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rents, and so induced them to go home with his charters in Richard II. Richard promised the people, by 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 Donist 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.
landlords patoEdward 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.
1 13 Edw. 1. c. 1. (A. D. 1284).
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 re
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, 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 25 Eliz. c. 4.
650 Enclosure Acts were passed between 1760, the opening of the Industrial Revolution, and 1774, the outbreak of the American War. But without insisting on Rogers' view, it is not denied that the weakest of the small yeomen sank into utter misery, becoming paupers or worse. On the other hand, of those stronger some emigrated to America, others who were among the ablest and the boldest, sought fortune as adventurers over the whole earth, and, like the grandfather of Chatham, brought home from India as smugglers or even as pirates, diamonds to be sold to kings for their crowns, or, like Clive, became the greatest generals and administrators of the nation. Probably, however, by far the majority of those who were of average capacity, found compensation for the confiscated commons in domestic industry, owning their houses with lots of land, and the tools of their trade. De Foe has left a charming description of the region about Halifax in Yorkshire, toward the year 1730, where he found the whole population busy, prosperous, healthy and, in the main, self-sufficing. He did not see a beggar or an idle person in the whole country. So, favored by circumstances, the landed oligarchy met with no effective resistance after the death of Cromwell, and achieved what amounted to being autocratic power, in 1688. Their great triumph was the conversion of the House of Commons into their own personal property, about the beginning of the eighteenth century, with all the guaranties of law. In the middle ages the chief towns of England had been summoned by the king to send burgesses to Westminster to grant him money, but as time elapsed the Commons acquired influence and, in 1642, became dominant. Then, after the Restoration, the landlords conceived the idea of appropriating the right of representation, as they had appropriated and were appropriating the common lands. Lord John Russell one day observed in the House of Commons that the burgesses were originally chosen from among the inhabitants of the towns they represented, but that, in the reign of Anne, the land