How the Codes of Barbarian Laws, and the Capitularies were lost

March 27, 2020

THE Salic, the Ripuarian, Burgundian, and Visigoth laws, gradually became disused among the French.

Fiefs became hereditary and arriere-fiefs extended. Many usages were introduced which made these laws obsolete. Disputes were still regulated by fines. But the value of money changed and so the fines were also changed.

France was divided into petty lordships, which acknowledged feudal dependence which made it very difficult for only one law to be authorised. Officers could no longer be sent into the provinces to inspect the administration of justice and political affairs. When new fiefs were established, our kings stopped sending those officers. Thus, almost everything became a fief and the common law stopped as no one could enforce it.

The Salic, Burgundian, and Visigoth laws, were therefore extremely neglected.

Under the first and second race, the nation was often assembled under the lords and bishops, but the commons were not yet thought on. In these assemblies, attempts were made to regulate the clergy, a body which formed itself under the conquerors, and established its privileges. The laws made in these assemblies we call the capitularies.

Hence, four things ensued=

  1. the feudal laws were established, and a great part of the church revenues was administered by those laws; The clergy affected a wider separation, and neglected those decrees of reformation, where they themselves were not the only reformers;

a collection was made of the canons of councils and of the decretals of popes; These the clergy received, as coming from a purer source. Ever since the erection of the grand fiefs, our kings, as we have already observed, had no longer any deputies in the provinces to enforce the observance of their laws;

Hence it is, that under the third race, we find no more mention made of capitularies.

SEVERAL capitularies were added to the law of the Lombards, as well as to the Salic and Bavarian laws.

The reason of this has been a matter of enquiry= but it must be sought for in the thing itself. There were several sorts of capitularies.

Some had relation to political government, others to œconomical, most of them to ecclesiastical polity, and some few to civil government.

Those of the last species were added to the civil law, that is, to the personal laws of each nation; for which reason it is said in the capitularies, that there is nothing stipulated therein contrary to the Roman law.

In effect, those capitularies regarding œconomical, ecclesiastical, or political government, had no relation to that law; and those concerning civil government had reference only to the laws of the barbarous people, which were explained, amended, enlarged, or abridged.

But the adding of these capitularies to the personal laws, occasioned, the neglect of the very body of the capitulaties themselves= in times of ignorance, the abridgement of a work often causes the loss of the work itself.


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