II. THE ROMAN.
The Romans acted with regard to all conquered nations upon the maxim, "To the victors the spoils." Britain was no exception. The Romans were the first to discover or create an ESTATE OF USES in land, as distinct from an estate of possession. The more ancient nations, the Jews and the Greeks, never recognized THE ESTATE OF USES, though there is some indication of it in the relation established by Joseph in Egypt, when, during the years of famine, he purchased for Pharaoh the lands of the people. The Romans having seized upon lands in Italy belonging to conquered nations, considered them public lands, and rented them to the soldiery, thus retaining for the state the estate in the lands, but giving the occupier an estate of uses. The rent of these public lands was fixed at one tenth of the produce, and this was termed USUFRUCT - the use of the fruits.
The British chiefs, who submitted to the Romans, were subjected to a tribute or rent in corn; it varied, according to circumstances, from one fifth to one twentieth of the produce. The grower was bound to deliver it at the prescribed places. This was felt to be a great hardship, as they were often obliged to carry the grain great distances, or pay a bribe to be excused. This oppressive law was altered by Julius Agricola.
The Romans patronized agriculture - Cato says, "When the Romans designed to bestow the highest praise on a good man, they used to say he understood agriculture well, and is an excellent husbandman, for this was esteemed the greatest and most honorable character." Their system produced a great alteration in Britain, and converted it into the most plentiful province of the empire; it produced sufficient corn for its own inhabitants, for the Roman legions, and also afforded a great surplus, which was sent up the Rhine. The Emperor Julian built new granaries in Germany, in which he stored the corn brought from Britain. Agriculture had greatly improved in England under the Romans.
The Romans do not appear to have established in England any military tenures of land, such as those they created along the Danube and the Rhine; nor do they appear to have taken possession of the land; the tax they imposed upon it, though paid in kind, was more of the nature of a tribute than a rent. Though some of the best of the soldiers in the Roman legions were Britons, yet their rule completely enervated the aboriginal inhabitants - they were left without leaders, without cohesion. Their land was held by permission of the conquerors. The wall erected at so much labor in the north of England proved a less effectual barrier against the incursions of the Picts and Scots than the living barrier of armed men which, at a later period, successfully repelled their invasions. The Roman rule affords another example that material prosperity cannot secure the liberties of a people, that they must be armed and prepared to repel by force any aggression upon their liberty or their estates.
"Who will be free, themselves must strike the blow."
The prosperous "Britons," who were left by the Romans in possession of the island, were but feeble representatives of those who, under Caractacus and Boadicea, did not shrink from combat with the legions of Caesar. Uninured to arms, and accustomed to obedience, they looked for a fresh master, and sunk into servitude and serfdom, from which they never emerged. Yet under the Romans they had thriven and increased in material wealth; the island abounded in numerous flocks and herds; and agriculture, which was encouraged by the Romans, flourished. This wealth was by one of the temptations to the invaders, who seized not only upon the movable wealth of the natives, but also upon the land, and divided it among themselves.
The warlike portion of the aboriginal inhabitants appear to have joined the Cymri and retired westward. Their system of landholding was non-feudal, inasmuch as each man's land was divided among all his sons. One of the laws of Hoel Dha, King of Wales in the tenth century, decreed "that the youngest son shall have an equal share of the estate with the eldest son, and that when the brothers have divided their father's estate among them, the youngest son shall have the best house with all the office houses; the implements of husbandry, his father's kettle, his axe for cutting wood, and his knife; these three last things the father cannot give away by gift, nor leave by his last will to any but his youngest son, and if they are pledged they shall be redeemed." It may not be out of place here to say that this custom continued to exist in Wales; and on its conquest Edward I. ordained, "Whereas the custom is otherwise in Wales than England concerning succession to an inheritance, inasmuch as the inheritance is partible among the heirs-male, and from time whereof the memory of man is not to the contrary hath been partible, Our Lord the King will not have such custom abrogated, but willeth that inheritance shall remain partible among like heirs as it was wont to be, with this exception that bastards shall from henceforth not inherit, and also have portions with the lawful heirs; and if it shall happen that any inheritance should hereafter, upon failure of heirs-male, descend to females, the lawful heirs of their ancestors last served thereof. We will, of our especial grace, that the same women shall have their portions thereof, although this be contrary to the custom of Wales before used."
The land system of Wales, so recognized and regulated by Edward I., remained unchanged until the reign of the first Tudor monarch. Its existence raises the presumption that the aboriginal system of landholding in England gave each son a share of his father's land, and if so, it did not correspond with the Germanic system described by Caesar, nor with the tribal system of the Celts in Ireland, nor with the feudal system subsequently introduced.