|COMMERCE AND ITS REGULATION|
|Subject:||Perils of engaging in international trade|
|Original source:||Königsberg State Archives, Pergamentblatt. K 1 daselbst; s. B. Gedrucht: aus K Voigt 5, Nr. 13.|
|Transcription in:||Academies Lubeck. Die Recesse und Andere Akten der Hansetage, von 1256-1430. Vol.3 (ca.1877), 404-411.|
|Location:||London, York, Lynn, Beverley, Norwich|
Before the most serene prince and their most dread lord, the lord king of England etc., his liegemen, merchants of those of his cities and towns indicated herein, make a presentation for his wise consideration, in which they vehemently complain of all sorts of injuries, grievances, and damages caused them by the people of Prussia as are described below whereof they beg him to obtain due remedy consonant with justice.
First the merchants complain in this regard that in 1385, without them having given any cause for offence, their goods and merchandize, wherever they could be found, were suddenly and outrageously seized and appraised at far lower price than their actual value, with the result that the greater part of their goods and merchandize was lost at no little cost to the complainants.
The names of the London merchants whose goods being in Prussia, as mentioned, [were] arrested and held, with the amounts due them.
The names of the York merchants whose goods [being] in Prussia, as mentioned, were arrested and held, with the amounts due them.
The names of the Lynn merchants whose goods and merchandize, [being] in Prussia, were arrested and held, with the amounts due them.
The names of the Beverley merchants whose goods and merchandize, [being] in Prussia, were arrested and held, with the amounts due them.
Total: £306 sterling
The names of the Norwich merchants whose goods and merchandize, [being] in Prussia, were arrested and held, with the amounts due them. /P?
These merchants also complain that they are quite astonished how the Prussian authorities, who claim to be protectors of the people, have failed to remedy out of the fear of God the aforementioned injuries and those outlined below, when they were repeatedly requested to do so. Rather, themselves dissembling, they have in the name of justice encouraged or entertained claimants bringing all kinds of trumped up counter-charges before them against the English.
[Several paragraphs follow in which the merchants make a plea, based on various types of arguments, for support from the king.]
These are the injuries or damages which the Prussians have inflicted on English merchants as a whole :
First, English merchants as a whole have been unjustly injured by the people of Prussia, in that they give support and show favour to the enemies of the king and the kingdom such as the French, Scots, and Flemings using their ships to take them arms, victuals, and all kinds of supplies; even worse, they defend and protect those enemies and the enemies' goods with their ships, which openly appeared at Skone, Flanders in 1385, as was determined through the testimony and indisputable proofs of soldiers and other trustworthy persons who were present there.
Also, whereas English merchants were once free to enter and leave Prussian territory with their merchandize, just as Prussians were in England, it was recently ordained there that no Prussian, upon penalty of death and confiscation of all possessions, nor anyone of another nation, upon penalty of exile, should transport by ship the goods of Englishmen from Prussia to England.
Also, whereas English merchants were free to sell their merchandize anywhere whatsoever in Prussia, it was recently ordained to their prejudice and damage, under [threat of] a serious penalty, that no Englishman might sell his merchandize in Prussia [except?] in Elbing; as a result of which ordinance the merchants of York and Hull recently lost goods worth over £500.
Also, it was recently ordained to the prejudice of English merchants that, whenever they brought their merchandize to Elbing, they might not (under penalty) remove it again from the town, where previously they were free to bring merchandize in and out, paying the usual customs; as a result of which ordinance, two bundles of cloth belonging to John de Brandon of Lynn were confiscated and his servant Edward Scot was expelled, to the loss of John in the amount of £40 sterling.
Also, whereas English merchants were accustomed to sell a broad cloth as 42 Prussian ells, it was recently ordained under penalty of forfeiture [of defective cloths] that a broad cloth should be no less than 44 ells, to the loss of merchants in the amount of over one thousand marks per year.
Also, whereas men of every nationality who contributed to the capture of Skone have been accustomed to salt herring there and freely to take the same away with them, to wherever they might wish; and whereas English merchants were among the first to contribute to the capture of that place Skone, just like many other nations, nonetheless they have been prevented from [accessing] it and right up to the present have been prevented by Prussians and their accomplices from salting herring there, and have been housed in a miserable location; nor [alternatively] have the Prussians bothered to refund the money which they levied from the English (as from other nations), to cover the costs of capturing Skone.
These are the physical injuries which Prussians have recently and unjustly inflicted on Englishmen, without their meriting it:
Around the year 1383 Richard Harry of Bristol was unjustly and almost without warning beheaded, when according to Prussian law he should have had a year and a day after bringing testimonial letters from English sources concerning his status and character.
In 1385 Thomas Flotegate, the Prussia-based servant of John Lamb was beaten, wounded, and maltreated, to the damage of 40 marks.
John de Wyton, servant of John Erewan of Hull, was killed by night and [his body] cast into a pit in Brigstreet in the town of Elbing.
Roger de Whiton of York was beaten and wounded there, to the damage of £40.
John Yaraam of York was beaten and wounded there, to the damage of 40 marks.
William Palmer of York was beaten and wounded there, to the damage of 40 marks.
John Parker of Hull was beaten and wounded there, to the damage of 40 marks.
John Sparwe of Beverley was beaten and wounded there, to the damage of 10 marks.
Henry Mason was stoned and wounded there, to the damage of £40.
John Hare of Norwich was beaten and wounded there, to the damage of 40 marks.
John Chaumberleyn of London was beaten and wounded there, to the damage of 40 marks.
John Spitzer of Lynne was beaten and wounded there, to the damage of £40.
William Bleckeney of Lynn was beaten and wounded there, to the damage of 40 marks.
Richard Nel of Lynn was beaten and wounded there, to the damage of 10 marks.
John Capenote of Lynn was beaten and wounded there, to the damage of 40 marks.
Hord of Norwich was beaten and wounded there to the damage of 40 marks.
These are the personal damages and injuries inflicted on the English by men of Prussia.
Thomas Gyrdeler, merchant of London, complains in this regard that, in 1370 in London he placed in a ship called the Cog of Gdansk, whose master was named Lambert Scomaker of Prussia, two bundles of woollen cloth to be taken safely to Prussia or to Skone where the ship would be properly unloaded, in return for a freight-charge for the bundles agreed upon between Thomas and Lambert. With malicious intent, willingly, un-coerced and of his own accord, that Lambert sailed to Sluis, Flanders, knowing it to be the practice according to Flemish law that cloth from other places must be confiscated. With the result that Thomas suffered damages to the value of £250 sterling.
William Bunnhamm of Whitton and a certain John, servant of John Pulmond of Southampton, at Skone loaded into the ship of John Bonekouse of Gdansk 40 last of herring and other merchandize, to the value of £340 sterling, to be shipped to Southampton and unloaded there. Which John Bonekouse, of his own accord and decision, set sail for Sluis in Flanders where, thanks to that wrongdoing of John Bonekouse, both the said goods and also William and the servant John were captured by the Flemish enemy and William and John were imprisoned from which imprisonment the enemy refused to release them until paid £50 sterling for their ransom.
The aforesaid Thomas Gerdeler charges that when Conrad Westfale, master of a certain ship of Gdansk, was attached at the suit of William de Thorun of Harwich, circa 1378, to answer him at the Redecline near London, before the then-admiral Sir Michael de la Pole, and was condemned to pay a certain sum of money, Thomas was compelled as a result of the judgement to pay William £46 sterling (the amount that Conrad was convicted of owing), which he owed Conrad in part satisfaction of shipping fees. Notwithstanding which, later in Prussia Conrad was awarded £46 from the goods and chattels of Thomas; he repeatedly has complained there about it, but so far has been unable to obtain any redress, to the damage to Thomas of £56.
Gilbert Maufeld, merchant of London, charges in this regard that in 1380 his apprentice Richard Rovet made, in Prussia, a contract with Gerard Brande of Gdansk to buy from him certain merchandize worth 200 [marks?] sterling, on the condition that Gerard guarantee bringing the merchandize to London in his ship within a fortnight after the Easter following, and not otherwise. However, when Gerard defaulted and did not appear by the agreed date but on the contrary barely within a fortnight after the feast of St. John Baptist [24 June] following Gilbert was unjustly compelled to accept the merchandize, whereby he suffered a loss of more than 50 marks sterling; he begs him [i.e. the king] to arrange for redress.
The said Gilbert, Hugh Boys, and John Norwich, merchant of London, charge in this regard that at Skone in 1377 they loaded a ship, of which Conrad Westfale of Gdansk was master, with 60 last of white herring to be sent to London. Conrad, of his own accord and un-coerced, with malice aforethought, changed course for Flanders with the herring, where the complainants were forced to sell each last of the herring for 13 nobles, when each would have been worth 5 marks sterling in London, whereby the plaintiffs suffered a loss of 40 marks sterling; for which they beg him to arrange for redress.
The said Gilbert charges in this regard that in 1381 he handed over to Lubert von Hulse, master of a ship called the Cog of Gdansk, £35 sterling to load his ship with salt in Bayonne and bring it back directly to the port of London. Lubert, of his own accord and un-coerced, with malice aforethought, changed course for Feyham [Faversham?] with the salt and sold it there himself. Gilbert never received anything from the sale of the salt, except for £10, to his damage of £40; for which he begs him to arrange for redress.
John Kyrcone, merchant of London, charges that in 1385 he deposited a variety of merchandize in a certain ship of which John Bronn of Königsberg was master, on the understanding it was bound directly for London. That John [Bronn], of his own accord and un-coerced, out of his own malice, set sail for Scotland, where the plaintiff lost the said merchandize to the king's enemies, to his loss in the amount of £18 sterling; for which he begs him to arrange for redress.
John Sewale of London charges the said John Bronn in this regard, that through his fault he lost in the same ship, time, and place, goods worth £10.6s.8d.
William Ancroft, citizen and merchant of London, [charges] the same John Bronn in the same case, that he lost goods and merchandize in the same ship at that time worth £12 sterling.
Hugh Boys charges that through John Bronn in the same case he lost goods and merchandize in the said ship, same time and place, worth 40 marks sterling.
William Weston of London charges that through John Bronn in the same case he lost goods and merchandize in the said ship, same time and place, worth £40 sterling.
John Lomb of Colbrook charges that through the fault of the said John Bronn, in the same ship, time, and place, he lost goods worth £200 sterling.
Henry Lowhton charges that through the fault of the said John Bronn, in the same ship, time, and place, he lost merchandize worth £50 sterling.
Edward Bys and Richard Weden charge that through the fault of the said John Bronn, in the same ship, time, and place, they lost goods worth £60 sterling.
John Millyng charges that through the fault of the said John Bronn, in the same ship, time, and place, he lost goods worth £20 sterling.
Richard Willeston of London charges that through the fault of the said John Bronn, in the same ship, time, and place, he lost goods worth £9.1s.6d sterling.
The same Richard Willesdon charges that in 1385 he made a contract to put his merchandize in a ship, whose master was called John Stavestein of Prussia, for transport directly to the port of London. John, of his own accord and un-coerced (unless perhaps he was afraid of [his ship] being arrested into the king's service at London), did not wish to hold course for London, but headed to Newcastle-upon-Tyne, whereby Richard suffered a loss of £20.10s.
Also, Henry Pensyn of Prussia detains Richard's goods worth 59s. sterling.
The war with France had made sea-based commerce using the English Channel a dangerous business. Many English merchants especially those based in the north or on the east coast turned their attention more to northern markets. The Hanseatic League, however, sought to maintain a monopoly on trade with markets stretching from Flanders to Russia. At the same time, their merchants were very active in England, with a base in London, and had a large share of English trade. English merchants wished to establish a similar base in Gdansk, the leading Hanse town, and establish contacts that would bring commercial relations with countries such as Norway.
Whereas Edward III had encouraged alien merchants to involve themselves in English commerce, such as by exempting Hanse merchants from paying customs duties on cloth, the government of his successor Richard II was pressured by the English mercantile class (through parliament) towards protectionism. It refused to confirm the Hanseatic privileges in England until English merchants were conceded similar freedom to trade in Hanse towns, a concession obtained in 1380 on the principle of reciprocity.
Despite this, the English authorities continued to try to cut back on the privileges Hanseatic merchants in England, and in 1382 imposed heavy taxes on Hanseatic merchants operating in England. The Prussian government, led by the Grand Master of the Teutonic Knights, responded by banning English merchants from Gdansk, and imposing restrictions on their activities elsewhere in Hanse territory. Thus, tensions and hostilities that had become evident in the '70s continued to be a problem. Piratical activities by both sides culminated in the capture by a small English fleet of half a dozen Hanse ships near the mouth of the river Zwin, in 1385. To exact compensation, the Grand Master ordered the arrest of all English goods within his territories. English authorities responded with a reprisal order regarding the goods of Hanse merchants in England. Anglo-Hanseatic trade ground to a halt.
This was the context for the document above, representing the complaints of English merchants about the seizure of their goods. It illustrates how politics and commerce were intertwined, and is a reflection of the perils that merchants could incur in an environment without international laws or treaties. This kind of problem was not uncommon, although did not usually involve quite so many aggrieved parties. It will be noted that in many, and perhaps most, cases, the owners of lost merchandize do not seem to have been accompanying it abroad; rather they placed it in on some occasions in the custody of employees, agents (at least one of whom was based abroad), or perhaps partners, and on other occasions in that of the masters of the ships paid for freighting the goods. In the fourteenth century it was becoming increasingly uncommon for merchants to travel with their merchandize on foreign voyages indeed, it was not very practical, since, partly as a tactic for reducing risk, merchants tended to divide their wares into smaller shipments sent on different vessels; Richard Britnell ["Sedentary Long-distance Trade and the English Merchant Class in Thirteenth-Century England" Thirteenth Century England V, eds. P.R. Coss and S.D. Lloyd. Woodbridge: Boydell and Brewer, 1995, pp.131-32] has shown that tendency developing at even earlier date.
To resolve the dispute, the Grand Master sent ambassadors to the court of Richard II to present the grievances of his merchants. In return, Richard sent two ambassadors Thomas Graa of York and Walter Sibill of London to Marienburgh, to negotiate a treaty with the Hanse ambassadors (partly at the cost of the English complainants). The treaty was drawn up on 20 August 1388. It ordered the return of all goods seized by either side and the dropping of complaints related to those seizures; injured parties were to present their cases anew to the opposing side and would receive justice; merchants were to be free to resort to any port in the opposing side's territory, for purposes of commerce; if any future disruption of relations occurred, merchants of the opposing side were to be given time to return safely home with their merchandize.
Although Richard II endorsed this treaty in October, when the Grand Master submitted to him a fresh list of Hanse merchants' grievances, Richard had delayed in replying. Meanwhile fresh provocations occurred, while the Hanse authorities continued to restrict the freedom to trade of English merchants, whom they viewed with suspicion. In 1398, the Grand Master lost patience and declared the 1388 treaty void. These hostilities moved on to an even more bitter phase in the mid-fifteenth century. However, the English merchants who complained in 1388 of their losses seem to have rebounded from the setback; most of the Lynn men, for example, are evidenced as active in international trade in a customs account of 1392/93.
"William de Burton"
"John de Schefelt"
"William de Leuesham"
"Alan de Danby and John de Danby"
"William de Wytton"
"Richard de Sourby"
"John de Thorntone"
"Richard de Ulleston"
"Robert de Duffelt"
"John de Sellebarum"
"John de Appilton"
"Robert de Louthe"
"Adam de Burton"
"John de Sezay"
"William de Sellay"
"John de Candeler"
"Simon de Wachton"
"William de Reuston"
"John de Orewarm"
"Roger de Wyhton"
"William de Rolleston"
"John atte Hall"
|Created: October 28, 2014. Last update: January 8, 2019||© Stephen Alsford, 2014-2019|