King’s Revenue

Irish revenue equivalent to English revenue comprised income from feudal rights, annual payments, rents of demesne lands, farm rents of towns, profits of county courts, profits of justice and customs.  Customs were levied on wool and hides from ports in Ireland including those within the liberties.

The escheator was responsible for lands temporarily in the King’s hands because of the minority of tenants-in-chief of vacancy in a bishop or abbey.  The income was sporadic. Escheators employ deputies and sub escheators through the country.  In the early period, the income from the escheator was significant.

Relief  paid by heirs of full age were paid directly to the exchequer.  Aids, assistance and money given by the tenant to his lord were the equivalent of tax.  Scutage, the commutation paid by military tenant instead of service was of  considerable importance in the 13th century.

From the 13th century, there was a tendency to apply revenue directly in  payment of officials and part payment of their salaries or to cities for repair of their walls. The profits of justice referred to fees payable on the issue of writs, fine imposed, confiscations from felons, fines and sums paid for pardon.

Origin of Taxation

Taxation originated from the obligations of vassals to assist their lord when necessity required.  Lords had rights to extract payments from his demesne land including chartered towns on  those lands.  Clerical immunities from  secular  taxation reduced over the period. Communities might be levied at different rates or there might be levies in some parts of the country only.

In the early 13th century, there was a general tax levy on personal property assessed by itinerant justices.  These are periodic levies from time to time.  At the same time, a system of levying subsidies for local purposes with  no correspondence in England was instituted.  They appear to have been mandated by the county courts.

After the reign of Edward, I, general taxation was provided for. Subsidies continued to be granted for general King’s purpose including wars against Scotland in the 14th century. By the middle of 14th century, substantial contributions from the English exchequer were required as the expenditure in Ireland was not met by  taxation.

Early Parliaments

Rulers held special sessions of their courts referred to as parliaments.  They initially had a judicial purpose.  In 1258, the Provisions of Oxford laid down that there should be at least three parliaments a year in England attended by councillors to treat of the common business of the realm and of the King.  In 1258, the provisions were applied to Ireland.

The early parliaments comprised the council together with magnates both lay and ecclesiastical. Parliaments as constituted dealt with judicial matters occasionally produced legislation and principally conducted administrative business.

By the latter half of the 13th century, general taxation became a matter of parliaments throughout Western Europe. Apart from feudal charges, a freeman could not be taxed without his consent.  In time, the assemblies or parliaments bound those both absent and dissenting minorities.  They were bound to taxation by the consent of the majority.

Commons & Peers

Communities were summoned to send representatives to send taxation and other measures by the latter half of the 13th century.  By this time representatives of towns, shires and liberties were summoned together with the major magnates to parliamentary and quasi-parliamentary assemblies.

The assembly of peers, which later developed into the House of Lord by the 14th century consisted of the great magnates, initially, summoned by individual writ. Initially, the subtenants were bound by the consent of their  lords who were assumed to represent him. This position changed over time.  Different arrangements applied to towns.

Consent to taxation was most conveniently granted by parliaments so that commons became necessary and normal part of parliament.  By this stage, the consent of the lords was not assumed to bind the commons.

The summons of the commons in Irish parliaments became fixed in the middle of the 14th century.  Representatives of the lower clergy were also summoned. The representatives of the commons, the shires, liberties and towns became part of parliament by the end of the 14th century.  Most of the 32 Irish bishops were also summoned.

By the end of the 14th century, parliamentary taxation had become an established institution.  Local taxation also continued.  Legislation was passed on other issues, but it was generally marginal, designed to  solve immediate problems rather than dealing with policies.


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