The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 14
15.—Introduction of Scutage
15.—Introduction of Scutage.
It appears that very early the feudal tenants began to compound for personal attendance in knight service, either by sending others in their stead, or by sending a certain sum of money h . When this pecuniary satisfaction came to be levied page 186 at so much for every knight's fee, it acquired the name of scutagium or scutage, in Norman French escuage, so called not because it was properly speaking, servitium scuti, but as pertinens ad scutum, and because nomine scutorum solvitur i. It is to be observed, however, that according to the opinion of Sir Martin Wright, which seems founded on good authority, this meaning of escuage, viz., a fine or commutation for a service, was a sort of secondary meaning of the term, its primary meaning appearing to be a service itself. It seems to have meant 1stly: not (as Littleton intimates) k a direct personal service of attendance upon the king in his wars, and due upon all military occasions as knight service was; but a pecuniary aid or contribution, reserved by particular lords in lieu of personal service, the better to enable them to bear the expense of their own attendance upon the king in his wars. 2ndly: But it was more generally understood to denote a mulct or fine for a military tenant's defect of service, which fine, from the time of King John, whatever it was before, was not uncertain and at the will of the lord, but was to be fixed and assessed by Parliament l. I say whatever it was before, for since the non-performance of the feudal services or duties was in itself a forfeiture of the feud m, the lord, having the tenant or vassal completely in his power, might make the composition or fine as large as he pleased, for it was in his option whether he would take advantage of the forfeiture or not n.
i Wright, Ten., 125 note (1). Henry II. is thought to have taken the first scutage. Wright, 131 n. (u). Mad. Exch., 431-435.
l Wright, Ten. 123-128. Mr. Justice Coleridge thinks this account clears up the apparent confusion in Littleton and other writers of authority on this subject. 2 Coleridge's Blackst., 75 n. (13).
m Wright, 43.