OUR first-page illustration, “Charlemagne Inflicting ‘Baptism’ upon the Saxons,” is taken from Ridpath’s “History of the World,” Vol. 2. The historian relates that in the spring of A.D. 777, Charlemagne, “having satisfactorily regulated the affairs of Italy,” “conceived the plan of extending the empire of religion in the opposite directions of Saxony and Spain. In furtherance of this purpose he convened at Paderborn, in the year 777, a general assembly of his people, and there the scheme of conquest was matured. The German chiefs had generally obeyed his summons, and were present at the assembly; but Wittikind, king of the Saxons, was conspicuous by absence.” In a foot note the historian adds:—
It was at this assembly of the Saxon chiefs that Charlemagne gave his refractory subjects their option of baptism or the sword. The impenitent barbarians, yielding in action but obdurate in mind, were compelled to kneel down at the bank of a stream while the priests, who accompanied Charlemagne’s army, poured water upon their heads and pronounced the baptismal ritual. The king soon had cause to learn the inefficiency of such a conversion from paganism.
Thus it appears that Charlemagne had in view not only the conversion of the Saxons, but more particularly the peace and safety of the State, which he thought would be promoted by changing them from pagans to Christians. The trouble with his plan was that the forced acquiescence of the Saxons in a religious ceremony did not work the least change in their hearts for the better, any more than does the forced observance of Sunday in the hearts of men to-day.