Слике страница
PDF
ePub

was

“held"

do not talk of owning the air, and a private individual cannot own a navigable river, or a plot on the high seas.

When people lived in kindred groups or clans, Clan especially if they lived a hunting or pastoral life, each group might have a district where it hunted, or gathered fruits, or pastured its flocks. It would keep others out of this district if possible, and feel that it was on its own ground. But the individual members of the clan would not have their separate plots.

When groups settled down to cultivate the land it Village was, as we have seen, the custom to have the plow land in open fields with strips of grass between the holdings of the different dwellers. There was besides this a large area of waste which

was a common pasture. There was then much land which was simply in common, and some which

by the dwellers in the village community in the sense that they plowed it and harvested it. But they could not have sold it.

When the king and his warriors conquered a coun- Lords try, the king considered that it was his. He

ap

land pointed his men to rule districts, just as the President of the United States appoints a governor of Alaska. There were two important differences, however. First the duke or baron collected his own pay from those under him. The amount which his tenants were to pay was largely fixed by custom, but he was not limited to a fixed sum. He got what he could, paid over a fixed sum to the king, and kept the rest. It was not the idea at first that he owned the land; he “ held” it from the king or from some one superior to himself. In some offices called “ fee offices " still have a survival of the old days when a govern

of the

we

a

Landlords

ment office was means of making an indefinite amount of money out of people. In most offices today, however, the officer is paid a fixed salary.

The second important difference is that when an American governor or judge dies he is not usually succeeded by his son. Even if the governor has lived in an executive mansion, as the old baron lived in a castle, his family expects to leave it when his term of office expires. On the other hand, the king's officer would in some cases be an old clan chief, and this office was hereditary. Or even if this were not the case, the strong chief would want to hand his power, his castle, and all his possessions down to his son, and as the king himself exercised this right, it was the natural thing for the lords to seek to exercise it also. When the son was already in possession of the castle he would have a decided advantage against other claimants. If the son or heir of the lord should always succeed him it might easily come to be thought that the county in some sense belonged to them. When the office of governor or judge is not passed down in this way there is little chance for such an idea. Hence out of these two ideas of being lord over the land and of being the hereditary lord came the idea that the landlord “ owned " the land.

In the earlier years of Norman rule there was difference between the lord's own " demesneland," from which he had the whole produce, and the parts of the manor which were cultivated by free tenants or by villeins. And there was the “waste

on which both lord and tenants pastured cattle. In one way or another, sometimes by mutual agreement with tenants, sometimes by sheer“ grab," the common fields and the “wastę” were inclosed. Instead of

a

being ruler, the landlord became the private owner. Some land, of course, came into the hands of small owners, but the larger part came under the ownership of the great landlords. In England this has survived in great measure to the present day.

In America we began, for the most part, with private Private ownership of land, and various laws have since been ownership passed to encourage this. Indeed, it is only recently not

absolute that we have come to realize that some kinds of land, especially forests, ought to be kept by the public. But we have one reminder of the fact that this owning of land is not absolute. For if the city or town or state or nation needs land for public purposes, such as a school, or street, or park, or post office, the land may be taken, even if the owner does not wish to sell. In such case the owner of course must be paid a fair price, but he has to give up the land.

The state which began in such an unpromising fashion as a band of warriors, who were often in plain language robbers or pirates, came thus to be the defender of people against violence, their protector through the common law, and the means of fixing private property in land. The great power of organization and coöperation proved that it could be a benefit to the whole country although it was at first used in the interests of a few.

CHAPTER VII

IDEALS OF THE WARRIOR CLASS, OF KNIGHT

AND GENTLEMAN

Ideals of the warrior class

[ocr errors]

T is evident that in such a society of warriors the

principal business of life would seem to be fighting.

It was not raising grain or breeding sheep or cattle; nor was it trading or manufacturing; nor was it the advance of knowledge or invention. The warriors who made slaves or serfs had found out how to make others work for them. It was far more exciting and interesting to fight or hunt than to plow or tend sheep. It was natural that a band of warriors united closely together, and forming an upper class group should have strong ideas about what a warrior should be and do. It was natural also that they should look down upon common people and slaves. It was natural that men whose chief business was to fight for the king and the state should think that this was the most important thing in the world, and should begrudge any rights or privileges to those who were not in their set. The ideals that such men built up for themselves and passed on to us show a mixture of good and evil. They were good in so far as they really embodied the new power of uniting men with their fellows. They were evil in so far as they went only halfway, relied upon force instead of upon mutual confidence and benefit, and in so far as they were the ideal of a small class only. These ideals of the warriors were honor, courage,

one.

loyalty, and chivalry. Fine and noble words surely, yet they need scrutiny.

Honor is a word which, in the first place, means, “ to Honor esteem” or “to have high regard for.” If we choose a man to some high office or trust him as our leader, we do so because we honor him. Then the word comes to mean the qualities for which we esteem or admire any

What sort of qualities we respect or honor in this way will depend upon who we are. A group of scholars honor a man like Newton or Darwin or Pasteur who shows genius in discovering truth. A group of hunters honor the best shot. A group of foot-ball players honor the quickest, coolest, steadiest, and boldest player. A group of thieves honor the cleverest thief. A group of fighters honor the best fighters. Honor then means excellence in some quality which is admired by some group. The important group at the stage we are now considering was the warrior group—the group of gentry, of knights and ladies. The honor that counted in this group was the honor of a warrior, of a knight, a gentleman, or lady, for the lady though not herself a warrior belonged to the group of warriors and like them looked down upon men and women of lower classes. To understand "honor” we need to know what a group of warriors, knights, and gentlemen would prize most.

First, of course, would come courage. The good Courage warrior must fear no foe and shrink from no danger. He would not take a “dare.” But, it may be asked, why speak of courage as though it were a new thing. Surely it was not invented by warriors. The cavemen who hunted the mammoth and tiger with nothing but stone weapons had courage. The Eskimos who went out upon arctic seas in their canoes to catch seals had courage. Yes, they certainly had. But they did not make this

« ПретходнаНастави »