Feudalizing America

Thomas L. Brunk

[Reprinted from Land and Freedom, May-June 1927]

The Early Lord Proprietors

DURING the seventeenth century and while Feudalism was still in full sway in western Europe, the Kings of England granted immense territories on this continent to Feudal Lord Proprietors largely as gifts or bribes for various services they rendered him. Land is all that Kings have ever had to give away. And since Land makes Lords and a ruling class, it has always been the secret of the power that Kings and Lords have held over the disinherited landless masses.


And since America, the boasted home of Liberty and where anyone could get a "Mule and forty acres of land" and make a Hying, has suffered all the social wrongs that follow Land Concentration, though in a less degree than in Europe because of so much unsettled land to which Labor could escape, it becomes evident that every citizen should be informed as to why this is true and what is the self-evident Cause.

Work on Land produces Wealth. And when we say Land we mean all that results from Land acted on by the Labor of men. Machines that multiply wealth come from Land, and whoever controls the sources of the raw materials from which Machines are made, has the final control over Labor and the division of what Labor makes. So Land control is back of all industry; and the sorry part is that it is back of all our social wrongs. But the disposition of Land is due to the system of Government that formulates the rules and places the authority for the possession and control over Land. Hence to get at the evils that grow out of Land exploitation, we must cross-examine the Government, its agents, and the institutions that perpetuate the system of Government and uphold the system of Land tenure in vogue.


England's rulership over the world and her ambition for world empire, had an early beginning. While Spain discovered the new world, England was among the first to challenge her claims to all of it. She sent out one exploring expedition after another, empowering the leaders to take possession of the new territory in the name of the sovereign of England. These were soon reenforced by actual settlements in Massachusetts, Virginia and Georgia. Later they were made all along the Atlantic seaboard except at the mouth of the Hudson where Holland had a small foothold. All this preparation for enlarged operations took about a hundred years or all of the sixteenth century. When the seventeenth century opened enough had been done to prove the riches of the lands beyond the sea and great were the expectations of not only the persecuted peoples of the Mother country but also of those of the nobility to increase their power of domain.

During this century, all of present Pennsylvania and Delaware was granted to William Penn for a small debt the crown owed Penn's father who was an English Admiral. This was over 40,000 square miles. The entire state of Maine was given to Sir Fernando Gorges for betraying the Earl of Essex to Queen Elizabeth. Captain John Mason drew by lot what is now the state of New Hampshire. This was done when the Plymouth Company dissolved and divided its holdings among its Directors. His patent was later confirmed by Charles I. In New York while under Holland, the West India Company, composed of rich Amsterdam Merchants, secured from their Government large domains including the eastern part of New York, Long Island, Staten Island, the western part of Massachusetts and Connecticut, and about the northern half of New Jersey. Maryland was granted to Sir George Calvert, the First Lord Baltimore, by Charles I, because he was the principal Secretary of State under James I. This same king gave the London Company, composed of London Merchants and men of influence, a territory in about what is now Virginia with a sea-front of 400 miles and all the country back "from sea to sea."

But probably the largest gift made by any English King to his favorites was made by Charles II to eight Lords who helped him to regain the throne of England. He granted them what was then known as Carolina which included what is now a part of Virginia and all of North and South Carolina and Georgia ; and a second Charter enlarged this ^ift to take in Alabama, Mississippi, Kentucky and Tennessee.


While Feudalism was still in full operation in Europe during this period, it was in a transitional stage. It was merging into the RENT and MORTGAGE system of Land possession. Under Feudal customs as practiced in its early stages during the Norman period, all the cultivated lands of England were in possession of about 1500 Barons or Chief-Tenants to the King who owned the Land. These lands were tilled by two classes, the Under-Tenants who each had 30 acres rented from the Lord of the Manor, and by Villains who lived in a village and belonged as serfs to the Manor under the direct orders of the Lord of the Manor.

The Renters paid their Rent at first in labor on fields cultivated for the Lord. This was uncertain and trying, causing endless trouble and disagreements. The tenants too were oppressed, punished on trumped-up charges and required to pay a number of offensive and burdensome Feudal Dues. But after these harrowing and often grinding relations lasted some 500 years, they gradually passed into the custom of having the Rent paid in cash or stipulated amounts of products per year, and during the reign of Charles II, the Feudal Dues that were paid by the Barons to the King were abolished and those paid by the Under-Tenants to the Lord were gradually abolished also.

Each Barony had about 6000 acres. It was much trouble and required constant overseeing to assign duties to some four to six hundred Villains day in and day out. As the new Rent methods of the Under-Tenants proved so easy to collect and gave the Lords large leeway in extorting more rent, they encouraged their Villains to become Renters also.

Time also changed the ownership of the Manor lands from the King to the Land Barons who gradually began the custom of SELLING small areas to Freemen or the Under-Tenants taking a Mortgage till the final payments were made and still retain another peculiar hold on the land known as a Quit- Rent. This Quit-Rent was still to be paid the Lord or his heirs "Forever." While this was not a large sum, yet it maintained the "superior" Nobility class then and it has come down as a practice even to the present day.

Interest on the Mortgage was a stronger legal hold on the Renter than a division of the crops which had a hazard of crop-failure. Then with the invention of the Foreclosure, the squeezing machinery was ample to extort from the new "Land Owners" even more easily and with greater power than the old system gave them. The most revolting and hateful of all the pages of history are the practices of the Rent Agents in England.

While a recital of these hideous practices are interesting, space will not permit the writer to give them here. Just a brief review of the evolution from the old Feudal system with its cumbersome system of spies and bailiffs directing and watching a battalion of workers, with their only incentive to do as little as they could in their weary routine with nothing in life but Work and the lowest standard of living, to one of Work or Starve under the Rent system.

This was the"improved" Land Tenure system introduced into America by the early Lord Proprietors to perpetuate a ruling Nobility in America.


To complete the devices of power and control over Land and Labor, we must not omit to show how and when the Public Debt and Tariff Tax devices were introduced and to what purpose. It has always been the ruling passion of a hardened Nobility, to force the common man to pay the costs of Government devised and run to give the Nobility every advantage and the poor laboring man all the disadvantages against his rise to power. And the two associated devices with Land control are the Public Debt and Tariff Tax inventions. As the big Land Barons collected Rent, they had to cast about for an investment. Public lands were not for sale, manufacturing was diffused so there were no city values to speak of, machinery had not been invented, there was little commerce; but there were almost constant wars with someone. War has and always will be a most expensive and fruitless means of settling differences. But for Nobles who gather Rent it becomes one of the safest investments as well as the most lucrative. Kings are but the tools of a crafty Nobility. They usually do the bidding of those who placed them in power.

Some of the early Kings, like Henry VII, forced the rich to support the Government ; but this became very unpopular; and as the large Land holders gained power they began to dictate to the King and finally under James I and Charles I and II they prevailed upon the King to borrow money from them to run the Government and place Excise (Tariff) Taxes on a number of articles of consumption from which the Government could pay the Interest upon the Borrowed Money (Bonds). Both these subtle, sure-footed political evolutions not only came about before the advent of machinery and the resultant growth of great cities, but they also laid the foundation of the most powerful agencies to rob workers with the least amount of protest, and give industrial Monarchs a permanent and increasing power to control the labor and lives of workingmen.

It must be seen that Renters or men on Mortgaged Land by the Associated Bond and Tariff Tax devices, paid two bills; the Rent or Interest bill and the cost of Government through Taxes on the food and clothing they used. Also that the Nobility drew two incomes from the producers of wealth Rent, and the Interest on their Government Bonds through the Tariff Tax medium. And since we have these same agencies of the Wealthy to divert wealth from Producers to Nonproducers, we have with it all the same economic inconsistencies of Poverty in the midst of Plenty, of class-rule over Government and Industry, of a commercial savagery that fosters Strikes, Blacklists, multiplied laws, increased crime and all the political jugglery and office seeking practiced in the name of Democracy to uphold this treasonable set who are heirs to the great estates of the early Nobility.


The following is from a letter to the editor written by Mervyn J. Stewart (Essex, England), printed in Land and Freedom, July-Augut 1927.

May I correct a false impression arising from an inaccurate statement of the fact in your article by Dr. Brunk. In the reign of Henry VI of the bloody House of Lancaster the franchise for Parliament was restricted to freeholders paying forty shillings (equal to direct payers of tax on $10,000 valuation in the United States today,) and this lasted till quite recently. From about 1340 to 1830 the House of Commons represented only landlords. About 1640 they refused to pay any more rent, (that is, direct tax to the treasury,) and offered to charge their tenants with licenses, excise and customs.

Charles I was executed, saying "I die the martyr of the people of England" as he, struggling to uphold the dues of the Crown as trustee for the public, was as against the repudiating landlords. In 1661 Charles II was recalled and the landlords made a condition with him that he would accept all the rebel laws of the Parliament since 1642; he agreed to this, and it was in 1661 that he signed the Act surrendering to the landlords the public dues on their holdings and taking for the Treasury the customs and excise which Parliament had lawlessly levied for 20 years.

It was not adequate, and as Dr. Brunk says, the National Debt was initiated by loans from the defaulting tenants of the state of the rent they had refused to pay. Picture the morals of the hero Hampden who refused to pay a land tax for the navy as his property lay inland!