Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 19.djvu/220

This page has been validated.

ernment of annually elected tribunes. And these original governments, existing at the time when there came several thousands of fugitives, driven from the mainland by the invading Huns, survived under the form of a rude confederation. As we have seen happen in other cases, the union into which these independent little communities were forced for purposes of joint defense was disturbed by feuds; and it was only under the stress of opposition to aggressing Lombards on the one side and Slavonic pirates on the other that a general assembly of nobles, clergy, and citizens appointed a duke or doge to direct the combined forces, and to restrain internal factions; being superior to the tribunes of the united islets and subject only to this body which appointed him. What changes subsequently took place—how, beyond the restraints imposed by the general assembly, the doge was presently put under the check of two elected councilors, and on important occasions had to summon the principal citizens; how there came afterward a representative council, which underwent from time to time changes—does not now concern us. Here we have simply to note that, as in preceding cases, the component groups being favorably circumstanced for severally maintaining their independence of one another, the imperative need for union against enemies initiated a rude compound headship, which, notwithstanding the centralizing effects of war, tended to maintain itself in one or other form.

On finding allied results among men of a different race but occupying a similar region, doubts respecting the process of causation must be dissipated. On the area—half land, half sea—formed of the sediment brought down by the Rhine and adjacent rivers, there early existed scattered families. Living on isolated sand-hills, or in huts raised on piles, they were so secure amid their creeks and mud-banks and marshes, that they remained unsubdued by the Romans. Subsisting at first by fishing, with here and there such small agriculture as was possible, and eventually becoming maritime and commercial, these people, in course of time, rendered their land more habitable by damming out the sea; and they long enjoyed a partial if not complete independence. In the third century "the Low Countries contained the only free people of the German race." Especially the Frisians, more remote than the rest from invaders, "associated themselves with the tribes settled on the limits of the German Ocean, and formed with them a connection celebrated under the title of the 'Saxon League.'" Though, at a later time, the inhabitants of the Low Countries fell under power of France, yet the nature of their habitat continued to give them such advantages in resisting foreign control that they organized themselves after their own fashion, notwithstanding interdicts. "From the time of Charlemagne the people of the ancient Menapia, now become a prosperous commonwealth, formed political associations to raise a barrier against the despotic violence of the Franks." Mean-