Front Page Titles (by Subject) BOOK XXXI.: THEORY OF THE FEUDAL LAWS AMONG THE FRANKS, IN THE RELATION THEY BEAR TO THE REVOLUTIONS OF THEIR MONARCHY. - Complete Works, vol. 2 The Spirit of Laws
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BOOK XXXI.: THEORY OF THE FEUDAL LAWS AMONG THE FRANKS, IN THE RELATION THEY BEAR TO THE REVOLUTIONS OF THEIR MONARCHY. - Charles Louis de Secondat, Baron de Montesquieu, Complete Works, vol. 2 The Spirit of Laws 
The Complete Works of M. de Montesquieu (London: T. Evans, 1777), 4 vols. Vol. 2.
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THEORY OF THE FEUDAL LAWS AMONG THE FRANKS, IN THE RELATION THEY BEAR TO THE REVOLUTIONS OF THEIR MONARCHY.
Changes in the offices and in the fiefs. Of the mayors of the palace.
THE counts at first were sent into their districts only for a year; but they soon purchased the continuation of their offices. Of this we have an example in the reign of Clovis’s grandchildren. A person named Peonius* was count in the city of Auxerre; he sent his son Mummolus with money to Gontram, to prevail upon him to continue in his employment; the son gave the money for himself, and obtained the father’s place. The kings had already begun to spoil their own favours.
Though by the laws of the kingdom the fiefs were precarious, yet they were neither given nor taken away in a capricious and arbitrary manner; nay, they were generally one of the principal subjects debated in the national assemblies. It is natural however to imagine that corruption had seized this, as well as the other article; and that the possession of the fiefs, like that of the counties, was continued for money.
I shall shew in the course of this book† , that, independently of the grants which the princes made for a certain time, there were others in perpetuity. The court wanted to revoke the former grants; this occasioned a general discontent in the nation, and was soon followed with that famous revolution in the French history, whose first epocha was the amazing spectacle of the execution of Brunechild.
That this queen, who was daughter, sister, and mother to so many kings, a queen to this very day celebrated for public monuments worthy of a Roman Ædile or Proconful, born with an admirable genius for affairs, and endowed with qualities so long respected, should see herself‡ of a sudden exposed to so slow, so ignominious and cruel a torture, by∥ a king whose authority was but indifferently established in the nation, would appear very extraordinary, had she not incurred that nation’s displeasure for some particular cause. Clotharius reproached§ her with the murder of ten kings: but two of them he had put to death himself; the death of some of the others was owing to chance, or to the villany of another queen; and to a nation that had permitted Fredegunda∥ to die in her bed, that had even opposed the punishment of her flagitious crimes, ought to have been very indifferent with respect to those of Brunechild.
She was put upon a camel, and led ignominiously through the army: a certain sign that she had given great offence to those troops. Fredegarius relates, that Protarius* , Brunechild’s favourite, stripped the lords of their property, and filled the exchequer with the plunder; that he humbled the nobility, and that no person could be sure of continuing in any office or employment. The army conspired against him, and he was stabbed in his tent; but Burnechild, either by revenging§ his death, or by pursuing the same plan, became every day more odious† to the nation.
Clotharius, ambitious of reigning alone, inflamed moreover with the most furious revenge, and sure of perishing if Brunechild’s children got the upper hand, entered into a conspiracy against himself; and whether it was owing to ignorance, or to the necessity of his circumstances, he became Brunechild’s accuser, and made a terrible example of that princess.
Warnacharius had been the very soul of the conspiracy formed against Brunechild; being at that time mayor of Burgundy, he made‡ Clotharius consent, that he should not be displaced while he lived. By this step the mayor could no longer be in the same case as the French lords before that period; and this authority began to render itself independent of the regal dignity.
It was Brunechild’s unhappy regency, which had exasperated the nation. So long as the laws subsisted in their full force, no one could grumble at having been deprived of a fief, since the law did not bestow it upon him in perpetuity. But when fiefs came to be acquired by avarice, by bad practices and corruption, they complained of being divested by irregular means, of things that had been irregularly acquired. Perhaps if the public good had been the motive of the revocation of those grants, nothing would have been said: but they pretended a regard to order, while they were openly abetting the principles of corruption; the fiscal rights were claimed, in order to lavish the public treasure: and grants were no longer the reward or encouragement of services. Brunechild, from a corrupt spirit, wanted to reform the abuses of the ancient corruption. Her caprices were not owing to weakness; the vassals and the great officers thinking themselves in danger, prevented their own, by her ruin.
We are far from having all the records of the transactions of those days; and the writers of chronicles, who understood very near as much of the history of their time, as our peasants know of ours, are extremely barren. Yet we have a constitution of Clotharius, given∥ in the council of Paris for the reformation of§ abuses, which shews that this prince put a stop to the complaints that had occasioned the revolution. On the one hand, he confirms* all the grants that had been made or confirmed by the kings his predecessors; and on the other, he ordains† that whatever had been taken from his vassals, should be restored to them.
This was not the only concession the king made in that council; he enjoined that whatever had been innovated, in opposition to the privileges of the clergy, should be redressed‡ ; and he moderated the influence of the court in the∥ elections of bishops. He even reformed the fiscal affairs; ordaining that all the new§ census’s should be abolished, and that they should not levy any** toll established since the death of Gontram, Sigebert, and Chilpheric; that is, he abolished whatever had been done during the regencies of Fredegunda and Brunechild. He forbad the driving of his cattle to graze† in private people’s grounds; and we shall presently see that the reformation was still more general, so as to extend even to civil affairs.
How the civil Government was reformed.
HITHERTO the nation had given marks of impatience and levity, with regard to the choice or conduct of her masters; she had regulated their differences, and obliged them to come to an agreement amongst themselves. But now she did what before was quite unexampled; she cast her eyes on her actual situation, examined the laws coolly, provided against their insufficiency, repressed violence, and moderated the regal power.
The bold and insolent regencies of Fredegunda and Brunechild, had less surprised than roused the nation. Fredegunda had defended her horrid cruelties, her poisonings and assassinations, by a repetition of the same crimes; and had behaved in such a manner that her outrages were rather of a private than public nature. Fredegunda did more mischief: Brunechild threatened more. In this crisis, the nation was not satisfied with rectifying the feudal system; she was also determined to secure her civil government. For the latter was rather more corrupt than the former; a corruption the more dangerous as it was more inveterate, and connected rather with the abuse of manners than with that of laws.
The history of Gregory of Tours exhibits, on the one hand, a fierce and barbarous nation; and on the other, kings remarkable for the same ferocity of temper. Those princes were bloody, iniquitous, and cruel, because such was the character of the whole nation. If Christianity appeared sometimes to soften their manners, it was only by the circumstances of terror with which this religion alarms the sinner: the church supported herself against them by the miraculous operations of her saints. The kings would not commit sacrilege, because they dreaded the punishments inflicted on that species of guilt; but this excepted, either in the riot of passion, or in the coolness of deliberation, they perpetrated the most horrid crimes and barbarities, where the divine vengeance did not appear so immediately to overtake the criminal. The Franks, as I have already observed, bore with cruel kings, because they were of the same disposition themselves; they were not shocked at the iniquity and extortions of their princes, because this was the national characteristic. There had been many laws established, but it was usual for the king to defeat them all, by a kind of letters called precepts* , which rendered them of no effect; they were somewhat similar to the rescripts of the Roman emperors, whether it be that our kings borrowed this usage of those princes, or whether it was owing to their own natural temper. We see in Gregory of Tours, how they perpetrated murder in cool blood, and put the accused to death, unheard; how they gave precepts† for illicit marriages; for transfering successions; for depriving relations of their right; and in fine, marrying consecrated virgins. They did not indeed assume the whole legislative power, but they dispensed with the execution of the laws.
Clotharius’s constitution redressed all these grievances; no one‡ could any longer be condemned without being heard; relations∥ were made to succeed according to the order established by law; all precepts for marrying religious women were declared null;§ and those who had obtained and made use of them, were severely punished. We might know perhaps more exactly his determination with regard to these precepts, if the thirteenth and the two next articles of this decree had not been lost through the injuries of time. We have only the first words of this thirteenth article, ordaining that the precepts shall be observed, which cannot be understood of those he had just abolished by the same law. We have another constitution** by the same prince, which is relative to his decree, and corrects in the same manner, every article of the abuses of the precepts.
True it is that Baluzius finding this constitution without date, and without the name of the place where it was given, attributes it to Clotharius I. But I say it belongs to Clotharius II, for three reasons; 1. It says that the king will preserve the immunities† granted to the churches, by his father and grandfather. What immunities could the churches receive from Childeric, grandfather of Clotharius I. who was not a Christian, and who lived even before the foundation of the monarchy? But if we attribute this decree to Clotharius II. we shall find his grandfather to have been this very Clotharius I. who made immense donations to the church, with a view of expiating the murder of his son Cramne, whom he had ordered to be burnt, together with his wife and children.
2. The abuses redressed by this constitution, were still subsisting after the death of Clotharius I. and were even carried to the highest extravagance during the weak reign of Gontram, the cruel administration of Chilperic, and the execrable regencies of Fredegunda and Brunechild. Now can we imagine that the nation would have borne with grievances so solemnly proscribed, without complaining of their continual repetition? Can we imagine she would not have taken the same step as she did afterwards under Childeric II. ‡ when upon a repetition of the old grievances, she pressed§ him to ordain that the law and customs in regard to judicial proceedings, should be complied with as formerly.
In fine, as this constitution was made to redress grievances, it cannot relate to Clotharius I. since there were no complaints of that kind in his reign, and his authority was perfectly established throughout the kingdom, especially at the time in which they place this constitution; whereas it agrees extremely well with the events that happened during the reign of Clotharius II. which produced a revolution in the political state of the kingdom. History must be illustrated by the laws, and the laws by history,
Authority of the Mayors of the Palace.
I TOOK notice that Clotharius II. had promised not to deprive Warnacharius of his mayor’s place during life; a revolution productive of another effect. Before that time the mayor was the king’s officer, but now he became the officer of the people; he was chosen before by the king, and now by the nation. Before the revolution, Protarius had been made mayor by Theodoric, and* Landeric by Fredegunda; but† after that the mayors were chosen by the nation‡ .
We must not therefore confound, as some authors have done, these mayors of the palace with such as were possessed of this dignity before the death of Brunechild; the king’s mayors with those of the kingdom. We see by the law of the Burgundians, that among them the office of mayor was not one of the∥ most respectable in the state; nor was it one of the most eminent§ under the first kings of the Franks.
Clotharius removed the apprehensions of those who were possessed of employments and fiefs; and when after the death of Warnacharius* he asked the lords assembled at Troyes, who is it they would put in his place; they cried out, they would chuse no one, but suing for his favour, committed them entirely into his hands.
Dagobert reunited the whole monarchy in the same manner as his father; the nation had a thorough confidence in him, and appointed no mayor. This prince finding himself at liberty, and elated by his victories, resumed Brunechild’s plan. But he succeeded so ill, that the vassals of Austrasia let themselves be beaten by the Sclavonians, and returned home, so that the marches of Austrasia were left a prey to the Barbarians† .
He determined then to make an offer to the Austrasians, of resigning that country, together with a provincial treasure, to his son Sigebert, and to put the government of the kingdom and of the palace into the hands of Cunibert bishop of Cologne, and of the duke Adalgisus. Fredegarius does not enter into the particulars of the conventions then made; but the king confirmed them all by charters, and‡ Austrasia was immediately secured from danger.
Dagobert finding himself near his end, recommended his wife Nentechildis, and his son Clovis, to the care of Æga. The Vassals of Neustria and Burgundy chose* this young prince for their king. Æga and Nentechildis had the government of† the palace; they restored‡ whatever Dagobert had taken; and complaints ceased in Neustria and Burgundy, as they had ceased in Austrasia.
After the death of Æga, the queen Nentechildis∥ engaged the lords of Burgundy to chuse Floachatus for their mayor. The latter dispatched letters to the bishops and chief lords of the kingdom of Burgundy, by which he promised to preserve their honours and dignities§ for ever, that is, during life. He confirmed his word by oath. This is the period, at which** the author of the treatise of the mayors of the palace fixes the administration of the kingdom by those officers.
Fredegarius being a Burgundian, has entered into a more minute detail, as to what concerns the mayors of Burgundy, at the time of the revolution of which we are speaking, than with regard to the mayors of Austrasia and Neustria. But the conventions made in Burgundy were, for the very same reasons, agreed to in Neustria and Austrasia.
The nation thought it safer to lodge the power in the hands of a mayor whom she chose herself, and to whom she might prescribe conditions, than in those of a king whose power was hereditary.
Of the Genius of the Nation in regard to the Mayors.
A GOVERNMENT, in which a nation that had an hereditary king, chose a person to exercise the regal authority, seems very extraordinary: but independently of the circumstances of the times, I apprehend that the notions of the Franks in regard to this article were derived from a higher source.
The Franks were descended from the Germans, of whom† Tacitus says, that in the choice of their king they were determined by his noble extraction; and in that of their leader, by his valour. This gives us an idea of the kings of the first race, and of the mayors of the palace; the former were hereditary, the latter elective.
No doubt, but those princes, who stood up in the national assembly, and offered themselves as the conductors of a public enterprize to such as were willing to follow them, united, generally in their own person, both the power of the mayor, and the king’s authority. By the splendour of their descent they had attained the regal dignity; and their military abilities having recommended them to the command of armies, they rose to the power of mayor. By the regal dignity our first kings presided in the courts and assemblies, and enacted laws with the national consent; by the dignity of duke or leader, they undertook expeditions, and commanded the armies.
In order to be acquainted with the genius of the primitive Franks in this respect, we have only to cast an eye on the conduct of‡ Argobastes, a Frank by nation, on whom Valentinian had conferred the command of the army. He confined the emperor to his own palace; where he would suffer nobody to speak to him concerning either civil or military affrirs. Argobastes did at that time what was afterwards practised by the Pepins.
In what Manner the Mayors obtained the Command of the Armies.
SO long as the kings commanded their armies in person, the nation never thought of chusing a leader. Clovis and his four sons were at the head of the Franks, and led them on through a series of victories. Theobald son of Theodobert, a young, weak, and sickly prince, was the first* of our kings that confined himself to his palace. He refused to undertake an expedition into Italy against Narses, and had† the mortification to see the Franks chuse themselves two chiefs, who led them against the enemy. Of the four sons of Clotharius I. Gontram‡ was the least fond of commanding his armies; the other kings followed this example; and, in order to intrust the command without danger into other hands, they conferred it upon several chiefs or dukes∥ .
Innumerable were the inconveniencies which thence arose; all discipline was lost, no one would any longer obey. The armies were dreadful only to their own country; they were loaden with spoils, before they had reached the enemy. Of these miseries we have a very lively picture in Gregory of Tours* . “How shall we be able to obtain a victory, says Gontram† , we who do not so much as keep what our ancestors acquired? Our nation is no longer the same. . . . . .” Strange, that it should be on the decline so early as the reign of Clovis’s grand-children!
It was therefore natural they should determine at last upon an only duke, a duke invested with an authority over this prodigious multitude of feudal lords and vassals, who were now become strangers to their own engagements; a duke who was to establish the military discipline, and to put himself at the head of a nation unhappily practised in making war against itself. This power was conferred on the mayors of the palace.
The original function of the mayors of the palace, was the management of the king’s houshold. They had afterwards, in conjunction‡ with other officers, the political government of fiefs; and at length they obtained the sole disposal of them. They had also the administration of military affairs and the command of the armies; employments necessarily connected with the other two. In those days it was much more difficult to raise than to command the armies; and who but the dispenser of favours could have this authority? In this martial and independent nation, it was prudent to invite, rather than to compel; prudent to give away or to promise the fiefs, that should happen to be vacant by the death of the possessor; prudent, in fine, to reward continually, and to raise a jealousy with regard to preferences. It was therefore right, that the person who had the superintendency of the palace, should also be general of the army.
Second Epocha of the Humiliation of our Kings of the first Race.
AFTER the execution of Brunechild, the mayors were administrators of the kingdom under the sovereigns; and though they had the conduct of the war, yet the kings were always at the head of the armies, and the mayor and the nation fought under their command. But the victory* of duke Pepin over Theodoric and his mayor, completed† the degradation of our princes; and that‡ which Charles Martel obtained over Chilperic and his mayor Rainfroy, confirmed it. Austrasia triumphed twice over Neustria and Burgundy; and the mayoralty of Austrasia being annexed as it were to the family of the Pepins, this mayoralty and family became greatly superior to all the rest, The conquerors were then afraid lest some person of credit should seize the king’s person, in order to excite disturbances. For this reason they kept∥ them in the royal palace as in a kind of prison, and once a year shewed them to the people. There they made ordinances, but§ these were such as were dictated by the mayor; they answered ambassadors, but the mayor made the answers. This is the time mentioned by* historians of the government of the mayors over the kings whom they held in subjection.
The extravagant passion of the nation for Pepin’s family went so far, that they chose one of his grandsons, who was yet† an infant, for mayor; and put him over one Dagobert, that is, one phantom over another.
Of the great Offices and Fiefs under the Mayors of the Palace.
THE mayors of the palace were far from reviving the precariousness of posts and employments; for indeed their power was owing to the protection which in this respect they had granted to the nobility. Hence the great offices were continued to be given for life, and this usage was every day more firmly established.
But I have some particular reflections to make here in respect to fiefs: and in the first place I do not question but most of them became hereditary from this time.
In the treaty of Andeli‡ , Gontram and his nephew Childebert engage to maintain the donations made to the vassals and churches by the kings his predecessors; and leave is given to the† wives, daughters and widows of kings, to dispose by will and in perpetuity of whatever they hold of the exchequer.
Marculfus wrote his formularies at the time‡ of the mayors. We find several∥ in which the kings make donations both to the person and to his heirs: and as the formularies represent the common actions of life, they prove that part of the fiefs were become hereditary towards the end of the first race. They were far from having in those days the idea of an unalienable demesne; this is a modern thing, which they knew neither in theory nor practice.
In proof hereof we shall presently produce positive facts; and if we can point out a time in which there were no longer any benefices for the army, nor any funds for its support; we must certainly conclude that the ancient benefices had been alienated. The time I mean is that of Charles Martel, who founded some new fiefs, which we should carefully distinguish from those of the earliest date.
When the kings began to make grants in perpetuity, either through the corruption which crept into the government, or by reason of the constitution itself, which continually obliged those princes to confer rewards; it was natural they should begin with giving the perpetuity of the fiefs, rather than of the counties. For to deprive themselves of some acres of land was no great matter; but to renounce the right of disposing the great offices, was divesting themselves of their very power.
In what Manner the allodial Estates were changed into Fiefs.
THE manner of changing an allodial estate into a fief, may be seen in a formulary of Marculfus* . The owner of the land gave it to the king, who restored it to the donor by way of usufruit, or benefice, and then the latter nominated his heirs to the king.
In order to find out the reasons which induced them thus to change the nature of the allodia, I must trace the source of the ancient privileges of our nobility, a nobility who for these eleven centuries have been ready to undergo every hardship, and to spill their blood in their country’s service.
They who were seized of fiefs enjoyed very great advantages. The composition for the injuries done them was greater than that of freemen. It appears by the formularies of Marculfus, that it was a privilege belonging to the king’s vassal, that whoever killed him should pay a composition of six hundred sous. This privilege was established by the Salic law† , and by that of the Ripuarians‡ ; and while these two laws ordained a composition of six hundred sous for the murder of the king’s vassal, they gave but∥ two hundred sous for the murder of a person freeborn, if he was a Frank or Barbarian living under the Salic law; and only a hundred for a Roman.
This was not the only privilege belonging to the king’s vassals. When§ a man was summoned in court, and did not make his appearance, nor obey the judges orders, he was appealed before the king; and if he persisted in his contumacy, he was excluded from† the Royal protection, and no one was allowed to entertain him, or even to give him a morsel of bread. Now if he was a person of an ordinary condition, his goods‡ were confiscated; but if he was the king’s vassal, they were not∥ . The first by his contumacy was deemed sufficiently convicted of the crime, the second was not; the former§ for the smallest crimes was obliged to undergo the trial by boiling water, the latter** was condemned to this trial only in the case of murder: In fine, the king’s vassal†† could not be compelled to swear in court against another vassal. These privileges augmented daily, and the capitulary of Carlomannus‡‡ does this honour to the king’s vassals, that they shall not be obliged to swear in person, but only by the mouth of their own vassals. Besides, when a person who had these honours did not repair to the army, his punishment was to abstain from flesh-meat and wine as long as he had been absent from the service; but a freeman∥∥ who neglected to follow his count was fined§§ sixty sous, and reduced to a state of servitude till he paid it.
It is very natural therefore to think that those Franks who were not the king’s vassals, and much more the Romans, became fond of entering into the state of vassalage; and that they might not be deprived of their demesnes, they devised the usage of giving their allodium to the king, of receiving it from him afterwards as a fief, and of nominating their heirs. This usage was continued, and took place especially during the times of confusion under the second race, when every man being in want of a protector, was desirous to incorporate himself with* the other lords, and to enter as it were, into the feudal monarchy, because the political no longer existed.
This continued under the third race, as we find by several† charters; whether they gave their allodium, and resumed it by the same act; or whether it was declared an allodium, and afterwards acknowledged as a fief. These were called fiefs of resumption.
This does not imply that those who were seized of fiefs administered them with prudence and œconomy; for though the freemen grew desirous of being possessed of fiefs, yet they managed this sort of estates as usufruits are managed in our days. This is what induced Charlemaign, the most vigilant and attentive prince we ever had, to make a great many regulations‡ , to hinder the fiefs from being degraded in favour of allodial estates. It proves only that in his time most benefices were still only for life, and consequently that they took more care of the allodia than of the benefices; but it is no argument that they did not chuse rather to be the king’s bondmen than freemen. They might have reasons for disposing of a particular portion of a fief, but they were not willing to be stripped even of their dignity.
I know likewise that Charlemaign complains in a certain capitulary∥ that in some places there were people who gave away their fiefs in property, and redeemed them afterwards in the same manner. But I do not say, that they were not fonder of the property than of the usufruit; I mean only, that when they could convert an allodium into a fief, which was to descend to their heirs, and is the case of the formulary above-mentioned, they had very great advantages in doing it.
How the Church-lands were converted into Fiefs.
THE use of the fiscal lands should have been only to serve as a donation, by which the kings were to encourage the Franks to undertake new expeditions, and by which, on the other hand, these fiscal lands were increased. This, as I have already observed, was the spirit of the nation; but these donations took another turn. There is still extant* a speech of Chilperic, grandson of Clovis, in which he complains that almost all these lands had been already given away to the church. “Our exchequer,” says he, “is impoverished, and our riches are transferred to the clergy† ; none reign now but bishops, who live in grandeur, while ours is quite eclipsed.”
This was the reason that the mayors, who durst not attack the lords, stripped the churches; and one of the‡ motives alledged by Pepin for entering Neustria, was his having been invited thither by the clergy, to put a stop to the encroachments of the kings, that is, of the mayors, who deprived the church of all her possessions.
The mayors of Austrasia, that is the family of the Pepins, had behaved towards the clergy with more moderation than those of Neustria and Burgundy. This is evident from our chronicles* , in which we see the monks perpetually extolling the devotion and liberality of the Pepins. They themselves had been possessed of the first places in the church. “One crow does not pull out the eyes of another;” as† Chilperic said to the bishops.
Pepin subdued Neustria and Burgundy; but as his pretence for destroying the mayors and kings was the grievances of the clergy, he could not strip the latter, without acting contrary to his own declaration, and shewing that he made a jest of the nation. However, the conquest of two great kingdoms and the destruction of the opposite party, afforded him sufficient means of satisfying his generals.
Pepin made himself master of the monarchy by protecting the clergy; his son Charles Martel could not maintain his power, but by oppressing them. This prince finding that part of the regal and fiscal lands had been given either for life, or in perpetuity to the nobility, and that the church by receiving both from rich and poor, had acquired a great part even of the allodial estates, he resolved to strip the clergy; and as the fiefs of the first division were no longer in being, he formed a second‡ . He took for himself and for his officers the church-lands, and the churches themselves: thus he remedied an evil which differed from ordinary diseases, as its extremity rendered it the more easy to cure.
Riches of the Clergy.
SO great were the donations made to the clergy, that under the three races of our princes they must have several times received the full property of all the lands of the kingdom. But if our kings, the nobility and the people, found the way of giving them all their estates, they found also the method of getting them back again. The spirit of devotion established a great number of churches under the first race; but the military spirit was the cause of their being given away afterwards to the soldiery, who divided them amongst their children. What a number of lands must have then been taken from the clergy’s mensalia! The kings of the second race opened their hands, and made new donations to them: but the Normans, who came afterwards, plundered and ravaged all before them, wreaking their vengeance chiefly on the priests and monks, and devoting every religious house to destruction. For they charged those ecclesiastics with the subversion of their idols, and with all the oppressive measures of Charlemaign, by which they had been successively obliged to take shelter in the north. These were animosities which the space of forty or fifty years had not been able to obliterate. In this situation what a loss must the clergy have sustained! There were hardly ecclesiastics left to demand the estates of which they had been deprived. There remained therefore for the religious piety of the third race, foundations enough to make, and lands to bestow. The opinions which were broached and spread in those days, would have deprived the laity of all their estates, if they had been but honest enough. But, if the clergy were actuated by ambition, the laity were not without theirs; if dying persons gave their estates to the church, their heirs would fain resume them. We meet with continual quarrels between the lords and the bishops, the gentlemen and the abbots; and the clergy must have been very hard pressed, since they were obliged to put themselves under the protection of certain lords, who granted them a momentary defence, and afterwards joined their oppressors.
But a better administration having been established under the third race, gave the clergy leave to augment their possessions; when the Calvinists started up, and having plundered the churches, they turned all the sacred plate into specie. How could the clergy be sure of their estates, when they were not even safe in their persons? They were debating on controversial subjects, while their archives were in flames. What did it avail them to demand back of an impoverished nobility, those estates which were no longer in the possession of the latter, but had been conveyed into other hands by different mortgages. The clergy have been long acquiring, and have often refunded, and still there is no end of their acquisitions.
State of Europe at the Time of Charles Martel.
CHARLES MARTEL, who undertook to strip the clergy, found himself in a most happy situation. He was both feared and beloved by the soldiery; whose interest he promoted, having the pretence of the war against the Saracens. He was hated indeed by the clergy, but* he had no need of their assistance. The pope, to whom he was necessary, stretched out his arms to him. Every one knows the famous† embassy he received from Gregory III. These two powers were strictly united, because they supported each other: the pope stood in need of the Franks to assist him against the Lombards and the Greeks; the Franks had occasion for the pope, to serve for a barrier against the Greeks, and to embarrass the Lombards. It was impossible therefore for the enterprize of Charles Martel to miscarry.
S. Eucherius, bishop of Orleans, had a vision which frightened all the princes of that time. I shall produce on this occasion the letter‡ written by the bishops assembled at Rheims to Lewis king of Germany, who had invaded the territories of Charles the Bald: because it will give us an insight into the situation of things in those times, and the temper of the people. They say∥ , “That S. Eucherius having been snatched up into heaven, saw Charles Martel tormented in the bottom of hell by order of the saints, who are to sit with Christ at the last judgment; that he had been condemned to this punishment before his time, for having stript the church of her possessions, and thereby charged himself with the sins of all those who founded these livings; that king Pepin held a council upon this occasion, and had ordered all the church-lands he could recover to be restored; that as he could get back only a part of them, because of his disputes with Vaifre, duke of Aquitaine, he issued out letters called precaria* for the remainder, and made a law that the laity should pay a tenth part of the church lands they possessed, and twelve deniers for each house; that Charlemaign did not give the church lands away; on the contrary, that he published a capitulary, by which he engaged both for himself and for his successors never to make any such grant; that all they say is committed to writing, and that a great many of them heard the whole related by Lewis the Debonnaire, the father of those two kings.”
King Pepin’s regulation, mentioned by the bishops, was made in the council held at Leptines† . The church found this advantage in it, that such as had received those lands, held them no longer but in a precarious manner; and moreover that she received the tythe or tenth part and twelve deniers for every house that had belonged to her. But this was only a palliative, which did not remove the disorder.
Nay it met with opposition, and Pepin was obliged to make another capitulary‡ , in which he enjoins those who held any of those benefices to pay this tythe and duty, and even to keep up the houses belonging to the bishopric or monastery, under the penalty of forfeiting those possessions. Charlemaign∥ renewed the regulation of Pepin.
That part of the same letter which says, that Charlemaign promised both for himself and for his successors, never to divide again the church-lands among the soldiery, is agreeable to the capitulary of this prince, given at Aix la Chapelle, in the year 803, with a view of removing the apprehensions of the clergy upon this subject. But the donations already made were still in force* . The bishops very justly add, that Lewis the Debonnaire followed the example of Charlemaign, and did not give away the churchlands to the soldiery.
And yet the old abuses were carried to such a pitch, that the laity under the children† of Lewis the Debonnaire preferred ecclesiastics to benefices, or turned them out of their livings, without the consent‡ of the bishops. The benefices∥ were divided amongst the next heirs, and when they were held in an indecent manner, the bishops§ had no other remedy left than to remove the relics.
By the capitulary** of Compiegne, it is enacted, that the king’s commissary shall have a right to visit every monastery, together with the bishop, by the consent and in presence of the person who holds it; and this shews that the abuse was general.
Not that there were laws wanting for the restitution of the church lands. The pope having reprimanded the bishops for their neglect in regard to the re-establishment of the monasteries, they wrote to Charles the Bald* that they were not affected with this reproach, because they were not culpable; and they reminded him of what had been promised, resolved, and decreed in so many national assemblies. Accordingly they quoted nine.
Still they went on disputing; till the Normans came and made them all agree.
Establishment of the Tithes.
THE regulations made under king Pepin had given the church rather hopes of relief, than effectually relieved her; and as Charles Martel found all the landed estates of the kingdom in the hands of the clergy, Charlemaign found all the church lands in the hands of the soldiery. The latter could not be compelled to restore a voluntary donation; and the circumstances of that time rendered the thing still more impracticable than it seemed to be of its own nature. On the other hand, christianity ought not to have been lost for want of ministers† , churches, and instruction.
This was the reason of Charlemaign’s establishing‡ the tithes, a new kind of property, which had this advantage in favour of the clergy, that as they were given particularly to the church, it was easier in process of time to know when they were usurped.
Some have attempted to make this establishment of an earlier date; but the authorities they produce seem rather, I think, to prove the contrary. The constitution of Clotharius* says only that they shall not raise certain† tithes on church-lands; so far then was the church from exacting tithes at that time, that its whole pretension was to be exempted from paying them. The second council‡ of Macon, which was held in 585, and ordains the payment of tithes, says indeed that they were paid in ancient times; but it says also, that the custom of paying them was then abolished.
No one questions but that the clergy opened the Bible before Charlemaign’s time, and preached the gifts and offerings of the Leviticus. But I dare say, that before that prince’s reign, though the tithes might have been preached up, they were never established.
I took notice that the regulations made under king Pepin had subjected those who were seized of church-lands in fief, to the payment of tithes, and to the repairing of the churches. It was a great point to oblige by a law, whose equity could not be disputed, the principal men of the nation to set the example.
Charlemaign did more; and we find by the capitulary∥de villis, that he obliged his own demesnes to the payment of the tithes: this was still a more striking example.
But the commonalty are rarely influenced by example to sacrifice their interests. The synod of* Frankfort furnished them with a more cogent motive to pay the tithes. A capitulary was made in that synod, wherein it is said, that in the last† famine the spikes of corn were found to contain no seed, the infernal spirits having devoured it all, and that those spirits had been heard to reproach them with not having paid the tithes; in consequence of which it was ordained that all those who were seized of church-lands, should pay the tithes; and the next consequence was that the obligation extended to all.
Charlemain’s project did not succeed at first; for it seemed too heavy a burthen‡ . The payment of the tithes among the Jews was connected with the plan of the foundation of their republic; but here it was a burthen quite independent of the other charges of the establishment of the monarchy. We find by the regulations∥ added to the law of the Lombards the difficulty there was in causing the tithes to be accepted by the civil laws; and as for the opposition they met with before they were admitted by the ecclesiastic laws, we may easily judge of it from the different canons of the councils.
The people consented at length to pay the tithes, upon condition that they might have a power of redeeming them. This the constitution of Lewis the Debonnaire* , and that of the emperor Lotharius† his son, would not allow.
The laws of Charlemaign, in regard to the establishment of tithes, were a work of necessity, not of superstition; a work in short, in which religion only was concerned.
His famous division of the tithes into four parts, for the repairing of the churches, for the poor, for the bishop, and for the clergy, manifestly proves that he wanted to restore the church to that fixed and permanent state of which she had been divested.
His will‡ shews that he was desirous of repairing the mischief done by his grandfather Charles Martel. He made three equal shares of his moveable goods; two of these he would have divided each into one-and-twenty parts, for the one-and-twenty metropolitan churches of his empire; each part was to be subdivided between the metropolitan, and the suffragan bishops. The remaining third he distributed into four parts, one he gave to his children and grandchildren, another was added to the two thirds already bequeathed, and the other two were assigned to charitable uses. It seems as if he looked upon the immense donation he was making to the church, less as a religious act, than as a political distribution.
Of the Election of Bishops and Abbots.
AS the church was grown poor, the kings resigned the right of∥ nominating to bishopricks and other ecclesiastic benefices. The princes gave themselves less trouble about the ecclesiastic ministers; and the candidates were less solicitous in applying to their authorities. Thus the church received a kind of compensation for the possessions she had lost.
Hence if Lewis the Debonnaire* left the people of Rome in possession of the right of chusing their popes, it was owing to the general spirit that prevailed in his time: he behaved in the same manner to the see of Rome as to other bishopricks.
Of the Fiefs of Charles Martel.
I SHALL not pretend to determine whether Charles Martel, in giving the church-lands in fief, made a grant of them for life or in perpetuity. All I know is, that under Charlemaign† , and Lotharius I.‡ there were possessions of that kind which descended to the next heirs, and were divided amongst them.
I find moreover that one part of them∥ was given as allodia, and the other as fiefs.
I took notice that the proprietors of the allodia were subject to the service all the same as the possessors of the fiefs. This, without doubt, was partly the reason that Charles Martel made grants of allodial lands, as well as of fiefs.
The same Subject continued.
WE must observe, that the fiefs having been changed into church-lands, and these again into fiefs, they borrowed something of each other. Thus the church-lands had the privileges of fiefs, and these had the privileges of church-lands. Such were the * honorary rights of churches, which began at that time. And as those rights have been ever annexed to the judiciary power, in preference to what is still called the fief, it follows that the patrimonial jurisdictions were established at the same time with those very rights.
Confusion of the Royalty and Mayoralty. The second Race.
THE connexion of my subject has made me invert the order of time, so as to speak of Charlemaign before I had mentioned the famous epocha of the translation of the crown to the Carlovingians under king Pepin: a revolution which, contrary to the nature of ordinary events, is more remarkable perhaps in our days than when it happened.
The kings had no authority; they had only an empty name. The regal title was hereditary, and that of mayor elective. Though it was latterly in the power of the mayors to place any of the Merovingians on the throne, they had not yet taken a king of another race; and the ancient law which fixed the crown in a particular family, was not yet erased out of the hearts of the Franks. The king’s person was almost unknown in the monarchy; but the royalty was established. Pepin, son of Charles Martel, thought it would be proper to consound those two titles, a confusion which would leave it a moot point, whether the new royalty was hereditary or not; and this was sufficient for him, who to the regal dignity had joined a great power. The mayor’s authority was then blended with that of the king. In the mixture of these two authorities a kind of reconciliation was made; the mayor had been elective, and the king hereditary: the crown at the beginning of the second race was elective, because the people chose; it was hereditary, because they always chose in the same family* .
Father le Cointe, in opposition to the authority of all ancient records† , denies‡ that the pope authorized this great change; and one of his reasons is, that he would have committed an injustice. A fine thing to see an historian judge of facts from the circumstances of duty; at this rate we should have no history at all.
Be that as it may, it is very certain that immediately after duke Pepin’s victory, the Merovingians ceased to be the reigning family. When his grandson Pepin was crowned king, it was only a ceremony the more, and a phantom the less; he acquired nothing thereby but the royal ornaments, there was no change made in the nation.
This I have said in order to fix the moment of the revolution, that we may not be mistaken in looking upon that as a revolution which was only a consequence of it.
When Hugh Capet was crowned king at the beginning of the third race, there was a much greater change, because the kingdom passed from a state of anarchy to some kind of government; but when Pepin ascended the throne, there was only a transition from one government to another of the same nature.
When Pepin was crowned king, there was only a change of name: but when Hugh Capet was crowned, there was a change in the nature of the thing, because by uniting a great fief to the crown, the anarchy ceased.
When Pepin was crowned, the title of king was united to the highest office; when Hugh Capet was crowned, it was annexed to the greatest fief.
A particular Circumstance in the Election of the Kings of the second Race.
WE find by the formulary* of Pepin’s coronation, that Charles and Carloman were also anointed; and that the French nobility bound themselves, on pain of interdiction and excommunication, never to chuse a prince† of another family.
It appears by the wills of Charlemaign and Lewis the Debonnaire, that the Franks made a choice among the king’s children; which agrees with the abovementioned clause. And when the empire was transferred from Charlemaign’s family, the election, which before had been conditional, became simple and absolute; so that the ancient constitution was altered.
Pepin perceiving himself near his end, assembled‡ the lords both temporal and spiritual at St. Denis, and divided his kingdom between his two sons Charles and Carloman. We have not the acts of this assembly; but we find what was there transacted, in the author of the ancient historical collection, published by Canifius, and in∥ the writer of the annals of Mentz, according to§ the observation of Baluzius. Here I meet with two things in some measure contradictory; that he made this division with the consent of the nobility, and afterwards that he made it by his paternal authority. This proves what I said, that the people’s right in the second race was to chuse in the same family; it was properly speaking, rather a right of exclusion, than that of election.
This kind of elective right is confirmed by the records of the second race. Such is this capitulary of the division of the empire made by Charlemaign among his three children, in which after settling their shares, he says* “That if one of the three brothers happens to have a son, such as the people shall be willing to chuse as a fit person to succeed to his father’s kingdom, his uncles shall consent to it.”
This same regulation is to be met with in the partition† which Lewis the Debonnaire made among his three children, Pepin, Lewis, and Charles, in the year 837, at the assembly of Aix-la-Chapelle: and likewise in another‡ partition, made twenty years before, by the same emperor, in favour of Lotharius, Pepin, and Lewis. We may likewise see the oath which Lewis the Stammerer took at Compeigne, at his coronation. “I Lewis, by the divine mercy, and the people’s election∥ appointed king, do promise . . . . . What I say is confirmed by the acts of the council of Valence§ held in the year 890, for the election of Lewis, son of Boson, to the kingdom of Arles. Lewis was there elected, and the principal reason they give for chusing him, is, that he was of the imperial family* , that Charles the Fat had conferred upon him the dignity of king, and that the emperor Arnold had invested him by the sceptre, and by the ministry of his ambassadors. The kingdom of Arles, like the other dismembered or dependent kingdoms of Charlemaign, was elective and hereditary.
CHARLEMAIGN’s attention was to restrain the power of the nobility within proper bounds, and to hinder them from oppressing the freemen and the clergy. He balanced the several orders of the state, and remained perfect master of them all. The whole was united by the strength of his genius. He led the nobility continually from one expedition to another; giving them no time to form conspiracies, but employing them entirely in the execution of his designs. The empire was supported by the greatness of its chief: the prince was great, but the man was greater. The kings his children were his first subjects, the instruments of his power, and patterns of obedience. He made admirable regulations; and, what is still more admirable, he took care to see them executed. His genius diffused itself through every part of the empire. We find in this prince’s laws a spirit of forecast and sagacity that comprizes every thing, and a certain force that appears irresistible. All pretexts† for evading the performance of duties are removed, neglects are corrected, abuses reformed or prevented. He knew how to punish, but he understood much better how to pardon. He was great in his designs, and simple in the execution of them. No prince ever possessed in a higher degree the art of performing the greatest things with ease, and the most difficult with expedition. He was continually visiting the several parts of his vast empire, and made them feel the weight of his hand wherever he fell. New difficulties sprung up on every side, and on every side he removed them. Never prince had more resolution in facing dangers; never prince knew better how to avoid them. He mocked all manner of perils, and particularly those to which great conquerors are generally subject, namely, conspiracies. This surprising prince was extremely moderate, of a very mild character, plain and simple in his behaviour. He loved to converse freely with the lords of his court. He indulged perhaps too much his passion for the fair-sex; a failing however which in a prince who always governed by himself, and who spent his life in a continual series of toils, may merit some allowance. He was wonderfully exact in his expences; administring his demesnes with prudence, attention and œonomy. A father‡ might learn from his laws how to govern his family; and we find in his capitularies the pure and sacred source from whence he derived his riches. I shall add only one word more: he gave orders that∥ the eggs in the bartons on his demesnes and the superfluous garden stuff should be sold; a most wonderful œconomy in a prince, who had distributed among his people all the riches of the Lombards, and the immense treasures of those Huns that had plundered the whole world.
The same Subject continued.
THIS great prince was afraid lest those whom he intrusted in distant parts with the command, should be inclined to revolt; and thought he should find more docility among the clergy. For this reason he erected a great number of bishopricks in Germany§ and endowed them with very large fiefs. It appears by some charters that the clauses containing the prerogatives of those fiefs, were not different from such as were commonly inserted in those grants* ; though at present we find the principal ecclesiastics of Germany invested with a sovereign power. Be that as it may, these were some of the contrivances he used against the Saxons. That which he could not expect from the indolence and supineness of a vassal, he thought he might promise himself from the sedulous attention of a bishop. Besides a vassal of that kind, far from making use of the conquered people against him, would rather stand in need of his assistance to support himself against his people.
Lewis the Debonnaire.
WHEN Augustus Cæsar was in Egypt, he ordered Alexander’s tomb to be opened; and upon their asking him whether he was willing they should open the tombs of the Ptolemy’s, he made answer that he wanted to see the king, and not the dead. Thus, in the history of the second race, we are continually looking for Pepin and Charlemaign; we want to see the kings, and not the dead.
A prince who was the sport of his passions, and a dupe even to his virtues; a prince who never understood rightly either his own strength or weakness; a prince who was incapable of making himself either feared or beloved; a prince, in fine, who with few vices in his heart, had all manner of defects in his understanding, took the reins of the empire into his hands, which had been held by Charlemaign.
At a time when the whole world is in tears for the death of his father, at a time of surprize and alarm, when the subjects of that extensive empire, all call upon Charles, who is no more; at a time when he is advancing with all expedition to take possession of his father’s throne, he sends some trusty officers before him, in order to seize the persons of those who had contributed to the irregularity of his sisters. This step was productive of the most terrible catastrophies† . It was imprudent and precipitate. He began with punishing domestic crimes, before he reached the palace; and with alienating the minds of his subjects, before he ascended the throne.
His nephew, Bernard king of Italy being come to implore his clemency, he ordered his eyes to be put out, which proved the cause of that prince’s death a few days after, and created Lewis a great many enemies. His apprehension of the consequence induced him to shut his brothers up in a monastery; by which means the number of his enemies increased. These two last transactions were afterwards laid to his charge in a judicial manner‡ , and his accusers did not fail to tell him, that he had violated his oath, and the solemn promises which he had made to his father on the day of his coronation.
After the death of the empress Hermengardis, by whom he had three children, he married Judith, and had a son by that princess; but soon mixing all the indulgence of an old husband, with all the weakness of an old king, he flung his family into a disorder, which was followed with the downfal of the monarchy.
He was continually altering the partitions he had made among his children. And yet these partitions had been confirmed each in their turn by his own oath, and by those of his children and the nobility.
This was as if he wanted to try the fidelity of his subjects; it was endeavouring by confusion, scruples, and equivocation to puzzle their obedience; it was confounding the different rights of those princes, and rendering their titles dubious, especially at a time when there were but few fortresses, and when the principal bulwark of authority was the fealty sworn and accepted.
The emperor’s children, in order to preserve their shares, courted the clergy, and granted them privileges till then unheard. These privileges were specious; and the clergy in return were made to warrant the revolution in favour of those princes. Agobard∥ represents to Lewis the Debonnaire, his having sent Lotharius to Rome, in order to have him declared emperor; and that he had made a division of his dominions among his children, after having consulted heaven by three days fasting and praying. What defence could such a weak prince make against the attack of superstition? It is easy to perceive the shock which the supreme authority must have twice received from his imprisonment, and from his public penance; they would fain degrade the king, and they degraded the regal dignity.
We find a difficulty at first to conceive how a prince who was possessed of several good qualities, who had some knowledge, who had a natural disposition to virtue, and who in short was the son of Charlemaign, could have such a number of enemies* , so impetuous and implacable as even to insult him in his humiliation, and to be determined upon his ruin: and indeed they would have utterly completed it, if his children, who in the main were more honest than they, had been steady in their design, and could have agreed amongst themselves.
The same Subject continued.
THE strength and solidity for which the kingdom was indebted to Charlemaign, still subsisted under Lewis the Debonnaire in such a degree as enabled the state to support its grandeur, and to command respect from foreign nations. The prince’s understanding was weak, but the nation was warlike. His authority declined at home, though there seemed to be no diminution of power abroad.
Charles Martel, Pepin, and Charlemaign, were in succession rulers of the monarchy. The first flattered the avarice of the soldiers; the other two that of the clergy.
In the French constitution, the whole power of the state was lodged in the hands of the king, the nobility, and clergy. Charles Martel, Pepin, and Charlemaign, joined sometimes their interests with one of those parties to check the other and generally with both: but Lewis the Debonnaire could gain the affection of neither. He disobliged the bishops by publishing regulations which had the air of severity, because he carried things to a greater length than was agreeable to their inclination. Very good laws may be ill-timed. The bishops in those days, being accustomed to take the field against the Saracens* , and the Saxons, had very little of the spirit of religion. On the other hand, as he had no longer any confidence in the nobility, he promoted mean people, turning the nobles out of their employments at court§ to make room for strangers and upstarts. By these means the affections of the two great bodies of the nobility and clergy were alienated from their prince, the consequence of which was a total desertion.
The same Subject continued.
BUT what chiefly contributed to weaken the monarchy, was the extravagance of this prince in alienating the crown demesnes§ . And here it is that we ought to listen to the account of Nitard, one of our most judicious historions, a grandson of Charlemaign, strongly attached to Lewis the Debonnaire, and who wrote his history by order of Charles the Bald.
He says, “that one Adelhard for some time gained such an ascendant over the emperor, that this prince conformed to his will in every thing; that at the instigation of this favourite, he had granted the the crown lands* to every body that asked them, by which means the state was ruined† .” Thus he did the same mischief throughout the empire, as I‡ observed he had done in Aquitaine; the former, Charlemaign redressed, but the latter, was past all remedy.
The state was reduced to the same debility in which Charles Martel found it upon his accession to the mayoralty; and so desperate were its circumstances, that no exertion of authority was any longer capable of saving it.
The treasury was so exhausted, that in the reign of Charles the Bald, no one could continue∥ in his employments, nor be safe in his person, without paying for it, When they had it in their power to destroy the Normans† , they took money to let them escape: and the first advice which Hincmar gives to Lewis the Stammerer, is to ask of the assembly of the nation, a sufficient allowance to defray the expences of his houshold.
The same Subject continued.
THE clergy had reason to repent the protection they had granted to the children of Lewis the Debonnaire. This prince, as I have already observed, had never given‡ any of the church-lands by precepts to the laity; but it was not long before Lotharius in Italy, and Pepin in Aquitaine, quitted Charlemaign’s plan, and resumed that of Charles Martel. The clergy had recourse to the emperor against his children, but they themselves had weakened the authority to which they appealed. In Aquitaine some condescension was shewn, but none in Italy.
The civil wars with which the life of Lewis the Debonnaire had been embroiled, were the seed of those which followed his death. The three brothers, Lotharius, Lewis, and Charles, endeavoured each to bring over the nobility to their party. To such as were willing therefore to follow them they granted church-lands by precepts; so that to gain the nobility, they sacrificed the clergy.
We find in the capitularies* , that those princes were obliged to yield to the importunity of demands, and that what they would not often have freely granted, was extorted from them: we find that the clergy thought themselves more oppressed by the nobility than by the kings. It appears that Charles the Bald† became the greatest enemy of the patrimony of the clergy, whether he was most incensed against them for having degraded his father on their account, or whether he was the most timorous. Be that as it may, we meet with‡ continual quarrels in the capitularies; between the clergy who demanded their estates, and the nobility who refused or deferred to restore them; and the kings acting as mediators.
The situation of affairs at that time is a spectacle really deserving of pity. While Lewis the Debonnaire made immense donations out of his demesnes to the clergy; his children distributed the church-lands among the laity. The same prince with one hand enriched, and with another oftentimes stripped the clergy. The latter had no fixt state; one moment they were plundered, another they received satisfaction: but the crown was continually losing.
Towards the close of the reign of Charles the Bald, and from that time forward, there was an end of the disputes of the clergy and laity, concerning the restitution of church lands. The bishops indeed breathed out still a few sighs in their remonstrances to Charles the Bald, which we find in the capitulary of the year 856, and in the letter* they wrote to Lewis king of Germany, in the year 858: but they proposed things, and challenged promises, so often eluded, that we plainly see they had no longer any hopes of obtaining their desire.
All that could be expected then, was† to repair in general the injuries done both to church and state. The kings engaged not to deprive the nobility of their freemen, and not to give away any more church-lands by precepts‡ ; so that the interests of the clergy and nobility seemed then to be united.
The dreadful depredations of the Normans, as I have already observed, contributed greatly to put an end to those quarrels.
The authority of our kings diminishing every day, both for the reasons already given, and those which I shall mention hereafter, they imagined they had no better resource left, than to resign themselves into the hands of the clergy. But the ecclesiastics had weakened the power of the kings, and these had diminished the influence of the ecclesiastics.
In vain did Charles the Bald and his successors call in the church to support the state, and to prevent its ruin; in vain did they avail themselves of the* respect which the commonalty had for that body, to maintain that which they should also have for their prince; in vain did they endeavour† to give an authority to their laws by that of the canons; in vain did they join the ecclesiastic‡ with the civil punishments; in vain to counterbalance the authority of the count∥ did they give to each bishop the title of their commissary in the several provinces: it was impossible for the clergy to repair the mischief they had done; and a terrible misfortune, which I shall presently mention, proved the ruin of the monarchy.
That the Freemen were rendered capable of holding Fiefs.
I SAID that the freemen were led against the enemy by their count, and the vassals by their lord. This was the reason that the several orders of the state balanced each other; and though the king’s vassals had other vassals under them, yet they might be overawed by the count who was at the head of all the freemen of the monarchy.
The freemen§ were not allowed at first to do homage for a fief; but in process of time this was permitted: and I find that this change was made during the period that elapsed from the reign of Gontram to that of Charlemaign. This I prove by the comparison which may be drawn between the treaty of Andely† , signed by Gontram, Childebert, and queen Brunechild, and the‡ partition made by Charlemaign amongst his children, as well as a like partition by Lewis the Debonnaire. These three acts contain nearly the same regulations, with regard to the vassals; and as they determine the very same points, under almost the same circumstances, the spirit as well as the letter of those three treaties in this respect are very much alike.
But as to what concerns the freemen, there is a capital difference. The treaty of Andely does not say that they might do homage for a fief; whereas we find in the divisions of Charlemaign and Lewis the Debonnaire express clauses to empower them to do homage. This shews that a new usage had been introduced after the treaty of Andely, whereby the freemen were become capable of this great privilege.
This must have happened when Charles Martel, after distributing the church-lands to his soldiers, partly in fief, and partly as allodia, made a kind of revolution in the feudal laws. It is very probable that the nobility who were seized already of fiefs, found a greater advantage in receiving the new grants as allodia; and that the freemen thought themselves happy in accepting them as fiefs.
THE PRINCIPAL CAUSE OF THE HUMILIATION OF THE SECOND RACE.