Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER SIXTEEN. - Magna Carta: A Commentary on the Great Charter of King John, with an Historical Introduction
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CHAPTER SIXTEEN. - 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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Nullus distringatur ad faciendum majus servicium de feodo militis, nec de alio libero tenemento, quam inde debetur.
No one shall be distrained for performance of greater service for a knight’s fee, or for any other free tenement, than is due therefrom.
For military tenants, the transition from scutage to service was a natural one. John declared that no freeholder should be constrained to do more service for his lands than he was legally bound to do. Disputes might arise, however, as to what extent of service actually was due in each particular case, and Magna Carta did nothing to remove such ambiguities. The difficulties of definition, indeed, were enormous, since the duration and conditions of service might vary widely, in consequence of special exemptions or special burdens which appeared in title deeds or rested upon immemorial usage. The barons could not enter on so intricate and laborious a task.
One grievance may have been specially in their minds. They had frequently objected to serve abroad, particularly during John’s campaigns in Poitou.1 To force them to serve in the south of France, or to fine them for staying at home, was, they may well have argued, to distrain them ad faciendum majus servicium de feodo militis quam inde debetur. When they inserted these words in the Charter, they doubtless regarded them as a prohibition of compulsory service in Poitou, at all events.2 The clause was wide enough, however, to include minor grievances. The barons did not confine its provisions to military service, but extended it to other forms of freehold tenure (“nec de alio libero tenemento”). No freeholder, whether in socage, serjeanty, or frankalmoin, could in future be compelled to render services not legally due.
If the barons thought they had thus settled the vexed questions connected with foreign service, they deceived themselves. Although this chapter (unlike those dealing with scutage) remained in all subsequent confirmations, it was far from preventing disputes. Yet the disputants in future reigns occupied somewhat different ground. From the days of William I. to those of Charles II., when the feudal system was abolished, quarrels frequently arose, the most famous of which, in 1297, led to Edward’s unseemly wrangle with his hereditary Constable and Marshal, who refused to embark for Gascony except in attendance on the King’s person.1
It has been shown in the Introduction2 how the obligations of a military tenant fell naturally into three groups (services, incidents, and aids), while a fourth group (scutages) was added when the Crown commuted military service for its equivalent in money. Feudal grievances may be arranged in four corresponding groups, each redressed by special clauses of Magna Carta: abuse of aids by chapters 12, 14, and 15; of feudal incidents, by chapters 2 to 8; of scutage, by chapters 12 and 14; and of service, by the present chapter.
[1 ]See the authorities cited supra, p. 68, n. 3, and 69, n. 1.
[2 ]In the so–called “unknown Charter of Liberties” (see Appendix) John concedes to his men “ne eant in exercitu extra Angliam nisi in Normanniam et in Brittaniam,” a not unfair compromise, which may possibly represent the sense in which the present chapter was interpreted by the barons. See, however, Adams, Origin, 232, who takes a different view.
[1 ]Walter of Hemingburgh, II. 121. Cf., on the whole subject of foreign service, supra, 67–76.
[2 ]Supra, 59–69.