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"Public Authority and the State in the Western Tradition:
A Thousand Years of Growth, A.D. 976 - 1976"

by Carroll Quigley Ph.D.




I: "The State of Communities", A.D. 976 - 1576

by Carroll Quigley Ph.D.




[Introduction by SFS Dean Peter F. Krogh]


Dean Krogh, Ladies and Gentlemen, .... and the people who laughed at that.


          For a decade from 1931 to 1941, my chief intellectual concern was with the growth of public authority and the development of the European state.  I dreamed at that time that, at some date in the future, perhaps thirty years in the future, I would write the definitive history of the growth of the European state.  But in 1941, I had to postpone indefinitely, and gradually abandoned, that project.  I no longer after 1941 had adequate libraries (and it would take a very extraordinary library for the purpose, of which there are only a couple in the United States, perhaps).  I was much too busy with my teaching -- which I enjoyed thoroughly. 


          But above all, I discovered that other historians were so specialized in their studies, and were so lacking in basic historical concepts (such as:  What does "state" mean?  In what way is "state" different from many other things, such as "public authority", "government", and so forth?) that they could not understand what I had to say.  And I had a bitter experience which revealed that, namely in my doctoral dissertation, which was on "The Public Administration of the Napoleonic Kingdom of Italy," which I wrote between 1936 and 1938.


          I will not go into the story, I will simply say there was only one man who read it, who had the slightest idea what it was all about.  And that was the great University of Florence historian, Salvemini, who at that time was a refugee in this country.  But most historians knew only one country.  They knew England, or they knew France, or they might have known Italy, they might have known Germany.  And most historians knew only certain periods    And, of course, the period I was writing about, the Napoleonic Kingdom of Italy, was technically from 1805 to 1814.  And anyone who knew that period, I discovered, really didn't know anything about, had, what the situation had been like before the Revolution, the French Revolution of 1789.


          So, instead of writing that, I got into what, I suppose, was really my much stronger activity:  the creation of the necessary conceptual paradigms, structures, frameworks, for understanding historical processes.  Because I discovered that people could not, historians could not even understand their own specialties, because of their lack of concepts.


          Let me give you two examples of this, one very contemporary, i.e., it's last last hundred years, which for me is contemporary.  There is an area of political activity, and for about a hundred years, and in all political argument and controversy to-day, there is a basic assumption that only two kinds of interests or entities operate in the area of political action, i.e., individuals and the government.  There have been numerous books published, whith such titles as Man vs. the State.  I know of two of those.  They both appeared, I think, in 1906.  We hear about Big Government as a threat to the individual, and so forth and so forth.  Conservatives now are telling us that we must curtail government, cut government spending, cut government powers, reduce government personnel, for the sake of making individuals more free.  Liberals, on the other hand, are still telling us, as they have for a long, long time, that, in order to make individuals free, we must destroy communities.  By communities, I mean villages, ghettoes in cities, ethnic groupings, religious groupings, anything which is segregated.  We must destroy them, so that all individuals would be, if possible, identical, including boys and girls. 


          But the area of political action, and I won't draw it on here, but just assume a circle of political action, in which you have:  government, individuals, acting in there.  But you also have at least two other groups, really three others:  voluntary associations, which I'll say no more about, corporations, and communities.  And if the Liberals destroy communities for the sake of the individual; and the Conservatives destroy state government for the sake of individuals, you're going to have an area of political action in which irresponsible and immensely powerful corporations are engaged upon, in opposition to individuals who are socially naked and in[deed] defenseless.


          And what we get in history is never what anyone is struggling for.  What we get in history is the resultant of diverse groups studying, struggling; and, if Liberals and Conservatives are struggling for these things, that is what the result will be.  That's one example of a lack of a paradigm.  I have given you the paradigm.


          The next thing is more personal.  A number of years ago, an old friend of mine -- we were colleagues at Princeton in the History Department in 1936 and '37 -- wrote a book, The Age of the Eighteenth Century, the Democratic Revolution.  Now, since neither of the revolutions that he talked about were democratic. Neither the one in France nor the one in the United States were not intended to be, and did not turn out to be, democratic revolutions, people have changed this and talk about "The Eighteenth Century Revolution", but they talk as if the Eighteenth Century Revolution in, let us say, the United States, and France and in other places, was the same kind of a revolution.


          Now, Bob Palmer is a very industrious person, with a very agile mind, and a ready verbalizer; but he does not know what he means by "revolution" or by "democratic."   And he's totally wrong if he believes the Eighteenth Century Revolution in the United States, or the English-speaking world in general, was the same as the Eighteenth Century Revolution in France.  In fact, they were the opposite.  The revolution in France was a struggle by a government which did not have sovereignty to obtain sovereignty, which to us would be the essential, identifying characteristic of any state.  Sovereignty.  The English-speaking revolution, through the Eighteenth Century, and in the United States, very clearly was an effort by states who had sovereignty to curtail it, divide it up, hamper it, by such things as federalism, separation of powers, electoral colleges, and so forth and so forth. 


          Now this is what I mean by the need for paradigms.  The basic entity to understand is the civilization as a whole.  And although I give you the date that I'm going to talk about, the last thousand years, Western Civilization, of which we are a part, has been around for a considerable time longer than that.  I think that we might say, perhaps, that Western Civilization began around 600.  It came out of the ruins and wreckage of the preceding Classical Civilization.  And Classical Civilization's dates might well be 1100 B.C., through a Dark Age of 1000 B.C., and it ended by about 550 A.D., and was followed by a Dark Age around 850 or 876 [A.D.], a hundred years before the outline begins this lecture.


          Out of the wreckage of Classical Civilization, which was [on] the shores of the Mediterranean Sea.  That was Classical Civilization.  And it was held together by the fact that the ease of water transportation on the Mediterranean was so superior to the difficulties of land transportation away from the shores of the Mediterranean Sea, that the city of Rome could bring its food from Egypt when it could not bring food from Lombardy in Italy.  And anywhere in the Mediterranean Sea, even at the height of the Roman Empire, if you went into the interior a few hundred miles, you had left Civilization.  That civilization perished and out of the wreckage came four other civilizations:  Islam, Byzantium, Russia and Western.  And I think we might say they all were, sort of, around from 600 onward, and certainly by 950 they were around.


          Now, another paradigm that I want to establish is a difference between two kinds of civilizations, which means a difference between two kinds of governments in these.  Asiatic civilizations, generally, do not attempt to deal with individuals or with the problems of individuals.  I have always called that Class B Civilization.  Class A Civilization is the kind of civilization that's Classical Antiquity, Classical Civilization, turned into, the kind that we are moving toward, and have been from the beginning, or the kind that was found in the first Chinese Civilization, which was from 1800 B.C. to 400 A.D., and is distinguished from the Chinese Civilization which was from 400 [A.D.} until about 1930.  We call that earlier one Sinic  -- s-i-n-i-c -- from the Latin word for China, which is Sinia.  In those Class A Civilizations, although the civilization starts by being an area of common culture made up of communities, in our type of civilization there is a long term trend to destroy and break down communities.


          Now, the way I would like to express it would be, and this is all on the back, blackboard, by saying that a civilization, all civilizations start out as aggregations of communities.  Those communities are generally of two types, either local (such as parishes, neighborhoods, villages, manors, or whatever else they may be) or kinship communities ([such as] families, clans, or so forth).  And at, when a civilization begins with communities such as this, and ours in 600, let us say, there is no state and there is no atomized individual.  


          Now, I won't go into details of this, but in such communities everything is different.  There are no written laws; it's all customary.  All controls, or most controls are what I call internalized, i.e., they're built into your hormones and your neurological responses.  And you do what is necessary to remain a member of the community; because, if you weren't a member of the community, you would be nothing.  You would not be a man.  And as you may know, if you have ever studied linguistics, many of the names which primitive people have for, even not-quite-so-primitive people, have for themselves is their word for man.  That is, unless you were a member of their community, you were not a man.


          Now, what happens in the course of a civilization, if it's an A like ours, take a thousand or more years (It took fifteen hundred years to Sinic Civilization and it took about a thousand years with Classical Antiquity) is that those communities are broken up, and gradually break down in smaller and smaller groups, and may end up simply as what we call nuclear families, a father and a mother.   And then you will discover they lose all of their discipline and control of their own children.  And the only holder of the control is the XXXX isolated individuals, and so forth.  And what happens is, you end up with a state which is not only sovereign, but totalitarian, and it is filled with isolated individuals who face a totalitarian state. 


          The communities, of course, from which Classical Antiquity came, were clans, i.e., kinship groups.  The communities from which Western Civilization came were local villages and manors.  And, indeed, the communities always are either one or the other.  And lucky civilizations, such as Chinese Civilization over the last 1500 years or more, have generally communities which are both kinship and local.  If a society has just kinship communities, like Islamic Civilization, it is in a very, very bad position.  It never, for example, can understand the meaning of the word "state".  For Islam[ic] there is no Arabic word for the state.  And you may reach the point that the Arabs tended to reach, which was that you trusted no one except your close relatives  The preferred marriage would be your parallel first cousins, i.e., your father's brother's daughter is the one you must marry.  Because no one else....  And even then you don't trust her.  All right.


          Now, of the four civilizations which came out of Classical Antiquity's wreckage, two of them clearly are a different kind of a civilization from ours, and I think Russia is too.  What I am saying is that I think those three, Islamic, Byzantine (and this I'm certain), and probably Russia also, are Class B Civilizations, i.e., they continue to work for communities.  I will take back about the Russia.  Let's forget the Russia.  It's very, much too complicated.   Just look at the Islamic and the Byzantine.  On the other hand, Western Civilization was different.  The civilizations and the governments which appeared in Class B Civilizations, those which preserved communities, were governments of limited power.  The chief powers that they had were raising money and recruiting soldiers.  And they made no effort to deal with interpersonal relations or anything else.  They were a kind of a, empire.  The finest example of that is the empire of Jenghiz Khan [about A. D. 1250].  But a very good example of it would be the Ottoman Empire, which is the final empire of Islamic Civilization and which was destroyed in 1922.  Where you did not attempt to deal with the relationships of individuals.  You left that to their local or their kinship communities.


          Now before I get deeply into West Civilization, I want to say one more thing about Classical Antiquity.  A moment ago I said there would be difficulty talking to historians about this subject.  The difficulties would be just as great in talking about Classical history, or Classical Civilization, if I spoke to classicists.  Classical Civilization began with clans as the basic community.  So where this group at the beginning of Classical Civilization were kinship groups of clans, and the beginning of our Western Civilization were little self-sufficient villages across Europe, in deep forests mostly, where these were of that isolated and different nations, natures.


          Such communities are totalitarian.  That is to say, everything that you get, which makes you a human being, you get from your community.  But since in Classical Civilization they gradually built up a state, and eventually a totalitarian state (One of the reasons they built up a totalitarian state is this:  Classicists for centuries could not see that there was a difference between a society and a state).  When Aristotle says the polis (I won't translate it:  the polis, p-o-l-i-s) is a koinonia XXXX or community found in a community, he means the totalitarian group which gives you everything.  He says a man cut off from the polis is not a man.  He just looks like a man.  He's like a thumb cut off from a hand.  It looks like a thumb.  But it isn't.  It's just a piece of meat.  So the word polis in Aristotle, and in Plato, and there it's just as late, this is the Fourth Century (the society is already at least six centuries old).  Now eventually the polis, of which there were many, was replaced by the imperium, of which there was one.  But they continued to find it utterly impossible to see the distinction between the society in which you live, which gives you everything which makes you a man, rather than some kind of a, animal, and the state, which has the monopoly, or the large part, of the political power in that society.


          So the polis, we say, was a city-state  It was community, but it was also a state.  And, when they came to the imperium hundreds of years later, it's the same way.  The imperial community.  Now, in order for this, [to] clarify this, I have to point out a few things:  first, no other communities were approved of; and, in many cases in Roman history, no other communities were permitted.  Every society has, what we might call, the orthodox theory of the state for that society.  And every society has the suppressed heresy of the state in that society.  In the society of Classical Antiquity the orthodoxy was that the state is the community, and no one should desire any else.  No one should desire a quiet life.  Everybody's life should be public.  Everyone should be prepared to give up anything, including his life, for the state, because the state was his community.  And, if he said "I'm going to go off and found my own commune", he, by that statement, becomes a traitor.  One of the first ones to do that was Epicurus, who was Fourth Century B.C.  And Epicurus said all he wanted to do was to sit down in a quiet garden with his friends and talk.  And ignore politics.  But that would be the ultimate act in our society to-day.  We haven't reached the point yet, but we're about to.  Because we are like Classical Antiquity.  We're trying to, in our society, to grind down individuals into identical atoms in a mass culture, in which all communities are dis-approved.  And, if any community wishes to stand apart, we will go in by force, and bus them out, or bus them in, or do anything that is necessary, to make them become the kind of red-blooded Americans that all should want to be.


          Now, then the state in Classical Antiquity was totalitarian, because it was regarded as a community.  Now, once the Classical Civilization was gone, the whole configuration of civilized and cultural society in the West (that's the west of Eurasia) was transformed.  Where the Mediterranean Sea had been the site of Classical Civilization, it became instead, by the year 700, the barrier between Arabic Civilization (I'll draw it from your point of view on this, the Mediterranean Sea) Arabic Civilization to the south, Byzantine Civilization to the northeast, Western Civilization to the northwest.  And the Mediterranean, instead of being an area of communication, became an area of frontier for the different societies.


          A community is not easy to define; but I would define it, approximately, this way:  if you trust everyone you meet, automatically, until they prove to be unworthy of trust, then you are in your community.  On the other hand, if you mis-trust everyone you meet, until they prove worthy of trust, then you are in an alien community.  You're in Moscow, or some place like that.  This is the, a workable definition, it seems to me, of the two.  Now, if I go back to the history of Western Civilization, which began around 600 [A.D.], what we see is an effort being made, after the civilization got started, to establish the kind of totalitarian state structure which was, been successfully established just about 600 in Byzantium, or which was established shortly after this, 1650, in the caliphate of Islamic Civilization, or which was established at least by 6 or 700 B.C. in Sinic Civilization, that is to say....   


          Now, my mind block would be here.  Oh, a, a kind of monarchy, which I will give you now as a paradigm.  It's called Providential Monarchy.  And it is associated with the idea of a Providential Deity.  So [for] us to-day, who shove religion off into a corner somewhere, and insist that religion mustn't have anything to do with communities or, certainly nothing to do with politics, or business, or many, many other things, it's hard for us to grasp that one of the most potent things in the establishment of the structure of the state, in any civilization, have always been men's ideas of the nature of Deity. 


          And I will not give you my paradigm for that.  I will simply point out to you something that is obvi---, must be obvious to you.  The Deity, God, has many different attributes:  He's creator.  He's masculine.  He's up [there].  He's transcendental, i.e., He's outside of the world of space and time.  (That was established by 500 B.C.)   Eventually, He's one (That's what the, Mohammed insisted on: "God is One")  And then, that He is omnipotent.  All-powerful.  Now, I stop at this point.  Providential empires never got further than this.


          Now, the next thing to develop in our ideas of Deity in Western Civilization were:  that God is good.  That was established by the prophets of the desert, certainly by the Fifth Century B.C.  And then came the Christian message that God is love.  And then came the scholastic inference that God is pure reason.  By the year 1250 A.D. 


          Now, what you believe is in the nature of God, in many civilizations, including our own, has helped to determine the structure of the society.  And the crucial one I want to point out here is this:  by 500 B.C. in western Asia it was pretty well established that God is omnipotent.  He could do anything.  And there is nothing He cannot do.  Thus He is pure will.  And, at almost the same time, came the other idea, which you find in Job, that God is good.  But if God is good, He cannot do anything.  He can only do things that are good.  And if He can only do things that are good, and cannot do things that are evil, then there is something higher than God: the rules of ethics.  Thus the great contribution, even before Christ, moving toward the Western idea of Deity, was the idea of Transcendental Ethical Monotheism, in which part of that is that God is love, and so forth, and the other kinds of things 


          Now, if God is one, and God is all powerful, and He can do anything, and He is providential, which means He interferes in the world, then whatever happens in the world is because He permitted it.  And whatever He permitted, who the Hell is any ordinary human being to question it?  (Now, if you read the, Job, you will see that this begins to come into that contradiction, that conversation, where Job is saying:  "God, you're running the world all wrong. You're letting bad people be elected President...", and so forth.) XXXX Apparently.  This gave Providential Monarchy.  Let me read  what I wrote here about it.  In Providential Monarchy, Deity is (and it's Asiatic) Heaven.  The Chinese word is "tien", which means Heaven.  The idea, in the original language, Indo-European, was something like "dyess".   "Dyess", from which XXXX was came, and what XXXX was, which is Zeus came, and so forth.  It meant bright, brilliant sky.  That was the Deity.  And this was a being of willful and arbitrary omnipotence; and, if there is a ruler on Earth, that ruler was picked by the Deity.  This means you must accept whatever happens:  it leads, of course, as you see, to fatalism, even though they don't accept that in their actions, frequently.  And the ruler is the vicar of omnipotent will on Earth.


          Now, this lead to a number of results.  There is no rule of law; there is the rule of God's will.  This is the heresy of the West.  Part of the heresy of the West.  When the Crusaders went to capture Jerusalem, and their war cry was "God wills it!",  they should have been rejected.  This is not Western, because the Western idea is that God gives man, man free will, and, if he does evil things, he's responsible.  And so forth.  A totally different kind of thing.  In the West you get, accordingly, the rule of law.  In Providential Monarchy you do not get, you get the rule of will.  And the slogan very quickly became:  "one God in Heaven; one ruler on Earth," which meant that Providential Monarchs consistently tried to conquer the world.  And these were the great world conquerors, and I have already said Jenghiz Khan was the greatest of them.   And further XXXX studies, his government, his army, his whole attitude was a magnificent machine for world conquest and world rule as the vicar of Heaven on Earth. 


          There are no constitutional rules of political succession in a Providential Monarchy. There are no constitutional rules of succession in Islamic Civilization, in Byzantine Civilization, or in Russian Civilization -- ever.  And to talk about constitutional law in Russia is to talk nonsense.  Even right up to the end, there was no constitutional rule of succession.  Alexander I left a note in his desk saying that he wanted his second or third son, I forget which one it was, his second son, I believe, to be his successor, and that settled it.  That was an act of will, it's not an act of constitutional law.  And this is to-day, of course,in Russia to-day.  Notice it's true of China.  It always was true of China.  China was a Providential Monarchy.  But in the West, where we have the rule of law, where even God is under rules, the rules of ethics, you have a totally  different situation, and you expect to have constitutional rules of political action, including the rules of political succession.


          Now, the Carolingian Empire, whose dates you, it was built up in the course of two hundred years, approximately, let's say 687 to 887, approximately, two hundred years, was an attempt to impose in the West a Providential Monarchy, which was a heresy, not in terms of the Western beliefs of the time, but in terms of the belief[s] which were intrinsic in the nature of Western thought, including our belief in Christ and in both of the Testaments.  And while everyone is, that I read, is full of praise about Charlemagne, Charlemagne was that kind of a willful man trying to do something that was impossible  to do, which was to conquer practically the whole world.  And he failed.  The reason he failed was that he was doing it in a period of constantly deepening economic depression.  And as a result of this constantly deepening economic depression, it became less and less possible even to conquer all of the provinces in his own empire, and totally impossible to rule the provinces of his own empire.  Because, as the depression become worse and worse, transportation broke down, all bridges collapsed. (I have read a magnificent account of somebody trying to go from Chartres to Paris.  To drive this would [take about] half an hour, I guess, I don't know, depends on the traffic.  And it took him something like eleven days: when he got there, the horse died of exhaustion.  And they had to do such things as try to patch holes in bridges by placing the shield, so the horse wouldn't fall through, and so forth).  All right, all commerce disappeared; everybody was reduced to living off the piece of land they were on.  And this became the community which are the root organizational pattern of the West, the local community, call it the parish, the village, or the manor, whatever you want.  It's local.  It is self-sufficient.


          And one of the chief reasons that you could not, and Charlemagne could not, conquer great distance was it became economically impossible to capture any fortified building, because you couldn't stay there long enough -- you couldn't take enough men and enough food there -- to starve out the people inside, because anybody inside would have more food on hand than you could carry.  And if they carried a smaller amount of food, and had to take a smaller number of men, in that case they would come out and chase you away. 


          So we got then, after Charlemagne and the last Carolingian is 887.  He was removed for not fighting the Vikings sufficiently vigorously.  And for a hundred years there was no ruler.  Instead the whole society....And we call this a Dark Age.  There is nothing wrong with a Dark Age.  Dark Ages are in many cases the most productive periods in the history of any civilization.  And certainly in Western Civilization they were  Any of though, you who have read Lynn White's book on the technological advances of the Dark Ages, such as the plough and so forth, and harnessing and so forth, so forth, know that we got a great deal [from it].  But out of the Dark Age that followed the collapse of the Carolingian Empire, we got the most magnificent thing which we have in our society:  the recognition that people can have a  society without having a state.  In other words, the recognition that people can have a  society without having a state.  In other words, this wiped away -- by experience -- the assumption that is found all through Classical Antiquity, except by unorthodox and heretical thinkers, that the state and the society are identical, and the state, such as the imperium, must be a society.   Therefore you can desire nothing more than to be a citizen.  And, if you want to go down in a ghetto or catacomb, and be with your co-sig, co-believers, and so forth and so forth, then you are an enemy.  Because you are violating the fundamental assumption.


          Now, again, to get to the structure. After this Dark Age.  The Mediterranean had become a barrier.  In the north, much neglected in our history books, but of vital importance -- the Vikings were pouring outward.  Before 750 they were pouring outward.  Raiders, slavers, pirates, men of violence and virility.  And, as you know, they occupied Iceland in 870, Greenland and Newfoundland. And so forth.  And they went eastward too, into Russia and started the beginning of Russian Civilization.  Now I call this Northern Monarchy.  It started as individual groups of pirate leaders.  But it ended up, and that would be from 750 or so to 930.  Then there was a  brief lull.  From 980, for a thousand [actually, a hundred] years, til about 1080, they were coming out as monarchies, i.e., organized state structures.  We call call this Northern Monarchy.  I invented the title and it has certain definite ideas.  Where those ideas came from, I do not know.  And it hasn't been discussed.  It's possible that they got some of them from Byzantium, because the Vikings went across Russia all the way to the Black Sea and Bysantine [Empire].  It's possible that they got it from the Carolingians, some memory of the Carolingians.  But the extraordinary thing about the Vikings -- I cannot spend too much time on that -- [is] that they went so far that they surrounded Europe.  That is to say, the Vikings did not just get, go to Newfoundland and places like that.  They conquered Normandy in 911.  They had conquered England several times, most recently in 1066.  They had gone down and conquered southern Italy and Sicily.  They had gone into Russia and opened up the trade across Russia, from the north down to the south.  They had even attacked Constantinople and eventually had become the hired mercenaries.   And the extraordinary thing is this:  in a battle in 1018 in southern Italy, Normans -- of Viking descent -- fighting on the side of the pope, were in battle with so-called Varangians -- of Viking descent -- fighting in behalf of the Byzantine Empire.  So there they had gone all the way around and were fighting [each other].


          That Northern Monarchy is of very great significance and had things which seem very precocious.  For example, it raised a military force and it raised taxes on the basis of assessments on plots of land, [which] in England we call hides, but they had different names.  They are found in Russia too. They had standing armies.  Archaeologists recently, that is to say, in the last twenty-five years, they found three large camps in Denmark, built about the year 1000 by the king Sven Forked Beard, where his standing army was ready at any moment to embark in the ships and go off.  The success of the Vikings, like the success of the raiders of the steppes of Asia, was in its mobility.  But where the steppes of Asia mobility was based on horseback riding with an excellent weapon, the composite bow, the threat of the Vikings was their mobility on water.  And they also had missile weapons.  But by the year 1000 in Western Europe you had a two class society:  peasants, who produced food, and then a small percentage of fighters, who fought on horseback with shock weapons.  In Europe they, that is with a spear, and if they were lucky had fortified a house in which to live.  That's all they needed.


          So you have a two-class society.  Now, eventually, that two-class society began to develop.  And when we come to the year 1150 we find that there, a new class has appeared, a separate class, the clergy  (I won't tell, say how this happened.)  So what you have is a monarch, at the top.  You have the nobility, who have weapons.  You have the clergy.  And you have the peasants at the bottom.  So, as I say, by the middle of the 12th Century, you also have the beginnings of commerce, the rise of towns, the appearance of a middle class of commercial traders.   So we have commercial traders.


          What the king did.  At the top.  Was build up a bureaucracy, i.e., a group of people who could write, keep records, to handle cases of justice in his court, to keep track of the money he could raise in his treasury.  And he built up these.  Now, here's the king, there's the feudal lords, L., there were the clergy, there are the bourgeoisie, the middle class, and there are the peasants, who are out of it.  All through this, they're out of it  They never paid, they never could play any major political role.  At first the king used the clergy to gradually take away from the lords (the fighting men) powers that would make him stronger and stronger, they build up the bureaucracy by doing it, but doing it so you can't trust the clergy.  They are frequently much too loyal to the bishops or even to the Pope.  By that time, according to XXXX the king built up his bureaucracy out of the bourgeoisie, he took the sons of the middle class, towns-dwelling, commercial people who could read and write and count, and put them in his bureaucracy.  And this meant that you had the king and the bureaucracy recruiting and, to some extent, obtaining financial support from the bureaucracy, from the bourgeoisie; and it meant that the feudal lords and at least the upper clergy tended to come together and cooperate in resistance to this.  




          A thousand, a hundred years after the last Carolingian died in 887, a microscopic lord near Paris was permitted by the seven or eight great lords who surrounded him, much more powerful than he was, to take the royal title.  His name was Hugh Capet.   The date is 987.  Hugh Capet was the first of the Capetian kings; and he was allowed to take that title because he was so weak.  They would not have permitted anyone with any strength.  In fact, [with] the title of king, he was also allowed to take the title of suzerain, which means he was the top man in the feudal system.  (I'll not attempt to define the feudal system if you don't know it.)   So here's the suzerain is combined with the king, in a man with no power.  And it was done because he was pious and religious and weak.  Now, as suzerain he didn't have the powers of a real  Suzerain.  A suzerain is simply a feudal lord who has no feudal lord above him.  Because the feudal lords below him, who were technically his vassals, did not perform military service, did not come to his court to settle disputes, and had very little to do with him.  But nevertheless, the power of his religious aura allowed him gradually to accumulate more and more and more power. 


          Now, I want to say a few words about the title of king.  King is a religious title.   It means a ruler who has been consecrated with holy oils by an archbishop in an archiepiscopal cathedral.   it's a ceremony very simple, similar to the Sacrament of Confirmation.  You're anointed with holy oil; and you thus become a kind of a special thing.  This power and [title] of king allowed him to assume certain things, such as, the king should see that everyone gets justice; the king should see that everyone gets protection.  (The king' s peace, in other words.)  He will seek justice on Earth with God's blessing.  To the vassals that meant the Capetians should provide ethical and moral support for their individual and political rights, which for them was exactly what they wanted.  The interesting thing is that in 1792, when Louis XVI was going to the scaffold in the French Revolution, he still believed this:  that the obligations that he had as a king was [sic] to support the rights of everyone, including the nobles and the Church.  So it was a powerful feeling.  This was the central core of the Old Regime and it cannot be emphasized too much:  the king is the source of justice. 


          Now, with this I want to combine something else which is difficult, perhaps.  The idea of property in Classical Antiquity we sum up in the word proprietas.  It means possession [of] all the innumerable and un-numerable rights in an object, maybe with a few specific restraints.  In other words, you have a car that will drive 150 miles an hour, but you're not supposed to drive it 150 miles an hour.  Now, but it's your car.  And you can drive it or not; you can let other people drive it; you can rent it; you can sell it, and then.  In other words, that's propriety [proprietas].  Proprietas is the sum of un-, innumerable and undesignated rights in an object.  This is not the mediaeval idea of property.  The mediaeval idea of property was specific rights, and the word that we use is dominia, d-o-m-i-n-i-a, which is a plural, meaning rights.  


          Now. the obligation of the Capetian king was to preserve everyone's dominia.  This meant  that if there's an object, a piece of land, and those people have certain rights in it, his job is to preserve their rights.  And this includes, because he's under the law, his own property, because it isn't his.  It's the monarchy's.  It's the family's.  This means he cannot alienate his own property.  It isn't his own.  He cannot alienate the demesne, we call it, the property of the monarchy it[self]. 


          He gradually was assuming the dimly remembered powers that monarchy had had in the past:  to coin money; to call out the whole people for military service in an emergency; to see that all men lived in peace and had justice; to grant municipalities rights of self-government, or to recognize specifically the rights of self-government; to protect the Church and religion; to regulate commerce, particularly experts, exports, so that there would be no shortage of food for the people.  That's six things which were incumbent upon him as king.  The last four of these are what in French public law is known as la police, the policy, i.e., administrative power to use discretion in an emergency or a complicated social situation.


          Now, In building up these, one of the greatest assets which the Capetians had was that for eight generations they produced sons.  From 987 to 1328 they produced sons.  And in 1328 when they didn't produce sons, there were brothers.  In fact when they first started in 1814 [sic] there were several brothers and the brothers had sons.  The much more powerful feudal lords who surrounded the Capetians (the duke of France, originally) did not have so much luck.  For one thing, they took a lot risks.  They went off to the Crusades, and things like that.


          And as they, their families, died out, they have no heirs, a right that existed with the king as suzerain was exercised.  This is the right of escheat.  That if a territory, a group of dominia, has no heirs, it comes back to the king, who can give it out to someone else.  In this way, the kings were able gradually, and it took them to 1493, to obt[ain], get the territorial unity of France.  But in get, getting the territorial unity in France, they didn't get the power in those territories.  They simply replaced the existing lords; and, because they were king, because they were under the obligations to preserve everyone's dominia, they were even less powerful when they became duke of Normandy, count of Flanders, count of Anjou, duke of Burgundy, or any of these other places that they were gradually accumulating.  They were less powerful in those apanages (they called them), those territories, than the rulers they were replacing, who had not been under obligation to be that law-abiding and that subject to the rules of what is right.


          There grew up then, gradually, a legalized confusion of extremely limited sovereignty, because each, any act  that a person did which was profitable or advantageous to him, if he could, did it long enough, he acquired a right to do it.  We have in this, in English law, this is called the right of prescription.  But in English law the right of prescription does not go against the state.  Now if you do something, and you do it for thirty years, you may have the right to do it against a private person who has private property, but you do not have this right against the state.  You may notice that every few years in there in Rockefeller Center in New York City is roped off and you are not allowed to walk between the buildings. This is to break your prescriptive right to walk across, between the buildings and XXXX




XXXX 1338 to 1453.  And in this the king obtained royal taxation, a royal army, and a royal system of justice.


          We got something which is typical of the West:  the rule of lawyers and judges.  And there were three periods in the history of the West in which we have been overwhelmed by lawyers and judges, who tell us again and again that you cannot do certain things because they are illegal, even if these things are absolutely essential to be done.  That would be in 1315 to about 1480 or so (that's the first period); again, from about 1690 to the French Revolution, 1789, which was a revolt against this mass of confused, legalistic rigidity.  You couldn't do anything.  And then the third [period] is our own day, when judges and lawyers are running everything and we are obsessed by it.  But it is part of the tradition of the West, and it goes back.  And the French Revolution is, of course, the violent response to such a situation.


          Now, after about 1370.  Let me, much more briefly.  The English attempt to conquer France was hopeless.  They could win battles, but they could not control territory.  Eventually all they did was go out and plunder, killing people, burn villages, seize rich people and demand ransoms, and so forth and so forth.  Living off the country.  And they  believed that if they would punish the French people in this way, the French people would realize that the king of France could not protect them, and therefore they should turn their allegiance to the king of England, and not give allegiance to the king of France.  But the English were quite mistaken in this, because what the French people up to that point had been thinking was the local lords should protect them; and, when they were unable to protect them, instead of shifting their allegiance to the king of England, they shifted their allegiance from the local lords to the king of France.  This reached its peak in such things as Joan of Arc, 1429, who summoned the whole religious loyalty and allegiance of France, to a very considerable degree, to focus it on this pious, weakling (I suppose, in many ways), retiring man, the so-called Dauphin.  She insisted that he must go to Rheims and be coronated; and she insisted that everybody rally to throw out the English.  And the English were thrown out, in about 25 years. 


          That king, Charles VII, I think was one of the most important of French kings, although this is not widely recognized.  Two years ago, a new biography of him appeared in English and it is almost worthless,   By a, by XXXX at Yale [M. G. A. Vale, 1974].  Notice he is king technically, I suppose, from 1422 to 1461, and the war ended in 1453, although they didn't have a peace treaty until 1492, I believe it was.   So he had a number of years after the war ended a, in which he was king.  And what he did, he tried to solidify the dominia of France in a way that they should be kept, because that was the custom,  And that is the rights of everyone.  To do this he did a number of things,  He established a royal army with a systematic system of taxation to support it.  But two other things were much more important.  In the Pragmatic Sanction of Bourges, 1438, he codified the rights of the Church in France; and these were the rights of the Church in France against the king as well as against the Pope.  An autonomous Church, electing its own members, its own bishops, controlling its own property, and so forth.  That's 1438, while the war was still going on.  


          And then in 1457 [actually, 1454], four years after the war, he issued -- this is amazing -- he issued an edict, Montils-le-Tours -- m-o-n-t-i-l-[s]    l-e-[s]    t-o-u-r-[s].  I don't find it mentioned in most history books.  It certainly is the most important edict, probably, that was in of the Old, Old Regime.  It was an order for every locality to write down the local customs.   It took a hundred and fifty years to do it, and then to revise it, but by 1580, which is where we're talking, there were 365 law codes of the local customs in France; and these were the binding laws, which meant he had condemned France to what we would call legal dis-unity.  So although he had territorial unity, he had every other kind of legal dis-unity.  Taxes were different everywhere, because [of] the way it was customary to do it.  There were tolls preventing commerce from moving everywhere. There was no unity of the judicial system:  at one time there were fourteen supreme courts. 


          And this dis-unified condition was the condition which led inevitably to the French Revolution, although it took hundreds of years to reach that inevitable fact.  Inevitable fact is simple.  No modern state in 1789 could survive which had different systems of weights and measurements for every commodity, even every miller's sack (with a miller in every district), which had different laws (so that Voltaire said you changed laws every time you changed your post horse), which had conflicting jurisdictions; which had different rates of pay[ing taxes] (so the rich paid nothing in taxes and the poor paid a great deal, and in other places the rich paid a great deal).  I mean it was just chaos, because whatever was, was custom; and, under the prescriptive rights, that custom was dominia.  And dominia was the law. 


          And as a result, in 1789 we find a solution to a problem which, when I was younger than even the students who are here, struck me right in the face (I always had the eyes of a child).  I said:  "If the king of France was absolute in 1789, and all the books say so, how could he be bankrupt, unless the country was bankrupt?"  And no one claims that France was bankrupt in 1789; France was among the wealthiest countries of Europe.  So if the king was absolute, there was no reason why he couldn't use his absolute power to raise the money he needed from a wealthy economic system such as existed in France.  This is one of the reasons I studied this subject; and what I found was that the king of France was not absolute -- he was not even sovereign.  And, indeed, he had reached perhaps the peak of his power around 1520; and by 1576, when we are ending this lecture, already his power was collapsing.   And it collapses into a growing morass of increasingly rigid restraints.  I'll give you one example, and then you can leave, although you've been very patient.


          The king could not borrow, because he had no collateral.  If anything he had belonged to the monarchy, it doesn't belong to him, then he can't put up any of these royal possessions as collateral on loans.  Because, if I like to borrow 100,000 livres, and someone says I'd have to put up collateral, maybe I could get a necklace or something of the Queen, which wasn't part of the royal dominia, that XXXX means it would be all right.  But he had to borrow millions.  So he had no credit.  What he did was, for centuries, he, he couldn't alienate properties, so he alienated incomes.  And by 1789 every income that he had coming in had already been committed to some extent.   So when he, his ancestors said to someone, "I want you to do this, and if you do this, you will make this income from this place".  And maybe you can buy XXXX So when he wanted to borrow money, he could say:  "All right, there's little money.  He would pay, I wouldn't pay it back , but I will pay you the interest on it.  And in just the interest on this income, that has just come free (because the family who has been getting it for three hundred years has died out).  And now that it's become free, it leaves, yields, let us say, 100,000 a year, and at ten percent interest you will give me a million.  And then you'll have 100,000 a year  And if you ever want your money, you can always sell an income of 100,000 a year to anybody for a million."


          Now, he had to find in 1561 enormous sums of money.  (I won't explain how he got so badly in debt, to save time.)   And what he did was, the city of Paris said that they would do it.  They would guarantee these loans that were given to him, but they needed a guarantee that the interest would be paid.  And the Church of France volunteered to pay the interest.  These are les Rentes sur l'Hotel de Ville de Paris.  This made within a hundred years, a hundred fifty years, the Church of France stronger, and more of a sovereign political entity, than the monarchy itself.  But we'll have to save that for next Wednesday. 


Thank you, Ladies and Gentlemen. 



Next Section - II: "The State of Estates," A.D. 1576 - 1776

Lectures by Carroll Quigley

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