When there has been the need to hold a common assembly for the benefit of the city, some comburgesses have not bothered to obey the summons to come and deal with community business, with the result that much business cannot be dealt with, to the detriment of the city. Henceforth let summons be made (as in the past) from each leet of the better and wiser citizens to come on days specified by the bailiffs' sergeant, viz. 8, 10 or 12 per leet (according to its size). On that day the sergeant of each leet is to be prepared to name the panel he had summoned to attend, and to give true assurance that he has made the summons at the house of each individual, to his wife or his household. A roll-call will be taken and a cross is to be put by the name of anyone failing to appear, who shall be summoned to appear the next day before the bailiffs and other good men of the city to give a credible excuse for his absence (if he can) whether prevented by serious illness or not in the city at the time of the summons, and to give assurance of [the authenticity of] this. If a good excuse cannot be given, the absentee shall be amerced two shillings, half going to the bailiffs and the other half to the community; the amercement is to be levied immediately by a sergeant and the common clerk, who are to deliver it to bailiffs and community, and the chamberlains are to make record of the amount and the name of the person fined and account for these monies. So as not to hinder merchants from conducting their business, summonses are only to be made on holy days when no market is held, unless there is some special business concerning the king's rights or urgent business posing a risk to the city, which must be addressed at need.
[What we see here is an early effort to formalize and regulate
democratic participation in the assembly, although it would be going too
far to argue that such participation was (at the time of this chapter
probably the early fourteenth century) restricted only to those summoned.
Nor should we think that the summoned participants are a formal
town council, for the numbers involved
add up to greater than the size of council membership (24), even though
for a while at least council membership was drawn 6 per leet. There is some
evidence of a council from the late
thirteenth century and that council may itself be reflected in this chapter
by the reference to the "bonis viris de civitate" who assisted the
bailiffs in judging defaulters; see also cap. 46. It is not clear from the text,
which merely says "et super hiis faciant fidem", whether the
assurance to be given in regard to the excuse of absentees was by personal
oath or by supporting evidence from others.
The problem of absenteeism was not easily solved. At one assembly meeting
in 1367, only 5 of the 24 councillors showed up. In 1372 an ordinance
(similar to part of this chapter) was made confirmed 2s. as a fine for
unreasonable absenteeism by the councillors and 12d. fine for the craftsmen
who were summoned as representatives of the community, with half of each
fine going to bailiffs and half to community.
The problem of absenteeism was not easily solved. At one assembly meeting in 1367, only 5 of the 24 councillors showed up. In 1372 an ordinance (similar to part of this chapter) was made confirmed 2s. as a fine for unreasonable absenteeism by the councillors and 12d. fine for the craftsmen who were summoned as representatives of the community, with half of each fine going to bailiffs and half to community.]