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PART II.: FEUDAL GRIEVANCES AND MAGNA CARTA. - Misc (Magna Carta), Magna Carta: A Commentary on the Great Charter of King John, with an Historical Introduction 
Magna Carta: A Commentary on the Great Charter of King John, with an Historical Introduction, by William Sharp McKechnie (Glasgow: Maclehose, 1914).
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FEUDAL GRIEVANCES AND MAGNA CARTA.
The Immediate Causes of the Crisis.
Many attempts have been made to show why the storm, long brewing, broke at last in 1214, and culminated precisely in June of the following year. Sir William Blackstone1 shows how carefully historians have sought for some one specific feature or event, occurring in these years, of such moment as by itself to account for the rebellion crowned with success at Runnymede. Matthew Paris, he tells us, attributes the whole movement to the sudden discovery of Henry I.’s Charter, and most of the chroniclers assign John’s inordinate debauchery as the cause of the dissensions, dwelling on his personal misdeeds, real and imaginary.2 “Sordida foedatur foedante Johanne, gehenna.”3 Blackstone himself suggests a third cause, the appointment as Regent in John’s absence of the hated alien and upstart, Peter des Roches, and his misconduct in that office.
Of John’s arrogance and cruelty there is abundant testimony;4 but the causes from which Magna Carta took its rise were more deeply rooted in the past. The very success of Henry Plantagenet in restoring order in England, for effecting which special powers had been allowed to him, made the continuance of these powers unnecessary. From the day of Henry’s death, if not earlier, forces were at work which only required to be combined in order to control the licence of the Crown. When the battle of order had been won—the complete overthrow of the rebellion of 1173–4 may here be taken as the crucial date—the battle of liberty had, almost necessarily, to be begun.
The wonder is that the crisis was so long delayed. Events, however, were not ripe for rebellion before John’s accession, and a favourable occasion did not occur previous to 1215. The doctrine of momentum accounts in politics for the long continuance of old institutions in a condition even of unstable equilibrium; an entirely rotten system of government may remain for ages until at the destined moment comes the final shock. John conferred a boon on future generations, when by his arrogance and his misfortunes he combined against him all classes and interests in the community.
The chief factor in the coalition that ultimately triumphed over John was the baronial party, led by those strenuous nobles of the north, who were goaded into opposition by their own personal and class wrongs, not by any altruistic promptings to sacrifice themselves for the common good. Their complaints, as they appear in the imperishable record of Magna Carta, are grounded on technical rules of feudal usage, not upon any broad basis of constitutional principle.
The grievances most bitterly resented may be ranged under one or other of two heads—increase in the weight of feudal obligations and infringement of feudal jurisdictions: the Crown, while it exacted the fullest measure of services legally exigible, curtailed those rights and privileges which had originally balanced the obligations. The barons were compelled to give more, while they received less. Each of these heads calls for separate and detailed treatment.1
The grievances of the barons, however, were not the only wrongs calling for redress. It is probable that the baronial party, if they had acted in isolation, would have failed in 1215 as they had already failed in 1173. If the Crown had retained the active sympathy of Church and common people, the King might have successfully defied the baronage as his father had done before him. John had, on the contrary, broadened the basis of opposition by oppressing the mercantile classes and the peasantry. The order–loving townsmen had been willing to purchase protection from Henry at the price of heavy taxation: John continued to exact the price, but failed to furnish good government in return. Far from protecting the humble from oppression, he was himself the chief oppressor; and he let loose his foreign favourites as deputy oppressors in all the numerous offices of sheriff, castellan, and bailiff. Far from using the perfected machinery of Exchequer, Curia, and local administration in the interests of good government, John valued them merely as instruments of extortion and outrage—as ministers to his lust and greed.
The lower orders were by no means exempt from the increased taxation which proved so galling to the feudal tenants. When John, during his quarrel with Rome, repaid each new anathema of the Pope by fresh acts of spoliation against the English Church, the sufferings of the clergy were shared by the poor. In confiscating the goods of monasteries, he destroyed the chief provision for poor–relief known to the thirteenth century. The alienation of the affections of the great masses of lower–class Englishmen thus effected was never wholly undone, even after the reconciliation of John with the Holy See. Notwithstanding the completeness and even abjectness of John’s surrender, he took no special pains to reinstate himself in the good graces of the Church at home. Innocent, secure at the Lateran, had issued his thunderbolts; and John’s counterstrokes had fallen, not on him, but on the English clergy. The measures taken, in 1213 and afterwards, to make good to these victims some part of the heavy losses sustained, were inadequate.
After 1213, John’s alliance with Rome brought new dangers in its train. The united action of two autocrats, each claiming supreme powers, lay and spiritual respectively, threatened to annihilate the freedom of the English nation and the English Church. “The country saw that the submission of John to Innocent placed its liberty, temporally and spiritually, at his mercy; and immediately demanded safeguards.”1
This union of tyrants led to another union which checkmated it, for the baronial opposition allied itself with the ecclesiastical opposition. The urgency of their common need brought prelates and barons into line—for the moment. A leader was found in Stephen Langton, who succeeded in preventing the somewhat divergent interests of the two estates from splitting them asunder.
All things were thus ripe for rebellion, and even for united rebellion; an opportunity only was required. Such an opportunity came in a tempting form in 1214; for the King had then lost prestige and power by his failure in the wars with France. He had lost the friendship of the English Church. His unpopularity and vacillating nature had been thoroughly demonstrated. Further, he had himself, in 1191, when plotting against his absent brother Richard, successfully ousted the Regent Longchamp from office, thus furnishing an example of successfully concerted action against the central government.
The result was that, when the barons began active operations, not only had they no opposition to dread from churchman or merchant, from yeoman or peasant, but they might count on the sympathy of all and the active co–operation of many. Further, John’s policy of misrule had combined against him two interests usually opposed to each other, the party of progress and the party of reaction. The influence of each of these may be clearly read in various chapters of Magna Carta.
The progressive party consisted mainly of the heads of the more recently created baronial houses, men trained in the administrative methods of Henry II., who desired that his system of government should be properly enforced. They demanded that the King should conduct the business of Exchequer and Curia according to the rules laid down by Henry. Routine and order under the new system were what this party desired, and not a return to the unruly days of Stephen. Many of the innovations of the great Angevin had now been loyally accepted by all classes of the nation; and these accordingly found a permanent resting–place in the provisions of the Charter. In temporary co–operation with this party, the usually rival party of reaction was willing to combine for the moment against the common enemy. There still existed, in John’s reign, magnates of the old feudal school, who hoped to wrest from the King’s weakened hand some measure of feudal independence. They had accepted such reforms as suited them, but still bitterly opposed many others. In particular, they resisted the encroachments of the royal courts of law which were gradually superseding their private jurisdictions. For the moment, John’s crafty policy, so well devised to gain immediate ends, and so unwise in the light of subsequent history, combined these two streams, usually ready to thwart each other, into a united opposition to his throne. Attacked at the same moment by the votaries of traditional usage and by the votaries of reform, by the barons, the trading classes, and the clergy, he had no course left him but to surrender at discretion. The movement which culminated at Runnymede may thus best be understood as the resultant of a number of different but converging forces, some of which were progressive and some reactionary.
The Crown and Feudal Obligations.
Among the evils calling loudly for redress in England at the commencement of the thirteenth century, none spoke with more insistent voice than those connected with feudal abuses. The refusal of the northern barons to pay the scutage demanded on 26th May, 1214, was the spark that fired the mine. The most prominent feature of the Charter is its solicitude to define the exact extent of feudal services and dues, and so to prevent these from being arbitrarily increased. A detailed knowledge of feudal obligations forms a necessary preliminary to the study of Magna Carta.
The precise relations of the Norman Conquest to the growth of feudalism in England are complicated, and have formed the subject of much controversy. The view now generally accepted, and with reason, is that the policy of the Conqueror accelerated the process in one direction, but retarded it in another. Feudalism, regarded as a system of government, had its worst tendencies checked by the great upheaval that followed the coming of Duke William; feudalism, considered as a system of land tenure, and as a social system, was, on the contrary, formulated and developed. It is mainly as a system of land tenure that it falls here to be considered. Originally, the relationship between lord and tenant, dependent upon the double ownership of land (of which each was, in a different sense, proprietor), implied obligations on both sides: the lord gave protection, while the tenant owed services of various sorts. It so happened, however, that, with the changes wrought by time, the legal obligations of the lord ceased to be of much importance, while those of the vassal became more and more burdensome. The tenant’s services varied in kind and in extent with the nature of the tenure. It is difficult to frame an exact list of the various tenures formerly recognized as distinct in English law: partly because the classical authors of different epochs, from Bracton to Blackstone, contradict each other; and partly because of the obscurity of the process by which these tenures were gradually differentiated. Sir William Blackstone,1 after explaining the dependent nature of all real property in England, thus proceeds: “The thing holden is therefore styled a tenement, the possessors thereof tenants, and the manner of their possession a tenure.” Tenure thus comes to mean the conditions on which a tenant holds real estate under his lord.
The ancient classification differs materially from that in use at the present day. The modern English lawyer (unless of an antiquarian turn of mind) concerns himself only with three tenures: freehold (now practically identical with socage), copyhold and leasehold. The two last–mentioned may be rapidly dismissed, as they were of little importance in the eyes of Littleton, or of Coke: leasehold embraces only temporary interests, such as those of a tenant–at–will or for a limited term of years; while copyhold is the modern form of tenure into which the old unfree villeinage has slowly ripened. The ancient writers were, on the contrary, chiefly concerned with holdings both permanent and free. Of these, seven at least may be distinguished in the thirteenth century, all of which have now come to be represented by the modern freehold or socage. These seven are knight’s service, free socage, fee–farm, frankalmoin, grand serjeanty, petty serjeanty, and burgage.
(1) Knight’s Service. Medieval feudalism had many aspects; it was almost as essentially an engine of war as it was a system of land–holding. The normal return for which an estate was granted consisted of the service in the field of a specific number of knights. Thus the normal feudal tenure was known as knight’s service, or tenure in chivalry—the conditions of which must be constantly kept in view, since by them the relations between John and his recalcitrant vassals fell to be determined. When finally abolished at the Restoration, there fell with knight’s service, it is not too much to say, the feudal system of land tenure in England. “Tenure by barony” is sometimes spoken of as a separate species, but may be more correctly viewed as a variety of tenure in chivalry.1
(2) Free Socage. The early history of socage, with its division into ordinary and privileged, is involved in obscurities which do not require to be here unravelled. The services returned for both varieties were not military but agricultural, and their exact nature and amount varied considerably. Although not so honourable as chivalry, free socage was less burdensome, in respect that two of the most irksome of the feudal incidents, wardship and marriage, did not apply. When knight’s service was abolished those who had previously held their lands by it, whether of the Crown or of a mesne lord, were henceforward to hold in free socage, which thus came to be the normal holding throughout England after the Restoration.1
(3) Fee–farm was the name applied to lands held in return for services which were neither military nor agricultural, but consisted only of an annual payment in money. The “farm” thus indicates the rent paid, which apparently might vary without limit, although it was long maintained that a fee–farm rent must amount at least to one quarter of the annual value. This error seems to have been founded on a misconstruction of the Statute of Gloucester.2 Some authorities3 reject the claims of fee–farm to rank as a tenure separate from socage; although chapter 37 of Magna Carta seems to recognize the distinction.
(4) Frankalmoin was a favourite tenure with founders of religious houses. It was also the tenure on which much of the glebe lands of England was held by the village priests. The grant was made in liberam eleemosinam or “free alms” (that is, no temporal services were to be rendered).4 In Scots charters the return formally stipulated was preces et lacrymae.
(5) Grand serjeanty was a highly honourable tenure, sharing the distinctions and the burdensome incidents of knight’s service, but distinct in this, that the tenant, in place of ordinary military duties, performed some specific service, such as carrying the King’s banner or lance, or filled some important office at the coronation.5 An often–quoted example of a serjeanty is that of Sir John Dymoke and his family, who have acted as the Sovereign’s champions at successive coronations from Richard II. to William IV., ready to defend the Monarch’s title to the throne by battle in the ancient form.
Grand serjeanties were liable to wardship and marriage, as well as to relief, but not to payment of scutage.6 William Aguilon, we are told by Madox,1 “was charged at the Exchequer with several escuages. But when it was found by Inquest of twelve Knights of Surrey that he did not hold his lands in that county by military tenure, but by serjeanty of finding a Cook at the King’s coronation to dress victuals in the King’s kitchen, he was acquitted of the escuages.”
(6) Petty serjeanty may be described in the words of Littleton as “where a man holds his lands of our lord the king to yield to him yearly a bow or sword, or a dagger or a knife . . . or to yield such other small things belonging to war.”2 The grant of lands on such privileged tenures was frequently made in early days on account of some great service rendered at a critical juncture to the King’s person or interests. Serjeanties, Miss Bateson tells us, “were neither always military nor always agricultural, but might approach very closely the service of knights or the service of farmers. . . . The serjeanty of holding the King’s head when he made a rough passage across the Channel, of pulling a rope when his vessel landed, of counting his chessmen on Christmas Day, of bringing fuel to his castle, of doing his carpentry, of finding his potherbs, of forging his irons for his ploughs, of tending his garden, of nursing the hounds gored and injured in the hunt, of serving as veterinary to his sick falcons, such and many other might be the ceremonial or menial services due from a given serjeanty.”3
The line between grand and petty serjeanties, like that between the greater and smaller baronies of chapter 14 of Magna Carta, was at first vaguely drawn. The distinction, which Dr. Horace Round considers an illustration of “nontechnical classification,”4 may possibly have originated in the Great Charter. At a later date, however, petty serjeanties, while liable for “relief,” escaped the onerous incidents of wardship and marriage which grand serjeanties shared with lands held in chivalry.1 The way was thus prepared for the ultimate amalgamation of petty serjeanty with ordinary socage.
(7) Burgage, confined to lands within free boroughs, is mentioned as a separate tenure by Littleton,2 and his authority receives support from chapter 37 of Magna Carta. Our highest modern authorities,3 however, treat it rather as a variety of socage. In Scotland, where several of the English tenures have failed to obtain recognition, burgage has established itself beyond a doubt. Even the levelling process consummated by the Act of 1874 has not abolished its separate existence.4
Of these tenures, originally six or seven, frankalmoin and grand serjeanty still exist, but rather as ghosts than realities; the others have been swallowed up in socage, which has thus become identical with “freehold.”5 This triumph of socage is the result of a long process: fee–farm, burgage, and petty serjeanty, always with features in common, were gradually assimilated in almost all respects, while a statute (12 Charles II. c. 24) transformed tenure in chivalry also into socage. The once humble socage has thus risen high, and now embraces most of the land of England.6
The interest of historians centres in tenure by knight’s service, which is the very kernel of the feudal system. Lack of definition in the middle ages was a fruitful source of quarrel: for a century and more after the Norman Conquest, the exact amount and nature of military services due by a tenant to his lord were vague and undetermined. Each Crown tenant (except favoured foundations like Battle Abbey) held his lands on condition of furnishing a certain number of fully armed and mounted soldiers in the event of war. High authorities differ as to when and by whom the amount of each vassal’s service was fixed. The common view (promulgated by Professor Freeman1 ) attributes the allocation of specific service to Ranulf Flambard, the unscrupulous tool of Rufus. Mr. J. H. Round2 urges convincing reasons in support of the older view which attributes the innovation to William I. Two facts, apparently, are certain: that within half a century from the Conquest each military tenant was burdened with a definite amount of service; and that no written record of the amount was made at the time of granting: there were, as yet, no written charters, and thus disputes arose. Probably, such grants were made in full Curia, and the only record of the conditions would lie in the memory of the Court.
Long before Magna Carta, the various obligations had been grouped into three classes, which may be arranged in order of importance, as services, incidents, and aids. Under each of these three heads, disputes continually arose.3 The essence of the feudal tie consisted in the liability to render “suit and service,” that is, to follow the lord’s banner in time of war, and attend his court in time of peace. It will be more convenient, however, to reserve full consideration of these services until the comparatively uncomplicated obligations, known as incidents and aids, have been first discussed.
I. Feudal Incidents. In addition to “suit and service,” the lord reaped, at the expense of his tenants, a number of casual profits, which thus formed irregular supplements to his revenue. These profits, accruing, not annually, but on the occurrence of exceptional events, came to be known as “feudal incidents.” They were gradually defined with more or less accuracy, and their number may be given as six: reliefs, escheats, wardships, marriages, primer seisins, and fines for alienation.1
(a) Relief is easily explained. The fee, or feudum, or hereditary feudal estate, seems to have been the result of a gradual evolution from the old beneficium (or estate held for one lifetime), and that again from the older precarium (or estate held during the lord’s will). Grants originally subject to revocation, gradually attained fixity of tenure for the life of the original grantee, and, later on, became transmissible to descendants: the Capitulary of Kiersey (a.d. 877) is said to be the first authoritative recognition of the heir’s absolute right to succeed. It would seem that even after the Norman Conquest, this rule of hereditary descent was not established beyond possibility of dispute.2 The heir’s right to succeed remained subject to one condition, namely, the payment of a sum known as a “relief.” This was an acknowledgment that the new tenant’s right to ownership was incomplete, until recognized by his superior—a reminiscence of the earlier precarium from which the feudum had developed. The amount remained long undefined, and the lord frequently asked exorbitant sums.3
(b) Escheat, it has been said, “signifies the return of an estate to a lord, either on failure of issue from the tenant or upon account of such tenant’s felony.”1 This lucid description conveys a good general conception of escheat; but it is inaccurate in at least two respects. It does not exhaust the occasions on which escheat occurs, and it errs in speaking of “the return” of an estate to a lord, when more accurately, that estate had always remained his property, subject only to a burden, which was now removed. In theory, the feudal grant of lands was always conditional: when the condition was broken, the grant fell, and the lord found himself, automatically as it were, once more the absolute proprietor, as he had been before the grant was made. Thereafter, he held the land in demesne, unless he chose to make a new grant to another tenant. The word “escheat” was applied indifferently to the lord’s right to such reversions, and to the actual lands which had reverted. In warlike times the right was valuable, for whole families might become rapidly extinct. Further, when a landholder was convicted of felony, his blood became, in the phrase of a later day, attainted, and no one could succeed to any estate through him. If a man failed in the ordeal of water provided by the Assize of Clarendon in 1166 for those accused of heinous crimes, his estates escheated to his lord. A complication arose when treason was the crime of which the tenant had been convicted; for the king, as the injured party, had prior rights which excluded those of the lord: the lands of traitors were forfeited to the Crown. Even over the lands of ordinary felons the king had rights during a period which was defined by Magna Carta.2
Felony and failure of issue were two main grounds of escheat, but not the only ones; the goods of fugitives from justice and of those who had been formally outlawed also escheated, and Glanvill adds another case,3 namely, female wards guilty of unchastity (an offence which spoiled the king’s market). Failure to obey the royal summons in time of war or to pay scutage in lieu thereof might also be a ground of forfeiture.4
Escheat was thus a valuable right both to the Crown and to mesne lords. Its effect was simply this: one link in the chain was struck out, and the links on either side were fitted together. If the defaulter was a Crown tenant, all his former sub–tenants, whether freeholders or villeins, moved up one rung in the feudal ladder and held henceforward directly of the king, who took over the entire complexus of legal rights previously enjoyed by the defaulter: rents, crops, timber, casual profits, and advowsons of churches falling vacant; jurisdictions and their profits; services of villeins; reliefs, wardships, and marriages of freeholders, as these became exigible.
The Crown, however, while taking everything the defaulter might have taken before default, must take nothing more—so Magna Carta1 provides. The rights and status of innocent sub–tenants must not be prejudiced by the misdeeds of defaulting lords.
(c) Wardships are described in the Dialogus de Scaccario as “escheats along with the heir” (escaeta cum herede).2 This expression does not occur elsewhere, but it would be impossible to find any description of wardship which throws more light on its nature and consequences. When the heir of a deceased tenant was unfitted to bear arms by reason of his tender years, the lands were, during his minority, without an effective owner: the lord treated them as temporarily escheated, entered into possession, drew the revenues, and applied them to his own purposes, subject only to the obligation of maintaining the heir in a manner suited to his station in life. Considerable sums might thus be spent: the Pipe Roll of the seventeenth year of Henry II. shows how out of a total revenue of £50 6s. 8d. from the Honour of “Belveeir,” £18 5s. had been expended on the children of the late tenant.3 Wardship came to an end with the full age of the ward, that is, in the case of a military tenant, on the completion of his twenty–first year, “in that of a holder in socage on the completion of the fifteenth, and in the case of a burgess when the boy can count money, measure cloth, and so forth.”1 Wardship of females normally ended at the age of fourteen, “because that a woman of such age may have a husband able to do knight’s service.” An heiress who did not succeed to the estate until she was fourteen thus escaped wardship altogether, but if she became a ward at a younger age, the wardship continued till she attained sixteen years unless she married earlier.2
All the remunerative consequences flowing from escheat flowed also from wardship—rents, casual profits, advowsons, services of villeins, and reliefs. Unlike escheats, however, the right of the Crown here was only temporary, and Magna Carta sought3 to provide that the implied conditions should be respected by the Crown’s bailiffs or nominees: the lands must not be wasted or exhausted, but restored to the son when he came of age, in as good condition as when his father died.
One important aspect ought to be emphasized: Wardship affected bishoprics as well as lay baronies, extending over the temporalities of a See between the death of one prelate and the instalment of his successor. It was to the king’s interest to keep sees vacant, while his Exchequer drew the revenues and casual profits.4 This right was carefully reserved, even in the comprehensive charter in which John granted freedom of election.5
(d) Marriage as a feudal incident is difficult to define; for its meaning changed. Originally it seems to have implied little more than the right of a lord to forbid an heiress to marry his personal enemy. Such veto was reasonable, since the husband of the heiress would become the tenant of the lord. The claim to concur in the choice of a husband gradually expanded into an absolute right to dispose of the lands and person of the female ward: the prize might be a bribe to any unscrupulous gentleman of fortune who placed his sword at the King’s disposal, or it might go to the highest bidder. The lady passed as a mere adjunct to her own estates. At fourteen she might be sent to market, and the only way in which she could protect herself against an obnoxious husband was by out–bidding her various suitors.
This right seems, at some uncertain date, to have been extended from females to males, and instances of sums thus paid occur in the Pipe Rolls. It is difficult at first sight to imagine how the Crown found a market for such wares as male wards; but probably wealthy fathers were ready to purchase desirable husbands for their daughters. Thus in 1206 a certain Henry of Redeman paid forty marks for the hand and lands of the heir of Roger of Hedon, “ad opus filiae suae,”1 while Thomas Basset secured a prize in the person of the young heir of Walerand, Earl of Warwick, to the use of any one of his daughters.2 This extension to male heirs is usually explained as founded on a strained construction of chapter 6 of Magna Carta; but the beginnings of the practice can be traced before 1215.3 The lords’ right to sell their wards was recognized and defined by the Statute of Merton, chapter 6. The attempts made to remedy some of the most serious abuses may be read in Magna Carta.4 Hallam5 considers that “the rights, or feudal incidents, of wardship and marriage were nearly peculiar to England and Normandy,” and that the French kings never “turned this attribute of sovereignty into a means of revenue.”6
(e) Primer Seisin, which is usually regarded as a separate incident, and figures as such in Blackstone’s list, is perhaps better understood, not as an incident at all, but as a special procedure—effective and summary—whereby the Crown could enforce the four incidents already described. It was an exclusive prerogative of the Crown, denied to mesne lords.1 When a Crown tenant died, the King’s officers had the right to enter into immediate possession, and to exclude the heir, who could not touch his father’s lands without permission from the Crown: he had first to prove his title by inquest, give security for any balance of relief or other debts, and perform homage.2 It will be readily seen what a strong strategic position all this assured to the King in any disputes with the heir of a dead vassal. If the Exchequer had doubtful claims against the deceased, its officials could satisfy themselves before admitting the heir to possession. If the heir showed any tendency to evade payment of feudal incidents, the Crown could checkmate his moves. If the succession was disputed, the King might favour the claimant who pleased or paid him most; or, under colour of the dispute, refuse to disgorge the estate—holding it in custody analogous to wardship, and meanwhile drawing the profits. If the son happened to be abroad when his father died, he would experience difficulty in forcing the Crown to restore the estates. Such was the experience of William Fitz–Odo on returning from Scotland in 1201 to claim his father’s carucate of land in Bamborough.3 Primer seisin was thus not so much a separate incident, as a right peculiar to the Crown to take summary measures for the satisfaction of all claims against a deceased tenant or his heir. Magna Carta contains no direct reference to it, but chapters 37 and 53, providing against the abuse of prerogative wardship, have a bearing on the subject.1
(f) Fines for alienation occupy a place by themselves. Unlike the incidents already discussed, they became exigible not on the tenant’s death, but on his parting with his estate during his lifetime, either as a gift or in return for a price. How far could he effect this without consent of his lord? This was, for many centuries, a subject of heated disputes, often settled by compromises, under which the new tenant paid a fine to the lord for recognition of his title. Such fines are payable at the present day in Scotland (under the name of “compositions”) from feus granted prior to 1874; and, where no sum has been mentioned in the Feu Charter, the law of Scotland defines the amount exigible as one year’s rent. Magna Carta contains no provisions on this subject. Disputes, long and bitter, took place in the thirteenth century; but their history is irrelevant to the present inquiry.2
II. Feudal Aids. The feudal tenant was expected to come to the aid of his lord in any special crisis or emergency. At first, the occasions on which these “aids” might be demanded were varied and undefined. Gradually they were limited to three. Glanvill,3 indeed, mentions only two: the knighting of the overlord’s eldest son, and the marriage of his eldest daughter; but he intends these, perhaps, as illustrations rather than as an exhaustive list. Before the beginning of the thirteenth century the recognized aids were the ransoming of the King and the two already mentioned.4 This understanding was embodied in Magna Carta.5
A tradition has been handed down from an early date, that these aids were voluntary offerings made as a mark of affection.1 Long before John’s reign, however, the obligation had become fixed by law; the tenant dared not refuse to pay the recognized three. But, when the Crown exacted contributions for any other reason, it required consent of the commune concilium.
The Great Charter, while confirming this tacit compromise, left the amount of aids undefined, merely stipulating that they should be “reasonable.” Examples of such payments, both before and after the Charter, are readily found in the Exchequer Rolls. Thus, in his fourteenth year Henry II. took one mark per knight’s fee for his daughter’s marriage; Henry III. took 20s., and Edward I. 40s. for a similar purpose. For Richard’s ransom, 20s. had been exacted from each knight’s fee (save those owned by men actually serving in the field); and Henry III. took 40s. in his thirty–eighth year at the knighting of his son. The Statute of Westminster I.2 fixed the “reasonable” aid payable to mesne lords at 20s. per knight’s fee, and 20s. for every estate in socage of £20 annual value. This rate, it will be observed, is one–fifth of the knight’s relief.3 The Crown, in thus enforcing “reason” on mesne lords, seems never to have intended that the same limit should hamper its own dealings with Crown tenants, but continued to exact larger sums whenever it thought fit.4 Thus £2 per fee was taken in 1346 at the knighting of the Black Prince.
A statute of Edward III.5 at last extended to the Crown the same measure of “reasonableness” as had been applied three–quarters of a century earlier to mesne lords. The last instances of the exaction of aids in England occur as late as the reign of James I., who, in 1609, demanded one for the knighting of the ill–fated Prince Henry, and in 1613 another for the marriage of his daughter Elizabeth.
III. Suit and Service. This phrase expresses the essential obligations inherent in the very nature of the feudal tie. It may be expanded (as regards tenure in chivalry) into the duty of attendance at the lord’s court, whether met for administrative or judicial purposes, or for reasons of mere display, and the further duty of military service under that lord’s banner in the field. Suit had ceased to be an urgent question before the reign of John. Indeed, the barons were gradually approaching the modern conception, which regards it as a privilege rather than a burden to attend the commune concilium—the embryo Parliament—of the King.
It was otherwise with the duties of military service, which were rendered every year more unwillingly, partly because of the increased frequency of warlike expeditions, partly because of the greater cost of campaigning in distant lands like Poitou, partly because the English barons were completely out of sympathy with John’s foreign policy and with him. We have seen that the want of definition in the Conqueror’s reign left to future ages a legacy of strife. William and his barons lived in the present; and the present did not urgently call for definition. Therefore, the duration of the military service, and the conditions on which exemption could be claimed, were originally vague; but the return due (servitium debitum) for each knight’s fee was gradually fixed by custom at the service of one fully armed horseman during forty days. There were still, however, innumerable minor points on which disputes might arise, and these remained even in 1215. Indeed, although several chapters of the Charter attempted to settle certain of these disputed points, others were left as bones of contention to subsequent reigns: for example, the exact equipment of a knight; the liability to serve for more than forty days on receiving pay for the extra time; what exemption might be claimed by churchmen; how far a tenant might compromise for actual service by tendering money; whether attendance and money might not both be withheld, if the King did not lead his forces in person; and whether service was due for foreign wars equally as for home ones.1
Difficulties increased as time went on. The Conqueror’s followers had estates on both sides of the Channel: his wars were theirs. Before John’s reign, these simple relations had become complicated by two considerations. By forfeitures and the division of inheritances, holders of English and of Norman fiefs had become distinct. On the other hand, the expansion of the dominions of the English kings increased the number of their wars, and the expense of each expedition. The small wars with Wales and Scotland formed sufficient drain on the resources of English magnates without their being summoned to fight in Maine or Gascony.
Were the barons bound to follow John in a forlorn attempt, of which they disapproved, to recover his lost fiefs from the French Crown? Or were they bound to support him only in his legitimate schemes as King of England? Or were they, by way of compromise, liable for services in the identical possessions held by William the Conqueror at the date when their ancestors first got their fiefs—that is, for wars in England and Normandy alone? So early as 1198 the Knights of St. Edmunds refused to serve in Normandy, while offering to pay scutage.2 The northern barons in 1213 declared that they owed no service whatsoever out of England.3 This extreme claim put them clearly in the wrong, since John could produce precedents to the contrary. When, on his return from the unfortunate expedition of 1214, he demanded a scutage from all who had not followed him to Poitou, the malcontents declared that they had no obligation either to follow him out of the kingdom, or to pay a scutage in lieu thereof.1 Pope Innocent was probably correct in condemning this contention as founded neither on English law nor on feudal custom.2 There is some ground for believing that a compromise was mooted on the basis that the barons should agree to serve in Normandy and Brittany, as well as in England, on being exempted from fighting elsewhere abroad.3
A definite understanding was never arrived at: chapter 16 of Magna Carta provided that existing services were not to be increased, without defining what these were. This was to shelve the difficulty: the dispute went on under varying forms and led to an unseemly wrangle between Edward I. and his Constable and Marshal, dramatized in a classic passage by Walter of Hemingburgh.4 Strangely enough, the Confirmatio Cartarum of 1297, which was, in part, the outcome of this later quarrel, omits (like Magna Carta itself)5 all reference to foreign service. The omission from both charters of all mention of the chief cause of dispute is noteworthy. It must be remembered, however, that the question of liability to serve abroad had practically resolved itself into that of liability to scutage, and that chapters 12 and 14 of the Charter of 1215 provided an adequate check on the levy of all scutages; but this is a subject that requires separate and detailed treatment.
IV. Scutage. The Crown did not always insist on personal service, but was frequently willing to accept a commutation in the form of a money payment. The subject of scutage is one of the most vexed of questions, all received opinions of yesterday having to–day been thrown into the melting pot. The theories of Stubbs and Freeman, once universally accepted, require substantial modifications. Four propositions may be stated with some confidence: (1) that scutage is an ambiguous term with a vague general meaning as well as a narrow technical meaning; (2) that the importance of the changes introduced by Henry II. in 1156 and 1159 has been much exaggerated; (3) that scutage was always in the option of the King, never of the barons, his tenants; and (4) that at a later time, probably during John’s reign, scutage changed its character, and became, partly through altered circumstances and partly by the King’s deliberate policy, a much more burdensome exaction. Each of these propositions requires explanations:
(1) The proper technical meaning of scutagium or “shield–money” is a money payment of so much per “shield” (that is, per knight’s fee) by a tenant in lieu of actual attendance in the army of his feudal lord: it is, as Dr. Stubbs explains,1 “an honourable commutation for personal service.” The word, however, is also more loosely used for any exaction assessed on a feudal basis, irrespective of the occasion of its levy; and, in this wider sense, includes feudal aids and other payments as well.2
(2) Professor Freeman, Dr. Stubbs, and their adherents held that one of Henry’s most important reforms was the invention of scutage; that he allowed his Crown tenants at their discretion to substitute payments in money for the old obligation of personal service in the field—this option being granted to ecclesiastics in 1156, and to lay barons in 1159. Such a theory had a priori much to recommend it. A measure of this nature, while giving volume and elasticity to the resources of the Crown, was calculated subtly to undermine the basis of the feudal tie; but Henry, far–seeing statesman as he was, could not discard the ideals of his own generation: no evidence that he made any sweeping change is forthcoming. On the contrary, his grandfather, Henry I., is shown by the evidence of extant charters to have accepted money in place of the services of knights when it suited him (notably from church fiefs in 1109),3 and there is no evidence (direct or indirect) to show that the grandson accepted such commutation when it did not suit him. Scutage was thus known in England half a century before 1156—the traditional date of its introduction.
(3) Further, neither before nor after the reign of Henry II. had the individual baron any option of tendering at his discretion money in place of personal service. The conclusions on this subject formulated by Dr. Horace Round lie implicitly in the examples from the Pipe Rolls stored in the famous work of Madox. From these it would appear that the procedure of the Exchequer of the great Angevin and his two sons might be explained in some such propositions as these:
(a) The option to convert service into scutage lay with the Crown; not with the tenants, either individually or as a body. When the King summoned his army, no baron could (as Professor Freeman would have us believe) simply stay away under obligation of paying a small fixed sum to the Exchequer. On the contrary, Henry and his sons jealously preserved the right to insist on personal service whenever it suited them; efficient substitutes were not always accepted, much less money payments.
(b) If the individual wished to stay at home he required to make a special bargain with the King, paying such sum as the King thought fit to demand and sometimes having to find a substitute in addition. Exorbitant sums (not properly “scutages” at all) might thus be extorted from stay–at–homes ne transfretent or pro remanendo ab exercitu—phrases which appear in the Pipe Rolls of Richard. A Crown vassal in John’s twelfth year made fine “that he might send two knights to serve for him in the army of Ireland.”1 In such cases, each baron made his own bargain with the Crown: a scutage, on the contrary, “when it ran in the land” was at a uniform rate.
(c) The tenant–in–chivalry who stayed at home without first making his bargain was in much worse plight. He had broken faith, and in strict feudal theory had forfeited his fief by failing to perform the service for which he held it. He was “in mercy,” and might be glad to accept such terms of pardon as a gracious king might offer him.1 Sometimes, quite small amercements were inflicted: the Abbot of Pershore in 1196 escaped with 40s:2 But the Crown sometimes insisted on total forfeiture.3
It was the duty of the Barons of Exchequer to determine whether lands had thus escheated by default, and also to determine the amount of “forfeit” to be taken where confiscation was not justified or insisted on. The barons wished to refer such questions to the judicium parium.4
(4) Scutage tended continually to become more burdensome:
(a) With new inventions and more complicated fashions in arms and armour for man and horse, and increased rates payable for the hire of mercenaries, the expenses of a campaign steadily increased. It was not unnatural that the normal rate of scutage should increase in sympathy. Under Henry the recognized maximum had been two marks, the exact equivalent of 40 days’ wages at the normal rate of 8d. per diem.5 Usually he was content with a smaller sum per knight’s fee: 20s., 13s. 4d. or even 10s. being sometimes taken.
(b) A second method of increasing the yield of scutage was to readjust the assessment on which it was based, by increasing the number of contributory knights’ fees. Henry II. in 1166 had invited his unsuspecting barons to furnish him with details of the number of knights actually enfeoffed on their lands both before and after the death of his grandfather; and then treated the latter as a sort of unearned increment, the benefit of which should be shared by the Crown. The amount of servitium debitum as previously reckoned was increased by the addition of the number of knights of the novum feoffamentum, that is, of those created subsequent to the death of Henry I.1 The basis of assessment thus fixed in 1166 remained unaltered at John’s accession.
(c) The third respect in which scutages tended to become more burdensome was in their increased frequency. This was, in part, a consequence of the growth of the Empire of the Kings of England, bringing with it a widening of interests and ambitions, and an increase in the number and expense of wars. Much depended, however, on the spirit in which this feudal prerogative was used, on the amount of consideration given to the needs and interests of the barons. Neither Henry nor Richard seems to have regarded it as other than an expedient to be reserved for special emergencies, not as a permanent source of revenue in normal times.
Henry II. seems to have levied money in name of scutage only when actually at war—on seven occasions in all during a reign of thirty–five years; and only once at a rate exceeding 20s., if we may trust Mr. Round,2 and that when he was putting forth a special effort against Toulouse. Richard I., rapacious as he was, levied, apparently, only four scutages during ten years, and the rate of 20s. was never exceeded even in the King’s hour of urgent need,—in 1194, when the arrears of his ransom had to be paid and preparations simultaneously made for war in Normandy.
If it can be shown that John altered established usages under every one of these heads, breaking away from all restraints, and that too in the teeth of the keen opposition of a high–spirited baronage whose members felt that their pride and prestige as well as their money–bags were attacked, a distinct step is taken towards understanding the crisis of 1215. Such knowledge would explain why a storm, long brewing, burst in John’s reign, neither sooner nor later; and even why some of the disreputable stories told by the chroniclers and accepted by Blackstone and others, found inventors and believers.
It is here maintained that John did make changes in all of these directions; and, further, that the incidence of this increase in feudal burdens was rendered even more unendurable by two considerations:—because at his accession there remained unpaid (particularly from the fiefs of the northern knights) large arrears of the scutages imposed in his brother’s reign,1 and because in June, 1212, he drew the feudal chain tight by a drastic and galling measure.
That John elevated scutage from a weapon reserved for emergencies into a regular source of revenue, and that he raised the rate demanded beyond the recognized maximum of two marks, becomes apparent from a glance at the table2 of scutages extorted during his reign:
It will be seen that, in his very first year, John took a scutage at two marks per scutum. Next year he wisely allowed a breathing space; then without a break in each of the third, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh years of his reign, scutages were extorted in quick succession at the same high rate. Fines, in addition to this scutage of two marks, were exacted from those who had not made the necessary compromise for personal service in due time.3
These scutages were collected with increasing difficulty, and arrears accumulated; but the spirit of opposition increased even more rapidly. In 1206, apparently, the breaking point was almost reached.1 Accordingly, in that year, some slight relaxation was allowed—the annual scutage was reduced from two marks to 20s. John’s needs, however, were as great as ever, and would prevent further concessions, unless something untoward happened. Something untoward did happen in the summer of 1207, when John quarrelled with the Pope. This postponed his quarrel with the baronage. John had, for the time being, the whole of the confiscated property of the clergy in his clutches. The day of reckoning for this luxury was still far distant, and the King could meanwhile enjoy a full exchequer without goading his Crown tenants to rebellion. For three years no scutage was imposed. In 1209, however, financial needs again closed in on John, and a new scutage of two marks was levied; followed in the next year actually by two scutages, the first of two marks against Wales, and the second of 20s. against Scotland. John had no sense of moderation. These three levies, amounting to a total of five–and–a–half marks per fee within two years, strained the tension almost to breaking point.
During the two years following (Michaelmas, 1211, to Michaelmas, 1213) no scutage was imposed. John, however, although he thus a second time relaxed the tension, had no intention to do so for long. On the contrary, he determined to ascertain if scutages could not be made to yield more in the future. By writs, dated 1st June, 1212, he instituted a strict Inquest into the amount of service exigible from every estate in England. Commissioners were appointed to take the sworn verdicts of local juries as to the amount of liability due by each Crown vassal. Mr. Round2 considers that previous writers have unaccountably ignored the importance of this measure, “an Inquest worthy to be named in future by historians in conjunction with those of 1086 and 1166,”3 and describes it as an effort “to revive rights of the Crown alleged to have lapsed.” John intended by this Inquest, the returns to which were due on the 25th June, to prepare the necessary machinery for wringing the uttermost penny out of the next scutage when occasion for one again arose. That occasion came in 1214.
Up to this date, even John had not dared to exact a rate of more than two marks per knight’s fee; but the weight of his constant scutages had been increased by the fact that he sometimes exacted personal services in addition, and that he inflicted crushing fines upon those who neither went nor arranged beforehand terms of composition with the King.1
Thus insidiously throughout the entire reign, the stream of feudal obligations steadily rose until the barons feared that nothing of their property would be saved from the torrent. The normal rate of scutage had been raised, the frequency of its imposition had been increased, the conditions of foreign service had become more burdensome, and the objects of foreign expeditions more unpopular; while attempts were sometimes made to exact both service and scutage in the same year. The limit of the barons’ endurance was reached when, under circumstances peculiarly inauspicious, John, in May, 1214, demanded a new scutage at the unprecedented rate of three marks on every fee, grounded doubtless on the searching inquest of 1212.2
This outline of the history of scutage makes plain that grievances connected with its abuse formed one of the chief incentives to the insurrection that resulted in the winning of the Great Charter.
Royal Justice and Feudal Justice.
A well–known aphorism describes the King as “the sole fountain of justice.” It would be an anachronism to transport this metaphor into the thirteenth century. In John’s reign there still were, not one, but many competing jurisdictions. It was by no means certain that the King’s Courts were the proper tribunals to which a wronged individual must repair. On the contrary, the great bulk of the rural population, the villeins, had no locus standi except in the court of the manor to which they belonged; while the doors of the royal Courts had been opened to the ordinary freeman no earlier than the reign of Henry II. Royal justice was still the exception, not the rule. Each man must seek redress, in the ordinary case, in his own locality. To dispense justice to the nation at large was no part of the normal business of a medieval King.
I. Rival systems of Law Courts. In the thirteenth century, there existed not one source of justice, but many. Rival courts, eagerly competing to extend their own sphere of usefulness and to increase their own fees, existed in a bewildering multitude. Putting aside for the moment the Courts Christian, the Borough Courts, the Forest Courts, and all exceptional or peculiar tribunals, there existed three great rival systems of jurisdiction which may be named in the order in which they became in turn prominent in England.1
(1) Local or District Courts. Justice was originally a local product, administered in rude tribunals which partook more or less of a popular character. Each shire had its assembly for hearing pleas, known as a “shire–moot” in Anglo–Saxon days, and as a “comitatus” after the Norman Conquest; while each of the smaller districts subdividing the shire, and forming units of administration for purposes of taxation, defence, justice, and police, had a moot or council of its own, serving as a court of law, to which the inhabitants of the villages brought their pleas in the first instance. These smaller districts were known as hundreds in the south, and as wapentakes (a name of Danish derivation) in the north.
The theory generally received is that all freemen were originally suitors in the courts of shire and hundred, and that the whole body of those present, the ordinary peasant (“ceorl”) equally with the man of noble blood (“eorl”), took an active part in the proceedings, pronouncing (or, at least, concurring in) the judgments or dooms there declared; but that, as time progressed, the majority of the Anglo–Saxon ceorls sank to the half–servile position of villeins—men tied for life to the soil of the manor, and passing, like property, from father to son. These villeins, although still subjected to the burden of attendance, and to some of the other duties of their former free estate, were deprived of those rights which had once formed the counterpart of the obligations. Another school of historians, it is true, denies that the mass of the population, even in very early times, ever enjoyed an active share in the dispensation of justice. It is unnecessary here to attempt a solution of the intricate problems of the courts of shire and hundred; or to discuss the still more vexed question how far the small assembly of each township is worthy to be reckoned a formal Court of Law.1
(2) Feudal Courts. Centuries before the Norman Conquest, the system of popular or district justice found itself confronted with a rival scheme of jurisdictions—the innumerable private courts belonging to the feudal lords. These private tribunals, known as feudal, manorial, or seignorial courts, slowly gained ground on the older public courts of shire, hundred, and wapentake.2
Practically every holder of land in England came to be also the holder of a court for the inhabitants of that land. The double meaning of the word “dominus” illustrates the double position of the man who was thus both owner and lord.1 In the struggle between two schemes of justice, the tribunals of the feudal magnates triumphed over, but never abolished their rivals. The earlier popular courts lived on; but the system of district justice, which had once embraced the whole of England, was honeycombed by the growth of feudal courts. As each village passed under the domination of a lord, the village–moot became a manorial court endowed with wider powers and more effective sanctions for enforcing them. Further, as complete hundreds fell under control of powerful magnates, the courts of these hundreds were also transformed into feudal courts: franchises thus took the place of many of the old popular moots. Still, the older system retained part of the disputed ground, thanks to the protection of the Crown. Many hundreds never bowed to the exclusive domination of any one lord, and the courts of the shires were guarded by the Norman Kings against the encroachment of even the most powerful barons.
Although it was the policy of the Norman Kings to prevent their barons from gaining excessive powers of jurisdiction, it was by no means their policy to suppress these jurisdictions altogether. The Conqueror and his sons were glad that justice should be administered, even in a rough–and–ready manner, in those districts whither the Crown’s arm was not long enough to reach, and where the popular courts were likely to prove inefficient. The old system and the new existed side by side; it was to the interest of the central government to play off the one against the other.
In later days (but not till long after Magna Carta), each manorial court had three distinct aspects, according to the class of pleas it was called upon to try. Later writers distinguish absolutely from each other, the Court Baron, settling civil disputes between freeholders of the manor; the Court Customary, deciding non–criminal cases among the villeins; and the Court Leet, a petty criminal court enforcing order and punishing small offences. The powers of these courts might vary, and in many districts the jurisdiction over misdemeanours belonged not to the steward of the manor, but to the sheriff in his half–yearly Circuits or “Tourns” through the county. In imperfectly feudalized districts the Tourn of the sheriff performed the same functions as the Court Leet did within a franchise.
(3) Royal Courts. Originally, the King’s Court had been merely one among many feudal courts—differing in degree rather than in kind from those of the great earls or barons. The King, as feudal lord, dispensed justice among his tenants, just as any baron or freeman dispensed justice among his tenants, bond or free. No one dreamed, in the time of the Norman Kings, that the Curia Regis could undertake the labour of dispensing justice for the whole nation. The monarchy had no machinery at command for a task which no Anglo–Saxon King, nor even William I., could have undertaken. No attempt in this direction was made until the reign of Henry II., who was placed in a position of unprecedented power, partly by circumstances, but chiefly by his great abilities. Even he, born reformer as he was, would never have increased so greatly the labours of government, if he had not seen that the change would enhance the security of his throne and the revenue of his exchequer.
From an early date, however, the business of the Monarch was wider than the business of any other lord. In a dim way, too, it must have been apparent from the first, that offences against the established order were offences also against the King, and that to redress these was the King’s business competent in the King’s Courts. The Crown, further, asserted a right to investigate pleas of special importance, whether civil or criminal. Still, under William and his sons, royal justice had made no deliberate attempt to become national justice, or to supersede feudal justice: the struggle came with the reforms of Henry II.1
Thus the three great systems of jurisdiction, popular justice, feudal justice, and royal justice succeeded each other, on the whole, in the order in which they are here named. Yet the sequence is in some ways logical rather than chronological. No absolute line can be drawn, showing where one system ended and the next began. The germs of manorial jurisdiction may have been present from an early date. Shire–courts and hundred courts alike were continually in danger of falling under the domination of powerful local magnates. Yet, the shire–courts were successful in maintaining till the last (thanks to royal favour) their independence of the manorial jurisdictions; while only a proportion of the hundred courts fell into bondage. The royal courts, again, from an early date, withdrew causes from the Shire Courts and interfered with manorial franchises. The Courts Baron were silently undermined, until they sank into decrepitude without ceasing to exist. With these caveats, the three systems may be regarded, in some measure, as following one another in the order named:—popular justice, feudal justice, royal justice.
II. Legal Procedure. The procedure adopted in litigation in Anglo–Saxon and Norman times was similar in essentials in all three classes of tribunals, and differed materially from the practice of courts of law at the present day. Some knowledge of the more glaring contrasts between ancient and modern procedure will conduce to an understanding of several obscure provisions of Magna Carta.
Avoiding technical language, and eliminating special procedure peculiar to any one court or country, the principal stages in a litigation in a modern court of law may be given briefly as follows: (1) On the complaint of the party aggrieved a summons, or writ, is issued by an officer of the Court. Proceedings are opened by the command addressed to the defendant to appear in Court and answer what is alleged against him.
(2) In the usual case each party lodges written statements of his facts and pleas—that is, of the circumstances as they appear to him (or such of them as he hopes to bring evidence to prove)—on which he founds his claim or his defence, and of the legal principles he intends to deduce from these circumstances. When these statements of facts and pleas have been revised and adjusted, the complete data are before the Court; each party has stated what he considers essential to his case.
(3) Proof is, in due course, led; that is, each party is afforded an opportunity of proving such facts as he has alleged (and as require proof through the denial of his opponent). This he may do by documents, witnesses, or oath. Each party has the further privilege of shaking his opponent’s evidence by cross–examination.
(4) The next important stage is the debate, the main object of which is to establish by legal arguments the pleas founded on; to deduce the legal consequences inherent in the facts which have been proved.
(5) Finally, the Judge gives his decision. He has to determine, after weighing the evidence led by either party, what facts have really been established, and how far the various pleas of plaintiff and defendant respectively are implied in these facts. Reasoning of such a kind as can be successfully performed only by a trained legal mind is thus necessary before the final decree or sentence can be pronounced by a Judge in a modern court of law.
A trial in Anglo–Saxon and early Norman times stands in notable contrast to all this in its stages and procedure, and even more in the spirit which pervades the whole. Thus, the proceedings, from first to last, were purely oral, there being no original writ or summons, no written pleadings, no record kept of the decision except in the memories of those present. The functions of “the Judges” were entirely different, and called for no previous training, since they were not required either to weigh a mass of evidence or to determine the bearing of subtle legal arguments, but merely to see fairplay, and to decide, according to simple rules, well established by centuries of custom, by what test the allegations of plaintiff and defendant were respectively to stand or fall. Finally, the arrangement of the stages of the litigation was entirely different: it is with something of a shock that the modern lawyer learns that in civil and criminal causes alike “judgment” invariably preceded “trial.” Reflection will convince him that each of these words had in the Middle Ages a meaning different from what it bears to–day. That this is so can be best understood by following the stages of the old procedure.
(1) The initial difficulty was to obtain the presence of the defendant in Court, since there existed a strange reluctance either to compel his attendance or to allow judgment to pass against him by default. No initial writ was issued commanding him to appear; almost endless delays were allowed.
(2) When both parties had been, after many adjournments, actually brought face to face before the Court, the statements alike of the claim and of the defence were made verbally and in set formulae, the slightest slip or stumble in the words of which involved complete failure. This is merely one illustration of the tremendously formal and technical nature of early legal procedure, a trait common to all primitive systems of jurisprudence.
(3) Before the plaintiff could put the defendant on his defence, he required to show some presumption of the probability or bona fides of his case. This he usually did by producing two friends ready to substantiate his claim, known sometimes as his “suit” (Latin secta), or his “fore–witnesses.” Their testimony had no reference to the particular facts of the case; it was not weighed against the “proof” afterwards led by the defendant; its object was merely to warrant the Court in demanding “proof” from the latter at all.1
(4) Then came the judgment or “doom,” which partook in no respect of the nature of the judgment of a modern tribunal. It came before the proof or trial, not after it, and was therefore called a “medial” judgment. It consisted in decreeing whether or no, on the strength of the previous procedure, the defendant should be put to his proof at all; and if so, what “proof” should be demanded.
Now, the exact test to be appointed by the court varied somewhat, according to circumstances, but long–established custom had laid down with some exactitude a rule applicable to every case likely to occur; and, further, the possible modes of proof were limited to some four or five at the outside. In Anglo–Saxon times, these were mainly compurgation, ordeal, witnesses (whose functions were, however, widely different from those of witnesses in modern law), and charters. The Norman Conquest introduced for the new–comers, a form of proof previously unknown in England—“trial by combat”—which tended, for the upper classes at least, to supersede all earlier procedures. The “proof,” of whatever kind it might be, thus appointed by the “judges” for the defendant’s performance was technically known as a “law” (Latin lex) in the sense of a “test” or “trial” or “task,” according to success or failure in which his case should stand or fall.1 To pronounce a “judgment” in this sense was a simple affair, a mere formality in the ordinary case, where room for dubiety could hardly be admitted: thus it was possible for “judgment” to be delivered by all the members of a feudal court, or all the suitors present at the hundred or shire–moot.
(5) The crucial stage, this “trial” which thus came after “judgment,” consisted in one party (usually the defendant) essaying, on the day appointed, to satisfy the court as to the truth of his allegations by performing the task or “law” which had been set or “doomed” to him. When this consisted in the production of a charter, or of “transaction witnesses” (that is, the testimony of those officials appointed in each market–town to certify the conclusion of such bargains as the sale of cattle), it commends itself readily to modern approval. More frequently it took the form of “an oath with oath–helpers,” the plaintiff bringing with him eleven or twelve of his trusty friends or dependents to swear after him the words of a long and cumbrous oath, under risk of being punished as perjurers for any slip in the formula. Sometimes the decision was referred to the intervention of Providence by appealing to the ordeal of the red–hot iron or the more dreaded ordeal of water. After the Norman Conquest, the trial in all litigations between men of high rank, took the form of duellum or legally regulated combat between the parties. The defendant gained his case if he caused the plaintiff to own himself a “craven,” or if he held out till nightfall against the plaintiff’s attempts to force him to utter that fateful word.1
This earlier form of “lex” or trial (which is referred to in several clauses of Magna Carta)2 was thus entirely different from the modern “trial.” It may be said without exaggeration that there was no “trial” at all in the current meaning of the word—no balancing of the testimony of one set of witnesses against another, no open proof and cross–examination, no debate on the legal principles involved. The ancient “trial” was merely a formal test, which was, except in the case of battle, entirely one–sided. The phrase “burden of proof” was inapplicable. The litigant to whom “a law” was appointed had rather the “privilege of proof,” and usually won his case—especially in compurgation, and even in ordeal if he had arranged matters properly with the priest who presided. In one sense, the final “trial” was determined by the parties themselves, or by one of them; in another and higher sense the facts at issue were left to Providence; a miracle, if necessary, would attest the just claim of the innocent.3
The essentials of this procedure1 were the same in Norman as in Anglo–Saxon England, and that in all three classes of tribunals—popular, manorial, and royal courts. Two innovations the Normans did make; they introduced trial by combat and “inquisitio.” Among the prerogatives of the Norman Dukes was this right to compel the sworn evidence of reliable men of any district—men specially picked for the purpose, and put on oath before answering the questions asked of them. This procedure was known as inquisitio (or the seeking of information) from the point of view of the government making the inquiry, and as recognitio (or the giving of information) from the point of view of those supplying it. This device was capable of endless extension to new uses in the deft hands of the Norman Kings. William employed it in compiling Domesday Book; while his successors made it the instrument of experiments in the science of taxation. It has a double claim to the interest of the constitutional historian, because it was one of the influences that helped to mould our Parliamentary institutions; and because several of the new uses to which it came to be put had a close connection with the origin of trial by jury. The recognitors, indeed, were simply local jurors in a rude or elementary form.2
III. Reforms of Henry II. in Law Courts and Legal Procedure. It was reserved for Henry of Anjou to inaugurate a new era in the relations of the three classes of courts. He was the first king deliberately to plan the overthrow of the feudal jurisdictions by insidiously undermining them, if not yet by open attack. He was the first king to reduce the old district courts so thoroughly under the control of royal officials as to turn them practically into royal courts. He was the first king also to throw open the doors of his own courts of law to all–comers, to all freemen, that is to say, for the villein had for centuries still to seek redress in the Court of that very lord of the manor who was too often his oppressor.1
In brief, then, Henry’s policy was twofold: to convert the County Courts completely into Royal Courts, since in them royal officials now dispensed royal justice according to the same rules as prevailed at the King’s Curia; and to reduce all manorial or private Courts to insignificance by diverting pleas to his own Curia, and leaving the rival tribunals to die gradually from inanition. Both branches of this policy met ultimately with success, although the event hung in the balance until long after his death. The barons, though partially deceived by the insidious nature of Henry’s reforms, did what they could to thwart him; but the current was with the Crown. Royal justice steadily encroached upon feudal justice. One of the last stands made by the barons has left its traces in several chapters of Magna Carta.2 These contain what seem, at first sight, to be merely trivial alterations of technical points of court procedure; but inextricably bound up with them are principles of wide constitutional importance. It was Henry’s good fortune or policy to disguise radical reforms until they looked like small changes of procedure; it follows that the framers of Magna Carta, while appearing merely to seek the reversal of these trivial points, were really seeking to return to the totally different conditions which had prevailed prior to the reforms of Henry.
The short account of that monarch’s system of procedure, necessary to a comprehension of Magna Carta, falls naturally into two divisions.
(1) Criminal Justice. (a) By his Assizes of Clarendon and Northampton, Henry reserved important crimes for the exclusive consideration of his own judges either on circuit or at his court; and he demanded entry for these judges into all franchises for that purpose. In this part of his policy, the King was completely successful; heinous crimes were, in the beginning of the thirteenth century, admitted on all hands to be “pleas of the Crown” (that is, cases reserved exclusively for royal jurisdiction); and Magna Carta made no attempt to reverse this part of the Crown’s policy: all that was attempted in 1215 was to obtain a promise that these functions, now surrendered to the Crown forever, should be discharged by the Crown’s officials in a proper manner.1
(b) Henry’s usual good sense, in this matter stimulated by some notable miscarriages of justice, led him to question the equity of the procedure usually adopted in criminal pleas: for private “appeal” (or accusation by the injured party or his nearest surviving relative), he substituted, whenever possible, communal accusation; that is, the duty of indicting suspected criminals before the King’s Justices was no longer left to private initiative, but was laid on a body of neighbours—the predecessors of the Grand Jury of later days. Appeals were discouraged and rules laid down restricting the right of accusation.2
(c) A necessary complement was the discouragement of “trial by combat.” An ingenious device was invented and extended to an increasing number of cases; an accused individual might apply for a writ known as de odio et atia, and evade the duellum by a reference to what was practically a jury of neighbours.1
(2) Civil Justice. Henry’s innovations under this head were equally important. In his reign justice, it is sometimes said, was pigeon–holed. Much attention was bestowed on the formalities of litigation; while pleas began to be classified into stereotyped groups, each form of grievance having its appropriate remedy, to be obtained only by means of the appropriate writ.
(a) The Writ System. An unflinching rule was established that no case could be brought before the royal court until a writ had been obtained from chancery. This had to be paid for, sometimes at a fixed rate, and sometimes at whatever sum the Crown demanded. The whole procedure in the royal courts, which followed the issuing of such a writ, came to be known as “the writ system.” From an early date, much attention was directed to the devising of forms of writ applicable to various cases. The system, somewhat inflexible from the first, had become absolutely rigid long before the close of the thirteenth century. If a proper writ was not selected, or if no such writ had been invented, the wronged individual had no remedy in the King’s courts of common law. Registers of writs were drawn up, copied and enlarged, and transmitted from one generation to another.2
(b) Control of Feudal Courts. Whether devised for that purpose or not, this writ system proved a useful instrument for diverting the stream of litigation from the barons’ courts to the curia regis. Henry, if we may credit Glanvill, succeeded in establishing the somewhat astounding rule that no plea concerning land could be commenced in any court without the authority of a royal writ.3 Even if such writs were issued as matter of course, the mere need of asking for them would supply Henry with information doubly valuable in relation to certain other expedients still to be explained. That King, applying to his own needs procedure known to the Carolingian Kings, secured an effective means of evoking suits regarding freehold from the seignorial courts to his own. This was done by procedure initiated by two types of writs: “writs of right” addressed to the holder of a court, bidding him do justice under penalty of interference by the royal court; and “writs praecipe” addressed to the sheriff, bidding him require the holder of a piece of land to hand it over to a claimant or explain to the King why he has not done so.1
It is probable that even in 1215 the Crown had not fully developed the consequences afterwards seen to be involved in the writ of right, properly so called; but Henry II. and his sons seem freely to have used the writ praecipe in such a manner as to cause their barons to lose their jurisdiction—an abuse struck at by chapter 34 of Magna Carta.
(c) Royal Pleas and Common Pleas. The mass of new business made it necessary to increase the staff of judges and apportion the work. A natural division was that between ordinary (or common) pleas and pleas of the Crown. This distinction is recognized in many separate chapters.2 Thus two groups of judges were formed which, in later years, developed into separate courts—the Court of Common Pleas (known as “the Bench,” that is, the ordinary Bench), and the King’s Bench (known earlier as the court Coram Rege, supposed to be held in the King’s presence).
(d) The Petty Assizes. Special procedure for determining titles to land or rights of possession was also invented by Henry to supersede trial by battle. These Assizes, as they were called, are fully discussed elsewhere.3 While the Grand Assize is not mentioned in Magna Carta, its abuse was indirectly struck at by the clause concerning writs praecipe in chapter 34: the Petty Assizes, however, would seem to have won favour with the barons, who in chapter 18 demanded that regular sessions for hearing them should be held four times a year.
These were the chief innovations that enabled Henry II. to effect a revolution in the relations of royal to feudal justice. As time went on, new writs were continually devised to meet new types of cases; and litigants flocked readily to the King’s Courts, leaving the seignorial courts empty of business and of fees. Nor was this the only grievance of the barons. When one of their own number was amerced or accused of any offence involving loss of liberty or lands, he might be compelled by the Crown, under Henry and his sons, to submit to have the amercement assessed, or the criminal proceedings conducted, by one of the new Benches (by a tribunal composed of some four or five of the King’s officials), in place of the time–honoured judgment of his peers assembled in the Commune Concilium (the predecessor of the modern Parliament).
Can we wonder that the barons objected to be amerced and judged by their inferiors?1 Can we wonder that they resented the complete though gradual supersession of their own profitable jurisdictions by the royal courts?2 or that they looked with suspicion on every new development of the royal justice? Can we wonder that, when they seemed to have King John for the moment in their power, they demanded redress of these grievances, as well as of those connected with increase of feudal burdens? The cause for wonder rather is that their demands were not more sweeping: the barons, in their hour of triumph, accepted cordially one half of the royal innovations.
The chapters bearing on jurisdiction may be arranged in two groups, some reactionary, and some favourable to Henry’s reforms. On the one hand, no lord of a manor shall be robbed of his Court by the King evoking before the royal courts pleas between two freeholders of the lord’s manor;3 no freeman shall be judged or condemned by the King’s officials, but only before the full body of his peers;1 earls and barons must be amerced only by their equals.2 On the other hand, in prescribing remedies for abuses connected with numerous branches of legal procedure, the barons accepted by implication this new procedure itself and the royal encroachments implied therein. For example, the Crown’s right to hold “Common Pleas” was impliedly admitted, when the barons asked and obtained that these should be tried in some certain place (that is, at Westminster).3 Yet these very pleas must have included many cases which, prior to Henry II.’s reforms, would have been tried in a seignorial court. Again, in regulating the petty assizes, chapters 18 and 19 admit the Crown’s right to hold them. Here, as in chapter 40, the ground of complaint is not that there is too much royal justice, but rather that there is too little of it: henceforth it must be neither delayed nor denied. Further, the encroachments made by Henry II. in 1166 on the private franchises in the matter of criminal jurisdiction are tacitly accepted by the acquiescence in the King’s definition of “Pleas of the Crown” implied in chapter 24.
These, then, are the two groups into which the innovations made by Henry and his sons naturally fell, as viewed by John’s opponents in 1215: some of them had come to be warmly welcomed; while others, it was insisted, must be swept away.
[1 ]The Great Charter, p. vii.
[2 ]R. Wendover, II. 535.
[3 ]M. Paris, II. 669. Several of the most often–repeated charges of personal wrongs inflicted by King John upon the wives and daughters of his barons have been in recent years refuted. See Miss Norgate, John Lackland, p. 289.
[4 ]See, e.g., the harrowing account of how he starved to death Matilda de Braose and her son (Davis, Engl. under Normans, 363). For his conduct in Ireland, see Orpen, Ireland, II. 96–105; and in Normandy, Powicke, Loss of Normandy, 190–2.
[1 ]See infra the two sections (II. and III.) immediately following.
[1 ]Stubbs, Select Charters, 270.
[1 ]Commentaries, II. 59.
[1 ]See Pollock and Maitland, Hist. Engl. Law, 1st ed., I. 218.
[1 ]See Statute 12 Charles II., c. 24.
[2 ]See Pollock and Maitland, I. 274 n.
[3 ]Pollock and Maitland, I. 218.
[4 ]Littleton, II. viii. s. 133. See, on whole subject, Maitland, Coll. Papers, II. 205–222.
[5 ]Littleton, II. viii. s. 153.
[6 ]Littleton, II. viii. s. 158. Cf. Round, Kings Serjeanties, 21.
[1 ]History of Exchequer, I. 650, citing Pipe Roll of 18 Henry III.
[2 ]See Littleton, II. ix. s. 159. With this may be compared the definition given in chapter 37 of Magna Carta, where John speaks of land thus held by a vassal as “quam tenet de nobis per servitium reddendi nobis cultellos, vel sagittas vel hujusmodi.”
[3 ]Mediaeval England, 249–250. A similar tenure exists in Scotland under the name of “blench”—wherein the reddendo is elusory, viz., the annual rendering of such things as an arrow or a penny or a peppercorn, “if asked only” (si petatur tantum).
[4 ]Round, Peerage, and Pedigree, 359.
[1 ]Littleton, II. viii. s. 158.
[2 ]Ibid., II. x. s. 162.
[3 ]Pollock and Maitland, I. 218.
[4 ]Littleton and Coke seem almost to countenance two additional tenures, viz., scutage or escuage, and castle–guard. Pollock and Maitland consider both as alternative names for knight’s service. (See I. 251 and I. 257.) The latter is discussed infra under c. 29 of Magna Carta.
[5 ]Jenks, Modern Land Law, 14.
[6 ]It has been well described by Pollock and Maitland (I. 294) as “the great residuary tenure.” In Scotland the “residuary tenure” is not socage but “feu” (resembling the English fee–farm). Holdings in feu are still originated by charter, followed by registration (the modern equivalent of infeftment or feudal investiture), thus preserving an unbroken connection with the feudal conveyancing of the Middle Ages.
[1 ]Norman Conquest, V. 377; Hist. of William Rufus, 335–7.
[2 ]Feudal England, p. 228 et seq.
[3 ]All three forms of feudal obligation—service, incidents, and aids—have long been obsolete in England. The statute 12 Charles II. c. 24 swept away the feudal incidents along with the feudal system; centuries before, scutages in lieu of military service had become obsolete in the transition from the system of feudal finance to that of national finance, effected by the Crown in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. Feudal aids were also long obsolete, although James I., in desperate straits for money, had attempted to revive two of them. In France the feudal system, with all its burdensome obligations, remained in full vigour until it was abolished in one night by the famous decree of the National Assembly of 4th August, 1790. In Scotland, the feudal system of land tenure still exists, and certain of its incidents (e.g. reliefs and compositions or fines for alienation) are exacted at the present day.
[1 ]Blackstone, Commentaries, II. 63, arranges these in a different order, and mentions as a seventh incident “aids,” which are here reserved for separate treatment.
[2 ]See Pollock and Maitland, I. 296.
[3 ]See infra, under c. 2, for the process whereby this evil was redressed.
[1 ]R. Thomson, Magna Charta, p. 236.
[2 ]Infra, c. 32.
[3 ]VII. c. 17.
[4 ]Pollock and Maitland, I. 247 and 250, citing Hist. Abingdon, II. 128.
[1 ]See Infra, c. 43.
[2 ]See Hughes’ edition, p. 133.
[3 ]See Dialogus, p. 222 (citing Pipe Roll, p. 27).
[1 ]Glanvill, VII. c. 9. In socage and burgage tenures no wardship was recognized; the guardianship went to the relations of the ward, and not to his feudal lord. Complicated, but equitable, rules applied to socage. The maternal kindred had the custody, if the lands came from the father’s side; the paternal kindred, if from the mother’s side (Glanvill, VII. c. 11). In plain language, the boy was not entrusted to those who had an interest in his death. Cf. infra, cc. 3, 4 and 37.
[2 ]Littleton, II. iv. s. 103.
[3 ]See under c. 5.
[4 ]What these were may be read in the Pipe Rolls, e.g., in that of 14 Henry II. when the Bishopric of Lincoln was vacant.
[5 ]See Sel. Chart., 288. Contrast Stephen’s Oxford Charter; Sel. Chart., 120–1. Cf. supra, p. 32, and infra, under c. 1.
[1 ]Rotuli de oblatis et finibus, p. 354.
[2 ]Rot. Claus., 37, 55.
[3 ]Pollock and Maitland, I. 305.
[4 ]See infra, under chapters 6, 7, and 8.
[5 ]Middle Ages, II. 429.
[6 ]p. 437.
[1 ]The Bishop of Durham enjoyed it, so it seems to be stated in a charter of 1303 (Lapsley, Pal. of Durham, 133). But this forms no real exception; since the Bishop, as an Earl Palatine, enjoyed the regalia of a king.
[2 ]See Pollock and Maitland, I. 292. From Statute of Marlborough, c. 16, primer seisin extended over serjeanty as well as knight’s service. Statute of Merton, c. 7, provided that a ward might refuse a marriage on undertaking to pay the offered price when he came of age. Under c. 8, double the value might be exacted for a secret marriage or one in fraud of the lord’s right.
[3 ]Rotuli de oblatis, p. 114.
[1 ]Sir Edward Coke (Coke upon Littleton, 77 A) is the original source of much confusion as to the nature of primer seisin, which he seems to have considered as a second and additional relief exacted by the Crown, amounting to the whole rent of the first year. The Popes, he further held (erroneously), were imitating this practice when they exacted a year’s rent from every newly granted benefice under name of “first fruits.” These errors have been widely followed (e.g. Thomson, Magna Charta, p. 416; Taswell Langmead, Const. Hist., 50).
[2 ]See Taswell Langmead, Const. Hist., pp. 51–2; also Pollock and Maitland, II. 326.
[3 ]IX. c. 8.
[4 ]An aid to marry the king’s eldest sister might be taken, if not previously exacted by her father.
[5 ]See infra, under chapter 12.
[1 ]Thus, the Abingdon Chronicle (II. 113) speaks of “auxilia quod barones michi dederunt”; while Bracton says (Book II. c. 16, s. 8): “Auxilia fiunt de gratia et non de jure; cum dependeant ex gratia tenentium, et non ad voluntatem dominorum.”
[2 ]3 Edward I. c. 36.
[3 ]Fixed at 100s. by c. 2 of Magna Carta.
[4 ]Cf. Pollock and Maitland, I. 381–2. One entry in the Memoranda Roll of 42 Henry III. (cited Madox, I. 615) seems to admit that the Crown could not exact more than 20s.; but in 1258 the baronial opposition would be strong in the Exchequer as elsewhere.
[5 ]25 Ed. III. stat. 5, c. 11.
[1 ]Some of these questions might be answered by the terms of special charters: the Hundred Rolls (1279) relate how Hugh de Plesens must go with the King for forty days at his own, and thereafter at the King’s expense. Rot. Hund., II. p. 710; cf. for France, Établissements de St. Louis, I. c. 65.
[2 ]Jocelin of Brakelond, 63, cited by Pollock and Maitland, I. 250 n.
[3 ]See R. Coggeshall, p. 167; the barons argued non in hoc ei obnoxios esse secundum munia terrarum suarum.
[1 ]W. Coventry, II. 217.
[2 ]See his letter dated 1st April, 1215, in New Rymer, I. 128.
[3 ]See “unknown charter” in Appendix.
[4 ]Chronicon, II. 121.
[5 ]See, however, infra under c. 16.
[1 ]Const. Hist., I. 632.
[2 ]Madox, I. 619.
[3 ]See Round, Feudal England, 262 ff., 532.
[1 ]Madox, I. 658.
[1 ]Pollock and Maitland, I. 247, noted this distinction under Edward; it existed, as the above–cited instance proves, under John.
[2 ]Pipe Roll of Richard I., cited Madox, I. 663.
[3 ]Pipe Roll of 12 John, cited ibid.
[4 ]Cf. infra, under cc. 39 and 21.
[5 ]Interesting details are given by Vinogradoff, English Society, 15 ff. Cf. Round, Feudal England, 277 ff.
[1 ]Round, Feudal England, 237–9.
[2 ]Feudal England, 277 seq.
[1 ]Norgate, John Lackland, p. 122.
[2 ]Norgate, John Lackland, p. 123 note, correcting Swereford’s lists in the Red Book of Exchequer. Further corrections are perhaps necessary: R. Wendover III. 173, mentions a scutage of 2½ marks in January, 1204.
[3 ]See Ramsay, Angevin Empire, 390, and authorities there cited.
[1 ]Cf. Norgate, John Lackland, 125.
[2 ]Commune of London, 273–4.
[3 ]Yet, of recent historians, Ramsay (Angevin Empire, 432) treats it briefly, and Miss Norgate (John Lackland, 163) barely notices it.
[1 ]Miss Norgate (123) describes the exactions supplementing the scutages: “These scutages were independent of the fines paid by the barons who did not accompany the King on his first return to Normandy in 1199, of the money taken from the host as a substitute for its service in 1201, of the equipment and payment of the ‘decimated’ knights in 1205, and the fines claimed for all the tenants–in–chivalry after the dismissal of the host in the same year, as well as of actual services which many of those who had paid the scutage rendered in the campaigns of 1202–4 and 1206.”
[2 ]See Miss Norgate, John Lackland, 210, and cf. supra, 31. For a minor grievance connected with scutage and the writ de habendo scutagio, see infra, under c. 15. The later history of scutage is outlined in Pollock and Maitland, I. 254. Cf. infra, under c. 12.
[1 ]Too absolute a line must not be drawn between the three types of court. In one sense all tribunals were, or tended to become, royal courts. The king’s representatives presided in the “popular courts,” and the king received a share of the fines levied there; while, in Prof. Vinogradoff’s words (English Society, 108), “all the well–known franchises or liberties of the feudal age were chips from the block of royal authority.”
[1 ]John’s Charter makes no mention of these courts, although c. 25, forbidding increase of the farms of shires, may have a bearing on the subject. Henry’s Charters of 1217 and 1225 regulate their times of meeting. Cf. infra, Part IV.
[2 ]This account of the relations of the two sets of courts would receive the support of recent writers, such as Maitland and Round, as well as of the older generation, such as Stubbs and Freeman. Mr. Frederic Seebohm may be mentioned as perhaps the most weighty upholder of the opposite view, which regards the manorial courts as of earlier origin than those of hundred and shire.
[1 ]Cf. “landlord.”
[1 ]The stages in the process, extending from the reign of Henry I. to that of Edward I., by which royal justice encroached on feudal justice, may be studied in Maitland’s preface to Sel. Pleas in Manorial Courts, pp. liii. ff. See also Pollock and Maitland, I. 181–2.
[1 ]Sometimes no fore–witnesses were required; for example, where the claim was for restoration of stolen cattle, traced by “hue and cry” to defendant’s house or byre. The presumption was here so strong as to render corroborative evidence unnecessary.
[1 ]See infra under cc. 38 and 39, where lex terrae is discussed.
[1 ]Details may be studied in Neilson’s Trial by Combat.
[2 ]See infra, cc. 38 and 39, where ordeal and compurgation and other forms of lex are further discussed.
[3 ]Cf. Thayer, Evidence, p. 8. “The conception of the trial was that of a proceeding between the parties, carried on publicly, under forms which the community oversaw.”
[1 ]These stages of procedure are fully illustrated by recorded cases. Two of these, both from the reign of John, may here be cited. (1) “Hereward, the son of William, appeals Walter, the son of Hugh, of assaulting him, in the King’s peace, and wounding him in the arm with an iron fork, and giving him another wound on the head; and this he offers to prove on his body as the Court shall appoint. And Walter defends all of it by his body. And it is testified by the coroners and by the whole county that the same Hereward showed his wounds at the proper time, and has made sufficient suit. Therefore it is decreed that there should be ‘battle.’ . . . Let them come armed, a fortnight from St. Swithin’s day, at Leicester.” Sel. Pleas of Crown (Selden Society), p. 18. (2) “Walter Trenchebof was said to have handed to Inger of Faldingthorpe the knife with which he killed Guy Foliot, and is suspected of it. Let him purge himself by water that he did not consent to it. He has failed and is hanged.” Ibid., p. 75.
[2 ]The relation of “recognition” to trial by jury is discussed infra, Part III., section 7.
[1 ]The trend of learned opinion for the moment is towards transferring the chief share of credit for remedial changes from Henry II. to his grandfather. Prof. Haskins, too, has shown reason for holding that the younger Henry found precedents in the procedure of his Angevin father as well as of his Norman grandfather (Amer. Hist. Rev., VIII. 618). There is some evidence also that Henry II. avoided any violent breaking with the past. Mr. Davis (Engl. under the Normans, p. 283) shows Henry and his Justice Glanvill acting in a spirit friendly to the private courts. It is possible, however, to found erroneous estimates upon such items of evidence. The true inventor is the man who adapts for common use what was before exceptional: Henry II. can afford to be judged by this test. To him, rather than to Henry I., belongs the credit for revolutionizing the whole system of dispensing justice. Cf. G. B. Adams (Origin of Engl. Const., 106–7): “It is in his time that these changes are finally made and the new methods become permanently a part of the constitution.”
[2 ]E.g. 34 and 39.
[1 ]See infra, under cc. 24 and 45.
[2 ]See infra, under chapter 54.
[1 ]See injra, under chapter 36.
[2 ]See Maitland, Collected Papers, II., 110–173.
[3 ]Glanvill xii, 25. For a discussion of the difficulties involved in accepting Glanvill see Adams, Origin, 96.
[1 ]See Brunner, Schwurgerichte, 78–80. Details are discussed infra, under c. 34.
[2 ]See infra, under chapters 17 and 24.
[3 ]See infra, under chapter 18.
[1 ]See infra, under chapters 21 and 39.
[2 ]See infra, under chapter 34.
[3 ]c. 34.
[1 ]c. See infra, under chapter 39.
[2 ]c. 21.
[3 ]c. 17.