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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 14

29.—The Commonwealth Assessments

29.—The Commonwealth Assessments.

In the following reign, that of Charles I., the feudal rights of the crown were strictly insisted on, and great dissatisfaction was occasioned by the attempt to revive the ancient laws of the forests. A court was held almost every year by the Earl of Holland, as chief justice in eyre, and as no prescription could be pleaded against the king's title, the resumption of lands which had formed part of the royal forests made great havoc with private property u. This severity naturally renewed the public desire to obtain a commutation, which is one of the means recommended in a treatise bearing the name of Noy, the attorney-general, for permanently improving the revenue of the crown x.

In the civil contest which followed between the King and Parliament, it became necessary for each party to raise a military force, without respect to knight-service, from among their own partisans. And as knight-service, or military attendance, was a condition which attached to the holders of land, assessments were imposed by Parliament on all real and personal property to defray the expense of the military and naval force, which was continued during the Commonwealth. A different system of raising and maintaining a military force having been adopted, knight-service was abolished, whilst the profits of wardship, fines of alienation, and other feudal prerogatives, were collected during the whole period of the Commonwealth, y.

The monthly assessments on land, and property tax, varied according to the exigencies of the times from £35,000 to £100,000 a month; the proportion of the latter being £70,000 a month on England, £18,000 on Ireland, and £12,000 on Scotland; and as these were partly in the nature of a commutation for knight-service, and partly of a subsidy, or extraordinary tax, it is important at the present time to direct attention to the mode in which these assessments were levied. One of these enactments for 1656 is preserved in Scobell's Collection, Part II., p. 400, from which it will be seen that the sum required was raised by a pound rate on real and personal property, or "on all lands, tenements, hereditaments, annuities, rents, profits, parks, warrens, goods, chattels, stock (farm), merchandises, offices, or any other real or personal estate whatsoever, according to the value thereof; that is to say, so much upon every 20s rent or yearly value of land and real estate, and so much upon money, stock, and other personal estate, by an equal rate, wherein every twenty pounds in money, stock, or other personal estate, shall bear the like charge as shall be laid on every twenty shillings yearly rent, or yearly value of land, as will raise the monthly sum or sums charged on the respective counties, cities, towns, and places aforesaid." From the best information that can be obtained, it appears that during the Commonwealth, in the short period of nineteen years, there was raised in England about £83,331,198, or one year with another, £4,385,850, which was nearly five times the amount levied in the reign of Charles I., the half of which was obtained by various contributions from the land z.