"Public Authority and the
State in the Western Tradition:
A Thousand Years of Growth, A.D. 976 - 1976”
by Carroll Quigley Ph.D.
II: “The State of Estates", A.D. 1576 - 1776
by Carroll Quigley Ph.D.
Thank you, Professor Brown.
You know, of course,... Well, I might as well begin by thanking you for
coming out in such awful weather. You know, I just retired this spring,
with joy that I was retiring, in spite of the fact I enjoyed every minute of
my 41 years of teaching on the university level.
The only slight flaw in retiring was that I would no longer have Professor
Brown as my boss. I considered it my gift just before I retired to the fact
that she was unanimously re-elected head of our department last year. We
have a prize with her.
Last time, I portrayed the sweep that we're concerned with of a thousand
years as a period in 976 when we had no state at all. All power was
private power. But we also had, really, no individuals, that is, no
isolated individuals. All that we had were individuals so deeply
embedded in local communities, local self-sufficient communities, that their
power relationships within which they functioned were in their day-to-day
activities, and the controls of their behavior were almost totally
internalized in their neurological and hormone systems. So they obeyed
what seemed to them to be their inner compulsions and what they were doing
was fulfilling their functions that they had in this interwoven community
structure, which changed so slowly, that even in a long life -- and, of
course, most people in those days did not live long lives -- but even in a
long life, let us say, of sixty or seventy years almost no changes would be
noticed by anyone in the pattern XXXX which they had embedded inside
And at the end of the thousand year period, in the year in which we now are,
we no longer have communities, except shattered, broken, crippled ones,
isolated ones. Instead, we have states of monstrous power and
frustrated individuals, isolated individuals; the state and the individuals
working together, from opposite sides, to destroy what we have left of
communities -- local, family, or whatever they might he.
Over this long period of a thousand years, the growth of the state, which is
our subject, marked by the beginning of public power, the appearance of a
state apparatus of a very primitive kind, made up of a king and his
assistants, which eventually became a monarch and a bureaucracy. And
around this core, there gradually accumulated sufficient activities to make
what we would regard as a public authority and, eventually, a state.
And the mark of that can be most clearly, I think, indicated by the
development of what we call sovereignty. Without sovereignty, I do not
think we would say that a state is much of a state, although we might
call it that. Now, there has been a great deal of talk in books about
sovereignty -- not, unfortunately, in history books very much -- but no one
has ever bothered to define it. And from my study of the growth of the
state, I have been able to, it seems to me, put together what sovereignty
consists of, at least historically in the tradition of our Western
Civilization. It seems to me, it has eight functions or aspects, and
the approximate order in which they appeared are these:
First, all human needs require that a person live and cooperate with other
people for satisfaction. Nobody, no one, none of us can satisfy any
significant human needs by acting alone in a state of nature. The two
fundamental ones from the beginning are: that the group within which a
community is satisfying the functions and needs must be defended from
outside attack. So the first aspect is defense. Secondly,
disputes and conflicts within the group must be settled, so that insiders do
not fight with each other, but cooperate, rather than open themselves to
enemy attack. So defense is first, against outsiders; judicial
activity is second, settling disputes among insiders.
The third one is very difficult to talk about. I once years ago gave a
whole course upon it: the administrative power. The French word for
it -- i.e., in the study of French public law -- most of my study was
done in the French language and in French public law -- is la police.
It does not mean "police," it rather means "policy," and I suppose the best
way to define it would be to say: the power to take those discretionary
actions which are necessary for the continued existence of the community.
In the Middle Ages and in the Dark Ages with which I began, in 976, one of
the chief needs was the food supply, and by the Eighteenth Century, the
early Eighteenth Century, in France, if you simply said "la police,"
what it meant was control of the grain trade. However, in strict legal
understanding it meant much more. For example, it meant: what
emergency measures would be taken. and who would order them, if a plague
appeared? That the dead, dead must be buried the same day, and things
of this kind. When anyone must get a swine flu injection. La police.
Now, notice: the, it's nothing that you can designate. But it is a
most significant power, administrative power; and, when I taught the
subject, I found out I shocked the students by saying that, in my opinion,
it is almost the most important of the eight aspects of sovereignty, and
there is no provision whatever for it in the Constitution of the United
And when people talk in terms of three branches of government, or three
aspects of government, if they XXXX on England, they tend to call
[it] -- as the Lord Chief Justice of England, Lord Hewart [of Bury], did
around 1935 [actually, in 1929] -- "the headless fourth branch of
government." He wrote a book whose title was The New
Despotism. The Headless Fourth Branch of the Government. And yet I
could show him that where a thousand years before his book, it had existed
as one of the attributes of what is necessary to keep a community, or a
group of people cooperating together, and keep it functioning. La police.
I emphasize that the power is discretionary. And the finest example I
can give you of that is a voice cop that's directing traffic at a busy
intersection: he has the power to start and stop the traffic as he judges
fit, and can enforce that with the power of the state. And it does not
obey any of the rules of public authority, which the common [law] lawyers of
to-day insist is necessary (But I'm not gonna speak my passion on that
subject til the third lecture) when it [sic] destroyed the efforts to
create administrative power in this country. When the Interstate Commerce
Commission was created, that was the first effort, in 1889, and has been
absolutely paralyzed and made it impossible, a number of things, one of them
was insisting that they must use the procedures of the common law courts,
which is nonsense. It's the discretionary power. That is just as if you
asked a policeman, who's directing traffic down here at the Key Bridge end
of M Street. should obey the common, the common law procedural requirements.
All right that is the third.
The fourth is quite obvious: the taxing power, mobilizing resources for
public purposes. Notice: that the French government, when the French
Revolution started in 1789, did not have the taxing power. But I'll
get back to that.
The third [fifth] is legislative power. Now, here there has always
been confusion because for many centuries, and certainly back in 976, there
was no legislative power, and yet there were laws and were rules. And the
reason was that in a society largely dominated by a community, in which, in
which personal behavior is largely controlled by internalized controls, in
such a situation the rules are not made by an outsider. You discover
what the rules are by observing how people act and, accordingly, the law was
found and not made, and it was a very drastic innovation when we shifted
from finding the law to making the law. And we haven't really yet made that
transition completely in the common law countries, where we still say that
the judges are finding the law, as if, by looking back to previous
decisions, rather than to previous actions of people.
When originally the law was found and when the royal judges first began to
go around England trying cases, they never said "This is the law." They
gathered together a group of men, sworn local people, and they said, "What
do you do in a case like this?" And they said "We generally do this". Now
in some cases they would look puzzled and say, "In the memory of no one here
has there been such a case." That they had arson or something of the
kind. And then the judges would say, "Well, In traveling around England
trying cases, I have found that the most common rule is...." And thus we
established the common law. So the common law in England was the law that
the royal judges discovered going around and finding out what the law was,
and filling in gaps with what was common to England. Notice: the common law
in England was a royal creation, from true local custom.
The law in France, as I showed you last time, was the writing down of local
customs in all of their diversity. The legislative process, I will say very
little more about it, but the first examples of writing down were not
regarded as making new rules at all: they were simply promulgations of
customs. And it was a long time before people realized that we did, in
fact, have a legislative process going in and went on, and were making new
rules. It was centuries before people knew this. All right, that's the
fifth aspect, legislation.
The sixth aspect we might as well call executive, and it's of relative
little importance. it's the enforcement of laws and judicial decisions.
And the executive action became increasingly necessary. As time went on,
communities disintegrated, and peoples’ behavior became less and less
subject to internalized controls and had to become invasively subject to
externalized controls, such as force, duress, threats, fines, restitution,
or other kinds of outside, external pressure. To-day we think almost
entirely in terms of law and order. If someone campaigns for the
Presidency on law and order, what he's saying is, he's gonna intensify the
external controls upon behavior that people don't approve of.
Now, the last two [aspects of sovereignty] are of tremendous importance, and
they are, perhaps, the most important to-day. And yet they are rarely
discussed in connection with sovereignty. The seventh is money
control. I pointed out last time that from the very beginning, going
back to the very earliest days, I would say more than 500 B.C., coinage, and
control of money, was one of the attributes of royalty. But, of course,
to-day it includes much more than just coinage: it means the creation and
control of money and credit, and in the English-speaking world this is not a
part of sovereignty. It is in private hands, even though it is perhaps
the most important power that exists in a society such as ours to-day.
And the last aspect of sovereignty, the incorporating power, i.e.,
the right to say that a group of people is a single legal entity, i.e.,
to create corporations. This did not exist in the English-speaking
world until quite late. It existed in the Roman Law always. One
of the distinctive things different about the Roman Law was that all that
existed was the imperium (public authority) and individuals. That's
all that existed. If there existed any other legal groups -- and
by legal, I mean that they had the right to own property and to sue or be
sued in court -- then they had to have some kind of a charter from the
Imperial power to justify this. Now, of course, with the fall of Rome
that ceased entirely, and corporations of the year 970, and there were
thousands of them all over Europe, many of them ecclesiastical, but some
other kinds as well. It was never quite clear, for example, whether each
diocese was a corporation, whether each parish was a corporation.
Certainly we generally knew that each monastery or convent was a
corporation, and so forth. But there were certainly thousands of them and
they did not have any charter of incorporation.
All right, those are the eight aspects of sovereignty. Now once I have
shown them in this way, it's quite clear that when I come to the end of
to-night's lecture in 1789, very few states in Europe will have all of them.
And indeed, when I begin the lecture to-night in 1576, almost no states in
Europe had all of them. However, we could say XXXX if a state
had a good try at them, and had six of them, or most of the six, we might
say it was a sovereign state or a sovereign entity.
Now, the next aspect is: How was it possible to build up a sovereign entity
around the basic core? Which had to exist, because, unless there were
something there of an administrative nature,.... And, in almost every case,
what was there.... There are two exceptions, city-states, like Venice and
so forth, which did not have a monarch. But all landed, extensive landed
territories had a monarch, and unless that monarch had assistants, which I
will call a bureaucracy, then you could hardly expect that the aspects of
sovereignty would accumulate.
In accumulating, however, the king and his bureaucrats needed something
else. They needed allies outside; and they got, the reason they needed
these allies; and, of course, they needed money. They needed personnel,
which I mentioned last time, that is people who could read, and write, and
keep records, count their money, and so forth. And these people would have
the seals indicating that they were doing this by authority of the king, and
so forth. (And the collection of seals is quite interesting. I've been
in archives where seals were lying around, loose on the floor, and I did
want to pick up a couple. One in particular was beautiful -- Richard
the Third, I believe it was -- seal of green wax, and, but they would only
let me take two that were lying there. They were papal bulls, of the
late mediaeval period. They had somehow been cut off. Papal bulls, you
know, are only about as big as quarters, and they're lead, with very garish
silk strings attaching them to the document, they break off quite easily.
The garish strings are either bright, they're bright yellow and red
So, now, the gradual development in the thousand years that we're concerned
with, which we would call economic expansion and growth, and these were the
result of social changes, made it possible for the monarchy to find allies.
And I don't believe I will take the time to write them on the board here,
but, I will say, at the beginning, all that we had were lords and serfs, a
kind of a two-class system.
Then, when the king began to appear with his bureaucracy -- and we'll put
him outside the classes -- the lords separated (and that was in the
Thirteenth Century, I mean the Eleventh Century, as a result of the
Investiture Struggle) into the Lords Spiritual, that's the clergy, and the
Lords Temporal, what we would call the nobility. And the peasants. We'd
have a three-class system.
And eventually, the beginnings of commerce and the growth of towns gave rise
to a middle class, the merchants, the burghers -- and we would put them in
there -- so you now have peasants, burghers, nobles, clergy, and above it
all, still the king with his bureaucracy. That you, you would have those by
the year 1300, very clearly established.
Within a hundred and fifty years, when they reached a great crisis (in fact,
it's....,they reached a crisis within fifty years), you have an additional
one, in the city: craftsmen in giles, in guilds. Woodworkers,
leatherworkers, people of this kind.
And you might make a distinction, and say that not every landlord was a
noble. There were lesser landlords, who were not noble. And, in fact, in
England they were a very vitally important group. They are frequently
called the gentry. That would be, let us say, around 1400 or certainly
And you would thus have the clergy, nobles, gentry, burghers, craftsmen,
peasants. And then, if you come up past this night's lecture, into the
Nineteenth Century, past 1776, you would find that you had a new kind of bourgeoisie in
the city, the industrial bourgeoisie, and this created a new kind of
working class in the city, the proletariat, while craftsmen were
being pushed aside. And so forth. I will come up to that now.
Now, what the monarch had to do was to find allies down below, in order to
accumulate powers when he would be resisted. His first alliance was
with the clergy, and he was resisted by the nobility. But soon the
clergy and nobility allied together; and he was being resisted by them
jointly. He found then allies in the bourgeoisie, in the
merchants, the sons of merchants, who could read and write and count, and,
indeed, were much more loyal to the king than any clergy had ever been. And
in England and other places, they found allies among the gentry. In
Eastern Europe, in Eastern, in Germany, the Junker, younger sons of
the landed class, and so forth. Notice, that at no time, at least in [the
period covered by] the first two lectures, did the king find any allies
worth talking about in what was really the most important group in society,
the peasants, who were producing the food for everyone else. And one
of the XXXX studies I have been making in the past ten years on this
whole problem has been that it is of no use to have something, no matter how
essential it is, and expect it will be a source of power. If you take
basic things that everyone needs, like food and, I assume, sex, maybe
health, things of this kind, you will never find that possession of these
has ever given the possessors or the people who supply the community with
them enough power to play any rôle in political action. So we just
leave the peasants out of it.
Not all of these XXXX groups obtained status and became a focus of
political authority. Those that did formed what is the subtitle of the
lecture to-night: Estates. And the number of Estates that exist in a
community is no real criterion or sign of the number of social classes that
they had. I have given you six social classes here that many places
had, let us say, in 1789. I don't know any country with six Estates,
however. In England they had two estates, the Lords Temporal and
Spiritual, and then the Commons. And the Commons was made up of the
gentry from the shires and the bourgeoisie from the municipalities.
So they had then four classes, but only two houses.
Now, the significant thing in English history, which I want to emphasize, is
that England did have what you certainly would call, I think, a sovereign
state very early. Certainly by 1400. And it had that sovereign state,
however, not in the hands of the king, but
instead in the hands of a joint corporation, known technically as Rex in
Parlamento, the king-in-parliament. And this possessor of
sovereignty, Rex in Parlamento, or prince in parliament, if you wish,
is, I'm quite sure (and I haven't investigated it as exhaustively), is quite
sure, I, is not just English. It's Northern Monarchy. In other words, you
will find the oldest parliament in the world to-day -- it's more than a
thousand years old -- is in Iceland, and other old ones are in Norway and
Denmark and places like this. And this idea of a ruler having the
power to do almost anything, if the parliament agrees, is the real, basic
background of a tremendous political power like Gustavus Adolphus in 1630,
in the Thirty Years War. All right, that's, is in England.
But if you go into France you will find there are three Estates: there's the
clergy, the nobility, and the rest, called the Third. In France there was a
certain representation there for the peasants. They did have
representatives, the same as everybody else. But, as you certainly know,
the so-called Estates General did not meet for a hundred and
seventy-five years. It was not called to assemble after 1614, until it
was forced to be called to meet in 1789, and that's what started the French
Revolution. And the reason it wasn't called was because the king did not
want more problems than he had. And he would have had more.
All right, now, if you go farther east, you will find places where there are
four, and there are some places where there are five, Estates. And in the
course of history some of them changed. They eliminated groups, until
finally they reduced the number, and so forth.
Now, the next point I have to make is extraordinarily complex.
I have to make a distinction, which I have already been developing, that as
you go across Europe the situation is quite different the further east you
go. I have already showed you a tremendous difference between England
and France. But there are two other zones that we must deal [with].
France goes from the English Channel to the Rhine. Western
Germany goes from the Rhine to the Elbe River. Eastern Europe goes
from the Elbe River to the Pinsk Marshes or the Pribyat River, which is
considerably east of Warsaw, and is the natural boundary between Europe and
Asia. And is very close to the actual boundary to-day between
Russia and Poland (It's a little further east). Now, these four had
totally different experiences, and I want to look at them a little bit. Let
me glance at my notes. I think some of those differences. These other
differences became crucial in what happened to monarchical authority and to
state power, depending upon what happened to the Estates. So I think it is
perfectly justifiable to call this two hundred years [period] the Age of
If we look at the four parts of Europe, which I've put here, a general rule
which you might keep in mind is: that the more extensive the power, i.e.,
the greater acreage you had, the less intense it was: extension at the
sacrifice of intension. By intension, I mean how far down socially
does the royal power go? And you will you find that in almost no places did
the royal power go down where it interfered with the behavior of peasants.
Now, which would be eighty percent of the whole population. I won’t go. XXXX
I could give you a periodization of it, but there's no point.
Now these four sections are usually introduced by saying it's like a ham
sandwich: that is to say, England and Eastern Europe are similar in certain
ways, although very different in others, The chief simularity I
want to point out at once is this: England was an area of large estates;
Eastern Europe was an area of large estates; but France and West Germany
were areas of family-sized farms. In the Middle Ages, if you go back to
976. no one owned the land. People had rights of usage in the land. But
eventually some troublemaker, and according to Rousseau he should have been
struck dead, or something, asked "Who owns this land?" The question should
never have been asked. That
is asking "Who has proprietas in this land?
Instead they should have continued, as the Middle Ages did, "What dominia exist
in this land, and who owns them?" And that's what you'll find in the
questions that William the Conqueror asked, in 1087, when he sent out people
in the Domesday survey. They asked not who own[s].
Instead "Of whom is this land held? Who holds it? What
people live upon it? What obligations do they have?" And questions of
this kind, which makes it possible, rather dimly, to use the Domesday survey
to create a social structure of England in 1087. Now, these changes, and
you can see how drastic it is. If England had large estates, serfdom ended
in England by 1300. By 1300 in Eastern Europe serfdom was really just
beginning. See they also had large estates. In Eastern Europe serfdom was
still there, and in Germany by 1800. And only the defeat by Napoleon made
them make up their minds they had to abolish it, in 18--, approximately
As you know, if we leave Europe and go into Asia, in Russia they did not
abolish serfdom until 1863, just before the time we freed our slaves. So
the history of serfdom is entirely different. It was eliminated just
about totally in England, simply because people, instead of working on
someone's land a couple of days a week, paid him money, a penny a day.
So they made an agreement: "You won't have to work for me any more -- and
I'm just as glad because I'm not going to grow things to eat. I'm going to
grow wool from sheep, or something of this kind. So you owe me two
days work a week, give me two pennies a week instead." Unfortunately, in
[cases] the English judges, and I'll show you why in a moment, said [that]
that payment is rent and, if it's rent, it's an indication that the lord
owns the land. Therefore the peasant had no real right in the land, though
he wouldn't be paying rent.
Now in France those obligations to work and to do other things, what we call
manorial dues, still existed in the French Revolution. And they're not
abolished until the Fourth of August of 1789. But they were not of great
significance; they weren't....They were a nuisance. And they did not
involve week work or things of that kind. That all had been paid off,
and.... Had been paid off by money, which had, because of the inflation (And
the whole history of France is the history of inflation), showed that the
value of money had become so small, that the payment that had been agreed
upon was hardly worth collecting.
Now, let us look at a number of things. What law existed in the....? In
England. The Common Law, I told you. It was the law that was "found." In
France. It was the local customs which had been "written down." Ah, in
Germany, West Germany. A totally different situation. We had, in the
western part of Europe in the Sixteenth Century, what we called "Ren and
Ref" ("Renaissance and Reformation"). But in Germany they had "Ren and
Ref and Rec" (the "Reception"), because they generally took over the Roman
law in the Sixteenth Century. And this meant that the prince became the
head; and, if he can make Roman law be obeyed, he becomes sovereign in that
way. And he used that power to protect the landholding of the peasantry,
rather than to protect the rights of the nobles or the clergy. Furthermore,
as a result of the Renaissance [sic,
should be Reformation], the prince in Western Germany also became head of
the Church. Well that's the way it was in Roman law: the Roman Emperor was
Supreme Pontiff, Pontifex Maximus, the head, chief of all the priests
in the Roman system, and so forth.
So, by the "Reception" of the Roman law, Western Germany became sovereign. XXXX The
king became, or the prince, because most of them were not kings. The reason
they were not kings is that you couldn't adopt the title of king in the Holy
Roman Empire except with the permission of the Emperor, and the Emperor
would not generally allow that, unless you paid him off or were somebody....
For instance, the Wittelsbach family he could trust. That's in Bavaria, so
he allowed them to be called King of Bavaria. But he, he couldn't
trust the Hohenzollems up in the north, in Prussia, so he, they could not
become King of Brandenburg. They were Elector of Brandenburg, but when they
wanted to take the title of king in 1701, they could not take it in the Holy
Roman Empire, so they took it in Prussia, which was outside the Holy Roman
Empire, to the east. And the correct name was not King of Prussia,
although that, within 100 years, that was adopted. It was King in Prussia,
though he was Elector of Brandenburg and King in Prussia without the
Habsburg -- because they were, mostly the emperors were Habsburgs -- without
Now, the, if you go further east, what happened is, the rulers did not have
the money, and above all, could not find the skilled personnel to keep his
records. He couldn't build up a bureaucracy. He did not want to build
up a bureaucracy out of townspeople, and the towns were few and far between.
Furthermore, the towns in Germany were collapsing into a long period of
depression beginning around, right in the Renaissance period, certainly by
1500. So what they did generally, the princes in Eastern Europe, is
that they used for their bureaucracy the younger sons (that's where the
word Junker comes from) or the nobility themselves and the gentry
themselves. And they used them as their administrators. But they did not
pay these, so they were not paid officials, And, naturally, as
administrators, they would be administrating only in their own localities,
where they would systematically administer to their own benefit and not
necessarily to the benefit of the ruler, the prince.
Now, as a result of this, all the earlier monarchs in that period, in that
area, in Eastern Europe vanished; and, generally, the state that they
represented vanished with them. It's worth pointing this out. Why did
these kingdoms, Lithuania, or principalities, Transylvania, kingdom
of Bohemia, above all, the kingdom of Poland, why did they vanish? And the
answer is: they vanished because the prince or king found himself facing an
Estate that was made up very largely of landlords. And he could not get the
money or the skilled bureaucracy or the other things he needed; he really
couldn't even get the army, because without money he couldn't
hire mercenaries. And, as a result, they were able to destroy him.
Now, how they destroyed him is this, in most cases: they refused to admit
that his family had any hereditary right to the throne. (And it is
correct that kingship originally was not a hereditary title; it was an
elective title. And by only, it was only after years that it gradually
became accepted that the kingship should be inherited -- and inherited by
fundamental laws of the monarchy)
These elective kingships were suicidal, not just for the king here, but for
the country itself. The reason is that the,XXXX the Estates would
elect as king only that man who promised to reduce the royal power the most.
We almost got a competition in this in the 1976 election. If we had
Ford and Reagan running against each other -- and I guess I would like to
see that, except you would have to take one or the other, I suppose, and
there is not really any choice -- but they would be XXXX saying, "I
will govern less. I will cut back taxes. I will cut back big
government. I will do all these kinds of things to reduce the
Now this is what the elected monarchs of Eastern Europe did; and, as they
did this, they eventually had no powers at all. And at that point you got
the military revolution, which began about 1440 and which was well
established by 1579. By the military revolution I mean this: the
previous weaponry, particularly in Eastern Europe, was mounted nobles on
horseback with spears. In other words, what we would call knights.
But after 1500, and certainly after 1400, these were not successful.
Infantrymen with spears, such as the Swiss pikemen, or infantrymen (if they
could be protected
by spearmen or by obstacles of various kinds),
who had missile weapons, such as guns, arquebusiers, and, above all,
artillery, which could smash down the castles of nobles, were necessary.
Not only to control the nobles in your own country, as the king of France
did and the king of England did, but it was also necessary to protect your
country against outside invaders.
And the Estates controlled by landlords in Eastern Europe refused to permit
that military revolution. They would rather go down to defeat as an
obsolete system of weaponry, if they could be certain that they would retain
control of all the people who lived on their estates, which the king had
already granted to them.
And this is why you got in Eastern Europe large estates, increasingly
troubled, and abject serfdom, the domination of a landed group, and even
one.... Because, as you know, in Poland they
even established that if even a single landlord said no,
it couldn't be done. The "free veto." It's as if we had a
parliamentary body that, any time it made a decision, it had to be
unanimous. And the reason is because they were going to stick together
and they would get what they could in their own little areas.
But they were anti-cities. They did not want people in cities who were
If any trading went on, they wanted it [for] themselves, and they wanted
foreigners, such as the Dutch, or the Swedes, or others, to come, or the
Germanic cities, or the Hanseatic cities, to come right into their estates
in the Vistula River and others, and they would then trade to them the goods
that they were producing with serf labor, i.e.,
grain, wool, hides, lumber, things of this kind. So, as a result,
Eastern Europe fell backward into a colonial area. Its trade and its
middle class more or less vanished. The cities became more and more
[insignificant], and the trade in the cities was largely taken over by
foreigners and aliens, many of them Jews. And this is where the ghettos and
pales of Eastern European cities came. Incidentally, this is not
unique, just in Poland. It went on in many other places, because this
was a regular problem. Where you have a landed group in control of a
society, they are very likely to destroy commercial activity and allow it to
fall into the hands of foreigners and aliens, like the Ottoman Empire
allowed it to fall in the hands of French and Greeks and various others. The
people in Russia allowed it to fall in the hands of Greeks and various
others, and so forth. This is a largely prevalent system.
Another area XXXX that marks a difference here, XXXX all of
the differences, is corporation bodies ceased to be of much significance.
In other words, guilds ceased to be important, the same way that towns, and
these were two chief secular corporate bodies that we would find. And,
indeed, the Church as corporate body tended to become part of the landlord
system also, so that a prince or a [member of a] princely family would also
be the archbishop and the bishop. And in some cases, as in Prussia, Albert
of Brandenburg, who was bishop of at least three different places and
archbishop, I believe, in two places, became the Prince, the Hohenzollern
Prince of Prussia. Which meant that he was taking over the corporation. On
the other hand, in Western Europe, corporations, XXXX the guilds and,
above all, the towns, had a vitality and life of their own, and an
independent rôle in law, in spite of the fact that in a truly sovereign
state you would not have corporations unless they had an incorporating
charter, as I've indicated to you.
Generally, in the period of Estates, government functions were not
centralized; they were not uniform; they were assigned to different persons,
different groups, different boards, different committees, and on an ad hoc basis,
without any rational distinctions such as we would accept; and this system XXXX went
down, in many cases, to the low levels of villages or parishes, although I
can guarantee that there were infrequently peasants and, almost as
infrequently, parish priests found on these governing boards.
In this period, right through, up to XXXX period
we're concerned with this evening, dynastic monarchy was essentially a
personal thing. If you go back to the beginning, you had feudalism
with no monarchy, or no monarchy of any significance. The next period
we call feudal monarchy. There allegiance, and loyalty, was owed to the
monarchy only by his vassals. But then you have the period we are dealing
with to-night, dynastic monarchy, where loyalty, and allegiance, was due to
the dynasty in which the monarch belonged, but it's always on a personal
basis. Your allegiance is owed to the existing member of that family -- the
Tudors or the Bourbons or the Hohenzollerns or whatever it is -- and it's a
However, by the period we're dealing with to-night, from 1576 to 1776, the
loyalty was expected from any people who are active political participants.
Now that would still be much less than twenty percent of the population
roughly, because, XXXX that as I said, it still included no peasants,
and they were probably at eighty percent at least. And
there were others too. So it was a personal thing.
Treason was disloyalty to the person or to the dynasty; it was not
disloyalty to the state, to the community, or to the territory in which
people lived. XXXX we looked
very briefly at these. Now, XXXX
In England, sovereignty was achieved early. Rex
Why the state used
the judiciary for unpaid services. And the gentry were unpaid
members of Parliament. They were also unpaid local justices, the justices
of the peace, and so forth. The law that was practiced was the Common Law.
Now, there are things that are important here. [One] is, how do you become
a judge? You have to know the law. And if you have to know the law, how do
you learn it?
The local justice of the peace in England, which was the local, the lowest
level of justice throughout all this period and even later, right up into
the Twentieth Century, was the justice of the peace. He was not expected to
know the law. He was unpaid. And he was the local magistrate. Now, if he
was to learn the law, he
did not go to a law school, really, and certainly not to a university,
because the common law was not taught in universities. Instead it was
taught in four very expensive eating clubs in Westminster, the Inns of
Court: [the Inner Temple,] the Middle Temple, Lincoln's Inn, and [Grey's
Inn] so forth. Inner Temple. The four Inns of Court. And these were
expensive. You had to eat meals there, you had to listen to the lawyers
talking about.... You see, they were there, they were the places where the
judges and lawyers who were trying cases in Westminster spent the evening[s]
during the judicial sessions. And they not only discussed the cases that
were going on each day, but men who were regarded as authorities gave
discussions afterwards in the lounge in regard to contracts, or whatever it
would be. And in this way you would pick up the necessary knowledge of the
But this was expensive. To join the Inns of Court, it required, oh,
hundreds and hundreds of guineas, which would mean hundreds and hundreds of
dollars in our language. Only the landed oligarchy could afford it;
and this, only people who were lawyers, and had passed the bar through this
process, could become judges. So what you had was, which is true of
much of English history, a very small hole through which circulation was
allowed for people to work their way up. But it was an educational loophole
that they had to squeeze their way through, and it was expensive in most
cases. And the result was that only those people who had affluent parents [could
become lawyers and judges],
and for much of English history, at least up until the period we're
concerned with at the end of this lecture to-night, i.e.,
to 1776, the only affluent parents that most people had would be the gentry,
landlord class. So your eldest son would take over the estate; your second
son would, perhaps, go into the navy or the army, or you would find him a
place in the Church, a living, as they called it; and then the third son
would. perhaps, go to the Inns of Court and try to become a lawyer.
By 1776 -- and this will end my discussion of England, which is very brief,
and, as you can see, inadequate -- you had a landed oligarchy in England.
And that landed oligarchy controlled the Parliament. It had taken it away
from the king, so you now had sovereignty in [Rex
It had taken it away in
the civil wars of the Seventeenth Century. And that same land oligarchy had
control of the court system and the interpretation of the law. And,
naturally, when any occasion arose when there was a dispute, "What rights
does someone have in this piece of land?", they invariably decided in favor
of the landlord group and against any other group, above all, any peasants.
And the result was, England's rural areas became depopulated. And
that's why, in the early 1700s, Goldsmith wrote The
" Sweet Auburn, loveliest village of the plain...." But there's no one
there. Or if you read Elegy
in a Country Churchyard,
once again, there's no one around. The whole countryside is deserted
by the Eighteenth Century. And they came to America, and this, or they
went to other places, and this gave us eventually the British Empire.
Now, France I'm saving, because I want to end up with France.
In West, West Germany, there had been originally, much later [earlier] than
in France, an emperor. But because the emperor was elective, the
same thing occurred to him which
occurred, happened to all elected kings and princes, i.e., he
had to make concessions, go into debt to get the necessary money and
necessary votes, in order to be elected Emperor. And the empire thus
disintegrated into principalities which the emperor could not control.
However, the emperor, as long as he continued to exist, and technically he
continued to exist until 1806, when his name was changed, from Holy Roman
Emperor to Habsburg Emperor of Austria, by Napoleon. If you want an
imperial title, you can have one for Austria, but you can't have it for the
Holy Roman Empire, and so forth. The imperial title still
existed, but all the rights and powers of the Hapsburgs were the powers of
the hundreds of other inheritances which they had. The most
significant, of course, were they were Archdukes of Austria, but they were
Kings of Hungary, Kings of Bohemia, and many, many other things, as you
Now, as a result of this disintegration, what you got what you got was small
sovereign principalities, some of them so small that we are told you could
walk around the circumference of the principality before breakfast.
And without spending any time upon it, I want to point out that, in my
opinion, the greatest period of European history in the post-mediaeval
period, certainly up until 1800, up to the time of Napoleon, was Western
Germany in the late Eighteenth Century. And I think you will see, if you
make a list of the great geniuses in the history of Europe, that they are
clustered in that period. I won't attempt to do it, but think of the
greatest mathematician. Now, Englishmen will always say Newton, but it was
a German in that period. The greatest musician -- or, if you dispute
it, there were three great musicians. Great philosopher. It was
a very great period, and a period much worth studying.
Now when they received the Roman law back at the time of the Reformation,
and made themselves also heads of the Church, they got the following things:
the prince is at the top and, legally, beneath him are individuals.
Corporations must have a charter. Judges are agents of the prince: he
names them, he can fire them, he should pay them. The prince is, in
most cases, the head of the Church, even though in many cases he wasn't that
religious, so you had Lutheran kings who, or you mean you had Calvinist
kings who were heads of the Lutheran Church, and things like this. Law was
studied in the universities. That's where you studied the Roman law. In
England that's where you studied the Roman law. They called it the Civil
Law. In the universities. And
the prince controlled the army, the armed forces. And that gave him; in
fact, it meant that Germany was decentralized into hundreds of
principalities. And even after Napoleon, it still consisted of dozens of
principalities. But that does not mean it wasn't a good place.
Eastern Europe I have discussed.
All right. Now, France. France is the most interesting case. It did
not achieve sovereignty; and, I explained to you last time, it did not
because the king was going to rule according to law. That meant he was
going to protect dominia and not insist proprietas; but it
meant that he did not have the powers to be effectively a king. He had
enormous incomes around; but, even in total, they were not enough for what
was demanded of him. And what he did was, instead of collecting the
money from all of them into a treasury, and then paying out what was
necessary, and having some kind of a budget or a system of account, or
knowing where he was, what he did was, he promised people or got people to
promise they would do something for him that he needed done, whatever it
would be, XXXX a royal printer or something of this kind, and XXXX then
he said, "All right. Oh, here is a free income: it is the Octrois, [i.e.,
the tolls paid going into a city, somewhere. -- It might be Rheims, or a
number of cities] All right, I will divert these tolls to you, that will
pay you for being my printer to publish my ordonnances" and so forth.
Generally, at least sixty to eighty percent of his income were committed to
these different purposes, and the only funds that he had available in any
particular year would be the funds that would come free for some reason.
For example, if he gave it for life, when the person died, then it would
come back to him; if he gave it for ten years, it would then come back.
Now, this was not sufficient. To raise money, he had to do other things.
I indicated to you last time, he did not have credit, because he couldn't
alienate anything that the monarchy owned, because it wasn't his. It was
the monarchy's. Therefore, he did not have credit. But there was
another restriction. If he did have credit and borrowed money, because
he obeyed the law, the laws of usury against interest were still in force,
and remained in force until the French Revolution. Now, they got
around that in two ways. One way is they said that certain moderate
payments on borrowed money are necessary. This is insurance against loss,
and is not interest for use of the money. But that limit, in most
cases, was five and a half percent, which was not sufficient because you
could get ten percent quite easily for money, let us say, in the Seventeenth
Century or in the.... In the early Eighteenth Century, there were occasions
where you could certainly get twelve percent. Instead, they devised a
system called les rentes, the incomes, and what it is is this: Here
is an income. All right, that would be the interest. But we won't call it
that. How would you like to buy an income? All right, here is
an income which yields 50,000 a year. If you will give me 100,000, I'll let
you have it for a year. That's fifty percent. Then at the end of
the year, I won't be able to give you back the money, the 100,000, so if you
want the money back, sell it to somebody else. So rentes became
claims upon incomes which could be sold almost like stock exchange
certificates of some kind. And this is what became one of the chief
sources, but they built up fantastic burdens of debt in this way.
I will not go into the details of it. What they were doing became
eventually, with every act they were doing -- much worse than our
Watergate, everything they were doing in the financial world was illegal.
And they exempted supervisors and accounting, accountants who had to be
sweared, so in order to do this they had to create thousands and thousands
of fraudulent and forged documents to indicate that they were only
getting five and a half percent and that the money was being repaid, when it
wasn't at all. Because they would make a document saying it was
repaid, and then they would make another document saying that someone else
had got it -- and that somebody else is your brother-in-law, and so no
change was being made at all. This is a most fantastic story, and
there's an adequate book on it, which I will recommend, by a man named
Julian Dent, it's quite a recent book. Crisis in Finance: Crown
Financiers and Society in Seventeenth Century France. It was
published in 1973. It is an extraordinary, hair-raising book. The
result was that the king of France was over the edge of bankruptcy most of
the period, in fact, all of the period, covered by this lecture to-night,
for two hundred years. By that I mean, that his income, in
gross, was smaller than the interest payments that he owed, in gross.
And to figure this out, now, I don't, Mr. Dent, Dent, I throw a French
accent in there, but I can't, he's an American, spent years working in this
before he discovered what it was that was going on.
All right. Now, let's look at the situation in France. Because of this,
the king could not pay officers. So he couldn't have officers. What he had
to do was to let people take positions in the government and use those
positions to get money from fees. And if the fees are not adequate,
then they can take several XXXX positions, and they can then neglect
all of them and spend a good deal of time working at something else, as a
jeweler, or something. (The Near East is like this, as you know, now.
Everyone in the Near East has five jobs and they don't appear at any of them
except briefly, to say, "How is everything to-day?" And they duck off
again and they go to another job. And so forth. If you put it all
together, it barely gets them by.) XXXX The king didn't have agents.
Now. he discovered that people were willing to pay to get jobs like this,
so he began to sell offices that were totally unnecessary. For
example, they had, say, six or eight inspections to make sure that the
quality of textiles was up to the rules that had been established. And
every time anybody inspected -- now he only inspected one bolt out of a
thousand, XXXX whenever he passed around, but he then sold you a tag
for the thousand. But he only looked at one, if he looked at that.
Generally, he came in and they said, "Oh, let's go over and have a drink."
They sat in the café and now he said, “How many do you want?" And the
fellow said, "I got a thousand bolts." "All right, here's a thousand
tags, and at fifty cents each, that's five hundred dollars." And they
would attach each one. There were six inspections, originally. But
the king discovered that he could name dozens or more inspectors who would
go around and would pay money to go around and sell inspection tickers,
stickers, so they now had not six inspection stickers on each bolt of cloth,
but you might easily have eight, and the fellow had to pay for those.
Now. this is part of this insane situation. This is a totally
irrational society, which is obviously crippled in its ability to satisfy
basic hunan needs, and which is, almost as obvious, I think, explosive, in
the sense that a revolution is bound to come unless there are drastic
changes made in a hurry.
He lost the legislative power. The reason is that all the judges owned
their seats. This appeared, all this appeared in the Seventeenth Century,
when we have the beginning of it. That is the sales of offices, the
restrictions, the issue of rentes, all of these things I am telling
you about now as examples of corruption, if you wish The private ownership
of government offices, including judgeships. Now a judgeship thus became
almost exactly what a seat on the stock exchange is here. That is, you
had a judicial seat, as a result of the judicial activity you imposed fees
on cases, and these fees become your income. The value of the seat is
the annual average income capitalized at the rate of interest. So if
you made 10,000 a year out of this job, and people thought ten percent was a
fair return on investment, then you could probably sell the seat for
100,000. And thus the seats, the judicial seats, became the possession
of a new class in society, the noblesse de la robe longue, i.e.,
the nobility of the robe, the nobility of the long robe. A hereditary
nobility, nobility not in the sense that the nobleness went from father to
son so much, as the possession of his seat did. And you may remember
that Montesquieu, who wrote L'Esprit des Lois, had inherited from an
uncle a seat, and when his book was such a success, he decided he was better
as a popular writer, so he sold the seat.
Now what this meant was that the king could not really control judicial
cases: they would decide cases against him. And this was the group who
decided that the peasants in France owned the land, but they still owed
manorial dues, which had to be abolished in the Revolution. But as a
result, you had France all broken up into small little holdings, as you had
in the Nineteenth Century.
Now, this meant also that the king could not legislate, because, if he
passed a law, an ordonnance, a decree, or something of this kind, the
judges claimed they never heard of it. So they never enforced it. In order
to have it enforced, he had to send it to them and say, "Register it."
Well, they would look at it and say "We don't like it." XXXX "Now."
"We won't register it; we'll send it back." Now, I won't go into the
details, but it became a long and involved ritual. But the king would
send the chancellor to order it written; they would refuse. The king
himself would appear, and the chancellor was in the presence of the king;
this was called a lit de justice, a bed of justice, because the king
was reclining (He couldn't sit up straight, I guess. Probably a delinquent
of some kind.) But in any case, in a lit de iustice, the judges
admitted that, in the presence of the king, they became clerks. So they
wrote it down in their books, and registered it. But then they wrote,
in the margin, in big letters: “Inscribed in the presence of the king" -- "coram rege" --
"In the presence of the king," and they never enforced it.
Now, what this meant, is that not only did they not, did the king not have the
legislative power, but he did not did
not have either the taxing power or the ability to reform the tax system.
And since everything was the result of centuries of custom, everything was
extraordinarily inequitable. That is, people who were not wealthy paid
heavy taxes, people who were quite wealthy paid very little -- just as we do
to-day, only they were much more excited about it, although it was probably
no more inequitable than our system to-day is, which is very inequitable, if
you know anything about it. And, but nothing could be done. Now, what the
king wanted to do was not only to be able to tax XXXX ; but they
refused to allow any new taxes, and above all, they would not allow one
thing -- I'm making this very simple -- the so called taille tariffé.
A taille was a direct tax assessed upon people; tariffé is
what we mean by "graduated;" so this is a graduated income tax. Again
and again, the king tried to register a graduated income tax in
the Eighteenth Century; and again and again it was refused. And he
came and ordered it, and they inscribed it, but they would not permit it.
Now the way they prevented it was not by saying, "We will not enforce it."
They issued an order that any Frenchman who answered any questions about
his income to anyone was in contempt of court. That's the kind of Supreme
Court we need here!
Thus the king lost the taxing power, the legislative power. His loss of the
judicial power I've already indicated to you: he couldn't control the
judges. Here again in the Eighteenth Century was a terrific explosion.
They said: "We are all members of a single corporation" and they debated
that endlessly for two centuries. He said: "No, there is no judicial
corporation" They said: "Yes, there is," and so forth. It doesn't matter.
Finally, in 1770, December 1770, the king realized he was bankrupt.
He was engaged in great wars with Britain for control of India, in North
America, and the world, and so forth. He was eventually, in seven years,
going to come to the rescue of the United States in the American Revolution.
He had to do something about the court system. So in, in December 1770, he
abolished the court system and established a new court system. It wouldn't
work. Why? Because he was not going to be an illegal, criminal; and he
admitted that those judges, whose seats he had abolished, were private
property; and, therefore, having abolished the seats, he had to pay them the
value of the seats. And he could not get that, because he could not
tax. Furthermore, no one would take cases to the new courts that he
set up. The new courts he paid. They didn't work for fees. They
were named by him, and paid by him, and much simplified. But no one would
take a case, because
they said: "Well, we know he has no money. He can't pay the
value of the judicial seats to the judges, so eventually he is going to have
to put them back." And eventually, in 1776, he put them all back. Now
it was a different king, because Louis XV died in 1774 and it was his,
Louis, his successor, Louis XVI, the one who eventually had his head chopped
off. And he had his head chopped off in the French Revolution because he
was so law-abiding, and unable to restore and pay for the seats that he had
taken over, to establish what we would have regarded a more modern judicial
system. He put it all back. And the result, when he called the Estates
General after a hundred and seventy-five years in 1789, he did it
because the Parlement (i.e., the Supreme Court of Paris)
insisted that he must consult the nation. The Estates General.
Now, one last thing that I
should mention, the incorporating power. I said very few governments
at that time had the incorporating power. Certainly the king of France and
his government did not. France was filled with corporations that had
no charters, but they had existed through all eternity. Some of them
had been there much before there was ever any king of France, The Cathedral
of Rheims, and others like this. [Al]so there were churches, towns,
universities, guilds, innumerable ones. Furthermore, they, litigation
between these corporations was endless, just as to-day -- although we have
this in medical science more even than in law to-day: they keep the thing
going forever. The case must be kept going because it's a source of income.
When the Estates
in 1789 and abolished the judicial system of France, there was before the
court a case that had been before the court for more than three hundred
years. It was a lawsuit between the second-hand clothing dealers guild
and the guild of the tailors of the city of Paris; and it had been going on
for three hundred and thirty-some years, because it was such a juicy plum
for the law firm and they could keep, and the judges too, that they kept it
going and never settled it. (We're moving in this direction, both in
medicine and law, and, I hope not, in higher education, in the United
States.) Eventually, as a step in this direction, in 1776 Turgot
abolished the guilds. Once again, it couldn't be done. He would
have to pay off all of their debts, and they had enormous, millions and
millions and millions of debts. And it couldn't be done.
Now, when the Revolution came, it was a tremendous earthquake. It
wiped out just about everything. You cannot believe it. When I was in Paris
in 1937, I went over there, very much devoted to this kind of thing, I found
that there were hundreds and hundred and hundreds of tons of not only law
books, but legal papers of all kinds; and no one had to look at them after
the French Revolution, because they pulled down the curtain: they said,
"What was, is over." And they set up a new system of law, a single
book, the Code Napoléon, about 1802; and if you hold it in your
hands, it's smaller than an ordinary Bible. The ordinary Old Testament.
And that's what, all you do, have to go back to that. You don't have to go
back any further.
Now, what the French Revolution did, it created a fully sovereign state,
which had all power. That sovereignty was embodied not in the
monarchy, but in the nation. That means that the residents are no longer
subjects, they are citizens. These are revolutionary changes. They are
participants in this entity, now which is the, la
in French. All restraints, or all legal restraints, on public action
are replaced by acts of sovereignty. Now, the sovereign power in France
after the French Revolution can do anything, the only restraint is it must
be done according to the rules of the sovereign power. And XXXX It
did become and remain a Western Civilization government under the rule of
law, but it was procedural rules and no longer substantive rules of limits
upon what could be done.
The polity was transformed, and this, to me, is the most utmost importance,
because it leads to next week's lecture: was transformed from a hierarchical
system of subjects in communities and corporations and chaos, really, all
interwoven together into a hierarchy. It was wiped away and replaced by a
system which is a naked dualism: supreme state power and individuals.
I hope you'll pardon my bad French: ["Un État vraiment libré ne doit
souffrir dans son sein aucune corporation pas même celles qui vouée à
l'enseignement public bien merité de la patrie."] I'll translate it for
you: "A state truly free will not suffer in its bosom any corporation, not
even those which, because they are devoted to public education, or other
well-deserved things favored of the [father]land." In other words,
that's the 18th of August 1792, the French proclaimed, "There are no groups
in our society." If you want to make a group, you make a voluntary group,
it has no legal existence. If you want it to have a legal existence,
you must get a charter.
In other words, this is really Roman. But, this raises future
problems: it says that men are equal before the law. If men are equal,
legally equal, and are equal participants in the polity, why should they not
be politically equal? Full democracy, which the French did not get, you
know, until 1848. And, eventually, why should they not be economically
equal? That is, use their sovereign power, as the nation embodied under...,
to share the wealth, equally or any way. If sovereignty can do anything,
and law is merely an act of sovereignty, why should not the wealth be
divided? All right, that is the problem we're going to come up with in the
last two centuries, next week.
Thank you, Ladies and Gentlemen.
Next Section - III: “The State
of Individuals,” A.D. 1776
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