Montesquieu

The com­mo­ner could not impeach the court of his lord : we learn this from Défontaines1 ; and this is confir­med by the Establishments.2 Hence, again says Défontaines, “There is bet­ween thee, lord, and thy com­mo­ner, no other judge but God.”3

It was the prac­tice of judi­cial com­bat that had exclu­ded com­mo­ners from impea­ching the court of their lord, and so true is this, that the com­mo­ners who by char­ter4 or by cus­tom had the right to fight also had the right to impeach their lord’s court, even if the men who had jud­ged had been knights5 ; and Défontaines6 offers expe­dients so that this scan­dal of the com­mo­ner who by impea­ching the judg­ment would fight against a knight, should not occur.

With the prac­tice of judi­cial com­bats begin­ning to die out, and that of the new appeals begin­ning to be intro­du­ced, it see­med unjust that free men should have a recourse against the injus­tice of the court of their lords, and com­mo­ners not have it ; and the par­le­ment accep­ted their appeals as those of free per­sons.

Ch. xxi, art. 21–22.

Book I, ch. cxxxvi.

Ch. ii, art. 8.

Défontaines, ch. xxii, art. 7. This article and the art. 21 of ch. xxii of the same author have so far been very poorly explained. Défontaines does not place in opposition the lord’s judgment with the knight’s, since it was the same ; but he opposes the ordinary commoner to the one who has the privilege of fighting.

Knights can always be numbered among the judges (Défontaines, ch. xxi, art. 48).

Ch. xxii, art.14.