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But when those barbarians had sallied forth from their native forests, and invaded the provinces of the Roman empire, they were soon led to a great improvement in their circumstances. The countries which they conquered had been cultivated and civilized under the Roman dominion; and the inhabitants, though generally in a declining state, were still acquainted with husbandry and a variety of arts. It was to be expected, therefore, that, while the Gothic invaders, during a long course of bloody wars, defaced the monuments of ancient literature, and wherever they came planted their own barbarous customs, they should, on the other hand, suddenly catch a degree of knowledge from the conquered people; and make a quicker progress in agriculture, and some of the coarser handicrafts connected with it, than they could have done in the natural course of things, had they been left to their own experience and observation. By their repeated victories, different heads of families, or barons, were enabled to seize great landed estates. They also acquired many captives in war, whom they reduced into servitude, and by whom they were put into a condition for managing their extensive possessions.
"pibus in concilio dixit se ducem fore; qui sequi velint, pro"fiteantur; consurgunt ii, qui et causam et hominem pro"bant, suumque auxilium pollicentur; atque ab multitudine "conlaudantur: qui ex iis secuti non sunt, in desertorum ac "proditorum numero ducuntur; omniumque iis rerum postea "fides derogatur." Caesar, de bell. Gall. 6. §. 23.
After the settlement of those nations was completed, the members of every large family came to be composed of two sorts of people; the slaves, acquired for the most part by conquest; and the free men, descended from a common ancestor, and maintained out of his estate. The former were employed chiefly in cultivating their masters grounds: the latter supported the interest and dignity of their leader, and in their turn were protected by him.
The authority of the baron was extremely absolute over all the members of his family; because they entirely depended upon him for subsistence. He obliged his slaves to labour at pleasure, and allowed them such recompence only as he thought proper. His kindred were under the necessity of following his banner in all his military expeditions. He exercised over both a supreme jurisdiction, in punishing their offences, as well as in deciding their differences; and he subjected them to such regulations as he judged convenient, for removing disorders, or preventing future disputes.
These barons, though in a great measure independent, were early united in a larger society, under circumstances which gave rise to a very peculiar set of institutions. The effect of that union, whence proceeded the system of feudal government in Europe, will fall to be considered in a subsequent part of this discourse.
THE AUTHORITY OF A SOVEREIGN, AND OF SUBORDINATE OFFICERS, OVER A SOCIETY COMPOSED OF DIF
FERENT TRIBES OR VILLAGES.
The constitution of government arising from the union of different tribes or villages.
THE improvement of agriculture, as it increases the quantity of provisions, and renders particular tribes more numerous and flourishing, so it obliges them at length to send out colonies to a distance, who occupy new seats wherever they can find a convenient situation, and are formed into separate villages, after the model of those with which they are acquainted. Thus, in proportion as a country is better cultivated, it comes to be inhabited by a greater number of distinct societies, whether derived from the same or from a different original, agreeing in their manners, and resembling each other in their institutions and customs.
These different communities being frequently at war, and being exposed to continual invasions from their neighbours, are in many cases determined, by the consideration of their mutual interest, to unite against their common enemies, and to form a va
riety of combinations, which, from the influence of particular circumstances, are more or less permanent. Having found the advantage of joining their forces in one expedition, they are naturally disposed to continue the like association in another, and by degrees are encouraged to enter into a general alliance. The intercourse which people, in such a situation, have maintained in war will not be entirely dissolved even in time of peace; and though the different villages should be originally strangers to each other, yet, having many opportu nities of assembling in their military enterprises, they cannot fail to contract an acquaintance, which will become an inducement to their future correspondence. They have frequent opportunities of meeting in their common sports and diversions: the leading men entertain one another with rustic hospitality and magnificence: intermarriages begin to take place between their respective families; and the various connexions of society are gradually multiplied and extended.
An alliance for mutual defence and security is a measure suggested by such obvious views of expediency, that it must frequently take place, not only among tribes of husbandmen, but also among those of shepherds, and even of mere savages. Many instances of it are, accordingly, to be found in Tartary, upon the coast of Guinea, in the history of the ancient Germans, and among the Indians of America. But such alliances are not
likely to produce a permanent union, until the populousness of a country has been increased by agriculture, and the inhabitants, in consequence of that employment, have taken up a fixed residence in the same neighbourhood.
From a confederacy of this kind, a very simple form of government is commonly established. As every village, or separate community, is subjected to its own leader, their joint measures fall naturally under the direction of all those distinguished personages; whose frequent meeting and deliberation gives rise, in a short time, to a regular council, or senate, invested with a degree of power and authority corresponding to what each of its members has acquired over his own particular domestics and retainers.
The same considerations, however, which determine the individuals of a single tribe to be guided by a particular person in their smaller expeditions, must recommend a similar expedient in conducting a numerous army, composed of different clans, often disagreeing in their views, and little connected with each other. While every chief has the conduct of his own dependents, it is found convenient that some one leader should be intrusted with the supreme command of their united forces; and as that dignity is commonly bestowed upon the person who, by his opulence, is most capable of sup porting it, he is frequently enabled to maintain it during life, and even in many cases to render it