FELON AND FELONY. The etymology of the word felon has given rise to much difference of opinion. By the majority of the most reliable lexicographers, it is sup posed to have a common root with fail, and its original signification was supposed to be a vassal who failed in his fidelity or allegiance to his superior, thus committing an offense by which he forfeited his fee or feud. From this it came to signify traitorous or rebellious, and was gradually generalized till it reached its popular meaning of a crime of so heinous a nature as to infer a capital punishment.
The characteristic distinction of a felony, in the opinion of all legal'writers, is, that it is a crime which occasions the forfeiture of the offender's goods. "Felony," says Blackstone, " in the general acceptation of our English law, comprises every species of crime which occasioned at common law the forfeiture of lands and goods. Treason itself, says sir Edward Coke, was anciently comprised under the name of felony.. . . And not only all offenses now capital are in some degree or other felony,ibut. –many
other offenses not punishable with death, as suicide, manslaughter, and larceny, as they submit the committers of them to forfeitures." When a person is now convicted of fel ony, he does not forfeit any of his property; but he forfeits and is disqualified for any government or public office. The court may order him to pay all the costs incurred in procuring his conviction, as well as compensation to persons defrauded or injured by his felonious act. The crown may, during the sentence of imprisonment, or on the execution of the felon, appoint administrators to take possession of all his property, and hold it until the sentence expires, dealing with his affairs as if he were bankrupt, by paying his debts; and if there is a surplus, keeping or reassigning it for him or his heirs and representatives at the expiration of the sentence, 33 and 34 Vict. c. 23. Similar arrangements do not apply to Scotland.