English Public Finance from the Revolution of 1688: With Chapters on the Bank of England

By Harvey E. Fisk | Go to book overview

CHAPTER X
Crown Revenues Subsequent to the Norman
Period
(1154-1688)

THE constant effort of the people from very early times, perhaps not at first a very definite intention, was to keep the King poor so that he would need to come to them for supplies. Then, by withholding money grants until their grievances were remedied, little by little they developed the constitutional rights now enjoyed.

The principal sources of revenue of the early English kings and queens, other than the revenues derived from their demesnes and prerogative as already described, were the customs duties, internal taxation, borrowing and extortion in various forms.

The first two may be described as legitimate, or constitutional, sources; the last as a method of evading constitutional processes. Borrowing was strictly the personal act and privilege of the sovereign. It was used as a legitimate means of bridging over gaps in the receipt of revenue. Frequently, also, it was used as a means of avoiding the necessity of asking Parliament for a grant. It was often only a disguised form of extortion.

It may be of interest briefly to consider each of the sources of income.


The Customs

The King's right to exact tolls on goods going out of or entering the kingdom is supposed to have grown out of the

-64-

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