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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 14

35.—Copyholders and Feudal Sub-tenants denied Relief

35.—Copyholders and Feudal Sub-tenants denied Relief.

In pursuance of the resolution, an act was passed, intituled "An act for taking away the court of wards and liveries, and tenures in capite, and by knight-service, and purveyance, and for settling a revenue upon his majesty in lieu thereof" p. It is rather singular that, notwithstanding the superintendence of so able a lawyer as Sir Heneage Finch, who was then Solicitor-General, and appears to have taken an active part in carrying through the measure, this statute should have been so loosely and inaccurately framed as it is. "The title of the act," observes Mr. Hargrave, "expresses that it was made for taking away tenure in capite; and the first enacting clause proceeds on the same idea. But had the act been accurately penned, it would simply have discharged such tenure of its oppressive fruits and incidents, which would have assimilated it to free and common socage, without the appearance of attempting to annihilate the indelible distinction between holding immediately of the king and holding of him through the medium of other lands" q. And Mr. Madox says r, "It was intended by the statute 12 Car. II. c. 21 to abolish tenure by knight-service, whether of the king or of a subject, with the fruits and appendages thereof." "But," he adds, "there are some clauses in that statute relating to tenures which, if I don't mistake, are worded in terms so complex and indistinct, that, like a two-edged sword, they cut both ways."

It may have been partly owing to this indistinctness, and partly to the supposition that as the convention patriots were so anxious to relieve the landed property of the kingdom from its oppressive incidents, they must have intended to be impartial in their benevolence; that at first it was imagined that the statute also discharged copyholds from their oppressive fruits and incidents, but in a case s which occurred soon after the revolution, it was solemnly resolved that the statute 12 Car. II. c. 24 does not extend to copyholds, and the reason given is that "it might be very prejudicial to lords of manors."