Leases for a term of years, however, were not uncommon; but the want of capital rendered it impossible for the tenantry to attempt any spirited improvements.
Nearly three-fourths of the farms, in 1900, were cultivated by their owners, but the cash tenantry system showed an increase of 100% since 1890, being most extensively used in the cotton counties.
The tenantry system was also undergoing a change - the share system which developed in the years succeeding the Civil War being replaced by a system of cash rental.
There was one exception to this harsh treatment of villeins, namely, the rustic tenantry in manors of ancient demesne, that is, in estates which had belonged to the crown before the Conquest, had a standing-ground even against their lords as regards the tenure of their plots and the fixity of their services.
It must be remembered that a baron of 1450 was not strong merely by reason of the spears and bows of his household and his tenantry, like a baron of the I3th century.