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Michigan Chapter Six

Cadillac as Feudal Lord


CADILLAC seems to have regarded himself in relation to his colony at Detroit as lord of the manor, in accordance with the system then prevailing in France. He had good reasons for so regarding himself. Richelieu had set out to transplant in Canadian soil the seeds of French aristocracy. The king granted titles of nobility with no very wise discrimination and conferred seigniories upon almost any who would consent to go out to New France and undertake to occupy and improve the land.
The French feudal system of this period was greatly modified from that which had formerly prevailed. In the days of its greatest power every man was a lord or a vassal. The lands were partitioned among the former, who was the fief dominant, and to him the vassals owed not only taxation and dues, but also military service, homage and fidelity. Land ownership bestowed political, legislative and judicial power. The feudal lord was at once both proprietor and absolute sovereign over his vassals. He might himself be a vassal of a superior suzerain, since there were dukes, counts, viscounts, barons, marquises, etc., down a long line of nobles of varying degrees of rank and authority. It was an essential principle of a fief that there was mutual obligation of support and fidelity. Whatever this obligation of service laid upon the vassal a similar duty of protection was laid upon the lord. It was a mutual obligation and a transgression upon either side worked a forfeiture of land or seigniory. Nor were motives of interest left alone to operate in securing the feudal connection. The associations founded upon the ancient custom and friendly attachment, the impulses of gratitude and honor, the dread of infamy, the sanctions of religion were all employed to strengthen those ties and to render them equally powerful with the relations of nature and far more so than those of political society.

Michigan


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