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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Feudalism - Are We There Yet?

Barry, My Liege:

It would seem appropriate to examine life under feudalism since we seem to be taking on some of its characteristics.

I would rather live in the United States of America and I hope we can go back to that happy time.

But, just in case we fail to stop the slide toward barbarism and feudalism, let's see what life was like in that time.

The feudal landlord thought he was a man of great importance; he thought he was superior to those around him. He was chief and master of the family as well as master of the slaves in his house. In his house his word was law, there was no force outside the house or inside the house to check him.

He had no common bonds to family or servants; he defended his property as a part of himself. Some writers thought the relation between him and lesser people was of unmixed hatred, especially when the lesser folk began to gain liberty from their slave-like state of serfdom. Kindness might exist until the law inspired serfs with a notion of freedom, then there was insolence on one side and cruelty on the other.

Feudal lords had the right to wage war privately for gain or for revenge. Since the government was too weak to protect, barons relied on their own force to secure their property and person. This constant war between lords drove poor people to join with a lord on the estate and exchange labor and arms bearing for protection from roving bands of thugs.

In England, the barons and lords established their own courts, which ruled supreme over other courts including the distant King's. Often disputes were decided by God - that is, in a trial by fire or combat the winner was innocent and the loser was guilty. Sometimes, parties nominated stand-ins to do judicial battle for their cause. In 11th century Spain, two armored knights decided a question of theology this way.

Further, in court the testimony was judged more truthful if the person giving testimony had a high rank. Persons of high rank could buy their way out of charges with a defined set of payments: '....the life of every man had a value affixed to it, which was called his weregild, .e.g, king's weregild in England was 30,000 thrismas, a Prince's 15,000 thrismas, bishop's 8,000, sheriff's 4,000, a clergyman 2,000, a ceorl 266.'

Nobles lived in circular towers of thick walls with no light for lower rooms except for opening above. For poor people, the wind whistled through the house.

Barry, My Liege, we pray that you can bring us into the 19th or 20th Century because the 21st Century is looking pretty grim right now.

Excerpts above from 'A digest of the laws, customs, manners, and institutions of the ancient and modern nations', By Thomas Roderick Dew, 1854.

Your faithful servant,

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