Montesquieu

No les­ser chan­ges occur­red in the fiefs than in the allods. We see from the capi­tu­lary of Compiègne, made under king Pépin, that those to whom the king gave a bene­fice them­sel­ves gave part of that bene­fice to various vas­sals ; but these parts were not dis­tin­gui­shed from the whole.1 The king took them away when he took the whole, and at the death of the leude, the vas­sal also lost his sub-fief ; a new bene­fi­ciary would come, who also would esta­blish new sub-vas­sals. Thus the sub-fief was not a depen­dency of the fief, it was the per­son who was depen­dent ; on the one hand, the sub-vas­sal retur­ned to the king, because he was not fore­ver atta­ched to the vas­sal ; and the sub-fief like­wise retur­ned to the king, because it was the fief itself, and not a depen­dency of the fief.

Such was sub-vas­se­lage when the fiefs were trans­fe­ra­ble, such it was still while the fiefs were for life. That chan­ged when the fiefs pas­sed on to heirs, and the sub-fiefs did as well. What was held from the king imme­dia­tely now was held only media­tely ; and the royal autho­rity found itself, so to speak, a degree remo­ved, some­ti­mes two, and often more.

We see in the books of the fiefs that although the king’s vas­sals could donate as fief, which is to say as sub-fief of the king, never­the­less these sub-vas­sals or petty vava­sours could not like­wise donate as fief, and so what they had dona­ted they could always take back.2 Besides, such a conces­sion did not pass on to the chil­dren, as did fiefs, because it was not assu­med to have been made accor­ding to the law of fiefs.

If we com­pare the state sub-vas­se­lage was in at the time when the two sena­tors from Milan were wri­ting these books, with the state it was in at the time of king Pépin, we will find that sub-fiefs retai­ned their ori­gi­nal nature for lon­ger than fiefs did.3

But when these sena­tors wrote, such gene­ral excep­tions had been made to this rule that they had almost obli­te­ra­ted it. For if the man who had recei­ved a fief from the petty vava­sor had fol­lo­wed him to Rome in an expe­di­tion, he would acquire all the rights of vas­sal4 ; like­wise, if he had given money to the petty vava­sor in order to obtain the fief, the lat­ter could not take it from him, nor pre­vent him from trans­fer­ring it to his son, so long as he had not given him his money back ; finally, this rule was no lon­ger fol­lo­wed in the Milan senate.5

Year 757, art. 6, Baluze ed., p. 181.

Book I, ch. i.

At least in Italy and Germany.

Book I of fiefs, ch. i.

Ibid.