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ART. I.-1. Etudes sur l'Histoire du Gouvernement représentatif
en France. Par le COMTE L. DE CARNÉ. 2 Tomes. Paris.
1859. 2. La Monarchie Française au Dixhuitième Siècle. Par L. DE
CARNE. 3. Mémoires de Madame de Maintenon. Par le DUC DE NOAILLES. 4. L'ancien Régime et la Révolution. Par A. DE TOCQUEVILLE.
1856. 5. Essais de Politique et de Littérature. Par M. PRÉVOST
PARADOL. 1859. 6. L'Ecole Libérale.—Avenir religieux des Sociétés modernes.
Par M. ERNEST RENAN. 1860. 7. Du Passé et de l'Avenir du Peuple. Par l'ABBÉ DE LAMENNAIS. 8. Du Protestantisine en France. Par M. SAMUEL VINCENT. 1860. 9. Liberté et Centralisation. Par CHARLES DOLLFUS. 1860.
Many persons in modern Europe still forget that division is a condition of unity. Being persuaded that the greatest good consists in universal pacification, they imagine that all the disagreements and troubles of mankind may be averted by the intervention of the State. 'China,' remarks Ernest Renan scornfully, “is the ideal they propose to themselves.'
To estimate the vast importance of the Reformation as a
political and social movement, we need only to study carefully the History of France during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. It appears trite and commonplace to remark that a living unity is better than a dead uniformity, or that an enduring national prosperity can co-exist only with the perfect liberty of the subject. But from the days of Pisistratus to those of Machiavelli, the most fatal errors in government have resulted from the attempt to establish false relations between the individual and the State.
The ancient idea of social order differed fundamentally from the modern. The liberty' of antiquity was only another term for national independence. In reality, Sparta was no more free than Sardis. The development of the individual was entirely subservient to the law of the State. In old heathendom, religion was a national affair. In the first regular edict which was passed against the Christians, in the eighty-seventh year of our era, the Roman Emperor Domitian considered the offence of dissent from the established religion in the same light as a crime of high treason. And in the two remarkable letters that passed between the moderate Trajan and the younger Pliny, we have an instance of the policy which approved the judicial persecution of religious opinions appearing to be in opposition to the national worship. Such a despotism could be maintained only on one condition : that the opinions and customs of all the surrounding nations should be in unison with it. And could we imagine a world so constituted that the principles of absolute government and universal centralization should be easily preserved, the existence of human depravity, with the absence of any counteracting influence, must inevitably involve the ruin of that world.
Thus it was that each nation of antiquity (possessing for a time some organic principle of its own; but being always narrow and circumscribed in its social conservatism) passed rapidly through the several phases of its development; and disastrous decay succeeded to its most brilliant splendour.
The Germanic races, (as Ernest Renan has remarked,) in bursting the bonds of the Roman Empire, effected the most important political revolution that the world has ever seen. It was the victory of the individual over the State. The despotism of the Empire had so enfeebled the civilized world, that the luxurious and effeminate majority was speedily overcome by an earnest and vigorous minority. Then commenced a
The tendency of the Germanic races was to absolute individualism. The theory of the State was completely strange - to them, and the system of feudality resulted from the clashing Revival of Roman Ideas.
3 of the old and the new ideas. The royalty of the Middle Ages was merely an extension of personal rights. The King was the proprietor of the crown, and his authority was limited by charters and obligations. The bold and liberal barons who dictated conditions to the weak and vacillating John, had no idea of the nation as an absolute source of power. All such theories of government were confined to the peripatetic schoolmen who raved of Aristotle, without dreaming of putting his precepts into practice.
Christianity had, indeed, taken the place of Paganism; whilst, in accordance with the old régime, the Christian priesthood claimed its descent from an ancient hierarchy with a form and organization clearly defined. From the commencement of the fourth century (the epoch of their alliance with the Roman Empire) the churchmen had shown a decided preference for absolute authority. The Roman pontiffs considered themselves the chiefs of Christendom. In the name of a principle of universal centralization they endeavoured to revive the ideas of antiquity. Even as early as under Charlemagne, their influence was silently leavening the nation.
When, in the earlier stages of its history, the Christian religion was no longer persecuted by the State, it was not simply tolerated as free, but unfortunately became subject to the Roman ideas, and transformed into a function of political power. In fact, since the period of Constantine, it may be said that the ancient Church has been more or less ruled by the interests of temporal kingdoms. In France the Church was transformed into a spiritual State, and the State into a kind of temporal Church. In a struggle between two great powers, the interests of one or the other become necessarily dominant. France, even daring the most brilliant period of the Gallican Church, never attempted the most feeble approximation to a pure theocracy: the interests of the State remained always the most powerful. But in its centralized administration the uniform government was eager to avail itself of the assistance of the priests. The absolute monarch was little content with his power over the interests of his people, when he could not tyrannize over their consciences. The confessional was the citadel of the Church ; but this citadel was in the power of the State.
‘France,' exclaims M. Dollfus, has been verging towards a triple Catholicism; a Catholicism which must embrace the whole physical, intellectual, and moral man, in the narrow constraints of political power.' The roots of Catholicism have struck deeply in France, but they have undermined the founda
tions of national liberty. The intolerance of the Middle Ages was carried down into modern times. The Church, by its union with the monarchy, forced the State to act as executioner for her. Christianity thus inaugurated the most fatal type of spiritual tyranny. Diocletian and Nero founded no regular Inquisition. On the death of a tyrant in pagan Rome, the persecuted wretches might hope for a respite from their sufferings. But it remained for a centralized Church to establish the permanent scaffold in France; and it was reserved for the poetic and romantic Middle Ages to stifle all liberty of thought and conscience, by the most atrocious punishments which the cruelty and inveterate hatred of man could devise. St. Louis, the worthiest monarch who ever sat on the throne of France, and the most liberal sovereign of his times, was yet a terrible persecutor.
Thus it is in countries where an absolute government prevails, that a national and despotic Church produces the most disastrous consequences. Philip II., the Domitian of modern times, scarcely exercised a more important influence upon the religion of thousands, than did the amiable Madame de Maintenon through her control of the cowardly Louis XIV. France has been proud of her concord. She has boasted of her grand uniformity; but it was her concord which led to the horrors of the Revolution, and it was her uniformity which engendered the scepticism of the eighteenth century, and the flippant deism of the present day. It has been the error of France tò oppose the free spontaneity of man's spirit; to forget in what sense
the domain of the soul is spiritual, and independent of official organization. The mistakes into which France has fallen in her government, the difficulties which she has experienced in the 'establishment of a constitutional government, have been partly the work of Catholicism. A false idea of sovereignty has been engendered by a tendency to the Roman ideas. The theoretical monarchy of the Gallican Church must necessarily be a Louis XIV., possessing full power over the bodies and souls of his subjects. Nor has the Church itself been otherwise than injured by this alliance :-Catholicism has been guilty of the most fatal imprudence (as in the days of Cæsar Borgia and those of Machiavelli) by materializing itself in its central relation with the State.
The theory of one universal Church and one Christian monarchy has dazzled some of the most powerful minds in all periods of modern society. Frederick Schlegel compares it to Gothic architecture, which has never been brought to perfection; and sighs after the time when his lofty ideal of a ' paternal