History Taxes and the Hundred Years War

History of Accounting > Tax History > THE HUNDEED YEARS WAR


Settlement of the fifteenth and tenth in 1334. Amount of a fifteenth and tenth. Practice in local assessment and collection. Grants of fifteenths and tenths after 1334 down to the peace of Bretigni, 1360. Recommencement of the war in 1369. The novel tax on parishes in 1371. Extraordinary miscalculation of their number. Return to the old form of fifteenths and tenths.
In 1334, four years before the hundred years’ war with France commenced with the assumption by Edward of the title of king of France, an alteration was made in the form of the direct tax usually employed, which it is of supreme importance clearly to understand.
The general twentieth granted by the earls, barons, and commonalty of counties, and towns and demesne in 1327, the first year of the reign, had been assessed and collected in the usual manner.1 But the fifteenth and tenth granted five years after this, in 1332, on the withdrawal of the writs for the collection of a tallage on demesne, though assessed and collected under writs in the ordinary form, had been enforced with much more strictness than was usual; while the taxors and collectors and their clerks and assistants were accused of acting in an arbitrary, unfair, and fraudulent manner, ‘ levying divers sums of money from many in the kingdom, that they might spare them in the assessment and collection, and extorting certain other sums from others under colour of office, applying the proceeds to their own use, and inflicting other hardships on the people.’ Thus assessed and collected, the tax seemed to be four times heavier than the last fifteenth and tenth, and gave rise to considerable complaints.
1 Par. Rolls, ii. 425.
In consequence of these, on the grant in the next year of another fifteenth and tenth, ‘in order as far as possible to avoid the oppression, extortion, and hardships that had occasioned the complaints, and to promote the advantage and quiet of the people,’ a power was inserted in the writs issued for the assessment and collection of the tax, which amounted to a direction to the royal commissioners to treat with the communities of the cities and boroughs, the men of the townships and ancient demesne, and all others bound to pay the fifteenth and tenth, and settle with them a fine or sum to be paid as a composition for the fifteenth and tenth. The sum thus fixed was to be entered on the rolls as the assessment of the particular township. And the taxpayers in the townships were required to assess and collect the amount upon and from the various contributors. Only in the case of a refusal to compound was the usual machinery of assessment and collection to be enforced; and in that case the amount to be levied was not to exceed the amount assessed for the fifteenth and tenth of 1332.1
Henceforth, from 1334, the sum thus fixed by composition as for the fifteenth and tenth granted in 1334, was accepted as the basis of taxation; and on the grant of a fifteenth and tenth it was usual to declare that they should be levied in the ancient manner, according to the ancient valuation,2 that is to say, that there should not be any new assessment, but that every particular county and town should pay the usual sum.
In the aggregate the sums amounted to between 88,000/. and 39,000/.; and henceforth, as far as the exchequer is concerned, a ‘•fifteenth and tenth’ was practically a fiscal expression for a sum of about 39,000/.; and when a fifteenth and tenth was granted every county knew the amount to be raised in the county for the fifteenth, and every city and borough, the amount to be raised therein for the tenth.
The method of assessment and collection, prescribed by an ordinance of assessment, was not in practice rigidly observed, and in process of time every particular county, city, and town assessed and collected the amount charged upon the district by means of the method they found most convenient to them.
Upon the basis of this settlement of the fifteenth and tenth in 1334, direct taxation mainly proceeded from this date until it became the practice to add to
1 Par. Rolls, ii. 447.
8 ‘A lever meiame la somme en la manere come la darreine quinzisme a lui grantez feust levee, et ne mye en autre manere.’—Par. Rolls, ii. 148 (.1344).
the grant of fifteenths and tenths a general subsidy on land and goods. Changed from what the French term a tax de quotite to a tax de repartition, from what, had not the word at the present day a peculiar meaning, we should term a rate, to a fixed land tax, being, not the fractional grant on moveables it purported to be, but a stated sum divisible between certain districts, the tax in this form came to be regarded by the people almost as of constitutional right. When less than the sum for a full fifteenth and tenth was required, half a fifteenth and tenth was granted; and when a greater sum was required, it was granted under the name of two fifteenths and tenths, or as the case might be. All attempts to introduce other forms of taxation or to disturb the settlement of 1334 almost invariably failed. We see the dogged insistence of the Englishman in this matter prevailing in after times to turn the general subsidy or new rate of the Tudor period into another tax of a fixed sum. The parliamentary assessments of the commonwealth times continued the tradition. And when, after the Eevolution, another attempt was made to introduce and establish the principle of rating in taxation, the property tax of William III., planted in the same soil, grew gradually to resemble the assessments, the subsidies, and the fifteenths and tenths in the form it attained of the fixed Land tax of the eighteenth century. To the present day, at the distance of five centuries and a half, the consequences of the arrangement made in 1334 for the local assessment and collection of the fifteenth and tenth are clearly visible in England.
The fifteenths and tenths granted to Edward after 1334 and before the peace of Bretigni were as follows: —One in 1336, three in 1337, to be collected in three years, and one in 1340. Then came years of heavy taxation of wool. In 1344 two fifteenths and tenths were granted for two years; in 1346 two more for two years; in 1348 three more for three years; and in 1352 three more for three years. In 1357 a single fifteenth and tenth was granted, and this was the last before the peace of Bretigni in 1360.
From the date of the peace of Bretigni to 1369, in a time of comparative peace, no grants of fifteenths and tenths were made.
In 1369, in consequence of the infraction of the treaty by Charles V., who, resuming the position of suzerain of Aquitaine, had summoned the Black Prince to Paris to answer for his taxation of the duchy, Edward took again the title of king of France.
On announcing this to the parliament of 1371, the king added that he had been at great expense in sending out men, and that he had received news that the enemy was strengthening himself; on these grounds he applied to them for a grant.
The lords and commons, first turning to account the unpopularity of the government in consequence of the want of success of operations on the continent, obtained a practical dismissal of the bishops who held the posts of chancellor and treasurer. Great mischief, they represented to the king in an address to him, had befallen the state in consequence of the government being carried on by ecclesiastics whom it was impossible to bring to account, and it would be well, should it please him, that, for the future, sufficient and able laymen should be chosen and none other to hold the office of chancellor, treasurer, clerk of the privy seal, baron or comptroller of the exchequer, or any important post of the kind. William of Wykeham resigned his post of chancellor and bishop Brantingham that of treasurer, and they were succeeded by sir Eobert Thorpe and sir llichard le Scrope. ‘After that many ways for an aid had been propounded and debated,’ a subsidy of 50,000/. was granted, to be ‘levied of every parish in the land 22s. Bd., so as the parishes of greater value should contribute rateably to those of less value.’1
The parish, an ecclesiastical division of the country, formed of the township or cluster of townships which paid tithes to the parish church, had not hitherto been used as a fiscal division; and the government estimated the number of parishes in the kingdom at 40,000 ; but a marvellous miscalculation had been made. A month or two afterwards, on examination of the reports or certificates of the archbishops, bishops, and sheriffs returned into chancery for the purposes of the tax, it appeared that, in order to obtain 50,000/., the rate for every parish ought to be extended from 22s. 3d. to 5/. 16s., the number of parishes being in reality under 9,000. A great council was held at Winchester, consisting of four bishops, four abbots, six earls, six barons, and one member who had served in the last parliament for every constituency, and the necessary reassessment was made. The assessment was 50,181/. 8s. from 8,600 parishes. Chester was not included.
i Par. Rolls, ii. 30.3-4.
In the next year, 1372, the old form of fifteenth and tenth was again used, and in 1373 two fifteenths and tenths were granted, to be collected in. two years if the war should so -long last. No grant of any fifteenth or tenth was made in the parliament of 1376, termed ‘the good parliament;’ and the next direct tax granted for the purposes of the war was that imposed by the parliament of 1377.
Imposition of the first poll tax. The tallage of groats of 1377. The
graduated poll tax of 1379. Schedule of taxpayers. Imposition of
another poll tax in 1380. The peasant insurrection. The real causes and the result of the insurrection.
In 1377 ‘a tax hitherto unheard of,’ as it was termed by Walsingham, was imposed by the parliament that met in January in that year. In the absence of the king, who lay ill at Shene, the parliament was opened, under commission, by Eichard of Bordeaux, prince of Wales, son of the Black Prince, who had died in the previous June. A fortnight before the meeting of parliament two bishops had been appointed to the posts of chancellor and treasurer, and the new chancellor used, in his speech on opening the parliament, the French language, in reversal of the practice which had usually prevailed since 1363, of using the native language.1
The king, he said, requested the advice, counsel, and assistance of parliament in consequence of news received by him of the preparations made by the king of France, under cover of the truce, for war by land
1 Subsequently, in 1381, bishop Courtenay, the new chancellor, in” succession to archbishop Sudbury, who had been murdered by the rebels in 1380, made his speech in English.
and sea, and his overtures and alliances to and with those of Spain, Scotland, and others for the purpose of destroying the king and the kingdom, and abolishing the English language, which God forbid.
The estates separated; the commons applied to the lords for the assistance of a committee to advise them; and when the committee had been appointed, a discussion took place regarding the grant to be made. ‘The ministers placed four courses before the commons: they might offer two fifteenths and tenths, a shilling in the pound on merchandise, a land tax of I1. on the knight’s fee, or a tax of a groat on every hearth;” and in the result parliament granted to the king a tax of ‘four pence, to be taken from the goods of each person in the kingdom, men and women, over the age of fourteen years, except only real beggars.’ They were unable, they added, to grant a greater subsidy, and prayed the king to excuse them on the ground of their recent losses on the sea and bad years which had happened of late.2 In supplement to this the clergy granted a poll tax of 126?. from every beneficed person, and a groat from every other religious person, except mendicant friars.
The parliament ended in March. The king died in June, and was succeeded by his grandson, then eleven years old.
From a return of monies levied by the collectors of the Tallage Op Groats in the different counties, cities, and principal towns in England, it appears that the sum received amounted to 22,607/. 25. 8d., and that 1,376,442 lay persons paid the tax. But Chester and Durham, having their own receivers, are not included in the account.1
1 Stubbs, Const. Hist. ii. 437. * Par. Rolls, ii. 364.
The French continued to ravage the southern coast, burning the towns; Dartmouth, Plymouth, Winchelsea, and Lewes all suffered, and the towns in the Isle of Wight. In October parliament granted two fifteenths and tenths, and added, in the next year, a grant of an additional subsidy on wool and merchandise. But money flows slowly into the coffers of the custom house. The subsidy did not produce that ‘present sum of money’ which was required ‘for instant operations on the continent;’ and the advantages in rapidity of assessment and collection for which a poll tax is remarkable led to the imposition of another tax of that description.
Eepealing the customs subsidy, parliament granted in lieu thereof a tax ‘ to be taken from the goods of certain persons throughout the kingdom,’ 2 in the form, not of a simple poll tax like the tallage of groats of 1377, but of a graduated poll tax, which would be less open to objection on the ground of inequality and unfairness, inasmuch as the various taxpayers would be charged by reference to their rank, which in those days had a more direct relation to property than it has at present, their condition in life, or their property.
The schedule of charge for this poll contains a classification of taxpayers which it may be interesting to give at some length.
1 Subsidy roll printed in the Archieologia, vii. 337. It will be observed that the sum raised does not correspond with the stated number of taxpayers.
•-’ Par. Rolls, iii. 57.
The two dukes of Lancaster and Bretagne were charged each 10 marks, viz. 61. 13s. 4o?. Earls and countesses, widows, 6 marks, viz. 4:1. Barons, bannerets, and knights who could spend as much, and baronesses and banresses, widows, three marks, viz. 21. Bachelors (knights) and esquires who by statute should be knights, and every widow, dame, wife of bachelor or esquire as aforesaid, a mark and a half, viz. 11. Esquires of less estate, and every woman, widow of such esquire, and substantial merchants, half a mark, viz. 6s. 8d., and esquires having no possessions in land, rent or chattels, in service or following the profession of arms, a quarter of a mark, viz. 3s. 4rf.
The Hospitallersl were charged as follows :—The chief prior, the same amount as a baron, viz. 21.; every commander of the order in England, as a bachelor, 20s.; every other brother, knight of the order, 13s. 4rf.; and every other brother of the order, as an esquire without property, 3s. 4rf.
The legal profession, as follows :—Justices, of whatever bench, ex-justices, and the chief baron of the exchequer, 5/.; 8erjeants and grand apprentices of law, 2L; every other apprentice to the profession of law. II.; all other apprentices of less estate, and attorneys, 6s. 8d.
The commercial and trading classes, as follows:— The mayor of London, the same amount as an earl, viz. 4/.; the aldermen of London, the same amount as barons, 21.; the mayors of the great towns of England, also 21.; and other mayors of the other small towns, according to the amount of their estate, I1., 10*., or 6s. 8d.; all the jurates l of considerable towns (des bones villes), and great merchants of the kingdom, the same amount as for a knight bachelor, I/.; all other substantial merchants, 13s. 4rf.; all smaller merchants and artificers ‘ who have gaine of the land,’ according to the amount of their estate, half a mark, a quarter of a mark, 2*., Is., or (id.
1 On whom the lands of the Templars had boen conferred on the dissolution of that order.
In the rural population, every serjeantand franklin of the country was charged, according to his estate, half a mark, or a quarter of a mark. The farmers of manors, parsonages and granges, cattle dealers and dealers in all other mean merchandise, according to their estate, half a mark, a quarter of a mark, 2s. or Is.
All advocates, notaries and proctors, married,2 were charged as Serjeants of the law, apprentices of the law, and attorneys, each according to his estate, 21., 11., or 6s. 8d.; pardoners and summoners married, each according to his estate, 3s. 4tZ., 2s., or Is.
All hostelers who were not merchants, each according to his estate, 3s. 4rf., 2s., or Is.
Lastly, came a charge upon all persons not of the estates aforesaid:—Every married man, for himself and his wife, and every man and woman sole over the age of sixteen years, except real beggars, 4d.
Every merchant stranger, of whatever condition, was to pay tax according to his estate, as others, denizens.
1 Jurati. Officers sworn for the government of corporations. - The unmarried are taxed with the clergy. See p. 107.
No person was to pay tax except in the place where he resided. And in cases where the charge was not fixed for certain in the schedule, the amount was to be assessed in the discretion of assessors and controllers appointed for that purpose.1
It may be interesting to add the scale adopted by the clergy, which was as follows:—For the archbishop of Canterbury, Q1. 13s. 4d. For bishops, mitred abbots, and other spiritual persons, peers, 41.; others having benefice or office of the value of 100 (sic; qy. 400 ?) marks a year, SI.; of the value of 200/. and under 100 (qy. 400 ?) marks, 21. ; 1001. and under 2001., 11. 10s.; 101. to 201., 5s. All other beneficed clergy, 2s. Monks and nuns, and other men and women of any religious order, according to the value of the house to which they belonged, 3s. 4d., Is. 8d., Is., or 4rf.; and all unbeneficed clerks, 4d., persons under sixteen years of age and mendicants excepted. All advocates, proctors, and notaries, unmarried, 3s. id.2
This graduated poll tax of 1379 was expected to yield over 50,000/. But the actual yield did not amount to half that sum. More money was urgently required to defend and preserve the king and kingdom from the continual endeavours of the enemy to destroy them and to eradicate entirely the English language (d’ouster oultreement 1a Langue Engleise). An expedition had been ordered to Brittany, and the
1 Par. Rolls, iii. 57, 58.
“Willdns, Concilia, iii. 141, 142.
lords and commons, while protesting that it was ‘ a grievous charge for them to bear,’ granted a fifteenth and a half and a tenth and a half, to be levied in the same form and manner as the last two fifteenths and tenths.1
In November, 1380, parliament was again summoned under an urgent necessity for money. The expenses of the expedition to Prance had absorbed the proceeds of the last parliamentary grants. The pay of the garrisons of Calais, Brest, and Cherbourg was in arrear a year and a quarter. An expedition against Scotland was in the course of preparation. The crown jewels were in pawn, and the king was deeply in debt (outrageousement endettez]; while the subsidy of wool which had been granted produced but little in consequence of the disturbances in Flanders. Under these circumstances a demand was made to Parliament for the large sum of 160,000/.
It was settled to raise 100,000/., of which the clergy, as possessed of a third part of the land of the kingdom, would pay one-third, leaving 66,667/. to be raised from the laity. As regards the means to obtain this sum, the commons were again advised by the prelates and lords, who, after a long consideration of the state of affairs, suggested for the purpose three kinds of taxes :—1. A grant of a certain number of groats from each person, male and female, throughout the kingdom, with a provision that the rich should help the poor. 2. An excise, for a certain term, on all merchandises, bought and sold in the kingdom, payable, on sale, by the vendor, or 3. The grant of a certain sum to be levied by the old method of fifteenths and tenths. They added the remark that fifteenths and tenths were very grievous to the commonalty and a slow method of taxation, because of the assessment required, whereas such a tax as that they suggested of four or five groats from every person, would produce a considerable sum for an immediate aid to the king, and every one would well be able to bear it, because the rich would be compelled to aid the poor, the strong to help the weak; therefore, in their opinion, a groat tax would be the best as well as the least grievous tax.
‘Par. llolls, iii. 75.
The commons assented, and in the result a tax was granted of three groats from every lay person in the kingdom, male and female, of whatsoever estate or condition in life, over the age of 15 years, except real beggars. Every one was to be charged at the place of residence of himself, his wife and children, or at the place where he resided in service. And every artificer, labourer, and servant of every description was to be included in assessment and charged according to the total of his goods: ‘Que chescun de eux sois assis et taillez selonc 1′afferant de son estat.’ The total amount to be paid was to be assessed in every township, and towards the payment of the sum assessed, persons of substance were, according to their property, to assist the poorer persons; but the most substantial was not to pay more than 60 groats, 20s., for himself and his wife; and no person less than a single groat for himself and his wife, that is to say, 2d. each.1 The provision, ‘that the strong should help the weak,’ as indeed the whole plan of the tax, was borrowed from the Trench fouage, as imposed in 1369 and assessed in the Langue d’oil provinces—’ le fort portant le faible.’l
1 Par. Rolls, iii. 90.
This tax stands prominent in fiscal history as the cause of the Peasant Insurrection.
For some time past, discontent had been seething in the lower classes, more particularly with reference to villeinage under the manorial system.
When the spoils of France, in the first part of the Hundred Years’ War, had proved to the English nobility the incentives to extravagance riches rapidly acquired almost always prove to be, and an eternal round of tournaments, feasting and display had involved them in an expenditure beyond their means, they opened for themselves a new source of revenue in the sale of freedom to their manorial serfs and exemptions from personal service to their villeins. In this way they had considerably increased the amount of free labour in the country; but when, after the Black Death of 1349, which swept away about one-half of the population, the free labourers they had created demanded increased wages in consequence of the scarcity of labour, they endeavoured substantially to back out of the position in which they found themselves placed. At first they met the demands for higher wages by means of the statutes of labourers, which compelled, under a penalty, workmen, servants, labourers and others to work for certain fixed wages, and enacted that fugitive labourers should be branded on the forehead with a hot iron. But they condescended to meaner tricks subsequently, when many of them endeavoured to cancel the instruments of manumission and exemption from service they had granted, setting the lawyers to work to pick holes in the charters of freedom, and the stewards of manors to give, in the manor courts, decisions in favour of their lords. The difficulties of this position had been intensified by the second great pestilence of 1361, which had lasted from August in that year until the following May. Meanwhile the chivalry, as opposed to men fighting, not on horseback but on foot, were rapidly sinking in the estimation of the lower orders, and were no longer feared by many of the same class as those they now attempted to oppress. The ditch at Courtrai (1302), where the heavy armoured knights under Robert d’Artois had suffered so severely from the daggers and iron mallets of the Flemish bourgeoisie; the pitfalls and morass at Bannockburn (1314), in which the knights had been overwhelmed; the hillside at Crecy (1346), where the bowmen had stood at bay with such success against them; and the narrow road between the vineyards at Poitiers (1356), where they had been slain in troops—all these presented scenes that had taught the foot soldier a lesson. The array of battle had now a new significance to the English archer or man-at-arms. The insignia of the knight were no longer terrible to him, but marked his man, whose horse was to be frightened with bombards or maddened with arrows, in order that a rich prisoner might be secured for ransom; and many parts of England were full of soldiers returned from the wars in France, who, recently engaged in the capture of such rich prisoners, and familiar with the process of pillage in every form, were now turned into idlers without pay, food or clothing, and were ready enough to renew in England the acts of the tard venus in France, or to start a Jacquerie similar to that which had happened there two years after Poitiers. The victor of Crecy had died in a dishonoured old age. The popular Black Prince was no more; and in lieu of victories and an inflow of foreign captives for ransom, we now had news of disasters to our arms at sea and on land. Such was the state of affairs.
1 Clamagevan, L’Impot en France, i. 391.
The people generally were not, indeed, in want of necessaries; but agitators were abroad who, pointing to the fine houses, velvets and furs, spices, wines, and white bread enjoyed by the lord, and the rain, the wind, the rags, the pain, labour and hunger endured by the peasant, significantly asked in the refrain of John Ball’s lines—
When Adam delved and Eve span,
Who was then the gentleman 1

In these circumstances nothing was wanting for an outburst of discontent against an effeminate, sensual, and degenerate aristocracy but some sharp motive for immediate action, some general cause of complaint to combine in revolt the willing scoundrels of the nation and all those who for various causes ranged themselves together as desolate and oppressed. It was supplied by
the government. They knew that nothing, perhaps, had tended more directly to render the nobles in France unpopular and induce the Jacquerie, than the taxes on salt, gabelle du sel, and the sale of all merchandise which king John had imposed upon the people in order to keep up the magnificent court with which he lived surrounded; and again, that only a few years before this the Black Prince had lost to us Aquitaine by the fouage or hearth tax he endeavoured to exact from the poor population of the Landes, to meet the expenses of his support of Don Pedro the Cruel. And yet now they chose, for the purpose of meeting the expenses of a disastrous campaign, a new poll tax, imposed upon the precedent of the novel and unpopular tall age of groats of 1377, and touching every one in the kingdom.
Commissioners, appointed to assess and collect the tax in the various counties and towns, were sworn to faithful performance of their duty; but so difficult did the collection prove to be, that it was necessary to get in the arrears by farming the tax. The formers acted with rapacity and insolence. Endless disputes occurred regarding the limit of age; and the immediate cause of the outbreak in Kent is stated to have been an act very similar to that which caused Sicilian Vespers, viz. the attempt of one of the collectors to ascertain in a rude manner the age of a girl for whom exemption was claimed as under fifteen years.
The revolt was soon over. Within three weeks of its commencement Wat the Tyler, the leader of the Kentish men, had fallen under the mace of Walworth,
VOL. I. 1
and the king had granted those charters of freedom that formed the real object of many of the insurgents.1
The charters, granted illegally, as in infraction of the rights of private property, were indeed subsequently revoked; but the peasant insurrection had its effect. During the next century and a half villeinage died out so rapidly that it became an antiquated thing, the landowners taking in many cases small money payments in lieu of service. The alteration in the management of estates which had commenced before this was continued, and in lieu of keeping their vast domains in hand and farming them by means of bailiffs or reeves, the landowners parcelled them out in farms to tenants, either with the stock thereon, which was at first the usual practice in consequence of lack of capital, or without. While as regards taxation, we returned to the use of the old fifteenth and tenth upon the basis of the settlement of 1334.
1 Bondus they blwn host,
Noleni.es lege domari;
Nede they fre be most,
Vel nollent pacificari.

‘They refused to listen to any terms until they were freed from their servile bondage, and obtained, in effect, charters of their freedom.’— On the rebellion of Jack Straw, Political Poems and Songs, i. 224.
Return to the old form of tax. The landowners take the whole burden of a fifteenth and tenth in 1382. Other grants made during the fourteenth century. New land tax of 5 per cent, on large landowners in 1404. A similar tax, at Ifrds per cent, on a wider basis, in 1411. Novel tax on inhabitant householders in rural and urban parishes combined with a land tax on the fee in 1428. Grant of fifteenths and tenths in 1431 supplemented by a land tax on the fee, lands of freehold not fees, and rents seek and rent charges. The king, in 1432, releases the grant. Grant of a fifteenth and tenth in 1435, and, in supplement, a graduated tax on income from lands, rents, and annuities and offices of freehold which are brought into charge. Attempt by the commons, in 1449, to tax the clergy. Grant, in 1450, of another graduated tax on income from lands, rents, annuities, and offices and fees. Oopyhold estates are brought into charge. Jack Cade’s rebellion. End of the Hundred Years’ War in 1453.
After the failure of the attempt made to introduce into this country a new system of taxation by means of poll taxes upon a French model, the fifteenth and tenth continued to be, in practice, the form of taxation ordinarily used. But in 1382 the landowners, on account of the poverty of the country, took upon themselves the whole burden of a fifteenth and tenth, in the following manner. The sums levied on the occasion of the last fifteenth and tenth were to be assessed, in the various districts, upon the landowners only—’ dukes, earls, barons, bannerets, knights, esquires, and all other secular lords of manors, townships, and other places’— in respect of the total amount of their crops and cattle, or the total amount of the profits of all their demesne lands, in every township or other place; the clergy also were to pay in respect of all their temporalities acquired since the taxation of pope Nicolas in 1291,1 a precedent which was followed in taxation subsequently. But only for this occasion, ‘for reverence of God and for the support, aid, and relief of the poor commonalty, who appeared to be weaker and poorer than theretofore,’ was a tax so unusual granted. It was not to be taken as a precedent for charging thereafter the landowners otherwise than they formerly had been and ought reasonably to be charged.2 The allusion to the reverence of God had relation to the destination of the money collected; the proceeds were to be harded over to Henry le Despenser, the warlike bishop of Norwich, ‘for the service of God and the holy church in the crusade granted to him by pope Urban;’3 in other words, for his year’s campaign in France against the anti-pope and for the relief of Ghent.
Next year parliament reverted to the old system, and granted afifteenth and tenth, or more precisely, two half fifteenths and tenths,’ to be levied in the ancient manner.’ 4 This was followed by grants, in 1384, of half a fifteenth and tenth and of two fifteenths and tenths, one of which was afterwards remitted; and this form of taxation continued in use thenceforth, through the period of truce with France after 1389, down to abdication of the throne by the king in 1399.1
1 The temporalities of the church acquired before that date were assessed according to that taxation and Included in the clerical grant. 3 Par. Rolls, iii. 134. “Ihid. iii. 145, 146.
4 Ibid. iii. 151.
In the first half of the fifteenth century new taxes were occasionally proposed, either alone or as additional to fifteenths and tenths.
In 1404, the sixth year of Henry IV., parliament discussed and probably voted’a new tax on land, which was confirmed, and enacted at Coventry, in October,2 in the next parliament, termed ‘the unlearned parliament,’ from the absence of lawyers, in consequence of a direction by the king, in the writs of summons, that no lawyers should be returned. The French threatened the coast, the Welsh rebellion under Owen Glendower was in full blaze, and the king was greatly in want of money. The new tax was additional to two fifteenths and tenths. It was granted by the lords temporal, for . themselves and the ladies temporal and all other temporal persons, and touched only the large landowners possessing, in land or rent, to the value of 500 marks a year or upwards. The rate was 5 per cent., 11. for every 20/., and the tax was to be levied at Christmas.3
Seven years after this, towards the close of the reign, the parliament of 1411 granted another land tax, similar to that of 1404, but imposed upon a broader basis. On this occasion no grant of a fifteenth and tenth was made, and the land tax stood alone. It touched all landowners, having in land or rent to the value of 201. a year net—’ outre les charges et reprises
‘Par. Rolls, iii. 167, 185, 204, 221, 244, 285, 301, 330, 368. 2 Stubbs, Const. Hist. iii. 40. :’ Par. Rolls, iii. 540.
duement trovez,’ and upwards; the rate was one and two-thirds per cent., viz. 6s. 8d. for every 20/. clear of all charges. Care was taken that the grant should not be treated as a precedent for the future.1
The expenses of the war with France did not at this date press heavily upon the people of England generally; for the war, conducted upon the principle of pillage and ransom, was, to a certain extent, selfsupporting, and the king was liberally assisted in the contest by archbishop Chichele and the church. The question as to the resumption into lay hands of some portion of the overgrown acquisitions of the church was assuming formidable proportions. A note of warning had sounded in the proposition started in the lack-learning parliament for the appropriation of the land of the clergy for a year for the purposes of the war. The alien priories had been taken into the king’s hands in 1414; and the archbishop, hoping to divert the attention of the nobles from the land question at home by engaging them in schemes of foreign conquest, took care that his plan should not be frustrated by lack of means.
After the victory of Azincourt, October 23, 1415, king Henry V. had, in addition to the life grant of the customs subsidies, a grant of a fifteenth and tenth, to be levied in the accustomed manner; and no innovation in taxation was attempted during his reign of nine years—1413-1422.
Six years after his death, in the second session of the parliament of 1427-28, a novel kind of tax was granted for the prosecution of the war with France, the novelty consisting in the combination of a new house tax with a tax on the fee.
1 Par. Rolls, iii. 648.
The house tax was imposed upon all inhabitant householders in certain parishes as follows:—1. In rural parishes. All inhabitant householders within any parish having ten persons holding household there, were to pay, where the parish church was not rated at ten marks per annum, a single 6s. 8d. of their moveable goods; and where the church was rated at ten marks, 13s. 4d, and so on to ‘ye hiest extente afore the time made after ye rate.’ 2. In urban parishes. The inhabitant householders of every parish within cities and boroughs having ten persons holding household there, if the parish church was of the annual value of 20*., were to pay 2*., ‘and so above, after ye rate to ye hiest value of parish churches be due inquiring yereof to be had.’
The tax on the knight’s fee was imposed upon every person holding immediately by a whole knight’s fee, who was required to pay Gs. 8d., ‘ and so after ye rate to ye fourthe part of a knyghtes fee.’1
Three years after this, in 1431, a grant of a whole fifteenth and tenth and the third part of a whole fifteenth and tenth, was supplemented by the grant of a tax on the knight’s fee and a corresponding tax upon freeholders of lands held by other service than knight’s service; and a new class of taxpayers was introduced in persons possessed of rents, not as landlords, but by reason of a charge upon the land by deed. The taxes were as follows :—
1 Par. Rolls, iv. 318.
1. Land tax on the fee. All persons holding manors, lands, or tenements by knight service, including spiritual persons and persons holding lands to their use, as regards possessions acquired since the taxation of pope Nicolas in 1291, or by similar tenure but by less service than the service of a whole knight’s fee, down to and including the tenth part of a knight’s fee at the rate of 20*-. the fee.
2. Land tax on freeholds not fees. All freeholders (including spiritual persons as in the case of the tax on the fee) of manors, lands or tenements held by other service than knight service, or seized of any Rent Seck or Rent Charge l of the annual value of 20/., after deducting expenses and necessary charges, 20s., and according to that rate for any less annual value down to and including 5/.
The two classes of taxpayers were kept separate. No person charged on the fee was to be charged to the other tax, and vice versa, and 20*. was to be the maximum of charge for all but those charged on the fee.
Commissioners, to be appointed by the council, were to make inquisitions in counties, cities, and boroughs, and certify the inquisitions to the exchequer, stating the names of the contributors, their place of abode, and their rank and condition in life. And the tax was to be collected by the sheriffs of counties.1
1 Rent seek, reditus siccus, is rent reserved by deed without any clause of distress; rent charge, rent issuing out of land specially charged by deed with a clause of distress. The ordinary rent of a tenant is recoverable Ijy distress as of common ri This device to form a new roll of taxpayers from land did not succeed. A careful provision that no one should, after paying the tax, be put to loss or prejudice by force of the inquisitions, proved insufficient to allay the fears of those who regarded the assessment as likely to be used for future purposes. Difficulties soon arose in regard to the inquisitions. It was discovered that ' divers ambiguities, doubts, and grievances might arise to the king and to his liege subjects by the levy and execution of the aforesaid taxes;' and in the result, in the parliament of 1432, the king, in response to a petition of the commons on the subject, released the grants, and ordained that 'all the commissions, inquisitions, briefs, and returns relating to them should, one and all, be entirely cancelled, taken out of his courts, and held not to be of record, so that none of them should remain in any manner of record, or be a precedent in future times.'2 Half a tenth and fifteenth, with certain customs subsidies, were then granted to the king.
Four years after this, in 1435, after the defection of duke Philip of Burgundy, who now joined France, preparations were made for the resumption of war in the next year. For these a grant was made of a fifteenth and tenth and a graduated income tax.
A fifteenth and tenth had not always produced the sum of between 3S,000/. and 39,000/. intended by the settlement of 1334. The effective produce had often been diminished by remissions or exemptions allowed for various reasons to particular districts or particular towns. For instance, in 1389, when the poor lieges of the counties of Northumberland, Cumberland, and Westmoreland, who, 'ravaged by the French and Scots, were greatly impoverished and some of them utterly destroyed,' had prayed for remission of arrears of the ferm and the last fifteenth, the king had granted the petition;1 and in 1432, when the landowners of the town of Malberthorp, in Lincolnshire, which 'had been and still was utterly destroyed and wasted by the overflowing of the water of the sea,' had prayed for remission of taxation for ten years, it had been granted for two years.2 And eventually a practice became established of allowing, in the grant of a fifteenth and tenth, a certain sum, which was expressly deducted 'from the sum that the fifteenth and tenth attained unto, in part relief and discharge of the poor towns, cities, and boroughs desolate, wasted or destroyed, or over greatly impoverished, or else to the said tax over greatly charged.' This sum in relief was partitioned out between the various shires, including the cities and boroughs which were shires incorporate,3 rateably according to the proportion the shire paid of the whole fifteenth and tenth. After which, the sum allowed to
1 Par. Rolls, iv. 370. = Ibid. iv. 400.
1 Par. Rolls, iii. 270.
3 Ibid. iv. 385. This town, it may be added, to show how minute was the subdivision of the tax, ' of olde tyme had been charged at every gruunt of any hole taxe to our sovereign lord to the sum of C/. 14s. 5^d.'
3 These were, in 1432: London, Bristol, which had been a county since 1373 ; York, since 1396; Newcastle-un-Tyne, since 1400; Norwich, since 1403; and Lincoln, fiuce 140!>.
the shire was portioned out by parliamentary commissioners, being a lord and the two knights of the shire, or the two citizens or burgesses representing the city or borough being a shire incorporate, between the decayed towns, cities and boroughs, or parishes or wards, as the case might be, certifying those to be relieved and the amount of relief, under sealed letters to the collectors of the fifteenth or tenth, who made an allowance in accordance with the certificates. This was the settled practice from 1432,1 and at this date the sum allowed was 4,000/.
The fifteenth and tenth granted in 1435 was subject to a deduction of 4,000/. on this account, and the city of Lincoln and the town of Andover were expressly exempted from the tax.2
For the graduated income tax, granted with the fifteenth and tenth, all annuitants under grants of annuities not charged upon any freehold, and persons deriving income from offices of freehold, were brought into charge,3 and it was declared that all persons to whose use any lands were held should be charged in respect of the lands. The greater part of the lands in England had, during the civil commotions in the reigns of Eichard II. and Henry IV., been conveyed to uses, a system which, originating in fraudulent feoffments or conveyances to defeat creditors, had been adopted by the church, in order to avoid the provisions of the statutes of mortmain, and subsequently by the landowners generally, in order to prevent the forfeiture of lands and to retain their estates in the family. For •where A’ held land, though ‘ to the use of B, his tenure or holding remained unaltered by anything that might happen to B. The taxing act of this year anticipated for fiscal purposes the statute of uses of Henry VIII., which transferred these uses into possession.1
1 Par. Rolls, iv. 425; v. 142, 144, 228, 497, 623; vi. 438,442, 514, &c.
2 Ibid. iv. 487.
3 An Office is a right to exercise an employment, public or private, as in the case of bailifls, receivers, and the like.
The tax was imposed upon every person seised of manors, lands, tenements, rents, Annuities, Offices, or any other possessions temporal, as of freehold, to his own proper use, or of any other person or persons to his use. And the charge began at a clear yearly value of 5/. net, ‘over the reprises and charges,’ for which the charge was 2s. 6d., and so for every 20s., 6d. up to and including 1001. of yearly value. For incomes of over 100/. and up to 400/. it was at the rate of8d. for every full 20s. above 100/. For incomes of 400/. or more, 2s. in the pound, unto the highest value of the said possessions.
The commissioners for the tax were to be named by the council, and they had power to summon all freeholders under the rank of baron and examine them on oath of their freehold in every shire. Barons and lords of a higher degree than baron, were to be examined of their freehold before the chancellor and treasurer or other persons specially appointed by the king, and were to be charged according to their examination.’2
A similar distinction in taxation between class and class was also maintained, at this date, as between the counties and the towns: the counties objected to the presence of a bourgeois collector. It was the practice, as regards the collection of tenths, for the city and borough members, on coming up to the meeting of parliament, to deliver into the king’s chancery the names of the persons to be appointed collectors for the city or borough, who, when appointed by the king by his letters patent, became accountable for their receipt directly to the exchequer. A similar practice may have prevailed as regards the collectors of the fifteenths in the counties, but in consequence of the remissness of the knights in sending in names or other causes, it happened that not unfrequently recourse was had to the city and borough list of names, and the nominees of the burgesses were appointed to be not only collectors of the tenth in the city or town for which their names had been returned, but also collectors for the fifteenth in the county in which the city or town Avas situated. This course was detrimental to the interests, ‘to the great loss and damage,’ of the county. The commons, in 1439, petitioned the king in parliament for redress, and the king answered that ‘ no man dwelling within any city or borough’ in which the practice of sending up names for appointment as collectors as aforesaid prevailed, should be appointed collector of the fifteenth of the shire without a property qualification in the shire, outside the town, of bl. per annum, ‘unless he may spend in the shire, out of the said city or borough, in lands or tenements to the value of bl. by the year, clear of all charges and deductions.’l
1 27 Hen. VIII. c. 10. 2 Par. Rolls, iv
1 Par. Roll-, v. 25.
The king appears to have been desirous to appoint the collectors selected by the representatives of the county or the town as the case might be, and did not interfere in questions relating to local assessment. For instance, in the case of Oxford, in 1389, the devout orators, chancellor, guardians, provosts, masters, and scholars of the university, who had purchased, since the assessment of pope Nicolas in 1291, a great part of the city, petitioned that, inasmuch as their tenants were charged to the tenth and paid according to the amount of their moveables, they might not be charged in respect of their rents derived from the tenements occupied by the tenants. A counter petition was presented by the commons, praying that the university might not be discharged from payment of such manner of taxes, ‘to the great destruction of the poor burgesses of the said city ;’ but no order was made in response to the petitions.1
In 1449 we find, for the first time, an admission by the commons that the fifteenth and tenth upon the settlement of 1334 was unsuited to the times. Only half a fifteenth and tenth was granted at first, and from this 3,000/. was to be deducted for decayed towns, being at the rate of 6,000/. in lieu of the 4,000/. theretofore allowed, and the city of Lincoln and the town of Great Yarmouth were specially exempted. A similar deduction was allowed from another halffifteenth and tenth subsequently granted; and thenceforth the sum of 6,000/. was always allowed for this purpose; and the effective produce of a fifteenth and tenth was reduced to a sum of between 32,000/. and 33,000/. The other tax for the year was a renewal of the poll tax on aliens.1 An attempt to tax the clergy, by the grant of a noble from every stipendiary priest, was subsequently nullified by a vote of the tax in convocation.
1 Par. Rolls, iii. 276.
In the next year, 1450, the commons having regard to the universal poverty and penury of the people, declared themselves unable to—’ they could not and dared not in any wise’—charge the people with the usual taxes; and on that ground made no grant of any sum by the way of fifteenth and tenth. An Act was passed for the resumption of all grants of demesne made since the accession of the king, though with numerous exceptions and reservations, and another graduated income tax was granted.
This tax stood upon a broad basis. It included all freeholders of lands, tenements, rents, services, annuities, offices, Fees, Profits, or Commodities within the kingdom to the yearly value of 20s. clear of charge, commodity being a wide term to include any interest, advantage or profit. And all annuitants for term of life in any annuity not to be taken at any place certain, to the yearly value of 20s.; all Copyholders and customary tenants of any manor for life or ‘to hym or to eny of his heirs, after the custom of maner ;’ and all persons having any office, wages, fee or fees, for a term of years or otherwise than of an estate of freehold, were brought into charge.
The rates were as follows :—For a yearly value of
1 Par. Rolls, v. 142, 144.
ll. and up to and including 20/., Or/, in the pound; over 20/., and up to and including 200/., Is-, in the pound; and over 200/., 2s. in the pound.
All persons having less than a yearly value of 11. were exempted, and persons holding offices, wages, or fees for a term of years or less than freehold, up to a value of 21.
Three knights and a squire were appointed treasurers and receivers, and were to take 4*. a day each for their wages.
This grant was to be considered exceptional, and the commons prayed the king that it might ‘ not be taken in any example hereafter, but as a thing granted for the defence of the realm, in the king’s most grettest necessite.’1
In the manifesto of complaint issvied by Cade, the leader in the Kentish rebellion, which broke out in June, heavy taxation formed one of the items of complaint, and more particularly the illegal appointment of collectors of taxes ; and in the course of the rebellion lord Saye and Selc, who had been the king’s treasurer since October, 1449, and was peculiarly obnoxious to the people, was seized by Cade, in London, on July 4, and beheaded.
When parliament met in November they found the subsidy as yet unpaid; the commissioners and the sheriffs of counties had proved lacking in diligence, and the persons chargeable had failed to attend to be examined. Writs were therefore sent to the sheriffs, commanding them to make open proclamation in places convenient, requiring the several commissioners and all persons chargeable to the subsidy to attend at certain stated days and places to examine and be examined ; and the attendance of the commissioners was secured by the allowance of’ a reasonable daily reward for their labour and costs,’ and a penalty of 20/. for non-attendance; and that of persons chargeable, by a penalty of treble duty.
1 Par. Rolls, v. 172-4.
The sheriff, as might be expected, was pulled up smartly. Should he or his deputy fail to attend at the appointed day and place, to assist the commissioners and execute their precepts and warrants, he was to be liable to imprisonment and fine and ransom with the king.
The taxpayer was only required to attend before one set of commissioners, who were to examine him of ‘all the livelihood that he had in all the shires of the realm,’ and then, by that examination, he was to be quit and discharged of examination for his premises in all other places. And the limit of exemption was extended, for freeholders and copyholders, to 21., and for persons having office, wages, fee or fees, term of years or otherwise, to 3/.1
In September, 1452, an expedition under the veteran Talbot recovered Bordeaux; and in 1453 the king received, in addition to the life grant of the customs subsidies and a poll tax on aliens, a fifteenth and tenth with the usual deduction of 6,000/.2
But the Hundred Years’ War was soon to end. In July Talbot was slain before Chutillon, near Bordeaux; after which the French rapidly recovered the conquests we had recently made in that quarter; and we were left, at the end of the war, with Calais and Guisnes as all that remained to us of our possessions on the continent.
1 Par. Rolls, v. 211. 2 Ibid. v. 228.
Contests at home soon succeeded the contests abroad. The illness of the king, in the autumn, raised the question of regency between the queen and the duke of York; and the birth of an heir to the throne defeated the hopes of the duke peacefully to succeed to the crown upon the death of Henry. Clouds gathered quickly, and the storm burst on May 22, 1455, when the first battle in the contest for land between the partizans of the Houses of York and Lancaster occurred at St. Albans.

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