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Progress of the Nation. page 5


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National revenue, Money, and Coinage

The annual revenue of James I. has been calculated at about six hundred thousand pounds, yet he was always poor, and died leaving debts to the amount of three hundred thousand pounds. He was prodigal to his favourites, and wasteful in his habits. He left the estates of the crown, however, better than he found them, having raised their annual income from thirty-two thousand pounds to eighty thousand pounds, besides having sold lands to the amount of seven hundred and seventy-five thousand pounds. He still prosecuted the exactions of purveyance, wardship, &c., to the great anoyance of his subjects. On the occasion of his son being made a knight, he raised a tax on every knight's fee of twenty shillings, and on every twenty pounds of annual rent from lands held directly of the crown, thus raising twenty-one thousand eight hundred pounds; and on the marriage of his daughter Elizabeth to the prince Palatine, he levied an aid of twenty thousand five hundred pounds, the last of these odious impositions which were demanded. The customs on his coming to the throne brought in one hundred and twenty-seven thousand pounds a year; but towards the end of his reign, showing the great increase of commerce, they amounted to one hundred and ninety thousand pounds a year. But this was the tonnage and poundage which was so hateful to the nation, and which James had greatly augmented by his own act and deed; an encroachment which caused parliament to refuse to his son Charles the usual grant of those duties for life; and his persistence in levying them, in spite of parliament, was one of the chief causes of his quarrel with that body, and the loss of his crown.

James was also a great trader in titles of nobility. His price for a barony was ten thousand pounds, for the title of viscount, twenty thousand pounds, and for that of an earl, thirty thousand pounds. He also invented the new title of baronet, and raised two hundred and twenty-five thousand pounds by it, at the rate of one thousand and ninety-five pounds each baronetcy. From so dignified a source do many of our aristocracy derive their honours.

Charles, though he was driven to such fatal extremities to extort money from his subjects, is calculated to have realized the enormous revenue from 1637 to 1641 inclusive, of eight hundred and ninety-five thousand pounds, of which two hundred and ten thousand pounds arose from ship-money and other illegal sources. Both he and his father dealt in wholesale monopolies to their courtiers and others, the profits of which were so embezzled by those greedy and unprincipled men that Clarendon says that of two hundred thousand pounds of such income in Charles's time, only one thousand five hundred pounds reached the royal treasury. Charles raised two hundred thousand pounds in 1626 by a forced loan, and another hundred thousand by exacting the fees or compensation for exemption from the assumption of knighthood by every person worth forty pounds a year.

The income and expenditure of the commonwealth are stated to have far exceeded those of any monarch who ever sate on the throne of these realms, and to have been not less than four million four hundred thousand pounds per annum. The post-office, as already stated, brought in ten thousand pounds per annum. A singular tax, called the Weekly Meal, or the price of a meal a week from each person, produced upwards of one hundred thousand pounds a year, or six hundred and eight thousand four hundred pounds in the six years during which it was levied. There was a weekly assessment for the support of the war, which rose from thirty-eight thousand pounds to one hundred and twenty thousand pounds per week, which was continued as a land-tax under the protectorate, producing from 1640 to 1659 no less than thirty- two million one hundred and seventy-two thousand three hundred and twenty-one pounds. The excise also owes its origin to this period, and produced, it is said, five hundred thousand pounds a year. Large sums were realised by the sales of crown and church lands. From the sale of crown lands, parks, &c., one million eight hundred and fifty-eight thousand pounds; from the sale of church lands, ten million pounds; from sequestration of the revenue of the clergy for four years, three million five hundred thousand pounds; eight hundred and fifty thousand pounds from the incomes of office sequestered for the public service; four million five hundred thousand pounds from the sequestration of private estates or compositions for them; one million pounds from compositions with delinquents in Ireland; three million five hundred thousand pounds from the sale of forfeited estates in England and Ireland, &c. The ministers and commanders are asserted to have taken good care of themselves. Cromwell's own income is stated at nearly two million pounds, or one million nine hundred thousand pounds; namely, one million five hundred thousand pounds from England, forty-three thousand pounds from Scotland, and two hundred and eight thousand pounds from Ireland. The members of parliament were paid at the rate of four pounds a week each, or about three hundred thousand pounds a year altogether; and Walker, in his "History of Independency/' says that Lenthall, the speaker, held offices to the amount of nearly eight thousand pounds a year; that Bradshaw had Eltham Palace, and an estate of one thousand pounds a year, as bestowed for presiding at the king's trial; and that nearly eight hundred thousand pounds were spent on gifts to adherents of the party. As these statements, however, are those of their adversaries, they no doubt admit of ample abatement; but after all deduction, the demands of king and parliament on the country during the contest, and of the protectorate in keeping down its enemies, must have been enormous. Notwithstanding this, the rate of interest on money continued through this period to decline. During James's reign it was ten per cent.; in 1624, the last year of his reign, it was reduced to eight per cent., and in 1651 was fixed by the parliament at six per cent., at which rate it remained.

James issued various coinages. Soon after his accession he issued a coinage of gold and one of silver. The gold was of two qualities. The first of twenty-three carats three and a half grains, consisting of angels, half-angels, and quarter-angels; value ten shillings, five shillings, and two-and-sixpence. The inferior quality, of only twenty- two carats, consisted of sovereigns, half-sovereigns, crowns, and half-crowns. His silver coinage consisted of crowns, half-crowns, shillings, sixpences, twopences, pence, and halfpence. These gold coins, being of more value than that amount of gold on the continent, were rapidly exported, and the value of the finest gold was then raised from thirty-three pounds ten shillings to thirty-seven pounds four shillings and sixpence. The next coinage at this value consisted of a twenty-shilling piece called the unity, ten shillings called the double crown, five shillings or the Britain crown, four shillings or the thistle crown, and two-and-sixpence, or half-crown. This value of the gold was not found high enough, and the next year, in a fresh coinage, it was valued at forty pounds ten shillings, and consisted of rose-rials of thirty shillings each, spur-rials, fifteen shillings, and angels at ten shillings each. But gold still rising in value, in 1611, the unity was raised to twenty-two shillings, and the other coins in proportion. In the next year there was a great rise in gold, and in 1612 James issued i fresh twenty-shilling, ten-shilling, and five-shilling pieces^ which became known as laurels, from the king's head being wreathed with laurel. The unity and twenty-shilling pieces were termed hood pieces. Besides the royal coinage, shopkeepers and other retailers put out tokens of brass and lead, which in 1613 were prohibited, and the first copper coinage in England, being of farthings, was issued.

The coins of Charles were, for the most part, of the same nature as those of his father. During his reign silver rose so much in value that it was melted down and exported to a vast extent. Though betwixt 1630 and 1643 some ten million pounds of silver were coined, it became so scarce that people had to give a premium for change in silver. In 1637 Charles established a mint at Aberystwith, in Wales, for coining the Welsh silver, which was of great value to him during the war. From 1628 to 1640 Nicholas Briot, a Frenchman, superintended the cutting of the dies, instituted machinery for the hammer in coining, and his coins were of remarkable beauty. Charles erected mints at most of his head-quarters during the war, as Oxford, Shrewsbury, York, and other places, the coiners and dies of Aberystwith being used, and these coins are distinguished by the Prince of Wales's feathers. Many of these coins are of the rudest character; and besides these there were issued obsidional or siege pieces, so called from the besieged castles where they were made, as Newark, Scarborough, Carlisle, and Pontefract. Some of these are mere bits of silver plate with the rude stamp of the castle on one side and the name of the town on the other. Others are octagonal, others lozenge-shaped, others of scarcely any regular shape.

The commonwealth at first coined the same coins as the king, only distinguishing them by a P for parliament. They afterwards adopted dies of their own, having on one side a St. George's cross on an antique shield encircled with a palm and laurel, and on the other two antique shields, one bearing the cross and the other the harp, surrounded by the words God with us. Their small silver coins had the arms only without any legend. These were all parliament money, but there were half-crowns, shillings, and sixpences with milled edges. The coins of the protectorate bear the head of Cromwell laurelled like a Caesar, and round the head, Olivar. D. G. R. P. Ang. Sco. Hib. etc. Pro. On the reverse a shield, having in the first and fourth quarters St. George's cross, in the second St. Andrew's, in the third a harp, and in the centre a lion rampant on an escutcheon - Cromwell's own arms. This shield supported a royal crown. The circumscription was Pax quaeritur Bello, and the date 1656, or 1658. These coins were from the dies of Symonds, and were superior to any which had appeared since the time of the Romans.

The coins of the commonwealth were the same for Ireland and Scotland as for England. This was not the case in the reigns of James and Charles, which, though bearing the same arms, had generally a very different value. For Ireland James coined silver and copper money of about three- quarters of the value of the English, and called in the base coinage used by Elizabeth in the time of the rebellion. Charles only coined some silver in 1641, during the government of lord Ormond, and therefore called Ormonds. Copper halfpence and farthings of that period are supposed to have been coined by the rebel papists of 1642.

Agriculture and Gardening

In these arts the English were still greatly excelled by their neighbours the Dutch and Flemings. Towards the latter part of this period our country began to imitate those industrious nations, and to introduce their modes of drainage, their roots and seeds. In 1652 the advantage of growing clover was pointed out by Bligh, in his "Improver Improved," and Sir Richard Weston recommended soon after the Flemish mode of cultivating the turnip for winter fodder for cattle and sheep. Gardening was more attended to, and both culinary vegetables and flowers were introduced. Samuel Hartlib, a Pole, who was patronised by Cromwell, wrote various treatises on agriculture, and relates that in his time old men recollected the first gardener who went into Surrey to plant cabbages, cauliflowers, and artichokes, and to sow early peas, turnips, carrots, and parsnips. Till then almost all the supply of these things in London was imported from Holland and Flanders. About that time, however, 1650, cherries, apples, pears, hops, cabbages, and liquorice were rapidly cultivated, and soon superseded the necessity of importation; but Hartlib says onions were still scarce, and the supply of stocks of apple, pear, cherry, vine, and chestnut trees was difficult from want of sufficient nurseries for them. There was a great tendency to cultivate tobacco, but that, as we have seen, was stopped in favour of the colonies. There was a zealous endeavour to introduce the production of raw silk, and mulberry trees and silk worms were introduced, but the abundant supply of silk from India, and the perfection of the silk manufactured in France, rendered this scheme abortive,- and to this circumstance we owe the general diffusion of the mulberry tree in this country. In Markham's " Farewell to Husbandry," published in 1620, the various agricultural and gardening implements may be seen.

Literature, Science, and the Fine Arts

Whilst James was hunting and levying taxes without a parliament, and Charles was in continual strife with his people for unconstitutional power and revenue, literature and art were still at work, and producing or preparing some of the noblest and choicest creations of genius. Shakespeare and Milton were the great lights of the age; but around and beside them burned a whole galaxy of lesser, but not less exquisite, luminaries, whose selected beauties are just as delightful now as they were to their contemporaries. The names of this period, to which we still turn with admiration, reverence, and affection, are chiefly Shakespeare, Milton, Bacon, Marlowe, Massinger, Webster, Seiden, Herrick, Herbert, Quarles, Bunyan, Bishop Hall, Hales, Chillingworth, Jeremy Taylor, Raleigh, Sir Thomas Browne, Burton (of the "Anatomy of Melancholy"), and Drummond, of Hawthornden. But there are numbers of others, more unequal or more scholastic, to whose works we can occasionally turn, and find passages of wonderful beauty and power.

As we come first to Shakespeare, who figured largely on the scene in the days of queen Bess, and whose poetry we have already reviewed, we may take the drama of this period also in connection with him. A formal criticism on Shakespeare would be worse than superfluous - it would be almost an insult to any reader of the present day, who is as familiar with his character, and his beauties as he is with his Bible, and perhaps, in many cases, much more so. There are whole volumes of comment on this greatest of our great writers, both in this language and others. The Germans have written volumes on his genius and works, and pride themselves on understanding him better than ourselves. They cannot believe but that he must have been in Germany, to represent so completely their feelings and philosophies; and, were there any obscurity about his birthplace, would certainly claim him. The Scandinavians equally venerate him, and have an admirable translation of his dramas. Even the French, the tone and spirit of whose literature are so different from ours, have, of late years, began to comprehend and receive him. The fact is, Shakespeare's genius is what the Germans term spherical, or many-sided. He had not a brilliancy in one direction only, but he seemed like a grand mirror, in which is truly reflected every image that falls on it. Outward nature, inner life and passion, town and country, all the features of human nature, as exhibited in every grade of life - from the cottage to the throne - are in him expressed with a truth and a natural strength, that awake in us precisely the same sensations as nature itself. The receptivity of his mind was as quick, as vast, as perfect, as his power of expression was unlimited. Every object once seen appeared photographed on his spirit, and he reproduced these lifelike images in new combinations, and mingled with such an exuberance of wit, of humour, of delicious melodies, and of exquisite poetry, as has no parallel in the whole range of literature, including all ages and all countries. The learned have always been astonished that ho could be all this without an academic education, as if the academy of God's universe did not include all lesser colleges, and as if God needed lectures and masters to instruct those whom he chooses to inform himself, and to produce as his elect and peculiar oracles.

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Pictures for Progress of the Nation. page 5

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