spread and
triumph of what is corrupt and wicked in all institutions and
religions since the fall of man. Everywhere it is the frivolous,
the corrupt, the false, which seem to be most prevalent and most
popular. Do men love truth, or readily accept it, when it
conflicts with passions and interests? Is any truth popular which
is arrayed against the pride of reason? When has pure moral truth
ever been fashionable? When have its advocates not been reviled,
slandered, misrepresented, and persecuted, if it has interfered
with the domination of prevailing interests? The lower the scale
of pleasures the more eagerly are they sought by the great mass of
the people, even in Christian communities. You can best make
colleges thrive by turning them into schools of technology, with a
view of advancing utilitarian and material interests. You cannot
make a newspaper flourish unless you fill it with pictures and
scandals, or make it a vehicle of advertisements,--which are not
frivolous or corrupt, it is true, but which have to do with merely
material interests. Your libraries would never be visited, if you
took away their trash. Your Sabbath-school books would not be
read, unless you made them an insult to the human understanding.
Your salons would be deserted, if you entertained your guests with
instructive conversation. There would be no fashionable
gatherings, if it were not to display dresses and diamonds. Your
pulpits would be unoccupied, if you sought the profoundest men to
fill them.

Everything, even in Christian communities, shows that vanities and
follies and falsehoods are the most sought, and that nothing is
more discouraging than appeals to high intelligence or virtue, even
in art. This is the uniform history of the race, everywhere and in
all ages. Is it darkness or light which the world loves? I never
read, and I never heard, of a great man with a great message to
deliver, who would not have sunk under disappointment or chagrin
but for his faith. Everywhere do you see the fascination of error,
so that it almost seems to be as vital as truth itself. When and
where have not lies and sophistries and hypocrisies reigned? I
appeal to history. I appeal to the observation and experience of
every thoughtful and candid mind. You cannot get around this
truth. It blazes and it burns like the fires of Sinai. Men left
to themselves will more and more retrograde in virtue.

What, then, is the hope of the world? We are driven to this
deduction,--that if truth in itself is not all-conquering, the
divine assistance, given at times to truth itself, as in the early
Church, is the only reason why truth conquers. This divine grace,
promised in the Bible, has wrought wonders whenever it has pleased
the Almighty to bestow it, and only then. History teaches this as
impressively as revelation. Christianity itself, unaided, would
probably die out in this world. And hence the grand conclusion is,
that it is the mysterious, or, as some call it, the super-natural,
spirit of Almighty power which is, after all, the highest hope of
this world. This is not discrepant with the oldest traditions and
theogonies of the East,--the hidden wisdom of ancient Indian and
Persian and Egyptian sages, concealed from the vulgar, but really
embraced by the profoundest men, before corruptions perverted even
their wisdom. This certainly is the earliest revelation of the
Bible. This is the power which Moses recognized, and all the
prophets who succeeded him. This is the power which even Mohammed,
in the loftiness of his contemplations, more dimly saw, and
imperfectly taught to the idolaters around him, and which gives to
his system all that was really valuable. Ask not when and where
this power shall be most truly felt. It is around us, and above
us, and beneath us. It is the mystery and grandeur of the ages.
"It is not by might nor by power, but by my spirit," saith the
Lord; Man is nothing, his aspirations are nothing, the universe
itself is nothing, without the living, permeating force which comes
from this supernal Deity we adore, to interfere and save. Without
His special agency, giving to His truths vitality, this world would
soon become a hopeless and perpetual pandemonium. Take away the
necessity of this divine assistance as the one great condition of
all progress, as well as the highest boon which mortals seek,--then
prayer itself, recognized even by Mohammedans as the loftiest
aspiration and expression of a dependent soul, and regarded by
prophets and apostles and martyrs as their noblest privilege,
becomes a superstition, a puerility, a mockery, and a hopeless


The Koran; Dean Prideaux's Life of Mohammed; Vie de Mahomet, by the
Comte de Boulainvilliers; Gagnier's Life of Mohammed; Ockley's
History of the Saracens; Gibbon, fiftieth chapter; Hallam's Middle
Ages; Milman's Latin Christianity; Dr. Weil's Mohammed der
Prophet, sein Leben und seine Lehre; Renan, Revue des Deux Mondes,
1851; Bustner's Pilgrimage to El Medina and Mecca; Life of
Mahomet, by Washington Irving; Essai sur l'Histoire des Arabes, par
A. P. Caussin de Perceval; Carlyle's Lectures on Heroes and Hero
Worship; E. A. Freeman's Lectures on the History of the Sararens;
Forster's Mahometanism Unveiled; Maurice on the Religions of the
World; Life and Religion of Mohammed., translated from the Persian,
by Rev. I. L. Merrick.


A. D. 742-814.


The most illustrious monarch of the Middle Ages was doubtless
Charlemagne. Certainly he was the first great statesman, hero, and
organizer that looms up to view after the dissolution of the Roman
Empire. Therefore I present him as one with whom is associated an
epoch in civilization. To him we date the first memorable step
which Europe took out of the anarchies of the Merovingian age. His
dream was to revive the Empire that had fallen, he was the first to
labor, with giant strength, to restore what vice and violence had
destroyed. He did not succeed in realizing the great ends to which
he aspired, but his aspirations were lofty. It was not in the
power of any man to civilize semi-barbarians in a single reign; but
if he attempted impossibilities he did not live in vain, since he
bequeathed some permanent conquests and some great traditions. He
left a great legacy to civilization. His life has not dramatic
interest like that of Hildebrand, nor poetic interest like the
lives of the leaders of the Crusades; but it is very instructive.
He was the pride of his own generation, and the boast of succeeding
ages, "claimed," says Sismondi, "by the Church as a saint, by the
French as the greatest of their kings, by the Germans as their
countryman, and by the Italians as their emperor."

His remote ancestors, it is said, were ecclesiastical magnates.
His grandfather was Charles Martel, who gained such signal
victories over the Mohammedan Saracens; his father was Pepin, who
was a renowned conqueror, and who subdued the southern part of
France, or Gaul. He did not rise, like Clovis, from the condition
of a chieftain of a tribe of barbarians; nor, like the founder of
his family, from a mayor of the palace, or minister of the
Merovingian kings. His early life was spent amid the turmoils and
dangers of camps, and as a young man he was distinguished for
precocity of talent, manly beauty, and gigantic physical strength.
He was a type of chivalry, before chivalry arose. He was born to
greatness, and early succeeded to a great inheritance. At the age
of twenty-six, in the year 768, he became the monarch of the
greater part of modern France, and of those provinces which border
on the Rhine. By unwearied activities this inheritance, greater
than that of any of the Merovingian kings, was not only kept
together and preserved, but was increased by successive conquests,
until no so great an empire has ever been ruled by any one man in
Europe, since the fall of the Roman Empire, from his day to ours.
Yet greater than the conquests of Charlemagne was the greatness of
his character. He preserved simplicity and gentleness amid all the
distractions attending his government.

His reign affords a striking contrast to that of all his
predecessors of the Merovingian dynasty,--which reigned from the
immediate destruction of the Roman Empire. The Merovingian
princes, with the exception of Clovis and a few others, were mere
barbarians, although converted to a nominal Christianity. Some of
them were monsters, and others were idiots. Clotaire burned to
death his own son and wife and daughters. Fredegunde armed her
assassins with poisoned daggers. "Thirteen sovereigns reigned over
the Franks in one hundred and fourteen years, only two of whom
attained to man's estate, and not one to the full development of
intellectual powers. There was scarcely one who did not live in a
state of perpetual intoxication, or who did not rival Sardanapalus
in effeminacy, and Commodus in cruelty." As these sovereigns were
good churchmen, their iniquities were glossed over by Gregory of
Tours. In HIS annals they may pass for saints, but history
consigns them to an infamous immortality.

It is difficult to conceive a more dreary and dismal state of
society than existed in France, and in fact over all Europe, when
Charlemagne began to reign. The Roman Empire was in ruins, except
in the East, where the Greek emperors reigned at Constantinople.
The western provinces were ruled by independent barbaric kings.
There was no central authority, although there was an attempt of
the popes to revive it,--a spiritual rather than a temporal power;
a theocracy whose foundation was secured by Leo the Great when he
established the jus divinum principle,--that he was the successor
of Peter, to whom were given the keys of heaven and hell. If there
was an interesting feature in the times it was this spiritual
authority exercised by the bishops of Rome: the most useful and
beneficent considering the evils which prevailed,--the reign of
brute force. The barbaric chieftains yielded a partial homage to
this spiritual power, and it was some check on their rapacity of
violence. It is mournful to think that so little of the ancient
civilization remained in the eighth century. Its eclipse was
total. The shadows of a dark and long night of superstition and
ignorance spread over Europe. Law was silenced by the sword.
Justinian's glorious legacy was already forgotten. The old
mechanism which had kept society together in the fifth century was
worn out, broken, rejected. There was no literature, no
philosophy, no poetry, no history, and no art. Even the clergy had
become ignorant, superstitious, and idle. Forms had taken the
place of faith. No great theologians had arisen since Saint
Augustine. The piety of the age hid itself in monasteries; and
these monasteries were as funereal as society itself. Men
despaired of the world, and retreated from it to sing mournful
songs. The architecture of the age expressed the sentiments of the
age, and was heavy, gloomy, and monotonous. "The barbarians
ruthlessly marched over the ruins of cities and palaces, having no
regard for the treasures of the classic world, and unmoved by the
lessons of its past experience." Rome itself, repeatedly sacked,
was a heap of ruins. No reconstruction had taken place. Gardens
and villas were as desolate as the ruined palaces, which were the
abodes of owls and spiders. The immortal creations of the chisel
were used to prop up old crumbling walls. The costly monuments of
senatorial pride were broken to pieces in sport or in caprice, and
those structures which had excited the admiration of ages were
pulled down that their material might be used in erecting tasteless
edifices. Literature shared the general desolation. The valued
manuscripts of classical ages were mutilated, erased, or burned.
Ignorance finished the destruction which the barbarians began.
Ignorance as well as anarchy veiled Europe in darkness. The rust
of barbarism became harder and thicker. The last hope of man had
fled, and glory was succeeded by shame. Even slavery, the curse of
the Roman Empire, was continued by the barbarians; only, brute
force was not made subservient to intellect, but intellect to brute
force. The descendants of ancient patrician families were in
bondage to barbarians. The age was the jubilee of monsters.
Assassination was common, and was unavenged by law. Every man was
his own avenger of crime, and his bloody weapons were his only law.

Nor were there seen among the barbaric chieftains the virtues of
ancient Pagan Rome and Greece, for Christianity was nominal. War
was universal; for the barbarians, having no longer the Romans to
fight, fought among themselves. There were incessant irruptions of
different tribes passing from one country to another, in search of
plunder and pillage. There was no security of life or property,
and therefore no ambition for acquisition. Men hid themselves in
morasses, in forests, on the tops of inaccessible hills, and amid
the recesses of valleys, for violence was the rule and not the
exception. Even feudalism was not then born, and still less
chivalry. We find no elevated sentiments. The only refuge for the
miserable was in the Church, and it was governed by men who shrank
from the world. A cry of despair went up to heaven among the
descendants of the old population. There was no commerce, no
travel, no industries, no money, no peace. The chastisement of
Almighty Power seems to have been sent on the old races and the new
alike. It was a desolation greater than that predicted by Jeremy
the prophet. The very end of the world seemed to be at hand.
Never in the old seats of civilization was there such a
disintegration; never such a combination of evils and miseries.
And there appeared to be no remedy: nothing but a long night of
horrors and sufferings could be predicted. Gaul, or France, was
the scene of turbulence, invasions, and anarchies; of murders, of
conflagrations, and of pillage by rival chieftains, who sought to
divide its territories among themselves. The people were utterly
trodden down. England was the battlefield of Danes, Saxons, and
Celts, invaded perpetually, and split up into petty Saxon kingdoms.
The roads were infested with robbers, and agriculture was rude.
The people lived in cabins, dressed themselves in skins, and fed on
the coarsest food. Spain was invaded by Saracens, and the Gothic
kingdoms succumbed to these fierce invaders. Italy was portioned
out among different tribes, Gothic and Slavonic. But the
prevailing races in Europe were Germanic (who had conquered both
the Celts and the Romans), the Goths in Spain, the Franks and
Burgundians in France, the Lombards in Italy, the Saxons in

What a commentary on the imperial government of the Caesars!--that
government which, with all its mechanisms and traditions, lasted
scarcely four hundred years. Was there ever, in the whole history
of the world, so sudden and mournful a change from civilization to
barbarism,--and this in spite of art, science, law, and
Christianity itself? Were there no conservative forces in that
imposing Empire? Why did society constantly decline for four
hundred years, with that civilization which was its boast and hope?
Oh, ye optimists, who talk so glibly about the natural and
necessary progress of humanity, why was the Roman Empire swept
away, with all its material glories, to give place to such a state
of society as I have just briefly described?

And yet men should arise in due time, after the punishment of five
centuries of crime and violence, wretchedness and despair, to
reconstruct, not from the old Pagan materials of Greece and Rome,
but with the fresh energies of new races, aided and inspired by the
truths of the everlasting gospel. The infancy of the new races,
sprung however from the same old Aryan stock, passed into vigorous
youth when Charlemagne appeared. From him we date the first
decided impulse given to the Gothic civilization. He was the
morning star of European hopes and aspirations.

Let us now turn to his glorious deeds. What were the services he
rendered to Europe and Christian civilization?

It was necessary that a truly great man should arise in the eighth
century, if the new forces of civilization were to be organized.
To show what he did for the new races, and how he did it, is the
historian's duty and task in describing the reign of Charlemagne,--
sent, I think, as Moses was, for a providential mission, in the
fulness of time, after the slaveries of three hundred years, which
prepared the people for labor and industry. Better was it that
they should till the lands of allodial proprietors in misery and
sorrow, attacked and pillaged, than to wander like savages in
forests and morasses in quest of a precarious support, or in great
predatory hands, as they did in the fourth and fifth centuries,
when they ravaged the provinces of the falling Empire. Nothing was
wanted but their consolidation under central rule in order to repel
aggressors. And that is what Charlemagne attempted to do.

He soon perceived the greatness of the struggle to which he was
destined, and he did not flinch from the contest which has given
him immortality. He comprehended the difficulties which surrounded
him and the dangers which menaced him.

The great perils which threatened Europe were from unsubdued
barbarians, who sought to replunge it into the miseries which the
great irruptions had inflicted three hundred years before. He
therefore bent all the energies of his mind and all the resources
of his kingdom to arrest these fresh waves of inundation. And so
long was his contest with Saxons, Avares, Lombards, and other
tribes and races that he is chiefly to be contemplated as a man who
struggled against barbarism. And he fought them, not for
excitement, not for the love of fighting, not for useless
conquests, not for military fame, not for aggrandizement, but
because a stern necessity was laid upon him to protect his own
territories and the institutions he wished to conserve.

Of these barbarians there was one nation peculiarly warlike and
ferocious, and which cherished an inextinguishable hatred not
merely of the Franks, but of civilization itself. They were
obstinately attached to their old superstitions, and had a great
repugnance to Christianity. They were barbarians, like the old
North American Indians, because they determined to be so; because
they loved their forests and the chase, indulged in amusements
which were uncertain and dangerous, and sought for nothing beyond
their immediate inclinations. They had no territorial divisions,
and abhorred cities as prisons of despotism. But, like all the
Germanic barbarians, they had interesting traits. They respected
women; they were brave and daring; they had a dogged perseverance,
and a noble passion for personal independence. But they were
nevertheless the enemies of civilization, of a regular and
industrious life, and sought plunder and revenge. The Franks and
Goths were once like them, before the time of Clovis; but they had
made settlements, they tilled the land, and built villages and
cities: they were partially civilized, and were converted to
Christianity. But these new barbarians could not be won by arts or
the ministers of religion. These people were the Saxons, and
inhabited those parts of Germany which were bounded by the Rhine,
the Oder, the North Sea, and the Thuringian forests. They were
fond of the sea, and of daring expeditions for plunder. They were
a kindred race to those Saxons who had conquered England, and had
the same elements of character. They were poor, and sought to live
by piracy and robbery. They were very dangerous enemies, but if
brought under subjection to law, and converted to Christianity,
might be turned into useful allies, for they had the materials of a
noble race.

With such a people on his borders, and every day becoming more
formidable, what was Charlemagne's policy? What was he to do? The
only thing to the eye of that enlightened statesman was to conquer
them, if possible, and add their territories to the Frankish
Empire. If left to themselves, they might have conquered the
Franks. It was either anvil or hammer. There could be no lasting
peace in Europe while these barbarians were left to pursue their
depredations. A vigorous warfare was imperative, for, unless
subdued, a disadvantageous war would be carried on near the
frontiers, until some warrior would arise among them, unite the
various chieftains, and lead his followers to successful invasion.
Charlemagne knew that the difficult and unpleasant work of
subjugation must be done by somebody, and he was unwilling to leave
the work to enervated successors. The work was not child's play.
It took him the best part of his life to accomplish it, and amid
great discouragements. Of his fifty-three expeditions, eighteen
were against the Saxons. As soon as he had cut off one head of the
monster, another head appeared. How allegorical of human labor is
that old fable of the Hydra! Where do man's labors cease?
Charlemagne fought not only amid great difficulties, but perpetual
irritations. The Saxons cheated him; they broke their promises and
their oaths. When beaten, they sued for peace; but the moment his
back was turned, they broke out in new insurrections. The fame of
Caesar chiefly rests on his eight campaigns in Gaul. But Caesar
had the disciplined Legions of Rome to fight with. Charlemagne had
no such disciplined troops. Yet he had as many difficulties to
surmount as Caesar,--rugged forests to penetrate, rapid rivers to
cross, morasses to avoid, and mountains to climb. It is a very
difficult thing to subdue even savages who are desperate,
determined, and united.

Charlemagne fought the Saxons for thirty-three years. Though he
never lost a battle, they still held out. At first he was generous
and forgiving, for he was more magnanimous than Caesar; but they
could not be won by kindness. He was obliged to change his course,
and at last was as summary as Oliver Cromwell in Ireland. He is
even accused of cruelties. But war in the hands of masters has no
quarter to give, and no tears to shed. It was necessary to conquer
the Saxons, and Charlemagne used the requisite means. Sometimes
the harshest measures will most speedily effect the end. Did our
fathers ever dream of compromise with treacherous and hostile
Indians? War has a horrid maxim,--that "nothing is so successful
as success." Charlemagne, at last, was successful. The Saxons
were so completely subdued at the end of thirty-three years, that
they never molested civilized Europe again. They became civilized,
like the once invading Celts and Goths; and they even embraced the
religion of the conquerors. They became ultimately the best people
in Europe,--earnest, honest, and brave. They formed great kingdoms
and states, and became new barriers against fresh inundations from
the North and East. The Saxons formed the nucleus of the great
German Empire (or were incorporated with it) which arose in the
Middle Ages, and which to-day is the most powerful in Europe, and
the least corrupted by the vices of a luxurious life. The
descendants of those Saxons are among the most industrious and
useful settlers in the New World.

There was one mistake which Charlemagne made in reference to them.
He forced their conversion to a nominal Christianity. He immersed
them in the rivers of Saxony, whether they would or no. He would
make them Christians in his way. But then, who does not seek to
make converts in his way, whether enlightened or not? When have
the principles of religious toleration been understood? Did the
Puritans understand them, with all their professions? Do we
tolerate, in our hearts, those who differ from us? Do not men look
daggers, though they dare not use them? If we had the power, would
we not seek to produce conformity with our notions, like Queen
Elizabeth, or Oliver Cromwell, or Archbishop Laud? There is not
perhaps a village in America where a true catholicism reigns.
There is not a spot upon the globe where there is not some form of
religious persecution. Nor is there any thing more sincere than
religious bigotry. And where people have not fundamental
principles to fight about, they will fight about technicalities and
matters of no account, and all the more bitterly sometimes when the
objects of contention are not worth fighting about at all,--as in
forms of worship, or baptism. Such is the weakness of human
nature. Charlemagne was no exception to the race. But if he
wished to make Christians in his way, he was, on the whole,
enlightened. He caused the young Saxons, whom he baptized and
marked with the sign of the Cross, to be educated. He built
monasteries and churches in the conquered territories. He
recognized this,--that Christianity, whatever it be, is the
mightiest power of the world; and he bore his testimony in behalf
of the intellectual dignity of the clergy in comparison with other
classes. He encouraged missions as well as schools.

There was another Germanic tribe at that time which he held in
great alarm, but which he did not attack, since they were not
immediately dangerous. This tribe or race was the Norman, just
then beginning their ravages,--pirates in open boats. They had
dared to enter a port in Narbonensis Gaul for purposes of plunder.
Some took them for Africans, and others for British merchants.
Nay, said Charlemagne, they are not merchants, but cruel enemies;
and he covered his face with his iron hands and wept like a child.
He did not fear these barbarians, but he wept when he foresaw the
evil they would do when he was dead. "I weep," said he, "that they
should dare almost to land on my shores, in my lifetime." These
Normans escaped him. They conquered and they founded kingdoms.
But they did not replunge Europe in darkness. A barrier had been
made against their inundation. The Saxon conquest was that
barrier. Moreover, the Normans were the noblest race of barbarians
which then roamed through the forests of Germany, or skirted the
shores of Scandinavia. They had grand natural traits of character.
They were poetic, brave, and adventurous. They were superior to
the Saxons and the Franks. When converted, they were the great
allies of the Pope, and early became civilized. To them we trace
the noblest development of Gothic architecture. They became great
scholars and statesmen. They were more refined by nature than the
Saxons, and avoided their gluttonous habits. In after times they
composed the flower of European chivalry. It was providential that
they were not subdued,--that they became the leading race in
Northern Europe. To them we trace the mercantile greatness of
England, for they were born sailors. They never lost their natural
heroism, or love of power.

The next important conquest of Charlemagne was that of the Avares,--
a tribe of the Huns, of Slavonic origin. They are represented as
very hideous barbarians, and only thought of plunder. They never
sought to reconstruct. There seemed to be no end of their
invasions from the time of Attila. They were more formidable for
their numbers and destructive ravages than for their military
skill. There was a time, however, when they threatened the
combined forces of Germany and Rome; but Europe was delivered by
the battle of Poictiers,--the bloodiest battle on record,--when
they seemed to be annihilated. But they sprang up again, in new
invasions, in the ninth century. Had they conquered, civilization
would have been crushed out. But Charlemagne was successful
against them, and from that time to this they were shut out from
western Europe. They would be formidable now, for the Russians are
the descendants of these people, were it not for the barrier raised
against them by the Germans. The necessities of Europe still
require the vast military strength and organization of Germany, not
to fight France, but to awe Russia. Napoleon predicted that Europe
would become either French or Cossack; but there is little
probability of Russian aggressions in Europe, so long as Russia is
held in check by Germany.

Charlemagne had now delivered France and Germany from external
enemies. He then turned his arms against the Saracens of Spain.
This was the great mistake of his life. Yet every one makes
mistakes, however great his genius. Alexander made the mistake of
pushing his arms into India; and Napoleon made a great blunder in
invading Russia. Even Caesar died at the right time for his
military fame, for he was on the point of attempting the conquest
of Parthia, where, like Crassus, he would probably have perished,
or have lost his army. Needless conquests seem to be impossible in
the moral government of God, who rules the fate of war. Conquests
are only possible when civilization seems to require them. In
seeking to invade Spain, Charlemagne warred against a race from
whom Europe had nothing more to fear. His grandfather, Charles
Martel, had arrested the conquests of the Saracens; and they were
quiet in their settlements in Spain, and had made considerable
attainments in science and literature. Their schools of medicine
and their arts were in advance of the rest of Europe. They were
the translators of Aristotle, who reigned in the rising
universities during the Middle Ages. As this war was unnecessary,
Providence seemed to rebuke Charlemagne. His defeat at
Roncesvalles was one of the most memorable events in his military
history. Prodigies of valor were wrought by him and his gallant
Paladins. The early heroic poetry of the Middle Ages has
commemorated his exploits, as well as those of his nephew Roland,
to whom some writers have ascribed the origin of Chivalry. But the
Frankish forces were signally defeated amid the passes of the
Pyrenees; and it was not until after several centuries that the
Gothic princes of Spain shook off the yoke of their Saracenic
conquerors, and drove them from Europe.

The Lombard wars of Charlemagne are the last to which I allude.
These were undertaken in defence of the Church, to rescue his ally
the Pope. The Lombards belonged to the great Germanic family, but
they were unfriendly to the Pope and to the Church. They stood out
against the Empire, which was then the chief hope of Europe and of
civilization. They would have reduced the Pope to insignificance
and seized his territories, without uniting Italy. So Charlemagne,
like his father Pepin, lent his powerful aid to the Roman bishop,
and the Lombards were easily subdued. This conquest, although the
easiest which he ever made, most flattered his pride. Lombardy was
not only joined to his Empire, but he received unparalleled honors
from the Pope, being crowned by him Emperor of the West.

It was a proud day when, in the ancient metropolis of the world,
and in the fulness of his fame, Pope Leo III. placed the crown of
Augustus upon Charlemagne's brow, and gave to him, amid the
festivities of Christmas, his apostolic benediction. His dominions
now extended from Catalonia to the Bohemian forests, embracing
Germany, France, the Netherlands, Italy, and the Spanish main,--the
largest empire which any one man has possessed since the fall of
the Roman Empire. What more natural than for Charlemagne to feel
that he had restored the Western Empire? What more natural than
that he should have taken the title, still claimed by the Austrian
emperor, in one sense his legitimate successor,--Kaiser, or Caesar?
In the possession of such enormous power, he naturally dreamed of
establishing a new universal military monarchy like that of the
Romans,--as Charles V. dreamed, and Napoleon after him. But this
is a dream that Providence has rebuked among all successive
conquerors. There may have been need of the universal monarchy of
the Caesars, that Christianity might spread in peace, and be
protected by a reign of law and order. This at least is one of the
platitudes of historians. Froude himself harps on it in his life
of Caesar. Historians are fond of exalting the glories of
imperialism, and everybody is dazzled by the splendor and power of
ancient Roman emperors. They do not, I think, sufficiently
consider the blasting influence of imperialism on the life of
nations, how it dries up the sources of renovation, how it
necessarily withers literature and philosophy, how nothing can
thrive under it but pomp and material glories, how it paralyzes all
virtuous impulses, how it kills all enthusiasm, how it crushes out
all hope and lofty aspirations, how it makes slaves of its best
subjects, how it fills the earth with fear, how it drains national
resources to support standing armies, how it mocks all enterprises
which do not receive imperial approbation, how everything is
concentrated to reflect the glory of one man or family; how
impossible, under its withering shade, is manly independence, or
the free expression of opinions or healthy growth; how it buries
up, under its armies, discontents and aspirations alike, and
creates nothing but machinery which must ultimately wear out and
leave a world in ruins, with nothing stable to take its place. Law
and order are good things, the preservation of property is
desirable, the punishment of crime is necessary; but there are
other things which are valuable also. Nothing is so valuable as
the preservation of national life; nothing is so healthy as scope
for energies; nothing is so contemptible and degrading as universal
sycophancy to official rule. There are no tyrants more oppressive
than the tools of absolute power. See in what a state imperialism
left the Roman Empire when it fell. There were no rallying forces;
there was no resurrection of heroes. Vitality had fled. Where
would Turkey be to-day without the European powers, if the Sultan's
authority were to fall? It would be in the state of ancient
Babylon or Persia when those empires fell.

There is another side to imperialism besides dreaded anarchies.
Moreover, the whole progress of civilization has been counter to
it. The fiats of eternal justice have pronounced against it,
because it is antagonistic to the dignity of man and the triumphs
of reason. I would not fall in with the cant of the dignity of
man, because there is no dignity to man without aid from God
Almighty through His spirit and the message he has sent in
Christianity. But there is dignity in man with the aid of a
regenerating gospel. Some people talk of the triumphs of
Christianity under the Roman emperors; but see how rapidly it was
corrupted by them when they sought the aid of its institutions to
bolster up their power. The power of Christianity is in its
truths; in its religion, and not in its forms and institutions, in
its inventions to uphold the arms of despotism and the tools of
despotism. It is, and it was, and it will be through all the ages
the great power of the world, against which it is vain to rebel.
And that government is really the best which unfetters its
spiritual influence, and encourages it; and not that government
which seeks to perpetuate its corrupt and worldly institutions.
The Roman emperors made Christianity an institution, and obscured
its truths. And perhaps that is one reason why Providence
permitted their despotism to pass away,--preferring the rude
anarchy of the Germanic nations to the dead mechanism of a lifeless
Church and imperial rottenness. Imperialism must ever end in
rottenness. And that is one reason why the heart of Christendom--I
mean the people of Europe, in its enlightened and virtuous sections
has ever opposed imperialism. The progress has been slow, but
marked, towards representative governments,--not the reign of the
people directly, but of those whom they select to represent them.
The victory has been nearly gained in England. In France the
progress has been uniform since the Revolution. Napoleon revived,
or sought to revive, the imperialism of Rome. He failed. There is
nothing which the French now so cordially detest, since their eyes
have been opened to the character and ends of that usurper, as his
imperialism. It cannot be revived any more easily than the oracles
of Dodona. Even in Germany there are dreadful discontents in view
of the imperialism which Bismarck, by the force of successful wars,
has seemingly revived. The awful standing armies are a menace to
all liberty and progress and national development. In Italy itself
there is the commencement of constitutional authority, although it
is united under a king. The great standing warfare of modern times
is constitutional authority against the absolute power of kings and
emperors. And the progress has been on the side of liberty
everywhere, with occasional drawbacks, such as when Louis Napoleon
revived the accursed despotism of his uncle, and by the same
means,--a standing army and promises of military glory.

Hence, in the order of Providence, the dream of Charlemagne as to
unbounded military aggrandizement could not be realized. He could
not revive the imperialism of Rome or Persia. No man will ever
arise in Europe who can re-establish it, except for a brief period.
It will be rebuked by the superintending Power, because it is fatal
to the highest development of nations, because all its glories are
delusory, because it sows the seeds of ruin. It produces that very
egotism, materialism, and sensuality, that inglorious rest and
pleasure, which, as everybody concedes, prepared the way for

And hence Charlemagne's empire went to pieces as soon as he was
dead. There was nothing permanent in his conquests, except those
made against barbarism. He was raised up to erect barriers against
fresh inroads of barbarians. His whole empire was finally split up
into petty sovereignties. In one sense he founded States, "since
he founded the States which sprang up from the dismemberment of his
empire. The kingdoms of Germany, Italy, France, Burgundy,
Lorraine, Navarre, all date to his memorable reign." But these
mediaeval kingdoms were feudal; the power of the kings was nominal.
Government passed from imperialism into the hands of nobles. The
government of Europe in the Middle Ages was a military aristocracy,
only powerful as the interests of the people were considered.
Kings and princes did not make much show, except in the trappings
of royalty,--in gorgeous dresses of purple and gold, to suit a
barbaric taste,--in the insignia of power without its reality. The
power was among the aristocracy, who, it must be confessed, ground
down the people by a hard feudal rule, but who did not grind the
souls out of them, like the imperialism of absolute monarchies,
with their standing armies. Under them the feudal nobles of Europe
at length recuperated. Virtues were born everywhere,--in England,
in France, in Germany, in Holland,--which were a savor of life unto
life: loyalty, self-respect, fidelity to covenants, chivalry,
sympathy with human misery, love of home, rural sports, a glorious
rural life, which gave stamina to character,--a material which
Christianity could work upon, and kindle the latent fires of
freedom, and the impulses of a generous enthusiasm. It was under
the fostering influences of small, independent chieftains that
manly strength and organized social institutions arose once more,--
the reserved power of unconquerable nations. Nobody hates
feudalism--in its corruptions, in its oppressions--more than I do.
But it was the transition stage from the anarchy which the collapse
of imperialism produced to the constitutional governments of our
times, if we could forget the absolute monarchies which flourished
on the breaking up of feudalism, when it became a tyranny and a
mockery, but which absolute monarchies flourished only one or two
hundred years,--a sort of necessity in the development of nations
to check the insolence and overgrown power of nobles, but after all
essentially different from the imperialism of Caesar or Napoleon,
since they relied on the support of nobles and municipalities more
than on a standing army; yea, on votes and grants from parliaments
to raise money to support the army,--certainly in England, as in
the time of Elizabeth. The Bourbons, indeed, reigned without
grants from the people or the nobility, and what was the logical
result?--a French Revolution! Would a French Revolution have been
possible under the Roman Caesars?

But I will not pursue this gradual development of constitutional
government from the anarchies which arose out of the fall of the
Roman Empire,--just the reverse of what happened in the history of
Rome; I say no more of the imperialism which Charlemagne sought to
restore, but was not permitted by Providence, and which, after all,
was the dream of his latter days, when, like Napoleon, he was
intoxicated by power and brilliant conquests; and I turn to
consider briefly his direct effects in civilization, which showed
his great and enlightened mind, and on which his fame in no small
degree rests.

Charlemagne was no insignificant legislator. His Capitularies may
not be equal to the laws of Justinian in natural justice, but were
adapted to his times and circumstances. He collected the scattered
codes, so far as laws were codified, of the various Germanic
nations, and modified them. He introduced a great Christian
element into his jurisprudence. He made use of the canons of the
Church. His code is more ecclesiastical than that of Theodosius
even, the last great Christian emperor. But in his day the clergy
wielded great power, and their ordinances and decisions were
directed to society as it was. The clergy were the great jurists
of their day. The spiritual courts decided matters of great
importance, and took cognizance of cases which were out of the
jurisdiction of temporal courts. Charlemagne recognized the value
of these spiritual courts, and aided them. He had no quarrels with
ecclesiastics, nor was he jealous of their power. He allied
himself with it. He was a friend of the clergy. One of the
peculiarities of all the Germanic laws, seen especially in those of
Ina and Alfred, was pecuniary compensation for crime: fifty
shillings, in England, would pay for the loss of a foot, and twenty
for a nose and four for a tooth; thus recognizing a principle seen
in our times in railroad accidents, though not recognized in our
civil laws in reference to crimes. This system of compensation
Charlemagne retained, which perhaps answered for his day.

He was also a great administrator. Nothing escaped his vigilance.
I do not read that he made many roads, or effected important
internal improvements. The age was too barbarous for the
development of national industries,--one of the main things which
occupy modern statesmen and governments. But whatever he did was
wise and enlightened. He rewarded merit; he made an alliance with
learned men; he sought out the right men for important posts; he
made the learned Alcuin his teacher and counsellor; he established
libraries and schools; he built convents and monasteries; he gave
encouragement to men of great attainments; he loved to surround
himself with learned men; the scholars of all countries sought his
protection and patronage, and found him a friend. Alcuin became
one of the richest men in his dominions, and Englebert received one
of his daughters in marriage. Napoleon professed a great
admiration for Charlemagne, although Frederic II. was his model
sovereign. But how differently Napoleon acted in this respect!
Napoleon was jealous of literary genius. He hated literary men.
He rarely invited them to his table, and was constrained in their
presence. He drove them out of the kingdom even. He wanted
nothing but homage,--and literary genius has no sympathy with brute
force, or machinery, or military exploits. But Charlemagne, like
Peter the Great, delighted in the society of all who could teach
him anything. He was a tolerably learned man himself, considering
his life of activity. He spoke Latin as fluently as his native
German, and it is said that he understood Greek. He liked to visit
schools, and witness the performances of the boys; and, provided
they made proficiency in their studies, he cared little for their
noble birth. He was no respecter of persons. With wrath he
reproved the idle. He promised rewards to merit and industry.

The most marked feature of his reign, outside his wars, was his
sympathy with the clergy. Here, too, he differed from Napoleon and
Frederic II. Mr. Hallam considers his alliance with the Church the
great error of his reign; but I believe it built up his throne. In
his time the clergy were the most influential people of the Empire
and the most enlightened; but at that time the great contest of the
Middle Ages between spiritual and temporal authority had not begun.
Ambrose, indeed, had rebuked Theodosius, and set in defiance the
empress when she interfered with his spiritual functions; and Leo
had firmly established the Papacy by emphasizing a divine right to
his decrees. But a Hildebrand and a Becket had not arisen to usurp
the prerogatives of their monarchs. Least of all did popes then
dream of subjecting the temporal powers and raising the spiritual
over them, so as to lead to issues with kings. That was a later
development in the history of the papacy. The popes of the eighth
and ninth centuries sought to heal disorder, to punish turbulent
chieftains, to sustain law and order, to establish a tribunal of
justice to which the discontented might appeal. They sought to
conserve the peace of the world. They sought to rule the Church,
rather than the world. They aimed at a theocratic ministry,--to be
the ambassadors of God Almighty,--to allay strife and division.

The clergy were the friends of order and law, and they were the
natural guardians of learning. They were kindness itself to the
slaves,--for slavery still prevailed. That was an evil with which
the clergy did not grapple; they would ameliorate it, but did not
seek to remove it. Yet they shielded the unfortunate and the
persecuted and the poor; they gave the only consolation which an
iron age afforded. The Church was gloomy, ascetic, austere, like
the cathedrals of that time. Monks buried themselves in crypts;
they sang mournful songs; they saw nothing but poverty and misery,
and they came to the relief in a funereal way. But they were not
cold and hard and cruel, like baronial lords. Secular lords were
rapacious, and ground down the people, and mocked and trampled upon
them; but the clergy were hospitable, gentle, and affectionate.
They sympathized with the people, from whom they chiefly sprang.
They had their vices, but those vices were not half so revolting as
those of barons and knights. Intellectually, the clergy were at
all times the superiors of these secular lords. They loved the
peaceful virtues which were generated in the consecrated convent.
The passions of nobles urged them on to perpetual pillage,
injustice, and cruelty. The clergy quarrelled only among
themselves. They were human, and not wholly free from human
frailties; but they were not public robbers. They were the best
farmers of their times; they cultivated lands, and made them
attractive by fruits and flowers. They were generally industrious;
every convent was a beehive, in which various kinds of manufactures
were produced. The monks aspired even to be artists. They
illuminated manuscripts, as well as copied them; they made
tapestries and beautiful vestments. They were a peaceful and
useful set of men, at this period, outside their spiritual
functions; they built grand churches; they had fruitful gardens;
they were exceedingly hospitable. Every monastery was an inn, as
well as a beehive, to which all travellers resorted, and where no
pay was exacted. It was a retreat for the unfortunate, which no
one dared assail. And it was vocal with songs and anthems.

The clergy were not only thus general benefactors in an age of
turbulence and crime, in spite of all their narrowness and
spiritual pride and their natural ambition for power, but they lent
a helping hand to the peasantry. The Church was democratic, and
enabled the poor to rise according to their merits, while nobles
combined to crush them or keep them in an ignoble sphere. In the
Church, the son of a murdered peasant could rise according to his
deserts; but if he followed a warrior to the battle-field, no
virtues, no talents, no bravery could elevate him,--he was still a
peasant, a low-born menial. If he entered a monastery, he might
pass from office to office until as a mitred abbot he would become
the master of ten thousand acres, the counsellor of kings, the
equal of that proud baron in whose service his father spent his
abject life. The great Hildebrand was the son of a carpenter. The
Church ever recognized, what feudality did not,--the claims of man
as man; and enabled peasants' sons, if they had abilities and
virtues, to rise to proud positions,--to be the patrons of the
learned, the companions of princes, the ministers of kings.

And that is the reason why Charlemagne befriended the Church and
elevated it, because its influence was civilizing. He sought to
establish among the clergy a counterbalancing power to that of
nobles. Who can doubt that the influence of the Church was better
than that of nobles in the Middle Ages? If it ground down society
by a spiritual yoke, that yoke was necessary, for the rude Middle
Ages could be ruled only by fear. What fear more potent than the
destruction of the soul in a future life! It was by this weapon--
excommunication--that Europe was governed. We may abhor it, but it
was the great idea of Mediaeval Europe, which no one could resist,
and which kept society from dissolution. Charlemagne may have
erred in thus giving power and consideration to the clergy, in view
of the subsequent encroachments of the popes. But he never
anticipated the future quarrels between his successors and the
popes, for the popes were not then formidable as the antagonists of
kings. I believe his policy was the best for Europe, on the whole.
The infancy of the Gothic races was long, dark, dreary, and
unfortunate, but it prepared them for the civilization which they

Such were the services which this great sovereign rendered to his
times and to Europe. He probably saved it from renewed barbarism.
He was the great legislator of the Middle Ages, and the greatest
friend--after Constantine and Theodosius--of which the Church can
boast. With him dawned the new civilization. He brought back
souvenirs of Rome and the Empire. Not for himself did he live, but
for the welfare of the nations he governed. It was his example
which Alfred sought to imitate. Though a warrior, he saw something
greater than the warrior's excellence. It is said he was eloquent,
like Julius Caesar. He loved music and all the arts. In his
palace at Aix-la-Chapelle were sung the songs of the earliest poets
of Germany. He took great pains to introduce the Gregorian chant.
He was simple in dress, and only on rare occasions did he indulge
in parade. He was temperate in eating and drinking, as all the
famous warriors have been. He absolutely abhorred drunkenness, the
great vice of the Northern nations. During meals he listened to
the lays of minstrels or the readings of his secretaries. He took
unwearied pains with the education of his daughters, and he was so
fond of them that they even accompanied him in his military
expeditions. He was not one of those men that Gibbon appreciated;
but his fame is steadily growing, after a lapse of a thousand
years. His whole appearance was manly, cheerful, and dignified.
His countenance reflected a child-like serenity. He was one of the
few men, like David, who was not spoiled by war and flatteries.
Though gentle, he was subject to fits of anger, like Theodosius;
but he did not affect anger, like Napoleon, for theatrical effect.
His greatness and his simplicity, his humanity and his religious
faith, are typical of the Germanic race. He died A. D. 814, after
a reign of half a century, lamented by his own subjects and to be
admired by succeeding generations. Hallam, though not eloquent
generally, has pronounced his most beautiful eulogy, "written in
the disgraces and miseries of succeeding times. He stands alone
like a rock in the ocean, like a beacon on a waste. His sceptre
was the bow of Ulysses, not to be bent by a weaker hand. In the
dark ages of European history, his reign affords a solitary
resting-place between two dark periods of turbulence and ignominy,
deriving the advantage of contrast both from that of the preceding
dynasty and of a posterity for whom he had founded an empire which
they were unworthy and unequal to maintain."

To such a tribute I can add nothing. His greatness consists in
this, that, born amidst barbarism, he was yet the friend of
civilization, and understood its elemental principles, and
struggled forty-seven years to establish them,--failing only
because his successors and subjects were not prepared for them, and
could not learn them until the severe experience of ten centuries,
amidst disasters and storms, should prove the value of the "old
basal walls and pillars" which remained unburied amid the despised
ruins of antiquity, and show that no structure could adequately
shelter the European nations which was not established by the
beautiful union of German vigor with Christian art,--by the
combined richness of native genius with those immortal treasures
which had escaped the wreck of the classic world.


Eginhard's Vita Caroli Magni; Le Clerc's De la Bruyere, Histoire du
Regne de Charlemagne; Haureau's Charlemagne et son Cour; Gaillard's
Histoire de Charlemagne; Lorenz's Karls des Grossen. There is a
tolerably popular history of Charlemagne by James Bulfinch,
entitled "Legends of Charlemagne;" also a Life by James the
novelist. Henri Martin, Sismondi, and Michelet may be consulted;
also Hallam's Middle Ages, Milman's Latin Christianity, Gibbon's
Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Biographie Universelle, and
the Encyclopaedias.


A. D. 1020-1085.


We associate with Hildebrand the great contest of the Middle Ages
between spiritual and temporal authority, the triumph of the
former, and its supremacy in Europe until the Reformation. What
great ideas and events are interwoven with that majestic
domination,--not in one age, but for fifteen centuries; not
religious merely, but political, embracing as it were the whole
progress of European society, from the fall of the Roman Empire to
the Protestant Reformation; yea, intimately connected with the
condition of Europe to the present day, and not of Europe only, but
America itself! What an august power is this Catholic empire,
equally great as an institution and as a religion! What lessons of
human experience, what great truths of government, what subtile
influences, reaching alike the palaces of kings and the hovels of
peasants, are indissolubly linked with its marvellous domination,
so that whether in its growth or decay it is more suggestive than
the rise and fall of any temporal empire. It has produced,


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