THE ENCYCLOPÆDIA BRITANNICA

A DICTIONARY OF ARTS, SCIENCES, LITERATURE AND GENERAL INFORMATION

ELEVENTH EDITION 1911

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LIBERTY (Lat. libertas, from liber, free), generally the state of freedom, especially opposed to subjection, imprisonment or slavery, or with such restricted or figurative meaning as the circumstances imply. The history of political liberty is in modern days identified practically with the progress of civilization. In a more particular sense, “a liberty” is the term for a franchise, a privilege or branch of the crown’s prerogative granted to a subject, as, for example, that of executing legal process; hence the district over which the privilege extends. Such liberties are exempt from the jurisdiction of the sheriff and have separate commissions of the peace, but for purposes of local government form part of the county in which they are situated. The exemption from the jurisdiction of the sheriff was recognized in England by the Sheriffs Act 1887, which provides that the sheriff of a county shall appoint a deputy at the expense of the lord of the liberty, such deputy to reside in or near the liberty. The deputy receives and opens in the sheriff’s name all writs, the return or execution of which belongs to the bailiff of the liberty, and issues to the bailiff the warrant required for the due execution of such writs. The bailiff then becomes liable for non-execution, mis-execution or insufficient return of any writs, and in the case of non-return of any writ, if the sheriff returns that he has delivered the writ to a bailiff of a liberty, the sheriff will be ordered to execute the writ notwithstanding the liberty, and must cause the bailiff to attend before the high court of justice and answer why he did not execute the writ.

In nautical phraseology various usages of the term are derived from its association with a sailor’s leave on shore, e.g. liberty-man, liberty-day, liberty-ticket.

A History of Modern Liberty, in eight volumes, of which the third appeared in 1906, has been written by James Mackinnon; see also Lord Acton’s lectures, and such works as J. S. Mill’s On Liberty and Sir John Seeley’s Introduction to Political Science.


Transcriber's note: A few typographical errors have been corrected. They appear in the text like this, and the explanation will appear when the mouse pointer is moved over the marked passage. Sections in Greek will yield a transliteration when the pointer is moved over them, and words using diacritic characters in the Latin Extended Additional block, which may not display in some fonts or browsers, will display an unaccented version.

Links to other EB articles: Links to articles residing in other EB volumes will be made available when the respective volumes are introduced online.
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