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The State of England at the Accellion of Elizabeth:
Her Laws.-Tbe Numbers of People, during her Reign. - Her Strength.-The Policy and Power of the two subsequent Reigns.---The State of England at the Restoration.-- The Number of people at the Revolution. ---Refle£tions.
EFORE the commencement of the cele
brated reign of Elizabeth, à considerable change had doubtless taken place in our policy, and in the numbers of our people. Agriculture, manufactures, fisheries, commerce, distant voyages; had all been begun, and made some progress, from the spirit that had already been incited. Yet, so little opulence had been hitherto accumulated by the people of England, that she was, on her accession, obliged to borrow several very small sums of money in Flanders, which had grown rich by its industry. From that epoch, however, England prospered greatly during the domestic tranquillity of a steady government, through half a century, as well as afterwards, from the example of economy and prudence, of activity and vigour, which Elizabeth, on all occasions, set before her subjects.
The act of Elizabeth * containing orders for
artificers, labourers, servants of bufandry, and apfrentices, merits consideration; because we may learn from it the state of the country. Villains, we fee, from this enumeration, had ceased, before 1562, to be cbjects of legislation. And we may perceive from the recital, “ That the wages and " allowances, rated in former statutes, are in divers “places too small, and not answerable to this time, “respecting the advancement of all things, belonging “ to the said servants and labourers,”-a favourable change had taken place in the fortunes of this numerous class. This law, as far as it requires apprenticeships, ought to be repealed; because its tendency is to abridge the liberty of the subject, and to prevent competition among workmen.
The same observation may be applied to the act “ against the erecting of cottages *.” may credit the affertion of the legislature, “ great “ multitudes of cottages were daily more and more “ increasing, in many parts of this realm.” This statement evinces an augmentation of people : yet, the execution of such regulations, as this law contains, by no means promotes the useful race of husbandry servants. The principle of the poor laws, which may
be said to have originated in this reign, as far as it necessarily confines the labourer to the place of his birth, is at once destructive of freedom, and of the true interests of a manufacturing community, that
13 Eliz. ch. 7.
can alone be effectually promoted by competition ; which hinders the rise of wages among workmen, and promotes at once the goodness and cheapness of the manufacture.
A few falutary laws were doubtlefs made during the reign of Elizabeth. But her legislation will be found not to merit generally much praise. Her acts for encouraging manufactures by monopoly; for promoting trade by prohibition ; and for aiding husbandry, by preventing the export of corn, alone justify this remark. Her regulations, for punishing the frauds, which arise commonly in manufactures when they are encouraged by monopoly, merit commendation.
Having thus shewn the commencement of an increasing population, amidst famines and war, and traced a considerable progress, during ages of healthfulness and quiet, it is now time to ascertain the precise numbers, which probably existed in England towards the end of Queen Elizabeth's reign.
From the documents which still remain in the Museum, it is certainly known, that very accurate accounts were often taken of the people, by the intelligent ministers of that great princess. Harrison, who has transmitted an elaborate description of England, gives us the result of the musters of 1575, when the number of fighting men was found to be
1,172,674: Adding withal; that it was believed a full third had been omitted. Notwithstanding the greatness
of this number, says Mr. Hume, the same author
the men, women, and children to
• Hift. vol. v. p. 481.-—vi. p. 179. By endeavouring to collect every thing that could throw light on the population of Elizabeth's reign, Mr. Hume has bewildered himself and his reader. Peck has preserved a paper, which, by proving that there were musters in 1575, confirms Harrison's account. [Desid. Curiosa, v. i. p: 74.] It is a known fact, that there was an enumeration of the mariners, in 1582, which correfponds with Raleigh's account. [Campbel's Pol. Survey, v. 1. p. 161.] That there were feveral surveys, then, is a fact incontrovertible; as appears indeed from the Harl. MŞS. in Brit. Mus. Nos. 412 and 6,839. The Privy Council having required the Bishops, in July 1563, to certify the number of families in their several dioceses, were informed minutely of the particulars of each. Some of the Bishops returns may be seen in MSS. Harl. No. 595. Brit. Muf. From the Bishops certificates, as well as from the 3! Eliz. ch. 7, it appears, that the words families and households were then used fynonimously.
Without comparing minutely the numbers, which we have already found, in 1377, with the people, who thus plainly existed in 1577, it is apparent, that there had been a vast increafe in the intermediate two hundred years. Such then were the numbers of the fighting men, and of the inhabitants of England, during the reign of Elizabeth: and such was the power, while her revenue was inconsiderable, wherewith that illustrious Queen defended the independence of the nation, and spread wide its renown*.
But, it is the ardour, with which a people are inspired, more than their numbers, that constitutes their real force. It was the enmity wherewith the armada had inspired England against Spain, which prompted the English people, rather than the
* The particular number of the communicants and recufants, in each diocese and parish of England, was certified to the Privy Council, by the Bishops, in 1603.-MSS. Harl. Brit. Muf. No. 280. And the number of communicants was
2,057,033 Of recusants
2,065,498 By the 33d Eliz. chap. I. all persons upwards of fixteen years of age were required to go to church, under the penalty of twenty pounds. If the 2,065,498 contained all the persons, both male and female, who were thus required to frequent the church, this number would correspond very well with the fighting men lately stated ; and few the people of England and Wales to have been between four and five millions, during Elizabeth's reign, though approaching nearer to the last number than the first. D4