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Feudalism and Seigneurial Justice - Ancien Régime France
Castelnaudary, 14 August 1787. An extensive manuscript document detailing the complexities of a purchase of a feudal land ('domaine directe') in South France, made by French noble Bernard Dolmières, Seigneur de Lastourzeilles [Lord of Touzeilles], specifically outlining claims for the distribution of proceeds from the sale, and monies owing from the seller's vassals based on existing contracts, many of the parties involved also being Lords, or upperclass gentry and wealthy merchants. The land in question was a manorial estate "Domaine de La Salle" and the particulars were decided upon by a juge-mage of the seignorial court (senechaussee and presidial court) of Lauraguais, situated in the town of Castelnaudary. Includes a list of twenty-two persons implicated in this transaction, including claimants. Qto. 228 pages in manuscript, written recto and verso onto vellum leafs. All text is in French. Docketed on 2 September 1787. Detailed inscription with list of names, signed and dated in the original by a Mr. Crouzet, scribe or secretary to Lord Dolmières, on 7 September 1787. Manuscript annotations "1e Cayér", "2e Cayér," numbered 1 to 19, made in a different ink, may be referring to the "Cayer/Cahier de doléances des sénéchaussées" (a book of grievances and requests which was made by the people prior to a General Assembly of nobles and for their consideration). Features 57 revenue stamps from the Toulouse office, stamped throughout at upper center of some leafs. Solid early nineteenth century binding, ivory paper over thick boards. Volume measures approximately 21 x 29 x 3 cm. Bernard Dolmières (born 1741) was Lord of Lastouzeilles and Montferrand; he is also connected to the Château de Las Touzeilles, in Palleville, situated some twenty-five kilometers from Castelnaudary, and some twenty-eight kilometers from Montferrand. In the archives of Aude which mentions the former county called Lauraguais, he is listed as an attendee of a General Assembly in 1788 and described as "Messire Bernard Dolmières de Las Touzeilles, chevalier, habitant de Castelnaudary, possesseur de directes, fiefs, et biens nobles dans les juridictions de Montferrand, Labastide-d'Anjou et Avignonet." A man of great wealth, with substantial earnings from peasant tenants on his lands, this document pertains to the "Domaine de La Salle" suggesting that he also held a feudal estate in Lasalle, which is now in the Gard department in southern France. Upon the announcement in 1789 that feudal privileges of the nobles were abolished, in particular monetary dues paid by a peasant to the lord, such as the "banalités" of manorialism, Dolmières wrote to the governing body of the Commune if Montferrand to declare a renunciation of his title of Lorship. Dolmières was present at the General Assembly for the three levels of nobles of the Seneschal of Castelnandary, held on 28 February 1789, and surely the one 4 on August 1789 when the changes were announced. [In the earliest stages of the French Revolution, on August 4, 1789 the dues that a peasant had to pay to the lord, such as the banalités of Manorialism, were abolished by the National Constituent Assembly. Noble lands were stripped of their special status as fiefs; the nobility were subjected to the same taxation as their co-nationals, and lost their privileges (the hunt, seigneurial justice, funeral honors). The nobles were, however, allowed to retain their titles. Nevertheless, it was decided that certain annual financial payments which were owed the nobility and which were considered "contractual" (i.e. not stemming from a usurpation of feudal power, but from a contract between a landowner and a tenant) such as annual rents (the cens and the champart) needed to be bought back by the tenant for the tenant to have clear title to his land.] In May 1794, only 7 years after the present document was made for him, Bernard Dolmières was imprisoned during the French Revolution Reign of Terror, by order of a decree made in March 1793 for religious oppression. He was a Carmelite, a wealthy and influential man. Owing to ill health, however, he was released from incarceration and confined to his own home under voluntary house arrest. Because he was "of great nobility and also a fanatic" Dolmières was denied the all-important "certificat de civisme" - a document which proved a person's ideological soundness and prevented indefinite imprisonment under the Law of Suspects. A book published in 1895, "Les reclus de Toulouse sous la terreur" describes Bernard Dolmières, his renunciation of nobility, and the circumstances of his imprisonment and religious oppression. From the final era of the Ancien Régime, during the reign of Louis XVI (Restorer of French Liberty and the last King of France), survives this uncommon manorial document which illuminates the feudal rights and judicial system of nobles in South France, still in effect at the dawn of the French Revolution, in this case pertaining to a Lord who was also significant in a religious order and subsequently oppressed seven years later by the Reign of Terror. The purpose of the document is revealed in the two final pages of the volume, the writer stating that, at the behest of Lord Dolmières of Las Touzeilles, following his Lordship's purchase of a domain or fiefdom, "Domaine de La Salle" all parties having made a financial claim had been notified of the court ruling. All names, titles and/or trades, are produced: twenty-two persons, mostly nobles and upperclass civilians. The manuscript appears to be a direct transcript from the seigneurial court document, and contains each of the verdicts with supporting details. The statement is dated only two weeks after the so-called trial of justice, and reads as follows: "L'an mil sept sents quatre vingt sept [1787] et le 3e du mois de September... au Senechal et Presidial de Castelnaudary y resident sous signée - La Requette de Mr. Bernard Dolmières Seigneur de Lastourzeilles poursuivant la distribution, j'ai intimé et signifié la sentence cy dessus en suivant ca forme et teneur." Some fascinating and historically significant individuals were involved in this transaction, including a king's royal knight, a jeweller, a known juge-mage, other nobles, and wealthy widows, the lot still to be investigated in ancient records. We find several mentions of François Carrau, for example, which is also a family connected to nobility. Other surnames found herein include Carut, Galabert, and Vaissette. The first named is "Marie Antoine Guillaume Jules de Paulo, Chevalier Vicomte de Calmont, Baron de Sevillac et de Saint Marcel, Seigneur de Saint Jean Deltore, la Sauvetat... Sergent-Royal..." From a celebrated family descending from Antoine de Paulo, a Grand Master of the Order of Malta, on 29 March 1787 he became a Royal Knight to Louis XVI King of France. His son and namesake, born in Toulouse in 1776, would later become a brigadier in the king's army. Economic feudalism, seigneurial justice, nobles' financial rights, and the proceedings of the hierarchal court system of ancient France are illustrated firsthand in this surviving manuscript, which, unknown to the participants at the time, also marks the end of the era of such extreme privileges and absolutism. The extensive single document contains numerous verdicts made at a seneschal court concerning monetary claims resulting from a transfer of ownership of a fiefdom in South France, all decisions being made by a single judge whom was also a noble. It forms an excellent presentation of feudal rights enjoyed by French nobility just before they were stripped away by the French Revolution Excerpts from the manuscript: "Marie Antoine Guillaume Jules de Paulo, Chevalier Vicomte de Calmont, Baron de Sevillac et de Saint Marcel, Seigneur de Saint Jean Deltore, la Sauvetat... rejoinant et autres placer... a Lauragais... Sergent-Royal... le vingt-neuvième mars mil sept cent quatres vingt sept a été rendue au rapport de Mre. Jacques Degaury Jugemage lieutenant general... en la Senechaussée et Siege presidial de Lauraguais Séant a Castelnaudarry la sentence dont la teneur suit Etre Mre. Bernard Dolmieres Seigneur de Lastouzeilles demandeur par Exploit libellé du neuvième november mil sept cents quatre vingt quatre contenant assignation donné devant nous Me. Joseph Vaissete prêtre prébandier de légible de Saint Felix... touts opposants au séant des lettres de ratiffication obtenues par le requerant le vingt huit septembre dernier Sur le Contract de vente du Domaine de la salle... retenue par M. Aynard pour voir proceder de notre autorité Conforment alors se prescrit par lavl [l'avril?] 19e de le dit de 1771 a la distribution entreux... lettres de ratiffication du prix de la vente du dit domaine de la salle..." Rough translation: [Marie Antoine Guillaume Jules de Paulo... brought before the Chief Judge Lieutenant General Jacques Degaury... in the bailiwick and criminal court of justice of Lauraguais at Castelnaudarry... the verdict which deems Monsieur Bernard Dolmieres Lord of Las Touzeilles, petitioner by libel... containing summons given before us... [numerous parties named]... all opponents of the letters of ratification obtained on 28 September last by the petitioner for the sale contract of the Bailiwick of La Salle... retained by Mr. Aynard to pursue under our authority compliance of distribution amongst them according to the prescribed ruling... of 1771."] "... les dits Sieurs Carrau pere et fils vandeurs et sans prejudice de tous les autres droits et actions dune part... donnée devant nous au frère François Barreau menager haut de la Salle consultat a Montferrant pour intervenir..." [... Sirs Carrau, father and son, sellers... given before us to Brother François Barreau chief manager of La Sall consul of Montferrand to intervene...] "... dont sagit tenant a payer sollidairement au suppliant la somme de cinq milles livres pour la rente constituée et düe le 1e juillet 1784 avec les arrerages legitiment dus sur prejudice de la rente courante, ensemble la somme de mille livres pour le Capital dicelle devenüe exigible... justifié par le contract du 29e octobre 1776... " [... remains to be paid to the petitioner... the sum of five thousand livres for the rent established and due on 1st July 1784, together with the arrears legitimately due from the prejudice of the current rent, together the sum of one thousand livres in respect of... Justified by the contract of 29th October 1776...] "Et le dit Mre. Dolmières les dits frères Carrau et autres intimes... Et entre le dit frère qui rand suppliant par requettes et joint du premier avril 1786 a ce que disant droit sur la position faite par le suppliant le deux cent mil sept cent quatre vingt quatre aux lettres ratiffication prises par le dit Mre. Dolmières sur la vente a luy faite... le suppliant sure le prix de la ditte vente... Metant competant le dit Sieur Jacques Carrau fils suivant lors priorité et privilege de son hipoteque pour la somme capitalle de quatre cents soixante neuf livres quinze sols dont le suppliant obtient la Condemnation Contre le dit Carrau fils par appointment de la bourse du 28 fevrier 1784 duement signifié. 2e - pour les interets legitimements dues. 3e - pour la somme de vingt huit livres... liquider par le dit appointment... 4e - cinq livres et deux sols pour le frais de la ditte opposition... " [And the said Monsieur Dolmières, the said brothers, and others involved... the brother who became suppliant by request and joined on 1 April 1786... to that which claimed the rights made by the petitioner in 1784 by the letters of ratification taken by the said Mr. Dolmieres on the sale made to him by the said request... for the price of the said sale... Sir Jacques Carrau, the next son in line for priority and privilege of his mortgage, for the total sum of four hundred and sixty nine livres fifteen sols, of which the suppliant obtains the judgment against the said Carrau, son, by appointment of the stipend of 28 February of 1784 duly served.... for interest legitimately due... liquidated by the said appointment... five livres two sols for the fees of the said opposition...] "... requette de M. Vaissette entre la main du suppliant le 1ier 8bre 1784 du prix assignié au mobilier ... vingt Juillet de la ditte année, ensembles sur les requettes du dit M. Vaissette offrant le suppliant dans le cas quil sera Jugé quelque prix au dit mobilier ne doit pas etre comrpis dans la distribution de remettre le montant au dit M. Vaissette..." [... the request of Mr. Vaissette for the price assigned to the dwelling was delivered to the petitioner on the 1st October 1784...] "... Et quil exposera a lavenir aucune frais de Justice y compris ceux de linstance engagée separament par le dit M. Vaissette qui a été jointe a la presente par notre appointment du 23 mars 1784. Luy permettre paraillement de reternir par privilege et preference a tous creanciers sur et entant moins du prix de la vente toutes les sommes quil a payéer au Sieur Mazieres Collecteur de Montferrand pour les impositions royalles en consequences de notre appt. ..." [And that he will set forth in future any expenses of Justice, including those of the proceedings instituted separately by the said M. Vaissette, which was annexed to the present [proceeding] by our appointment of the 23rd March, 1784. Allowing him furthermore to retain by privilege and preference to all creditors on, and less than the price of the sale, all the sums that he has paid to the Sieur Mazieres Collector of Montferrand for the royal taxes in consequence of our appt...] "... Et entre le dit Dolmières demandeur par exploit libellé du trois Janvier dernier contenant assignation donnée devantons aux heritiers de Mre. de Bellisseur Seigneur dayroux [d'Ayroux] et dautres places et aux heritiers du Sieur Dekestaing marchant haut de Castelnaudarry pouvoir reprendre avex eux suivant les derniers actes. Et errement linstance de distribution... des dits Sieurs... Jaques Carrau et fils discutés, ce faisant voir a juger au dit Sieur requerant les Conclusions par luy prises... et autres quil avisera prendre avec de peus comme frais de Justice d'une part..." "Vù par nous Jacques Degaury conseille du roy Juge-mage lieutenant general en la Senechaussée et Siege presidial de Lauraguais Séant a Castelnaudarry les exploits et requettes ci dessous mis en qualité... de quels sont les certificats des presentations... faites aux procureur en parties, Et de la part du dit Messire Dolmières l'expedié du Contract de vente du Domaine de la Salle..." [Witnessed by us Jacques Degaury advisor to the King, Chief Judge Lieutenant General in the bailiwick and criminal court of justice of Lauraguais at Castelnaudarry the exploits and requests... of which are certificates of presentation... made in part by the prosecutor, on behalf of the Messire Dolmières expediter of the contract for the sale of La Salle...] "Par notre Presente Sentence disant droit aux parties les recevons aux Corrections par Elles demandées Et procedant à la distribution du prix du mobiliers compris dans la vente du Domaine de la Salle vendû au dit Sieur Dolmieres Las Touzeilles par les Sieurs Carrau pere et fils par l'acte du vingt Juillet mil sept cents quatre vingt quatre..." [By our present verdict... distribution of the price of the dwelling included in the sale of the Bailliwick of La Salle... 20 July 1784.] "... avons alloué en Premiere Rang le dit noble Dolmieres pour les fraix quil a expozés depuis lintroduction de linstance.... En Second Rang le dit noble Dolmieres pour la somme de trois cens livres quatorze sols six deniers quil a payée au Sieur Mazieres Collecteurs de Montferrand pour impositions royalles en consequence de notre appointment... Troisieme Rang disant quand a ce droit sur la requette de Jeanne Dubois faite par la demoiselle... declarons les deux pieces de terres ayant appartenû a Jean Bené et qui sont incorporées dautres... la somme de huit cents cinquante livres sera prelevée sur le prix de la vente du Domaine de la Salle pour etre distribuée... En Septieme Rang le dit Jean Mazieres pere haut de Sainte Camelle... En neufieme rang le Sieur Jean... marchand bijoutier de Paris et Margueritte Fabre epouze Françcois Frezouli voiturier haute... En onzieme rang... que la somme de trois mille livres montant du Cantonement que le dit Sieur Carrau fit par acte trois fevrier mil sept cens soixante seize restera entre les mains du dit Sieur Dolmieres..." [... have allocated in the first place to the said noble Dolmières for the fees incurred by him since the introduction of this instance... in the second place to the said noble Dolmières the sum of three hundred livres fourteen sols six deniers for... for royalties... in the third place, in the event that upon her right, demoiselle Jeanne Dubois makes a request... declaring two sections of land belonging to Jean Bené and which incorporates others... the sum of eight hundred and fifty livres will be levied on the sale price of the Bailliwick of la Salle for distribution... in the eleventh place... the sum of three thousand livres for the Cantonment...] "Expedié a Castelnaudarry le quatorzieme aout mil sept cens quatre vingt sept." [Expedited at Castelnaudary on 14 August 1787.] End excerpts. Messire Bernard Dolmières (born 1741) was Lord of Lastouzeilles and Montferrand. He was a Carmelite, a wealthy noble and influential man, also a philanthropist. His principle residence was at Castelnaudary, in a region formerly known as Lauraguais. He also possessed feudal lands called 'domaine directe,' fiefs, and noble estates in the regions of Montferrand, Labastide-d'Anjou, and Avignonet. During the French Revolution Reign of Terror, only 7 years after the present document was made for him, in May 1794 Bernard Dolmières was imprisoned by order of a decree made in March 1793 for religious oppression. Owing to ill health, however, he was released from incarceration and confined to his own home under voluntary house arrest. Because he was "of great nobility and also a fanatic" Dolmières was denied the all-important "certificat de civisme" - a document which proved a person's ideological soundness and prevented indefinite imprisonment under the Law of Suspects. A book published in 1895 describes Bernard Dolmières, Lord of Lastouzeilles and Montferrand, and records the circumstances of his imprisonment in 1794. Evidently, upon the announcement in 1789 that feudal privileges of the nobles were abolished, in particular monetary dues paid by a peasant to the lord, such as the banalités of Manorialism, Dolmières wrote to the governing body of the Commune if Montferrand to declare a renunciation of his title of Lorship. Titled, "Les reclus de Toulouse sous la terreur: Registres officiels concernant les citoyens emprisonnés comme suspects" the following excerpt pertains to Dolmières. "Bernard Dolmières, domicilié à Toulouse, 7e son, âgé de 52 ans, marié, ayant trois enfans; reclus depuis le 26 germinal conformément à l'arrêté du 14." ["Germinal" was the seventh month in the French Republican Calendar. The month started 20 or 21 March.] "Ci devant noble, jouissant d'un revenu de 10,000 livres dont le revenu est un peu diminué & ou est comprise l'adot de son épouse de 80,000 livres plus 71,000 livres de capitaux. * Avec les aristocrates & les fanatiques. * D'un caractère fort tranquille, n'ayant jamais rien fait en faveur de la Révolution." "Approuvé. "En réclusion chez lui pour cause de maladie". "B. D'OLMIÈRES, seigneur de Lastouzeilles Et de Montferrand, faisait partie de ces gentilshommes à esprit plus généreux que prudent qui saluèrent la Révolution comme apportant la félicité aux Français & un régime dont la base serait la fraternité dans es qu'elle a de plus élevé. Dès l'annonce de la suppression des droits féodaux, il écrivit à la Commune de Montferrand pour lui déclarer sa renonciation aux droits seigneuriaux qu'il possédait, « renonciation qu'il maintiendrait même si l'Assemblée constituante revenait sur sa décision. » Chef de la légion de Montferrand, il prit à sa charge tous les frais quelconques d'équipement, &, quand eut lieu le premier appel de la levée de mars 1793, il donna à sa commune 1,000 livres pour aider les volontaires, 600 livres pour le méme objet à Peycens, autant à Issel & à la Bastide-d'Anjou. Enveloppé dans les grandes arrestations d'avril 1793, d'Olmières fut élargi le 9 mai suivant par jugement du Comité de sûreté générale (de Toulouse), qui (le reconnaît citoyen s'étant de toutes manières prononcé pour la Révolution ». Atteint un an plus tard par l'arrêté de Dartigoeyte contre les nobles, d'Olmières dut se rendie à la prison des Carmélites; mais la faibleîse de sa vue s'aggrava par la réclusion, &, sur un certificat signé de l'oculiste Nizet & du professeur Larrey, chirurgien en chef de l'hôpital général Saint Joseph de la Grave, il sortit le quatrième jour sans-culottide an II pour rester en réclusion chez lui. Une pétition de Mme d'Olmières au représentant du peuple Mallarmé obtint l'élargissement de son mari le 21 vendémiaire an III. D'Olmières s'était vu refuser un certificat de civisme du Conseil général de la Commune parce qu'il était « de grande noblesse et fanatique »." [End excerpts] His ancestors include: •Paul d'OLMIÈRES (ca 1600-1676), Bourgeois de Montferrand, then in the diocese of Saint-Papoul •Paul Dolmières (1639-1713), Seigneur de Las Tousseilles Docteur, avocat au Parlement de Toulouse, capitoul depuis 1683, syndic du diocèse de Saint-Papoul, maire de Saint-Papoul à Montferrand; •Bernard Dolmières, sieur de Las Touzeilles was born 1672; •Louis d'Olmières, Seigneur de Las Touzeilles et Callaguès, co-seigneur de Montferrand et de Labastide d'Anjou ca 1614-1664, Conseiller du roi, receveur des tailles du diocèse de St-Papoul, fermier de la baillie royale d'Avignonnet.. He is connected to the Château de Lastouzeilles near Palleville through his ancestry, and may have been in possession of it until it was sold in 1806. French historic documents record that sometime shortly after 1550, an ancestor, Louis d'Olmières, Seigneur de Las Touzeilles et de Montferrand et Labastide, possessed "un château appellé las Touseilles sive Lencauderon" with "écuries, fournial, grange, le tout dans l'enclos de la basse-cour, pigeonnier, garenne, jardin, verger, allée, terre labourable, prés et hermes, joignant ensemble une autre maison appelée Le Gallaguès, 31 sétérées deux carterias, place de moulin à vent - et plus de 43 sétérées de terres et bois, ainsi que des censives. Le Gallaguès doit loger les fermiers ou métayers de L. d'Olmières." The castle was sold in 1806, possibly by Bernard Dolmières, who would have been aged 65 at the time [further research warranted]. The purchaser was Jean-Louis de Gouttes whose descendants retain ownership today. The Carmelites, a Roman Catholic religious order is believed to have been founded in the 12th century, on Mount Carmel in the Crusader States. By the middle of the 17th century, the Carmelites had reached their zenith, however, became involved in controversies with other orders, particularly with the Jesuits. The French Revolution, the secularization in Germany, and the repercussions on religious orders following the nineteenth century unification of Italy reduced the Carmelites to only approximately 200 men around the world. A Scant few notes on feudalism and seigneurial justice in France In early modern France, nobles maintained a great number of seigneurial privileges over the free peasants who worked lands under their control. They could, for example, levy the cens tax, an annual tax on lands leased or held by vassals. Nobles could also charge banalités for the right to use the lord's mills, ovens, or wine presses. Alternatively, a noble could demand a portion of vassals' harvests in return for permission to farm land he owned. Nobles also maintained certain judicial rights over their vassals, although with the rise of the modern state many of these privileges had passed to state control, leaving rural nobility with only local police functions and judicial control over violation of their seigneurial rights. Unlike the English, France permitted women to hold seigneurial land. When the wife of a noble died, she would inherit the land. Some women took charge of managing the land and finances, while some held onto it only as long as a son came of age or was able to farm it or manage it. The English term bailiwick originated in France (bailie being the Old French term for a bailiff). Under the ancien régime in France, the bailli was the king's representative in a bailliage, charged with the application of justice and control of the administration. In southern France, the term generally used was sénéchal (cf seneschal) who held office in the sénéchaussée. The administrative network of baillages was established in the 13th century, based on the earlier medieval fiscal and tax divisions (the 'baillie') which had been used by earlier sovereign princes. (For more on this French judicial system, see bailli, prévôt and Early Modern France.) In late medieval and early modern France, the seneschal was originally a royal steward overseeing the entire country, which developed into an agent of the crown charged with administration of a seneschalty (French: sénéchaussée), one of the districts of the crown lands in Languedoc and Normandy. The seneschals also served as the chief justice of the royal courts in their areas. At the time of the above-described document, there were eight sénéchaussée courts in Langedoc, including one each at Toulouse and Castelnaudary (for Lauragais), and some twenty to thirty thousand courts in the entire Kingdom of France including the New World. These were equivalent of a bailliage court in the north. A chief judge (juge-mage) assumed the seneschal's judicial functions in the south.
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