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legislation: he exterminated, or expelled, the former occupiers of lands, in order to distribute their possessions among his followers; and established the feudal system of government, as better adapted to his situation, and indeed the only one of which he possessed a competent idea.
This sort of government prevailed also in almost all the other parts of Europe. But, instead of being established by dint of arms, and all at once, as in England, it had only been established on the continent, and particularly in France, through a long series of slow successive events :-a difference of circumstances this, from which consequences were in time to arise, as important as they were at first difficult to be foreseen.
The German nations who passed the Rhine to conquer Gaul were in a great degree independent; their princes had no other title to their power but their own valour and the free election of the people; and as the latter had acquired in their forests but contracted notions of sovereign authority, they followed a chief less in quality of subjects, than as companions in conquest.
Besides, this conquest was not the irruption of a foreign army, which only takes possession of fortified towns; it was the general invasion of a whole people in search of new habitations; and as the number of the conquerors bore a great proportion
purpose, if the reader shall be pleased to grant that a material change was, at the time of the conquest, effected in the government then existing, and is accordingly disposed to admit the proofs that will presently be laid before him, of such change having prepared the establishment of the present English constitution.
to that of the conquered, who were at the same time enervated by long peace, the expedition was no sooner completed than all danger was at an end, and of course their union also. After dividing among themselves what lands they thought proper to occupy, they separated; and though their tenure was at first only precarious, yet, in this particular, they depended not on the king, but on the general assembly of the nation.*
Under the kings of the first race, the fiefs, by the mutual connivance of the leaders, at first became annual; afterwards, held for life. Under the descendants of Charlemagne, they became hereditary.† And when at length Hugh Capet effected his own election, to the prejudice of Charles of Lorrain, intending to render the crown, which in fact was a fief, hereditary in his own family, he established the hereditariship of fiefs as a general principle; and from this epoch authors date the complete establishment of the feudal system in France.
On the other hand, the lords who gave their suffrages to Hugh Capet forgot not the interest of their own ambition. They completed the breach of
The fiefs were originally called "terræ jure beneficii concessæ ;" and it was not till under Charles le Gros that the term fief began to be in use.-See Beneficium, Gloss. Du Cange.
† Apud Francos vero, sensim pedetentimque, jure hæreditario ad hæredes subinde transierunt feuda; quod labente sæculo nono incepit.-See Feudum, Du Cange.
Hotoman has proved beyond a doubt, in his "FrancoGallia," that, under the two first races of kings, the crown of France was elective. The princes of the reigning family had nothing more in their favour than the custom of choosing one of that house.
those feeble ties which subjected them to the royal authority, and became everywhere independent. They left the king no jurisdiction, either over themselves or their vassals; they reserved the right of waging war with each other; they even assumed the same privilege, in certain cases, with regard to the king himself; * so that if Hugh Capet, by rendering the crown hereditary, laid the foundation of the greatness of his family, and of the crown itself, yet he added little to his own authority, and acquired scarcely any thing more than a nominal superiority over the number of sovereigns who then swarmed in France.t
But the establishment of the feudal system in England was an immediate and sudden consequence of that conquest which introduced it. Besides, this conquest was made by a prince who kept the greater part of his army in his own pay, and who was
The principal of these cases was, when the king refused to appoint judges to decide a difference between himself and one of his first barons; the latter had then a right to take up arms against the king; and the subordinate vassals were so dependent on their immediate lords, that they were obliged to follow them against the lord paramount. St. Louis, though the power of the crown was in his time much increased, was obliged to confirm both this privilege of the first barons, and this obligation of their vassals.
"The grandees of the kingdom," says Mezeray, "thought that Hugh Capet ought to put up with all their insults, because they had placed the crown on his head: nay, so great was their licentiousness, that, on his writing to Audebert, viscount of Perigueux, ordering him to raise the siege he had laid to Tours, and asking him, by way of reproach, who had made him a viscount? that nobleman haughtily answered, Not you, but those who made you a king.' [Ce n'est pas vous, mais ceux qui vous ont fait roi.]"
placed at the head of a people over whom he was an hereditary sovereign-circumstances which gave a totally different turn to the government of that kingdom.
Surrounded by a warlike, though a conquered nation, William kept on foot part of his army. The English, and after them the Normans themselves, having revolted, he crushed both; and the new king of England, at the head of victorious troops, having to do with two nations lying under a reciprocal check from the enmity they bore to each other, and, moreover, equally subdued by a sense of their unfortunate attempts of resistance, found him-' self in the most favourable circumstances for becoming an absolute monarch; and his laws, thus promulgated in the midst, as it were, of thunder and lightning, imposed the yoke of despotism both on the victors and the vanquished.
He divided England into sixty thousand two hundred and fifteen military fiefs, all held of the crown; the possessors of which were, on pain of forfeiture, to take up arms, and repair to his standard on the first signal: he subjected not only the common people, but even the barons, to all the rigours of the feudal government: he even imposed on them his tyrannical forest laws.*
• He reserved to himself an exclusive privilege of killing game throughout England, and enacted the severest penalties on all who should attempt it without his permission. The suppression, or rather mitigation, of these penalties, was one of the articles of the "Charta de Foresta," which the barons afterwards obtained by force of arms. "Nullus de cætero amittat vitam, vel membra, pro venatione nostrâ."-Ch. de Forest. art. 10.
He assumed the prerogative of imposing taxes. He invested himself with the whole executive power of government. But what was of the greatest consequence, he arrogated to himself the most extensive judicial power, by the establishment of the court which was called Aula Regis-a formidable tribunal, which received appeals from all the courts of the barons, and decided, in the last resort, on the estates, honour, and lives of the barons themselves; and which, being wholly composed of the great officers of the crown, removeable at the king's pleasure, and having the king himself for president, kept the first noblemen in the kingdom under the same control as the meanest subject.
Thus, while the kingdom of France, in consequence of the slow and gradual formation of the feudal government, found itself, in the issue, composed of a number of parts simply placed by each other, and without any reciprocal adherence, the kingdom of England, on the contrary, from the şudden and violent introduction of the same system, became a compound of parts united by the strongest ties; and the regal authority, by the pressure of its immense weight, consolidated the whole into one compact indissoluble body.
To this difference in the original constitution of France and England, that is, in the original power of their kings, we are to attribute the difference, so little analogous to its original cause, of their present constitutions. This furnishes the solution of a problem which, I must confess, for a long time perplexed me, and explains the reason why, of two neighbouring nations, situated almost under the same climate, and having one common origin,