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Economic Changes Of The Later Fifteenth And The Sixteenth Centuries

36. National Affairs from 1461 to 1603. The close of the fifteenth and the opening of the sixteenth century has been by universal consent settled upon as the passage from one era to another, from the Middle Ages to modern times. This period of transition was marked in England by at least three great movements: a new type of intellectual life, a new ideal of government, and the Reformation. The greatest changes in English literature and intellectual interests are traceable to foreign influence. In the fifteenth century the paramount foreign influence was that of Italy. From the middle of the fifteenth century an increasing number of young Englishmen went to Italy to study, and brought back with them an interest in the study of Greek and of other subjects to which this led. Somewhat later the social intercourse of Englishmen with Italy exercised a corresponding influence on more courtly literature. In 1491 the teaching of Greek was begun at Oxford by Grocyn, and after this time the passion for classical learning became deep, widespread, and enthusiastic. But not only were the subjects of intellectual interest different, but the attitude of mind in the study of these subjects was much more critical than it had been in the Middle Ages. The discoveries of new routes to the far East and of America, as well as the new speculations in natural science which came at this time, reacted on the minds of men and broadened their whole mental outlook. The production of works of pure literature had suffered a decline after the time of Wycliffe and Chaucer, from which there was no considerable revival till the early part of the sixteenth century. Sir Thomas More’s Utopia, written in Latin in 1514, was a philosophical work thrown into the form of a literary dialogue and description of an imaginary commonwealth. But writing became constantly more abundant and more varied through the reigns of Henry VIII, 1509-1547, Edward VI, 1547-1553, and Mary, 1553-1558, until it finally blossomed out into the splendid Elizabethan literature, just at the close of our period.

A stronger royal government had begun with Edward IV. The conclusion of the war with France made the king’s need for money less, and at the same time new sources of income appeared. Edward, therefore, from 1461, neglected to call Parliament annually, as had been usual, and frequently allowed three or more years to go by without any consultation with it. He also exercised very freely what was called the dispensing power, that is, the power to suspend the law in certain cases, and in other ways asserted the royal prerogative as no previous king had done for two hundred years. But the true founder of the almost absolute monarchy of this period was Henry VII, who reigned from 1485 to 1509. He was not the nearest heir to the throne, but acted as the representative of the Lancastrian line, and by his marriage with the lady who represented the claim of the York family joined the two contending factions. He was the first of the Tudor line, his successors being his son, Henry VIII, and the three children of Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary, and Elizabeth. Henry VII was an able, shrewd, far-sighted, and masterful man. During his reign he put an end to the disorders of the nobility; made Parliament relatively insignificant by calling it even less frequently than Edward IV had done, and by initiating its legislation when it did meet. He also increased and regulated the income of the crown, and rendered its expenditures subject to control. He was able to keep ambassadors regularly abroad, for the first time, and in many other ways to support a more expensive administration, though often by unpopular and illegal means of extortion from the people. He formed foreign political and commercial treaties in all directions, and encouraged the voyages of the Cabots to America. He brought a great deal of business constantly before the Royal Council, but chose its members for their ability rather than for their high rank. In these various ways he created a strong personal government, which left but little room for Parliament or people to do anything except carry out his will. In these respects Henry’s immediate successors and their ministers followed the same policy. In fact, the Reformation in the reign of Henry VIII, and new internal and foreign difficulties in the reign of Elizabeth, brought the royal power into a still higher and more independent position.

The need for a general reformation of the church had long been recognized. More than one effort had been made by the ecclesiastical authorities to insist on higher intellectual and moral standards for the clergy and to rid the church of various evil customs and abuses. Again, there had been repeated efforts to clothe the king, who was at the head of all civil government, with extensive control and oversight of church affairs also. Men holding different views on questions of church government and religious belief from those held by the general Christian church in the Middle Ages, had written and taught and found many to agree with them. Thus efforts to bring about changes in the established church had not been wanting, but they had produced no permanent result. In the early years of the sixteenth century, however, several causes combined to bring about a movement of this nature extending over a number of years and profoundly affecting all subsequent history. This is known as the Reformation. The first steps of the Reformation in England were taken as the result of a dispute between King Henry VIII and the Pope. In the first place, several laws were passed through Parliament, beginning with the year 1529, abolishing a number of petty evils and abusive practices in the church courts. The Pope’s income from England was then cut off, and his jurisdiction and all other forms of authority in England brought to an end. Finally, the supremacy of the king over the church and clergy and over all ecclesiastical affairs was declared and enforced. By the year 1535 the ancient connection between the church in England and the Pope was severed. Thus in England, as in many continental countries at about the same time, a national church arose independent of Rome. Next, changes began to be made in the doctrine and practices of the church. The organization under bishops was retained, though they were now appointed by the king. Pilgrimages and the worship of saints were forbidden, the Bible translated into English, and other changes gradually introduced. The monastic life came under the condemnation of the reformers. The monasteries were therefore dissolved and their property confiscated and sold, between the years 1536 and 1542. In the reign of Edward VI, 1547-1553, the Reformation was carried much further. An English prayerbook was issued which was to be used in all religious worship, the adornments of the churches were removed, the services made more simple, and doctrines introduced which assimilated the church of England to the contemporary Protestant churches on the Continent.

Queen Mary, who had been brought up in the Roman faith, tried to make England again a Roman Catholic country, and in the later years of her reign encouraged severe persecutions, causing many to be burned at the stake, in the hope of thus crushing out heresy. After her death, however, in 1558, Queen Elizabeth adopted a more moderate position, and the church of England was established by law in much the form it had possessed at the death of Henry VIII.

In the meantime, however, there had been growing up a far more spontaneous religious movement than the official Reformation which has just been described. Many thousands of persons had become deeply interested in religion and enthusiastic in their faith, and had come to hold different views on church government, doctrines, and practices from those approved of either by the Roman Catholic church or by the government of England. Those who held such views were known as Puritans, and throughout the reign of Elizabeth were increasing in numbers and making strenuous though unsuccessful efforts to introduce changes in the established church.

The reign of Elizabeth was marked not only by the continuance of royal despotism, by brilliant literary production, and by the struggle of the established church against the Catholics on the one side and the Puritans on the other, but by difficult and dangerous foreign relations.

More than once invasion by the continental powers was imminent. Elizabeth was threatened with deposition by the English adherents of Mary, Queen of Scots, supported by France and Spain. The English government pursued a policy of interference in the internal conflicts of other countries that brought it frequently to the verge of war with their governments and sometimes beyond. Hostility bordering on open warfare was therefore the most frequent condition of English foreign relations. Especially was this true of the relations with Spain. The most serious contest with that country was the war which culminated in the battle of the Armada in 1588. Spain had organized an immense fleet which was intended to go to the Netherlands and convoy an army to be taken thence for the invasion of England. While passing through the English Channel, a storm broke upon them, they were attacked and harried by the English and later by the Dutch, and the whole fleet was eventually scattered and destroyed. The danger of invasion was greatly reduced after this time and until the end of Elizabeth’s reign in 1603.

37. Enclosures. The century and a half which extends from the middle years of the fifteenth century to the close of the sixteenth was, as has been shown, a period remarkable for the extent and variety of its changes in almost every aspect of society. In the political, intellectual, and religious world the sixteenth century seemed far removed from the fifteenth. It is not therefore a matter of surprise that economic changes were numerous and fundamental, and that social organization in town and country alike was completely transformed.

During the period last discussed, the fourteenth and the early fifteenth century, the manorial system had changed very considerably from its mediaeval form. The demesne lands had been quite generally leased to renting farmers, and a new class of tenants was consequently becoming numerous; serfdom had fallen into decay; the old manorial officers, the steward, the bailiff, and the reeve had fallen into unimportance; the manor courts were not so active, so regular, or so numerously attended. These changes were gradual and were still uncompleted at the middle of the fifteenth century; but there was already showing itself a new series of changes, affecting still other parts of manorial life, which became steadily more extensive during the remainder of the fifteenth and through much of the sixteenth century. These changes are usually grouped under the name “enclosures.”

The enclosure of land previously open was closely connected with the increase of sheep-raising. The older form of agriculture, grain-raising, labored under many difficulties. The price of labor was high, there had been no improvement in the old crude methods of culture, nor, in the open fields and under the customary rules, was there opportunity to introduce any. On the other hand, the inducements to sheep-raising were numerous. There was a steady demand at good prices for wool, both for export, as of old, and for the manufactures within England, which were now increasing. Sheep-raising required fewer hands and therefore high wages were less an obstacle, and it gave opportunity for the investment of capital and for comparative freedom from the restrictions of local custom. Therefore, instead of raising sheep simply as a part of ordinary farming, lords of manors, freeholders, farming tenants, and even customary tenants began here and there to raise sheep for wool as their principal or sole production. Instances are mentioned of five thousand, ten thousand, twenty thousand, and even twenty-four thousand sheep in the possession of a single person. This custom spread more and more widely, and so attracted the attention of observers as to be frequently mentioned in the laws and literature of the time.

But sheep could not be raised to any considerable extent on land divided according to the old open field system. In a vill whose fields all lay open, sheep must either be fed with those of other men on the common pasture, or must be kept in small groups by shepherds within the confines of the various acres or other small strips of the sheep-raiser’s holding. No large number could of course be kept in this way, so the first thing to be done by the sheep-raiser was to get enough strips together in one place to make it worth while to put a hedge or other fence around them, or else to separate off in the same way a part or the whole of the open pastures or meadows. This was the process known as enclosing. Separate enclosed fields, which had existed only occasionally in mediaeval farming, became numerous in this time, as they have become practically universal in modern farming in English-speaking countries.

But it was ordinarily impracticable to obtain groups of adjacent acres or sufficiently extensive rights on the common pasture for enclosing without getting rid of some of the other tenants. In this way enclosing led to evictions. Either the lord of the manor or some one or more of the tenants enclosed the lands which they had formerly held and also those which were formerly occupied by some other holders, who were evicted from their land for this purpose.

Some of the tenants must have been protected in their holdings by the law. As early as 1468 Chief Justice Bryan had declared that “tenant by the custom is as well inheritor to have his land according to the custom as he which hath a freehold at the common law.” Again, in 1484, another chief justice declared that a tenant by custom who continued to pay his service could not be ejected by the lord of the manor. Such tenants came to be known as copyholders, because the proof of their customary tenure was found in the manor court rolls, from which a copy was taken to serve as a title. Subsequently copyhold became one of the most generally recognized forms of land tenure in England, and gave practically as secure title as did a freehold. At this time, however, notwithstanding the statements just given, the law was probably not very definite or not very well understood, and customary tenants may have had but little practical protection of the law against eviction. Moreover, the great body of the small tenants were probably no longer genuine customary tenants. The great proportion of small farms had probably not been inherited by a long line of tenants, but had repeatedly gone back into the hands of the lords of the manors and been subsequently rented out again, with or without a lease, to farmers or rent-paying tenants. These were in most cases probably the tenants who were now evicted to make room for the new enclosed sheep farms.

By these enclosures and evictions in some cases the open lands of whole vills were enclosed, the old agriculture came to an end, and as the enclosers were often non-residents, the whole farming population disappeared from the village. Since sheep-raising required such a small number of laborers, the farm laborers also had to leave to seek work elsewhere, and the whole village, therefore, was deserted, the houses fell into ruin, and the township lost its population entirely. This was commonly spoken of at the time as “the decaying of towns,” and those who were responsible for it were denounced as enemies of their country. In most cases, however, the enclosures and depopulation were only partial. A number of causes combined to carry this movement forward. England was not yet a wealthy country, but such capital as existed, especially in the towns, was utilized and made remunerative by investment in the newly enclosed farms and in carrying on the expenses of enclosure. The dissolution of the monasteries between 1536 and 1542 brought the lands which they had formerly held into the possession of a class of men who were anxious to make them as remunerative as possible, and who had no feeling against enclosures.

Nevertheless, the changes were much disapproved. Sir Thomas More condemns them in the Utopia, as do many other writers of the same period and of the reign of Elizabeth. The landlords, the enclosers, the city merchants who took up country lands, were preached against and inveighed against by such preachers as Latimer, Lever, and Becon, and in a dozen or more pamphlets still extant. The government also put itself into opposition to the changes which were in progress. It was believed that there was danger of a reduction of the population and thus of a lack of soldiers; it was feared that not enough grain would be raised to provide food for the people; the dangerous masses of wandering beggars were partly at least recruited from the evicted tenants; there was a great deal of discontent in the country due to the high rents, lack of occupation, and general dislike of change. A series of laws were therefore carried through Parliament and other measures taken, the object of which was to put a stop to the increase of sheep-farming and its results. In 1488 a statute was enacted prohibiting the turning of tillage land into pasture. In 1514 a new law was passed reenacting this and requiring the repair by their owners of any houses which had fallen into decay because of the substitution of pasture for tillage, and their reoccupation with tenants. In 1517 a commission of investigation into enclosures was appointed by the government. In 1518 the Lord Chancellor, Cardinal Wolsey, issued a proclamation requiring all those who had enclosed lands since 1509 to throw them open again, or else give proof that their enclosure was for the public advantage. In 1534 the earlier laws were reenacted and a further provision made that no person holding rented lands should keep more than twenty-four hundred sheep. In 1548 a new commission on enclosures was appointed which made extensive investigations, instituted prosecutions, and recommended new legislation. A law for more careful enforcement was passed in 1552, and the old laws were reenacted in 1554 and 1562. This last law was repealed in 1593, but in 1598 others were enacted and later extended. In 1624, however, all the laws on the subject were repealed. As a matter of fact, the laws seem to have been generally ineffective. The nobility and gentry were in the main in favor of the enclosures, as they increased their rents even when they were not themselves the enclosers; and it was through these classes that legislation had to be enforced at this time if it was to be effective.

Besides the official opposition of the government, there were occasional instances of rioting or violent destruction of hedges and other enclosures by the people who felt themselves aggrieved by them. Three times these riots rose to the height of an insurrection. In 1536 the so-called “Pilgrimage of Grace” was a rising of the people partly in opposition to the introduction of the Reformation, partly in opposition to enclosures. In 1549 a series of risings occurred, the most serious of which was the “camp” under Kett in Norfolk, and in 1552 again there was an insurrection in Buckinghamshire. These risings were harshly repressed by the government. The rural changes, therefore, progressed steadily, notwithstanding the opposition of the law, of certain forms of public opinion, and of the violence of mobs. Probably enclosures more or less complete were made during this period in as many as half the manors of England. They were at their height in the early years of the sixteenth century, during its latter half they were not so numerous, and by its close the enclosing movement had about run its course, at least for the time.

38. Internal Divisions in the Craft Gilds. Changes in town life occurred during this period corresponding quite closely to the enclosures and their results in the country. These consisted in the decay of the gilds, the dispersion of certain town industries through the rural districts, and the loss of prosperity of many of the old towns. In the earlier craft gilds each man had normally been successively an apprentice, a journeyman, and a full master craftsman, with a little establishment of his own and full participation in the administration of the fraternity. There was coming now to be a class of artisans who remained permanently employed and never attained to the position of master craftsmen. This was sometimes the result of a deliberate process of exclusion on the part of those who were already masters. In 1480, for instance, a new set of ordinances given to the Mercers’ Gild of Shrewsbury declares that the fines assessed on apprentices at their entry to be masters had been excessive and should be reduced. Similarly, the Oxford Town Council in 1531 restricts the payment required from any person who should come to be a full brother of any craft in that town to twenty shillings, a sum which would equal perhaps fifty dollars in modern value. In the same year Parliament forbade the collection of more than two shillings and sixpence from any apprentice at the time of his apprenticeship, and of more than three shillings and fourpence when he enters the trade fully at the expiration of his time. This indicates that the fines previously charged must have been almost prohibitive. In some trades the masters required apprentices at the time of indenture to take an oath that they would not set up independent establishments when they had fulfilled the years of their apprenticeship, a custom which was forbidden by Parliament in 1536. In other cases it was no doubt the lack of sufficient capital and enterprise which kept a large number of artisans from ever rising above the class of journeymen.

Under these circumstances the journeymen evidently ceased to feel that they enjoyed any benefits from the organized crafts, for they began to form among themselves what are generally described as “yeomen gilds” or “journeymen gilds.” At first the masters opposed such bodies and the city officials supported the old companies by prohibiting the journeymen from holding assemblies, wearing a special livery, or otherwise acting as separate bodies. Ultimately, however, they seem to have made good their position, and existed in a number of different crafts in more or less subordination to the organizations of the masters. The first mention of such bodies is soon after the Peasants’ Rebellion, but in most cases the earliest rise of a journeyman gild in any industry was in the latter part of the fifteenth or in the sixteenth century. They were organizations quite similar to the older bodies from which they were a split, except that they had of course no general control over the industry. They had, however, meetings, officers, feasts, and charitable funds. In addition to these functions there is reason to believe that they made use of their organization to influence the rate of wages and to coerce other journeymen. Their relations to the masters’ companies were frequently defined by regular written agreements between the two parties. Journeymen gilds existed among the saddlers, cordwainers, tailors, blacksmiths, carpenters, drapers, ironmongers, founders, fishmongers, cloth-workers, and armorers in London, among the weavers in Coventry, the tailors in Exeter and in Bristol, the shoemakers in Oxford, and no doubt in some other trades in these and other towns.

Among the masters also changes were taking place in the same direction. Instead of all master artisans or tradesmen in any one industry holding an equal position and taking an equal part in the administration of affairs of the craft, there came, at least in some of the larger companies, to be quite distinct groups usually described as those “of the livery” and those “not of the livery.” The expression no doubt arose from the former class being the more well-to-do and active masters who had sufficient means to purchase the suits of livery worn on state occasions, and who in other ways were the leading and controlling members of the organization. This came, before the close of the fifteenth century, in many crafts to be a recognized distinction of class or station in the company. A statement of the members in one of the London fraternities made in 1493 gives a good instance of this distinction of classes, as well as of the subordinate body last described. There were said to be at that date in the Drapers’ Company of the craft of drapers in the clothing, including the masters and four wardens, one hundred and fourteen, of the brotherhood out of the clothing one hundred and fifteen, of the bachelors’ company sixty. It was from this prominence of the liveried gildsmen, that the term “Livery Companies” came to be applied to the greater London gilds. It was the wealthy merchants and the craftsmen of the livery of the various fraternities who rode in procession to welcome kings or ambassadors at their entrance into the city, to add lustre to royal wedding ceremonies, or give dignity to other state occasions. In 1483 four hundred and six members of livery companies riding in mulberry colored coats attended the coronation procession of Richard III. The mayors and sheriffs and aldermen of London were almost always livery men in one or another of the companies. A substantial fee had usually to be paid when a member was chosen into the livery, which again indicates that they were the wealthier members. Those of the livery controlled the policy of the gild to the exclusion of the less conspicuous members, even though these were also independent masters with journeymen and apprentices of their own.

But the practical administration of the affairs of the wealthier companies came in many cases to be in the hands of a still smaller group of members. This group was often known as the “Court of Assistants,” and consisted of some twelve, twenty, or more members who possessed higher rights than the others, and, with the wardens or other officials, decided disputes, negotiated with the government or other authorities, disposed of the funds, and in other ways governed the organized craft or trade. At a general meeting of the members of the Mercers of London, for instance, on July 23, 1463, the following resolution was passed: “It is accorded that for the holding of many courts and congregations of the fellowship, it is odious and grievous to the body of the fellowship and specially for matters of no great effect, that hereafter yearly shall be chosen and associated to the wardens for the time being twelve other sufficient persons to be assistants to the said wardens, and all matters by them finished to be holden firm and stable, and the fellowship to abide by them.” Sixteen years later these assistants with the wardens were given the right to elect their successors.

Thus before the close of the sixteenth century the craft and trading organizations had gone through a very considerable internal change. In the fourteenth century they had been bodies of masters of approximately equal position, in which the journeymen participated in some of the elements of membership, and would for the most part in due time become masters and full members. Now the journeymen had become for the most part a separate class, without prospect of mastership. Among the masters themselves a distinct division between the more and the less wealthy had taken place, and an aristocratic form of government had grown up which put the practical control of each of the companies in the hands of a comparatively small, self-perpetuating ruling body. These developments were all more marked, possibly some of them were only true, in the case of the London companies. London, also, so far as known, is the only English town in which the companies were divided into two classes, the twelve “Greater Companies,” and the fifty or more “Lesser Companies”; the former having practical control of the government of the city, the latter having no such influence.

39. Change of Location of Industries. The changes described above were, as has been said, the result of development from within the craft and trading organizations themselves, resulting probably in the main from increasing wealth. There were other contemporary changes in these companies which were rather the result of external influences. One of these external factors was the old difficulty which arose from artisans and traders who were not members of the organized companies. There had always been men who had carried on work surreptitiously outside of the limits of the authorized organizations of their respective industries. They had done this from inability or unwillingness to conform to the requirements of gild membership, or from a desire to obtain more employment by underbidding in price, or additional profit by using unapproved materials or methods. Most of the bodies of ordinances mention such workmen and traders, men who have not gone through a regular apprenticeship, “foreigners” who have come in from some other locality and are not freemen of the city where they wish to work, irresponsible men who will not conform to the established rules of the trade. This class of persons was becoming more numerous through the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, notwithstanding the efforts of the gilds, supported by municipal and national authority. The prohibition of any workers setting up business in a town unless they had previously obtained the approval of the officials of their trade was more and more vigorous in the later ordinances; the fines imposed upon masters who engaged journeymen who had not paid the dues, newcomers into the town, were higher. The complaints of the intrusion of outsiders were more loud and frequent. There was evidently more unsupervised, unregulated labor.

But the increase in the number of these unorganized laborers, these craftsmen and traders not under the control of the gilds, was most marked in the rural districts, that is to say, in market towns and in villages entirely outside of the old manufacturing and trading centres. Even in the fourteenth century there were a number of weavers, and probably of other craftsmen, who worked in the villages in the vicinity of the larger towns, such as London, Norwich, and York, and took their products to be sold on fair or market days in these towns. But toward the end of the fifteenth century this rural labor received a new kind of encouragement and a corresponding extension far beyond anything before existing. The English cloth-making industry at this period was increasing rapidly. Whereas during the earlier periods, as we have seen, wool was the greatest of English exports, now it was coming to be manufactured within the country. In connection with this manufacture a new kind of industrial organization began to show itself which, when it was completed, became known as the “domestic system.” A class of merchants or manufacturers arose who are spoken of as “clothiers,” or “merchant clothiers,” who bought the wool or other raw material, and gave it out to carders or combers, spinners, weavers, fullers, and other craftsmen, paying them for their respective parts in the process of manufacture, and themselves disposing of the product at home or for export. The clothiers were in this way a new class of employers, putting the master weavers or other craftsmen to work for wages. The latter still had their journeymen and apprentices, but the initiative in their industry was taken by the merchants, who provided the raw material and much of the money capital, and took charge of the sale of the completed goods. The craftsmen who were employed in this form of industry did not usually dwell in the old populous and wealthy towns. It is probable that the restrictions of the gild ordinances were disadvantageous both to the clothiers and to the small master craftsmen, and that the latter, as well as journeymen who had no chance to obtain an independent position, now that the town craft organizations were under the control of the more wealthy members, were very ready to migrate to rural villages. Thus, in as far as the weaving industry was growing up under the management of the employing clothiers, it was slipping out from under the control of the town gilds by its location in the country. The same thing occurred in other cases, even without the intermediation of a new employing class. We hear of mattress makers, of rope makers, of tile makers, and other artisans establishing themselves in the country villages outside of the towns, where, as a law of 1495 says, “the wardens have no power or authority to make search.” In certain parts of England, in the southwest, the west, and the northwest, independent weavers now set up for themselves in rural districts as those of the eastern counties had long done, buying their own raw materials, bringing their manufactures to completion, and then taking them to the neighboring towns and markets to sell, or hawking them through the rural districts.

These changes, along with others occurring simultaneously, led to a considerable diminution of the prosperity of many of the large towns. They were not able to pay their usual share of taxation, the population of some of them declined, whole streets or quarters, when destroyed by fire or other catastrophe, were left unbuilt and in ruins. Many of the largest and oldest towns of England are mentioned in the statutes of the reign of Henry VIII as being more or less depleted in population. The laws and literature of the time are ringing with complaints of the “decay of the towns,” where the reference is to cities, as well as where it is to rural villages. Certain new towns, it is true, were rising into greater importance, and certain rural districts were becoming populous with this body of artisans whose living was made partly by their handicraft, partly by small farming. Nevertheless the old city craft organizations were permanently weakened and impoverished by thus losing control of such a large proportion of their various industries. The occupations which were carried on in the country were pursued without supervision by the gilds. They retained control only of that part of industry which was still carried on in the towns.

40. The Influence of the Government on the Gilds. Internal divisions and external changes in the distribution of industry were therefore alike tending to weaken the gild organization. It had to suffer also from the hostility or intrusion of the national government. Much of the policy of the government tended, it is true, as in the case of the enclosures, to check the changes in progress, and thus to protect the gild system. It has been seen that laws were passed to prohibit the exclusion of apprentices and journeymen from full membership in the crafts. As early as 1464 a law was passed to regulate the growing system of employment of craftsmen by clothiers. This was carried further in a law of 1511, and further still in 1551 and 1555. The manufacture of rope in the country parts of Dorsetshire was prohibited and restricted to the town of Bridport in 1529; the cloth manufacture which was growing up through the “hamlets, thorps, and villages” in Worcestershire was forbidden in 1553 to be carried on except in the five old towns of Worcester, Evesham, Droitwich, Kidderminster, and Bromsgrove; in 1543 it was enacted that coverlets were not to be manufactured in Yorkshire outside of the city of York, and there was still further legislation in the same direction. Numerous acts were also passed for the purpose of restoring the populousness of the towns. There is, however, little reason to believe that these laws had much more effect in preventing the narrowing of the control of the gilds and the scattering of industries from the towns to the country than the various laws against enclosures had, and the latter object was practically surrendered by the numerous exceptions to it in laws passed in 1557, 1558, and 1575. All the laws favoring the older towns were finally repealed in 1623.

Another class of laws may seem to have favored the craft organizations. These were the laws regulating the carrying on of various industries, in some of which the enforcement of the laws was intrusted to the gild authorities. The statute book during the sixteenth century is filled with laws “for the true making of pins,” “for the making of friezes and cottons in Wales,” “for the true currying of leather,” “for the making of iron gads,” “for setting prices on wines,” for the regulation of the coopers, the tanners, the makers of woollen cloth, the dyers, the tallow chandlers, the saddlers and girdlers, and dozens of other occupations. But although in many of these laws the wardens of the appropriate crafts are given authority to carry out the requirements of the statute, either of themselves or along with the town officials or the justices of the peace; yet, after all, it is the rules established by government that they are to carry out, not their own rules, and in many of the statutes the craft authorities are entirely ignored. This is especially true of the “Statute of Apprentices,” passed in the fifth year of the reign of Queen Elizabeth, 1563. This great industrial code, which remained on the statute book for two hundred and fifty years, being repealed only in 1813, was primarily a reenactment of the statutes of laborers, which had been continued from time to time ever since their introduction in 1349. It made labor compulsory and imposed on the justices of the peace the duty of meeting in each locality once a year to establish wages for each kind of industry. It required a seven years’ apprenticeship for every person who should engage in any trade; established a working day of twelve hours in summer and during daylight in winter; and enacted that all engagements, except those for piece work, should be by the year, with six months’ notice of a close of the contract by either employer or employee. By this statute all the relations between master and journeyman and the rules of apprenticeship were regulated by the government instead of by the individual craft gilds. It is evident that the old trade organizations were being superseded in much of their work by the national government. Freedom of action was also restricted by the same power in other respects also. As early as 1436 a law had been passed, declaring that the ordinances made by the gilds were in many cases unreasonable and injurious, requiring them to submit their existing ordinances to the justices at Westminster, and prohibiting them from issuing any new ones until they had received the approval of these officials. There is no indication of the enforcement of this law. In 1504, however, it was reenacted with the modification that approval might be sought from the justices on circuit. In 1530 the same requirement was again included in the law already referred to prohibiting excessive entrance fees. As the independent legislation of the gilds for their industries was already much restricted by the town governments, their remaining power to make rules for themselves must now have been very slight. Their power of jurisdiction was likewise limited by a law passed in 1504, prohibiting the companies from making any rule forbidding their members to appeal to the ordinary national courts in trade disputes.

But the heaviest blow to the gilds on the part of the government came in 1547, as a result of the Reformation. Both the organizations formed for the control of the various industries, the craft gilds, social, or religious gilds, had property in their possession which had been bequeathed or given to them by members on condition that the gild would always support or help to support a priest, should see that mass was celebrated for the soul of the donor and his family, should keep a light always burning before a certain shrine, or for other religious objects. These objects were generally looked upon as superstitious by the reformers who became influential under Edward VI, and in the first year of his reign a statute was passed which confiscated to the crown, to be used for educational or other purposes, all the properly of every kind of the purely religious and social gilds, and that part of the property of the craft gilds which was employed by them for religious purposes. One of the oldest forms of voluntary organization in England therefore came to an end altogether, and one of the strongest bonds which had held the members of the craft gilds together as social bodies was removed. After this time the companies had no religious functions, and were besides deprived of a considerable proportion of their wealth. This blow fell, moreover, just at a time when all the economic influences were tending toward their weakening or actual disintegration.

The trade and craft companies of London, like those of other towns, were called upon at first to pay over to the government annually the amount which they had before used for religious purposes. Three years after the confiscation they were required to pay a lump sum representing the capitalized value of this amount, estimated for the London companies at L20,000. In order to do so they were of course forced to sell or mortgage much of their land. That which they succeeded in retaining, however, or bought subsequently was relieved of all government charges, and being situated for the most part in the heart of London, ultimately became extremely valuable and is still in their possession. So far have the London companies, however, departed from their original purpose that their members have long ceased to have any connection with the occupations from which the bodies take their names.

41. General Causes and Evidences of the Decay of the Gilds. An analogous narrowing of the interests of the crafts occurred in the form of a cessation of the mystery plays. Dramatic shows continued to be brought out yearly by the crafts in many towns well into the sixteenth century. It is to be noticed, however, that this was no longer done spontaneously. The town governments insisted that the pageants should be provided as of old, and on the approach of Corpus Christi day, or whatever festival was so celebrated in the particular town, instructions were given for their production, pecuniary help being sometimes provided to assist the companies in their expense. The profit which came to the town from the influx of visitors to see the pageants was a great inducement to the town government to insist on their continuance. On the other hand, the competition of dramas played by professional actors tended no doubt to hasten the effect of the impoverishment and loss of vitality of the gilds. In the last half of the sixteenth century the mystery plays seem to have come finally to an end.

Thus the gilds lost the unity of their membership, were weakened by the growth of industry outside of their sphere of control, superseded by the government in many of their economic functions, deprived of their administrative, legislative, and jurisdictional freedom, robbed of their religious duties and of the property which had enabled them to fulfil them, and no longer possessed even the bond of their dramatic interests. So the fraternities which had embodied so much of the life of the people of the towns during the thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth centuries now came to include within their organization fewer and fewer persons and to affect a smaller and smaller part of their interests. Although the companies continued to exist into later times, yet long before the close of the period included in this chapter they had become relatively inconspicuous and insignificant.

One striking evidence of their diminished strength, and apparently a last effort to keep the gild organization in existence, is the curious combination or consolidation of the companies under the influence of the city governments. Numerous instances of the combination of several trades are to be found in the records of every town, as for instance the “company of goldsmiths and smiths and others their brethren,” at Hull in 1598, which consisted of goldsmiths, smiths, pewterers, plumbers and glaziers, painters, cutlers, musicians, stationers and bookbinders, and basket-makers. A more striking instance is to be found in Ipswich in 1576, where the various occupations were all drawn up into four companies, as follows: (1) The Mercers; including the mariners, shipwrights, bookbinders, printers, fishmongers, sword-setters, cooks, fletchers, arrowhead-makers, physicians, hatters, cappers, mercers, merchants, and several others. (2) The Drapers; including the joiners, carpenters, innholders, freemasons, bricklayers, tilers, carriers, casket-makers, surgeons, clothiers, and some others. (3) The Tailors; including the cutlers, smiths, barbers, chandlers, pewterers, minstrels, peddlers, plumbers, pinners, millers, millwrights, coopers, shearmen, glaziers, turners, tinkers, tailors, and others. (4) The Shoemakers; including the curriers, collar-makers, saddlers, pointers, cobblers, skinners, tanners, butchers, carters, and laborers. Each of these four companies was to have an alderman and two wardens, and all outsiders who came to the town and wished to set up trade were to be placed by the town officials in one or the other of the four companies. The basis of union in some of these combinations was evidently the similarity of their occupations, as the various workers in leather among the “Shoemakers.” In other cases there is no such similarity, and the only foundation that can be surmised for the particular grouping is the contiguity of the streets where the greatest number of particular artisans lived, or their proportionate wealth. Later, this process reached its culmination in such a case as that of Preston in 1628, where all the tradesmen of the town were organized as one company or fraternity called “The Wardens and Company of Drapers, Mercers, Grocers, Salters, Ironmongers, and Haberdashers.” The craft and trading gilds in their mediaeval character had evidently come to an end.

42. The Growth of Native Commerce. The most distinctive characteristic of English foreign trade down to the middle of the fifteenth century consisted in the fact that it had been entirely in the hands of foreigners. The period under discussion saw it transferred with quite as great completeness to the hands of Englishmen. Even before 1450 trading vessels had occasionally been sent out from the English seaport towns on more or less extensive voyages, carrying out English goods, and bringing back those of other countries or of other parts of England. These vessels sometimes belonged to the town governments, sometimes to individual merchants. This kind of enterprise became more and more common. Individual merchants grew famous for the number and size of their ships and the extent of their trade; as for instance, William Canynges of Bristol, who in 1461 had ten vessels at sea, or Sturmys of the same town, who at about the same time sent the first English vessel to trade with the eastern Mediterranean, or John Taverner of Hull, who built in 1449 a new type of vessel modelled on the carracks of Genoa and the galleys of Venice. In the middle of the fourteenth century the longest list of merchants of any substance that could be drawn up contained only 169 names. At the beginning of the sixteenth century there were at least 3000 merchants engaged in foreign trade, and in 1601 there were about 3500 trading to the Netherlands alone. These merchants exported the old articles of English production and to a still greater extent textile goods, the manufacture of which was growing so rapidly in England. The export of wool came to an end during the reign of Queen Elizabeth, but the export of woven cloth was more than enough to take its place. There was not so much cloth now imported, but a much greater variety and quantity of food-stuffs and wines, of articles of fine manufacture, and of the special products of the countries to which English trade extended.

The entrance of English vessels into ports of towns or countries whose own vessels had been accustomed to the control of the trade with England, or where the old commercial towns of the Hanseatic League, of Flanders, or of Italy had valuable trading concessions, was not obtained without difficulty, and there was a constant succession of conflicts more or less violent, and of disputes between English and foreign sailors and merchants. The progress of English commerce was, however, facilitated by the decay in the prosperity of many of these older trading towns. The growth of strong governments in Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Poland, and Russia resulted in a withdrawal of privileges which the Hanseatic League had long possessed, and internal dissensions made the League very much weaker in the later fifteenth century than it had been during the century and a half before. The most important single occurrence showing this tendency was the capture of Novgorod by the Russian Czar and his expulsion of the merchants of the Hanse from their settlement in that commercial centre. In the same way most of the towns along the south coast of the Baltic came under the control of the kingdom of Poland.

A similar change came about in Flanders, where the semi-independent towns came under the control of the dukes of Burgundy. These sovereigns had political interests too extensive to be subordinated to the trade interests of individual towns in their dominions. Thus it was that Bruges now lost much of its prosperity, while Antwerp became one of the greatest commercial cities of Europe. Trading rights could now be obtained from centralized governments, and were not dependent on the interest or the antagonism of local merchants.

In Italy other influences were leading to much the same results. The advance of Turkish conquests was gradually increasing the difficulties of the Eastern trade, and the discovery of the route around the Cape of Good Hope in 1498 finally diverted that branch of commerce into new lines. English merchants gained access to some of this new Eastern trade through their connection with Portugal, a country advantageously situated to inherit the former trade of Italy and southern Germany. English commerce also profited by the predominance which Florence obtained over Pisa, Genoa, and other trading towns. Thus conditions on the Continent were strikingly favorable to the growing commercial enterprise of England.

43. The Merchants Adventurers. English merchants who exported and imported goods in their own vessels were, with the exception of the staplers or exporters of wool and other staple articles, usually spoken of as “adventurers,” “venturers,” or “merchants adventurers.” This term is used in three different senses. Sometimes it simply means merchants who entered upon adventure or risk by sending their goods outside of the country to new or unrecognized markets, as the “adventurers to Iceland,” “adventurers to Spain.” Again, it is applied to groups of merchants in various towns who were organized for mutual protection or other advantage, as the “fishmongers adventurers” who brought their complaints before the Royal Council in 1542, “The Master, Wardens, and Commonalty of Merchant Venturers, of Bristol,” existing apparently in the fourteenth century, fully organized by 1467, and incorporated in 1552, “The Society of Merchants Adventurers of Newcastle upon Tyne,” or the similar bodies at York and Exeter.

But by far the most frequent use of the term is that by which it was applied to those merchants who traded to the Netherlands and adjacent countries, especially as exporters of cloth, and who came within this period to be recognized and incorporated as the “Merchants Adventurers” in a special sense, with headquarters abroad, a coat of arms of their own, extensive privileges, great wealth, influence, and prominence. These English merchants, trading to the Netherlands in other articles than those controlled by the Staplers, apparently received privileges of trade from the duke of Brabant as early as the thirteenth century, and the right of settling their own disputes before their own “consul” in the fourteenth. But their commercial enterprises must have been quite insignificant, and it was only during the fifteenth century that they became numerous and their trade in English cloth extensive. Just at the beginning of this century, in 1407, the king of England gave a general charter to all merchants trading beyond seas to assemble in definite places and choose for themselves consuls or governors to arrange for their common trade advantage. After this time, certainly by the middle of the century, the regular series of governors of the English merchants in the Netherlands was established, one of the earliest being William Caxton, afterward the founder of printing in England. On the basis of these concessions and of the privileges and charters granted by the home government the “Merchants Adventurers” gradually became a distinct organization, with a definite membership which was obtained by payment of a sum which gradually rose from 6_s._ 8_d._ to L20, until it was reduced by a law of Parliament in 1497 to L6 13_s._ 4_d._ They had local branches in England and on the Continent. In 1498 they were granted a coat of arms by Henry VII, and in 1503 by royal charter a distinct form of government under a governor and twenty-four assistants. In 1564 they were incorporated by a royal charter by the title of “The Merchants Adventurers of England.” Long before that time they had become by far the largest and most influential company of English exporting merchants. It is said that the Merchants Adventurers furnished ten out of the sixteen London ships sent to join the fleet against the Armada.

Most of their members were London mercers, though there were also in the society members of other London companies, and traders whose homes were in other English towns than London. The meetings of the company in London were held for a long while in the Mercers’ hall, and their records were kept in the same minute book as those of the Mercers until 1526. On the Continent their principal office, hall, or gathering place, the residence of their Governor and location of the “Court,”, or central government of the company, was at different times at Antwerp, Bruges, Calais, Hamburg, Stade, Groningen and Middleburg; for the longest time probably at the first of these places. The larger part of the foreign trade of England during the fifteenth and most of the sixteenth century was carried on and extended as well as controlled and regulated by this great commercial company.

During the latter half of the sixteenth century, however, other companies of merchants were formed to trade with various countries, most of them receiving a government charter and patronage. Of these the Russia or Muscovy Company obtained recognition from the government in 1554, and in 1557, when an ambassador from that country came to London, a hundred and fifty merchants trading to Russia received him in state. In 1581 the Levant or Turkey Company was formed, and its members carried their merchandise as far as the Persian Gulf. In 1585 the Barbary or Morocco Company was formed, but seems to have failed. In 1588, however, a Guinea Company began trading, and in 1600 the greatest of all, the East India Company, was chartered. The expeditions sent out by the Bristol merchants and then by the king under the Cabots, those other voyages so full of romance in search of a northwest or a northeast passage to the Orient, and the no less adventurous efforts to gain entrance to the Spanish possessions in the west, were a part of the same effort of commercial companies or interests to carry their trading into new lands.

44. Government Encouragement of Commerce. Before the accession of Henry VII it is almost impossible to discover any deliberate or continuous policy of the government in commercial matters. From this time forward, however, through the whole period of the Tudor monarchs a tolerably consistent plan was followed of favoring English merchants and placing burdens and restrictions upon foreign traders. The merchants from the Hanse towns, with their dwellings, warehouses, and offices at the Steelyard in London, were subjected to a narrower interpretation of the privileges which they possessed by old and frequently renewed grants. In 1493 English customs officers began to intrude upon their property; in 1504 especially heavy penalties were threatened if they should send any cloth to the Netherlands during the war between the king and the duke of Burgundy. During the reign of Henry VIII the position of the Hansards was on the whole easier, but in 1551 their special privileges were taken away, and they were put in the same position as all other foreigners. There was a partial regrant of advantageous conditions in the early part of the reign of Elizabeth, but finally, in 1578, they lost their privileges forever. As a matter of fact, German traders now came more and more rarely to England, and their settlement above London Bridge was practically deserted.

The fleet from Venice also came less and less frequently. Under Henry VIII for a period of nine years no fleet came to English ports; then after an expedition had been sent out from Venice in 1517, and again in 1521, another nine years passed by. The fleet came again in 1531, 1532, and 1533, and even afterward from time to time occasional private Venetian vessels came, till a group of them suffered shipwreck on the southern coast in 1587, after which the Venetian flag disappeared entirely from those waters.

In the meantime a series of favorable commercial treaties were made in various directions by Henry VII and his successors. In 1490 he made a treaty with the king of Denmark by which English merchants obtained liberty to trade in that country, in Norway, and in Iceland. Within the same year a similar treaty was made with Florence, by which the English merchants obtained a monopoly of the sale of wool in the Florentine dominions, and the right to have an organization of their own there, which should settle trade disputes among themselves, or share in the settlement of their disputes with foreigners. In 1496 the old trading relations with the Netherlands were reestablished on a firmer basis than ever by the treaty which has come in later times to be known as the Intercursus Magnus. In the same year commercial advantages were obtained from France, and in 1499 from Spain. Few opportunities were missed by the government during this period to try to secure favorable conditions for the growing English trade. Closely connected as commercial policy necessarily was with political questions, the former was always a matter of interest to the government, and in all the ups and downs of the relations of England with the Continental countries during the sixteenth century the foothold gained by English merchants was always preserved or regained after a temporary loss.

The closely related question of English ship-building was also a matter of government encouragement. In 1485 a law was passed declaring that wines of the duchies of Guienne and Gascony should be imported only in vessels which were English property and manned for the most part by Englishmen. In 1489 woad, a dyestuff from southern France, was included, and it was ordered that merchandise to be exported from England or imported into England should never be shipped in foreign vessels if sufficient English vessels were in the harbor at the time. Although this policy was abandoned during the short reign of Edward VI it was renewed and made permanent under Elizabeth. By indirect means also, as by the encouragement of fisheries, English seafaring was increased.

As a result of these various forms of commercial influence, the enterprise of individual English merchants, the formation of trading companies, the assistance given by the government through commercial treaties and favoring statutes, English commerce became vastly greater than it had ever been before, reaching to Scandinavia and Russia, to Germany and the Netherlands, to France and Spain, to Italy and the eastern Mediterranean, and even occasionally to America. Moreover, it had come almost entirely into the hands of Englishmen; and the goods exported and imported were carried for the most part in ships of English build and ownership, manned by English sailors.

45. The Currency. The changes just described were closely connected with contemporary changes in the gold and silver currency. Shillings were coined for the first time in the reign of Henry VII, a pound weight of standard silver being coined into 37 shillings and 6 pence. In 1527 Henry VIII had the same amount of metal coined into 40 shillings, and later in the year, into 45 shillings. In 1543 coin silver was changed from the old standard of 11 ounces 2 pennyweights of pure silver to 18 pennyweights of alloy, so as to consist of 10 ounces of silver to 2 ounces of alloy; and this was coined into 48 shillings. In 1545 the coin metal was made one-half silver, one-half alloy; in 1546, one-third silver, two-thirds alloy; and in 1550, one-fourth silver, three-fourths alloy. The gold coinage was correspondingly though not so excessively debased. The lowest point of debasement for both silver and gold was reached in 1551. In 1560 Queen Elizabeth began the work of restoring the currency to something like its old standard. The debased money was brought to the mints, where the government paid the value of the pure silver in it. Money of a high standard and permanently established weight was then issued in its place. Much of the confusion and distress prevalent during the reigns of Henry VIII and Edward VI was doubtless due to this selfish and unwise monetary policy.

At about the same time a new influence on the national currency came into existence. Strenuous but not very successful efforts had long been made to draw bullion into England and prevent English money from being taken out. Now some of the silver and gold which was being extorted from the natives and extracted from the mines of Mexico and Peru by the Spaniards began to make its way into England, as into other countries of Europe. These American sources of supply became productive by about 1525, but very little of this came into general European circulation or reached England till the middle of the century. After about 1560, however, through trade, and sometimes by even more direct routes, the amount of gold and silver money in circulation in England increased enormously. No reliable statistics exist, but there can be little doubt that the amount of money in England, as in Europe at large, was doubled, trebled, quadrupled, or perhaps increased still more largely within the next one hundred years.

This increase of money produced many effects. One of the most important was its effect on prices. These had begun to rise in the early part of the century, principally as a result of the debasement of the coinage. In the latter part of the century the rise was much greater, due now, no doubt, to the influx of new money. Most commodities cost quite four times as much at the end of the sixteenth century as they did at its beginning.

Another effect of the increased amount of currency appeared in the greater ease with which the use of money capital was obtained. Saving up and borrowing were both more practicable. More capital was now in existence and more persons could obtain the use of it. As a result, manufacturing, trade, and even agriculture could now be conducted on a more extensive scale, changes could be introduced, and production was apt to be profitable, as prices were increasing and returns would be greater even than those calculated upon.

46. Interest. Any extensive and varied use of capital is closely connected with the payment of interest. In accord with a strict interpretation of certain passages in both the Old and the New Testament, the Middle Ages regarded the payment of interest for the use of money as wicked. Interest was the same as usury and was illegal. As a matter of fact, most regular occupations in the Middle Ages required very little capital, and this was usually owned by the agriculturists, handicraftsmen, or merchants themselves; so that borrowing was only necessary for personal expenses or in occasional exigencies. With the enclosures, sheep farming, consolidation of farms, and other changes in agriculture, with the beginning of manufacturing under the control of capitalist manufacturers, with the more extensive foreign trading and ship owning, and above all with the increase in the actual amount of money in existence, these circumstances were changed. It seemed natural that money which one person had in his possession, but for which he had no immediate use, should be loaned to another who could use it for his own enterprises. These enterprises might be useful to the community, advantageous to himself, and yet profitable enough to allow him to pay interest for the use of the money to the capitalist who loaned it to him. As a matter of fact much money was loaned and, legally or illegally, interest or usury was paid for it. Moreover, a change had been going on in legal opinion parallel to these economic changes, and in 1545 a law was passed practically legalizing interest if it was not at a higher rate than ten per cent. This was, however, strongly opposed by the religious opinion of the time, especially among men of Puritan tendencies. They seemed, indeed, to be partially justified by the fact that the control of capital was used by the rich men of the time in such a way as to cause great hardship. In 1552, therefore, the law of 1545 was repealed, and interest, except in the few forms in which it had always been allowed, was again prohibited. But the tide soon turned, and in 1571 interest up to ten per cent was again made lawful. From that time forward the term usury was restricted to excessive interest, and this alone was prohibited. Yet the practice of receiving interest for the loan of money was still generally condemned by writers on morals till quite the end of this period; though lawyers, merchants, and popular opinion no longer disapproved of it if the rate was moderate.

47. Paternal Government. In many of the changes which have been described in this chapter, the share which government took was one of the most important influences. In some cases, as in the laws against enclosures, against the migration of industry from the towns to the rural districts, and against usury, the policy of King and Parliament was not successful in resisting the strong economic forces which were at work. In others, however, as in the oversight of industry, in the confiscation of the property of the gilds devoted to religious uses, in the settlement of the relations between employers and employees, in the control of foreign commerce, the policy of the government really decided what direction changes should take.

As has been seen in this chapter, after the accession of Henry VII there was a constant extension of the sphere of government till it came to pass laws upon and provide for and regulate almost all the economic interests of the nation. This was a result, in the first place, of the breaking down of those social institutions which had been most permanent and stable in earlier periods. The manor system in the country, landlord farming, the manor courts, labor dues, serfdom, were passing rapidly away; the old type of gilds, city regulations, trading at fairs, were no longer so general; it was no longer foreigners who brought foreign goods to England to be sold, or bought English goods for exportation. When these old Customs were changing or passing away, the national government naturally took charge to prevent the threatened confusion of the process of disintegration. Secondly, the government itself, from the latter part of the fifteenth century onward, became abler and more vigorous, as has been pointed out in the first paragraph of this chapter. The Privy Council of the king exercised larger functions, and extended its jurisdiction into new fields. Under these circumstances, when the functions of the central government were being so widely extended, it was altogether natural that they should come to include the control of all forms of industrial life, including agriculture, manufacturing, commerce, internal trade, labor, and other social and economic relations. Thirdly, the control of economic and social matters by the government was in accordance with contemporary opinions and feelings. An enlightened absolutism seems to have commended itself to the most thoughtful men of that time. A paternalism which regulated a very wide circle of interests was unhesitatingly accepted and approved. As a result of the decay of mediaeval conditions, the strengthening of national government, and the prevailing view of the proper functions of government, almost all economic conditions were regulated by the government to a degree quite unknown before. In the early part of the period this regulation was more minute, more intrusive, more evidently directed to the immediate advantage of government; but by the close of Elizabeth’s reign a systematic regulation was established, which, while not controlling every detail of industrial life, yet laid down the general lines along which most of industrial life must run. Some parts of this regulation have already been analyzed. Perhaps the best instance and one of the most important parts of it is the Statute of Apprentices of 1563, already described in paragraph 40. In the same year, 1563, a statute was passed full of minute regulations for the fishing and fish-dealing trades. Foreign commerce was carried on by regulated companies; that is, companies having charters from the government, giving them a monopoly of the trade with certain countries, and laying down at least a part of the rules under which that trade should be carried on. The importation of most kinds of finished goods and the exportation of raw materials were prohibited. New industries were encouraged by patents or other government concessions. Many laws were passed, of which that of 1571, to encourage the industry of making caps, is a type. This law laid down the requirement that every person of six years old and upward should wear on every Sunday and holy day a woollen cap made in England.

The conformity to standard of manufactures was enforced either by the officers of companies which were established under the authority of the government or by government officials or patentees, and many of the methods and standards of manufacture were themselves defined by statutes or proclamation. In agriculture, while the policy was less consistent, government regulation was widely applied. There were laws, as has been noted, forbidding the possession of more than two thousand sheep by any one landholder and of more than two farms by any one tenant; laws requiring the keeping of one cow and one calf for every sixty sheep, and the raising a quarter of an acre of flax or hemp for every sixty acres devoted to other crops. The most characteristic laws for the regulation of agriculture, however, were those controlling the export of grain. In order to prevent an excessive price, grain-raisers were not allowed to export wheat or other grain when it was scarce in England. When it was cheap and plenty, they were permitted to do so, the conditions under which it was to be allowed or forbidden being decided, according to a law of 1571, by the justices of the peace of each locality, with the restriction that none should be exported when the prevailing price was more than 1_s._ 3_d._ a bushel, a limit which was raised to 2_s._ 6_d._ in 1592.

Thus, instead of industrial life being controlled and regulated by town governments, merchant and craft gilds, lords of fairs, village communities, lords of manors and their stewards, or other local bodies, it was now regulated in its main features by the all-powerful national government.