CHAPTER II. THE SUBMERGENCE OF ENGLAND
The political and social arrangements summed up in the phrase related primarily to the land and the conditions of service upon which it was held. Commerce and manufactures, and the organization of towns which grew out of them, were always exceptions to the feudal system; the monarchy saved itself, its sheriffs, and the shires to some extent from feudal influence; and soon it set to work to redeem the administration of justice from its clutches. In all parts of the country, moreover, there was land, the tenure of which was never feudalized. Generally, however, the theory was applied that all land was held directly or indirectly from the king, who was the sole owner of it, that there was no land without a lord, and that from every acre of land some sort of service was due to some one or other. A great deal of it was held by military service; the tenant-in-chief of this land, who might be either a layman or an ecclesiastic, had to render this military service to the king, while the sub-tenants had to render it to the tenants-in-chief. When the tenant died his land reverted to the lord, who only granted it to the heir after the payment of a year's revenue, and on condition of the same service being rendered. If the heir were a minor, and thus incapable of rendering military service, the land was retained by the lord until the heir came of age; heiresses could only marry with the lord's leave some one who could perform his services. The tenant had further to attend the lord's court - whether the lord was his king or not - submit to his jurisdiction, and pay aids to the lord whenever he was captured and needed ransom, when his eldest son was made a knight, and when his eldest daughter married.
Other land was held by churchmen on condition of praying or singing for the soul of the lord, and the importance of this tenure was that it was subject to the church courts and not to those of the king. Some was held in what was called free socage, the terms of which varied; but its distinguishing feature seems to have been that the service, which was not military, was fixed, and that when it was performed the lord had no further hold on the tenant. The great mass of the population were, however, villeins, who were always at the beck and call of their lords, and had to do as much ploughing, sowing, and reaping of his land as he could make them. Theoretically they were his goods and chattels, who could obtain no redress against any one except in the lord's court, and none at all against him. They could not leave their land, nor marry, nor enter the church, nor go to school without his leave. All these forms of tenure and kinds of service, however, shaded off into one another, so that it is impossible to draw hard and fast lines between them. Any one, moreover, might hold different lands on different terms of service, so that there was little of caste in the English system; it was upon the land and not the person that the service was imposed; and William's Domesday Book was not a record of the ranks and classes of the people, but a survey of the land, detailing the rents and service due from every part.
The local agency by which the Normans enforced these arrangements was the manor. The Anglo-Saxons had organized shires and hundreds, but the lowest unit, township or vill seems to have had no organization except, perhaps, for agricultural purposes. The Danegeld, which William imposed after the Domesday survey, was assessed on the hundreds, as though there were no smaller units from which it could be levied. But the hundred was found too cumbrous for the efficient control of local details; it was divided into manors, the Normans using for this purpose the germs of dependent townships which had long been growing up in England; and the agricultural organization of the township was dovetailed into the jurisdictional organization of the manor. The lord became the lord of all the land on the manor, the owner of a court which tried local disputes; but he rarely possessed that criminal jurisdiction in matters of life and death which was common in continental feudalism; and if he did, it was only by special royal grant, and he was gradually deprived of it by the development of royal courts of justice, which drew to themselves large parts of manorial jurisdiction.
These and other matters were reserved for the old courts of the shire and hundred, which the Norman kings found it advisable to encourage as a check upon their barons; for the more completely the natives and villagers were subjected to their lords, the more necessary was it for the king to maintain his hold upon their masters. For this reason William imposed the famous Salisbury oath. In France the sub-tenant was bound to follow and obey his immediate lord rather than the king. William was determined that every man's duty to the king should come first. Similarly, he separated church courts from the secular courts, in order that the former might be saved from the feudal influence of the latter; and he enforced the ecclesiastical reforms of Hildebrand, especially the prohibition of the marriage of the clergy, lest they should convert their benefices into hereditary fiefs for the benefit of their children.