Page images

nution of subsidies and taxes; for the more gentlemen, ever the lower books of subsidies. In remedying of this inconvenience the King's wisdom was admirable, and the parliament's at that time. Inclosures they would not forbid, for that had been to forbid the improvement of the patrimony 5 of the kingdom ; nor tillage they would not compel, for that was to strive with nature and utility: but they took a course to take away depopulating inclosures and depopulating pasturage, and yet not by that name, or by any imperious express prohibition, but by consequence. The ordinance 10 was, “That all houses of husbandry, that were used with "twenty acres of ground and upwards, should be maintained "and kept up for ever; together with a competent propor“tion of land to be used and occupied with them ;” and in no wise to be severed from them as by another statute, made 15 afterwards in his successor's time, was more fully declared : this upon forfeiture to be taken, not by way of popular action, but by seizure of the land itself by the King and lords of the fee, as to half the profits, till the houses and lands were restored. By this means the houses being kept 20 up, did of necessity enforce a dweller; and the proportion of land for occupation being kept up, did of necessity enforce that dweller not to be a beggar or cottager, but a man of some substance, that might keep hinds and servants, and set the plough on going. This did wonderfully concern the 25 might and mannerhood of the kingdom, to have farms as it were of a standard, sufficient to maintain an able body out of penury, and did in effect amortise a great part of the lands of the kingdom unto the hold and occupation of the yeomanry or middle people, of a condition between gentle- 30 men and cottagers or peasants. Now, how much this did advance the military power of the kingdoin, is apparent by the true principles of war and the examples of other king

[ocr errors]

doms. For it hath been held by the general opinion of men of best judgment in the wars, howsoever some few have varied, and that it may receive some distinction of case,

that the principal strength of an army consisteth in the 5 infantry or foot. And to make good infantry, it requireth

men bred, not in a servile or indigent fashion, but in some free and plentiful manner. Therefore if a state run most to noblemen and gentlemen, and that the husbandmen and

ploughmen be but as their workfolks and labourers, or else 10 mere cottagers, which are but housed beggars, you may have

a good cavalry but never good stable bands of foot; like to coppice woods, that if you leave in them staddles too thick, they will run to bushes and briars, and have little clean

underwood. And this is to be seen in France and Italy, 15

and some other parts abroad, where in effect all is noblesse or peasantry, I speak of people out of towns, and no middle people; and therefore no good forces of foot : insomuch as they are enforced to employ mercenary bands of

Switzers, and the like, for their battalions of foot. Whereby 20 also it comes to pass, that those nations have much people,

and few soldiers. Whereas the King saw, that contrariwise it would follow, that England, though much less in territory, yet should have infinitely more soldiers of their native forces

than those other nations have. Thus did the King secretly 35 sow Hydra's teeth; whereupon, according to the poet's

fiction, should rise up armed men for the service of this kingdom.

The King also, having care to make his realm potent, as well by sea as by land, for the better maintenance of the 30 navy ordained; “That wines and woads from the parts of

*Gascoign and Languedoc, should not be brought but in “English bottoms;" bowing the ancient policy of this estate, from consideration of plenty to consideration of power. For that almost all the ancient statutes incite by all means merchant-strangers, to bring in all, sorts of commodities; having for end cheapness, and not looking to the point of state concerning the naval power.

The King also made a statute in that parliament, moni- 5 tory and minatory towards justices of peace, that they should duly execute their office, inviting complaints against them, first to their fellow-justices, then to the justices of assize, then to the King or Chancellor ; and that a proclamation which he had published of that tenor, should be read in 10 open sessions four times a year, to keep them awake. Meaning also to have his laws executed, and thereby to reap either obedience or forfeitures, wherein towards his latter times he did decline too much to the left hand, he did ordain remedy against the practice that was grown 15 in use, to stop and damp informations upon penal laws, by procuring informations by collusion to be put in by the confederates of the delinquents, to be faintly prosecuted, and let fall at pleasure; and pleading them in bar of the informations, which were prosecuted with 20 effect.

He made also laws for the correction of the mint, and counterfeiting of foreign coin current. And that no payment in gold should be made to any merchant stranger, the better to keep treasure within the realm, for that gold was 25 the metal that lay in the least room.

He made also statutes for the maintenance of drapery, and the keeping of wools within the realm; and not only so, but for stinting and limiting the prices of cloth, one for the finer, and another for the coarser sort. Which I note, both 30 because it was a rare thing to set prices by statute, especially upon our home commodities; and because of the wise model of this act, not prescribing prices, but stinting them

not to exceed a rate; that the clothier might drape accordingly as he might afford.

Divers other good statutes were made that parliament, but these were the principal. And here I do desire those 5 into whose hands this work shall fall, that they do take in good part my long insisting upon the laws that were made in this King's reign. Whereof I have these reasons; both because it was the preeminent virtue and merit of this King,

to whose memory I do honour; and because it hath some 10 correspondence to my person ; but chiefly because, in my

judgment, it is some defect even in the best writers of history, that they do not often enough summarily deliver and set down the most memorable laws that passed in the

times whereof they writ, being indeed the principal acts of 15 peace. For though they may be had in original books of

law themselves; yet that informeth not the judgment of Kings and counsellors, and persons of estate, so well as to see them described, and entered in the table and portrait of the times.

About the same time the King had a loan from the city of four thousand pounds; which was double to that they lent before, and was duly and orderly paid back at the day, as the former likewise had been : the King ever choosing

rather to borrow too soon, than to pay too late, and so 25 keeping up his credit.

Neither had the King yet cast off his cares and hopes touching Britain, but thought to master the occasion by policy, though his arms had been unfortunate; and to

bereave the French King of the fruit of his victory. The 30 sum of his design was, to encourage Maximilian to go on

with his suit, for the marriage of Anne, the heir of Britain, and to aid him to the consummation thereof. But the affairs of Maximilian were at that time in great trouble and com



bustion, by a rebellion of his subjects in Flanders; especially those of Bruges and Gaunt, whereof the town of Bruges, at such time as Maximilian was there in person,

had suddenly armed in tumult, and slain some of his principal officers, and taken himself prisoner, and held him in durance, 5 till they had enforced him and some of his counsellors, to take a solemn oath to pardon all their offences, and never to question and revenge the same in time to come. Nevertheless Frederick the emperor would not suffer this reproach and indignity offered to his son to pass, but made 10 sharp wars upon Flanders, to reclaim and chastise the rebels. But the lord Ravenstein, a principal person about Maximilian, and one that had taken the oath of abolition with his master, pretending the religion thereof, but indeed upon private ambition, and, as it was thought, instigated and cor- 15 rupted from France, forsook the emperor and Maximilian his lord, and made himself an head of the popular party, and seized upon the towns of Ypres and Sluice with both the castles : and forthwith sent to the lord Cordes, governor of Picardy under the French King, to desire aid; and to move 2o him, that he, on the behalf of the French King, would be protector of the united towns, and by force of arms reduce the rest. The lord Cordes was ready to embrace the occasion, which was partly of his own setting, and sent forthwith greater forces than it had been possible for him to raise on 25 the sudden, if he had not looked for such a before, in aid of the lord Ravenstein and the Flemings, with instructions to invest the towns between France and Bruges. The French forces besieged a little town called Dixmude, where part of the Flemish forces joined with them. While

39 they lay at this siege, the King of England, upon pretence of the safety of the English pale about Calais, but in truth being loth that Maximilian should become contemptible, and


« PreviousContinue »