Front Page Titles (by Subject) LECTURE 17 - The History of the Origins of Representative Government in Europe
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LECTURE 17 - 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 the Leudes or Antrustions. ~ Men, faithful to the king and to the large proprietors. ~ Different means of acquiring and retaining them. ~ Obligations of the Leudes. ~ The Leudes are the origin of the nobility. ~ Bishops and heads of monasteries were reckoned among the leudes of the king. ~ Moral and material power of the bishops. ~ Efforts of the kings to possess themselves of the right of nominating bishops. ~ Free men. ~ Did they form a distinct and numerous class? The arimanni, and rathimburgi. ~ Mistake of M. ~ de Savigny. ~ Rapid and general extension of the feudal hierarchy. ~ The freedmen. ~ Different modes of enfranchisement: First, the denariales, enfranchised with respect to the king: Second, the tabularii, enfranchised with respect to the church: Third, the chartularii, enfranchised by a charter. ~ Different consequences resulting from these different modes of enfranchisement.
The first whom we meet with at this time occupying the highest place in the social scale are the Leudes, or Antrustions. Their name indicates their quality—trust expresses fidelity. They were men who had proved faithful, and they succeeded the associates of the German chiefs. After the conquest, each of the chiefs established himself, together with his own men, on a certain territory. The king had a larger and more considerable number of followers. Many remained with him. He had different means, which he very assiduously employed, of attaching to himself his Leudes, or of acquiring them.
1st. This was evidently the result aimed at in conferring benefices. In 587, Gontran, giving his advice to Childebert II. on his conduct to those who were about him, points out to him “those whom he ought to honour by appointments and by gifts, and those to whom he ought to refuse them.”
2nd. The organization of the house, the palace, the court, borrowed in part from the traditions of the Roman empire, the passing amusements and the permanent advantages which were attached to them, induced many men of influence to become Leudes, or gave importance to the original Leudes of the king. The following are names of some of their offices; “count of the palace, referendary, seneschal, mareschal, falconer, butler, chamberlain, porter, head-porter, &c.”
3rd. Marculf has preserved to us the formula by which a man of importance, cum arimannia sua, “with his free men, his band,” was accustomed to enroll himself among the king’s Leudes. Charlemagne took various precautions in order that persons who came to him in order to become his trusty followers (de truste facienda), should meet with no obstacle.
4th. It was to their Leudes that the kings were in the habit of giving important public occupations, such as belonged to dukes, counts, &c. There is reason for believing that these functions originally belonged to the principal chief who established himself in a territory. In the natural course of events these chiefs became themselves Leudes of the king or were supplanted by those who were such.
5th. The number of Leudes was the principal source of strength; accordingly they were multiplied by all kinds of devices. In 587, in the treaty of Andely, between Gontran and Childebert II, “it was agreed that neither of them should attempt to draw over to himself the Leudes of the other, or receive them if they came of their own accord.” We continually find Leudes of importance threatening the king to leave his service, and enter into some other.
The general obligation of the Leudes was fidelity, service in the palace, and military service. The price of this obligation was, for the Leudes, power and riches. They had also certain civil advantages, but of a more uncertain nature. Their wehrgeld was a larger amount, whatever might otherwise have been their origin. We see that their prerogatives accumulated in proportion as their power was consolidated by the long possession of benefices. Charlemagne desired that his vassals should be honoured, and should hold, after himself, the first place in esteem. There were however among the Leudes of the king some who were less powerful, and some who even were poor.
Every large proprietor had his Leudes; his house was organized after the model of the king’s; the same offices existed in each.
It is the opinion of Montesquieu, who is in this opposed by Montlosier, that the origin of the nobility is to be found in the Leudes. Neither of them has formed, in my judgment, a just and clear idea either of the condition of the Leudes or of the character of the nobility. The rank of the Leude and his advantages were purely of a personal character. The rank of a free Barbarian was hereditary, as were also his advantages: but the rank of the Leude, that is to say, the advantages and the superiority which he derived from his position, tended to become hereditary; that of the free man, on the other hand, tended, when he was isolated and left to himself, to become effaced and to lose its advantages. Most free men who did not become beneficiaries, vassals, Leudes of some importance, ceased to be free at all. The aristocracy of the Leudes tended to be constituted, the liberty of the free men tended to be destroyed—the free men were, viewed in contrast with those who were not free, an aristocracy on the decline; the Leudes were, compared with free men, an aristocracy on the increase.
Mannert, in his treatise entitled, The liberty of the Franks, Freyheit der Franken, has very clearly explained the formation of the nobility among the Franks. There were many Roman Gauls among the Leudes of the Frankish kings: we find, for example, the names of Protadius, Claudius, Florentinianus, among the mayors of the palace towards the close of the sixth, and the commencement of the seventh century. They often changed their names into barbaric names. Thus the brother of Duke Lupus, born a Roman, called himselfMagn-Wulfus (great wolf), and his son, who was bishop of Rheims, he calledRom-Wulfus (Roman wolf). These Romans entered into the company of the Leudes because they needed the protection of the kings; because they were disposed to place what power they had in his service; because they were acquainted with the country, and knew that the king required them; because, lastly, the kings, when they embraced Christianity, became reconciled to many wealthy and influential Gauls.
Bishops, and the principal heads of monasteries, or of large ecclesiastical corporations, were reckoned among the number of the king’s Leudes. The power of the bishops among the Gauls, before the arrival of the Germans, is proved directly by facts; their influence, their wealth, is proved indirectly by the eagerness with which the position of a bishop was sought. Their importance was greatly augmented after the establishment of the Barbarians. They protected the ancient inhabitants from the Barbarian kings, and served the latter by their power in governing the ancient inhabitants. They, and scarcely any but they, had preserved some science, some intellectual culture; the influence of religious ideas and practices over the converted barbarians was powerful; the impressions formed were strong and vivid at that stage of civilization: the clergy could excite the imagination, could tranquillize or alarm the conscience. The bishops and heads of monasteries acquired, through a large number of sources, great wealth; they in process of time became large beneficiaries; most of the property given to churches were given as benefices, and consequently involved the obligations belonging to that title; some property was conferred “with the complete right of proprietorship.” In 807, Charlemagne charged his son Pepin to prevent the dukes and counts to whom the government of the provinces had been committed, from exacting from churches all the services due in general from free men. In 816, Louis the Débonnair provided that each church should possess a farm absolutely free from all charge. Facts disclose at every step the importance of the bishops; they were employed in important transactions, and assisted in drawing up laws. Counts, dukes, large Barbarian proprietors, became bishops. The temporal consequences attached to ecclesiastical excommunication did not fail to put into their hands a powerful weapon of attack or defence. Churches obtained immunities of all kinds, from military service, rights of custom, &c.; they became asylums of refuge—a popular right which, during these times of brute violence, far more generally protected the innocent than shielded the guilty.
The nomination of bishops was an ancient right of the priests and the faithful. The importance of these functions, and the riches of the churches, induced the king to encroach upon this prerogative. Further, they urged some kind of claim to it, as being lords of the churches on which they had conferred benefices. They used the right of confirmation in order to possess themselves of the right of nomination. At first, bishops were the most sure and devoted Leudes of the king; kings and bishops had need of one another. Very soon afterwards the bishops became so powerful as to be able to act independently of the kings.
At this epoch convents also assumed great importance, although their heads do not seem to have played so prominent a part in France as in England.
Upon the whole, the power of the clergy at this period was as useful as it was great. It awakened and developed moral necessities among the Barbarians—it commanded and inspired a respect for the rights and sufferings of the feeble—it gave an illustration of the reality of moral force, when everything was at the disposal of material force. That is a false notion which assumes that an institution or an influence is to be attacked by reason of the evil effects which it may produce after centuries of existence; we must consider and appreciate it in the times when it was originally formed.
From the Leudes, let us pass to those who were simply free men.
There are words which have, in our time, so simple and absolute a signification, that we apply them without consideration or scruple to times in which their actual significance was not recognized at all. The expression free man is an example. If by it we mean the man who is not a slave, the man who is not the property of another man, and can neither be given nor sold as an article of traffic, there were a great number of free men from the fifth to the tenth centuries. But if we attach to this expression the political sense which it possesses in our days, that is to say, the idea of a citizen dependent on no other citizen, who depends for the safety of his person and his property only upon the state, and the laws of the state, the number of free men was very inconsiderable at the period of which we speak, and was continually diminishing. Most of those who were not serfs were engaged or were binding themselves with increasing frequency, either for the security of their persons or of their properties, to the service, and to a certain amount of dependency upon some man more powerful than themselves, who employed them in his house or protected them at a distance. The independence of the citizen as it existed in the republics of antiquity, and as it exists in our public communities, became more and more rare from the fifth to the tenth centuries. Eminent publicists, M. de Savigny among others, in his Histoire du droit romain dans le moyen âge, have affirmed that always at this period a numerous class of free men existed, true citizens, exempt from all personal dependence, depending only upon the state and forming the body of the nation. This involves a complete confusion of times and a misapprehension of the natural succession of events. Doubtless at the time of the invasion, and during the period which immediately followed it, there were many free men of this kind; the independence of individuals who live a wandering and barbarian life did not suddenly and completely vanish under the influence of the new circumstances which resulted from their territorial establishment. But, so far as regards the greater number of free men, this independence was rapidly absorbed by new ties, and by the very numerous and various forms of feudal hierarchy. We may think we have found, under certain names which are frequently to be met with in documents and historical works, such as, Arimanni, Erimanni, Herimanni, Hermanni, among the Lombards, and Rachimburgi, Rathimburgi, Regimburgi, among the Franks, a class of men actually free—citizens in the sense in which we use the words at the present time. But when we investigate more closely, we soon learn that no such class is to be found, and that nearly if not quite all theArimanni or Rathimburgi, were bound in the fetters of a feudal organization and depended far more on some superior individual than on the protection of the state.
Many learned men also think that the practice of enfranchisement which prevailed at this period created many free men—as completely so, as if they had inherited their freedom as a birthright. This also is, I think, a mistake. Enfranchisement was frequent, but it conferred complete freedom on very few; it transformed many into cultivators and tributaries, or placed them in other analogous positions, which however did not insure entire liberty. In order to be convinced of this, we have only to examine the acts of enfranchisement themselves. There were several kinds, and each was attended with different consequences. We find, First, the denariales, or enfranchised with respect to the king; although their life was valued at 200 solidi, like the life of a Frank, yet their liberty was incomplete; they could not bequeath property to others than their children; the composition for their lives was paid to the king, not to their relatives, which plainly shows that the king regarded them as homines regii. Second, those enfranchised with respect to the church, or tabularii. Those thus enfranchised became homines ecclesiastici; they could not become denariales according to the laws of the Ripuarians, and their property went to the church if they died without issue. Third, those enfranchised per chartam, chartularii. The expressions of the charter which gave them their liberty seem to be completely unambiguous; but it is doubtful whether the results were similarly unambiguous, since the denariales themselves remained, in certain respects, in an inferior condition. The statutes of Charlemagne, which provide that the terms of composition for thedenariales should be paid to the king, and that they should not possess their liberty as a heritage till after the third generation, apply the same conditions also to the chartularii, and even to those who were enfranchised to the church, thetabularii.
The act and the consequences of enfranchisement varied in the course of the epoch on which our attention is occupied. This fact has not been observed by M. Montlosier and all those who bring together facts separated from one another by a long interval of time, in order to make a complete system. They apply to the same epoch facts belonging to different times. History presents us with instances of slaves who, after the Germanic invasion, raised themselves to the condition not only of free men, but of Leudes and large proprietors. Individual cases of these are well authenticated, and were very likely to have occurred in these times of disorder; but from these no general rule is to be inferred. In spite of the vast influence of religious ideas—and all formulas of enfranchisement are prefaced by the expression of a religious sentiment and design—the general movement of the epoch which we are considering, so far as regards the condition of persons, was much more towards the extension of servitude, under different forms and in varying degrees, than towards the maintenance or the advancement of liberty.