The Doctor and Student (1518)

Christopher St. Germain

Whether a villein or a bondman may give away his goods

Doct. It appeareth in the said sum called summa angelica, in the title donatio Prima, the 9th paragraph, that a bondman, or a religious man, a monk, ne such other that hath nothing in proper, may not give, but it be by licence of their superior: but that saying is not, as it is said there, to be understood of religious persons that have lawful ministration of goods; for if they give with a cause reasonable, it is good, but without cause they may not.

Also, if they by the licence of the prelate, with the counsel of the more part of the covent, abide at school or go on pilgrimage, they may give as other honest scholars and pilgrims be reasonably wont to do; and they may also give alms where there is great need, if they have no time to ask licence.

Also, if they see one in extreme necessity, they may give alms though their superiors prohibit them, for then all things be in common by the law of God. And therefore they be bound for to do it, as appeareth in the aforesaid sum called summa angelica, in the title Elecmosyna, the, 6th paragraph, Doth not the law of England agree with these diversities?

Stud. Forasmuch as the question is only made, Whether a villain or bondman may give away his goods or not? And it seemeth that after the aforesaid sum in the title which thou hast before rehearsed, that he, ne none other that hath no property, may not give; whereby it appeareth that the said sum taketh it, that a bondman should have no property in his goods, and that therefore his gift-should be void: I shall somewhat touch what property and what authority a villain hath in his goods after the law of the realm, and what authority the lord hath over them. And I will leave the diversities that thou hast remembered before of religious persons to them that list to treat farther therein hereafter.

First, If a villain have goods, either by his own proper buying and selling, or otherwise by the gift of other men, he hath as perfect a property, and also as whole interest in them, and may as lawfully give them away, as any freeman may. But if the lord seise them before his gift, then they be the lord’s, and the interest of the villain the reinis determined.

Also, if the lord seise part of the goods of his villain in the name of all the goods that the villain hath or shall hereafter have, that seisure is good for all the goods that he had at the time of the seisure. But if goods come to the villain after the seisure, he may lawfully give them away, notwithstanding the said seisure.

Also, if the lord claim all the goods of the villain, and seiseth part of them: that seisure is void, and the gift of the villain is good, notwithstanding the seisure.

Also, if a man be bound to a villain in an obligation in a certain sum of money, and the lord seiseth the obligation; then the obligation is his, but yet he can take ‘no action thereupon, but in the name of the villain; and therefore if the villain release the debt, the lord is barred by that release.

Also, if a woman be a nief, and she marrieth a freeman, the goods immediately by the marriage be the husband’s, and the lord shall come too late to make any seisure. And if the husband in that case maketh his wife his executrix, and dieth, and the wife taketh the same goods again as executrix to her husband: yet it shall not be lawful for the lord to take them from her, though she be a nief, as she was before the marriage.

Also, if goods be given to a man to the use of a villain, and the lord seiseth those goods, the seisure, after some men, is good by the statute made in the 19th year of king Hen. VII., whereby it is enacted, That the lord shall enter into lands whereof other persons be seised to the use of his villain; and they say that the same statute shall be understood by equity of goods in use, as well as of lands in use.

Also, if a villain be made a priest, yet nevertheless the lord may seise his goods and lands, as he might do before; and until the seisure, he may alien them, and give them away, and as lie might before he was a priest. And in this case the lord may order him, so that he shall do him such service as belongeth to a priest to do before any other; but he may not put him to no labour, nor other business but that is Honest and lawful for a priest to do.

Also, if a villain enter into religion, in his year of proof he may dispose his goods as he might have done before he took the habit upon him.

Also, in like wise the lord may seise his goods as he might have done before: but if he after make executors, and be professed, and the executors take the goods to the performance of the will; then the lord may not seise the goods though the executors have them to the performance of the will of him that is his villain; nor in that case the lord may not seise his body, ne put him to no manner of labour, but must suffer him to abide in his religion under the obedience of his superior, as other religious persons do that be not bondmen. And the lord hath no remedy in that case for the loss of his bondman, but only to take an action of trepass against him that received him into religion without his license, and thereupon to recover damages as shall be assessed by twelve men. Many other cases there be concerning the gift of the goods of a villain, whereof I shall speak no more at this time; for this that I have said sufficeth to shew, that the knowledge of the king’s law is right expedient to the good order of conscience concerning such goods.