Page:The Harvard Classics Vol. 51; Lectures.djvu/28

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18
HISTORY

religious doctrine into the new modes of language, and especially to have a vernacular Bible. Assailed in this manner, Rome stimulated theological studies, helped to create the mediaeval universities, and tried to revivify the philosophy which Alexandria had given her in the creeds by going back to the texts of the golden age of Greece with Aquinas.

It was of no avail. Europe felt a new life, a new nationalism moving within her. Voyages of discovery to India, to America, first stirred imaginations, and later poured into the itching palms of ambitious statesmen, soldiers, artists, vast stores of gold. The pulse of the world beat quicker. Constantinople fell, a thousand years after its foundation, into the hands of the Turk, and its stores of manuscripts, of art, of craftsmen, poured into Italy. Men became inventors, innovators, artists, revolutionaries. Cesare Borgia attempted, but failed, to create an Italian empire. Martin Luther attempted to secede from the Church, and succeeded.

He declared that a man could save his soul by the grace of God only, and on that basis started a wrangle of ideals and of wordy disputations that plunged Europe once more into an inferno of warfare. It lasted until 1648, the peace of Westphalia, when it was found that on the whole the northern parts of Europe had become Protestant and the southern had remained Catholic.


FRANCE AND ENGLAND

At this very moment Louis XIV was beginning the reign that was to mark out for France the great position she held in the Europe of the last two centuries. The age of feudalism was fast passing. The last great feudatories had worn out their strength in the wars of religion. The monarchy had gained what they had lost, and now set to work in the splendor and pageantry of Versailles to reduce the once semi-independent feudal soldier into a mincing courtier. The Bourbons succeeded in large part. They remained the autocrats of France, with the privileged orders of the clergy and aristocracy at a low level beneath them, and in unchecked control of the machinery of government. That machinery they soon began to abuse. Its complete breakdown came with the French Revolution in 1789.