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William Robertson

A View of the Progress of Society in Europe from the Subversion of the Roman Empire to the Beginning of the Sixteenth Century (1769)

Proofs and Illustrarions XL-XLIV

Note editoriali

Home | Editorial note | Preface | Section I | Par. i-ii | Par. iii-v | Par vi-x | Section II
Section III (pp. 106-119)
| Section III (pp. 120-139) | Section III (pp. 141-166)
Proofs & Illustrations


Note [XL], page 153.

The humiliating posture in which a great emperor implored absolution is an event so singular, that the words in which Gregory himself describes it merit a place here, and convey a striking picture of the arrogance of that pontiff: «Per triduum, ante portam castri, deposito omni regio cultu, miserabiliter, utpote discalceatus, et laneis indutus, persistens, non prius eum multo fletu apostolicæ miserationis auxilium et consolationem implorari destitit, quam omnes qui ibi aderant, et ad quos rumor ille pervenit, ad tantam pietatem, et compassionis misericordiam movit, ut pro eo multis precibus et lacrymis intercedentes, omnes quidem insolitam nostræ mentis duritiem mirarentur; nonnulli vero in nobis non apostolicæ sedis gravitatem, sed quasi tyrannicæ feritatis crudelitatem esse clamârunt». Epist. Gregor. ap. Memorie della Contessa Matilda de Fran. Mar. Fiorentini, Lucca, 1756, vol. I, p. 174.


Note [XLI], page 161.

As I have endeavoured in the history to trace the various steps in the progress of the constitution of the empire, and to explain the peculiarities in its policy very fully, it is not necessary to add much by way of illustration. What appears to be of any importance, I shall range under distinct heads.

1. With respect to the power, jurisdiction, and revenue of the emperors. A very just idea of these may be formed by attending to the view which Pfeffel gives of the rights of the emperors at two different periods. The first at the close of the Saxon race, A. D. 1024. These, according to his enumeration, were the right of conferring all the great ecclesiastical benefices in Germany; of receiving the revenues of them during a vacancy; of mortmain, or of succeding to the effects of ecclesiastics who died intestate. The right of confirming or of [603] annulling the elections of the popes. The right of assembling councils, and of appointing them to decide concerning the affairs of the Church. The right of conferring the title of king upon their vassals. The right of granting vacant fiefs. The right of receiving the revenues of the empire, whether arising from the imperial domains, from imposts and tolls, from gold or silver mines, from the taxes paid by the Jews, or from forfeitures. The right of governing Italy as its proper sovereigns. The right of creating free cities, and of establishing fairs in them. The right of assembling the diets of the empire, and of fixing the time of their duration. The right of coining money, and of conferring that privilege on the states of the empire. The right of administering both high and low justice within the territories of the different states. Abrégé, p. 160. The other period is at the extinction of the emperors of the families of Luxemburg and Bavaria, A. D. 1437. According to the same author, the imperial prerogatives at that time were, the right of conferring all dignities and titles, except the privilege of being a state of the empire. The right of preces primariæ, or of appointing once during their reign a dignitary in each chapter or religious house. The right of granting dispensations with respect to the age of majority. The right of erecting cities, and of conferring the privilege of coining money. The right of calling the meetings of the diet, and of presiding in them. Abrégé, &c. p. 507. It were easy to show that M. Pfeffel is well founded in all these assertions, and confirm them by the testimony of the most respectable authors. In the one period the emperors appear as mighty sovereigns with extensive prerogatives; in the other, as the heads of a confederacy with very limited powers.

The revenues of the emperors decreased still more than their authority. The early emperors, and particularly those of the Saxon line, besides their great patrimonial or hereditary territories, possessed an extensive domain both in Italy and Germany, which belonged to them as emperors. Italy belonged to the emperors as their proper kingdom, and the revenues which they drew from it were very considerable. The first alienations of the imperial revenue were made in that country. The Italian cities having acquired wealth, and aspiring at independence, purchased their liberty from different emperors, as I have observed, Note XV. The sums which they paid, and the emperors with whom they concluded these bargains, are mentioned by Casp. Klockius de Ærario, Norimb. 1671, pp. 85, &c. Charles IV, and his son Wenceslaus dissipated all that remained of the Italian branch of the domain. The German domain lay chiefly upon the banks of the Rhine, and was under the government of the counts palatine. It is not easy to mark out the boundaries, or to estimate the value, of this ancient domain, which has been so long incorporated with the territories of different princes. Some hints with respect to it may be found in the glossary of Speidelius, which he has entitled Speculum Juridico-Philologico-Politico-Historicum Observationum, &c. Norim. 1673, vol. I, pp. 679, 1045. A more full account of it is given by Klockius de Ærario, p. 84. Besides this, the emperors possessed considerable districts of land lying intermixed with the estates of the dukes and barons. They were accustomed to visit these frequently, and drew from their vassals in each what was sufficient to support their court during the time of their residence among them. Annalistæ, ap. Struv., tom. I, 611. A great part of these detached possessions was seized by the nobles during the long interregnum, or during the wars occasioned by [604] the contests between the emperors and the court of Rome. At the same time that such encroachments were made on the fixed or territorial property of the emperors, they were robbed almost entirely of their casual revenues; the princes and barons appropriating to themselves taxes and duties of every kind, which had usually been paid to them. Pfeffel, Abrégé, p. 374. The profuse and inconsiderate ambition of Charles IV, squandered whatever remained of the imperial revenues after so many defalcations. He, in the year 1376, in order to prevail with the electors to choose his son Wenceslaus king of the Romans, promised each of them a hundred thousand crowns. But being unable to pay so large a sum, and eager to secure the election to his son, he alienated to the three ecclesiastical electors, and to thye count-palatine, such countries as still belonged to the imperial domain on the banks of the Rhine, and likewise made over to them all the taxes and tolls then levied by the emperors in that district. Trithemius, and the author of the Chronicle of Magdeburgh, enumerate the territories and taxes which were thus alienated, and represent this as the last and fatal blow to the imperial authority. Struv. Corp. vol. I, p. 437. From that period the shreds of the ancient revenues possessed by the emperors have been so inconsiderable, that, in the opinion of Speidelius, all that they yield would be so far from defraying the expense of supporting their household, that they would not pay the charge of maintaining the posts established in the empire. Speidelii Speculum, &c. vol. I, p. 680. These funds, inconsiderable as they were, continued to decrease. Granvelle, the minister of Charles V, asserted in the year 1546, in presence of several of the German princes, that his master drew no money at all from the empire. Sleid. History of the Reformation, Lond. 1689, p. 372. The same is the case at present Traité du Droite Publique de l’Empire, par M.le Cop. de Villeray, p. 55. From the reign of Charles IV, whom Maximilian called the «pest of the empire», the emperors have depended entirely on their hereditary dominions as the chief and almost the only source of their power, and even of their subsistence.

2. The ancient mode of electing the emperors, and the various changes which it underwent, require some illustration. The imperial crown was originally attained by election, as well as those of most monarchies in Europe. An opinion long prevailed among the antiquaries and public lawyers of Germany, that the right of choosing the emperors was vested in the archbishops of Mentz, Cologne, and Treves, the king of Bohemia, the duke of Saxony, the marquis of Brandenburgh, and the count-palatine of the Rhine, by an edict of Otho III, confirmed by Gregory V, about the year 996. But the whole tenor of history contradicts this opinion. It appears that, from the earliest period in the history of Germany, the person who was to reign over all was elected by the suffrage of all. Thus Conrad I, was elected by all the people of the Franks, say some annalists; by all the princes and chief men, say others; by all the nations, say others. See their words, Struv. Corp. 211. Conringius de German. Imper. Repub. Acroamata Sex., Ebroduni, 1654, p. 103. In the year 1024, posterior to the supposed regulations of Otho III, Conrad II, was elected by all the chief men, and his election was approved and confirmed by the people, Struv. Corp. 284. At the election of Lotharius II, A. D. 1125, sixty thousand persons of all ranks were present. He was named by the chief men, and their nomination was approved by the people. Struv. ibid. p. 357. The first author who mentions the seven electors is Martinus Polonus, who flourished in the [605] reign of Frederick II, which ended A. D. 1250. We find that in all the ancient elections to which I have referred, the princes of the greatest power and authority were allowed by their countrymen to name the person whom they wished to appoint emperor, and the people approved or disapproved of their nomination. This privilege of voting first is called by the German lawyers the right of prætaxation. Pfeffel, Abrégé, p. 316. This was the first origin of the exclusive right which the electors acquired. The electors possessed the most extensive territories of any princes in the empire; all the great offices of the state were in their hands by hereditary right; as soon as they obtained or engrossed so much influence in the election as to be allowed the right of prætaxation, it was vain to oppose their will, and it even became unnecessary for the inferior ecclesiastics and barons to attend, when they had no other function but that of confirming the deed of these more powerful princes by their assent. During times of turbulence, the subordinate members of the Germanic body could not resort to the place of election without a retinue of armed vassals, the expense of which they were obliged to defray out of their own revenues; and finding their attendance to be unnecessary, they were unwilling to waste them to no purpose. The rights of the seven electors were supported by all the descendants and allies of their powerful families, who shared in the splendour and influence which they enjoyed by this distinguishing privilege. Pfeffel, Abrégé, p. 376. The seven electors were considered as the representatives of all the orders which composed the highest class of German nobility. There were three archbishops, chancellors of the three great districts into which the empire was anciently divided; one duke, one marquis, and one count. All these circumstances contributed to render the introduction of this considerable innovation into the constitution of the Germanic body extremely easy. Everything of importance, relating to this branch of the political state of the empire, is well illustrated by Onuphrius Panvanius, an Augustinian monk of Verona, who lived in the reign of Charles V, His treatise, if we make some allowance for that partiality which he expresses in favour of the power which the popes claimed in the empire, has the merit of being one of the first works in which a controverted point in history is examined with critical precision, and with a proper attention to that evidence which is derived from records, or the testimony of contemporary historians. It is asserted by Goldastus in his Politica Imperialia, p. 2.

As the electors have engrossed the sole right of choosing the emperors, they have assumed likewise that of deposing them. This high power the electors have not only presumed to claim, but have ventured, in more than one instance, to exercise. In the year 1298, a part of the electors deposed Adolphus of Nassau, and substituted Albert of Austria in his place. The reasons on which they found their sentence, show that this deed flowed from factious, not from public-spirited motives. Struv. Corp. vol. I, p. 540. In the first year of the fifteenth century, the electors deposed Wenceslaus, and placed the imperial crown on the head of Rupert, elector palatine. The act of deposition is still extant. Goldasti Constit. vol. I, p. 379. It is pronounced in the name and by the authority of the electors, and confirmed by several prelates and barons of the empire who were present. These exertions of the electoral power demonstrate that the imperial authority was sunk very low.[606]

The other privileges of the electors, and the rights of the electoral college, are explained by the writers on the public law in Germany.

3. With respect to the diets, or general assemblies of the empire, it would be necessary, if my object were to write a particular history of Germany, to enter into a minute detail concerning the forms of assembling them, the persons who have right to be present, their division into several colleges or benches, the objects of their deliberation, the mode in which they carry on their debates or give their suffrages, and the authority of their decrees or recesses. But as my only object is to give the outlines of the constitution of the German empire, it will be sufficient to observe, that originally the diets of the empire were exactly the same with the assemblies of March and of May, held by the kings of France. They met, at least, once a-year. Every freeman had a right to be present. They were assemblies, in which a monarch deliberated with his subjects concerning their common interest. Arumæus de Comitiis Rom. German. Imperii, 4to Jenæ, 1660, cap. 7, No. 20, &c. But when the princes, dignified ecclesiastics, and barons, acquired territorial and independent jurisdiction, the diet became an assembly of the separate states, which formed the confederacy of which the emperor was head. While the constitution of the empire remained in its primitive form, attendance on the diets was a duty, like the other services due from feudal subjects to their sovereign, which the members were bound to perform in person; and if any member who had a right to be present in the diet neglected to attend in person, he not only lost his vote, but was liable to a heavy penalty. Arumæus de Comit. c. 5, No. 40. Whereas, from the time that the members of the diet became independent states, the right of suffrage was annexed to the territory or dignity, not to the person. The members, if they could not, or would not, attend in person, might send their deputies, as princes send ambassadors, and they were entitled to exercise all the rights belonging to their constituents. Ibid. No. 42, 46, 49. By degrees, and upon the same principle of considering the diet as an assembly of independent states, in which each confederate had the right of suffrage, if any member possessed more than one of those states or characters which entitle to a seat in the diet, he was allowed a proportional number of suffrages. Pfeffel, Abrégé, 622. From the same cause, the imperial cities, as soon as they became free, and acquired supreme and independent jurisdiction within their own territories, were received as members of the diet. The powers of the diet extend to everything relative to the common concern of the Germanic body, or that can interest or affect it as a confederacy. The diet takes no cognizance of the interior administration in the different states, unless that happens to disturb or threaten the general safety.

4. With respect to the imperial chamber, the jurisdiction of which has been the great source of order and tranquillity in Germany, it is necessary to observe that this court was instituted in order to put an end to the calamities occasioned by private wars in Germany. I have already traced the rise and progress of this practice, and pointed out its pernicious effects as fully as their extensive influence during the middle ages required. In Germany, private wars seem to have been more frequent, and productive of worse consequences, than in the other countries of Europe. There are obvious reasons for this. The nobility of Germany were extremely numerous, and the causes of their dissension [607] multiplied in proportion. The territorial jurisdiction which the German nobles acquired, was more complete than that possessed by their order in other nations. They became, in reality, independent powers, and they claimed all the privileges of that character. The long interregnum, from A. D. 1256 to A. D. 1273, accustomed them to an uncontrolled licence, and led them to forget that subordination which is necessary in order to maintain public tranquillity. At the time when the other monarchs of Europe began to acquire such an increase of power and revenues as added new vigour to their government, the authority and revenues of the emperors continued gradually to decline. The diets of the empire, which alone had authority to judge between such mighty barons, and power to enforce its decisions, met very seldom. Conring. Acroamata, p. 234. The diets, when they did assemble, were often composed of several thousand members. Chronic. Constant. ap. Struv. Corp. I, p. 546, and were tumultuary assemblies, ill qualified to decide concerning any question of right. The session of the diet continued only two or three days; Pfeffel, Abrégé, p. 244; so that they had no time to hear or discuss any cause that was in the smallest degree intricate. Thus Germany was left, in some measure, without any court of judicature capable of deciding the contests between its more powerful members, or of repressing the evils occasioned by their private wars.

All the expedients which were employed in other countries of Europe, in order to restrain this practice, and which I have described, Note XXI, were tried in Germany with little effect. The confederacies of the nobles and of the cities, and the division of Germany into various circles, which I mentioned in that note, were found likewise insufficient. As a last remedy, the Germans had recourse to arbiters, whom they called austregæ. The barons and states in different parts of Germany joined in conventions, by which they bound themselves to refer all controversies that might arise between them to the determination of austregæ, and to submit to their sentences as final. These arbiters are named sometimes in the treaty of convention, an instance of which occurs in Ludewig, Reliquæ Manuscr. omnis Ævi, vol. II, p. 212; sometimes they were chosen by mutual consent upon occasion of any contest that arose; sometimes they were appointed by neutral persons; and sometimes the choice was left to be decided by lot. Datt. de Pace Publica Imperii, lib. I, cap. 27, No. 60, &c. Speidelius, Speculum, &c. voc. Austrag. p. 95. Upon the introduction of this practice, the public tribunals of justice became in a great measure useless, and were almost entirely deserted.

In order to re-establish the authority of government, Maximilian I, instituted the imperial chamber at the period which I have mentioned. This tribunal consisted originally of a president who was always a nobleman of the first order, and of sixteen judges. The president was appointed by the emperor, and the judges, partly by him, and partly by the states, according to forms which it is unnecessary to describe. A sum was imposed, with their own consent, on the states of the empire, for paying the salaries of the judges and officers in this court. The imperial chamber was established first at Francfort on the Maine. During the reign of Charles V, it was removed to Spires, and continued in that city above a century and a half. It is now fixed at Wetzlar. This court takes cognizance of all questions concerning civil right between the states of the empire, and passes judgment in the last resort, and without appeal. To it belongs likewise the privilege of judging in criminal causes, which may be [608] considered as connected with the preservation of the public peace. Pfeffel, Abrégé, p. 560.

All causes relating to points of feudal right or jurisdiction, together with such as respect the territories which hold of the empire in Italy, belong properly to the jurisdiction of the aulic council. This tribunal was formed upon the model of the ancient court of the palace instituted by the emperors of Germany. It depended not upon the states of the empire, but upon the emperor, he having the right of appointing at pleasure all the judges of whom it is composed. Maximilian, in order to procure some compensation for the diminution of his authority, by the powers vested in the imperial chamber, prevailed on the diet, A. D. 1512, to give its consent to the establishment of the aulic council. Since that time it has been a great object of policy in the court of Vienna to extend the jurisdiction, and support the authority, of the aulic council, and to circumscribe and weaken those of the imperial chamber. The tedious forms and dilatory proceedings of the imperial chamber have furnished the emperors with pretext for doing so. «Lites Spiræ» according to the witticism of a German lawyer, «spirant, sed nunquam expirant». Such delays are unavoidable in a court composed of members named by many different states jealous of each other. Whereas the judges of the aulic council, depending upon one master, and being responsible to him alone, are more vigorous and decisive. Puffendorf de Statu Imper. German. cap. V, § 20. Pfeffel, Abrégé, p. 581.


Note [XLII], page 163.

The description which I have given of the Turkish government is conformable to the accounts of the most intelligent travellers who have visited that empire. The Count de Marsigli, in his treatise concerning the military state of the Turkish empire, ch. VI, and the author of Observations on the Religion, Laws, Government, and Manners of the Turks, published at London, 1768, vol. I, p. 81, differ from other writers who have described the political constitution of that powerful monarchy. As they had opportunity during their long residence in Turkey, to observe the order and justice conspicuous in several departments of administration, they seem unwilling to admit that it should be denominated a despotism. But when the form of government in any country is represented to be despotic, this does not suppose that the power of the monarch is continually exerted in acts of violence, injustice, and cruelty. Under political constitutions of every species, unless when some frantic tyrant happens to hold the sceptre, the ordinary administration of government must be conformable to the principles of justice, and if not active in promoting the welfare of the people, cannot certainly have their destruction for its object. A state, in which the sovereign possesses the absolute command of a vast military force, together with the disposal of an extensive revenue; in which the people have no privileges, and no part either immediate or remote in legislation; in which there is no body of hereditary nobility, jealous of their own rights and distinctions, to stand as an intermediate order between the prince and the people, cannot be distinguished by any name but that of a despotism. The restraints, however, which I have mentioned, arising from the capiculy, and from religion, are powerful. But they are not such as charge the nature or denomination of the government. When a despotic prince employs an armed force to support his authority, he commits the supreme power to their hands. The prætorian bands in Rome dethroned, murdered, [609] and exalted their princes in the same wanton manner with the soldiery of the Porte at Constantinople. But, notwithstanding this, the Roman emperors have been considered by all political writers as possessing despotic power.

The author of Observations on the Religion, Laws, Government, and Manners of the Turks, in a preface to the second edition of his work, hath made some remarks on what is contained in this note, and in that part of the text to which it refers. It is with diffidence I set my opinion in opposition to that of a person who has observed the government of the Turks with attention, and has described it with ability. But after a careful review of the subject, to me the Turkish government still appears of such a species as can be ranged in no class but that to which political writers have given the name of despotism. There is not in Turkey any constitutional restraint upon the will of the sovereign, or any barrier to circumscribe the exercise of is power, but the two which I have mentioned; one afforded by religion, the principle upon which the authority of the sultan is founded, the other by the army, the instrument which he must employ to maintain his power. The author represents the ulema, or body of the law, as an intermediate order between the monarch and the people. Pref. p. 30. But whatever restraint the authority of the ulema may impose upon the sovereign, is derived from religion. The moulahs, out of whom the mufti and other chief officers of the law must be chosen, are ecclesiastics. It is as interpreters of the Koran or divine will that they are objects of veneration. The check, then, which they give to the exercise of arbitrary power is not different from one of those of which I took notice. Indeed, this restraint cannot be very considerable. The mufti, who is the head of the order, as well as every inferior officer of law, is named by the sultan, and is removable at his pleasure. The strange means employed by the ulema in 1746 to obtain the dismission of a minister whom they hated, is a manifest proof that they possess but little constitutional authority which can serve as a restraint upon the will of the sovereign. Observat. p. 92, of 2d edit. If the author’s idea be just, it is astonishing that the body of the law should have no method of remonstrating against the errors of administration, but by setting fire to the capital.

The author seems to consider the capiculy, or soldiery of the Porte, neither as formidable instruments of the sultan’s power, nor as any restraint upon the exercise of it. His reasons for this opinion are, that the number of the capiculy is small in proportion to the other troops which compose the Turkish armies, and that in time of peace they are undisciplined. Pref. 2d edit, pp. 23, &c. But the troops stationed in a capital, though their number be not great, are always masters of the sovereign’s person and power. The prætorian bands bore no proportion to the legionary troops in the frontier provinces. The soldiery of the Porte are more numerous, and must possess power of the same kind, and be equally formidable, sometimes to the sovereign, and oftener to the people. However much the discipline of the janizaries may be neglected at present, it certainly was not so in that age to which alone my description of the Turkish government applies. The author observes, Pref. p. 29, that the janizaries never deposed any sultan of themselves, but that some form of law, true or false, has been observed, and that either the mufti, or some other minister of religion, has announced to the unhappy prince the law which renders him unworthy of the throne. Observ. p. 102. This will always happen. In every revolution, though brought about by military power, the deeds of the [610] soldiery must be confirmed and carried into execution with the civil and religious formalities peculiar to the constitution.

This addition to the note may serve as a further illustration of my own sentiments, but is not made with an intention of entering into any controversy with the author of Observations, &c., to whom I am indebted for the obliging terms in which he has expressed his remarks upon what I had advanced. Happy were it for such as ventured to communicate their opinion to the world, if every animadversion upon them were conveyed with the same candid and liberal spirit. In one particular, however, he seems to have misapprehended what I meant. Pref. p. 17. I certainly did not mention his or Count Marsigli’s long residence in Turkey, as a circumstance which should detract from the weight of their authority. I took notice of it, in justice to my readers, that they might receive my opinion with distrust, as it differed from that of persons whose means of information were so far superior to mine.


Note [XLIII], page 164.

The institution, the disciple, and privileges of the janizaries are described by all the authors who give any account of the Turkish government. The manner in which enthusiasm was employed in order to inspire them with courage, is thus related by Prince Cantemir: «When Amurath I, had formed them into a body, he sent them to Haji Bektash, a Turkish saint, famous for his miracles and prophecies, desiring him to bestow on them a banner, to pray God for their success, and to give them a name. The saint, when they appeared in his presence, put the sleeve of his gown upon one of their heads, and said, Let them be called Yengicheri, Let their countenance be ever bright, their hands victorious, their sword keen; let their spear always hang over the heads of their enemies, and wherever they go, may they return with a shining face». History of the Ottoman Empire, p. 38. The number of janizaries, at the first institution of the body, was not considerable. Under Solyman, in the year 1521, they amounted to twelve thousand. Since that time their number has greatly increased. Marsigli, Etat, &c. ch. XVI,p. 68. Though Solyman possessed such abilities and authority as to restrain this formidable body within the bounds of obedience, yet its tendency to limit the power of the sultans was, even in that age, foreseen by sagacious observers. Nicolas Daulphinois, who accompanied M. d’Aramon, ambassador from Henry II, of France to Solyman, published an account of his travels; in which he describes and celebrates the discipline of the janizaries, but at the same time predicts that they would, one day, become formidable to their masters, and act the same part at Constantinople as the prætorian bands had done at Rome. Collection of Voyages from the Earl of Oxford’s library, vol. I, p. 599.


Note [XLIV], page 166.

Solyman the Magnificent, to whom the Turkish historians have given the surname of canuni, or institutor of rules, first brought the finances and military establishment of the Turkish empire into a regular form. He divided the military force into the capiculy, or soldiery of the Porte, which was properly the standing army, and serrataculy, or soldiers appointed to guard the frontiers. The chief strength of the latter consisted of those who held timariots and ziams. These were portions of land granted to certain persons for life, in much the same manner as the military fiefs among the nations of Europe, in return for which military service was performed. Solyman, in his [611] Canun-Namé, or book of regulations, fixed with great accuracy the extent of these lands in each province of his empire, appointed the precise number of soldiers each person who held a timariot or a ziam should bring into the field, and established the pay which they should receive while engaged in service. Count Marsigli and Sir Paul Rycaut have given extracts from this book of regulations, and it appears that the ordinary establishment of the Turkish army exceeded a hundred and fifty thousand men. When these were added to the soldiery of the Porte, they formed a military power greatly superior to what any Christian state could command in the sixteenth century. Marsigli, Etat Militaire, &c. p. 136. Rycaut’s State of the Ottoman Empire, book III, ch. II, As Solyman, during his active reign, was engaged so constantly in war, that his troops were always in the field, the serrataculy became almost equal to the janizaries themselves in discipline and valour.

It is not surprising, then, that the authors of the sixteenth century should represent the Turks as far superior to the Christians, both in the knowledge and in the practice of the art of war. Guicciardini informs us, that the Italians learned the art of fortifying towns from the Turks. Histor. lib. XV, p. 266. Busbequius, who was ambassador from the Emperor Ferdinand to Solyman, and who had opportunity to observe the state both of the Christian and Turkish armies, published a discourse concerning the best manner of carrying on war against the Turks, in which he points out at great length the immense advantages which the infidels possessed with respect to discipline and military improvements of every kind. Busbequii Opera, edit. Elzevir, p. 393, &c. The testimony of other authors might be added, if the matter were in any degree doubtful.

Before I conclude these «Proofs and Illustrations», I ought to explain the reason of two omissions in them; one of which it is necessary to mention on my own account, the other to obviate an objection to this part of the work.

In all my inquiries and disquisitions concerning the progress of government, manners, literature, and commerce, during the middle age, as well as in my delineations of the political constitution of the different states of Europe at the opening of the sixteenth century, I have not once mentioned M. de Voltaire, who, in his Essai sur l’Histoire générale, has reviewed the same period, and has treated of all these subjects. This does not proceed from inattention to the works of that extraordinary man, whose genius, no less enterprising than universal, has attempted almost every different species of literary composition. In many of these he excels. In all, if he had left religion untouched, he is instructive and agreable. But as he seldom imitates the example of modern historians in citing the authors from whom they derived their information, I could not, with propriety, appeal to his authority in confirmation of any doubtful or unknown fact. I have often, however, followed him as my guide in these researches; and he has not only pointed out the facts with respect to which it was of importance to inquire, but the conclusions which it was proper to draw from them. If he had, at the same time, mentioned the books which relate these particulars, a great part of my labour would have been unnecessary, and many of his readers, who now consider him only as an entertaining and lively writer, would find that he is a learned and well-informed historian.

As to the other omission, every intelligent reader must have observed, that [612] I have not entered, either in the historical part of this volume, or in the «Proofs and Illustrations», into the same detail with respect to the ancient laws and customs of the British kingdoms, as concerning those of the other European nations. As the capital facts with regard to the progress of government and manners in their own country are known to most of my readers, such a detail appeared to me to be less essential. Such facts and observations, however, as were necessary towards completing my design in this part of the work, I have mentioned under the different articles which are subjects of my disquisitions. The state of government in all the nations of Europe having been nearly the same during several ages, nothing can tend more to illustrate the progress of the English constitution than a careful inquiry into the laws and customs of the kingdoms on the continent. This source of information has been too much neglected by the English antiquaries and lawyers. Filled with admiration of that happy constitution now established in Great Britain, they have been more attentive to its forms and principles than to the condition and ideas of remote times, which in almost every particular differ from the present. While engaged in perusing the laws, charters, and early historians of the continental kingdoms, I have often been led to think that an attempt to illustrate the progress of English jurisprudence and policy, by a comparison with those of other kingdoms in a similar situation, would be of great utility, and might throw much light on some points which are now obscure, and decide others, which have been long controverted.

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Proofs & Illustrations