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We can now build upon a rock; having before us proofs, which are almost equal in certainty to actual enumerations. Yet, what a picture of public misrule, and private misery, does the foregoing statement display, during an unhappy period of three hundred years! We here behold the powerful operation of those causes of depopulation, which Doce tor Campbel collected, in order to support his hy, pothesis of a decreasing population, in feudal times. But, were we to admit, that one-half of the people had been carried off by the desolating plague of 1349, as Doctor Mead supposes; or even onethird, as Mr. Hume represents with greater probability; we should find abundant reason to admire the solidity of Lord Hale's argument, in favour of a progressive population; because this circumstance would alone evince, that there had been, in that long effluxion of 'time, a considerable increase of numbers, during various years of healthiness, and in different ages of tranquillity.
CH A P. II.
The Population in the principal Towns of England,
during 1377.— Reflektions. — The Populousness; Cor.merce, Pelicy, and Power of England--from that F poch to the Accesion of Elizabeth.
THE truth of Lord Hale’s conclusion, with
regard to a progressive increase of people, would appear ftill more evident, if we were to form a comparison between the notices of Domefday beck and the statements of the Subsidy-roll bofoie-mentioned, which would show a much inferior populousness, foon after the Conquest, in 1077, than at the demise of Edward, in 1377. We shall certainly find additional proofs, and perhaps some amusement, from taking a view of the population of our principal towns, as they were found, and are represented by the tax-gatherers, in 1377.
London paid for 23,314 lay persons; and
contained consequently about York for
7,248 10,872 Bristol for
6,345 9,517 Plymouth for
4,837 7,255 Coventry for
3,952 Lincoln for
5,118 Sarum (Wilts) for
4,839 Lynn for
3,127 4,690 Colchester for
4,432 Beverley for
2,663 3,994 Newcastle on Tyne for 2,647 3,970 Canterbury for
3,861 St. Edmondsbury for 2,442
3,663 Oxford for
3,535 Glocefter for
3,358 Leicester for
The foregoing are the only towns, which, in 1377, paid the poll-tax of a groat for more than two thousand lay persons, of fourteen years of age and upwards. And their inconsiderableness exhibits a marvellous depopulation in the country, and a lamentable want of manufactures, and of commerce, every where, in England. The state of Scotland was still more wretched with regard to all these. Domesday Book represents our cities to have been little superior to villages, at the Conquest t, and
* Dr. Price talked of Norwich having been a great city formerly. The Domesday Book shews sufficiently the diminutiveness of our towns in 1077: and Mr. Topham's Subsidy Roll puts an end to conjecture with regard to the populousness of any of them anterior to 1377.
+ See Brady on Boroughs.
AN ESTIMATE OF much more inconsiderable than they certainly were, at the demise of Edward III.
The informations of contemporary writers would, nevertheless, lead us to consider those early reigns as times of overflowing populousness. Amidst all that depopulation, Edward III. is said to have suddenly collected, in 1360, a hundred thousand men, whom he transported in eleven hundred veffels to France * It did not, however, escape the fagacity of Mr. Hume, when he reflected on the high pay of the soldiers, that the numerous armies, which are mentioned by the historians of those days, confisted chiefly of raggamuffins, who followed the camp for plunder. In 1382, the rebels, says Danielt, suddenly marched towards London, under Wat. Tyler, and Jack Straw, and mustered on Blackheath fixty thousand strong, or, as others say, an hundred thousand. In 1415, Henry V. invaded France with a feet of fixteen hundred fail I, and fifty thousand combatants, who not long after won the glorious battle of Azincourt. Our history is filled with such instances of vast armies, which had been haftily levied for temporary enterprizes: yet, we ought not thence to infer, that the country was overstocked with inhabitants. This truth is extremely apparent from the statute of the gth Henry V. which recites, “ That whereas, at the
Ander. Chron. Ac. of Com. v. i. p. 191.
making of the act of the 14th of Edward III.
(1340) there were sufficient of proper men " in each county to execute every office; but that,
owing to pestilence and wars, there are not now
(1421) a sufficiency of responsible persons to “ act as sheriffs, coroners, and escheators.” The laurels, which were gained by Henry V. are well known, says the learned observer on the ancient statutes ; but he hath left us, in the preamble of one of his statutes, most irrefragable proof, that they were not obtained, but at the dearest price, the depopulation of the country:
The facility, with which great bodies of men were collected, in those early ages, exhibits, then, for our instruction, a picture of manners, idle and licentious; and shews only, for our comfort, that the most numerous classes of mankind existed in a condition, which is not to be envied by those, who, in better times, enjoy either health, or ease.
The period from the accession of Henry IV. in 1399, to the proclamation of Henry VII. in 1485, may be regarded as the most disastrous in our latter annals; because, a civil war, remarkable for the inveteracy of the leaders, and for the waste of the people, began with the one event, and ended with the other. Doctor Campbel has collected the various circumstances of depopulation; tending to prove, that the number of inhabitants, which, before the bloody contests between the Lancastrians and Yorkists began, had been already much lessened, was in the end greatly reduced, by a series of the