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“ ITEM, If any reaper, mower, or other workman or servant, of what estate or condition that he be, retained in any man's service, do depart from the said service without reasonable cause or licence, before the term agreed, he shall have pain of imprisonment. And that none under the same pain presume to receive or to retain any
such in his service.
“The old wages, and no more, shall be given to servants.
“ ITEM, That no man pay, or promise to pay, any servant any more wages, liveries, meed, or salary than was wont, as afore is said. Nor that any in other manner shall demand or receive the same, upon pain of doubling of that, that so shall be paid, promised, required, or received, to him which thereof shall feel himself grieved, pursuing for the same.
And if none such will pursue, then the same to be applied to any of the people that will pursue. And such pursuit shall be in the court of the lord of the place where such case shall happen.
• CAP. IV.
“ If the lord of a town or manor do offend against this statute in any point, he shall forfeit the treble value.
“ Item, if the lords of the towns or manors presume in any point to come against this present ordinance either by them, or by their servants, then pursuit shall be made against them in the counties, wapentakes, tithings, or such other courts, for the treble pain paid or promised by them or their servants in the form aforesaid. And if
any before this present ordinance hath covenanted with any so to serve for more wages, he shall not be bound by reason of the same covenant, to pay niore than at another time was wont to be paid to such person.
presume any more to pay.
"" CAP. V.
“ If any artificer or workman take more wages than were wont to be paid, he shall be committed to the gaol.
"ITEM, That sadlers, skinners, white-tawers, cord-wainers, taylors, smiths, carpenters, masons, tilers, shipwrights, carters, and all other artificers and workmen, shall not take for their labour and workmanship above the same that was wont to be paid to such persons the said twentieth year, and other common years next before, as afore is said, in the place where they shall happen to work. And if any man take more, he shall be committed to the next gaol, in manner as afore is said.
• CAP. VI.
" Victuals shall be sold at reasonable prices.
“Item, That butchers, fishmongers, regrators, hostelers, brewers, bakers, pulters, and all other sellers of all manner of victual, shall be bound to sell the same victual for a reasonable price, having respect to the price that such victual be sold at in the places adjoining, so that the same sellers have moderate gains, and not excessive, reasonably to be required according to the distance of the place from whence the said victuals be carried. (2) And if any sell such victuals in any other manner, and thereof be convict in the manner and form aforesaid, he shall pay the double of the same that he so received, to the party damnified, or, in default of him, to any other that will pursue in this behalf. (3) And the mayors and bailiffs of cities, boroughs, merchant-towns, and others, and of the ports of the sea, and other places, shall have power to inquire of all and singular which shall in any thing offend the same, and to levy the said pain to the use of them at whose suit such offenders shall be convict. (4) And in case that the same mayors and bailiffs be negligent in doing execution of the premises, and thereof be convict before our justices, by us to be assigned, then the same mayors and bailiffs shall be compelled by the same justices to pay the treble of the thing so sold to the party damnified, or to any other in default of him that will pursue ; and nevertheless towards us they shall be grievously punished.
“ CAP. VII. No person shall give any thing to a beggar that is able to labour. “ ITEM, because that many valiant beggars, as long as they may live of begging, do refuse to labour, giving themselves to idleness and vice, and sometime to theft and other abominations ; none upon the said pain of imprisonment shall, under the colour of pity or alms, give any thing to such, which may labour, or presume to favour them towards their desires, so that thereby they may be compelled to labour for their necessary living. Wherefore our said sovereign lord the King, the xiiii. day of June, the xxiii. year of his reign, bath commanded to all sheriffs of England by divers writs, that they shall do openly to be proclaimed and holden, all and singular the premises in the counties, boroughs, merchant-towns, seaports, and other places in their bailiwicks, where to them shall seem expedient : and that they do thereof due execution, as afore is said.
“ CAP. VIII. “He that taketh more wages than is accustomably given, shall pay the surplusage to the town where he dwelleth, towards a payment to the King of a tenth and fifteenth granted to him.
Subsequently our sovereign lord the King, perceiving by the common complaint, that his people, for such excessive stipend, live eries, and prices, which to such servants, labourers, and workmen were constrainedly paid, be oppressed, and that the disme and quinzime to him attaining might not be paid, unless remedy were therefore provided : regarding also the coactions and manifest extortions, and that there was no man, which against such offenders, did pursue for the said commodity so ordained to be obtained : wherefore it was consonant, that that thing which was ordained to be applied to singular uses, seeing that the same persons did not, nor would not, pursue, should be converted to a publick and common profit, by the advice of his counsel, Hath ordained, That all and singular workmen, servants and artificers, as well men as women, of whatsoever estate or condition they be, taking more for their labours, services, and workmanship, than they were wont to take the said XX. year, and other years aforesaid, should be assessed to the same sum, which they shall receive over and above, with other suins as well for the time past, when the stipend, wages, liveries, and prices were augmented, as for the time then to come. And that the said whole sum received over and above, should be levied of every of them, and gathered to the King's use, in alleviation of every of the towns, whereof the said artificers, servants, and labourers be, towards the payments of the sums of the disme and quinzime yet running, whereunto the same towns or people of the same were assessed. So that always, the same disme and quinzime ended, all the same inoney, liveries, and prices, or the value of the same liveries, which (as afore is said) should be over and above received of them, and every of them, should be levied and gathered by them, whom the King will thereto assign, to the King's use, in alleviation, and supportation of the realm of England. And that they which for the same to serve, or the said sums so by them over and above received, and before assessed to pay, and their crafts and work to exercise do refuse, they shall be incontinently arrested by the taxers and collectors of the said disme and quinzime, or any of them, in every of the said towns deputed to execute the promisses, or by the bailiffs of the places, or constables of the towns, when they be thereof certified, and committed to the gaol, there to remain till they have found surety to serve, and shall pay that that they shall above receive, according to the same ordinances, or till the King shall some other thing thereof demand. And always it is the intent of the King and of his council, that according to the first ordinance it should be lawful, and shall be lawful to every man, to pursue against all exceeding the same, or not obeying to the same, and the thing recovered to be applied to his own use. And therefore our said sovereign lord the King hath commanded all archbishops, and bishops, that they do to be published the premises in all places of their dioceses, commanding the curates and other subdiocesans, that they compel their parochians to labour, according to the necessity of the time, and also their stipendiary priests of their said dioceses, which do now excessively take, and will not, as it is said, serve for a competent salary, as hath been accustomed, upon pain of suspension and interdiction. And that in no wise ye omit the same, as ye love us and the commonwealth of our realm. Dated the day and year
aforesaid." This Statute, it is seen, attempted not only to regulate the wages of labor, but the sale of “all manner of victual,” and to compel its sale at “reasonable prices."
As to labor, however, it went beyond a mere attempt to fix prices. It also laid upon persons able to labor the legal obligation to work at those prices. Moreover, it gave to would-be employers a corresponding legal right to service. It thereupon proceeded to provide legal machinery, such as it was, for enforcing those rights and obligations.
This was logical and consistent. Evidently, statutes which fix the rates of wages to be paid by the employer ought also to provide proper legal process to enable him to procure employees at those rates. If the employer is not allowed to pay any higher rate than that fixed by the State, the State is surely bound to protect him by compelling the employee to accept service at the rates so fixed.
The legislators of that time duly accepted that obligation. They made the attempt, not only to fix the prices of labor, but also to compel the laborer to accept those prices. The same feature will be found to exist in other early English statutes, and in some early American statutes.
This feature of those early statutes will be found, in my opinion, to have a most important bearing on the general situation under the later English and American law.
Although this Statute of Labourers purported to regulate the prices of labor and of merchandise, it did not fix the rates of wages or the prices of merchandise in specific amounts of money, but merely enacted that the ablebodied persons named in the statute should “ take only the wages, livery, meed, or salary, which were accustomed to be given in the places where he oweth to serve the XX. year of our reign of England, or five or six other common years next before ;" and that, as to prices of
victual, " "all manner of victual” should be sold at prices which were reasonable." This left matters vague. Evidently, too, other practi
, cal difficulties intervened to prevent the statute from having the full degree of efficiency which had been antici. pated. So we find very soon thereafter another Act, the 25 Edw. III., Stat. 1 (A.D. 1350), which begins with a recital showing the contempt with which the former act had been treated by all classes.
This later statute is as follows :
“ A Statute of Labourers, made Anno 25 Edw. III. Stat. I. and A. D. 1350.
“ WHEREAS late against the malice of servants, which were idle, and not willing to serve after the pestilence, without taking excessive wages, it was ordained by our lord the King, and by assent of the prelates, earls, barons, and other of his council, That such manner of servants, as well men as women, should be bound to serve, receiving salary and wages, accustomed in places where they ought to serve in the twentieth year of the reign of the King that now is, or five or six years before ; and that the same servants refusing to serve in such manner should be punished by imprisonment of their