« EdellinenJatka »
drapers, &c., whilst around the whole was a wooden palisade with guarded entrance, a precaution which did not always prevent enterprising adventurers from escaping payment of the toll by digging a way in for themselves under the wall. . . . In Winchester all trade was compulsorily suspended, and within a seven league circuit,' guards being stationed at outlying posts, on bridges and other places of passage, to see that the monopoly was not infringed. At Southampton nothing was to be sold during the fair time but victuals, and even the very craftsmen of Winchester were bound to transfer themselves to the hill and there carry on their occupations during the fair. There was a graduated scale of tolls and duties : all merchants of London, Winchester, or Wallingford who entered during the first week were free from entrance tolls.... In every fair there was a court of pie-powder (of dusty feet) in which was decided by merchant law all cases of dispute that might arise, the ordinary jurisdiction being for a time suspended in the town; at Winchester this was called the Pavilion Court. Hither the bishop's servants brought all the weights and measures to be tested; here the justices determined on an assize, or fixed scale, for bread, wine, beer, and other victuals, adjudging to the pillory any baker whose bread was found to be of defective weight; and here every day disputes between merchants as to debts were decided by juries upon production and comparison of the notched wooden tallies.” 1
A few words must be said about the final destruction of the English guilds. At the close of the reign of Henry VIII. an act of Parliament was passed vesting the property of colleges, chantries, fraternities, brotherhoods and guilds in the Crown (38 Hen. VIII., c. .4). The king was empowered to send out his commissioners to take possession of all such property, on the plea that it might be "used and exercised to more godly and virtuous pur
1 Introduction to English Economic History (2nd ed.), i. pp. 100.101.
poses.” Henry died before the provisions of the act could be complied with, and a second act was passed through the first Parliament in the reign of Edward VI. (1 Ed. VI., c. 14). This went beyond the former decree of destruction, for after providing for the demolition of colleges, free chapels, and chantries, it proceeded not only separately by name to grant to the king all sums of money devoted “by any manner of corporations, guilds, fraternities, companies or fellowships or mysteries or crafts," to the support of a priest, obits or lights (which may be taken under colour of religion), but to hand over to the crown "all fraternities, brotherhoods and guilds, being within the realm of England and Wales and other the king's dominions, and all manors, lands, tenements, and other hereditaments belonging to them, other than such corporations, guilds, fraternities, &c., and the manors, lands, &c., pertaining to the said corporations, &c., above mentioned."
The Parliament of Henry VIII. assigned as a reason for this seizure of the property of the corporate bodies the need “ for the maintenance of these present wars," and cleverly put into one group “colleges, free chapels, chantries, hospitals, fraternities, brotherhoods, and guilds." “ The act of Edward VI.," writes Mr. Toulmin Smith, “ was still more ingenious, for it held up the dogma of purgatory to abhorrence, and began to hint at grammar schools. The object of both acts was the same. All the possessions of all the guilds (except what could creep out as being mere trading guilds, which saved the London guilds) became vested by these two acts in the Crown; and the unprincipled courtiers who had advised and helped the scheme gorged themselves out of this wholesale plunder of what was, in every sense, public property.”?
It is clear that in seizing the property of the guilds the Crown destroyed far more than it gained for itself. A very
Old Crown House, p. 36, cf.. pp. 37-39.
large proportion of their revenues was derived from the entrance fees and the annual subscriptions of the existing members, and in putting an end to these societies the State swept away the organisation by which these voluntary subscriptions were raised, and this not in one or two places, but all over England. In this way far more harm was in reality done to the interests of the poor, sick, and aged, and, indeed, to the body politic at large, than the mere seizure of their comparatively little capital, whether in land or money.
It is 'not, of course, meant to imply that the injury to the poor and sick was not fully recognised at the time of these legal confiscations. People deeply resented the idea that what generations of benefactors had intended for the relief of distress should thus be made to pass into the pocket of some “new” man who had grown great upon the spoils. The literature of the period affords abundant evidence of the popular feeling. Crowley, for instance, wrote about 1550-just at this very time—and although no one would look for any accurate description of facts in his rhyming satires, he may be taken as a reliable witness as to what the people were saying. This is what he writes on the point :
“ A merchant, that long time
Had been in strange lands
Which in Europe stands.
And in his return
His way lay to pass
Where his dwelling-house was.
He looked for this hospital,
But none could he see,
Where the hospital should be.
'Good Lord !' (said the merchant),
'Is my country so wealthy That the very beggars' houses
Are built so gorgeously ?'
Then by the wayside
Him chanced to see
Of him for charity.
What meaneth this thing ?
And have a house for a king?'
• We are all turned out,
Here and there about.'"
It has frequently been asserted that although grave injury was undoubtedly done to the poor of the land by this wholesale confiscation, it was done unwittingly by the authorities, or that, at the worst, the portions of revenue derived from the property which had been intended for the support of the sick, aged, &c., was so bound up with those to which religious obligations (now declared superstitious and illegal) were attached, that it was impossible to distinguish the latter from the former, and all perished together, or rather passed undistinguished into the royal pocket. Such a view is not borne out by facts, and however satisfactory it might be to believe that this robbery of the poor and sick by the Crown was accidental and unpremeditated, the historian is bound by the evidence to hold that the pillage was fully premeditated and deliberately and consciously carried out. It is of course obvious, that some may regard it as proper that funds given for the support of priests to say masses or offer prayers for the souls of the departed should have been confiscated, although it would have been better had the money been devoted to some purpose of local utility rather than that it should have been added to the Crown revenues or have gone to enrich some royal favourite. For example it may, for the sake of argument, be admitted that the two fields at Petersfield in Hampshire thus taken by the Royal Commissioners—one called White field, in the tenure of Gregory Hill, the rent of which was intended to keep a perpetual light burning in the parish church, and the other held by John Mill, given to support a priest “called the Morrow Masse priest” (i.e., the priest employed to say the early morning mass for the convenience of people going to work)—were under the circumstances fair articles of plunder for the royal officials, when the mass was prohibited and the doctrine symbolised by the perpetual light declared superstitious. But this will not apply to the money intended for the poor. It might have been easy to justify the Crown's action in taking the priest's portion, and even the little pittance intended for the serving clerk, but the seizure of the benefactions to the poor cannot be defended. It was not accidental; for an examination of the original documents relating to the guilds and chantries now in the Record Office will show not only that the Royal Commissioners were as a rule careful to distinguish between the portions intended for religious purposes and those set aside for perpetual charity to the sick and poor, but in many cases they actually proposed to the Court of Augmentation to protect the latter and preserve them for the objects of Christian charity intended by the original donors. In every such case the document reveals the fact that this suggestion in the interest of common justice was rejected by the ultimate Crown officials, and a plain intimation is afforded on the face of the documents that even those sums intended by the original donors for the relief of poverty were to be confiscated.