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started. "In the beginning of holy church," it is written in one of the old legends, "it was so that people came at night-time to the church with candles burning; they would wake and come with light toward the church in their devotions; but after, they fell to lechery and songs, dances, harping, piping, and also to gluttony and sin, and so turned the holiness to cursedness. Wherefore, holy fathers ordained the people to leave that waking" a term still retained in the Irish wakes" and to fast at even." The evening fasts, however, were as unprofitable, from a religious point of view, as those formerly held at night-time. The people who assembled, generally in the church-yards, and often in the churches themselves, of the saints whose merits they came to celebrate, soon turned their meetings into opportunities for amusement, and laid the foundation of those periodical fairs which, despite all the opposition of the clergy and other lovers of good order, have held their ground almost to the present day. But all the money was not spent in feasting and sight-seeing. Wherever numbers of people were gathered together, it was natural that tradesmen should bring their wares for sale; and to the villagers spend ing most of their time quite out of the reach of the scanty commerce of those ages, it was a great advantage to meet with merchants provided with large collections of useful and ornamental articles of home and foreign production, and willing to barter them for sheep-skins and agricultural produce, or any of the rough and tough manufactures of the local workmen. In this way fairs became markets; and markets, that never had been fairs, came to be held at various intervals, yearly, monthly, or weekly, in every part of the land.
English commerce was in a healthier condition just before than just after the Norman Conquest. Under Edward the Confessor, merchants were highly esteemed; they traveled much in France and Germany, and brought back foreign goods of every description; while the merchants of other countries not only came to trade in England, but had already begun to find the advantage of making it their home. But trade was scorned by the Normans, and although their habits, more extravagant and ambitious than those of the Anglo-Saxons, in due time
led to its further extension, their violent coming at first very greatly hindered its progress. "The English merchants," says William of Poictiers, William the Conqueror's own chaplain, and too staunch a hater of Anglo-Saxons to say more in their favor than he could help, "to the opulence of their country, rich in its own fertility, added still greater riches and more valuable treasures. The articles imported by them, notable both for their quantity and their quality, were either to have been hoarded up for the gratification of their avarice, or to have been dissipated in the indulgence of their luxurious inclinatious. But William seized them and bestowed part on his victorious army, and part on the churches and monasteries, while to the Pope and the Church of Rome he sent an incredible mass of money in gold and silver, and many ornaments that would have been admired even in Constantinople." It was not, however, until a curb had been put upon royal extortion and injustice, that the English merchants were able to pursue their ways with ease and profit. For the half-century following the conquest we know little of the history of commerce, and it is probable that little progress was made in it. In the charters granted by the two Williams and Henry I., no reference is made to merchandise; and the public documents of these kings show only that they levied heavy tolls both on shipping and on inland trade.
One beneficial measure, however, is to be set to the credit of Henry I. In 1110 he founded a settlement of Flemings in the neighborhood of Ross in Pembrokeshire. The hardy colonists were invited chiefly with the view of checking the lawlessness of the marauding Welsh, and this they did with excellent result. But they did far more for England. Giraldus Cambrensis speaks of them as a people notably skilled both in the business of making cloth and in merchandise, ever ready with any labor or danger to seek for gain by sea or land." For centuries English sheepskins had been bought up by traders from the Continent to be taken abroad and converted into woolen garments. With the Flemish settlers, however, came to England the Flemish art of woolen manufacture, and henceforth this trade, a most important element in British commerce, was naturalized among us.
Colonists of another and very different
class were also encouraged in England at land were chiefly filled with Englishmen, about the same time. These were the many of them skilled in the art lately Jews, a fair sprinkling of whom had brought over by the Flemish colonists. been mixed with the Anglo-Saxon from A race of Stephens would soon have dea period prior to Edward the Confessor's populated England. Henry II., however, reign, and of whom great numbers began did his utmost to remedy the evils caused to cross the Channel immediately after by the civil wars which led to his being the coming of the Normans. By William made king, and his reign was one of comRufus they were especially favored, and mercial prosperity never before equaled. Henry I. conferred on them a charter of London, containing at this period between privileges. They were enabled to claim, thirty and forty thousand inhabitants, in courts of law, the repayment of any the most populous town in the kingdom, money, lent by them, as easily as Chris- and now, for the first time, the fixed tians, and, while Christians were forbid- abode of the king and his court, was of den to charge any interest for their loans, course the emporium of foreign and dothere were no restrictions to the avarice mestic trade. No city in the world, acof the Jewish capitalists. It was to the cording to William Fitz Stephen, the interest of the sovereigns that the Jews biographer of Becket, sent so far and to should be rich men, as then more gold so many quarters its wealth and merchancould be forced from them, for the quell-dise; and none was so largely the resort ing of enemies abroad or of insurrections of foreign dealers. Gold, spice, and at home, whenever there was need of it. frankincense were brought to it from England itself also profited by this ar Arabia; precious stones from Egypt; rangement. The gathering up of wealth, purple cloths from India; palm oil from to be spent in large schemes of traffic, is Bagdad; furs and ermines from Norway a great advantage to society; and in the and Russia; weapons from Scythia; and main the Jews did this work honestly wines from France. "Let there,” wrote and well. In no worse spirit than actu- Henry II. to the Emperor Frederick of ated their Christian cotemporaries, they Germany in 1157, "be between ourselves taught sound lessons of economy and pru- and our subjects an indivisible unity of dence to the world, and therefore are en- friendship and peace, and safe trade of titled to the hearty praise of posterity. merchandise;" and the Germans were not slow in using the advantages offered them. "London," says William of Malmesbury, "is filled with goods brought by the merchants of all countries, but especially with those of Germany; and, when there is scarcity of corn in other parts of England, it is a granary where the article may be bought more cheaply than any where else." Its citizens, called barons, to distinguish them from the dwellers in other towns, were separated from all others by the elegance of their dress and bearing, and the grandeur of their festivities.
During the first half of the twelth century, Scotland-undisturbed by Norman invasion, but, on the contrary, greatly benefited by the disaster which sent many peaceable and enterprising southerners to try their fortunes in the north-was commercially in advance of England. Under the wise guidance of the best of its kings, David I., who reigned from 1124 to 1153, it passed at once from what was very like barbarism to as much civilization as could be claimed for any nation in that time. Foreign merchants were invited by David to visit his ports, and every encouragement was given to his own subjects to cross the seas on errands of trade. One of his laws exempted the property of all persons trading with foreign countries from seizure on any claim whatever during their absence, unless it could be shown that they had left their homes with the purpose of evading jus-out England, Wales, and Normandy. tice. He gave special encouragement to Chester was another great receiving place makers of woolen cloths; and we are for the commodities of Ireland while told by one cotemporary writer that at much was also imported from Gascony, the end of his reign, and in that of his Spain, and Germany; so that," writes successor, the towns and burghs of Scot-one, "being comforted of God in all
After London the most thriving city was Bristol, famous, as we have seen, in Anglo-Saxon times, and the chief port for vessels trading with Ireland and Norway. From Henry II. its burgesses received a charter exempting them from tolls and some other impositions through
things, we drink wine very plentifully; by a charter dated 1172, assigned it to for those countries have abundance of the citizens of Bristol on condition of vineyards." England had vineyards also their colonizing it anew; and straightin those days; and Gloucester and Win- way, we are told, it began so to prosper chester were noted for their trade in ex- that it threatened to rival London as a cellent wines of native production. Exe- center of wealth and commerce. ter engrossed much of the trade of the south. It is described as a port full of wealthy citizens and the resort of no less wealthy foreigners, who came for the minerals dug up in the surrounding districts, and gave in exchange abundance of every foreign luxury that could be desired. On the eastern coast, Dunwich, now more than half washed away by the violence of the Suffolk seas, was a flour ishing port, "stored with every kind of riches," while Yarmouth was rapidly growing into importance as a fishing station. Lynn, the dwelling-place of many wealthy Jewish families, had much trade with the cities of Germany and northern France; and Lincoln-made accessible to foreign vessels by means of a great canal, connecting the Trent and the Witham, which had been constructed by Henry I.'s orders in 1121-was now becoming one of the most extensive seats of commerce in England. York had been so much devastated by war at the time of the conquest, and by many dreadful fires in later years, that its trade had been seriously impaired. It was still, however, visited by many vessels from Germany and Iceland, while Grimsby was a favorite resort of merchants from Norway, Scotland, the Orkneys, and the Western Isles, and Whitby and Hartlepool were prosperous towns. Berwick, the frequent cause of contention, during the middle ages, between the northern and southern kingdoms, was at this time the chief port of Scotland, one of its citizens, a man of Danish origin, named Cnut, being so wealthy that when a vessel belonging to him, with his wife on board, was seized by a piratical earl of Orkney, he was able to spend a hundred marks in hiring teen stout ships, suitably equipped, with which to go out and punish the offender. Other growing towns of Scotland were Perth, Leith, Stirling, Lanark, and Dumbarton. Edinburgh was still an insignificant place, and Glasgow was little more than a village, although incorporated by William the Lion in 1175. In Ireland, the ancient city of Dublin had been so utterly ruined during the English conquest of the country, that Henry II.,
The things brought into England by foreign merchants in the twelfth and following centuries were for the most part articles of luxury-silks and furs, jewels and costly weapons, wines and spices, to gratify the extravagant tastes of gay courtiers and wealthy citizens. The commodities exported were nearly all articles of necessity--corn and flesh, wools raw and wrought, and copper, iron, tin, and lead. In 1194, Richard I. had to prohibit any further exportation of corn during that year, "that England might not suffer from the want of its abundance;" and the outgoing of all useful merchandise was far in excess of the returns in kind of other useful merchandise. The impolicy of this arrangement is apparent. Large quantities of silver and gold came into the country, but they came to enrich the few and encourage in them a wasteful expenditure of money, while the poor were yet further impoverished by a system of trade which kept the home-made necessaries of life at an unreasonably highprice and brought no others from abroad to supply the deficiency. It must be admitted, however, that this evil was partially rectified by the ever-increasing demand for labor that resulted perforce from the growing demand for English produce. At this period, it is probable, there was remunerative employment for nearly all the population. Of the extent of agricultural and mining labor we can form no estimate; but we know the wool trade to have been very extensive. There was a very large importation of woad, used for coloring the woolen fabric, manufactured both for home and for foreign use; and there was also a very large exportation of four-sheep-skins to be worked by Flemish manufacturers into a finer cloth than the English at that time had the knack of making. All the nations of the world, we are told by Matthew of Westminster, were kept warm by the wool of England, made into cloth by the men of Flanders.
It was not long before English politicians perceived the mischief arising from the want of balance between imports and exports, and they set themselves to try and remedy the evil in many unwise ways.
The history of British commerce under the Plantagenets is for the most part a history of impolitic legislation, fiercely ordered, but, from the nature of things, and as a consequence of the steady growth of right principles among the people, almost every where disobeyed. The Flemings being better clothmakers, during the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, than the English, it was sought again and again, not to improve the English manufacture, but to prevent the introduction of articles from Flanders. Simon de Montfort, for instance, representing the national party of his day, was steadfast in his opposition to foreign commerce, and in accordance with his opinions, a law was passed in \1261, forbidding the exportation of wool and the use of any apparel made out of the country, or made in the country with the help of imported materials. Woad was not admitted, and, in consequence, the people had for some years to content themselves with rough, undyed cloths. Such a law, most pernicious in that it restrained the production of wool for exportation and hampered the industry of the country, could not long hold its ground. It was almost immediately remitted in favor of dealers with France and Normandy; and although, through personal and national jealousy, it was nominally enforced against the Flemings, we read that in 1270, at one seizure, the Countess of Flanders, by way of reprisal, forfeited as much as forty thousand marks' worth of English goods waiting to be sold in her dominions. That act led to fresh legislation. "Whereas," runs a proclamation of Henry III., issued in 1271, 66 at the requirement of the merchants as well of our realm, as of France, Normandy, and other kingdoms, who gave unto us pledges and other surety by corporal oath, that they would not take any wools unto the parts of Flanders or of Hainault, or would sell the same unto the Flemings: and whereas, we have of late for certain understood that the wools, by our leave thus taken out of our realm, are sold to the said Flemings; we have determined that all wools of our realm, exposed to sale, shall remain within our realm, and shall not on any account be taken unto any parts beyond sea whatsoever." To that unwise proclamation was added a wise proviso, "That all workers of woolen cloths, male and female, as well of Flanders as of other lands, might
safely come into our realm, there to make cloths, and should be quit of toll and tallage, and of payment of other customs for their work until the end of five years." There were a fair number of Flemish immigrants to claim this generous privilege; but the prohibition of all exports to the Continent was as futile as the one issued ten years before and the many others issued in after years.
Other hindrances, however, were offered to the free development of commerce. From early times it had been the custom of the city of London to allow all foreign merchants, bringing their goods for sale, to put up at certain inns; and, when the extent of their dealings encouraged them so to do, there was no objection made to their building houses for themselves; but they were only to sell their commodities by the hundred-weight, and that in the presence of the king's weigher, by whom a heavy tax was to be claimed. These rules having been infringed, twenty merchants were arrested in 1269, and committed to the Tower until a fine of a thousand pounds had been paid, and the weights and scales that they set up for themselves had been broken up and burned. In 1275 more severe rules were laid down. "A strange merchant," it was appointed, "may lodge where he pleases, but he shall not sell by retail: as, for instance, fusticwoods-he shall not sell less than twelve of them; and if he have pepper, cummin, ginger, alum, Brazil-wood, or frankincense, he shall not sell less than twentyfive pounds thereof at a time. If he bring girdles, he shall not sell fewer than a thousand and twelve at a time; if cloths of silk, wool, or linen, he shall sell them whole; if he bring wax, he shall sell not less than a quarter. Foreign merchants, also, shall not be allowed to buy dyed cloths while wet, or to make dye, or to do any work that belongs to the citizens. They shall not make a market in the city, nor shall they stay in the city more than forty days." That last regulation must have pressed very heavily on the foreigners, obliging them often, in dull seasons, to go home again with their vessels full of unsold wares. It was withdrawn in 1303, a memorable year in commercial history, when Edward I. granted a general charter to the merchants of Germany, France, Spain, Portugal, Navarre, Lombardy, Tuscany, Provence, Catalonia, Aquitaine, Toulouse, Flanders, Brabant,
and all other countries, permitting them to come safely to any part of his dominions, to sell their goods, and to claim the protection of the laws of the land.
ever, the weather was bad, so that vast quantities of clothing and provisions were left to rot in the tents, through which the rain penetrated at once, while the dealers. themselves had to stay all day, waiting for customers who never came, with their feet in the mud, and the wind and rain beating against their faces. In 1249 the same sort of tyranny was again exercised.
But soon a fresh obstacle was thrown in their way. An edict, issued in 1307, forbade their taking either coined money or bullion out of the kingdom. This was another of the rules that could not possibly be strictly kept. There are numer-"The citizens of London, at the request ous records of its having been broken of his lordship the king, not compelled, through, but there are also numerous rec- yet as though compelled, took their wares ords of the vexatious and costly meas to the fair of Westminster, and the citiures resorted to with a view to its en- zens of many cities of England, by preforcement. cept of his lordship the king, also repaired thither with their wares; all of whom made a stay at that fair of full fifteen days, all the shops and warehouses of London being in the mean time closed." On this occasion, also, the season was bad, and no buyers came for the damaged goods; "but the king did not mind the imprecations of the people."
King and Parliament, however, were willing sometimes to listen to popular clamor when dictated by unreasonable prejudice. In times of variable supply, it was most desirable that moneyed men should buy up different articles of food and clothing when they were most plentiful and likely to be wasted, and store them up for seasons of scarcity. But this custom of warehousing, called forestalling, gave offense to the thoughtless multitude, who held it better to use at once all that came in their way, without any heed of a morrow of scarcity, and who considered the greediness with which some forestallers made wealth out of the necessities of the people a reason for hating the whole class; and their governors endorsed their opinions. "Be it especially commanded," it is written in one of Henry III.'s laws, "that no forestaller be suffered to dwell in any town, he being an oppressor of poor people, and of all the community, an enemy of the whole shire and country, seeing that for his private gains he doth prevent others in buying grain, fish, herring, or any other thing coming to be sold by land or water, oppressing the poor and deceiving the rich."
In 1328 was passed another ill-advised law, ordering that no woolen cloths should be admitted into the country unless they were of a certain size, the measure of all striped cloth being fixed at twenty-eight yards length and six quarters breadth, while all colored cloths were to be just twenty-six yards long and six and a half quarters broad. By this enactment, immense expense was incurred in the employment of royal measurers, and the only practical result was the withholding of many of the best commodities from the English market. Yet it was not repealed until 1353, when "the great men and commons having shown to our lord the king how divers merchants, as well foreigners and denizens, have withdrawn them, and yet do withdraw them, to come with cloths into England, to the great damage of the king and all his people, because the king's measurer surmiseth to merchant strangers that their cloths be not of assize."
We have given instances enough of the arbitrary and frivolous legislation by which, during these centuries, the foreign merchants seeking trade with England were prevented from doing or getting all the good that ought to have come of their dealings. There was no better treatment for the merchants and tradesmen at home. They also were the sport of unwise laws and arbitrary mandates. We read, for instance, of a fair appointed to be held at Westminster in the spring of 1245, when all the tradesmen of London were commanded to shut up their shops, and all other fairs were forbidden throughout England during fifteen days, in order that the whole commerce of the country might be confined in one place, and that thus a large amount of toll-money might be collected. During the whole fortnight, how
But notwithstanding all these hindrances, commerce grew apace. By the Great Charter wrested from King John, it was declared that all native merchants should have protection in going out of England and in coming back to it, as well as while residing in the kingdom, or travel