Page 1177

1177 THE AGE OF CHARLEMAGNE-THE FIRST CARLOVINGIANS.

initiates the law and completes it. He is

advised, but decides the matter according to

his own preference. He consults with his

dukes and counts, not to derive authority

from them-for that he already has-but

to obtain information of the real condition

of the empire, to the end that he may adjust the clumsy machinery of state to the

work to be accomplished. Nor is it proper

to suppose that any true public liberty

was couched in the national assemblies.

They were not a vehicle for the maintenance

of popular rights, but for the transmission

of royal authority. They were the means

which the greatest sovereign of the age

adopted for the purpose of reforming society by the introduction of regularity and

law m the place of caprice and violence.

The government of Charlemagne was absolute, but salutary.

Turning from the general to the local

administration of affairs, and passing from

the capital into the provinces, we are able

to discover the scheme of the Frankish Emperor in practical application. To secure

obedience and unity, he recognized in the

provincial governments two classes of agents,

the one local, the other general; the one

native and to the manner born, the other appointed by the king as his resident representative. In the first class may be enumerated the dukes, counts, vicars, sheriffs, and

magistrates-the natural lords and leaders

of the political society of the provinces.

These were employed by the Emperor as

his agents in dispensing authority. Nor

did he omit any reasonable means to secure

their fidelity and cooperation in maintaining the order and unity of the kingdom. In

the second class were included those beneficiaries and vassals of the Emperor who

held their lands and properties directly from

him, and were therefore more immediately

dependent upon him than were the native

provincial dukes and counts. Politically,

the royal vassals were the agents of the

government. Their interests, to say nothing of loyalty, inclined them to the support

of the throne, and they thus constituted a

powerful influence to counteract or suppress

local rebellions

The relations of the native dukes and the

royal beneficiaries in the administrative system of

Charlemagne were not dissimilar to those of State and Federal officers in the government of the United States. The local counts and sheriffs represented the State system under our American constitution, while the royal vassals stood in the relation of Federal appointees.

A third class of officers, over and above

the former two, were the royal messengers,

called the Missi Regii, whom the Emperor

appointed to travel into every part of his

dominions, to find out and punish wrong doing, to superintend the administration

of justice, and especially to inform the sovereign of the actual condition of affairs

throughout the empire. The office of these

important agents was not only informatory,

but administrative. They stood wherever

they went for the king in person. They exercised authority in his name, and in general

their acts required no confirmation from the

royal court.

There was thus extemporized, so to speak,

out of the crude materials of Frankish political society, and by the genius of an extraordinary man, a huge monarchy, rude

but powerful-a government of adaptation

and expedients, rather than a government

of constitutional form. The motive of Charlemagne was single. He desired to introduce order into human society, to restore

in some measure the symmetry of that

social constitution which he saw dimly

through the shadows' of the past. He thus

became a reformer of the heroic type, and

laid about him with an energy and persistency that would have been creditable

in any, even the greatest, characters of

history.

The personal character of the Frankish

sovereign may well be illustrated from the

memoranda which he left behind him of Capitularies, or statutes either actually adopted

by the national assemblies or intended to be

discussed by those august bodies. In these

notes and suggestions of laws we find a

strange intermixture of ethics, religion, and

politics. Sometimes the royal note book contains a principle like this: "Covetousness doth

consist in desiring that which others possess,

and in giving away naught of that which one's

self possesseth; according to the Apostle it is

the root of all evil." Again the king says

briefly: "Hospitality must be practiced."

Soon afterwards, however, he adds: "If mendicants be met with, and they labor not with