Thursday, September 18, 2008

The origins of feudalism

Is America the last feudal state? I mean "feudal" in the sense of a medieval governing structure?

Better minds than mine have suggested this. (And long before I write this today). Ruminating on the idea leads to the grudging thought that there might be something to it.

In William Marnell's The Good Life of Western Man, he speaks of the beginnings of the theory of feudalism. To me, this description (from Coutume de Bayonene, about 1273) sounds a lot like the way Americans have classically viewed their relationship with their government. It's not definitive, but it rang a bell in my mind:

"The people come before the lords; it is the lesser folk, more numerous than the others, who, wishing to live in peace, create lords to restrain and defeat the strong and to maintain each man in his rights, so that each may live according to his condition, the poor with their poverty and the rich with their wealth. And to assure this in perpetuity, the populace has submitted itself to a lord, has given him what he holds, and has kept what the people hold for themselves. It is in witness of this that the lord should take the oath to his people before the people take it to their lord; and this oath taken by the people to their lord is only binding so long as the lord keeps his oath."

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