Front Page Titles (by Subject) chapter x: The Form and Constitution of the Francogallican Government - An Account of Denmark, With Francogallia and Some Considerations for the Promoting of Agriculture and Employing the Poor
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chapter x: The Form and Constitution of the Francogallican Government - Robert Molesworth, An Account of Denmark, With Francogallia and Some Considerations for the Promoting of Agriculture and Employing the Poor 
An Account of Denmark, With Francogallia and Some Considerations for the Promoting of Agriculture and Employing the Poor, Edited and with an Introduction by Justin Champion (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2011).
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The Form and Constitution of the Francogallican Government
These Things being thus briefly premised, we think it proper now to set forth in what Manner the Kingdom of Francogallia was constituted. And we have already made it plain, that the People reserv’d to themselves all the Power not only of Creating, but also of Abdicating their Kings. Which Form of Government ’tis manifest our Ancestors had, before they were brought under by the Romans. “So that the People (as Caesar tells us) had no less Authority and Power over their Kings, than the Kings had over the People. Populus non minus in Regem, quam rex in populum imperii ac potestatis retinet.”; Although ’tis probable the Franks did not derive this Constitution of their Commonwealth from the Gauls; but from their Countrymen, the Germans; of whom Tacitus, lib. de mor. Germ. says, “Regibus non est infinita aut libera Potestas. Their Kings have not an Arbitrary or Unlimited Power.” Now ’tis manifest that no Form of Government is more remote from Tyranny, than this: for not one of the three distinguishing Marks, or Characteristicks of Tyranny, which the old Philosophers make mention of can be found in the Form and Constitution of our Government. First, as to a forced Obedience; i.e., that a King should rule over a People against their Wills; we have shewn you already, that the Supreme Power, both of Electing and Abdicating their Kings, was in the People. Secondly, as to a Life-guard composed of Foreigners, (which they reckon the Second Mark of Tyranny); so far were our Francogallican Kings from making use of Mercenary Strangers for their Guards, that they had not so much as their own Countrymen and Citizens, for that Purpose; but placed their whole Trust and Confidence in the Love and Fidelity of their Subjects; which they thought a sufficient Guard.
As an Argument of this, we may observe what Gregory of Tours writes, lib. 7. cap. 18. and Aimoinus, lib. 3. cap. 63. “King Gontrannus being inform’d by an ordinary Fellow at Paris, that Faraulphus lay in Wait for him, presently began to secure his Person by Guards and Weapons; so that he went no whither (not even to the Holy Places) without being surrounded with armed Men and Soldiers.” We have at present a very famous History extant of St. Lewis, written by that excellent Person Joannes Jonvillaeus, who lived very familiarly with that King for many Years; in which whole History there is not the least Mention made of Guards or Garrisons, but only of Porters or Door-keepers; which in his native Tongue, he calls Ushers.
Now as to the third Mark of Tyranny, which is when Matters are so carried, that what is done tends more to the Profit and Will of the Person governing, than to that of the governed, or the Good of the Commonwealth; we shall hereafter prove, that the Supreme Administration of the Francogallican Kingdom was lodged in the Publick Annual Council of the Nation, which in After-Ages was called the Convention of the Three Estates. For the Frame of this Government was the very same which the Ancient Philosophers, and among them Plato and Aristotle (whom Polybius imitates) judged to be the best and most excellent in the World, as being made up and constituted of a mixture and just temperament of the three Kinds of Government, viz. the Regal, Noble, and Popular. Which Form of a Commonwealth,Cicero (in his Books de Republica) prefers to all other whatsoever. For since a Kingly and a Popular Government do in their Natures differ widely from each other, it was necessary to add a third and middle State participating of both, viz. that of the Princes or Nobility; who, by reason of the Splendour and Antiquity of their Families, approach, in some degree, to the Kingly Dignity; and yet, being Subjects, are upon that Account on the same foot and interest with the Commons. Now of the Excellency of this Temperament in a Commonwealth, we have a most remarkable Commendation in Cicero, taken by him out of Plato’s Books de Republica; which, because of its singular Elegancy, we shall here insert at length. “Ut in fidibus (inquit) ac tibiis, atque cantu ipso, ac vocibus, tenendus est quidam concentus ex distinctis sonis, quem immutatum ac discrepantem aures eruditae ferre non possunt; isque concentus ex dissimillimarum vocum moderatione concors tamen efficitur, & congruens; Sic ex summis, & mediis, & infimis interjectis ordinibus, ut sonis, moderatâ ratione civitas, consensu dissimillimorum concinit, & quae harmonia à musicis dicitur in cantu, ea est in Civitate concordia: arctissimum-atque; optimum in Republica vinculum incolumitatis, quae sine iustitiâ nullo pacto esse potest.” i.e., “As in Fiddles and Flutes, and even in Singing and Voices, a certain Consort of distinct Sounds is to be observed; which if it be alter’d, or not tunable, skilful Hearers cannot bear or endure: And this Consort of very different Tones, is, through a just Proportion of the Notes, rendered Concord, and very agreeable: Even so a Commonwealth, judiciously proportioned, and composed of the first, the middlemost, and the lowest of the States, (just as in Sounds) through the Consent of People very unlike to each other, becomes agreeable: And what Musicians in Singing call Harmony, that in a Commonwealth is Concord; the very best and strongest Bond of Safety for a Government, which can never fail of being accompanied with Justice.” Our Ancestors therefore following this Method, of a just Mixture of all the three kinds, in the constituting their Commonwealth, most wisely ordained, that every Year on the Calends of May, a Publick Council of the whole Nation should be held: at which Council the great Affairs of the Republick should be transacted by the common Consent and Advice of all the Estates. The Wisdom and Advantage of which Institution, appears chiefly in these three things: First, That in the Multitude of prudent Counsellors, the Weight and Excellency of Counsel shews it self more apparently, as Solomon and other Wise Men have said. Secondly, Because it is an essential part of liberty, that the same persons, at whose cost and peril any thing is done, should have it done likewise by their authority and advice; for (’tis a common Saying) what concerns all, ought to be approved by all. Lastly, That such Ministers of State as have great Power with the Prince, and are in high Employments, may be kept within the Bounds of their Duty, through the awe they stand in of this great Council, in which all the Demands and Grievances of the Subject are freely laid open. “For such Kingdoms as are ruled by the arbitrary Will and Pleasure of one Prince, may most justly (as Aristotle in his third Book of Politicks observes) be reckon’d Governments of Sheep,89 and brute Beasts, without Wit or Judgment; not of Freemen, who are endued with Understanding, and the Light of Reason.” The Case is thus That even as Sheep are not guided or tended by one of their own kind, nor Boys govern’d by one of themselves, but by something of more Excellency; even so a Multitude of Men ought not to be ruled and govern’d by one single person, who perhaps understands and sees less than several others among them; but by many select persons, who, in the Opinion of all Men, are both very prudent and eminent; and who act by united Counsels, and, as it were, by one Spirit, composed and made up of the Minds of many Wise Men.
Now whereas it may be objected, that most Kings have a constant Privy Council to advise them in the Administration of publick Affairs: We answer, That there is a great deal of Difference between a Counsellor of the King, and a Counsellor of the Kingdom. This last takes care of the safety and profit of the whole Commonwealth; the other serves the humour and studies the conveniences of one Man only; and besides, these King’s Counsellors reside, for the most part, in one certain Place; or at least near the Person of the Prince, where they cannot be supposed to be thoroughly acquainted with the Condition of the more remote Cities or Provinces; and being debauched by the Luxury of a Court-life, are easily depraved, and acquire a lawless Appetite of Domineering; are wholly intent upon their own ambitious and covetous designs; so that at last they are no longer to be consider’d as Counsellors for the Good of the Kingdom and Commonwealth, but Flatterers of a single Person, and Slaves to their own and their Prince’s Lusts.
Concerning this Matter, we have a most excellent Saying of the Emperor Aurelian, recorded by Flavius Vopiscus. “My Father used to tell me (says Aurelian) that the Emperor Dioclesian, whilst he was yet a private Man, frequently said, That nothing in the World was more difficult than to govern well. For, four or five Persons combine together, and unanimously agree to deceive the Emperor; they determine what shall be approved or disapprov’d. The Emperor, who, for the most part, is shut up in his Palace, knows nothing of the truth of affairs; he is compell’d to hear and see only with their Ears and Eyes; he makes Judges, such Persons as do not deserve to be made so; he removes from Offices in the Commonwealth such as he ought to keep in; in short, a good, provident and excellent Emperor is sold by such Counsellors.” Now our Ancestors, in the constituting their Commonwealth, wisely avoiding these mischiefs (as Mariners would do dangerous Rocks) decreed that the Publick Affairs should be managed by the joynt Advice and Counsel of all the Estates of the Kingdom. To which Purpose the King, the Nobles, and the Representatives of the Commons out of the several Provinces, were obliged to meet at a certain time every year. And this very same institution we find to have been that of many other Nations. First in our Ancient Gallia, where the Administration of Publick Affairs was intrusted with the Common Council of the chosen Men in the whole Nation, as we have above demonstrated. But because we are now speaking of a Kingdom, I shall give Instances of them. ’Tis manifest, that in old Times the Council of the Amphyctions was instituted in Greece (as Suidas and others testify) by King Amphyction, Son of Deucalion; and therein it was ordained, that at a certain appointed time every year, Representatives chosen out of the Twelve Commonwealths of Greece should meet at Thermopylae, and deliberate concerning all the weighty Affairs of the Kingdom and Commonwealth: For which Reason, Cicero calls this the Common Council of Graecia, Pliny calls it the Publick Council.
We find the like Wisdom in the Constitution of the German Empire, wherein the Emperor represents the Monarchical State, the Princes represent the Aristocratical, and the Deputies of the Cities the Democratical; neither can any Matter of Moment appertaining to the whole German Republick be firm and ratified, but what is first agreed upon in that great Convention of the Three Estates. To this End was framed that ancient and famous Law of the Lacedemonians, which joyned the Ephori to their Kings; “Who, as Plato writes, were designed to be like Bridles to the Kings, and the Kings were obliged to govern the Commonwealth by their Advice and Authority.”90Pliny, lib. 6. cap. 22. makes mention of the like Practice in the Island of Taprobana, where the King had thirty Advisers appointed by the People; by whose Counsel he was to be guided in the Government of the Commonwealth; “For fear (says he) lest the King (in case he had an unlimited Power) should esteem his Subjects no otherwise than as his Slaves or his Cattle.” Furthermore, we find the very same Form of Administration of the Kingdom of England, In Polydore Virgil ’s History of England, lib. 11. where he has this passage in the Life of Henry the First, “Before this Time the Kings used to summon a publick Convention of the People in order to consult with them, but seldom: So that we may in some manner say, that the Institution derived its Original from Henry; which took such deep Root, that it has always continued ever since, and still does so; viz. That whatever related to the Well-governing or Conservation of the Commonwealth, ought to be debated and determined by the great Council. And that if either the King or the People should act any thing alone, it should be esteemed invalid, and as nothing, unless it were first approved and established by the Authority of that Council. And for fear this Council should be cumbred with the Opinions of an unskilful Multitude, (whose Custom it is to distinguish nothing justly) it was as first establish’d by a certain Law, what Sort of Persons, and what Numbers either of the Priests or of the People should be called to this Council, which, after a French Name, they commonly call A Parliament; which every King at the Beginning of his Reign uses to hold, and as often afterward as he pleases, or as Occasion requires.” Thus far Polydore Virgil.
But among all the Laws and Customs of this Kind, there is none so remarkable as that of the Spaniards; who, when they elect a King in the Common-Council of Arragon, (in order to keep up a perpetual Remembrance of their Privileges) represent a Kind of Play, and introduce a certain Personage, whom they call by the Name of The Law of Arragon,91 whom (by a publick Decree) they declare to be greater and more Powerful than their King; and afterwards they harangue the King (who is elected upon certain Terms and Conditions) in Words which (because of the remarkable Virtue and Fortitude of that Nation in repressing the unbridled Will of their Prince,) we will here set down at length. “Nos que valemos tanto come vos, ii podemos mas que vos; vos elegimos Reii con estas ii estas conditiones; intra vos ii nos un que manda mas que vos: That is, We, who are of as great Value as you, and can do more than you, do elect you to be our King, upon such and such Conditions: Between you and us there is one of greater Authority than you.”92
Seeing then that the Case is so, and that this has always been a constant and universal Law of all Nations, that are governed by a Kingly, and not by a Tyrannical Power. ’Tis very plain, that this most valuable liberty of holding a Common-Council of the Nation, is not only a Part of the People’s Right; but that all Kings, who by Evil Arts do oppress or take away this Sacred Right, ought to be esteemed Violaters of the Laws of Nations; and being no better than Enemies of Humane Society, must be consider’d not as Kings, but, as Tyrants.
But to return to the Matter in Hand. Our Commonwealth being constituted by the Laws of our Ancestors, upon the bottom above-mention’d, and participating of all the three Kinds of Government; it was ordain’d, that once every Year (and as much oftener as important Occasions should make it necessary) a Solemn General Council should be held: which, for that reason, was called a Parliament of the Three Estates. By that Word was meant a Convention or Meeting of Men out of several Parts of the Country to one Place, there to confer and deliberate concerning the Publick Welfare: And therefore all Conferences (though between Enemies) in order to a Peace or Truce, are always in our Chronicles called by the name of Parliaments. Now of this Council, the King sitting in his Golden Tribunal, was chief; next to him were the Princes and Magistrates of the Kingdom; in the third place were the Representatives: of the several Towns and Provinces, commonly called the Deputies: For as soon as the Day prefixed for this Assembly was come, the King was conducted to the Parliament-House with a Sort of Pomp and Ceremony, more adapted to popular Moderation, than to Regal Magnificence: which I shall not scruple to give a just account of out of our own Publick Records; it being a sort of Piety to be pleased with the Wisdom of our Ancestors; though in these most profligate Times, I doubt not but it would appear ridiculous to our flattering Courtiers. The King then was seated in a Wagon, and drawn by Oxen, which a Waggoner drove with his Goad to the Place of Assembly: But as soon as he was arrived at the Court, or rather indeed the Venerable Palace of the Republick, the Nobles conducted the King to the Golden Throne; and the rest took their Places (as we said before) according to their Degrees. This State, and in this Place, was what was called Regia Majestas,Royal Majesty. Of which we may even at this Day observe a signal Remain in the King’s Broad Seal, commonly called the Chancery Seal. Wherein the King is not represented in a military Posture a Horseback, or in a Triumphant Manner drawn in his Chariot by Horses, but sitting in his Throne Robed and Crown’d, holding in his Right Hand the Royal Sceptre, in his Left the Sceptre of Justice, and presiding in his Solemn Council. And indeed, in that Place only it can be said that Royal Majesty does truly and properly reside, where the great Affairs of the Commonwealth are transacted; and not as the unskilful Vulgar use to profane the Word; and whether the King plays or dances, or prattles with his Women, always to stile him Your Majesty.
Of all these Matters, we shall give only a few Proofs, out of many which we could produce. First, out of Eginarthus, who was Chancellor to Charles the Great, and wrote his Life. These are his Words: “Wherever he went (speaking of Charlemagn) about the publick Affairs, he was drawn in a Waggon by a Pair of Oxen, which an ordinary Waggoner drove after his rustical Manner. Thus he went to the Courts of Justice, thus to the Place of the Publick Convention of his People, which every Year was celebrated for the Good of the Realm; and thus he used to return Home again.” Joannes Nauclerus gives us an Account of the very same Thing, in almost the same Words, Chron. Generat. 26. So does the Author of the Great Chronicle, in the Beginning of his Life of Charlemagn, Fol. 77.93 Neither ought this to seem so great a Wonder to any, who considers it was the Fashion in those Days for our Kings and Queens, and the Royal Family, to be drawn by Oxen; of which we have one instance in Greg. Turon. lib. 3. cap. 26. “Deuteria, (says he) Wife of King Childebert, seeing her Daughter by a former Husband grown to Woman’s Estate, and fearing lest the King (being in Love with her) should lye with her, caused her to be put into a Sort of Litter with untamed Oxen, and thrown Headlong off a Bridge.” Aimoinus, lib. 4. cap. 30. makes mention of the Golden Throne, where he speaks of King Dagobert: “He proclaimed, says he, Generale P L A C I T U M in loco nuncupato Bigargio, a Great Council in a Place named Bigargium: To which all the Great Men of France assembling with great Diligence on the Kalends of May, the King thus began his Speech to them, sitting on his Golden Throne.” Also in his 41st Chapter, speaking of King Clodoveus Sitting in the midst of them, on his Golden Throne, he spoke in this Manner, etc.Sigebertus in Chron. Anni 662. “’Tis the Ancient Custom (says he) of the Kings of the Franks, every Kalends of May, to preside in a Convention of all the People, to salute and be saluted, to receive Homage, and give and take Presents.” Georgius Cedrenus expresses this in almost the same Words.94
Now, concerning the Authority of the People, who were thus gather’d together at the Great Council, we have many Testimonies. Aimoinus, lib. 4. cap. 41. speaking of Clodoveus the Second; “Although (says that King in his Speech) the Care of our Earthly Principality obliges us to call you together Francigenae cives, and to consult you in Affairs relating to the Publick, etc.”; Also in his 74th Chapter of the same Book “In the Beginning of the Year he went into Saxony, and there he held a General Convention every Year, as he used to do every Year in France also.” Again, lib. 4. cap. 13. where he speaks of Charles the Great “When the Hunting near Aix la Chapelle was ended, as soon as he returned, he held a General Convention of his People, according to usual Custom, etc.”; Cap. 116. “The Emperor having held Two Conventions, one at Nimeguen, the other at Compiegn, wherein he receiv’d the Annual Presents, etc.”; Again, Cap. 117. “In the Month of August he came to Wormes, and holding there the General Convention according to constant Practice, he received the Yearly Gifts which were offer’d him, and gave Audience to several Ambassadors, etc.”; Again, Lib. 5. cap. 31. “The General Placitum was held on the Ides of June, in the Town Dusiacum.”;
And this may suffice touching this solemn General Council, which both French and German Historians, through a deprav’d Custom of the Latin Tongue, called by different Names; sometimes Curia, sometimes Conventus Generalis, but for the most part Placitum.Gregorius, lib. 7. cap. 14. says thus: “Therefore when the Time of the Placitum approached, they were directed by King Childebert,etc.” Aimoinus, lib. 4. cap. 109. “In the middle of the Month he held the General Convention at Thionville, where there was a very great Appearance of the People of the Franks; and in this Placitum, the singular Compassion of the most Pious Emperor eminently show’d it self, etc.”;
Now it was the Custom in that Council to send Presents from all Parts to the King; as may appear from many Places which might be quoted, wherein that Council is called Conventus Generalis.Aimoinus, lib. 4. cap. 64. speaking of King Pipin, “He compell’d them (says he) to promise they would obey all his Commands, and to send him every Year at the Time of the General Convention, Three Hundred Horses, as a Gift and Token of Respect. Item, cap. 85. Not forgetting the Perfidy of the Saxons, he held the General Convention beyond the Rhine, in the Town of Kuffstein, according to the usual Custom.”
This Council was sometimes called by another Name, Curia, the Court; from whence proceeded the common Saying, when People went to the King’s Hall or Palace, “We are going to Court”; because they seldom approach’d the King, but upon great Occasions, and when a Council was call’d. Aimoinus, lib 5. cap. 50. “Charles, (says he) the Son of the Danish King, sued (or prosecuted) several Noble-Men of Flanders very conveniently at this Curia, or Court.” Item, cap. Sequenti; “Henry King of the Romans being dead, at that Great and General Court, Curia, held at Mentz. etc.”; Also Otto Frising.Lib. Frideric. 1. cap. 40. “After these Things, the Prince enter’d Bavaria, and there celebrated a General Curia, Court, in the Month of February.” Item, cap. 43. “Conrad King of the Romans, calling the Princes together at Frankfort, a City of East France, celebrated there a General Court.”
[89. ]The original has “cattle” rather than “sheep.”
[90. ]GS Franc. identify this as from Laws III 692 (Loeb 219).
[91. ]Note in margin: “La justicia di Arragon.”
[92. ]GS Franc. (pp. 102, 307–8) identify the source for this quote as Zurita and Lucius Marinaeus.
[93. ]This is a mistake for folio 177 of the Grandes chroniques (1514); see GS Franc. p. 324.
[94. ]The original duplicates a passage in Greek.