Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

Leith, Stirling, Lanark, and Dum- importation of woad, used for cobarton. Edinburgh was still an louring the woollen fabrio, manuinsignificant place, and Glasgow was factured both for home and for little more than a village, although foreign use; and there was also a incorporated by William the Lion very large exportation of sheepskins in 1175. In Ireland, the ancient to be worked by Flemish manufaccity of Dublin had been so utterly turers into a finer cloth than the ruined during the English conquest English at that time had the knack of the country, that Henry II., by of making. All the nations of the a charter dated 1172, assigned it world, we are told by Matthew of to the citizens of Bristol on con- Westminster, were kept warm by dition of their colonizing it anew; the wool of England, made into and straightway, we are told, it cloth by the men of Flanders. began so to prosper that it threat- It was not long beforo English ened to rival London as a centre of politicians perceived the mischief wealth and commerce.

arising from the want of balance The things brought into England between imports and exports, and by foreign merchants in the twelfth they set themselves to try and reand following centuries were for the medy the evil in many unwise most part articles of luxury-silks ways. The history of British comand furs, jewels and costly weapons, merce under the Plantagenets is for wines and spices, to gratify the ex- the most part a history of impolitic travagant tastes of gay courtiers legislation, fiercely ordered, but, and wealthy citizens. The commo- from the nature of things, and as a dities exported were nearly all ar- consequence of the steady growth of ticles of necessity-corn and flesh, right principles among the people, wools raw and wrought, and copper, almost everywhere disobeyed. The iron, tin, and lead. In 1194, Rich- Flemings being better clothmakers, ard I. had to prohibit any further during the thirteenth and fourteenth exportation of corn during that centuries, than the English, it was year, that England might not sought again and again, not to imsuffer from the want of its abun- prove the English manufacture, but dance;' and the outgoing of all use- to prevent the introduction of ful merchandise was far in excess of articles from Flanders. Simon de the returns in kind of other useful Montfort, for instance, representing merchandise. The impolicy of this the national party of his day, arrangement is apparent. Large was steadfast in his opposition to quantities of silver and gold camo foreign commerce, and in accordance into the country, but they came to with his opinions, a law was passed enrich the few and encourage in in 1261, forbidding the exportation them a wasteful expenditure of of wool and the use of any apparel money, while the poor were yet made out of the country, or made further impoverished by a system in the country with the help of imof trade which kept the home-made ported materials. Woad was not necessaries of life at an unreasonably admitted, and, in consequence, the high price and brought no other's people had for some years to content from abroad to supply the defi- themselves with rough, undyed ciency. It must be admitted, how- cloths. Such a law, most pernicious ever, that this evil was partially in that it restrained the production rectified by the ever-increasing de- of wool for exportation and hammand for labour that resulted per- pered the industry of the country, force from the growing demand for could not long hold its ground. It English produce. At this period, was almost immediately remitted in it is probable, there was remune- favour of dealers with France and rative employment for nearly all the Normandy; and although, through population. Of the extent of agri- personal and national jealousy, it cultural and mining labour we can was nominally enforced against the form no estimate; but we know the Flemings, we read that in 1270, at wool trade to have been very ex- one seizure, the Countess of Flantensive. There was a very large ders, by way of reprisal, forfeited as much as forty thousand marks' selves had been broken up and worth of English goods waiting to burnt. In 1275, more severe rules be sold in her dominions. That act were laid down. 'A strange merled to fresh legislation. Whereas, chant,' it was appointed, 'may runs a proclamation of Henry III., lodge where he pleases, but he shall issued in 1271, ' at the requirement not sell by retail; as, for instance, of the merchants as well of our fustic-woods,-he shall not sell less realm, as of France, Normandy, and than twelve of them; and if he have other kingdoms, who gave unto us pepper, cummin, ginger, alum, pledges and other surety by cor- brazil-wood, or frankincense, he poral oath, that they would not shall not sell less than twenty-five take any wools unto the parts of pounds thereof at a time. If he Flanders or of Hainault, or would sell bring girdles, he shall not sell fewer the same unto the Flemings: and than a thousand and twelve at a whereas we have of late for certain time; if cloths of silk, wool, or understood that the wools, by our linen, he shall sell them wholo; if leave thus taken out of our realm, he bring wax, he shall sell not less are sold to the said Flemings; we than a quarter. Foreign merchants, have determined that all wools of also, shall not be allowed to buy our realm, exposed to sale, shall dyed cloths while wet, or to make remain within our realm, and shall dye, or to do any work that belongs not on any account be taken unto any to the citizens. They shall not parts beyond sea whatsoever.' To make a market in the city, nor shall that unwise proclamation was added they stay in the city more than forty a wise proviso, 'That all workers of days.' That last regulation must woollen cloths, male and female, as have pressed very heavily on the well of Flanders as of other lands, foreigners, obliging them often, in might safely come into our realm, dull seasons, to go home again with there to make cloths, and should be their vessels full of unsold wares. quit of toll and tallage, and of pay- It was withdrawn in 1303, a memoment of other customs for their rable year in commercial history, work until the end of five years.' when Edward I. granted a general There were a fair number of Flemish charter to the merchants of Gerimmigrants to claim this generous many, France, Spain, Portugal, privilege; but the prohibition of Navarre, Lombardy, Tuscany, Proall exports to the Continent was as vence, Catalonia, Aquitaine, Toufutile as the one issued ten years louse, Flanders, Brabant, and all before and the many others issued in other countries, permitting them to after years.

come safely to any part of his doOther hindrances, however, were minions, to sell their goods, and to offered to the free development of claim the protection of the laws of commerce. From early times it the land. had been the custom of the City of

But soon

a fresh obstacle was London to allow all foreign mer- thrown in their way. An edict, chants bringing their goods for sale, issued in 1307, forbade their taking to put up at certain inns; and, when either coined money or bullion out the extent of their dealings encouraged of the kingdom. This was another thern so to do, there was no objection of the rules that could not possibly made to their building houses for be strictly kept. There are numethemselves; but they were only to rous records of its having been sell their commodities by the hun- broken through; but there are also dredweight, and that in the pre- numerous records of the vexatious sence of the king's weigher, by and costly measures resorted to with whom a heavy tax was to be claimed. a view to its enforcement. These rules having been infringed, In 1328 was passed another ill-adtwenty merchants were arrested in vised law, ordering that no woollen 1269 and committed to the Tower cloths should be admitted into the until a fine of a thousand pounds country unless they were of a cerhad been paid, and the weights and tain size, the measure of all striped scales that they set up for them- cloth being fixed at twenty-eight yards' length and six quarters' though compelled, took their wares breadth, while all coloured cloths to the fair of Westminster, and the were to be just twenty-six yards citizens of many cities of England, long and six and a half quarters by precept of his lordship the king, broad. By this enactment, immense also repaired thither with their expense was incurred in the em

wares; all of whom made a stay ployment of royal measurers, and at that fair of full fifteen days, all the only practical result was the the shops and warehouses of Lonwithholding of many of the best ‘don being in the meantime closed.' commodities from the English mar- On this occasion, also, the season ket. Yet it was not repealed until was bad, and no buyers came for 1353, when the great men and the damaged goods ; ' but the king commons having to our lord the did not mind the imprecations of king how divers merchants, as well the people. foreigners and denizens, have with- King and Parliament, however, drawn them, and yet do withdraw were willing sometimes to listen to them, to come with cloths into Eng- popular clamour when dictated by land, to the great damage of the unreasonable prejudice. In times king and all his people, because the of variable supply, it was most king's measurer surmiseth to mer- desirable that monied men should chant strangers that their cloths be buy up different articles of food not of assize.'

and clothing when they were most We have given instances enough plentiful and likely to be wasted, of the arbitrary and frivolous legis- and store them up for seasons of lation by which, during these cen- scarcity. But this custom of wareturies, the foreign merchants seek- housing, called forestalling, gave ing trade with England were pre- offence to the thoughtless mulvented from doing or getting all titude, who held it better to use at the good that ought to have come once all that came in their way, of their dealings. There was no without any heed of a morrow of better treatment for the merchants scarcity, and who considered the and tradesmen at home. They greediness with which some forealso were the sport of unwise laws stallers made wealth out of the neand arbitrary mandates. We read, cessities of the people a reason for for instance, of a fair appointed to hating the whole class; and their be held at Westminster in the governors endorsed their opinions. spring of 1245, when all the trades- Be it especially commanded, it men of London were commanded to is written in one of Henry III.'s shut up their shops, and all other laws, 'that no forestaller be suffered fairs were forbidden throughout to dwell in any town, he being an England during fifteen days, in oppressor of poor people, and of all order that the whole commerce of the community, an enemy of the the country might be confined in whole shire and country, seeing one place, and that thus a large that for his private gains he doth amount of toll-money might be col- prevent others in buying grain, fish, lected. During the whole fort- herring, or any other thing coming night, however, the weather was to be sold by land or water, oppressbad, so that vast quantities of cloth- ing the poor and deceiving the ing and provisions were left to rot rich.' in the tents, through which the rain But notwithstanding all these penetrated at once, while the dealers hindrances, commerce grew apace. themselves had to stay all day, By the Great Charter wrested from waiting for customers who never King John it was declared that all came, with their feet in the mud native merchants should have proand the wind and rain beating tection in going out of England and against their faces. In 1249, the in coming back to it, as well as same sort of tyranny was again while residing in the kingdom or exercised. • The citizens of Lon- travelling about in it, without any don, at the request of his lordship impositions so grievous as to cause the king, not compelled, yet as the destruction of his trade. The privileges were often infringed in to the Stocks Market was the yet spirit, if not in letter, yet all through more important market of Woolthe reigns of Henry III. and Ed- church-Haw, adjoining the churchward II., oppressive by reason of yard of St. Mary Woolchurch, the their weakness, and of Edward I. great meeting-place of the wool and and Edward III., oppressive by rea

cloth merchants; while in any part son of their strength, English mer- of the City, with the exception of chandise made steady progress. Cornhill, carts might stand loaded Two important steps were gained with firewood, timber, and charby the assignment of different coal. As London grew, and there branches of commerce to different was need of places for retail purclasses of tradesmen, each of whom chase nearer to the more out-of-themade it a point of honour, as much way houses than these central maras possible to extend and improve kets were, it became the fashion for his own calling, and by the establish- tradesmen to throw open the lower ment of settled places of trade, in front rooms of their dwelling-houses lieu, to a great extent, of the ori- and stock them with articles for ginal plan by which every mer- sale. In this way shops came into chant was a sort of pedlar.

fashion; and in like manner, to Both changes began long before the make space for the storage of goods, thirteenth century, but they were many upper rooms came to be ennot properly effected till some time larged by pent-houses, or projecafter its close. London was a chief tions, reaching nearly into the midresort of merchants for many cen- dle of the streets, but with their turies before they made it a per

floors nine feet above the ground, manent residence for purposes of so as to allow of people riding trade, and even then their dealings beneath.' Much larger than these were carried on in public markets were the selds or shields, great sheds long before we hear of shops and erected by the more important wholewarehouses. The London of the sale dealers, for their own use, or by Plantagenets, all included, of course,

several merchants in company, for within the city walls, and then with the sale of separate commodities. plenty of vacant space in it, was One in Friday Street, for instance, full of markets. There were the was used exclusively in Edward Chepe, or Westchepe, now Cheap- III.'s reign for traffic in hides, while side, where bread, cheese, poultry, another at Winchester, under the fruit, hides, onions, garlic, and like jurisdiction of the bishop of the articles were sold by dealers at diocese, seems to have been the little wooden stalls, movable and chief place in the whole town for flexible, and not more than two and the stowage and sale of all sorts of a half feet wide, ranged along the goods. roadside, and the Cornhill, where As the numbers of markets, grains and articles manufactured of shops, and selds increased, the wood and iron were bartered at varieties of trades and callings of similar stalls; the Pavement at course became likewise more numeGracechurch, and the Pavement

There were in the fourteenth before the convent of the Minorite century almost as many different Friars at Newgate, for miscellaneous trades as there are in the ninedealings, whither merchants were teenth. We read of barbers, bowallowed to come and take up their yers, spurriers, goldsmiths, silvertemporary stations; the market of smiths, swordsmiths, shoeing smiths, St. Nicholas Flesh Shambles, the brewers, vintners, bakers, millers, precursor of our modern Newgate, cooks, pie-makers, salt dealers, groand head-quarters of butchers, and cers, fishmongers, butchers, poulthe Stocks Market, on the site of terers, furriers, dyers, shoemakers, the present Mansion House, ap- hatters, tailors, and old-clothesmen. propriated to the fishmongers on But the separation between wholefish days, and to the butchers on sale and retail dealers, merchants and flesh days, both of which were fur- tradesmen, was much less clearly nished with permanent stalls. Near marked than now it is; and those

rous.

their money:

1

who bought goods in large quantities, either from foreign merchants for sale at home, or from the English producers for exportation, for the most part dealt promiscuously in articles of all sorts. The divisions of commerce, however, were gradually becoming more distinct; and even now there was, at any rate, the one broad separation of trades in articles of food from trades in articles of clothing and manufacturing art. With food the great merchants of England had least to do. Some of them made it part of their business to buy up corn and send it for sale in foreign markets; but this was the only article of food exported to any great extent; and the imports, with the exception of the salt trade, almost monopolized by the people of the Cinque Ports, were mainly managed by merchants from France, Flanders, Spain, Italy, and Germany, who came with shiploads of commodities, and sold them in London and the other great ports. But by far the greater quantity of the food consumed in England was of course produced in the country, and here there was comparatively little wholesale trade. Over and over again it was sought by Acts of Parliament to regulate and improve these branches of commerce, and to put them into the hands of larger and more respectable merchants; and not without somo reason. Rogues and swindlers were as plentiful then as now, and it was much moro difficult to see and hinder fraud in small than in large dealers. It is found'-to cite an ordinance of Edward I., as out of the hundred illustrations that might be given—that certain buyers and brokers of corn, buy corn in tho City of peasants who bring it for sale, and, on the bargain being made, the buyer gives a penny or a halfpenny by way of earnest, telling the peasants to take the corn to his house, there to be paid for it. And when they come there and think to have their money at onco, the buyer says that his wife has gone out and taken with her the key, so that he cannot get at his cashbox; but that if they will come again presently they shall be

paid. And when they come back the buyer is not to be found, or, if he is found, he makes some other excuse to keep the poor men out of

Sometimes, while they are waiting, he causes the corn to be wetted (with the view of making malt], and when they come and ask for the price agreed upon, they are told to wait till such a day as the buyer shall choose to name, or else to take off a part of the price. If they refuse to do that, they are told to take back their corn-a thing that they cannot do, because it is wetted, and not as they sold it. By such bad delays, the poor men loso half their money in expenses before they are settled with; and therefore it is provided that the person towards whom such knavishness is used, shall make complaint to the mayor, and, if he can prove the wrong done to him, he is to receive double the value of the corn, besides full damages.'

Frauds were also practised in other businesses. We read, among much else, of old clothes dubbed and varnished up to be sold as new; of shoes made of dressed sheepskin, and charged for at the prico of tanned ox-leather; of sacks of coal sold under weight; and of rings made of common metal, which, being gilt or silvered over, wero palmed off as solid gold or silver. And of course there was knavery in large no less than in small transactions. Even Chaucer's Merchant with the forked beard, one of the company assembled at the Tabard Inn, at Southwark, to go on the memorable pilgrimage to Canterbury, good fellow though he was, was not altogether to be trusted.

• In motley suit, and high on horse he sat, [And on his head a Flandrish beaver hat, His boots were clasped fair and daintily;

His reasons spake be with full gravity.' But there was policy in this gay and grave appearance. * This worthy man full with his wit beset, So that no wight could think he was in debt; So steadfastly did he his governance, With his bargains and with his chevisance ;'that is, with his schemes for borrowing money.

And there were many merchants who not only bor

ono

« AnteriorContinuar »