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In the time of Louis XV., Rousseau found the peasants of Dauphiny living as barely as they could live, and trying to deceive the tax-gatherer by the appearance of extreme misery. It is difficult for remote settlers to act otherwise under a bad or a weak government, that does not secure property. Any display of wealth and comfort attracts the fiscal agent, or tempts the marauder, and a rich man must pretend to be as wretched as his neighbours. But there is small satisfaction in being rich if one must pretend to be poor; and the poverty which is simulated soon becomes real.*
In a lawless age there can be no prosperous farmers. Handicraftsmen may associate, and may live in walled towns, but the farmer must dwell apart in the open country. The husbandmen of old times are never spoken of as a thriving class. Any trade was thought better than the farmer's. Chaucer carefully tells us that Osewold the Reeve was not a farmer:
“In youth he lerned had a good mistere, t
He was a wel good wright, a carpentere." The Plowman in the Canterbury Tales-who must be taken for a farmer, not an agricultural labourer-was nearly the humblest member of the cavalcade.
Although an ancient farmer's rent must have been no light burden, its amount cannot well be estimated, since the old rentals rarely state the value of the services, and they were the better part of the rent. The insurgents under Wat Tyler obtained a concession, afterwards revoked, that no acre of bondland should be subject to a higher rent than fourpence. In 1279, the value of the services due from the
I tenant of a yardland at Girton, near Cambridge, was eleven
* M. Dareste de la Chavanne, Histoire des Classes Agricoles en France, 238.
† Mystery est le craft ou occupation per que home gaine son living.(Les Termes de la Ley.)
The hangman in " Measure for Measure” calls his occupation a mystery.
I. . . Et quod nulla acra terræ in comitatibus prædictis quæ in Bondagio vel Servitio tenetur, altius quam ad Quatuor denarios baberetur. (7 Rymer, 317.)
or twelve shillings. At the same time the annual services of a smaller tenement were often worth a shilling an acre.* A farm of twenty acres at Redgrave returned in silver twentypence—no more than a penny an acre; but it also returned a quarter and two bushels of oats—seldom worth less than thirty-pence; the tenant's ploughing cost him fivepence, his arriage and carriage twenty-one pence, harvest work sixpence, general week-work six shillings and eightpence: altogether thirteen shillings and sixpence. There was a further charge of two hens and ten eggs for the homestead, and a payment for pannage of hogs and pasturage of sheep and kine.f We must remember, moreover, that the tenement was subject to a heriot and other manorial charges—to the king's fifteenth, the parson's tithe, and other dues of the Church. When all these items have been added together, we shall find that the land had burdens upon it as long ago as the thirteenth century.
The Vision and Creed of Piers Plowman often dwell on the sufferings of the peasantry. The farmers were distressed in spring and summer, after they had exhausted their stocks. They lived upon onions, parsley, cabbage, and oatcake, until August, when they might hope to have corn in the croft. Then they had a few months of abundance, idleness, and improvidence. In winter they were pinched again, often wearing the same pilch by night and by day. In summer the poor could not get food enough, and they suffered in winter through the want of clothing. The author of the Creed encounters a plowman toiling through the mire, clothed in rags, with worn-out shoes and mittens; his wife, with bare and bleeding feet, driving the lean oxen, and wearing little more than a winnowing-cloth over her shoulders; their
* Tenet ix acras terre custumabilis et faciet per annum vü« opera. et valent consuetudines ejusdem per annum ixs. (2 Hundred Rolls, 555.) † Add. 14850, f. 73 b.
I Wo in wynter tymes for wantynge of clothes,
(Vision, 284; also 273.)
children cradled at the end of the furrow, hungry, cold, and clamorous. We cannot make room for the entire picture. Here is a little sketch, probably drawn in the fifteenth century, of a gaunt, rawboned figure, begrimed with toil and sweat, and every grinder plainly shown through its thin, hollow cheeks :
“The Plowman plucked up his plowe,
When midsummer moon was comen in,
And lie in grasse up to the chin.
Nought of them left but bone and skinne ;
And hung his harness upon a pinne.
And on his head he set his hat,
On pilgrimage he goeth full flat;
He was folswonke and all forswat:
The Plowman's Prologue.*
It is hard to understand so much misery, when we bear in mind that the poor people were not labourers, but farmersexpected to pay a considerable rent. It should be observed that the farms were reduced by under-settlement that a man in the nominal occupation of thirty acres of land may have been, in truth, no more than a cottager. Perhaps, a bondman, who could not let his land without permission, lived more easily than an independent farmer.
Undersettlers, or subordinate tenants, are seldom expressly mentioned in the rentals. The three or four men who followed a customary tenant to the arable and autumnal preca
* We have modernised the stanzas a little. They are in some editions of Chaucer, but were evidently written after his time.
VOL. XV.— NO. XXIX.
tions, must have been his undersettlers.* These undersettlers usually returned to him a portion of the produce—the half or the third sheaf.t In addition to the lord's customary tenants he had, perhaps, some ordinary tenants on lease, who were in the position of our present tenantry. In the time of Edward I., the rent of a leasehold was commonly estimated at a fourth part of the very value of the land. I
In almost every manor there were a few freehold tenants, rendering to the lord a quit rent, or slight agricultural services. They otherwise trained a falcon for the lord; returned a pair of spurs or of gloves, a pound of pepper or of cummin seed, a clove, a rose, a barbed arrow, or a needle. They were secured against arbitrary treatment by the writ called Ne injuste vexes; inferior tenants were not entitled to the protection of this writ. The undersettlers of freeholders are now and then noticed, as in the rolls of the half hundred of Ewelme, A.D. 1279.
There are very long lists of tenants in the rentals. When we consider that they do not usually comprehend undersettlers, and that to the several classes of tenants a crowd of landless men-the servants and retainers -ought to be added, we shall be inclined to conclude that the common estimates underrate the ancient population--that England was pretty well peopled at the end of the thirteenth century.
Si aliquis eorum habeat undersetlam ad primam bedripam veniat.
(Cust. Roff.) si famulas vel famula vel undersetles venerint. (Add. 17450, f. 50.)
† The charge of a court baron. Ye good men that bene sworne, ye shal enquire and truely present
if there be any bondman, that letteth his land, that is to say, for the halfe, or for the thirde shefe without leaue.
(Tottyl's Law Tracts. The booke for a justice of peace, etc. 83 b. 1574.)
| 6 Ed. I. c. 4. 13 Ed I. c. 21. § Galfr'le Faukoner tenet de eodem domino ix acras cum messuagio et reddit per annum vi paria de jez cum vorterell' et unam lessam ad leporarios. (2 Hundred Rolls, 416.) Ricard' Grucet tenet unam hidam terre et solvit predicto Johanni per annum i denarium et dimidiam libram piperis et unam clavam gariophili et unum radicem gingiberi et unam garlend rose. . (341.) Will’ le megre tenet
acram in utroque campo pro una acu per annum. (858.)
|| 5 Fleta, 40. F. N. B. 31. Neque prætereunda est illa pars populi (quæ Angliæ fere est peculiaris, nec alibi, quod scio, in usu, nisi forte apud Polonos) famuli scilicet nobilium. -(Bacon De Aug. Scient. viii. 3.)
ART. III.-ACCORD AND SATISFACTION.
IT is proposed to consider, in a very brief way, the objection
which is raised to the introduction of the doctrine of Novation into the Common Law. If that objection rests upon any well-settled principle, it should by all means be sustained ; but if, on the other hand, it has no rational foundation, it should not be permitted to obstruct the operation of so useful a doctrine.
Novation is a term of the Civil Law, and it was employed to denote the substitution of one contract in the place of another. A transaction of this kind was equally valid whether the original contract had been already executed as to one of the parties, or whether it still remained executory as to both. It is only in the latter event that the new is substituted for the old contract at the Common Law. The maxim of the Common Law is, that an accord without satisfaction is no bar to a suit upon the original obligation; and it is accordingly laid down, that an agreement to accept anything other than the original debt is not binding unless founded upon some new consideration. This, it will be observed, is not simply an application of the well-known principle of law which requires that each contract shall have a consideration, but it is an additional requirement that the consideration on both sides shall be equal.
If a substituted stood upon the same footing with an original contract, the debtor's promise to give something else would be a consideration for the relinquishment of the old debt, and its relinquishment would in turn be a consideration for the debtor's promise. And why may not a creditor relinquish a debt in consideration of the debtor's promise? Is it because a sum of money due is thought to be of greater value than the same amount of money in hand ? Such seems to be the drift of the reasoning against such relinquishment; for it is advanced as an argument, that a creditor having performed his part of