William Dealtry.

The laborer; a remedy for his wrongs; or, A disquisition on the usages of society online

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was called a tithing. Ten of these associations formed a hundred, or a county.


Sometimes litigants offered the king a half, or a fourth,
out of debts,which he as the executor of justice might help
to recover. Theophania de Westland agreed to pay the
half of 212 marks that she might recover from James de
Fughleston. Solomon the Jew gave one mark out of seven
that he should recover out of Hugh de la Hose.

The king was paid for a permission to exercise any in-
dustry. Hugh Oisel paid 400 marks for liberty to trade in
England. Nigel de Haven gave fifty marks for a partner-
ship in merchandise with Gervase de Hanton. Some men
of Worcester paid 100 shillings, that they might have the
liberty of selling fine, dyed cloth. The whole kingdom was
under the control of the king. He created guilds,* corpora-
tions^ and monoplies wherever he pleased, and levied sums
for these exclusive privileges.

There was no profit so small as to be below the king's
notice. Henry, son of Arthur, gave ten dogs, to have an
acknowledgment from the Countess of Copland. Walter le
Madine gave two Norman hawks that he might have leave
to export a hundred weight of cheese out of the king's do-
minions. The wife of Hugh de Neville gave two hundred
hens for a visit to her husband. It is supposed he was in
prison. The abbot of Ruckford paid ten marks for leave
to erect houses and place men on his land, to secure his
wood from being stolen. Hugh, the archdeacon of Wells,
gave a tun of wine for leave to carry 600 sums of corn
wherever he would. Peter de Peraris gave twenty marks
for leave to salt fishes.

The eldest son and widow of Hugh Bigond, a nobleman,
came to the court of Henry II and offered him large pres-

* GUILDS, companies of men carrying on some pursuit particularly commerce.

These were licensed by the king, and governed by their own laws and orders.

f CORPORATIONS, societies acting like one man in the transaction of buisness.


ents to obtain her inheritance. The king ordered the case
to be tried by the great council ; but, in the meantime, he
seized all the treasure and money of the deceased. Fines
were not limited by law, and the person on whom they
were imposed was frequently ruined. The forest laws
were a great source of oppression. The king possessed
sixty-eight forests, thirteen chases, and seven hundred parks,
in different parts of England, in which the people were al-
lured to hunt, and then punished by having their eyes put
out. This was Norman law.

The Jews were out of the protection of the law, they
were abandoned to the rapacity of the king and his minis-
ters. It appears they were all at once thrown into prison,
and the sum of 60,000 marks was exacted for their liberty.
Henry III borrowed 4,000 marks from the Earl of Corn-
wall ; and for his repayment consigned to him all the Jews
in England. There was a particular kind of Exchequer
set apart for managing revenue derived from the Jews.

Sir Henry Spellman says: "During the reign of the first
Norman kings, every edict that came from them, with the
consent of their private council, had the full force of law."
It appears that the constitution had not fixed any precise
boundaries to the royal power ; that the right to issue pro-
clamations on any emergency, and of exacting obedience
to them a right which was always supposed inherent in
the crown is very difficult to be distinguished by legisla-
tive authority. The extreme imperfections of the ancient
laws, and sudden exigencies that have often occurred in
such turbulent governments, obliged the prince to exert fre-
quently the latent powers of his prerogative that he natur-
ally proceeded from the acquiescence of the people, to as-
sume in many particulars of moment, an authority from
which he had excluded himself by express statutes, char-


ters, or concessions, which was repugnant to the personal
liberty of his subjects. It appears from the great Charter
itself, that John, Richard, and Henry, were accustomed,
from their sole authority, without process of law, to imprison,
banish, and attaint* the freemen of the kingdom.

A great baron in ancient times considered himself as a
kind of sovereign within his territory ; and was attended by
courtiers and dependents more zealously attached to him
than ministers of state. He often maintained in his court
the parade of royalty, by establishing courts over which he
presided with constables, f marshals, J and chancellors.
He was assiduous in his jurisdiction. || Delighting in the
image of sovereignty, it was necessary to restrain his activ-
ity, and keep him from holding his courts too frequently.
The example of his prince in mercenary extortion was fre-
quently copied, his justice and injustice was frequently put
to sale. He had the power, with the king's consent to
exact talli'ages even from the free citizens who lived in his
barony; and his necessities made him rapacious; his au-
thority was often found to be more oppressive and tyran-
nical than that of the sovereign. He was ever engaged in
hereditary or personal animosities or confederacies with his

* ATTAINT, stained, blackened, a person in this condition was not considered
fit to live, but to be exterminated from the earth. From the word attinctus.

j- CONSTABLE, an officer of high rank in the middle ages, the seventh in rank
to the crown. A judge in chivalry, of deeds of arms, combats, and blazonry.

J MARSHAL, the chief officer in arms, whose duty it is to regulate combats,
rank and order at a feast, or assembly, directs the king's processions and feasts.

$ CHANCELLOR, the highest crown officer, he has judicial power, the keeping
of the king's conscience, seal, charters, and writings of the crown. He is the
private counselor of the House of Lords, appointer of all the justices of peace,
visitor of all hospitals and colleges founded by the king, a guardian of the
public charities, and a judge of the high Court of Chancery. Enough to do.

II JURISDICTION, a power to hear complaints, execute laws, and distribute
justice. Jurisdiction is limited to a particular place or territory, and persons.


neighbors, and often gave protection to desperate adven-
turers and criminals, who could be useful in serving his vio-
lent purposes. He was able alone in times of tranquillity,
to obstruct the execution of justice within his territories ;
and, by combining with a few malcontent barons of high
rank and power, he could throw a state into convulsions.
Though the royal authority was confined within narrow
bounds, yet the check was often irregular and frequently
the scenes of great disorders; nor was it derived from the
liberty of the people, but from the military power of many
tyrants, who were equally dangerous and oppressive to the

The concessions of the Great Charter gave birth, by
degrees, to a new species of government, and introduced
some order and justice into the administration. The Great
Charter contained no new establishment of new courts,
magistrates, senates, or abolition of the old. It introduced
no new distribution of the powers of the commonwealth,
and no innovation in the political or public law of the king-
dom. It only guarded, and that merely by verbal clauses,
against such tyrannical practices as are incompatible with
civilized governments. The barbarous license of the kings,
and perhaps of the nobles, was thenceforth more restrained.
Men acquired more security for their property and liberties,
and governments approached a little nearer to the distribu-
tion of justice and the protection of citizens. Acts of vio-
lence and iniquity in the crown, which before were only
deemed injurious to individuals, and were hazardous chiefly
in proportion to the number, power, and dignity, of the per-
sons affected by them, were now regarded as public injuries
in some degree, and as an infringement of a charter calcu-
lated for general security. The establishment of the Great
Charter was an improvement in the distribution of political


power, the source of a mighty change in the customs and
usages of society, and in the constitution of England.

There was a struggle between the king and his barons
for supreme power for one hundred and fifty years after
the conquest. The introduction of the Magna Charta
made the Parliament the source of power instead of the
king. It is very doubtful if this change has been of any
benefit to the toiling classes, except to introduce a more
systematic method of plundering them. That a number
of men in gay robes, with high sounding names, in a gor-
geous room, sitting in stalls and on woolsacks that these
should do any thing to lessen the labor of working people
is not to be expected. Many of the customs and usages
of the conquest are still in existence.

The House of Commons comes from the lower classes,
who lived in the boroughs and towns. These were told to
send deputies to tell how much they were worth under an
oath, and then grant aids to the king in his wars, and then
go home and collect them. These were forced or sum-
moned by the sheriffs* when they came with their aids, re-
liefs, presents, and benevolences. They asked for relief from
the wrongs they suffered at the hands of the barons.

Before the time of the Stuarts the House of Commons
was summoned at the pleasure of the king, or when an aid
was wanted. Deputies were to assess scutages and talliages,
not to make laws, that was a branch of the royal preroga-
tive, and exercised by the summary process of proclamation,
not by illiterate burgesses, whom it was assumed might be
adepts in the mysteries of trade, and not sufficiently learned
for the high task of legislation. The first members went
with reluctance, and received wages for their unpleasant

* SHERIFF, an officer appointed by the king, to execute the laws in an earl-
dom or county j once a collector of the king's revenue a shire-reeve.



duty. All sorts of evasions were practiced to avoid sending
representatives to the Parliament; some pleaded poverty,
others their insignificance, and the honorable members were
often constrained by force to appear at Westminster or Ox-
ford, or other places of royal residence. The whole pro-
ceeding was analogous to what takes place in a city taken
by storm. The victorious general calls together the inhab-
itants not to make laws for the government of the town,
but to determine how great a sum they will give to save them-
selves from pillage. And so it continued till the advent of
Hampden, Pym, Hollis, Elliott, and other master minds, who
claimed for the Commons a nobler and more independent

It is, however, a contrivance to get out of the toiling
classes of Great Britain the annual sum of $400,000,000.
It takes from him who labors the fruits of his labor, and
gives it to him who will not labor.

To trace the gradual evolution of the several parts of the
English constitution ; to show how the executive, legislative,
and judicial power were blended and clumsily executed,
and how they became separated, defined, and secured in the
exercise of their respective functions by ages of conflict and
trial, is a curious and pleasing subject of study and inquiry.
It is the progress of man from rudeness to an abundance
of comforts in the hands of a few. The progress of society
has been like the reclaiming of a waste country, by the em-
bankment of its rivers, the draining of its morasses, the
cleaning out of the beasts of prey, and other operations by
which it is brought into a state of security and productive-
ness. Divesting ourselves of the illusions of antiquity, it
is impossible to conceal that the government for a long
period was a simple despotism, occasionally controlled by
the interference of the nobility and clergy. The first


regular approach to constitutional rule was the grant of the
Magna Charta. Doubtless the concessions extorted by the
barons at Runnymede were in their own favor; but it also
contained provisions which were a guide and a sanction for
future and more general claims of freedom. The adoption
of such an instrument denotes a progression in human so-
ciety. A division of political power between two orders in
the state had been formally recognized, and the idea of pre-
scribing their respective immunities by law shows the time
may come when they will be dispensed with altogether.

Many parts of the great charter were pointed against the
abuses of the power of the king as lord paramount. But it
contains a few maxims of just governments, applicable to
all places and times. For almost five centuries it was ap-
pealed to as decisive authority on the people's behalf, though
commonly so far only as the necessities of the case re-
quired. This continued in fashion till within a few years ;
but the public taste has altered, and it is more common for
reformers to refer to principles of utility than to constitu-
tional authorities.*

From the time of King John to that of Charles I, the
constitution of England underwent no change of impor-
tance, the power of the several parts of which it consisted
was the subject of contention, but it was not fixed or ma-
terially altered by any public act. Important movements
have taken place among the people, and the silent influence
of the commonality had encroached on the acts of the no-
bility. Vassalage has been exterminated. Manufactures
have extended and flourished. Domestic comforts and
great luxuries are in the sight of all.f

What are the causes that made Gov. Hammond, on the
Senate's floor of the "The Great Republic" say: "Your

* MACINTOSH'S History of England, Vol. I, p. zz. f See HUME'S England.


daily laborers are at best but slaves." It is because the in-
stitutions of the land are so contrived that a few can obtain
from the many, unceasingly and unobserved, large quanti-
ties of human labor without an equivalent. The reason is,
we follow too much after the civil institutions of other
lands. These institutions have been brought about in this
manner : From the shores of the Baltic there came forth
a race of Sea Kings who lived in their ships, and went to
plundering wherever they could get a landing. They were
a very great terror to the sea-coast inhabitants of Europe.
Those who were in fear of invasion had to devise means of
self-defense, which was called a government. When the
invaders got possession of a country they instituted a gov-
ernment also, which has continued to this day. Those who
laid the foundations of a civil state were pirates by profes-
sion, pagans in religion, men of ferocity, and dauntless
courage. They made two agreements one was we will
plunder the people. This has been faithfully observed, and is
still observed. The second part of the agreement was not to
plunder each other. Kings have laid gradually exactions
on the nobles, who have re-laid them on their vassals. The
various names that used to be given to the sources of rev-
enue have become "rents" and "taxes." The villains'
and vassals have become mechanics and laborers.

Changes have been made in the social condition of men
at first the king ruled absolute, then a part of his power was
taken away by the nobles. The priests exercised a sway
over the nobility. Their power was broken at the time of
Henry VIII. These were succeeded by courtiers and court
gallants, who have used an influence over the ruling powers.
From the time of William III to the present, England has
been influenced by policy rulers, or political economists.
The laborers of England are now associating themselves to-


gether to get the necessaries of life at cost price, without
employing merchants. In many cases the workmen are
partners in the workshops and mines in which they labor.
These facts indicate that the laborer will soon displace the
other classes and rule.

Lord Kames, in his History of Man says : " Had the Nor-
wegians known agriculture in the tenth century, they would
not have ventured their lives in frail vessels upon a tempes-
tuous ocean, in order to distress nations who were not their
enemies. But hunger is a cogent motive ; and it gave to
these pirates superiority in arms above every nation that en-
joyed plenty at home. Luckily such depredations must
have their intervals ; as they necessarily occasion great ha-
voc among the victors. Agriculture, fixes a people to a
spot, is an obstacle to migration, puts an end to a scourge,
more destructive than a pestilence. It gives occupation and
subsistence at home; it affords plenty of food."

William Walker thought in Nicaragua "That society
was worn out, and they needed a new organization, and it
would furnish certain labor to the negro." He chartered
a vessel in California, and left in May, 1856, with fifty-eight
passengers. On landing he began to levy contributions, this
led to a conflict six were killed and twelve wounded. He
would have succeeded if the English warships had let him
alone. If he had become chief ruler he could have used
this language : "Dear people, I will establish justice, maintain
order among you, and give you splendor and magnificence."




" When we are piled on each other in large cities, as they are in Europe, we
shall become corrupt, and go to eating each other." THOMAS JEFFERSON.

|FTER the fall of the Roman Empire the inhabi-
tants of cities and towns were not any more fa-
vored than those of the country. They were, in-
deed, of a very different order of people from the first in-
habitants of the ancient republics of Greece and Italy.
These last were composed chiefly of the proprietors of land,
among whom the public land was divided, and who found
it convenient to build their houses in the neighborhood of
each other, and to surround themselves with a wall for de-
fense. After the fall of the Roman Empire, the proprie-
tors of land seem generally to have lived in fortified castles
on their own estates, and in the midst of their own tenants
and dependants. The towns were chiefly inhabited by
tradesmen and mechanics, who seem to have been in a
servile condition.

Britain, once a land of savage pagans, was, long after the
Norman conquest, the abode of ignorance and superstition.
For centuries past she has been steadily advancing in
knowledge, civil and religious liberty. Her men of letters


have sent down to posterity noble works that shall live till
science, philosophy, and poetry are known no more. Her
lawyers have gradually worn off the rugged features of the
feudal system, till the common law of England has been
adopted as the basis of the American code. Her spiritual
bastile, the State Church, has yielded to the attacks of non-
conformity, and opened its gates to a qualified toleration.
All that was dangerous in the maxim, u The king can do
no wrong,'* fell with the head of Charles I, in 1649. A
class of innovators, called " Reformers" are still at work
on the institutions of England.

Humanity will find ample materials for despair, when
contemplating the toiling classes condition. But philan-
trophy will find abundant source of hope in studying the
character and deeds of their radical reformers. The past
half century has seen an uprising, of the very substratum
of society, in a peaceful struggle for inherent rights. No
force has been employed except the force of circumstan-
ces ; and the result has been eminently successful. This
class discovered its strength during the revolution of Ham-
den and Cromwell, and received an impulse which it has
never lost.

The nobility and gentry have too often silenced the
popular clamor by admitting its leaders to the privileges of
the "higher orders." Concessions were made to the mid-
dle men, which strengthened them to demand more. But
a truth, destined to be all-powerful in the nineteenth cen-
tury, remained to be discovered, that the condition of the
lower classes should be ameliorated. The lines which cus-
tom and intolerance had drawn between men, was to grow
fainter as the day approached for the full discovery of truth.
The earthquake shock of the French Revolution overthrew
a throne rooted to the soil by a growth of a thousand years.


Britain felt the crash. The people discovered they were
clothed with divine rights as well as kings. This was not
expressed in courtly language, or made grateful to royal
ears. From the conquest of William the Norman, to Vic-
toria the Saxon, there has been a gradual circumscribing of
the power of the nobles and prerogatives of the crown.

Much of all this is to be attributed to the rise and growth
of cities, which have been fostered by kings and nobles.
These are often at enmity with each other, and to gain the
favor of the towns enabled one or the other to gain the as-
cendancy. A borough is a town and not a city. In its
original signification it means a company consisting of ten
families who were pledged to each other. Afterward a
borough came to signify a walled town, and a place for
safety. Some of the towns were called free-burghs and the
tradesmen free-burgesses, from a privilege they had to buy
and sell without disturbance and be exempt from toll.

These seem to have been very poor people, traveling
about with goods from one place to another, and from fair
to fair, as hawkers and peddlers. They paid taxes when
passing through some of the great lords* manors, going
over bridges, and for erecting booths or stalls at the fairs.
These different taxes were known by the names of pas-
sage,* lastage,f and stallage. J Sometimes the king or a
great lord, upon some occasions, would grant to particular
trades, or to such as lived on their own demesnes, a gen-
eral exemption from such taxes. Such were called u free-

* The most celebrated passage in Europe is the Sound, or the narrow en-
trance into the Baltic Sea. Here the King of Denmark has the Castle of El-
sinore, and collects tolls from all nations. The Americans refused to pay the
tax, this was a source of embarrassment to Denmark. To remit to one na-
tion it would have to be done to all. The writer can not tell how settled.

J~LASTAGE, a duty paid for freight on transportation.

J STALLAGE, the right to erect a stall in a fair the rent for a stall.


traders." They in return paid an annual poll-tax* for the
protection they received. In those days protection was
seldom granted without a valuable consideration, and the
tax might be considered as a compensation for what their
patrons might lose by their exemption.

The American people, at the beginning of their national
career, declared u that taxation was tyranny." Their descen-
dants have learned to submit to taxation very gracefully,
for the cause of which they are indebted to the great " De-
mocratic party." It is not improbable the American people
at this time [1869], pay a fifth part of all they earn for tax-
ation. Bodin, a writer in 1606, says : "That there can be
no ground or foundation, with immunity, from subsidies and
taxes." Many Americans* think the same no existence as
a nation without taxes. A Roman consul, by levying a
tax on salt during the Punic war, was nicknamed the salin-
ator. The Arabs exacted presents and gifts from pilgrims
who were going to Mecca. Louis XI of France, to pur-
chase a peace of Edward IV, paid annually in London the
sum of 50,000 crowns, and pensions to the English minis-
ters. This brought into use the terms pensions and tributes.

A purveyor was an officer who was to furnish every sort
of provisions for the royal people during their progresses or
journeys. His oppressive office was to compel countrymen
to bring their articles to market, and he fixed their price.
The officer became odious ; Edward IV changed the name
to acheteur or buyer. Changing the name did not conceal
its nature. Levies of money were long raised under the
pathetic appeal of benevolences. Edward IV went to France
with money obtained by this method. He rode about the
land, and used the people in such a fair manner, that they
were liberal in their gifts. Edward was courteous in his

\ POLL-TAX, a tax on those who have heads. POLL, a person's head.


newly-invented style, and was, besides, the handsomest tax-
gatherer in the kingdom ! His royal presence was very

Online LibraryWilliam DealtryThe laborer; a remedy for his wrongs; or, A disquisition on the usages of society → online text (page 10 of 33)