By Harold J. Berman
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Additional resources for Law and Revolution, II: The Impact of the Protestant Reformations on the Western Legal Tradition (v. 2)
Paradoxically, those scholars who, by concentrating on bits and pieces of history, have thought to avoid the necessity of larger periodizations have had imposed on them by academic convention a wrong periodization—namely, the sixteenth-century division of the past into “ancient,” “medieval,” and “modern” segments. No matter how specialized their fields, historians are in ♦ 21 22 ♦ Introduction fact identified as working within one or more of these three traditional categories. They have to a certain extent rebelled against such identification by dividing “medieval” into the “Early Middle Ages” of the fifth to the eleventh century and “High Middle Ages” of the twelfth to the fifteenth century, and dividing “modern” into “early modern history” of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and “modern history” of the eighteenth century to the World Wars.
The nine justices of the Supreme Court, appointed for life, were a kind of House of Lords, whose Law Lords to this day constitute the supreme judicial body in England. Likewise, the president of the United States, who, like the senators, was at first elected by the state legislatures, was to be, in foreign policy at least, a kind of monarch, albeit not a hereditary monarch. Yet the same persons who carried over and adapted English traditions to the new republic—men such as Wilson and Madison—also introduced into the United States Constitution, in modified form, democratic and liberal ideas associated with the eighteenth-century European reform movement whose underlying belief system was most effectively articulated by the French philosophes and which culminated in the French Revolution.
13 Moreover the church, which owned something like one-third of the land of Germany, was exempt from secular taxation. Thus the princes had cause to dislike both ecclesiastical power and ecclesiastical wealth. At the same time, the lay population was subjected to onerous financial exactions by the church. Indeed, resentment against ecclesiastical abuses was easily transferable to the imperial authority, which was closely identified with the Roman Catholic hierarchy, since the Holy Roman Emperor, despite his defeat in the Papal Revolution of the late eleventh and early twelfth centuries, had retained a sacred mission within the Roman Catholic Church.