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tribute in proportion1. The king, however, intervened on behalf of the alien craftsmen, and in response to their petition issued letters patent (1352) that they should not be "in any way hindered from being-or in any manner compelled to be of the gild of weavers in London, or of other weavers or native workers of cloths within the realm . . . against their will, nor may they be bound to contribute to any sums of money by reason of such like gild . . . on the pretence of charters or privileges previously granted to any persons "2. In 1378, when the agitation against aliens was at its height and foreign traders were being subjected to heavy disabilities, the London weavers seized the opportunity to renew their demands that the immigrants should be placed under their control, insinuating that they were "for the most part exiled from their own country as notorious malefactors "3. In the absence of any legal pretext, the authorities appear to have shrunk from infringing openly the royal charters granted by the Crown to foreign weavers, but they promised action in the event of a foreigner being convicted of some default in his trade. However, a few months later, the alien weavers-evidently finding it advisable to submit-agreed to make contribution to the farm which denizen weavers owed the king, according to the number and rate of their instruments. It was also arranged that denizens and aliens should meet every year six weeks before Michaelmas to make search touching the number of looms belonging to each group. But the foreign weavers speedily repented of their hasty compliance, and in 1406 5 and 14146 the weavers of London had again occasion to complain in parliament that the aliens would contribute nothing to the farm of their gild. A few years later (1421), the alien weavers in their turn declared that they were "grievously persecuted and harassed" by the English weavers, who would not allow them to ply their craft in London and other towns, contrary to their charter which hitherto they had previously enjoyed'.

1 That this was their contention may be inferred not only from the course of events, but from the petition of the Lincoln weavers in 1348. Patent Rolls, 1348-1350, p. 120. 2 Printed in Records of Norwich, ii. 330. 4 Ibid. 151; Patent Rolls, 1377-1381, p. 452. 6 Ibid. iv. 50 a. 7 Ibid. iv. 162 a.

a Letter Book H, 94.

5 Rot. Parl. iii. 600 a.

The advent of the capitalist.

It is supposed1 that the persistency of the native weavers eventually achieved its end, and that the aliens were forced to contribute to their farm. There appears, however, no clear evidence to show how or when this was brought about. In 1467 the farm of the London gild of weavers was greatly in arrears, and since its members were too poor to meet their liabilities the royal officers distrained upon the foreign weavers. The latter claimed immunity on the ground that they were not subject to the charges of the gild, and the action of the king's officers would seem to have been a violation of their privileges. Whether their action was upheld or not by the royal courts we are not told 2.

A more important problem was the rise of a class of capitalists, which came into existence in the fourteenth century and became increasingly prominent as the Middle Ages drew to a close. We cannot, of course, assert that cloth - making was the earliest industry to be run on capitalist lines. The wage-system existed in the tin-mining industry from very early times, and one tinner had in his employment over three hundred workmen. The appearance of the capitalist employer was attended here also by complaints of capitalist exploitation. The large tinproducers, it was alleged, "usurped works and compelled stannary men to labour there for a penny a day, whereas before they worked above twentypence worth of tin each day, with the result that the tinners have all left their mines "3. But the conditions of the English cloth trade facilitated the growth of capitalism on a large scale, and opened up a new stage in the evolution of industrial organization. On the one hand, an ever-widening market and a corresponding increase of production made the investment of capital a profitable venture; on the other hand, the variety of processes and division of occupations-involved in the preparation and manufacture of cloth-seemed to

1 Ashley, Economic History, ii. 202.

* For the case before the Exchequer Court in 7 Edw. IV., see Madox, Firma Burgi, 215 (n. f).

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3 G. R. Lewis, Tin Mining", in Vict. County Hist. Cornwall, i. 559. 4 Compare Langland, Piers the Plowman, B. Passus, xv. 444, cloth that cometh fro the weaving is nouzt comley to wear ".

require that the woollen industry should be organized on a capitalist basis. The captains of industry' whom Edward III. invited to England were clearly not simple artisans, but capitalists. John Kempe brought with him from Flanders "men, servants and apprentices "1; and "the workers of wools and cloths ", who came from Zeeland, had also their men and their servants 2. Many of the citizens of Lincoln kept hired weavers working cloths for sale 3, and at Bristol we even get glimpses of the beginnings of a factory system. In a writ of 1339 addressed to the mayor and bailiffs of Bristol, it was stated that Thomas Blanket and certain other burgesses had set up instruments for weaving cloth, and employed in their own houses 'weavers and other workmen'. The writ adds that the mayor and bailiffs had "unjustly exacted divers sums of money from them by reason of their setting up their instruments "5. It is possible that the authorities disapproved of the attempt to concentrate hired workmen under one roof, and their hostility was perhaps stimulated by feelings of racial jealousy. But more probably their action was dictated by neither of these motives, for it was a normal practice to levy a yearly tax upon the weavers of looms. At Nottingham 7, Winchester 8, York and Wycombe 10, among other places, weavers paid a tax for the licence to erect looms, and the money thus raised went to the farm of the city.

At the end of the fourteenth century the great clothiers Industrial capitalism were already in existence 11, though they were not to all in the appearance a numerous body. The aulnagers' accounts for fourteenth the year 1395 have fortunately been preserved; they are a valuable source of evidence in showing that capitalism had

1 Rymer, ii. part ii. 823.

3 Patent Rolls, 1348-1350, p. 120.

2 Ibid. 969.

4 Bailiff in 1340: Adams's Chronicle of Bristol, 40-41.

5 Close Rolls, 1339-1341, p. 311; Rot. Parl. ii. 449 b.

• Hunt, Bristol, 76, thinks that the weavers were "evidently foreigners"; and this is not improbable.

Vict. County Hist. Nottinghamshire, ii. 345.

8 Archæol. Journal, ix. 77.

9 York Memorandum Book, i. 243.

10 Hist. MSS. Comm. 5th Rep. App. 556.


11 Ashley, Economic History, ii. 228, considerably post-dates their appearance: there is no evidence of a class of capitalist manufacturers till towards the middle of the fifteenth century".


Origin of


already established a footing in the cloth trade. In Suffolk 733 cloths were divided among 120 manufacturers, of whom only 7 or 8 reached a score. At Romsey in Hampshire there were 4 clothiers who produced from 30 to 46 'dozens' apiece, and on the Isle of Wight one clothier paid aulnage on 60 cloths and another on 40. In Essex capitalist production was on a larger scale; 1200 narrow cloths were made at Coggeshall by 9 makers, and 2400 at Braintree by 8 makers. But the most striking evidence of capitalist enterprise is found among the west country clothiers; at Barnstaple one manufacturer paid aulnage on no less than 1080 cloths, another on 1005, and 9 others on 1600; at Salisbury 158 persons returned 6600 cloths. On the other hand, Cornwall produced altogether only 90 cloths among 13 clothiers, Kent had but one clothier who owned more than 50 cloths, and Winchester but 3 clothiers who had more than 100 cloths. The average number of cloths assigned to the manufacturers of Yorkshire was apparently as low as 10 1.

In the closing years of Richard II.'s reign the large manuthe class of facturers were apparently restricted to a few centres, but the rapid extension of the woollen industry soon brought in its wake a growing body of capitalist employers. How the class of clothiers originated must remain largely a matter of speculation. Some were doubtless dealers in wool 2, who caused the raw material to be worked up into cloth and then disposed of it in the market. Others were shearmen or cloth-finishers, who employed workmen in all the earlier processes of carding, spinning, weaving, fulling and dyeing. To some extent the final processes of cloth-making must have been in the hands of men of substantial position, who might be expected to have some command of capital. It is at any rate significant to read of a mayor of Canterbury, who had given up his trade as a victualler, that he “took upon him the occupation of making of cloths and lived like

1 But in 1396 one manufacturer paid the tax on 26 whole cloths and 4 strait cloths. I have taken these figures from Salzmann, English Mediaeval Industries, 157-158; Vict. County Hist. Hampshire, v. 482; Vict. County Hist. Yorkshire, ii. 410.

2 Ashley, Economic History, ii. 210.

a gentleman "1. At Knaresborough also, the cloth trade attracted a 'chevalier' who took to cloth-making 2. There is evidence, moreover, that dealers in cloth were sometimes recruited from those engaged in the more subordinate branches of the woollen industry. An important ordinance of the king in council in 1364 asserts that " dyers, weavers and fullers, who used to labour out of their own mistery, are become makers of drapery". They were therefore admonished to "keep their own office and not meddle with the making, buying or selling of drapery, on pain of imprisonment "3. But the statement made by some authorities that Nicholas Brembre, mayor of London, disfranchised artisans, weavers and tailors for competing with dealers, rests upon a misapprehension 4. These men were already dealers, and were disfranchised not for infringing the monopoly of the merchants, but for seeking admission to the franchise of the city through a gild other than their own to avoid the payment of heavy fees. Lastly the tailors of Bristol 5, who made cloth into garments, were allowed to deal in cloth as drapers, and possibly they also assumed control of its manufacture.

It was in the nature of things inevitable that the dealers, Their control of who traded in cloth, should organize the different branches the cloth of the woollen industry under their own control. The gild manufacture. system broke down earlier in the weaving industry than in any other direction. The rapid growth of the cloth trade was incompatible with the old restrictions, and the manu

1 Hist. MSS. Comm. 9th Rep. part i. App. 174.

2 Vict. County Hist. Yorkshire, ii. 408.

3 Patent Rolls, 1364–1367, P. 4.

Herbert, Livery Companies, i. 30 n. (followed by Cunningham, English Industry, i. 383, and Ashley, Woollen Industry, 57) cites a passage from Noorthouck: 'In 1385 Brembre, the mayor, is stated to have disfranchised several freemen for following trades to which they had not been brought up, as... William Southbrook, free of the weavers, for that he occupied drapery or the selling of cloth ". A reference to Letter Book H, 257-260, sets the incident in a new light. The Drapers complained that William Southbrook-who had always used the art of drapers-had obtained the freedom of the city through the Weavers, contrary to the custom of the city, in order to avoid the payment of higher fees, which the Drapers, acquainted with his resources, would have exacted. Southbrook confessed on examination that he had never used the mistery of weavers as a common workman: ibid. 259. And similarly for the other cases.

Fox, Merchant Taylors of Bristol, 52, 87 (1401).

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