OUR LEGAL HERITAGE The first thousand years: 600 - 1600 King AEthelbert - Queen Elizabeth
Part 6 out of 7
for example of the Bible and Aristotle. There had long been
displeasure with the priests of the church. They were supposed to
preach four times yearly, visit the sick, say the daily
liturgies, and hear confessions at least yearly. But there were
many lapses. Many were not celibate, and some openly lived with a
woman and had children. Complaints about them included not
residing within their parish community, doing other work such as
raising crops, and taking too much in probate, mortuary, and
marriage fees. Probate fees had risen from at most 5s. to 60s. in
the last century. Mortuary fees ranged from 1/3 to 1/9 of a
deceased person's goods. Sanctuary was abused. People objected to
the right of arrest by ecclesiastical authorities.
Also, most parish priests did not have a theology degree or even
a Bachelor's degree, as did many laymen. In fact, many laymen
were better educated than the parish priests. No one other than a
laborer was illiterate in the towns.
Humanist grammar [secondary] schools were established in London
by merchants and guilds. Classical Latin and Greek were taught
and the literature of the best classical authors was read.
Education was opened up to women. Secondary education teachers
were expected to know Latin and Greek and have studied the
ancient philosophers, history, and geography. The method of
teaching was for the teacher to read text-books to the class from
a prepared curriculum. The students learned how to read and to
write, to develop and amplify a theme by logical analysis, and to
essay on the same subject in the narrative, persuasive,
argumentative, commending, consoling, and inciting styles.
Disobedience incurred flogging by teacher as well as by parents.
Spare the rod and spoil the child was the philosophy. There were
two week vacations at Christmas and at Easter.
Oxford University was granted a charter which put the greater
part of the town under control of the Chancellor and scholars.
The mayor of Oxford was required to take an oath at his election
to maintain the privileges and customs of the university.
The physicians of London were incorporated to oversee and govern
the practice of medicine. A faculty of physicians was established
at Oxford and Cambridge. Only graduates of the new College of
Physicians or of Oxford or Cambridge may practice medicine or
Geoffrey Chaucer's "Canterbury Tales" was a popular book. Through
Chaucer, London English became a national standard and the notion
of "correct pronunciation" came into being.
The discoveries and adventures of Amerigo Vespucci, a Portuguese
explorer, were widely read. The North and South American
continents were named for him.
London merchant guilds started to cease to be trading
organizations and began to be identified mainly with hospitality
and benevolence. The leading men of these guilds were generally
aldermen and the guilds acted like municipal committees of trade
and manufactures. Then they acted like a state department for the
superintendence of the trade and manufactures of London. They
were called Livery Companies and categorized their memberships in
three grades: mere membership, livery membership, and placement
on the governing body. Livery membership was distinguished by
having the clothing of the brotherhood and were usually those who
bought membership and paid higher fees because they were richer.
Most of these companies had almshouses attached to their halls
for the impoverished, disabled, and elderly members and their
widows and children. For instance, many members of the goldsmiths
had been blinded by the fire and smoke of quick silver and some
members had been rendered crazed and infirm by working in that
trade. The pensions of the liverymen were larger than those of
mere members and they generally had a right to a place at those
banquets which are chartered franchises, and they are invited by
the governing body, as a matter of favor, to other
entertainments. The freedom and rights of citizenship of the city
could only be obtained through membership in a livery company.
There are 26 wards of London as of 1550. This is the number for
the next four centuries. Each has an alderman, a clerk, and a
Though there was much agreement on the faults of the church and
the need to reform it, there were many disagreements on what
philosophy of life should take the place of church teachings. The
humanist Thomas More was a university trained intellectual. His
book "Utopia", idealized an imaginary society of pagans living
according to the principles of natural virtue. In it, everything
is owned in common and there is no need for money. There is
agreement that there is a God who created the world and all good
things and who guides men. But otherwise people choose their
religious beliefs and their priests. From this perspective, the
practices of current Christians, scholastic theologicians,
priests and monks, superstition, and ritual look absurd. He
encouraged a religious revival. Aristotle's position that
virtuous men would rule best is successfully debated against
Plato's position that intellectuals and philosophers would be the
More plead for proportion between punishment and crime. He urged
that theft no longer be punished by death because this only
encouraged the thief to murder his victim to eliminate evidence
of the theft. He opined that the purpose of punishment was to
reform offenders. He advocated justice for the poor to the
standard of justice received by the rich.
Erasmus, a former monk, visited the nation for a couple of years
and argued that reason should prevail over religious belief. He
wrote the book "In Praise of Folly", which noted man's elaborate
pains in misdirected efforts to gain the wrong thing. For
instance, it questioned what man would stick his head into the
halter of marriage if he first weighed the inconveniences of that
life? Or what woman would ever embrace her husband if she foresaw
or considered the dangers of childbirth and the drudgery of
motherhood? Childhood and senility are the most pleasant stages
of life because ignorance is bliss. Old age forgetfulness washes
away the cares of the mind. A foolish and doting old man is freed
from the miseries that torment the wise and has the chief joy of
life: garrulousness. The seekers of wisdom are the farthest from
happiness; they forget the human station to which they were born
and use their arts as engines with which to attack nature. The
least unhappy are those who approximate the naiveness of the
beastsand who never attempt what is beyond men. As an example, is
anyone happier than a moron or fool? Their cheerful confusion of
the mind frees the spirit from care and gives it many-sided
delights. Fools are free from the fear of death and from the
pangs of conscience. They are not filled with vain worries and
hopes. They are not troubled by the thousand cares to which this
life is subject. They experience no shame, fear, ambition, envy,
or love. In a world where man are mostly at odds, all agree in
their attitude towards these innocents. They are sought after and
sheltered; everyone permits them to do and say what they wish
with impunity. However, the usual opinion is that nothing is more
lamentable than madness. The Christian religion has some kinship
with folly, while it has none at all with wisdom. For proof of
this, notice that children, old people, women, and fools take
more delight than anyone else in holy and religious things, led
no doubt solely by instinct. Next, notice that the founders of
religion have prized simplicity and have been the bitterest foes
of learning. Finally, no people act more foolishly than those who
have been truly possessed with Christian piety. They give away
whatever is theirs; they overlook injuries, allow themselves to
be cheated, make no distinction between friends and enemies, shun
pleasure, and feast on hunger, vigils, tears, labors, and scorn.
They disdain life, and utterly prefer death. In short, they have
become altogether indifferent to ordinary interests, as if their
souls lived elsewhere and not in their bodies. What is this, if
not to be mad? The life of Christians is run over with nonsense.
They make elaborate funeral arrangements, with candles, mourners,
singers, and pallbearers. They must think that their sight will
be returned to them after they are dead, or that their corpses
will fall ashamed at not being buried grandly. Christian
theologians, in order to prove a point, will pluck out four or
five words from different places, even falsifying the sense of
them if necessary, and disregard the fact that the context is
irrelevant or even contradicts the point, They do this with such
brazen skill that our lawyers are often jealous of them.
Lawyer Christopher St. German wrote the legal treatise "Doctor
and Student", in which he deems the law of natural reason to be
supreme and eternal. The law of God and the law of man, as
enunciated by the church and royalty, merely supplement the law
of natural reason and may change from time to time. Examples of
the law of reason are: It is good to be loved. Evil is to be
avoided. Do onto others as you would have them do unto you. Do
nothing against the truth. Live peacefully with others. Justice
is to be done to every man. No one is to wrong another. A
trespasser should be punished. From these is deduced that a man
should love his benefactor. It is lawful to put away force with
force. It is lawful for every man to defend himself and his goods
against an unlawful power.
Like his father, Henry VIII dominated Parliament. He used this
power to reform the church of England in the 1530's. The
Protestant reformation cause had become identified with his
efforts to have his marriage of eighteen years to the virtuous
Catherine annulled so he could marry a much younger woman: Anne.
His purported reason was to have a son. The end of his six
successive wives was: divorced, beheaded, died; divorced,
beheaded, survived. Henry VIII was egotistical, arrogant, and
self-indulgent. This nature allowed him to declare himself the
head of the church of England instead of the pope.
Henry used and then discarded officers of state e.g. by executing
them for supposed treason. One such was Thomas Wolsey, the son of
a town butcher, was another supporter of classical learning. He
rose through the church, the gateway to advancement in a
diversity of occupations of clergy such as secretary, librarian,
teacher, lawyer, doctor, author, civil servant, diplomat, and
statesman. He was a court priest when he aligned himself with
Henry, both of whom wanted power and glory and dressed
extravagantly. But he was brilliant and more of a strategist than
Henry. Wolsey was a reformer by name and started a purge of
criminals, vagrants and prostitutes within. London, bringing many
before the council. But most of his reforming plans were not
brought to fruition, but ended after his campaign resulted in
more power for himself. Wolsey rose to be Chancellor to the King
and Archbishop of York. As the representative of the Pope for
England, he exercised almost full papal authority there. But he
controlled the church in England in the King's interest. He was
second only to the King. He also came to control the many courts.
Wolsey centralized the church in England and dissolved the
smaller monasteries, the proceeds of which he used to build
colleges at Oxford and his home town. He was an impartial and
When Wolsey was not able to convince the pope to give Henry a
divorce, Henry dismissed him and took his property, shortly after
which Wolsey died.
The King replaced Wolsey as Chancellor with Thomas More, after
whom he made Thomas Cromwell Chancellor. Cromwell was the son of
a clothworker and a self-taught lawyer, arbitrator, merchant, and
accountant. Like Wolsey, he was a natural orator. He drafted and
had passed legislation that created a new church of England. He
had all men swear an oath to the terms of the succession act.
Thomas More was known for his honesty and was a highly respected
man. More did not yield to Henry's bullying for support for his
statute declaring the succession to be vested in the children of
his second marriage, and his statute declaring himself the
supreme head of the church of England, instead of the pope. He
did not expressly deny the supremacy act, so was not guilty of
treason under its terms. But silence did not save him. He was
attainted for treason on specious grounds and beheaded. He
conviction rested on the testimony of one perjured witness, who
misquoted More as saying that Parliament did not have the power
to require assent to the supremacy act because it was repugnant
to the common law of Christendom.
Through his host of spies, Cromwell heard what men said to their
closest friends. Words idly spoken were tortured into treason.
Henry had many bills of attainder passed by Parliament. Silence
was a person's only possibility of safety. Fear spread through
Cromwell developed a technique for the management of the House of
Commons which lasted for generations. He promulgated books in
defense of royal spiritual authority, which argued that canon law
was not divine but merely human and that clerical authority had
no foundation in the Bible. A reformed English Bible was put in
all parish churches. Reformers were licensed to preach. Cromwell
ordered sermons to be said which proclaimed the supremacy of the
King. He instituted registers to record baptisms, marriages, and
burials in every county, for the purpose of reducing disputes
over descent and inheritance. He dissolved all the lesser
When Cromwell procured a foreign wife for Henry whom Henry found
unattractive, he was attainted and executed.
Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, wrote the first English
Common Book of Prayer. With its use beginning in 1549, Church
services were to be held in English instead of Latin. The mass,
thought to be a miracle performed by priests, was to be replaced
by communion shared by all. The mass, prayers for souls in
purgatory, miracles, the worship of saints, and pilgrimages to
shrines such as that of Thomas Becket, were all to be
discontinued. Imprisonment or exile rather than death was made
the penalty for heresy and blasphemy, and also for adultery.
After the King dissolved the greater monasteries, he took and
sold their ornaments, silver plate and jewelry, lead from roofs
of their buildings, and finally much of the land itself. He took
away from the church control of Bethlehem Hospital, a madhouse
for the mentally ill known as "Bedlam".
Henry used the proceeds from the sale of the monasteries for
building many new palaces and wood ships for his navy. In war,
these navy ships had heavy guns which could sink other ships. In
peace time, these ships were hired out to traders.
The former land of the monasteries, about 30% of the country's
land, was sold and resold or leased. Some went to entrepreneurial
cloth manufacturers, who converted the buildings for the
manufacture of cloth. They bought the raw wool and hired
craftsmen for every step of the manufacturing process to be done
in one continuous process. This was faster than buying and
selling the wool material between craftsmen who lived in
different areas. Also, it was more efficient because the amount
of raw wool bought could be adjusted to the demand for cloth.
Many landowners now could live in towns exclusively off the rents
of their rural land. Rents were increased so much that tenants
could not pay and were evicted. They usually became beggars or
thieves. Much of their former land was converted from crop
raising to pasture for large herds of sheep. Arable farming
required many workers, whereas sheep farming required only one
shepherd and herdsman. Villeinage was now virtually extinct.
There were exceptional profits made from the export of wool
cloth. But much raw wool was still exported. It's price went up
from 6s.8d. per tod in 1840 to 20s.8d. in 1546.
There was steady inflation. Landlords made their leases short
term so that they could raise rents as prices rose.
At least 85% of the population still lived in the country. Rich
traders built town or country houses in which the emphasis was on
comfort and privacy. There was more furniture, bigger windows
filled with glass, wallpaper, and formal gardens. Some floors
were tiled instead of stone or wood. They were still strewn with
straw. The owners ate in a private dining room and slept in their
own rooms with down quilts. Their soap was white. They had
clothing of white linen and white wool, leather slippers, and
The King, earls, who ruled counties, and barons, who had land and
a place in the House of Lords, still lived in the most comfort.
The King's house had courtyards, gardens, orchards, wood-yards,
tennis courts, and bowling alleys.
Lawyers had more work with the new laws passed to replace the
canons of the church. They played an important role in town
government and many became wealthy. They acquired town houses in
addition to their rural estates.
The walls of the towns were manned by the citizens themselves,
with police and watchmen at their disposal. In inns, travelers
slept ten to a bed and there were many fleas and an occasional
rat or mouse running through the rushes strewn on the floor. The
inn provided a bed and ale, but travelers brought their own food.
Each slept with his purse under his pillow.
In markets, sellers set up booths for their wares. They sold
grain for making oatmeal or for sowing one's own ground. Wine,
butter, cheese, fish, chicken, and candles could also be bought.
Butchers bought killed sheep, lambs, calves, and pigs to cut up
for selling. Tanned leather was sold to girdle-makers and
shoemakers. Goods bought in markets were presumed not to be
stolen, so that a purchaser could not be dispossessed of goods
bought unless he had knowledge that they were stolen.
The ruling group of the towns came to be composed mostly of
merchants, manufacturers, lawyers, and physicians. Some
townswomen were independent traders. The governed class contained
small master craftsmen and journeyman artisans, small traders,
and dependent servants. The major streets of London were paved
with stone, with a channel in the middle. More water conduits
from hills, heaths, and springs were built to provide the
citizens of London with more water.
The idea of competition appeared. Each man sought to be richer
than his neighbors.
The cloth, mining, iron, and woodcraft industries employed
full-time workers on wages.
Land held in common was partitioned. There were leases of mansion
houses, smaller dwelling houses, houses with a wharf having a
crane, houses with a timber yard, houses with a garden, houses
with a shed, shops, warehouses, cellars, and stables. Land with a
dye-house or a brew-house were devised by will along with their
dying or brewing implements. There were dairies making butter and
The knights had 70% of the land, the nobles 10%, the church 10%,
and the King 5%.
Citizens paid taxes to the King amounting to one tenth of their
annual income from land or wages. The national government was
much centralized and had full-time workers on wages. A national
commission of sewers continually surveyed walls, ditches, banks,
gutters, sewers, ponds, bridges, rivers, streams, mills, locks,
trenches, fish-breeding ponds, and flood-gates. When low places
were threatened with flooding, it hired laborers, bought timber,
and hired carts with horses or oxen for necessary work. Mayors of
cities repaired water conduits and pipes under the ground in
Most people dressed according to the apparel laws, which were
updated from time to time. The used tin or pewter dishes,
platters, goblets, saucers, spoons, saltcellars, pots, and
basins. They used soap to wash themselves, their clothes, and
their dishes. They had bedcovers on their beds. Cloth bore the
mark of its weaver and came in many colors. Cloth could be held
together with pins that had a shank with a hook by which they
were closed. People went to barbers to cut their hair and to
extract teeth. They went to people experienced with herbs, roots,
and waters for treatment of skin conditions such as sores, cuts,
burns, swellings, irritated eyes or scaly faces. For more
complicated ailments, they went to physicians, who prescribed
drugs and medicines. They bought drugs and medicines from
apothecaries and pharmacists. They burned wood logs in the
fireplaces in their houses. So much wood was used that young
trees were required by statute to be given enough lateral space
to spread their limbs and were not cut down until mature.
All people generally had enough food because of the
commercialization of agriculture. Also, roads were good enough
for the transport of foodstuffs thereon. Goods were also
transported by the pulling of barges on the rivers from paths
along the river.
Church reforms included abolishing church sanctuaries. Benefit of
clergy was restricted. Archbishops were selected by the King.
Decisions by archbishops in testamentary, matrimonial, and
divorce matters were appealable to the Court of Chancery instead
of to the pope. The clergy's canons were subject to the King's
- The Law -
A person having land in socage or fee simple may will and devise
his land by will or testament in writing.
A person holding land by knight's service may will and devise by
his last will and testament in writing part of his land to his
wife and other parts of his land to his children, as long as 1/3
of entailed land is left to the King.
Anyone serving the King in war may alienate his lands for the
performance of his will, and if he dies, his feoffees or
executors shall have the wardship of his heir and land.
A person who leases land for a term of years, even if by
indenture or without a writing, may have a court remedy as do
tenants of freehold for any expulsion by the lessor which is
contrary to the lease, covenant, or agreement. These termers,
their executors and assigns, shall hold and enjoy their terms
against the lessors, their heirs and assigns. The lessor shall
have a remedy for rents due or waste by a termor after recovering
the land as well as if he had not recovered the land.
A lord may distrain land within his fee for rents, customs, or
services due without naming the tenant, because of the existence
of secret feoffments and leases made by their tenants to unknown
Anyone seised of land to the use or trust of other persons by
reason of a will or conveyance shall be held to have lawful
seisin and possession of the land, because by common law, land is
not devisable by will or testament, yet land has been so
conveyed, which has deprived married men of their courtesy, women
of their dower, the King of the lands of persons attainted, the
King of a year's profits of the of felons, and lords their
A woman may not have both a jointure and dower of her husband's
had purchased land to hold jointly with their wives)
A sale of land must be in writing, sealed, and registered in its
county with the clerk of that county. If the land is worth less
than 40s. per year, the clerk is paid 12d. If the land exceeds
40s. yearly, the clerk is paid 2s.6d.
An adult may lease his lands or tenements only by a writing under
his seal for a term of years or a term of life, because many
people who had taken leases of lands and tenements for a term of
years or a term of lives had to spend a lot for repair and were
then evicted by heirs of their lessors.
A husband may not lease out his wife's land.
No woman covert, child, idiot, or person of insane memory may
devise land by will or testament.
The land of tenants-in-common may be partitioned by them so that
each holds a certain part.
No bishop or other official having authority to take probate of
testaments may take a fee for probating a testament where the
goods of the testator are under 100s., except that the scribe
writing the probate of the testament may take 6d., and for the
commission of administration of the goods of any man dying
intestate, being up to 100s, may be charged 6d. Where the goods
are over 100s. but up to 800s. sterling, probate fees may be
3s.6d. at most, whereof the official may take 2s.6d. at most,
with 12d. residue to the scribe for registering the testament.
Where the goods are over 800s. sterling, probate fees may be 5s.
at most, whereof the official may take 2s.6d. at most, with
2s.6d. residue to the scribe, or the scribe may choose to take
1d. per 10 lines of writing of the testament. If the deceased had
willed by his testament any land to be sold, the money thereof
coming nor the profits of the land shall not be counted as the
goods or chattel of the deceased. Where probate fees have
customarily been less, they shall remain the same. The official
shall approve and seal the testament without delay and deliver it
to the executors named in such testaments for the said sum. If a
person dies intestate or executors refuse to prove the testament,
then the official shall grant the administration of the goods to
the widow of the deceased person, or to the next of kin, or to
both, in the discretion of the official, taking surety of them
for the true administration of the goods, chattels, and debts.
Where kin of unequal degree request the administration, it shall
be given to the wife and, at his discretion, other requestors.
The executors or administrators, along with at least two persons
to whom the deceased was indebted, or to whom legacies were made,
or, upon their refusal or absence, two honest kinsmen, shall make
an inventory of the deceased's goods, chattels, ware,
merchandise, as well moveable as not moveable, and take it upon
their oaths to the official.
No parish priest or other spiritual person shall take a mortuary
or money from a deceased person with moveable goods under the
value of 133s., a deceased woman covert baron, a child, a person
keeping no house, or a traveler. Only one mortuary may be taken
of each deceased and that in the place where he most dwelled and
habited. Where the deceased's moveable goods are to the value of
133s. or more, above his debts paid, and under 600s., a mortuary
up to 3s. 4d. may be taken. Where such goods are 600s. or more
and under 800s., mortuary up to 6s.8d. may be taken. Where such
goods are 800s. or above, mortuary up to 10s. may be taken. But
where mortuaries have customarily been less, they shall remain
Executors of a will declaring land to be sold for the payment of
debts, performance of legacies to wife and children, and
charitable deeds for the health of souls, may sell the land
despite the refusal of other executors to agree to such sale.
A man may not marry his mother, step-mother, sister, niece, aunt,
Only marriages which have not been consummated may be dissolved
The entry of an apprentice into a craft shall not cost more than
2s.6d. After his term, his entry shall not be more than 3s.4d.
This replaced the various fees ranging from this to 40s.
No master of a craft may require his apprentice to make an oath
not to compete with him by setting up a shop after the term of
No alien may take up a craft or occupation in the nation.
No brewer of ale or beer to sell shall make wood vessels or
barrels, and coopers shall use only good and seasonable wood to
make barrels and shall put their mark thereon. Every ale or beer
barrel shall contain 32 of the King's standard gallons. The price
of beer barrels sold to ale or beer brewers or others shall be
An ale-brewer may employ in his service one cooper only to bind,
hoop and pin, but not to make, his master's ale vessels.
No butcher may keep a tanning-house.
Tanned leather shall be sold only in open fairs and markets and
after it is inspected and sealed.
Only people living in designated towns may make cloth, to prevent
the ruin of these towns by people taking up both agriculture and
cloth-making outside these towns.
No one shall shoot in or keep in his house any hand-gun or
cross-bow unless he has 2,000s. yearly.
No one may hunt or kill rabbits in the snow since their killing
in great numbers by men other than the King and noblemen has
No one shall take an egg or bird of any falcon or hawk out of its
nest on the King's land. No one may disguise himself with hidden
or painted face to enter a forest or park enclosed with a wall
for keeping deer to steal any deer or rabbit.
Ducks and geese shall not be taken with any net or device during
the summer, when they haven't enough feathers to fly. But a
freeholder of 40s. yearly may hunt and take such with long bow
No one may sell or buy any pheasant except the King's officers
may buy such for the King.
No butcher may kill any calf born in the spring.
No grain, beef, mutton, veal, or pork may be sold outside the
Every person with 36 acres of agricultural land, shall sow one
quarter acre with flax or hemp-feed.
All persons shall kill crows on their land to prevent them from
eating so much grain at sowing and ripening time and destroying
hay-stacks and the thatched roofs of houses and barns. They shall
assemble yearly to survey all the land to decide how best to
destroy all the young breed of crows for that year. Every village
and town with at least ten households shall put up and maintain
crow nets for the destruction of crows.
No land used for crop-raising may be converted to pasture.
No woods may be converted to agriculture or pasture.
No one shall cut down or break up dikes holding salt water and
fresh water from flooding houses and pastures.
No one shall dump tin-mining debris, dung, or rubbish into rivers
flowing into ports or take any wood from the walls of the port,
so that ships may always enter at low tide.
A person may lay out a new highway on his land where the old one
has been so damaged by waterways that horses with carriages
cannot pass, with the consent of local officials.
Only poor, aged, and disabled persons may beg. Begging without a
license is punishable by whipping or setting in the stocks 3 days
with only bread and water.
Alien palm readers shall no longer be allowed into the nation,
because they have been committing felonies and robberies.
Butchers may not sell beef, pork, mutton, or veal from carcasses
for more than 1/2 penny and 1/2 farthing [1/4 penny] per pound.
French wines may not sell at retail for more than 8d. per gallon.
A barrel maker or cooper may sell a beer barrel for 10d.
No longer may aliens bring books into the nation to sell because
now there are sufficient printers and book-binders in the nation.
No one may buy fresh fish other than sturgeon, porpoise, or seal
from an alien to put to sale in the nation.
Every person with an enclosed park where there are deer, shall
keep two tall and strong mares in such park and shall not allow
them to be mounted by any short horse, because the breeding of
good, swift, and strong horses has diminished.
A man may have only as many trotting horses for the saddle as are
appropriate to his degree.
No one may maintain for a living a house for unlawful games such
as bowling, tennis, dice, or cards. No artificer, craftsman,
husbandman, apprentice, laborer, journeyman, mariner, fisherman
may play these games except at Christmas under his master's
supervision. Noblemen and others with a yearly income of at least
2,000s. may allow his servants to play these games at his house.
Hemp of flax may not be watered in any river or stream where
animals are watered.
No one shall sell merchandise to another and then buy back the
same merchandise within three months at a lower price. No one
shall sell merchandise to be paid for in a year above the sum of
200s. per 2000s. worth of merchandise. No one shall sell or
mortgage any land upon condition of payment of a sum of money
before a certain date above the sum of 200s. per 2000s. per year.
No one shall commit forgery by counterfeiting a letter made in
another person's name to steal any money, goods, or jewels.
No one shall libel by accusing another of treason in writing and
leaving it in an open place without subscribing his own name to
If any servant converts to his own use more than 40s. worth of
jewels, money, or goods from caskets entrusted to him for
safekeeping by a nobleman or other master or mistress, it shall
be a felony.
If a person breaks into a dwelling house by night to commit
burglary or murder, is killed by anyone in that house, or a
person is killed in self-defense, the killer shall not forfeit
any lands or goods for the killing.
Killing by poisoning shall be deemed murder and is punishable by
A person who has committed a murder, robbery, or other felony he
has committed shall be imprisoned for his natural life and be
burned on the hand, because those who have been exiled have
disclosed their knowledge of the commodities and secrets of this
nation and gathered together to practice archery for the benefit
of the foreign realm. If he escapes such imprisonment, he shall
forfeit his life.
A person convicted or outlawed shall be penalized by loss of
life, but not loss of lands or goods, which shall go to his wife
as dower and his heirs.
Buggery may not be committed on any person or beast.
No one shall slander or libel the King by speeches or writing or
printing or painting.
No one shall steal fish from a pond on another's land by using
nets or hooks with bait or by drying up the pond.
The mayor of London shall appoint householders to supervise
watermen rowing people across the Thames River because so many
people have been robbed and drowned by these rowers. All such
boats must be at least 23 feet long and 5 feet wide.
No man shall take away or marry any maiden under 16 years of age
with an inheritance against the will of her father.
Any marriage solemnized in church and consummated shall be valid
regardless of any prior contract for marriage.
Sheriffs shall not lose their office because they have not
collected enough money for the Exchequer, but shall have
allowances sufficient to perform their duties.
Butchers, brewers, and bakers shall not conspire together to sell
their victuals only at certain prices. Artificers, workmen and
laborers shall not conspire to work only at a certain rate or
only at certain hours of the day.
No one shall sell any woolen cloth that shrinks when it is wet.
Only artificers using the cutting of leather, may buy and sell
tanned leather and only for the purpose of converting it into
A beggar's child above five years may be taken into service by
anyone that will.
Cattle may be bought only in the open fair or market and only by
a butcher or for a household, team, or dairy, but not for resale
Butter and cheese shall not be bought to be sold again except at
retail in open shop, fair, or market.
No man may enter a craft of cloth-making until he has been an
apprentice for seven years or has married a clothiers' wife and
practicing the trade for years with her and her servants sorting
No country person shall sell wares such as linen drapery, wool
drapery, hats, or groceries by retail in any incorporated town,
but only in open fairs.
For every 60 sheep there shall be kept one milk cow because of
the scarcity of cattle.
No clothier may keep more than one wool loom in his house,
because many weavers do not have enough work to support their
families. No weaver may have more than two wool looms.
No cloth-maker, fuller, shearman, weaver, tailor, or shoemaker
shall retain a journeyman to work by the piece for less than a
three month period. Every craftsman who has three apprentices
shall have one journeyman. Servants in agriculture and bargemen
shall serve by the whole year and not by day wages.
There shall be a sales tax of 12d. per pound of wool cloth goods
for the Crown.
All people shall attend church on Sundays to remember God's
benefits and goodness to all and to give thanks for these with
prayers and to pray to be given daily necessities.
Anyone fighting in church shall be excluded from the fellowship
of the parish community.
No one shall use a rope or device to stretch cloth for sale so to
make it appear as more in quantity than it is.
No one may sell cloth at retail unless the town where it was
dressed, dyed, and pressed has placed its seal on the cloth.
Cloth may not be pressed with a hot press, but only with a cold
Offices may not be bought and sold, but only granted by justices
of the royal courts.
No one going from house to house to repair metal goods or sell
small goods he is carrying may do this trade outside the town
where he lives.
No one may sell ale or beer without a license, because there have
been too many disorders in common alehouses. Offenders may be put
in the town or county jail for three days.
French wine may not be sold for more than 8d. per gallon.
Only persons with yearly incomes of 1,333s. or owning goods worth
13,333s. may store wine in his house and only for the use of his
No one may sell forged iron, calling it steel, because the edged
tools and weapons made from it are useless.
Parish communities shall repair the highways for four days each
year using oxen, cart, plough, shovels, and spades.
The children of priests are declared legitimate so they may
inherit their ancestor's lands. The priests may be tenants by
courtesy after the death of their wives of such land and
tenements that their wives happened to be seized of in fee simple
or in fee tail, during the spousals.
- Judicial Procedure -
Doctors of the civil law may practice in the church or Chancery
Justices shall tax inhabitants of the county for building jails
throughout the nation, for imprisonment of felons, to be kept by
the sheriffs and repaired out of the Exchequer.
Piracy at sea or in river or creek or port are adjudicated in
shires because of the difficulty of obtaining witnesses from the
ship, who might be murdered or who are on other voyages on the
sea, for adjudication by the admiral.
Piracy and murder on ships is punishable by death only after
confession or proof by disinterested witnesses.
Land held by tenants in common may be partitioned by court order,
because some of these tenants have cut down all the trees to take
the wood and pulled down the houses to convert the material to
their own use.
Persons worth 800s. a year in goods shall be admitted in trials
of felons in corporate towns although they have no freehold of
Each justice of the high courts may employ one chaplain.
The Privy Council took the authority of the star court, which
organized itself as a specialty court. Also, a specific group of
full-time councilors heard pleas of private suitors.
The bishops, nobility, and Justices of the Peace were commanded
to imprison clergy who taught papal authority. Justices of the
Peace and sheriffs were to watch over the bishops. The Justices
of Assize were to assess the effectiveness of the Justices of the
Peace as well as enforce the treason act on circuit.
The criminal court had no jury and went outside the common law to
prosecute political enemies.
Since the nation was now peaceful, expediency was no longer
needed, so judicial procedures again became lengthy and formal
All pleadings and usually testimony was put into writing in
Witnesses could be sworn in to state pertinent facts necessary
for full understanding and adjudication of cases, because they
are reliable now that there is no livery and maintenance and
because jurors no longer necessarily know all the relevant facts.
- The Times: 1558-1603 -
Queen Elizabeth I was intelligent, educated, and wise about human
nature. When young, she was a brilliant student. Then, she
studied much history, philosophy, and oratory. She wrote in
English, Latin, French, and Italian. She read Greek, including
the Greek Testament, Greek orators, and Greek dramatists at age
seven, when the first professorship of Greek was founded at
Cambridge University. Book-learning was one of her highest values
throughout her life. She had good judgment in selecting her
ministers and advisors for her Privy Council. Like her father and
grandfather, she dominated Parliament.
She was so influenced by her reading of Cicero that she acquired
his style of writing. Her Chief Secretary William Cecil was so
guided by Cicero's "Offices" that he carried a copy in his
pocket. Cicero opined that government officials' duty was to make
the safety and interest of citizens its greatest aim and to
design all their thoughts and endeavors without ever considering
personal advantage. Government was not to serve the interest of
any one group to the prejudice or neglect of the rest, for then
discord and sedition would occur. Furthermore, a governor should
try to become loved and not feared, because men hated those whom
they feared, and wished dead those whom they hated. Therefore
obedience proceeding from fear could not last, whereas that which
was the effect of love would last forever. An oppressor ruling by
terror will be resented by the citizens, who in secret will
choose a worthier person. Then liberty, having been chained up,
would be unleashed more fiercely than otherwise. To obtain the
peoples' love, a governor should be kind and bountiful. To obtain
the peoples' trust, a governor should be just, wise, and
faithful. To demonstrate this, a governor should be eloquent in
showing the people an understanding better than theirs, the
wisdom to anticipate events, and the ability to deal with adverse
events. And this demonstration should be done with modesty. One
cannot get the peoples' trust by vain shows, hypocritical
pretenses, composed countenances, and studied forms of words. The
first goal of a governor is to take care that each individual is
secured in the quiet enjoyment of his own property. The second
goal is to impose taxes that are not burdensome. The third goal
is to furnish the people with necessaries. The law should be
enforced keeping in mind that its fundamental purpose is to keep
up agreement and union among citizens.
Elizabeth cared deeply for the welfare of all citizens of
whatever class. She was sensitive to public opinion and wanted to
be loved by her people, which she was. She was frugal and
diplomatically avoided unnecessary wars, saying that her purse
was the pockets of her people. England was a small Protestant
nation threatened by the larger Catholic nations of France and
Spain. Elizabeth flirted with foreign princes to make them waste
their time trying to get England by marrying her instead of by
war. Her promotion of commercial speculations diffused a vast
increase of wealth among her people. Her good spirits and gayness
created a happy mood in the nation. The Elizabethan era was one
of general prosperity.
Elizabeth dressed elaborately and fancifully in dress as well as
in head apparel. Her dresses were fitted at the waist with hoops
in the skirt holding it out. There were two layers of skirt with
the top one parted to show the bottom one. The materials used
were silks, satins, velvets, and brocades. On her dress were
quiltings, slashings, and embroidery. They were covered with gold
ornaments, pearls, and gems from America. Ladies discarded their
simple dresses for elaborate ones. Married women curled their
hair and wore it in high masses on their heads. They wore hats
both indoors and outside. Single women did not wear hats, but had
long, flowing hair and low cut dresses showing their bosoms. Both
gentlemen and ladies wore large, pleated collars around their
necks, perfume, and high-heeled shoes. Gentlemen's' sleeves,
doublet, and cloak were ornamented and their silk or velvet hats
flamboyant, with feathers. There were various artistic beard cuts
and various lengths of hair, which was often curled and worn in
ringlets. They now wore breeches and stockings instead of long
hosen. Both men and women wore silk stockings and socks over them
and then boots. Coats dipped in boiled linseed oil with resin
served as raincoats. Fashions changed every year. When Elizabeth
became old, she had a wig made to match her youthful long red
hair. Other ladies began wearing wigs.
Since so many of the women who spent their days spinning were
single, unmarried women became known as "spinsters".
Children were given milk at meals for good growth. It was
recognized that sickness could be influenced by diet and herbs.
Sickness was still viewed as an imperfect balance of the four
elements of air, water, fire, and earth in a person.
There were many lifestyle possibilities in the nation:
independently wealthy with 40s. yearly or goods worth 200s.;
gentleman, that is one who owned land or was in a profession such
as an attorney, physician, priest or who was a university
graduate, government official, or a military officer; employment
in agriculture, arts, sciences; employment in households and
offices of noblemen and gentlemen; independent farmers with their
own farm; fisherman or mariner on the sea or apprentice of such;
employment by carriers of grain into cities, by market towns, for
digging, seeking, finding, getting, melting, fining, working,
trying, making of any silver, tin, lead, iron, copper, stone,
Typical wages in the country were: fieldworkers 2-3d. a day,
ploughmen 1s. a week with board, shepherd 6d. a week and board,
his boy 2 1/2 d., hedgers 6d. a day, threshers 3-7d. depending on
the grain, thatching for five days 2d., master mason or carpenter
or joiner 4d. a day and food or 8d. without food, a smith 2d. a
day with food, a bricklayer 2 1/2 d. a day with food, a shoemaker
2d. a day with food. These people lived primarily on food from
his own ground.
There was typical work for each month of the year in the country:
January -ditching and hedging after the frost broke, February -
catch moles in the meadows, March - protect the sheep from
prowling dogs, April - put up hop poles, sell bark to the tanner
before the timber is felled, fell elm and ash for carts and
ploughs, fell hazel for forks, fell sallow for rakes, fell horn
for flails, May - weed and hire children to pick up stones from
the fallow land, June - wash and shear the sheep, July - hay
harvest, August - wheat harvest, September and October - gather
the fruit, sell the wool from the summer shearing, stack logs for
winter, buy salt fish for Lent in the town and lay it up to dry,
November - have the chimneys swept before winter, thresh grain in
the barn, December - grind tools, repair yokes, forks, and farm
implements, cover strawberry and flower beds with straw to
protect them from the cold, split kindling wood with beetle and
There was a wave of building and renovation activity in town and
country. Housing is now, for the first time, purely for dwelling
and not for defense. A scarcity of timber caused proportionally
more stone to be used for dwelling houses and proportionately
more brick to be used for royal palaces and mansions. The rest of
the house was plaster painted white interspersed with vertical,
horizontal, and sloping timber painted black. The floors were
stone or wood, and sometimes tile. They were often covered with
rushes or plaited rush mats. Some private rooms may have carpets
on the floor. Most houses had several brick chimneys and clear
glass in the windows. There were fireplaces in living rooms,
dining rooms, kitchen, and bedrooms. Some gentry used forks for
eating. On the table was a fancy salt cellar and pepper.
Breakfast was substantial, with meat, and usually eaten in one's
bedroom. Rooms were more spacious than before and contained
furniture such as chests, cupboards, tables, stools and benches
with backs and cushions, sometimes with arms, and occasionally
wardrobes for clothes. Windows had curtains. Carpeting covered
tables, chests and beds. Bedrooms all led out of each other.
Often family members, servants, and friends shared the same bed
for warmth or convenience. Each bedroom typically had a cabinet
with a mirror and comb on top. Toothpicks were use often. One
brushed his teeth with tooth soap and a linen cloth, as
physicians advised. Each bedroom had a pitcher and water bowl for
washing in the morning, and a bed-pan for nighttime use.
Elizabeth had a room just for her bath. Walls were smoothly
plastered or had carved wood paneling to control drafts.
Plastered ceilings and a lavish use of glass made rooms lighter
and cozy. Broad and gracious stairways replaced the narrow
winding stone steps of a stairwell.
Most dwellings were of brick and stone. Only a few were of wood
or mud and straw. The average house was now four rooms instead of
three. Yeomen might have six rooms. A weaver's house had a hall,
two bedrooms, and a kitchen besides the shop. Farmers might have
two instead of one room. A joiner [woodworker who finishes
interior woodwork such as doors and makes furniture] had a
one-room house with a feather bed and bolster. Even craftsmen,
artificers and farmers had feather beds on bed frames with
pillows and hung tapestry to keep out the cold in their single
story homes. They also had pewter spoons and plates, instead of
just wood or earthenware ones. Richer farmers would build a
chamber above the hall, replacing the open hearth with a
fireplace and chimney. Poorer people favored ground floor
extensions, adding a kitchen or second bedchamber to their
cottages. Kitchens were often separate buildings to reduce the
risk of fire.
More than medieval castles and manor houses, mansions were
designed with privacy in mind. The great hall was not abandoned,
but the family used it as an eating place only on rare occasions.
Instead they withdrew to the parlor and great chamber, while
their servants lived in turrets or attics and continued to eat in
the hall. The distinction between parlor and great chamber was
that the former was for domestic use and the latter for
entertaining. Parlors were situated on the ground floor: the
family lived and relaxed there, and had informal meals in a
dining parlor. The formal or "state" rooms were on the first
floor, usually comprising a great chamber, a withdrawing chamber,
one or more bedchambers, and a long gallery. The idea of a long
gallery was copied from Henry VII and was used for exercise,
recreation such as music and dancing, and private conversations.
Each room had carved chairs and cabinets. A noble or gentleman's
house had not only a garden for the kitchen and orchards, but
formal gardens of flowers and scrubs. Grown were apples, plums,
pears, apricots, peaches, walnuts, filberts, almonds, figs,
capers, oranges, and lemons. Trees were planted and grafted.
A noble lord made written rules with penalties for his country
household, which numbered about a hundred, including family and
servants. He enforced them by fines, flogging, and threats of
dismissal. The lady of the house saw that the household, held
together as an economic and social unit. The noble's family,
guests, and the head servants, such as chaplain and children's
tutor, dined together at one table. The family included step
children and married sons and daughters with their spouses. They
drank from drinking cups of clear glass. They ate with silver
spoons. Chandeliers of candles lit rooms. A silver salt cellar
was on the table, which was covered with a linen cloth. The lady
of the house sat in a chair at the end of the table and was
served first. After the upper table was served, the food was sent
to the servants: serving men and women, bakers, brewers, cooks,
pot cleaners, laudresses, shepherds, hogherds, dairy maids,
falconers, huntsmen, and stable men. What was left was given to
the poor at the gates of the house. The biggest meal of the day
was dinner, served at noon. There were sandglass clocks. For
amusement, the house was occasionally handed over to a lord of
misrule for twelve days.
Farmers' wives used looms as well as spinning wheels with foot
treadles. Due to new grass and root crops, animals could be kept
through the winter. Therefore, salted meat and salted fish were
no longer the staple food of the poorer people during the winter.
Farm laborers ate soup, porridge, milk, cheese, bacon, and beer
or mead (depending on the district), and dark barley or rye
bread, which often served as his plate. Gentlemen ate wheat
By 1600 basement services were frequently found in town houses
built on restricted sites. Lastly, provision of water supplies
and improved sanitary arrangements reflected concern with private
and public health. There was virtually no drainage. In the case
of town houses, some owners would go to considerable effort to
solve drainage problems, often paying a cash composition to the
civic authorities, but sometimes performing some service for the
town at Court or at Westminster in return for unlimited water or
some drainage. Most affluent households, including the Queen's
moved from house to house, so their cesspits could be cleaned out
and the vacated buildings aired after use. A few cesspits were
made air-tight. Otherwise, there was extensive burning of
perfumes. Refuse was emptied out of front doors and shoveled into
heaps on street corners. It was then dumped into the river or
along the highways leading out of town. People put on perfume to
avoid the stench. Near the end of the century, the first
water-closet was built, which provided a clean latrine all year
The value of grain and meat rose compared to wool. Grain became
six times its value in the previous reign. Wool fell from 20s.8d.
per tod in 1546 to 16s. in 15s. So sheep-farming, which had taken
about 5% of the arable land, was supplanted somewhat by
crop-raising and the rural population could be employed for
agriculture. In some places, the threefold system of rotation was
replaced by alternating land used for crops with that used for
pasture. The necessity of manuring and the rotation of crops and
grasses such as clover for enrichment of the soil was recognized.
Wheat, rye, barley, peas, and beans were raised. There was much
appropriation of common land by individual owners by sale or
force. Many farms were enclosed by fences or hedges so that each
holder could be independent of his neighbors. A laborer could
earn 6d. a day in winter and 7d. a day in summer. Unfree
villeinage ceased on the royal estates. But most land was still
farmed in common and worked in strips without enclosure.
Prosperous traders and farmers who owned their own land assumed
local offices as established members of the community.
The population of the nation was about five million, where it
remained for the next 2 1/2 centuries. 90% of the population
lived in the countryside and 5% in the London and 5% in the other
towns. Over half the population of the nation were on the margin
of subsistence. Life expectancy was 40 years of age.
Most of London was confined within the city wall. There were
gardens both inside and outside the walls, and fields outside. No
part of the city was more than a ten minute walk to the fields.
Some wealthy merchants had four story mansions or country houses
outside the city walls. Goldsmiths' Row was replete with four
story houses. A few wealthy merchants became money-lenders for
interest, despite the law to the contrary. The mayor of London
was typically a rich merchant prince. Each trade occupied its own
section of the town and every shop had its own signboard, for
instance, hat and cap sellers, cloth sellers, grocers, butchers,
cooks, taverns, and book-sellers. Many of the London wards were
associated with a craft, such as Candlewick Ward, Bread St. Ward,
Vintry Ward, and Cordwainer Ward. Some wards were associated with
their location in the city, such as Bridge Ward, Tower Ward,
Aldgate Ward, Queenhithe Ward, and Billingsgate Ward. People
dwelled at the back or on the second floor of their shops. In the
back yard, they grew vegetables such as melons, carrots, turnips,
cabbages, pumpkins, parsnips, and cucumbers; herbs; and kept a
pig. Hyde Park was the Queen's hunting ground. London had a small
zoo of ten animals, including a lion, tiger, lynx, and wolf.
Life in London was lived in the open air in the streets. The
merchant transacted business agreements and the lawyer saw his
clients in the street or at certain pillars at St. Pauls' Church,
where there was a market for all kinds of goods and services.
Some gentlemen had offices distant from their dwelling houses
such as attorneys, who had a good income from trade disputes and
claims to land, which often changed hands. Plays and recreation
also occurred in the streets, such as performances by dancers,
musicians, jugglers, clowns, tumblers, magicians, and men who
swallowed fire. The churches were continuously open and used by
trades and peddlers, including tailors and letter-writers.
Soldiers, adventurers, physicians, apprentices, prostitutes, and
cooks were all distinguishable by their appearances. An ordinance
required apprentices to wear long blue gowns and white breeches
with stockings, with no ornamentation of silk, lace, gold or
silver and no jewelry. They could wear a meat knife, but not a
sword or dagger. Apprentices lived with their masters and worked
from 6 or 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Some people knitted wool caps as they
walked to sell when finished. Large merchant companies had great
halls for trade, such as the mercers, grocers, drapers,
fishmongers, and goldsmiths. The other great guilds were the
skinners, merchant tailers, haberdashers, salters, ironmongers,
vintners, and clothworkers. Smaller guilds were those of the
bakers, weavers, fruiterers, dyers, Thames watermen and
lightermen, carpenters, joiners, turners, and parish clerks. The
guilds insured quality by inspecting goods for a fee. From 11571,
merchants could meet at the Royal Exchange building for business
purposes. It's great bell rang at midday and at 6 p.m.
Taverns served meals as well as ale. They were popular meeting
places for both men and women of all backgrounds to met their
friends. Two taverns in particular were popular with the
intelligentsia. Music was usually played in the background and
games were sometimes played.
The main thoroughfare in London was still the Thames River.
Nobles living on the river had their own boats and landings. Also
at the banks, merchants of all nations had landing places where
ships unloaded, warehouses, and cellars for goods and
merchandise. Swans swam in the clear bright water. Watermen rowed
people across the river for a fee. On the south bank of the river
were theaters, outlaws, cutpurses, prostitutes, and prisons. In
the summer, people ate supper outside in public. Refuse is still
thrown into the streets. At night, the gates of the city were
closed and citizens were expected to hang out lanterns. The
constable and his watchmen carried lanterns and patrolled the
streets asking anyone they saw why they were out so late at
night. There were a few horse-drawn coaches.
The Queen's Privy Council fixed wages and prices in London,
advised Justices of the Peace on wages elsewhere, and controlled
exports of grain to keep prices down and supplies ample. There
were labor strikes in some towns for higher wages after periods
of inflation. In 1591, London authorities rounded up the sturdy
vagabonds and set them to work cleaning out the city ditches for
4d. per day.
Most of the men in Elizabeth's court had attended a university,
such as the lawyer and writer Francis Bacon and the sea-fighter
and writer Walter Raleigh, who had a humble origin. Many wives
and daughters of Privy Councilors attended the Queen in her privy
chamber. Most of the knights or gentlemen of the royal household
were also members of Parliament or Justices of the Peace for
certain districts in the counties. The court did not travel as
much as in the past, but became associated with London. Elizabeth
took her entire court on summer visits to the country houses of
leading nobility and gentry.
Secular education and especially the profession of law was the
route for an able but poor person to rise to power, rather than
as formerly through military service or through the church.
The first stage of education was primary education, which was
devoted to learning to read and write in English. This was
carried out at endowed schools or at home by one's mother or a
tutor. The children of the gentry were usually taught in their
homes by private teachers of small classes. Many of the poor
became literate enough to read the Bible and to write letters.
However, most agricultural workers and laborers remained
The next stage of education was grammar [secondary] school. There
a student was taught rhetoric (e.g. poetry, history, precepts of
rhetoric, and classical oratory), some logic, and Latin and Greek
grammar. English grammar was learned through Latin grammar and
English style through translation from Latin. Literary criticism
was learned through rhetoric. The secondary student and the
undergraduate were tested for proficiency by written themes and
oral disputations, both in Latin. Grammar schools were headed by
schoolmasters. There were so many secondary schools established
by merchants and guilds that every incorporated town had at least
one. The middle classes from the squire to the petty tradesman
were brought into contact with the best Greek and Roman writers.
A typical schoolday lasted from 7:00 am to 5:00 PM. Flogging with
a birch rod was used for discipline. Some students learned this
material from a tutor rather than school.
The government of Oxford University, which had been Catholic, was
taken from the resident teachers and put into the hands of the
Vice-Chancellor, Doctors, Heads of Colleges, and Proctors. Then
Oxford became a hotbed of Puritanism. Cambridge already had a
strong reformed element from Erasmus' influence. Oxford
University and Cambridge University were incorporated to have a
perpetual existence for the virtuous education of youth and
maintenance of good literature. The Chancellors, masters, and
scholars had a common seal. Undergraduate students entered at age
16 and resided in rooms in colleges rather than in scattered
lodgings. Each undergraduate student had a tutor and those not
seeking a degree could devise his own course of study with his
tutor's permission. Many students who were working on the seven
year program for a Master's Degree went out of residence at
college after the four year's "bachelor" course. Students had
text books to read rather than simply listening to a teacher read
books to them. Oxford was authorized to and did acquire its own
printing press. Examination was still by disputation. Students
acted in Latin plays. If a student went to a tavern, he could be
flogged. For too elaborate clothing, he could be fined. Fines for
absence from class were imposed.
All students had to reside in a college or hall, subscribe to the
39 articles of the university, the Queen's supremacy, and the
prayer book. Meals were taken together in the college halls. The
universities were divided into three tables: a fellows' table of
earls, barons, gentlemen, and doctors; a second table of masters
of arts, bachelors, and eminent citizens, and a third table of
people of low condition. Professors, doctors, masters of arts and
students were all distinguishable by their gowns.
Undergraduate education was considered to be for the purpose of
good living as well as good learning. It was to affect the body,
mind, manners, sentiment, and business. The university curriculum
included Latin and Greek languages and was for four years. The
student spent at least one year on logic (syllogizing, induction,
deduction, the thirteen classical fallacies, and the application
of logic to other studies), at least one year on rhetoric, and at
least one year on philosophy. The latter included physics,
metaphysics, and ethics (domestic principles of government,
military history, diplomatic history, and public principles of
government), and mathematics (arithmetic, geometry, algebra,
astronomy, music, optics).
About 1564, the curriculum was changed to two terms of grammar,
four terms of rhetoric, five terms of dialectic (examining ideas,
opinions logically), three terms of arithmetic, and two terms of
music. There were now negative numbers, irrational numbers, and
imaginary numbers. Also available were astrology, and alchemy,
cultivation of gardens, and breeding of stock, especially dogs
and horses. Astronomy, geometry, natural and moral philosophy,
and metaphysics were necessary for a master's degree.
There were graduate studies in theology, medicine, music, and
law, which was a merging of civil and canon law together with
preparatory work for studying common law at the Inns of Court in
London. Medical texts were Hippocrates and Galen. These viewed
disease as only part of the process of nature, without anything
divine. They stressed empiricism, experience, collections of
facts, evidences of the senses, and avoidance of philosophical
speculations. Galen's great remedies were proper diet, exercise,
massage, and bathing. Greek medicinal doctrines were assumed,
such as preservations of the health of the body was dependent on
air, food, drink, movement and repose, sleeping and waking,
excretion and retention, and the passions.
In London, legal training was given at the four Inns of Court.
Many young gentry were educated there and later became members of
Parliament or Justices of the Peace. They often also studied and
attended lectures on astronomy, geography, history, mathematics,
theology, music, navigation, foreign languages, and lectures on
anatomy and medicine sponsored by the College of Physicians. A
tour of the continent became a part of every gentleman's
All forms of English literature were now in print, except for
plays. The idea of Copernicus published in 1543 that the earth
revolves around the sun in a solar system was considered along
with the prevailing belief that the earth was at the center.
Many people kept diaries. Letter-writing was frequent at court.
There was much reading of romances, jest books, histories, plays,
prayer collections, and encyclopedias. In schools and gentry
households, favorite reading was Edmund Spenser's "Faerie Queen"
about moral virtues and the faults and errors which beset them,
Erasmus' New Testament, "Paraphrases", "Colloquies", and
"Adages", Sir Thomas North's edition of Plutarch's "Lives of the
Noble Grecians and Romans", Elyot's "The Book Named the
Governor", and Hoby's translation of "The Courtier". At a more
popular level were Caxton's "The Golden Legend", Baldwin's
"Mirror for Magistrates", sensational stories and pamphlets,
printed sermons, chronicles, travel books, almanacs, herbals, and
medical works. English fiction began and was read. At the lowest
level of literacy were ballads describing recent events. Next to
sermons, the printing press was kept busiest with rhymed ballads
about current events. Printed broadsheets on political issues
could be distributed quickly.
William Shakespeare, a glove-maker's son, wrote plays about
historical events and plays which portrayed various human
personalities and their interactions with each other. They were
enjoyed by all classes of people. His histories were especially
popular. The Queen and various earls each employed players and
actors, who went on tour as a troupe and performed on a round
open-air stage, with people standing around to watch. In London,
theaters such as the Globe were built specifically for the
performance of plays, which had been performed at inns. There
were costumes, but no sets. Ordinary admission was 2d. Before
being performed, a play had to be licensed by the Master of the
Revels to make sure that there was nothing detrimental to the
peace and public order. The common people still went to morality
plays, but also to plays in which historical personages were
portrayed, such as Richard II, Henry IV, and Henry V. Some plays
were on contemporary issues. Musicians played together as
orchestras. Music and singing was a popular pasttime after
supper; everyone was expected to participate. Dancing was popular
with all classes. Gentlemen played cards, dice, billiards,
tennis, and fencing.
Sports included tennis, wrestling, football between villages with
the goal to get the ball into one's own village, fencing, and
games at horseback. Country people had music, dancing and
pantomime shows with masks. There were many tales involving
fairies, witches, devils, ghosts, evil spirits, angels, and
monsters enjoyed by adults as well as children. There were
parties for children.
The merry guild-feast was no longer a feature of village life.
There were fewer holidays and festivals. The most prosperous
period of the laborer was closing. An agricultural laborer's
yearly wage was about 154s., but his cost of living, which now
included house rent, was about 160s. a year. In 1533, daily wages
in the summer for an agricultural laborer were about 4d. and for
an artisan 6d. In 1563 in the county of Rutland, daily wages for
laborers were 7d. in summer and 6d. in winter; and for artisans
were 9d. in summer and 8d. in winter.
Because physicians were allowed to dissect corpses, there were
anatomy textbooks and anatomy was related to surgery. A visit by
a doctor cost 13s.4d. Melancholia, which made one always fearful
and full of dread, and mania, which made one think he could do
supernatural things, were considered to be different types of
madness from infirmities of the body.
There were endowed hospitals in London for the sick and infirm.
One hospital was headed by the physician who was to discover the
circulation of the blood. There were others for orphans, for
derelict children, and for the destitute. They worked at jobs in
the hospital according to their abilities. There was also a house
of correction for discipline of the idle and vicious by
At given times, everyone was to throw buckets of water onto the
street to cleanse it. During epidemics in towns, there was
quarantine of those affected to stay in their houses unless going
out on business. Their houses were marked and they had to carry a
white rod when outside. The quarantine of a person lasted for
forty days. The straw in his house was burned and his clothes
treated. People who died had to be buried under six feet of
Communities were taxed for the upkeep and relief of the prisoners
in the jails in their communities.
Church services included a sermon and were in accordance with a
reformed prayer book and in English, as was the Bible. Communion
of participants replaced mass by priests. Elizabeth was not
doctrinaire in religious matters, but pragmatic. She always
looked for ways to accommodate all views on what religious
aspects to adopt or decline. Attendance at state church services
was enforced by fines. People could hold what religious beliefs
they would, even atheism, as long as they maintained an outward
conformity. For instance, babies were to be baptized before they
were one month old or the parents would be punished.
There was difficulty persuading educated and moral men to be
ministers. This led to the growth of the Puritan movement. The
Puritans complained that the church exerted insufficient control
over the morals of the congregation. They thought that ministers
and lay elders of each parish should regulate religious affairs
and that the bishops should be reduced to an equality with the
rest of the clergy. The office of archbishop should be eliminated
and the head of state should not necessarily be governor of the
church. Their ideas of morality were very strict and even plays
were though to be immoral.
The debased coinage was replaced by a recoinage of newly minted
coins with a true silver weight.
Goldsmiths, who also worked silver, often acted as guardians of
clients' wealth. They began to borrow at interest at one rate in
order to lend out to traders at a higher rate. This began
There was chartering of merchant companies and granting of
exclusive rights to new industries as monopolies. Some monopolies
or licenses were patents or copyrights. Others established
trading companies for trade to certain foreign lands and
supporting consular services. New incorporated companies were
associations of employers and often included a number of trades,
instead of the old guilds which were associations of actual
workers. Town government was often controlled by a few merchant
wholesalers. The entire trade of a town might be controlled by
its drapers or by a company of the Merchant Adventurers. The
charter of the latter as of 1564 allowed a common seal, perpetual
existence, liberty to purchase lands, and liberty to exercise
their government in any part of the nation. There were policies
of insurance given by groups of people for losses of ships and
There were monopolies on cloth, tin, starch, fish, oil, vinegar,
and salt. New companies were incorporated for many trades, the
ostensible reason being the supervision of the quality of the
wares produced in that trade. (Shoemakers, haberdashers,
saddlers, and curriers exercised close supervision over these
wares.) They paid heavily for their patents or charters.
Patents were for a new manufacture of an improved older one and
determined the wages of its trades.
The prosperous merchants began to form a capitalistic class as
capitalism grew. Competition for renting farm land, previously
unknown, caused these rents to rise. The price of wheat rose to
an average of 14s. per quarter, thereby encouraging tillage once
more. There was steady inflation.
The breed of horses and cattle was improved and more intelligent
use was made of manure and dressings. New vegetables, gotten from
the continent, included carrots and celery. Hops to flavor beer
came into use.
There are locks and canals as well as rivers. At London Bridge,
water-wheels and pumps are installed. There are now four royal
postal routes from London to various corners of the nation.
Horses are posted along the way for the mail-deliverer's use.
However, private mail still goes by packman or common carrier.
There were compasses with a bearing dial on a circular plate with
degrees up to 360 noted. The nation's inland trade developed a
lot. There were many more wayfaring traders operating from town
inns. There were new industries such as glassware, iron,
brasswares, alum and coppers, gunpowder, papeer, coal, and sugar.
Coal was used for fuel as well as wood, which was becoming
scarce. Small metal goods, especially cutlery, was made, as well
as nails, bolts, hinges, locks, ploughing and harrowing
equipment, rakes, pitch forks, shovels, spades, and sickles. Lead
was used for windows and roofs. Copper and brass were used to
make pots and pans. Pewter was used for plates drinking vessels,
and candlesticks. Iron was used for fire-backs, pots, and
boilers. Also in use was canvas, lead, and rice. Competition was
the mainspring of trade and therefore of town life.
Parliament enacted laws and voted taxes. The Queen, Lords, and
Commons cooperated together. There was little dissension or
debating. There were many bills concerning personal, local, or
sectional interests, but priority for consideration was given to
public measures. The knights in the commons were almost
invariably from the county's leading families and chosen by
consensus in the county court. The commons gradually won for its
members freedom from arrest without its permission and the right
of punishing and expelling members for crimes committed. Tax on
land remained at 10% of its estimated yearly income. The Queen
deferred to the church convocation to define Christian faith and
religion, thus separating church and state functions.
The Treasury sought to keep a balanced budget by selling royal
land and keeping Crown expenditures down. The Crown carried a
slight debt incurred before the Queen's accession.
After exhausting every other alternative, the Queen agreed on the
execution of Mary, Queen of Scots, for being involved in a plot
to assassinate her and claim the throne of England.
Francis Drake sailed around the world from 1577 to 1580. Walter
Ralegh made an expedition to North America in 1584 and named
Virginia in honor of the Queen, who was a virgin. Drake and
Ralegh plundered Spanish ships for American gold and silver, much
of which was used to pay for the war with Spain, which planned to
invade England, even after the unsuccessful attempt by the
Spanish Armada in 1588. The two hundred English ships were built
to sink other ships rather than to board and capture them. The
English guns outranged the Spanish guns. So the smaller English
ships had been able to get close enough to the big Spanish
troop-transport galleons to shoot them up without being fired
upon. The direction of the wind forced the Spanish galleons
northward, where most of them were destroyed by storms.
The puritan movement included William Brewster, an assistant to a
court official who was disciplined for delivering, upon pressure
from the council, the Queen's signed execution order for Mary of
Scotland after the Queen had told him to hold it until she
- The Law -
Wearing of velvet or embroidery is restricted to those with an
income over 40,000s. The wearing of satin or silk is restricted
to those with an income over 20,000s.
No one shall make false linen by stretching it and adding little
pieces of wood, which is so weak that it comes apart after five
Timber shall not be felled to make logs for fires for the making
No one may take small fish to feed to dogs and pigs. Only nets
with mesh leaving three inches spaces may be used to catch fish.
No attainder shall result in the forfeiture of dower by the
offender's wife nor disinheritance of his heirs.
The following statute of artificers regulated labor for the next
No master or mistress may employ a servant for a term less than
one year in the crafts of clothiers, woolen cloth weavers,
tuckers, fullers, clothworkers, sheermen, dyers, hosiers,
tailors, shoemakers, tanners pewterers, bakers, brewers,
glove-makers, cutlers, smith, farriers, curriers, saddlers,
spurriers, turners, cappers, hatmakers, feltmakers, bowyers,
fletchers, arrow-head-makers, butchers, cooks, or millers, so
that agriculture will be advanced and idleness diminished. Also,
every craftsman unmarried or under age 30 who is not working must
accept employment by any person needing the craft work. Also, any
common person between 12 and 60 who is not working must accept
employment in agriculture. And, unmarried women between 12 and 40
may be required by town officials to work by the year, the week,
or day for wages they determine.
All artificers and laborers hired by the day or week shall work
from 5 am to 7 PM. All artificers must labor at agriculture at
haytime and harvest to avoid the loss of grain or hay. Every
householder who raises crops may receive as an apprentice a child
between 10 and 18 to serve in agriculture until he is age 21. A
householder in a town may receive a child as an apprentice for 7
years, but merchants may only take as apprentices children of
parents with 40s. freehold. (This was designed to inhibit
migration to the towns.)
No one may be a craftsman until he has served seven years as an
apprentice. These artificers may have children as apprentices:
smith, wheelmaker, ploughmaker, millmaker, miller, carpenter,
rough mason, plasterer, a timber sawer, an ore burner, a lime
burner, brickmaker, bricklayer, tilemaker, tiler, layer of slate
roofs, layer of wood shingle roofs, layer of straw roofs, cooper,
earthen potter, linen weaver, housewife who weaves wool for sale
or for household use.
Fish, but no meat, may be eaten on Wednesdays so that there will
be more fishermen and mariners and repair of ports. (This was
done because fishing had declined since the dissolution of the
monasteries. Eating fish instead of meat in Lent in the
springtime remained a tradition.)
For repairing of highways, the supervisors may take the rubbish
or smallest stones of any quarry along the road in their
Embezzlement or theft by a servant of his master's goods of 40s.
or more is a felony.
No one shall forge a deed of land, charter, sealed writing, court
roll or will.
No one shall libel or slander so as to cause a rebellion.
Cut-purses and pick-purses shall not have benefit of clergy.
A debtor may not engage in a fraudulent collusion to sell his
land and goods in order to avoid his creditors.
A person robbing a house of 5s. by day when no one is there shall
not have benefit of clergy, because too many poor persons who
cannot hire a servant to look after their house when they go to
work have been robbed.
The price of barrels shall be set by mayors of the towns where
they are sold.
No man under the degree of knight may wear a hat or cap of
velvet. Caps may not be made of felt, but only knit wool. Only
hats may be made of felt. This is to assist the craft of making
Rugs shall weigh 44 pounds at least and be 35 yards at least in
length and at most 3/4 yard wide.
The incorporated company of ship masters may erect beacons and
marks on the seashores and hills above, because certain steeples
and other marks used for navigation have fallen down and ships
therefore have been lost in the sea.
There shall be one sheriff per county, because now there are
enough able men to supply one per county.
Trials of noblemen for treason shall be by their peers.
A native or denizen merchant in wholesale or retail goods who
leaves the nation to defraud his creditors shall be declared a
bankrupt. The Chancellor may conduct an investigation to
ascertain his land, house, and goods, no matter who may hold
them. They shall be appraised and sold to satisfy his debts.
Loan contracts for money lent may not be for more than 200s. for
each 2000s. yearly. All loans of money or forbearing of money in
sales of goods for less than this shall be punishable by forfeit
of the interest only.
Every person over 7 years of age shall wear a wool knitted cap on
Sundays, except maidens, ladies, gentlewomen, noble persons, and
every lord, knight, and gentlemen with 2,667s. of land.
No cattle may be put in any enclosed woods that have been growing
less than five years. At the end of five years growth, calves may
be put in. At the end of six years growth, cattle may be put in.
The mother and reputed father of any bastard who has been left to
be kept at the parish where born must pay weekly for the upkeep
and relief of such child, so that the true aged and disabled of
the parish get their relief and to punish the lewd life.
No master at a university may lease any land unless 1/3 of it is
retained for crop-raising to supply the colleges and halls for
food for their scholars.
Persons with 100s. in goods or 40s. in lands shall find two able
men in their parish community to repair the highways yearly.
Landowners of Oxford shall be taxed for the repair of the highway
and bridge there.
Woods around London shall not be felled to be converted to coals
for iron-works because London needs the wood to make buildings
and for fire-places.
Every melter and maker of wax from honeycombs shall put his mark
on every piece of his wax to be sold. Wrought wax such as in
lights, staff-torches, red wax or sealing wax, book candles, or
searing candles shall bear its maker's mark. All barrels of honey
shall bear the mark of the honeymaker.
Wool cloth, cotton cloth, flannel cloth, hose-yarn, hats, and
caps shall be dyed black only with dye from the woad plant and
not with any false black dye.
No one shall take or kill any pheasants with nets or devices at
nighttime because such have become scarce.
Lands, tenements, goods and chattels of accountants teller, or
receiver who are in debt may be obtained by court order to
satisfy the debt by garnishing the heir of the debtor after the
heir has reached 21 and for the 8 years next ensuing.
Fraudulent and secret conveyances made to retain the use of one's
land when one sells the land to a bona fide purchaser for value
in fee simple, fee tail, for life, for lives, or for years are
No new iron mills or furnaces for making or working of any iron
or iron metal shall be established in the country around London
and the owners of carriages of coals, mines and iron which have
impaired or destroyed the highways shall also carry coal ashes,
gravel, or stone to repair these highways or else make a payment
of 2s.6d. for each cart load not carried.
No one shall bribe an elector to vote for a certain person for
fellow, scholar, or officer of a college, school, or hall or
hospital so that the fittest persons will be elected, though
lacking in money or friends, and learning will therefore be
Cottage and dwelling houses for workmen or laborers in mineral
works, coal mines, or quarries of stone or slate for the making
of brick, tile, lime, or coals shall be built only within a mile
from such works. Dwelling houses beyond this must be supported by
four acres of land to be continually occupied and manured as long
as the dwelling house is inhabited or forfeit 40s. per month to
the Queen. Cottages and dwelling houses for sailors or laborers
working on ships for the sea shall be built only within a mile of
the sea. A cottage may be built in a forest or park for a
game-keeper of the deer. A cottage may be built for a herd-man or
shepherd for the keeping of cattle or sheep of the town. A
cottage may be built for a poor, lame, sick, aged, or disabled
person on waste or common land. More families than one may not be
placed in one cottage or dwelling house.
A vagabond or mighty strong beggar [able to work] shall be
Any person with land in fee-simple may establish a hospital,
abiding place, or house of correction to have continuance forever
as a corporation for the sustenance and relief of the maimed,
poor, or disabled people as to set the poor to work. The net
income shall not exceed 40,000s. yearly.
Troops of vagabonds with weapons in the highways who pretend to
be soldiers or mariners have committed robberies and murders. So
all vagabonds shall settle down in some service or labor or
Pontage [toll for upkeep and repair of bridges] shall be taken at
certain bridges: carts 2d., horse and pack 1d., a flock of sheep
Crown officials such as treasurers, receivers, accountants, and
revenue collectors shall not embezzle Crown funds and shall be
personally liable for arrears.
Churchwardens of every parish shall oversee the poor in their
parish. They shall, with consent of the Justices of the Peace,
set to work children whose parents cannot maintain them and also
set to work married or unmarried persons who have no trade and no
means to maintain themselves. Churchwardens shall tax every
inhabitant, including parson and vicar and every occupier of land
and houses as they shall think fit. There will be a convenient
stock of flax, hemp, wool, thread, iron and other necessary ware
and stuff to set the poor on work. There will be competent sums
of money for the relief of the lame, impotent, old, blind, and
others not able to work, and also for the putting out of children
to be apprentices. Child apprentices may be bound until 21 years
of age or until time of marriage. They shall account to the
Justices of the Peace for all money received and paid. The
penalty for absence or neglect is 20s. If any parish cannot raise
sufficient funds, the Justices of the Peace may tax other nearby
parishes to pay, and then the hundred, and then the county.
Grandparents, parents, and children of every poor, old, blind,
lame, or impotent person not able to work, being of sufficient
ability, shall at their own charge, relieve and maintain every
such poor person in that manner and according to that rate as
Justices of the Peace of that county determine, or forfeit 20s.
per month. Two Justices of the Peace may commit to jail or house
of correction persons refusing to work and disobedient
churchwardens and overseers. The overseers may, with the consent
of the lord of the manor, build houses on common or waste land
for the poor at the expense of the parish, in which they may
place more than one family in each houses.
Every parish shall pay weekly 2-10d. toward the relief of sick,
hurt, and maimed soldiers and mariners. Counties with more than
fifty parishes need pay only 2-6d. The county treasurer shall
keep registers and accounts. Soldiers begging shall lose their
pension and shall be adjudged a common rogue or vagabond subject
to imprisonment and punishment.
Defendants may not petition to remove a case to the Westminster
courts after a jury is selected because such has resulted in
unnecessary expense to plaintiffs and delay for defendants in
which they suborn perjury by obtaining witnesses to perjure
Sheriffs summoning defendants without a writ shall pay 200s. and
damages to the defendant, and 400s. to the King.
Persons stealing crops from lands or fruit from trees shall be
Since administrators of goods of people dying intestate who fail
to pay the creditors of the deceased often can't pay the debts
from their own money, the people (who are not creditors)
receiving the goods shall pay the creditors.
Persons forcibly taking others across county lines to hold them
for ransom and those taking or giving blackmail money and those
who burn barns or stacks of grain shall be declared felons and
shall suffer death, without any benefit of clergy or sanctuary.
A proclamation in 1601 reformed the hated monopolies.
- Judicial Procedure -
Jurors shall be selected from those people who have at least 80s.
annual income instead of 40s. because sheriffs have been taking
bribes by the most able and sufficient freeholders to be spared
at home and the poorer and simpler people, who are least able to
discern the causes in question, and most unable to bear the
charges of appearance and attendance in such cases have been the
Defendants sued or informed against upon penal statutes may
appear by attorney so that they may avoid the inconvenience of
traveling a long distance to attend and put to bail.
No only sheriffs, but their employees who impanel juries or
execute process in the courts shall take an oath of office.
A hundred shall answer for any robbery therein only if there has
been negligence or fault in pursuit of the robber after a hue and
cry is made because the past law has been too harsh and required
payment for offenses from people unable to pay who have done
everything reasonable to catch the robber.
The Star Chamber became the central criminal court after 1560,
and punished perjury, corruption, and malfeasance throughout the
Suits on titles to land were restricted to the common law courts
and no longer to be heard in the Star Chamber, Chancery court, or
in the Court of requests.
The Queen's Privy Council frequently issued orders to Justices of
the Peace, for instance to investigate riots and crimes, to
enforce the statutes against vagrancy and illegal games, to
regulate alehouses, to ensure that butchers, innkeepers, and
victuallers did not sell meat on fish days, and to gather
information needed from the counties.
The Judges of Assize rode on circuit twice a year to enforce the
criminal law and reported their assessment of the work of the
Justices of the Peace back to the Privy Council. Accused people
could wait for years in jail before their case was heard.
The Privy Council investigated sedition and treason, security of
the regime, major economic offenses, international problems,
civil commotion, officials abusing their positions, and persons
perverting the course of justice. The formal trials of these
offenses would be held elsewhere.
The duty to hear and determine felonies was taken from Justices
of the Peace by 1590. The Judges of Assize did this work.
The Justices of the Peace decided misdemeanors such as abduction
of heiresses, illegal entry, petty thievery, damage to crops,
fence-breaking, brawling, personal feuds, drunken pranks,
swearing, profanation of the Sabbath, alehouse nuisances,
drunkenness, perjury, and malfeasance by officials.
The Justices of the Peace had administrative duties in control of
vagrancy, upkeep of roads and bridges, and arbitration of
lawsuits referred to them by courts. They listed the poor in each
parish community, assessed rates for their maintenance, and
appointed overseers to administer the welfare system, deploying
surplus funds to provide houses of correction for vagrants. Raw
materials such as wool, flax, hemp, and iron were bought upon
which the able-bodied unemployed could be set to work at the
parochial level. They determined wages in their districts with no
statutory ceiling on them. There were about 50 Justices of the
Peace per county. All were unpaid. They performed these duties
for the next 200 years.
Pleadings had to be in writing and oral testimony was given by
sworn witnesses. Case decisions are in books compiled by various
reporters who sit in on court hearings rather than in year books.
In the common law courts, the action of assumpsit for enforcing
certain promises is used more than the action of debt in those
cases where there is a debt based on an agreement. The essential
nature of "consideration" in contract is evolving from the
procedural requirements for the action of assumpsit.
Consideration may consist in mutual promises, a precedent debt,
or a detriment incurred by one who has simultaneously received a
promise related to the detrimental action. Consideration must be
something, an act, or forbearance of an act that is of value. For
instance, forbearance to sue a worthless claim is not
The abstract concept of contract as an agreement between two
parties which is supported by consideration is developing as the
number of various agreements that are court enforceable expands.
For instance the word "consideration" is used in Hayward's Case
in 1595 in the Court of Wards on the construction of a deed. Sir
Rowland Hayward was seised in fee of the Doddington manor and
other lands and tenements, whereof part was in demesne, part in
lease for years with rents reserved, and part in copyhold, by
indenture, "in consideration of a certain sum of money" paid to
him by Richard Warren and others, to whom he demised, granted,
bargained and sold the said manor, lands and tenements, and the
reversions and remainders of them, with all the rents reserved
upon any demise, to have and to hold to them and their assigns,
presently after the decease of Sir Rowland, for the term of 17
years. It was held that the grantees could elect to take by
bargain and sale or by demise, each of which had different
In another case, A delivered 400s. to B to the use of C, a woman,
to be delivered to her on the day of her marriage. Before this
day, A countermanded it, and called home the money. It was held
in the Chancery Court that C could not recover because "there is
no consideration why she should have it".
In a case concerning a deed, A sold land to B for 400s., with
confidence, that it would be to the use of A. This bargain "hath
a consideration in itself ... and such a consideration is an
indenture of bargain and sale". It was held that the transaction
was not examinable except for fraud and that A was therefore
A court reporter at the King's Bench formulated two principles on
consideration of the case of Wilkes against Leuson as: "The heir
is estopped from falsifying the consideration acknowledged in the
deed of feoffment of his ancestor. Where a tenant in capite made
a feoffment without consideration, but falsely alleged one in the
deed on an office finding his dying seised, the master of the
wards cannot remove the feoffees on examining into the
consideration, and retain the land until &c. and though the heir
tended, still if he do not prosecute his livery, the Queen must
admit the feoffees to their traverse, and to have the farm, &c."
The court reporter summarized this case as follows: Wilkes, who
was merchant of the staple, who died in February last past, made
a feoffment in the August before his death to one Leuson, a
knight, and his brother, and another, of the manor of Hodnel in
the county of Warwick; and the deed,(seen) for seven thousand
pounds [140,000s.] to him paid by the feoffees, of which sum he
made acquittance in the same deed (although in fact and in truth
not a half-penny was paid), gave, granted, and confirmed &c
"habendum eir et hoeredibus suis in perpetuum, ad proprium opus
et usum ipsorum A. B. et C. in perpetuum," and not "hoeredum
suorum," together with a clause of warranty to them, their heirs
and assigns, in forma proedicta: and notwithstanding this
feoffment he occupied the land with sheep, and took other profits
during his life; and afterwards his death was found on a diem
clausit extremum by office, that he died seised of the said manor
in fee, and one I. Wilkes his brother of full age found his next
heir, and a tenure in capite found, and now within the three
months the said feoffees sued in the court of wards to be
admitted to their traverse, and also to have the amnor in farm
until &c. And although the said I. Wilkes the brother had
tendered a livery, yet he had not hitherto prosecuted it, but for
cause had discontinued.
And whether now the master of the wards at his discretion could
remove the feoffees by injunction out of possession upon
examination of the said consideration of the said feoffment which
was false, and none such in truth, and retain it in the hands of
the Queen donec et quousque &c. was a great question. And by the
opinion of the learned counsel of that court he cannot do it, but
the Queen is bound in justice to give livery to him who is found
heir by the office, or if he will not proceed with that, to grant
to the tenderers the traverse, and to have the farm, &c. the
request above mentioned. And this by the statutes ... And note,
that no averment can be allowed to the heir, that the said
consideration was false against the deed and acknowledgment of
his ancestor, for that would be to admit an inconvenience. And
note the limitation of the use above, for divers doubted whether
the feoffees shall have a fee-simple in the sue, because the use
is not expressed, except only "to themselves (by their names) for
ever;" but if those words had been wanting, it would have been
clear enough that the consideration of seven thousand pounds had
been sufficient, &c. for the law intends a sufficient
consideration by reason of the said sum; but when the use is
expressed otherwise by the party himself, it is otherwise. And
also the warranty in the deed was "to them, their heirs, and
assigns, in form aforesaid," which is a declaration of the intent
of Wilkes, that the feoffees shall not have the use in fee
simple; and it may be that the use, during their three lives, is
worth seven thousand pounds, and more &c. And suppose that the
feoffment had been "to have to them and their heirs to the proper
use and behoof of them the feoffees for the term of their lives
for ever for seven thousand pounds," would they have any other
estate than for the term of their lives in the use? I believe
not; and so in the other case.
A last example of a case concerning consideration is that of
Assaby and Others against Lady Anne Manners and Others. The court
reporter characterized the principle of the case as: "A. in
consideration of his daughter's marriage covenants to stand
seised to his own use for life, and that at his death she and her
husband shall have the land in tail, and that all persons should
stand seised to those uses, and also for further assurance. After
the marriage he bargains and sell with fine and recovery to one
with full notice of the covenants and use; this is of no avail,
but on the death of A. the daughter and her husband may enter."
The court reporter summarized this case as follows: A. was seised
of land in fee, and in consideration of a marriage to be had
between his daughter and heir apparent, and B. son and heir
apparent of C. he covenanted and agreed by indenture with C. that
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