9. Tenure. 10. Seisin.


9. Tenure signifies the holding of lands or tenements in subordination to some superior, and the terms of the holding.1

The Feudal System

The feudal system, which William the Conqueror introduced into England, was a system of military government, founded on the personal allegiance of the members of the organization to the leaders, and not a government resting on the obligations of citizenship. Under the feudal system, the king was surrounded by a body of men pledged to his support in war. The followers of the king likewise had their own followers, bound to them in the same way. This Norman military organization established itself in England, and the English lands were granted to the followers of William as a reward for past services and for services to be rendered in the future. That is, the lands were held On the condition that the grantees should perform the military and other obligations owed by them on account of their position as members of the feudal organization, and such additional obligations as might be imposed in connection with the grant. It was customary for each tenant of the king to subdivide his portion, distributing the greater part of it among subtenants on similar conditions of tenure to those which he himself was under obligation to perform to the sovereign. In this way a vast social structure was erected, with the king or prince at the apex, his immediate tenants directly beneath him, and so on down, through the various classes of subtenants, until we reach the class which actually cultivated the soil.

12 Bl. Comm. 59; Co. Litt. la.

§ 9)

Beneath these there were the serfs or slaves, consisting chiefly of the conquered race and their descendants. This was the typical social organization of the Middle Ages.

Thus the feudal system of property in land, as established in England, was based on the theory that all land held by a subject was derived originally by grant from the crown, as sovereign lord or owner; that land could not be held by a subject in absolute independent ownership, as personal property is owned, for such was the exclusive prerogative of the king, but that all land was held under obligation of duties and services, imposed either by force of law or by express terms of the grant, whereby a relation was constituted and permanently maintained, between the tenant and the crown, called the "tenure" of the land, characterized by the quality of the duties and services upon which the land was held. In like manner the tenants of the crown might grant out parts of their land to subtenants upon similar terms of rendering services, thereby creating a subtenure or relation of tenure between themselves, as mesne or intermediate lords, and their grantees, as tenants, but without affecting the ultimate tenure under the crown as lord paramount A tenure without the interposition of any mesne lord was called a "tenure in capite" or "tenure in chief."2 The estate of the tenant in the land was called a "feud," "fief," or "fee." The infeudation or grant was effected by the ceremony of feoffment, or delivery of the land by the lord to the tenant, to be held by him upon the terms then expressed or implied; and the tenant was thereby invested with the seisin or actual possession of the land.3 Every acre of England was brought within the feudal principle, though the king did not grant all of the land, but retained part for his own use. This was called the "ancient demesne of the crown." 4 Kinds of Tenure.

There were several kinds of tenure, dependent upon the nature of the services by which land was held. Originally most of the tenure was military, or "tenure by knight's service." One who held by this tenure was bound to serve as a knight for 40 days a year in the king's army, and to provide himself with the equipment accessary for such service.5 Serjeanty was another form of military tenure. The services in this case consisted in certain personal services rendered to the king or lord. "Tenure by grand serjean-ty" was the term which designated the holdings of those who, in return for their lands, performed duties at the king's palace or in attendance on his person, such as to be a marshal, a chamberlain, or a butler.6 There were also petty serjeanties, those who held by this tenure being bound to do acts of the same nature as in the case of grand serjeanties, but the duties were not connected with the king's person or his palace. Instances of these services are to carry his letters in a certain district, or to provide a given number of arrows or other military supplies each year.7 Most of the lands owned by the church were held in "frankalmoigne," or free alms. The only services connected with this tenure were of a spiritual kind, such as prayers for the soul of the donor.8 Another kind of tenure was called "socage," or "free and common socage." Those who held in socage had to pay the lord a certain rent in the produceof the land,or to do certain defined work for him onhis other lands, or both, as the case might be.9 This is to be distinguished from the agricultural work required of those who held by villein tenure. Those holding in villeinage owed the lord a given num ber of days work each week, but what they were to do on those days the lord determined. The socage tenants, however, who owed services, owed so many days ploughing or reaping, and could not be made to do any other work. Those who held by villein tenure were for the most part serfs, or, at least, unfree men. Still, a free man might hold by this tenure and not lose his freedom.10 It must not be thought that the men holding by the various kinds of tenure which have been enumerated constituted distinct classes, because it was often the case that one man held land by a number of different tenures,-for instance, one parcel by knight's service and another parcel by socage.11 As time went on, the various kinds of services arising from tenure came to be regarded as due from the land, and not from the person holding the land. Thus, so many acres were bound to furnish one knight, or owed certain work to the lord; that is, tenure took on a real, rather than a personal, character.12 A further development occurred when the various services were commuted for money payments, called "scu-tage." These finally took the form of a rent.13 In later times socage tenures gained the ascendency, and military tenures were finally abolished in England.14 Tenure in villeinage became copyhold tenure, but this form never existed in this country.15

2 Co. Litt. l0sa. 3 Leake, Land, 17.

4 1 Pol. & M. Hist. Eng. Law, 210, 366; Dig. Hist. Real Prop. (4th Ed.) 34; 2 Bl. Comm. 59; Co. Litt la.

5 1 Pol. & M. Hist. Eng. Law, 230; Dig. Hist. Real Prop. (4th Ed.) 39, 61n, 135; 2 Bl. Comm. 62; Co. Litt. 103.

6 1 Pol. & M. Hist. Eng. Law, 262; Dig. Hist. Real Prop. (4th Ed.) 39; 2 Bl Comm. 73; Co. Litt. 105b.

7 1 Pol. & M. Hist. Eng. Law, 262; Dig. Hist. Real Prop. (4th Ed.) 49; 2 Bl. Comm. 74, 81; Co. Litt. 108a.

8 1 Pol. & M. Hist. Eng. Law, 218; Dig. Hist. Real Prop. (4th Ed.) 38; 2 Bl. Comm. 101; Co. Litt. 93b.

9 1 Pol. & M. Hist. Eng. Law, 271; Dig. Hist. Real Prop. (4th Ed.) 46; 2 Bl. Comm. 78; Co. Litt. 85a.