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sealed Magna Charta. Now the law may say what it will, but, in fact, a man does own all the property he can defend, and in 1215 the villein could defend his title to some of the increment in the value of the land which he tilled, which was due to his labor; and this title the manorial courts recognized, because they could not help it, as a sort of tenant right, calling it a customary tenancy by base service. A century later these services in kind had been pretty frequently commuted into a fixed rent paid in money, and the serf had become a freeman, and a rather formidable freeman, too. For it was largely from among these technical serfs that Edward III recruited the infantry who formed his line at Crecy in 1346, and the archers of Crecy were not exactly the sort of men who take kindly to eviction, to say nothing of slavery. As no one meddled much with the villeins before 1349, all went well until after Crecy, but in 1348 the Black Death ravaged England and so many laborers died that the cost of farming property by hired hands exceeded the value of the rent which the villeins paid. Then the landlords, under, I fear, very bad legal advice, tried coercion. Their first experiment was the famous Statute of Laborers, which fixed wages at the rates which prevailed in 1347, but as this statute accomplished nothing the landlords repudiated their contracts, and undertook to force their villeins to render their ancient customary services. Though the lay landlords were often hard masters, the ecclesiastics were harder still, and the ecclesiastics were served by lawyers of their own cloth, whose sharp practice became proverbial. Thus the law declined to recognize rights in property existing in fact, with the inevitable result of the Peasant Rising in 1381, known as Wat Tyler's Rebellion. Popular rage perfectly logically ran highest against the monks and the lawyers. Both the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Chief Justice were killed, and the insurgents wished to kill, as Capgrave has related, "all the men that had learned only law." Finally the rebellion was suppressed, chiefly by the duplicity of
rents, and so induced them to go home with his charters in Richard II. Richard promised the people, hy written charters, a permanent tenure as freemen at reasonable their hands; but they were no sooner gone than vengeance began. Though Richard had been entirely at the peasants' mercy, who might have killed him had they wished, punitive expeditions were sent in various directions. One was led by Richard himself, who traveled with Tresilian, the new Chief Justice, the man who afterward was himself hanged at Tyburn. Tresilian worked so well that he is said to have strung up a dozen villeins to a single beam in Chelmsford because he had no time to have them executed regularly. Stubbs has estimated that seven thousand victims hardly satisfied the landlords' sense of outraged justice. What concerns us, chiefly, is that this repression, however savage, failed altogether to bring tranquility. After 1381 a full century of social chaos supervened, merging at times into actual civil war, until, in 1485, Henry Tudor came in after his victory at Bosworth, pledged to destroy the whole reactionary class which incarnated feudalism. For the feudal soldier was neither flexible nor astute, and allowed himself to be caught between the upper and the nether mill-stone. While industrial and commercial capital had been increasing in the towns, capitalistic methods of farming had invaded the country, and, as police improved, private and predatory warfare, as a business, could no longer be made to pay. The importance of a feudal noble lay in the body of retainers who followed his banner, and therefore the feudal tendency always was to overcharge the estate with military expenditure. Hence, to protect themselves from creditors the landlords passed the Statute de Donis1 which made entails inalienable. Toward the end of the Wars of the Roses, however, the pressure for money, which could only be raised by pledging their land, became too strong for the feudal aristocracy.
Edward IV, who was a very able man, perceived, pretty early in his reign, that his class could not maintain themselves unless their land were put upon a commercial basis. Therefore he encouraged the judges, in the collusive litigation known to us as Taltarum's Case, decided in 1472, to set aside the Statute de Donis, by the fiction of the Common Recovery. The concession, even so, came too late. The combination against them had grown too strong for the soldiers to resist. Other classes evolved by competition wanted their property, and these made Henry Tudor king of England to seize it for them.
Henry's work was simple enough. After Bosworth, with a competent police force at hand to execute process, he had only to organize a political court, and to ruin by confiscatory fines all the families strong enough, or rash enough, to maintain garrisoned houses. So Henry re-modeled the Star Chamber, in 1486, to deal with the martial gentry, and 'before long a new type of intelligence possessed the kingdom.
The feudal soldiers being disposed of, it remained to evict the monks, who were thus left without their natural defenders. No matter of faith was involved. Henry VIII boasted that in doctrine he was as orthodox as the Pope. There was, however, an enormous monastic landed property to be redistributed. This was confiscated, and appropriated, not to public purposes, but, as usually happens in revolutions, to the use of the astutest of the revolutionists. Among these, John Russell, afterward Earl of Bedford, stood pre-eminent. Russell had no particular pedigree or genius, save the acquisitive genius, but he made himself useful to Henry in such judicial murders as that of Richard Whiting, Abbot of Glastonbury. He received in payment, among much else, Woburn Abbey, which has since remained the Bedford country seat, and Covent Garden or Convent Garden, one of the most valuable parcels of real estate in London. Convent Garden the present Duke reVOL. L. . 5
cently sold, anticipating, perhaps, some such legislation as ruined the monks and made his ancestor's fortune. As for the monks whom Henry evicted they wandered forth from their homes beggars, and Henry hanged all of them whom he could catch as vagrants. How many perished as counterpoise for the peasant massacres and Lollard burnings of the foregoing two centuries can never be known, nor to us is it material. What is essential to mark, from the legal standpoint, is that while this long and bloody revolution, of one hundred and fifty years, displaced a favored class and confiscated its property, it raised up in their stead another class of land monopolists, rather more greedy and certainly quite as cruel as those whom they superseded. Also, in spite of all opposition, labor did make good its claim to participate, more or less fully, in the ownership of the property it cultivated, for while the holding of the ancient villein grew to be well recognized in the royal courts as a copyhold estate, villeinage itself disappeared.
Yet, unless I profoundly err, in the revolution of the sixteenth century, the law somewhat conspicuously failed in its function of moderating competition, for I am persuaded that competition of another kind sharpened, and shortly caused a second civil war bloodier than the War of the Roses.
Fifteen years before the convents were seized, Sir Thomas More wrote Utopia, in whose opening chapter More has given an account of a dinner at Cardinal Morton's, who, by the way, presided in the Star Chamber. At this dinner one of the Cardinal's guests reflected on the thievish propensities of Englishmen, who were to be found throughout the country, hanged as felons, sometimes twenty together on a single gallows. More protested that this was not the fault of the poor who were hanged, but of the rich land-monopolists, who pastured sheep and left no fields for tillage. According to More, these capitalists plucked down houses and even towns, leaving nothing but the church for a sheep-house, so that "by covin and fraud, or by violent oppression, . . . or by wrongs and injuries," the husbandmen "be thrust out of their own," and, "must needs depart away, poor, wretched souls, men, women, husbands, wives, fatherless children, widows." The dissolution of the convents accelerated the process, and more and more of the weaker yeomanry were ruined and evicted. It is demonstrated that the pauperization of the feebler rural population went on apace by the passage of poor laws under Elizabeth, which, in the middle ages, had not been needed and, therefore, were unknown. This movement, described by More, was the beginning of the system of enclosing common lands which afterward wrought such havoc among the English yeomen, and which, I suppose, contributed more than any other single cause to the Great Rebellion of the seventeenth century. In the mediaeval village the owners of small farms enjoyed certian rights in the common land of the community, affording them pasturage for their cattle and the like, rights without which small farming could not be made profitable. These commons the land monopolists appropriated, sometimes giving some shadow of compensation, sometimes by undisguised force, but on the whole compensation amounted to so little that the enclosure of the commons must rank as confiscation. Also this seizure of property would doubtless have caused a convulsion as lasting as that which followed the insurrection of 1381, or as did actually occur in Ireland, had it not been for an unparalleled contemporaneous territorial and industrial expansion. Thorold Rogers always insisted that between 1563, the year of the passage of the Statute of Apprentices,2 and 1824, a regular conspiracy existed between the lawyers "and the parties interested in its success ... to cheat the English workman of his wages, . . . and to degrade him to irremediable poverty."3 Certainly the land monopolists resorted to strong measures to accumulate land, for something like