« AnteriorContinuar »
Rent Service. This is so called, because it has some corporeal service incident to it, as at least fealty to the feudal oath of fidelity. If a tenant holds his lands by fealty and ten shillings rent, he holds by rent-service. If he be in arrear for rent,
, at the day appointed, the lord may distrain of common right, without reserving any special power of distress, provided he has in himself the reversion or future estate of the lands and tenements, after the lease has expired.
Rent Charge. This exists, where the owner of the rent has no future interest, or reversion expectant in the land, as where a man by deed conveys his estate in fee-simple, with a certain rent payable thereout, and adds to the deed a clause of distress, that if the rent be in arrear, it shall be lawful to distrain for it. In this case, the land is liable to the distress, not of common right, but by virtue of the clause in the deed, and, therefore, it is called a rent charge, because in this manner the land is charged with a distress for the payment of it.
Rent Seck. This is barren rent, reditus siccus, which is in effect nothing more than a rent reserved by deed, but without any clause of distress.
Other Rents. Rents of assize are certain established rents of the freeholders and copyholders of a manor, which cannot be varied. Those of the freeholders were often termed chief rents, and both kinds quit rents, because thereby the tenant was quit or free from other service. If the payments were reserved in silver, they were termed white rent; when in baser money, or in grain or labor, they were termed black-mail. Rack rent is only a rent of about the full value of the tenement. A fee-farm rent is a rent charge issuing out of an estate in fee, of at least onefourth the value of the lands, at the time of its reservation, which was virtually a mode of letting lands to farm in fee-simple.
Remedy by Distress. The same remedy by distress exists for recovering rents, also for rents-seck, rents of assize and chief rents, as in the case of rents reserved upon lease.
Place and Time of Payment. Rent is regularly due and payable upon the land from whence it issues, if no particular place is specified in the reservation, but in case of the king, it is payable to his officers at the exchequer, or to his receiver in the country. It is demandable before surset of the day whereon it is reserved, though strictly not absolutely due until midnight.
CHAPTER IV.-THE FEUDAL SYSTEM.
Importance of Its Study. It is impossible to accurately understand the constitution of the kingdom, or the laws which fregulate its landed property, without some acquaintance with the nature and doctrine of feuds or the feudal law, a system universally received throughout Europe twelve centuries ago. We must remember, that the obsolete doctrines of our laws are frequently the foundation for much of that which remains, and to properly understand many rules of modern law, we must have recourse to the ancient.
Origin of Feuds. The constitution of feuds had its original from the military policy of the northern or Celtic nations, the Goths, Huns, Franks, Vandals and Lombards, who poured into all the regions of Europe at the decline of the Roman empire. It continued in their respective colonies, as a means to secure their new acquisitions, and to that end large districts of land were allotted by the general to the superior officers, and by them dealt out in smaller parcels to inferior officers and deserva ing soldiers.
Oath of Fealty. These allotments were called feoda, feuds, fiefs or fees. The word fee signifies a conditional stipend or reward, and the condition annexed to it was, that the possessor should serve faithfully, both at home and in war, him who gave it, for which purpose he took the oath of fealty. If he failed to perform the service, or deserted his lord in battle, the lands were to revert to the grantor.
For Mutual Defence. Allotments thus acquired, springing from the same right of conquest, could not subsist independently of each other, wherefore all givers as well as receivers were mutually bound to defend each other's possessions. To effect this, government, and for that purpose subordination, was necessary. Every receiver of lands, or feudatory, was bound when called on by his immediate lord of the fee, to defend him. Such lord was subordinate to some superior lord, and so upwards to the general or prince himself. Thus the feudal connection was established, a proper military subjection introduced, and an army of feudatories enlisted, prepared not only to defend each man's own property, but to defend the whole of this their newly acquired country.
Introduction of Feuds. The universality and early use of this feudal plan among those nations in Europe, whom the Romans called barbarous, appears from the records relating to the Cimbri and Teutones, at their first irruption into Italy about a century before the Christian era. Seven hundred years later, in invasions of other nations, the same constitution was more fully displayed in the distribution and protection of newly acquired territories.
Adoption by Older Nations. The wisdom of these constitutions, introduced by the northern conquerors in their new dominions, added to their personal valor, alarmed the princes of countries, which had formerly been Roman provinces, but had revolted, or been deserted by their old masters in the general
wreck of the empire. Wherefore most of them adopted a simiMar policy. Prior thereto, the possessions of their subjects were
allodial, that is, wholly independent of any superior, but now they parcelled out their territories anew, under the like feudal obligations of military fealty. Thus in a few years, the feudal constitution or doctrine of tenure extended itself over the entire country.
Civil Law Ignored. This alteration of the doctrine of landed property necessarily resulted in changes of customs and laws, so that the feudal laws soon drove out the Roman, which had hitherto obtained, and the civil law for centuries remained lost and forgotten. Introduction in England. But this feudal polity, thus by
, degrees established over the continent of Europe, was not received in England as part of the national constitution, until the reign of William the Norman. Something similar, it is true, was introduced during the Saxon reigns, but it did not obtain universally. The Saxons were firmly settled in Britain as early as the year 600, but it was not until two centuries later, that feuds arrived at their full vigor, even on the continent.
Gifts from William I. The introduction of feudal tenures into England was not effected immediately after the conquest, which term “conquest” means acquisition, in the feudal sense. Nor by the mere arbitrary will of the conqueror, but apparently were gradually established by the Norman barons and others in such forfeited lands, as they received as a gift from the conqueror, sanctioned by the great council of the nation. The prodigious slaughter of the English nobility at the battle of Hastings caused numerous forfeitures.
Domesday Book. In the nineteenth year of William's reign, an invasion from Denmark was imminent, and the military constitution of the Saxons having been laid aside, and no other introduced, the kingdom was wholly defenceless, which caused the king to bring over an army of Normans and Bretons, and quarter them on the English people, who were oppressed thereby. As soon as the danger was over, the king held a large council, the immediate consequence of which was the compiling of the great survey, called the domesday book, which was finished in the next year. The principal land-holders thereupon submitted their lands to the yoke of military tenure, became the king's vassals, and did homage and fealty to his person.
Willingly Adopted. The new polity therefore seems not to have been imposed by the conqueror, but freely adopted by the general assembly of the whole realm, in the same manner as other nations of Europe had accepted it, for self-security. They had the recent example of France before them, which had gradually surrendered all the allodial lands to the king, who restored them to the owners as a feud, to be held by them as vassals of the crown.
In France this change was gradual, while in England it was done at one time by the common consent of the nation.
The King, the Universal Lord. It thus became a necessary principle, though in reality a fiction of our English tenures, that the king is the universal lord, and original proprietor of all lands in the kingdom, and that no man can possess any part of them, but as a gift from him, to be held upon feudal services. By consenting to the introduction of feudal tenures, our ancestors probably meant no more than to put the kingdom in a state of defence, by establishing a military system, and by maintaining the king's title and territories, with equal fealty, as if they had received the lands as feudatories. The Norman interpreters, however, construed the act differently, and introduced the rigorous doctrines prevalent in Normandy, with such hardships and services, as if the English people owed all they possessed to the bounty of their sovereign lord.
The Norman Rule. Our ancestors, who were not beneficiaries, deemed these arbitrary conclusions as grievous impositions; hence Henry I found it expedient to promise the restoration of the Saxon laws of king Edward the confessor. Accordingly he redressed the greater grievances, which had been imposed by William I and William Rufus, but still reserved the fiction of feudal tenure for military purposes. But this charter was gradually abrogated, and the former grievances revived by himself and succeeding princes, till in the reign of king John, they became so intolerable, that his barons rose in arms against him. This at length produced the famous great charter at Runingmead, which with some alterations, was confirmed by his son, Henry III.
Magna Carta. Although the immunities granted in the great charter were much less than those which Henry I had yielded, yet they were justly esteemed a vast acquisition to English liberty. The immunities bestowed later, under king Charles, were even greater, than those contained in the charter of John. The liberties of Englishmen are not mere infringements of the king's prerogative, extorted from our princes by taking advantage of their weakness, but a restoration of that ancient constitution, of which our ancestors had been defrauded by the finesse of the Norman lawyers, rather than deprived by the force of the Norman arms.
Prefatory Remarks. Having given the rise and progress of feuds, we will next consider their nature, doctrine and principal laws, wherein we trace the ground work of many parts of our public policy, and the origin of tenures now either obsolete or remaining in force.
Lord and Vassals. The fundamental maxim of all feudal tenure is this: that all lands were originally granted by the sovereign, and therefore holden, directly or indirectly, of the crown. The grantor was called the proprietor or lord, and retained the dominion or ultimate property of the feud or fee. The grantee, who had the use or possession, according to the terms of the grant, was styled the feudatory or vassal, which was another name for the tenant or holder of the lands.
Open Investiture and Grant. The manner of the grant was by words of gratuitous and pure donation, derli et concessi, which are still used in our deeds of feoffment. fected by the ceremony of corporal investiture, or open and notorious delivery of possession, in presence of the other vassals, which was important, when the art of writing was but little known. The evidence of the ownership of property was thus
This was per