Under what circumstances did feudal rulers grant land to someone new?

Under what circumstances did feudal rulers grant land to someone new?

From wikipedia:

A fief (/fiːf/; Latin: feudum) was the central element of feudalism and consisted of heritable property or rights granted by an overlord to a vassal who held it in fealty (or "in fee") in return for a form of feudal allegiance and service, usually given by the personal ceremonies of homage and fealty.

In feudalism, a fief generally passes to the son of the previous ruler.

In practice, kings would break this custom from time to time, and grant the fief to someone who was not the heir of the previous lord. I realize that taking lands away from a powerful lord is likely to start a civil war, and would only be done for a good reason, or in extraordinary circumstances. What were these circumstances?

When and why did historical kings grant lands and titles to someone new?

Good answers will cite their sources and be supported by specific examples.

Henry the Lion (a Guelf) was the most powerful duke in the Holy Roman Empire, only second to the emperor himself. His downfall lastet from 1077-1081, when he was convicted of high treason against the emperor Barbarossa (Frederic I) and had in a court process his feudal lands greatly diminished; his imperial fiefdoms were all confiscated.

The exact details as to "why" are a bit unclear. Fred and Henry were said to be friends and had a fallout. That Henry refused to follow him into battle seems to be the case. Official documents filed against Henry speak of gross misconduct and treason, against the emperor, the church and the people. Later historiographies paint more the picture of a grand conspiracy against Henry, led by rival aristocrats.

But Otto was not only loyal to Frederic but for a time also to Henry, but my teacher's rumor has it that Otto was also one of the main plotters. The Kaiser might just have been interested in 'orderly' affairs and 'power distribution' - after Henry becoming so powerful so that his family might be a threat to his own - to the second in line of office seniority. (Graham A. Loud & Jochen Schenk: "The Origins of the German Principalities, 1100-1350: Essays by German Historians", Routledge: Abingdon, New York, 2017, p54f.) It is often said that Henry was also quite unpopular with the other aristocrats under him in Bavaria.

Subsequently Westphalia and Bavaria were re-distributed and the former tribal duchy of Saxony split up.

This marks the rise of the house of Wittelsbach which ruled in Bavaria until 1918 (succession for the fiefdom much better explained in German Wikipedia). The biggest chunk of land taken from Henry was awarded to Otto I of Bavaria.

The arch bishop of Cologne Philipp received from the western part of Saxony the newly created Duchy of Westphalia, the biggest part of eastern Saxony went to Bernhard of House Ascania who became the Duke of Saxony. Styria went to Ottokar IV..

As the emperor taketh so the emperor giveth, after Henry and Frederic's family were reconciled some much smaller fiefdoms were granted again to the Guelf family.

This is partly illustrated for Saxony in before: and after:

In 1553 John Dudley, 1st Duke of Northumberland, was executed for treason, with (Most? All? It's a little hard to trace.) his estate vacated to the crown.

In 1572 the 4th Duke of Norfolk, Thomas Howard, was executed for treason and his lands and titles escheated to the crown. Much of this estate was later restored to his sons, and the title restored some generations after that to a descendant.


Feudalism, also known as the feudal system, is a historiographical term used to describe the combination of the legal, economic, military, and cultural customs that flourished in Medieval Europe between the 9th and 15th centuries. Broadly defined, it was a way of structuring society around relationships that were derived from the holding of land in exchange for service or labor. Although it is derived from the Latin word feodum or feudum (fief), [1] which was used during the Medieval period, the term feudalism and the system which it describes were not conceived of as a formal political system by the people who lived during the Middle Ages. [2] The classic definition, by François-Louis Ganshof (1944), [3] describes a set of reciprocal legal and military obligations which existed among the warrior nobility and revolved around the three key concepts of lords, vassals and fiefs. [3]

A broader definition of feudalism, as described by Marc Bloch (1939), includes not only the obligations of the warrior nobility but the obligations of all three estates of the realm: the nobility, the clergy, and the peasantry, all of whom were bound by a system of manorialism this is sometimes referred to as a "feudal society". Since the publication of Elizabeth A. R. Brown's "The Tyranny of a Construct" (1974) and Susan Reynolds's Fiefs and Vassals (1994), there has been ongoing inconclusive discussion among medieval historians as to whether feudalism is a useful construct for understanding medieval society. [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9]

Feudal land tenure

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Feudal land tenure, system by which land was held by tenants from lords. As developed in medieval England and France, the king was lord paramount with numerous levels of lesser lords down to the occupying tenant.

Tenures were divided into free and unfree. Of the free tenures, the first was tenure in chivalry, principally grand sergeanty and knight service. The former obliged the tenant to perform some honourable and often personal service knight service entailed performing military duties for the king or other lord, though by the middle of the 12th century such service was usually commuted for a payment called scutage. Another type of free tenure was socage, primarily customary socage, the principal service of which was usually agricultural in nature, such as performing so many days’ plowing each year for the lord. In addition to the principal service, all these tenures were subject to a number of conditions, such as relief, the payment made on transfer of a fief to an heir, and escheat, the return of the fief to the lord when the vassal died without an heir. Chivalric tenures were also subject to wardship, the guardianship of a fief of a minor, and marriage, payment made in lieu of marriage of the vassal’s daughter to the lord.

Another form of free tenure was the spiritual tenure of bishops or monasteries, their sole obligation being to pray for the souls of the grantor and his heirs. Some ecclesiastics also held temporal lands for which they performed the required services.

The main type of unfree tenancy was villenage, initially a modified form of servitude. Whereas the mark of free tenants was that their services were always predetermined, in unfree tenure they were not the unfree tenant never knew what he might be called to do for his lord. Although at first the villein tenant held his land entirely at the will of the lord and might be ejected at any time, the royal courts later protected him to the extent that he held tenancy at the will of the lord and according to the custom of the manor, so that he could not be ejected in breach of existing customs. Moreover, an unfree tenant could not leave without his lord’s approval. Tenure in villenage in England then became known as copyhold tenure (abolished after 1925), in which the holder was personally free and paid rent in lieu of services.

Establishing Order

By the High Middle Ages (about 1000 C.E.), Europeans had developed the system of feudalism. Feudalism provided people with protection and safety by establishing a stable social order.

Under this system, people were bound to one another by promises of loyalty. In theory, all the land in the kingdom belonged to the monarch (usually a king, but sometimes a queen). A great deal of land was also owned by the Church. The king kept some land for himself and gave fiefs (FEEFS), or land grants, to his most important lords, who became his vassals. In return, each lord promised to supply the king with knights in times of war. A lord then enlisted lesser lords and knights as his vassals. Often, these arrangements were written down. Many of these contracts survive to this day in museums.

At the bottom of the social system were peasants. Lords rented some of their land to the peasants who worked for them. However, some peasants, called serfs, were “tied” to the land they worked. They could not leave the lord’s land without permission, and they had to farm his fields in exchange for a small plot of their own.

Most lords and wealthier knights lived on manors, or large estates. A manor included a castle or manor house, one or more villages, and the surrounding farmland. Manors were in the country, far from towns. That meant the peasants had to produce everything the people on the manor needed. Only a few goods came from outside the manor, such as salt for preserving meat and iron for making tools.

During the Middle Ages, people were born into a social class for life. They had the same social position, and often the same job, as their parents. Let’s take a closer look at the social classes in feudal society.

Feudalism and Knights

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Feudalism and Medieval life

The social structure of the Middle Ages was organized round the system of Feudalism. Feudalism in practice meant that the country was not governed by the king but by individual lords, or barons, who administered their own estates, dispensed their own justice, minted their own money, levied taxes and tolls, and demanded military service from vassals.

Usually, the lords could field greater armies than the king. In theory, the king was the chief feudal lord, but in reality, the individual lords were supreme in their own territory. Many kings were little more than figurehead rulers.

Feudal Ties
Feudalism was built upon a relationship of obligation and mutual service between vassals and lords. A vassal held his land, or fief, as a grant from a lord. When a vassal died, his heir was required to publicly renew his oath of faithfulness (fealty) to his lord (suzerain). This public oath was called "homage".

A Vassal's Obligations
The vassal was required to attend the lord at his court, help administer justice, and contribute money if needed. He must answer a summons to battle, bringing an agreed-upon number of fighting men. As well, he must feed and house the lord and his company when they travelled across his land.

This last obligation could be an onerous one. William the Conqueror travelled with a very large household, and if they extended their stay it could nearly bankrupt the lord hosting them. In a few days of Christmas feasting one year, William and his retinue consumed 6,000 chickens, 1,000 rabbits, 90 boars, 50 peacocks, 200 geese, 10,000 eels, thousands of eggs and loaves of bread, and hundreds of casks of wine and cider.

A Lord's Obligations
On the lord's side, he was obliged to protect the vassal, give military aid, and guard his children. If a daughter inherited, the lord arranged her marriage. If there were no heirs the lord disposed of the fief as he chose.

Manors, not villages, were the economic and social units of life in the early Middle Ages. A manor consisted of a manor house, one or more villages, and up to several thousand acres of land divided into meadow, pasture, forest, and cultivated fields.

The fields were further divided into strips 1/3 for the lord of the manor, less for the church, and the remainder for the peasants and serfs. This land was shared out so that each person had an equal share of good and poor.

At least half the work week was spent on the land belonging to the lord and the church. Time might also be spent doing maintenance and on special projects such as clearing land, cutting firewood, and building roads and bridges. The rest of the time the villagers were free to work their own land.

Food and Drink
The fare at the lord's table was as full of variety as the peasant's was spare. Meat, fish, pastries, cabbage, turnips, onions, carrots, beans, and peas were common, as well as fresh bread, cheese, and fruit. At a feast, spitted boar, roast swan, or peacock might be added.

Wine or ale was drunk, never water, which was rightly considered suspect. Ale was the most common drink, but it was not the heady alcoholic drink we might imagine. It was thin, weak, and drunk soon after brewing. It must have had little effect on sobriety. Fruit juices and honey were the only sweeteners, and spices were almost unknown until after the Crusades.

Table Manners
Meat was cut with daggers and all eating was done with the fingers from trenchers (hollowed-out husks of bread). One trencher was used by two people, and one drinking cup. Scraps were thrown on the floor for the dogs to finish. There were no chimneys, and the fireplace was in the middle of the hall. Smoke escaped by the way of louvres in the roof (at least in theory).

House Layout
In the early medieval period the centre of life in castles and manors was the great hall, a huge, multipurpose chamber safely built upon the second floor. These halls were dimly lit, due to the need for massive walls with small windows for defence from attack.

In the 14th century the hall descended to the ground floor, and windows grew in size, indicating increased security. The solar, or family room, remained on the first floor

It became the custom for the family to eat in the solar, leaving the great hall to minor guests and servants. Hall life decreased as trade increased. Trades specialized and tradesmen and women moved out of the hall. The communal life of the hall declined and families became more private. Manors sustained fewer people as trades separated from the manor community.

The Peasant's Life
Villages consisted of from 10-60 families living in rough huts on dirt floors, with no chimneys or windows. Often, one end of the hut was given over to storing livestock. Furnishings were sparse three-legged stools, a trestle table, beds on the floor softened with straw or leaves.

The peasant diet was mainly porridge, cheese, black bread, and a few home-grown vegetables. Peasants had a hard life, but they did not work on Sundays or on the frequent saints' days, and they could go to nearby fairs and markets. The lot of serfs was much harsher.

The Serf's Life
Although not technically a slave, a serf was bound to a lord for life. He could own no property and needed the lord's permission to marry. Under no circumstance could a serf leave the land without the lord's permission unless he chose to run away. If he ran to a town and managed to stay there for a year and a day, he was a free man.

However, the serf did have rights. He could not be displaced if the manor changed hands. He could not be required to fight, and he was entitled to the protection of the lord.


Feudalism flourished between the tenth and thirteenth centuries in western Europe. At its core, it was an agreement between a lord and a vassal. A person became a vassal by pledging political allegiance and providing military, political, and financial service to a lord. A lord possessed complete sovereignty over land, or acted in the service of another sovereign, usually a king. If a lord acted in the service of a king, the lord was considered a vassal of the king.

As part of the feudal agreement, the lord promised to protect the vassal and provided the vassal with a plot of land. This land could be passed on to the vassal's heirs, giving the vassal tenure over the land. The vassal was also vested with the power to lease the land to others for profit, a practice known as subinfeudation. The entire agreement was called a fief, and a lord's collection of fiefs was called a fiefdom.

The feudal bond was thus a combination of two key elements: fealty, or an oath of allegiance and pledge of service to the lord, and homage, or an Acknowledgment by the lord of the vassal's tenure. The arrangement was not forced on the vassal it was profitable for the vassal and made on mutual consent, and it fostered the allegiance necessary for royal control of distant lands.

The bond between a lord and a vassal was made in a ceremony that served to solemnize the fief. The vassal knelt before the lord and placed his hands between those of the lord as a sign of subordination. Immediately afterward, the lord raised the vassal to his feet and kissed him on the mouth to symbolize their social equality. The vassal then recited a predetermined oath of fealty, and the lord conveyed a plot of land to the vassal.

In the seventeenth century, more than three centuries after the death of this particular social practice, English scholars began to use the term feudalism to describe it. The word was derived by English scholars from foedum, the Latin form of fief. The meaning of feudalism has expanded since the seventeenth century, and it now commonly describes servitude and hierarchical oppression. However, feudalism is best understood as an initial stage in a social progression leading to private ownership of land and the creation of different estates, or interests in land.

Before feudalism, the European population consisted only of wealthy nobility and poor peasants. Little incentive existed for personal loyalty to sovereign rulers. Land was owned outright by nobility, and those who held land for lords held it purely at the lords' will. Nevertheless, the feudal framework was preceded by similar systems, so its exact origin is disputed by scholars. Ancient Romans, and Germanic tribes in the eighth century, gave land to warriors, but unlike land grants under feudalism, these were not hereditary.

In the early ninth century, control of Europe was largely under the rule of one man, Emperor Charlemagne (771�). After Charlemagne's death, his descendants warred over land ownership, and Europe fell apart into thousands of seigniories, or kingdoms run by a sovereign lord. Men in the military service of lords began to press for support in the late ninth century, especially in France. Lords acquiesced, realizing the importance of a faithful military.

Military men, or knights, began to receive land, along with peasants for farmwork. Eventually, knights demanded that their estates be hereditary. Other persons in the professional service of royalty also began to demand and receive hereditary fiefs, and thus began the reign of feudalism.

In 1066, William the Conqueror invaded England from France and spread the feudal framework across the land. The feudal relationship between lord and vassal became the linchpin of English society. To become a vassal was no disgrace. Vassals held an overall status superior to that of peasants and were considered equal to lords in social status. They took leadership positions in their locality and also served as advisers for lords in feudal courts.

The price of a vassal's power was allegiance to the lord, or fealty. Fealty carried with it an obligation of service, the most common form being knight service. A vassal under knight service was obliged to defend the fief from invasion and fight for a specified number of days in an offensive war. In wartime, knight service also called for guard duty at the lord's castle for a specified period of time. In lieu of military service, some vassals were given socage, or tenure in exchange for the performance of a variety of duties. These duties were usually agricultural, but they could take on other forms, such as personal attendance to the lord. Other vassals were given scutage, in which the vassal agreed to pay money in lieu of military service. Priests received still other forms of tenure in exchange for their religious services.

A lord also enjoyed incidental benefits and rights in connection with a fief. For example, when a vassal died, the lord was entitled to a large sum of money from the vassal's heirs. If the heir was a minor, the lord could sell or give away custody of the land and enjoy its profits until the heir came of age. A lord also had the right to reject the marriage of an heiress to a fief if he did not want the husband as his vassal. This kind of family involvement by the lord made the feudal relationship intimate and complex.

The relationship between a lord and a vassal depended on mutual respect. If the vassal refused to perform services or somehow impaired the lord's interests, the lord could file suit against the vassal in feudal court to deprive him of his fief. At the same time, the lord was expected to treat the vassal with dignity, and to refrain from making unjust demands on the vassal. If the lord abused the vassal, the vassal could break faith with the lord and offer his services to another lord, preferably one who could protect the vassal against the wrath of the defied lord.

Predictably, the relationship between lord and vassal became a struggle for a reduction in the services required by the fief. Lords, as vassals of the king, joined their own vassals in revolt against the high cost of the feudal arrangement. In England, this struggle culminated in the Magna Charta, a constitutional document sealed by King John (1199�) in 1215 that signaled the beginning of the end for feudalism. The Magna Charta, forced on King John by his lords, contained 38 chapters outlining demands for liberty from the Crown, including limitations on the rights of the Crown over land.

Other circumstances also contributed to the decline of feudalism. As time passed, the power of organized religion increased, and religious leaders pressed for freedom from their service to lords and kings. At the same time, the development of an economic wealth apart from land led to the rise of a bourgeoisie, or middle class. The middle class established independent cities in Europe, which funded their military with taxes, not land-based feudal bonds. Royal sovereigns and cities began to establish parliamentary governments that made laws to replace the various rules attached to the feudal bond, and feudal courts lost jurisdiction to royal or municipal courts. By the fourteenth century, the peculiar arrangement known as feudalism was obsolete.

Feudalism is often confused with manorialism, but the two should be kept separate. Manorialism was another system of land use practiced in medieval Europe. Under it, peasants worked and lived on a lord's land, called a manor. The peasants could not inherit the land, and the lord owed them nothing beyond protection and maintenance.

Feudalism should also be distinguished from the general brutality and oppression of medieval Europe. The popular understanding of feudalism often equates the bloody conquests of the medieval period (500�) with feudalism because feudalism was a predominant social framework for much of the period. However, feudalism was a relatively civil arrangement in an especially vicious time and place in history. The relationship of a vassal to a lord was servile, but it was also based on mutual respect, and feudalism stands as the first systematic, voluntary sale of inheritable land.

The remains of feudalism can be found in contemporary law regarding land. For example, a rental agreement is made between a landlord and a tenant, whose business relationship echoes that of a lord and a vassal. State property taxes on landowners resemble the services required of a vassal, and like the old feudal lords, state governments may take possession of land when a landowner dies with no will or heirs.

Further readings

Amt, Emilie, ed. 2000. Medieval England 1000�: A Reader. Orchard Park, N.Y.: Broadview Press.

Boureau, Alain. Lydia G. Cochrane, trans. 1998. The Lord's First Night: The Myth of the Droit de Cuissage. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

Chen, Jim, and Edward S. Adams. 1997. "Feudalism Unmodified: Discourses on Farms and Firms." Drake Law Review 45 (March): 361�.

Dunbabin, Jean. 2000. France in the Making: 843�. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

Ganshof, F.L. 1996. Feudalism. Toronto, Buffalo: Univ. of Toronto Press in Association with the Medieval Academy of America.

Hoyt, Robert S., and Stanley Chodorow. 1976. Europe in the Middle Ages. 3d ed. New York: Harcourt Brace, Jovanovich.

Lazarus, Richard J. 1992. "Debunking Environmental Feudalism: Promoting the Individual through the Collective Pursuit of Environmental Quality." Iowa Law Review 77.

History of the Status of Europe in 1815

The view of Dr. David Thomson is that the Continent of Europe in 1815 was not a mere geographical expression.

It was also not a community of peoples with enough in common to justify our regarding Europe as an organic entity, sharing a culture, an economy, a complex of traditions which made it in a real sense one.

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Neither of the two views is accurate. Each view is flat and distorted. Just as nineteenth century diplomats thought of a balance of power in Europe which, by holding certain equilibrium between the largest states, allowed all states to co-exist peacefully, similarly we may picture the cohesion of Europe as being compatible with its great diversities by a sort of internal balance of forces.

In some important respects, it was one. In other equally important respects, it was many things. From the tensions between these two contrary qualities came much of that inherent impetus to development, change and greatness which made Europe the most important and dynamic Continent in the world during the nineteenth century. There existed within Europe tension between the forces of continuity and forces of change.

The former included the institutions of monarchy, church, land-owning aristocracy and a widespread desire for peace and stability. The latter included the rapid growth of population, spread of industrialism and urban life, the ferment of nationalism and political ideas disseminated throughout Europe by the French Revolution and the conquests of Napoleon.

  1. The Roman Catholic Church in 1818
  2. Forces of Continuity: Monarchy
  3. The Church
  4. The Landed Aristocracy
  5. Popularity of Peace
  6. Forces of Change: Growth of Population:
  7. Industrialism and Urbanism
  8. Nationalism
  9. Liberalism
  10. Democracy
  11. Socialism

1. The Roman Catholic Church in 1818:

The Roman Catholic Church emerged in 1815 as a militant and powerful force transcending state frontiers. The Pope claimed the loyalty of millions of men and women in every European state. The landed aristocracy cherished their feudal rights of administering justice and exacting dues from their vassals in Austria and Russia. They clamoured for the restoration of those rights in France and Germany.

The economy of every European country still rested on the labours of peasants in the fields. The peasantry was the mass of the population. Except in parts of North-Western Europe, they worked the land using methods and tools not different from those used by their medieval ancestors.

Much of the political history of the nineteenth century is concerned with the activities of the non-peasant section of the population. In Western Europe, some peasants were now rapidly improving their social and legal status. They were improving their economic status by new methods of farming. Peasants in Eastern Europe made very little advance during the nineteenth century.

Behind the patchwork political map, there existed a general monarchical dynastic system which reduced conflicts between states to simple categories of rivalries between a few large families. The Bourbons of France and the Habsburgs of Austria provided most of the states of Europe with their ruling monarchs.

This “cousinhood of kings” remained an important factor in European diplomacy even in 1815. There were no dynastic wars, but there were dynastic alliances, marriages, disputes and wars. In Eastern Europe were the Habsburg Empire, the Russian Empire and the Ottoman Empire.

The United Kingdom had her link with Hanover till 1837. It is said that when Queen Victoria celebrated the fiftieth year of her reign, most of the rulers of Europe who attended the Golden Jubilee were related to her.

From the time of Louis XIV, French had replaced Latin as the normal language of diplomacy. Likewise, the rationalism of French thought conquered the minds of Europe. Englishmen such as Gibbon, the great historian and Bentham wrote and spoke in French as readily as in English.

The enlightened despots of eighteenth century Europe like Frederick the Great of Prussia and Catherine the Great of Russia, adopted French writers and artists. Members of the aristocracy all over the Continent were familiar with the writings and ideas of the French. Europe was united in its Frenchness. During the days of Napoleon, French laws, institutions, administrative methods and systems of weights and measures spread throughout Western and Central Europe. Much of the material and cultural unity of Europe fame from France.

The degree of cohesion and unity in Europe can be measured not only in terms of internal conditions but also in terms of the relations between European states as whole and other parts of the world. In 1815, no Western European power held any part of North Africa. The Mediterranean was the frontier between Europe and Islam. Overseas connections were restricted to Great Britain, France, Spain, Portugal and the Netherlands. Great Britain lost her control over the American colonies but consolidated her position in Canada. She had her Empire in India. The Netherlands had an overseas Empire in the Dutch East Indies.

Geography has broken up the Continent of Europe into many regions. The regional differences were profound on account of the absence of railways, good roads and old-fashioned means of transport and communication.

2. Forces of Continuity: Monarchy:

In 1815, there were certain forces of continuity and among them the most important was the institution of monarchy. It is pointed out that even the French revolutionaries of 1789 had no intention of overthrowing monarchy but they took the daring step only in 1792 when they decided to set up a Republic in France. The only Republics in Europe were Switzerland, Venice and Genoa.

They seemed to be exceptions that proved the rule. The traditions of dynastic absolutism were deep-rooted and well-tested. It is not correct to think that the Ancien regime was totally destroyed by the French Revolution and the conquests of Napoleon. Not only the ideas and institutions of old monarchies survived throughout the upheavals of the period from 1789 to 1815, they enjoyed a new popularity and struck fresh roots in the generation after Waterloo.

The basic idea of monarchy was the hereditary title to political power. The functions of the Government in those days were very much restricted. They were mainly the functions of organising security for the whole of the kingdom at home and abroad. The people were to be saved from foreign invasions or subjection to foreign powers. Law and order were to be maintained within the kingdom. These were big responsibilities in those days. Monarchy at that time was the most natural form of Government in the world.

The rulers of Europe believed in absolutism. The pattern of absolute monarchy was set by Louis XIV of France (1660-1715). He inherited a throne that was strong because the nobles were quarrelling among themselves and there were religious factions in France. Louis XIV made the nobles weak by living at the costly court of Versailles. He subordinated the church to his control.

He took away from the Huguenots the rights and liberties formerly enjoyed by them. Many of the monarchs all over Europe tried to imitate his methods during the eighteenth century. They adopted French culture and even French language. They also claimed for themselves absolute powers. This applied to Frederick the Great of Prussia, Catherine the Great of Russia and Maria Theresa of Austria.

They centralised Government in their own hands as against local and feudal privileges and thus acquired absolute authority in the state. The rulers who wanted to be absolute, had to be more efficient. They had to seek popular support against nobles and church. That support they tried to get by experiments in popular reform and enlightened Government. Hence, absolute monarchy became “enlightened” monarchy or “benevolent despotism”.

Those rulers justified their existence by fostering material progress and adopting more enlightened methods of Government. During the French Revolution, the king was executed and a republic was established in France. The property of the Church was taken away. The revolutionaries of France threatened to spread revolution throughout Europe. Absolutism was bound to react violently against it.

The traditions of dynastic monarchy were so strong that even Napoleon got himself married in the royal family of Austria-Hungary. He was not opposed to the institution of monarchy. He himself aimed at becoming the head of a new dynasty. He made Joseph, his elder brother, the King of Spain.

He made Louis, his younger brother, the King of Holland. He appointed Jerome, his youngest brother, the King of Westphalia. Even after the overthrow of Napoleon, the principle of legitimism was adopted for claiming political authority.

The statesmen, who assembled at the Vienna Congress in 1815, accepted the principle of legitimism. The result was that the Vienna Settlement gave a new lease of life throughout Europe to the ideas and institutions of hereditary monarchy. The scene was dominated by the rulers of the Governments that were not overthrown by the French Revolution or Napoleon and had weathered the storm.

Among them the prominent were Tsar Alexander I of Russia, Frederick William III of Prussia and Francis I, the Emperor of Austria. The King of England was represented first by Lord Castlereagh and later on by George Canning. The triumph of monarchy and all that it stood for seemed complete. The defeat of Napoleon was a victory for the allied monarchical Governments acting in a grand alliance. The Battle of Waterloo was not won by popular uprising or guerrilla fighters, but by the tough soldiers of the British and Prussian armies.

In addition to the above monarchs, there were many smaller kings in Europe at that time. It is true that the Holy Roman Empire which was abolished in 1806, was not revived in Germany However, 39 states emerged in Germany in 1815. Those states were formed into a loose confederation. Each state had its own monarch or prince. Those monarchs came out of the old aristocracy.

They were assertive of their social privileges and political rights. Ferdinand VII was restored to the throne of Spain. He annulled the Spanish Constitution of 1812 and resumed all the prerogatives of absolute monarchy. A similar thing happened in Italy. Lombardy and Venetia were ruled by the Emperor of Austria directly from Vienna.

The King of Sardinia was his cousin. Francis IV, the Duke of Modena, was also his cousin. Archduke Ferdinand III, his brother, became the Duke of Tuscany His aunt became the Queen of Naples. Ferdinand I, king of Naples and Sicily behaved in a reactionary manner. The administration of the Papal States was among the worst in Italy. The kingdom of Piedmont was ruled by Victor Emmanuel I. This state was destined to play the same role in Italy which was played by Prussia in Germany.

It is true that there was almost universal restoration of monarchy, but the fact remains that the tradition of kingship had been badly shaken. Most of the magic of monarchy had gone. The rulers of Europe were defeated by the revolutionary armies of France. Many of the kings, who were restored m 1814, suffered from the disadvantage that they were put on their thrones by the allied armies.

The manner in which Louis XVIII of France was restored in 1814 and then turned out by Napoleon during the Hundred Days, shows that royal authority had become fragile. Legitimism alone was not a sufficient basis for Government. However, there were other factors which helped the monarchs of Europe.

3. The Church:

There was not only the restoration of monarchy in 1815, but also of the Church. A close alliance between the throne and altar was traditional in Europe. The Roman Catholic Church in France suffered from the excesses of the French Revolution. The Civil Constitution of the Clergy of 1790 reduced the Church in France to the position of a department of state.

Many high clergymen joined the aristocratic and royal emigres in exile abroad. Things did not improve even after the Concordat between Napoleon and Pope in 1802. Napoleon still enjoyed considerable control over the clergy in France. With the growth of state universities and schools, the Roman Catholic Church lost most of its former grip over education.

The Roman Catholic Church gained from the violence and extremism of the French Revolution. There was a strong reaction in favour of the Church on account of its sufferings. In 18! 5, the Roman Catholic Church in France regained a highly privileged position.

However, it was not possible to restore to it all the lands and property which had been taken away from the Church during the French Revolution. However, the Government gave generous grants to the Church which resumed its control over education. Even the Protestant Powers of Prussia and Britain were willing to support the revival of Papal power in Europe.

They were backed by Russia in this matter. Pope Pius VII enjoyed personal sympathy on account of his humiliation by Napoleon. He entered Rome in 1814 as if he was a victor. The Jesuit Order got official favour at the Vatican. The Pope re-established the Index and the Inquisition. However, there was opposition to the Jesuit Order. The Jesuits organised societies of Catholic laymen, particularly in France, Spain and Italy. Laws were passed in France also to restrict the activities of the Jesuits. The Tsar of Russia expelled the Jesuits.

The Anglican Church in England enjoyed a highly privileged position. However, its influence was predominantly conservative. Until 1828, Protestant dissenters remained subject to many disabilities. They were excluded from all important civil and military offices and also from teaching in the universities.

Churchmen did not support the movements for reform. They did not advocate such humanitarian reforms as the reform of prisons and the penal code. They belonged to the forces of established order. Sydney Smith suffered on account of his liberal views.

There was also the revival of religious faith. Rationalist ideas of natural rights and secularist doctrines of state power were not favoured. Many of the greatest intellects of Europe supported the dogmas of Christianity and old religious beliefs. The case for traditionalism and reverence for established institutions as advocated by Burke in “Reflections on the Revolution in France” was accepted. Joseph de Maistre and Vicomte de Bonald supported legitimist monarchy and power of the Pope.

They seemed to demolish the ideas and arguments of liberalism and their influence spread outside France to Italy and Germany. Their ideas were further popularised by Lamennais. Before 1800, most of the intellectuals stood for rationalism, democratic ideas and anti-clericalism. At least for a decade after 1815 forces of conservatism enjoyed more positive prestige and power than before.

4. The Landed Aristocracy:

Land was still the most important form of property and it carried with it the right to social importance and political power. The events in France between 1789 and 1815 brought an unprecedented transference of landed property from the great landowners and corporations (particularly the church), to a number of small property owners. Large estates, alongwith those of the Church, were declared national property and were either put up for sale or exchange for the paper bonds like Assignats.

Many people such as lawyers, financiers, millers and brewers, made fortunes by speculating in the Assignats. When Napoleon came to power, there were still large stocks of land which had neither been sold nor granted to anybody. Napoleon created a new aristocracy which was given those lands.

As land was possessed by a few, political rights were also enjoyed by a few. The equation between land and political power remained intact. It was only the old aristocracy, the wealthy bourgeoisie and the peasant proprietors who gained from the redistribution of land. The bulk of land in France was still owned by a small number of persons. Political power was in the hands of these persons.

The right to vote for the Chamber of Deputies in France was given only to those citizens who were 30 years of age or more and paid at least 300 francs a year in direct taxation. To be a Deputy, a man had to be over 40 and pay at least 1,000 francs a year in direct taxation. The rights of landed wealth were deeply entrenched in the new monarchy. This was a guarantee that its whole policy would be conservative.

The ministers of the king were drawn mainly from the aristocracy. Due de Richelieu and the Comte Decazes were the Chief Ministers of France and they were reactionaries. Between 1814 and 1830, the restored monarchy rested on a balance between the powers of the old aristocracy and the power of the new business oligarchy which was rapidly growing in power.

The aristocracy became more an office-holding class than a land-owning class. It shared power with the wealthy bourgeoisie who possessed landed property. There was a balance and a compromise between aristocracy and oligarchy. The Chamber of Deputies had a permanent majority on the right and a permanent minority on the left. There was no party system. There was occasional criticism. The Government remained exclusively the job of the king and his ministers.

In England of the eighteenth century, the landed aristocracy virtually monopolised state power. The House of Lords reserved its control over legislation. The electorate was a small one. There were property qualifications for the voters and Members of Parliament. The right of vote was enjoyed by about 400,000 men. On account of the system of patronage, corruption and intimidation, the sons of the nobility were returned to Parliament.

The Landed Property Qualifications Acts provided that the Members of Parliament for the counties must have a landed estate of at least £ 600 a year and for the boroughs, a landed estate of £ 300 a year. The predominance of the landed and agricultural interests in 1815 is proved by the passing of the Com Law in 1815.

It gave farmers protection by prohibiting the import of com from abroad until the prices at home had reached the level of 80 shillings a quarter. The Game Laws made it illegal for anyone who was not a squire or a squire’s eldest son to kill the game and for anyone to buy and sell game.

Great Britain and France were among the most advanced and liberal countries in Europe, both politically and economically. In Germany, Italy, Spain and Austria, the landed aristocracy enjoyed their landed property. The Prussian Junkers were enterprising and progressive in their methods. They tended to expropriate the peasants and build up larger estates. Unlike English landowners, the Junkers did not let out the land to be cultivated by tenants but organised its use under their own supervision.

The peasantry was emancipated in Prussia from heavy feudal obligations but the work of emancipation proceeded slowly. It often resulted in the economic subjection of peasants and surrender of large portions of their land to the junkers as compensation. There was a concentration of landed wealth in the hands of the Junkers who provided Prussia with money, administrators and officers.

The power of the land-owning aristocracy remained intact in Poland and Russia in 1815. They were not opposed to the emancipation of serfs who provided labour on their lands. The peasants were opposed to personal emancipation from serfdom at the cost of losing land. The common saying was. “We are yours, but the land is ours.” The peasants were willing to adopt progressive methods of cultivation and husbandry.

5. Popularity of Peace:

Another force of conservatism in Europe in I8I5 was a longing for peace and weariness of war. Almost every country had known more than two decades of recurrent war. The French wars had imposed unusual strains on all the combatants. The Continental system had affected the standards of living throughout Europe. Britain also had endured heavy burdens and strains. France was exhausted after the invasion of Russia in 1812.

The war had done a lot of distraction in Prussia, Austria and Russia. People wanted peace and freedom to live their own lives and that was possible only if there was peace in Europe. People welcomed monarchy because that gave them hopes of peace. The prevailing mood in Europe favoured the forces of conservatism.

That is why the conservative Governments were able to get measures of repression passed by their Parliaments which would not have been possible before 1789. The Tory Government of Britain suspended the Habeas Corpus Act in 1817. In 1819, it passed Sidmouth’s Six Acts which were designed to prevent large public meetings, undermine the whole movement for radical reform and kill or at least control the radical press.

It is true that there were protests against those measures but those were passed through Parliament without much difficulty. Likewise, in France the Chamber of Deputies passed a series of Acts in 1815 which gave the King of France the power to suspend liberties of the individual and freedom of the press guaranteed by the Charter of 1814 granted by Louis XVIII at the time of his restoration to the throne of France.

It authorised laws of proscription which sent many eminent Frenchmen into exile. Metternich, the Chancellor of Austria, established his system which was designed to keep public order by a network of spies and secret police. The Carlsbad Decrees of 1819 applied to the whole of Germany and let loose a reign of repression. In every country, Governments relied on informers and agents provocateurs, on secret police and military repression.

In Naples and Sicily, the poor were mobilised against the middle class liberals. In other places, the fears of the propertied classes were exploited to justify repression of popular disturbances.

The years between 1815 and 1854 were an era of revolutions but they were not an era of wars. As compared with the period after 1854, there was no large-scale fighting in Europe between 1815 and 1854. Between 1854 and 1878, there were six important wars in which the major powers took part.

Those wars were the Crimean War (1854-56) which involved Turkey, Britain, France and Russia, the War of 1859 which involved France and Austria, the War waged by Prussia and Austria against Denmark in 1864, the Austro-Prussian War of 1866, the Franco-Prussian War of 1870 and the Russo-Turkish War of 1877 which turned into a general European conflict. It is suggested that revolutions before 1854 served as a kind of substitute for war.

In other words, international peace after 1815 was an endemic civil war that produced the revolutions of 1830 and 1848 and a host of intermediate revolts. Peace was popular because Governments were aware of their own weaknesses and were also exhausted by the wars of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic period. Another reason was that enemies at home seemed to be a more important challenge than enemies abroad. Civil war absorbed belligerent spirits which were diverted into the cause of militant nationalism.

6. Forces of Change: Growth of Population:

If the years after Waterloo were marked by the forces of continuity, order and resistance to change, Europe entered upon an era of rapid and fundamental changes. One of those forces was the growth of population in Europe. It is pointed that the population of Europe as a whole began to increase since about the middle of the eighteenth century.

If the population was 140 millions in 1750, it was 180 millions in 1800, 266 millions in 1850, 401 millions in 1900 and 540 millions in 1950. This shows that there was nearly four-fold increase in population in about two centuries. The speed of this growth was completely a new phenomenon. No social and political orders could remain unaffected by this abnormal increase of population.

The events of the nineteenth century cannot be understood intelligently without keeping this growth of population in mind. This enormous growth of population changed the course of world history. Between 1815 and 1914, about 40 million Europeans migrated to other Continents.

The United States, Canada, Australia and many other parts of the globe were populated mainly from the overflow of Europe. In 1815, the whole of the population of Europe was only 200 millions. By 1914, that number of people of European birth or stock existed outside Europe, while the population of Europe itself rose to 460 millions. European civilisation was spread throughout the world.

Many reasons have been put forward for the abnormal growth of population. It was certainly due more to a decrease in death rates than to an increase in birth rates. Populations grew not because more people were born but because more people survived and more people stayed alive longer.

The causes of lower death rates were improvements in public order and security, ending of civil and religious wars, destruction of brigandage and violence and also relief from famine, plague and destitution. Another cause was the progress made by medical science in the eighteenth century. Infant death rates fell. Fewer mothers died at the time of child birth and more people lived to an advanced age.

Diseases which affected cattle and crops were conquered. Food supplies were improved. Better transport, first by road and canal and then by railway and steamship made it possible to end localised famine and shortages. There took place agricultural revolution which increased food production and made possible the feeding of an increasing number of mouths.

Where all the best land available was already under cultivation, greater supplies of food could be obtained by more intensive cultivation or importation of foodstuffs. Both of these methods were adopted by Europeans. By the use of winter root crops such as turnips and beetroot and green crops like clover and alfalfa, the old three-field rotation system was replaced by four-course rotation.

The result was that all the land could be used every year for cultivation. It also gave enough cattle food to keep larger stocks of cattle alive during winter. The increase in the number of cattle gave more meat and milk for human consumption and also manures to keep land fertile. The improvement in the methods of transport helped the import of food from the United States and Canada to Europe.

The pace of growth of population varied from country to country according to the circumstances. The pace was set by the United Kingdom. Its population was about I8I/2 millions in 1811 and more than double that figure in 1891. France had a population of more than 29 millions in 1806 and 38½ millions in 1896.

Germany increased her population from 25 million in 1815 to about 50 million in 1890. Belgium had a population of 3½ millions in 1831 and 7’/2 millions in 1910. Italy and Spain grew less rapidly though in the end they also doubled their population between 1815 and 1920. Russia nearly doubled her population during the first half of the nineteenth century and again doubled it during the second half. This explains why there was great Russian expansion towards Asia.

7. Industrialism and Urbanism:

It was during the nineteenth century that Industrial Revolution made progress in various states of Europe. Industrial Revolution changed the very face of Europe. Large factories employing thousands of workers came into existence. As big machines were set up at certain places, they led to urbanism.

Factories were required for coal, iron and steel production. The concentration of large population at the industrial centres created many problems like that of sanitation, regulation of hours of work, safety and recreation of workers, payment of adequate wages and limitation of hours of work, etc.

Industrialism and urbanism revolutionized the whole meaning and function of Government and politics. Instead of being concerned only with general matters of public health and national unity. Governments had to deal with the problems of social and economic life.

The old dynastic conception of ruler and ruled, was replaced by the conception of a state and its citizens. This notion of Government and society is mutually inter-dependent. It was incompatible with the old order and the sharp dynastic distinctions between ruler and subjects. It was the common basis of all the great movements of the nineteenth century such as nationalism, liberalism, democracy and socialism.

8. Nationalism:

European nationalism in its modem sense is mainly a product of the nineteenth century. It was launched by the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Empire. The Jacobin doctrine of sovereignty of the people asserted the claims of the nation as a whole against its monarch and the right of a people to determine its own form of government and to control the conduct of that government.

Government should be the voice of the people and not merely of a people. Nationalism proclaimed the rights of all citizens to have an equal voice in the decisions of politics. The conquests of Napoleon in Europe strengthened the ideas and sentiments of nationalism. By 1815, nationalism was a great force in Europe. Germany and Italy were the two countries where the nationalist feelings were very strong, although the imperialism of Napoleon had similar effects in Spain, Poland, Russia and Belgium.

To begin with, nationalism was a spirit of resistance against domination of foreigners and was therefore anti-French. New value was attached to local institutions, native customs, traditional culture and national language. Germany at that time was having a great cultural Renaissance. It was famous for her musicians, men of letters and philosophers. It was the age of Beethoven, Goethe, Schiller, Kant and Hegel. This helped Germany to oust France from the cultural domination which she had in the eighteenth century.

Herder and Fichte taught the Germans to cherish and reverence the Volksgeist or peculiar national character which they presented as the foundation of all good culture and civilisation. After her defeat by Napoleon in the Battle of Jena in 1806, Prussia drastically reorganised her army under the guidance of Gneisenau and Schamhorst. Her machinery of Government was overhauled by Stein and Hardenberg. After 1815, Prussia emerged as the chief focus of German nationalist hopes.

The chief intellectual support for the regeneration of Prussia and growth of nationalism of Germany came from the new University of Berlin where Hegel expounded a new philosophy of authority and state power which captivated many German, Italian and even English thinkers during the nineteenth century. Much of the reorganisation of the Prussian state was an imitation of French revolutionary reforms.

Hardenberg wrote to the Prussian King in 1807, “We must do from above what the French have done from below”. He praised the success of Carnot’s Levee En Masse, the conscription of the whole of French manhood and its inspiration with a sense of national mission. The reforms of Prussia were struck by “what endless forces not developed and not utilised slumber in the bosom of a nation”.

They valued most the creative and irresistible energy which could be generated by a people in arms. They set about building a strong central authority, a truly national army and a system of national education designed to infuse a common spirit into the whole people, a patriotic reverence for the German heritage and a devotion to the cause of German nationalism.

Napoleon paved the way for the unification of Germany by his destruction of the Holy Roman Empire in 1806, by his assembling Bavaria, Wurthemberg, Baden, Hesse-Darmstadt, Saxony and 12 other German states into the Confederation of the Rhine and by his introduction into all Western Germany the Code Napoleon to replace the old laws and judicial procedures. German nationalism was further aroused by the Prussian victory at Leipzig in 1813.

It was interpreted as the fruit and justification of all that the nationalists had been preaching and reformers doing to regenerate Prussia. It became a patriotic legend. It forced Napoleon out of most of Germany and even freed the left bank of the Rhine. The victory gave consolation to German national pride. It heartened German patriots. It gave a total fillip to the ideas of total liberation.

Napoleon aroused the nationalist spirit in Italy also. His regime in Italy lasted from 1796 to 1814. Italian sentiment was less anti-French than was German or Spanish. The middle classes in towns welcomed the greater efficiency and weakening of the clerical influence which came with the demolition of the power of petty princes and of the Pope.

The reduction of the states to three in Italy by Napoleon encouraged the ideas of ultimate unification of Italy. While he was the ruler of Naples, Murat conceived the idea of uniting the whole of Italy in his own hands and proclaimed the union of Italy in 1815. It is true that he was defeated and shot but his action was not forgotten by Italian patriots. Both in Germany and Italy, the effect of French rule was to stimulate directly a new spirit of nationalist pride and hope. The unification of these two countries loomed large in European affairs between 1850 and 1870.

As regards Spain, two French divisions surrendered to Spanish forces at the Battle of Baylen in July 1808. Spanish guerrilla bands played an important part in French defeats in the Peninsular War. These achievements were glorified as expressions of Spanish national spirit. As a matter of fact, the forces in Spain which were most actively hostile to Napoleon were the royalist and clerical elements in the country.

The rebellious juntas which were organised for local resistance were mostly run by nobles and priests who were enraged by the treatment of monarchy by Napoleon and the efforts of the French to secularise church property. Popular resistance was led by lower clergy and the monks. It was not at all typical of nationalist uprisings. Without the military genius of Wellington and efficiency of the British infantry, the Spanish guerrillas would have collapsed before the French forces. The strongest stimulus to a real nationalist spirit was the savagery of the fighting in the Peninsular War.

Poland was the centre of aggrieved nationalism in Eastern Europe. Her territory was partitioned among the Empires of Russia, Prussia and Austria between 1772 and 1795. When Napoleon set up the Grand Duchy of Warsaw in 1807 with a new constitution, it was welcomed by the Poles as a step towards restoration and independence. However, Napoleon kept Poland subservient to himself. It became clear that Napoleon was interested in Poland only as a pawn in his relations with Russia.

When Napoleon started his Russian campaign in 1812, he gave the Poles vague promises of future independence. The victory of 1814 again obliterated Poland as a state. However, the Code Napoleon and the ideas of the French Revolution were introduced into Poland by Napoleon. The result was that even disappointment added fuel to the burning resolve of Polish patriots to regain national unity and independence which was achieved in 1919.

As regards Russia, the heroic resistance that led to the burning of Smolensk and Moscow and the retreat of the Grand Army of Napoleon through the snows of Russia made a national legend. The pillaging and devastations of the French troops consolidated the resistance of all classes in Russia against Napoleon and the Tsar could not dare to negotiate with Napoleon as there was great hatred against Napoleon among nobles and peasants alike. Just as Germany made a patriotic legend out of the Bathe of Leipzig, the same was done by the Russian patriots from the Moscow campaign. However, these events had little immediate effect on nationalism in Russia.

It is pointed out that in his relations with Europe, Napoleon had no coherent policy. His only desire was to make the conquered countries the satellites of France and adjuncts of his own dynastic ambitions. He followed no consistent policy of arousing nationalities against their Governments. He worked out no principles for organising his Empire. Whatever he did was done in view of the military needs of the moment.

The results of his conquests varied according to the conditions of each country. He did not bring about any uniformity among the European states. During the interlude of the Hundred Days in 1815 he declared that he had liberal and constitutional aims and he stated in the Bonapartist legend that he had interests of national independence at heart. That was not correct. His greatest contributions to the growth of nationalism were unwitting. They were more the outcome of revolt against his Empire than the deliberate intention of it.

9. Liberalism:

Another force of change was liberalism. The view of the Liberals was that there should be a more organic and complete relationship between the government and the community and between state and society than it existed during the eighteenth century. European Liberals believed that Governments existed to secure individual rights and derived their just powers from the consent of the governed.

The obstacles to these ideas were the privileges of the aristocracy and the church and lack of privileges of merchants, businessmen and manufacturing classes. The spearhead of the liberal attack against feudal rights and the rights of the church was the middle and professional classes. These classes were the central driving force of the French Revolution.

The European Liberals stood for rule of law, parliamentary government, social reform and safeguards against absolutist governments. Liberalism differed from democracy as it stood for the sovereignty of Parliament and not the sovereignty of the people. It advocated the grant of the right of vote to all men of property but not to those who were without property. Liberalism put more emphasis on liberty than equality. To Liberals, the French Revolution had condemned itself by its excesses such as the Reign of Terror, mob democracy and military dictatorship.

The Liberals stood for a constitutional monarchy which guaranteed certain rights equally to all citizens or a parliamentary republic which upheld the equality of all before law but a restricted franchise. The Liberals criticised the Vienna Settlement of 1815 on the ground that it had restored absolutism and threatened to restore the privileges of the aristocracy and the church.

10. Democracy:

Another force of change was democracy. Democracy was like liberalism but it was more radical. It stood for the sovereignty of the people and not of a representative parliamentary assembly. It favoured male suffrage. It subordinated the Parliament to the will of the people as a whole. It even advocated the devices of direct democracy such as plebiscite or referendum.

It stood for equality of political and civil rights. In extreme forms, it demanded greater social and economic equality. It not only demanded equality of all before law but also equality of opportunity for all. The liberals wanted to secure these rights even at the cost of greater economic levelling. That is why democracy was considered more revolutionary than liberalism.

The conservative Governments between 1815 and 1848 were afraid of radical democracy. To meet this danger, Liberals joined hands with conservatives to crush popular movements and uprisings that favoured democratic ideals. More than liberalism, democracy was a central cause of change and revolution after Waterloo.

11. Socialism:

Another force of change was socialism. Until after 1848 socialism was connected in the minds of the people with harmless cranks or with the multitude of pietist Christian communities which fled to the United States in order to lead a simple community life which was free from the complexities of European life. Robert Owen (1771 -1858) put into practice many of his Utopian theories in his new Lanark Mills.

He also set up his cooperative colony of “New Harmony” in North America. He also helped in the growth of cooperative societies and the trade unions. He stood for legislation in the interests of the working classes. Charles Fourier (1772-1837) supported the cooperative movement in France and denounced the economic, social, political and moral disorders from which the society suffered.

Those disorders were concerned with poverty, social inequality, war and failure of family life. He stood for the reorganization of society into independent groups called Phalanx. Each person was to do the work he could enjoy best. There was to be no government at all. He had a tendency towards anarchism. Proudhon (1809-65) is generally known as the father of anarchism.

According to him, all property is theft. Saint Simon (1760-1825) was not a systematic thinker, but his speculations stimulated the minds of others. He stood for an industrialist state directed by science. In that state, the right of inheritance was to be abolished because it transmitted social privileges from one generation to another without consideration of merit. He did not believe in the natural equality of man.

According to him, each man was to be employed according to his ability and rewarded according to his capacity. Louis Blanc (1811-1882) published his famous book “The Organization of Labour” in 1840 in which he denounced the existing competitive system and proposed measures for getting rid of it. He advocated a political reform which would establish the state on a thoroughly democratic basis. The state was to provide farms for agriculturists, factories for workmen and shops for tradesmen. His experiment was tried during the Revolution of 1848 in France.

Socialist ideas were derived from the doctrines of Rousseau and the ideals of the French Revolution. Just as liberals put great emphasis on the ideals of liberty and democrats on the ideals of equality, the socialists put emphasis on the ideal of fraternity. Their contention was that men were good by nature and if they were not influenced by social inequality and poverty, they would behave as brothers towards others. The socialists put emphasis on cooperation rather than competition. They protested against industrialism as a new cause of poverty and inequality.

It is contended that there was enough common ground among liberals, democrats and socialists and they joined hands on the barricades in 1848 and 1871. All of them had the common desire to make Government an organ and agency of society. However, none of the three could depend upon a reliable alliance with the forces of nationalism. Upto 1848, the liberals and nationalists worked together.

In order to achieve national unity and independence, patriots felt that they needed the support of all classes which liberalism and democracy would secure. Things changed after 1848. After some time, the socialists felt that they had more to gain from an alliance with authoritarian nationalist governments and undemocratic regimes.

Ferdinand Lassalle, the socialist leader of Germany, was prepared to come to terms with Bismarck. When the World War I started in 1914, the socialists in all countries supported their national governments. There was a combination of nationalism and communism in Russia in the form of Bolshevism.

Under what circumstances did feudal rulers grant land to someone new? - History

Private Property and Government Under the Constitution
Published in Ideas on Liberty - January 1995 - Posted on February 13, 2002
by Gary M. Pecquet

The economic concept of private property refers to the rights owners have to the exclusive use and disposal of a physical object. Property is not a table, a chair, or an acre of land. It is the bundle of rights which the owner is entitled to employ those objects. The alternative (collectivist) view is that private property consists merely of a legal deed to an object with the use and disposal of the object subject to the whims and mercies of the state. Under this latter view, the state retains ownership and may at any time regulate or even repossess the property it temporarily cedes to individuals.

The Founding Fathers upheld the economic view of property. They believed that private property ownership, as defined under common law, pre-existed government. The state and federal governments were the mere contractual agents of the people, not sovereign lords over them. All rights, not specifically delegated to the government, remained with the people--including the common-law provisions of private property. Consequently, the constitutional rights regarding free speech, freedom of religion, the right of assembly, and private property rights are all claims that individuals may hold and exercise against the government itself. In brief, private property refers to the rights of owners to use their possessions which are enforceable against all nonowners--even the government.

The Economic Concept of Ownership

"We may speak of a person owning land and using it as a factor of production," writes Nobel laureate Ronald Coase in his essay on "The Problem of Social Cost," "but what the owner in fact possesses is the right to perform certain (physical) actions." These "rights to perform physical actions," called private property, constitute the real factors of production and the real articles of trade. Legal title itself means nothing. At best, a title or deed amounts to proof of ownership, not the rights inherent in ownership.

Many people confuse the economic concept of ownership with the mere holding of legal title. Often, title and ownership coincide, but not necessarily. Sometimes businesses lease equipment from manufacturers under circumstances which transfer all of the meaningful rights of ownership to the lessee while title remains with the manufacturer. Here are two examples: if a lease approximates the useful life of the equipment or if the lease itself contains an option to buy the equipment outright for a nominal sum. In both cases the lease transfers ownership in the true economic meaning of rights to employ the equipment without actually changing title. Proper accounting principles, in such cases, require the lessee to record the equipment on its books as an asset and the lease itself becomes a method of financing the purchase. The manufacturer although still retaining title to the equipment no longer "owns" the property and, accordingly, should not include it as an asset.

In other cases, the "bundle of rights" to use an object may be separated and sold apart from the title. Once again, here are two examples: landowners may lease property for a specified period of time while retaining the residual rights to the land upon termination of the contract or the same landowner may sell only the mineral rights, while retaining title along with most of the "sticks" in the property rights bundle. The validity of these contracts implies that ownership refers to the many legitimate uses and disposal of things, rather than title to the object itself.

The economic view of property consisting of primarily actions, rather than things, is also compatible with intellectual property, such as copyrights and patents. The right to publish a book or construct a machine may be reserved to the author/inventor. These species of private property do not refer to any specific objects at all, but are legitimate articles of property nonetheless.

The Common Law Boundaries of Private Property

The British common law has established the legal limits to property rights through case precedents, reflecting the practical needs of trade long before the North American colonies even existed. The common law provided a clear picture of ownership to the Founding Fathers.

The common law has three pillars: private property, tort liability, and the law of contract. Property and tort liability are inexorably intertwined. No one has a right to infringe upon the legitimate rights of others.

If one uses his possessions to create a health hazard or nuisance to others, he is fully liable for damages. In some instances, an injunction may even prevent an unlawful action before it causes damages to others. The very boundaries of private property are defined by common law liabilities. For example, if Mr. A erects a six-foot fence at the border of his land and this fence blocks the sunlight to Ms. B's garden, does Ms. B have a common law right to access the sunlight? If so, she would have a claim under tort law. If not, Mr. A may construct the fence and Ms. B either relocates her garden or persuades or compensates Mr. A to move his fence away from the established boundary. The point is that a reasonable and efficient result should occur under either rule. What is important is for the liability limits to property be well-established and clearly defined. After many case precedents the common law courts begin to sharply define the boundaries of private property. Owners may then negotiate, mutually reaching an arrangement, without going to battle in court over a legal ambiguity or seeking a new statute.

The "bundle of rights" we call private property comprise the subject matter for all contracts. Every time goods exchange hands, land is purchased, and an employment contract is signed, "bundles of rights" to resources are exchanged. All commerce, and the prosperity which it generates, depend upon the security and certainty of property rights. If an urban area has a notorious high crime rate, local businesses will tend either to relocate or increase prices. If the courts do not establish consistent liability rules, then litigation costs increase and the basis for agreements is undercut. If the legislature threatens to regulate business, then potential competitors may be frightened away. If the potential uses to which property may be employed are subject to regulation by a governmental body, then the value of property declines. Men like James Madison and Alexander Hamilton understood that prosperity depends upon the security and certainty of property rights and designed the Constitution accordingly.

The common law does evolve slowly to reflect changes in both technology and social mores, but it provides a stable set of rules of conduct. Moreover the common people on juries decide common law cases, not kings, not legislatures. This establishes an important rule-making authority outside of any centralized government.

The English Whigs on Property and Government

Our American forefathers did not develop their political theories in an intellectual vacuum. More than a century before the American Revolution, a Civil War raged in Britain. It pitted the Monarchy against Parliament. Among the opponents of the Monarchy were the seventeenth-century English Whigs. Over the course of a few decades, English Whig intellectuals expounded their theories about property and government. These thinkers, including John Locke, Algernon Sidney, and Thomas Gordon, taught America's founders much about property and government.1

Prior to the rise of the English Whigs, the "divine right of kings" had held that all rights, liberties, and properties actually belonged to the king. The king merely permitted his subjects to use their possessions. The king, however, might regulate the use or even seize these possessions outright at his whim. The people had no claims or rights which could be exercised against the sovereign. Their possessions were at the mercy of the government.

By contrast, the English Whigs believed that the fountainhead for all rights was the sanctity of the individual, not the divinity of the state. John Locke contended that human rights were "natural rights" which pre-existed government. The original owners of the land were the real sovereigns, not the king. Remember the old English saying, "A man's house is his castle and every man is king." Owners, however, might consent to give up a small part of their liberty and property to government in order to institute criminal law and national defense and to perform certain other specifically delegated tasks. Legitimate government is formed by contract and may never acquire more rights than delegated by the property owners who institute it. The authorities must never exceed their narrow constitutionally delegated authority--lest they become despotic.

According to the Whig view, legitimate government is an agent, a servant, a mere convenience charged with certain specific tasks. Moreover, even elected governments tend to become despotic as the British Parliamentary experience illustrated. Most of the descriptions of political power during colonial times were negative. Thomas Gordon discussed the issues of the day in Cato's Letters. Power was often shown as a "clutching grasping hand" or described as a "cancer that eats away at the body public."

It is also relevant that the Whigs expressed all rights in terms of property. Each man owned his own person and labor. Slaveholders were condemned as man-stealers, the lowest sort of thief who stole the whole person, not merely part of his labor. Whenever the Whigs argued for freedom of religion, the teachers of our forefathers referred to "property in one's conscience." When they opposed Sabbatarian laws, prohibiting certain activities on Sunday, they referred to "property in one's time." The Whig view equated property and liberty, once again reflecting the economic concept that property refers primarily to freedoms to act.

The Founders and Framers on Property and Government

The best way to examine the importance of private property to our forefathers and its place under the law is to study the words of the founders and framers themselves: men like Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and Alexander Hamilton. In the passage below Jefferson argues that the colonial landholdings had always been held free and clear of the British crown. Throughout American colonial experience, the British crown exacted a small fee called a quit-rent upon all landholders. The quit-rent often went uncollected and never raised much revenue, but it remained on the books as a legal assertion that all land titles were held subject to the crown. In 1774, Jefferson disputed this kingly claim. Jefferson's reasoning gave historical teeth to the Whig view that sovereignty belongs to individuals and that property pre-exists government. Therefore the United States government formed two years later would be established by free men, not serfs. Neither could the new government claim to be the recipient of any superior monarchial rights or claims to private landholdings. According to Jefferson:

In The Federalist Papers, James Madison and others argued that the proposed U.S. Constitution would protect the liberty and property of the citizens from usurpations of power from the federal government.

Power in the new government was to be divided into three branches: legislative, executive, and judicial. This would create a system of checks and balances necessary to hinder the unwarranted expansion of political power. The division of power would also make it more difficult for a majority to oppress a political minority and political stability would more likely result. In the following passage James Madison discusses the problems of "mutable policy" (governmental activism). Madison believed that the new Constitution would establish a consistent, stable set of laws necessary to promote prosperity. Otherwise, he warned:

Another effect of public instability is the unreasonable advantage it gives to the sagacious, the enterprising, and the monied few over the industrious and uninformed mass of the people. Every new regulation concerning commerce or revenue, or in any manner affecting the value of the different species of property, presents a new harvest to those who watch the change, and can trace its consequences a harvest, reared not by themselves, but by the toils and cares of the great body of their fellow citizens. This is a state of things in which it may be said with some truth that the laws are made for the few, not the many.

In another point of view, great injury results from an unstable government. The want of confidence in the public councils damps every useful undertaking, the success and profit of which may depend upon a continuance of existing arrangements. What prudent merchant will hazard his fortunes in any new branch of commerce when he knows not but that his plans will be rendered unlawful before they can be executed? What farmer or manufacturer will lay himself out for the encouragement given to any particular cultivation or establishment, when he can have no assurance that his preparatory labors and advances will not render him a victim of inconsistent government? In a word, no great improvement or laudable enterprise can go forward which requires the auspices of a steady stream of national policy.3

Alexander Hamilton contended that the new federal Constitution would protect private property and liberty from abuses arising at the state level. Between the end of the Revolutionary War in 1781 and the ratification of the Constitution in 1788 state governments faced debtor uprisings, such as Shays' Rebellion.

State legislatures sometimes granted debt relief or "stays" on the payments of debts. Hamilton believed the proposed Constitution had "precautions against the repetition of those practices on the part of the State governments which have undermined the foundations of property and credit."4 He referred to Article I section 10 of the Constitution which explicitly protects creditors by forbidding states to pass laws "impairing the obligation of contract" or even devaluing debt obligations by making "any thing but gold and silver a tender in payment of debts."

The "impairment of contract" clause remains effective today. New state laws affecting long-standing agreements may only alter future contracts, not existing ones. This protects interstate commerce, such as insurance and banking, from potential abuses by state and local politicians who may be tempted to rewrite contracts to redistribute income from outsiders to local constituents.

In the body of the Constitution, Article I sections 9 and 10, also expressly forbids both federal and state governments to grant titles of nobility. This prohibits the establishment of a formal, hereditary class in the United States. In England, the titles "Prince," "Duke," and "Earl" consisted of much more than a prefix to a name. Nobility also laid feudal claim to the land held by the common people. Feudal titles, such as Prince of Wales and Duke of York, pretend ownership to the entire realm, subordinating the rights of the landholdings of commoners. America's framers hated the European class system and the feudal pretense to the land that it represented. The United States are forbidden to ever establish feudal land tenures to lands because sovereign landholdings are essential to a free "Republican form of government."

The U.S. Constitution contained a number of flaws, most notably, the official sanctioning of slavery. Nor did the Constitutional framers advocate laissez-faire capitalism. Some of the framers, including Alexander Hamilton, believed that the government should actively encourage economic growth through protective tariffs. Nonetheless, the framers all held private property in high esteem. Indeed, commercial prosperity seems to be the chief end of good government to them. The economic system under the Constitution is capitalism with a very few specific exceptions explicitly delegating limited powers to Congress, i.e., coin money, establish a Post Office, lay customs duties, etc. James Madison summarized, "The powers delegated to the federal government are few and defined."5

The Bill of Rights on Private Property

Many people were fearful that the Constitution still concentrated too much power in the hands of the federal government. The electorate in key states insisted upon a "Bill of Rights" lest they would reject the proposed Constitution.

These amendments soon became incorporated into the new Constitution. Six of these ten amendments pertain either directly or indirectly to private property rights.

The Third Amendment states, "No soldier shall in times of peace be quartered in any house, without consent of the owner, nor in times of war, but in a manner prescribed by law." This amendment grew out of abuses by the British, who had forced people to allow troops into their homes. The amendment clearly protects the rights of homeowners, but is too specific for wider applications.

The Fourth Amendment includes the clause, "The rights of people to be secure in their persons, houses, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures shall not be violated and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause . . ." The "search and seizure" clause has been interpreted to pertain primarily to criminal cases, but the stated intent of this statement is to make people secure in their persons and possessions. In civil cases law enforcement officials presently are able to seize property without a warrant and place the burden of proof upon the owner to show that he did not commit a crime. In fact, some local governments now use civil seizures to supplement their budgets.

The Seventh Amendment requires that for civil cases in federal courts, "no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any court of the United States than according to common law." The common law, as we have seen, rests upon three pillars, including private property rights. This indirect recognition of private property only protects individual owners against other private parties. These common law property claims become enforceable against the federal government under the Ninth and Tenth Amendments.

Amendment Nine states, "The enumeration of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people." Amendment Ten further stipulates, "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states are reserved to the states and the people." The original intent of the "enumeration" and the "reservation" clauses clearly reaffirm the contract theory of government held by John Locke and James Madison alike. All "powers not delegated to the federal government" includes any and all private property rights described under the common law. Historically, however, U.S. courts have never used the "reservation" clause to decide important cases.

The most explicit recognition of private property comes in the Fifth Amendment which states "Nor shall [anyone] be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law Nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation." The first clause is called the "due process" clause while the second part is referred to as the "takings" clause.

Until the middle of the twentieth century, the "due process" clause was often used to strike down regulations imposed on private property especially if they amounted to confiscation by regulation or if they exceeded the federal government's constitutionally delegated authority. For example, when President Franklin Roosevelt's National Recovery Act required all trades and businesses to form trade associations, restrict entry, and establish minimum wages and prices, the Supreme Court overturned this wholesale reorganization of U.S. industry as a violation of the "due process" clause. This prompted President Roosevelt to threaten to "pack" the Supreme Court. Although Roosevelt failed to gain congressional approval to expand the Supreme Court from nine to fifteen members, the Court no longer overturned New Deal policies. Subsequently, Courts have created an artificial distinction between "property liberties" and "personal liberties." Rarely, do Courts use the "due process" clause to uphold "property liberties" anymore. Current judicial theorists argue that the Constitution does not prescribe a particular economic system (capitalism). Therefore, private property liberties are not protected while "personal liberties" such as First Amendment guarantees of free speech are still upheld under the "due process" clause.

The "takings" clause requires all levels of government to justly compensate owners for property taken for public use. Whenever land is condemned or taken for highway construction, military bases, and so forth, courts must estimate the fair value of the property to be paid to the owners. The "takings" clause also requires governments to compensate owners when confiscatory taxes are imposed or regulatory acts render property worthless.

The "takings" clause was intended to prevent the government from forcing a few property owners to bear the burdens of legislative measures intended to benefit the general public. It reduces the uncertainties of property ownership arising out of the political system, helping to mitigate the problems of "mutable" policy alluded to by Madison. Requiring government to compensate owners for the resources that it takes for public use also enhances proper cost-benefit planning on the part of policymakers but the primary purpose of this clause is to protect property owners from arbitrary governmental power, not to assist bureaucratic planners--or else the framers would have added a "givings" clause entitling the State to be compensated for the public benefits it claims to generate.

Until the twentieth century, U.S. courts never applied the "takings" clause to regulations falling short of transferring legal title to the government. Courts, however, did respect private property. Owners could find relief under the "due process" clause which could overturn state and federal legislation altogether. Indeed, the failure to apply the "due process" clause in property cases places the "takings" clause as the final barrier to full governmental supremacy over private property rights.

At present, courts are evolving their opinions regarding the "takings" clause. They are willing to allow the regulation of property to some extent, but if the regulation goes too far it may become a taking. The current legal uncertainty results from the clashing views on the nature of private property. Does property constitute the rights of individual owners to actions which enjoy constitutional protections against arbitrary government actions or is the government supreme? In our forefathers' day, the latter view was known as "the divine right of kings." During the middle of the twentieth century, the economic system which allows ownership on paper while the government made all of the important decisions regarding the uses of property was called fascism. Today, in the United States government supremacy over individual property owners means that the government may temporarily permit us to hold title to certain of its possessions and use them in limited ways at its pleasure. So far, the opponents of constitutional property rights have refused to give their system a new name, but it amounts to the same old system called tyranny.

The essence of private property is the bundle of actions which owners may rightfully perform. Logically, any legislation restricting these ownership acts amounts to a regulatory "taking" and the owner ought to be entitled to be compensated for the decline in value of his assets. The Constitution did not establish unlimited majority rule. Even the legislature must be subject to the rule of law.

Nevertheless, many regulations would not involve compensation under the Fifth Amendment because they either do not involve a regulatory "taking" or measurably reduce the fair market value of property. For example, if landowners have a right to be free of pollution under the common law of nuisance and the owners are too disorganized to protect their rights against polluters, a governmental statute may empower the executive to bring the polluters to court under the common law and even impose special statutory penalties upon them. Since the right to pollute did not exist, no "taking" is involved and the government is merely performing its legitimate role in defense of private property. Other regulations, such as Civil Rights public accommodations cases, the regulatory requirement to serve all patrons would not adversely affect the value of the property. Zoning laws often increase land values. No compensation would be required unless the value of the "takings" is measurably reduced.

Under any interpretation, the "takings" clause is a comparatively weak protection of private property. The government may still impose taxes and acquire resources for public use. Courts must still determine "fair" value by making very imprecise approximations. Finally, some government regulations inhibit trade while actually augmenting the value of certain properties. For example, a zoning ordinance which severely restricts the land available for commercial use might increase the value of the property already employed in trade. Although such laws stifle growth and commercial liberty, the "takings" clause offers no relief to prospective businessmen who are unable to enter the market. The broad interpretation of the "takings" clause is no substitute for the judicial protection of "property liberties" under the "due process" clause.

Following the Civil War, the Thirteenth Amendment ended slavery and the Fourteenth Amendment extended the application of the "Bill of Rights." Section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment reads, "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States nor deny any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."

The application of the "due process" clause to the states gives to individuals and businesses the same Fifth Amendment grounds to challenge state regulations as they already possessed against federal law. The "equal protection" clause extends the basic rights of citizenship to all Americans, regardless of race and sex.

Both clauses were specifically intended to protect the property and liberty of blacks from outrageous actions on the part of southern states. It obviously outlaws the old southern "separate but equal" segregation laws. Thanks to the Fourteenth Amendment, all citizens are joint heirs to the old Saxon and English Whig concepts of liberty and property.

Where Have All Our Property Rights Gone?

The constitutional history discussed above clearly shows that the founders did take private property seriously and designed the Constitution accordingly. In order to limit the potential for tyranny the framers:

(1) Divided the powers into three separate branches (legislative, executive and judicial).

(2) Further separated the functions of government between federal and state levels, giving the federal level only a few enumerated powers.

(3) Incorporated a "Bill of Rights" which specifically listed some of the most important applications of individual rights for all people to read and the courts to uphold.

The constitutional protections of our liberties have withered over the years. The division of powers within the federal government may have checked the expansion of one part of the federal government into the domain of another, but there is no protection for the people and states against collusions and the conspiracies among the different branches to exceed the delegated powers of federal authority. For example, the Constitution does not grant the federal government jurisdiction over education, housing, agriculture, or energy, but these functions have been elevated to cabinet level status in Washington by Congress, administered by the executive branch and approved by the courts.

Federal regulations have become so extensive that Congress often delegates its rule-making powers to numerous, non-elected agencies, such as the FTC, FDA, OSHA, SEC, and EPA. These agencies combine executive and judicial functions with their rule-making authority--subverting the division of power concept becoming laws unto themselves with feudal-like dominions in command over the private property held by commoners. James Madison condemned "the accumulation of all powers legislative, executive, and judicial in the same hands, whether of one, few or many and whether hereditary, self-appointed or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny. Were the Constitution chargeable with this accumulation of power or with a mixture of powers, having a dangerous tendency to such an accumulation, no further arguments would be necessary to inspire a universal reprobation of the system."6

Most recently, the federal government's appetite for power exceeds its capacity to raise revenues. Instead of taxation and spending, Congress prefers to subvert the rights of private property owners by imposing unfunded mandates upon them, such as "family leave" and employer mandates or forced "contributions" to proposed health-care legislation. The words of Madison decrying the problems of "mutable" policy have been drowned out amidst a flood of ever wider calls for new government powers.

The usurpation of powers and rights belonging to the states and people by the federal government is partly due to defects in the Constitution itself. The framers, unfortunately, never established an effective check or balance that state governments could invoke against the encroachment of federal power into their proper domains. Ever since the Civil War, the threats by states to secede or nullify laws are not taken seriously, no matter how intrusive federal regulations become. Abuses of federal power may only be addressed in federal courts, hardly an independent or adequate restraint on federal authority.

The unfortunate legacy of slavery also made it more difficult to defend both private property and federalism. The framers granted the same constitutional protections to slave-holding as it accorded to legitimate private property. This has led to the mistaken notions among scholars, including noted Civil War historian James McPherson who called the abolishment of slavery in the Thirteenth Amendment as representing one of "the greatest seizures of property in world history." In fact, no one can ever legitimately own another human being. The English Whigs understood that the first right was self-ownership. The emancipation of slaves recognized the legitimate claims by southern blacks to self-ownership. The United Stated did not "seize" the slaves as third world governments take over factories. The Thirteenth Amendment set the captives free.

Following the Civil War, the southern states frequently violated the property rights and liberties of black people. The Fourteenth Amendment gave the federal Congress the power to protect their civil rights. This amendment was necessary, but it also established a precedent, "a hook" which the federal government has used to exceed its legitimate powers. Today, federal usurpation of the domain belonging to the states and people goes unchecked. "Liberal" scholars consider private property rights to be government grants of privilege--to be tolerated when convenient to the government, but no longer as a significant human right in itself. The concept of "states' rights" holds even less respect because it reminds one of past injustices committed by states, rather than as safeguards against the centralization of power.

The "Bill of Rights" provides very explicit words guaranteeing the rights of the common people. Unfortunately, words are not self-enforcing. The constitutional contract between the people and the government must provide incentives, counterforces, etc. to ensure that politicians remain the servants of the people, rather than the other way around. Even the most ingenious constitutional safeguards will wither and die if the public no longer appreciates the importance of liberty and property and if they can be made to believe that the crises of the day invariably requires extra-constitutional remedies.

Modern intellectuals do not take private property seriously, nor do they wish to constrain the makers of public policy. Ever since the "New Deal" of the 1930s, "liberal" scholars have rejected the belief that any economic system is proper for all periods of history. To them, political economy does not reveal any enduring set of legal principles. Political economy instead molds itself to the crises of the moment. The Great Depression, The War on Poverty, Projected Environmental Disasters, and the Health-Care Crisis, all supposedly require radical reorganization of the economy. Property rights and the rule of law must give way to the reformers.

In truth, no crisis is ever bigger than the Constitution. A solid education in economics would teach that private property and markets normally align the interests of property owners with the public. Most of the attempts by government to eliminate poverty, regulate prices, control macro-economic fluctuations, or otherwise manage the economy have proven very costly and usually counterproductive. It is also probable that many of the recent ecological scares are scientifically unfounded. Real world problems can usually be addressed within the context of private property and market economics.

Infrequently, a government regulation may provide a convenient route in mitigating a particular problem of the day, but the benefits of infringing property rights are small compared to the sheer costs of government and the uncertainties found in the law today. Moreover the Constitution contains an amendment process to handle situations where the need to act is great and normal remedies appear to be inadequate. This amendment process, however, is a slow, deliberate one which enables the people and the experts alike to investigate, study, and analyze the problem and the costs of alternative remedies. Prudent, reasoned solutions require time.

Neither the Constitution, nor the rule of law can long endure the blight of a misinformed public. As friends of liberty, our eternally vigilant task must be an educational one. The people must ever remember the words of the founders, the wisdom of economists, and the lessons of history. Let us endeavor to turn back the regulatory lords in Washington, the twentieth-century pretenders to our property.

Under what circumstances did feudal rulers grant land to someone new? - History

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Feudalism in the Holy Roman Empire

Feudalism in the Holy Roman Empire was a politico-economic system of relationships between liege lords and enfeoffed vassals (or feudatories) that formed the basis of the social structure within the Holy Roman Empire during the High Middle Ages. In German the system is variously referred to Lehnswesen, Feudalwesen or Benefizialwesen.

Feudalism in Europe emerged in the Early Middle Ages, based on Roman clientship and the Germanic social hierarchy of lords and retainers. It obliged the feudatory to render personal services to the lord. These included e. g. holding his stirrup, joining him on festive occasions and service as a cupbearer at the banquet table. Both pledged mutual loyalty: the lord to "shelter and protect", the vassal to "help and advise". Furthermore, feudal lord and vassal were bound to mutually respect one another, i.e. the lord could not, by law, beat his vassal, humiliate or lay hands on his wife or daughter. The highest liege lord was the sovereign, the king or duke, who granted fiefs to his princes. In turn, they could award fiefs to other nobles, who wanted to be enfeoffed by them and who were often subordinate to the liege lord in the aristocratic hierarchy.

A fief (also fee, feu, feud, tenure or fiefdom, German: Lehen, Latin: feudum, feodum or beneficium) was understood to be a thing (land, property), which its owner, the liege lord (Lehnsherr), had transferred to the hereditary ownership of the beneficiary on the basis of mutual loyalty, with the proviso that it would return to the lord under certain circumstances.

Enfeoffment gave the vassal extensive, hereditary usufruct of the fief, founded and maintained on a relationship of mutual loyalty between the lord and the beneficiary. The Latin word beneficum implied, not only the actual estate or property, the fief - in Latin usually called the feodum - but also the associated legal relationship.

The owner was the so-called liege lord or feudal lord (German: Lehnsherr Lehnsgeber Latin: dominus feudi, senior), who was usually the territorial lord or reigning monarch. The beneficiary was his vassal, liegeman or feudatory (German: Vasall, Lehnsmann, Knecht, Lehenempfänger or Lehensträger Latin: vassus or vasallus). Both parties swore an oath of fealty (Lehnseid) to one another. The rights conferred on the vassal were so similar to actual possession that it was described as beneficial ownership (dominium utile), whereas the rights of the lord were referred to as direct ownership (dominium directum).

The fief (German: Lehen or Lehnsgut) usually comprised an estate or a complex of estates, but also specified rights of use and rights of taxation or duties.

Linguistically the term Lehen is connected with the word leihen, to lend or loan, and meant something like "loaned property" (c.f. the modern German Darlehen, a loan), whilst the word feudum, which some etymologists suggest comes from the Latin fides (loyalty), is more likely to be derived from the Old High German feo, which meant Vieh i.e. "cattle", but later generally meant "goods" or "property".

The opposite of a fief was the freehold, allod or allodium, which roughly corresponds to the present freehold estate.

An institution during the transition from feudal states to what is now the free ownership of property, was the allodifizierte Lehen ("allodified fief"), a fief in which the feudal lord gave up direct ownership - usually in return for the payment of compensation or an allodified rent (Allodifikationsrenten) - but the vassal's ownership of the fief with an agreed agnatic succession - resembling a family entailed estate (Familienfideikommiß) - remained in place.

There were numerous different types of feudal arrangement depending on regional tradition and the nature of feudal lordship (secular or ecclesiastical/monastic). The best-known of these were:

Afterlehen: A mesne fief whereby the vassal awarded (parts of) his fief to a third party.

Altarlehen: A medieval proto-foundation (proto-Stiftung). Its purpose was to allocate annual revenue from the property to a specific primate for his abbey or church.

Beutellehen: originally a Ritterlehen that was later rented to farmers.

Burglehn: a fief in payment for services as a castellan (Burgmann).

Erblehen: a fief where the heirs of the vassal automatically inherited his rights and duties. The fief only first became hereditary through the conferral of a letter of hereditary right (Erbrechtsbrief) from the liege lord.

Fahnlehen: ("banner fief") a fief to a secular prince, in which banners symbolised the fief and the duties to the Heerbann.

Falllehen: a fief that expired on the death of the vassal. See Schupflehen.

Freistift: a fief that could be cancelled at 12 months notice.

Handlehen: a fief awarded for a specified period or the life of the vassal. Originally: a fief sealed by a handshake instead of a formal oath of fealty.

Kunkellehen: a fief to a vassal who was a woman (also called a Weiberlehen or feudum femininum).

Mannlehen/Mannslehen: a fief to a vassal who had to be a man.

Ligisches Lehnswesen: a fief in which the vassal was excluded from holding fiefs from other lords through a stronger contract between lord and vassal.

Schildlehen: similar to Fahnenlehen, but where the vassal held the rank of count or lower.

Schupflehen: a fief that expired on the death of the vassal. His heirs were figuratively seen as "pushed" (Old German/Alemannic: geschupft) out of the contract.

Stiftslehen: the fief was granted by an abbey, also called a Klosterlehen.

Weiberlehen: see Kunkellehen.

Zepterlehen: a fief to an ecclesiastical prince.

The king gave estates or appointments (Ämter) to upper or crown vassals (Kronvasallen), who, in turn, passed them on to lower vassals (Untervasallen). The lower vassals would then hire the land to be cultivated by unfree farmers. There were no feudal relationships between farmers and the lower vassals.

During the Middle Ages another structure developed in Germany, the so-called Heerschildordnung, a medieval feudal hierarchy:

Ecclesiastical princes (Geistliche Fürsten)

Secular, or lay, princes (Weltliche Fürsten)

Counts and barons (Grafen und Freiherren)

Ministeriales (Ministerialen or Dienstmannen)

Vassals of the ministeriales (Männer der Ministerialen)

Free knights (Ritterbürtige Mannen) (who could only receive a fief, not grant one)

Initially, only those of knightly birth were entitled to be enfeoffed, i.e. free knights who could bear arms and were in full possession of their title. Later, unfree ministeriales also rose to the knighthood. Vassalage consisted mainly of military campaigns (military service) and court duty (the presence of vassals at the court in order to offer advice). From court service, the state and imperial diets emerged. The fief was only given to the vassal to utilize later, the vassal also became a sub-owner, but the feudal lord always retained the rights to this office. Eventually, the heritability of fiefs evolved later, but the landowner nevertheless remain the liege lord.

Roots of feudalism - Roman patronage

In Late Antiquity, out of the Roman system of patronage (or clientage) and the clan (Sippe) relationships of the Migration Period (Völkerwanderungszeit) (Germanic kingdoms on Roman soil), relations between rulers and their subjects developed into a prevailing consensus that was commonplace and accepted.

In Roman culture, it was common for a patron (a wealthy Roman citizen) to automatically retain his freed slaves in a dependent relationship, known as patronage. This required the client to accompany his patron to war and protect him if the latter so wished, to accompany him to court as a vocal supporter and, if the patron held public office, to act as his assistant and to accompany him on representational events in public. In return, the patron had to ensure the legal and practical support of his client in all aspects of life. A Roman citizen, a non-Roman and even entire tribes in the Roman Empire could have a patron-client relationship.

In Late Antiquity, this form of relationship was increasingly adopted in rural areas, because the Roman nomenklatura increasingly saw their vast estates (Latifundia) as their refuge and also as economically important pillars, over which they sometimes even had their own jurisdiction and fortified prisons. Clients at that time were usually bound to their patrons through the allocation of land.

During the latter years of the period of clan society with Germanic kingdoms on Roman soil, it was common for all the land to belong to the king. Only he could distribute land to his subjects. These subjects were usually family members, warriors who had performed outstanding feats, and noblemen. This land did not become the property of the subject, but was handed over to him only in persona. On the death of king or vassal, the land was de facto returned to the new king. Over time, a practice developed that the person enfeoffed with the land, together with his family, became the beneficiaries of the fief and remained permanently bound to it. Upon the death of one party, a new act of homage (Lehnseid), a formal legal ceremony, had to take place. These transitions were fluid and there were exceptions to the practice of enfeoffment.

The vassal often enfeoffed the estate, usually divided into smaller parcels of land, to other lesser vassals, who in turn had to swear fealty to him. In return for the lease of land, the king could demand loyalty and allegiance from the vassal and his sub-vassals. This means that, in the event of war, they had to provide soldiers and assistance, or if money ran short or a ransom was needed, they were expected to support the king.

The Roman patron-client relationship and the early clan-based feudal relationship in the Germanic kingdoms merged during the early Middle Ages into the feudal law, or Lehnsrecht, a legal and social set of relationships, which effectively formed a pyramid with the king at the top.

The enforcement of Lehnsrecht is associated with the reduced circulation of money in the Late Antiquity and Early Medieval periods. Money could not bind a vassal to a king, only land. Unlike money, this was plentiful. Even kings and at least in the early Middle Ages, the clergy could be vassals of a king or another king.

Emergence of feudal relationships

Under the feudal system, various legal institutions came together during the Carolingian period that had previously existed independently. These institutions were:

The antrustiones - these were the inner circle of the king's retinue they were distinguished by the fact that a multiple of the usual weregild had to be paid to them.

The vassi - free lords who could no longer look after for themselves were able to commend themselves into the hands of a more powerful lord, receiving sustenance and shelter in return for an obligation of loyalty and service. They did not lose their status as free lords through the commendation ceremony, but the royal court continued to be responsible for them. The commendation was enacted by the so-called handgang ceremony, i.e. the future vassus put his hands, folded, into the hands of his lord, who then enclosed them. This gesture made the relationship of the two very clear.

The beneficium (original meaning of "benefit") - in the early Middle Ages land was leased, but there were also cases where estates were granted without requiring recompense, for example under duress or to do someone a favour. The lord then remained the true owner of the land, but was no longer its beneficiary.

It was from the combination of these institutions, especially as more and more lords achieved high social position, that the feudal system emerged. The handgang, which together with the oath of loyalty (Treueid), became referred to as homagium (Latin), homage (French), or mannschaft (German), became the decisive legal device until well into the 12th century. Not until the spread of the system of legal deeds was the handgang dropped from the oath of allegiance, which was better recorded in writing.

Commendations were still carried out at all levels. In lower classes they were based on the manorial system (Grundherrschaft), at the high levels on feudalism (Lehnswesen).

The award of fiefs often replaced the remuneration for work. This was necessary because the monetary system necessary to make regular payments was still far too underdeveloped during the early Middle Ages.

As the services of the vassal specifically included military service, under the Frankish monarchy the feudal system was for centuries the basis of the army as well as the social organization of the Holy Roman Empire. It was not only the king who acquired vassals in this way. He was soon imitated by secular and ecclesiastical magnates. Gradually, the principle of the heritability of fiefs was established along with the admissibility of passing them on as Afterlehen to sub-vassals. The latter were also declared as heritable in 1037 by Conrad II in the constitutio de feudis. So it came to pass that as early as the 12th century, all duchies and counties were awarded as fiefs.

Within each of these ecclesiastical and secular territories, however, there was a variety of types of feudalism. Not until the 13th century, did the importance of the feudal system decline, because instead of vassals (Vassallen), liegemen (Dienstmannen) - well-educated men (c.f. the development of the university system) - were appointed. The kings encouraged this development, for political reasons, and so strengthened territorial lordship (Landesherrschaft), which replaced the feudal system empire-wide. This strengthening of territorial rulers had an impact that could not be reversed, so that the power of the various principalities did not reduce, unlike the situation in France and England.

In England, feudal ties were abolished as early as the Revolution of 1649, and then by an express decree by Charles II in 1660. In France they were abolished by the decisions of the National Assembly on 4 and 5 August 1789. In Germany, the dissolution of feudal associations (Lehnsverband) was a long process. Legally, it was abolished inter alia by the Confederation of the Rhine acts, in the Final Recess of the Reichsdeputation and the Frankfurt Constitution of 1849. One of the last fiefs was awarded in 1835, when the ailing Count Friedrich Wilhelm von Schlitz, known as Görtz, was enfeoffed with the spring at Salzschlirf and began to excavate it again. Those fiefs still in existence in the 20th century were abolished in 1947 by an Allied Control Council edict.

Important principles of feudal law in the Holy Roman Empire

In general, the vassal (Lehnsmann) was granted land or free houses (Freihäuser) in return for his services. He could also provide services at the lord's residence and be accommodated there. Most of these so-called servi non cassati were given a fief as soon as one became available.

Official positions (Ämter) and sovereign rights over a particular territory (feudal regalia) could be awarded as a fief. It was in this way that the House of Thurn and Taxis received its Postlehen or postal service rights. In addition, there were numerous enfeoffments of church rights, church fiefs (Stifte or feudal ecclesiastica) and enfeoffments of foundations associated with an altar (feudum altaragli). Also, cash payments from the royal treasury or profitsfrom certain duties could be awarded as a fief.

Feoffment (constitutio feudi, infeudatio) involved the vassal being formally seized of his fief through a commendation ceremony. In Frankish times, commendation centered around the so-called handclasping ceremony (Handgang): the vassal clasped his hands together and placed them in the hands of his lord, who then clasped his hands around those of his vassal. He thereby symbolically received the protection of his new superior. From the end of the 9th century, this act was expanded to include an oath of allegiance, which was usually sworn on a religious relic. The oath served to affirm the binding of the liegeman to his liege, but emphasized that the vassal had not lost his status as a free knight, because only the free could be bound by oath.

In the 11th century, the commendation ceremony required the liegeman to pay homage (homagium or Mannschaft), which involved the handclasping ceremony as well as a declaration of intent. The liege lord could also make a declaration, but he would often forego this. This was followed by the loyalty oath and sometimes a kiss. Since, in the Middle Ages, a binding legal act could be constituted by a symbolic action, an object was symbolically handed over in a process known as livery of seizin and could be a staff or a banner (called a Fahnenlehn). The emperor could also symbolically hand over his sceptre (in the so-called Zepterlehen). As literacy rose, a charter of feoffment was also made out as part of the act that, over time, listed the feoffed estate and benefits that the vassal was to receive in ever increasing detail. In the late Middle Ages, an entry fee was demanded for feoffment, which was often based on the fief's annual income.

The fief (benefice) that the vassal received could be owned by the lord or have been granted in fee by another. Sometimes the vassal even sold or gifted over his possessions to the lord (Lehnsauftragung) and then received it back as a fief (oblatio feudi). This was usually done in the hope that the liege lord could defend his estate better in the event of a dispute in the field or at court. The lord purchased or accepted the gift because he might have the intention or hope, for example, of merging unrelated fiefdoms into a whole and thus extending his sphere of influence, for example, in terms of jurisdiction, or the appointment of clergy.

Legal relationship between lords and vassals

From the 11th century, the obligations of vassals were usually described as auxilium et consilium (help and advice). Auxilium usually implied assistance in terms of military service that the vassal had to render. This could be unlimited, i.e. the vassal had to assist his lord in every conflict, or it could be limited in time, space and in the number of troops to be raised. With the advent of the mercenaries, the reliance on vassals became less important and their service increasingly took the form of administration and court duties. Consilium meant primarily the obligation to appear at imperial assemblies or Hoftage. Vassals whose feudal lord was not the king took part in the councils of their liege lords. They also had to administer justice over their subjects in the name of their master.

The vassal could even be required to pay money though perhaps not to the extent of England, where military service became a requirement for war funds and the English king used the money to pay for his mercenaries. Monetary payments were also required in other cases, such as to pay a ransom for a captive lord, for the accolade of his eldest son, for the dowry of his eldest daughter, or for a journey to the Holy Land.

The feudal lord could also demand recompense (Lehnserneuerung or renovatio investiturae) from his vassals if they lost their fief or upon changes of lord - changes of ruler at any level, local lord, prince or king (known as Herrenfall, Hauptfall, Thronfall) - as well as changes of vassal (known as Lehnsfall, Vasallenfall or Mannfall, Nebenfall). The latter had to submit a written application (Lehnsmutung) within a year and a day (actually 1 year, 6 weeks, 3 days) and ask for the renewal of his investiture, but this term could be extended by a decree from the lord (Lehnsindult).

Depending on local law, the vassal might be liable, apart from the fee, for the renewal of the enfeoffment (called the Schreibschilling or Lehnstaxe), to pay a special tax (the Laudemium, Lehnsgeld, Lehnsware or Handlohn). Finally, in the event of a felony by the vassal, the lord could confiscate the fief under the so-called Privationsklage action or step in to prevent the deterioration of the estate, if necessary, by legal means. He could also assert his claim to ownership at any time against any unauthorized third parties.

The duties of the lords were less precisely defined, however, they were largely discharged on the handover of the fief. The vassal always had a claim to loyalty from his lord (Lehnsprotektion) and a breach of that by the lord meant the loss of his sovereignty over his vassal. The vassal had the "right of use" of the fief (the object of enfeoffment or Lehnsobjekt). The lord also had to represent his vassals in court.

Dissolution of a feudal relationship

Originally, a lord-vassal tie (Lehnsbindung) was a lifelong, faithful relationship that could end only on death. It was also inconceivable that someone could be the vassal of more than one lord. In fact, multiple vassalage soon emerged and loosened the duty of loyalty for the liegeman (Lehnsmann) considerably. Also, the opportunity to inherit a fief diminished the ability of the lord to intervene and loosened the personal loyalty of liegemen. Over time, the importance of fiefdoms increased more and more, whilst the duty of loyalty faded increasingly into the background. In the end, a fief was simply an estate for which the heir had to perform a certain ceremony.

In summary, the feudal system was based on two main components - the personal and the material elements. Personal element: The lord and vassal committed themselves to mutual loyalty. The visible expression of this commitment was the act of the vassal placing his hands in those of his lord (handgang - comparable with today's handshake, except that the handgang symbolized a hierarchical relation). Material element: Based on the pledge of loyalty between them, the lord made land available to the vassal. The vassal was obliged, in return, to render various services and taxes.