Gambar halaman
PDF
ePub

fore a female ward became of age, the lord claimed and asserted the right of tendering her a husband. If she rejected the offer she forfeited the value of the marriage, that is, as much as any one would give to the lord for permission to marry her. This right was extended to male and female heirs, and also to widows.

$ 85. Local courts.—The grant of land as a fief was usually accompanied by a grant of jurisdiction, under which local courts were established, in which legal controversies arising among the subjects living within the bounds of the manor were adjudicated. These manorial courts founded by the Normans exist under different names in England.

§ 86. Homage and fealty.-Primarily, the feudal tenure was based upon the obligation or duty of the vassal to render military service to his lord. When the fief was granted, the vassal made homage to his lord in this fashion : “He shall be ungirt and his head uncovered, and his lord shall sit and the tenant shall kneel before him on both knees, and hold his hands jointly between the hands of his lord and shall say thus: I become your man from this day forward, of life and limb and of earthly worship, and unto you shall be true and faithful, and bear you faith for the tenements that I claim to hold of you, saving the faith that I owe to our sovereign lord, the king; and then the lord, so sitting, shall kiss him.” The obligation of homage, says Fleta, is mutual, binding the lord to protection of the vassal, as well as the vassal to fidelity. Homage was done without an oath, but when a freeholder did fealty to his lord it was required that, “he shall hold his right hand upon a book and shall say thus: “Know ye this, my lord, that I shall be faithful and true unto you, and faith to you shall bear for the lands which I claim to hold of you, and that I shall lawfully do to you the customs and services which I ought to do at the terms assigned, so help me God and His saints,' and he shall kiss the book. But he shall not kneel when he maketh the fealty, nor shall make such humble reverence as is aforesaid in homage.”.

§ 87. Military- service.—The extent of military service due to the lord from his tenant or vassal was indeterminate at first, but afterwards, as the vassal became more independent, it was fixed by usage or custom at forty days on every occasion in which his lord required his services. Women and the clergy were obliged to send substitutes. Certain public officers were wholly exempt from personal military service. The other duties of the vassal, as Mr. Hallam gives them, were as follows: “It was a breach of faith to divulge the lord's counsel, to conceal from him the machinations of others, to injure his person or fortune, or to violate the sanctity of his roof and the honor of his family. In battle he was bound to lend his horse to his lord, when dismounted ; to adhere to his side while fighting, and to go into captivity as a hostage for him when taken. His attendance was due at the lord's courts, sometimes to witness and sometimes to bear a part in the administration of justice."

§ 88. Other obligations of the tenant.-We have mentioned wardship and marriage as two of the incidents of the relation of lord and tenant which were a source of pecuniary profit to the lord. His revenues were replenished by other means. Every new entrant upon a fief paid a sum of money which was called a “relief.” When a tenant left no heir or forfeited his estate for crime, it escheated to the lord. When a tenant sold any part of his fief, a fine was paid for the permission to sell, and finally there were sums paid for various “aids,"—to ransom the lord when a prisoner, to make his eldest son a knight, to marry the lord's eldest daughter by giving her a portion. The amount of the last two was fixed by act of parliament in time of Edward III, at twenty shillings each, but these aids were wholly abolished in the reign of Charles II.

§ 89. Domesday Book.–King William, when he felt secure in his possession of the English throne, held a council to inquire into the state of the nation and by his order the Domesday Book was compiled. This book contains minute and accurate surveys of the lands of the kingdom. The work was committed to five justices in each county, in the year 1081, and it was finished in five years. This book, or books, for it consists of two volumes, is preserved in the chapter house at Westminster. It gave the king full information as to the military resources of the kingdom, and has been invaluable to the English people in settling disputed boundary lines.

$ 90. Escuage.—As the hereditary character of fiefs became established, the tenant ceased to be dependent and subject to his lord. In course of time, a pecuniary payment became the sole method by which the tenant discharged his obligations. Henry II found it inconvenient to keep the military force of the kingdom in a state of efficiency, and he dispensed with the personal military services of the vassals, and substituted in lieu thereof the payment of a fixed sum called “escuage,” which is simply another name for taxes, as we now know them.

§ 91. Changes in feudal system.—The practice of subdivision and sale of feuds worked great changes in the rules of tenure and succession. This practice became so common that it caused alarm, and by a provision of the charter of Henry III, subinfeudation was restricted, and in the time of Edward I it was forbidden. As a substitute, lands were allowed to be sold, but the purchaser took and held title just as his grantor did. This applied to sales of a man's entire interest in land, and was held not to prohibit the voluntary alienation of land by persons during their lifetime. Under the feudal system, • lands could not be sold for debt. By degrees, however, the power of the creditor over the debtor's land was increased, until by the modern statutes of bankruptcy in England the whole of a bankrupt debtor's lands have become absolutely salable for the payment of his debts. So by a statute (3 and 4 Wm. IV, c. 104), all a deceased person's interest in land of whatever kind, not charged by his will with payment of debts, whether he was a trader within the bankrupt laws or not, constitutes assets to be administered in equity for the payment of debts.

§ 92. Abolition of the system.-In spite of these changes in some parts of the ancient feudalism, many of its substantial provisions remained in force and it was not until after the civil war, which began in 1641, that the profits of wardship and marriage,

and other feudal prerogatives, were swept away. The court of wards was discontinued in 1645, and it was further enacted that all wardships, liveries, primer seizins, values, forfeitures of marriage, etc., by reason of any tenure of the king or others, should be totally taken away, and that all fines for alienation, tenures by homage, knight-service and escuage, etc., were abolished. Of which statute Blackstone says: “It was a greater acquisition to the civil property of this kingdom than even Magna Charta itself; since that only pruned the luxuriances that had grown out of the military tenures, and thereby preserved them in vigor; but the statute of King Charles extirpated the whole, and demolished both root and branches. (12 Charles II, c. 24.)

« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »