History Tax The Exchequer

History of Accounting > Tax History > THE COURT EXCHEQUER

The Court reorganised by Henry II. The Upper Exchequer. The receipt of the Exchequer. The barons. The treasurer. The two terms. The rolls. The roll of the pipe. The roll of Chancery. Growth in importance of the treasurer. Appointment of a Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1234. Disorder in our fiscal system.
One of the first fiscal measures of Henry II. consisted in the reorganisation of the court that had the management and general superintendence of the king’s revenue. This court, which had been established in England by the Conqueror, was termed the Court Of Exchequer, from the chequered cloth laid upon the table on which the accountants told out the king’s money and set forth their account. It was divided into two chambers or divisions: the upper exchequer, or court of account, in which accounts were passed and legal questions discussed and settled; and the lower exchequer, or court of receipt, which was therefore termed the receipt of exchequer, in which money was paid down, weighed, and tested.
The officers of the court comprised the chief officers of the king’s household, and among them the justiciar, as president, and the king’s chancellor, and such other great and experienced counsellors us the king was pleased to appoint, and they were termed barons
of the exchequer as appointed from that order. One of the most important of them, the Treasurer, performed a variety of functions, for it was his duty to act with the other barons in the governance of the king’s revenue; to examine and control accounts; to direct the entries made in the great roll; to attest the writs issued for levying the king’s revenue; to supervise the issuing and receiving of the king’s treasure at the receipt of the exchequer; and in short to provide for and take care of the king’s profit; so that he appears to have acted in both divisions of the court. The first lord treasurer under the Conqueror was Odo, bishop of Bayeux and earl of Kent.
Twice a year, at Easter and Michaelmas, full sessions of the court were held in the palace at Westminster. These two notable terms or periods of the year, called the Duo Scaccaria, were the times at which the summonses issuing out of the exchequer for levying the king’s debts were wont to be made returnable; and therefore were appointed to be the general or principal terms for making payments into the exchequer. At these sessions the sheriffs of counties and other accountable persons appeared and produced their accounts, paying at Easter such instalment as was considered sufficient after allowing for future disbursements, and at Michaelmas, the balance of receipts for the year.1
The record of the business of the exchequer was preserved in three great rolls, one of which was kept by the treasurer; another, by the chancellor; and a third, by an officer nominated by the king, who registered the matters of legal and special importance. The roll of the treasurer, which was called from its shape the Great Roll Of The Pipe, and that of the chancellor, which was called the roll of chancery, were duplicates. ‘The rolls of the pipe are complete from the second year of Henry II., and the rolls of chancery nearly so. Of the preceding period only one roll, that of the thirty-first year of Henry I., is preserved.1′
i Dialogus de Scaccario, Madox. The Dialogue was written, A.d. 1177, by Richard, Bishop of London, treasurer, son of Bishop Nigel, treasurer, and grandson of Robert of Salisbury, justiciar.
About the close of the reign of Eichard I., when the business of the chancery was separated from that of the exchequer, the king’s chancellor ceased to perform part of his duty at the court of exchequer. And after the fall, in 1232, of Hubert de Burgh, the last great baron ever appointed to the post of great justiciar, that office declined in importance,2 and the treasurer stepped into the place of the justiciar at the exchequer, and became one of the chief officers of the crown. For a time, deputy or sub-treasurers appear to have acted under the treasurer; but in 1234, 18 Hen. Ill, it became necessary to appoint a separate high officer to execute the necessary duties at the exchequer, and John Maunsell was appointed to reside at the receipt of the exchequer, was entrusted with the seal of the exchequer, and took part with the treasurer in the equitable jurisdiction of the court. This appointment of John Maunsell is considered to be the first appointment of a chancellor and under treasurer of the exchequer, though Ealph de Leycestre, who resigned office in 1248, 32 Henry III., is the first person mentioned as CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER.
1 Stubbs, Const. Hist. i. 379.
2 It ended subsequently in the person of Philip Basset, who was appointed to the post in 1261.
Soon after this the official work of the exchequer was broken up into sections. Large branches of expenditure were reckoned among the private accounts of the king kept in the Wardrobe. The grants of money in parliament, fifteenths and other fractional parts of moveables, were collected by special justices, and no longer accounted for by the sheriffs or recorded in the great rolls of the pipe;l and the whole fiscal system fell into disorder.
i The receipts at the Wardrobe begin as early as 1223. Stubbs, Const. Hist. ii. 276.

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