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er stain upon the Reformation, than the treatment of the unhappy devotees of the old religion, who were not only divested of their livelihoods, but held up in every form to public abhorrence and scorn*, exposed to the liarshest and most inhuman punishments by statutes directed particularly against themt; ridiculed on the stage in stupid interludes and farces*—for begging a little bread of the charitable, to the necessity of which they had been reduced by an event which human foresight could not calculate on. This too proceeded from men who had got their lands, or from ecclesiastics of the new establishment, who were ready to exclaim against the sacrilege of touching the patrimony of the church-which, while they merci lessly divested their predecessors of it, they conceived ought still to be applied to holy uses t. But the misery attending this event did not rest here. The lands attached to religious houses were immensely extensive, and as corporations are ever the best landlords, its tenants, though numerous and holding consequently small farms, may be
counts, no provision in the majority of cases was made for any. Anderson's History of Commerce, 4to. edit. vol. II. p. 63. And then the hospitals, to the number of 110, being also dissolved, an immense addition of poor, formerly provided for, were thrown amongst the general mass of the indigent.--It is quite ridiculous to suppose, that above a small proportion of the fifty thousand got pensions ; because the annual rent of the religious houses was at the utmost only about £160,000, and even at four pounds a-piece, their aliment would have much exceeded the whole. It is true, that this annual rent was not a tenth of the value, because these houses had granted leases at low rates for large fines : But, in the mean time, it stood thus. The begging friars, I presume, were never thought of, while their trade was interdicted ; and, it would appear, that the pensioners had much difficulty in getting their annual pittance. Strype's Ec. Mem. vol. II. p. 98.
* See the libel against that class, entitled, the Petition of the Beggars to Henry VIII. in the first volume of Somers' Tracts, by Scott. They are there accused of every crime.
+ Burnet's Hist. of Ref. Part II. B. I. P. 83. The act referred to by him passed in 1543, is a most inhuman one, adjudging vagabonds to be the slaves of any one who presented them to a justice, for two years, and to have the letter V imprinted on their breasts with a red-hot iron. The masters were permitted by the statute to treat these slaves in a manner utterly revolting to humanity; and if any one ran from his master, and was absent for fourteen days, he was to become his slave for life, after being branded on the forehead or cheek with the letter S; and if he ran away a third time, and was convicted by two witnesses, he was to be punished as a felon with the pains of death.
“A great many provisoes,” says Burnet, “ follow concerning clerks so convict; which shew, that this act was chiefly levelled at the idle monks and friars, who went about the country, and would betake
presumed to have been the most independent and comfortable of their class ; but, now that the ground passed into other hands, where there could exist no sympathy with its occupiers, they,
themselves to no employment; but finding the people apt to have compassion on them, continued in that course of life.” The prelate who could write thus, is yet ready to exclaim about the poverty of the clergy. But these were catholics, and a difference in religion with some men shuts up every avenue of compassion.
* See 1st Vol. of Burnet, p. 576, as to the stage plays.
+ Strype's Mem. Vol. II. p. (261.) A strange fatality was alleged to attend those who were concerned in plundering the church. Whitgift told Queen Elizabeth, “ that church lands added to an ancient inheritance had proved like a moth fretting a garment and secretly consumed both ; or like the eagle that stole a coal from the altar, and thereby set her nest on fire, which consumed both her young eagles and herself that stole it.” Life of Hooker prefixed to his Works, p. 12. fol. ed,
exclusive of any security that part of them might derive from leases, (leases were confirmed by statute,) were forced either to quit their possessions, or to submit to such an enhancement of the terms as must have blasted all their prospects *.
The melancholy tone of the statutes, the declamations of the pulpit, and of cotemporary authors, against the cruel selfishness of proprietors,—the general rage against large flocks of sheep, and against enclosures, the effect of which was to con
In a book entitled the Supplication of the Poor Commons, published in 1546, from which Strype extracts some passages, we have the amplest proof of this. Tenants of abbey lands were daily dismissed by the new proprietors; and such was the rapacity of the last, that the former did not derive security from their leases, though these were specially provided for in the statute. “When they,” (the new proprietors,) “ stand once seized in such abbey lands, they make us, your poor commons, so in doubt of their threatenings, that we dare do none other but bring into their courts our copies taken of the convents and of the late dissolved monasteries, and confirmed by your High Court of Parliament. They make us believe that, by virtue of your highness, all our former writings are void and of no effect: And that if we will not take new leases of them, we must then forthwith avoid the ground as having therein no interest. Moreover, when they can espy no commodious thing to be bought at your highness' hand, they labour for and obtain leases for 21 years in and upon such abbey lands as lie commodious for them. Then do they dash us out of countenance, with your highness' authority, making us believe that by virtue of your highness' lease, our copies are void : So that they compel us to surrender our former writings we ought to hold, some for two and some for three lives, and to take by indenture for twentyone years, "overing both with fines and rents beyond all reason and conscience."
They state that such possessors as were heretofore able, and used to bring up their children to learning, were now obliged to set them to labour, while the poorer classes could not procure work for theirs, “ though they profferred them for meat, drink, and poor clothes to cover their bodies.” Strype's Ec. Mem. Vol. I. p. 399.
solidate many farms and abridge the number of labourers,-the repeated. insurrections,--the execution of seventy-two thousand rogues, great and small, even during the reign of Henry VIII. a period of only thirty-seven years and nine months, need not after this excite surprise ; they were the necessary consequence of the change of manners and of the policy pursued. The evil in time effected its own partial cure; yet, even in the reign of Elizabeth, though some mitigation of the general misery was found in the poor's laws then devised*. “ Thieves," says Harrison, “ were trussed up apace, and three hundred and four hundred were commonly eaten up by the gallows every year.” As for beggars, they were so numerous, that, observes he, though “ the punishment be verie sharpe, yet it cannot restreine them from their gadding, wherefore the end must needs be martiall law t.
* The poor's laws have been productive of much mischief; but, at the time of their introduction, they were absolutely necessary: for the poor must otherwise either have perished or destroyed the rich; and the consequences were beneficial to the whole community at the time. The provision for the poor enabled them, to a certain extent, to purchase food, and being so much withdrawn from the rich, which they would have expended on foreign superfluities, obliged the latter to put more of their lands into tillage. This afforded employment to many; and as the labourers thus employed, as well as those supported by the assessments, required coarse garments manufactured at home, fresh hands would find work in supplying such articles; and these, being again in a condition to purchase food, would react upon agriculture. Some beneficial acts, to exclude foreign manufactures, and advance the home, were passed in Elizabeth's reign. Ander. on Com. vol. ii. 120; but the monopolies were numerous on the other hand.
+ P. 184.
The general distress opened men's minds to the effects of over population. The towns, by obtaining and enforcing exclusive privileges, and by at least concurring in general laws to prevent the influx of inhabitants from the country, and the lower ranks by their complaints of, and rage against, the employment of foreigners, discovered sound knowledge on the subject * : And we learn from Harrison directly, that the prevalent opinion in his time-he published in 1577-was, that the number of mankind was excessive. Certes," says he, “ a great number complaine of the increase of pouertie, laieing the cause upon God, as though he were in fault for sending such increase of people or want of wars that should consume them, affirming that the land was never so full t.” Again, “ Some af firme, that youthe by marrying too soon doo nothing profit the countrie ; but fill it full of beggars, to the hurte and utter undooing, they say, of the commonwealth 7." In another place, where
Anderson's Hist. of Com. vol. ii. The great riot in London on May day, in the reign of Henry VIII. was directed against the foreigners, who were accused by the people of engrossing the trade and manufactures of the nation, Halle, p. 59, et seq. By 14 and 15 Henry VIII. c. 2, aliens were prohibited from taking aliens as apprentices; and no alien was allowed to have more than two aliens as jour. neymen at one time.
+ P. 193. The whole page presents a picture of the utmost wretchedness.
Harrison, p. 205. He says, “ That the twentieth part of the realm is emploied on deer and conies ;" and justly remarks, “ That privileges an faculties are also another great cause of the ruins of a commonwealth, and diminution of mankind: For whereas law