271. To Josiah Wedgwood Address: Josiah Wedgewood Esq. | Stoke House | near | Cobham | Surry | England pay'd to Cuxhaven MS. New York Public Lib. Pub. E. L. G. i. 116. As early as 4 January 1799 Coleridge planned to send Josiah Wedgwood 'in a few days' a series of letters on the history of the Bauers ( Letter269); again on 21 May he wrote to Wedgwood that he had lying by his side 'six huge Letters', all but one having been written three months previously. He had planned to send them by a Cambridge man, Hamilton, whom he had met at Göttingen on 16 February, but Hamilton's departure being delayed, Coleridge decided to carry them to England himself ( Letters272 and 288). The next we hear of these letters is on 1 November 1800, when Coleridge told Wedgwood that they would soon be published in a volume of his German tour. To save the labour of transcription he had sent them off to the printers as they were written, 'your name of course erased' ( Letter362). No such publication appeared, and the following letter, numbered I on the manuscript, is all that survives of Coleridge's history of the Bauers. [ February 1799] I. It is difficult to give a definite idea of the word Bauer without -464- running thro' the origin & history of this Class. Under the Roman Empire there existed nothing analogous to it. The free Citizens were either independent Proprietors of Land, or lived in towns & Cities -- the agricultural labor was performed by Slaves, as in the West India Islands. Gibbon calculates the number of the Subjects of the first Emperors at 120 millions, of which he computes one Half to have been Slaves. These seem to have been treated more humanely under the Emperors, than during the Republic. -- Of this I have been able to conceive two causes --: first, the Roman Empire had grown so large that it became the Policy of the Emperors to make no further conquests -- & the Peace of the whole civilized World, the consequence of this Policy, operated in the same manner on the Roman Slavery, as an actual abolition of the African Trade would operate on the West India Slavery. -- It stopped up the source: & made the masters from the advanced Price of the Slaves, &c more attentive to their well-being -- & in a generation or two they became to a certain degree naturalized in the countries where they laboured & the idea Enemy ceased to associate itself with that of Slave. -- Secondly, the Roman Empire was too large, & too incongruous in it's parts, for that national Religion, which built on national Events & working on the imagination thro' definite forms and on the feelings thro' incessant association of the mythology with the Laws & Scenes, which were exclusively theirs, had effected wonders on the Greeks & early Romans! for this it was grown too large. It gradually therefore suffered the National Religion to sink into contempt, & took up a World-Religion -- such as had always existed in Asia, from the largeness of the Asiatic Empires. To this cause I am inclined to attribute the easy Propagation of Christianity -- which was in truth the World-Religion common to the great Empires in Asia, divested of Asiatic forms & ceremonies. -- The consequence of Christianity or a World-Religion as opposed to a National Religion appears to me universally this -Personal and domestic Duties are far better attended to, but Patriotism & all Enthusiasm for the aggrandisement of a country as a country, are weakened or extinguished. -- In Greece & Rome on the contrary, under the influence of a national Religion, we find sorry Fathers, bad Husbands, & cruel Masters; but glowing & generous Patriots. -- In Christian Countries an excellent Private Character totally devoid of all public Spirit is the most common of characters. -- But on this subject a man might write a volume & bring out some curious observations on the March of Things in France; & how far a Passion for Statues &c will be able to smuggle a sort of Idolatry into the Feelings altho' it may be too late in the World to introduce it into the understanding. -- The more I think, -465- the more I am convinced that the greatest of differences is produced when in the one case the feelings are worked upon thro' the Imagination & the Imagination thro' definite Forms (i.e. the Religion of Greece & Rome); & in the other case where the Feelings are worked upon by Hopes & Fears purely individual, & the Imagination is kept barren in definite Forms & only in cooperation with the Understanding labours after an obscure & indefinite Vastness -- / this is Christianity. -- My dear Friend! I have made something like a digression -- but it is the first, & shall be the last -- The influence of the World-Religion operated slowly on the Roman Character; but it did operate & produced finally laws & regulations in favor of the Slaves; still Slavery continued. But soon after the Northern Nations had shattered the Roman Empire, Slavery began to transmute itself into Vassalage -- a state of Dependence more suited to a wild people who had not yet learnt to be luxurious, and on whom the doctrines of the Christian Priests worked with greater effect while according to the Testimony of Tacitus the Slaves in the German Nations were properly speaking, Vassals, i.e. the Master gave the Servant House & Land, & received in return a given share of the Produce, retaining however an arbitrary power of dispossession &c. -- N.B. I mean this whenever I use the word Vassals. At first the Northern Nations adopted absolute Slavery, which they had learnt from the Romans, but soon they formed part of their Slaves into Vassals, & in the year 1200 Slavery was wholly abolished throughout Germany & Italy, and in 1300, or somewhat earlier throughout France & Spain. -- In England Vassalage instead of Slavery appears to have been general, still earlier, than in Italy or Germany. -- / --. It appears however that the German Conquerors did by no means either make Slaves or Vassals of the Nations which they conquered -- / the Sclavonian Nations, who conquered Poland & Russia, did. -- And it is probable that the huge Body of Polish Nobles (the only free men in the country) are the descendants of the conquering Army / & the Wretches who form the Polish Peasantry, the conquered People. -- It remains therefore difficult to account for the amazing Proportion of Vassals in France, & Spain, countries conquered by the German Tribes; & still more for the still greater Number of Vassals in Germany, which had never been conquered. It is evident from this that altho' Vassalage originated in Slavery, yet in the middle ages the Vassals were not the descendants of Slaves. -- I find in the History of Hungaria by Palma 1 a distinct ____________________ 1 Carolus Franciscus Palma, Notitia Rerum Hungaricum, 3 vols., 3rd ed., 1785. Professor Francis Christensen has brought to my attention the fact that the names of nine of the twelve characters of Coleridge Zapolya and the only -466- account of the introduction of Vassalage in that country -- & I believe that Hungary is the only Country in which it was ever distinctly & suddenly introduced. -- Hungary had been conquered in 884 by an Asiatic Tribe, amounting to 20,000 men. The smallness of their number made these conquerors adopt, in part, the mildness of the German Tribes -- to the conquered nation they left untouched their personal Freedom, and permitted them the possession of their Estates, on the condition of receiving 1/9 of the yearly Profits. This the 20,000 divided among themselves / & the descendants of these 20,000 are the present Hungarian Nobility; at least, with such mixtures as 900 years necessarily bring along with them. In this state things continued till 1514, when Pope Leo X commissioned the Cardinal Thomas Baxato [Bakócz] to preach up a crusade against the Turks. 80,000 Hungarians assembled themselves under the holy banner, & being in distress for provisions, they plundered the cities, Ofen & Pesth -- & irritated by the execution of some of the Ringleaders, they elected a George Dofa [Dozsa] for King -- & declared war against the Nobles; but they were completely routed, & the King Bladislaus [Wladislaus] & the Senate of Nobles hereupon declared all the Country People of Hungary for Vassals -- leaving them no power of alienating their property & laying them under heavy Services & Taxes -- in short, they declared the whole of their Possessions to be the Estates of the Nobles, & the original Proprietors as parts of the Estate & transferable with the same. -- This accounts for the state of Vassalage in Hungary; but in France, Spain, Germany, & Italy we find no such events on record; & it is a certain fact, that the original German Conquerors did not introduce Vassalage. In Spain & in many parts of Italy they admitted the conquered people to fully equal Rights with themselves -- & in France altho' they reserved to themselves political superiority, yet the laws of property they left unaltered. -- They took from the natives nearly one third of the Lands; but these they possessed in the same manner as the natives possessed the remaining two thirds. -- Yet in Spain, Italy, France, & the unconquered Germany throughout the middle ages we find the most oppressive Vassalage universal. -- We must attribute this phaenomenon therefore to (I) the constant civil wars, in ____________________ place-name other than Illyria are from Hungarian history. Sarolta, for example, is the name of the mother of the first king of Hungary and Zapolya the name of the last national king. The rebellion under Dozsa which Coleridge mentions in this letter was put down by John Zapolya and Stephen Bathory (the Old Bathory and Bethlen Bathory of Coleridge's play) at Temesvar ( Coleridge's Temeswar). Generally Coleridge's spelling of the proper names is close to Palma's. ( Professor Christensen studied Coleridge's dramatic works in his doctoral dissertation, "Three Romantic Poets and the Drama", Harvard, 1934. -467- which Vassalage was uniformly the lot of all Prisoners, to whom was immediately allotted house & Land & they were obliged to cultivate the same for the advantage of the conquerors. -- 2ndly to the introduction of feudal Tenures. -- At first the Chief allotted or lent out his peculiar Domains on easy conditions. -- The Possessors of these feudal Tenures were constantly favoured at the expence of their fellow-subjects -- hence many voluntarily subjected themselves & properties -- these again by means of the civil wars & the horrid abuses of the courts of Justice obtained secondary Vassals& in this state of things we find the origin of the Aristocracy of the Nobles. -- The great & favoured Vassals formed the Nobles -- and accordingly as they made themselves independant of the Crown, as in England & great part of Germany, or were retained or brought back again, under the power of the same, as in France, so arose either mixed or absolute Monarchy. -- The secondary Vassals are the Bauers. -- 3rdly to the absence of Commerce & Manufactures. -- In purely agricultural states, in which from any cause Vassalage had taken root, the number of Vassals must constantly increase. -- For unpropertied persons could in such states find no other means of subsistence than by voluntarily subjecting themselves -- for accustomed to vassals the great Proprietors would form no idea of Farmers, or Hired Servants. -- But the number of unpropertied Persons must necessarily increase in every a[gri]cultural State, where in order to keep estates in the family the rights of Pri[mogenitur]e will be always established. -- In Germany, the Laws compelled ev[ery un]propertied man to arrange himself as Vassal under so[me] Proprietor -- who became answerable for him &c. -- 4thly to Superstition [&] the influence of the Clergy. -- It was generally believed that the Vassals of the Church had a better chance of heaven -- & it is pretty certain, that upon earth at least, they were better used & less liable to the devastations of War. -- It is said, that at the moment of the French Revolution there existed in France a million & a half Vassals on the lands belonging to the Clergy. ---- It appears then, that soon after the Irruption of the Northern Nations Slavery changed into Vassalage; but the number of Vassals became far greater than that of Slaves had been. -- At first, at least in the case of those who had been made vassals thro' Conquest or Civil war, the Lord gave house & land indeed, & was payed by a share of the Produce (a far less horrid state than that of Slaves on Roman or West India Plantations) -- but he retained a power of possession over the person of the Vassal, & could dispose of him to other estates. -- (This is still the case in many of the Russian Dominions.) This however had been always regarded as -468- tyranny, and from the year 988 the Clergy, following the example of the Bishop of Constanz, struggled to introduce the glebae adscriptio -- by which the Vassal or Bondman was rendered inseparable from his Family & from the estate. -- This is the first alleviation of the Vassalage of the Peasants. -- About the same time, the Princes & Nobles who prided themselves in keeping open tables for a large retinue, found the old method of receiving from their Vassals shares of the natural Produce inconvenient & precarious -they gave therefore to these Vassals certain pieces of Land which should be wholly their's -- & instead of rent exacted SERVICES -that is every Vassal with his Cattle & Family worked a given number of days on the Estate of his Lord. ---- This by fixing the idea of a distinct [right] may be considered as the second alleviation. -- The third is the jus ad glebam, which where combined with the glebae adscriptio, is still vassalage; but vassalage beginning to border on Freedom. To this some districts of Germany arrived very early in the middle ages; & I believe, there are still parts in Mecklenburg where the Vassals have not even yet arrived to it. -(The Duke of Mecklenburg, our Queen's Brother, is, by the by, a fine mixture of Fool & Tyrant / & Vassalage is in his dominions more cruel than in any part of Europe, except Russia & Russian Poland.) Of a formal Emancipation of the Vassals thro' Government History gives not one Example from the year 1247 (when Matilda, wife of Otto, Duke of Brunswick, stated by law a sum of money which being offered, no Vassal in the country of Luneburg could be refused his Freedom) till the reign of Frederic I of Prussia, who formally abolished Vassalage in his Westphalian Dominions. -- Yet in this interspace it had been insensibly abolishing throughout Germany -- so that before the Edict of Fred. I. the number of Vassals was trifling compared to that of free Peasants. -- This alteration must be ascribed 1st to the Crusades, when multitudes were freed on condition of becoming Soldiers -- or, more accurately, to make them become voluntary & of course, braver Soldiers -- & many bought their Freedom for a trifling Sum of their Lords who took all means of raising money for that expedition. -- 2 -- The Introduction of the Roman Law produced many happy effects on the state of property, & smoothed the way to the Emancipation. 3rdly Still however the state of Vassalage continued frequent & cruel to the beginning of the 16th Century when the obstinate & bloody Peasants-war contributed still more powerfully to their general Emancipation -- 4thly To these must be added, & perhaps, as the most powerful cause, the rise of Towns, & Cities, of commerce & Manufactures, which made it in the first place possible & -469- even easy for the Vassals to procure money to buy their Freedom& secondly, by affording safe places of Refuge to Fugitives, disposed the Lords to sell that Freedom, which if not sold would probably be taken. -- / -- Traces of Vassalage still exist in Holstein, Lausitz, and Silesia -- the latter is curious, as Frederic the Great gave all the Silesian Peasants jus ad glebam, & security of Inheritance; & limited the Ransom-money (which, being offered, perfect Freedom must be given) at a Ducat; i.e. 7 Shillings Sterling. ---- In Mecklenburg it is still universal -- & in Pommerania / if the present great & good King of Prussia, who is deservedly idolized in Germany, has not abolished it. -- If he has not, it may be considered as certain, that he shortly will do it. -- In the next, I will give the distinct History of the Hanoverian Bauers to the present day -- & in a third the account of them, as they are, in agriculture, size of property, education, &c &c &c &c -- / -- / ---- Your grateful & affectionate Friend S. T. Coleridge