|"By your command ..."|
In the first post I indicated that we would look at some dynamics of feudalism in various locations around the world at various times so as to see if there is any residue in current American culture.
Today then, let's continue to take a look at feudalism in Europe in The Holy Roman Empire which sprang up from the earlier Roman Empire that had ruled from Rome.
When the Western Roman Empire that had been ruled from Rome fell, it left the Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantine Empire) which was ruled from Constantinople.
The Holy Roman Empire then arose in the west:
The Holy Roman Empire ... was a complex, multi-ethnic political union of territories in Central Europe existing from 962 to 1806.(Wikipedia, Holy Roman Empire). The legacy of the Roman wars did not cease to exist in the feudalism of the Holy Roman Empire:
The empire grew out of East Francia, a primary division of the Frankish Empire, and explicitly proclaimed itself the continuation of the Western Roman Empire under the doctrine of translatio imperii ("transfer of rule" via a succession of singular rulers vested with supreme power).
Feudalism in the Holy Roman Empire was a politico-economic system of relationships between liege lords and enfeoffed vassals (or feudatories) that formed the basis of the social structure within the Holy Roman Empire during the High Middle Ages.(Wikipedia, Feudalism In The Holy Roman Empire, emphasis added). In the first post we learned of the foundational importance of military service and war to feudalism, which continued in the Holy Roman Empire version.
The highest liege lord was the sovereign, the king or duke, who granted fiefs to his princes.
As the services of the vassal specifically included military service, under the Frankish monarchy the feudal system was for centuries the basis of the army as well as the social organization of the Holy Roman Empire.
It was not only the king who acquired vassals in this way. He was soon imitated by secular and ecclesiastical magnates.
This carried on and entered into the culture of the English speaking peoples, from which the United States evolved, and from which current essences of American policy evolved:
And as war begat the King and the military noble, so it also begat the slave. There had always been a slave class, a class of the unfree, among the English as among all German peoples; but the numbers of this class, if unaffected by the conquest of Britain, were swelled by the wars which soon sprang up among the English conquerors.(A Short History of the English People, by Green, pp. 12-13, emphasis added). That "war begat the king" and that Americans declared their independence from the king in their Declaration of Independence, is also in essence a declaration of independence from feudalism:
It is an old saying, nearly a dozen centuries old, that "war begat the king". It is no less true that war, not civil, but international, begat feudalism.(Catholic Encyclopedia, emphasis added). We pointed out the awareness of this dynamic in the first post of this series, on the part of the founders of the U.S. Constitution:
War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes; and armies, and debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few. In war, too, the discretionary power of the Executive is extended; its influence in dealing out offices, honors, and emoluments is multiplied: and all the means of seducing the minds, are added to those of subduing the force, of the people.(American Feudalism, quoting James Madison). The U.S. Constitution contained many attempts to not allow the king's warmonger mentality to continue into the new society:
The Congress shall have Power ... To Declare War (Art. I, Section 8).(Constitution). These were things the feudal king alone could do (declare war himself or demand that soldiers be quartered) and the feudal vassals and serfs would have to comply.
No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law. (Amendment III)
By and large, then, we have fallen back into some of the spirit of feudalism, and in some cases even the letter of it: for example, we spend more on war than all the other nations put together (The Government of MOMCOM: Wartocracy - 3).
Religious service even became part of feudalism:
The Church, too, had her place in the feudal system. She too was granted territorial fiefs, became a vassal, possessed immunities. It was the result of her calm, wide sympathy, turning to the new nations, away from the Roman Empire, to which many Christians thought she was irrevocably bound. By the baptism of Clovis she showed the baptism of Constantine had not tied her to the political system. So she created a new world out of chaos, created the paradox of barbarian civilization. In gratitude kings and emperors endowed her with property; and ecclesiastical property has not infrequently brought evils in its train. The result was disputed elections; younger sons of nobles were intruded into bishoprics, at times even into the papacy. Secular princes claimed lay investiture of spiritual offices. The cause of this was feudalism, for a system that had its basis on land tenure was bound at last to enslave a Church that possessed great landed possessions.(Catholic Encyclopedia, emphasis added). In that sense war and military service today, in some ways, are as they were in both Holy Roman Empire feudalism and earlier European feudalism (The Virgin MOMCOM - 6, Doing The Right Thing - Mithraism - 2).
The next post in this series is here, the previous post in this series is here.
With the lord on our side ...