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his legation, had imposed money procurations on all the churches of the kingdom. He made the bishops, abbots, priors, and other ecclesiastics come secretly to him one by one, and said to them: "I order you, in virtue of the obedience you owe me, and under pain of suspension, not to reveal to anyone by word or action, by sign or writing, what I am going to say to you: if you do, ipso facto you fall under the sentence of excommunication.” Then, having shut the lips of his victim, he added: “I order you, by the pope's command, to pay such a sum of money, at such a time and place, and if you make default you will be excommunicated.” One of the demands of this second memorial presented to the pope by the French ambassadors was that this practice should instantly cease.?
To return to England. The example set by the Roman authorities in dealing with the property of the English Church, without regard to the purposes for which it was intended, was copied by the king. He kept the property of vacant Sees and abbeys in his hands whenever he could, and for as long as he pleased, in defiance of his reiterated promises. These lands and manors he dilapidated at will, by cutting down the timber and granting leases, and in fact he treated them as if they had been his own personal property. In 1254, when he was in Gascony, Henry did not hesitate even to assign the property of certain vacant Sees and abbeys to some pressing creditors from whom he had borrowed money. In fact, the king was constantly in such serious financial difficulties that the habit of looking for anything upon which he could lay his hands had become almost a second nature to him; and though he was at times generous in his gifts, they were sometimes at least suspected of being acquired from some third party. On
I Reg. d'Innocent IV, i. cxxv. 2 Matthew Paris, v. 467.
one occasion, about the year 1252, the Franciscans received as an alms from the king a two-horse load of gray woollen cloth, suitable for their habits. The friars, however, at the same time heard that Henry had practically taken the stuff from the merchants, who had wished to sell it, without payment. They consequently sent back the cloth at once in the cart to the king, declaring that it was unlawful for them to receive as alms what had been taken from the poor.
At the same time, whilst in difficulties himself, the English king could be royal in munificent dealings with others. Unless Pope Innocent IV had by the end of his life learned to gauge Henry's promises, his closing days must have been consoled by the king's open-hearted generosity.“ Under pain of forfeiting his kingdom,” says the chronicler, “which, by the way,” he adds," he neither could do, nor ought to have done,” he pledged himself to repay all the cost incurred by the pope in the war in which the Sicilian business had involved the Roman Church. He was to get all that was necessary from that inexhaustible well of all riches—England. And the pope, says Matthew Paris, “not having for the country the bowels of affection, borrowed the money to a large, and even prodigal amount, from the Italian usurers, whom they call merchants; which amount, by the extortion of the pope and the cheating of the king, England, reduced to the depths of slavery, would be compelled to pay."? The wrath of the English generally was during all this period stirred up against the foreign usurers, who, under the name of merchants, came into the country under the protection of papal authority, and not unfrequently in the train of, or following immediately after, the nuncios or other papal officials. When the ecclesiastics * Matthew Paris, v. 275.
? Ibid., 470.
and the religious houses were unable to find money to meet the frequent demands of king and pope upon their purses, these money lenders were ready at hand to lend, at high rates of interest, or on the security of pledges, the sum needed. In fact, in many instances recourse to these usurers was suggested by the tax gatherer himself, who otherwise would have had to depart without getting what he came for. In this way the Church was still further impoverished, and even the sacred vessels found their way into the hands of the money lender. The English, as the chronicler notes, called these foreign usurers by the name of “Caursins,” or “Caursini.” But the name was not confined to this country, any more than the existence of these pests of civilisation. In France, many laws and statutes were passed against them at this period of history. In 1268, St. Louis of France promulgated an edict by which he hoped to effect their extirpation from his kingdom, and he says that he hears they are publicly engaged in “ lending money upon pledges at usury, and that they have set up houses to carry out their trade in the great cities.” Matthew Paris speaks of them as being so numerous in 1251, and so rich that they had purchased the finest palace in London, and had there established a fixed place of business, like the native merchants. “Nor do the prelates," he says, “dare to speak, since they declare they are the merchants of the lord pope; neither do the citizens care to call out, since they are protected by some of the nobles who, through the example of the Roman Curia, have themselves lent money in order to increase it.” In 1251, however, for some reason or other, the king turned against them, and at his direction they were accused before the judges in London of being schismatics and heretics, since professing to be Christians they had corrupted the whole country by their most disgraceful business of money lending. His royal conscience, he says, would not allow him to shut his eyes to this evil. Some of the money lenders were consequently imprisoned, and others concealed themselves, until a scarcity of money suggested the prudence of setting them again at liberty. One of them told Matthew Paris that if they had not purchased large establishments in London, there would have been very few found to remain in England.
Curiously enough, as it may now appear, at the very time and year about which the chronicler records this action of the king against these foreign usurers, Pope Innocent IV writes a letter of commendation to an English society, established for the protection of the poor against the rapacity of the money lenders. He understands, he says, that to put a stop to what is eating up the substance of rich and poor alike, “certain merchants of various cities and places (in England) in compassion for the poor, with pious and prudent forethought, have set aside sums of money of their own, which they have placed in the hands of chosen and trustworthy citizens, to lend to the poor, and that for the loan of the said sums nothing was to be demanded or received except the principal.” The society was purely philanthropic, and nothing was charged for the management of the charity. The capital was not to be allowed to diminish, and it was even hoped that it would increase, through further gifts of the charitable. The pope had been told, in 1251, that this pious society had existed already for more than four years in many places, and had done much good, and he consequently writes to the bishops of Bath and Wells and Salisbury to express
I Matthew Paris, v. 246.
his approval, and to give his blessing to those who had contributed.
One practice which, as documents in the papal registers show, arose at this period, and which in process of time became very general, was that of pledging the credit of religious houses or ecclesiastical corporations, by the proctors transacting business in the Curia, in order to meet the fees and other expenses necessary to expedite their business. Thus, to take a few examples of this practice, which frequently involved the monasteries in great debt, Pope Innocent IV, in 1253, gave leave to the proctors of Christ Church, Canterbury, to pledge the credit of their monastery to the amount of several hundreds of marks." Also the same permission was accorded to the agents of Sempringham to raise 1,500 marks from the money lenders in the Curia ;3 the same also to the monks of Worcester, then in Rome on the business of their house, and to those of Evesham,' etc.
At this time, too, it is not uninteresting to note one result of the attempt to enforce the strict legislation of Pope Gregory IX for the monks of the Order of St.
i Reg. d'Innocent IV, ii. No. 5,117. A chance document entered into a book of letter-forms, etc., coming from the chancery of Bishop Waynflete, of Winchester, shows this pious work in practice. In this case the money was found by a benefactor to relieve the poor of his parish by making loans without interest, either upon the security of pledges or on the word of three known sureties, the parish priest not being one of them. The capital sum was to be kept in a chest with three locks, the keys being held by the three trustees. The loans were to be made for a year only, after which they were to be paid back either entirely or in portions agreed upon. If default was made for any cause, the pledge was to be sold, and whatever was over and above the amount of the debt was to be returned to the borrower. The benefactors to this “work of such obvious charity” were to be prayed for at Sunday Mass, and the rector was to urge people to add to the capital in the hands of the trustees. (Harl. MS., 670, f. 77b.) 2 Ibid., ii. No. 6,282.
3 Ibid., No. 6,427. * Ibid., No. 7,051.
5 Ibid., No. 7,426.