Page:Western Europe in the Middle Ages.djvu/48

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WESTERN EUROPE IN THE MIDDLE AGES

Roman type. They could not easily understand Roman political ideas and methods, and their German warriors were indignant over any attempt to change the customs of the folk. Three things especially were hard for a German king to do. He could not delegate authority with any safety, since there was no tradition of bureaucracy among his people. Political power was personal property for the Germans and a deputy always tended to become an independent hereditary ruler. This made it almost impossible to preserve the administrative hierarchy of Roman times. In the second place, the absence of a well-trained, obedient bureaucracy and the emphasis on custom made it difficult for the king to secure obedience to his orders. There were no trustworthy agents to see that they were enforced, and the political tradition of the Germans was opposed to royal interference in matters of local concern. Last and worst of all, the king could not raise money to support his government. Taxation seemed iniquitous and unnecessary to the Germans. The unpaid service of free men supplied the king with his army and courts, and they could not see the need for any other services. A king who taxed was always suspected, often with reason, of trying to increase his personal fortune.

The Germans lacked the political experience and traditions necessary to build strong states on the ruins of the Roman Empire. They were equally unable to solve the economic problems of the ancient world. Even more than the Romans, they had sought local self-sufficiency; each German village had to supply itself with the essentials of life. They had imported a few luxuries from their neighbors, but there had never been active trade in common necessities. When they entered the Empire they could not alter the prevailing pattern of economic activity. They took over Roman estates and continued the Roman luxury trade with the East, but they certainly did not increase production or trade. Western Europe continued to be an almost purely agricultural region with few economic ties among its provinces.

The same decline may be observed in intellectual and literary