Frankpledge

  Frank-pledge, Franci plegium, From the French Frank, liber, and pledge, i. fidejuffor, signifies a Pledge or Surety for Free-men: For the ancient Custom of Freemen of England, for the preservation of the Publick Peace, was, That every free-born Man at fourteen Years ofa ge, after Bracton (Religious Person, Clerks, Knights, and their eldest Sons excepted) should find Surety for his Truth towards the King and his Subjects, or else be kept in Prison; whereupon a certain number of Neighbours became customably bound one for another, to see each Man of their Pledge forth-coming at all times, or to answer the Transgression committed, by any broken away: So that whosoever offended, it was forth-with inquired in what Pledge he was, and then they of that Pledge either brought him forth within 31 Days to his Answer, or satisfied for his Offence. This was called Frank-pledge, and the Circuit thereof Decenna, because it commonly consisted of ten Housholds [sic], and every particular Person thus mutually bound for himself and his Neighbours, was called Decennier, because he was of one Decenna or another. This Custom was so kept, that the Sheriffs at every County-Court did, from time to time, take the Oaths of young Ones, as they attained the age of fourteen Years, and see that they comprised in some Dozen; ...

Source: A Law Dictionary: or, the Interpreter of Words and Terms, Used either in the Common or Statute Laws of that Part of Great Britain, call'd England; and in Tenures and Jocular Customs. London: printed for D. Browne, 1708.

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"The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there."—Lesley Poles Hartley (1895–1972), The Go-Between (1953).

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