18th June 1625.
Tonnage and Poundage had been levied from the time of Edward II on every tun (cask) of imported wine, mostly from Spain and Portugal and every pound weight of merchandise exported and imported.
The Tax had commonly been a temporary grant from the early days for the monarch’s life and one year later, to maintain a navy and by the time of Henry VIII was granted for his first six years, but continued with parliamentary authority.
By the time of Charles I the Commons were keen to reduce these powers and only voted the Tax for one year, but being the King who believed in the Divine Right of Monarchy, refused to listen to opposition.
It was Today in 1625 that the so-called, ’Useless Parliament’ of Charles I assembled and voted two subsidies of c £140,000, but this was insufficient to engage in war against the Spanish treasure ships. Parliament refused to sanction any more money unless it could control expenditure.
It was the continuation of the King’s’ levying of Tonnage and Poundage, a complaint of the Long Parliament, from 1640, which inevitably led to the English Civil War, two years later.
So the Tax which had been granted for life since the 1414 ‘Fire and Faggot’ Parliament (1) was to cause a rumpus between not just Commons and king, but between the Lords who regarded the one year limit as an insult and refused to pass the Bill lessening its collection.
The King dismissed three parliaments between 1625-28; in 1626 he was forced to summon his second Parliament for funds and attempted to attack Spanish treasure ships in his support of Louis XIII against the Protestant Huguenots.
However the Parliament of 1628 did forced Charles to accept the Petition of Right giving Parliament the right to consent to taxation.
In reply Charles now chose to ignore parliament dissolving it from 1629 in the ‘Eleven years’ Tyranny’(2), whilst the Star-Chamber suppressed all opposition, so in his first five years Charles summoned and dissolved parliament three times.
The King was thus forced later to raise money in other ways, when in 1635 he raised the controversial Ship Money, which along with monopolies on salt and bricks, contravened Magna Carta which required Parliament’s approval for raising taxes.
Charles continuance of collection of Tonnage and Poundage, was a complaint of second parliament and when the King moved to adjourn parliament members held Speaker John Finch in his Chair until three resolutions could be read; one of which declared anyone who paid the tax was to be regarded as a betrayer of England.
At the 1660 Restoration, Tonnage and Poundage was still granted for life, used to reduce the National Debt, and through the ages of Anne and the Georges, only to end with the Customs Consolidation Act 1787.
(1) Held at Leicester Priory in 1414.
faculty/history.wisc.edu/sommerville/Pic of Iberia.
humanitiesweb.org. David Hume.