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LECTURE 15 - François Guizot, The History of the Origins of Representative Government in Europe 
The History of the Origins of Representative Government in Europe, trans. Andrew R. Scoble, Introduction and notes by Aurelian Craiutu (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2002).
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Of benefices conceded by great landowners to men dependent upon them: First, benefices conceded for all kinds of services, and as a mode of paying salary; Secondly, larger proprietors usurp the lands adjoining their own, and bestow them as benefices on their subordinates; Thirdly, the conversion of a great number of allodial lands into benefices, by the practice of recommendation. ~ Origin and meaning of this practice. ~ Permanence of freeholds, especially in certain parts of the Frankish monarchy. ~ Tributary lands. ~ Their origin and nature. ~ Their rapid extension: its causes. ~ General view of the condition of territorial property, from the sixth to the eleventh century: First, different conditions of territorial property; Secondly, the individual dependence of territorial property; Thirdly, the stationary condition of territorial wealth. ~ Why the system of beneficiary property, that is to say, the feudal system, was necessary to the formation of modern society and of powerful states.
Kings were not the sole donors of benefices; all the large proprietors gave them. Many leaders of bands of men were originally united under the conduct of the king; these chiefs became subsequently proprietors of large allodial estates. Portions of these were conceded as benefices to their immediate associates. Afterwards, they became large incumbents, and gave also as benefices portions of the benefice which they held from the king. Hence arose the practice of sub-enfeoffment. In the capitularies, we perpetually meet with the words, vassalli vassallorum nostrorum.1
We find, during the whole of this period, even under Charlemagne, numerous examples of benefices held otherwise than from the king. Two letters of Eginhard expressly mention the concession, by way of benefice, of certain portions of royal benefices.
It is the opinion of Mably, that other persons than the king began to give benefices only after the reign of Charles Martel. This mistake arises from his not having apprehended that the relation of the chief to his associate, which afterwards grew into that of lord to his vassal, was at first a purely personal relation, entirely independent of and anterior to any concession of benefices. It is impossible to determine at what particular time the conferring of benefices became connected with the relation of the Beneficiary to his patron. This was probably almost immediately after the territorial establishment.
The number of benefices was soon very considerable, and became greater every day.
I. benefices were given to free men belonging to quite an inferior order, and employed in subordinate services. The majores villae, aud the poledrarii, that is to say, the stewards of the estates, and the keepers of the horses of Charlemagne, had them. It was the policy of this prince to scatter widely his gifts, and to reward zeal and fidelity wherever he found them.
II. The larger proprietors continually made themselves masters of the lands adjoining their own, whether these were lands belonging to the royal domain, or such as were neglected, and had no very definite owners. They had them cultivated, and often procured subsequently the privilege of adding them to their benefices. The extent of this abuse becomes manifest under Charles the Bald, by the numerous expedients adopted by this prince to remedy it.
III. A large number of allods were converted into benefices by means of a tolerably ancient usage. Marculf has left us the formula by which this conversion was made;—its origin we must seek in the practice of recommendation. Recommendation was not primitively anything else than the choice of a chief, or a patron. A law of the Visigoths, called a lex antiqua, and which must be referred to king Euric, towards the close of the fifth century, says: “If any one have given arms, or any other thing, to a man whom he has taken under his patronage, these gifts shall remain the property of him by whom they have been received. If this latter choose another patron, he shall be free to recommend himself to whomsoever he will: this may not be forbidden to a free man, for he belongeth to himself; but he shall, in this case, return to the patron from whom he separates himself all that he has received from him.”
These were, then, the ancient Germanic customs. The relation of the individual recommended to his patron was a purely personal one. The presents consisted in arms; his liberty remained unimpaired. The law of the Lombards left to every one the same liberty as the law of the Visigoths. Nevertheless, we see, by the same capitulary, that this liberty began to be restrained. Charlemagne defined the reasons, by which any one might be allowed to quit his lord, when he had received anything from him. We may learn from this; that the ties contracted by recommendation began to be strengthened. This practice became very frequent. By these means order was promoted, so far as the law was concerned, and protection and safety as far as concerned the person recommended. When relations of service and protection bearing a purely personal character were thus established with a patron, other more tangible relations arose in which the property of the parties was considered. The person recommended received benefices from the lord; and became a vassal of his estate; or rather he recommended his lands, as he had previously recommended his person. Recommendation thus became a part of the feudal system and it contributed most importantly to the conversion of allodial estates into benefices.
There is, however, no reason to believe that all allods were thus converted into benefices. Originally, such a conversion, or even the mere acceptance of a benefice, was regarded by a free man as, to a certain extent, a surrender of his liberty, being an entrance upon a personal service. The large proprietors, who exercised an almost absolute sovereignty in their own domains, would not readily renounce their proud independence. Etichon, brother to Judith the wife of Louis the Débonnair, was unwilling any longer to receive his son, Henry, who had accepted, without his knowledge, from the king his uncle a benefice of four hundred acres, and thereby entered upon the service of the crown. After the triumph of the feudal system, a considerable number of allods still remained in several provinces, particularly in Languedoc.
After speaking of freeholds and benefices, it remains that I should allude to the tributary lands, whose existence is attested by all the memorials of this period. We do not necessarily understand by this term lands on which a public impost was levied, but lands which paid a fee, a rental, to a superior, and which were not the actual and absolute property of those who cultivated them.
This kind of property existed in Gaul before the invasion of the Franks. The conquest that resulted from this invasion contributed in various ways to augment their number. First, wherever a Barbarian possessed of some amount of power established himself, he did not take possession of all the lands, but he most probably exacted certain fees, or services equivalent to them, from almost all whose lands bordered on his own. This is certain from a priori considerations, and is proved as a fact by the example of the Lombards, who invariably contended themselves at first with rendering all the lands of the conquered country tributary to themselves. They demanded a third of the revenue, and afterwards took the property itself. This fact shows clearly the mode of procedure that was adopted by the Barbarians. Almost all the lands possessed by Roman or Gallic chiefs, who did not possess sufficient power to rank with the Barbarians, were obliged to submit to a tributary condition.
Secondly, conquest was not the work of a single day; it continued to be carried on after the establishment of the invaders. All the documents of the period indicate that the principal officers and large proprietors continually exerted themselves, either to usurp the possessions of their less powerful neighbours, or to impose upon them rentals or other charges. These usurpations are proved by the multitude of laws that were enacted to prevent it. In the unsettled state of society that then existed, the feeble were entirely placed at the disposal of the strong; public authority had become incompetent for their protection; many lands which were at first free, and belonged either to their ancient owners, or to Barbarians of slender resources, fell into a tributary state; many of the smaller proprietors purchased for themselves the protection of the strong, by voluntarily placing their lands in this condition. The most common method of rendering lands tributary, was to give them either to churches or to powerful proprietors, and then to receive them again, on the tenure of usufruct, to be enjoyed during life, on the payment of fixed fees. This kind of contract is to be met with again and again, during this period. The same causes which tended to destroy allods, or to convert them into benefices, acted with even more energy in augmenting the number of tributary lands.
Thirdly, many large proprietors, whether of allodial lands or of benefices, were unable themselves to cultivate the whole of their lands, and gave them up by small portions to simple cultivators, on the payment of certain fees and services. This alienation took place under a multitude of forms and a variety of circumstances; it certainly occasioned many lands to become tributary. The large number and endless variety of rentals and rights, known in a later time by the name of feudal, arose probably either from similar contracts, or from usurpations committed by the powerful proprietors. The constant recurrence in writers and laws of the period of the terms census and tributum; the multitude of arrangements which relate to them; the general course of events; lastly, the state in which most landed property was found when order began to reappear—all these circumstances render it probable that at the end of the period we are considering, the greater number of lands had fallen into a tributary condition. Property and liberty were alike devoted to be plundered. Individuals were so isolated, and their forces so unequal, that nothing could prevent the results of such a position.
The large number of waste lands, attested by the facility with which any one who was willing to cultivate them might obtain them, bears witness in its turn also to the depopulation of the country, and the deplorable condition in which property existed. The concentration of landed property is a decisive proof of this state of things. When this kind of property is safe and prosperous, it tends to become divided, because every one desires to possess it. When, on the other hand, we see it accumulated more and more in the same hands, we may almost certainly conclude that it is in an unsound condition, that the feeble cannot sustain themselves upon it, and that the strong alone can defend it. Landed property, like moveable property, is only to be found where it can continue to exist in safety.
There is reason to believe that most tributary lands, even those which were not originally the property of the cultivators who laboured on them, became at length by a right of occupancy in reality their possessions, though burdened by rentals and exactions of service. This is the natural course of things: it is very difficult to remove a cultivator who has with his family for a long time tilled the same soil.
Such were the vicissitudes of landed property, from the sixth to the eleventh century. I will now give a summary view of the general characteristics of this state of things, and endeavour to estimate their influence on the progress of general civilization, and more particularly of political institutions.
I. There was a great diversity in the conditions of property. In our days, the condition of property is uniform and everywhere the same; whoever the proprietor may be, he possesses his property, whatever may be its character, on the same tenure of right, and subject to the same laws as any other. Between properties which are the most distinct in character, there is thus far an identity. This is one of the most unequivocal symptoms and safest guarantees of the progress of legal equality. During the times of which we have been speaking, the diversified conditions under which property was held would necessarily lead to the formation of several classes in society, between which existed great, factitious, and permanent inequality. Men were not merely proprietors to a greater or less extent; besides the inequality in the amount of wealth, there was also an inequality in the nature of the wealth possessed, than which it is impossible to conceive of a more powerful instrument for oppression. Even this, however, was a step in advance out of the slavery existing among the ancients. The slave could possess nothing—was essentially incapable of owning property. In the times of which I am speaking, the mass of the population had not become full and absolute possessors of property, but was attaining to a possession that was more or less imperfect and precarious, by which it had gained the means of yet loftier ascents.
II. Landed property was then submitted to the restraints of dependence on individuals. At present, all property is free, and is at the disposal only of its owner. General society has been formed—the State has been organized—every proprietor is united to his fellow-citizens by a multitude of ties and relations, and to the state by the protection which he receives from it, and the taxes to which he is subject in return: there is, thus, independence without isolation. From the sixth to the eleventh century, independence was necessarily accompanied by isolation: the proprietor of an allod lived upon his lands almost without buying or selling anything. He owed scarcely anything to a State which hardly existed, and which could not assure him of an efficient protection. The condition, therefore, of the allods and their proprietors was at that time a condition that was to a considerable extent anti-social. In more ancient times, in the forests of Germany, men without landed properties lived at least in common. When they became proprietors, if the allodial system had succeeded in becoming prevalent, the chiefs and their associates would have been separated, without ever being summoned to meet and recognize one another as citizens. Society would not have been at all constituted. It exists in those relations which unite men together, and in the ties out of which these relations arise. It necessarily demands a law, a condition of dependence. And when it is not so far advanced as that a sufficient number of these relations and ties have been established between the State and the individual, then individuals become dependent one upon another; and it was to this state of things that the seventh century had arrived. It was the imperfection of society which caused the allo-dial system in regard to landed property to perish, and the Beneficiary or tributary system to prevail. The independence of allods could only exist in connexion with their isolation, and isolation is anti-social. The hierarchical dependence of benefices became the tie to unite properties with one another, and society within itself.2
III. Out of this distribution and this character of landed property, a very important fact has resulted; namely, that during several centuries scarcely any means existed by which either the state or individuals could increase their wealth. Most proprietors of any importance did not cultivate the land at all; it was for them merely a capital, the revenues of which they gathered without troubling themselves to augment it, or to render it more productive. On the other side, most of those who cultivated the land were not proprietors, or were only so in a precarious and imperfect manner; they did not seek from the earth more than means of subsistence, and did not look to it as a means of enriching or elevating them. Agricultural labour was almost unknown to the rich, and to the poor it yielded nothing beyond the bare necessities of existence. Hence, resulted the continual impoverishment of the larger proprietors, which forced them incessantly to have recourse to violence, in order to preserve their fortune and their rank. Hence, resulted also, at the same time, that stationary condition of the population of the country districts which was prolonged for so long a period. Landed property tended always to become concentrated, from the very circumstance that its products did not increase. Accordingly, it is not in the country districts and in agricultural labour, but in the towns, in their commerce and industry, that we shall find the earliest germs of the accumulation of public wealth, and of the progress of civilization. The indolence of the upper classes, and the misery of the lower classes, in the middle ages, proceeded chiefly from the nature and distribution of territorial property.
IV. Beneficiary property was one of the most influential principles in the formation of large societies. In the absence of public assemblies and of a central despotism, it nevertheless established a bond, and formed relations between men dispersed over a vast tract of country, and thereby rendered possible a federative hierarchy, which should embrace a still wider circle. Among the nations of antiquity, the extension of the State was incompatible with the progress of civilization; either the State must be dislocated, or despotism would prevail. Modern States have presented a different spectacle, and to this result the character of Beneficiary property has powerfully contributed.3
[1. ]Vassals of our vassals.
[2. ]The same idea is discussed in HCE: “Wherever individuality predominates almost exclusively, wherever man consider no one but himself, and his ideas do not extend beyond himself, and he obeys nothing but his own passions, society (I mean a society somewhat extended and permanent) becomes for him almost impossible. Such, however, was the moral condition of the conquerors of Europe, at the time upon which we are now preoccupied. I remarked in my last lecture that we are indebted to the Germans for an energetic sentiment of individual liberty, of human individuality. But in a state of extreme barbarism and ignorance, this sentiment becomes selfishness in all its brutality, in all its unsociability. From the fifth to the eighth century it was at this point among the Germans. They cared only for their own interests, their own passions, their own will: how could they be reconciled to a condition even approximating to the social? . . . Constantly did society attempt to form itself; constantly was it destroyed by the act of man, by the absence of the moral conditions under which alone it can exist” (HCE, p. 56). Also see HORG, p. 133.
[3. ]Guizot was certainly one of the first authors to perceive the connection between two aspects of political life that account for the paradoxical evolution of liberal societies. First, Guizot grasped that, contrary to the tenets of classical liberalism, the development of representative government inevitably leads to a considerable extension of the power of the state over civil society. Second, he understood that this extension was furthered by social demand and explained that the two tendencies were not contradictory (as many believed), but represented, in fact, the two sides of the same coin.