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Charles I - Jacob Abbott

Charles I - Jacob Abbott


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Published by: Oana on Aug 07, 2009
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Then the lord keeper pronounced the Parliament dissolved. The lord keeper was the keeper of the great seal,
one of the highest officers of the crown.

Of course this affair produced a fever of excitement against the king throughout the whole realm. This
excitement was kept up and increased by the trials of the members of Parliament who had been imprisoned.
The courts decided against them, and they were sentenced to long imprisonment and to heavy fines. The king
now determined to do without Parliaments entirely; and, of course, he had to raise money by his royal
prerogative altogether, as he had done, in fact, before, a great deal, during the intervals between the successive
Parliaments. It will not be very entertaining, but it will be very useful to the reader to peruse carefully some
account of the principal methods resorted to by the king. In order, however, to diminish the necessity for
money as much as possible, the king prepared to make peace with France and Spain; and as they, as well as
England, were exhausted with the wars, this was readily effected.

One of the resorts adopted by the king was to a system of loans, as they were called, though these loans
differed from those made by governments at the present day, in being apportioned upon the whole community
according to their liability to taxation, and in being made, in some respects, compulsory. The loan was not to
be absolutely collected by force, but all were expected to lend, and if any refused, they were to be required to
make oath that they would not tell any body else that they had refused, in order that the influence of their
example might not operate upon others. Those who did refuse were to be reported to the government. The
officers appointed to collect these loans were charged not to make unnecessary difficulty, but to do all in their
power to induce the people to contribute freely and willingly. This plan had been before adopted, in the time
of Buckingham, but it met with little success.

Another plan which was resorted to was the granting of what was called monopolies: that is, the government
would select some important and necessary articles in general use, and give the exclusive right of
manufacturing them to certain persons, on their paying a part of the profits to the government. Soap was one
of the articles thus chosen. The exclusive right to manufacture it was given to a company, on their paying for
it. So with leather, salt, and various other things. These persons, when they once possessed the exclusive right
to manufacture an article which the people must use, would abuse their power by deteriorating the article, or
charging enormous prices. Nothing prevented their doing this, as they had no competition. The effect was, that
the people were injured much more than the government was benefited. The plan of granting such monopolies
by governments is now universally odious.

Another method of taxation was what was called tonnage and poundage. This was an ancient tax, assessed on
merchandise brought into the country in ships, like the duties now collected at our custom-houses. It was
called tonnage and poundage because the merchandise on which it was assessed was reckoned by weight, viz.,
the ton and the pound. A former king, Edward III., first assessed it to raise money to suppress piracy on the
seas. He said it was reasonable that the merchandise protected should pay the expense of the protection, and in
proper proportion. The Parliament in that day opposed this tax. They did not object to the tax itself, but to the
king's assessing it by his own authority. However, they granted it themselves afterward, and it was regularly
collected. Subsequent Parliaments had granted it, and generally made the law, once for all, to continue in
force during the life of the monarch. When Charles commenced his reign, the Peers were for renewing the law
as usual, to continue throughout his reign. The Commons desired to enact the law only for a year at a time, so
as to keep the power in their own hands. The two houses thus disagreed, and nothing was done. The king then
went on to collect the tax without any authority except his own prerogative.

Another mode of levying money adopted by the king was what was called ship money. This was a plan for
raising a navy by making every town contribute a certain number of ships, or the money necessary to build
them. It originated in ancient times, and was at first confined to seaport towns which had ships. These towns
were required to furnish them for the king's service, sometimes to be paid for by the king, at other times by the
country, and at other times not to be paid for at all. Charles revived this plan, extending it to the whole
country; a tax was assessed on all the towns, each one being required to furnish money enough for a certain

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