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therefore his lawful heir. Whatever we may think of this last distinction, essential, it must be confessed, to Edward's claim, it was considered of importance in the middle ages. It was the ground on which Bruce rested his pretension to the Scottish sceptre; and at Caspe, where the same question was agitated betore commissioners from the three kingdoms of Arragon, the principle maintained by Edward, was adopted in the disposal of the crown, by a majority of the delegates present on that occasion. Ferdinand of Castile was preferred to his competitors, because hc was the heir male nearest in blood to the proceding monarch. This trifling oversight of Mr Hallam is the more extraordinary, as the real ground of Edward's pretensions to the crown of France, had been stated with precision by Rapin and by Carte.
Mr Hallan's abridgement of the history of France, is an excellent preparation for the chapter that follows on the feudal system, one of the most valuable and instructive parts of his book. In his dissertation upon this subject, he traces the rise and progress of that singular form of polity, -explains its principles, -and distinguishes what was original and essential to the system, from that which was incidental and confined to particular times and countries. Its effects on society and government, he appretiates with sagacity and candour ; and explains, with great judgement and perspicuity, the causes that led to its establishment, and the changes that gradually undermined its principles, and finally subverted its institutions.
• It is the previous state of society,' he observes, ' under the grandchildren of Charlemagne, which we must always keep in mind, it we would appreciate the effects of the feudal system upon the wel. fare of mankind. The institutions of the eleventh century must be compared with those of the ninth, not with the advanced civilization of modern times. The state of anarchy, which we usually term feudal, was the natural result of a vast and barbarous empire, feebly administered, and the cause, rather than the effect of the general establishment of feudal tenures. These, by preserving the mutual relations of the whole, kept alive the feeling of a common country, and common duties; and settled, after the lapse of ages, into the free constitution of England, the firm monarchy of France, and the federal union of Germany.
· The utility of any form of policy may be estimated, by its effects upon national greatness and security, upon civil liberty and private rights, upon the tranquillity and order of society, upon the increase and diffusion of wealth, or upon the general tone of moral sentiment and energy. The feudal constitution was little adapted for the defence of a mighty kingdom, far less for schemes of conquest. But as it prevailed alike in several adjacent countries, none had any thing to VOL. XXX, No. 59.
fear from the military superiority of its neighbours. It was this inefficiency of the feudal militia, perhaps, that saved Europe, during the middle ages, from the danger of universal monarchy. In times, when princes had little notion of confederacies for mutual protection, it is hard to say what might not have been the successes of an Otho, a Frederic, or a Philip Augustus, if they could have wielded the whole force of their subjects, whenever their ambition required. If an empire equally extensive with that of Charlemagne, and supported by military despotism, had been formed about the twelfth or thirteenth centuries, the seeds of commerce and liberty, just then beginning to shoot, would have perished; and Europe, reduced to a bara barous servitude, might have fallen before the free barbarians of Tartary.
• If ive look at the feudal polity as a scheme of civil freedoin, it bears a noble countenance. To the feudal law it is owing, that the very names of right and privilege were not swept away, as in Asia, by the desolating hand of power. The tyranny, which, on every favourable moment, was breaking through all barriers, would have rioted without control, if, when the people were poor and disunited, the nobility had not been brave and free. So far as the sphere of feudality extended, it diffused the spirit of liberty, and the notions of private right. Every one will acknowledge this, who considers the limitations of the services of vassalage, so cautiously marked in those law books which are the records of customs; the reciprocity of obligation between the lord and his tenant; the consent required in every measure of a legislative or general nature; the security, above all, which every vassal found in the administration of justice by his peers, and even (we may in this sense say) in the trial by combat. The bulk of the people, it is true, were degraded by servitude; but this had no connexion with the feudal tenures.
· The peace and good order of society were not promoted by this system. Though private wars did not originate in the feudal customs, it is impossible to doubt that they were perpetuated by so convenient an institution, which indeed owed its universal establishment to no other cause. And, as predominant habits of warfare are totally irreconcileable with those of industry, not merely by the immediate works of destruction which render its efforts unavailing, but through that contempt of peaceful occupations which they produce, the feudal system must have been intrinsically adverse to the accumulation of wealth, and the improvement of those arts which mitigate the evils or abridge the labours of mankind.
• But, as a school of moral discipline, the feudal institutions were perhaps most to be valued. Society had sunk, for several centuries after the dissolution of the Roman empire, into a condition of utter depravity ; where, if any vices could be selected as more eminently characteristic than others, they were falsehood, treachery and ingratitude. In slowly purging off the lees of this extreme corruption, the feudal spirit exerted its ameliorating influence. Violation of faith
stood first in the catalogue of crimes, most repugnant to the very essence of a feudal tenure; most severely and promptly avenged; most branded by general infamy. The feudal law books breathe throughout a spirit of honourable obligation. The feudal course of jurisdiction promoted, what trial by peers is peculiarly calculated to promote, a keener feeling, as well as readier perception, of moral as well as of legal distinctions. In the reciprocal services of lord and vassal, there was ample scope for every magnanimous and disinterested energy. The heart of man, when placed in circumstances that have a tendency to excite them, will seldom be deficient in such sentiments. No occasions could be more favourable, than the protection of a faithful supporter, or the defence of a beneficent sovereign, against such powerful aggression, as left little prospect except of sharing in his ruin.
It is in France, chiefly, that Mr Hallam contemplates the feudal system and therefore, in describing its decay, he is naturally led to the consequences that ensued, in that kingdom, on its fall. He traces the gradual encroachments of the Crown, as the power of the nobility was reduced; its usurpation of the legislative authority, which had lain dormant for centuries; its assumption of the right of taxation, in opposition to the remonstrances of the States; its success in wresting from the Barons their territorial jurisdiction, and in placing the administration of justice in judges appointed by the king. He shows, in the course of this inquiry, that it was to the dissolution of all but the feudal government, at the accession of the third dynasty, and to the independence effected, and for many ages maintained by the feudal nobility, that the kings of France were indebted for the absolute authority which they at last acquired. When Hugh Capet usurped the throne, France was rather a collection of states, partially allied to each other, than a single monarchy. The kingdom was as a great fief, or rather as a bundle of fiets, and the king little more than one of a number of feudal nobles, differing rather in dignity than in power from soine of the rest.' The vassals of the Crown had the right of coining money, and of waging private war; they enjoyed exemption from all public tributes, except the feudal aids; were free from legislative control; and possessed the exclusive exercise of original jurisdiction in their dominions. • The king,' says St Lewis in his establishments, cannot make proclamation, that is, declare any new law, in the territory of a baron, without his consent, nor can the baron do so in that of a vavassor. If legislative power, therefore, be essential to sovereignty, we cannot, in strictness, assert the king of France to have been sovereign beyond the limits of his own domains.' Trusting to this exemption from all laws, but those to which they had given their express consent, the barons withheld their presence from the king's court, or attended on particular occasions only, when questions of great public importance were to be discussed. In this suspension of legislative authority, the necessity of new laws induced the kings of France to frame ordinances by advice of their council; and to these ordinances, when they became powerful, they gave the effect of laws, by means of the coercive authority acquired by their courts of justice. The supreme legislative power of the Crown was, in this manner, the natural result of the original independence of the nobility, and of their ill-judged confidence in the stability of their feudal privileges.' In these and other encroachments of prerogative, the king had the never-failing support of the lawyers and the clergy, who were disgusted with the violence of the nobles, and had found, in the civil and canon law, a system of political maxims very different from those of the feudal code. A new theory of absolute power and unconditional obedience was introduced;' and Frenchmen were taught, that all feudal privileges were encroachments on the imprescriptible rights of the monarchy.'
The States General were first assembled by Philip the Fair, for the purpose of obtaining money from his subjects. At no period, and in no instances did they possess a co-ordinate legislative authority with the Crown, or even a consenting voice. Mably, Boulainvilliers, and Montlosien are as decisive on this subject, as the most courtly writers of that country. It follows,' says Mr Hallam, that France never possessed a free constitution; nor had the monarchy any limitations in respect of enacting laws, save those which, until the reign of Philip the Fair, the feudal principles had imposed.' The sole privilege possessed by the States was, to grant money, and to regulate the collection of it. But, notwithstanding the narrow limits of their constitutional authority, they made various efforts to redress the grievances, and reform the government of the State. These attempts, however, though renewed at intervals, from the time of John to the reign of Charles VIII., were constantly defeated, either by the dissensions of the different orders, or by the disturbances and popular excesses to which they gave rise. The authority of the States, even in grants of money, was extremely limited. They were held to have no power of imposing taxes without the specific consent of their constituents. Whether it was the timidity of the deputies, or false notions of freedom, which produced this doctrine, it was evidently repugnant to the stability and dignity of a representative as.
sembly. Nor was it less ruinous in practice, than mistaken in theory. For as the necessary subsidies, after being provisionally granted by the States, were often rejected by their electors, the king found a reasonable pretence for dispensing with the concurrence of his subjects, when he levied contributions upon them.' In the fifteenth century, provincial assemblies, which were found to be more manageable than the States General, were substituted in their place for obtaining grants of money; and at length the formality of consent, whether by general or provincial States, ceased to be reckoned indispensable. Charles VII. levied money by his own authority. Lewis XI. carried this encroachment to the highest pitch of exaction. It was the boast of courtiers, that he first released the kings of France from dependence; or, in other words, that he effectually demolished those barriers, which, however imperfect and ill placed, had opposed some impediment to the establishment of despotism.'
After a long and unequal struggle to maintain their independence, the territorial courts of the Barons were brought under the authority of the royal tribunals. This change, in many respects beneficial to the people, was completed in the fourteenth century, by the establishment of the Parliament of Paris and other sovereign courts. But these tribunals, after contributing to the exaltation of the royal prerogative, attempted to set up barriers against the power they had created. It had become usual to promulgate in the Parliament of Paris, the royal edicts prepared in the Council, or to send them thither for registration. · This formality was deemed essential to render them authentic and notorious, and thus indirectly gave them the sanction and validity of law.' In the fifteenth century, the Parliament began to claim a right of judging the expediency of the edicts transmitted to it for registration; and this pretension, extraordinary and anomalous as it appears, it maintained to the period of the Revolution. Subsequent regulations rendered its members independent of the Court; and, from the spirit of resistance which they afterwards displayed, this body of lawyers · became, in later times, the sole depositary of public spirit, and attachment to justice, in France. Doubtless,' says Mr Hallam, 'the Parliament of Paris, with its prejudices and narrow views; its high notions of loyal obedience, so strangely mixed up with remonstrances and resistance; its anomalous privilege of object. ing to edicts, hardly approved by the nation who did not participate in it, and overturned with facility by the king, whenever he thought fit to exert the sinews of his prerogative, was indeed poorly substi. tuted for that coordinate sovereignty, that equal concurrence of nam