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Leith, Stirling, Lanark, and Dumbarton. Edinburgh was still an insignificant place, and Glasgow was little more than a village, although incorporated by William the Lion in 1175. In Ireland, the ancient city of Dublin had been so utterly ruined during the English conquest of the country, that Henry II., by a charter dated 1172, assigned it to the citizens of Bristol on condition of their colonizing it anew; and straightway, we are told, it began so to prosper that it threatened to rival London as a centre of wealth and commerce.
The things brought into England by foreign merchants in the twelfth and following centuries were for the most part articles of luxury-silks and furs, jewels and costly weapons, wines and spices, to gratify the extravagant tastes of gay courtiers and wealthy citizens. The commodities exported were nearly all articles of necessity-corn and flesh, wools raw and wrought, and copper, iron, tin, and lead. In 1194, Richard I. had to prohibit any further exportation of corn during that year, 'that England might not suffer from the want of its abundance;' and the outgoing of all useful merchandise was far in excess of the returns in kind of other useful merchandise. The impolicy of this arrangement is apparent. Large quantities of silver and gold came into the country, but they came to enrich the few and encourage in them a wasteful expenditure of money, while the poor were yet further impoverished by a system of trade which kept the home-made necessaries of life at an unreasonably high price and brought no others from abroad to supply the deficiency. It must be admitted, however, that this evil was partially rectified by the ever-increasing demand for labour that resulted perforce from the growing demand for English produce. At this period, it is probable, there was remunerative employment for nearly all the population. Of the extent of agricultural and mining labour we can form no estimate; but we know the wool trade to have been very extensive. There was a very large
importation of woad, used for colouring the woollen fabric, manufactured both for home and for foreign use; and there was also a very large exportation of sheepskins to be worked by Flemish manufacturers into a finer cloth than the English at that time had the knack of making. All the nations of the world, we are told by Matthew of Westminster, were kept warm by the wool of England, made into cloth by the men of Flanders.
It was not long before English politicians perceived the mischief arising from the want of balance between imports and exports, and they set themselves to try and remedy the evil in many unwise ways. The history of British commerce under the Plantagenets is for the most part a history of impolitic legislation, fiercely ordered, but, from the nature of things, and as a consequence of the steady growth of right principles among the people, almost everywhere disobeyed. The Flemings being better clothmakers, during the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, than the English, it was sought again and again, not to improve the English manufacture, but to prevent the introduction of articles from Flanders. Simon de Montfort, for instance, representing the national party of his day, was steadfast in his opposition to foreign commerce, and in accordance with his opinions, a law was passed in 1261, forbidding the exportation of wool and the use of any apparel made out of the country, or made in the country with the help of imported materials. Woad was not admitted, and, in consequence, the people had for some years to content themselves with rough, undyed cloths. Such a law, most pernicious in that it restrained the production of wool for exportation and hampered the industry of the country, could not long hold its ground. It was almost immediately remitted in favour of dealers with France and Normandy; and although, through personal and national jealousy, it was nominally enforced against the Flemings, we read that in 1270, at one seizure, the Countess of Flanders, by way of reprisal, forfeited as
much as forty thousand marks' worth of English goods waiting to be sold in her dominions. That act led to fresh legislation. Whereas,' runs a proclamation of Henry III., issued in 1271, at the requirement of the merchants as well of our realm, as of France, Normandy, and other kingdoms, who gave unto us pledges and other surety by corporal oath, that they would not take any wools unto the parts of Flanders or of Hainault, or would sell the same unto the Flemings: and whereas we have of late for certain understood that the wools, by our leave thus taken out of our realm, are sold to the said Flemings; we have determined that all wools of our realm, exposed to sale, shall remain within our realm, and shall not on any account be taken unto any parts beyond sea whatsoever.' To that unwise proclamation was added a wise proviso, 'That all workers of woollen cloths, male and female, as well of Flanders as of other lands, might safely come into our realm, there to make cloths, and should be quit of toll and tallage, and of payment of other customs for their work until the end of five years.' There were a fair number of Flemish immigrants to claim this generous privilege; but the prohibition of all exports to the Continent was as futile as the one issued ten years before and the many others issued in after years.
Other hindrances, however, were offered to the free development of commerce. From early times it had been the custom of the City of London to allow all foreign merchants bringing their goods for sale, to put up at certain inns; and, when the extent of their dealings encouraged them so to do, there was no objection made to their building houses for themselves; but they were only to sell their commodities by the hundredweight, and that in the presence of the king's weigher, by whom a heavy tax was to be claimed. These rules having been infringed, twenty merchants were arrested in 1269 and committed to the Tower until a fine of a thousand pounds had been paid, and the weights and scales that they set up for them
selves had been broken up and burnt. In 1275, more severe rules were laid down. A strange merchant,' it was appointed, may lodge where he pleases, but he shall not sell by retail; as, for instance, fustic-woods, he shall not sell less than twelve of them; and if he have pepper, cummin, ginger, alum, brazil-wood, or frankincense, he shall not sell less than twenty-five pounds thereof at a time. If he bring girdles, he shall not sell fewer than a thousand and twelve at a time; if cloths of silk, wool, or linen, he shall sell them whole; if he bring wax, he shall sell not less than a quarter. Foreign merchants, also, shall not be allowed to buy dyed cloths while wet, or to make dye, or to do any work that belongs to the citizens. They shall not make a market in the city, nor shall they stay in the city more than forty days.' That last regulation must have pressed very heavily on the foreigners, obliging them often, in dull seasons, to go home again with their vessels full of unsold wares. It was withdrawn in 1303, a memorable year in commercial history, when Edward I. granted a general charter to the merchants of Germany, France, Spain, Portugal, Navarre, Lombardy, Tuscany, Provence, Catalonia, Aquitaine, Toulouse, Flanders, Brabant, and all other countries, permitting them to come safely to any part of his dominions, to sell their goods, and to claim the protection of the laws of the land.
yards' length and six quarters' breadth, while all coloured cloths were to be just twenty-six yards long and six and a half quarters broad. By this enactment, immense expense was incurred in the employment of royal measurers, and the only practical result was the withholding of many of the best commodities from the English market. Yet it was not repealed until 1353, when the great men and commons having to our lord the king how divers merchants, as well foreigners and denizens, have withdrawn them, and yet do withdraw them, to come with cloths into England, to the great damage of the king and all his people, because the king's measurer surmiseth to merchant strangers that their cloths be not of assize.'
We have given instances enough of the arbitrary and frivolous legislation by which, during these centuries, the foreign merchants seeking trade with England were prevented from doing or getting all the good that ought to have come of their dealings. There was no better treatment for the merchants and tradesmen at home. They also were the sport of unwise laws and arbitrary mandates. We read, for instance, of a fair appointed to be held at Westminster in the spring of 1245, when all the tradesmen of London were commanded to shut up their shops, and all other fairs were forbidden throughout England during fifteen days, in order that the whole commerce of the country might be confined in one place, and that thus a large amount of toll-money might be collected. During the whole fortnight, however, the weather was bad, so that vast quantities of clothing and provisions were left to rot in the tents, through which the rain penetrated at once, while the dealers themselves had to stay all day, waiting for customers who never came, with their feet in the mud and the wind and rain beating against their faces. In 1249, the same sort of tyranny was again exercised. The citizens of London, at the request of his lordship the king, not compelled, yet as
though compelled, took their wares to the fair of Westminster, and the citizens of many cities of England, by precept of his lordship the king, also repaired thither with their wares; all of whom made a stay at that fair of full fifteen days, all the shops and warehouses of London being in the meantime closed.' On this occasion, also, the season was bad, and no buyers came for the damaged goods; but the king did not mind the imprecations of the people.'
King and Parliament, however, were willing sometimes to listen to popular clamour when dictated by unreasonable prejudice. In times of variable supply, it was most desirable that monied men should buy up different articles of food and clothing when they were most plentiful and likely to be wasted, and store them up for seasons of scarcity. But this custom of warehousing, called forestalling, gave offence to the thoughtless multitude, who held it better to use at once all that came in their way, without any heed of a morrow of scarcity, and who considered the greediness with which some forestallers made wealth out of the necessities of the people a reason for hating the whole class; and their governors endorsed their opinions.
Be it especially commanded,' it is written in one of Henry III.'s laws, that no forestaller be suffered to dwell in any town, he being an oppressor of poor people, and of all the community, an enemy of the whole shire and country, seeing that for his private gains he doth prevent others in buying grain, fish, herring, or any other thing coming to be sold by land or water, oppressing the poor and deceiving the rich.'
But notwithstanding all these hindrances, commerce grew apace. By the Great Charter wrested from King John it was declared that all native merchants should have protection in going out of England and in coming back to it, as well as while residing in the kingdom or travelling about in it, without any impositions so grievous as to cause the destruction of his trade. The
privileges were often infringed in spirit, if not in letter, yet all through the reigns of Henry III. and Edward II., oppressive by reason of their weakness, and of Edward I. and Edward III., oppressive by reason of their strength, English merchandise made steady progress. Two important steps were gained by the assignment of different branches of commerce to different classes of tradesmen, each of whom made it a point of honour, as much as possible to extend and improve his own calling, and by the establishment of settled places of trade, in lieu, to a great extent, of the original plan by which every merchant was a sort of pedlar.
Both changes began long before the thirteenth century, but they were not properly effected till some time after its close. London was a chief resort of merchants for many centuries before they made it a permanent residence for purposes of trade, and even then their dealings were carried on in public markets long before we hear of shops and warehouses. The London of the Plantagenets, all included, of course, within the city walls, and then with plenty of vacant space in it, was full of markets. There were the Chepe, or Westchepe, now Cheapside, where bread, cheese, poultry, fruit, hides, onions, garlic, and like articles were sold by dealers at little wooden stalls, movable and flexible, and not more than two and a half feet wide, ranged along the roadside, and the Cornhill, where grains and articles manufactured of wood and iron were bartered at similar stalls; the Pavement at Gracechurch, and the Pavement before the convent of the Minorite Friars at Newgate, for miscellaneous dealings, whither merchants were allowed to come and take up their temporary stations; the market of St. Nicholas Flesh Shambles, the precursor of our modern Newgate, and head-quarters of butchers, and the Stocks Market, on the site of the present Mansion House, appropriated to the fishmongers on fish days, and to the butchers on flesh days, both of which were furnished with permanent stalls. Near
to the Stocks Market was the yet more important market of Woolchurch-Haw, adjoining the churchyard of St. Mary Woolchurch, the great meeting-place of the wool and cloth merchants; while in any part of the City, with the exception of Cornhill, carts might stand loaded with firewood, timber, and charcoal. As London grew, and there was need of places for retail purchase nearer to the more out-of-theway houses than these central markets were, it became the fashion for tradesmen to throw open the lower front rooms of their dwelling-houses and stock them with articles for sale. In this way shops came into fashion; and in like manner, to make space for the storage of goods, many upper rooms came to be enlarged by pent-houses, or projections, reaching nearly into the middle of the streets, but with their floors nine feet above the ground, 'so as to allow of people riding beneath.' Much larger than these were the selds or shields, great sheds erected by the more important wholesale dealers, for their own use, or by several merchants in company, for the sale of separate commodities. One in Friday Street, for instance, was used exclusively in Edward III.'s reign for traffic in hides, while another at Winchester, under the jurisdiction of the bishop of the diocese, seems to have been the chief place in the whole town for the stowage and sale of all sorts of goods.
As the numbers of markets, shops, and selds increased, the varieties of trades and callings of course became likewise more numerous. There were in the fourteenth century almost as many different trades as there are in the nineteenth. We read of barbers, bowyers, spurriers, goldsmiths, silversmiths, swordsmiths, shoeing smiths, brewers, vintners, bakers, millers, cooks, pie-makers, salt dealers, grocers, fishmongers, butchers, poulterers, furriers, dyers, shoemakers, hatters, tailors, and old-clothesmen. But the separation between wholesale and retail dealers, merchants and tradesmen, was much less clearly marked than now it is; and those
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 some reason. Rogues and swindlers were as plentiful then as now, and it was much more difficult to see and hinder fraud in small than in large dealers. It is found'-to cite an ordinance of Edward I., as one out of the hundred illustrations that might be given-that certain buyers and brokers of corn, buy corn in the 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 once, 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
their money. 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 lose 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, were 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 he 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