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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 19.djvu/363

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349
CONSULTATIVE BODIES.

few which is due to their leaderships as warriors, to their clan-headships, or to their supposed supernatural descent, yet the superior few, conscious that they are no match for the inferior many in a physical contest, will be obliged to treat their opinions with some deference—will not be able completely to monopolize power. But as fast as there progresses that class-differentiation before described, and as fast as the superior few acquire better weapons than the inferior many, or, as among various ancient peoples, have war-chariots, or, as in mediæval Europe, wear coats of mail or plate-armor and are mounted on horses, they, feeling their advantage, will pay less respect to the opinions of the many. And the habit of ignoring their opinions will be followed by the habit of regarding any expression of their opinions as an impertinence.

This gradual usurpation will be furthered by the growth of those bodies of armed dependents with which the superior few surround themselves—mercenaries and others, who, while unconnected with the common freemen, are bound by fealty to their employers. These, too, with better weapons and defensive appliances than the mass, will be led to regard them with contempt, and to aid in subordinating them.

Not only on the occasions of general assemblies, but from day to day in their respective localities, the increasing power of the chiefs thus caused will tend to reduce the freemen more and more to the rank of dependents, and especially so where the military service of such nobles to their king is dispensed with or allowed to lapse, as happened in Denmark about the thirteenth century:

The free peasantry, who were originally independent proprietors of the soil, and had an equal suffrage with the highest nobles in the land, were thus compelled to seek the protection of these powerful lords, and to come under vassalage to some neighboring Herremand or bishop or convent. The provincial diets, or Lands-Ting, were gradually superseded by the general national Parliament of the Dannehof, Adel-Ting, or Herredag; the latter being exclusively composed of the princes, prelates, and other great men of the kingdom. . . . As the influence of the peasantry had declined, while the burghers did not yet enjoy any share of political power, the constitution, although disjointed and fluctuating, was rapidly approaching the form it ultimately assumed—that of a feudal and sacerdotal oligarchy.

A further influence conducing to loss of power by the armed freemen and gain of power by the armed chiefs, who form the consultative body, follows that widening of the occupied area which goes along with the compounding and recompounding of societies. As Richter remarks of the Merovingian period: "Under Chlodovech and his immediate successors, the people assembled in arms had a real participation in the resolutions of the king. But, with the increasing size of the kingdom, the meeting of the entire people became impossible." Only those who lived near the appointed places could attend. Two