Montesquieu

Charlemagne’s design was to hold the power of the nobi­lity within bounds, and to pre­vent the oppres­sion of the clergy and the free men ; he intro­du­ced such mode­ra­tion into the orders of the state that they were coun­ter­ba­lan­ced, and he remai­ned the mas­ter. Everything was uni­fied by the force of his genius ; he led the nobi­lity conti­nually from expe­di­tion to expe­di­tion ; he did not leave them time to for­mu­late plans, and kept them fully occu­pied fol­lo­wing his own. The empire was main­tai­ned by the great­ness of the chief ; the prince was great, the man more so. The kings his chil­dren were his first sub­jects, the ins­tru­ments of his power and models of obe­dience. He made admi­ra­ble sta­tu­tes ; more than that, he saw that they were car­ried out. His genius spread throu­ghout the empire. We see in this prince’s laws a spi­rit of fore­sight that encom­pas­ses eve­ry­thing, and a cer­tain force that car­ries eve­ry­thing along ; pre­texts for elu­ding duties are taken away, negli­gence cor­rec­ted, abu­ses refor­med or anti­ci­pa­ted1 ; he knew how to punish, and even more how to par­don. Vast in his desi­gns, sim­ple in the exe­cu­tion, no one pos­ses­sed to a higher degree the art of accom­pli­shing the grea­test things with ease, and the dif­fi­cult ones expe­di­tiously. He ran­ged cons­tantly over his vast empire, brin­ging help whe­re­ver it was sho­wing strain. Problems came up eve­ryw­here, and eve­ryw­here he put them down. Never was a prince bet­ter at bra­ving dan­gers, never was a prince bet­ter at avoi­ding them. He mocked every peril, and par­ti­cu­larly the ones which the great conque­rors almost always expe­rience : by this I mean cons­pi­ra­cies. This pro­di­gious prince was extre­mely mode­rate ; his cha­rac­ter was gentle, his man­ners sim­ple ; he liked being with the peo­ple of his court. He was per­haps too sus­cep­ti­ble to the plea­sure of women ; but a prince who always gover­ned by him­self, and who devo­ted his life to his toils, can deserve more excu­ses. He put an admi­ra­ble order into his expen­di­tu­res ; he exploi­ted his domains wisely, atten­ti­vely, eco­no­mi­cally ; a pater­fa­mi­lias could learn from his laws to govern his hou­se­hold2 ; we see in his capi­tu­la­ries the pure and sacred source from which he drew his wealth. I have only one fur­ther word : he orde­red that the eggs from his domain’s far­myards be sold,3 and unnee­ded greens from his gar­dens ; and he had dis­tri­bu­ted to his peo­ples all the wealth of the Lombards, and the immense trea­su­ries of those Huns who had pilla­ged the globe.

See his capitulary III, year 811, p. 486, art. 1–8, and capitulary I, year 812, p. 490, art. 1, and capitulary of the same year, p. 494, art. 9 and 11 and others.

See capitulary of Villis, year 800, his Capitulary II, year 813, art. 6 and 19, and book V of capitularies, art. 303.

Capitulary of Villis, art. 39. See this whole capitulary, which is a masterpiece of prudence, good administration, and economy.