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 limi­ted 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 [ch. vii].)

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 [ch. xi].)

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 [ch. xi]).