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ork them woe.
God do bote, for now is time." jingle of these lines began for England the political controversy; they are the first predepamphlets of Milton and of Burke. Rough y express clearly enough the mingled passions he revolt of the peasants; their longing for a
lain and simple justice; their scorn of the he nobles and the infamy of the court; their he perversion of the law to the cause of
'rn and midland counties the restlessness
Canterbury, where “the their mind," threw open its gates to plundered the Archbishop's palace and irom his prison. A hundred thousand d round Walter Tyler of Essex and 'ling to march upon London. Their a political one. Villeinage 8 was unthe peasants poured towards Blackyer who fell into their hands was put
these were killed would the land gain," the Kentishmen shouted as the stewards and flung the rolls of the flames. But this action can anything more than sympathy with
Te had been thrown into prison for
! and might not quit his lands.
but on every man and woman personally, “by head," which was hence called a poll-tax. This was levied from people who had till now been free from taxation, and who were just awaking to the injustice of their state as “serfs," or bondsmen, bound to do service in labour on their lords' lands. A preacher named John Ball fanned the discontent into a temper of rebellion ; and in 1381 the commons rose in the Peasant Revolt.]
As the spring went by quaint rimes passed through the country, and served as a summons to revolt. “John Ball,” ran one, “greeteth you all, and doth for to understand he hath rung your bell. Now right and might, will and skill, God speed every dele.”i “Help truth," ran another, “and truth shall help you! Now reigneth pride in price, and covetise 2 is counted wise, and lechery withouten shame, and gluttony withouten blame. Envy reigneth with treason, and sloth is take 3 in great season. God do bote,4 for now is tyme !” We recognize Ball's hand in the yet more stirring missives of " Jack the Miller" and "Jack the Carter." “ Jack Miller asketh help to turn his mill aright. He hath grounden small, small : the King's Son of Heaven he shall pay for all. Look thy mill go aright with the four sailes, and the post stand with steadfastness. With right and with might, with skill and with will ; let might help right, and skill go before will, and right before might, so goeth our mill aright." - Jack Carter,” ran the companion missive, “prays you all that ye make a good end of that ye have begun, and do well, and aye better and better : for at the even men heareth the day.”
- Falseness and guile," sang Jack Trewman,“ have reigned too long, and truth hath been set under a lock, and falseness and guile reigneth in every stock. No man may come truth to, but if he sing 'si dedero.' 5 True love is away that was so good, and clerks 1 Part; i.e. every one's effort.
2 Greed. 5 i.e. unless he gives bribes to the judges.
for wealth work them woe. God do bote, for now is time." In the rude jingle of these lines began for England the literature of political controversy ; they are the first predecessors of the pamphlets of Milton and of Burke, Rough as they are, they express clearly enough the mingled passions which met in the revolt of the peasants; their longing for a right rule, for plain and simple justice; their scorn of the immorality of the nobles and the infamy of the court ; their resentment at the perversion of the law to the cause of oppression.
From the eastern and midland counties the restlessness spread to all England south of the Thames. But the grounds of discontent varied with every district. The actual outbreak began on the 5th of June at Dartford, where a tiler killed one of the collectors of the poll-tax in vengeance for a brutal outrage on his daughter. The county at once rose in arms. Canterbury, where the whole town was of their mind,” threw open its gates to the insurgents who plundered the Archbishop's palace and dragged John Ball7 from his prison. A hundred thousand Kentishmen gathered round Walter Tyler of Essex and John Hales of Malling to march upon London. Their grievance was mainly a political one. Villeinage 8 was unknown in Kent. As the peasants poured towards Blackheath indeed every lawyer who fell into their hands was put to death ; “not till all these were killed would the land enjoy its old freedom again,” the Kentishmen shouted as they fired the houses of the stewards and flung the rolls of the manor-courts 9 into the flames. But this action can hardly have been due to anything more than sympathy with
6 In Kent.
7 He had been thrown into prison for seditious preaching. The state of the serf or villein, who was bound to labour for a lord and might not quit his lands.
In which the services due by the villeins were entered.
the rest of the realm, the sympathy which induced the same men when pilgrims from the north brought news that John of Gaunt was setting free his bondmen to send to the Duke an offer to make him Lord and King of England. Nor was their grievance a religious one. Lollardry 10 can have made little way among men whose grudge against the Archbishop of Canterbury sprang from his discouragement of pilgrimages. Their discontent was simply political ; they demanded the suppression of the poll-tax and better government; their aim was to slay the nobles and wealthier clergy, to take the King into their own hands, and pass laws which should seem good to the Commons of the realm.
The whole population joined the Kentishmen as they marched along, while the nobles were paralyzed with fear. The young King 11_he was but a boy of sixteen-addressed them from a boat on the river; but the refusal of his Council under the guidance of Archbishop Sudbury to allow him to land kindled the peasants to fury, and with cries of “Treason” the great mass rushed on London. On the 13th of June its gates were flung open by the poorer artizans within the city, and the stately palace of John of Gaunt 12 at the Savoy, the new inn of the lawyers at the Temple, the houses of the foreign merchants, were soon in a blaze. But the insurgents, as they proudly boasted, were “ seekers of truth and justice, not thieves or robbers,” and a plunderer found carrying off a silver vessel from the sack of the Savoy was flung with his spoil into the flames. Another body of insurgents encamped at the same time to the east of the city. In Essex and the eastern counties the popular discontent was more social than political. The demands of the peasants were that bondage should be
10 In. Edward the Third's day John Wiclif had taught a new and reformed religion. His followers were called Lollards.
11 Richard the Second. 12 The Duke of Lancaster, the King's uncle, who was hated by the people.
abolished, that tolls and imposts on trade should be done away with, that “no acre of land which is held in bondage or villeinage be held at higher rate than fourpence a year," in other words for a money commutation of all villein services. 13 Their rising had been even earlier than that of the Kentishmen. Before Whitsuntide an attempt to levy the poll-tax gathered crowds of peasants together, armed with clubs, rusty swords, and bows. The royal commissioners who were sent to repress the tumult were driven from the field, and the Essex men marched upon London on one side of the river as the Kentishmen marched on the other. The evening of the thirteenth, the day on which Tyler entered the city, saw them encamped without its walls at Mile-end. At the same moment Highbury and the northern heights were occupied by the men of Hertfordshire and the villeins of St. Alban's, where a strife between abbot and town had been going on since the days of Edward the Second.
The royal Council with the young King had taken refuge in the Tower, and their aim seems to have been to divide the forces of the insurgents. On the morning of the fourteenth therefore Richard rode from the Tower to Mileend 14 to meet the Essex men. “I am your King and Lord, good people,” the boy began with a fearlessness which marked his bearing throughout the crisis, “ what will you ?” “We will that you free us for ever,” shouted the peasants,
us and our lands; and that we be never named nor held for serfs!" "I grant it,” replied Richard; and he bade them go home, pledging himself at once to issue charters of freedom and amnesty. A shout of joy welcomed the promise. Throughout the day more than thirty clerks were busied writing letters of pardon and emancipation, 18
13 Services in labour due by the peasants to their lords.
14 On the eastern road out of London. 15 Frecdom fiomn ser/dom.