James Bryce Bryce.

The book of history. A history of all nations from the earliest times to the present, with over 8,000 illustrations (Volume 9) online

. (page 41 of 55)
Online LibraryJames Bryce BryceThe book of history. A history of all nations from the earliest times to the present, with over 8,000 illustrations (Volume 9) → online text (page 41 of 55)
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or were lighted by the obscure passages
which led to them. Only a few houses
belonging to the nobles were in a tolerably
sanitary condition.

Apart from this, the "free" towns were
singularly destitute of freedom. Not only
were they dependent upon bishops, abbots,
feudal lords, and royal officials, but their
guilds received a new-comer with strict
and hostile exclusiveness, refused him
access to any trade or profession, and
exercised a ruthless control over his
dependents, servants, apprentices, etc.
Family life suffered no less from want
of freedom and of intellectual progress.
An improvement did not begin until the



eleventh century, when a commercial
began to replace the agricultural economy.
Trade and manufacture, intercourse and
public life, began to develop, and new
towns arose. The wandering traders,
who had hitherto passed from place to
place on rivers and high-roads, regarded
with suspicion by the settled inhabitants,
and conducting their business under the
greatest difficulties, were now induced to
settle permanently upon some favourable
spot, whether under ecclesiastical or
secular govern-
ment. Thus, in
Verdun during
the tenth cen-
tury a self-con-
tained trading
colony was
founded under
one wall of the
city and divided
from the rest of
the community
by the river,
over which two
bridges provided
for trade. These
new citizens, the
" bourgeois," as
opposed to the
old citizens, the
" citoyens," were
at first excluded
from all partici-
pation in town administration, from the
rights of the guilds or other privileges,
were under the authority of a count or
or viscount, and proceeded to form guilds,
with their own officers and treasury.

This process was the beginning of
their independence and of their later
equality with the old citizens. The
bourgeois secured the recognition of their
own customary law, by means of " chartes
de coutumes," and were able to buy their
immunity from many of the feudal taxes
imposed upon agricultural pursuits. The
settlements in the town precincts grew
steadily in number, their sign of freedom
being a high watchtower, or " beffroi." All
newcomers enjoyed the peace of the town
and market.

All the citizens took a mutual oath of
peace and enclosed themselves by walls
built at the common expense. Now
began their struggle for liberation from
the supremacy of territorial owners,


ecclesiastical or civil, and their efforts to
secure their due share of the administra-
tive and legal privileges belonging to the
privileged old citizens. At the head of
the town corporation was a council of
" echevins," a remnant of the Carolingian
class of scabini that is, doomsmen in the
local court. The dignity of echevin was
hereditary in certain old families. This
council, with its elders and its presidents,
decided questions of law, justice, and
order, and defended the privileges ot the
town against
bishops, abbots,
and the counts
of the feudal

The new citi-
zens, from the
twelfth century
onwards, pro-
ceeded to make
their way into
the town council,
often by main
force, and thus
the old town cor-
porations became
communes of a
more democratic,
a freer, and a
less stereotyped
character. They

ruesome-looking erection, the gallows of Montfaucon, was
Enguerrand of Marigny about 1300 during- the reign of


built by tnguerrand ot Marigny about 1300 during the reign ot """ "<- -~* *"^j

Philip IV., when the growth of the bureaucracy was attended by had their Special
many evils. Criminals were put to death on this gallows, and not * , . ,

infrequently their bodies were left hanging as a warning to others, privileges, WnlCn

Enguerrand was himself put to death thereon in the year 1315. were however

subject to alteration. They were known
in Northern France as " communes jurees,"
or sworn communities. After shaking
off the yoke of the privileged citizens
they had a severe struggle with the secular
and ecclesiastical powers. They succeeded,
however, in buying their freedom from
the territorial owners, who were over-
whelmed with debt by their own ex-
travagance or by the expense of war ;
they were also able to secure the protec-
tion of the king, and thus to gain a con-
firmation of their communal rights through

, charters. If they could not
The Clergy s hase freedom from the

I Irtvwtc it* f\\ r i * * \

supremacy of the territorial
lords, they fought for it with
the help of the lower classes in the town
or by themselves. These infant com-
munes found their most bitter opponents
in the ranks of the clergy., since they offered
an asylum to many whose creed or
morality had incurred the suspicion of


the Church. A Paris synod of 1213 and
several Popes declared strongly against
their existence within ecclesiastical dis-
tricts ; bishops forbade at times the ad-
ministration of the citizen oath to the
clergy, or preached from their pulpits
against these " pestilential communities."

None the less the astute statesmanship
of the French kings recognised that the
communes were useful and valuable
allies against the nobility and the Church.
Louis VII. (1137-1180) readily granted
charters to those towns which were not
immediately subordinate to him, though
his officials and financial administrators
put the more pressure upon the communes
which stood upon the royal demesne.
Philip Augustus kept a careful watch over
the royal towns through his " baillis "
and supervisors, but readily sold charters
at a high price to the towns of his vassals.
Louis IX. continually found legal pre-
texts for interfering in the jurisdiction
and administration of the towns.

The number of cases requiring to be
brought before the parliament for decision
("cas royaux") was arbitrarily increased ;
the royal accountants carefully examined
the financial administration of the towns,
and severe penal-
ties were imposed
in cases of refusal
or resistance.
Philip the Fair
made no attempt
to limit the
charters, but
exhausted the
prosperity of the
towns by arbi-
trary extortion,
since he required
much money for
his wars. Cruel
punishment was
inflicted upon such revolts as that of
Carcassonne in August, 1305 ; the inter-
ference of his officials in the administra-
tive powers of royal and of non-royal
towns proved a serious obstacle to their

Thus during the twelfth and thirteenth
centuries the prospects of the communes
were not particularly brilliant. The towns
had no entire power of jurisdiction,
for individual quarters, which had been
founded upon ecclesiastical or feudal
property, came under the jurisdiction of
a bishop, a chapter, or a feudal lord.


The natural result was a constant succes-
sion of quarrels and attempts to shake
off these impediments. The new citizens
also misused their power as the old
had done, and refused to grant a share
of the town administration to new
settlers. To these obstacles must be
added the extortion of the crown officials.
Later, the confusion of the Hundred
Years' War against England

also injured the prosperity of
After the ,,

f ... the towns and forced them to
Long War ,, , . , ,,

procure the protection of the

crown by surrendering their rights. These
wounds, however, were largely healed by
peace, the new impetus given to trade,
the commercial connections secured by
foreign treaties, and the reorganisation of
the taxes when the horrors of war had
been brought to a conclusion. Splendid
town halls, churches, and private dwell-
ings bear witness to the wealth of the
towns after 1450. None the less, obstacles
to communications and the difficulty of
market trade remained as before. Business
was hampered by the tolls levied along the
rivers and roads ; on the Loire, between
Roanne and Nantes, seventy-two separate
tolls had to be paid. No less complicated

were the market
dues, which had
been framed
with the special
object of exclud-
ing foreign com-
petition. The
roads, moreover,
were in the worst
possible condi-
tion and were
infested with
highwaymen and
all kinds of rob-
bers. Next to the
policy of the kings, the strongest impulse to
the prosperity of the towns was given by
the Crusades. Nobles who were starting
for the Holy Land sold properties and
privileges to the towns that they might
have ready money for their journey ;
moreover, the relations which thus con-
nected France with the East, especially
after the Crusade of Louis IX., between
1248 and 1250, made the coast towns
centres of Eastern trade. The passage
of Crusaders and pilgrims brought great
wealth to Marseilles ; and far-seeing mer-
chants seized the opportunity of settling




Maritime trade centred chiefly in
the Mediterranean ports. Upon
the Atlantic, Bordeaux, Honfleur,
and La Rochelle exported wine to
England and Flanders, receiving
wool in return. Of the market
towns in the interior the most
famous were Troyes and Beau-
caire. At the two yearly markets
of Troyes, Italians and Germans
bought woven fabrics, leather,
weapons, armour, metal work,
horses, and other commodities.

The most successful traders at
that time were the Jews and the
Lombards. The pious Louis IX.
issued an ordinance against their
usurious practices in 1269, for he
regarded the exaction of interest
as entirely sinful. These and other

Built in the thirteenth century, the magnificent
cathedral of Amiens is one of the finest
examples of Gothic architecture in existence.

in Syrian harbours and securing a
kind of monopoly for the impor-
tation of spices, scents, fabrics,
etc., from the East to the south
and centre of France.

The southern towns carried on
a profitable trade in the products
and manufactures of the East,
and exported, with less advantage,
their own fruits and manufactures
to Syria, Egypt, and Constanti-
nople. The fabrics of Narbonne,
Perpignan, Toulouse, and other
places competed successfully with
Italian rivalry. The raw material
was brought from Catalonia and
the north coast of Africa. Cloth
weaving also became a flourishing
industry in North France, in
Troyes, Rheims, Paris, Rouen,
while linen weaving was practised
in Burgundy, in the Franche-
Comte, and in the neighbourhood
of Avignon, and formed an
important export to the East.


This fine religious edifice was made a royal burial-place by Louis IX.,
and here were laid all the predecessors of that king from Dagobert I.


measures, however, produced no more
effect than did the expulsions and per-
secutions of the Jews, which were not
instigated by the princes and the Church,
who profited by the sums which the Jews
paid to secure their protection, and
required them in any case as money
changers ; these outbreaks were rather
the expression of popular passion, inspired
by envy and greed no less than by
religious animosity.

Notwithstanding his strong ecclesiasti-
cism, Louis IX. did a great deal to further
trade and communication. He arranged

measures to promote trade. The latter
had conferred important privileges upon
the presidents and echevins of the guilds
in Paris, giving them rights of jurisdiction
in trade disputes ; he had relieved Orleans
and other crown towns from oppressive
taxation, and had conferred privileges
upon smaller communes.

The position of the towns within the
body politic varied greatly. Royal " com-
munes " were self-governing, imposed
their own taxes, and possessed " la basse
justice." In token of these privileges they
were allowed a corporate seal ; they were


that in his demesnes the assessment of
taxes, tolls, and coinage should be con-
cluded only under the advice of deputies
from the towns, that the administration of
town property and the apportionment of
communal taxes, especially of the " taille,"
should be entrusted to a committee chosen
from the citizens. In Paris he caused the
Prevot of the merchants, Etienne Boileau,
to reduce the principles and customs of
the several trades to writing, in a work-
entitled the " Livre des Metiers." He also
threw open the towns to those manumitted
serfs who might wish to enter, and followed
the example of his grandfather in his

obliged, however, to provide military con-
tingents and to pay taxes to the crown.
The " villes de bourgeois " were in a less
favourable position, possessing neither
jurisdiction nor self-government. They
too were for the most part subject to the
king as their territorial and feudal lord.
The " villes neuves " were dependent upon
prelates or the greater nobles, and were
merely market towns, with a right of re-
fuge which attracted malcontents and those
who feared the vengeance of the Church.
The administration of the towns was in
the hands of the communal council. In
the south administration was exercised



by a board of " consuls." The communal
council was composed of "echevins," or
" pairs," " jurats," " syndics," or
" capitouls." In some cases these were
assisted by a committee of citizens, nearly
corresponding to a modern town council.
The numbers of this committee varied.
In Marseilles it amounted to 89, in
_ , Bordeaux to 300, and they

arts a, were known as " defenseurs."

e ai Individual towns were adminis-
tered by a chosen citizen, the
" maire." Most of the towns held the
right, conferred upon them by the king,
of levying the "octroi" duty from
"octroyer," to guarantee upon certain
goods carried into or through the town ;
thus ten per cent, was levied upon wine.

For a time the representatives of the
towns had no share in the administration
of the state. It was not until 1302
that they were summoned by Philip the
Fair to the States General, as he then
required their presence for the imposition
of fresh customs and taxes ; in 1308
270 towns were thus represented. As the
kingdom became a unified state, so did
Paris become the recognised capital.
Hitherto the dingy town of Lutetia had
been surpassed by other larger towns
in trade, in public institutions, in the
beauty of its buildings, and the wealth
and number of its inhabitants. The
Capets were the first to give the capital
an appearance worthy of it. Philip
Augustus lighted the streets and paved
the centre of them, surrounded the town
with a wide circle of walls and towers, and
built market halls surrounded by walls.
He removed his court from the oldest
and unhealthiest part, the He de la Cit6,
to the right bank of the river, and from
the island castle to the Louvre.

Louis IX. decorated Paris with splendid
buildings devoted to the service of God
and Christian charity. He built the Sainte
Chapelle in the early Gothic style, as
WK p , a shrine to receive the crown

Owes to ? th rns ' Which Was Sent t0

him from Constantinople by

Ot. L>OU1S ,, ,-, 1-> 1 1 TT

the Emperor Baldwin II. in
exchange for .11,000 pounds of silver
($250,000). Here, during Holy Week, he
showed the relic to the people, acting as a
priest. Henceforward Paris became the
centre of noble society, of festivals, shows,
and tournaments ; travelling merchants,
mountebanks and tumblers were naturally
attracted. The inhabitants numbered

379 6

200,000 at the beginning of the thirteenth
century, and steadily increased, while the
prosperity of the citizens was improved
by the number of foreigners, and espe-
cially by the university students, who
entered the town.

The king and people vied in their
effort to make the town an attractive
resort for these thousands of scholars.
Among other privileges they were
granted the right of giving place upon
the pavement to no one except the
PreVot des Marchands. Upon one oc-
casion they caused an uproar, asserting
that the wine in the suburban inns was
undrinkable, and that the town authorities
had imprisoned several of the ringleaders,
whereupon the king ordered the liberation
of the captives and the provision of better
wine. The Abbey of St. Denis, in which
was preserved the Oriflamme, the war
banner of red cloth with green silk
tassels, fastened on a golden lance, was
made a royal burial-place by Louis IX.,
and here were laid all his predecessors from
Dagobert I. The Abbot Suger (1081-1155),
who advised Louis VI. with equal talent
. upon matters of art, science,

R* r 'd f anc ^ g vernmen t> had already

* decorated this early specimen
the Kings , ^ ,,. ,.. J ,

of Gothic architecture with
paintings on glass, depicting the exploits
of the Crusaders, and to these were after-
wards added paintings of the life and
deeds of Louis IX.

The kings no longer changed their
capitals as they had done during the age
of agricultural economy ; Paris became
their permanent residence. Here they
were surrounded by a band of high court
officials. There were five chief officials,
the Senechal, the Chancelier, the Bouteiller,
the Connetable, and the Chambrier.
These offices were held as fiefs by the high
nobility, and were practically hereditary ;
the object of the kings was to place them
as far as possible in commission by
entrusting their responsibilities to ecclesi-
astical or secular nominees, who were
thus dependent only upon themselves.

In this way, as under Charles the Great,
was formed a professional class of court
officials, in which the first place belonged
to the lawyers and the jurists, known
as chevaliers es lois, knights of the law,
to distinguish them from knights of noble
blood. Of the high feudal offices there
remained only those of Connetable, or
commander of the army, the Chambrier,



and Bouteiller. The number of the
chancery officials, the notaries and seal
keepers, increased, as did that of the
lawyers and parliamentary officials. A
special room was assigned in the law
courts to these attorneys as their meet-
ing room. The clercs and the huissiers
gradually became a close corporation,
_. . "La Basoche." Certain com-
: mittees of the parliament

Straits of , , r . , , ,

the Kin Wefe re g u l ar ty sent in ^ the
provinces to hold assizes at
Troyes, Rouen, and other places. The
growth of this bureaucracy, which was
due chiefly to Philip IV., the Fair
(1285-1314), naturally had its bad side,
which was marked by an increased taxa-
tion and a conjoined attempt to secure
money in any manner. The king was
ready to sell letters of freedom to serfs ;
for a piece of land conferred upon them
which could be sown with I septier of corn
C 33 gallons, also known as " setier de
terre ") a payment was made of 12
deniers or i sou. The king also took
refuge in such devices as the debasing
of the coinage (1306-1311), the sale of
offices, and the plundering of Jewish and
Lombard money-lenders.

The debasing of the coinage reduced
the value of a " livre tournois " from
20 francs to about six, while the " livre
Parisien " was still further reduced. When
these financial operations proved in-
adequate, Philip the Fair, with the
consent of the States General that is,
of the noble, ecclesiastical, and citizen
deputies imposed fresh taxation in
addition to the " impot foncier " ; these
were taxes upon goods of three per cent.,
the "matote," the army tax or "aide
de 1'ost," and numerous feudal aids. He
also exacted forced loans from towns and
church properties.

The great vassals made constant at-
tempts to reduce the royal power to its
England's t? P osition ? f nonentity.
King Invade, The opportunities they re-
Normandy < l mred recurred upon every
accession to the crown, espe-
cially upon that of a minor. The barons
revolted against Louis VI. when their plan
of a new royal election was anticipated by
a hasty coronation at Rheims ; they had
desired to set upon the throne a prince
born of the marriage of Philip I. with
Bertha of Holland, which the Church did

not recognise, as she had been divorced by
the king. The rebels found an ally in
Henry I. of England, who invaded Nor-
mandy. Supported by the capacity and
insight of Abbot Suger, Louis gained the
upper hand of his opponents and secured the
subjection even of the marauding knights,
who refused to obey the decision of the royal
court. Louis' relative, Pope Calixtus II.,
excommunicated the emperor, Henry V.,
from Rheims, and then secured a reconcilia-
tion with England. More serious was the
revolt of the vassals against Louis IX.,
in his minority, and his mother the queen-
regent, Blanche of Castile. The rebels
attempted to capture the thirteen-year-old
prince at Montlhery ; he, however, was
saved by the faithful citizens of Paris,
who ran together at the sound of the alarm
bells. The unity of the nobles was then
broken by the fact that Count Thibaut of
Champagne espoused the cause of his
beloved queen and bravely defended her
against the rebels.

In 1241 a fresh revolt broke out under
the leadership of Hugh of Lusignan, the
Count of La Marche, who found allies
in Raimond of Toulouse and King Henry

_ III. of England. Louis, how-

1 he feeble ever ^ droye the pi antagenetj

,K U n who then held a good deal of

the Throne . , . ^

Western France as a net, to
take flight to Bordeaux, captured part of
the count's territory, and concluded the
war, in 1243, by a truce for five and a half
years ; at the same time he forced those
barons who were in feudal relations with
both the English and the French crowns
to renounce one or other of these incom-
patible allegiances. The majority left
their foreign feudal lord, who was also a
vassal of the French king, though Eng-
land was an independent kingdom.

The ambitious designs of the feudatories
revived upon the death of Philip the Fair
in 1314, when his feeble and pleasure-loving
son, Louis X., ascended the throne.
He was obliged to limit the privileges of
the king's high court of justice, to guar-
antee the old privileges of the nobles,
and to exclude the intendant of finance,
Enguerrand of Marigny, his father's faith-
ful adviser. The decline of the royal power
during the Hundred Years' War with
England and its restoration by Charles
VII. and Louis XI. belong to future












"TOGETHER with the spirit of feudalism
* and the growth of corporations, the
French body politic, as already described,
displayed the characteristics of a modern
bureaucracy and was marked by a certain
uniformity. A wholly different factor
meets us when we consider social life
and its expression in art and poetry.
Here we are immediately confronted by
a line of demarcation dividing the country
into two parts, distinct in language, society,
and politics ; these are the north, which
was essentially Teutonic, and the south,
which was essentially Romance, the lin-
guistic areas of the " langue d'oil " and
the " langue d'oc," separated by the
Loire. We also meet with a number of
strictly exclusive classes, the ecclesiastical,
the high nobility, the knights developed
from the smaller nobility, the citizens,
and the " menu peuple." The princes of
the house of Hugh Capet had been con-
Tk ^k v stantly obliged to defend their
5 Church rights against the church and

the papacy, and in their

the Princes i L , ,i i

struggles enjoyed the general

support of the national clergy ; but science
and literature, exactly at the point where
the influence of the crown was most
immediate, display the inward unity of
ecclesiastical belief and of intellectual
power and the close adherence of the clergy
to the doctrines and uses of the Church.

It is true that the theology and philosophy
of the hierarchy of Northern France display
freer thought and the power of indepen-
dent judgment. Berengar of Tours, for
example, who died in 1088, opposed the
Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation.
His contemporary Lanfranc, a Lombard by
birth, had been the leader of a dogmatic
school in Normandy since 1042, and was
made Archbishop of Canterbury by William
the Conqueror ; Berengar attempted to
replace the supernaturalist theology by
a more philosophical system. Within
the limits of scholasticism Peter Abelard
was a distinguished figure, and is better

Rise of



known for his tragical connection with

Online LibraryJames Bryce BryceThe book of history. A history of all nations from the earliest times to the present, with over 8,000 illustrations (Volume 9) → online text (page 41 of 55)