LIBERTY. The general nature of a liberty, as a portion of the royal rreroga tive in the hands of a subject, has been already shown under FRANCHISE. Li berties were at first chiefly granted to monastic and other religious establish ments, to ease the consciences of the royal grantors, or in testimony of their devotion to the church ; and most of the ancient franchises now in existence are derived from an ecclesiastical source. , They were afterwards granted as means of strengthening municipal corporations.
Though all Liberties emanate from the royal prerogative, a distinction is usually made between such liberties as have been actually exercised by the crown before the grant to the subject, and such as are said to be created upon their being granted. The former, when by escheat, forfeiture, or otherwise, they come again to the crown, are extinguished by merg ing in the general prerogative, and cannot afterwards be regranted as existing fran chises; the latter still have continuance for the benefit of the crown or of any subsequent grantee. To the former class belong such privileges as the right to have the goods of felons, &c., waifs, estrays, deodands, and wreck, arising within the lands of the grantee ; to the latter, the return of writs ; the right of holding fairs and markets and taking the tolls, the right of holding a hundred court or a court-leet, the privileges of having a free-warren or a legal park, and the like; and in such cases the franchises, even whilst in the king's hands, are ex empt from the jurisdiction of the ordi nary officers of the crown, and are ad ministered by bailiffs or other special officers, as when in the hands of a sub ject.
It is, however, only in a very wide and loose sense that franchises of the latter class can be said to be part of the royal prerogative of the crown, inasmuch as the prerogative is limited to the creation of such franchises, and they can never be enjoyed by the crown except as claiming them under a subject to whom they have been granted.
The fines paid to the crown for grants or confirmations of liberties are shown by Madox to have formed no inconsiderable part of the royal revenue. In his 'His
tory of the Exchequer' he quotes the particulars of about 200 liberties, granted principally by King John. The men of Cornwall fine in 2000 marks and 200 marks for 20 palfreys estimated at 10 marks each, for a charter for disafforest ing the county and choosing their own sheriffs. The men of Brough fine in 20 marks and 5 marks for a palfrey, for a market on Sunday, and a fair for two days. The men of Launceston fine in 5 marks for changing their market from Sunday to Thursday. The burgesses of Shrewsbury fine in 20 marks and 1 pal frey that no one shall buy within the borough new skins or undressed cloth. unless he be in lot (in lotto), and assessed and taxed with the burgesses.
Many of these franchises having been found to interfere with the administration of justice, the extension of them by fresh grants was frequently the subject of very loud complaints on the part of the com mons in parliament, who represented them as prejudicial to the crown, an im pediment to justice, and a damage to the people. It appears by the Parliament Roll, that Edward I., towards the close of his reign (in 1306), declared that after the grant which he had made to the Earl of Lincoln for his life, of the return of writs within two hundreds, he would not grant a similar franchise as long as he lived to any except his own children, and directed that the declaration should be written in the Chancery, the Gardrobe, and the Exchequer. And in 1347 Ed ward III., in answer to a strong remon strance, promised that such grants should not in future be made without good advice.
The form in which the crown granted views of frankpledge [Lem] and other franchises may be seen in the charters granted by King Henry VI. to Eton Col lege, and King's College, Cambridge. (5 Rot. Parl., 51, 97.) A person exercising a franchise to which he has not a legal title may be called upon to show cause by what autho rity he does so, by a writ of Quo-war ranto, or an information in the nature of a Quo-warranto. And parties disturbed in the lawful exercise of a franchise may recover damages against the disturber in an action on the case.