We have said above that peo­ples who do not till the land enjoyed great free­dom. This was the case for the Germans. Tacitus says that they gave their kings or chefs only very mode­rate power,1 and Cæsar that they had no com­mon magis­trate in pea­ce­time, but that in each vil­lage the prin­ces dis­pen­sed jus­tice among their sub­jects.2 Indeed, the Franks in Germania had no king, as Gregory of Tours pro­ves quite well.3

“The prin­ces,” says Tacitus, “deli­be­rate on the petty things, and the whole nation on the great ones, in such a way, howe­ver, that the affairs of which the peo­ple become infor­med are like­wise taken before the prin­ces.”4 This prac­tice was main­tai­ned after the conquest, as we see in all the records.5

Tacitus says that capi­tal cri­mes could be taken before the assem­bly.6 The same was true after the conquest, and the great vas­sals were jud­ged there.

Nec Regibus libera aut infinita potestas. […] Cæterum neque animadvertere, neque vincire, ne verberare quidem […]. [‘These kings have not unlimited or arbitrary power. […] But to reprimand, to imprison, even to flog […], etc.’] (De moribus Germanorum [7].)

In pace nullus est communis magistratus, sed principes regionum atque pagorum inter suos jus dicunt (De bello Gallico, book VI) [see same quotation in XII.6].

Book II.

De minoribus principes consultant, de majoribus omnes ; ita tamen ut ea quorum penes plebem arbitrium est, apud principes pertractentur (De moribus Germanorum.)

Lex consensu populi fit et constitutione regis (Capitularies of Charles the Bald, year 864, art. 6).

Licet apud Concilium accusare et discrimen capitis intendere (De moribus Germanorum [12]).