Montesquieu
 

XXXI.27 Changes that occurred in high offices and in the fiefs

It see­med that eve­ry­thing took on a par­ti­cu­lar vice and became cor­rupt at the same time. I have said that in the ear­liest times seve­ral fiefs were alie­na­ted in per­pe­tuity, but these were indi­vi­dual cases, and the fiefs in gene­ral still pre­ser­ved their own nature ; and if the crown had lost fiefs, it had sub­sti­tu­ted others. I have fur­ther sta­ted that the crown had never alie­na­ted high offi­ces in per­pe­tuity.1

But Charles the Bald made a gene­ral sta­tute that affec­ted high offi­ces and fiefs equally : he esta­bli­shed in his capi­tu­la­ries that coun­ties2 would be given to the count’s chil­dren, and would have this rule also to apply to fiefs.

We shall see pre­sently that this sta­tute recei­ved a grea­ter exten­sion, such that the high offi­ces and fiefs pas­sed on to more dis­tant rela­ti­ves. From this it fol­lo­wed that most lords, who were imme­diate depen­dents of the king, would hen­ce­forth be only mediate depen­dents of the king. These counts, who used to dis­pense jus­tice in the king’s appe­late courts, these counts who led free men into war, stood bet­ween the king and his free men, and the autho­rity was again remo­ved by one degree.

Furthermore, it seems from the capi­tu­la­ries that the counts had bene­fi­ces atta­ched to their coun­ties, and vas­sals under them.3 When the coun­ties were here­di­tary, these vas­sals of the count were no lon­ger imme­diate vas­sals of the king ; the bene­fi­ces atta­ched to the coun­ties were no lon­ger bene­fi­ces from the king ; the counts became more power­ful, because the vas­sals they already had put them in a posi­tion to obtain others.

To rea­lize fully the wea­ke­ning that resul­ted from this at the end of the second dynasty, one has only to look at what hap­pe­ned at the begin­ning of the third, when the mul­ti­pli­ca­tion of sub-fiefs cau­sed the great vas­sals to des­pair.

It was a cus­tom of the realm that when the eldest had given sha­res to their youn­ger siblings, those siblings paid a homage for them to the eldest, so that the domi­nant lord now held them only as a sub-fief.4 Philip Augustus, the duke of Burgundy, the counts of Nevers, Boulogne, St. Paul, Dampierre, and other lords, decla­red that hen­ce­forth, whe­ther the fief were divi­ded by suc­ces­sion or other­wise, the whole would always remain under the same lord without any inter­me­diate lord.5 This ordi­nance was not gene­rally fol­lo­wed ; for as I have said elsew­here, it was impos­si­ble in those times to make gene­ral ordi­nan­ces ; but seve­ral of our cus­toms confor­med to it.

Some writers have said that the county of Toulouse had been given by Charles Martel, and came down from heir to heir until the last Raymond : but if that is so, it was the effect of some circumstances that could persuade the choice of the counts of Toulouse among the children of the last possessor.

See his capitulary of the year 877, tit. 53, art. 9–10 apud Carisiacum ; this capitulary relates to another of the same year and place, art. 3.

Capitulary III of the year 812, art. 7, and the one of the year 815, art. 6 on the Spanish ; Recueil des Capitulaires, book V, art. 288, and capitulary of the year 869, art. 2, and that of the year 877, art. 13, Baluze ed.

As appears in Othon de Frissingue, Gestes de Frederic, book II, ch. xxix.

See the ordinance of Philip Augustus, year 1209, in the new collection.