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    July 22, 1886

    “Establishment of the Vandals in Africa” The Signs of the Times 12, 28, p. 436.

    GIBBON speaks above, of “the invitation which” the Vandals “received from Count Boniface.” The way in which that invitation was brought about was this: In the narrative which we have given of the Visigoths under Adolphus the successor of Alaric, Placidia will be remembered as the sister of the Emperor Honorius and the wife of Adolphus. After the death of her husband she was restored by Wallia, about A.D. 416, to her brother Honorius in exchange for 600,000 meausres (about 150,000 bushels) of wheat. After her return she was given by Honorius, much against her will, in marriage to Constantius, a Roman general, and became the mother of a daughter—Honoria—and a son, who, at the age of six years, and under the title of Valentinian III., succeeded to the throne of the western empire. Honorius died Aug. 27, A.D. 423, and the vacant throne was usurped two years by John the Secretary. At this time Placidia was at Constantinople under the protection of her nephew Theodosius the Younger, and Theoldosius resolved (A.D. 425) to place Valentinian on the throne of the West. Valentinian being only six years old, and his father being dead, upon Placidia was bestowed the important office of regent during the minority of her son; this authority she exercised twenty-five years—from A.D. to 450.SITI July 22, 1886, page 436.1

    “Her armies were commanded by two generals, Etius and Boniface, who may be deservedly named as the last of the Romans. Their union might have supported a sinking empire; their discord was the fatal and immediate cause of the loss of Africa.”SITI July 22, 1886, page 436.2

    “Etius possessed an advantage of singular moment in a female reign; he was present: he besieged, with artful and assiduous flattery, the palace of Ravenna; disguised his dark designs with the mask of loyalty and friendship; and at length deceived both his mistress and his absent rival, by a subtle conspiracy, which a weak woman and a brave man could not easily suspect. He had secretly persuaded Placidia to recall Boniface from the government of Africa; he secretly advised Boniface to disobey the Imperial summons; to the one, he represented the order as a sentence of death; to the other, he stated the refusal as a signal of revolt; and when the credulous and unsuspectful count had armed the province in his defense, Etius applauded his sagacity in foreseeing the rebellion, which his own perfidy had excited. A temperate inquiry into the real motives of Boniface would have restored a faithful servant to his duty and to the republic; but the arts of Etius still continued to betray and to inflame, and the count was urged, by persecution, to embrace the most desperate counsels. The success with which he eluded or repelled the first attacks, could not inspire a vain confidence, that at the head of some loose, disorderly Africans, he should be able to withstand the regular forces of the West, commanded by a rival, whose military character it was impossible for him to despise. After some hesitation, the last struggles of prudence and loyalty, Boniface despatched a trusty friend to the court, or rather to the camp, of Gonderic, king of the Vandals, with the proposal of a strict alliance, and the offer of an advantageous and perpetual settlement.”—Id.SITI July 22, 1886, page 436.3

    These were the events and this “the invitation” that brought the nation of the Vandals into Africa. The treachery of Etius was discovered shortly afterward; but the mischief was done, and it was too late to remedy it.SITI July 22, 1886, page 436.4

    “The long and narrow tract of the African coast was filled with frequent monuments of Roman art and magnificence; and the respective degrees of improvement might be accurately measured by the distance from Carthage and the Mediterranean. A simple reflection will impress every thinking mind with the clearest idea of fertility and cultivation; the country was extremely populous; the inhabitants reserved a liberal subsistence for their own use; and the annual exportation, particularly of wheat, was so regular and plentiful, that Africa deserved the name of the common granary of Rome and of mankind. On a sudden the seven fruitful provinces, from Tangier to Tripoli, were overwhelmed by the invasion of the Vandals; whose destructive rage has perhaps been exaggerated by popular animosity, religious zeal, and extravagant declamation.SITI July 22, 1886, page 436.5

    “War, in its fairest form, implies a perpetual violation of humanity and justice; and the hostilities of barbarians are inflamed by the fierce and lawless spirit which incessantly disturbs their peaceful and domestic society. The Vandals, where they found resistance, seldom gave quarter; and the deaths of their valiant countrymen were expiated by the ruin of the cities under whose walls they had fallen. Careless of the distinctions of age, or sex, or rank, they employed every species of indignity and torture, to force from the captives a discovery of their hidden wealth. The stern policy of Genseric justified his frequent examples of military execution; he was not always the master of his own passions, or of those of his followers; and the calamities of war were aggravated by the licentiousness of the Moors, and the fanaticism of the Donatists.SITI July 22, 1886, page 436.6

    “The court and the people were astonished by the strange intelligence, that a virtuous hero, after so many favors, and so many services, had renounced his allegiance, and invited the barbarians to destroy the province intrusted to his command. The friends of Boniface, who still believed that his criminal behavior might be excused by some honorable motive, solicited, during the absence of Etius, a free conference with the Count of Africa; and Darius, an officer of high distinction, was named for the important embassy. In their first interview at Carthage, the imaginary provocations were mutually explained; the opposite letters of Etius were produced and compared; and the fraud was easily detected.SITI July 22, 1886, page 436.7

    “Placidia and Boniface lamented their fatal error; and the count had sufficient magnanimity to confide in the forgiveness of his sovereign, or to expose his head to her future resentment. His repentance was fervent and sincere; but he soon discovered that it was no longer in his power to restore the edifice which he had shaken to its foundations. Carthage and the Roman garrisons returned with their general to the allegiance of Valentinian; but the rest of Africa was still distracted with war and faction; and the inexorable king of the Vandals, disdaining all terms of accommodation, sternly refused to relinquish the possession of his prey. The band of veterans who marched under the standard of Boniface, and his hasty levies of provincial troops, were defeated with considerable loss; the victorious barbarians insulted the open country; and Carthage, Cirta, and Hippo Regius, were the only cities that appeared to rise above the general inundation.SITI July 22, 1886, page 436.8

    “The generous mind of Count Boniface was tortured by the exquisite distress of beholding the ruin which he had occasioned, and whose rapid progress he was unable to check. After the loss of a battle he retired into Hippo Regius; where [A.D. 430, May] he was immediately besieged by an enemy, who considered him as the real bulwark of Africa. The maritime colony of Hippo, about two hundred miles westward of Carthage, had formerly acquired the distinguishing epithet of Regius, from the residence of Numidian kings; and some remains of trade and populousness still adhere to the modern city, which is known in Europe by the corrupted name of Bona. The military labors, and anxious reflections, of Count Boniface, were alleviated by the edifying conversation of his friend St. Augustine; till that bishop, the light and pillar of the Catholic church, was gently released, in the third month of the siege, and in the seventy-sixth year of his age, from the actual and the impending calamities of his country.”—Dec. and Fall, chap. 33, par. 9, 8, 10.SITI July 22, 1886, page 436.9


    (Concluded next week.)

    “Gone to Canossa” The Signs of the Times 12, 28, pp. 438, 439.

    LAST winter, under the heading of “Going to Canossa,” we inserted the following:—SITI July 22, 1886, page 438.1

    “In 1075, A.D. Pope Gregory VII. Took it upon himself to interfere in the affairs of State of Germany. It was determined that any ecclesiastic who should accept office from the hands of a layman should be deposed, while the secular lord who should presume to bestow investiture, should be excommunicated. Henry IV. resisted the pope’s pretensions, and so was brought on the war of investitures, and the memorable contest between Hildebrand and Henry. Henry first deposed the pope, and then was in turn deposed by the pope; then he went to Canossa, and, in the garb of a supplicant, stood three days and nights in the wintry blast, awaiting the pleasure of Hildebrand to receive his submission.SITI July 22, 1886, page 438.2

    “In 1872, a similar contest arose between the German Chancellor Bismarck and Pope Pius IX. His contention went on quite bitterly; but in 1870 Prince Bismarck declared, ‘We will not go to Canossa.’SITI July 22, 1886, page 438.3

    “In 1885, a dispute sprang up, which, for a while, threatened war between Germany and Spain. He got out of the difficulty, Bismarck sought the mediation of the pope, and selected him as arbiter in his controversy. This so tickled the pope that he conferred upon the Chancellor the ‘Decoration of the Order of Christ.’ And that so pleased Prince Bismarck that his gratitude found vent in a remarkable letter to the pope.”SITI July 22, 1886, page 438.4

    And we then expressed the opinion that Bismarck was going to Canossa, but we had no idea then that we should so soon be called upon to report that he has actually gone on that historical journey. At that time we had not a copy of this notable letter, but only a press dispatch report of it. now, however, by the Catholic papers, which by the way is exulting loudly over it, we have the letter in hand. We here insert the most striking paragraphs of it:SITI July 22, 1886, page 438.5

    “BERLIN, Jan. 13SITI July 22, 1886, page 438.6

    “SIRE: The gracious letter which your Holiness did me the honor to write to me, as well as the high decoration which it was accompanied, has been to me the cause of great joy, and I beg your Holiness to accept the expressions of my deep gratitude. Any mark of approval connected with a labor undertaken for the sake of peace, and toward which I had been privileged to cooperate, is all the more precious to me that it gives deep satisfaction to His Majesty, my august master.SITI July 22, 1886, page 438.7

    “Your Holiness says in your letter that nothing is more in conformity with the spirit and the nature of the Roman Pontificate than the work of peace-making. This same thought it was that guided me when I besought your Holiness to accept the noble trust of mediation in the dispute existing between Spain and Germany, and in proposing to the Spanish Government that we should, on both sides, agree to the decision given by your Holiness... There is, therefore, every reason to hope that the peace-making action of your Holiness will have lasting effects, and among these I reckon, before all the grateful memory which both parties must cherish of their august mediator.SITI July 22, 1886, page 438.8

    “In so far as I am concerned, I shall always seize—and with the greatest eagerness—every occasion offered me in the fulfillment of my duty toward my master and my country to manifest toward your Holiness my deep gratitude and my most humble devotion.SITI July 22, 1886, page 438.9

    “I am, with the feeling of the deepest respect, Sire, your Holiness’s most humble servant.SITI July 22, 1886, page 438.10

    “V. BISMARCK.”

    This is the translation of the letter which Father O’Reilly sent from Rome to the New York Sun. With it he also sent quite a long letter of his own, giving the view in which the transaction is held by what he calls “the most thoughtful journalists” of Europe, and especially by the Papacy itself. From Father O’Reilly’s letter we select the following significant paragraphs:—SITI July 22, 1886, page 438.11

    “The truth is that the most thoughtful journalists in Great Britain and on the continent have agreed to consider the act of Spain and Germany as a direct recognition of the pope’s sovereignty, while the extraordinary promptness with which Leo solved the difficulty and cut off all chance of war between the two countries, as well as the uncommon tact displayed in finding a basis of agreement acceptable to both, has revived a public opinion favorable to the restoration of the old-time mediatorship of the Holy See.”SITI July 22, 1886, page 439.1

    “Bismarck, in his answer to the pope’s letter, has deviated from all previous customs, and instead of beginning his letter with ‘Most Holy Father,’ he says “Sire,” thus designedly and of set purpose addressing him as king, as he would his own sovereign, the Emperor of Germany. Of course this will be another bitter pill for the Piedmontese rulers to have to swallow; in the Italian press it will be like a bomb falling into a powder magazine. It was confidently affirmed here that the insignia of the Order of Christ sent by Leo XIII. to the German Chancellor would be returned, as the Emperor would not grant the latter permission to wear them, and as the pope, not being a temporal sovereign, had no acknowledged right either to found such an order or to confer its honors. But the decrees of the Emperor William granting the desired permission and presenting it in the most honorary manner, soon set these doubts at rest. The German Empire recognizes Leo XIII. both as pope and king, and therefore as sovereign.SITI July 22, 1886, page 439.2

    “All this is very important in international law; for the time must come, and is coming, when the Papacy will be to many acknowledged as the international institution par excellence, and when both its sovereignty temporal and spiritual, and the means necessary to secure its exercise, will be once more placed solemnly under the safeguard of all nations.SITI July 22, 1886, page 439.3

    “Leo XIII., like Pius IX., may die restricted in his physical liberty to the Vatican and its garden; but the Papacy does not die.... The Papacy has buried many empires, kingdoms, and republics; it will outlive those now in existence.”SITI July 22, 1886, page 439.4

    But this acknowledgment of the sovereignty of the pope is not all of the story. The principal act of Germany in the contest of 1872 was, under the guidance of Bismarck, to pass what are known as the May Laws. “By these laws it was required that candidates for the clerical office should undergo a certain amount of secular training at the universities, and that every ecclesiastical appointment should receive the sanction of the secular authorities.” This legislation was denounced, and pronounced invalid, by the pope, and was disregarded by the Catholic bishops. Bismarck “imposed penalty after penalty in order to establish the supremacy of the State. Refractory bishops were imprisoned, deposed, and banished.” It was in the midst of these heroic measures that Bismarck exclaimed, “We will not go to Canossa.”SITI July 22, 1886, page 439.5

    But lo! following hard upon the lead struck in his letter to the pope, the doughty Bismarck introduced into the German Parliament the “Prussian Ecclesiastical Laws Amendment Bill,” which provides for the revision of the May Laws in such a way as in fact to amount to nothing less than their actual repeal. Nor was the Chancellor content with the mere introduction of the bill; but he never rested, nor gave the Parliament any rest, till he had pushed it to a successful issue, even carrying his energy to the extent of leading the Chamber to depart from the usage generally followed in dealing with important bills, and rushed it through the three readings without ever referring it to a committee.SITI July 22, 1886, page 439.6

    In the debate on the bill, Bismarck “avowed that in his opinion, the whole system involved in the May Laws was useless, and, in many ways, mischievous.” He assured the Chamber that the pope is “a venerable, wise, and good man, very friendly to Germany, much better disposed to forward the true interests of Germany than some of the politicians in the Prussian Diet and the Reichstag.” He declared that he did “not see any use in maintaining the May Laws.” He said he “sincerely wished for a reconciliation, so did the king, his master; so did all sensible people;” and that he had “unbounded confidence in the honor of the pope” that he would faithfully fulfill all his part of the conditions. He said that under the provisions of this bill the Prussian Government would go on with the work which they had commenced, and set about “a thorough revision of the May legislation.” And to make the thing perfectly satisfactory to the pope, he actually proposed to submit the matter to him beforehand, and then work according to his orders. He said they would “submit their views to the pope,” because “his final approval would be indispensable for success;” and so they had “better have his approval at the outset, and save time and discussion.”SITI July 22, 1886, page 439.7

    And this is the “Iron Chancellor”! This is the man who would not go to Canossa! It seems to us that the “iron” part of the Chancellor has become very malleable, and it is certain that V. Bismarck has gone to Canossa. If Henry IV. Cut any mere humiliating figure in the eleventh century than has Bismarck in the nineteenth, we should like for some one to show it, for as for ourselves, we fail to see it. J.SITI July 22, 1886, page 439.8

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