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into compromises which left their opponents in possession of large tracts, with laws, manners and customs, in various points discordant with the growing system which had been brought from the north. At all events, we know that discrepancies did exist; and there is proof of allodial or free-land—that is to say, land held by no feudal tenure, but in what may be called pure possession-having existed in various parts of Europe down to a very late period.
It would occupy too much space to inquire into the origin of the different tenures which we find in the earlier ages of feudalism, or to investigate why certain estates appear from the first to have been heriditary, while others were resumable at the will of the sovereign. * All—not without exception, as we shall see hereafter, but as a general rule—very soon became hereditary through the greater part of Europe; and the grand distinction that remained was between allodial, or free-lands, and lands feudal, or held upon the condition of military service. The natural progress of feudal institutions, however, and the superior protection enjoyed by the feudal vassal, had converted almost all allodial lands on the continent into feudal
* I agree entirely with Dr. Lingard, that the theory of fiefs being originally beneficiary grants of land, resumable at pleasure, but gradually improved into estates of inheritance, is, perhaps, erroneous, though specious. They may have been so, but I have many doubts upon the subject; though I must remark that the regard had, through the whole system of feudal law, to the lord's ultimate right in the land in case of escheat, would seem to favour this theory.
lands before the invasion of England by William, called the Conqueror ; * so that by that time, the feudal system had not only reached its highest degree of perfection in most of the European monarchies, but had become the general law of policy, beyond the limits of which men's minds could conceive no beneficial institutions.
It was with such notions that the Norman warriors were filled when they invaded this island, and overthrew the Saxon monarchy. In England, however, they found a very different state of things existing, and an organization opposed in a thousand particulars to that which had been gradually produced in continental territories. Feudalism, in short, as a system, did not exist; for the circumstances of England were different from those of any other country conquered by the invaders of the Roman empire, and the necessities which had produced that organization amongst other nations had not been felt by the Saxons. They had adopted, indeed, various feudal institutions; but the great principle of the feudal system : that is to say, the general tenure of land upon the condition of military service, due not to the country but to a leader, was not recognised by the Saxons. It was, indeed, one of their fundamental laws, that all lands were subject to three
* As far as the middle of the twelfth century, there still existed several allodial lands in Languedoc, and there are documents in existence, by which these lands were from time to time transferred to feudal lords, and received back again as fiefs.
duties: the building and upholding castles, the building and upholding bridges, and the military defence of the realm. But the military obligation implied by the last clause, is clearly shewn to have been merely the expugnation of foreign invasion, and not service due to a particular chief as a return for lands held of him, which was the characteristic of feudal service. * Putting this law out of the question, then, the lands of the Saxons were held by various tenures, some of which were quite repugnant to the feudal system, and some similar to feudal holdings of an early period. It is not necessary to enumerate the names given to these various tenures, or to mark fine distinctions; the grand difference was between the lands held free of any other military duty but the great national one of realm defence, and those which were burdened with distinct military service of a feudal character. The Thaneland, which has been held to be synonymous with bocland, or charterland, and of which consisted the great bulk of the estates of the Saxon
* So totally distinct was the natural duty of what may be termed realm defence from the feudal and conventional duty of military service, that the two are, if anything, opposed to one another They may indeed be absolutely considered as opposed in their origin, for the feudal service was the service of the invader, the realm defence the duty of the invaded. The latter was purely territorial, the former personal; the latter was an extension of the right of defending individual property, produced by the necessities of society; the former was the application of military subordination in the distribution of conquered territory.
nobles, is clearly shewn to have been allodial, and was hereditary; while the sort of estate called beneficium, was granted upon terms of military service due to a particular leader, and may therefore be considered as feudal; though by this time feudal lands on the continent of Europe had become generally hereditary, while the benefice was granted only for a certain period—sometimes for more than one life, indeed, but sometimes merely for a period of years, and sometimes resumable at will. In the difference between the thane land and the benefice, lay the great distinction in the tenures of the Saxon nobles. The one holding was of allodial or free hereditary lands, the other was of estates, not hereditary, and held by military service to a chief; but there is every reason to believe, that the same person often held estates of both kinds. * There was, however, land held by the commons, which was called Folkland, and which resembled the benefice in not being absolutely hereditary, but which was free from feudal service. These lands were occupied by the yeomanry of England, the
* On the continent this was certainly the case, till the feudal system was fully established. The various capitularies of the Carlovingian monarchs display in many instances both the distinction between the two tenures, and the fact of persons holding by both. One of the most to the point is, perhaps, the following :-“Qui benificium domni Imperatoris aut Æcclesiarum dei habet, nihil exinde ducat in suam hereditatim ut ipsum benificium destruatur.”—Karoli Magni Capitul. ad. ann. 803; Mon. German Histor., tom. 3, p. 122.
great strength and security of the nation. Besides the nobles and the free tenants of the Folkland, was another class, namely, that of most wretched and depressed slaves, who in many respects were in a more abject state of bondage than the continental villeins.
The estates of the church were generally—uni. versally, I believe, under the Saxon dynasty—held by what is called Frank almoign, which tenure implied no feudal service of any kind, but which in return for grants from nobles and princes, required merely the prayers of the priesthood in behalf of the givers and their families.
Such was briefly the state of landed propeaty in England at the period of the Norman conquest; and such were the institutions of the people by whom William I., and his victorious army, all impressed with the doctrines of feudalism, found themselves environed after the battle of Hastings. The claims which that monarch had put forth to justify his invasion, and to facilitate his progress, now of course affected—if they cannot be absolutely said to have embarrassed—his conduct in dealing with the kingdom which he had acquired. His own prejudices, and the prejudices of those who accompanied him, required him to introduce the feudal system; and the necessity of rewarding and attaching those on whose support he could alone rely, rendered it imperative that he should divide a large portion of the conquered territory amongst his followers. But he