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same, whether committed by one person singly, or by several persons in combination. It is evident that these statutes, as to “regrating," ingrossing,” and “forestalling,” were part of the comprehensive attempt to control prices by statute.
The Act 5 & 6 Edward VI., Cap. XV., entitled Act against Regrators and Ingrossers of Tanned Leather,' provided “That from and after the first day of May next coming, no person or persons, of what estate, degree or condition soever he or they be, shall buy or engross, or cause to be bought or engrossed, any kind of tanned leather, to the intent to sell the same again." Other sections allowed saddlers, cordwainers and other artificers to buy such quantities of leather as should be necessary for the carrying on of their trades. Section V. prohibited altogether the shipping of boots, shoes and similar articles “to the intent to carry, transport or convey over the seas as merchandise to be sold or exchanged there." Seotion VII. provided “That no sadler, girdler,
' cordwainer, nor other artificer, dwelling within the City of London and the suburbs of the same, which shall cut the same tanned leather as is aforesaid, to the intent to make wares thereof, shall curry or dress any of the aforesaid tanned leather in his or their own house or houses, or by his or their servant or servants."
It is seen, that these and other similar statutes, if enforced, would have compelled producers to be their own salesmen, would have abolished the occupation of the middleman or merchant, and made utterly impossible the trade and commerce which experience has shown to be necessary for the life of all large communities. Buying and selling at wholesale is always conducted with the purpose of "inhancing prices.” It is a commercial process which is absolutely necessary, in order to ensure the presence in the market of merchandise in quantities sufficiently large, to supply the needs of large communities. Such statutes could be passed only in a rudimentary stage of society, when its needs are imperfectly comprehended,
and when the actual practical results of such legislation have not been ascertained by experience.
So far the protection of the law had been in the main given to buyers. But every member of the community is a seller as well as a buyer. He is a seller of his own labor, or of its products. He is a buyer of the labor of others, or of its products. In the one capacity, he is no more entitled to artificial and arbitrary aid from the law, than he is in the other. But if this were not so, if the entire community were, in fact, divided into two distinct classes, of buyers and sellers, if the law undertakės to keep prices down for the benefit of buyers, it is also under the obligation to keep prices up for the benefit of sellers.
This obligation the lawgivers of the time recognized and accepted.
Accordingly we find statutes passed with the intent of keeping prices up. Of such we find an example in the Acts 14 Rich. II., Cap. IV. and VI., which are as follows:
14 RICHARD II., A.D. 1390.
" CAP. IV.
“Of whom denizens may buy wools, and where ; but they shall not regrate them.
ITEM, to keep the price of wools the better, That no denizen of England, shall buy no wools but of the owners of the sheep and of the tithes, except in the staple : and that no denizen regrate wools nor other merchandises of the staple privily nor apertly, upon pain to forfeit the value of the thing regrated : and that the justices of peace in the country have power to enquire, and shall enquire from time to time of such English regrators and of the weights of the staple, and punish them by the pain aforesaid. And that no Eng. lishman buy any wool of any person, but for himself or for his own use, as to sell at the staple, and for to make cloth.'
• CAP. VI. “ English merchants shall freight only in English ships. "ITEM, That all merchants of the realm of England shall freight in the said realm the ships of the said realm, and not strange ships ; so that the owners of the said ships take reasonable gains for the freight of the same."
In the same line of legislation, for like purposes, were the class of statutes which were absolutely prohibitory of trade and commerce of certain classes. Such was the Act 14 Rich. II., Cap. V., which is as follows:
" CAP. V.
“No denizen shall transport any merchandise of the staple forth of the realm.
“ITEM, That no denizen carry wools, leather, woolfels, nor lead out of the realm of England, to the parties beyond the sea, upon pain of forfeiture of the same, but only strangers."
So, too, we find specimens of limited prohibition for the purpose of the special protection of a particular locality, of which the 14 Rich. II., Cap. VII., is an example.
66 Tin shall
pass forth of the realm only at Dartmouth. ITEM, that the passage of tin out of the realm shall be at the port of Dartmouth, and in no place else.”
The statutes against forestalling, regrating, and engrossing, as we have seen, were directed against all attempts to raise prices, whether on the part of single individuals, or of individuals in combination. At an early period, however, statutes were passed giving a criminal character to attempts of the same kind by individuals in combination. It was made a crime, to combine or confederate to raise prices. Combinations to raise prices of labor were placed on the same legal footing with combinations to raise prices of merchandise.
The earliest statute of this nature, which has come under my observation, is the Statute 2 & 3 Edw. VI.,
c. 15, entitled “The bill of conspiracies of victuallers and craftsmen."
Prior to this statute the crime of conspiracy was virtually limited to illegal combinations having some connection with the administration of justice. The crime was defined by the Statute 33 Edw. I., quoted by Hawkins in his “Pleas of the Crown." In his definition of the crime of conspiracy Hawkins begins by stating
“ As to the First Point, viz., Who may be said to be guilty of Conspiracy, Sect. 1. There can be no better rule than the statute of 33 or rather 21 Edw. I., the intent whereof was to make a final definition of consPIRATORS, to which purpose it declared “ that conspirators be they that do confeder or bind themselves by oath, covenant, or other alliance, that every of them shall aid and bear the other falsly and maliciously to indict, or cause to indict, or falsly to move and maintain pleas; and also such as cause children within age to appeal men of felony, whereby they are imprisoned and sore grieved ; and such as retain men in the country with liveries or fees for to maintain their malicious enterprizes ; and this extendeth as well to the takers as to the givers ; and to stewards and bailiffs of great lords, who by their seigniory, office, or power, undertake to bear or maintain quarrels, pleas, or debates that concern other parties than such as touch the estate of their lords or themselves."
No doubt in time other conspiracies came to be recognized in addition to those there described. But so far as appears by any record which has come under my observation, a mere combination to raise prices was not punishable as a conspiracy prior to the passage of that Act, 2 & 3 Edw. VI., c. 15.
The Act was as follows:
“ Forasmuch as of late divers sellers of victuals, not contented with moderate and reasonable gain, but minding to have and to take for their victuals so much as list them, have conspired and covenanted together to sell their victuals at unreasonable prices ; (2) and likewise artificers, handicraftsmen and labourers have made confederacies and promises, and have sworn mutual oaths not only that they should not meddle one with another's work, and perform and finish that another hath begun, but also to constitute and appoint how much work they shall do in a day, and what hours and times they shall work, contrary to the laws and statutes of this realm, and to the great hurt and impoverishment of the King's majesty's subjects ; (3) for reformation thereof it is ordained and enacted by the King our sovereign lord, the lords and commons in this present parliament assembled, and by the authority of the same, That if any butchers, brewers, bakers, poulterers, cooks, costermongers or fruiterers, shall at any time from and after the first day of March next coming, conspire, covenant, promise or make any oaths, that they shall not sell their victuals but at certain prices ; (4) or if any artificers, workmen, or labourers do conspire, covenant or promise together, or make any oaths, that they shall not make or do their works but at a certain price or rate, or shall not enterprize or take upon them to finish that another hath begun, or shall do but a certain work in a day, or shall not work but at certain hours and times, (5) that then every person so conspiring, covenanting, swearing or offending, being lawfully convict thereof by witness, confession or otherwise, shall forfeit for the first offence ten pounds to the King's highness' with provisions for higher penalties for later offences.
“II. And if it fortune any such conspiracy, covenant or promise to be had and made by any society, brotherhood or company of any craft, mystery or occupation of the victuallers above mentioned, with the presence or consent of the more part of them, that then immediately upon such act of conspiracy, covenant or promise bad or made, over and besides the particular punishment before in this act appointed for the offender, their corporation shall be dissolved to all intents, constructions and purposes."(a)
This statute, it is apparent, was one step in the general system of legislation, of which the purpose was to regulate prices by statute. Under this statute, too, it is apparent, that any combination to raise prices was a crime, even if strictly limited in its intended effect to the prices of the labor or merchandise of the combining parties, and involving no interference with the legal rights of others.
Especially is it to be noted, that this crime of conspir
(a) Repealed with a long list of other statutes, 5 Geo. IV., C. 95.