The State: Its Historic Role.
artistic and passional interests, for which men of the twelfth century
had been wont to unite directly.
And who are those barbarians ? It is the State : the Triple Alliance,
constituted at last, of the military chief, the Roman judge, and the
priest, the three forming a mutual insurance for domination ; the three
united in one power that will command in the name of the interests of
society and will crush that society.
We naturally ask ourselves, how these new barbarians could get the
mastery over communes, formerly so powerful ? Where did they get
their strength for conquest from ?
That strength, they first of all found in the village. Just like the
communes of ancient Greece, who did not manage to abolish slavery,
so the communes of the Middle Ages were not able to emancipate the
peasant from serfdom, at the same time as they emancipated the citizen.
It is true that nearly everywhere, at the time of his emancipation,
the citizen—himself an artisan-cultivator—had tried to induce country
folk to help in his enfranchisement. During two centuries, the citizens
of Italy, Spain and Germany carried on a stubborn war against feudal
lords. Prodigies of heroism and perseverance were displayed by citizens in that war against the feudal castles. They drained themselves
to become masters of the castles of feudalism and to cut down the feudal
forest that enveloped them.
But they only half succeeded. Then, tired of war, they made peace
over the head of the peasant. To buy peace they delivered the peasant up to the lord, outside the territory which was conquered by the
commune. In Italy and Germany they even ended by recognizing the
lord as fellow citizen on condition that he should reside within the
commune. In other parts they ended by sharing his domination over
the peasant. And the lord avenged himself on these common people,
whom he hated and despised, by drenching their streets in blood during
the struggles and acts of revenge of noble families, that were not
carried before communal judges and syndics, whom the nobles despised,
but were settled by the sword in the street.
The nobles demoralised the towns by their munificence, their intrigues, their great style of living, by their education received at the
bishop's or the king's court. They made the citizens espouse their family struggles. And the citizen ended by imitating the lord, and became a lord in his turn, enriching himself, he too, by the labour of
serfs encamped in the villages outside the city walls.
After which, the peasant lent assistance to nascent Kings, Emperors,
Tsars and to Popes, when they began to build their kingdoms and to