Becket is enshrined in the hearts of his countrymen,
even as Cromwell is among the descendants of the Puritans;
and substantially for the same reason,—because
they both fought bravely for their respective causes,—the
cause of the people in their respective ages.
Both recognized God Almighty, and both contended against
the despotism of kings seeking to be absolute, and
in behalf of the people who were ground down by military
power. In the twelfth century the people looked
up to the clergy as their deliverers and friends;
in the seventeenth century to parliaments and lawyers.
Becket was the champion of the clergy, even as Cromwell
was the champion—at least at first—of
the Parliament. Carlyle eulogizes Cromwell as
much as Froude abuses Becket; but Becket, if more
haughty and repulsive than Cromwell in his private
character, yet was truer to his principles. He
was a great hero, faithful to a great cause, as he
regarded it, however averse this age may justly be
to priestly domination. He must be judged by
the standard which good and enlightened people adopted
seven hundred years ago,—not in semi-barbarous
England alone, but throughout the continent of Europe.
This is not the standard which reason accepts to-day,
I grant; but it is the standard by which Becket must
be judged,—even as the standard which justified
the encroachments of Leo the Great, or the rigorous
rule of Tiberius and Marcus Aurelius, is not that
which enthrones Gustavus Adolphus and William of Orange
in the heart of the civilized world.
Eadmer’s Life of Anselm; Historia Novarum; Sir
J. Stephen’s Life of Becket, of William of Malmsbury,
and of Henry of Huntington; Correspondence of Thomas
Becket, with that of Foliot, Bishop of London, and
John of Salisbury; Chronicle of Peter of Peterborough;
Chronicle of Ralph Niper, and that of Jocelyn of Brakeland;
Dugdale’s Monasticon; Freeman’s Norman
Conquest; Michelet’s History of France; Green,
Hume, Knight, Stubbs, among the English historians;
Encyclopaedia Britannica; Hook’s Lives of the
Archbishops of Canterbury; Lord Littleton on Henry
II.; Stanley’s Memorials of Canterbury; Milman’s
Latin Christianity; article by Froude; Morris’s
Life of Thomas a Becket; J. Craigie Robertson’s
Life of Thomas Becket.
THE FEUDAL SYSTEM.
* * * *
ABOUT A.D. 800-1300.
There is no great character with whom Feudalism is
especially identified. It was an institution
of the Middle Ages, which grew out of the miseries
and robberies that succeeded the fall of the Roman