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Of scarcely less importance than his educational legislation are those enactments by which Charlemagne endeavoured to regulate the relations between husband and wife, parents and children. The prime requisite for a wellordered state is unquestionably a well-ordered family. It is the basis on which society rests ; it lies at the foundation of the whole social fabric. If the family bond be weak, that which unites society cannot be strong. Respect for authority and reverence for law can only be produced by a habit of parental control on the one hand, and of filial obedience on the other. All history proves that the family is the school in which the subjects of the state are trained and disciplined. Hence the importance of that part of his legislation which Charlemagne, treading in the steps of his father Pepin, entered upon in relation to this subject. Marriage had previously been contracted almost without any forinality; and had been dissolved without scruple, at the bidding merely of passion or caprice. Woman thus became a slave, kept to gratify her master's lust; man lost all that civilizing and refining influence which female society was designed to have upon him ; and the children grew up without that parental control which was needed to curb the license of youth and to fit for the duties of manhood. To repress these evils, Charlemagne rendered the marriage tie binding and permanent, only permitting divorce within the limits. and under the circumstances assigned by the canon law. He
at the same time made marriage a religious rite, investing it with the solemn and sacred character of an act performed in the Divine presence and under Divine' authority.
In all social legislation the poor must have place, for “the poor have ye always with you." A law for the suppression of mendicity, and the establishment of what was equivalent to our poor-rate, now unexpectedly appears. In the year 806 it was decreed that, “ with regard to vagrant mendicants, we order that each of our subjects support his own poor, either on his farm or in his house, and not allow them to go elsewhere to beg. If such beggars are found, and they do no work, let no man think of giving them anything." A law, similar in spirit to this, has been previously quoted, in which he enjoined that the produce of the farm should not be sold till the serfs upon it had first been provided for. Charlemagne was specially severe on those begging ascetics who, like the fakirs of India and the deryises of Turkey, assumed the religious garb, that thus they might the more successfully appeal to the charity of the industrious and devout. He strictly forbids their “wandering about half naked, laden with chains, and inflicting tortures upon
themselves. If they have indeed committed sins, it is better that they should remain in one place and work for their living."
That these enactments against mendicants were not dictated by any unkindness towards the poor, seems proved by many edicts already
quoted in their favour. That he was most anxious to protect them from the oppression of the rich and powerful, is decisively shown by a law which attempts to fix the maximum price at which food should be sold. “ The most pious king has decreed, that no man, whether he be clergyman or layman, shall, either in seasons of plenty or scarcity, sell provisions at a dearer rate than that recently fixed by the bushel. If he wishes to sell his produce in loaves, he shall give twelve of wheat, fifteen of rye, twenty of barley, or twenty-five of oats, each loaf of two pounds' weight, for one denier."* However inefficacious all such attempts to fix a maximum price must necessarily prove, (a truth, however, only recently discovered,) yet they evince the interest which Charlemagne took in the welfare of the poorer classes, on whose behalf alone such an enactment was passed.
It would be unfair to judge of his commercial legislation by this single edict. For the most part it was wise, judicious, and based upon sound policy
Its character and results are thus summed up by Menzel. “Notwithstanding the disinclination of the Germans for commerce, he attempted to encourage its pursuit by granting extraordinary privileges to merchants. The Jews, who, after the destruction of Jeru
* The denier contained, in the time of Charlemagne, twentyeight grains of fine silver.
† A similar spirit was displayed in the Anglo-Saxon laws. By an edict of Athelstane, a merchant who had crossed the seas three times was raised to the rank and privileges of a Franklin,
salem, had been carried away captive by the Romans, and scattered over the face of the earth, had, since Rome had fallen under the dominion of Germany, busied themselves exclusively with commerce; and Charlemagne, uninfluenced by the prejudices of his subjects, granted them every privilege demanded by humanity and consistent with the welfare of his state. Travelling merchants were protected by severe laws. Commercial treaties and alliances were formed with the nations, and new markets open to foreign traders, were organized in the interior.”
It would be easy to multiply such extracts from the legislation of Charlemagne almost indefinitely. Those already furnished, however, will suffice to give an idea of its general character and of the spirit which dictated it. To some it may seem a heterogeneous mass. There are no general principles announced, no great theory of government developed and acted upon. Each special case was provided for as it arose by a special enactment. This, however, was inevitable. The time was not come for theorizing. Rulers in a stage of civilization, just emerging from barbarism, and liable at any moment to fall back again into it, have neither the capacity nor the desire to generalize or form theories of government. They are too glad to hit upon some expedient which will meet and provide for the particular exigency, to trouble themselves with abstract inquiries into its consistency with the true prin
ciples of government. When grappling with impending anarchy, they must legislate for the moment, and leave it to after ages to systematize their laws. Looked at in this light, we cannot but feel that Charlemagne, as a lawgiver, merits all the praise he has received. Taking into account the circumstances of the times, we cannot but wonder at the vigorous sense, the manly independence, and the clear judgment, which his legislation everywhere evinces. That there should
be errors was inevitable, for it was the darkest period of the dark ages, and the legislator was an illiterate warrior, presiding over an assembly of warriors more illiterate than himself. That some superstitions should be countenanced was equally inevitable, for the Romish church, the only one which Charlemagne knew, was already very far gone in her apostacy. But is it not marvellous that the errors should be so few, and that, in spite of the corruptions of Rome, so much pure Scriptural truth should be asserted ?
Having considered the legislative assembly and the legislation of Charlemagne, we have now to give some account of the administration and execution of the laws. Here, again, the emperor himself occupies the most prominent position. As his was the mind that planned, the will that determined, and the authority that decreed the laws, so, too, his was the hand that enforced theni. He was not only legislator, but judge. Eginhardt says, that he was constantly travelling, and his travels, though undertaken