The spirit of laws by Charles de Secondat, Baron de Montesquieu

partly the reason that Charles Martel made grants of allodial lands as

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partly the reason that Charles Martel made grants of allodial lands as
well as of fiefs.

15. 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.[117] And
as those rights have ever been 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 as those
very rights.

16. Confusion of the Royalty and Mayoralty. The Second Race. The

connection of my subject has made me invert the order of time, so as to
speak of Charlemagne before I had mentioned the famous epoch of the
translation of the crown to the Carlovingians under King Pepin; a
revolution, which, contrary to the nature of ordinary events, is more
remarked 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 family; and the ancient law
which fixed the crown in a particular family was not yet erased from the
hearts of the Franks. The king's person was almost unknown in the
monarchy; but royalty was not. Pepin, son of Charles Martel, thought it
would be proper to confound 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.[118]

Father le Cointe, in spite of the authority of all ancient records[119]

denies that the Pope authorised this great change; and one of his
reasons is that he would have committed an injustice.[120] A fine thing
to see a historian judge of that which men have done by that which they
ought to have done; by this mode of reasoning we should have no more

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 one ceremony more,
and one phantom 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 took the crown,
there was only a transition from one government to another, which was

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.

17. 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,[121] and blessed, and that the French
nobility bound themselves, on pain of interdiction and excommunication,
never to choose a prince of another family.[122]

It appears by the wills of Charlemagne and Louis the Debonnaire, that

the Franks made a choice among the king's children, which agrees with
the above-mentioned clause. And when the empire was transferred from
Charlemagne's family, the election, which before had been restricted and
conditional, became pure and simple, so that the ancient constitution
was departed from.

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.[123] 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 Canisius, and in the writer
of the annals of Metz,[124] according to the observation of
Baluzius.[125] 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
choose 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
Charlemagne among his three children, in which, after settling their
shares, he says,[126] "That if one of the three brothers happens to have
a son, such as the people shall be willing to choose 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 Louis the

Debonnaire made among his three children, Pepin, Louis, and Charles, in
the year 837, at the assembly of Aix-la-Chapelle;[127] and likewise in
another partition, made twenty years before, by the same emperor, in
favour of Lotharius, Pepin, and Louis.[128] We may likewise see the oath
which Louis the Stammerer took at Compiègne at his coronation. "I,
Louis, by the divine mercy, and the people's election, appointed king,
do promise"[129] ... What I say is confirmed by the acts of the Council
of Valence, held in the year 890, for the election of Louis, son of
Bo-on, to the kingdom of Arles.[130] Louis was there elected, and the
principal reason they gave for choosing him is that he was of the
imperial family,[131] 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 Charlemagne, was
elective and hereditary.

18. Charlemagne. Charlemagne's intention 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
laws; and, what is more, 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 comprehensive spirit of foresight, and a certain force
which carries all before it. All pretexts for evading the duties are
removed, neglects are corrected, abuses reformed or prevented.[132] 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 it fell. New difficulties sprang 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
wonderful 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 expenses,
administering his demesnes with prudence, attention, and economy. A
father might learn from his laws how to govern his family; and we find
in his capitularies the pure and sacred source whence he derived his
riches.[133] 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;[134] he distributed among his people all the riches of
the Lombards, and the immense treasures of those Huns that had plundered
the whole world.

19. The same Subject continued. Charlemagne and his immediate successors

were afraid lest those whom they placed in distant parts should be
inclined to revolt, and thought they should find more docility among the
clergy. For this reason they erected a great number of bishoprics in
Germany and endowed them with very large fiefs.[135] 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,[136] 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 they used against the Saxons. That which they
could not expect from the indolence or supineness of vassals they
thought they ought to expect from the sedulous attention of a bishop.
Besides, a vassal of that kind, far from making use of the conquered
people against them, would rather stand in need of their assistance to
support themselves against their own people.

20. Louis 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 Ptolemies, 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 Charlemagne; 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 into his hands the reins of
the empire which had been held by Charlemagne.

At a time when the whole world is in tears for the death of his father,

at a time of surprise and alarm, when the subjects of that extensive
empire all call upon Charles and find him 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 irregular conduct of his sisters.
This step was productive of the most terrible catastrophes.[137] 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, having 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 Louis 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,[138] 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.[139]

After the death of the Empress Hermengarde, 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 by the
downfall 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[140] represents to Louis
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 difficulty at first in conceiving 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 Charlemagne,
could have such a number of enemies.[141] 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 among themselves.

21. The same Subject continued. The strength and solidity for which the

kingdom was indebted to Charlemagne still subsisted under Louis 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

Charles Martel, Pepin, and Charlemagne were in succession rulers of the

monarchy. The first flattered the avarice of the soldiers: the other two
that of the clergy. Louis the Debonnaire displeased both.

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 Charlemagne joined sometimes their interest with one of those
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