Benevolence, in the history of the law of England, was a species of forced loan or contribution, levied by kings without legal authority. It was first so called in 1473, when asked from his subjects by Edward IV. as a mark of good will toward his rule. James I. tried, but with little success, to raise money by this expedient, and it was never again attempted by the crown; Charles I. expressly declining to have recourse to it.

Entry from Everybody's Cyclopedia, 1912.

Be*nev"o*lence (?), n. [OF. benevolence, L. benevolentia. See Benevolent.]


The disposition to do good; good will; charitableness; love of mankind, accompanied with a desire to promote their happiness.

The wakeful benevolence of the gospel. Chalmers.


An act of kindness; good done; charity given.


A species of compulsory contribution or tax, which has sometimes been illegally exacted by arbitrary kings of England, and falsely represented as a gratuity.

Syn. -- Benevolence, Beneficence, Munificence. Benevolence marks a disposition made up of a choice and desire for the happiness of others. Beneficence marks the working of this disposition in dispensing good on a somewhat broad scale. Munificence shows the same disposition, but acting on a still broader scale, in conferring gifts and favors. These are not necessarily confined to objects of immediate utility. One may show his munificence in presents of pictures or jewelry, but this would not be beneficence. Benevolence of heart; beneficence of life; munificence in the encouragement of letters.


© Webster 1913.

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