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Etatisation and Official Accountability?

One might be therefore tempted to infer the centrality of ‘state’ or regnal institutions to such practices of accountability. No accountability, no state; no state, no accountability. Many important interpretations of practices of accountability— especially in relation to inquisitions ex officio and/or action following public infamia develop a version of this line of thought, rooted as they are in explanations of the state.[1] ‘The slow movement from accusation by the injured party to inquest of witnesses by a royal official was perhaps the most obvious sign of the emergence of the state in France’.[2] In Leon and Castile, ‘proof by inquisition was an essential part of a procedure in which criminal proceedings were initiated by the king or a royal judge de su oficio, instead of by the victim of the crime or his kin [. . .] it was a procedure aimed at bringing about royal control of criminal justice’.[3]

‘ [French] officers’ abuses and subjects’ resistance to them must [. . .] be understood as a mode of operationalizing political power and as a reaction faced with this. Their history is therefore fully bound up in a history of the State, conceived not simply as the history of political institutions but also as a history of the relationships which sustain these institutions and particularly of the men who give life to them and those on whom their power is exercised’.71

There seems then a wider prima facie link between what is called etatisation in French, ‘public’ office-holding, and any sort of fiscal or criminal accountability. The ecclesiastical sphere has good grounds for claiming a central role in the articulation of the idea of ‘office’ itself.72 The ideological space pontiffs had cleared for summary inquisitions into their episcopal ‘bailiffs’ was probably borrowed by kings more than has been realized.73 Within German lands, a historian might even argue that proximity to the prince is the likeliest preventative of accountability in governmental institutions.74 In 1347 Cologne a list of officials feels no need to qualitatively distinguish between town, princely, and burgher officials.75 As to officials’ accountability, the deliberate consideration here of seigneurial, collegial, and of ecclesiastical forms is intended to question systematically the presumption of a necessarily state-based point of origin and impetus. It would—true—be possible to argue that English treatises on seigneurial officials were imitative of public pretensions of royal power (more ‘learned moralizing’ perhaps)76, and can therefore be parsed in that light.77 It would be possible to argue that collegial concern with its members’ and officers’ accountability is a consequence of these foundations’ ‘public interest’ purposes and therefore explicable, again, in relation to ‘The’ Public Power’s image of itself, and consequently also an extended product of etatisation. It would be possible to argue that papal concern with ecclesiastical government is simply an aspirant version of ‘stately’ etatisation in a religious register. (Especially if one thinks the Church is the state manque.) Eventually, though, enough non-state sources for officials’ accountability would appear so uncomfortably subordinated to a privileged statist version that one must

  • 71 Telliez, «Perpotentiam officii», 679—80.
  • 72 Wolter, ‘Verwaltung, Amt, Beamter, V—VI’, 30—1, 40. See also Wolter, ‘The Officium in Medieval Ecclesiastical Law as a Prototype of Modern Administration’, in Padoa-Schioppa (ed.), Legislation and Justice, 17—36 (a partial English version of the German article). Notwithstanding these quotes of Wolter’s, in the context of regional German administration, he also sees the (fiscal) accountability of the Amtmann as, again, a consequence of growing state appetites (Wolter, Verwaltung, Amt, Beamter,

V-VI’, 43-4).

  • 73 Julien Thery, ‘«Exces» et «affaires d’enquete»: Les Proces criminels de la papaute contre les prelats, XIIIe—mi—XTV siecle’, 2 vols. (Universite Paul-Valery—Montpellier III, Dossier pour l’habilitation a diriger des recherches en histoire medievale, 2010), i. 539—41 on Philip IV and Jean d’Aunay, seneschal of Carcassonne in 1309.
  • 74 Wolter, ‘Verwaltung, Amt, Beamter, V—VI’, 46. In this latter section Wolter is generally talking about Bavaria. Louis XIV’s abandonment of Colbert’s miniature account books produced for him by his minister when the latter died in 1683 provides an ambivalent miniature of the wider relationship in Soll’s Reckoning, ix—x.
  • 75 Wolter, ‘Verwaltung, Amt, Beamter, V—VI’, 41.
  • 76 The term is Bissons, Crisis of the Twelfth Century, 445—56.
  • 77 On the context of the practical Rectitudines singularum personarum, see further P. D. A. Harvey, ‘Rectitudines singularum personarum and Gerefa EHR 426 (1993), 20—1, for a non-royal, possibly monastic context.

ask whether a statist part has been mistaken for the bigger whole. ‘Each good lord should be a good magistrate and judge,’ said John of Ibelin of a lord’s duty to investigate claims of murder on his doorstep.78 ‘At the beginning of every administrative system was the estate manager’, not the king.79 Kings used the same point of departure themselves. ‘If mere lords appoint and judge their bailiffs and stewards, cannot then kings their officers?’ demanded Henry III, and Edward I, bristling against attempts to restrict their control of (royal) officers.80 The concerns of lords in controlling their officials, popes in regulating their prelates, colleges in disciplining their wardens, do indeed bear comparison with kings in controlling their agents, but these practices and institutions seem sufficiently autonomous to justify treating them as species of a common concern, rather than variations of a ur-regal/etatiste tendency. Some degree of predictable—not peaceful—order is needed for the development of these practices, and to this degree some basically stable division of power is needed (as Western Europe’s ninth or late twelfth to thirteenth centuries show).81 Given that, it seems more useful to stress the similarities, even the mutual influence between kings’ and others’ experiments in holding their officers accountable.82 But if forms of accountability flourish in the shadow of kings, kings keep no monopoly in casting shadows. It is better to say that it is predictable that powers seeking power should appropriate to themselves ‘rights’ of inquiry and judgement which depend on their own volition, not on that of a plaintiff. The grounds of those powers may be various. From the appropriation by kings of such powers, etatisation may follow, be that Carolingian or Angevin. There are others—lords, colleges—appropriating accountability likewise and there seems no necessary reason to associate practices of accountability per se with etatisation per se. Such appropriations were a further turn of these powers’ civilizing process. Formalizing officers’ accountability helped to legitimize all forms of power in this period, seigneurial to imperial.

  • [1] Thomas N. Bisson, The Crisis of the Twelfth Century: Power, Lordship, and the Origins of EuropeanGovernment (Princeton, NJ, 2009), passim; Elisabeth Lalou, ‘L’Enquete au Moyen Age’, Revue his-torique 313 (2011), 151—3 (on enquetes and the state); R C. van Caenegem, ‘Public Prosecutionof Crime in Twelfth Century England’ and ‘Criminal Law in England and Flanders under KingHenry II and Count Philip of Alsace’ in R. C. van Caenegem, Legal History: A European Perspective(London, 1991), respectively 1—36 and 37—60; Thery, Kama: L’Opinion publique comme preuvejudiciaire: Aper^u sur la revolution medievale de l’inquisitoire (XIIe—XI"V siecle)’, in Bruno Lemesle(ed.), La Preuve en justice de TAntiquite a nos jours (Rennes, 2003), 147 (on fama and the state); ClaudeGauvard, De grace especial’: Crime, etat et societe en France a la fin du Moyen Age (Paris, 2010 edn.),946—52, s.v. ‘renommee’; Patrick Wormald, Lawyers and the State: The Varieties of Legal History, SSLecture (London, 2006). See also Sarah Rubin Blanshei, Politics and Justice in Late Medieval Bologna(Leiden, 2010), passim, and ‘Crime and Law Enforcement in Medieval Bologna’, Journal of SocialHistory 16 (1982), 121—38, esp. 124—5, 127 on Bologna’s dysfunctional dual state/private criminalsystem; Harding, ‘Plaints and Bills’, esp. 82—3, and Medieval Law and the Foundations of the State,esp. 33—7, 118—23, 134—5, 147—60; J. H. Mundy, Liberty and Political Power in Toulouse 1050—1230(New York, 1954), 163, 320 n. 41. Important dissent in Massimo Vallerani, Medieval Public Justice,trans. Sarah Rubin Blanshei (Washington, 2012), passim, and e.g. 1—2. A stimulating account for theearly modern and modern period is Jakob Soll, The Reckoning: Financial Accountability and the Makingand Breaking of Nations (New York, 2014), focusing on the erratic relationship between fiscal accounting, political stability, and governmental and financial accountability from the fourteenth century on.Soll stresses the influence of accounting, its quantitative increase, and its qualitatively questionableand volatile modern effects (esp. ch. 13 and 205—8). He discusses medieval accounting innovations intheir religious cultural context at 6—28.
  • [2] Dunbabin, French in the Kingdom of Sicily, 240, 245, relevantly citing Philippe de Beaumanoir,Coutumes du Beauvaisis, i. cap. 1 §14.
  • [3] 7° Evelyn S. Procter, The Judicial Use of ‘Pesquisa’ (Inquisition) in Leon and Castille, 1157—1369,English Historical Review Suppl. 2 (London, 1966), 34.
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