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it at a vassal's death to his heir, he exacted something in consideration of the favor. This was called a relief (from re, back, and levare, to raise), as if the land had fallen into the lord's hands, and was to be relieved out of them by payment of the fine; or had fallen down, as it were, and was to be raised up again. The amount to be paid was probably at first quite arbitrary-as much as the lord chose to ask, and the vassal could afford to pay. Afterward it became fixed by custom, and even by law. The charter of Henry I., of England, enacted that reliefs in future should be reasonable, and Magna Charta fixed them at what was supposed to be one fourth of the yearly real value. In some countries, relief was also due on the death of the lord ; and at the present day, we find the remains of this, as well as the ordinary relief, in many manors in the North of England, where copyholders pay a fine, on the death both of the lord and of the tenant. It is most probable that this kind of relief, on the lord's death, originated in the remoter period, when the feud was granted wholly at pleasure, or at least, only during the grantor's life; and when he died, the heir, not being bound to continue the grant during the vassal's life, required a consideration for remembering his ancestor's grant. Heriots, still known in some English manors, are probably another remnant of the temporary nature of the feud out of which reliefs arose. They are due on the tenant's decease, and consist of his best chattel. A valuable racehorse was some years ago claimed in Surrey as a heriot. The same custom prevailed in Italy and France as early as the eleventh century; in England, at least two centuries before. The custom with regard to reliefs differed in different countries. Thus, in most parts of France, they were not due at all on direct, but only on collateral succession. This, however, may have been a limitation of late introduction, when the right of inheritance was established. Originally, they were probably due on all descents alike.
The right to alienate the feud was of comparatively late introduction ; for the fealty and service of the vassal were properly personal, and could not be transferred. Indeed, the original relation of lord and tenant was so strict, that neither party could dissolve it at pleasure. The lord's consent was necessary to a change of ten
ant; the tenant's to a change of lord; expressed by a form called his attornment, which continued to be required in England until the eighteenth century. At a much earlier period, however, the lord had become accustomed, in all feudal states, to permit alienation by the tenant, upon payment of a sum of money, and the person to whom the transfer was made became the lord's vassal, and did homage upon admission as tenant.
When feuds became hereditary, they descended either according to the order of succession pointed out in the grant, or according to some general law of succession prevailing in the state at large, or confined to the particular district. It was not till late in the bistory of most nations that the right to dispose of property by will was introduced, and it may be asserted that while the feudal system remained in full force, no such power was enjoyed generally in any part of Europe. When it was given anywhere, it at first extended only to a part of the land, the rest being still required to go in a particular line pointed out by the original terms of the grant, or the general law of the state, or the local law of the district. But while the feudal system remained entire, the death of the vassal without heirs, or without such heirs as were designated in the grant, caused the fief to return, fall, or escheat, as it was called, to the lord. The word signifies a casualty, or falling in consequence of an accident. But want of heirs was not the only cause of forfeit
If the vassal committed any act inconsistent with his fealty, the fief returned to the lord; and refinements were introduced, by which many things were held to be constructive rebellion, or contempt of the lord's authority. Thus, encroaching on his share of the land, whether on the waste not parcelled out, or on the lord's private property, as well that of which he had the beneficial ownership as that of which he had the feudal dominion, was termed purpresture or pourprision, and forfeited the feud to the lord; though in England this term has for ages been confined to encroachments upon the crown's rights. Thus, too, disclaiming the lord's right and the tenure under him was a cause of forfeiture. And in general alienating without license, and even making certain alterations upon the form and disposition of the land, were causes of forfeiture.
But besides these rights and perquisites which arose out of the
relation between the lord of the soil and him who had only the enjoyment, and that limited, of its fruits, there were others which grew out of the vassal's allegiance and dependence upon the superior.
Of these, aids were the chief. They were sums, like a tax or contribution, levied upon all the vassals, to defray expenses of the lord on certain extraordinary occasions—such as a pilgrimage to the Holy Land; the costs of his own relief to an over lord ; the mak. ing his eldest son a knight; the portioning his eldest daughter ; and his ransom, if taken in battle.
These three last are alone permitted by Magna Charta; and by the laws of France and other Continental monarchies, ward or wardship and marriage were not so universally established as the aids of which we have just been speaking. But in England they existed, and to an oppressive extent, as they also did in Germany and in Normandy. On the ground of training the infant vassal to arms after his father's death, and because he lost his service during his minority, the lord took possession of bis estate until he became of age; and an abuse of a vexatious kind soon crept inthe lord bestowing the guardianship and possession of the land upon strangers, from favor or for money. This was called, in Eng. lish law, guardianship in chivalry, and was only abolished first during the Commonwealth, and then by a perpetual act at the Restoration, after having been the source of extreme oppression down to that late period.
Marriage (maritagium) was the right to marry a ward, and receive a price for the match. The custom was still more rigorous in Jerusalem, where the Crusaders introduced the feudal system; for there, maiden or widow, in order that there might never be wanting a male vassal to perform service, was compelled to take one of three husbands presented to her by the lord, unless she was sixty years old, and resolved to die single. In some parts of Germany and France, and in Scotland till the eleventh century, it is certain that a custom more outrageous still prevailed, the lord having a right to enjoy the person of the vassal's bride. This, in France, was called droit du seigneur, and in Scotland the fine paid for it was termed woman's mark; but it is doubtful whether it existed in respect of the vassals who held by military service, or was only incident to other tenures of a baser kind. Of these it is now necessary to speak.
We have hitherto confined our attention to those persons who, being soldiers, companions in arms of the chief, freemen and warriors, shared the fruits of the conquests made, and obtained land either freely and unconditionally, or on the condition of certain allegiance and service—the holders of the former or allodial land gradually becoming holders by feudal tenure. There existed, however, in all the provinces overrun by the northern nations, a twofold division of the inhabitants, some being freemen and some being slaves. In all parts of the Roman Empire the legal right and the practice was established of holding persons in absolute slavery; and that the barbarians found the people in this state is plain, among other things, from the laws of the Burgundians, which mention their having, on their settlement in France, seized two thirds of the land, and one third of the slaves or serfs.
But the northern nations had also slavery as a part of their own customs, although their domestic slaves were in an easy condition, and did not much differ in their circumstances from the other poorer classes of the community. Captives made in war; persons who sold themselves, or who were sold by their parents from poverty; convicts condemned to pay fines, and made slaves on default; gamesters who staked their personal liberty upon the issue of play, to which the Germans were passionately addictedall these classes increased the number of slaves among those rude nations. Upon conquering any district, they sometimes reduced all the people to slavery, except such as could ransom themselves. Subsequently, revolt or other acts of violence extended the numbers of the slaves. Another reason operated in the same direction. The violence of the early feudal times, and the consequent dangers in which poor men were placed, made it highly desirable to obtain protection from the more powerful members of the community. Personal protections were obtained from these lords, called con mendations, resembling the patronage of the Romans, or the relation in which the upper classes stood toward their clients. For this protection, payments in money were made, called salvamenta, or sal vages, and many who could pay nothing, became serfs or slaves to
such as would not be content with mere allegiance or with occasional service. Allodial proprietors used at first to obtain commendations, as they had no law to protect them, until by degrees the tenure of their land became feudal, as we have already seen. Men who had no land were deprived of this resource, and very often became serfs. Many, too, in those superstitious ages, parted with their liberty to monasteries and churches in return for their prayers and masses, together with some small share of their temporal possessions. It thus happened that, as all the land became feudal, and the maxim of the law arose, “Mulle terre sans seigneur '—"No land without a lord”-so almost every one was either a vassal in respect of his land, or a serf in respect of his person, and the common people came to be almost universally in a state of slavery.
But land in those countries constituted the whole, or nearly the whole, wealth of the community. It was in some sort, too, the currency in which services of every kind were paid. A proprietor desiring to retain the services of any one, gave him a rent issuing out of his land; and this constituted him a vassal; for it was by a refinement of the feudal law reckoned (not feudum, but) quasi feudum—a kind of fief, or an improper fief—a fee or feud of land. In order to obtain inferior services, or to support serfs, they were settled on small portions of land in the neighborhood of the lord's residence, and these allotments were entirely held at will by the serfs, whom the lord could at any time dispossess. Thus, to obtain land, needy freemen became serfs—another source of domestic slavery. But this kind of contract had very important consequences; for as the servitude of these voluntary slaves only could last as long as they held the land, they and their children came no longer to be regarded as tenants at will, and liable to be dispossessed ; and so the slaves, who had no rights at all, but were merely settled on their owner's land as the best way of supporting them and securing their services, came gradually to be considered like the others, and were allowed first to retain their allotments for life, afterward to transmit them to their children, and finally to their collateral heirs. No uniform rule, however, was established as to these rights or permissions. Different lords gave different rights and different courses of succession; different rights of alienation