Montesquieu
 

XXVIII.3 The capital difference between the Salic laws and the laws of the Visigoths and the Burgundians

I have said1 that the law of the Burgundians and the law of the Visigoths were impar­tial ; but the Salic law was not : it esta­bli­shed the most grie­vous dis­tinc­tions bet­ween Franks and Romans. When2 someone had killed a Frank, a bar­ba­rian, or a man living under the Salic law, he paid his family an indem­nity of 200 sols ; it was only 100 when the vic­tim was a Roman lan­dow­ner,3 and only 45 when he was a Roman tri­bu­tary ; the indem­nity for the mur­der of a Frank who was a vas­sal of the king was 600 sols,4 and for the mur­der of a Roman guest of the king5 only 300.6 It the­re­fore put a cruel dif­fe­rence bet­ween the Frankish lord and the Roman lord, and bet­ween the Frank and the Roman who were of modest sta­tion.

Furthermore, if you gathe­red some peo­ple to assault a Frank in his house, and killed him, the Salic law spe­ci­fied a com­pen­sa­tion of 600 sols, but if you had assai­led a Roman or a freed man,7 you paid only half of the com­pen­sa­tion. By the same law, if a Roman chai­ned up a Frank, he owed thirty sols com­pen­sa­tion ; but if a Frank chai­ned up a Roman, he owed only fif­teen.8 A Frank strip­ped by a Roman recei­ved sixty-two and a half sols in com­pen­sa­tion, and a Roman strip­ped by a Frank recei­ved only thirty. All that must have been mor­ti­fying for the Romans.

Yet one famous author9 sets up a sys­tem of The Establishment of the Franks in the Gauls on the pre­sup­po­si­tion that they were the Romans’ best friends. So the Franks were the Romans’ best friends, those who inflic­ted on them, and who recei­ved from them, appal­ling damage10 ; the Franks were friends of the Romans, they who, after sub­jec­ting them by arms, oppres­sed them in cold blood with their laws. They were friends of the Romans as the Tartars who conque­red China were friends of the Chinese.

If a few Catholic bishops tried to use the Franks to des­troy the Arian kings, does it fol­low that they desi­red to live under bar­ba­rian peo­ples ? And can we conclude that the Franks had par­ti­cu­lar consi­de­ra­tion for the Romans ? I would draw very dif­fe­rent conclu­sions : the surer the Franks were of the Romans, the less they gently they trea­ted them.

The abbé Dubos has drawn from the wrong sour­ces for his­tory : the poets and ora­tors ; it is not on works of vanity that sys­tems should be based.

In chapter I of this book.

Lex Salica, tit. 44, §1.

Qui res in pago ubi remanet proprias habet. Lex Salica, tit. 44, §15. See also § 7.

Qui in truste Dominica est, ibid., tit. 44, §4.

Si Romanus homo conviva regis fuerit, ibid., §6.

The principal Romans were attached to the court, as is seen in the life of several bishops who were raised there ; scarcely anyone who was not a Roman knew how to write.

Lidus, whose status was better than that of the serf (Law of the Germans, ch. xcv).

Tit. 35, §3–4.

Abbé Dubos [Histoire critique de l’établisement de la monarchie française dans les Gaules, 1734].

Witness the expedition of Arbogaste in Gregory of Tours, Historia ecclesiastica Francorum, book II.