history of england_david hume

Sometimes he retained them in his own hands and they

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Unformatted text preview: of Henry I.p It was a shilling paid every three years by each hearth, to PLL v5 (generated January 22, 2010) 320 http://oll.libertyfund.org/title/695 Online Library of Liberty: The History of England, vol. 1 induce the king not to use his prerogative in debasing the coin. Indeed, it appears from that charter, that, though the Conqueror had granted his military tenants an immunity from all taxes and talliages, he and his son William had never thought themselves bound to observe that rule, but had levied impositions at pleasure on all the landed estates of the kingdom. The utmost that Henry grants, is, that the land cultivated by the military tenant himself shall not be so burdened; but he reserves the power of taxing the farmers: And as it is known, that Henry’s charter was never observed in any one article, we may be assured, that this prince and his successors retracted even this small indulgence, and levied arbitrary impositions on all the lands of all their subjects. These taxes were sometimes very heavy; since Malmesbury tells us, that, in the reign of William Rufus, the farmers, on account of them, abandoned tillage, and a famine ensued.q The escheats were a great branch both of power and of revenue, especially during the first reigns after the conquest. In default of posterity from the first baron, his land reverted to the crown, and continually augmented the king’s possessions. The prince had indeed by law a power of alienating these escheats; but by this means he had an opportunity of establishing the fortunes of his friends and servants, and thereby enlarging his authority. Sometimes he retained them in his own hands; and they were gradually confounded with the royal demesnes, and became difficult to be distinguished from them. This confusion is probably the reason why the king acquired the right of alienating his demesnes. But besides escheats from default of heirs, those which ensued from crimes or breach of duty towards the superior lord, were frequent in ancient times. If the vassal, being thrice summoned to attend his superior’s court, and do fealty, neglected or refused obedience, he forfeited all title to his land.r If he denied his tenure, or refused his service, he was exposed to the same penalty.s If he sold his estate without licence from his lord,t or if he sold it upon any other tenure or title than that by which he himself held it,u he lost all right to it. The adhering to his lord’s enemies,w deserting him in war,x betraying his secrets,y debauching his wife or his near relations,z or even using indecent freedoms with them,a might be punished by forfeiture. The higher crimes, rapes, robbery, murder, arson, &c. were called felony; and being interpreted want of fidelity to his lord, made him lose his fief.b Even where the felon was vassal to a baron, though his immediate lord enjoyed the forfeiture, the king might retain possession of his estate during a twelvemonth, and had the right of spoiling and destroying it, unless the baron paid him a reasonable composition.c We have not here enumerated all the species o...
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