H. D. (Henry Duff) Traill.

Social England; a record of the progress of the people in religion, laws, learning, arts, industry, commerce, science, literature and manners, from the earliest times to the present day (Volume 3) online

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several causes of dearth in 1528. One cause was the pressure of
taxation for the king's foreign wars. The author there points
out that there had been a great rot and murrain amongst the
cattle, but " in pasture there is very little murrain seen or none."
There had been three or four marvellously dry summers, which
produced " surfeits " among the cattle and sheep, owing to the
scarcity of grass and lack of hay and water. In many parts of
England cattle had to be driven five or six miles to water, and
owing to this cause there were "little or no fat cattle in the
common fields." The lack of fodder had prevented husbandmen
from breeding lambs or calves, and " those that were bred were
hunger-bitten and worth little, except those bred in pasture."
Another cause of dearth was to be found in the conduct of the

1 25 Henry VIII., c. 13.

2 Edited by Mr. Leadam for the Royal Historical Society; see Trans-
actions, vii.

3 Vide the controversy about the Leicestershire enclosures in 1053-54, etc..
between John Moore of Knaptoft and Joseph Lee. Moore published in 1653
Tin- Crying Sin of England, which provoked Lee's reply Concerning Common
Fields and Enclosure's, 1(553-54. The controversy was continued in Moore's
Reply, 1653, and Lee's Vindication of tin- Considerations, 1050. Vide also
Nicholl's History of Leicestershire, iv., I., pp. 83-89.

4 Considerations as to the dearness of all in miner of Viet veils, 1528. [Calen-
dar of State Papers (Henry VIII.), vol. iv., pt. 2. 3761.]



regraters and forestalled of cattle. In Wales, Cheshire, Lancashire,

and the North "no grazier can buy either lean or fat beasts,

except at third or fourth hand." Notwithstanding all this, the

author concludes, " thanked be God, all thing is plentiful at this

day as ever it was, and like to be if God send seasonable weather,

also if the pastures at this day may continue, and then can

dearth never long continue," for " the murrain in the common

fields hardly attacks the cattle in the pastures at all." The latter,

again, relieve the common fields with their breed of cattle, " to

the increasing of the husbands

and the composing of their

land, which is the chief cause

of the plenty of corn, which

will never be scarce as long as

there are plenty of sheep."

The evidence on the subject of

enclosures is too conflicting to

form the basis of a precise

estimate of the extent to which

they did or did not increase

poverty and swell the number

of vagabonds. Butwe maysafely

say that the popular view, based

upon More and other writers,

is considerably exaggerated.

(Barclay, "Ship of Fools," 1500.)

It is not difficult to account for the increase of vaabondism causes of

in other ways. The statutes themselves bear witness to the
shamefully negligent manner in which they were administered.
No doubt vast numbers of vagabonds never heard of the laws in
force against them, much less suffered from their operation, and
pursued their calling unchecked. It must also be remembered
that it requires much skill and experience to distinguish genuine
from feigned distress, and humane magistrates, even when they
were thoroughly in earnest in the execution of the law, would
probably give an offending vagabond the benefit of the doubt. It
would fill many pages of this work to describe the clever devices
resorted to by idle rogues to enable them to live on the charity of
the public. 1 We may condemn the Church for inculcating the

1 For a full and interesting account of begging at this period, sre Ribton
Turner's History <>f Vagrants and Vagrancy.



duty of indiscriminate charity, but the monks of the sixteenth
century were no more anxious than the Charity Organisation
Society to expend their shrinking revenues on the idle, the
improvident, and the vicious, and their duties were, on the whole,
as well and efficiently discharged as could be expected. Of the
" halt, the maimed, and the blind," who resorted to monastery and
hospital, many were doubtless in the enjoyment of perfect health,
and as soon as it could safely be done, stripped off the artificial
sores, the made-up wounds, and other disguises of the pro-
fessional beggar, to enjoy in comfort the largess of the monks. It
was easy to live in idleness when the principles which should
govern the distribution of relief Avere so ill understood. Mere
vagabondism, unredeemed by any feature of genuine distress, was
one of the crying evils of the time, and the Government was
quite right in trying to put it down. Whether the means
adopted are to be commended, is another question. Few
parsons would now approve of the harshness and severity of
Henry's laws.

Provisions The Act of 1530-31 provided for the settlement and
virrs" 17 registration of those who were compelled to live by alms. These
Poor-laws, were to be licensed to beg within certain limits. But all
unlicensed begging was to be rigorously suppressed. An} r able-
bodied beggar, whether man or woman, was to be taken to the
next market town, and " there to be tyed to the end of a carte
naked, and be beten with whyppes throughoute the same market
towne tyll his body be bloody by reason of suche whypping."
After undergoing this severe punishment, the beggar was to be
sent back to the place of his birth, or where he had dwelt for
three years, and " there put hym selfe to laboure, lyke as a true
man oweth to doo." Fines were imposed on parishes and officers
failing to give effect to the law, and penalties were enacted
for harbouring or rescuing beggars. 1 Scholars of the universities,
sailors, pardoners, and others, were liable to this statute if
beeri>'ini>- without a licence. For the first offence, thev were to be

oo o /

whipped in the same manner as ordinary vagabonds ; for the
second, to be scourged two days, to be put in the pillory, and to
lose one ear: for the third, the scourging and the pillory were
to be again administered and the other ear to be cut off It

1 For examples of presentments under this clause. x/'i' Itecoi-dx of the
nrni/i/h of Nottingham.



will be noticed that there was no provision in this statute for the
relief of the poor, or for the employment or reformation of the
vagabonds when they had reached their native place. Possibly
it was thought that voluntary effort would be sufficient
for the purpose ; and incomplete as it was, the statute remained
without amendment or addition for five years. A supplementary
Act was then passed, and the two together constituted the
svstem for dealing with paupers and vagabonds for the rest of


(From a photograph, by permission of T. D. Atkinson, Esq.)

Henry's reign. The Act of 1535-56 provided that the local
authorities should receive the poor " most charitably," and should
" succour, kepe, and find them " by means of voluntary and
charitable alms, which were to be collected by the churchwardens
or other officials on Sundays, holy days, and other festivals.
Accounts of the money received were to be rendered. But no
common or open dole was to be given, except to the common
boxes, on pain of forfeiting ten times the sum given. Sturdy
vagabonds and valiant beggars were to be set to continual labour


for their own maintenance. But the statute does not state in
what manner this difficult task was to be accomplished. The
parish authorities were left to settle the matter as well as
they could. The statute also authorised the apprenticing of
children between five and fourteen years of age in husbandry or
handicraft, and on their refusal or deserting service, they were to
be openly whipped with rods.

Poverty The influence of the dissolution of the monasteries on the

Monas- condition of the poor has always excited much controversy, and
tenes. j n dealing with so vast and widespread an organisation, in which
there was room for men with good, bad, and indifferent powers of
administration, it is not difficult to make out a strong case
against the methods which were employed for the relief of the
poor. Norfolk declared to Cromwell in 1537 that there were two
causes of vagabondism in Yorkshire the alms distributed in
religious houses, and the slackness of the justices in doing their
duty ; and in conformity with this view orders were issued to the
latter to put in execution the laws against vagabonds, and to the
abbots, priors, and other governors of religious houses, not to
give meat, drink, or other relief to sturdy vagabonds. 1 As
we have already pointed out, many persons who found the
beggar's profession a lucrative one no doubt obtained alms at the
monasteries and hospitals. But the difficulty was to detect them.
So far as the monasteries lent themselves to the successful
practice of imposition, they tended to perpetuate the evil which
the Government was anxious to remove. If we remember that
this was precisely the charge which was brought by reformers
against the Old Poor Law, i.e. against the system which replaced
that of the monasteries and other foundations, we shall be on our
guard against sweeping condemnations of the latter. They were
probably, like most other institutions, not wholly beneficent
in their influence nor the reverse. From their financial condition
in the sixteenth century we should not expect to find great care-
lessness in the distribution of relief. They knew also that


the charge of manufacturing paupers by the practice of
indiscriminate charity was being urged against them b} 7 those
who were eager for their downfall, and like other Englishmen of
the time they must have been deeply impressed with the gravity
of the evil from which the country was suffering. Indeed, their

1 Calendar of Domestic State Papers (Henry VIII.). 1537, 1-t.


very position enabled them to see far more of the actual
condition of the people than was possible even to a justice of the
peace. The relation of the monasteries to the question of poor
relief no doubt demanded inquiry and reformation, but they
cannot be regarded as mere centres of pauperisation. If their
suppression deprived many sturdy beggars of the means of living
in idleness, it also brought starvation to many aged and impotent,
poor who looked to them for relief. It must also be remembered
that the suppression deprived a large number of persons
dependent for their employment on the monasteries of the

(From a pUotograph, by permission of T. D. Atldnson, Esq.)

means of earning a livelihood (p. 69). 1 Many of these would be
absorbed in other occupations, or would find employment under
the new owners. But a residuum would join the ranks of the
able-bodied beggars ; and, as Eden 2 points out, the new landlords
were generally absentees. The monastic system of poor relief
was not different from that pursued in the hospitals, many of
which survived the Reformation, and were, indeed, regarded as an
important element in the organisation of relief. All the statutes
of the sixteenth century contain important provisoes safeguard-
ing the funds of these foundations and their administration.

1 Some interesting particulars on this point will be found in Gasquet's
Suppression of the Mima st fries.

2 History of the Poor Laic, vol. L, chap. ii.


There are also many private Acts dealing with them, from which
it is evident that their existence was not supposed by the
Government to increase the number of paupers. New regula-
tions were not infrequently imposed, and the management
of some was transferred from the dissolved monastery, or priory,
to the municipal authorities. But it is to be feared that this
measure, instead of increasing their power for good, only led to
the alienation of endowments left to the poor, and that too many
of them shared the fate of the Hospital of St. John at Bath,
where most of the funds were " frittered away in payments to
players, for bearbaiting, and in presents to magnate visitors." l
The Poor The reign of Edward VI. began with a remarkable statute 2

Edward vi for the punishment of vagabonds and the relief of the poor. The
preamble states that former laws had had small effect because of
the " foolish pytie and mercy " of those who should have seen
them executed. There was therefore a constant increase of " idle
and vagabonde persons,' "whom, it they should be punished by
death, whipping, imprisonment, and with other corporal paine, it
were not without their desertes, for the example of others, and to
the benefit of the commonwealth. Yet if they could be brought
to be made profitable, and doe servyce, it were muche to be
wished and desired." So the laws of Henry VIII. were repealed.
TheUnde- There is no object to be gained by describing in detail the
provisions of this long and savage law which the Government
substituted. Branding with a hot iron, slavery, and the death of
a felon were the penalties at successive stages of vagabondism.
Men and women were to be treated in the same fashion. The
master of such a slave might " let, set forthe, sel, bequeathe, or
geve " his labour and service, " after such like sorte and maner as
he might do of any other his moveable goodes and cattalles."
He might also put a ring of iron about the neck, arm, or leg of
his slave, " for a more knowledge and suertie of the keping
of hym."

It is remarkable that a hundred and fifty years later a famous

1 Vide King and Watts' Jlunirijtal Tlcronlx of Hath. Humbert's Memorial*
of the Hospital of St. Cross, the history of Winston's Hospital in Xicholl's
History of Lt'iccxtrrxhire, i., pp. 471-504, etc.

2 1 Edward VI., c. 8. For this Act and all subsequent Acts up to IS
Elizabeth, c. 3, the edition of the Statutes quoted is Richard Tottel's. For
the other Acts the large folio edition.


Scot, Andrew Fletcher of Saltoim, proposed slavery as a remedy
for pauperism. 1 While he did not defend " any of those bad and
cruel regulations about slaves," he explained " under what
conditions they might be both good and useful, as well as
necessary, in a well-regulated government." The master was not
to have power over the slave's life, or for mutilation or torture.
The slave, his wife and children, were to be provided with



(From a lithograph by J. Flower, about 1825.)

clothes, food, and lodging, to be educated at the master's expense,
and to have Sunday holidays. Except in matters relating to
their duty as servants, they were to be under the protection
of the law, and not subject to the will of their masters. They
were not to possess property, and they might be sold that is,
Fletcher explained, their services might be alienated without
their consent. He proposed to compel every man of a certain
estate " to take a proportionate number of vagabonds on these

1 Sec his second Discourse Concerning the Affairs <>f Scotland, 1698.



The De


conditions, and to set them to work." Under such a system, he
maintained that they would be better off than those who,
" having a power to possess all tilings, are very often in want of
everything." Fletcher's proposal may help modern readers to
understand that slavery in times past might be advocated as a
remedy for pauperism from perfectly humane motives ; much
more when the object in view was not " to do mercy " but
punishment and repression.

There is a sharp contrast between the treatment proposed in
1547 for vagabonds and the principles of poor relief in the same
statute. The aged and impotent poor were to be provided with

habitations at the charge of
the parish. For the provision
of relief for those in " unfained
misery," the curate of the
parish was ordered '' to make
(according to such talent as
God hath geven him) a godlye
and briefe exhortation to hys
parishioners : moving and ex-
citing them to remembre the
poore people and the duetie of
Christian charitie in relieving of
them which bee their brethren
in Christe, born in the same
parish, and nedinge theire

When two years later 1 this Act was repealed and Henry VIII. 's
first Act 2 was revived, the above provisions for the aged and
impotent poor were incorporated in the new statute. Another
two years elapsed, when an important addition was made to
the law. 3 We have already seen that in 1535-36 special
provision had been made for the collection of alms, and for
rendering account of the sums given. It was now enacted
that special " collectors " should be elected on the Sunday

1 3 and 4 Edward VI.. c. Ifi.

- 22 Henry VIII., c. 12. Henry's second Act, 27 Henry VIII.. c. 25, was never

3 5 and 6 Edward VI., c. 2. Re-enacted by 1 Mary, c. 13, s. ii. ; 1 Mary,
c. 12, Parl. sec.


(Barclay, "Ship of Fools," 1509.)


after Whit-Sunday ; who, after divine service on the Sunday
after their election, or on the following Sunday, should "gently
aske and demaund of every man or woman what they of
their charitie [would] be contented to geve weekly toward
the reliefe of the poor." These sums were to be entered in
a register of the householders, and distributed amongst the
poor in proportion to their needs. A penalty of 20s. was
imposed for refusal to till the office of collector ; and quarterly
accounts were to be rendered. Persons refusing to give alms,
or discouraging others from doing so, were to be exhorted by
the vicar ; and on his failure, by the bishop of the diocese,
who might take order at his discretion for their reformation.


Numerous illustrations might be given of the administration
of EdAvard's last two poor laws. For example, at Ipswich two
persons in every parish were nominated by the bailiff to
inquire into and report on the poor in 1551. In 1556 eight
persons were elected to look after the maintenance of the
poor and impotent, for providing them with work, for sup-
pressing vagabonds, etc. A subscription of 4 is noted
towards the foundation of a house for that purpose. 1 But
the sums given voluntarily for the poor were quite inadequate
for the purposes of the Act. Subscriptions had to be taken
on terms dictated by the giver, and they were in consequence
irregular and of varying amount. 2 It was also found necessary
to keep the magistrates up to the mark by constantly sending
them orders to put the law into execution. 3

Short as was the reign of Mary, some attention was given The Poor
to the subject of poor relief. The changes made in the law 4
are too important to be overlooked. The time for the election
of the collectors was altered from Whitsuntide to Christmas ;
and the penalty for refusing the office was raised to 40s.
From this provision, we may surmise that there was con-
siderable reluctance to discharge the duties of "collector."
With no compulsory powers, the collection of alms must have

1 Vide Bacon's Annalh of IjmcicJie, pp. 235, 239, 247, 24i>, etc.

' 2 Vide, for example, the " Register Books of the Benevolence of the
Parishioners [of Lambeth] for the relief of the Poor," 1552. (Manning and
Bray's Surrey, iv., p. 464.)

3 Acts of the Privy Council (1551-52), p. 2CO, etc.

4 2 and 3 Philip and Mary, c. 5.




presented many difficulties, and it could in no circumstances
have been a very agreeable task. Thus the office would be
likely to be given to persons the least fitted for it namely,
those who hoped to filch something for themselves out ot
the sums subscribed for the poor. Accordingly we have
another amendment aimed at defaulting collectors. A few
words were added to Edward's statute authorising the bishop
to exercise on them the compulsion which the episcopal
censure carried with it in the sixteenth century. It was
also ordered that wealthier parishes should be " persuaded "
to assist those surcharged with poor. Thus we have seen
that the Government, beginning with attempts to suppress
vagabondism, in the interests of order and good government,
was gradually forced to grapple with the problem of relieving
the poor. Before the accession of Elizabeth, the foundations
of the system associated with her reign were laid. By a long
series of statutes, all of them tentative, enacted for short
periods, re-enacted if found satisfactory, repealed if unsuitable,
the leading principles of the "old Poor Law' were firmly
established, and the Government was being unwillingly and
gradually forced to the adoption of the compulsory rate.





THE reign of Edward VI. was not without the long-standing
plague, both in town and country, in 1550 and 1553, but its
chief medical interest is that it witnessed the fifth and last
epidemic of the sweating sickness in 1551. The fifth epidemic
probably differed little from the previous four (two of them
in Henry VII. 's reign, and two, in 1517 and 1528, in
Henry VIII. 's) ; but it deserves a fuller notice for the
reason that some traces of its ravages remain in bills ot
mortality and in the parish registers, which had been kept
since 1538 by many, although by no means by all, of the
clergy. The epidemic began, oddly enough, at Shrewsbury,
in the end of March or the beginning of April. It is said
to have appeared in some towns on the borders of Wales,
and in Coventry and Oxford in its progress towards London ;
but it is clear that it was little felt in any part of England
until its usual season, the summer. It was at Loughborough,
in Leicestershire, 011 the 24th June ; in London on the



7th July; at Cambridge on the 16th July: at Uffculme,
in Devonshire, on the 1st August; near Leeds on the
7th August; and at Ulverston, in the north of Lancashire,
on the 17th August. It lasted no longer than a fortnight
or three weeks at any one place, and the king, in a letter
of 22nd August, written during a progress, says that most
part of England was then clear of sickness. But it was
very severe while it lasted. Thus upwards of nine hundred
died of it in and near London, from the 7th to the 30th
July, the greatest mortality on one day having been one
hundred and twenty on the 10th ; at Ulverston thirty-nine
died in eight days, eleven of these on the 20th August.
At Swithington, near Leeds, thirty-nine were buried between
the 17th and 20th August from " plague," i.e. the sweat.
At Uffculme twenty-seven died of it in the first eleven days
of August, the deaths for the whole year being only thirty-
eight. At Loughborough nineteen died of it in six days ;
at Oxford sixty fell ill in one night, and one hundred more
next day in the neighbouring villages ; but the physician who
records the fact says that very few died of it. Two princes
of the blood, who were students at Cambridge, the Duke of
Suffolk and his brother, Charles Brandon, died of it within
half an hour of each other at a country house in Huntingdon-
shire, whither they had been removed to escape the infection
in the university.

Owing to the suddenness of the attack and the swiftness of
its execution, it received such familiar names as " Stop, gallant ! "
" Stop ! knave, and know thy master " ; it was also called the
"posting sweat" (because it posted from town to town), the
" new acquaintance," the " hot sickness," or the like.

The fifth epidemic of the sweat during a few weeks of the
summer of 1551 was the last of it in England ; it died out, or
became an extinct species of disease, 1 having had a comparatively
brief duration of sixty-seven years. It was expected to come
back ; and widespread epidemic disease, with a sweating-
character, did come back in 1557 and 1558, as well as in the
generation following. But these later epidemics were not the
true English sweat ; that had been a short and sharp attack, all

1 It is referred to in the Rubric to the Office for tlie Visitation of the
Sick in the English Prayer Book.

368 TJfE A'A'ir FORCES.


over in death or in recovery within twenty-four hours ; you were
despatched, as the French ambassador wrote from London in
152(S, " without languishing, as in those troublesome fevers." The
subsequent epidemics with a sweating type (they had occurred
before in 1510 and 1539-40) were the languishing, troublesome
fevers, which were known each time they appeared as " the new
Ague disease," " the new ague," " the strange fever," " the hot ague,"

and in- the new delight," or other such playful names, indicating at

Online LibraryH. D. (Henry Duff) TraillSocial England; a record of the progress of the people in religion, laws, learning, arts, industry, commerce, science, literature and manners, from the earliest times to the present day (Volume 3) → online text (page 33 of 68)