Appendix B5: The Appointment of Members as Collectors of Subsidies Granted in Parliament

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1386-1421, ed. J.S. Roskell, L. Clark, C. Rawcliffe., 1993
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Medieval Parliaments were generally summoned in order that taxes could be levied with the consent of the representatives of the local communities. Naturally enough, the Members of the House of Commons who granted the subsidies of fifteenths and tenths were often reluctant to accept the task of collection, especially if the impost was likely to prove unpopular in their constituencies. During the 14th and 15th centuries, therefore, they sometimes made formal requests that none of the representatives from the shires and boroughs should be made collectors of taxes they themselves had granted in Parliament.1 These requests were occasionally enrolled in the official records as Commons’ petitions,2 but more usually formed part of the formal offer of subsidies made by the Lower House at the end of the Parliament.3 On the whole these petitions met with a favourable response from the King; indeed, following the Members’ request in 1379 not to be appointed collectors, assessors or controllers of the subsidy, it was conceded that before their departure they might themselves provide in writing to the Council names of sufficient and discreet persons from their shires and boroughs to perform the tasks (thus being given the opportunity to exclude their own names).4 In November 1384 no such request for exoneration was made (or else none was enrolled), and perhaps as a consequence all but three of the shire knights (the exceptions being Sir Edward Dallingridge* and the two Yorkshire representatives), together with five of the parliamentary burgesses, were named on the commissions to collect the fifteenth and tenth the Commons had collectively granted.5 It was most probably this which led in the next Parliament summoned (1385) to the insertion of an additional clause in the Commons’ petition, asking that the lists of names of collectors, as handed in to Chancery or to the Council by the knights of the shire, should not be altered in any way before the appointments were warranted; and the Members insisted on making this demand before the subsidy was granted. Nevertheless, although the first part of the petition was conceded by the King, no definite response was made to the second.6

During the period 1386 to 1421 the question of the appointment of MPs as tax collectors did not apparently provoke further controversy. The general principle that Members of Parliament should not be made to take responsibility for collecting taxes they had personally voted was evidently accepted by the government, and it only happened rarely that a shire knight or parliamentary burgess was appointed to raise the subsidies of fifteenths and tenths he had approved on his community’s behalf. These very few exceptions are listed below. With regard to special subsidies, the Commons on the whole also avoided responsibility for collection. In March 1404 only three of the 120 Members whose names are known (John Barton I, Sir John Oldcastle and Ralph Stafford) were appointed collectors of the levy on knights’ fees and 1s. in the pound on annual income, and of these three only Oldcastle was actually required to do so in the shire which had returned him to Parliament. William Powe was apparently alone among the Members of the Coventry Parliament in being named on the commission of November 1404 to raise the novel tax of 20s. per £20 net income from estates annually worth 500 marks and above. Similarly, with the new tax granted in the Parliament of 1411, when the Commons agreed to the levy of 6s.8d. per £20 of income from land, providing that none of those assembled would be involved in any of the work of collection, only one of the known Members (John Weston, representing Warwick) was so appointed.7

Whether or not Members of the Lower House were permitted as a matter of course to name the collectors of subsidies before they returned home is not specifically recorded, but it seems likely that they did so on a regular basis. William Burley*, frequently elected as knight of the shire for Shropshire, clearly exerted some influence in this respect. In 1434 he wrote to a senior official in Chancery recommending that two men whom he had previously suggested as suitable collectors of parliamentary subsidies in his home county should not be appointed after all, one of them because, as he now realized, he was too young and of insufficient financial standing, ‘so that y darre not trusten hym to gedre the Kynges taske’.8

 

Parliament             
Member                              
Date appointed        
Place
1386Cryps, Thomas
Lee, Robert atte
Saltby, Robert
Nov. 1386Wilts.
Berks.
Lincoln
1391Docking, ThomasJan. 1392Derby
1393Pope, Thomas
Pride, Thomas
Oct. 1393Gloucester
Shrewsbury
1402Colyn, Thomas
Kayl, Ralph
Portman, William
Dec. 1402Cornw.
Cornw.
Som.
1406Portman, WilliamDec. 1406Som.
1407Kayl, RobertDec. 1407Cornw.
1413 (May)Bosom, Richard
But, John
Pylford, Thomas
July 1413Exeter
Cornw.
Suss.
1414 (Nov.)Chaunce, Roger IIDec. 1414Surr.
1415Clerk, William IINov. 1415Bucks.
1416 (Mar.)Mucking, JohnMay 1416Surr.
1417Jacob, ReynoldDec. 1417Dorset
1419Trewint, JohnNov. 1419Cornw.
1421 (Dec.)Fitzherbert, Nicholas
Trewint, John
Dec. 1421Devon