Page images

king's prerogative to give it currency and authority. Money is a universal medium or common standard, by comparison with which the value of all merchandise can be ascertained, or it is a sign, which represents the respective values of all commodities. Metals are well calculated for this sign, because they are durable as well as portable, and capable of many sub-divisions. A metal is also most proper for a common measure, because it can easily be reduced to the same standard in all nations, and every nation fixes upon it its own impression, so that the weight and standard may be known by inspection only.

Money, Shifting in Value. As the quantity of precious metals increases, the universal medium will sink in value. The consequence is, that more money must be given now for the same commodity, than was given formerly. If any accident diminished the quantity of gold and silver, their value would proportionately rise.

Coining of Money. In all states, this is an act of the soyereign power, that its value may be known on inspection. There are three things to be considered: the materials, the impression and the denomination.

Materials. Money, says Coke, must be either of gold or silver, and none other was issued by the royal authority till 1672, when copper coins were circulated by Charles II, and ordered current in all payments under six-pence.

Impression. The stamping of coin is the unquestionable prerogative of the crown. At one time certain bishops and monasteries had the privilege of coining money, yet this was usually done by special grant from the king, or by prescription, which supposes one. Besides they had only the profit of the coinage, and not the power of instituting the impression or denomination, the stamp being usually sent them from the exchequer.

Denomination. This is the value, for which the coin is to pass current. In order to fix this value, the weight and fineness of the metal are both to be taken into consideration. When a given weight of gold or silver is of a given fineness, it is then of the true standard, and called esterling, or sterling metal, and of this sterling metal, the coin of the kingdom must be made. The king's prerogative seems not to extend to the debasing or enhancing the value of the coin, below or above the sterling value, though Sir Matthew Hale thinks differently. The king may also



by proclamation, legitimate foreign coin, and make it current here, declaring at what value it may be taken. The king may at any time decree a coin no longer current.

6. Head of the National Church. By statute of Henry VIII, the king was made the supreme head of the church of England. A similar statute was enacted in the reign of Elizabeth. In virtue of this authority, he convenes, prorogues, restrains, regulates and dissolves all ecclesiastical synods or convocations. This was an inherent prerogative of the crown long before the reign of Henry VIII.

The Synod. The synod or convocation in England differs considerably in its constitution from the synods of other christian kingdoms, those consisting wholly of bishops, whereas with us, the convocation is the miniature of parliament, wherein the archbishop presides with regal state. The upper house of bishops represents the house of lords, and the lower house, composed of representatives of the several dioceses at large, and of each chapter therein, resembles the house of commons, with its knights of the shire and burgesses. This was owing to the policy of Edward I, who allowed the inferior clergy to form ecclesiastical canons. The king has the right to nominate to vacant bishops and certain other ecclesiastical preferments. He is the last resort in all ecclesiastical causes, an appeal in chancery lying to him from the sentence of a judge.


Preamble. This chapter will treat of the king's revenue, which the British constitution has vested in his royal person to support his dignity and maintain his power, being a portion which every subject contributes of his property to secure the remainder. The revenue is either ordinary or extraordinary. ORDINARY REVENUE.

Defined. Ordinary revenue is such, as has either subsisted time out of mind in the crown, or else has been granted by parliament, by way of purchase or exchange, for such of the king's inherent, hereditary revenues, as were found inconvenient to the subject.

Far Less than Formerly. The greater part of the former revenue of the king is now in the hands of his subjects, to whom it has been granted from time to time, by the kings of England, which has rendered the crown somewhat dependent on the people for its support.

1. Custody of the Temporalties of Bishops, Upon the vacancy of a bishopric, the custody of all the lay revenues and lands revert to the king, as he is the founder of all bishoprics. This revenue, which once was considerable, is now, by a customary indulgence, almost reduced to nothing, for the new bishop, upon his confirmation, usually receives the entire restitution of the temporalties, at the time he does homage to the king.

2. Corodies. These entitle the king to send one of his chaplains to be maintained by a bishop, or receive a pension. This privilege has fallen into disuse.

3. Tithes. The king is entitled to all the tithes arising in extra-parochial places, which he holds for the good of the clergy generally. Neither tithes nor corodies seem, however, to increase the revenue of the king.

4. First Fruits or Tenths. This is a tax on all spiritual preferments in the kingdom. These were originally a part of the usurpations over the clergy, first introduced by Pandulph, during the reigns of John and Henry III. The first fruits were the first

. year's entire profits of a spiritual preferment. The tenths were the tenth part of the annual profit of each living, which was also claimed by the Holy See, founded on the precept of the levitical law, which directs that the Levites should offer the tenth part of their tithes as a heave offering to the Lord, and give it to Aaron, the high priest. The claim met with a vigorous resistance from the English parliament, but the mass of the clergy favored it, and sent large sums of money to Rome. It was abolished by Henry VIII. The monarchs of England, for a time, claimed it for themselves, and received a portion of it, until this exaction was stopped by Anne.

5. Rents of the Demesne Lands of the Crown. These lands were either the share reserved to the crown at the original distribution of landed property, or such as came to it afterwards, by forfeitures or other means. Anciently these were very extensive, comprising divers manors, the tenants of which had very peculiar privileges. At present they are contracted within a


very narrow compass, having been almost entirely granted to private subjects. This has occasioned parliament frequently to interpose, and particularly after William III had impoverished the crown.

In his reign, an act was passed, whereby all future grants or leases from the crown for any longer period than thirty-one years or three lives were declared void, except with regard to houses, which may be granted for fifty years. The tenant was made liable for waste. The usual rent must be reserved, or if no rent, one-third of the clear value. The misfortune, however, is that the act was made too late, after almost every valuable possession of the crown had been granted away forever, or else upon very long leases.

6. Military Tenures and other Prerogatives. Most lands in the kingdom were subject to military tenures, until they were abolished by Charles II. There was also a profitable prerogative of purveyance and pre-emption, which was a right by the crown of buying up provisions and other necessaries for the use of the royal house, held at an appraised valuation, in preference to all others, and without the owner's consent. Also of forcibly impressing the carriages and horses of the subject to do the king's business on the public roads, in the conveyance of timber, baggage and the like, however inconvenient to the proprietor, upon paying him a settled price.

7. Wine Licenses. These were paid by retail dealers, except in a few privileged places. This source of revenue was abolished, and an annual sum of about 7,000 pounds, issuing out of the new stamp duties on wine licenses, was settled on the crown in its stead. 8. Forest Profits. Forests are waste grounds belonging to

. the king, stocked with beasts of the chase, which are under the king's protection for his recreation and pleasure, and for the preservation of the king's game. There are particular laws, privileges, courts and offices relating thereto. The profits consisted in amercements and fines for offences against the forest laws. These courts have been virtually abolished.

9. Profits from Courts of Justice. These consist in fines, imposed upon offenders, forfeiture of recognizances, amercements levied upon defaulters, also fees due the crown in a variety of legal matters, as for setting the seal to charters, original writs and other legal proceedings, and for permitting fines to be levied of lands, to bar entails, or otherwise to insure their title. These, in process of time have almost all been granted to private persons, or appropriated to particular uses.

10. Royal Fish. These are the whale and sturgeon. They belong to the king, if thrown ashore, or caught near the coast. They are granted him, in consideration of his guarding the seas from pirates.

1. Shipwrecks. Where the goods or cargo of a shipwrecked vessel were thrown upon the land, the goods so wrecked were formerly adjudged to the king, and that all right to the property was lost by the former owner. This law was against reason and humanity. Later a statute was enacted, that if proof could be adduced of the existence of the owner of the goods, within a year and a day, they should be restored to him, otherwise they became the property of the sovereign. If the goods are of a perishable nature, they shall be sold, and the money shall be liable in their stead. This revenue of wrecks is frequently granted out to lords of manors, as a royal franchise. If it be one of the king's vessels, and it be wrecked on another's land, the king may claim it at any time, even after the year and a day.

Jetsam, Flotsam and Ligan. To constitute a legal wreck, the goods must come to land. If they continue at sea, they are termed jetsam, flotsam and ligan. Jetsam is where goods are cast into the sea, and there sink and remain under water; flotsam is where they continue floating on the surface of the water; ligan is where they are sunk in the sea, but tied to a cork or buoy, in order to be found again. These are also the king's, if no owner claims them, but the owner may recover possession, even if they have been thrown over to lighten the ship.

Goods Returned to Owner. If a ship be lost off shore, and the goods come to land, which cannot be called a wreck, they shall be delivered to the owner, who shall pay a reasonable reward to those who saved them, which is called salvage. If any persons, except the sheriff, take any goods so cast on shore, which are not legal wreck, the owners may obtain a commission to find them out, and compel the finders to make restitution.

Salvage. All head officers and other persons living in towns near the sea, on application, must summon hands and help a ship in distress, under penalty of one hundred pounds. In

« PreviousContinue »