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any denizen of England from buying wool except from the owners of the sheep and for his own use. This of course closed the home market; the grower, in his anxiety to grasp the profits of the wool-merchant and retailer in addition to his own, found that he had turned off his best customers; and we learn from a contemporary historian that the growers were reduced to the greatest distress by having the accumulated stock of two or three years left on their hands.
In the reign of Henry VI., not more than a century after its introduction, the woollen manufacture had thriven so well, that it was made to contribute to the revenue, and we were enabled to compete with the nations by whom we had been taught it, on equal terms: a reciprocity law, passed at this time, ordains, that “ if our woollen goods were not received in Brabant, Holland, and Zealand, then the merchandise growing or wrought within the dominions of the duke of Burgundy shall be prohibited in England under pain of forfeiture.” But there was already à growing jealousy between the landed and manufacturing interests, caused by the rise in the price of labor, resulting from increase of employment; for so early as the reign of Henry IV., an act was passed that 66
no one should bind his son or daughter to an apprenticeship, unless he was possessed of twenty shillings.” This attempt to limit the supply of labor in manufacture would have wholly destroyed the woollen trade, had not the first monarch of the house of Tudor granted an exemption from the act to the city of Norwich, and subsequently to the whole county of Norfolk.
The besetting error of legislators in this age was the belief, that gold and silver had some inherent and intrinsic value in themselves, independent of their exchangeable and marketable value. They could not understand that the very essence of all commerce is barter, and that money only serves as a third term or common measure for ascertaining the comparative value of the articles to be exchanged. Ignorant of this fact, they made several attempts to compel foreigners to pay for English goods in money. In 1429, a law was passed, that no Englishman should sell goods to foreigners except for ready money, or other goods delivered on the instant.
This was such a fatal blow to trade, that, in the very next year, the parliament was compelled to relax so far as to admit of the sale of goods on six months' credit
. With equal wisdom, and for the same perplexing “ the prevention of the exportation of treasure out of the country, a law was passed prohibiting " foreign merchants from selling goods in England to any other foreigner.” This precious piece of legislation did not, of course, prevent the exportation of the precious metals, but it prevented the import of merchandise and of bullion, a result which quite per plexed the legislature, but did not lead to the abolition of the foolish law
Henry VII., removed a still greater check to industry, by restraining the usurpations of corporations. A law was enacted, that corporations should not pass by-laws without the consent of three of the chief officers of state ; they were also prohibited from exacting tolls at their gates The necessity of legislative interference was proved by the conduct of the corporations of Gloucester and Worcester, which had actually imposed transit tolls on the Severn—these, of course, were abolished. But the monarch was not superior to the prejudices of his age; he
affixed prices to woollen cloths, caps, and hats, which, of course, led to a deterioration of the several articles. Yet this law was highly extolled as a master-stroke of policy by the statesmen of the day.
The parliaments in the reign of Henry VIII., were too busily engaged in enforcing the king's caprices, by inconsistent laws against heresy and treason, to pay much attention to trade and commerce. One circumstance, however, connected with the woollen trade deserves to be noticed. So greatly had our woollen manufactures increased, that the Flemings, no longer able to compete with the English as producers, entered into the carrying trade, bought the English commodities, and distributed them into other parts of Europe. In 1528, hostilities commenced between England and the Low Countries; there was an immediate stagnation of trade; the merchants having no longer their usual Flemish customers, could not buy goods from the clothiers ; the clothiers in consequence dismissed their workmen, and the starving operatives tumultuously demanded “ bread or blood.”
Wolsey scarcely knew how to account for these riots ; he tried force with the workmen, but hunger was stronger than the law ; he threatt.ned the clothiers unless they gave employment, but wages could not be paid from empty purses ; at length he sent for the merchants, and commanded them to buy cloth as usual! The merchants replied, that they could not sell it as usual ; and, notwithstanding his menaces, would give no other answer. At length the true remedy was discovered ; an agreement was made that commerce should continue between the two states even during war.
In the reign of Edward VI., an act was passed, by which every one was prohibited from making cloth, unless he had served an apprenticeship of seven years ; this law was repealed in the first year of Queen Mary, as the preamble of the act states, “ because it had occasioned the decay of the woollen manufactory, and had ruined several towns.” It was, however, subsequently restored by Elizabeth.
The persecution of the protestants in France, but more especially in Flanders, drove many emninent manufacturers to seek refuge in England, where they were graciously received by Elizabeth. She passed an act relieving the counties of Somerset, Gloucester, and Wiltshire, from the old oppressive statutes, which confined the making of cloth to corporate towns; and trade, thus permitted to choose its own localities, began to flourish rapidly. In a remonstrance of the Hanse towns to the diet of the empire, in 1582, it is asserted that England exported annually about 200,000 pieces o cloth. In this reign, also, the English merchants, instead of selling their goods to the Hanseatic and Flemish traders, began to export themselves; and their success so exasperated the Hanse towns, that a general assembly was held at Lubeck to concert measures for distressing the English trade. But the jealousy of foreigners was far less injurious to British commerce than the monopolies which Elizabeth created in countless abundance. An attempt, indeed, was made to remove one monopoly; but the experiment was not fairly tried, and its consequent ill-success was used as an argument against any similar efforts. By an old patent, the company of Merchant Adventurers possessed the sole right of trading in woollen goods. This monstrous usurpation of the staple commodity of the kingdom was too bad even for that age of darkness, and Elizabeth opened the tiade; but the Merchant Adventurers entered into a conspiracy not to make purchases of cloth, and the queen, alarmed at the temporary suspension of trade, restored the patent.
In the reign of James I. it was calculated that nine tenths of the commerce of the kingdom consisted in woollen goods. Most of the cloth was exported raw, and was dyed and dressed by the Dutch, who gained, it was pretended, 700,0001. annually by this manufacture. The king, at the instigation of Cockayne and some other London merchants, issued a proclamation prohibiting the exportation of raw cloths : the Dutch and Germans met this piece of legislation by prohibiting the importation of English dyed cloth; the consequence was, that our export trade was diminished by two thirds, and he price of wool fell from seventy to eighty per cent. The king was forced to recall his proclamation. In the year 1622 a board of trade was erected, as the commission states, “to remedy the low price of wool, and the decay of the woollen manufactory.” It is recommended to the commissioners to examine “ whether a greater freedom of trade, and an exemption from the restraint of exclusive companies, would not be beneficial.” A gratifying proof of the progress of intelligence ; but, unfortunately, it led to no practical result.
English commerce increased greatly under the commonwealth, pecause no regard was paid to the prerogative whence the charters of the exclusive companies were derived, and because the progress of democratical principles led the country gentlemen to bind their sons apprentices to merchants. But with the restoration came the old rage for prohibitions and protections; two thousand manufacturers from Warwickshire, and a great number from Herefordshire, emigrated to the Palatinate ; and, in 1662, the company of Merchant Adventurers declared, in a public memorial, that the white clothing trade had abated from 100,000 pieces to 11,000! In 1668, however, some Walloons were encouraged to introduce the manufacture of fine cloths, from Spanish wool only, without the admixture of any inferior wool; but the progress of this branch of trade was very slow, owing chiefly to our municipal laws, which pressed heavily on foreigners.
It is not necessary to bring down the history of our great staple manufactory to a later date. What has been already stated is sufficient to illustrate the evils which arose from legislative interference with the natural course of commerce, industry, and capital, in past ages. It must not, however, be supposed that this impolicy was peculiar to England; on the contrary, English statesmen were generally in advance of the rest of Europe, and monopolies were only supported by corrupt adventurers. The nobility and the country gentlemen of England resisted the imposing of any unnecessary shackles on trade until after the restoration of Charles II., when the system of protection began to be introduced; that system derived its chief support from the short-sighted cupidity of the manufacturers themselves, and the entire blame must not therefore be attributed to the legislature.
The extension of English commerce during the period of history we have been examining was very slow. The long wars with France, and the civil wars of the Roses, diverted attention from the peaceful pursuit of trade. It was not until after the accession of Henry VII. that Eng. land began to feel the impulse for maritime discovery and commercial enterprise which had hitherto been confined to southern Europe ; the effects of this change belong, however, to a more advanced period of history, and will come under consideration in a future chapter.
Section IV.-Revolutions of Germany, France, and Spain. From the period of the accession of Rodolph, the first emperor of the house of Hapsburgh, the German empire began to assume a constitutional form, and to be consolidated by new laws. Under the government of Albert, the son of Rodolph, an important change took place in Switzerland, which, at the commencement of the fourteenth century, was divided into a number of states, both secular and ecclesiastical. The cantons of Uri, Schwitz, and Underwalden, were immediate dependancies of the empire, while some minor adjoining districts belonged to the dukes of Austria as counts of Hapsburgh. Albert, anxious to found a new kingdom for one of his younger children, resolved to annex the imperial to the Austrian cantons; and in order to reconcile the hardy mountaineers that inhabited them to the intended yoke, he sanctioned and encouraged the cruel tyranny of their German governors. Three brave men resolved to attempt the delivery of their country; they secretly engaged a number of partisans, who surprised the imperial forts on the same day (A. D. 1308), and accomplished a revolution without shedding a drop of blood. The Austrians made a vigorous effort to recover their supremacy, but they suffered a ruinous defeat at Morgarten (A. D. 1315), which secured the independence of the Cantors. Their league of union was renewed at Brunnen, in a treaty that became the base of the federative union of Switzerland. Five other cantons successively joined the former three, and the Helvetic possessions of the house of Austria were conquered by the Swiss during the interval in which the family of the counts of Hapsburgh ceased to wear the imperial crown.
On the death of Albert (A. D. 1308), Henry VII., count of Luxemburg, was chosen emperor; he was a brave and politic prince; taking advantage of the pope's absence at Avignon, and the distracted state of Italy, he made a vigorous effort to restore the imperial authority in the peninsula, and would probably have succeeded but for his premature
The troubled reign of the emperor Louis of Bavaria, his contest for the empire with Frederic, duke of Austria, and the wars occasioned by his efforts to restrain the extravagant pretensions of the popes, led the German princes to discover the necessity of having a written constitution. On the accession of Charles of Luxemburg (A. D. 1347), the calamities of a disputed election to the empire were renewed, and after a long series of wars and disorders, a diet was convened at Nuremburg, to form a code of laws, regulating the rights and privileges of the spiritual and temporal authorities. The result of the diets labors was published in a celebrated edict, called a Golden Bull, from the bulla, or seal of gold, affixed to the document (A. D. 1356). This bull fixed the order and form of the imperial elections, and the ceremonial of the coronation. It ordained that the crown should be given by the plurality of votes of seven electors; the prince chosen emperor having a right to give his suffrage. The right of voting was restricted to possessors of seven principalities, called electorates, of which the partition was prohibited, and the regularity of their inheritance secured by a strict law of primogeniture. Finally, the Golden Bull defined the rights and privileges of the several electors, confirming to the princes of the Palatinate and Saxony the administration of the empire during an interreg
The next reign, nevertheless, evinced the danger of investing the electors with such preponderating authority. Wenceslaus, the son and successor of Charles, was a supine and voluptuous prince, who paid little attention to the interests of the empire ; he was deposed by a plurality of votes (A. D. 1400), and Robert
, the elector palatine, chosen in his stead. Several of the states continued to acknowledge Wenceslaus, but Robert is usually regarded as the legitimate emperor. On Robert's death, the empire returned to the house of Luxemburg, Wenceslaus having consented to resign his pretensions in favor of his brother Sigismond, king of Hungary.
A cloud had long hung over the house of Hapsburgh ; it was dispelled by the fortunate union of Albert, duke of Austria, with Sigis. mond's only daughter, queen in her own right of Hungary and Bohemia. On the death of his father-in-law (A. D. 1437), he succeeded to the empire, but survived his elevation only two years. Albert's posthumous son Ladislaus inherited his mother's realms; his cousin Frederic, duke of Stiria, was chosen emperor, and from his posterity the imperial dignity never departed until the extinction of his male issue (A. D. 1740).
The wise policy of Philip Augustus, in weakening the power of the feudal aristocracy and reuniting the great fiess to the crown, was vigorously pursued by his successors, but by none more effectually than Philip the Fair. On the death of that monarch (A. D. 1314), the king of France was undoubtedly the most powerful sovereign in Europe. Philip left three sons, who successively reigned in France ; Louis, surnamed Hutin, Philip the Long, and Charles the Fair; together with a daughter named Isabel, married to Edward II., king of England. The three French sovereigns just mentioned, died without leaving male issue ; all had daughters, but Philip and Charles asserted that no female could inherit the crown of France. The claims founded on this law of succession were but slightly questioned ; and on the death of Charles IV., Philip, Count de Valois, the nearest male heir, ascended the throne without encountering any immediate opposition (A. D. 1328). Edward III. of England resolved to claim the kingdom in right of his mother Isabel, but the distractions of his native dominions long presented insuperable obstacles to his projects. He even did liege homage to Philip for the province of Guienne, and for several years gave no sign of meditating such a mighty enterprise as the conquest of France.
Aided liy his son, the celebrated Black Prince, the English monarch invaded France, and, contrary to the opinions of all the contemporary princes, was everywhere victorious (A. D. 1338). The war was maintained by Philip of Valois, and his son and successor John, with more