Montesquieu

There was an inner defect in this com­pi­la­tion : it for­med an amphi­bious code, where French juris­pru­dence had been mixed with Roman law ; it com­bi­ned things that never had any connec­tion, and often were contra­dic­tory. It is impos­si­ble to make good juris­pru­dence out of two contrary juris­pru­den­ces.

I am quite aware that French tri­bu­nals of men or peers, judg­ments without appeal to ano­ther tri­bu­nal, and the man­ner of pro­noun­cing by the words I condemn1 or I absolve, were in some ways simi­lar to the popu­lar judg­ments of the Romans. But lit­tle use was made of this ancient juris­pru­dence ; rather, they made use of that which was since intro­du­ced by the empe­rors, which was used eve­ryw­here in this com­pi­la­tion, to regu­late, limit, amend, and extend French juris­pru­dence.

As I have said, St. Louis had had the works of Justinian trans­la­ted to accre­dit Roman law. Soon it was taught in the schools ; they pre­fer­red Roman law in its natu­ral form to the dis­fi­gu­red form in which it appea­red in the new code.

Besides, this com­pi­la­tion inclu­ded rules for things that soon no lon­ger exis­ted : jud­ge­ments of peers, judi­cial com­bats, pri­vate wars, the ser­vi­tude of Jews, cru­sa­ders, and serfs ; and as the fol­lo­wing cen­tu­ries were cen­tu­ries of chan­ges, the more they made, the more had to be made ; and this code was ever less adap­ted to the pre­sent state of things, espe­cially since the local pro­vi­sions it contai­ned also chan­ged.

Moreover, the judi­cial forms intro­du­ced by St. Louis cea­sed to be in use. The prince had had less in view the thing itself, in other words the best way to judge, than the best way to improve the old prac­tice of jud­ging. The first objec­tive was to turn peo­ple away from the old juris­pru­dence, and the second was to cons­ti­tute a new one. But once the disad­van­ta­ges of this one had appea­red, there was soon ano­ther to suc­ceed it.

Thus the laws of St. Louis chan­ged French juris­pru­dence less than they offe­red means of chan­ging it ; they ope­ned new tri­bu­nals, or rather paths to achieve that ; and when it became pos­si­ble to attain easily the one that had ove­rall autho­rity, judg­ments, which pre­viously made up only the prac­ti­ces of a par­ti­cu­lar sei­gniory, cons­ti­tu­ted a uni­ver­sal juris­pru­dence. They had suc­cee­ded, on the strength of the Establishments, in having ove­rall deci­sions which were enti­rely lacking in the realm : once the buil­ding was cons­truc­ted, the scaf­fol­ding was allo­wed to come down.

Thus the Establishments had effects which one should not have expec­ted from the mas­ter­piece of legis­la­tion. Sometimes it takes many cen­tu­ries to pre­pare chan­ges ; events mature, and revo­lu­tions are at hand.

The par­le­ment deci­ded in last resort almost all the dis­pu­tes in the king­dom. Previously it was jud­ging only cases that were bet­ween dukes, counts, barons, bishops, and abbés,2 or bet­ween the king and his vas­sals,3 rather in the rela­tion they had with the poli­ti­cal order than with the civil order. Soon they were obli­ged to make it per­ma­nent, ins­tead of conve­ning only a few times a year as it had ; finally, seve­ral of them were crea­ted, so they would be able to handle all the cases.

Parlement no soo­ner became a fixed body than its decrees began to be com­pi­led. Jean de Monluc, under the reign of Philip the Fair, made the com­pen­dium that today we call the Olim Registers.

Establishments, book II, ch. xv.

See Dutillet on the court of peers. See also Laroche Flavin, book I, ch. iii, Budée and Paul-Emile.

The other matters were decided by ordinary tribunals.