TOLL (etymologically, that which is numbered or counted; from a common Teutonic form, cf. " tale," " tell "), a sum of money paid for the use and enjoyment of a privilege or advantage. In England it is nojw usually a sum of money; but formerly tolls in kind were frequent. Among the sins of the Miller in Chaucer's Prologue is that he could " tollen thryes," in that he was clever enough and rogue enough to subtract thrice the legal allowance from the corn he ground. In a note to the Heart of Midlothian, Scott asserts that the name of Lockman given in Old Scots to the hangman was because he was entitled to take a lock or fixed toll out of every boll of meal exposed in the market for sale. An act of 1796 for the regulation of mills, substituting a money payment for tolls of corn in kind taken by millers, makes an exception for tolls taken by custom in soke mills. The Weights and Measures Act 1878 enacts that all tolls are to. be charged and collected according to imperial weights and measures.
The word " toll " in early times had various meanings, thus it is denned by Glanville as the liberty of buying and selling in one's own land: " tol, quod nos vocamus theloneum, scilicet libertatem emendi et vendendi in terra sua. It also signified the right to be free of toll, but this implies a more general signification of the term, the right to take and the thing so taken. It formed the most obvious source of revenue in the early English boroughs; goods coming to market or passing through the borough paid toll, to this extent the practice still exists in various European countries under the name of octroi (q.v.). Private lords also levied tolls, but these in no case were levied theoretically at pleasure, all ultimately depending upon some real or feigned grant from the Crown. Imposts by the Crown are more properly taxes, though the name was frequently used, as in maletote, an arbitrary and vexatious impost levied till Edward III.'s time, usually on wool. Such payments might bring freedom from other exactions. We learn from Domesday Book that the men of Dover who paid the king's dues there were quit of toll throughout all England. Many subsequent charters granted the like, or even greater immunities from toll to favoured folk. In modern English law toll is either an incident of a franchise, as of a market or fair, or is independent of franchise. In the latter case it is claimed by prescription, as toll traverse or toll thorough, or is created by act of parliament, as in the case of turnpikes, railways, harbours, navigable rivers and canals. Toll traverse is paid for passing over a private way, bridge or ferry. No consideration need be proved. Toll thorough is paid for the use of a highway. In this case, if charged by a private person, some consideration, such as repair of the highway, must be shown, as such a toll is against common right. At common law a toll must be reasonable. The same principle appears in various acts of parliament. The Statute of Westminster the First inflicts a penalty for taking excessive toll. The Railway Clauses Act 1845 provides for the equality of tolls, that is, that all persons and classes of goods shall in like circumstances be treated alike as to charges. A right of distress is incident to the right to toll, but the distress cannot be sold unless an act of parliament expressly authorizes the sale. Tolls are not rateable, unless they are appurtenant to land. Exemption from tolls may be claimed by the prerogative, by grant or prescription, or by act of parliament. The king and queen consort pay no toll, and the Crown may grant to another exemption from toll. Turnpike tolls, 'bridge money and causeway mail were abolished in Scotland by the Roads and Bridges Act 1878 as from the 1st of June 1883. In England tolls on roads and bridges are now only payable in a few places.
In the United States tolls are a subject for state legislation, unless they affect the whole commonwealth, when they are dealt with by acts of congress. A city may levy reasonable tolls in a market established by itself. A shunpike, or road constructed to facilitate evasion of tolls on a turnpike road, may be closed by injunction.
The question of tolls was at one time an important one in international law. Tolls were exacted on certain straits and tidal rivers by virtue of the sovereignty of a particular state. Notable instances were the Scheldt tolls and the Sound dues levied by Denmark. These last were justified as a return for the lights maintained on the coast and the terror to pirates inspired by the castle of Elsinore. In 1659, owing to the united efforts of England, France and Holland, an unvarying rate was arranged.
See Pollock and Maitland, History of English Law (1895); Pease and Chitty, Markets and Fairs (1899); Cunningham, Growth of English Industry and Commerce (1903).
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)