Imatges de pàgina


more England had to look abroad for the remedy. The new thought came across the sea with the Friars, and more especially with the Franciscans, the followers of Francis of Assisi, the gentle mystical Italian, rather than with those of Dominic, the combative and persecuting Spaniard. The friars were the last helpful gift of the medieval Church to the world. Like the old monks in their self-abnegation, and in their complete renunciation of the pleasures and interests of the world, the friars introduced an entirely new element into the ecclesiastical system. The monk stood apart from humanity for his own soul's welfare, crucifying the flesh in order that the spirit might live, and teaching indirectly by example, and not, except accidentally, by direct word or guidance. The friar's work was carried on, not in retired cloisters but in the busy haunts of men. He lived not for himself but for others. Wherever men were most wretched, struck down by the most loathsome of diseases, or pinched and hunger-starved with famine, there the little mission chapel of the friars was raised. Francis of Assisi wooed, in his own mystical language, poverty as his bride; but it was poverty revealed in others as well as in himself. The world for him was not a haunt of demons to be avoided at the peril of eternal death, but a home of sin and misery to be healed and alleviated. Whilst pope and emperor, king and baron, were contending for this world's goods, the Franciscan drew close the golden bond of charity, and told not in word, but in very deed, of the love which is stronger to draw together than this world's goods are powerful to separate. They had their reward even in that of which they were most careless. The intellectual sway of the world, the organising of its science, even what knowledge of its physical laws was then possible, fell into their hands. Thomas Aquinas and Roger Bacon were of the friars. Even in political

change their weight was felt. In the English constitutional struggle, the man whose influence was ever used to exalt the standard of right and to bind together the hostile elements of faction, was one who had imbibed their teaching most deeply-Earl Simon de Montfort was a pupil of the friars.


It is possible that Earl Simon's foreign origin may § 15. Sihave had something to do with the freshness of insight mon de which enabled him to look to the bottom of our English difficulties. Fully assuming his position as an Englishman, and associating himself completely with the struggles of the English baronage, he saw, ever more clearly as the conflict with the king continued, that the substitution of the government of an irresponsible aristocracy for an irresponsible king would not be a gain to anyone. The Provisions of Oxford in 1258, which were in the main the work of the baronage, contemplated some such a settlement as this. Earl Simon's own arrangements, made after the victory of Lewes in 1264, contemplated a national constitution.



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For some time knights had been sent with increasing § 16. His frequency to represent the smaller landowners in Parlia- scheme of ment. Almost accidentally the barrier between tenants tative in chief, and subtenants, and again between subtenants ment. and ordinary freeholders had been broken down. If knights were to be sent to parliament at all, there was no machinery for their election except in the county court, and the county court was still what it had been as the shiremote before the Conquest, the place of the meeting of landowners irrespective of the nature of their tenure. The step from a feudal to a national assembly was thus taken without any special contrivance by any special statesman. But it could not have been taken unless the fusion of feudal and nonfeudal elements in parliament had already been completed in the nation


itself. It was because the great baron and his vassal knights had learned to act together with the simple freeholder in resisting royal and papal encroachments at home, that they were able to join together in parliament. Earl Simon drew yet another element of life into the political arena. The towns, comparatively small and unimportant as, with the single exception of London, they were, were yet important enough to be consulted, and the admission of their representatives to parliament completed the national assembly. It was to a parliament so constituted in a single house that Earl Simon looked for the mainspring of political action. It is true that the governors who were to act in the name of the king were to be nominated by electors named by the barons alone; but they were to be continually checked by the criticism of a parliament which would represent England as no parliament had represented it before. In so doing the great earl attempted to anticipate the work of centuries. Even if his parliament hd been more homogeneous than it was, the control of government by a representative body was no easy task. The constitutional habit of giving way to the majority of votes takes long to form, and the equally necessary habit of paying attention to public affairs when a critical moment of danger is past s not easily acquired. Great as the progress of England in the direction of national unity had been, it was not as yet enough to bear the strain of so great a constitutional change. The barons preferred to be the servants of a king who would spare their interests to being servants of the community at large. Personal jealousy of the great earl did the rest. Feudalism was still too strong for the complete nationalisation of the kingdom. The split between the baronage and the national party grew wider every day, till the hope of England seemed to be struck down with Earl Simon at Evesham, and nothing

left to be done but to raise the fruitless lament for the political martyr who had died for the country as Archbishop Thomas had once died for the church.

Happily, Earl Simon found a successor, and more than a successor, in the king's son. Do what he would, the earl, from his very position, was a divider. He could I do nothing without thrusting the king down into tutelage, and in proportion as he succeeded in doing that, he became the object of jealousy to those who were unwilling to submit to the rule of a subject like themselves. Edward I. stood on the vantage ground of the throne. From thence he was able to look at men and things from a point of view very different from that which any subject could command. He could do that easily and without effort which Simon could only do laboriously, and with the certainty of rousing opposition. Especially was this the case with the encouragement given by the two men to the growing aspirations after parliamentary representation. Earl Simon's assemblies were instruments of warfare. Edward's assemblies were invitations to peace. Yet his position would have availed him little if he had trusted to nothing else. He was able to use it, because he was strong in mind as well as in body, because with the reforming temperament he had an open eye for his subjects' grievances, and was thus able to lead them steadily forward in the path of legislative improvement. Barons and prelates, knights and townsmen, came together only to support a king who took the initiative so wisely, and who, knowing what was best for all, sought the good of his kingdom without thought of his own ease. Yet even so, Edward was too prudent at once to gather together such a body as that which Earl Simon had planned. He summoned, indeed, all the constituent parts of Simon's parliament, but he seldom summoned them to meet in one place or at one time. Sometimes


§ 17. The early Years of Edward


§ 18. The national and the feudal Kingship.

the barons and prelates met apart from the townsmen or the knights, sometimes one or the other class met entirely alone. By this means Edward got what he wanted. He strengthened himself in his power to do good by gathering a fruitful knowledge of the thoughts and aims of his subjects, and by inspiring them with respect for his own thoughts and aims for them; but he accustomed them at the same time to look upon him far more as the centre of the national life than they would have done if they had been in the habit of meeting him face to face in one great national body. It may fairly be said, too, that they got what they needed. They had the best possible training for higher work to come one day, the work of co-operating with one nobler and wiser than themselves, without any temptation to contend over points of small importance.

In this way, during the first twenty years of Edward's reign, the nation rapidly grew in that consciousness of national unity which would one day transfer the function of regulation from the crown to the rep sentatives of the nation. Like all changes, even when they are for the best, this change brought with it its own peculiar risks. The king, in gaining the position of head and leader of the nation, did not entirely throw off the position of feudal head of a certain body of landowners holding by a special military tenure from the crown. Hence there was always a danger that, in looking at things from a double point of view, the king might be inclined to put one relation or the other into the foreground in proportion as one or the other would serve his interests most, and would thus reap the discredit which accrues to the man who uses technical legality for the purpose of securing solid advantages for himself. From this danger Edward, so far as his domestic policy was concerned, only escaped with difficulty, whilst

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