Front Page Titles (by Subject) ESTIMATE OF THE VARIOUS TENURES IN USE IN FRANCE BEFORE THE REVOLUTION. - The Old Regime and the Revolution
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ESTIMATE OF THE VARIOUS TENURES IN USE IN FRANCE BEFORE THE REVOLUTION. - Alexis de Tocqueville, The Old Regime and the Revolution 
The Old Regime and the Revolution, trans John Bonner (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1856).
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ESTIMATE OF THE VARIOUS TENURES IN USE IN FRANCE BEFORE THE REVOLUTION.
We only know in France, says the author, three kinds of real estate:
1st. The franc-aleu, which is a freehold, exempt from all burdens, and subject to no seigniorial dues or rights, either beneficial or honorary.
Francs-aleux are either noble or common (roturiers). Noble francs-aleux carry with them a right of jurisdiction, or they have feuds or lands held by cens depending on them. They are divided according to feudal law. Common francs-aleux have no jurisdiction, or feuds, or lands held by cens. They are divided according to the ordinary rules (roturièrement). The author considers that the holders of francs-aleux are the only landholders who enjoy a complete right of property.
The franc-aleu was valued higher than any other kind of tenure. The customs of Auvergne and Burgundy valued it 21/2 per cent. The author thinks that 31/3 per cent. would be a better valuation.
It must be noticed that common francs-aleux, existing within the limits of a seigniorial jurisdiction, were dependent thereon. It was not a sign of subjection to the seignior, but an acknowledgment of the jurisdiction of courts which took the place of the royal tribunals.
2d. Lands held by feudal tenure (à fief).
3d. Lands paying cens, or, as they are here called in law, rotures.
The valuation of lands held by feudal tenure was the lower in proportion to the feudal burdens laid upon them. In some customs, and in that part of the country which was governed by written law, feuds paid nothing but “la bouche et les mains,” that is to say, feudal homage. In other customs, such as Burgundy, feuds not only owed homage, but were what was called de danger; that is to say, they were liable to commise, or feudal confiscation, when the owner took possession of them without having rendered “fealty and homage.” Other customs, such as that of Paris, for instance, and many more, declared feuds subject not only to fealty and homage, but likewise to re-emption, quint and requint. Others again, such as that of Poitou and some others, burdened them with a fine on the oath of fealty (chambellage), and service on horseback, etc.
The first class of feuds must be valued higher than the others. The custom of Paris set them down at five per cent., which the author thinks very reasonable.
To arrive at a valuation of lands held en roture and those subject to cens, they must be divided into three classes:
The first two classes of lands en roture were common enough in the eighteenth century. The third was rare. The first, says the author, must be valued higher than the second, the second than the third. Indeed, landholders of the third class can hardly be called owners, in the strict sense of the word, as they can not alienate their property without leave from the seignior.
Terriers.—The feudal lawyers I have quoted furnish the following rules for drawing up or renewing the seigniorial registers called terriers, which I have mentioned in the text. The terrier, as is known, was a great register, in which all the deeds establishing rights belonging to the seigniory, whether beneficial or honorary, real, personal, or mixed, were entered at length. It contained all the declarations of the copyholders, the customs of the seigniory, quit-rent leases, etc. In the custom of Paris, the authors say that seigniors may renew their terriers every thirty years at the expense of the copyholders. They add, however, that “one is fortunate to find a fresh one every century.” The terrier could not be renewed (it was a troublesome formality for all those who held under the seignior) without obtaining an authorization which was called lettres à terrier. When the seigniory was within the jurisdiction of several Parliaments, this was obtained from the high chancellor; in other cases it was procured from the Parliament. The court named the notary, before whom all vassals, noblemen and commoners, copyholders, emphyteutic lessees, and persons amenable to the seigniorial jurisdiction, were bound to appear. A plan of the seigniory was required to be attached to the terrier.
Besides the terriers, there were kept in each seigniory other registers called lièves, in which the seigniors or their stewards entered the sums they had received from their copyholders, with their names, and the dates of the payments.