6. Second Epoch of the Humiliation of our Kings of the first Race. After the execution of Brunehault, the mayors were administrators of the kingdom under the sovereigns; and though they had the conduct of the war, the kings were always at the head of the armies, while the mayor and the nation fought under their command. But the victory of Duke Pepin over Theodoric and his mayor51 completed the degradation of our princes;52 and that which Charles Martel obtained over Chilperic and his mayor Rainfroy confirmed it.53 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 showed them to the people.54 There they made ordinances, but these were such as were dictated by the mayor;55 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.56
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;57 and put him over one Dagobert, that is, one phantom over another.
7. Of the great Offices and Fiefs under the Mayors of the Palace. The mayors of the palace were little disposed to establish the uncertain tenure of places and offices; for, indeed, they ruled only by the protection which in this respect they granted to the nobility. Hence the great offices 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 of fiefs: I do not question but most of them became hereditary from this time.
In the treaty of Andeli,58 Gontram and his nephew Childebert engage to maintain the donations made to the vassals and churches by the kings their 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.59 We find several in which the kings make donations both to the person and to his heirs:60 and as the formularies represent the common actions of life, they prove that part of the fiefs had 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 fact; 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 of the great offices was divesting themselves of their very power.
8. 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.61 The owner of the land gave it to the king, who restored it to the donor by way of usufruct, or benefice, and then the donor 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 which for these eleven centuries has been enveloped with dust, with blood, and with the marks of toil.
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 a king's vassal, that whoever killed him should pay a composition of six hundred sous. This privilege was established by the Salic law,62 and by that of the Ripuarians;63 and while these two laws ordained a composition of six hundred sous for the murder of a king's vassal, they gave but two hundred sous for the murder of a person freeborn, if he was a Frank or Barbarian, or a man living under, the Salic law;64 and only a hundred for a Roman.
This was not the only privilege belonging to the king's vassals. We ought to know that when a man was summoned in court, and did not make his appearance nor obey the judge's orders, he was called before the king;65 and if he persisted in his contumacy, he was excluded from the royal protection,66 and no one was allowed to entertain him, nor even to give him a morsel of bread. Now, if he was a person of an ordinary condition, his goods were confiscated;67 but if he was the king's vassal, they were not.68 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,69 the latter was condemned to this trial only in the case of murder.70 In fine, the king's vassal could not be compelled to swear in court against another vassal.71 These privileges were continually increasing, and the Capitulary of Carloman does this honour to the king's vassals, that they should not be obliged to swear in person, but only by the mouth of their own vassals.72 Moreover, when a person, having 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 freeman73 who neglected to follow his count was fined sixty sous,74 and was reduced to a state of servitude till he had paid it.
It is very natural, therefore, to believe 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 of incorporating himself with the other lords, and of entering, as it were, into the feudal monarchy, because the political no longer existed.75
This continued under the third race, as we find by several charters;76 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 as a prudent father of a family would; for though the freemen grew desirous of being possessed of fiefs, yet they managed this sort of estates as usufructs are managed in our days. This is what induced Charlemagne, the most vigilant and considerate prince we ever had, to make a great many regulations in order to hinder the fiefs from being demeaned in favour of allodial estates.77 It proves only that in his time most benefices were but for life, and consequently that they took more care of the freeholds than of the benefices; and yet for all that, they did not choose rather to be the king's vassals than freemen. They might have reasons for disposing of some particular part of a fief, but they were not willing to be stripped of their dignity likewise.
I know, likewise, that Charlemagne laments 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.78 But I do not say that they were not fonder of the property than of the usufruct; I mean only, that when they could convert an allodium into a fief, which was to descend to their heirs, as is the case of the formulary above-mentioned, they had very great advantages in doing it.
9. 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,79 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;80 none reign now but the bishops, who live in grandeur while we are quite eclipsed."
This was the reason that the mayors, who durst not attack the lords, stripped the churches; and one of the motives alleged by Pepin for entering Neustria81 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,82 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.83
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 inconsistently with his cause, and showing 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.84 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.
10. 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 among 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 destruction of their idols, and with all the oppressive measures of Charlemagne 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 losses 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 spread abroad and believed in those days would have deprived the laity of all their estates, if they had been but virtuous 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 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.
11. 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; he worked for them, having the pretext of his wars against the Saracens. He was hated, indeed, by the clergy, but he had no need of their assistance.85 The Pope, to whom he was necessary, stretched out his arms to him. Every one knows the famous embassy he received from Gregory III.86 These two powers were strictly united, because they could not do without each other: the Pope stood in need of the Franks to assist him against the Lombards and the Greeks; Charles Martel had occasion for the Pope, to humble the Greeks, to embarrass the Lombards, to make himself more respectable at home, and to guarantee the titles which he had, and those which he or his children might take. It was impossible, therefore, for his enterprise to miscarry.
St. 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 Louis, King of Germany, who had invaded the territories of Charles the Bald;87 because it will give us an insight into the situation of things in those times, and the temper of the people. They say88 that "St. 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 stripped 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 Acquitaine, he issued letters called precaria89 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 Charlemagne 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 Louis the Debonnaire, the father of those two kings."
King Pepin's regulation, mentioned by the bishops, was made in the council held at Leptines.90 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 tithe or tenth part, and twelve deniers for every house that had belonged to her. But this was only a palliative, and did not remove the disorder.
Nay, it met with opposition, and Pepin was obliged to make another capitulary,91 in which he enjoins those who held any of those benefices to pay this tithe and duty, and even to keep up the houses belonging to the bishopric or monastery, under the penalty of forfeiting those possessions. Charlemagne renewed the regulations of Pepin.92
That part of the same letter which says that Charlemagne 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.93 The bishops very justly add that Louis the Debonnaire followed the example of Charlemagne, and did not give away the church-lands to the soldiery.
And yet the old abuses were carried to such a pitch, that the laity under the children of Louis the Debonnaire preferred ecclesiastics to benefices, or turned them out of their livings94 without the consent of the bishops. The benefices were divided among the next heirs,95 and when they were held in an indecent manner the bishops had no other remedy left than to remove the relics.96
By the Capitulary of Compiègne97 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 shows 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 by this reproach, because they were not culpable;98 and they reminded him of what had been promised, resolved and decreed in so many national assemblies. In point of fact, they quoted nine.
Still they went on disputing; till the Normans came and made them all agree.
12. 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, Charlemagne 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.99
This was the reason of Charlemagne's establishing the tithes,100 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 institution of a still remoter date, but the authorities they produce seem rather, I think, to prove the contrary. The constitution of Clotharius says101 only that they shall not raise certain tithes on church-lands;102 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,103 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 Charlemagne's time, and preached the gifts and offerings in Leviticus. But I say that before that prince's reign, though the tithes might have been preached, they were never established.
I noticed 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 deal to induce by a law, whose equity could not be disputed, the principal men of the nation to set the example.
Charlemagne did more; and we find by the capitulary de Villis104 that he obliged his own demesnes to the payment of the tithes; this was a still 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.105 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,106 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.
Charlemagne's project did not succeed at first, for it seemed too heavy a burden.107 The payment of the tithes among the Jews was connected with the plan of the foundation of their republic; but here it was a burden quite independent of the other charges of the establishment of the monarchy. We find by the regulations added to the law of the Lombards108 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 the power of redeeming them. This the constitution of Louis the Debonnaire109 and that of the Emperor Lotharius, his son, would not allow.110
The laws of Charlemagne, 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 wished to give the church that fixed and permanent status which she had lost.
His will shows that he was desirous of repairing the mischief done by his grandfather, Charles Martel.111 He made three equal shares of his movable goods; two of these he would have divided each into one-and-twenty parts, for the one-and-twenty metropolitan sees of his empire; each part was to be sub-divided between the metropolitan and the dependent bishoprics. 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.
13. Of the Election of Bishops and Abbots. As the church had grown poor, the kings resigned the right of nominating to bishoprics and other ecclesiastic benefices.112 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 Louis the Debonnaire left the people of Rome in possession of the right of choosing their popes, it was owing to the general spirit that prevailed in his time;113 he behaved in the same manner to the see of Rome as to other bishoprics.