Front Page Titles (by Subject) LECTURE 24 - The History of the Origins of Representative Government in Europe
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LECTURE 24 - 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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Sketch of the history of Spain under the Visigoths. ~ Condition of Spain under the Roman empire. ~ Settlement of the Visigoths in the south-west of Gaul. ~ Euric’s collection of the laws of the Visigoths. ~ Alaric’s collection of the laws of the Roman subjects. ~ Settlement of the Visigoths in Spain. ~ Conflict between the Catholics and Arians. ~ Political importance of the Councils of Toledo. ~ Principal kings of the isigoths. ~ Egica collects the Forum judicum. ~ Fall of the Visigothic monarchy in Spain.
Under the Roman empire, before the Barbarian invasions, Spain enjoyed considerable prosperity. The country was covered with roads, aqueducts, and public works of every description. The municipal government was almost independent; the principle of a landed census was applied to the formation of thecuriae; and various inscriptions prove that the mass of the people frequently took part with the Senate of the town, in the acts done in its name. There were conventus juridici, or sessions held by the presidents of the provinces and their assessors in fourteen towns of Spain; and conventus provinciales, or ordinary annual assemblies of the deputies of the towns, for the purpose of treating of the affairs of the province, and sending deputies to the emperor with their complaints and petitions.
All these institutions fell into decay at the end of the fourth century. The imperial despotism, by devolving all its exactions upon the municipal magistrates, had rendered these offices onerous to those who filled them, and odious to the people. On the other hand, since the emperor had made himself the centre of all, the provincial assemblies were useless except as intermediaries between the cities and the emperor; when the municipal organization had become enervated, and the emperor had almost entirely disappeared, these assemblies were found to be inconsistent and powerless in themselves. The sources whence they emanated, and the centre at which they terminated, were devoid of strength, and perished.
Such was the condition of Spain when, in 409, the Vandals, Alans, and Suevi crossed the Pyrenees. The Vandals remained in Galicia and Andalusia until 429, at which period they passed into Africa; the Alans, after having dwelt for a time in Lusitania and the province of Carthagena, emigrated into Africa with the Vandals. The Suevi founded a kingdom in Galicia, which existed as a distinct State until 585, when Leovigild, king of the Visigoths, reduced it under his sway. Finally Ataulphus, at the head of the Visigoths, entered Southern Gaul, acting sometimes as an ally, and sometimes as an enemy of the empire. He was assassinated at Barcelona, in the year 415.
I shall now pass in rapid review the principal events which mark the history of the Visigoths in Spain, subsequently to the death of Ataulphus.
1. Wallia, king of the Visigoths, from 415 to 419, made peace with the Emperor Honorius, on condition of making war against the other Barbarians in Spain. He was furnished with supplies, and authorized to establish himself in Aquitaine. He fixed his residence at Toulouse, and waged war against the Alans and Vandals. The Romans regained possession of a part of Spain; Wallia’s Goths, mingled with the Alans, settled in the province of Tarragona. Catalonia (Cataulania, Goth-Alani) derives its name from this commingling of the two nations. The settlement of the Goths in Gaul lay between the Loire, the Ocean, and the Garonne, and comprehended the districts of Bordeaux, Agen, Perigueux, Saintes, Poitiers, and Toulouse.
2. Theodoric I. (419–451). Under this monarch, the Visigoths extended their dominion in the south-east of Gaul. Their principal wars were with the Roman empire, which, after having made use of the Goths against the Vandals and Suevi, was now using the Huns against the Goths. In 425, occurred the siege of Arles by Theodoric; in 436, the siege of Narbonne. There was a disposition among the inhabitants of the country to range themselves under the dominion of the Goths, who were able to defend them against the other Barbarians, and to renounce their allegiance to Rome, which was bringing other Barbarians to subdue the Goths. About 449, the kingdom of the Visigoths extended as far as the Rhone. Theodoric made several expeditions into Spain; generally as the price of peace with the Romans. In 451, Theodoric was killed at a battle fought against Attila, either at Chalons-sur-Marne, or Mery-sur-Seine.
3. Thorismund (451–453). A victory was gained over Attila, who had attacked the Alans settled on the Loire and in the neighbourhood of Orleans. It was evidently the Visigoths who drove the Huns out of Gaul. Thorismund was assassinated.
4. Theodoric II. (453–466). Avitus, Magister militiae in the south of Roman Gaul, travelled to Toulouse to treat of peace with Theodoric, and was made emperor by the aid of the Visigoths. In concert with the Romans, Theodoric II. made an expedition into Spain against the Suevi. Rechiar, king of the Suevi, was defeated on the 5th of October, 450, near Astorga. This was rather an expedition than a conquest on the part of the Visigoths. Theodoric II., a curious portrait of whom has been left us by Sidonius Apollinarius, was assassinated in 462; he had acquired the district of Narbonne.
5. Euric (466–484). This reign was the culminating point of the Visigothic monarchy in Gaul. Euric led expeditions beyond the Loire against the Armoricans; in 474, he conquered Auvergne, which was then ceded to him by treaty; he had already conquered Arles and Marseilles, so that the monarchy of the Visigoths then extended from the Pyrenees to the Loire, and from the Ocean to the Alps, thus adjoining the monarchies of the Burgundians and Ostrogoths. Euric had also extended his dominions into Spain, where he possessed the Tarragonese district and Boetica, which he had conquered from the Suevi. Euric had the laws and customs of the Goths written in a book. A passage of Sidonius Apollinarius which speaks of Theodoricianae leges, has led to the belief that Theodoric commenced this collection; but Euric is also called Theodoric.
6. Alaric II. (484–507). This reign was the epoch of the decay of the Visigothic monarchy in Gaul. Alaric, less warlike than his predecessors, gave himself up to the pursuit of pleasure. He was defeated by Clovis, at Vouillé near Poi-tiers, and left dead on the field. The Franks in the east, and the Burgundians in the west, dismembered the Visigothic monarchy, which thus became reduced to Languedoc, properly so called, and a few districts adjacent to the Pyrenees.
Alaric did for his Roman subjects what Euric had done for the Goths. He collected and revised the Roman laws, and formed them into a code called theCodex Alaricianus. This code was based upon the Codex Theodosianus published in 438 by Theodosius the Younger, and upon the Codex Gregorianus, the Codex Hermogenianus, the Pauli Sententiae, and the Constitutiones Imperiales, published subsequently to the reign of Theodosius. This code was also called theBreviarium Aniani. It has been thought that Anianus, the referendary of Alaric, was its principal editor; but Père Sirmond has proved that Anianus only published it by order of the king, and sent authentic copies of it into the provinces. By an act of Alaric, the Roman legislation was, so to speak, revived, rearranged, and adapted to the monarchy of the Goths. It thenceforth emanated from the Gothic king himself. In the north of Gaul, whilst the Barbarian laws ceased to be customs and became written laws, the Roman laws lost their force as a whole, and became customs; in the south, on the other hand, they remained written laws, and retained much greater power, exercising an important influence upon the laws of the Barbarians. It would appear that this twofold written legislation must tend necessarily to maintain the separation of the two nations; but it contributed on the contrary to bring it to an end.
7. After the death of Alaric II., his legitimate son Amalaric, still a child, was taken into Spain. His natural son, Gesalic, became a king in Gaul. At this period, the monarchy of the Visigoths was transferred from Gaul into Spain. The Franks, Burgundians, and Ostrogoths, seized the Gallic possessions of the Visigoths. Gesalic was defeated, and Amalaric reigned under the protection of his grandfather Theodoric, and the tutelage of Theudes.
8. On the death of Amalaric, Theudes was elected king, and reigned from 531 to 548. He fixed the seat of the Visigothic monarchy in Spain. He waged long wars against the Franks, and, though an Arian, behaved with tolerance towards the Catholics. He authorized the bishops to meet annually in council at Toledo. Until the reign of Theudes, the principle of hereditary succession to the throne appears to have prevailed among the Visigoths; after Theudes, the principle of election prevailed in fact and in law.
9. From 548 to 567, reigned Theudegisil, Agila, Athanagild. There were continual wars between the Franks, the Suevi, and the Romans. To obtain the assistance of the Romans in his rebellion against Agila, Athanagild gave up to the Emperor Justinian several places between Valentia and Cadiz. Roman garrisons were accordingly sent into those towns. The Romans had also retained possession of other towns in Spain. Athanagild took up his residence at Toledo. He was the father of Queen Brunehault. At his death, the grandees remained five months without electing his successor. At length they elected Liuva, the governor of Narbonne, who associated his brother Leovigild with him on the throne. Leovigild governed Spain, and Liuva, Visigothic Gaul. Liuva died in 570, and Leovigild became sole king. With him commences, to speak truly, the complete and regular monarchy of the Visigoths in Spain.
10. Leovigild, from 570 to 586, consolidated and extended the monarchy. He gained great victories over the Greco-Romans who had recovered a part of Spain, and won from them Medina-Sidonia, Cordova, and other towns. He also defeated the Vascons* who had maintained their independent occupation of the country on both sides of the Pyrenees. In 586, he completely subdued the Suevi; he greatly extended the royal power, made large confiscations of the property of the church and the nobles, persecuted the Catholics, and convoked a council of Arian bishops at Toledo, in 582, to endeavour to explain Arianism in such a manner as to satisfy the people, and to insure its general reception in his dominions. A civil war broke out between Leovigild and his son Hermenegild, who was a Catholic. After various vicissitudes, Hermenegild was taken, con fined at Seville in a tower which bears his name, and put to death in 584. Before his insurrection, he was associated with his father in the crown, as was also his brother Recared, who governed the provinces in Gaul. Leovigild corrected and completed the laws of Euric.
Up to this period, there was no unity in the Visigothic monarchy. General institutions were wanting. The national assemblies were more irregular than in other countries. Neither the principle of hereditary succession, nor that of election, prevailed as regarded the kingly office. Out of fourteen kings, six had been assassinated. There was no coherence among the provinces of the kingdom. The clergy were deeply divided amongst themselves. The king gave a factitious preponderance to the Arian minority.
11. In 586, Recared I. succeeded Leovigild, declared himself a Catholic, and convoked the third general council of Toledo, in 587. A union was effected between the royal and ecclesiastical authority. Recared found himself in a position somewhat analogous to that of Constantine the Great, after his conversion to Christianity. He was energetically supported by the Catholic clergy, whom he, in his turn, as zealously maintained. At the third council of Toledo, the two powers made in common the laws of which they both had need. An important fact should be noticed in the tenure of this council. During the first three days the ecclesiastics sat alone, and regulated religious affairs exclusively. On the fourth day, laymen were admitted; and affairs both civil and religious were then treated of.
Recared made war against the Franks of Gothic Gaul, and against the Romans in Spain. This last war was terminated by the intervention of Pope Gregory the Great, who negociated a treaty between the Emperor Maurice and Re-cared, the latter of whom, since 590, had sent ambassadors to the Pope. The Arian clergy excited several rebellions against Recared.
12. In 601, Recared was succeeded by his son Liuva II., who was assassinated in 603. Withemar, his successor, was assassinated in 610. Gundemar was then elected, but he died in 612. Sisebut acceded to the throne in 613, and made war against the remnant of the Roman Empire in Spain. He reduced to a mere nullity the possessions which the emperor had until then retained. He imposed upon the Jews the necessity of being baptized. Heraclius had commenced this persecution in the Eastern Empire; and it entered as a condition into the treaty which he made with Sisebut. The Jews, when driven from Spain, took refuge in Gaul, where they were equally persecuted by Dagobert: so that they knew not whither to flee for refuge. The laws of Sisebut were issued in virtue of the king’s authority alone, without the concurrence of the councils.
13. Recared, the second son of Sisebut, reigned for a few months. He was succeeded, in 621, by Suinthila, son of Recared I., who was elected king. Suinthila had served as a general under Sisebut. We frequently meet with similar cases in the history of the Visigoths; and they prove that the idea of hereditary succession was still not firmly established. Suinthila made a great expedition against the Basques. He drove them to the other side of the Pyrenees, and built a fortress which is believed to have been Fontarabia. He completely expelled the Romans from Spain, by sowing dissension between the two patricians who still governed the two Roman provinces, and by granting the Roman troops who remained in the country permission to return home.
14. In 631, occurred the usurpation of Sisenand by the aid of King Dago-bert, who sent an army of Franks, which penetrated as far as Saragossa. Suinthila abdicated the throne. Sisenand succeeded him, and reigned from 631 to 636. In 634, Sisenand’s usurpation was confirmed by the fourth council of Toledo. The crown was declared elective by the bishops and nobles, and ecclesiastical privileges received great extension. From 636 to 640, Chintila reigned. During his reign, the fifth and sixth councils of Toledo passed laws regarding the elections of kings and the condition of their families after their death, against the Jews, and on other subjects. Chintila was succeeded by his son Tulga, who was deposed in 642.
15. Chindasuinth reigned tyrannically from 642 to 652. Two hundred of the principal Goths were put to death, and their property confiscated; many of the inhabitants emigrated; Chindasuinth convoked the seventh council of Toledo, the canons of which against the emigrants were very rigorous. In all the measures of his government, we may discern the influence of the Catholic clergy, intimately connected with the king against the Arian faction. One canon ordained that every bishop residing near Toledo, should spend one month in every year at the court of the king. Chindasuinth revised and completed the collection of the laws relating to different classes of his subjects, and entirely abolished the special employment of the Roman law in his dominions. In 649, he associated his son Recesuinth with him in the crown, and obtained his recognition as his successor.
On opening the eighth council of Toledo, Recesuinth said; “The Creator raised me to the throne by associating me in the dignity of my father, and by his death the Almighty has transmitted to me the authority which I have inherited.” These words are the expression of the theory of divine right. Recesuinth directed the council to revise and complete the collection of laws; imposed a fine of thirty pounds of gold on any one who should appeal to any other than the national law; permitted marriages between the Romans and Goths, which had been until then interdicted; revoked the laws of his father against the emigrants; and restored a portion of the confiscated property. A law was also passed, separating the private domain of the king from the public domain. The preponderance of the bishops in the council is evident. The canons are signed by seventy-three ecclesiastics, and by only sixteen counts, dukes, or proceres.1 Recesuinth died on the 1st September, 672.
16. Wamba, elected on the 19th September, 672, manifested great repugnance to accept the crown. He repressed the rebels in Gothic Gaul, and besieged Narbonne and Nismes. He also vigorously opposed the descents of the Saracens, who were beginning to infest the coasts of Spain, as the Normans were infesting those of Gaul. He fortified Toledo and many other towns. During his reign the division of the kingdom into dioceses took place; six archbishoprics and seventy bishoprics were established. Wamba made several laws for organizing military service, and repressing the excesses of the clergy.
17. In 680, Wamba was deposed by the intrigues of Erwig, who was supported by the clergy. Wamba abdicated, and withdrew to a convent. Erwig convoked the twelfth council of Toledo, at which Wamba’s voluntary abdication was announced, and Erwig appointed his successor. The new monarch directed the council to revise and modify the laws of Wamba regarding military service, and the penalties to be imposed upon delinquents. A less severe legislation was the work of the twelfth and thirteenth councils of Toledo.
18. Erwig had given his daughter Cixilone in marriage to Egica, a near relation of Wamba. In 687, Egica succeeded Erwig. He charged the sixteenth council of Toledo to make a complete collection of the laws of the Visigoths; and this collection, under the name of the Forum judicum, or Fuero juzgo, long ruled the Spanish monarchy.
19. Egica had associated with himself his son Witiza, who succeeded him in 701. Witiza was tyrannical and dissolute. He allowed the priests to marry, recalled the Jews, entered into conflict with the Spanish clergy and the Pope; violently persecuted the principal lay lords, among others Theutfred and Favila, dukes of Cordova and Biscay, and sons of king Chindasuinth; and fell a victim, in 710, to a conspiracy formed against him by Roderic, son of Theutfred. Roderic, or Rodrigo, became king of the Visigoths, and his reign was the last of this monarchy. I shall not relate to you his wars with the Saracens, or the celebrated adventure of Count Julian and his daughter La Cava, who was violated by Roderic, or any of the last scenes of this history which have now become popular poetry.* Political institutions are now the sole subject of our study. In my next lectures, I shall tell you of the Forum judicum, a very remarkable legislative work, which deserves our serious examination and attention.
[* ] Probably the Basques of the present day.
[* ] For the legend of Count Julian, and other information regarding this most interesting period of Spanish history, see Washington Irving’s “Legends of the Conquest of Granada and Spain,” in Bohn’s edition of his works.