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A History of England Principally in the Seventeent

His concessions included a return for service already done


towns: the copy of a statute

is extant, in which this is very expressly stated.[43] But since the statute does not exist in an authentic shape, and is not to be found in the Rolls of the Realm, we cannot safely base any conclusion on it. As to the date too at which it may have been passed, our statements waver between the twenty-eighth and the thirty-fourth year of Edward. On the other hand we find in the collection of charters an undoubted charter of confirmation given at Ghent and dated 5 November 1297, in which not merely are the Great Charter of Henry III and the Forest Charter confirmed, but also some new arrangements of much importance guaranteed, and confirmed by ecclesiastico-judicial regulations.[44] According to it the grants of taxes and contributions which had been hitherto made to the King for his wars were not to be regarded as binding for the future. He reserves only the old customary taxes: to the higher clergy, the nobility, and the commons of the land the assurance is given, that under no circumstances, however pressing, should any tax or contribution or requisition--not even the export duty on wool--be levied except by their common consent and for the interests of all.[45] In the Latin text all sounds more open and less reserved: but even the words of the authentic document include a very essential limitation of the prerogative of the crown, which hitherto had alone exercised the right of estimating what the state needed and of fixing the payments by this standard. The King was averse at
heart to the limitation even in this form. When he came back from Flanders after concluding a truce with France, and army and people were met together at York, to carry out a great campaign against Scotland, he was pressed to confirm on English soil the concessions which he had granted on foreign ground.[46] He held it advisable that the campaign should be first carried through; four of his confidential friends swore in his stead (since an oath in person was thought unbecoming to the King), that, the campaign ended, the confirmation should not be wanting. The enterprise was most successful, it led to a great victory over the Scots, and it was the leaders of the English aristocracy who did the best service there; nevertheless, when they met together next Lent (1299) in London, the King strove to avoid an absolute promise: he wished to expressly reserve the undefined 'rights of the crown.' But this delay aroused a general storm: and as he was quite convinced that he could not, under this condition, reckon on further support in the war which still continued, he at last submitted to what was unavoidable, and allowed his clause to drop.[47]

I do not know whether I am mistaken in ascribing to these concessions a different character from that of the earlier ones. It was not a sovereign defeated and reduced to the deepest humiliation who made them, nor did the barons obtain articles which aimed at securing their own direct supremacy: the concessions were the result of the war, which could not be carried on with the existing means. When Edward I laid stress on the necessity of greater common efforts, the counter-demand which was made on him, and to which he yielded, merely implied that a common resolution should be previously come to. His concessions included a return for service already done, and a condition for future service. It did not abase the royal authority; it brought into clear view the unity of interests between the crown and the nation.


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