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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 20


20     IVssconsin Academy of Sciennes, Arts, and Letters.
less legally one class. The lists of free tenants, libeqre tenentes, al-'
ways begin, as is natural, with the most honorable class, the ten-
ants by 'knights' service, and then continue without a break with
the tenants by socage. And all the freeholders, omnes libere ten-
entes, comp sed the court baron of the manor, and owed suit to
the court of the hundred and the shire. Now, as the two catego-
ries of freeholders composed but one class in law, it is natural to
suppose that they had the same origin. The tenants by chivalry
were of course a purely feudal class, holding their estates by the
strictly feudal tenure of military service. The tenants by socage,
it is natural to suppose, may have had a similar origin.
  As a matter of fact, the two classes came into existence at the
same time. Tenur3 by chivalry was, as a matter of course, intro-
duced when the feudal system was introduced. The precise time
and manner of this is still a matter of uncertainty. What is cer-
tain is that feudalism, in its complete form, did not exist in Eng-
land at the time of the Norman Conquest (1066), but that it is
found completely developed at the accession of the House of
Anjou (Henry II.), in 1154. Now this interval of about a hun-
dred years is precisely the time in which the tenure by free socage
and the class of tenants by socage made their appearance.
  Even as late as Domesday Book (1086) there was no freehold
(except by military tenure), and no class of rural freeholders.
But the Boldon Book (1183), and the Abingdon Cartulary, of
about the same time, contain lists of freeholders of both the mili-
tary and the agricultural class, and standing above the mass of
servile tenants. It is therefore a priori probable that the tenure
by free socage and the class of free socagers came into existence in
connection with the establishment of feudalism, and as a part of
this process. It is true, as I pointed out in a former paper,* that
there is a large class of sochemamni enumerated in Domesday Book;
but, first, this class is cornfined to a few counties in the east of
England; and, secondly, it appears to have been a class of per-
sons, not a category of tenure; -there were sochemanni, but no
socagium. There was likewise found in the eastern counties a
class of freemen, liberi homines; but they appear to have been
                   *Transactions, Vol. I, p. 167.


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