Montesquieu

The abbé Dubos goes rum­ma­ging in Justinian’s code for laws to prove that mili­tary bene­fi­ces among the Romans were sub­ject to tri­bu­tes, whence he conclu­des that the same was true for fiefs or bene­fi­ces among the Franks. But the opi­nion that our fiefs ori­gi­nate in that esta­blish­ment of the Romans is bani­shed today : it see­med per­sua­sive only back when we knew Roman his­tory, but our own very lit­tle, and when our ancient records were buried in dust.

The abbé Dubos is wrong to cite Cassiodorus and to use what was hap­pe­ning in Italy and in the part of Gaul sub­jec­ted to Theodoric to inform us what was being prac­ti­ced among the Franks : these are things that must not be confu­sed. I shall demons­trate some day, in a sepa­rate work, that the plan of the monar­chy of the Ostrogoths was enti­rely dif­fe­rent from the plan of all the ones that were foun­ded in those times by the other bar­ba­rian peo­ples ; and that, far from our being able to say what some­thing was prac­ti­ced by the Franks because it was by the Ostrogoths, we have on the contrary good cause for thin­king that some­thing that was prac­ti­ced by the Ostrogoths was not prac­ti­ced by the Franks.

What is har­dest for someone whose mind floats in vast eru­di­tion is to seek his evi­dence where it is not foreign to the sub­ject, and to find, to speak like the astro­no­mers, the posi­tion of the sun.