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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\Vars of the Roses the art of gardening had almost expired
and the dissolution of the monasteries, where alone it had
survived, gave it for the time its death-blow. It is said that
Queen Catherine was provided .with salads from Flanders
because none could be furnished at home in the reign of
Henry VIII. Herbs, fruits, and roots, which had been plentiful
in the fifteenth century, were dying out, or their use unknown,
when the trim gardens and " erberes " of the monks passed
into other hands. Now, however, gardening began, as Fuller
says, to creep out of Holland into England, though, as late
as 1650, Hartlib states that it was almost unknown in the
north and west. Onions and cabbages had been cultivated iu
cottage gardens in the reign of Henry III., and were commended
by Piers Plowman ; but in the first half of the fifteenth century
they were imported from Flanders. In the neighbourhood of
Fulham and along the Suffolk coast, gardens were laid out in
which these useful vegetables were cultivated, as well as carrots
and parsnips, and, it is said though probably they were not
known till half a century later " colle flowers." In these
gardens also turnips were grown, but only as roots to be
boiled and eaten with butter. Near Sandwich, carrots were



extensively cultivated, and were called from the place of their
cultivation " Sandwich carrots."

By the middle of the reign of Elizabeth enclosures had
been extensively made ; sheep -farming had prospered ; prices
of agricultural produce were rising, and thus giving a new
stimulus to arable farming ; here and there a gentleman was
giving attention to the cultivation of his estates ; agricultural
writers were urging the adoption of the best farming methods
which were known to the science of the day, and in gardens
new stores of agricultural wealth were accumulating. The


most disastrous feature of the period was the condition of the
agricultural labourer ; and in the increase of arable farming
lay his chief hope of employment.

THE reiern of Elizabeth opens a new chapter in our industrial J - E -


history. We have seen how the medieval and feudal organisa- The

tion of society had broken down in the Reformation and Economic

rm f Revival.

Renaissance periods. Ihe increased activity of the human

spirit was no longer content to work under the restrictions
which custom, tradition, and law had built up. The greed of
kings, rulers, and landholders co-operated in the destruction
of those organisations which had in some measure protected
the working classes, and in the reigns of Henry VIII.,
Edward VI., and Mary, little had been clone to build up any
new organisation adapted to the new order of things.

The period of transition had been one of great disorder
and misery. It was reserved for the reign of Elizabeth to
usher in a period of prosperity for all except the poorest
classes, and to lay the foundations of that commercial and
industrial supremacy Avhich England was to enjoy for several
centuries among the nations of the world.

Of this coming revival there were few signs at the time of
Elizabeth's accession (1553). The Treasury was bankrupt,
and the credit of the Government so low that it had to pay
fourteen per cent, for its loans. Every branch of the adminis-
tration was rotten. England was at war, but miserably
deficient in all military and naval appliances. Domestic
trades were stagnant. The spread of vagrancy and pauperism
had been hardly checked by the terrible laws of Henry VIII.









and his successors (pp. 352-366): and the currency had been
utterly disorganised by the fraudulent policy of successive
governments, and the consequent increase of clipping, and of

false coinage.

This was in some
respects the most
urgent of the prob-
lems which the new
queen had to deal
with. The religious,
question was indeed
more visibly pressing.
Some sort of ecclesi-
astical settlement
must be made. The rival parties must be in some measure
restrained. But there was no chance of a revival of trade
and prosperity while the currency was in such a con-
dition that no one could say what would be the real value of
any coins he obtained, nor how soon that value might be
diminished by a fresh issue of debased coins. There were in
circulation three different kinds of shilling, arid four different
kinds of tester, or sixpenny pieces. All of these varied in
original quality and size, and now differed from one another
still more through the action of clippers and sweaters. Similar
disorder prevailed among the lesser coins, and Elizabeth's
council determined to call in the whole currency, and to issue
a completely new set of coins (1560). This was a gigantic
undertaking, and there were serious objections to every possible
way of carrying it out. Nor could any method avoid rousing
much discontent among those who suffered, or fancied that they
suffered, from the change. But the council wisely felt that
they must, at all risks, complete the reform. So the Queen
issued a proclamation (Sept. 27, 1560), explaining the evils of
the existing currency, and calling in the debased coins, which
were to be paid for in the new coins at a rate below their
nominal value, but, on an average, nearly their real value ; and
a small bounty was offered for every pound's worth of silver
brought in. This was the essence of the proclamation, only
that the rate of purchase was represented as somewhat more
favourable to the public than it actually was. The Government



professed to be ready to bear the whole cost of recoinage.
In reality they defrayed it, and even made a small profit, out
of the slight difference between the real value of the old coins
and the price given for them in the new. The following
fio-ures show the extent of the transaction :


Debased coiu collected ... ... ... ... ... 631,950 Ib.

Silver in debased coin ... ... 244,416 Ib.

Value of this in new coin ... ... ... 733,248

Price paid by the Government for debased coin ... 638,000

Cost of collection, bounties, etc ... 45,359

Cost of coining new money ... ... ... 35,686

Total cost of new issue ... 719,045

Comparing the third and seventh items, we see that the
Government made a profit of 14,203, after paying all expenses.
We certainly need not grudge Elizabeth's Government their
profit. They were in urgent need of money, and had conferred
an almost priceless benefit on the community ; but it was
characteristic of Elizabeth, that she was able to make a profit
out of the transaction and yet to get the credit of having
been a loser by it.

The establishment of a sound currency made a revival of
industry and prosperity at least possible. Fortunately, it was
carried through in time to enable our countrymen to take
advantage of the great influx of silver from America. It is


estimated that the amount of silver in Europe was quadrupled
during the fifteenth century. The new silver, however, went
chiefly to Spain in the first instance, and the Spanish Govern-

45)2 '/'///; XEW ORDER.


ment made strenuous efforts to prevent the other European
nations from obtaining supplies of the precious metal. Their
efforts, however, met with little success; and if England did
not secure much additional bullion before 15(51 this was chiefly
because the condition of our currency and the social and
religious disorder had ruined our foreign trade. From 1501
onwards silver flowed into England, with the natural conse-
quence that prices rapidly rose, and that industry was greatly

The in- The rise of prices had indeed begun by 1549, and had, on

suverf tne whole, continued ; but before 15G1 this was mainly due to
the depreciation of the coinage, which raised nominal prices.
No doubt there was also a real rise in the price of grain ; but
this must be connected with the extensive changing of arable
land into pasture. Accordingly, we find that neither profits
nor wages rose proportionately. After 1561 the rise was of a
healthier sort, Merchants and manufacturers began to grow
rich, and workmen in their turn participated in the growing
prosperity. The increased stock of silver tended also to assist
the accumulation of capital. Wealth saved in other forms
had not been so readily available for productive purposes.
In the form of bullion it was at once easier to preserve it
without deterioration and to apply it to trade, manufacture,
or agriculture, according to whatever openings might arise for
profitable investment,

The rise in prices was not indeed an unmixed advantage.
Neither rents nor wages rose at quite so rapid a rate ; and thus
both the country gentlemen and the labourers found them-
selves put at some disadvantage. So far, however, as the
labourers were concerned, the increased activity of industiy
gave them more employment, and more opportunities for
earning wages outside their regular trade ; and this probably
more than counterbalanced the fact that their wages did not rise
as rapidly as the prices of the things they needed. Our in-
formation is too defective to enable us to speak positively on
the subject ; but, at least, the proofs of social misery diminish
after the restoration of the currency, though for some years
the improvement seems to have been slow and slight,

\Ve must now speak of the efforts of Elizabeth's Government
to organise and foster the national industries. The name



" Mercantilism " has been given to the system that was built The
up in this reign, and that practically dominated English
commercial policy till the close of the last century, when the
whole system began to be assailed by Adam Smith and his
followers. A fundamental object of this policy was the increase
of the stock of precious metals within the country ; and modern
political economists have had little difficulty in showing the
fallaciousness of the implied assumption that money is the kind
of wealth most essential for national prosperity. " Money," they
tell us, " is only a means towards an end, and that end is wealth
in other forms as, for instance, in the form of necessaries,
comforts, and luxuries." This is no doubt true, and might be
accepted as self-evident, were it not in practice so often ignored.
But there is something to be said on the other side. Though
money is not the ultimate object of human desire, it is, for
many purposes, the most convenient form of wealth ; and, in
some circumstances, it may be worth while to sacrifice quantity
to form. Elizabeth's object was political quite as much as
commercial. She wanted money in order to subsidise Scotch
and French rebels, and so to embarrass her external enemies.
She wanted money to maintain internal order, and to provide
for national defence ; and the maintenance of authority at
home and abroad was a pre-requisite for the growth of
English industry. This may be accepted as at least a partial
excuse for her violation of what we should call the principles
of Free Trade.

This is strikingly illustrated by the Navigation Laws of the Navigation
first and fifth years of Elizabeth's reign. The older laws Laws -
were in some measure relaxed ; but English subjects who
imported goods in English vessels were excused some of the
customs due from aliens and from Englishmen who used
foreign ships ; while, in some trades, English ships were given
a complete monopoly. These measures were not merely " pro-
tective " in the modern sense. They aimed at encouraging
seamanship, partly, at least, because English seamanship was
one of the bases of national strength. On the same principle,
Fishery was encouraged, and that not merely by remissions
of customs duties in the case of English fishers in English
vessels, but also by the legislative enforcement of Fasts. To
assert that fasting was a religious duty was made a penal




Fisheries, offence; yet, for the encouragement of fisheries, fast clays
were to be observed. Heavy restrictions were also placed on
the importation of fish caught by aliens or from alien vessels.
In a report issued as to the success of the Fishery Acts in
the early part of the reign, it is proudly stated that a thousand
additional men had thus been attracted to the fishing trade,
and were consequently " ready to serve in Her Majesty's


(British Museum.}

ships." Experience, however, proved that English fishers could
not supply the market adequately, and many of ths restrictions
were removed in 1597.

Protection We will not attempt to describe in detail the various other

industries, ways in which Elizabeth's Government tried to stimulate native

industries. Eew of them involved any new principles. The

importation of manufactured goods and the exportation of raw

material were alike discouraged. There was, however, little



theoretical consistency in the national policy. Wool is a raw
material ; but to forbid its exportation would have ruined one
of our chief industries. So wool might be exported ; but woe
to that man who exported a live sheep. For the first offence
he might lose a hand I English subjects must wear English-
made caps. They had not even the choice of going without
caps altogether. Caps, fully wrought in England, had to be
worn by almost all persons of six years and upwards, on every
Sunday and Holy Day, under penalty of a line.

Another favourite method for the encouragement of Eng- Monopolies,
lish industry was the granting of patents and monopolies.
The establishment of great industries was induced by granting
exclusive rights to those who would engage in them. This
system was at a later time often resorted to, chiefly as a
means of enriching royal favourites or in order to raise money
for the Crown, in return for exclusive privileges. But when
the ostensible motive was a real one, we must not regard the
system as altogether indefensible, however unsuitable it may
be to modern industrial conditions. The scarcity of capital
and of business experience and enterprise in the early years
of Elizabeth may have justified the giving of an artificial stimu-
lus to new industries. But great wisdom and caution were
needed in granting patents, or the ensuing evils were likely
to exceed the advantages. The chartering of merchant companies
was one of the most important branches of the policy in
granting monopolies. But we must reserve this subject for
a later paragraph.

We pass next to the Statute of Apprentices (1563) the The
great effort made by Elizabeth's Government to control and Apprentices,
organise manufactures and agriculture. This Act was not re-
pealed till 1813. Among its expressed objects we find the
raising of wages. In this respect, it seems to stand in strik-
ing contrast with the earlier Statutes of Labourers; but the
Government could scarcely shut its eyes to the fact that
the general rise in prices, and the revival of industrial pros-
perity, made an increase of wages both desirable and possible.
We may next notice that the Act showed the persistence of
the old belief that those who were able to labour might
reasonably be compelled to do so. Agricultural labourers
might be made to work till the age of sixty ; but other

496 THK A/-; IF ORDER.


labourers and artisans only up to thirty years of age or

marriage. To promote permanence of service, it was provided

that, in many trades, workers must be hired by the year;

and a man from another parish might not be employed, unless

he brought satisfactory testimonials from his last employer.

The Wages were to be fixed annually for each district by the

amf 6 justices, after consultation with " such discreet and grave per-

Labour. SO11S as they shall think meet," for every trade, and no one

might pay more or less than the wages so settled. This is

evidently a great advance on the clumsy attempts to regulate

wages in the older Statutes of Labourers.

The hours of labour were defined much as in the older
laws. Except in London, the summer day's work was to be
from five a.m. till six or eight p.m., but with intermissions
which brought the total down to about nine and a half hours.
In winter the daylight was to regulate the duration of work,
and this would probably give an average of eight and a half
hours a day ; but the meaning of the Act is by no means
clear, nor can we discover that its regulations were adhered to
in practice. It further contained elaborate regulations as to
apprenticeship. These may be described as an attempt to
secure a thorough technical education for those entering any
trade, and also as an endeavour to regulate the supply of
labour of various sorts, and the proportion of apprentices to
journeymen in each. Thus agriculture and village trades were
more favourably treated than those occupations which involved
living in towns and which were generally of less paramount
necessity, or less conducive to national power. Therefore,
while an agriculturist might take any lad as an apprentice,
an artisan in a corporate town was limited to the sons of
freemen, and these might not be withdrawn from agriculture.
Merchants and shopkeepers were still further restricted and
could only take as apprentices the sons of the comparatively
well-to-do. Such limitations were probably partly due to the
influence of the growing middle classes, anxious not to have
their trades overcrowded ; but in the main they seem to
indicate a desire to encourage tillage and other open-air and
village industries, which would tend to keep up the supply of
strong righting men, who might otherwise be tempted to
migrate into the towns already unsanitary and overcrowded, and




to pursue avocations less directly productive of food and other

The Act is chiefly interesting as the first serious attempt The Re-
to organise English industries after the great breakdown, in JJJgJJ n of
the middle of the sixteenth century, of the medieval org-an- industry.

\j ' ^

isation. On the whole it follows many of the old ideas, but
it shows that Elizabeth's statesmen recognised the need of more



(From an old Print.)

flexibility than had been provided for under the older laws.
Thus, in the matter of fixing wages, it seems clear that
the justices were intended to give authoritative sanction to a
rate of wage according to the industrial forces at work in a
particular locality and trade, rather than to enforce their own
ideas as to what wages were equitable, or to maintain the rate
that existed in the past. The State had not, indeed, aban-
doned the idea that it could interfere to fix wages, but it was
certainly now showing a greater appreciation of the need of

498 THE JYi'Tr 01UH-:il.


caution and the strength of economic forces, the results of
which could be at most only slightly modified by a considera-
tion of what rate of wages seemed desirable. Accordingly the
justices were somewhat in the position of modern arbitrators
in a dispute about wages, Avho have to consider, not what
they would desire, but what the conditions of the market
admit of. Unfortunately, the justices, who were themselves
generally employers, were not always impartial, and W<T'-
suspected of unfairness, even when they did their best. But
it is probable that they served a useful function. The} T were
not to blame for the fact that wages rose more slowly than
prices, for this is generally the case, even when the labourers
are associated in strong trade unions, and are thus able to
take early advantage of an improved market. At any rate it
appears that the condition of the trades to which the Act
applied compared favourably with that of the new trades that
sprung up in the eighteenth century, to which the Act did
not apply.

A similar approval may probably be given to the attempt
made by Elizabeth's Acts to secure a better technical educa-
tion for the labourers in the different skilled trades, but it is
not possible to decide whether the regulations as to the
limitation of apprentices did more good than harm.

Another branch of the Elizabethan organisation of industry
was the formation of companies to take the place of the old
craft guilds, which had deteriorated before the Reformation,
and been almost destroyed by the confiscating policy of Henry
VIII. and Edward YI.'s Council (p. 168). The new companies
were of a wider character than the old guilds ; they were
authorised by the Crown instead of the municipalities. They
were generally associations of employers instead of, like the
old guilds, of actual workers, and a single company often
included a number of trades.

One of the chief reasons given for forming these companies
was the importance of supervising the quality of the goods
offered to the public ; but the more extended character of the
companies made them less efficient for this purpose than the
old guilds had been in the days of their efficiency.

A great stimulus was given to English manufactures in
Elizabeth's reign by the immigration of Protestant refugees from




Flanders and, to a less extent, from France. As in other Alien
industrial departments, it was thought necessary for the ^j^
Government to regulate the admission and privileges of these
aliens. In 1501 Sandwich was licensed to receive from twenty
to twenty-five master workmen as cloth-workers or fishers.


(Used 'by Walloon Immigrants.)

Sandwich had been decaying during the last sixty years
chiefly through the silting-up of its harbour. The Govern-
ment hoped to revive the industries of the town by means of
these foreigners, and the experiment was so successful that it
was repeated, both here and elsewhere. In a survey taken in





the eighth year of Elizabeth, the toAvn Avas found to contain
one hundred and twenty Walloons as against tAvo hundred
and ninety-one English householders. The newcomers also
introduced the manufacture of paper and silk.

In 1565 Norwich received a similar licence, and by 1571
no less than four thousand natives of the Netherlands had
settled there, besides large numbers in other parts of Norfolk.
They introduced the making of " bayes, saves, arras, mockades,
and the like." The first book ever printed in Norwich Avas
printed in 1570 by one of these immigrants, and Ave find at
the present day many natives of this town Avho bear names
corrupted from the Dutch.

In 1567 Maidstone petitioned to be alloAved to have foreign
settlers. The petition Avas granted, and the thread industry,
Avhich flourished there for nearly three centuries, Avas thus

The manufacture of lace Avas introduced by refugees from
Alenc,on and Valenciennes into Cranfield, in Bedfordshire, and
extended thence over Bucks, Oxfordshire, and Northampton-
shire. Other immigrants introduced the making of Honiton
lace into Devon. Silk Aveaving Avas also brought into England
by French Huguenots, and parchment, needles, and gallipots
are mentioned among the other products of the skill and
enterprise of the fugitives from the Netherlands.

In almost every instance the invaded districts derived
great advantages from the coming of the aliens. In some
cases the jealousy of the English artisans Avas naturally
aroused ; but the fact that the noAvcomers Avere Protestants,
exiled for their religion, probably moderated this ill-feeling,
and the improvement Avhich the strangers made in English
manufactures Avas so rapid and so considerable that neither
the Government nor the people Avere much disposed to
listen to the complaints of their rivals. Some restrictiA T e
measures Avere at a later time adopted, and in 151)2 the
immigrants Avere required to go through a seven years' ap-

Tne While the foreigners Avere building up many new industries,

woollen . , i v i i

industry, the native Avoollen manufacture preserved its old pre-eminence.

The direction of it Avas passing more and more into the hands
of capitalists, Avho gave out Avork, and greAv rich, partly by




availing themselves of the opportunities for division of labour,
which, manufacture on a large scale provided. Thus the

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 43 of 68)