III. THE SCANDINAVIANS.
Many of those who have written on the subject seem to me to have failed to grasp either the OBJECT or the GENIUS of FEUDALISM. It was the device of conquerors to maintain their possessions, and is not to be found among nations, the original occupiers of the land, nor in the conquests of states which maintained standing armies. The invading hosts elected their chieftain, they and he had only a life use of the conquests. Upon the death of one leader another was elected, so upon the death of the allottee of a piece of land it reverted to the state. The GENIUS of FEUDALISM was life ownership and non-partition. Hence the oath of fealty was a personal obligation, and investiture was needful before the new feudee took possession. The state, as represented by the king or chieftain, while allowing the claim of the family, exercised its right to select the individual. All the lands were considered BENEFICIA, a word which now means a charge upon land, to compensate for duties rendered to the state. Under this system, the feudatory was a commander, his residence a barrack, his tenants soldiers; it was his duty to keep down the aborigines, and to prevent invasion. He could neither sell, give, nor bequeath his land. He received the surplus revenue as payment for personal service, and thus enjoyed his BENEFICE. Judged in this way, I think the feudal system existed before the Norman Conquest. Slavery and serfdom undoubtedly prevailed. The country prospered under the Scandinavians; and, from the great abundance of corn, William of Poitiers calls England "the store-house of Ceres."