When the bar­ba­rians left their coun­try, they wan­ted to set their prac­ti­ces down in wri­ting ; but as they found it dif­fi­cult to write Germanic words with Roman let­ters, they put these laws into Latin.

In the confu­sion of the conquest and its pro­gres­sion, most things chan­ged in nature ; to express them requi­red the use of the old Latin words which were most clo­sely rela­ted to new prac­ti­ces. Thus, what could evoke the notion of the old cens of the Romans, they cal­led census, tri­bu­tum1 and when things had no rela­tion­ship wha­te­ver to them, they expres­sed the Germanic words as best they could with Roman let­ters : thus was for­med the word fre­dum of which I shall have much to say in the fol­lo­wing chap­ters.

The fact that the words census and tri­bu­tum having thus been used in an arbi­trary man­ner has cast some obs­cu­rity on the mea­ning these words had in the first and second dynas­ties ; and some modern authors2 who had their own sys­tems, having found this word in the wri­tings of those times, have jud­ged that what was cal­led census was pre­ci­sely the cens of the Romans ; and from this they have conclu­ded that our kings of the two first dynas­ties had put them­sel­ves in the place of the Roman empe­rors, and had chan­ged nothing about their admi­nis­tra­tion.3 And as cer­tain duties levied in the second dynasty have been by hap­pens­tance and cer­tain modi­fi­ca­tions4 conver­ted into others, they have conclu­ded that those duties were the cens of the Romans ; and as they have seen since the modern sta­tu­tes that the crown domain was abso­lu­tely ina­lie­na­ble, they have said that those duties, which repre­sen­ted the cens of the Romans, and were not a part of his domains, were pure usur­pa­tions. I leave aside the other conse­quen­ces.

To trans­fer to cen­tu­ries long past all the notions of the cen­tury in which we live is of all sour­ces of error the most fer­tile. To those per­sons who want to make all the ancient cen­tu­ries modern, I will say what the priests of Egypt said to Solon : “O Athenians, you are nothing but chil­dren !”5

The census was such a generic word that it was used to express the tolls on rivers when there was a bridge or ferry to pass. See capitulary III of the year 803, Baluze ed., p. 395, art. 1, and no.V of the year 819, p. 616. Also called by this name were conveyances furnished by free men to the king or his envoys, as we see in the capitulary of Charles the Bald in the year 865, art. 8.

The abbé Dubos and those who have followed him.

See the frailty of the reasons of the abbé Dubos, Établissement de la monarchie française, vol. III,book VI, ch. xiv, especially the inference he draws from a passage of Gregory of Tours on a contention between his church and king Charibert.

For example, by emancipations.

[Plato, Timæus, 22b.]