The Northern Way

Miscellaneous Law Texts

Laws Concerning Taxes and Tolls

Gregory of Tours:
Church Exemption from Taxation, c. 570

Gregory of Tours painted a very dark picture of the conditions existing in the barbarian kingdoms of his day. The fact was that many of the bishops of the Church were worldly men who had compromised with some of the rude barbarian ideas in the hope of achieving an ultimate good. Injuriosus seems to have been in a diderent category from the rest of the bishops on this occasion. The principle on which the Church claimed exemption was put forward by him very strongly and successfully to King Lothar.

Book IV. Chapter 2:
At last King Lothar had decreed that all the churches in his kingdom should pay a third part of their income to his fisc. But when all the bishops, albeit unwillingly, had consented and signed their names, the blessed Injuriosus, manfully refusing, disdained to sign, saying: "If you wish to take God's property the Lord will quickly take away your kingdom; for it is unjust that your barns should be filled through the money of the poor who ought rather to feed at your hands." And being wroth with the king he departed unceremoniously. Then the king, much perturbed, fearing the spirit of the blessed Martin, sent after him with gifts, craving his pardon, condemning what he had done, and at the same time asking that he would ask the help of the blessed Bishop Martin on his behalf.

Source:
J. P. Migne, ed., Patrologiae Cursus Completus, (Paris, 1849), Vol. LXXI, p. 269; reprinted in Roy C. Cave & Herbert H. Coulson, A Source Book for Medieval Economic History, (Milwaukee: The Bruce Publishing Co., 1936; reprint ed., New York: Biblo & Tannen, 1965), pp. 353-354.
Scanned by Jerome S. Arkenberg, Cal. State Fullerton. The text has been modernized by Prof. Arkenberg.


Gregory of Tours:
Exemption of Tours from Poll Tax, c. 585

The poll tax, of primitive origin, was direct and personal, and by its nature, therefore, was likely to cause more resentment than an indirect tax. It was sometimes levied in order that aliens and those without property might not altogether escape taxation. At first it probably made no distinction between persons except that it might be levied on the heads of free families and coloni.

Book IX. Chapter 30:
Now King Childebert, on the request of Bishop Maroveus, ordered assessors to go to Poitiers; namely, Florentianus, Mayor of the palace, and Romulfus, Count of the palace, so that the people might pay the poll-tax as they had done in the time of his father. For many of the people had died so that the burden of the tribute was indeed great on this account to the widows, orphans, and infirm; but the assessors, taking each person in turn, relieving the poor and the sick, wrote taxes against those, who, by reason of justice, ought to give tribute; and so they came to Tours. But when they wished to place our people under tribute, saying that they had brought with them the tax roll whereby they had paid in the time of previous kings, we replied, saying: "It is clear that the city of Tours was assessed in the time of King Lothar, and that the assessment rolls were taken away to the king's presence; but, since the king feared the wrath of the holy Bishop Martin, they were burned. But after the death of King Lothar, the people (of Tours) took the oath to King Charibert; and he also promised on oath that he would not burden the people with new laws and customs, but he would retain only those under which they had previously lived in the time of his father; and he promised that he would not impose upon them any new ordinance which would result in loss to them. But Gaiso, at that time count, having taken the capitulary, which we recalled previous clerks had made, began to exact tribute; but having been forbidden by Bishop Eufronius, he went into the presence of the king with the money he had wrongfully taken, showing him the capitulary in which the assessment for the tribute was contained. But the king, sighing, and fearing the wrath of St. Martin, destroyed the capitulary; he sent back to the church of St. Martin the gold which had been taken, declaring that none of the people of Tours should pay any tax to the fisc. King Sigebert held the city after the death of Charibert, nor did he place any burden of tribute upon it. Childebert, reigning now m the fourteenth year after the death of his father, has exacted nothing, nor has this city groaned under the burden of any tribute."

Source:
J. P. Migne, ed., Patrologiae Cursus Completus, (Paris, 1849), Vol. LXXI, p. 507; reprinted in Roy C. Cave & Herbert H. Coulson, A Source Book for Medieval Economic History, (Milwaukee: The Bruce Publishing Co., 1936; reprint ed., New York: Biblo & Tannen, 1965), pp. 355-356.
Scanned by Jerome S. Arkenberg, Cal. State Fullerton. The text has been modernized by Prof. Arkenberg.



Gregory of Tours:
Exemption of the Church in Clermont from Royal Taxes, c. 590

If, as this document suggests, the collectors were responsible for the taxes, it may well be that there was a system of farming out. At least that would be a good reason for the exemption which they, in common with the clergy, were granted.

Book X. Chapter 7:
But in the same city [Clermont] King Childebert remitted all tribute both from the churches and from the monasteries and from the other clergy who seemed to belong to that diocese, as well as that from all those who held office in the diocese. For the collectors had already been reduced to penury in that, for a long time when land, through the succession of new generations, had been divided into many parts, they were scarcely able to collect this tribute. By the inspiration of God, the king commanded the collection of the tribute to be improved so that what was owing from the past to the fisc should not harm the collector of the tribute, or cause any churchman to be brought to account for tardiness in paying.

Source:
J. P. Migne, ed., Patrologiae Cursus Completus, (Paris, 1849), Vol. LXXI, p. 534; reprinted in Roy C. Cave & Herbert H. Coulson, A Source Book for Medieval Economic History, (Milwaukee: The Bruce Publishing Co., 1936; reprint ed., New York: Biblo & Tannen, 1965), p. 356.
Scanned by Jerome S. Arkenberg, Cal. State Fullerton. The text has been modernized by Prof. Arkenberg.



Gregory of Tours:
Opposition to Royal Taxation, c. 575-580

Kings who tried to preserve society by maintaining order and keeping some semblance of national unity, found the cost of government heavy and the opposition to their taxes great. When their taxes seemed to their subjects to be too exorbitant, scenes of violence ensued such as occurred at Limoges.
Book V. Chapter 21:

But King Chilperic ordered new tax rolls to be made in all his kingdom in such a way that the taxes would be very burdensome to the people. Wherefore many left their cities and their possessions and, seeking other kingdoms, thought it better to live abroad than to submit to such oppression. For it was decreed that each proprietor should pay one amphora of wine for each arpent of land. Many other taxes were imposed on lands and serfs and they were impossible to pay. The people of Limoges, when they perceived with what burdens they were oppressed, assembled on the first of March and wished to slay the referendary, Mark, who had been ordered to do these things; and they would have done so if Bishop Fereolus had not freed him from his imminent danger. Having seized the tax rolls, they burned them; whereat the king was very angry, and sending men there from his court, he inflicted great losses on the people, humbled them with punishments, and sent many to their death. They say that these emissaries of the king made false charges that priests and abbots were accomplices of the people in burning the tax rolls during the rebellion; it is said that they stretched the clergy on posts, subjecting them to divers torments, and also, that afterwards, still heavier taxes were imposed.

Source:
J. P. Migne, ed., Patrologiae Cursus Completus, (Paris, 1849), Vol. LXXI, p. 346; reprinted in Roy C. Cave & Herbert H. Coulson, A Source Book for Medieval Economic History, (Milwaukee: The Bruce Publishing Co., 1936; reprint ed., New York: Biblo & Tannen, 1965), pp. 353-354.
Scanned by Jerome S. Arkenberg, Cal. State Fullerton. The text has been modernized by Prof. Arkenberg.



Tolls on the Rhône, c. 630

When commerce of a migratory nature began to develop in the seventh century tolls were fixed among the Visigoths and Franks. Most of the merchants were Jews and other Orientals, and their highways were the rivers on which there were regular ports throughout France. The places where tolls were collected on the Rhone are mentioned here.

And now he granted from the special toll, which was sent annually to him from Marseilles, one hundred solidi for the lights of that church, so that the royal agents should, for the future, purchase oil carefully, as if for the needs of the king, according to the order of the market, and then give it to the priests of that place every year. And, further, he was careful to confirm his order, so that just as was done at Marseilles, so also the toll on every sixth load should be paid at Valence, Bouches-du-Rhone, and Lyons, or wherever else there was trade up to the place where they approached the church.

Source:
J. P. Migne, ed., Patrologiae Cursus Completus, (Paris, 1862), Vol . XCVI, p. 1402; reprinted in Roy C. Cave & Herbert H. Coulson, A Source Book for Medieval Economic History, (Milwaukee: The Bruce Publishing Co., 1936; reprint ed., New York: Biblo & Tannen, 1965), pp. 398-399.
Scanned by Jerome S. Arkenberg, Cal. State Fullerton. The text has been modernized by Prof. Arkenberg.



Dagobert, King of the Franks:
Grant of an Estate to Monks of St. Denis, 635

A grant of an estate in the seventh century was perhaps the gift of greatest value that could be given by one person to another. No land was granted as a rule without the accompanying forms of wealth described by Dagobert in this charter. Note that serfs and bondsmen were not excluded in making the gift. Twenty-seven estates were given at one time by Dagobert to the Abbey of St. Denis.

Dagobert, King of the Franks, illustrious monarch, to Wandelbert, the Duke. Whatever we have devoutly granted for the relief of the poor, we believe we shall have returned to us with profit in the next life. Therefore be it known that we have exchanged our villa called Saclas, situated on the River Juine, in the district of Etampes, and which we have received from Lord Ferreol, Bishop of the diocese of Autun, and from Abbot Deodatus, the clergy and church or basilica of Symphorian, in whose care it is known to have been, for another villa called Amica, which is in the district of Marseilles, to the increase of our fortune. And that same Saclas we have devoutly granted in its entirety to the monks of St. Denis, the martyr, at the monastery where his precious body now rests, being within their gates. Therefore we have ordered that from the present date they shall possess the villa of Saclas, with its houses, serfs, bondsmen, woods, meadows, pastures, mills, flocks, shepherds, wholly and entirely, just as it was formerly held by the church of Autun and Symphorian until we, as has been said, exchanged it for another. Therefore, because it has been granted of our bounty, for the salvation of our soul, to the monks of St. Denis, according to God's will, neither the abbot nor any other person shall at any time presume to destroy this gift to the monks; but let it be administered in the name of God by the hand of their abbot in whose assiduous care the monks live. And in whatever way the fisc can augment its aid to the poor monks let it do so, so that they and their successors may delight in the stability of our kingdom and pray for the salvation of our soul. And that this charter may endure for all time we have decreed that it be signed with our signature. Ursin obtained it. Dagobert granted it.
Given on July 28th in the fourteenth year of our reign, at Clichy.
Amen.

Source:
J. P. Migne, ed., Patrologiae Cursus Completus, (Paris, 1850), Vol. LXXX, p. 535; reprinted in Roy C. Cave & Herbert H. Coulson, A Source Book for Medieval Economic History, (Milwaukee: The Bruce Publishing Co., 1936; reprint ed., New York: Biblo & Tannen, 1965), pp. 308-309.
Scanned by Jerome S. Arkenberg, Cal. State Fullerton. The text has been modernized by Prof. Arkenberg.

 

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