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WILLIAM STUBBS Seventeen lectures on the study of medieval and modern history and kindred subjects

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WILLIAM STUBBS
Seventeen lectures on the study of medieval and modern history and kindred subjects
page 261



IX.] CIVIL WARS. 255 ( ideas, but wars for rights. I do not mean to say that this j was quite the case in Italy: in Italy the question of rights had become so complicated that nothing but the infusion of an element of idea could have produced even a semblance of order out of the chaos. The old sway of Rome, the successive deluges of Goth, Lombard, Greek and German, had thrown rights and wrongs into an inextricable hotchpot. The restoration of order was the initiation of liberty ; with liberty, or the idea of it, came new forms of organisation, democracies, aristocracies, municipalities, tyrannies, monarchies ; each formulating rights and laws as they arose, but less bound by laws of rights and obligations because for the most part they lacked historic basis. What the faction of to-day might set up, the faction of to-morrow might pull down : the exiles of to-day were the governors of to-morrow, the forfeitures of to-day only the reprisals of the forfeitures of yesterday. In England it is very different. Here the rights struggled for are historical rights, and the liberties secured are historical liberties. Step by step, from precedent to precedent, the national growth asserts itself, and the kings, yielding their consent, recognise the justice of the claim, or, exchanging resistance for sympathy, throw new but still historical energies into the common growth. We have in the medieval growth of our constitution little to be ashamed of; little of conspiracy, little of fanaticism, little—as little as there can be in the essential character of a politician—of self-seeking. There is enough of the idea of liberty and sound government to lift the struggle out of the region of mere legal resistance to mere legal oppression: there is a growth towards liberty in all the vindication of even class -rights and special privileges : a growth towards liberty so spontaneous, I had almost said so little self-conscious, as to show that it is a natural, not a factitious growth: it is not taught by philosophers, it is


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