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Transactions of the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters
volume IV (1876-1877)

Allen, William F.
The origin of the freeholders,   pp. 19-24 PDF (1.8 MB)

Page 19

The Origin of the Freeholders.
                       BY WILLIAM F. ALLEN,
          Professor of Latin and History in the University of Wisconsin.
    [This is a portion of a paper read at Racine, July 11, 1877, revised
and enlarged.]
  The accepted view at present as to the origin of the class of free-
holders is, that they represented the old village community, and
that their court, the Court Baron, represented the old village as-
sembly. Sir Henry Maine says (Village Communities, p. 137):
"We cannot doubt that the freeholders of the Tenemental lands
correspondin the main to the free heads of households composing
the old village community." Prof. Stubbs speaks (Constitution-
al History, Vol. I, p. 399) of the " court baron, the ancient gemot
of the township." And Mr. Digby says (Introduction to the His-
tory of the Law of Real Property, p. 38):  "There can be little
doubt that tenure in socage [that is, freehold] is the successor of
the allodial proprietorship of early times." And again (p. 43):
"The manor court is the successor of the ancient assembly of the
village or township."
  In opposition to this view, I undertook to show in a previous
paper * that the so-called customary tenants, who were as a rule
serfs, were the representatives of the old village community; and
suggested that the tenants in socage, or freeholders, were
"specially privileged villani."  I propose at present to
this last point further, and show that free socage was in its nature
a feudal tenure and that the freeholders as a class had a feudal
  First, it should be noted that free tenure was of two kinds: bv
chivalry or knight's service, and by socage or agricultural service;
and that the two classes of tenants, although differing widely in
the form of their services and in social position, formed neverthe-
           * See Transactions of the Academy, Vol. II, p. 220.

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