Montesquieu
 

XXXI.7 On the high offices and fiefs under the mayors of the palace

The mayors of the palace were not about to res­tore the imper­ma­nency of char­ges and offi­ces ; they rei­gned only by the pro­tec­tion they gran­ted in this regard to the nobi­lity ; thus high offi­ces conti­nued to be assi­gned for life, and this prac­tice became more and more firmly esta­bli­shed.

But I have some par­ti­cu­lar obser­va­tions to make on the fiefs. I can­not doubt that from those times most of them had been made here­di­tary.

In the treaty of Andeli, Gontram and his nephew Childebert com­mit them­sel­ves to main­tai­ning the libe­ra­li­ties made to the leu­des and the chur­ches by the kings before them1 ; and the queens, the daugh­ters, and the widows of kings are allo­wed to dis­pose by tes­ta­ment and fore­ver of the things they hold from the trea­sury.2

Marculfus was wri­ting his for­mu­las in the time of the mayors.3 We see seve­ral of them where the kings make grants both to the per­son and to the heirs4 ; and as the for­mu­las are the ima­ges of the eve­ry­day acts of life, they prove that near the end of the first dynasty a part of the fiefs was already pas­sing on to heirs. It was far from the case that the notion of an ina­lie­na­ble domain was cur­rent at that time : it is a very modern thing, which was then known nei­ther in theory nor in prac­tice.

For that we shall soon see proofs of fact, and if I show a time when there were no lon­ger any bene­fi­ces for the army nor any funds for its sup­port, we will have to concede that the for­mer bene­fi­ces had been alie­na­ted. That time is the time of Charles Martel, who foun­ded new fiefs which we really must dis­tin­guish from the early ones.

When the kings began to give in per­pe­tuity, either because of the cor­rup­tion that crept into the govern­ment, or because of the cons­ti­tu­tion itself which obli­ged the kings to be to cons­tantly rewar­ding, it was natu­ral that they should begin to grant fiefs rather than coun­ties in per­pe­tuity. Giving up a few lands was a small mat­ter ; to renounce high offi­ces was to lose power itself.

Related by Gregory of Tours, book IX. See also the edict of Clotaire II in the year 615, art. 16.

Ut si quid de agris fiscalibus vel speciebus atque præsidio pro arbitrii sui voluntate facere aut cuiquam conferre voluerint, fixa stabilitate perpetuo conservetur.

See the 24th and 34th of book I.

See formula 14 in book I, qui applies equally to fiscal properties given directly forever, or given at first as benefice and later forever. Sicut ab illo aut a fisco nostro fuit possessa. See also formule 17, ibid.