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three years has shown, to fear any attempts upon their liberties from a power which never engaged in a worldly contest, except in behalf of freedom.
How far the Catholic Church is from being a foe to republicanism and free institutions in general, may be seen by reference not only to those Italian Republics which grew up under the shadow of the Papal throne; but also, and more especially, in those institutions which originated in her very bosom, and the glory of whose formation is all her own. I speak of the Religious Orders; complete organizations of government with which the secular power never had any thing to do, and in the institution and moulding of which, the Church was free from those trammels often imposed upon her in other cases by old national usages, and the prejudices of remote and semibarbarous ages. If we should here enter into a full exposition both of the leading principles and minute details of the constitutions of some of these orders, our readers would perhaps be startled at the resemblance which they bear to the constitution and frame of government formed by our ancestors for these United States. They would see that in the very ages to which Protestantism has had recourse for instances of her despotism and tyranny, and in which she sustained the rudest shocks from the evils of the times, the Church was legislating for her children in a spirit of the largest freedom, and framing institutions which, even yet, stand as models of republicanism.
The end of the twelfth, and the beginning of the thirteenth century, was a stormy period, and one to which, above all, we should not naturally recur in search of free institutions. The Plantagenets reigned in England, and the Hohenstaufens in Germany; France was filled with haughty and turbulent nobles, as troublesome to the king as they were oppressive to the people; whilst Italy, resounding with the hostile cries of Guelph and Ghibelline, seemed to promise little for freedom. And yet it was at this very time that the Church, in the person of her Pontiffs, put forth the most brilliant efforts in the cause. The glorious struggles of Alexander III., alone, for Italian nationality and independence against Frederic Barbarossa, ought to be enough to ennoble the age and to consecrate his memory in the minds of posterity. And the same may
be said, more or less justly, of his successors throughout an entire century, but especially of Innocent III. and Gregory IX. The Popes of the thirteenth century were a line of heroes. In that age, too, arose the celebrated orders of St. Dominic and St. Francis, which for three hundred years played so conspicuous a part in the world. Numbering amongst their members men of the highest talent, boundless zeal and love for the human race, side by side in the Church, and breathing her spirit, these two orders became in a short time powerful organizations, and exerted on the arts, literature, manners, and ideas of the age an influence which it would be difficult to overrate. They were everywhere, in the cottage of the serf, in the castle of the baron, and the palace of the king. They taught on the wayside, from the pulpit, and from the chairs of the then infant universities of Europe; and in their missionary zeal, they penetrated far to the north, Christianizing and civilizing the rude nations of Poland, Russia, and Hungary, and even found their way to the interior of Asia, and to the very palace of the Grand Khan. Nor did they confine their labors to missionary efforts to convert the heathen and reform the manners of the Christian. All things were of course with them subservient to these ends; but they did more. They labored, and labored successfully for art, literature, and science. In this respect they led on the age, and in many cases were far in advance of it. Witness the renown of Fra Mino de Turrita, the Franciscan, who had already gained celebrity in "Mosaic," as early as the former half of the thirteenth century, and Fra Sisto and Fra Ristoro of the order of St. Dominic, eminent architects of the same period. Who that has paid any attention to the early history of modern art, has not heard of Fra Guglielmo da Pisa, of Fra Giovanni da Campi and of Fra Jacopo Talenti ? Who is not also familiar with that brilliant episode in Italian history, which recounts the struggles of the Dominicans to renovate and re-establish the arts, when they had been prostituted and degraded by the false taste and profligacy of the times? The life and tragic death of the eloquent, enthusiastic, and fearless Savonarola, is familiar to every reader of Florentine history, and there are now but few that sympathize with the cause of his enemies. It was the
Order of St. Dominic that produced Fra Benedetto del Mugello, Fra Angelico, and Fra Bartolemeo della Porta, those illustrious painters of the fifteenth century, and it was members of the same institute that educated and prepared for their mission, Rafaello da Urbino and Bramante Lazzari. The same order, in fine, produced in the sixteenth century, Father Domenico Portigiani, the celebrated caster in bronze, who cast fountains, cannons, bells, and even domestic utensils, for the Florentines; and scores of others, who during the first three centuries of its existence filled Europe with their fame as architects, painters, sculptors, intarsiatori, miniaturists, and painters of glass, and adorned all Italy with monuments, in all these departments of art, for the admiration of our own times. They have left us substantial memorials of their taste and enthusiasm for the fine arts in the cathedrals of Milan, Pisa, Orvieto, and St. Peter's at Rome, and hundreds of other splendid works, shrines, churches, bridges, mausoleums, and palaces erected under the patronage of government, or by individual enterprise. Volumes would be required to do justice to the services rendered by this order alone to the world of art. And, in all this, the order of the humble St. Francis was its rival.
In Philosophy they gave the world an Albertus Magnus and a Roger Bacon; in Theology, Law, and Politics, a Thomas Aquinas and a Bonaventura, an Ambrose Sansedonius and a Dun Scotus, and hundreds of others, less celebrated, but scarcely less worthy, men whose influence still lives and is felt throughout the civilized world; but, above all, men who ennobled the age in which they lived, and in Italy saved the hopes and resolves of Liberty and progress, even in the midst of internecine feuds, and under the menaces and blows of the haughty House of Suabia.
It may therefore be fairly said that these two religious establishments were the most prominent features in the ecclesiastical history of that period, so unjustly described by modern writers as the age when the Church ruled supreme over the minds and bodies of men. She never ruled in this manner, and on earth never will; but she produced these orders in that age as remedies for the many evils of the time, and sent them forth on their mission through the world; and nobly did they fulfil, and nobly do they still continue to fulfil, that mission. Let
us now see for a moment what were the ideas of the medium of authority and the just powers of government which she imparted to them. It is to be supposed, of course, that were the Church despotic in her ideas, sympathies, and doctrines of civil right, they too would be perfectly despotic in their organization and frame of government. We shall see; confining our view chiefly to the Order of St. Dominic, as that order has been the more< calumniated of the two.
The whole Order is divided into Provinces, (and in the day of its glory these Provinces amounted to forty-six,) which are perfectly independent of each other, under the authority of one Master General,-and each Province. always contains several houses, which, with their local superiors, are likewise independent of one another, under the jurisdiction of a Provincial Superior. Of these officers the General holds his office for six, the Provincial for four, and the local Superior for three years. These offices are all elective, and the laws of the Institute are extremely strict in their requirements for the prevention of fraud, coercion, or any thing else that could interfere with the freedom of elections; insomuch that if it can be shown, after an election, that one illegal vote was cast, or one legal voter was deprived of his right fraudulently, forcibly, or by defect of notification, the election is void! The Master General is elected by the Provinces in their Provincial capacity, each Provincial having one vote by right of his office, and each Province choosing, in addition, two Electors to make up the College. This gives to every Province three votes. The Provincials are elected much in the same manner by the local Superiors and one Elector chosen by the free suffrages of the members of each house; and the local Superiors themselves are elected by the votes. of those over whom they are to rule, even to the exclusion of those who, although they may be "sons" of the house, do not reside immediately within it. And no authority in the order can remove a member from one house to another, within one month of the time of holding an election in the house to which he belongs, and one month's residence is required to entitle a member of the same Province to a vote, whilst one year in the house is necessary for one of a different Province. No member can be elected to the same office two consecutive terms; for the local Superior,
an interstice of three, for a Provincial of eight, and for the Master General, of twelve years, is required before reelection. Even while in office, the authority of these officials is far from being absolute or arbitrary. The Dominican at his profession makes a vow to obey his lawful superiors, but he qualifies and distinguishes, by an express clause in the formula, that is, only according to the eonfirmed laws and usages of the Order. Those laws and usages guaranty him the largest freedom compatible with his state, and almost entire immunity from oppression. The Superior is constantly checked in the exercise of his power, by a Council consisting of not less than three, nor more than twelve members besides himself, with whose appointment he has nothing to do, and in which he has but one vote. This Council assembles at least once every month, and the Superior is bound to convoke it at all other times when any thing of moment is to be done. Without the advice and consent of a majority of this Council, (the Superior has not the casting vote in case of equal division,) no weighty punishment can be inflicted. even on those who grievously offend against the laws of morality, or their special rules. No one is ever to be condemned without a hearing, and is always to be tried by his peers. In order to guaranty still farther this immunity of the subject from every species of arbitrary oppression, there exists in every house another officer next in power and dignity to the Superior himself, who is appointed annually, and one of whose duties, the Constitutions expressly declare, is to admonish the Superior of any excess of which he may be guilty in the exercise of his authority, and to mediate between him and his subjects. To this officer it also belongs to preside over that Council which sits once every two years, on the eve of the assembling of the Provincial Council, to receive, hear, and act upon the complaints of members against the Superior. If these complaints prove weighty and just, the Provincial Council is informed of the facts, and the Superior is to be deprived of his office. This Provincial Council is composed of four select members of the Province, elected by the local Superiors and one Elector from every house, chosen by ballot, and deputed for that purpose. Here the Provincial presides, making a fifth member, and has the casting vote.