BLTC Press Titles

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The Worm Ouroboros

E. R. Eddison

Vanity Fair

William Thackery

Novalis Including Hymns to the Night

Novalis, George MacDonald, Thomas Carlyle

Leaves of Grass

Walt Whitman

A philosophical and political history of the settlements and trade of the Europeans in the East and West Indies

by Raynal (Guillaume-Thomas-François, abbé)


This rising spirit was checked by the inroads of the Franks and other barbarous nations; nor was it restored to its former activity, even when these robbers had established themselves in their conquests. To their savage fury succeeded an unbounded passion for wealth, to gratisy which, they had recourse to every kind of oppression. Every boat that came to a town was to pay a duty for entrance,. another for the salute, a third for the bridge, a fourth for approaching the shore, a sifth for anchorage, a sixth for leave to unload, and a seventh for slore-room. Land carriages were not more savourably treated, and were exposed to the insusserable tyranny of custom-house ossicers, who were dispersed all over the country. These excesses were carried so sar, that sometimes the goods brought to market did not produce enough to pay the expences incurred before the sale of them. A total discouragement was the necessary consequence of such enormities.

Cloisters soon became the only places where industry prevailed, and manusactures were carried on. The monks were not then corrupted by idleness, intrigue, and debauchery. Useful labours silled up the vacancies of an edisying and retired lise. The most humble and robust of them shared the toils of agriculture with their vassals. Those to whom nature had imparted less strength, or more understanding, applied themselves to the cultivation of the neglected and abandoned arts. All of them in silence and retirement were engaged in the service of their country, the substance of which their successors have incessantly devoured, while they disturbed its tranquillity.

If these recluse persons had not had recourse to any of those iniquitous measures that have led them to the degree of wealth to which we now see, not without indignation, they have attained, they must necessarily have acquired in process of time, as it was one of the immediate effects of their constitution. The founders of monasteries had not the least idea of the consequence, though evident enough of the austerity, they imposed upon a monastic lise. They were not aware of the accumulation of riches, the limits of which it is impossible to six, whenever the annual revenue exceeds the annual expenditure. This expenditure being always the same, and subject to no variation, except that of the circumstances which raise or lower the price of provisions; and the overplus of the revenue being continually accumulating, must at length, however trifling we may suppose it, form a great mass of wealth. The prohibiting statutes enacted with respect to possessions in mortmain, may therefore retard, but can never put an en. tire stop to, the progress of monastic opulence. The case is not the same with the samilies of citizens which are not subservient to any kind of rule. A prodigal sort succeeds to an avaricious sather, so that expences are never upon the same footing. The fortune is either dissipated, or it is improved. Persons who have laid down rules for religious societies, have done it in the sole view of making holy men ; but their regulations have tended more directly and more essectually to make rich ones.

Dagobert excited the spirit of his countrymen in the seventh century. Fairs were opened, to which the Saxons flocked with tin and lead from England; the Jews with jewels and gold or silver plate; the Sclavonians with all the metals of the north; traders from Lombardy, Provence, and Spain, with the commodities of their respective countries, and those they received from Africa, Egypt, and Syria; the merchants of every province in the kingdom, with whatever their foil and their industry asforded. Unfortunately, this prosperity was of a short duration ; it disappeared under indolent kings, but revived under Charlemagne.

This prince, who might without flattery be ranked with the greatest men recorded in history, had he not been isometimes influenced by sanguinary schemes of conquest, and sullied with acts of persecution and tyranny, seemed to. follow the footsteps or those sirst Romans, whose relaxations from the satigues of war, were the labours of agriculture. He applied himsclf'to the care of his vast domains, with that closeness and skill which would hardly be expected from the most assiduous man in a private station. All the great men of the state followed his example, and devoted themselves to husbandry, and to those arts which attend, or are immediately connected with it. From that period the French had many of their own productions to barter, and could with great ease make them circulate throughout the immense empire which was then subject to their dominion.

So flourishing a situation presented a fresh allurement to the Normans to indulge the inclination they had for piracy. Those barbarians, accustomed to seek from plunder that wealth which their soil did not afford, poured forth in multitudes out of their inhospitable climate in quest ef booty. They attacked all the sea-cossts, but more especially those of France, which promised the richest spoil, with the greatest avidity. The ravages they committed, the cruelties they exercised, the flames they kindled for a whole century in those sertile provinces, cannot be remembered without horror. During. that satal period nothing; was thought of but how to escape slavery or death. There was no intercourse between the several parts of the kingdom, and consequently no trade.

In the meantime the nobles, intrusted with the administration of the provinces, had insensibly made themselves masters of them, and had found means to make their authority hereditary. They had not, indeed, thrown off all dependence on the head of the empire; but, although they retained the humble appellation of vassal, they weie not much less formidable to the state than the kings in the neighbourhood of its frontiers. They were consirmed in their usurpations at the memorable era when the sceptre was removed from the samily of Charlemagne to that of the Capets. From that time there were Bo national assemblies, no tiibunals, no laws, no government. In that satal confusion, the sword usurped the place of justice, and the free citizens were forced to embrace servitude, to purchase the protection of a chief who was able to desend them.

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