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Leet

called, tithing, hundred, court, court-leet, public, name, sometimes, private and county

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LEET is the district subject to the jurisdiction of a court-leet. Sometimes the term is used to denote the court itself, the full style of which is " Court-Leet and view of Frank-pledge." Each of these titles is frequently used alone ; but the omission does not affect the character or the jurisdiction of the court. The court-leet is also called a law-day, as being the ordinary tribunal.

One of the least improbable derivations of the word "legit" is that which deduces lath and left from the Anglo-Saxon " lathian," or " gelathian." to assemble, both lath and legit indicating a district within which the free male resiants (re sidents) assembled at stated times for preparation for military defence, and for purposes of police and criminal juris diction. Of the first of these objects scarcely any trace exists in the modern leet. The title of the court as a" view of Frank-pledge" points to its former im portance, under the system of police in troduced or perfected by King Alfred, which required that all freemen above twelve years of age should be received into a deconna, dizein, decennary, or tithing, sometimes called a visne, or neighbourhood, and in Yorkshire and other parts of the north, ten-men-tale (a number, tale, or tally of ten men), and forming a society of not less than ten fri borgs, or freeborrows, freemen, each of whom was to be borhoe, that is, pledge or security for the good conduct of the others.

When a person was accused of a crime, his tithing was to produce him within thirty-one days, or pay the legal mulct for the offence, unless they proved on oath that no others of the tithing were implicated in the crime, and engaged to produce him as soon as he could be found. For great crimes the offender was ex pelled from the tithing, upon which he became an outlaw.

The duty of inspecting a decennary or tithing was called a View of Frank-pledge, the freeborrows having received from their Norman conquerors the designation well known in Normandy of frank pledges. The principal or eldest of these freeborrows, and as such the person first sworn, who was denominated sometimes the tithing-man or tithing-bead, some times the headborough or chief-pledge, sometimes the borsholder or borsalder (borhes-alder, or senior or ruler of the pledges), and sometimes the reeve, was especially responsible for the good con duct of each of his co-pledges, and ap pears to have had an authority analogous to that still exercised by the constable, an officer elected by the resiants for the pre servation of the peace within the district that constitutes the ieet, tithing, or con stablewick. This cfficer is in many places called the headborough, which designation, as well as those of borsholder and tithing-man, is frequently used by the legislature as synonymous with that of constable. It is probable that all the frank-pledges were numbered according to rank or seniority, as in places where more than two constables are required the third officer is called the thirdborough. Blackstone, misled by the sound, supposes headborough to be the chief person or head of a town or borough. The true derivation will remind the readers of Hudibras ' of the " wooden bastile " (stocks), which " None are able to break thorough, Until they're freed by head of borough." The Holkham MS. of the Anglo-Saxon customary law says :—" A tithing (there called decimatio) contains, according to local usage, ten, seventy, or eighty men, who are all bound (debent) to be pledges (fidejussores) for each other. So that if any of them be accused (calumpuiam patitur), the rest must produce him in court, and if he deny the offence, he is to have lawful purgation by the tithing (i.e. by their swearing to their belief of his innocence). A tithing is in some places called a ward, as forming one society, subject to observation or inspection within a town or hundred. Iu some places it is called bomb,' that is, pledges, for the reasons above stated. In others it is called tithing (in the original decimatio), because it ought to contain ten persons at the least."

Leets are either public or private. The Public Leet is an assembly held in each of the larger divisions of the county, called a hundred, at which all freemen who are resiants within the hundred are bound to attend in person or by their representatives. These representatives were the reeves or chiefs of their re spective tithings, whether designated by that or by any of the other appellations, each of whom was accompanied by four good and lawful men ot; and elected by, the tithing which deputed them. This public court-leet was held formerly by the royal governor of the county, the ealdorman of the Saxons, the earl of the Danes, the comes or count of the Nor mans. This great functionary was ac companied by the shire-reeve, an officer elected by the county to collect the king's rents and the other branches of the royal revenue, who, in the absence of the eal dorman, presided in the court, and go verned the county as his deputy, whence he is called by the Normans a vice-comes or vicount, though in English he re tained the name of shire-reeve or sheriffi the designation connected with his ori ginal and more humble duties. This public court, which was originally called the folkmote, being held successively in each hundred in the course of a circuit performed by the sheriff; acquired the name of the sheriffs tourn, by which name, though itself a court-leet, it is now distinguished from inferior private leets. The court-leets appear to have been created by grants from the crown, ob tained by the owners of extensive do mains (which afterwards became manors), and most frequently by religious houses, for the purpose of relieving their tenants and those who resided upon their lands from the obligation of attending the tourn or leet of the hundred, by providing a domestic tribunal, before which the resi ants might take the oath of allegiance and the frank-pledges might be inspected, without the trouble of attending the burn, and to which, as an apparently necessary consequence, the criminal ju risdiction of the precinct or district was immediately transferred. In these pri vate leets the grantee, called the lord of the leet, performed the duties which, in the public lest or tourn, after the ealdor man or earl had permanently absented himself, fell upon the sheriff. Their duties he might perform either personally or by his steward. As a compensation for this, and his trouble in obtaining the franchise, it appears to have been the practice of the great landowner, who by his money and his influence had procured the grant of a private leet, to claim from resiants a certain small annual payment by the name of cerium letke. The tenants within the precincts of a private leet, whether in boroughs, towns, or manors, formed a body politic wholly independent of the tourn or leet of the hundred ; whilst such upland or unprivileged towns as had not been formed into or included within any private leet, still appeared, each by its tithing-man and reeve, and four men of the tithing, and formed part of the body politic of the hundred. Each of these communities appears to have exercised most of those rights which it has of late years been supposed could not exist without a royal incorporation. In many cities and boroughs the ancient authority of the court-leet was in later times superseded by charter of incor poration, in some of which the popular election of magistrates was preserved entire ; whilst in the great majority of cases, the right, though continued in name, was fettered, if not rendered alto gether nugatory, by restrictions of various characters and degrees, which are still to be seen in incorporated boroughs not regulated by the Municipal Corporations Act. In other respects, the course pre scribed by these charters was adapted to the changes which had taken place in the habits of the people since the institution of the court-lest. Many of the functions of the magistrates in the new incorpora tions were borrowed from the then com paratively recent institution of justices of the peace.

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