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rowed money for speculating purposes, but secured to themselves more than was their due, by defrauding both the customers and the Exchequer.
sheriffs and citizens of London certainly not later than 1244. Long before this time, some of the great English companies had been formed. The guild of weavers was incorporated by Henry II. in 1185, and most of the others received their charters not later than the close of the following century.
It was doubtless with the view of protecting themselves against the impositions of their fellows, as well as to maintain their interests in dealings with foreigners, and to withstand the aggressions of the Crown, that honest merchants and tradesmen clubbed together in guilds and societies. The oldest guilds were very old indeed. In Anglo-Saxon times there were at least two in Exeter alone, the partners in which pledged themselves to pay a certain sum a year for the maintenance of their associations and for the assistance of any of their members who might fall into distress. We know not whether these had anything to do with commerce, or were simply friendly leagues for mutual help and the encouragement of good feeling; but Domesday Book records the existence of a gihalla, or guildhall, at Dover, established for the benefit of merchants, and there were doubtless many such. The Cinque Ports must originally have formed a like association of towns for the protection of each other's interests at sea, although their incorporation by royal charter soon altered the character of the league, and the need of keeping up a naval force for the service of the Crown subordinated trade to war. The Hanse Towns made a somewhat similar league for foreign trade, and from an early date the Hanse merchants had the special privilege of warehousing their corn in London, were allowed to build granaries for the purpose, fand were governed by an alderman of their own, presiding at the Steelyard, often called the Guildhall of the Teutonic merchants. With them appear to have been united a society of Cologne merchants, who are said to have founded the Guildhall proper-a building set up some fifty yards further back than the site of the present Guildhall somewhere near the year I 200. They were soon turned out of it, however, as it had become the recognized meeting-place of the
Much more important than any of these was the Society of Merchants of the Staple, or wholesale dealers in the three staple commodities of England-wool, woolfels or sheepskins, and leather,-to which lead, tin, and other articles were afterwards added. The society was founded some time before 1313. In that year Edward II. issued a charter to its mayor and council, empowering them to choose a city of Brabant, Flanders, or Artois, to be called the staple, whither all wools and leathers exported from England were to be taken for sale to such foreign dealers as chose to come for them. The idea of establishing a central market for the exchange of commodities had much to commend it, and had the Society of Merchants, wisely constituted, been allowed to retain its power, much good might have resulted. But the staple was made a royal plaything and a means of royal extortion, and, therefore, a source of mischief. In 1326, Antwerp, the port first chosen, was abandoned, and several towns within the kingdom were made staples instead, the chief being Cardiff, the property of Hugh Despencer, and therefore a most desirable place to be enriched by the coming together of merchants from all lands. In 1328, soon after the accession of Edward III., all staples were, in a fit of liberality, abolished; but in 1332 several new ones were appointed. In 1334 all were abolished again, and in 1341 the staple was once more established on the Continent, Bruges being the first city selected, to be followed, in 1348, the year of its coming into the hands of the English, by Calais, when thirty-six London merchants were sent over to profit by the monopoly. In 1353 fourteen English and Irish towns were made staples, and in 1363 the staple was
restored to Calais. In 1369 several English towns were again favoured, and in 1376 Calais again took their place. The staple fluctuated between the French town and those in England until 1398, when it was fixed at Calais, not to be removed till 1538, and then, with modifications that indicated the dying out of the old restrictive institution, it was transferred to Bruges, and forgotten.
Other restrictions to the full development of trade sprang from the lawlessness and spite of private individuals. In 1294, one Walter Hobbe, a great and greedy merchant of Bristol, seized the ship of a merchant from Holland, and detained its cargo. After much litigation, he was forced to restore the ship and its goods, and to pay the heavy sum of sixty-five pounds for the damage done by him; so that, in this case, the evil was righted,
it being a thing of great danger at those times,' says the old chronicler, 'and such as might occasion a war, to suffer alien merchants, particularly those of Holland and Brabant, to depart without having justice granted to them.'
But in most cases justice was very far from being done. In 1321, we find Edward II. complaining of the great dissension and discord that existed between the people of the Cinque Ports and the men and mariners of the western towns of Poole, Weymouth, Melcombe, Lyme, Southampton, and other adjacent towns, and of the homicide, depredation, ship-burning, and many other evil acts resulting therefrom. He caused to be publicly proclaimed in each of the offending towns that all such violent acts were done without his sanction, and against his will; but that mild protest, of course, had not much effect. The Cinque Ports, encouraged to keep up an efficient naval force for the service of the State, when required, used their power at other times in oppressing and robbing the more exclusively merchant shipping of other ports; and these other ports, jealous of the special privileges accorded in return for the naval service, were glad enough to retaliate to the utmost of their ability.
Between the Cinque Ports and Yarmouth, near enough to feel specially aggrieved, and strong enough to take frequent reprisals, a petty warfare was waged through some centuries, and numberless are the Acts of Parliament and royal mandates seeking, but seeking in vain, to remedy the evil. Then there were constant feuds between the merchants of England and those of other countries, Scotland and France especially. In 1335-to give one or two out of many instances-a vessel of Southampton, stocked with wool and other merchandise, was captured at the mouth of the Thames by a little fleet of Scotch and Norman privateers; and in 1336, Jersey and Guernsey were attacked and plundered by several Scotch pirates, who also seized a number of English ships lying off the Isle of Wight. In 1357, three Scotch galleys did immense damage to the shipping of the eastern coast, until they were seized by the men of Yarmouth.
More memorable than all was the strife between John Mercer, a bold merchant of Perth, and John Philpot, of London, in 1378. Mercer's father had for some time given assistance to the French by harassing the merchant ships of England; and in 1377, being driven by foul weather on to the Yorkshire coast, he was caught and imprisoned in Scarborough Castle. Thereupon the son carried on the strife. Collecting a little fleet of Scottish, French, and Spanish ships, he captured several English merchantmen off Scarborough, slaying their commanders, putting their crews in chains, and appropriating or destroying their cargoes. This mischief must be stopped, and at once, thought John Philpot, the Mayor of London, and one of its wealthiest merchants and noblest citizens. Therefore, at his own cost, he promptly collected a number of vessels, put in them a thousand armed men, and sailed for the north. Within a few weeks he had re-taken the captured vessels, had effectually beaten their impudent captors, and, in his turn, had seized fifteen Spanish ships, laden with wine, that came in his way. Returning to London,
he was called before the king's council, and reproved for his illegal conduct in taking an armament to sea without first obtaining the royal consent! His answer was characteristic. I did not expose myself, my money, and my men to the dangers of the sea,' he said, with cutting irony, to the Earl of Stafford, loudest in his reproaches, 'that I might deprive you and your colleagues of your knightly fame, or that I might win any for myself; but in pity for the misery of the people and the country, which, from being a noble realm with dominion over other nations, has, through your supineness, become exposed to the ravages of the vilest race; and, since you would not lift a hand in its defence, I exposed myself and my property for the safety and deliverance of our country.'
foreign attacks, and to strengthen a love of liberty and independence at home, as well as to enrich it with wealth and all the fair possessions that wealth and industry bring to a nation, England could not help becoming great. John Philpot was but one out of thousands who deserve our veneration alike for the nobility of their own characters, and for the good work done by them on behalf of their country. The lives of many can be but vaguely traced in the dim records of history, and are shown to us only in a few disconnected events. But of others we know enough to follow their careers and understand their influence upon both commercial and political history, and of these the most noteworthy shall be taken as heroes in the following portions of this series of papers on the Merchant Princes of England.' H. R. F. B.
THE ORDEAL FOR WIVES.
A Story of London Life.
BY THE AUTHOR OF THE MORALS OF MAYFAIR.'
THE FLEMING BLOOD.
due for introducing a family of persons who could subsist upon less than two hundred pounds a year to the reader's notice.
I have, in my time, read many stories in which the painful subject of poverty was treated; but have mostly found its more hideous details recorded in such terms as these:-The pittance of five hundred a year, allowed him by his uncle, barely sufficed to maintain him in the common decencies of life;' or, The young couple began their happy, but frugal ménage upon the interest of the bride's twelve thousand pounds, and poor Algernon's pay as a LieutenantColonel.' Such curious ideas respecting extreme want, do, no doubt, arise from the circumstance of authorship itself being such a lucrative craft: indeed, I remember in one old, fashionable novel, an authoress remarking that she intended to buy a Cashmere shawl with the three hundred pounds she should get for her next slight magazine story; and what can you expect but figurative starvation from a lady who realizes a thousand or so per annum, by knocking off flimsy magazine sketches, and subsequently devotes the fruits of her genius to Cashmere shawls? But I think even the wealthiest writers should recollect, that what seems death to them, may be life to other men; and, in the face of the very highest authorities, I will maintain that there are persons living, to whom five hundred a year seems a large fortune, four hundred a year a handsome one, three hundred a year a delicious competency; and who subsist like gentlemen and gentlewomen upon less than two hundred. The indelicacy of writing that last figure really staggers me; for, in
the most realistic novel, who ever saw decent lay-poverty done at less than three hundred pounds a year? But, as the admission has fallen from Miss Joan's own lips, so it shall rest. Yes, I abide by the fact. The Englehearts lived upon the objectionable sum already stated, and lived upon it, according to the ideas of simple country folk, like gentry.
And they were gentry, both by birth and education: the only two qualifications that I know of for belonging to that rank. They kept one servant, raised from the Sunday School, who received four pounds per annum in wages; they dressed, winter and summer, in much the same style as they had done when they first came to Countisbury, fifteen years ago; and as there was no human creature to keep up appearances before, appearances, naturally, were never attempted to be kept up. But here the line which separated the inhabitants of the farm at Countisbury from the smallgenteel of towns faded; or rather, I should say, came out in broad and pleasant relief upon the Englehearts' side, and in their favour. They knew none of those piteous self-humiliations-those petty shifts -those torturing fears which are the meat and drink of such men and women as try to seem that which they are not to their fellows. They never tried to invest their quiet house with the grim, galvanic life of spurious gaiety; they never sought the acquaintance of persons who did not seek to know them; they never gave a dinner-party! Miss Joan had a kitchen-garden, and made it pay: Miss Joan kept poultry, and made them pay, also on what superhuman system, she alone knows. Their house-rent cost them about twenty pounds a year; their dress-no, the thought of those
Cashmere shawls, of those lucrative fictions, gets the better of me, here. I cannot descend to any more of those fearful details of starvation. I apologize, with humility, for the extent into which I have already been betrayed, and pass on.
Old Mrs. Engleheart was the sister of Esther Fleming's paternal grandfather, Colonel Garratt Fleming. If all the family sayings about this Colonel Fleming were true, his personal charms, to which a miniature possessed by Esther bore ample witness, were more conspicuous than his principles; or, at least, than his worldly wisdom-but the terms are identical. He certainly contrived to get through a very considerable estate during his own lifetime, and, on his death, left his son, newly married, and in orders, without a shilling. I dare say the son troubled himself little as to whether his poverty had been brought about through the goodness or badness of the paternal disposition; but, though the psychological nicety did not disturb him, the poverty itself was more than he could struggle against. A living of one hundred and fifty pounds a year, a sickly wife, ill-health of one's own, and no chance of preferment, are not incentives to life for a man reared in the belief that his path will be laid among the pleasant places of the world. Mr. Fleming simply succumbed to them: 'didn't take the trouble to live,' his cousin Joan said of him; and six months after he had followed his wife to the damp churchyard from the damper parsonage, was laid to rest there himself.
There was just enough, after the sale of his books and furniture, to pay his debts, and buy his little daughter Esther, aged four years, a black frock. And then arose the question, who was to take care of the child? Her mother, in accordance with a peculiarity of nearly all very poor persons, had had numerous relatives when she was engaged to Garratt Fleming's reputed heir, but had left no one belonging to her on her death; or no one who could be found, or no one who wanted to adopt an orphan
child. On her father's side were only two- Mrs. Engleheart and Mrs. Tudor: both elderly, and widowed sisters of the handsome, open-handed (or under-principled) Garratt Fleming.
Some time in the last century these two sisters had been notorious west-country beauties; and many were the stories conserved by old Mrs. Tudor of the dead generation who had sighed and suffered at their feet. Mrs. Engleheart, as one whose charms had done least in the world, was more reticent as to their bygone victories; but the few survivors whose memories could stretch back fifty years, averred that, in her youth, her beauty had not only outshone that of her sister, but also of every other woman of her time in Bath. However this may have been, she had married for love and without money; choosing a husband, too, very much of the same stamp as her own brother Garratt. Her sister had married not at all from love, but with money; and their lives having flowed on and settled, like most lives, very much according to the bias they themselves first gave to them, it came to pass that, when their nephew, Henry Fleming, died, Mrs. Tudor was living in great comfort, and much respected in Bath; Mrs. Engleheart, in great retirement, and not at all thought of by anybody in North Devonshire.
It was out of the question that a Fleming should be brought up by other charity than that of her own people. But then, which of her own people was to be charitable? 'I would as lief have a monkey in my house as a child,' wrote Mrs. Tudor to her sister, at the time of the bereavement; and Bath don't agree with children. However, Garratt's grandchild must be maintained by the family, and I'll tell you what I'll do. I will give thirty pounds a year towards keeping her, if you will undertake all the rest. Children do better in the country than in towns, and Joan can work out some of her educational crotchets for her little cousin's benefit.'
And so it was settled. Esther Fleming, at the age of four, came to