|Provisions for election of city officers
|City document not extant, but known from a compilation made by town clerk Samuel Lyon in 1785
|Francis Hill, Medieval Lincoln, Cambridge: University Press, 1948, 402-03.
|Latin (translation by Lyon)
These are provisions made together with the underwritten articles by the mayor and whole commonalty of the city of Lincoln for keeping the peace of our Lord the King and for the perpetual observance of the liberties and improvements hereunder mentioned (that is to say)
That the commonalty shall by their common council elect a mayor from year to year of their own election; and that no mayor shall be elected unless he shall before be assessed to the public taxes, with other citizens of the said city; and that the mayor shall remain in his mayoralty so long as it pleases him and the commonalty; And that the same mayor shall be discharged of all taxes due and talliages and of all other customs belonging to the city so long as he shall be mayor (saving the precept of our Lord the King in all things); And also that it shall be lawful for such mayor to take his hansels within the city and without, except of the citizens of Lincoln and their sons, and all those who pay scot and lot in the said city and ought not to be anselled within the county of Lincoln;
And further it is provided that the commonalty with the advice of the mayor shall choose twelve fit and discreet men to be judges of the said city, but that those twelve men shall be assessed to the public taxes and dues, and to all royal customs with other citizens of the said city;
And it is further provided that the said citizens shall have bailiffs every year of their own election, and that those bailiffs shall faithfully discharge the fee farm rent of our Lord the King at the end of the year; And if they don't do so the mayor and commonalty shall distrain such bailiffs by their lands and chattels until the fee farm rent of our Lord the King be fully paid; And that if any damage happens to the city thro' default of paying the fee farm rent of our Lord the King such damage shall be made good to the city out of the chattels of the said bailiffs; And those bailiffs ought to have two clerks and four sergeants who shall be presented before the mayor and commonalty at the feast of St. Michael;
And that there shall be no weigher of goods unless he is elected by the common council and that the persons so elected shall take their corporal oath upon the Holy Evangels faithfully and firmly to fulfil all these things and to keep and observe the customs of the city;
And if it shall happen that the mayor or any bailiff shall be called into question unjustly for supporting the rights of the city the commonalty shall defend them within the city and without to the utmost of their power; And also shall faithfully restrain the mayor and bailiffs within their own liberties of the said city;
And it is further provided that four men worthy of trust shall be elected from amongst the citizens by a free election at the feast of St. Michael to keep an account of outgoings talliages and arrears belonging to the city; and that they have one chest and four keys; And that they shall render up their account to the city at the end of the year;
Also it is provided for the keeping of the peace of our Lord the King that they who ought shall appoint two men out of each parish of the city worthy of trust to search their own parishes once a month; And that no person shall lodge a stranger more than one night unless he shall bring him forth to public view on the morrow if it shall be necessary; And if any person in any parish shall be suspected and he cannot find pledges he shall be sent out of town until he can find pledges; And if the said two men will not search their respective parishes as aforesaid, they shall remain in the mercy of the city, and the names of the aforesaid men shall be set down in writing, to be in the keeping of the mayor, and at the feast of St. Michael there shall be other two such men appointed to succeed to the office; And if a disturbance of the city and a tumult and clamour happens, and the mayor and bailiffs attend, all the commonalty ought to prosecute them to the keeping of the peace of our Lord the King, and of the city;
And it is further provided that those who choose to defend themselves by the liberty of the city shall be assessed, together with the commonalty, to all taxes dues and royal customs belonging to the city; And if any person of the city shall oppose the mayor and commonalty concerning any matter of a public nature by them enacted, he shall be in the mercy of the city; And it shall be lawful for the mayor and citizens to distrain him for his amercement until he shall make them satisfaction according to the greatness of his offence; And if reasonable summons's have been issued by command of the mayor and commonalty, he who withdraws himself, and does not appear, shall be amerced to the amount of 2s., unless he can suggest some reasonable cause by way of excuse.
This set of extracts from the "Provisions", a document of uncertain date but whose handwriting was described by its transcriber as late thirteenth century, is fairly typical of the constitutional documents being drawn up by many towns in the late thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries. It seems the document was being referred to, by mid-fourteenth century, as the "Constitutions". Such documents restated existing arrangements for urban government, perhaps with some elaborations, and added new provisions aimed in part at ensuring greater accountability of the rulers.
Often these documents were the outcome of complaints of misgovernment, and in that sense might be considered reforms. Soon after coming to the throne, Edward I initiated an investigation of unprecedented scope throughout England into various abuses (stimulated in part by the breakdown of law and order during the civil war of the latter part of Henry III's reign), including local maladministration and the extent of local jurisdiction. The enquiries held in the hundreds in 1274 and 1279, which were subsequently followed up during the rest of his reign and those of his son and grandson by Quo Warranto proceedings and inclusion of such matters in the general eyres, brought out into the open many grievances, whether warranted or not. Henry III's efforts to extract greater revenues from his towns, followed by the national struggle for power, with its consequent reforms and counter-reforms, as well as the internal political divisions it engendered within the ranks of urban society, all helped place stress on the relationship of rulers and ruled.
Lincoln was no exception. The support it gave to the Montfortian party led to a huge fine and (when this was not paid in full) a royal enquiry in 1267, which provided an opportunity for public complaints to emerge, including that:
In the national investigations of 1274/75, three separate juries of Lincoln townsmen representing the "magnates", those of secondary rank, and the lesser people of the city made presentments to the inquests. Complaints of oppressive government emerged, such as mayoral high-handedness in making important decisions without consulting the community, preferential treatment accorded some citizens in the assessment of local taxes, embezzlement of tallage and murage, while the middle jury also complained of the burdens of office-holding. The matter of the earl of Richmond was raised again, with the implication that those who decided to pay him did so because it was in their interest as merchants. Similarly, a different ex-mayor was accused of having given to a Beverley burgess freedom from toll as part of the dowry of his daughter, whom the burgess married. The underlying complaint here seems to have been a dispute with Beverley as to whether its men should be liable to tolls when they came to trade at Lincoln (tolls being the most important source of revenue for paying the fee farm); the mayor's action may disguise a closer definition of citizenship rights by the city government, if we consider that it was often the case in towns that a man could acquire citizenship through marriage to the daughter of a citizen. The earlier complaint of requiring even those at scot and lot to purchase citizenship seems indicative of some evolution in the rules governing the right to the franchise. All three juries also complained of damage to local trade through the acts of outsiders, and it may be noted that, following the stipulations regarding the government of the city, the Provisions went on to specify limitations on the commercial activities of external merchants within Lincoln.
Again, in 1290, we hear complaints of government made by the poor men of Lincoln against the rich men. Among other unspecified grievances, for whose investigation and settlement of discords the king appointed commissioners, the complaints were that the rich men had recently leased the city tronage (i.e. weighing of goods) without obtaining the agreement of the poor first; that 200 marks were paid to the king, out of the pockets of the poor, through distraint by the rich, as a fine for concealment of goods of condemned Jews, even though it was the rich who had been convicted of this crime and ought to have paid themselves; and that the rich had taken upon themselves the authority, apparently without consultation, of unduly assessing and collected tallages from the poor. The complaints of maladministration were taken seriously enough for the city to be taken into the king's hand; this meant that local government and associated charter-based privileges (e.g. the fee farm) were suspended and the city was placed under a warden appointed by the king. This situation lasted throughout the 1290s and must have been what compelled the parties to the constitutional settlement in the document above. Self-government was restored in 1301, and the king issued letters patent confirming the earlier chartered liberties of the city.
That the distrust between ruled and rulers was not so easily removed, is suggested in 1350 when the gild of St. Michael on the Hill, dedicated to Corpus Christi, was founded in Lincoln. What is described, in a report to the king in 1389, in terms otherwise typical enough of a socio-religious gild, contains atypical stipulations aimed at preventing the gild from being taken over by the more powerful and influential townsmen:
Whoever seeks to be received into the gild, being of the same rank as the bretheren and sisteren who founded it, namely, of the rank of common and middling folks, shall be charged to be faithful to the gild, and shall bear his share of its burdens.
"assessed to the public taxes"
"scot and lot"
"of their own election"
"chattels of the said bailiffs"
"two clerks and four sergeants"
"earl of Richmond"
"burdens of office-holding"
|Created: May 27, 2003. Last update: October 30, 2014
|© Stephen Alsford, 2003-1014