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REVIEW OF BOOKS.
The Reign of Charlemagne, considered chiefly teith reference to Religion, Luws, Literature and Manners, by Henry Card, 4. M. of Pembroke College, Oxford. In One Octavo Volume, price 7s. Longman, Hurst, Rees and Orme. 1807.
This is a work which has long been a desideratum among the readers of history. 66 The name of CharJemague," observes the author, who is already known to the public by his history of the Revolutions of Russia, and other valuable perforinances, “is not less familiar to the learned, than to the unlearned reader: yet his reign has been exposed to great, and I will venture to add, undeserved neglect. Which defect of curiosity respecting the life and character of a man, of whose faide the anpals of Europe are full, is rightly attributed by Mr, Card, to the remoteness of the period in which Charleinagne flourished. Indeed with the sole esception of Gibbon, (and he has only viewed the reign of Charlemagne in such a manner as io provoke, rather than satisfy our curiosity,) no other writer has manifested any desire to render the English reader familiar with the inilitary and political operations of that renowned hero. To produce then a work, which, in a popular and elegant style, should delineate Charlemagne in his public and private character, and trace the line of policy pursued by him to impart knowledge, and to create a spirit of improvement, among his people, has been attempted, and we may safely add, in most respects performed by Mr. Card.
The book is divided into five chapters: and the first contains an eloquent but summary account of the warlike achievements of Charlemagne ; for Mr. Card has expressedly stated in his preface, “ that the chief, or rather, sole object of his research, has been to reflect some light on the legislative acts of Charlemagne, the least known, though the most loudly extolled," The hind of the reader, is however, judiciously relieved, even in this chapter, from the dull uniformity of sieges and battles in war, by digressions illustrative of the methods which Charlemagne adopted to disseminate a better system of government throughout his extensive dominions.
“ When the race of Clovis,” says our author, “ invested theit sons with the government of a province, they soon aspired openly to an indepeudent authority; but Charlemagne, in committing any part of his territories to the jurisdiction of his sons, always considered and treated them in the light of subjects: he taught them to view their appointments as gifts which were bestowed, and might be resumed by his despotic will. They were bis representatives, or lieutenants; they were the canals by which his irresisitble mandate reached the most remote part of his empire. He sent therefore, often for the young princes to receive his orders, as well as his reprimands : and to be instructed by him what remedies they should apply to the abuses which they had introduced or tolerated. When the young king of Aquitaine, who had then entered his seventeenth year, was on the eve of departing to his territories, Charlemagne addressed him with that tone of authority which never failed to make a deep impression on the minds of his auditors "Henceforth,' said he, ‘you are no longer to consider yourself as a boy destitute of all experience; it is now time, that you should exercise yourself, a proper controul over the ministers, nobles, and subjects of your kingdom : you have come to our court with the equipage only of a private person, but you shall enter your dominions with a stately train. I am aware likewise, that in the presents you have wished me to make, necessity has often compelled you to seek from your domestics, the means of thus gratifying your incliuations : but that practice must no longer be followed in your present ele
since it will make you in the end, an object of contempt to your people, which of all things, is the most to be feared and avoided by a sovereign."
The second, third, fourth, and fifth chapters, contain an account of the state of religion, laws, literature, and manners, in the reign of Charlemagne. Under the head of religion, we discover the strenuous efforts which the emperor of the West made by his opposition to the decrees of the second Nicene council, to stop the_torrent of superstition which then poured itself over Europe. Mr. Card has presented us with an elaborate review of Charlemagne's system of legislation, which strikingly demonstrates the great, and permanent revolution he wished to effect in the moral and political condition of his numerous subjects. In proof of this assertien we subjoin the following pas. sages.
“ It is our command, that you explain to us, without disguise or reserve,
what is to be understood from the import of that phrase among you, to renounce the business and pleasures of the world, and to devote your lives to God. By what means are we to distinguish those who abjure society, from those who mix in it? Are we to rank those only in the list of monks, who embrace a life of celibacy, and appear without arms? Must we consider that person as exclusively aspiring to the virtues of the monastic profession, who labours unceasingly by every artifice in his power, to augment his possessions; or must we view him in that light who by menacing one time the punishments of hell, by promising another time the blessings of Paradise, endeavours to entice people both rich and poor, without learning or judgment, to strip themselve and their legitimate heirs, of the goods which belonged to them? Is he to be considered as resigning himself to a life of penance and solitude, who lusts for the property of another; and, in order to procure it, brings false witnesses in support of claims before a judge devoid alike of faith or discernment? What opi. nion must be entertained of those, who under a specious pretext of a love of God, his saints, and martyrs, transport from one spot to another, the bones and reliques of the saints, in order to erect new churches, and to engage people by every art of seduction and flattery, to reduce themselves for their use, to a state of beggary in their life time, or else to bequeath their inheritance to them upon their death.
“ The Missi Dominici, or royal envoys or inspectors, owed their establishment to Charlemagne, and if history had left us no other memorial than this institution to evince his affection for the public good, and his wisdom to attain it, we should deem it sufficient to place him in the eyes of posterity, as worthy of swayiug the destinies of a great empire. The beginning of his reign was disturbed, according to a former observation, by a crowd of factious nobles, but by bis valor and firmness, address in dividing, eloquence in re-uniting, art in penetrating all, he had succeeded in frustrating every attempt against his own person. Yet to protect the people at large from the oppression of these bobles and their train. of dependants, by the due administration of justice, and to provide for its regular security, required views of political justice more liberal and enlighted, and efforts of resolution more systematic and steady, than those which had guided the conduct of his predecessors. Before Charlemagne ascended the throne of France, numberless were the vexations inflicted by these potent chieftains and their satellites over the middle and more indigent classes of the state, and some of the most turbulent and daring spirits among their order, even carried their pretensions so far as to usurp a great part of the royal revenues, and to exercise almost the whole judicial power. By tolerating these proceedings any longer, the monarch clearly foresaw that industry would be stifled, the cultivation of the lands neglected, and commerce, then in its infancy, ruined. To find, therefore, an immediate and permanent remedy for these evils, the Missi Dominici were created, by whose means the administration of justice was ultimately brought into the hands of the sovereign. Appointed by him, and attached by every motive of interest and gratitude to his person, Charlemagne felt 20 apprehensions in delegating to them an authority almost regal, to ensure the reduction of the higher ranks of the community, to some degree of dependence and subordination. These confidential servants of the crown, were empowerd to hold assemblies in the different provinces of the kingdom, four times in the year ; to which the bishops, abbots, counts, judges, and other chief magistrates, ecclesiastical and civil, were oliliged to repair, either in person or by deputy. In them the affairs of the province were discussed, wrongs redressed, grievances removed, and whatever related to the public or private service, finally settled and arranged. Thus supported by the prince and entirely at his disposal, the Missi Dominici were admirably fornied to accomplish effectually his entire wishes. To profit by the jealousy of his rebeilious lords, to divide them by their mutual hatred, to inspire them with a love of loyalty, to Aatter their ambition by dignities, their vanity hy praises; to restrain some by fear, some by shame, and others by honour; in short, to derive from each passion, each vice, and each virtue, some impression favourable to the national tranquility and happiness. Independent of this institution making so great a figure in the reign of Charlemagne from the substantial benefits it imparted to the great mass of the people, it also possesses claims to our notice as serviug in the judgment of several historians and antiquaries, for the model of the subsequent parliaments of France."
Our limits will not allow us to give any extracts from the fourth and fifth chapters, but of these it may be said, without any exagerated praise, that they treat of many things worthy of being handed down to posterity. Indeed, it is our opinion, that in this part of the work, the greatest portion of original matter is displayed and set off in the author's happiest manner. In the tifth chapter there is a story relative to the birth of Charlemagne, well calculated to form the ground work of an interesting play or romance.
We cannot dismiss this work without remarking, thot although every page of it establishes Mr. Card's claims to great research, and minute investigation, yet he is to be censured not a little, for omitting to quote constantly the valuable authorities which he has consulted. This way of writing history, savours too much of the French me, thod, and it may be justly regarded as the chief blemish in the celebrated work of the Abbé Raynal. In justice however, to Mr. Card, we must add, that he has given us a list, in his preface, of the writers to which he has referred, for the new and important facts he has introduced in his history, and this list, affords sufficient evidence of the union of laborious research with discriminating knowledge, exhibited in this undere taking
The Political and Military State of Europe; (1807). An
Address to the British Nation ; exhibiting the sole means of preserving the Independence and Liberties of the British Empire, and of rescuing those of Europe from the tyranny of the French Government. By Alexander Walker, Esq. Large 8vo. 58. Crosby and Co. 1807.
The first part of this Address states a general principle upon which the revolutions of nations, commonly depend; the second gives a rapid sketch of the state of Europe before and after the French revolution; the third exhibits the only certain means of preserving the liberty and independence of the British Empire, and of rescuing those of the continent from the tyranny of the French government; the fourth points out the probable consequences of neglecting scientific measures; and the fifth forms the conclusion.
This is the train of the author's argument. The great cause of revolutions is neglect of talent. It subverted the Grecian and Roman States. The converse of this principle is also true ; and he instances the present greatness of France, “ for nations have always been formidable after internal convulsions, solely, because, during them, it becomes the interest of governments, or of the public, to reward talent, which, while prosperous, they as uniformly avoid.”
The battles of Austerlitz and Jena were lost through ignorance of political and tactical science. The Austrians, the Russians, the Prussians are sufficiently brave, but they pursue an erroneous system of warfare, and ignorance is the sole cause of all their misfortunes : “ what conseqnently have we to expect, we who so servilely imitate the tactical system of Prussia ??"
« Tell not me (says the author) of Alexandria, of Acre, or of Maida, as proofs of tactical skill. Great though they be, they are single achievements, uniformly gained at the point of the bayonet, and by the personal bravery of our men; and so France may boast some naval triumphs. But were ber existence dependent upon naval success, or that of Britain on the sum of her military exploits, what would be the consequence? And shall not the military glory of Britain revive ? shall the triumphs of Marlborough be forgotten ? shall the days of Poictiers, Cressy, and Agincourt uever return."
The author then proposes the establishment of vas rious schools of political and diplomatic philosophy, that the offices of the state may be competently filled; but