Chap 7-8: Allodial, Feudal System

Chap 7: The Allodial Government

  • We will now:
    • consider what form of government succeeded the fall of the Roman Empire, and
    • give an account of the origin of the modern European governments.
  • The government which succeeded this period was [35] similar to the Tartar’s  mentioned before.
    • Germans and other groups conquered the the western countries after the fall of the Roman Empire.
      • Compared to the Tartars, they:
        • had better notions of property, and
        • were a little more used to the division of lands.
  • The conquering king and the other chieftains would naturally:
    • take more land and distribute it among their vassals and dependents, and
    • leave but a very inconsiderable share to the ancient inhabitants.
      • However, they did not extirpate them entirely.
        • They still paid them some little regard.
  • Among the Franks who took Gaul, the person who killed a Frank paid only five times the fine which was payable for killing one of the old inhabitants1.
    • These nations were almost lawless.
    • Depredations were continually committed.
    • All kinds of commerce was stopped.
  • The allodial government arose because of this.
    • It introduced an inequality of fortune.
    • All these chieftains held their lands allodially without any burden of cess, wardship, etc.
  • One of these great lords had land near the size of a county.
    • But as he was unable to reap any advantage from so much of it.
    • He found it necessary to parcel it out among vassals, who:
      • paid a certain annuity,
      • attended him in war, or
      • performed some service of this nature.
  • Through this, his incomes became so great.
    • But he could only consume them by maintaining many retainers around his house, as there was then no domestic luxury.
      • These were another species of dependents.
      • They increased his authority and secured domestic peace because they kept the tenants in awe and were kept in awe by the tenants.
  • The authority of these lords was so great, that if any one claimed a debt from [36] any of their vassals, the king had no power to send a messenger into the lord’s dominions to force payment1.
    • He could only apply to the lord, and desire him to do justice.
  • The lords also were the last resort2 in:
    • judging of all property under their own jurisdiction,
    • the power of:
      • life and death,
      • coining money, and
      • making by-laws and regulations in their own territories.
  • This power of government was between the king and the great lords.
    • This power would not have been properly kept if there had been no balance.
  • Besides the allodial lords, there were many free people who were allowed to consult about justice in their own spheres.
    • Every county was divided into hundreds and subdivided into tens.
    • Each of these had their respective court:
      • the decennary court,
      • the hundred court.
    • Over those was placed the Wittenagemot or assembly of the whole people3.
  • Appeals were brought from the ten to the hundred.
    • From it, to the county court.
  • An appeal could be brought to the king’s court in case the inferior court denied justice by refusing to hear a cause, or if it was protracted by unreasonable delays4.
    • Appeals were also sometimes carried to the Wittenagemot.
      • It was made up of the king, allodial lords, aldermen or earls, bishops, abbots, etc.
  • This was the first form of government in Western Europe, after the fall of the Roman Empire.

Chap 8: The Feudal System

  • We next show how:
    • the allodial government was overturned and
    • the feudal system introduced.
  • These great lords were continually making war on [37] one another.
    • In order to secure their tenants’ attendance, they gave them leases of the lands which they possessed from year to year.
    • They afterwards came to be held for life1.
  • The great lords usually engaged in very hazardous enterprises with their vassals.
    • They extended this right to the land to their son and grandson’s life so that:
      • their vassals’ families might not be left destitute in the worst cases, and
      • their vassals could be more encouraged to follow them.
    • It was thought cruel to turn out an old possessor, so finally, the right:
      • became hereditary, and
      • was called feudal 2.
  • The feudal tenant was bound to certain offices.
    • But service in war was the chief thing required.
    • If the heir was unable to perform it, he was obliged to appoint one in his place.
  • In this way, wardships were introduced3.
    • When the heir female succeeded, the feudal baron had a right to marry her to whomever he pleased because it was thought reasonable that he should have a vassal of his own choosing4.
  • The prima seizin was another emolument of the lord.
    • When the father died, the son had no right to the estate until he publicly declared his willingness to accept it.
      • The lord sometimes had the estate to himself and enjoyed its profits for some time.
      • The heir paid a sum to get it back, which was called relief1.
  • The escheat was another emolument of the lord.
    • After the estate became hereditary, it returned to the lord if there was no heir.
    • The same thing happened if the heir failed to perform the required services 2.
  • There were other small sums due to the superior on redeeming his son when:
    • taken prisoner, or
    • on knighting him3, and
    • on the marriage of his daughter, etc4.
  • The same causes that made allodial lords give away their lands to their vassals on leases which afterwards became hereditary, made the king give away more of his lands to be held feudally:
    • What a tenant possessed in feu was much the same with real property.
      • They were subject to the above-mentioned emoluments.
      • But they possessed their lands for themselves and posterity.
  • Feudal property might be inferior to allodial property in some respects.
    • But the difference is so inconsiderable that allodial lordships soon become to be held feudally.
  • Around the 10th century, all estates came to be held feudally.
    • The allodial lords exchanged their rights for a feudal tenure5 so that they could enjoy the king’s protection.
  • Those historians who give an account of the origin of feudal laws from the usurpation of the nobility are quite mistaken6.
    • They say:
      • that the nobility wanted to have those lands which they held at pleasure of the king to be hereditary,
      • that it might not be in his power to turn them out, and
      • that the feudal law was introduced [39] because of the reduction of the king’s power.
    • But it was actually the opposite.
      • It was because of the increase of his power.
      • It required great influence in the king to make the lords hold their lands feudally.
  • The best proof of this is that William the Conqueror changed all the allodial lordships in England into feudal tenures.
    • Malcolm Kenmure1 did the same in Scotland2.
  • The introduction of the feudal system into Europe removed popular government.
    • The popular courts were all removed.
    • Decennary, hundred, and county courts were prohibited.
  • All public affairs were managed by the king and the great feudal lords.
    • Only the hereditary lords had a right to sit in parliament.
  • Those great lords who held immediately of the king were considered as his companions, pares convivii comites.
    • They advised on public affairs.
    • Everything important was done through them.
  • The majority’s consent was to be obtained before any law could be passed.
    • They had to be called together.
  • The barons or inferior lords observed the same method in their jurisdictions.
    • They were called pares curiae baronis.
    • They also needed to be consulted since they were also in arms.
  • Without the majority’s consent, the baron could not:
    • go to war, nor
    • make a law.
  • Nothing could be done in the kingdom without almost universal consent.
    • Thus they fell into a kind of aristocracy with the king at the head.
  • Besides these orders of men, there were two others which were held in the utmost contempt4.
    • The first was the villains (villani).
      • They ploughed the ground and were [40] adscripti glebae.
    • The second was the inhabitants of boroughs.
      • They were in the same state of villainage as the villains, or a little beyond it.
  • The boroughs were much under the influence of the lord who gave them protection.
    • It was the king’s interest to:
      • weaken as much as possible this interest and
      • favour their liberty.
  • Henry II carried this so far.
    • If a slave escaped to a borough and lived there peaceably a year and day, he became free1.
  • He gave them many other privileges.
    • But what secured them most was the power of forming themselves into corporations upon paying a certain sum to the king.
  • They held of him in capite2.
    • At first, every man paid his proportion to the king3.
    • But afterwards, the borough paid the sum and levied it as it seemed proper.
  • Through this, the number of inhabitants increased.
    • The burden became lighter.
    • The boroughs became opulent and very considerable.
  • In the reign of King John, a law was made that if a lord married his ward to a burgher he only forfeited his wardship4.

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