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Manners, Custom and Dress During the Middle Ages and During the Renaissance Period by Paul Lacroix

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of Anjou, Burgundy, and Berry, under pretext of requiring money for war
expenses, again increased the taxes from the year 1385 to 1388; and the
salt tax was raised to forty golden francs, about 24,000 francs of present
money, per hogshead. The ecclesiastics paid a half decime to the King, and
several decimes to the Pope, but these did not prevent a forced loan being
ordered. Happily, Charles VI. about this period attained his majority, and
assumed his position as king; and his uncle, the Duke of Bourbon, who was
called to the direction of affairs, re-established comparative order in
financial matters; but soon after the King's brother, the Duke of Orleans,
seized the reins of government, and, jointly with his sister-in-law,
Isabel of Bavaria, increased the taxation far beyond that imposed by the
Duke d'Anjou. The Duke of Burgundy, called John the Fearless, in order to
gratify his personal hatred to his cousin, Louis of Orleans, made himself
the instrument of the strong popular feeling by assassinating that prince
as he was returning from an entertainment. The tragical death of the Duke
of Orleans no more alleviated the ills of France than did that of the Duke
of Burgundy sixteen years later--for he in his turn was the victim of a
conspiracy, and was assassinated on the bridge of Montereau in the
presence of the Dauphin (Fig. 283). The marriage of Isabel of France with
the young king Richard of England, the ransom of the Christian prisoners
in the East, the money required by the Emperor of Constantinople to stop
the invasions of the Turks into Europe, the pay of the French army, which
was now permanent, each necessarily required fresh subsidies, and money
had to be raised in some way or other from the French people. Distress was
at its height, and though the people were groaning under oppression, they
continued to pay not only the increased taxes on provisions and
merchandise, and an additional general tax, but to submit to the most
outrageous confiscations and robbery of the public money from the public
treasuries. The State Assemblies held at Auxerre and Paris in 1412 and
1413, denounced the extravagance and maladministration of the treasurers,
the generals, the excisemen, the receivers of royal dues, and of all those
who took part in the direction of the finances; though they nevertheless
voted the taxes, and promulgated most severe regulations with respect to
their collection. To meet emergencies, which were now becoming chronic,
extraordinary taxes were established, the non-payment of which involved
the immediate imprisonment of the defaulter; and the debasement of the
coinage, and the alienation of certain parts of the kingdom, were
authorised in the name of the King, who had been insane for more than
fifteen years. The incessant revolts of the bourgeois, the reappearance of
the English on the soil of France, the ambitious rivalry of Queen Isabel
of Bavaria leagued with the Duke of Burgundy against the Dauphin, who had
been made regent, at last, in 1420, brought about the humiliating treaty
of Troyes, by which Henry V., king of England, was to become king of
France on the death of Charles VI.

This treaty of Troyes became the cause of, and the pretext for, a vast
amount of extortion being practised upon the unfortunate inhabitants of
the conquered country. Henry V., who had already made several exactions
from Normandy before he had obtained by force the throne of France, did
not spare the other provinces, and, whilst proclaiming his good intentions
towards his future subjects, he added a new general impost, in the shape
of a forced loan, to the taxes which already weighed so heavily on the
people. He also issued a new coinage, maintained many of the taxes,
especially those on salt and on liquors, even after he had announced his
intention of abolishing them.

At the same time the Dauphin Charles, surnamed _Roi de Bourges_, because
he had retired with his court and retinue into the centre of the kingdom
(1422), was sadly in want of money. He alienated the State revenues, he
levied excise duties and subsidies in the provinces which remained
faithful to his cause, and he borrowed largely from those members of the
Church and the nobility who manifested a generous pity for the sad destiny
of the King and the monarchy. Many persons, however, instead of
sacrificing themselves for their king and country, made conditions with
him, taking advantage of his position. The heir to the throne was obliged
in many points to give way, either to a noble whose services he bargained
for, or to a town or an abbey whose aid he sought. At times he bought over
influential bodies, such as universities and other corporation, by
granting exemptions from, or privileges in, matters of taxation, &c. So
much was this the case that it may be said that Charles VII. treated by
private contract for the recovery of the inheritances of his fathers. The
towns of Paris and Rouen, as well as the provinces of Brittany, Languedoc,
Normandy, and Guyenne, only returned to their allegiance to the King on
conditions more or less advantageous to themselves. Burgundy, Picardy, and
Flanders--which were removed from the kingdom of Charles VII. at the
treaty of peace of Arras in 1435--cordially adopted the financial system
inaugurated by the Duke of Burgundy, Philip the Good.

[Illustration: Fig. 284.--The House of Jacques Coeur at Bourges, now
converted into the Hotel de Ville.]

Charles VII. reconquered his kingdom by a good and wise policy as much as
by arms. He, doubtless, had cause to be thankful for the valeur and
devotion of his officers, but he principally owed the success of his cause
to one man, namely, his treasurer, the famous Jacques Coeur, who possessed
the faculty of always supplying money to his master, and at the same time
of enriching himself (Fig. 284). Thus it was that Charles VII., whose
finances had been restored by the genius of Jacques Coeur, was at last
able to re-enter his capital triumphantly, to emancipate Guyenne,
Normandy, and the banks of the Loire from the English yoke, to reattach to
the crown a portion of its former possessions, or to open the way for
their early return, to remove bold usurpers from high places in the State,
and to bring about a real alleviation of those evils which his subjects
had so courageously borne. He suppressed the fraud and extortion carried
on under the name of justice, put a stop to the sale of offices, abolished
a number of rates illegally levied, required that the receivers' accounts
should be sent in biennially, and whilst regulating the taxation, he
devoted its proceeds entirely to the maintenance and pay of the army. From
that time taxation, once feudal and arbitrary, became a fixed royal due,
which was the surest means of preventing the pillage and the excesses of
the soldiery to which the country people had been subjected for many
years. Important triumphs of freedom were thus obtained over the
tyrannical supremacy of the great vassals; but in the midst of all this
improvement we cannot but regret that the assessors, who, from the time of
their creation by St. Louis, had been elected by the towns or the
corporations, now became the nominees of the crown.

[Illustration: Fig. 285.--_Amende honorable_ of Jacques Coeur before
Charles VII.--Fac-simile of a Miniature of the "Chroniques" of Monstrelet,
Manuscript of the Fifteenth Century, in the National Library of Paris.]

Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy, taxed his subjects but little:
"Therefore," says Philippe de Commines, "they became very wealthy, and
lived in much comfort." But Louis XI did not imitate him. His first care
was to reinstate that great merchant, that clever financier, Jacques
Coeur, to whom, as much as to Joan of Arc, the kingdom owed its freedom,
and whom Charles VII., for the most contemptible reasons, had had the
weakness to allow to be judicially condemned Louis XI. would have been
very glad to entrust the care of his finances to another Jacques Coeur;
for being sadly in want of money, he ran through his father's earnings,
and, to refill his coffers, he increased taxation, imposed a duty on the
importation of wines, and levied a tax on those holding offices, &c. A
revolution broke out in consequence, which was only quenched in the blood
of the insurgents. In this manner he continued, by force of arms, to
increase and strengthen his own regal power at the expense of feudalism.

He soon found himself opposed by the _Ligue du Bien Public_, formed by the
great vassals ostensibly to get rid of the pecuniary burden which
oppressed the people, but really with the secret intention of restoring
feudalism and lessening the King's power. He was not powerful enough
openly to resist this, and appeared to give way by allowing the leagued
nobles immense privileges, and himself consenting to the control of a sort
of council of "thirty-six notables appointed to superintend matters of
finance." Far from acknowledging himself vanquished, however, he
immediately set to work to cause division among his enemies, so as to be
able to overcome them. He accordingly showed favour towards the bourgeois,
whom he had already flattered, by granting new privileges, and abolishing
or reducing certain vexatious taxes of which they complained. The
thirty-six notables appointed to control his financial management reformed
nothing. They were timid and docile under the cunning eye of the King, and
practically assisted him in his designs; for in a very few years the taxes
were increased from 1,800,000 ecus--about 45,000,000 francs of present
money--to 3,600,000 ecus--about 95,000,000 francs. Towards the end of the
reign they exceeded 4,700,000 ecus--130,000,000 francs of present money.
Louis XI. wasted nothing on luxury and pleasure; he lived parsimoniously,
but he maintained 110,000 men under arms, and was ready to make the
greatest sacrifices whenever there was a necessity for augmenting the
territory of the kingdom, or for establishing national unity. At his
death, on the 25th of August, 1483, he left a kingdom considerably
increased in area, but financialty almost ruined.

When Anne de Beaujeu, eldest sister of the King, who was a minor, assumed
the reins of government as regent, an immediate demand was made for
reparation of the evils to which the finance ministers had subjected the
unfortunate people. The treasurer-general Olivier le Dain, and the
attorney-general Jean Doyat, were almost immediately sacrificed to popular
resentment, six thousand Swiss were subsidised, the pensions granted
during the previous reign were cancelled, and a fourth part of the taxes
was removed. Public opinion being thus satisfied, the States-General
assembled. The bourgeois here showed great practical good sense,
especially in matters of finance; they proved clearly that the assessment
was illegal, and that the accounts were fictitious, inasmuch as the latter
only showed 1,650,000 livres of subsidies, whereas they amounted to three
times as much. It was satisfactorily established that the excise, the salt
tax, and the revenues of the public lands amply sufficed for the wants of
the country and the crown. The young King Charles was only allowed
1,200,000 livres for his private purse for two years, and 300,000 livres
for the expenses of the festivities of his coronation. On the Assembly
being dissolved, the Queen Regent found ample means of pleasing the
bourgeois and the people generally by breaking through the engagements she
had entered into in the King's name, by remitting taxation, and finally by
force of arms destroying the power of the last remaining vassals of the

[Illustration: Fig. 286.--The Mint.--Fac-simile of a Woodcut in the
Translation of the Latin Work of Francis Patricius, "De l'Institution et
Administration de la Chose Politique:" folio, 1520.]

[Illustration: Fig. 287.--The receiver of Taxes.--Fac-simile of a Woodcut
in Damhoudere's "Praxis Rerum Civilium."]

Charles VIII., during a reign of fourteen years, continued to waste the
public money. His disastrous expedition for the conquest of the kingdom of
Naples forced him to borrow at the rate of forty-two per cent. A short
time previous to his death he acknowledged his errors, but continued to
spend money, without consideration or restraint, in all kinds of
extravagances, but especially in buildings. During his reign the annual
expenditure almost invariably doubled the revenue. In 1492 it reached
7,300,000 francs, about 244,000,000 francs of present money. The deficit
was made up each year by a general tax, "which was paid neither by the
nobles nor the Church, but was obtained entirely from the people" (letters
from the ambassadors of Venice).

When the Duke of Orleans ascended the throne as Louis XII., the people
were again treated with some consideration. Having chosen George d'Amboise
as premier and Florimond Robertet as first secretary of the treasury, he
resolutely pursued a course of strict economy; he refused to demand of his
subjects the usual tax for celebrating the joyous accession, the taxes
fell by successive reductions to the sum of 2,600,000 livres, about
76,000,000 francs of present money, the salt tax was entirely abolished,
and the question as to what should be the standard measure of this
important article was legislated upon. The tax-gatherers were forced to
reside in their respective districts, and to submit their registers to the
royal commissioners before beginning to collect the tax. By strict
discipline pillage by soldiers was put a stop to (Fig. 288).

Notwithstanding the resources obtained by the King through mortgaging a
part of the royal domains, and in spite of the excellent administration of
Robertet, who almost always managed to pay the public deficit without any
additional tax, it was necessary in 1513, after several disastrous
expeditions to Italy, to borrow, on the security of the royal domains,
400,000 livres, 10,000,000 francs of present money, and to raise from the
excise and from other dues and taxes the sum of 3,300,000 livres, about
80,000,000 francs of present money. This caused the nation some distress,
but it was only temporary, and was not much felt, for commerce, both
domestic and foreign, much extended at the same time, and the sale of
collectorships, of titles of nobility, of places in parliament, and of
nominations to numerous judicial offices, brought in considerable sums to
the treasury. The higher classes surnamed the king _Le Roitelet_, because
he was sickly and of small stature, parsimonious and economical. The
people called him their "father and master," and he has always been styled
the father of the people ever since.

[Illustration: Fig. 288.--A Village pillaged by Soldiers.--Fac-simile of a
Woodcut in Hamelmann's "Oldenburgisches Chronicon." in folio, 1599.]

In an administrative and financial point of view, the reign of Francis I.
was not at all a period of revival or of progress. The commencement of a
sounder System of finance is rather to be dated from that of Charles V.;
and good financial organization is associated with the names of Jacques
Coeur, Philip the Good, Charles XI., and Florimond Robertet. As an example
of this, it may be stated that financiers of that time established taxes
on registration of all kinds, also on stamps, and on sales, which did not
before exist in France, and which were borrowed from the Roman emperors.
We must also give them the credit of having first commenced a public debt,
under the name of _rentes perpetuelles_, which at that time realised
eight per cent. During this brilliant and yet disastrous reign the
additional taxes were enormous, and the sale of offices produced such a
large revenue that the post of parliamentary counsel realised the sum of
2,000 golden ecus, or nearly a million francs of present currency. It was
necessary to obtain money at any price, and from any one who would lend
it. The ecclesiastics, the nobility, the bourgeois, all gave up their
plate and their jewels to furnish the mint, which continued to coin money
of every description, and, in consequence of the discovery of America, and
the working of the gold and silver mines in that country, the precious
metals poured into the hands of the money-changers. The country, however,
was none the more prosperous, and the people often were in want of even
the commonest necessaries of life. The King and the court swallowed up
everything, and consumed all the resources of the country on their luxury
and their wars. The towns, the monasteries, and the corporations, were
bound to furnish a certain number of troops, either infantry or cavalry.
By the establishment of a lottery and a bank of deposit, by the monopoly
of the mines and by the taxes on imports, exports, and manufactured
articles, enormous sums were realised to the treasury, which, as it was
being continually drained, required to be as continually replenished.
Francis I. exhausted every source of credit by his luxury, his caprices,
and his wars. Jean de Beaune, Baron de Semblancay, the old minister of
finance, died a victim to false accusations of having misappropriated the
public funds. Robertet, who was in office with him, and William Bochetel,
who succeeded him, were more fortunate: they so managed the treasury
business that, without meeting with any legal difficulty, they were
enabled to centralise the responsibility in themselves instead of having
it distributed over sixteen branches in all parts of the kingdom, a system
which has continued to our day. In those days the office of superintendent
of finance was usually only a short and rapid road to the gibbet of

[Illustrations: Gold and Silver Coins of the Fifteenth and Sixteenth

Fig. 289.--Royal d'Or. Charles VII
Fig. 290.--Ecu d'Argent a la Couronne. Louis XI.
Fig. 291.--Ecu d'Or a la Couronne. Charles VIII.
Fig. 292.--Ecu d'Or au Porc-epic. Louis XII.
Fig. 293.--Teston d'Argent. Francis I.
Fig. 294.--Teston d'Argent au Croissant. Henry II.

[Illustration: Fig. 295.--Silver Franc. Henry IV.]

Law and the Administration of Justice.

The Family the Origin of Government.--Origin of Supreme Power amongst
the Franks.--The Legislation of Barbarism humanised by
Christianity.--Right of Justice inherent to the Bight of Property.--The
Laws under Charlemagne.--Judicial Forms.--Witnesses.--Duels, &c.--
Organization of Royal Justice under St. Louis.--The Chatelet and the
Provost of Paris.--Jurisdiction of Parliament, its Duties and its
Responsibilities.--The Bailiwicks. Struggles between Parliament and the
Chatelet.--Codification of the Customs and Usages.--Official
Cupidity.--Comparison between the Parliament and the Chatelet.

Amongst the ancient Celtic and German population, before any Greek or
Roman innovations had become engrafted on to their customs, everything,
even political power as well as the rightful possession of lands, appears
to have been dependent on families. Julius Caesar, in his "Commentaries,"
tells us that "each year the magistrates and princes assigned portions of
land to families as well as to associations of individuals having a common
object whenever they thought proper, and to any extent they chose, though
in the following year the same authorities compelled them to go and
establish themselves elsewhere." We again find families (_familiae_) and
associations of men (_cognationes hominum_) spoken of by Caesar, in the
barbaric laws, and referred to in the histories of the Middle Ages under
the names of _genealogiae, faramanni, farae_, &c.; but the extent of the
relationship (_parentela_) included under the general appellation of
_families_ varied amongst the Franks, Lombards, Visigoths, and Bavarians.
Generally, amongst all the people of German origin, the relationship only
extended to the seventh degree; amongst the Celts it was determined merely
by a common ancestry, with endless subdivisions of the tribe into distinct
families. Amongst the Germans, from whom modern Europe has its origin, we
find only three primary groups; namely, first, the family proper,
comprising the father, mother, and children, and the collateral relatives
of all degrees; secondly, the vassals (_ministeriales_) or servants of the
free class; and, thirdly, the servants (_mansionarii, coloni, liti,
servi_) of the servile class attached to the family proper (Fig. 296).

Domestic authority was represented by the _mund_, or head of the family,
also called _rex_ (the king), who exercised a special power over the
persons and goods of his dependents, a guardianship, in fact, with certain
rights and prerogatives, and a sort of civil and political responsibility
attached to it. Thus the head of the family, who was responsible for his
wife and for those of his children who lived with him, was also
responsible for his slaves and domestic animals. To such a pitch did these
primitive people carry their desire that justice should be done in all
cases of infringement of the law, that the head was held legally
responsible for any injury which might be done by the bow or the sword of
any of his dependents, without it being necessary that he should himself
have handled either of these weapons.

Long before the commencement of the Merovingian era, the family, whose
sphere of action had at first been an isolated and individual one, became
incorporated into one great national association, which held official
meetings at stated periods on the _Malberg_ (Parliament hill). These
assemblies alone possessed supreme power in its full signification. The
titles given to certain chiefs of _rex_ (king), _dux_ (duke), _graff_
(count), _brenn_ (general of the army), only defined the subdivisions of
that power, and were applied, the last exclusively, to those engaged in
war, and the others to those possessing judicial and administrative
functions. The duty of dispensing justice was specially assigned to the
counts, who had to ascertain the cause of quarrels between parties and to
inflict penalties. There was a count in each district and in each
important town; there were, besides, several counts attached to the
sovereign, under the title of counts of the palace (_comites palatii_), an
honourable position, which was much sought after and much coveted on
account of its pecuniary and other contingent advantages. The counts of
the palace deliberated with the sovereign on all matters and all questions
of State, and at the same time they were his companions in hunting,
feasting, and religious exercises; they acted as arbitrators in questions
of inheritance of the crown; during the minority of princes they exercised
the same authority as that which the constitution gave to sovereigns who
were of full age; they confirmed the nominations of the principal
functionaries and even those of the bishops; they gave their advice on the
occasion of a proposed alliance between one nation and another, on matters
connected with treaties of peace or of commerce, on military expeditions,
or on exchanges of territory, as well as in reference to the marriage of a
prince, and they incurred no responsibility beyond that naturally attached
to persons in so distinguished a position among a semi-barbarous
community. At first the legates (_legati_), and afterwards the King's
ambassadors (_missi dominici_), the bishops and the dukes or commanders of
the army were usually selected from the higher court officials, such as
the counts of the palace, whereas the _ministeriales_, forming the second
class of the royal officials, filled inferior though very honourable and
lucrative posts of an administrative and magisterial character.

[Illustration: Fig. 296.--The Familles and the Barbarians.--Fac-simile of
a Woodcut in the "Cosmographie Universelle" of Munster: in folio, Basle,

Under the Merovingians the legal principle of power was closely bound up
with the possession of landed property. The subdivision of that power,
however, closely followed this union, and the constant ruin of some of the
nobles rapidly increased the power of others, who absorbed to themselves
the lost authority of their more unfortunate brethren, so much so that the
Frank kings perceived that society would soon escape their rule unless
they speedily found a remedy for this state of things. It was then that
the _lois Salique_ and _Ripuaire_ appeared, which were subjected to
successive revisions and gradual or sudden modifications, necessitated by
political changes or by the increasing exigencies of the prelates and
nobles. But, far from lessening the supremacy of the King, the national
customs which were collected in a code extended the limits of the royal
authority and facilitated its exercise.

In 596, Childebert, in concert with his _leudes_, decided that in future
the crime of rape should be punished with death, and that the judge of the
district (_pagus_) in which it had been committed should kill the
ravisher, and leave his body on the public road. He also enacted that the
homicide should have the same fate. "It is just," to quote the words of
the law, "that he who knows how to kill should learn how to die." Robbery,
attested by seven witnesses, also involved capital punishment, and a judge
convicted of having let a noble escape, underwent the same punishment that
would have been inflicted on the criminal. The punishment, however,
differed according to the station of the delinquent. Thus, for the
non-observance of Sunday, a Salian paid a fine of fifteen sols, a Roman
seven and a half sols, a slave three sols, or "his back paid the penalty
for him." At this early period some important changes in the barbaric code
had been made: the sentence of death when once given had to be carried
out, and no arrangements between the interested parties could avert it. A
crime could no longer be condoned by the payment of money; robbery even,
which was still leniently regarded at that time, and beyond the Rhine even
honoured, was pitilessly punished by death. We therefore cannot have more
striking testimony than this of the abridgment of the privileges of the
Frankish aristocracy, and of the progress which the sovereign power was
making towards absolute and uncontrolled authority over cases of life and
death. By almost imperceptible steps Roman legislation became more humane
and perfect, Christianity engrafted itself into barbarism, licentiousness
was considered a crime, crime became an offence against the King and
society, and it was in one sense by the King's hand that the criminals
received punishment.

From the time of the baptism of Clovis, the Church had much to do with the
re-arrangement of the penal code; for instance, marriage with a
sister-in-law, a mother-in-law, an aunt, or a niece, was forbidden; the
travelling shows, nocturnal dances, public orgies, formerly permitted at
feasts, were forbidden as being profane. In the time of Clotaire, the
prelates sat as members of the supreme council, which was strictly
speaking the highest court of the land, having the power of reversing the
decisions of the judges of the lower courts. It pronounced sentence in
conjunction with the King, and from these decisions there was no appeal.
The nation had no longer a voice in the election of the magistrates, for
the assemblies of _Malberg_ did not meet except on extraordinary
occasions, and all government and judicial business was removed to the
supreme and often capricious arbitration of the King and his council.

As long as the mayors of the palace of Austrasia, and of that of Burgundy,
were only temporarily appointed, royal authority never wavered, and the
sovereign remained supreme judge over his subjects. Suddenly, however,
after the execution of Brunehaut, who was sacrificed to the hatred of the
feudal lords, the mayoralty of the palace became a life appointment, and,
in consequence, the person holding the office became possessed almost of
supreme power, and the rightful sovereigns from that time practically
became subject to the authority of the future usurpers of the crown. The
edict of 615, to which the ecclesiastical and State nobility were parties,
was in its laws and customs completely at variance with former edicts. In
resuming their places in the French constitution, the Merovingian kings,
who had been deprived both of influence and authority, were compelled by
the Germanic institutions to return to the passive position which their
predecessors had held in the forests of Germany, but they no longer had,
like the latter, the prestige of military authority to enable them to keep
the position of judges or arbitrators. The canons of the Council of Paris,
which were confirmed by an edict of the King bearing date the 15th of the
calends of November, 615, upset the political and legal system so firmly
established in Europe since the fifth century. The royal power was shorn
of some of its most valuable prerogatives, one of which was that of
selecting the bishops; lay judges were forbidden to bring an ecclesiastic
before the tribunals; and the treasury was prohibited from seizing
intestate estates, with a view to increasing the rates and taxes; and it
was decreed that Jews should not be employed in collecting the public
taxes. By these canons the judges and other officers of State were made
responsible, the benefices which had been withdrawn from the _leudes_ were
restored, the King was forbidden from granting written orders (_praecepta_)
for carrying off rich widows, young virgins, and nuns; and the penalty of
death was ordered to be enforced against those who disobeyed the canons of
the council. Thence sprung two new species of legislation, one
ecclesiastical, the other civil, between which royalty, more and more
curtailed of its authority, was compelled for many centuries to struggle.

Amongst the Germanic nations the right of justice was inherent to landed
property from the earliest times, and this right had reference to things
as well as to persons. It was the patronage (_patrocinium_) of the
proprietor, and this patronage eventually gave origin to feudal
jurisdictions and to lordly and customary rights in each domain. We may
infer from this that under the two first dynasties laws were made by
individuals, and that each lord, so to speak, made his own.

The right of jurisdiction seems to have been so inherent to the right of
property, that a landed proprietor could always put an end to feuds and
personal quarrels, could temporarily bring any lawsuit to a close, and, by
issuing his _ban_, stop the course of the law in his own immediate
neighbourhood--at least, within a given circumference of his residence.
This was often done during any family festival, or any civil or religious
public ceremony. On these occasions, whoever infringed the _ban_ of the
master, was liable to be brought before his _court_, and to have to pay a
fine. The lord who was too poor to create a court of sufficient power and
importance obtained assistance from his lord paramount or relinquished the
right of justice to him; whence originated the saying, "The fief is one
thing, and justice another."

The law of the Visigoths speaks of nobles holding local courts, similar to
those of the official judge, count, or bishop. King Dagobert required the
public and the private judges to act together. In the law of Lombardy
landlords are mentioned who, in virtue of the double title of nobles and
judges, assumed the right of protecting fugitive slaves taking shelter in
their domains. By an article of the Salie law, the noble is made to answer
for his vassal before the court of the count. We must hence conclude that
the landlord's judgment was exercised indiscriminately on the serfs, the
colons, and the vassals, and a statute of 855 places under his authority
even the freemen who resided with other persons.

From these various sources we discover a curious fact, which has hitherto
remained unnoticed by historians--namely, that there existed an
intermediate legislation between the official court of the count and his
subordinates and the private courts, which was a kind of court of
arbitration exercised by the neighbours (_vicini_) without the assistance
of the judges of the county, and this was invested with a sort of
authority which rendered its decisions binding.

[Illustration: Fig. 297.--The Emperor Charlemagne holding in one hand the
Globe and in the other the Sword.--After a Miniature in the Registers of
the University of Paris (Archives of the Minister of Public Instruction of
the University). The Motto, _In scelus exurgo, sceleris discrimina purgo,
_ is written on a Scroll round the Sword.]

Private courts, however, were limited in their power. They were neither
absolutely independent, nor supreme and without appeal. All conducted
their business much in the same way as the high, middle, and lower courts
of the Middle Ages; and above all these authorities towered the King's
jurisdiction. The usurpation of ecclesiastical bishops and abbots--who,
having become temporal lords, assumed a domestic jurisdiction--was
curtailed by the authority of the counts, and they were even more obliged
to give way before that of the _missi dominici_, or the official delegates
of the monarch. Charles the Bald, notwithstanding his enormous concessions
to feudalism and to the Church, never gave up his right of final appeal.

During the whole of the Merovingian epoch, the _mahl_ (_mallus_), the
general and regular assembly of the nation, was held in the month of
March. Persons of every class met there clad in armour; political,
commercial, and judicial interests were discussed under the presidency of
the monarch; but this did not prevent other special assemblies of the
King's court (_curia regalis_) being held on urgent occasions. This court
formed a parliament (_parlamentum_), which at first was exclusively
military, but from the time of Clovis was composed of Franks, Burgundians,
Gallo-Romans, as well as of feudal lords and ecclesiastics. As, by
degrees, the feudal System became organized, the convocation of national
assemblies became more necessary, and the administration of justice more
complicated. Charlemagne decided that two _mahls_ should be held annually,
one in the month of May, the other in the autumn, and, in addition, that
in each county two annual _plaids_ should meet independently of any
special _mahls_ and _plaids_ which it should please him to convoke. In
788, the emperor found it necessary to call three general _plaids_, and,
besides these, he was pleased to summon his great vassals, both clerical
and lay, to the four principal feasts of the year. It may be asserted that
the idea of royalty being the central authority in matters of common law
dates from the reign of Charlemagne (Fig. 297).

The authority of royalty based on law took such deep root from that time
forth, that it maintained itself erect, notwithstanding the weakness of
the successors of the great Charles, and the repeated infractions of it by
the Church and the great vassals of the crown (Fig. 298).

[Illustration: Fig. 298.--Carlovingian King in his Palace personifying
Wisdom appealing to the whole Human Race.--After a Miniature in a
Manuscript of the Ninth Century in the Burgundian Library of Brussels,
from a Drawing by Count Horace de Vielcastel.]

The authoritative and responsible action of a tribunal which represented
society (Fig. 299) thus took the place of the unchecked animosity of
private feuds and family quarrels, which were often avenged by the use of
the gibbet, a monument to be found erected at almost every corner. Not
unfrequently, in those early times, the unchecked passions of a chief of a
party would be the only reason for inflicting a penalty; often such a
person would constitute himself sole judge, and, without the advice of any
one, he would pass sentence, and even, with his own sword or any other
available instrument, he would act as his own executioner. The tribunal
thus formed denounced duelling, the pitiless warfare between man and man,
and between family and family, and its first care was to protect, not each
individual man's life, which was impossible in those days of blind
barbarism, but at least his dwelling. Imperceptibly, the sanctuary of a
man's house extended, first to towns of refuge, and then to certain public
places, such as the church, the _mahlum_, or place of national assemblies,
the market, the tavern, &c. It was next required that the accused, whether
guilty or not, should remain unharmed from the time of the crime being
committed until the day on which judgment was passed.

[Illustration: Fig. 299.--The Court of the Nobles.--Fac-simile of a
Miniature in an old Poetical Romance of Chivalry, Manuscript of the
Thirteenth Century, in the Library of the Arsenal of Paris.]

This right of revenge, besides being thus circumscribed as to locality,
was also subject to certain rules as to time. Sunday and the principal
feasts of the year, such as Advent, Christmas week, and from that time to
the Epiphany, from the Ascension to the Day of Pentecost, certain vigils,
&c., were all occasions upon which the right of revenge could not be
exercised. "The power of the King," says a clever and learned writer,
"partook to a certain degree of that of God and of the Saints; it was his
province to calm human passions; by the moral power of his seal and his
hand he extended peace over all the great lines of communication, through
the forests, along the principal rivers, the highways and the byways, &c.
The _Treve du Dieu_ in 1035, was the logical application of these humane

We must not suppose that justice in those days was dispensed without
formalities, and that there were no regular intervals between the various
steps to be gone through before final judgment was given, and in
consequence of which some guarantee was afforded that the decisions
arrived at were carefully considered. No one was tried without having been
previously summoned to appear before the tribunal. Under the
Carlovingians, as in previous times, the periods when judicial courts were
held were regulated by the moon. Preference was given to the day on which
it entered the first quarter, or during the full moon; the summonses were
returnable by moons or quarter moons--that is, every seventh day. The
summons was issued four times, after which, if the accused did not appear,
he lost the right of counterplea, or was nonsuited. The Salic law allowed
but two summonses before a count, which had to be issued at an interval of
forty nights the one from the other. The third, which summoned the accused
before the King, was issued fourteen nights later, and if he had not put
in an appearance before sunset on the fourteenth day, he was placed _hors
de sa parole_, his goods were confiscated, and he forfeited the privilege
of any kind of refuge.

Among the Visigoths justice was equally absolute from the count to the
tithe-gatherer. Each magistrate had his tribunal and his special
jurisdiction. These judges called to their assistance assessors or
colleagues, either _rachimbourgs_, who were selected from freemen; or
provosts, or _echevins_ (_scabini_), whose appointment was of an official
and permanent character. The scabins created by Charlemagne were the first
elected magistrates. They numbered seven for each bench. They alone
prepared the cases and arranged as to the sentence. The count or his
delegate alone presided at the tribunal, and pronounced the judgment.
Every vassal enjoyed the right of appeal to the sovereign, who, with his
court, alone decided the quarrels between ecclesiastics and nobles, and
between private individuals who were specially under the royal protection.
Criminal business was specially referred to the sovereign, the _missi_, or
the Count Palatine. Final appeal lay with the Count Palatine in all cases
in which the public peace was endangered, such as in revolts or in armed

As early as the time of the invasion, the Franks, Bavarians, and
Visigoths, when investigating cases, began by an inquiry, and, previously
to having recourse to trials before a judge, they examined witnesses on
oath. Then, he who swore to the matter was believed, and acquitted
accordingly. This system was no doubt flattering to human veracity, but,
unfortunately, it gave rise to abuses; which it was thought would be
avoided by calling the family and friends of the accused to take an oath,
and it was then administered by requiring them to place their hands on the
crucifix, on some relics, or on the consecrated Host. These witnesses, who
were called _conjuratores_, came to attest before the judges not the fact
itself, but the veracity of the person who invoked their testimony.

[Illustration: Fig. 300.--The Judicial Duel. The Plaintiff opening his
Case before the Judge.--Fac-simile of a Miniature in the "Ceremonies des
Gages des Batailles," Manuscript of the Fifteenth Century in the National
Library of Paris.]

The number and respectability of the _conjuratores_ varied according to
the importance of the case in dispute. Gregory of Tours relates, that King
Gontran being suspicious as to the legitimacy of the child who afterwards
became Clotaire II., his mother, Fredegonde, called in the impartial
testimony of certain nobles. These, to the number of three hundred, with
three bishops at their head (_tribus episcopis et trecentis viris
optimis_), swore, or, as we say, made an affidavit, and the queen was
declared innocent.

The laws of the Burgundians and of the Anglians were more severe than
those of the Germanic race, for they granted to the disputants trial by
combat. After having employed the ordeal of red-hot iron, and of scalding
water, the Franks adopted the judicial duel (Fig. 300). This was imposed
first upon the disputing parties, then on the witnesses, and sometimes
even on the judges themselves. Dating from the reign of the Emperor Otho
the Great in 967, the judicial duel, which had been at first restricted to
the most serious cases, was had recourse to in almost all suits that were
brought before the courts. Neither women, old men, children, nor infirm
persons were exempted. When a person could not himself fight he had to
provide a champion, whose sole business was to take in hand the quarrels
of others.

[Illustration: Fig. 301.--Judicial Duel.--Combat of a Knight with a
Dog.--Fac-simile of a Miniature in the Romance of "Macaire," of the
Thirteenth Century (Library of the Arsenal of Paris).]

Ecclesiastics were obliged, in the same maimer, to fight by deputy. The
champion or substitute required, of course, to be paid beforehand. If the
legend of the Dog of Montargis is to be believed, the judicial duel seems
to have been resorted to even against an animal (Fig. 301).

In the twelfth century Europe was divided, so to speak, into two vast
judicial zones: the one, Southern, Gallo-Roman, and Visigoth; the other,
Northern and Western, half Germanic and half Scandinavian, Anglian, or
Saxon. Christianity established common ties between these different
legislations, and imperceptibly softened their native coarseness, although
they retained the elements of their pagan and barbaric origin. Sentences
were not as yet given in writing: they were entrusted to the memory of the
judges who had issued them; and when a question or dispute arose between
the interested parties as to the terms of the decision which had been
pronounced, an inquiry was held, and the court issued a second decision,
called a _recordatum_.

As long as the King's court was a movable one, the King carried about with
him the original text of the law in rolls (_rotuli_). It was in
consequence of the seizure of a number of these by the English, during the
reign of Philip Augustus in 1194, that the idea was suggested of
preserving the text of all the laws as state archives, and of opening
authentic registers of decisions in civil and criminal cases. As early as
the time of Charles the Bald, the inconvenience was felt of the high court
of the count being movable from place to place, and having no special
locality where instructions might be given as to modes of procedure, for
the hearing of witnesses, and for keeping the accused in custody, &c. A
former statute provided for this probable difficulty, but there seems to
be no proof that previous to the twelfth century any fixed courts of
justice had been established. The Kings, and likewise the counts, held
courts in the open air at the entrance to the palace (Fig. 302), or in
some other public place--under a large tree, for instance, as St. Louis
did in the wood of Vincennes.

M. Desmaze, in his valuable researches on the history of the Parliament of
Paris, says--"In 1191, Philip Augustus, before starting for Palestine,
established bailiwicks, which held their assizes once a month; during
their sitting they heard all those who had complaints to make, and gave
summary judgment. The bailiff's assize was held at stated periods from
time to time, and at a fixed place; it was composed of five judges, the
King deciding the number and quality of the persons who were to take part
in the deliberations of the court for each session. The royal court only
sat when it pleased the King to order it; it accompanied the King wherever
he went, so that it had no settled place of residence."

Louis IX. ordered that the courts of the nobles should be consolidated
with the King's court, and succeeded in carrying out this reform. The
bailiffs who were the direct delegates of the sovereign power, assumed an
authority before which even the feudal lord was obliged to bend, because
this authority was supported by the people, who were at that time
organized in corporations, and these corporations were again bound
together in communes. Under the bailiffs a system was developed, the
principles of which more nearly resembled the Roman legislation than the
right of custom, which it nevertheless respected, and the judicial trial
by duel completely disappeared. Inquiries and appeals were much resorted
to in all kinds of proceedings, and Louis IX. succeeded in controlling the
power of ecclesiastical courts, which had been much abused in reference to
excommunication. He also suppressed the arbitrary and ruinous
confiscations which the nobles had unjustly made on their vassals.

[Illustration: Fig. 302.--The Palace as it was in the Sixteenth
Century.--After an Engraving of that Period, National Library of Paris
(Cabinet des Estampes).]

The edict of 1276 very clearly established the jurisdiction of parliaments
and bailiwicks; it defined the important duties of the bailiffs, and at
the same time specified the mode in which proceedings should be taken; it
also regulated the duties of counsel, _maitres des requetes_, auditors,
and advocates.

To the bailiwicks already in existence Louis IX. added the four great
assizes of Vermandois, of Sens, of Saint-Pierre-le-Moustier, and of Macon,
"to act as courts of final appeal from the judgment of the nobles."
Philippe le Bel went still further, for, in 1287, he invited "all those
who possess temporal authority in the kingdom of France to appoint, for
the purpose of exercising civil jurisdiction, a bailiff, a provost, and
some serjeants, who were to be laymen, and not ecclesiastics, and if there
should be ecclesiastics in the said offices, to remove them." He ordered,
besides, that all those who had cases pending before the court of the King
and the secular judges of the kingdom should be furnished with lay
attorneys; though the chapters, as well as the abbeys and convents, were
allowed to be represented by canons. M. Desmaze adds, "This really
amounted to excluding ecclesiastics from judicial offices, not only from
the courts of the King, but also from those of the nobles, and from every
place in which any temporal jurisdiction existed."

At the time of his accession, Hugh Capet was Count of Paris, and as such
was invested with judicial powers, which he resigned in 987, on the
understanding that his county of Paris, after the decease of the male
heirs of his brother Eudes, should return to the crown. In 1032, a new
magistrate was created, called the Provost of Paris, whose duty it was to
give assistance to the bourgeois in arresting persons for debt. This
functionary combined in his own person the financial and political chief
of the capital, he was also the head of the nobility of the county, he was
independent of the governor, and was placed above the bailiffs and
seneschals. He was the senior of the urban magistracy and police, leader
of the municipal troops, and, in a word, the prefect (_praefectus urbis_),
as he was called under the Emperor Aurelian, or the first magistrate of
Lutetia, as he was still called under Clotaire in 663. Assessors were
associated with the provost, and together they formed a tribunal, which
was afterwards known as the Chatelet (Fig. 303), because they assembled in
that fortress, the building of which is attributed to Julius Caesar. The
functions of this tribunal did not differ much from those of the royal
_chatellenies:_ its jurisdiction embraced quarrels between individuals,
assaults, revolts, disputes between the universities and the students, and
improper conduct generally (_ribaudailles_), in consequence of which the
provost acquired the popular surname of _Roi des Ribauds_. At first his
judgment was final, but very soon those under his jurisdiction were
allowed to appeal to Parliament, and that court was obliged to have
certain cases sent back for judgment from the Chatelet. This was, however,
done only in a few very important instances, notwithstanding frequent
appeals being made to its supreme arbitration.

[Illustration: Fig. 303.--The Great Chatelet of Paris.--Principal Front
opposite the Pont-au-Change.--Fac-simile of an Engraving on Copper by
Merian, in the "Topographia Galliae" of Zeller.]

In addition to the courts of the counts and bailiffs established in
certain of the large towns, aldermanic or magisterial courts existed,
which rather resembled the Chatelet of Paris. Thus the _capiloulat_ of
Toulouse, the senior alderman of Metz, and the burgomaster of Strasburg
and Brussels, possessed in each of these towns a tribunal, which judged
without appeal, and united the several functions of a civil, criminal, and
simple police court. Several places in the north of France had provosts
who held courts whose duties were various, but who were principally
charged with the maintenance of public order, and with suppressing
disputes and conflicts arising from the privileges granted to the trade
corporations, whose importance, especially in Flanders, had much increased
since the twelfth century.

"On his return from abroad, Louis IX. took his seat upon the bench, and
administered justice, by the side of the good provost of Paris." This
provost was no other than the learned Estienne Boileau, out of respect to
whom the provostship was declared a _charge de magistrature_. The increase
of business which fell to the provost's office, especially after the
boundaries of Paris were extended by Philip Augustus, caused him to be
released from the duty of collecting the public taxes. He was authorised
to furnish himself with competent assistants, who were employed with
matters of minor detail, and he was allowed the assistance of _juges
auditeurs_. "We order that they shall be eight in number," says an edict
of Philippe le Bel, of February, 1324, "four of them being ecclesiastics
and four laymen, and that they shall assemble at the Chatelet two days in
the week, to take into consideration the suits and causes in concert with
our provost...." In 1343, the provost's court was composed of one King's
attorney, one civil commissioner, two King's counsel, eight councillors,
and one criminal commissioner, whose sittings took place daily at the

From the year 1340 this tribunal had to adjudicate in reference to all the
affairs of the university, and from the 6th of October, 1380, to all those
of the salt-fish market, which were no less numerous, so that its
importance increased considerably. Unfortunately, numerous abuses were
introduced into this municipal jurisdiction. In 1313 and 1320, the
officers of the Chatelet were suspended, on account of the extortions
which they were guilty of, and the King ordered an inquiry to be made into
the matter. The provost and two councillors of the Parliament sat upon it,
and Philip de Valois, adopting its decisions, prescribed fresh statutes,
which were naturally framed in such a way as to show the distrust in which
the Chatelet was then held. To these the officers of the Chatelet promised
on oath to submit. The ignorance and immorality of the lay officers, who
had been substituted for the clerical, caused much disturbance. Parliament
authorised two of its principal members to examine the officers of the
Chatelet. Twenty years later, on the receipt of fresh complaints,
Parliament decided that three qualified councillors, chosen from its own
body, should proceed with the King's attorney to the Chatelet, so as to
reform the abuses and informalities of that court.

[Illustration: Fig. 304.--The King's Court, or Grand Council.--Fac-simile
of a Miniature in the "Chroniques" of Froissart, Manuscript of the
Fifteenth Century (formerly in the possession of Charles V), in the
Library of the Arsenal, Paris.]

In the time of Philippe le Bel there existed in reality but one
Parliament, and that was the _King's Court_. Its action was at once
political, administrative, financial, and judicial, and was necessarily,
therefore, of a most complicated character. Philippe le Bel made it
exclusively a judicial court, defined the territorial limit of its power,
and gave it as a judicial body privileges tending to strengthen its
independence and to raise its dignity. He assigned political functions to
the Great Council (_Conseil d'Etat_); financial matters to the chamber of
accounts; and the hearing of cases of heresy, wills, legacies, and dowries
to the prelates. But in opposition to the wise edict of 1295, he
determined that Jews should be excluded from Parliament, and prelates from
the palace of justice; by which latter proceeding he was depriving justice
of the abilities of the most worthy representatives of the Gallican
Church. But Philippe le Bel and his successors, while incessantly
quarrelling either with the aristocracy or with the clergy, wanted the
great judicial bodies which issued the edicts, and the urban or municipal
magistrates--which, being subject to re-election, were principally
recruited from among the bourgeois--to be a common centre of opposition to
any attempt at usurpation of power, whether on the part of the Church, the
nobility, or the crown.

The Great Days of Troyes (_dies magni Trecenses_), the assizes of the
ancient counts of Champagne, and the exchequer of Normandy, were also
organized by Philipe le Bel; and, further, he authorised the maintenance
of a Parliament at Toulouse, a court which he solemnly opened in person on
the 10th of January, 1302. In times of war the Parliament of Paris sat
once a year, in times of peace twice. There were, according to
circumstances, during the year two, three, or four sittings of the
exchequer of Normandy, and two of the Great Days of Troyes, tribunals
which were annexed to the Parliament of Paris, and generally presided over
by one of its delegates, and sometimes even by the supreme head of that
high court. At the King's council (Fig. 304) it was decided whether a case
should be reserved for the Parliament of Paris, or passed on either to the
exchequer or to the Great Days of Troyes.

As that advanced reformer, Philippe le Bel, died before the institutions
he had established had taken root, for many years, even down to the time
of Louis XI., a continual conflict for supremacy was waged between the
Parliament of Paris and the various courts of the kingdom--between the
counts and the Parliament, and between the latter and the King, which,
without lessening the dignity of the crown, gradually tended to increase
the influence which the judges possessed. Immediately on the accession of
Louis le Hutin, in 1314, a reaction commenced--the higher clergy
re-entered Parliament; but Philippe le Long took care that the laity
should be in a majority, and did not allow that in his council of State
the titled councillors should be more numerous than the lawyers. The
latter succeeded in completely carrying the day on account of the services
they rendered, and the influence which their knowledge of the laws of the
country gave them. As for centuries the sword had ruled the gown, so,
since the emancipation of the bourgeois, the lawyers had become masters of
the administrative and judicial world; and, notwithstanding the fact that
they were still kept in a somewhat inferior position to the peers and
barons, their opinion alone predominated, and their decision frequently at
once settled the most important questions.

An edict issued at Val Notre-Dame on the 11th of March, 1344, increased
the number of members of Parliament, which from that time consisted of
three presidents, fifteen clerical councillors, fifteen lay councillors,
twenty-four clergymen and sixteen laymen of the Court of Inquiry, and five
clergymen and sixteen laymen of the Court of Petitions. The King filled up
the vacant seats on the recommendation of the Chancellor and of the
Parliament. The reporters were enjoined to write the decisions and
sentences which were given by the court "in large letters, and far apart,
so that they might be more easily read." The duties of police in the
courts, the keeping of the doors, and the internal arrangements generally
for those attending the courts and the Parliament, were entrusted to the
ushers, "who divided among themselves the gratuities which were given them
by virtue of their office." Before an advocate was admitted to plead he
was required to take oath and to be inscribed on the register.

The Parliament as then established was somewhat similar in its character
to that of the old national representative government under the Germans
and Franks. For centuries it protected the King against the undue
interference of the spiritual power, it defended the people against
despotism, but it often lacked independence and political wisdom, and it
was not always remarkable for its correct appreciation of men and things.
This tribunal, although supreme over all public affairs, sometimes wavered
before the threats of a minister or of a court favourite, succumbed to the
influence of intrigues, and adapted itself to the prejudices of the times.
We see it, in moments of error and of blindness, both condemning eminent
statesmen and leading citizens, such as Jacques Coeur and Robertet, and
handing over to the executioner distinguished men of learning and science
in advance of the times in which they lived, because they were falsely
accused of witchcraft, and also doing the same towards unfortunate
maniacs who fancied they had dealings with the devil.

[Illustration: Fig. 305.--Trial of the Constable de Bourbon before the
Peers of France (1523).--From an Engraving in "La Monarchie Francoise" of

In the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries all the members of Parliament
formed part of the council of State, which was divided into the Smaller
Council and the Greater Council. The Greater Council only assembled in
cases of urgency and for extraordinary and very important purposes, the
Smaller Council assembled every month, and its decisions were registered.
From this arose the custom of making a similar registration in Parliament,
confirming the decisions after they had been formally arrived at. The most
ancient edict placed on the register of the Parliament of Paris dates from
the year 1334, and is of a very important character. It concerns a
question of royal authority, and decides that in spiritual matters the
right of supremacy does not belong more to the Pope than to the King.
Consequently Philippe de Valois ordered "his friends and vassals who shall
attend the next Parliament and the keepers of the accounts, that for the
perpetual record of so memorable a decision, it shall be registered in the
Chambers of Parliament and kept for reference in the Treasury of the
Charters." From that time "cases of complaint and other matters relating
to benefices have no longer been discussed before the ecclesiastical
judges, but before Parliament or some other secular court."

During the captivity of King John in England, royal authority having
considerably declined, the powers of Parliament and other bodies of the
magistracy so increased, that under Charles VI. the Parliament of Paris
was bold enough to assert that a royal edict should not become law until
it had been registered in Parliament. This bold and certainly novel
proceeding the kings nevertheless did not altogether oppose, as they
foresaw that the time would come when it might afford them the means of
repudiating a treaty extorted from them under difficult circumstances
(Fig. 306).

The close connection which existed between the various Parliaments and
their political functions--for they had occasion incessantly to interfere
between the acts of the government and the respective pretensions of the
provinces or of the three orders--naturally increased the importance of
this supreme magistracy. More than once the kings had cause to repent
having rendered it so powerful, and this was the case especially with the
Parliament of Paris. In this difficulty it is interesting to note how the
kings acted. They imperceptibly curtailed the various powers of the other
courts of justice, they circumscribed the power of the Parliament of
Paris, and proportionately enlarged the jurisdiction of the great
bailiwicks, as also that of the Chatelet. The provost of Paris was an
auxiliary as well as a support to the royal power, which nevertheless held
him in its grasp. The Chatelet was also a centre of action and of
strength, which counteracted in certain cases parliamentary opposition.
Thence arose the most implacable rivalries and dissensions between these
various parties.

[Illustration: Fig. 306.--Promulgation of an Edict.--Fac-simile of a
Miniature in "Anciennetes des Juifs," (French Translation from Josephus),
Manuscript of the Fifteenth Century, executed for the Duke of Burgundy
(Library of the Arsenal of Paris.)]

It is curious to notice with what ingenuity and how readily Parliament
took advantage of the most trifling circumstances or of charges based upon
the very slightest grounds to summon the officers of the Chatelet before
its bar on suspicion of prevarication or of outrages against religion,
morals, or the laws. Often were these officers and the provost himself
summoned to appear and make _amende honourable_ before the assembly,
notwithstanding which they retained their offices. More than once an
officer of the Chatelet was condemned to death and executed, but the King
always annulled that part of the sentence which had reference to the
confiscation of the goods of the condemned, thus proving that in reality
the condemnation had been unjust, although for grave reasons the royal
authority had been unable to save the victim from the avenging power of
Parliament. Hugues Aubriot, the provost, was thus condemned to
imprisonment for life on the most trivial grounds, and he would have
undergone capital punishment if Charles V. had abandoned him at the time
of his trial. During the English occupation, in the disastrous reign of
Charles VI., the Chatelet of Paris, which took part with the people, gave
proof of extraordinary energy and of great force of character. The blood
of many of its members was shed on the scaffold, and this circumstance
must ever remain a reproach to the judges and to those who executed their
cruel sentences, and a lasting crown of glory to the martyrs themselves.

An edict of King John, issued after his return from London in 1363, a
short time before his death, clearly defined the duties of Parliament.
They were to try cases which concerned peers of France, and such prelates,
chapters, barons, corporations, and councils as had the privilege of
appealing to the supreme court; and to hear cases relating to estates, and
appeals from the provost of Paris, the bailiffs, seneschals, and other
judges (Fig. 307). It disregarded minor matters, but took cognizance of
all judicial debates which concerned religion, the King, or the State. We
must remark here that advocates were only allowed to speak twice in the
same cause, and that they were subjected to fine, or at least to
remonstrance, if they were tedious or indulged in needless repetition in
their replies, and especially if they did not keep carefully to the facts
of the case. After pleading they were permitted to give a summary in
writing of "the principal points of importance as well as their clients'
grounds of defence." Charles V. confirmed these orders and regulations
with respect to advocates, and added others which were no less important,
among which we find a provision for giving "legal assistance to poor and
destitute persons who go to law." These regulations of Charles also
limited the time in which officers of justice were to get through their
business under a certain penalty; they also proclaimed that the King
should no longer hear minor causes, and that, whatever might be the rules
of the court, they forbad the presidents from deferring their judgment or
from retarding the regular course of justice. Charles VI., before he
became insane, contributed no less than his father to the establishment on
a better footing of the supreme court of the kingdom, as well as that of
the Chatelet and the bailiwicks.

[Illustration: Fig. 307.--Bailiwick.--Fac-simile of a Woodcut in the
"Cosmographie Universelle" of Munster: in folio, Basle, 1552.]

In the fifteenth century, the Parliament of Paris was so organized as not
to require material change till 1789. There were noble, clerical, and lay
councillors, honorary members, and _maitres de requete_, only four of whom
sat; a first president, who was supreme head of the Parliament, a master
of the great chamber of pleas, and three presidents of the chamber, all of
whom were nominated for life. There were fifteen masters (_maistres_) or
clerical councillors, and fifteen who were laymen, and these were annually
approved by the King on the opening of the session. An attorney-general,
several advocates-general, and deputies, who formed a committee or
college, constituted the active part of this court, round which were
grouped consulting advocates (_consiliarii_), pleading advocates
(_proponentes_), advocates who were mere listeners (_audientes_), ushers
and serjeants, whose chief, on his appointment, became a member of the

The official costume of the first president resembled that of the ancient
barons and knights. He wore a scarlet gown lined with ermine, and a black
silk cap ornamented with tassels. In winter he wore a scarlet mantle lined
with ermine over his gown, on which his crest was worked on a shield. This
mantle was fastened to the left shoulder by three gold cords, in order to
leave the sword-side free, because the ancient knights and barons always
sat in court wearing their swords. Amongst the archives of the mayoralty
of London, we find in the "account of the entry of Henry V., King of
England, into Paris" (on the 1st of December, 1420), that "the first
president was in royal dress (_estoit en habit roial_), the first usher
preceding him, and wearing a fur cap; the church dignitaries wore blue
robes and hoods, and all the others in the procession scarlet robes and
hoods." This imposing dress, in perfect harmony with the dignity of the
office of those who wore them, degenerated towards the fifteenth century.
So much was this the case, that an order of Francis I. forbad the judges
from wearing pink "slashed hose" or other "rakish garments."

In the early times of monarchy, the judicial functions were performed
gratuitously; but it was the custom to give presents to the judges,
consisting of sweetmeats, spices, sugar-plums, and preserves, until at a
subsequent period, 1498, when, as the judges "preferred money to
sweetmeats," says the Chancellor Etienne Pasquier, the money value of the
spices, &c., was fixed by law and made compulsory. In the bills of
expenses preserved among the national archives, we find that the first
president of the Parliament of Paris received a thousand _livres parisis_
annually, representing upwards of one hundred thousand francs at the
present rate of money; the three presidents of the chamber five hundred
livres, equal to fifty thousand francs; and the other nobles of the said
Parliament five _sols parisis_, or six sols three deniers--about
twenty-five francs--per day for the days only on which they sat. They
received, besides, two mantles annually. The prelates, princes, and barons
who were chosen by the King received no salaries--_ils ne prennent nuls
guaiges_ (law of 27th January, 1367). The seneschals and high bailiffs,
like the presidents of the chambers, received five hundred livres--fifty
thousand francs. They and the bailiffs of inferior rank were expressly
forbidden from receiving money or fees from the parties in any suit, but
they were allowed to accept on one day refreshment and bottles of wine.
The salaries were paid monthly; but this was not always done regularly;
sometimes the King was to blame for this, and sometimes it was owing to
the ill-nature of the chiefs of finance, or of the receivers and payers.
When the blame rested with the King, the Parliament humbly remonstrated or
closed the court. When, on the contrary, an officer of finance did not pay
the salaries, Parliament sent him the bailiff's usher, and put him under
certain penalties until he had done so. The question of salaries was
frequently arising. On the 9th of February, 1369, "the court having been
requested to serve without any remuneration for one Parliament, on the
understanding that the King would make up for it another time, the nobles
of the court replied, after private deliberation, that they were ready to
do the King's pleasure, but could not do so properly without receiving
their salaries" (Register of the Parliament of Paris).

At the commencement of the fifteenth century, the scale of remuneration
was not increased. In 1411 it was raised for the whole Parliament to
twenty-five thousand livres, which, calculated according to the present
rate, amounted to nearly a million francs. In consequence of financial
difficulties and the general distress, the unpleasant question in
reference to claims for payment of salaries was renewed, with threats that
the course of justice would be interrupted if they were not paid or not
promised. On the 2nd of October, 1419, two councillors and one usher were
sent to the house of one of the chiefs of finance, with orders to demand
payment of the salaries of the court. In October, 1430, the government
owed the magistrates two years of arrears. After useless appeals to the
Regent, and to the Bishop of Therouanne, the then Chancellor of France,
the Parliament sent two of its members to the King at Rouen, who obtained,
after much difficulty, "one month's pay, on the understanding that the
Parliament should hold its sittings in the month of April." In the month
of July, 1431, there was another deputation to the King, "in order to lay
before him the necessities of the court, and that it had for some time
been prorogued, and was still prorogued, on account of the non-payment of
salaries." After two months of repeated remonstrance, the deputies only
bringing back promises, the court assumed a menacing aspect; and on the
11th of January, 1437, it pointed out to the chancellor the evil which
would arise if Parliament ceased to hold its sittings; and this time the
chancellor announced that the salaries would be paid, though six months
passed without any resuit or any practical step being taken in the matter.
This state of affairs grew worse until the year 1443, when the King was
obliged to plead with the Parliament in the character of an insolvent
debtor, and, in order to obtain remission of part of his debt to the
members, to guarantee to them a part of the salt duties.

Charles VII, after having reconquered his states, hastened to restore
order. He first occupied himself with the System of justice, the
Parliament, the Chatelet, and the bailiwicks; and in April, 1453, in
concert with the princes, the prelates, the council of State, the judges,
and others in authority, he framed a general law, in one hundred and
twenty-five articles, which was considered as the great charter of
Parliament (Fig. 308). According to the terms of these articles, "the
councillors are to sit after dinner, to get through the minor causes.
Prisoners are to be examined without delay, and to hold no communication
with any one, unless by special permission. The cases are to be carefully
gone through in their proper order; for courts are instructed to do
justice as promptly for the poor as for the rich, as it is a greater
hardship for the poor to be kept waiting than the rich." The fees of
attorneys were taxed and reduced in amount. Those of advocates were
reduced "to such moderation and fairness, that there should be no cause
for complaint." The judgments by commissary were forbidden. The bailiffs
and seneschals were directed to reside within their districts. The
councillors were ordered to abstain from all communication with the
parties in private, and consultations between themselves were to be held
in secret. The judgments given in lawsuits were inscribed in a register,
and submitted every two months to the presidents, who, if necessary,
called the reporters to account for any neglect of duty. The reporter was
ordered to draw attention to any point of difficulty arising in a suit,
and the execution of sentences or judgments was entrusted to the ushers of
the court.

In 1454 the King, in consequence of a difficulty in paying the regular
instalments of the usual salaries of the Parliament, created "after-dinner
fees" (_des gages d'apres dinees_) of five sols parisis--more than ten
francs of our money--per day, payable to those councillors who should hold
a second hearing. Matters did not improve much, however; nothing seemed to
proceed satisfactorily, and members of Parliament, deprived of their
salaries, were compelled to contract a loan, in order to commence
proceedings against the treasury for the non-payment of the amount due to
them. In 1493, the annual salaries of Parliament were raised to the sum of
40,630 livres, equal to about 1,100,000 francs.

[Illustration: Fig. 308.--Supreme Court, presided over by the King, who is
in the act of issuing a Decree which is being registered by the
Usher.--Fac-simile of a Miniature in Camareu of the "Information des
Rois," Manuscript of the Fifteenth Century, in the Library of the Arsenal
of Paris.]

The first president received 4 livres, 22 solis parisis--about 140
francs--per day; a clerical councillor 25 sols parisis--about 40
francs--and a lay councillor 20 sols--about 32 francs. This was an
increase of a fifth on the preceding year. Charles VIII., in thus
improving the remuneration of the members of the first court of the
kingdom, reminded them of their duties, which had been too long neglected;
he told them "that of all the cardinal virtues justice was the most noble
and most important;" and he pointed out to them the line of conduct they
were to pursue. The councillors were to be present daily in their
respective chambers, from St. Martin's day to Easter, before seven o'clock
in the morning; and from Easter to the closing of Parliament, immediately
after six o'clock, without intermission, under penalty of punishment.
Strict silence was enforced upon them during the debates; and they were
forbidden to occupy themselves with anything which did not concern the
case under discussion. Amidst a mass of other points upon which directions
are given, we notice the following: the necessity of keeping secret the
matters in course of deliberation; the prohibition to councillors from
receiving, either directly or indirectly, anything in the shape of a
douceur from the parties in any suit; and the forbidding all attorneys
from receiving any bribe or claiming more than the actual expenses of a
journey and other just charges.

The great charter of the Parliament, promulgated in April, 1453, was thus
amended, confirmed, and completed, by this code of Charles VIII., with a
wisdom which cannot be too highly extolled.

The magistrature of the supreme courts had been less favoured during the
preceding reign. Louis XI., that cautious and crafty reformer, after
having forbidden ecclesiastical judges to examine cases referring to the
revenues of vacant benefices, remodelled the secular courts, but he
ruthlessly destroyed anything which offended him personally. For this
reason, as he himself said, he limited the power of the Parliaments of
Paris and Toulouse, by establishing, to their prejudice, several other
courts of justice, and by favouring the Chatelet, where he was sure always
to find those who would act with him against the aristocracy. The
Parliament would not give way willingly, nor without the most determined
opposition. It was obliged, however, at last to succumb, and to pass
certain edicts which were most repugnant to it. On the death of Louis XI.,
however, it took its revenge, and called those who had been his favourites
and principal agents to answer a criminal charge, for no other reason than
that they had exposed themselves to the resentment of the supreme court.

The Chatelet, in its judicial functions, was inferior to the Parliament,
nevertheless it acquired, through its provost, who represented the
bourgeois of Paris, considerable importance in the eyes of the supreme
court. In fact, for two centuries the provost held the privilege of ruling
the capital, both politically and financially, of commanding the citizen
militia, and of being chief magistrate of the city. In the court of
audiences, a canopy was erected, under which he sat, a distinction which
no other magistrate enjoyed, and which appears to have been exclusively
granted to him because he sat in the place of _Monsieur Saint Loys_ (Saint
Louis), _dispensing justice to the good people of the City of Paris_. When
the provost was installed, he was solemnly escorted, wearing his cap, to
the great chamber of Parliament, accompanied by four councillors.

[Illustration: Fig. 309.--The Court of a Baron.--Fac-simile of a Woodcut
in the "Cosmographie Universelle" of Munster: in folio, Basle, 1552.]

After the ceremony of installation he gave his horse to the president, who
had come to receive him. His dress consisted of a short robe, with mantle,
collar turned down, sword, and hat with feathers; he also carried a staff
of office, profusely ornamented with silver. Thus attired he attended
Parliament, and assisted at the levees of the sovereign, where he took up
his position on the lowest step of the throne, below the great
Chamberlain. Every day, excepting at the vintage time, he was required to
be present at the Chatelet, either personally or by deputy, punctually at
nine in the morning. There he received the list of the prisoners who had
been arrested the day before; after that he visited the prisons, settled
business of various kinds, and then inspected the town. His jurisdiction
extended to several courts, which were presided over by eight deputies or
judges appointed by him, and who were created officers of the Chatelet by
Louis XII. in 1498. Subsequently, these received their appointments direct
from the King. Two auditing judges, one king's attorney, one registrar,
and some bailiffs, completed the provost's staff.

[Illustration: Fig. 310.--Sergeants-at-Arms of the Fourteenth Century,
carved in Stone.--From the Church of St. Catherine du Val des Ecoliers, in

The bailiffs at the Chatelet were divided into five classes: the _king's
sergeant-at-arms,_ the _sergeants de la douzaine_, the _sergeants of the
mace_, or _foot sergeants,_ the _sergeants fieffes_, and the _mounted
sergeants_. The establishment of these officers dated from the beginning
of the fourteenth century, and they were originally appointed by the
provost, but afterwards by the King himself. The King's sergeants-at-arms
(Fig. 310) formed his body-guard; they were not under the jurisdiction of
the high constable, but of the ordinary judges, which proves that they
were in civil employ. The sergeants _de la douzaine_ were twelve in
number, as their name implies, all of whom were in the service of the
provost; the foot sergeants, who were civilians, were gradually increased
to the number of two hundred and twenty as early as the middle of the
fifteenth century. They acted only in the interior of the capital, and
guarded the city, the suburbs, and the surrounding districts, whereas the
mounted sergeants had "to watch over the safety of the rural parishes, and
to act throughout the whole extent of the provost's jurisdiction, and of
that of the viscount of Paris."

In the midst of the changes of the Middle Ages, especially after the
communes became free, all those kings who felt the importance of a strict
system of justice, particularly St. Louis, Philippe le Bel, and Charles
VIII., had seen the necessity of compiling a record of local customs. An
edict of 1453 orders that "the custom shall be registered in writing, so
as to be examined by the members of the great council of the Parliament."
Nevertheless, this important work was never properly carried out, and to
Louis XII. is due the honour of introducing a customary or usage law, and
at the same time of correcting the various modes of procedure, upon which
customs and usages had been based, and which had become singularly
antiquated since the edict of 1302.

No monarch showed more favour to Parliament than Louis XII. During his
reign of seventeen years we never find complaints from the magistracy for
not having been paid punctually. But in contrast with this, on the
accession of Francis I., the court complained of not having been paid its
first quarter's salary. From that moment claims were perpetually being
made; there were continually delays, or absolute refusals; the members
were expecting "remuneration for their services, in order absolutely to
enable them to support their families and households." We can thus judge
of the state of the various minor courts, which, being less powerful than
the supreme tribunals, and especially than that of Paris, were quite
unable to get their murmurings even listened to by the proper authorities.
This sad state of things continued, and, in fact, grew worse, until the
assembly of the League, when Mayenne, the chief of the leaguers, in order
to gratify the Parliament, promised to double the salaries, although he
was unable to fulfil his promise.

[Illustration: Fig. 311.--Inferior Court in the Great Bailiwick. Adoption
of Orphan Children.--Fac-simile of a Woodcut in J. Damhoudere's "Refuge et
Garand des Pupilles, Orphelins:" Antwerp, J. Bellere, 1557.]

Towards the end of the sixteenth century the highest French tribunal was
represented by nine superior courts--namely, the Parliament of Bordeaux,
created on the 9th of June, 1642; the Parliament of Brittany, which
replaced the ancient _Grands-Jours,_ in March, 1553, and sat alternately
at Nantes and at Rennes; the Parliament of the Dauphine, established at
Grenoble in 1451 to replace the Delphinal Council; the Parliament of
Burgundy, established at Dijon in 1477, which took the place of the
_Grands-Jours_ at Beaune; the movable Parliament of Dombes, created in
1528, and consisting at the same time of a court of excise and a chamber
of accounts; the Parliament of Normandy, established by Louis XII. in
April, 1504, intended to replace the Exchequer of Rouen, and the ancient
ducal council of the province; the Parliament of Provence, founded at Aix
in July, 1501; the Parliament of Toulouse, created in 1301; and the
Parliament of Paris, which took precedence of all the others, both on
account of its origin, its antiquity, the extent of its jurisdiction, the
number of its prerogatives, and the importance of its decrees. In 1551,
Henry II. created, besides these, an inferior court in each bailiwick, the
duties of which were to hear, on appeal, all matters in which sums of less
than two hundred livres were involved (Fig. 311). There existed, besides,
a branch of the _Grands-Jours,_ occasionally sitting at Poitiers, Bayeux,
and at some other central towns, in order to suppress the excesses which
at times arose from religious dissensions and political controversy.

The Parliament of Paris--or _Great French Parliament_, as it was called by
Philip V. and Charles V., in edicts of the 17th of November, 1318, and of
the 8th of October, 1371--was divided into four principal chambers: the
Grand Chamber, the Chamber of Inquiry, the Criminal Chamber, and the
Chamber of Appeal. It was composed of ordinary councillors, both clerical
and lay; of honorary councillors, some of whom were ecclesiastics, and
others members of the nobility; of masters of inquiry; and of a
considerable number of officers of all ranks (Figs. 312 to 314). It had at
times as many as twenty-four presidents, one hundred and eighty-two
councillors, four knights of honour, four masters of records; a public
prosecutor's office was also attached, consisting of the king's counsel,
an attorney-general and deputies, thus forming an assembly of from fifteen
to twenty persons, called a _college_. Amongst the inferior officers we
may mention twenty-six ushers, four receivers-general of trust money,
three commissioners for the receipt of goods which had been seized under
distress, one treasurer and paymaster, three controllers, one physician,
two surgeons, two apothecaries, one matron, one receiver of fines, one
inspector of estates, several keepers of refreshment establishments, who
resided within the precincts of the palace, sixty or eighty notaries, four
or five hundred advocates, two hundred attorneys, besides registers and
deputy registers. Down to the reign of Charles VI. (1380--1422) members of
Parliament held their appointment by commissions granted by the King, and
renewed eaeh session. From Charles VI. to Francis I. these appointments
became royal charges; but from that time, owing to the office being so
often prostituted for reward, it got more and more into disrepute.

[Illustration: Fig. 312.--Judge.--From a Drawing in "Proverbes, Adages,
&c.," Manuscript of the Fifteenth Century, in the Imperial Library of

Louis XI. made the office of member of the Parliament of Paris a
permanent one, and Francis I. continued this privilege. In 1580 the
supreme magistracy poured 140,000,000 francs, which now would be worth
fifteen or twenty times as much, into the State treasury, so as to enable
members to sit permanently _sur les fleurs de lis_, and to obtain
hereditary privileges. The hereditary transmission of office from father
to son dealt a heavy blow at the popularity of the parliamentary body,
which had already deeply suffered through shameful abuses, the enormity of
the fees, the ignorance of some of the members, and the dissolute habits
of many others.

[Illustration: Fig. 313.--Lawyer.--From the "Danse des Morts" of Basle,
engraved by Merian: in 4to, Frankfort, 1596.]

[Illustration: Fig. 314.--Barrister.--From a Woodout in the "Danse
Macabre:" Guyot's edition, 1490.]

[Illustration: Fig. 315.--Assembly of the Provostship of the Merchants of
Paris.--Fac-simile of a Woodcut in "Ordonnances Royaux de la Jurisdiction
de la Prevote des Marchands et Eschevinage de la Ville de Paris:" in small
folio, goth. edition of Paris, Jacques Nyverd, 1528.]

The Chatelet, on the contrary, was less involved in intrigue, less
occupied with politics, and was daily engaged in adjudicating in cases of
litigation, and thus it rendered innumerable services in promoting the
public welfare, and maintained, and even increased, the respect which it
had enjoyed from the commencement of its existence. In 1498, Louis XII.
required that the provost should possess the title of doctor _in utroque
jure_, and that his officers, whom he made to hold their appointments for
life, should be chosen from amongst the most distinguished counsellors at
law. This excellent arrangement bore its fruits. As early as 1510, the
"Usages of the City, Provosty, and Viscounty of Paris," were published _in
extenso_, and were then received with much ceremony at a solemn audience
held on the 8th of March in the episcopal palace, and were deposited among
the archives of the Chatelet (Fig. 315).

The Parliament held a very different line of policy from that adopted by
the Chatelet, which only took a political part in the religious troubles
of Protestantism and the League with a view to serve and defend the cause
of the people. In spite of its fits of personal animosity, and its
rebellious freaks, Parliament remained almost invariably attached to the
side of the King and the court. It always leaned to the absolute
maintenance of things as they were, instead of following progress and
changes which time necessitated. It was for severe measures, for
intimidation more than for gentleness and toleration, and it yielded
sooner or later to the injunctions and admonitions of the King, although,
at the same time, it often disapproved the acts which it was asked to

[Illustration: Fig. 316.--Seal of King Chilperic, found in his Tomb at
Tournay in 1654.]

Secret Tribunals.

The Old Man of the Mountain and his Followers in Syria.--The Castle of
Alamond, Paradise of Assassins.--Charlemagne the Founder of Secret
Tribunals amongst the Saxons.--The Holy Vehme.--Organization of the
Tribunal of the _Terre Rouge_, and Modes adopted in its
Procedures.--Condemnations and Execution of Sentences.--The Truth
respecting the Free Judges of Westphalia.--Duration and Fall of the
Vehmic Tribunal.--Council of Ten in Venice; its Code and Secret
Decisions.--End of the Council of Ten.

During the Middle Ages, human life was generally held in small respect;
various judicial institutions--if not altogether secret, at least more or
less enveloped in mystery--were remarkable for being founded on the
monstrous right of issuing the most severe sentences with closed doors,
and of executing these sentences with inflexible rigour on individuals who
had not been allowed the slightest chance of defending themselves.

While passing judgment in secret, they often openly dealt blows as
unexpected and terrible as they were fatal. Therefore, the most innocent
and the most daring trembled at the very name of the _Free Judges of the
Terre-Rouge,_ an institution which adopted Westphalia as the special, or
rather as the central, region of its authority; the _Council of Ten_
exercised their power in Venice and the states of the republic; and the
_Assassins_ of Syria, in the time of St. Louis, made more than one
invasion into Christian Europe. We must nevertheless acknowledge that,
terrible as these mysterious institutions were, the general credulity, the
gross ignorance of the masses, and the love of the marvellous, helped not
a little to render them even more outrageous and alarming than they really

Marco Polo, the celebrated Venetian traveller of the thirteenth century,
says, "We will speak of the Old Man of the Mountain. This prince was named
Alaodin. He had a lovely garden full of all manner of trees and fruits, in
a beautiful valley, surrounded by high hills; and all round these
plantations were various palaces and pavilions, decorated with works of
art in gold, with paintings, and with furniture of silk. Therein were to
be seen rivulets of wine, as well as milk, honey, and gentle streams of
limpid water. He had placed therein damsels of transcendent beauty and
endowed with great charms, who were taught to sing and to play all manner
of instruments; they were dressed in silk and gold, and continually walked
in these gardens and palaces. The reasons for which the Old Man had these
palaces built were the following. Mahomet having said that those who
should obey his will should go to paradise, and there find all kinds of
luxuries, this prince wished it to be believed that he was the prophet and
companion of Mahomet, and that he had the power of sending whom he chose
to paradise. No one could succeed in entering the garden, because an
impregnable castle had been built at the entrance of the valley, and it
could only be approached by a covered and secret way. The Old Man had in
his court some young men from ten to twenty years of age, chosen from
those inhabitants of the hills who seemed to him capable of bearing arms,
and who were bold and courageous. From time to time he administered a
certain drink to ten or twelve of these young men, which sent them to
sleep, and when they were in deep stupor, he had them carried into the
garden. When they awoke, they saw all we have described: they were
surrounded by the young damsels, who sang, played instruments together,
caressed them, played all sorts of games, and presented them with the most
exquisite wines and meats (Fig. 317). So that these young men, satiated
with such pleasures, did not doubt that they were in paradise, and would
willingly have never gone out of it again.

"At the end of four or five days, the Old Man sent them to sleep again,
and had them removed from the garden in the same way in which they had
been brought in. He then called them before him, and asked them where they
had been. 'By your grace, lord,' they answered, 'we have been in
paradise.' And then they related, in the presence of everybody, what they
had seen there. This tale excited the astonishment of all those who heard
it, and the desire that they might be equally fortunate. The Old Man would
then formally announce to those who were present, as follows: 'Thus saith
the law of our prophet, He causes all who fight for their Lord to enter
into paradise; if you obey me you shall enjoy that happiness.' By such
words and plans this prince had so accustomed them to believe in him, that
he whom he ordered to die for his service considered himself lucky. All
the nobles or other enemies of the Old Man of the Mountain were put to
death by the assassins in his service; for none of them feared death,
provided he complied with the orders and wishes of his lord. However
powerful a man might be, therefore, if he was an enemy of the Old Man's,
he was sure to meet with an untimely end."

[Illustration: Fig. 317.--The Castle of Alamond and its
Enchantments.--Fac-simile of a Miniature in "Marco Polo's Travels,"
Manuscript of the Fifteenth. Century, in the Library of the Arsenal of

In his story, which we translate literally from the original, written in
ancient French, the venerable traveller attributes the origin of this
singular system of exercising power over the minds of persons to a prince
who in reality did but keep up a tradition of his family; for the Alaodin
herein mentioned is no other than a successor of the famous Hassan, son of
Ali, who, in the middle of the eleventh century, took advantage of the
wars which devastated Asia to create himself a kingdom, comprising the
three provinces of Turkistan, Djebel, and Syria. Hassan had embraced the
doctrine of the Ishmaelian sect, who pretended to explain allegorically
all the precepts of the Mahometan religion, and who did away with public
worship, and originated a creed which was altogether philosophical. He
made himself the chief exponent of this doctrine, which, by its very
simplicity, was sure to attract to him many people of simple and sincere
minds. Attacked by the troops of the Sultan Sindgar, he defended himself
vigorously and not unsuccessfully; but, fearing lest he should fall in an
unequal and protracted struggle against an adversary more powerful than
himself, he had recourse to cunning so as to obtain peace. He entranced,
or fascinated probably, by means analogous to those related by Marco Polo,
a slave, who had the daring, during Sindgar's sleep, to stick a sharp
dagger in the ground by the side of the Sultan's head. On waking, Sindgar
was much alarmed. A few days after, Hassan wrote to him, "If one had not
good intentions towards the Sultan, one might have driven the dagger,
which was stuck in the earth by his head, into his bosom." The Sultan
Sindgar then made peace with the chief of the Ishmaelians, whose dynasty
lasted for one hundred and seventy years.

The Castle of Alamond, built on the confines of Persia, on the top of a
high mountain surrounded with trees, after having been the usual residence
of Hassan, became that of his successors. As in the native language the
same word means both _prince_ and _old man_, the Crusaders who had heard
the word pronounced confounded the two, and gave the name of _Old Man of
the Mountain_ to the Ishmaelian prince at that time inhabiting the Castle
of Alamond, a name which has remained famous in history since the period
when the Sire de Joinville published his "Memoires."

Ancient authors call the subjects of Hassan, _Haschichini, Heississini,
Assissini, Assassini_, various forms of the same expression, which, in
fact, has passed into French with a signification which recalls the
sanguinary exploits of the Ishmaelians. In seeking for the etymology of
this name, one must suppose that Haschichini is the Latin transformation
of the Arabic word Hachychy, the name of the sect of which we are
speaking, because the ecstacies during which they believed themselves
removed to paradise were produced by means of _haschisch_ or _haschischa_.
We know that this inebriating preparation, extracted from hemp, really
produces the most strange and delicious hallucinations on those who use
it. All travellers who have visited the East agree in saying that its
effects are very superior to those of opium. We evidently must attribute
to some ecstatic vision the supposed existence of the enchanted gardens,
which Marco Polo described from popular tales, and which, of course, never
existed but in the imagination of the young men, who were either mentally
excited after fasting and prayer, or intoxicated by the haschischa, and
consequently for a time lulled in dreams of celestial bliss which they
imagined awaited them under the guidance of Hassan and his descendants.

[Illustration: Fig. 318.--The Old Man of the Mountain giving Orders to his
Followers.--Fac-simile of a Miniature in the "Travels of Marco Polo,"
Manuscript of the Fifteenth Century (Library of the Arsenal of Paris).]

The Haschischini, whom certain contemporary historians describe to us as
infatuated by the hope of some future boundless felicity, owe their
melancholy celebrity solely to the blind obedience with which they
executed the orders of their chiefs, and to the coolness with which they
sought the favourable moment for fulfilling their sanguinary missions
(Fig. 318). The Old Man of the Mountain (the master of daggers, _magister
cultellorum_, as he is also called by the chronicler Jacques de Vintry),
was almost continually at war with the Mussulman princes who reigned from
the banks of the Nile to the borders of the Caspian Sea. He continually
opposed them with the steel of his fanatical emissaries; at times, also,
making a traffic and merchandise of murder, he treated for a money payment
with the sultans or emirs, who were desirous of ridding themselves of an
enemy. The Ishmaelians thus put to death a number of princes and Mahometan
nobles; but, at the time of the Crusades, religious zeal having incited
them against the Christians, they found more than one notable victim in
the ranks of the Crusaders. Conrad, Marquis of Montferrat, was
assassinated by them; the great Salah-Eddin (Saladin) himself narrowly
escaped them; Richard Coeur de Lion and Philip Augustus were pointed out
to the assassins by the Old Man, who subsequently, on hearing of the
immense preparations which Louis IX. was making for the Holy War, had the
daring to send two of his followers to France, and even into Paris, with
orders to kill that monarch in the midst of his court. This king, after
having again escaped, during his sojourn in Palestine, from the murderous
attempts of the savage messengers of the Prince of Alamond, succeeded, by
his courage, his firmness, and his virtues, in inspiring these fanatics
with so much respect, that their chief, looking upon him as protected by
heaven, asked for his friendship, and offered him presents, amongst which
was a magnificent set of chessmen, in crystal, ornamented with gold and

The successors of Hassan, simultaneously attacked by the Moguls under
Houlayon, and by the Egyptians commanded by the Sultan Bibars, were
conquered and dispossessed of their States towards the middle of the
thirteenth century; but, long after, the Ishmaelians, either because their
chiefs sought to recover their power, or because they had placed their
daggers at the disposal of some foreign foe, continued notorious in
history. At last the sect became extinct, or, at least, retired into
obscurity, and renounced its murderous profession, which had for so long
made its members such objects of terror.

We have thus seen how a legion of fanatics in the East made themselves the
blind and formidable tools of a religious and political chieftain, who was
no less ambitious than revengeful. If we now turn our attention to
Germany, we shall here find, almost at the same period, a local
institution which, although very different from the sanguinary court of
the Old Man of the Mountain, was of an equally terrible and mysterious
character. We must not, however, look at it from the same point of view,
for, having been founded with the object of furthering and defending the
establishment of a regular social state, which had been approved and
sanctioned by the sovereigns, and recognised by the Church, it at times
rendered great service to the cause of justice and humanity at a period
when might usurped right, and when the excesses and the crimes of
shameless evil-doers, and of petty tyrants, entrenched in their
impregnable strongholds, were but too often made lawful from the simple
fact that there was no power to oppose them.

The secret tribunal of Westphalia, which held its sittings and passed
sentence in private, and which carried out its decrees on the spot, and
whose rules, laws, and actions were enveloped in deep mystery, must
unquestionably be looked upon as one of the most remarkable institutions
of the Middle Ages.

[Illustration: Figs. 319 and 320.--Hermensul or Irmensul and Crodon, Idols
of the Ancient Saxons.--Fac-simile of a Woodcut in the "Annales Circuli
Westphaliae," by Herman Stangefol: in 4to, 1656.--The Idol Hermensul
appears to have presided over Executive Justice, the attributes of which
it holds in its hands.]

It would be difficult to state exactly at what period this formidable
institution was established. A few writers, and amongst these Sebastian
Munster, wish us to believe that it was founded by Charlemagne himself.
They affirm that this monarch, having subjugated the Saxons to his sway,
and having forced them to be baptized, created a secret tribunal, the
duties of which were to watch over them, in order that they might not
return to the errors of Paganism. However, the Saxons were incorrigible,
and, although Christians, they still carried on the worship of their idols
(Figs. 319 and 320); and, for this reason, it is said by these authorities
that the laws of the tribunal of Westphalia were founded by Charlemagne.
It is well known that from the ninth to the thirteenth century, all that
part of Germany between the Rhine and the Weser suffered under the most
complete anarchy. In consequence of this, and of the increase of crime
which remained unpunished, energetic men established a rigorous
jurisdiction, which, to a certain extent, suppressed these barbarous
disorders, and gave some assurance to social intercourse; but the very
mystery which gave weight to the institution was the cause of its origin
being unknown. It is only mentioned, and then cursorily, in historical
documents towards the early part of the fifteenth century. This court of
judicature received the name of _Femgericht_, or _Vehmgericht_, which
means Vehmic tribunal. The origin of the word _Fem_, _Vehm_, or _Fam_,
which has given rise to many scientific discussions, still remains in
doubt. The most generally accepted opinion is, that it is derived from a
Latin expression--_vemi_ (_vae mihi_), "woe is me!"

The special dominion over which the Vehmic tribunal reigned supreme was
Westphalia, and the country which was subjected to its laws was designated
as the _Terre Rouge_. There was no assembly of this tribunal beyond the
limits of this Terre Rouge, but it would be quite impossible to define
these limits with any accuracy. However, the free judges, assuming the
right of suppressing certain crimes committed beyond their territory, on
more than one occasion summoned persons living in various parts of
Germany, and even in provinces far from Westphalia, to appear before them.
We do not know all the localities wherein the Vehmic tribunal sat; but the
most celebrated of them, and the one which served as a model for all the
rest, held its sittings under a lime-tree, in front of the castle-gate of
Dortmund (Fig. 321). There the chapters-general of the association usually
assembled; and, on certain occasions, several thousands of the free judges
were to be seen there.

Each tribunal was composed of an unlimited number of free judges, under
the presidency of a free count, who was charged with the higher
administration of Vehmic justice. A _free county_ generally comprised
several free tribunals, or _friestuhle_. The free count, who was chosen by
the prince of the territory in which the tribunal sat, had two courts, one
secret, the other public. The public assizes, which took place at least
three times a year, were announced fourteen days beforehand, and any
person living within the _county_, and who was summoned before the free
count, was bound to appear, and to answer all questions which might be put
to him. It was required that the free judges (who are generally mentioned
as _femnoten_--that is to say, _sages_--and who are, besides, denoted by
writers of the time by the most honourable epithets: such as, "serious
men," "very pious," "of very pure morals," "lovers of justice," &c.)
should be persons who had been born in lawful wedlock, and on German soil;
they were not allowed to belong to any religions order, or to have ever
themselves been summoned before the Vehmic tribunal. They were nominated
by the free counts, but subject to the approval of their sovereigns. They
were not allowed to sit as judges before having been initiated into the
mysteries of the tribunals.

[Illustration: Fig. 321.--View of the Town of Dortmund in the Sixteenth
Century.--From an Engraving on Copper in P. Bertius's "Theatrum

The initiation of a free judge was accompanied by extraordinary
formalities. The candidate appeared bareheaded; he knelt down, and,
placing two fingers of his right hand on his naked sword and on a rope,
he took oath to adhere to the laws and customs of the holy tribunal, to
devote his five senses to it, and not to allow himself to be allured
therefrom either by silver, gold, or even precious stones; to forward the
interests of the tribunal "above everything illumined by the sun, and all
that the rain reaches;" and to defend them "against everything which is
between heaven and earth." The candidate was then given the sign by which
members of the association recognised each other. This sign has remained
unknown; and nothing, even in the deeds of the Vehmic archives, leads one
even to guess what it was, and every hypothesis on this subject must be
looked upon as uncertain or erroneous. By one of the fundamental statutes
of the Terre Rouge, a member convicted of betraying the secrets of the
order was condemned to the most cruel punishment; but we have every reason
for asserting that this sentence was never carried out, or even issued
against a free judge.

[Illustration: Fig. 322.--The Landgrave of Thuringia and his
Wife.--Fac-simile of a Miniature in the Collection of the Minnesinger,
Manuscript of the Fourteenth Century.]

In one case alone during the fourteenth century, was an accusation of
this sort made, and that proved to be groundless.

It would have been considered the height of treason to have given a
relation, or a friend, the slightest hint that he was being pursued, or
that he had been condemned by the Holy Vehme, in order that he might seek
refuge by flight. And in consequence of this, there was a general mistrust
of any one belonging to the tribunal, so much so that "a brother," says a
German writer, "often feared his brother, and hospitality was no longer

The functions of free judges consisted in going about the country seeking
out crimes, denouncing them, and inflicting immediate punishment on any
evil-doer caught in the act (Figs. 323 and 324). The free judges might
assemble provided there were at least seven in number to constitute a
tribunal; but we hear of as many as three hundred assisting at a meeting.

[Illustration: Figs. 323 and 324.--Free Judges.--Fac-simile of two
Woodcuts in the "Cosmographie Universelle" of Munster: in folio, 1552.]

It has been erroneously stated that the sittings of the Vehmic tribunals
were held at night in the depths of forests, or in subterranean places;
but it appears that all criminal business was first heard in public, and
could only be subjected to a secret judgment when the accused had failed
either publicly to justify himself or to appear in person.

When three free judges caught a malefactor in the very act, they could
seize him, judge him, and inflict the penalty on the spot. In other cases,
when a tribunal considered that it should pursue an individual, it
summoned him to appear before it. The summons had to be written, without
erasures, on a large sheet of vellum, and to bear at least seven
seals--that of the free count, and those of six free judges; and these
seals generally represented either a man in full armour holding a sword,
or a simple sword blade, or other analagous emblems (Figs. 325 to 327).
Two free judges delivered the summons personally where a member of the
association was concerned; but if the summons affected an individual who
was not of the Vehmic order, a sworn messenger bore it, and placed it in
the very hands of the person, or slipped it into his house. The time given
for putting in an appearance was originally six weeks and three days at
least, but at a later period this time was shortened. The writ of summons
was repeated three times, and each time bore a greater number of seals of
free judges, so as to verify the legality of the instrument. The accused,
whether guilty or not, was liable to a fine for not answering the first
summons, unless he could prove that it was impossible for him to have done
so. If he failed to appear on the third summons, he was finally condemned
_en corps et en honneur_.

[Illustration: Fig. 325.--Seal of Herman Loseckin, Free Count of Medebach,
in 1410.]

[Illustration: Fig. 326.--Seal of the Free Count, Hans Vollmar von Twern,
at Freyenhagen, in 1476-1499.]

[Illustration: Fig. 327.--Seal of Johann Croppe, Free Count of Kogelnberg,
in 1413.]

We have but imperfect information as to the formalities in use in the
Vehmic tribunals. But we know that the sittings were invested with a
certain solemnity and pomp. A naked sword--emblematical of justice, and
recalling our Saviour's cross in the shape of its handle--and a
rope--emblematical of the punishment deserved by the guilty--were placed
on the table before the president. The judges were bareheaded, with bare
hands, and each wore a cloak over his shoulder, and carried no arms of any

[Illustration: Fig. 328.--The Duke of Saxony and the Marquis of
Brandenburg.--From the "Theatrum Orbis Terrarum sive Tabula veteris
Geographiae," in folio. Engraved by Wieriex, after Gerard de Jode.]

The plaintiff and the defendant were each allowed to produce thirty
witnesses. The defendant could either defend himself, or entrust his case
to an advocate whom he brought with him. At first, any free judge being
defendant in a suit, enjoyed the privilege of justifying himself on oath;
but it having been discovered that this privilege was abused, all persons,
of whatever station, were compelled to be confronted with the other side.
The witnesses, who were subpoened by either accuser or accused, had to
give their evidence according to the truth, dispassionately and
voluntarily. In the event of the accused not succeeding in bringing
sufficient testimony to clear himself, the prosecutor claimed a verdict in
his favour from the free count presiding at the tribunal, who appointed
one of the free judges to declare it. In case the free judge did not feel
satisfied as to the guilt, he could, by making oath, temporarily divest
himself of his office, which devolved upon a second, a third, or even a
fourth free judge. If four free judges were unable to decide, the matter
was referred to another sitting; for judgment had to be pronounced by the
appointed free judge at the sitting.

The various penalties for different crimes were left to the decision of
the tribunal. The rules are silent on the subject, and simply state that
the culprits will be punished "according to the authority of the secret
bench." The _royale, i.e._ capital punishment, was strictly applied in all
serious cases, and the manner of execution most in use was hanging (Figs.
329, 330).

A person accused who did not appear after the third summons, was out-lawed
by a terrible sentence, which deprived him of all rights, of common peace,
and forbad him the company of all Christians; by the wording of this
sentence, his wife was looked upon as a widow, his children as orphans;
his neck was abandoned to the birds of the air, and his body to the beasts
of the field, "but his soul was recommended to God." At the expiration of
one year and a day, if the culprit had not appeared, or had not
established his common rights, all his goods were confiscated, and
appropriated by the King or Emperor. When the condemnation referred to a
prince, a town, or a corporation (for the accusations of the tribunal
frequently were issued against groups of individuals), it caused the loss
of all honour, authority, and privileges. The free count, in pronouncing
the sentence, threw the rope, which was before him, on to the ground; the
free judges spat upon it, and the name of the culprit was inscribed on the
book of blood. The sentence was kept secret; the prosecutor alone was
informed of it by a written notice, which was sealed with seven seals.
When the condemned was present, the execution took place immediately, and,
according to the custom of the Middle Ages, its carrying out was deputed
to the youngest of the free judges. The members of the Vehmic association
enjoyed the privilege of being hung seven feet higher than those who were
not associates.

The Vehmic judgments were, however, liable to be appealed against: the
accused might, at the sitting, appeal either to what was termed the
imperial chamber, a general chapter of the association, which assembled at
Dortmund, or (and this was the more frequent custom) to the emperor, or
ruler of the country, whether he were king, prince, duke, or bishop,
provided that these authorities belonged to the association. The revision
of the judgment could only be entrusted to members of the tribunal, who,
in their turn, could only act in Westphalia. The condemned might also
appeal to the lieutenant-general of the emperor, or to the grand master of
the Holy Vehme, a title which, from the remotest times, was given to the
Archbishop of Cologne. There are even instances of appeals having been
made to the councils and to the Popes, although the Vehmic association
never had any communication or intercourse with the court of Rome. We must
not forget a very curious privilege which, in certain cases, was left to
the culprit as a last resource; he might appeal to the emperor, and
solicit an order which required the execution of the sentence to be
applied after a delay _of one hundred years, six weeks, and one day_.

[Illustration: Figs. 329 and 330.--Execution of the Sentences of the
Secret Tribunal.--Fac-simile of Woodcuts in the "Cosmographie Universelle"
of Munster: in folio, Basle, 1552.]

The chapter-general of the association was generally summoned once a year
by the emperor or his lieutenant, and assembled either at Dortmund or
Arensberg, in order to receive the returns of causes judged by the various
Vehmic tribunals; to hear the changes which had taken place among the
members of the order; to receive the free judges; to hear appeals; and,
lastly, to decide upon reforms to be introduced into the rules. These
reforms usually had reference to the connection of imperial authority with
the members of the secret jurisdiction, and were generally suggested by
the emperors, who were jealous of the increasing power of the association.

From what we have shown, on the authority of authentic documents, we
understand how untrue is the tradition, or rather the popular idea, that
the _Secret Tribunal_ was an assembly of bloodthirsty judges, secretly
perpetrating acts of mere cruelty, without any but arbitrary laws. It is
clear, on the contrary, that it was a regular institution, having, it is
true, a most mysterious and complex organization, but simply acting in
virtue of legal prescriptions, which were rigorously laid down, and
arranged in a sort of code which did honour to the wisdom of those who had
created it.

It was towards the end of the fourteenth and the beginning of the
fifteenth centuries that the Vehmic jurisdiction reached its highest
degree of power; its name was only pronounced in a whisper and with
trembling; its orders were received with immediate submission, and its
chastisements always fell upon the guilty and those who resisted its
authority. There cannot be a doubt but that the Westphalian tribunal
prevented many great crimes and public misfortunes by putting a wholesome
check on the nobles, who were ever ready to place themselves above all
human authority; and by punishing, with pitiless severity, the audacity of
bandits, who would otherwise have been encouraged to commit the most
daring acts with almost the certainty of escaping with impunity. But the
Holy Vehme, blinded by the terror it inspired, was not long without
displaying the most extravagant assumption of power, and digressing from
the strict path to which its action should have been confined. It summoned
before its tribunals princes, who openly denied its authority, and cities,
which did not condescend to answer to its behests. In the fifteenth
century, the free judges were composed of men who could not be called of
unimpeachable integrity; many persons of doubtful morals having been
raised to the dignity by party influence and by money. The partiality and
the spirit of revenge which at times prompted their judgments, were
complained of; they were accused of being open to corruption; and this
accusation appears to have been but too well founded. It is known that,
according to a feudal practice established in the Vehmic system, every
new free judge was obliged to make a present to the free count who had
admitted him into the order; and the free counts did not hesitate to make
this an important source of revenue to themselves by admitting, according
to an historian, "many people as _judges_ who, in reality, deserved to be

[Illustration: Fig. 331.--View of Cologne in the Sixteenth Century.--From
a Copper-plate in the "Theatrum Geographicum" of P. Bertius. The three
large stars represent, it is supposed, the Three Persons of the Trinity,
and the seven small ones the Electors of the Empire.]

[Illustration: Fig. 332.--German Knights (Fifteenth Century).--From a
Plate in the "Life of the Emperor Maximilian," engraved by Burgmayer, from
Drawings by Albert Durer.]

Owing to the most flagrant and most insolent abuses of power, the ancient
authority of the institution became gradually more and more shaken. On one
occasion, for instance, in answer to a summons issued by the Imperial
Tribunal against some free judges, the tribunal of the Terre-Rouge had the
daring to summon the Emperor Frederick III. before it to answer for this
want of respect. On another occasion, a certain free count, jealous of one
of his associates, hung him with his own hands while out on a hunting
excursion, alleging that his rank of free judge authorised him to execute
summary justice. From that time there was a perpetual cry of horror and
indignation against a judicial institution which thus interpreted its
duties, and before long the State undertook the suppression of these
secret tribunals. The first idea of this was formed by the electors of the
empire at the diet of Treves in 1512. The Archbishop of Cologne succeeded,
however, in parrying the blow, by convoking the chapter-general of the
order, on the plea of the necessity of reform. But, besides being
essentially corrupt, the Holy Vehme had really run its course, and it
gradually became effete as, by degrees, a better organized and more
defined social and political state succeeded to the confused anarchy of
the Middle Ages, and as the princes and free towns adopted the custom of
dispensing justice either in person or through regular tribunals. Its
proceedings, becoming more and more summary and rigorous, daily gave rise
to feelings of greater and greater abhorrence. The common saying over all
Germany was, "They first hang you, and afterwards inquire into your
innocence." On all sides opposition arose against the jurisdiction of the
free judges. Princes, bishops, cities, and citizens, agreed instinctively
to counteract this worn-out and degenerate institution. The struggle was
long and tedious. During the last convulsions of the expiring Holy Vehme,
there was more than one sanguinary episode, both on the side of the free
judges themselves, as well as on that of their adversaries. Occasionally
the secret tribunal broke out into fresh signs of life, and proclaimed its
existence by some terrible execution; and at times, also, its members paid
dearly for their acts. On one occasion, in 1570, fourteen free judges,
whom Kaspar Schwitz, Count of Oettingen, caused to be seized, were already
tied up in bags, and about to be drowned, when the mob, pitying their
fate, asked for and obtained their reprieve.

The death-blow to the Vehmic tribunal was struck by its own hand. It
condenmed summarily, and executed without regular procedure, an inhabitant
of Munster, who used to scandalize the town by his profligacy. He was
arrested at night, led to a small wood, where the free judges awaited him,
and condemned to death without being allowed an advocate; and, after being
refused a respite even of a few hours, that he might make his peace with
heaven, he was confessed by a monk, and his head was severed from his
body by the executioner on the spot.

[Illustration: Fig. 333.--Interior Court of the Palace of the Doges of
Venice: Buildings in which are the Cells and _the Leads_.--From Cesare

Dating from this tragical event, which excited universal indignation, the
authority of the free judges gradually declined, and, at last, the
institution became almost defunct, and merely confined itself to
occasionally adjudicating in simple civil matters.

We must not omit to mention the Council of Ten of Venice when speaking on
the subject of arbitrary executions and of tyrannical and implacable
justice. In some respects it was more notorious than the Vehmic tribunal,
exercising as it did a no less mysterious power, and inspiring equal
terror, though in other countries.

This secret tribunal was created after a revolt which burst on the
republic of Venice on the 15th of June, 1310. At first it was only
instituted for two months, but, after various successive prorogations, it
was confirmed for five years, on the 31st of January, 1311. In 1316 it was
again appointed for five years; on the 2nd of May, 1327, for ten years
more; and at last was established permanently. In the fifteenth century
the authority of the Council of Ten was consolidated and rendered more
energetic by the creation of the Inquisitors of State. These were three in
number, elected by the Council of Ten; and the citizens on whom the votes
fell could not refuse the functions which were thus spontaneously, and
often unexpectedly, assigned to them. The authority of Inquisitors of
State was declared to be "unlimited."

In order to show the power and mode of action of this terrible tribunal,
it is perhaps better to make a few extracts from the code of rules which
it established for itself in June, 1454.

This document--several manuscript copies of which are to be found in the
public libraries of Paris--says, "The inquisitors may proceed against any
person whomsoever, no rank giving the right of exemption from their
jurisdiction. They may pronounce any sentence, even that of death; only
their final sentences must be passed unanimously. They shall have complete
charge of the prisons and _the leads_ (Fig. 333). They may draw at sight
from the treasury of the Council of Ten, without having to give any
account of the use made of the funds placed in their hands.

"The proceedings of the tribunal shall always be secret; its members shall
wear no distinctive badge. No open arrests shall be made. The chief of the
bailiffs (_sbirri_) shall avoid making domiciliary arrests, but he shall
try to seize the culprit unawares, away from his home, and so securely get
him under _the leads_ of the Palace of the Doges. When the tribunal shall
deem the death of any person necessary, the execution shall never be
public; the condemned shall be drowned at night in the Orfano Canal.

"The tribunal shall authorise the generals commanding in Cyprus or in
Candia, in the event of its being for the welfare of the Republic, to
cause any patrician or other influential person in either of those
Venetian provinces to disappear, or to be assassinated secretly, if such a
measure should conscientiously appear to them indispensable; but they
shall be answerable before God for it.

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