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With such impetuous gusn, that scarce these bounds
Not so ;
De Montfort. I will not ask his word ; he shall go free
Warrenne. If Leicester's sinewy hand held not the staff,
De Montfort. Well sirs, I've held ere now the staff i' my hand, That saved your lordship’s manors and your heads.
Gloster. And now you'd make a cudgel of that staff
De Montfort. Go fetch and carry, fawn and wag the tail ;
De Spencer. What giant is this? I fain would run a tilt
You've lived with priests and penitents so long
Oh ! you shall see him,--
I'll whack the churl
Enter Marmion, hurriedly.
De Montfort. Did no one follow?
For a faltering space
De Montfort. What ! my good lords—this frolic prince, methinks Scarce finds fit audience for the merry jest
De Lucy. The frolic prince when mirth shines on his face
De Montfort. Tut! tut !the brow grows solemn 'neath the shadow
Warrenne. I knew the eagle would not pine i’ the cage :
De Montfort. Let lambs and pouting chickens look to it !
HALLAM. The progress of towns in several continental countries, from a condition bordering on servitude to wealth and liberty, has more than once attracted our attention in other parts of the present work. Their growth in England, both from general causes and imitative policy, was very similar and nearly co-incident. Under the Anglo-Saxon line of sovereigns, we scarcely can discover in our scanty records the condition of their inhabitants; except retrospectively from the great survey of
Domesday Book, which displays the state of England under Edward the Confessor. | Some attention to commerce had been shown by Alfred and Athelstan ; and a mer
chant who had made three voyages beyond sea, was raised by a law of the latter monarch, to the dignity of a Thane. This privilege was not perhaps often claimed; but the burgesses of towns were already a distinct class from the ceorls or rustics, and, though hardly free according to our estimation, seem to have laid the foundation of more extensive immunities. It is probable, at least, that the English towns had made full as great advances towards emancipation as those of France. At the conquest, we find the burgesses or inhabitants of towns, living under the superiority or protection of the king, or of some other lord to whom they paid annual rents, and determinate dues or customs. Sometimes they belonged to different lords ; and sometimes the same burgess paid customs to one master, while he was under the jurisdiction of another. They frequently enjoyed special privileges as to inheritance ; and in two or three instances they seem to have possessed common property, belonging to a sort of guild or corporation ; but never, as far as appears by any evidence, had they a municipal administration by magistrates of their own choice. Besides the regular payments, which were in general not heavy, they were liable to tallages, at the discretion of their lords. This burthen continued for two centuries, with no limitation, except that the barons were latterly forced to ask permission of the king before they set a tallage on their tenants, which was commonly done when he imposed one upon his own. Still the towns became considerably richer ; for the profits of their traffic were undiminished by competition ; and the consciousness that they could not be individually despoiled of their possessions, like the villeins of the country around, inspired an industry and perseverance, which all the rapacity of Norman kings and barons was unable to daunt or overcome.
One of the earliest and most important changes in the condition of the burgesses was the conversion of their individual tributes into a perpetual rent from the whole borough. The town was then said to be affirmed, or let in fee-farm to the burgesses and their successors for ever. Previously to such a grant, the lord held the town in his demesne, and was the legal proprietor of the soil and tenements ; though I by no means apprehend that the burgesses were destitute of a certain estate in
their possessions. But of a town in fee-farm he only kept the superiority, and the inheritance of the annual rent, which he might recover by distress. The burgesses held their lands by burgage-tenure, nearly analogous to, or rather a species of, free socage. Perhaps before the grant they might correspond to modern copy holders. It is of some importance to observe, that the lord by such a grant of the town in fee-farm, whatever we may think of its previous condition, divested himself of his property, or lucrative dominion over the soil
, in return for the perpetual rent ; so that tallages subsequently set at his own discretion upon the inhabitants, however common, can hardly be considered as a just exercise of the rights of proprietorship.
Under such a system of arbitrary taxation, however, it was evident to the most selfish tyrant, that the wealth of his burgesses was his wealth, and their prosperity his interest ; much more were liberal and sagacious monarchs, like Henry II., inclined to encourage them by privileges. From the time of William Rufus, there was no reign in which charters were not granted to different towns, of exemption from tolls on rivers and at markets, those lighter manacles of feudal tyranny; or of commercial franchises ; or of immunity from the ordinary jurisdictions ; or, lastly, of internal self-regulation. Thus the original charter of Henry I. to the city of London, concedes to the citizens, in addition to valuable commercial and fiscal immunities, the right of choosing their own sheriff and justice, to the exclusion of every foreign jurisdiction. These grants, however, were not in general so extensive till the reign of John. Before that time, the interior arrangement of towns had received a new organization. In the Saxon period, we find voluntary associations, sometimes religious, sometimes secular ; in some cases for mutual defence against injury, in others for mutual relief in poverty. These were called guilds, from the Saxon verb gildan, to pay or contribute, and exhibited the natural, if not the legal character of corporations. At the time of the conquest, as has been mentioned above, such voluntary incorporations of the burgesses possessed in some towns either landed property of their own, or rights of superiority over those of others. An internal elective government seems to have been required for the administration of a common revenue, and of other business incident to their association. They became more numerous, and more peculiarly commercial after that æra, as well from the increase of trade, as through imitation of similar fraternities existing in many towns of France. The spirit of monopoly gave strength to those institutions, each class of traders forming itself into a body, in order to exclude competition. Thus were established the companies in corporate towns, that of the Weavers in London being perhaps the earliest ; and these were successively consolidated and sanctioned by charters from the crown. In towns not large enough to admit of distinct companies, one merchant guild comprehended the traders in general, or the chief of them; and this, from the reign of Henry II. downwards, became the subject of incorporating charters. The management of their internal concerns, previously to any incorporation, fell naturally enough into a sort of oligarchy, which the tenor of the charter generally preserved. Though the immunities might be very extensive, the powers were more or less restrained to a small number. Except in a few places, the right of choosing magistrates was first given by king John ; and certainly must rather be ascribed to his poverty, than to any enlarged policy, of which he was utterly incapable.
From the middle of the twelfth century to that of the thirteenth, the traders of England became more and more prosperous. The towns on the southern coast exported tin and other metals in exchange for the wines of France ; those on the eastern sent corn to Norway; the Cinque-ports bartered wool against the stuffs of Flanders. Though bearing no comparison with the cities of Italy or the empire, they increased sufficiently to acquire importance at home. That vigorous preroga
tive of the Norman monarchs, which kept down the feudal aristocracy, compensated for whatever inferiority there might be in the population and defensible strength of the English towns, compared with those on the continent. They had to fear no petty oppressors, no local hostility; and if they could satisfy the rapacity of the crown, were secure from all other grievances. London, far above the rest, our ancient and noble capital, might, even in those early times, be justly termed a member of the political system. This great city, so admirably situated, was rich and populous long before the conquest. Bede, at the beginning of the eighth century, speaks of London as a great market, which traders frequented by land and sea. It paid fifteen thousand pounds out of eighty-two thousand pounds, raised by Canute upon the kingdom. If we believe Roger Hovedon, the citizens of London, on the death of Ethelred II., joined with part of the nobility in raising Edmund Ironside to the throne. Harold I., according to better authority, the Saxon Chronicle, and William of Malmsbury, was elected by their concurrence. Descending to later history, we find them active in the civil war of Stephen and Matilda. The famous bishop of Winchester tells the Londoners, that they are almost accounted as noblemen on account of the greatness of their city; into the community of which it appears that some barons had been received. Indeed the citizens theniselves, or at least the principal of them, were called barons. It was certainly by far the greatest city in England. There have been different estimates of its population, some of which are extravagant; but I think it could hardly have contained less than thirty or forty thousand souls within its walls; and the suburbs were very populous. These numbers, the enjoyment of privileges, and the consciousness of strength, infused a free and even mutinous spirit into their conduct. The Londoners were always on the barons' side in their contests with the crown. They bore a part in deposing William Longchamp, the chancellor and justiciary of Richard I. They were distinguished in the great struggle for Magna Charta ; the privileges of their city are expressly confirmed in it; and the Mayor of London was one of the twenty-five barons to whom the maintenance of its provisions was delegated. In the subsequent reign, the citizens of London were regarded with much dislike and jealousy by the court, and sometimes suffered pretty severely by its hands, especially after the battle of Evesham.
Notwithstanding the influence of London in these seasons of disturbance, we do not perceive that it was distinguished from the most insignificant town by greater participation in national councils. Rich, powerful, honourable, and high-spirited as its citizens had become, it was very long before they found a regular place in parliament. The prerogative of imposing tallages at pleasure, unsparingly exercised by Henry III. even over London, left the crown no inducement to summon the inhabitants of cities and boroughs. As these indeed were daily growing more considerable, they were certain, in a monarchy so limited as that of England became in the thirteenth century, of attaining, sooner or later, this eminent privilege. Although therefore the object of Simon de Montfort in calling them to his parliament after the battle of Lewes was merely to strengthen his own faction, which prevailed among the commonalty, yet their permanent admission into the legislature may be ascribed to a more general cause. For otherwise it is not easy to see, why the innovation of an usurper should be drawn into precedent, though it might perhaps accelerate what the course of affairs was gradually preparing.
It is well known, that the earliest writs of summons to cities and boroughs, of which we can prove the existence, are those of Simon de Montfort, earl of Leicester, bearing date 12th of December, 1264, in the forty-ninth year of Henry III. After a long controversy, almost all judicious inquirers seem to have acquiesced in admitting this origin of popular representation. The argument may be very