Freeman “Legally” Defined

The following definitions for “freeman” are taken from Ballantine’s Law Dictionary (3rd edition), Bouvier’s Law Dictionary (6th edition), Black’s Law Dictionary (2nd edition), and Webster’s Dictionary (1828):




One born free; one who has been freed from the bonds of slavery. A person in possession in all of the civil rights which a person may be entitled [McCafferty v. Guyer, 59 Pa 109, 116]. In the feudal period, a freeholder, as distinguished from a villein.



One who is in the enjoyment of the right to do whatever he pleases, not forbidden by law. One in the possession of the civil rights enjoyed by, the people generally [1 Bouv. Inst. n. 164; see 6 Watts, 556].



This word has had various meanings at different stages of history. In the Roman law, it denoted one who was either born free or emancipated, and was the opposite of “slave.” In feudal law, it designated an allodial proprietor, as distinguished from a vassal or feudal tenant. (And so in Pennsylvania colonial law [Fry’s Election Case, 71 Pa. 308, 10 Am. Rep. 698]). In old English law, the word described a freeholder or tenant by free services; one who was not a villein. In modern legal phraseology, it is the appellation of a member of a city or borough having the right of suffrage, or a member of any municipal corporation invested with full civic rights.

A person in the possession and enjoyment of all the civil and political rights accorded to the people under a free government.

  • Freeman’s roll: a list of persons admitted as burgesses or freemen for the purposes of the rights reserved by the municipal corporation act [5 & 6 Wm. IV. c. 76]. Distinguished from the Burgess Roll [3 Steph. Comm. 197]. The term was used, in early colonial history, in some of the American colonies.



FREE’MAN, n. [free and man]

  1. One who enjoys liberty, or who is not subject to the will of another; one not a slave or vassal.

  2. One who enjoys or is entitled to a franchise or peculiar privilege; as the freemen of a city or state.

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