FEUDAL SYSTEM. By some, the word feu or feud, of which feudal is the adjec tive, is derived from the Lat. fides, faith, and ead or odh, or od, a Teutonic word signifying a property, or estate, in land ; whilst by others; with perhaps greater proba bility, thefirst syllable also is maintained to be Teutonic, equivalent to vieh, cattle, ulti mately from the same root with the Latin pecus, which, in the form of petunia, came to signify property, and its representative, money—because, as Varro remarks, property amongst pastoral nations consisted of cattle (Varr., De Lingua Latina, 5, 19, s. 95, ed. MUll). feudum, in this sense, would be a piece of land held for a fee, or pecuniary .consideration, using pecuniary in the wide sense which its etymology suggests. Be this as it may, the feudal system, as a developed .institution, belonged neither to the Teutonic nor to the Romanic nations, in their original and unmixed condition. We find it neither in the woods of Germany, nor in the Roman empire previous to the incursions of the Franks and Lombards. Neither the institutions described by Tacitus, nor those with which the Roman jurists have rendered us familiar, exhibit anything that is even anal ogous to it as a whole. But they each exhibit partial indications of some of the character istics which most peculiarly distinguish it; and as it arose about the beginning of the 9th c., just when the fusion between the conquering barbarians and the subject popu lations of the Romanized provinces was everywhere taking place, it seems impossible to doubt that it was a result of the mutual influence of the two races. The subordination •of class to class, and the intimate relations by which all the classes of the community were bound together, taken along with the independence and equality of the individual members of each class within itself, were amongst the most prominent features of the simple society of the Teutonic nations ; and these correspond with wonderful :1‘ .curacy to the relations of superior and vassal, beginning with the sovereign and de,c( 1. .;t1g. to the smallest feudal proprietor, and also with the equality amongst peers, which existed within each of the feudal classes. On the other hand, the incomplete and fiduciary character of the proprietorship implied in a feu, as held in trust from a superior on the faith of services to be rendered, or dues to be paid, bore a very close analogy to the Roman emphyteusis (from which indeed the word feu has often been derived), and to the daminium, utile as opposed to the dominium directum. See DOMINIUM and EMPHY TEUSIS.
The nature of this very important social institution, by which the life of every Euro pean people of any importance was governed from the beginning of the 9th till the close of the 13th c., and by which many of the forms of our modern life are still affected, will probably be more clearly understood if we commence our description of it from below, by exhibiting the position of the simple land-holder, than by adopting the mon arch in whom it culminated, and from whom, in a technical sense, it was supposed to flow (see ALLODIAL), as our point of departure. The latter course has been more strictly adhered to by English writers, from the circumstance that, subsequent to the conquest,. the whole territory of England was regarded as the property of the conqueror, and was by him divided amongst his barons, and by them amongst their dependents, an arrange ment which was somewhat peculiar to England (see ALLODIAL), whereas the feudal system, in its essentials, was common to the whole of Europe. A feudal proprietor, then, or feudatory, was a person who held his lands from another, for his own life-time merely, in'the earlier times, on condition of certain services which he was to perform to a superior or suzerain. Apart from the duties to which he was thus bound, he was not only a free man, but his position was that almost of an independent sovereign within his own small dominions. If his holding was at all an extensive one, he lived in a •castle, which, notwithstanding the efforts of Charlemagne and his successors to prevent it, was generally fortified, not only for purposes of defense, but to enable him to pur sue that life of rapine which in lawless times was not considered inconsistent with hon esty or personal worth. For greater security, the castle was generally situated on a height, and under its walls there nestled a village, in which all the dependents of the proprietor, with the exception of his immediate family, and all those who lived by the 'cultivation of the sail, usually dwelt—isolated farm•houses and cottages being too much •exposed to plunder to admit of their being scattered over the country then, as we see them in England now. A portion of the inhabitants of each feudal domain were usually bound to the soil, and were thus subject to a Species of slavery, the conditions of which varied according to the customs of different districts, These were spoken of as adseripti or adscriptitii glebai, and were called natiri, or bond-men, and villein.-soemen, as opposed to free soc-men on the one hand and serfs or themes on the other, of whose position we shall speak below. (Stephen's Cora. i, p. 188.) " He was," says sir Francis Palgrave, speaking of the ceorl, " a villain appurtenant; and, notwithstanding the language which was employed (to the effect, namely, that he could be bequeathed, bought, and sold), it must be'understood that the gift, the bequest, or the sale, was in effect the disposition of the laud and of the coon], and of the services which the ceorl performed for the land, a transaction widely differing from the transfer of a slave, whose person is the subject of the purchase." (Rise and Progress of the English Commonwealth, vol. i. p. 18.) The
ceorl, moreover, could purchase his own freedom and that of his wife and offspring(8.). See VILLEM. The rest were free tenants, farmers in the modern sense, though per sonal services to the proprietor probably' in almost every case constituted a portion of the rent which was paid, Latterly, when the system of subinfeudation was introduced, many of his wealthier tenants came to stand to the baron, or lord of the domain, very much in the relation which we are about to describe as subsisting between him and his lord paramount. From being tenants:at-will, scarcely less subject to his authority and exposed to his caprices than the thralls, or villeins of the lowest class, they became vassals of their lord, and free citizens of what thus gradually developed itself into a feudal monarchy in miniature. The tenure by which this latter class held their lands was generally known in England as free socage (Stephen's la sup. i. 205 et seq.). The castles by which the banks of the Rhine are studded along its whole course, from Bonn to Bingen, with their villages and parish churches, for the most part in the condition in which they were erected centuries ago, afford the most numerous and perfect examples of the arrangements of the feudal period which are perhaps anywhere to be met with. The possessors of these castles stood in a magisterial as well as a proprietary relation to their dependents. They exercised jurisdiction, extending even to the infliction of capi tal punishment, either in person or by means of officers whom they appointed for the purpose; and the castle was in general furnished with dungeons and other appliances for carrying their sentences into execution, Towards each other they stood in the rela tion of equals, or peers (Lat. pares); they were neighbors, simply, and friends or enemies as the case might be—too often the latter. But towards their immediate feudal superior, the count, marquis, duke, or whatever might be his title, to whom thegovernment of the whole district belonged, they all stood in a relation which brought them in contact, and in some degree bound them to each other. Of him they held their lauds on conditions somewhat similar to those on which they let them out to their own dependents. At first, as we have said, they were only tenants for life; but their rights in most countries very early assumed a hereditary character, the dominant proprietor's rights, on the death of a tenant, being confined to the exaction of certain dues from his son and successor, as a consideration for conferring on him; or rather for confirming to him, the feu which his father had held. Where the feu, fief or feoff, as it was sometimes called from the mode of admission—feoffment, or as it is said in Scotland, infeftment (q.v.)—descended to a female, the dominant pro prietor was entitled to control her marriage, for the purpose of procuring himself a sufficient and trustworthy vassal; a privilege which, like all those of the lord, was lat terly converted into a mere pecuniary claim. When the lord paramount, or suzerain, as he was called,'held his court of justice, his vassal barons were the judges, being all on a footing of equality, or pares eurice, as it was called. When he made war, either on his own account, or as furnishing a contingent to the army of the state, in such cases as in the national wars between France and England in the 12th and 13th centuries— which were the earliest instances of really national wars—his vassals were bound to attend him iu person, and to furnish each the contribution of men, horses, arms, and other materials of war for which he was liable by the tenure on which he held his lands. In addition to these services, lie was bound to watch and ward his castle, a duty which the minor barons almost invariably imposed on their vassals when the system of grant ing fens extended downwards to the class of persons who had formerly been mere tenants-at-will, Then there were certain dues which were almost always exigible from the vassal, such, e.g., as contributions towards providing a ransom for his lord when in captivity, for enabling him to celebrate the marriage of his eldest son with due pomp, or to provide a suitable dowry for his daughter. If these dues were not paid, the land reverted to the dominant proprietor, in relation to whom the vassal all along was a mere usufructuary. So far were the conditions of ,feudal holdings from being always the same, that no less than eighty different tenures have been enumerated; the onerous character of which varied from what was merely nominal, e.g., the payment of a white rose or a pair of spurs, "if asked merely," up to what was a rent in some degree equivalent to the value of the land. For an account of the manner in which the feudal system affected the constitution of land rights and the conveyance of landed property, and still affects them, see CONVEYANCING.