This word has had various meanings at different stages of history. In theRoman 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. 098.) 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.
Written and fact checked by The Law Dictionary