Commentaries on the Laws of England - Book the First
by William Blackstone
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[Footnote p: Gr. Coustum. c. 16.]

[Footnote q: cap. 8.]

[Footnote r: William of Malmsb. in vita Hen. I. Spelm. Hen. I. ap. Wilkins. 299.]

[Footnote s: Hoved. Matth. Paris.]

[Footnote t: Hoved. A.D. 1201.]

[Footnote u: 9 Hen. III. c. 25.]

[Footnote w: Plac. 35 Edw. I. apud Cowel's Interpr. tit. pondus regis.]

[Footnote x: Flet. 2. 12.]

[Footnote y: 14 Edw. III. st. 1. c. 12. 25 Edw. III. st. 5. c. 10. 16 Ric. II. c. 3. 8 Hen. VI. c. 5. 11 Hen. VI. c. 8. 11 Hen. VII. c. 4. 22 Car. II. c. 8.]

[Footnote z: 2 Inst. 41.]

THIRDLY, as money is the medium of commerce, it is the king's prerogative, as the arbiter of domestic commerce, to give it authority or make it current. Money is an universal medium, or common standard, by comparison with which the value of all merchandize may be ascertained: or it is a sign, which represents the respective values of all commodities. Metals are well calculated for this sign, because they are durable and are capable of many subdivisions: and a precious metal is still better calculated for this purpose, because it is the most portable. A metal is also the most proper for a common measure, because it can easily be reduced to the same standard in all nations: and every particular nation fixes on it it's own impression, that the weight and standard (wherein consists the intrinsic value) may both be known by inspection only.

AS the quantity of precious metals increases, that is, the more of them there is extracted from the mine, this universal medium or common sign will sink in value, and grow less precious. Above a thousand millions of bullion are calculated to have been imported into Europe from America within less than three centuries; and the quantity is daily increasing. The consequence is, that more money must be given now for the same commodity than was given an hundred years ago. And, if any accident was to diminish the quantity of gold and silver, their value would proportionably rise. A horse, that was formerly worth ten pounds, is now perhaps worth twenty; and, by any failure of current specie, the price may be reduced to what it was. Yet is the horse in reality neither dearer nor cheaper at one time than another: for, if the metal which constitutes the coin was formerly twice as scarce as at present, the commodity was then as dear at half the price, as now it is at the whole.

THE coining of money is in all states the act of the sovereign power; for the reason just mentioned, that it's value may be known on inspection. And with respect to coinage in general, there are three things to be considered therein; the materials, the impression, and the denomination.

WITH regard to the materials, sir Edward Coke lays it down[a], that the money of England must either be of gold or silver; and none other was ever issued by the royal authority till 1672, when copper farthings and half-pence were coined by king Charles the second, and ordered by proclamation to be current in all payments, under the value of six-pence, and not otherwise. But this copper coin is not upon the same footing with the other in many respects, particularly with regard to the offence of counterfeiting it.

[Footnote a: 2 Inst. 577.]

AS to the impression, the stamping thereof is the unquestionable prerogative of the crown: for, though divers bishops and monasteries had formerly the privilege of coining money, yet, as sir Matthew Hale observes[b], this was usually done by special grant from the king, or by prescription which supposes one; and therefore was derived from, and not in derogation of, the royal prerogative. Besides that they had only the profit of the coinage, and not the power of instituting either the impression or denomination; but had usually the stamp sent them from the exchequer.

[Footnote b: 1 Hist. P.C. 191.]

THE denomination, or the value for which the coin is to pass current, is likewise in the breast of the king; and, if any unusual pieces are coined, that value must be ascertained by proclamation. In order to fix the value, the weight, and the fineness of the metal are to be taken into consideration together. When a given weight of gold or silver is of a given fineness, it is then of the true standard, and called sterling metal; a name for which there are various reasons given[c], but none of them entirely satisfactory. And of this sterling metal all the coin of the kingdom must be made by the statute 25 Edw. III. c. 13. So that the king's prerogative seemeth not to extend to the debasing or inhancing the value of the coin, below or above the sterling value[d]: though sir Matthew Hale[e] appears to be of another opinion. The king may also, by his proclamation, legitimate foreign coin, and make it current here; declaring at what value it shall be taken in payments[f]. But this, I apprehend, ought to be by comparison with the standard of our own coin; otherwise the consent of parliament will be necessary. There is at present no such legitimated money; Portugal coin being only current by private consent, so that any one who pleases may refuse to take it in payment. The king may also at any time decry, or cry down, any coin of the kingdom, and make it no longer current[g].

[Footnote c: Spelm. Gloss. 203.]

[Footnote d: 2 Inst. 577.]

[Footnote e: 1 H.P.C. 194.]

[Footnote f: Ibid. 197.]

[Footnote g: Ibid.]

VI. THE king is, lastly, considered by the laws of England as the head and supreme governor of the national church.

TO enter into the reasons upon which this prerogative is founded is matter rather of divinity than of law. I shall therefore only observe that by statute 26 Hen. VIII. c. 1. (reciting that the king's majesty justly and rightfully is and ought to be the supreme head of the church of England; and so had been recognized by the clergy of this kingdom in their convocation) it is enacted, that the king shall be reputed the only supreme head in earth of the church of England, and shall have, annexed to the imperial crown of this realm, as well the titles and stile thereof, as all jurisdictions, authorities, and commodities, to the said dignity of supreme head of the church appertaining. And another statute to the same purport was made, 1 Eliz. c. 1.

IN virtue of this authority the king convenes, prorogues, restrains, regulates, and dissolves all ecclesiastical synods or convocations. This was an inherent prerogative of the crown, long before the time of Henry VIII, as appears by the statute 8 Hen. VI. c. 1. and the many authors, both lawyers and historians, vouched by sir Edward Coke[h]. So that the statute 25 Hen. VIII. c. 19. which restrains the convocation from making or putting in execution any canons repugnant to the king's prerogative, or the laws, customs, and statutes of the realm, was merely declaratory of the old common law: that part of it only being new, which makes the king's royal assent actually necessary to the validity of every canon. The convocation or ecclesiastical synod, in England, differs considerably in it's constitution from the synods of other christian kingdoms: those consisting wholly of bishops; whereas with us the convocation is the miniature of a parliament, wherein the archbishop presides with regal state; the upper house of bishops represents the house of lords; and the lower house, composed of representatives of the several dioceses at large, and of each particular chapter therein, resembles the house of commons with it's knights of the shire and burgesses[i]. This constitution is said to be owing to the policy of Edward I; who thereby at one and the same time let in the inferior clergy to the privilege of forming ecclesiastical canons, (which before they had not) and also introduced a method of taxing ecclesiastical benefices, by consent of convocation[k].

[Footnote h: 4 Inst. 322, 323.]

[Footnote i: In the diet of Sweden, where the ecclesiastics form one of the branches of the legislature, the chamber of the clergy resembles the convocation of England. It is composed of the bishops and superintendants; and also of deputies, one of which is chosen by every ten parishes or rural deanry. Mod. Un. Hist. xxxiii. 18.]

[Footnote k: Gilb. hist. of exch. c. 4.]

FROM this prerogative also of being the head of the church arises the king's right of nomination to vacant bishopricks, and certain other ecclesiastical preferments; which will better be considered when we come to treat of the clergy. I shall only here observe, that this is now done in consequence of the statute 25 Hen. VIII. c. 20.

AS head of the church, the king is likewise the dernier resort in all ecclesiastical causes; an appeal lying ultimately to him in chancery from the sentence of every ecclesiastical judge: which right was restored to the crown by statute 25 Hen. VIII. c. 19. as will more fully be shewn hereafter.



HAVING, in the preceding chapter, considered at large those branches of the king's prerogative, which contribute to his royal dignity, and constitute the executive power of the government, we proceed now to examine the king's fiscal prerogatives, or such as regard his revenue; which the British constitution hath vested in the royal person, in order to support his dignity and maintain his power: being a portion which each subject contributes of his property, in order to secure the remainder.

THIS revenue is either ordinary, or extraordinary. The king's ordinary revenue is such, as has either subsisted time out of mind in the crown; or else has been granted by parliament, by way of purchase or exchange for such of the king's inherent hereditary revenues, as were found inconvenient to the subject.

WHEN I say that it has subsisted time out of mind in the crown, I do not mean that the king is at present in the actual possession of the whole of this revenue. Much (nay, the greatest part) of it is at this day in the hands of subjects; to whom it has been granted out from time to time by the kings of England: which has rendered the crown in some measure dependent on the people for it's ordinary support and subsistence. So that I must be obliged to recount, as part of the royal revenue, what lords of manors and other subjects frequently look upon to be their own absolute rights, because they are and have been vested in them and their ancestors for ages, though in reality originally derived from the grants of our antient princes.

I. THE first of the king's ordinary revenues, which I shall take notice of, is of an ecclesiastical kind; (as are also the three succeeding ones) viz. the custody of the temporalties of bishops; by which are meant all the lay revenues, lands, and tenements (in which is included his barony) which belong to an archbishop's or bishop's see. And these upon the vacancy of the bishoprick are immediately the right of the king, as a consequence of his prerogative in church matters; whereby he is considered as the founder of all archbishopricks and bishopricks, to whom during the vacancy they revert. And for the same reason, before the dissolution of abbeys, the king had the custody of the temporalties of all such abbeys and priories as were of royal foundation (but not of those founded by subjects) on the death of the abbot or prior[a]. Another reason may also be given, why the policy of the law hath vested this custody in the king; because, as the successor is not known, the lands and possessions of the see would be liable to spoil and devastation, if no one had a property therein. Therefore the law has given the king, not the temporalties themselves, but the custody of the temporalties, till such time as a successor is appointed; with power of taking to himself all the intermediate profits, without any account to the successor; and with the right of presenting (which the crown very frequently exercises) to such benefices and other preferments as fall within the time of vacation[b]. This revenue is of so high a nature, that it could not be granted out to a subject, before, or even after, it accrued: but now by the statute 14 Edw. III. st. 4. c. 4 & 5. the king may, after the vacancy, lease the temporalties to the dean and chapter; saving to himself all advowsons, escheats, and the like. Our antient kings, and particularly William Rufus, were not only remarkable for keeping the bishopricks a long time vacant, for the sake of enjoying the temporalties, but also committed horrible waste on the woods and other parts of the estate; and, to crown all, would never, when the see was filled up, restore to the bishop his temporalties again, unless he purchased them at an exorbitant price. To remedy which, king Henry the first[c] granted a charter at the beginning of his reign, promising neither to sell, nor let to farm, nor take any thing from, the domains of the church, till the successor was installed. And it was made one of the articles of the great charter[d], that no waste should be committed in the temporalties of bishopricks, neither should the custody of them be sold. The same is ordained by the statute of Westminster the first[e]; and the statute 14 Edw. III. st. 4. c. 4. (which permits, as we have seen, a lease to the dean and chapter) is still more explicit in prohibiting the other exactions. It was also a frequent abuse, that the king would for trifling, or no causes, seise the temporalties of bishops, even during their lives, into his own hands: but this is guarded against by statute 1 Edw. III. st. 2. c. 2.

[Footnote a: 2 Inst. 15.]

[Footnote b: Stat. 17 Edw. II. c. 14. F.N.B. 32.]

[Footnote c: Matth. Paris.]

[Footnote d: 9 Hen. III. c. 5.]

[Footnote e: 3 Edw. I. c. 21.]

THIS revenue of the king, which was formerly very considerable, is now by a customary indulgence almost reduced to nothing: for, at present, as soon as the new bishop is consecrated and confirmed, he usually receives the restitution of his temporalties quite entire, and untouched, from the king; and then, and not sooner, he has a fee simple in his bishoprick, and may maintain an action for the same[f].

[Footnote f: Co. Litt. 67. 341.]

II. THE king is entitled to a corody, as the law calls it, out of every bishoprick: that is, to send one of his chaplains to be maintained by the bishop, or to have a pension allowed him till the bishop promotes him to a benefice[g]. This is also in the nature of an acknowlegement to the king, as founder of the see; since he had formerly the same corody or pension from every abbey or priory of royal foundation. It is, I apprehend, now fallen into total disuse; though sir Matthew Hale says[h], that it is due of common right, and that no prescription will discharge it.

[Footnote g: F.N.B. 230.]

[Footnote h: Notes on F.N.B. above cited.]

III. THE king also (as was formerly observed[i]) is entitled to all the tithes arising in extraparochial places[k]: though perhaps it may be doubted how far this article, as well as the last, can be properly reckoned a part of the king's own royal revenue; since a corody supports only his chaplains, and these extraparochial tithes are held under an implied trust, that the king will distribute them for the good of the clergy in general.

[Footnote i: page 110.]

[Footnote k: 2 Inst. 647.]

IV. THE next branch consists in the first-fruits, and tenths, of all spiritual preferments in the kingdom; both of which I shall consider together.

THESE were originally a part of the papal usurpations over the clergy of this kingdom; first introduced by Pandulph the pope's legate, during the reigns of king John and Henry the third, in the see of Norwich; and afterwards attempted to be made universal by the popes Clement V and John XXII, about the beginning of the fourteenth century. The first-fruits, primitiae, or annates, were the first year's whole profits of the spiritual preferment, according to a rate or valor made under the direction of pope Innocent IV by Walter bishop of Norwich in 38 Hen. III, and afterwards advanced in value by commission from pope Nicholas the third, A.D. 1292, 20 Edw. I[l]; which valuation of pope Nicholas is still preserved in the exchequer[m]. The tenths, or decimae, were the tenth part of the annual profit of each living by the same valuation; which was also claimed by the holy see, under no better pretence than a strange misapplication of that precept of the Levitical law, which directs[n], "that the Levites should offer the tenth part of their tithe as a heave-offering to the Lord, and give it to Aaron the high priest." But this claim of the pope met with vigorous resistance from the English parliament; and a variety of acts were passed to prevent and restrain it, particularly the statute 6 Hen. IV. c. 1. which calls it a horrible mischief and damnable custom. But the popish clergy, blindly devoted to the will of a foreign master, still kept it on foot; sometimes more secretly, sometimes more openly and avowedly: so that, in the reign of Henry VIII, it was computed, that in the compass of fifty years 800000 ducats had been sent to Rome for first-fruits only. And, as the clergy expressed this willingness to contribute so much of their income to the head of the church, it was thought proper (when in the same reign the papal power was abolished, and the king was declared the head of the church of England) to annex this revenue to the crown; which was done by statute 26 Hen. VIII. c. 3. (confirmed by statute 1 Eliz. c. 4.) and a new valor beneficiorum was then made, by which the clergy are at present rated.

[Footnote l: F.N.B. 176.]

[Footnote m: 3 Inst. 154.]

[Footnote n: Numb. 18. 26.]

BY these lastmentioned statutes all vicarages under ten pounds a year, and all rectories under ten marks, are discharged from the payment of first-fruits: and if, in such livings as continue chargeable with this payment, the incumbent lives but half a year, he shall pay only one quarter of his first-fruits; if but one whole year, then half of them; if a year and half, three quarters; and if two years, then the whole; and not otherwise. Likewise by the statute 27 Hen. VIII. c. 8. no tenths are to be paid for the first year, for then the first-fruits are due: and by other statutes of queen Anne, in the fifth and sixth years of her reign, if a benefice be under fifty pounds per annum clear yearly value, it shall be discharged of the payment of first-fruits and tenths.

THUS the richer clergy, being, by the criminal bigotry of their popish predecessors, subjected at first to a foreign exaction, were afterwards, when that yoke was shaken off, liable to a like misapplication of their revenues, through the rapacious disposition of the then reigning monarch: till at length the piety of queen Anne restored to the church what had been thus indirectly taken from it. This she did, not by remitting the tenths and first-fruits entirely; but, in a spirit of the truest equity, by applying these superfluities of the larger benefices to make up the deficiences of the smaller. And to this end she granted her royal charter, which was confirmed by the statute 2 Ann. c. 11. whereby all the revenue of first-fruits and tenths is vested in trustees for ever, to form a perpetual fund for the augmentation of poor livings. This is usually called queen Anne's bounty; which has been still farther regulated by subsequent statutes, too numerous here to recite.

V. THE next branch of the king's ordinary revenue (which, as well as the subsequent branches, is of a lay or temporal nature) consists in the rents and profits of the demesne lands of the crown. These demesne lands, terrae dominicales regis, being either the share reserved to the crown at the original distribution of landed property, or such as came to it afterwards by forfeitures or other means, were antiently very large and extensive; comprizing divers manors, honors, and lordships; the tenants of which had very peculiar privileges, as will be shewn in the second book of these commentaries, when we speak of the tenure in antient demesne. At present they are contracted within a very narrow compass, having been almost entirely granted away to private subjects. This has occasioned the parliament frequently to interpose; and, particularly, after king William III had greatly impoverished the crown, an act passed[o], whereby all future grants or leases from the crown for any longer term than thirty one years or three lives are declared to be void; except with regard to houses, which may be granted for fifty years. And no reversionary lease can be made, so as to exceed, together with the estate in being, the same term of three lives or thirty one years: that is, where there is a subsisting lease, of which there are twenty years still to come, the king cannot grant a future interest, to commence after the expiration of the former, for any longer term than eleven years. The tenant must also be made liable to be punished for committing waste; and the usual rent must be reserved, or, where there has usually been no rent, one third of the clear yearly value[p]. The misfortune is, that this act was made too late, after almost every valuable possession of the crown had been granted away for ever, or else upon very long leases; but may be of benefit to posterity, when those leases come to expire.

[Footnote o: 1 Ann. st. 1. c. 7.]

[Footnote p: In like manner, by the civil law, the inheritances or fundi patrimoniales of the imperial crown could not be alienated, but only let to farm. Cod. l. 11. t. 61.]

VI. HITHER might have been referred the advantages which were used to arise to the king from the profits of his military tenures, to which most lands in the kingdom were subject, till the statute 12 Car. II. c. 24. which in great measure abolished them all: the explication of the nature of which tenures, must be referred to the second book of these commentaries. Hither also might have been referred the profitable prerogative of purveyance and pre-emption: which was a right enjoyed by the crown of buying up provisions and other necessaries, by the intervention of the king's purveyors, for the use of his royal houshold, at an appraised valuation, in preference to all others, and even without consent of the owner; and also of forcibly impressing the carriages and horses of the subject, to do the king's business on the publick roads, in the conveyance of timber, baggage, and the like, however inconvenient to the proprietor, upon paying him a settled price. A prerogative, which prevailed pretty generally throughout Europe, during the scarcity of gold and silver, and the high valuation of money consequential thereupon. In those early times the king's houshold (as well as those of inferior lords) were supported by specific renders of corn, and other victuals, from the tenants of the respective demesnes; and there was also a continual market kept at the palace gate to furnish viands for the royal use[q]. And this answered all purposes, in those ages of simplicity, so long as the king's court continued in any certain place. But when it removed from one part of the kingdom to another (as was formerly very frequently done) it was found necessary to send purveyors beforehand, to get together a sufficient quantity of provisions and other necessaries for the houshold: and, lest the unusual demand should raise them to an exorbitant price, the powers beforementioned were vested in these purveyors; who in process of time very greatly abused their authority, and became a great oppression to the subject though of little advantage to the crown; ready money in open market (when the royal residence was more permanent, and specie began to be plenty) being found upon experience to be the best proveditor of any. Wherefore by degrees the powers of purveyance have declined, in foreign countries as well as our own; and particularly were abolished in Sweden by Gustavus Adolphus, toward the beginning of the last century[r]. And, with us in England, having fallen into disuse during the suspension of monarchy, king Charles at his restoration consented, by the same statute, to resign intirely these branches of his revenue and power, for the ease and convenience of his subjects: and the parliament, in part of recompense, settled on him, his heirs, and successors, for ever, the hereditary excise of fifteen pence per barrel on all beer and ale sold in the kingdom, and a proportionable sum for certain other liquors. So that this hereditary excise, the nature of which shall be farther explained in the subsequent part of this chapter, now forms the sixth branch of his majesty's ordinary revenue.

[Footnote q: 4 Inst. 273.]

[Footnote r: Mod. Un. Hist. xxxiii. 220.]

VII. A SEVENTH branch might also be computed to have arisen from wine licences; or the rents payable to the crown by such persons as are licensed to sell wine by retale throughout England, except in a few privileged places. These were first settled on the crown by the statute 12 Car. II. c. 25. and, together with the hereditary excise, made up the equivalent in value for the loss sustained by the prerogative in the abolition of the military tenures, and the right of pre-emption and purveyance: but this revenue was abolished by the statute 30 Geo. II. c. 19. and an annual sum of upwards of L7000 per annum, issuing out of the new stamp duties imposed on wine licences, was settled on the crown in it's stead.

VIII. AN eighth branch of the king's ordinary revenue is usually reckoned to consist in the profits arising from his forests. Forests are waste grounds belonging to the king, replenished with all manner of beasts of chase or venary; which are under the king's protection, for the sake of his royal recreation and delight: and, to that end, and for preservation of the king's game, there are particular laws, privileges, courts and officers belonging to the king's forests; all which will be, in their turns, explained in the subsequent books of these commentaries. What we are now to consider are only the profits arising to the king from hence; which consist principally in amercements or fines levied for offences against the forest-laws. But as few, if any courts of this kind for levying amercements have been held since 1632, 8 Car. I. and as, from the accounts given of the proceedings in that court by our histories and law books[s], nobody would now wish to see them again revived, it is needless (at least in this place) to pursue this enquiry any farther.

[Footnote s: 1 Jones. 267-298.]

IX. THE profits arising from the king's ordinary courts of justice make a ninth branch of his revenue. And these consist not only in fines imposed upon offenders, forfeitures of recognizances, and amercements levied upon defaulters; but also in certain fees due to the crown in a variety of legal matters, as, for setting the great seal to charters, original writs, and other legal proceedings, and for permitting fines to be levied of lands in order to bar entails, or otherwise to insure their title. As none of these can be done without the immediate intervention of the king, by himself or his officers, the law allows him certain perquisites and profits, as a recompense for the trouble he undertakes for the public. These, in process of time, have been almost all granted out to private persons, or else appropriated to certain particular uses: so that, though our law-proceedings are still loaded with their payment, very little of them is now returned into the king's exchequer; for a part of whose royal maintenance they were originally intended. All future grants of them however, by the statute 1 Ann. st. 2. c. 7. are to endure for no longer time than the prince's life who grants them.

X. A TENTH branch of the king's ordinary revenue, said to be grounded on the consideration of his guarding and protecting the seas from pirates and robbers, is the right to royal fish, which are whale and sturgeon: and these, when either thrown ashore, or caught near the coasts, are the property of the king, on account[t] of their superior excellence. Indeed our ancestors seem to have entertained a very high notion of the importance of this right; it being the prerogative of the kings of Denmark and the dukes of Normandy[u]; and from one of these it was probably derived to our princes. It is expressly claimed and allowed in the statute de praerogativa regis[w]: and the most antient treatises of law now extant make mention of it[x]; though they seem to have made a distinction between whale and sturgeon, as was incidentally observed in a former chapter[y].

[Footnote t: Plowd. 315.]

[Footnote u: Stiernh. de jure Sueonum. l. 2. c. 8. Gr. Coustum. cap. 17.]

[Footnote w: 17 Edw. II. c. 11.]

[Footnote x: Bracton. l. 3. c. 3. Britton. c. 17. Fleta. l. 1. c. 45 & 46.]

[Footnote y: ch. 4. pag. 216.]

XI. ANOTHER maritime revenue, and founded partly upon the same reason, is that of shipwrecks; which are also declared to be the king's property by the same prerogative statute 17 Edw. II. c. 11. and were so, long before, at the common law. It is worthy observation, how greatly the law of wrecks has been altered, and the rigour of it gradually softened, in favour of the distressed proprietors. Wreck, by the antient common law, was where any ship was lost at sea, and the goods or cargo were thrown upon the land; in which case these goods, so wrecked, were adjudged to belong to the king: for it was held, that, by the loss of the ship, all property was gone out of the original owner[z]. But this was undoubtedly adding sorrow to sorrow, and was consonant neither to reason nor humanity. Wherefore it was first ordained by king Henry I, that if any person escaped alive out of the ship it should be no wreck[a]; and afterwards king Henry II, by his charter[b], declared, that if on the coasts of either England, Poictou, Oleron, or Gascony, any ship should be distressed, and either man or beast should escape or be found therein alive, the goods should remain to the owners, if they claimed them within three months; but otherwise should be esteemed a wreck, and should belong to the king, or other lord of the franchise. This was again confirmed with improvements by king Richard the first, who, in the second year of his reign[c], not only established these concessions, by ordaining that the owner, if he was shipwrecked and escaped, "omnes res suas liberas et quietas haberet," but also, that, if he perished, his children, or in default of them his brethren and sisters, should retain the property; and, in default of brother or sister, then the goods should remain to the king[d]. And the law, so long after as the reign of Henry III, seems still to have been guided by the same equitable provisions. For then if a dog (for instance) escaped, by which the owner might be discovered, or if any certain mark were set on the goods, by which they might be known again, it was held to be no wreck[e]. And this is certainly most agreeable to reason; the rational claim of the king being only founded upon this, that the true owner cannot be ascertained. But afterwards, in the statute of Westminster the first[f], the law is laid down more agreeable to the charter of king Henry the second: and upon that statute hath stood the legal doctrine of wrecks to the present time. It enacts, that if any live thing escape (a man, a cat, or a dog; which, as in Bracton, are only put for examples[g],) in this case, and, as it seems, in this case only, it is clearly not a legal wreck: but the sheriff of the county is bound to keep the goods a year and a day (as in France for one year, agreeably to the maritime laws of Oleron[h], and in Holland for a year and an half) that if any man can prove a property in them, either in his own right or by right of representation[i], they shall be restored to him without delay; but, if no such property be proved within that time, they then shall be the king's. If the goods are of a perishable nature, the sheriff may sell them, and the money shall be liable in their stead[k]. This revenue of wrecks is frequently granted out to lords of manors, as a royal franchise; and if any one be thus entitled to wrecks in his own land, and the king's goods are wrecked thereon, the king may claim them at any time, even after the year and day[l].

[Footnote z: Dr & St. d. 2. c. 51.]

[Footnote a: Spelm. Cod. apud Wilkins. 305.]

[Footnote b: 26 May, A.D. 1174. 1 Rym. Foed. 36.]

[Footnote c: Rog. Hoved. in Ric. I.]

[Footnote d: In like manner Constantine the great, finding that by the imperial law the revenue of wrecks was given to the prince's treasury or fiscus, restrained it by an edict (Cod. 11. 5. 1.) and ordered them to remain to the owners; adding this humane expostulation, "Quod enim jus habet fiscus in aliena calamitate, ut de re tam luctuosa compendium sectetur?"]

[Footnote e: Bract. l. 3. c. 3.]

[Footnote f: 3 Edw. I. c. 4.]

[Footnote g: Flet. 1. c. 44. 2 Inst. 167.]

[Footnote h: Sec. 28.]

[Footnote i: 2 Inst. 168.]

[Footnote k: Plowd. 166.]

[Footnote l: 2 Inst. 168. Bro. Abr. tit. Wreck.]

IT is to be observed, that in order to constitute a legal wreck, the goods must come to land. If they continue at sea, the law distinguishes them by the barbarous and uncouth appellations of jetsam, flotsam, and ligan. Jetsam is where goods are cast into the sea, and there sink and remain under water: flotsam is where they continue swimming on the surface of the waves: ligan is where they are sunk in the sea, but tied to a cork or buoy, in order to be found again[m]. These are also the king's, if no owner appears to claim them; but, if any owner appears, he is entitled to recover the possession. For even if they be cast overboard, without any mark or buoy, in order to lighten the ship, the owner is not by this act of necessity construed to have renounced his property[n]: much less can things ligan be supposed to be abandoned, since the owner has done all in his power, to assert and retain his property. These three are therefore accounted so far a distinct thing from the former, that by the king's grant to a man of wrecks, things jetsam, flotsam, and ligan will not pass[o].

[Footnote m: 5 Rep. 106.]

[Footnote n: Quae enim res in tempestate, levandae navis causa, ejiciuntur, hac dominorum permanent. Quia palam est, eas non eo animo ejici, quod quis habere nolit. Inst. 2. 1. Sec. 48.]

[Footnote o: 5 Rep. 108.]

WRECKS, in their legal acceptation, are at present not very frequent: it rarely happening that every living creature on board perishes; and if any should survive, it is a very great chance, since the improvement of commerce, navigation, and correspondence, but the owner will be able to assert his property within the year and day limited by law. And in order to preserve this property entire for him, and if possible to prevent wrecks at all, our laws have made many very humane regulations; in a spirit quite opposite to those savage laws, which formerly prevailed in all the northern regions of Europe, and a few years ago were still laid to subsist on the coasts of the Baltic sea, permitting the inhabitants to seize on whatever they could get as lawful prize; or, as an author of their own expresses it, "in naufragorum miseria et calamitate tanquam vultures ad praedam currere[p]." For by the statute 2 Edw. III. c. 13. if any ship be lost on the shore, and the goods come to land (so as it be not legal wreck) they shall be presently delivered to the merchants, they paying only a reasonable reward to those that saved and preserved them, which is intitled salvage. Also by the common law, if any persons (other than the sheriff) take any goods so cast on shore, which are not legal wreck, the owners might have a commission to enquire and find them out, and compel them to make restitution[q]. And by statute 12 Ann. st. 2. c. 18. confirmed by 4 Geo. I. c. 12. in order to assist the distressed, and prevent the scandalous illegal practices on some of our sea coasts, (too similar to those on the Baltic) it is enacted, that all head-officers and others of towns near the sea shall, upon application made to them, summon as many hands as are necessary, and send them to the relief of any ship in distress, on forfeiture of 100l. and, in case of assistance given, salvage shall be paid by the owners, to be assessed by three neighbouring justices. All persons that secrete any goods shall forfeit their treble value: and if they wilfully do any act whereby the ship is lost or destroyed, by making holes in her, stealing her pumps, or otherwise, they are guilty of felony, without benefit of clergy. Lastly, by the statute 26 Geo. II. c. 19. plundering any vessel either in distress, or wrecked, and whether any living creature be on board or not, (for, whether wreck or otherwise, it is clearly not the property of the populace) such plundering, I say, or preventing the escape of any person that endeavors to save his life, or wounding him with intent to destroy him, or putting out false lights in order to bring any vessel into danger, are all declared to be capital felonies; in like manner as the destroying trees, steeples, or other stated seamarks, is punished by the statute 8 Eliz. c. 13. with a forfeiture of 200l. Moreover, by the statute of George II, pilfering any goods cast ashore is declared to be petty larceny; and many other salutary regulations are made, for the more effectually preserving ships of any nation in distress[r].

[Footnote p: Stiernh. de jure Sueon. l. 3. c. 5.]

[Footnote q: F.N.B. 112.]

[Footnote r: By the civil law, to destroy persons shipwrecked, or prevent their saving the ship, is capital. And to steal even a plank from a vessel in distress, or wrecked, makes the party liable to answer for the whole ship and cargo. (Ff. 47. 9. 3.) The laws also of the Wisigoths, and the most early Neapolitan constitutions, punished with the utmost severity all those who neglected to assist any ship in distress, or plundered any goods cast on shore. (Lindenbrog. Cod. LL. antiq. 146. 715.)]

XII. A TWELFTH branch of the royal revenue, the right to mines, has it's original from the king's prerogative of coinage, in order to supply him with materials: and therefore those mines, which are properly royal, and to which the king is entitled when found, are only those of silver and gold[s]. By the old common law, if gold or silver be found in mines of base metal, according to the opinion of some the whole was a royal mine, and belonged to the king; though others held that it only did so, if the quantity of gold or silver was of greater value than the quantity of base metal[t]. But now by the statutes 1 W. & M. st. 1. c. 30. and 5 W. & M. c. 6. this difference is made immaterial; it being enacted, that no mines of copper, tin, iron, or lead, shall be looked upon as royal mines, notwithstanding gold or silver may be extracted from them in any quantities: but that the king, or persons claiming royal mines under his authority, may have the ore, (other than tin-ore in the counties of Devon and Cornwall) paying for the same a price stated in the act. This was an extremely reasonable law: for now private owners are not discouraged from working mines, through a fear that they may be claimed as royal ones; neither does the king depart from the just rights of his revenue, since he may have all the precious metal contained in the ore, paying no more for it than the value of the base metal which it is supposed to be; to which base metal the land-owner is by reason and law entitled.

[Footnote s: 2 Inst. 577.]

[Footnote t: Plowd. 566.]

XIII. TO the same original may in part be referred the revenue of treasure-trove (derived from the French word, trover, to find) called in Latin thesaurus inventus, which is where any money or coin, gold, silver, plate, or bullion, is found hidden in the earth, or other private place, the owner thereof being unknown; in which case the treasure belongs to the king: but if he that hid it be known, or afterwards found out, the owner and not the king is entitled to it[u]. Also if it be found in the sea, or upon the earth, it doth not belong to the king, but the finder, if no owner appears[w]. So that it seems it is the hiding, not the abandoning of it, that gives the king a property: Bracton[x] defining it, in the words of the civilians, to be "vetus depositio pecuniae." This difference clearly arises from the different intentions, which the law implies in the owner. A man, that hides his treasure in a secret place, evidently does not mean to relinquish his property; but reserves a right of claiming it again, when he sees occasion; and, if he dies and the secret also dies with him, the law gives it the king, in part of his royal revenue. But a man that scatters his treasure into the sea, or upon the public surface of the earth, is construed to have absolutely abandoned his property, and returned it into the common stock, without any intention of reclaiming it; and therefore it belongs, as in a state of nature, to the first occupant, or finder; unless the owner appear and assert his right, which then proves that the loss was by accident, and not with an intent to renounce his property.

[Footnote u: 3 Inst. 132. Dalt. Sheriffs. c. 16.]

[Footnote w: Britt. c. 17. Finch. L. 177.]

[Footnote x: l. 3. c. 3. Sec. 4.]

FORMERLY all treasure-trove belonged to the finder[y]; as was also the rule of the civil law[z]. Afterwards it was judged expedient for the purposes of the state, and particularly for the coinage, to allow part of what was so found to the king; which part was assigned to be all hidden treasure; such as is casually lost and unclaimed, and also such as is designedly abandoned, still remaining the right of the fortunate finder. And that the prince shall be entitled to this hidden treasure is now grown to be, according to Grotius[a], "jus commune, et quasi gentium:" for it is not only observed, he adds, in England, but in Germany, France, Spain, and Denmark. The finding of deposited treasure was much more frequent, and the treasures themselves more considerable, in the infancy of our constitution than at present. When the Romans, and other inhabitants of the respective countries which composed their empire, were driven out by the northern nations, they concealed their money under-ground; with a view of resorting to it again when the heat of the irruption should be over, and the invaders driven back to their desarts. But as this never happened, the treasures were never claimed; and on the death of the owners the secret also died along with them. The conquering generals, being aware of the value of these hidden mines, made it highly penal to secrete them from the public service. In England therefore, as among the feudists[b], the punishment of such as concealed from the king the finding of hidden treasure was formerly no less than death; but now it is only fine and imprisonment[c].

[Footnote y: Bracton. l. 3. c. 3. 3 Inst. 133.]

[Footnote z: Ff. 41. 1. 31.]

[Footnote a: de jur. b. & p. l. 2. c. 8. Sec. 7.]

[Footnote b: Glanv. l. 1. c. 2. Crag. 1. 16. 40.]

[Footnote c: 3 Inst. 133.]

XIV. WAIFS, bona waviata, are goods stolen, and waived or thrown away by the thief in his flight, for fear of being apprehended. These are given to the king by the law, as a punishment upon the owner, for not himself pursuing the felon, and taking away his goods from him[d]. And therefore if the party robbed do his diligence immediately to follow and apprehend the thief (which is called making fresh suit) or do convict him afterwards, or procure evidence to convict him, he shall have his goods again[e]. Waived goods do also not belong to the king, till seised by somebody for his use; for if the party robbed can seise them first, though at the distance of twenty years, the king shall never have them[f]. If the goods are hid by the thief, or left any where by him, so that he had them not about him when he fled, and therefore did not throw them away in his flight; these also are not bona waviata, but the owner may have them again when he pleases[g]. The goods of a foreign merchant, though stolen and thrown away in flight, shall never be waifs[h]: the reason whereof may be, not only for the encouragement of trade, but also because there is no wilful default in the foreign merchant's not pursuing the thief, he being generally a stranger to our laws, our usages, and our language.

[Footnote d: Cro. Eliz. 694.]

[Footnote e: Finch. L. 212.]

[Footnote f: Ibid.]

[Footnote g: 5 Rep. 109.]

[Footnote h: Fitzh. Abr. tit. Estray. 1. 3 Bulstr. 19.]

XV. ESTRAYS are such valuable animals as are found wandering in any manor or lordship, and no man knoweth the owner of them; in which case the law gives them to the king as the general owner and lord paramount of the soil, in recompence for the damage which they may have done therein; and they now most commonly belong to the lord of the manor, by special grant from the crown. But in order to vest an absolute property in the king or his grantees, they must be proclaimed in the church and two market towns next adjoining to the place where they are found; and then, if no man claims them, after proclamation and a year and a day passed, they belong to the king or his substitute without redemption[i]; even though the owner were a minor, or under any other legal incapacity[k]. A provision similar to which obtained in the old Gothic constitution, with regard to all things that were found, which were to be thrice proclaimed, primum coram comitibus et viatoribus obviis, deinde in proxima villa vel pago, postremo coram ecclesia vel judicio: and the space of a year was allowed for the owner to reclaim his property[l]. If the owner claims them within the year and day, he must pay the charges of finding, keeping, and proclaiming them[m]. The king or lord has no property till the year and day passed: for if a lord keepeth an estray three quarters of a year, and within the year it strayeth again, and another lord getteth it, the first lord cannot take it again[n]. Any beast may be an estray, that is by nature tame or reclaimable, and in which there is a valuable property, as sheep, oxen, swine, and horses, which we in general call cattle; and so Fleta[o] defines it, pecus vagans, quod nullus petit, sequitur, vel advocat. For animals upon which the law sets no value, as a dog or cat, and animals ferae naturae, as a bear or wolf, cannot be considered as estrays. So swans may be estrays, but not any other fowl[p]; whence they are said to be royal fowl. The reason of which distinction seems to be, that, cattle and swans being of a reclaimed nature, the owner's property in them is not lost merely by their temporary escape; and they also, from their intrinsic value, are a sufficient pledge for the expense of the lord of the franchise in keeping them the year and day. For he that takes an estray is bound, so long as he keeps it, to find it in provisions and keep it from damage[q]; and may not use it by way of labour, but is liable to an action for so doing[r]. Yet he may milk a cow, or the like, for that tends to the preservation, and is for the benefit, of the animal[s].

[Footnote i: Mirr. c. 3. Sec. 19.]

[Footnote k: 5 Rep. 108. Bro. Abr. tit. Estray. Cro. Eliz. 716.]

[Footnote l: Stiernh. de jur. Gothor. l. 3. c. 5.]

[Footnote m: Dalt. Sh. 79.]

[Footnote n: Finch. L. 177.]

[Footnote o: l. 1. c. 43.]

[Footnote p: 7 Rep. 17.]

[Footnote q: 1 Roll. Abr. 889.]

[Footnote r: Cro. Jac. 147.]

[Footnote s: Cro. Jac. 148. Noy. 119.]

BESIDES the particular reasons before given why the king should have the several revenues of royal fish, shipwrecks, treasure-trove, waifs, and estrays, there is also one general reason which holds for them all; and that is, because they are bona vacantia, or goods in which no one else can claim a property. And therefore by the law of nature they belonged to the first occupant or finder; and so continued under the imperial law. But, in settling the modern constitutions of most of the governments in Europe, it was thought proper (to prevent that strife and contention, which the mere title of occupancy is apt to create and continue, and to provide for the support of public authority in a manner the least burthensome to individuals) that these rights should be annexed to the supreme power by the positive laws of the state. And so it came to pass that, as Bracton expresses it[t], haec, quae nullius in bonis sunt, et olim fuerunt inventoris de jure naturali, jam efficiuntur principis de jure gentium.

[Footnote t: l. 1. c. 12.]

XVI. THE next branch of the king's ordinary revenue consists in forfeitures of lands and goods for offences; bona confiscata, as they are called by the civilians, because they belonged to the fiscus or imperial treasury; or, as our lawyers term them, forisfacta, that is, such whereof the property is gone away or departed from the owner. The true reason and only substantial ground of any forfeiture for crimes consist in this; that all property is derived from society, being one of those civil rights which are conferred upon individuals, in exchange for that degree of natural freedom, which every man must sacrifice when he enters into social communities. If therefore a member of any national community violates the fundamental contract of his association, by transgressing the municipal law, he forfeits his right to such privileges as he claims by that contract; and the state may very justly resume that portion of property, or any part of it, which the laws have before assigned him. Hence, in every offence of an atrocious kind, the laws of England have exacted a total confiscation of the moveables or personal estate; and in many cases a perpetual, in others only a temporary, loss of the offender's immoveables or landed property; and have vested them both in the king, who is the person supposed to be offended, being the one visible magistrate in whom the majesty of the public resides. The particulars of these forfeitures will be more properly recited when we treat of crimes and misdemesnors. I therefore only mention them here, for the sake of regularity, as a part of the census regalis; and shall postpone for the present the farther consideration of all forfeitures, excepting one species only, which arises from the misfortune rather than the crime of the owner, and is called a deodand.

BY this is meant whatever personal chattel is the immediate occasion of the death of any reasonable creature; which is forfeited to the king, to be applied to pious uses, and distributed in alms by his high almoner[u]; though formerly destined to a more superstitious purpose. It seems to have been originally designed, in the blind days of popery, as an expiation for the souls of such as were snatched away by sudden death; and for that purpose ought properly to have been given to holy church[w]; in the same manner, as the apparel of a stranger who was found dead was applied to purchase masses for the good of his soul. And this may account for that rule of law, that no deodand is due where an infant under the years of discretion is killed by a fall from a cart, or horse, or the like, not being in motion[x]; whereas, if an adult person falls from thence and is killed, the thing is certainly forfeited. For the reason given by sir Matthew Hale seems to be very inadequate, viz. because an infant is not able to take care of himself: for why should the owner save his forfeiture, on account of the imbecillity of the child, which ought rather to have made him more cautious to prevent any accident of mischief? The true ground of this rule seems rather to be, that the child, by reason of it's want of discretion, is presumed incapable of actual sin, and therefore needed no deodand to purchase propitiatory masses: but every adult, who dies in actual sin, stood in need of such atonement, according to the humane superstition of the founders of the English law.

[Footnote u: 1 Hal. P.C. 419. Fleta. l. 1. c. 25.]

[Footnote w: Fitzh. Abr. tit. Enditement. pl. 27. Staunf. P.C. 20, 21.]

[Footnote x: 3 Inst. 57. 1 Hal. P.C. 422.]

THUS stands the law, if a person be killed by a fall from a thing standing still. But if a horse, or ox, or other animal, of his own motion, kill as well an infant as an adult, or if a cart run over him, they shall in either case be forfeited as deodands[y]; which is grounded upon this additional reason, that such misfortunes are in part owing to the negligence of the owner, and therefore he is properly punished by such forfeiture. A like punishment is in like cases inflicted by the mosaical law[z]: "if an ox gore a man that he die, the ox shall be stoned, and his flesh shall not be eaten." And among the Athenians[a], whatever was the cause of a man's death, by falling upon him, was exterminated or cast out of the dominions of the republic. Where a thing, not in motion, is the occasion of a man's death, that part only which is the immediate cause is forfeited; as if a man be climbing up a wheel, and is killed by falling from it, the wheel alone is a deodand[b]: but, wherever the thing is in motion, not only that part which immediately gives the wound, (as the wheel, which runs over his body) but all things which move with it and help to make the wound more dangerous (as the cart and loading, which increase the pressure of the wheel) are forfeited[c]. It matters not whether the owner were concerned in the killing or not; for if a man kills another with my sword, the sword is forfeited[d] as an accursed thing[e]. And therefore, in all indictments for homicide, the instrument of death and the value are presented and found by the grand jury (as, that the stroke was given with a certain penknife, value sixpence) that the king or his grantee may claim the deodand: for it is no deodand, unless it be presented as such by a jury of twelve men[f]. No deodands are due for accidents happening upon the high sea, that being out of the jurisdiction of the common law: but if a man falls from a boat or ship in fresh water, and is drowned, the vessel and cargo are in strictness a deodand[g].

[Footnote y: Omnia, quae movent ad mortem, sunt Deo danda. Bracton. l. 3. c. 5.]

[Footnote z: Exod. 21. 28.]

[Footnote a: Aeschin. contr. Ctesiph.]

[Footnote b: 1 Hal. P.C. 422.]

[Footnote c: 1 Hawk. P.C. c. 26.]

[Footnote d: A similar rule obtained among the antient Goths. Si quis, me nesciente, quocunque meo telo vel instrumento in perniciem suam abutatur; vel ex aedibus meis cadat, vel incidat in puteum meum, quantumvis tectum et munitum, vel in cataractam, et sub molendino meo confringatur, ipse aliqua mulcta plectar; ut in parte infelicitatis meae numeretur, habuisse vel aedificasse aliquod quo homo periret. Stiernhook de jure Goth. l. 3. c. 4.]

[Footnote e: Dr & St. d. 2. c. 51.]

[Footnote f: 3 Inst. 57.]

[Footnote g: 3 Inst. 58. 1 Hal. P.C. 423. Molloy de jur. maritim. 2. 225.]

DEODANDS, and forfeitures in general, as well as wrecks, treasure trove, royal fish, mines, waifs, and estrays, may be granted by the king to particular subjects, as a royal franchise: and indeed they are for the most part granted out to the lords of manors, or other liberties; to the perversion of their original design.

XVII. ANOTHER branch of the king's ordinary revenue arises from escheats of lands, which happen upon the defect of heirs to succeed to the inheritance; whereupon they in general revert to and vest in the king, who is esteemed, in the eye of the law, the original proprietor of all the lands in the kingdom. But the discussion of this topic more properly belongs to the second book of these commentaries, wherein we shall particularly consider the manner in which lands may be acquired or lost by escheat.

XVIII. I PROCEED therefore to the eighteenth and last branch of the king's ordinary revenue; which consists in the custody of idiots, from whence we shall be naturally led to consider also the custody of lunatics.

AN idiot, or natural fool, is one that hath had no understanding from his nativity; and therefore is by law presumed never likely to attain any. For which reason the custody of him and of his lands was formerly vested in the lord of the fee[h]; (and therefore still, by special custom, in some manors the lord shall have the ordering of idiot and lunatic copyholders[i]) but, by reason of the manifold abuses of this power by subjects, it was at last provided by common consent, that it should be given to the king, as the general conservator of his people, in order to prevent the idiot from wasting his estate, and reducing himself and his heirs to poverty and distress[k]: This fiscal prerogative of the king is declared in parliament by statute 17 Edw. II. c. 9. which directs (in affirmance of the common law[l],) that the king shall have ward of the lands of natural fools, taking the profits without waste or destruction, and shall find them necessaries; and after the death of such idiots he shall render the estate to the heirs; in order to prevent such idiots from aliening their lands, and their heirs from being disherited.

[Footnote h: Flet. l. 1. c. 11. Sec. 10.]

[Footnote i: Dyer. 302. Hutt. 17. Noy 27.]

[Footnote k: F.N.B. 232.]

[Footnote l: 4 Rep. 126.]

BY the old common law there is a writ de idiota inquirendo, to enquire whether a man be an idiot or not[m]: which must be tried by a jury of twelve men; and if they find him purus idiota, the profits of his lands, and the custody of his person may be granted by the king to some subject, who has interest enough to obtain them[n]. This branch of the revenue hath been long considered as a hardship upon private families; and so long ago as in the 8 Jac. I. it was under the consideration of parliament, to vest this custody in the relations of the party, and to settle an equivalent on the crown in lieu of it; it being then proposed to share the same fate with the slavery of the feodal tenures, which has been since abolished[o]. Yet few instances can be given of the oppressive exertion of it, since it seldom happens that a jury finds a man an idiot a nativitate, but only non compos mentis from some particular time; which has an operation very different in point of law.

[Footnote m: F.N.B. 232.]

[Footnote n: This power, though of late very rarely exerted, is still alluded to in common speech, by that usual expression of begging a man for a fool.]

[Footnote o: 4. Inst. 203. Com. Journ. 1610.]

A MAN is not an idiot[p], if he hath any glimmering of reason, so that he can tell his parents, his age, or the like common matters. But a man who is born deaf, dumb, and blind, is looked upon by the law as in the same state with an idiot[q]; he being supposed incapable of understanding, as wanting those senses which furnish the human mind with ideas.

[Footnote p: F.N.B. 233.]

[Footnote q: Co. Litt. 42. Fleta. l. 6. c. 40.]

A LUNATIC, or non compos mentis, is one who hath had understanding, but by disease, grief, or other accident hath lost the use of his reason. A lunatic is indeed properly one that hath lucid intervals; sometimes enjoying his senses, and sometimes not, and that frequently depending upon the change of the moon. But under the general name of non compos mentis (which sir Edward Coke says is the most legal name[r]) are comprized not only lunatics, but persons under frenzies; or who lose their intellects by disease; those that grow deaf, dumb, and blind, not being born so; or such, in short, as are by any means rendered incapable of conducting their own affairs. To these also, as well as idiots, the king is guardian, but to a very different purpose. For the law always imagines, that these accidental misfortunes may be removed; and therefore only constitutes the crown a trustee for the unfortunate persons, to protect their property, and to account to them for all profits received, if they recover, or after their decease to their representatives. And therefore it is declared by the statute 17 Edw. II. c. 10. that the king shall provide for the custody and sustentation of lunatics, and preserve their lands and the profits of them, for their use, when they come to their right mind: and the king shall take nothing to his own use; and if the parties die in such estate, the residue shall be distributed for their souls by the advice of the ordinary, and of course (by the subsequent amendments of the law of administrations) shall now go to their executors or administrators.

[Footnote r: 1 Inst. 246.]

THE method of proving a person non compos is very similar to that of proving him an idiot. The lord chancellor, to whom, by special authority from the king, the custody of idiots and lunatics is intrusted[s], upon petition or information, grants a commission in nature of the writ de idiota inquirendo, to enquire into the party's state of mind; and if he be found non compos, he usually commits the care of his person, with a suitable allowance for his maintenance, to some friend, who is then called his committee. However, to prevent sinister practices, the next heir is never permitted to be this committee of the person; because it is his interest that the party should die. But, it hath been said, there lies not the same objection against his next of kin, provided he be not his heir; for it is his interest to preserve the lunatic's life, in order to increase the personal estate by savings, which he or his family may hereafter be entitled to enjoy[t]. The heir is generally made the manager or committee of the estate, it being clearly his interest by good management to keep it in condition; accountable however to the court of chancery, and to the non compos himself, if he recovers; or otherwise, to his administrators.

[Footnote s: 3 P. Wms. 108.]

[Footnote t: 2 P. Wms. 638.]

IN this care of idiots and lunatics the civil law agrees with ours; by assigning them tutors to protect their persons, and curators to manage their estates. But in another instance the Roman law goes much beyond the English. For, if a man by notorious prodigality was in danger of wasting his estate, he was looked upon as non compos and committed to the care of curators or tutors by the praetor[u]. And by the laws of Solon such prodigals were branded with perpetual infamy[w]. But with us, when a man on an inquest of idiocy hath been returned an unthrift and not an idiot[x], no farther proceedings have been had. And the propriety of the practice itself seems to be very questionable. It was doubtless an excellent method of benefiting the individual and of preserving estates in families; but it hardly seems calculated for the genius of a free nation, who claim and exercise the liberty of using their own property as they please. "Sic utere tuo, ut alienum non laedas," is the only restriction our laws have given with regard to oeconomical prudence. And the frequent circulation and transfer of lands and other property, which cannot be effected without extravagance somewhere, are perhaps not a little conducive towards keeping our mixed constitution in it's due health and vigour.

[Footnote u: Solent praetores, si talem hominem invenerint, qui neque tempus neque finem expensarum habet, sed bona sua dilacerando et dissipando profundit, curatorem ei dare, exemplo furiosi: et tamdiu erunt ambo in curatione, quamdiu vel furiosus sanitatem, vel ille bonos mores, receperit. Ff. 27. 10. 1.]

[Footnote w: Potter. Antiqu. b. 1. c. 26.]

[Footnote x: Bro. Abr. tit. Ideot. 4.]

THIS may suffice for a short view of the king's ordinary revenue, or the proper patrimony of the crown; which was very large formerly, and capable of being increased to a magnitude truly formidable: for there are very few estates in the kingdom, that have not, at some period or other since the Norman conquest, been vested in the hands of the king by forfeiture, escheat, or otherwise. But, fortunately for the liberty of the subject, this hereditary landed revenue, by a series of improvident management, is sunk almost to nothing; and the casual profits, arising from the other branches of the census regalis, are likewise almost all of them alienated from the crown. In order to supply the deficiences of which, we are now obliged to have recourse to new methods of raising money, unknown to our early ancestors; which methods constitute the king's extraordinary revenue. For, the publick patrimony being got into the hands of private subjects, it is but reasonable that private contributions should supply the public service. Which, though it may perhaps fall harder upon some individuals, whose ancestors have had no share in the general plunder, than upon others, yet, taking the nation throughout, it amounts to nearly the same; provided the gain by the extraordinary, should appear to be no greater than the loss by the ordinary, revenue. And perhaps, if every gentleman in the kingdom was to be stripped of such of his lands as were formerly the property of the crown; was to be again subject to the inconveniences of purveyance and pre-emption, the oppression of forest laws, and the slavery of feodal tenures; and was to resign into the king's hands all his royal franchises of waifs, wrecks, estrays, treasure-trove, mines, deodands, forfeitures, and the like; he would find himself a greater loser, than by paying his quota to such taxes, as are necessary to the support of government. The thing therefore to be wished and aimed at in a land of liberty, is by no means the total abolition of taxes, which would draw after it very pernicious consequences, and the very supposition of which is the height of political absurdity. For as the true idea of government and magistracy will be found to consist in this, that some few men are deputed by many others to preside over public affairs, so that individuals may the better be enabled to attend to their private concerns; it is necessary that those individuals should be bound to contribute a portion of their private gains, in order to support that government, and reward that magistracy, which protects them in the enjoyment of their respective properties. But the things to be aimed at are wisdom and moderation, not only in granting, but also in the method of raising, the necessary supplies; by contriving to do both in such a manner as may be most conducive to the national welfare and at the same time most consistent with oeconomy and the liberty of the subject; who, when properly taxed, contributes only, as was before observed[y], some part of his property, in order to enjoy the rest.

[Footnote y: pag. 271.]

THESE extraordinary grants are usually called by the synonymous names of aids, subsidies, and supplies; and are granted, we have formerly seen[z], by the commons of Great Britain, in parliament assembled: who, when they have voted a supply to his majesty, and settled the quantum of that supply, usually resolve themselves into what is called a committee of ways and means, to consider of the ways and means of raising the supply so voted. And in this committee every member (though it is looked upon as the peculiar province of the chancellor of the exchequer) may propose such scheme of taxation as he thinks will be least detrimental to the public. The resolutions of this committee (when approved by a vote of the house) are in general esteemed to be (as it were) final and conclusive. For, through [Transcriber's Note: though] the supply cannot be actually raised upon the subject till directed by an act of the whole parliament, yet no monied man will scruple to advance to the government any quantity of ready cash, on the credit of a bare vote of the house of commons, though no law be yet passed to establish it.

[Footnote z: pag. 163.]

THE taxes, which are raised upon the subject, are either annual or perpetual. The usual annual taxes are those upon land and malt.

I. THE land tax, in it's modern shape, has superseded all the former methods of rating either property, or persons in respect of their property, whether by tenths or fifteenths, subsidies on land, hydages, scutages, or talliages; a short explication of which will greatly assist us in understanding our antient laws and history.

TENTHS, and fifteenths[a], were temporary aids issuing out of personal property, and granted to the king by parliament. They were formerly the real tenth or fifteenth part of all the moveables belonging to the subject; when such moveables, or personal estates, were a very different and a much less considerable thing than what they usually are at this day. Tenths are said to have been first granted under Henry the second, who took advantage of the fashionable zeal for croisades to introduce this new taxation, in order to defray the expense of a pious expedition to Palestine, which he really or seemingly had projected against Saladine emperor of the Saracens; whence it was originally denominated the Saladine tenth[b]. But afterwards fifteenths were more usually granted than tenths. Originally the amount of these taxes was uncertain, being levied by assessments new made at every fresh grant of the commons, a commission for which is preserved by Matthew Paris[c]: but it was at length reduced to a certainty in the eighth of Edw. III. when, by virtue of the king's commission, new taxations were made of every township, borough, and city in the kingdom, and recorded in the exchequer; which rate was, at the time, the fifteenth part of the value of every township, the whole amounting to about 29000l. and therefore it still kept up the name of a fifteenth, when, by the alteration of the value of money and the encrease of personal property, things came to be in a very different situation. So that when, of later years, the commons granted the king a fifteenth, every parish in England immediately knew their proportion of it; that is, the same identical sum that was assessed by the same aid in the eighth of Edw. III; and then raised it by a rate among themselves, and returned it into the royal exchequer.

[Footnote a: 2 Inst. 77. 4 Inst. 34.]

[Footnote b: Hoved. A.D. 1188. Carte. 1. 719. Hume. 1. 329.]

[Footnote c: A.D. 1232.]

THE other antient levies were in the nature of a modern land tax; for we may trace up the original of that charge as high as to the introduction of our military tenures[d]; when every tenant of a knight's fee was bound, if called upon, to attend the king in his army for forty days in every year. But this personal attendance growing troublesome in many respects, the tenants found means of compounding for it, by first sending others in their stead, and in process of time by making a pecuniary satisfaction to the crown in lieu of it. This pecuniary satisfaction at last came to be levied by assessments, at so much for every knight's fee, under the name of scutages; which appear to have been levied for the first time in the fifth year of Henry the second, on account of his expedition to Toulouse, and were then (I apprehend) mere arbitrary compositions, as the king and the subject could agree. But this precedent being afterwards abused into a means of oppression, (by levying scutages on the landholders by the royal authority only, whenever our kings went to war, in order to hire mercenary troops and pay their contingent expences) it became thereupon a matter of national complaint; and king John was obliged to promise in his magna carta[e], that no scutage should be imposed without the consent of the common council of the realm. This clause was indeed omitted in the charters of Henry III, where[f] we only find it stipulated, that scutages should be taken as they were used to be in the time of king Henry the second. Yet afterwards, by a variety of statutes under Edward I and his grandson[g], it was provided, that the king shall not take any aids or tasks, any talliage or tax, but by the common assent of the great men and commons in parliament.

[Footnote d: See the second book of these commentaries.]

[Footnote e: cap. 14.]

[Footnote f: 9 Hen. III. c. 37.]

[Footnote g: 25 Edw. I. c. 5 & 6. 34 Edw. I. st. 4. c. 1. 14 Edw. III. st. 2. c. 1.]

OF the same nature with scutages upon knights-fees were the assessments of hydage upon all other lands, and of talliage upon cities and burghs[h]. But they all gradually fell into disuse, upon the introduction of subsidies, about the time of king Richard II and king Henry IV. These were a tax, not immediately imposed upon property, but upon persons in respect of their reputed estates, after the nominal rate of 4s. in the pound for lands, and 2s. 6d. for goods; and for those of aliens in a double proportion. But this assessment was also made according to an antient valuation; wherein the computation was so very moderate, and the rental of the kingdom was supposed to be so exceeding low, that one subsidy of this sort did not, according to sir Edward Coke[i], amount to more than 70000l. whereas a modern land tax at the same rate produces two millions. It was antiently the rule never to grant more than one subsidy, and two fifteenths at a time; but this rule was broke through for the first time on a very pressing occasion, the Spanish invasion in 1588; when the parliament gave queen Elizabeth two subsidies and four fifteenths. Afterwards, as money sunk in value, more subsidies were given; and we have an instance in the first parliament of 1640, of the king's desiring twelve subsidies of the commons, to be levied in three years; which was looked upon as a startling proposal: though lord Clarendon tells us[k], that the speaker, serjeant Glanvile, made it manifest to the house, how very inconsiderable a sum twelve subsidies amounted to, by telling them he had computed what he was to pay for them; and, when he named the sum, he being known to be possessed of a great estate, it seemed not worth any farther deliberation. And indeed, upon calculation, we shall find, that the total amount of these twelve subsidies, to be raised in three years, is less than what is now raised in one year, by a land tax of two shillings in the pound.

[Footnote h: Madox. hist. exch. 480.]

[Footnote i: 4 Inst. 33.]

[Footnote k: Hist. b. 2.]

THE grant of scutages, talliages, or subsidies by the commons did not extend to spiritual preferments; those being usually taxed at the same time by the clergy themselves in convocation; which grants of the clergy were confirmed in parliament, otherwise they were illegal, and not binding; as the same noble writer observes of the subsidies granted by the convocation, who continued sitting after the dissolution of the first parliament in 1640. A subsidy granted by the clergy was after the rate of 4s. in the pound according to the valuation of their livings in the king's books; and amounted, sir Edward Coke tells us[l], to about 20000l. While this custom continued, convocations were wont to sit as frequently as parliaments: but the last subsidies, thus given by the clergy, were those confirmed by statute 15 Car. II. cap. 10. since which another method of taxation has generally prevailed, which takes in the clergy as well as the laity; in recompense for which the beneficed clergy have from that period been allowed to vote at the elections of knights of the shire[m]; and thenceforward also the practice of giving ecclesiastical subsidies hath fallen into total disuse.

[Footnote l: 4 Inst 33.]

[Footnote m: Dalt. of sheriffs, 418. Gilb. hist. of exch. c. 4.]

THE lay subsidy was usually raised by commissioners appointed by the crown, or the great officers of state: and therefore in the beginning of the civil wars between Charles I and his parliament, the latter, having no other sufficient revenue to support themselves and their measures, introduced the practice of laying weekly and monthly assessments[n] of a specific sum upon the several counties of the kingdom; to be levied by a pound rate on lands and personal estates: which were occasionally continued during the whole usurpation, sometimes at the rate of 120000l. a month; sometimes at inferior rates[o]. After the restoration the antient method of granting subsidies, instead of such monthly assessments, was twice, and twice only, renewed; viz. in 1663, when four subsidies were granted by the temporalty, and four by the clergy; and in 1670, when 800000l. was raised by way of subsidy, which was the last time of raising supplies in that manner. For, the monthly assessments being now established by custom, being raised by commissioners named by parliament, and producing a more certain revenue; from that time forwards we hear no more of subsidies; but occasional assessments were granted as the national emergencies required. These periodical assessments, the subsidies which preceded them, and the more antient scutage, hydage, and talliage, were to all intents and purposes a land tax; and the assessments were sometimes expressly called so[p]. Yet a popular opinion has prevailed, that the land tax was first introduced in the reign of king William III; because in the year 1692 a new assessment or valuation of estates was made throughout the kingdom; which, though by no means a perfect one, had this effect, that a supply of 500000l. was equal to 1s. in the pound of the value of the estates given in. And, according to this enhanced valuation, from the year 1693 to the present, a period of above seventy years, the land tax has continued an annual charge upon the subject; above half the time at 4s. in the pound, sometimes at 3s, sometimes at 2s, twice[q] at 1s, but without any total intermission. The medium has been 3s. 3d. in the pound, being equivalent to twenty three antient subsidies, and amounting annually to more than a million and an half of money. The method of raising it is by charging a particular sum upon each county, according to the valuation given in, A.D. 1692: and this sum is assessed and raised upon individuals (their personal estates, as well as real, being liable thereto) by commissioners appointed in the act, being the principal landholders of the county, and their officers.

[Footnote n: 29 Nov. 4 Mar. 1642.]

[Footnote o: One of these bills of assessment, in 1656, is preserved in Scobell's collection, 400.]

[Footnote p: Com. Journ. 26 Jun. 9 Dec. 1678.]

[Footnote q: in the years 1732 and 1733.]

II. THE other annual tax is the malt tax; which is a sum of 750000l, raised every year by parliament, ever since 1697, by a duty of 6d. in the bushel on malt, and a proportionable sum on certain liquors, such as cyder and perry, which might otherwise prevent the consumption of malt. This is under the management of the commissioners of the excise; and is indeed itself no other than an annual excise, the nature of which species of taxation I shall presently explain: only premising at present, that in the year 1760 an additional perpetual excise of 3d. per bushel was laid upon malt; and in 1763 a proportionable excise was laid upon cyder and perry.

THE perpetual taxes are,

I. THE customs; or the duties, toll, tribute, or tariff, payable upon merchandize exported and imported. The considerations upon which this revenue (or the more antient part of it, which arose only from exports) was invested in the king, were said to be two[r]; 1. Because he gave the subject leave to depart the kingdom, and to carry his goods along with him. 2. Because the king was bound of common right to maintain and keep up the ports and havens, and to protect the merchant from pirates. Some have imagined they are called with us customs, because they were the inheritance of the king by immemorial usage and the common law, and not granted him by any statute[s]: but sir Edward Coke hath clearly shewn[t], that the king's first claim to them was by grant of parliament 3 Edw. I. though the record thereof is not now extant. And indeed this is in express words confessed by statute 25 Edw. I. c. 7. wherein the king promises to take no customs from merchants, without the common assent of the realm, "saving to us and our heirs, the customs on wools, skins, and leather, formerly granted to us by the commonalty aforesaid." These were formerly called the hereditary customs of the crown; and were due on the exportation only of the said three commodities, and of none other: which were stiled the staple commodities of the kingdom, because they were obliged to be brought to those ports where the king's staple was established, in order to be there first rated, and then exported[u]. They were denominated in the barbarous Latin of our antient records, custuma[w]; not consuetudines, which is the language of our law whenever it means merely usages. The duties on wool, sheep-skins, or woolfells, and leather, exported, were called custuma antiqua sive magna; and were payable by every merchant, as well native as stranger; with this difference, that merchant-strangers paid an additional toll, viz. half as much again as was paid by natives. The custuma parva et nova were an impost of 3d. in the pound, due from merchant-strangers only, for all commodities as well imported as exported; which was usually called the alien's duty, and was first granted in 31 Edw. I[x]. But these antient hereditary customs, especially those on wool and woolfells, came to be of little account when the nation became sensible of the advantages of a home manufacture, and prohibited the exportation of wool by statute 11 Edw. III. c. 1.

[Footnote r: Dyer. 165.]

[Footnote s: Dyer. 43. pl. 24.]

[Footnote t: 2 Inst. 58, 59.]

[Footnote u: Dav. 9.]

[Footnote w: This appellation seems to be derived from the French word coustum, or coutum, which signifies toll or tribute, and owes it's own etymology to the word coust, which signifies price, charge, or, as we have adopted it in English, cost.]

[Footnote x: 4 Inst. 29.]

THERE is also another antient hereditary duty belonging to the crown, called the prisage or butlerage of wines. Prisage was a right of taking two tons of wine from every ship importing into England twenty tons or more; which by Edward I was exchanged into a duty of 2s. for every ton imported by merchant-strangers; which is called butlerage, because paid to the king's butler[y].

[Footnote y: Dav. 8. b. 2 Bulstr. 254.]

OTHER customs payable upon exports and imports are distinguished into subsidies, tonnage, poundage, and other imposts. Subsidies are such as were imposed by parliament upon any of the staple commodities before mentioned, over and above the custuma antiqua et magna: tonnage was a duty upon all wines imported, over and above the prisage and butlerage aforesaid: poundage was a duty imposed ad valorem, at the rate of 12d. in the pound, on all other merchandize whatsoever: and the other imports were such as were occasionally laid on by parliament, as circumstances and times required[z]. These distinctions are now in a manner forgotten, except by the officers immediately concerned in this department; their produce being in effect all blended together, under the one denomination of the customs.

[Footnote z: Dav. 11, 12.]

BY these we understand, at present, a duty or subsidy paid by the merchant, at the quay, upon all imported as well as exported commodities, by authority of parliament; unless where, for particular national reasons, certain rewards, bounties, or drawbacks, are allowed for particular exports or imports. Those of tonnage and poundage, in particular, were at first granted, as the old statutes, and particularly 1 Eliz. c. 19. express it, for the defence of the realm, and the keeping and safeguard of the seas, and for the intercourse of merchandize safely to come into and pass out of the same. They were at first usually granted only for a stated term of years, as, for two years in 5 Ric. II[a]; but in Henry the fifth's time, they were granted him for life by a statute in the third year of his reign; and again to Edward IV for the term of his life also: since which time they were regularly granted to all his successors, for life, sometimes at their first, sometimes at other subsequent parliaments, till the reign of Charles the first; when, as had before happened in the reign of Henry VIII[b] and other princes, they were neglected to be asked. And yet they were imprudently and unconstitutionally levied and taken without consent of parliament, (though more than one had been assembled) for fifteen years together; which was one of the causes of those unhappy discontents, justifiable at first in too many instances, but which degenerated at last into causeless rebellion and murder. For, as in every other, so in this particular case, the king (previous to the commencement of hostilities) gave the nation ample satisfaction for the errors of his former conduct, by passing an act[c], whereby he renounced all power in the crown of levying the duty of tonnage and poundage, without the express consent of parliament; and also all power of imposition upon any merchandizes whatever. Upon the restoration this duty was granted to king Charles the second for life, and so it was to his two immediate successors; but now by three several statutes, 9 Ann. c. 6. 1 Geo. I. c. 12. and 3 Geo. I. c. 7. it is made perpetual and mortgaged for the debt of the publick. The customs, thus imposed by parliament, are chiefly contained in two books of rates, set forth by parliamentary authority[d]; one signed by sir Harbottle Grimston, speaker of the house of commons in Charles the second's time; and the other an additional one signed by sir Spenser Compton, speaker in the reign of George the first; to which also subsequent additions have been made. Aliens pay a larger proportion than natural subjects, which is what is now generally understood by the aliens' duty; to be exempted from which is one principal cause of the frequent applications to parliament for acts of naturalization.

[Footnote a: Dav. 12.]

[Footnote b: Stat. 6 Hen. VIII. c. 14.]

[Footnote c: 16 Car. I. c. 8.]

[Footnote d: Stat. 12 Car. II. c. 4. 11 Geo. I. c. 7.]

THESE customs are then, we see, a tax immediately paid by the merchant, although ultimately by the consumer. And yet these are the duties felt least by the people; and, if prudently managed, the people hardly consider that they pay them at all. For the merchant is easy, being sensible he does not pay them for himself; and the consumer, who really pays them, confounds them with the price of the commodity: in the same manner as Tacitus observes, that the emperor Nero gained the reputation of abolishing the tax on the sale of slaves, though he only transferred it from the buyer to the seller; so that it was, as he expresses it, "remissum magis specie, quam vi: quia cum venditor pendere juberetur, in partem pretii emptoribus accrescebat[e]." But this inconvenience attends it on the other hand, that these imposts, if too heavy, are a check and cramp upon trade; and especially when the value of the commodity bears little or no proportion to the quantity of the duty imposed. This in consequence gives rise also to smuggling, which then becomes a very lucrative employment: and it's natural and most reasonable punishment, viz. confiscation of the commodity, is in such cases quite ineffectual; the intrinsic value of the goods, which is all that the smuggler has paid, and therefore all that he can lose, being very inconsiderable when compared with his prospect of advantage in evading the duty. Recourse must therefore be had to extraordinary punishments to prevent it; perhaps even to capital ones: which destroys all proportion of punishment[f], and puts murderers upon an equal footing with such as are really guilty of no natural, but merely a positive offence.

[Footnote e: Hist. l. 13.]

[Footnote f: Montesqu. Sp. L. b. 13. c. 8.]

THERE is also another ill consequence attending high imports on merchandize, not frequently considered, but indisputably certain; that the earlier any tax is laid on a commodity, the heavier it falls upon the consumer in the end: for every trader, through whose hands it passes, must have a profit, not only upon the raw material and his own labour and time in preparing it, but also upon the very tax itself, which he advances to the government; otherwise he loses the use and interest of the money which he so advances. To instance in the article of foreign paper. The merchant pays a duty upon importation, which he does not receive again till he sells the commodity, perhaps at the end of three months. He is therefore equally entitled to a profit upon that duty which he pays at the customhouse, as to a profit upon the original price which he pays to the manufacturer abroad; and considers it accordingly in the price he demands of the stationer. When the stationer sells it again, he requires a profit of the printer or bookseller upon the whole sum advanced by him to the merchant: and the bookseller does not forget to charge the full proportion to the student or ultimate consumer; who therefore does not only pay the original duty, but the profits of these three intermediate traders, who have successively advanced it for him. This might be carried much farther in any mechanical, or more complicated, branch of trade.

II. DIRECTLY opposite in it's nature to this is the excise duty; which is an inland imposition, paid sometimes upon the consumption of the commodity, or frequently upon the retail sale, which is the last stage before the consumption. This is doubtless, impartially speaking, the most oeconomical way of taxing the subject: the charges of levying, collecting, and managing the excise duties being considerably less in proportion, than in any other branch of the revenue. It also renders the commodity cheaper to the consumer, than charging it with customs to the same amount would do; for the reason just now given, because generally paid in a much later stage of it. But, at the same time, the rigour and arbitrary proceedings of excise-laws seem hardly compatible with the temper of a free nation. For the frauds that might be committed in this branch of the revenue, unless a strict watch is kept, make it necessary, wherever it is established, to give the officers a power of entring and searching the houses of such as deal in excisable commodities, at any hour of the day, and, in many cases, of the night likewise. And the proceedings in case of transgressions are so summary and sudden, that a man may be convicted in two days time in the penalty of many thousand pounds by two commissioners or justices of the peace; to the total exclusion of the trial by jury, and disregard of the common law. For which reason, though lord Clarendon tells us[g], that to his knowlege the earl of Bedford (who was made lord treasurer by king Charles the first, to oblige his parliament) intended to have set up the excise in England, yet it never made a part of that unfortunate prince's revenue; being first introduced, on the model of the Dutch prototype, by the parliament itself after it's rupture with the crown. Yet such was the opinion of it's general unpopularity, that when in 1642 "aspersions were cast by malignant persons upon the house of commons, that they intended to introduce excises, the house for it's vindication therein did declare, that these rumours were false and scandalous; and that their authors should be apprehended and brought to condign punishment[h]." It's original establishment was in 1643, and it's progress was gradual[i]; being at first laid upon those persons and commodities, where it was supposed the hardship would be least perceivable, viz. the makers and venders of beer, ale, cyder, and perry[k]; and the royalists at Oxford soon followed the example of their brethren at Westminster by imposing a similar duty; both sides protesting that it should be continued no longer than to the end of the war, and then be utterly abolished[l]. But the parliament at Westminster soon after imposed it on flesh, wine, tobacco, sugar, and such a multitude of other commodities that it might fairly be denominated general; in pursuance of the plan laid down by Mr Pymme (who seems to have been the father of the excise) in his letter to sir John Hotham[m], signifying, "that they had proceeded in the excise to many particulars, and intended to go on farther; but that it would be necessary to use the people to it by little and little." And afterwards, when the people had been accustomed to it for a series of years, the succeeding champions of liberty boldly and openly declared, "the impost of excise to be the most easy and indifferent levy that could be laid upon the people[n]:" and accordingly continued it during the whole usurpation. Upon king Charles's return, it having then been long established and it's produce well known, some part of it was given to the crown, in the 12 Car. II, by way of purchase (as was before observed) for the feodal tenures and other oppressive parts of the hereditary revenue. But, from it's first original to the present time, it's very name has been odious to the people of England. It has nevertheless been imposed on abundance of other commodities in the reigns of king William III, and every succeeding prince, to support the enormous expenses occasioned by our wars on the continent. Thus brandies and other spirits are now excised at the distillery; printed silks and linens, at the printers; starch and hair powder, at the maker's; gold and silver wire, at the wiredrawer's; all plate whatsoever, first in the hands of the vendor, who pays yearly for a licence to sell it, and afterwards in the hands of the occupier, who also pays an annual duty for having it in his custody; and coaches and other wheel carriages, for which the occupier is excised; though not with the same circumstances of arbitrary strictness with regard to plate and coaches, as in the other instances. To these we may add coffee and tea, chocolate, and cocoa paste, for which the duty is paid by the retailer; all artificial wines, commonly called sweets; paper and pasteboard, first when made, and again if stained or printed; malt as before-mentioned; vinegars; and the manufacture of glass; for all which the duty is paid by the manufacturer; hops, for which the person that gathers them is answerable; candles and soap, which are paid for at the maker's; malt liquors brewed for sale, which are excised at the brewery; cyder and perry, at the mill; and leather and skins, at the tanner's. A list, which no friend to his country would wish to see farther encreased.

[Footnote g: Hist. b. 3.]

[Footnote h: Com. Journ. 8 Oct. 1642.]

[Footnote i: The translator and continuator of Petavius's chronological history (Lond. 1659.) informs us, that it was first moved for, 28 Mar. 1643, by Mr Prynne. And it appears from the journals of the commons that on that day the house resolved itself into a committee to consider of raising money, in consequence of which the excise was afterwards voted. But Mr Prynne was not a member of parliament till 7 Nov. 1648; and published in 1654 "A protestation against the illegal, detestable, and oft-condemned tax and extortion of excise in general." It is probably therefore a mistake of the printer for Mr Pymme, who was intended for chancellor of the exchequer under the earl of Bedford. (Lord Clar. b. 7.)]

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