« AnteriorContinuar »
SUPPOSED FEROCITY OF THE SAXONS.
the Cossacks,-—who inhabit the same country as that in which we have supposed Israel to have dwelt, in the early part of their sojourn in the north country, and from which the Saxons came;-that is, near the mouth of the Don, and along the back of the Black Sea. These people have got the credit of being wild and savage:-and they certainly are dangerous enemies, and they do not well brook oppression: so much is this their character, that, even under the despotism of Russia, they form among themselves a kind of republic, and have much the same free and liberal institutions as the English have, and which seem to be natural to the Saxon race generally, and the most important of which, we shall see they possess in common with ancient Israel.
of hosts, they went forth to execute the sentence of extermination upon the wicked nations of Canaan; and which was also afterwards manifested in the wars of David,—that connection of valour and veneration, still existed, but in a depraved state, and with unhappy results, correspondent to the change in their object of worship. We have also before hinted, that their very sense of justice may, in many instances, have had much to do with their deeds of violence. They had been robbed of their country by the Romans, and obliged to take refuge in the inhospitable north, where they were crowded together without the possibility of maintaining heir existence, except as turning back upon the Roman provinces, and serving themselves therefrom, as best they could. And, in such cases, the pusillanimous people who supported the proud oppressor, might expect to suffer, as well as that oppressor himself: and, the habit of committing violence being acquired, it was easily transferred to other cases, in which there was not the same excuse.
That their courage was more that of principle, than of mere animal ferocity, is evident from the fact of their so soon settling down into a state of peace, after their conversion to Christianity. They then poured the energies of their minds into the more tranquil exercises of religion, with an enthusiasm equal to that with which they had devoted themselves to war. They then attempted conquests of another kind; and became, many of them, the most active and efficient missionaries among other nations, and especially in the north of Europe. It seems also to have been at the instigation of one of them, Alcuinus, that Charlemagne established so many facilities for learning and science on the Continent, and especially in Germany, —which have produced such a powerful influence upon the human mind ever since.
The case of the Anglo-Saxons, at this period of their history, seems to be considerably illustrated by that of
Nothing has contributed more to aug. ment the colony of Don Cossacks, than the freedom they enjoy. Surrounded by systems of slavery, they offer the singular spectacle of an increasing republic ; like a nucleus, putting forth its roots and ramifications to all parts of an immense despotic empire, which considers it a wise policy to promote their increase, and to guarantee their privileges."
“Some of the public edifices in Tscherchaskoy, (their capital,) are as follow :-
“ The Chancery, in which the administration of justice, and all other public business, is carried on. One room in it is appropriated to their assembly for public debates, which much resembles our House of Commons. When a general assembly is convened, it consists of a president, with all the generals, colonels, and staff-officers, who hold councils, not merely of war, but of all affairs relating to the public welfare.
“Another court of justice, called Selvesnesut, which signifies justice by word. The assemblies here, answer to our quartersessions. Parties who have any disagreement meet, with their witnesses, and state their grievances. Each receives a hearing, and afterwards justice is decided.
“ The Public Academy, in which their youth receive instruction in geometry, mechanics, physic, geography, history, arithmetic, &c.
“ The Apothecaries' Hall.
“ The Town Hall, of the eleven stanitzas into which the town is divided." --Clarke's Travels.
COSSACK INSTITUTIONS AND MANNERS.
In personal appearance, and even in customs of a very minute kind, as well as with regard to the general frame-work of their society, there is also a striking resemblance; and possibly there is some connection in even the name, the latter part of the name Cos-sack, being the same with the first part of the name Sac-son. It is the same name, the former having a prefix, the latter an affix.
This people have been supposed to come from the west, whence some parties—as from Poland—have joined them; but the intelligent traveller, Clarke, is clearly of opinion that their own
account of themselves, and that of ancient history, are correct, which give them rather an eastern origin. They are a remnant of the Saxon or Gothic race, left in that neighbourhood, whilst the great body of the people were driven westward ; and they appear to be busy leavening the surrounding apparently heterogeneous masses, such as the beautiful Circassians, on the one hand, and the horrible Calmucks, on the other,—together with Tartars, Poles, Greeks, and Armenians, along with some Russians and Turks. An improved race is being produced from the whole, speaking, indeed, the Russian language, but having the mind and manners of the Cossack. Now, what is the Don-Cossack—who has, at a distance, appeared to us as only a wild freebooter ; and who certainly has not been placed in circumstances the most favourable to morality?
Dr. Clarke has the following remarks, in describing an entertainment given to him by the commander-inchief of the Cossack army:
The morning after our return to Oxai, we received a message from General Vassili Petrovich Orlof, commander-inchief of the Cossack army, stating, that he expected us to dine with him at his country seat upon the Don.
We set out, accompanied by our friend Colonel Papof, and a Greek officer in the Cossack service, whose name was Mamonof. The general had sent his carriage, with sis fine Cossack horses, and several Cossacks mounted, with lances, to escort us.
We passed along the steppes, and occasionally through vineyards, planted with cucumbers, cabbages, Indian wheat, apple, pear, peach, and plum trees, and melons, for about ten miles, till we arrived at his house, which stood upon the European side of the river, opposite the town of Tscherchaskoy, and distant from it about five miles. Here we found elegant and accomplished women assembled round a piano-forte; and afterwards sat down to as magnificent a dinner as any English gentleman might afford; the whole of which was served upon plate. The company consisted of about twenty persons. The general presented us with mead thirty years old, which tasted like fine Madeira. He wished very much for English beer, having often drank it in Po land. A number of very expensive wines were brought round, many of them foreign; but the wine of the Don seemed superior to any of them.
As we sat banqueting in this sumptuous manner, I called to mind the erroneous notions we had once entertained of the inhabitants of this country, and which the Russians still continue to propagate concerning the Cossack territory. Perhaps few in England, casting their eyes upon a map of this remote corner of Europe, have pictured in their imagination a wealthy and polished people, enjoying not only the refinements, but even the luxuries of the most civilized nations. The conversation had that enlightened and agreeable cast which characterizes well-educated military men. Some peculiarities, which distinguished the manners of our ancestors, and are still retained in the ceremonial feasts of ancient corporate bodies, might be observed. The practice of drinking toasts, and rising to pledge the security of the cupbearer, was a remarkable instance. Another very
ancient custom, still more prevalent, is that of bowing and congratulating
“The Cossacks," observes Clarke, justified in acting towards the Russians as they have uniformly done ; that is, in withdrawing as much as possible from all communion with a race
whose associations might corrupt, but never ad. vance, the interests of their society." He gives his own experience. “ The people of the house in which we had been so comfortably lodged, positively refused to accept payment for all the trouble we had given them. No entreaty could prevail upon any of them to allow us further satisfaction, by any remuneration. “Cossacks," said they,“ do not sell their hospitality.'
WOMAN RESPECTED IN ANCIENT ISRAEL.
any one who happens to sneeze. The Cossacks of the Don always did this. When we took leave of the general, he said, if we preferred returning by water, for the sake of variety, we might use his barge, which was prepared, and waiting to convey us. Being conducted to it, we found it manned by ten rowers, and decorated in a most costly manner. covered with fine scarlet cloth; and Persian carpets were spread beneath a canopy of silk."
affairs, and under her guidance the arms of the nation were occasionally wielded with the greatest success.
It does not seem that it was until after the separation of the two kingdoms, that the women were separated from the men in the public worship, and were given a court outward from theirs in the temple. Even so early, as at the Red Sea, we find Miriam, the sister of Aaron, taking a timbrel, and leading forth the women after her, with timbrels and with dances, in the public rejoicing, saying, —
“Sing ye to the Lord,
For he hath triumphed gloriously ; The horse and his rider hath He thrown
into the sea."
“Perhaps an anecdote which I shall now relate, may render the contrast between the Cossacks and the Russians more striking. The truth of it, on account of its notoriety, will not be disputed by either party. Whenever a quarrel among the Cossacks causes them to combat each other, they fight, as in England, with their fists, and never with knives, daggers, or any sharp instrument.
This practice is so established a characteristic of their country, that it gave rise to a very remarkable wager. Teploff and Gelagin, two of the late empress Catharine's privy counsellors, happened to be in her presence, when it was told her that a Cossack priest, then a monk in the Convent of St. Alexander Nevski, had been arrested for cutting the throat of a young woman, whom he had made pregnant, and with whom he had quarrelled ; upon which Teploff offered to wager with Gelagin that the monk was not a Cossack. The bet was made, and won by Teploff; the monk proving to be a Russian. Being questioned how he could possibly divine the probable success of his wager — Because,' said he, no Cossack would strike a woman ; if he did, he would use his hand, and not his knife.' Clarke's Travels.
Afterwards we find this very Miriam, equally with Aaron, rivalling even Moses himself, and saying, “ Hath the Lord only spoken by Moses? Hath he not also spoken by us?" The very possibility of such an occurrence as this taking place, argues a state of equality between the sexes, much greater than now exists in those countries,—and such as exists in our own. The innocent intercourse of the sexes does not appear to have been at all so constrained in ancient Israel, as it is now in the east,—but such as it is with us in Europe. It may perhaps be said, that the emancipation of woman, among ourselves, has been produced by Christianity. We, of course, cannot mean to deny this tendency in Christianity; but, here, this tendency does not seem to have been so much required: the Anglo-Saxons are thus described, during their early sojourn in Britain :
The character of a people may be very much determined by their manner of treating Woman. The estimation in which she was held by ancient Israel, appears to have been remarkable. We find her eminently influential both for good and for evil; as in the case of Deborah, among the judges; and of Jezebel, after the separation of the nation into the two kingdoms of Israel and Judah. Among them were prophetesses and witches, as well as true and false prophets. The counsels of woman sometimes prevailed in the most important public
“ The English in this period, treated the fair sex with a degree of attention and respect, which could hardly have been expected from a people so unpolished in their manners. This way of thinking they undoubtedly derived from their ancestors, the ancient Germans; who not only admired and loved their women, on account of their personal charms, but entertained a kind of religious veneration for them, as the peculiar favourites of heaven; and consulted them as oracles. Agreeable to
MARRIAGE CEREMONIES LIKE THOSE OF ISRAEL.
this, we find some of the Anglo-Saxon ladies were admitted into their most august assemblies; and great attention paid to their opinions; and so considerable was their influence in the most important affairs, that they were the chief instruments of introducing Christianity into almost all the kingdoms of the Heptarchy."--Henry's Great Britain, Book ii. chap. 7.
To the same purpose speaks Sharon Turner, in his history of this people :—
"It is well known that the female sex were much more highly valued, and more respectfully treated, by the barbarous Gothic nations, than by the more polished states of the east. Among the Anglo-Saxons, they occupied the same important and independent rank in society which they now enjoy. They were allowed to possess, to inherit, and to transmit landed property ; they shared in all the social festivities ; they were present at the witena gemot, and shire gemot; they were permitted to sue and be sued, in the courts of justice ; their
persons, their safety, their liberty, and their property, were protected by express laws; and they possessed all that sweet influence which, while the human heart is responsive to the touch of love, they will ever retain in those countries which have the wisdom and the urbanity to treat them as equal, intelligent, and independent beings."
- And the Anglo-Saxons, having the wisdom and urbanity thus to treat the fair sex, ought not, surely, to he accounted less polished than the most civilized nations of the east:—from among whom they had come : but from none of whom, save then- Israelitish ancestors, they could learn that truly just and generous propriety, with which woman was, throughout their various changes, treated among them.
Notwithstanding this comparative equality, and, in some respects, superiority, of the fair sex, among the ancestors of the English, every woman was placed under some guardian or other, without whose consent she could not execute any legal deed. Thus the father was the guardian of his daughter; the husband of his wife; and the male heir of the husband was the guardian of the widow. The king was the legal guardian of those wo
men who had no other. When a young man made his addresses to a lady, one of the first steps he took, was to secure the consent of her mundbora, or guardian, by making some present, suitable to his rank, and that of the lady. Something similar to this we find related in the Scriptures, respecting contracts for marriage among the Hebrews. In this way was Laban profited by the disposal, both of his sister Rebekah, to Isaac,
-and of Leah and Rachel, to Jacob. No marriage could be lawfully celebrated without the presence of the woman's guardian, who solemnized the marriage by delivering the bride to the bridegroom; by which the latter obtained the claims of legal guardian over the lady. From this we still retain the custom of giving away the bride in marriage. The custom of the bridegroom's giving at that time a ring to the bride, seems also to have had an eastern origin. It was a token of his endowing her with his property, and making her mistress of his house. A seal, we may well believe, was on the ring in ancient times; by affixing which seal, authority was given to a deed. Thus we read that when a king gave his authority, upon any particular occasion, to a subject, he did so by giving the king's seal; and this was done by putting his ring, having such seal, upon the finger of the person to whom was deputed the royal power. The bridegroom thus, by giving the ring, at once recognized his natural right to exercise authority; at the same time he invested the woman with the same, under, or with, himself. Perhaps the large square piece of cloth, supported by a tall man at each corner, and held over the bridegroom and bride, in the after-part of the ceremony, when receiving the nuptial benediction, may also have had the same eastern origin.
The other marriage ceremonies, such as the bridegroom's party, in martial array, going for the bride, under the conduct of the foremost man, to conduct the bride in safety to the house of her future husband; the bride's procession in return, led by
DOMESTIC RELATIONS OF THE ANGLO-SAXONS.
the brideswoman, and followed by a company of young maidens, who were called the bride's maids; her betrothal, when carried thus to the house of the bridegroom; the united rejoicing procession thence, to receive the priest's benediction; the gladsome return; and the subsequent splendid marriage supper, all forcibly remind us of similar ceremonies prevailing in Israel, and intimated throughout both the Old and New Testaments. The feastings and rejoicings continued, for several days after the marriage, and seldom ended until all the provisions were consumed. To indemnify the husband, in some degree, for all these expenses, the relations of both parties made him some present or other at their departure. And this, also, we find, was the case among the Hebrews, as is intimated in that beautiful nuptial song, (Ps. xlv.);—which Psalm is beautifully illustrated by the Saxon ceremonies, to which we have alluded; as also they are illustrated by it.
"Chastity in their youth," we are told by Henry, "and conjugal fidelity after marriage, may justly be reckoned national virtues of the Anglo-Saxons.- Their ancestors, the ancient Germans, were famous for both these virtues. The intercourse between the sexes did not commence till both arrived at full maturity. The laws of matrimony were observed with great strict
Examples of adultery were tremely rare, and punished with much severity. The husband of an adulteress, in the presence of her relations, cut off her hair, stripped her almost naked, turned her out of his house, and whipped her from one end of the village to the other. When the matrimonial knot was once duly tied, nothing but the death of one of the parties, or the infidelity of the wife to the marriage bed, could generally have power to dissolve it. There were, however, instances of voluntary separations, and even divorces.'
With regard to Children: As among the Hebrew women, so among these, their Saxon daughters, was it accounted a disgraceful thing, and one of the greatest misfortunes, to be without offspring. And as it seems to have been the case with the former, so was it with the latter; mothers generally nursed their own children. When some Saxon ladies, after the introduction of Christianity, refused that labour, they were reckoned guilty of an innovation. The paternal authority did not extend to the power of life and death, as among the Gauls; but parents had a right to correct their children with becoming severity, to regulate their conduct, to sell their daughters to husbands, with their own consent; and even to sell both sons and daughters into slavery, to relieve themselves from extreme necessity : all which we expressly know to have been the case with ancient Israel.
We know that in Israel the ties of kindred were very fully acknowledged, beyond the mere domestic relations; and one of the claims of kindredship, was the avenging of blood. The friends of the slain had a recognized right to slay the shedder of blood. This also was the case with regard to the Saxons. The custom, it seems, degenerated into family feuds and bickerings, and private wars, which disturbed the public tranquillity, and prevented the regular course of justice; so that many laws had to be made on the subject, one of which provides that the murderer alone shall be obnoxious to the resentment of the relations of him whom he had murdered, and not his whole family, as formerly. They had also, like Israel, places of refuge where the avenger could not enter.
The Saxons seem to have been, like the Israelites, not a giddy isolated number of individuals. They had a strong tendency seriously to apply themselves to the matter in hand, and closely to combine one with another, for the furtherance of a common object. Yet not this, as being entirely submissive to a dictator; but rather
All which is correspondent to what we know of ancient Israel, with regard to whom the utmost care was taken in these particulars. Neither people were so perfect as could be wished; but still they were very far in advance of most other nations.