history of england_david hume

But the possessors of land or the military tenants

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Unformatted text preview: e kingdom. It was established by law, that the king could alienate no part of his demesne, and that he himself, or his successor, could, at any time, resume such donations:f But this law was never regularly observed; which happily rendered in time the crown somewhat more dependant. The rent of the crownlands, considered merely as so much riches, was a source of power: The influence of the king over his tenants and the inhabitants of his towns, encreased this power: But the other numerous branches of his revenue, besides supplying his treasury, gave, by their very nature, a great latitude to arbitrary authority, and were a support of the prerogative; as will appear from an enumeration of them. The king was never content with the stated rents, but levied heavy talliages at pleasure on the inhabitants both of town and country, who lived within his demesne. All bargains of sale, in order to prevent theft, being prohibited, except in boroughs and public markets,g he pretended to exact tolls on all goods which were there sold.h He seized two hogsheads, one before and one behind the mast, from every vessel that imported wine. All goods payed to his customs a proportional part of their value:i Passage over bridges and on rivers was loaded with tolls at pleasure:k And though the boroughs by degrees brought the liberty of farming these impositions, yet the revenue profited by these bargains, new sums were often exacted for the renewal and confirmation of their charters,l and the people were thus held in perpetual dependance. Such was the situation of the inhabitants within the royal demesnes. But the possessors of land, or the military tenants, though they were better protected, both by law, and by the great privilege of carrying arms, were, from the nature of their tenures, much exposed to the inroads of power, and possessed not what we should esteem in our age a very durable security. The Conqueror ordained, that the barons should be obliged to pay nothing beyond their stated services,m except a reasonable aid to ransom his person if he were taken in war, to make his eldest son a knight, and to marry his eldest daughter. What should, on these occasions, be deemed a reasonable aid, was not determined; and the demands of the crown were so far discretionary. The king could require in war the personal attendance of his vassals, that is, of almost all the landed proprietors; and if they declined the service, they were obliged to pay him a composition in money, which was called a scutage. The sum was, during some reigns, precarious and uncertain; it was sometimes levied without allowing the vassal the liberty of personal service;n and it was a usual artifice of the king’s to pretend an expedition, that he might be entitled to levy the scutage from his military tenants. Danegelt was another species of land-tax levied by the early Norman kings, arbitrarily, and contrary to the laws of the Conqueror.o Moneyage was also a general land-tax of the same nature, levied by the two first Norman kings, and abolished by the charter...
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