FEUDAL LAW - By this phrase is understood a political system which placed men and estates under hierarchical and multiplied distinctions of lords and vassals. The principal features of this system were:
The right to all lands was vested in the sovereign. These were, parcelled out among the great men of the nation by its chief, to be held of him, so that the king had the Dominum directum and the grantee or vassal, had what was called Dominum utile. It was a maxim nulle terre sans seigneur. These tenants were bound to perform services to the king, generally of a military character. These great lords again granted parts of the lands they thus acquired, to other inferior vassals, who held under them and were bound to perform services to the lord.
In the U.S. the feudal law never was in its full vigor, though some of its principles are still retained. It was said, 'Those principles are so interwoven with every part of our jurisprudence, that to attempt to eradicate them would be to destroy the whole. They are massy stones worked into the foundation of our legal edifice. Most of the inconveniences attending them, have been removed and the few that remain can be easily removed, by acts of the legislature.'
FEUDALISM - The relations and interdependence between lord and vassal, based on the fief, or ownership of land.
This entry contains material from Bouvier's Legal Dictionary, a work published in the 1850's.
Courtesy of the 'Lectric Law Library