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)
The Origin of the Freeholders. 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 develop 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 origin. 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. 19
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