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it was necessary to summon a new Parliament. But from his past experience, and perhaps also from his new allies, John of Gaunt had learned to guard against the threatened danger. The election and return of members to the Commons were practically at the discretion of the sheriffs, and the sheriffs were appointed by the Crown. It was thus a very simple matter to arrange the returns in accordance with the wish of the Ministers. Of the knights of the shire who sat in the Good Parliament only eight were returned to the Parliament of 1377. When it met in January the Duke's seneschal was elected Speaker of the Commons, and the associated committee of Lords consisted entirely of men of the Duke's party. The one element of opposition to the Duke's will was the presence of the bishops as peers and in Convocation, where they insisted on the attendance of William of Wykeham, in spite of the Duke's prohibition, and summoned Wycliffe to appear before them at St. Paul's to answer the charge of heresy; although at that date Wycliffe had not committed himself to any heretical doctrine, and the obnoxious opinions for which he was to be condemned related rather to the status of ecclesiastics, their possession of wealth, and their holding temporal offices. However, when Wycliffe, in obedience to the summons, appeared at St. Paul's, the Duke, and Percy on his behalf, were able to render the proceedings abortive by threats of violence, which provoked a free fight there and then between Lancaster's retainers and the citizens in support of the bishops, during which Wycliffe was carried off by his friends.
The quarrel between the Court and the city, which had its origin in the introduction of a Bill for taking the
government of London out of the hands of the mayor,' and had been brought to a head by the unseemly brawl in St. Paul's, was continued the next day in a violent riot, in which the citizens, taking arms, hunted Percy and Lancaster out of the town, gutted Percy's house and made a bonfire of its contents, and were with difficulty dissuaded by the Bishop of London from burning the Duke's palace of the Savoy. The fugitives meanwhile made their escape to Kennington Palace, where the widowed Princess of Wales, much as she detested them personally, gave them a temporary asylum. The riot cleared the political atmosphere and put an end to the hated Bill. On which Mr. Trevelyan very happily remarks:
• A riot, before the days of mass meetings and resolutions, was a useful, almost a legitimate, mode of expressing public feeling. The chronicler, who is distinctly a partisan of the popular cause, sees nothing abnormal or even censurable in the violence of the mob, and considers it quite a matter of course that they intended to kill the Duke and Lord Percy if they had been fortunate enough to lay bands on them. The Londoners had thus successfully proclaimed their determination to protect their liberties, and had shown the force at their command. ... When introduced into the royal presence, they complained bitterly of the attack on their liberties, and asserted that as no serious injury had been actually done by the rioters to any of the Duke's personal attendants, he had no just ground of complaint.
. . The King promised that the liberties of the city should henceforth be respected, and the deputies withdrew in high good humour from the presence.'
In the end of February Parliament was dissolved, and in the following month the Duke so far recovered his power that the mayor and sheriffs of London were summoned before the King to answer for the disturbances, and were deprived of their offices. On the other hand, no attempt was made to control the election of their successors; and the question of further satisfaction to the Duke was still unsettled when, on June 21, the King died. Mr. Trevelyan's interesting summary of the story of the reign, with much that is true, has in it also much that is questionable :
During the first half of his long reign there had been a period of national glory and prosperity, to which we are accustomed to look back with pride as the first appearance of a homogeneous English people on the stage of continental history. In the last twenty years of his life it became apparent that England was not strong enough in men and money to occupy permanently the first place in Europe. Her fleets and commerce were driven off the seas, her armies no longer attempted to maintain her continental empire. If it is not just to put all the blame for the catastrophes of his later years on Edward's head, neither is it just to the English people to attribute all the earlier successes solely to his vigorous personality. His policy, in so far as it recognised the importance of sea-power and commerce, had been good ; in so far as it revived the dream of a continental empire it was fraught with terrible and far-reaching disaster. It may be doubted how much the individuality of Edward the Third had been responsible for either the one side of his policy or the other. Both were inevitable in the stage of experience Englishmen had then reached, and the nation approved equally of the war by sea and of the war by land.' We are far from clear that the exhaustion of England had the importance in the issue of the war that is here attributed to it. If England was exhausted, France was much more
The determining factors were rather the ill-will of the
Aquitanians and the interference of the Castilians; but these were aided by many others, the cumulative effect of which was very great; the premature decay of the King, the sickness of the Prince, the incompetence of the Duke, the sage policy of Charles V., the military skill of Du Guesclin and Jean de Vienne, all had a large share in producing the result. Unquestionably, the loss of our maritime supremacy was in part due to maladministration and the neglect of the shipping interest; but it is curious to find a writer with Mr. Trevelyan's political sympathies and strong disposition to interpret the problems of the past by the party politics of the present censuring the Government for its tardiness in passing what was virtually a Navigation Act. This was not passed till 1381, when it was ordered that none of the King's liege people do from henceforth ship any merchandise in going out or coming within the realm
of England in any port, but only in ships of the King's - liegaunce.' We do not, however, wish to deny that such a statute was needed, or that it ought to have been enacted many years earlier.
The sketch of English sea-power which Mr. Trevelyan here introduces is inaccurate in many details both of fact and of language; and such a sentence as “the admiral's ' flag trailing from the tallest merchantman’ is an amusing instance of attempting bits of word-painting without knowing the exact meaning of the words used. Here is a blunder of a different sort: the enemy's ships were sweep‘ing the sea, burning the fishing-villages and port-towns,
and slaughtering the inhabitants of the seaboard. The consequent decay of the marine was obvious and undeni
able.' In point of fact the consequence’ was the other way: the burning and slaughtering followed-did not precede—the decay of the 'marine.' The burning and slaughtering were, however, distressing realities, and more stress might have been laid on their probable influence in provoking the insurrection of 1381. As they went on all along the east and south coasts, from Scarborough to the Land's End, it will be seen that, as far as the coast-line is concerned, they were in curious agreement with Mr. Trevelyan's map of the disturbed counties. If this is merely a coincidence, it is a very remarkable one. But Mr. Trevelyan has not noticed it; and it is scarcely to be wondered at that neither Réville nor M. Petit-Dutaillis has referred to the possible connexion between the raidings of the French and the revolt of the English.
* 5 Richard II. i. 3.
And yet the correspondence between the burning of Gravesend in the autumn of 1380 and the insurrection in Essex and Kent in the spring of 1381 seems very marked. It is, indeed, everywhere recognised that the immediate and determining cause of the outbreak was the levy of the polltax; but it is not difficult to see how the natural and enduring objection of the peasants to any tax was intensified when the tax was a war-tax, levied by a Government which, as their eyes had seen, had so grossly mismanaged the war.
If—the angry peasants may well have arguedour houses are to be given to the dames, it is at least insulting to ask us to pay for kindling the fire. And by what we are apt to call gross mismanagement, or even peculation, but may have been only ignorance by no means unparalleled, the tax levied in the winter of 1380-81 did not produce anything like the amount at which it was estimated. Commissioners were sent out to amend the lists or the payments; and the country-people not unnaturally mistook this for a second levy, which it probably often was. Cleared of later fictions, the story is now told by Mr. Trevelyan from a contemporary chronicle, which he himself brought to light some eighteen months ago :
• In Kent and Essex the insurrections were similar. Both arose, in the first instance, from the action of the poll-tax commissioners. It appears that the disturbances began in Essex. It was about the last week in May that Thomas Bampton came down to Brentwood, a small town eighteen miles north-east of London. Sitting there at the receipt of custom, he summoned before him the inbabitants of Fobbing, Corringham, and Stanford-le-Hope, a group of villages lying ten miles further south, on the lower Thames, not far from Tilbury." It was in vain that the men of Fobbing pleaded a quittance received from the commissioners who had levied the tax during the winter. Bampton was inexorable. He insisted on a second inquiry into their population and taxable resources. He threatened them with penalties for their contumacy, and seemed disposed to rely on the support of the two soldiers who had attended bim from London. On this provocation a small but angry crowd from the three villages was soon collected. They told the commissioner flatly that he would not get a penny out of them, and that the conference must end. Bampton ordered his men-at-arms to make arrests. But the blood of the fishermen
* English Historical Review, July 1898.
† Just opposite Gravesend. The inhabitants of these villages had seen not only the flames of Gravesend, but also the French fleet in the river.
was now up, and they chased soldiers and commissioner together out of Brentwood. In Kent the insurrection began a few days later.'
At Gravesend itself, on June 3, there was soine rioting in favour of a runaway villein; and the poll-tax commissioners, coming into the county about the same time, were met with excuses similar to those made at Brentwood. The disturbances quickly spread :
* The collectors were forcibly prevented from entering Canterbury, and on June 5 the rebels began to gather from all parts of the county at Dartford. 'It was afterwards believed by some that there had been indecent conduct on the part of the commissioners in the course of their duty, but the one contemporary who brings this charge is strongly prejudiced against Leg and his commission. Similar charges Jately made by the native press of India, with regard to an unpopular house-to-house visitation, proved on investigation quite unfounded. Small as is the reason for believing the general charge of indecency made against the collectors, there is less for believing the story that Wat Tyler began the rebellion by avenging an insult offered to his daughter. It belongs to a well-known class of fable, of which the · tales of Lucretia and Virginia are famous examples. The“ motif” is popular and fascinating, and for that very reason suspicious. There is no mention of the incident in any contemporary authority. It is based on the statement of Stow, the Elizabethan annalist, and he only tells it in connection with a certain John Tyler. The story of Wat Tyler's blow has been consecrated by tradition, but it must go the way of William Tell's shot.'
And yet in modern times the site of Wat Tyler's house has been pointed out by a so-called local tradition, and the hammer with which he brained the offending tax-gatherer has been exhibited to some curious persons.'
The laying of the Wat Tyler myth is interesting, and the story of how the revolt began is important; much more so is the examination into the causes of the revolt, which lay much deeper than the incidence of the poll-tax. They are to be sought in a widespread feeling of discontent among the lower orders, both in country and in town; and in the discussion of these Mr. Trevelyan, and still more M. PetitDutaillis, have thrown much light on the social and economic history of the fourteenth century. The two writers are, to a great extent, complementary of each other ; and while, as might be expected, the Englishman seems to have a fuller appreciation of the conditions of the problem, the Frenchman has felt less encumbered by the weight of modern authority, and has approached the question with
* Dunkin's History of Dartford,' p. 368.