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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 14

26.—Binding nature of the Feudal Contract

26.—Binding nature of the Feudal Contract.

Such were the conditions upon which the feudal tenants held their lands. Those conditions were the price they paid for those lands; and a breach or non-performance of them, or any of them, much more a total sweeping away of them all without an equitable equivalent, would, by the fundamental principles of contracts, have the same effect as if a purchaser of lands, or anything else, were to get possession of the thing contracted for, and then put the money which had been agreed upon as the price of it into his own pocket, instead of handing it over to the vendor. At the same time some of the conditions on which lands were then held in England, wore of a nature sufficiently disagreeable to make it natural and reasonable for the tenants to wish to exchange them for others, which might be of a less objectionable character. Accordingly in the reign of James I., a plan was in agitation for commuting these conditions or services into a "competent yearly rent, to be assured to his Majesty, his heirs and successors." Of this plan Lord Coke has, in the fourth part of his Institutes, given an account which bears so remarkably upon the present question that I shall transcribe it here entire.