From the Dialogue of the Exchequer: On Usury, c.1170
Editor's note: The Dialogue of the Exchequer is "A full description of the
finances of the Kingdom [of England] and the methods of collecting them, probably drawn up
by Richard Fitzneal, the King's treasurer, about 1170" (p. 299).
M- These, brother, are what I said the Sheriff brought to the Exchequer.. though no
Summons preceded them. So a treasure dug out of the earth, or otherwise 'found; so,
also, when anyone who has a lay estate, or citizen who deals in public usury ; if he dies
intestate, or made a will without having made those satisfaction whom he hath defrauded,
his money and his movables are immediately confiscated, and they are brought to the
Treasury. But the heir of the deceased enjoy- the paternal estate and real property.
S- An important question puzzles me in regard to what you have said of usurers, which I
desire you will be pleased to explain more fully. For you said, " when anyone
having a lay estate, or citizen has employed himself in public usury, &c.," from
which words there seems to be a certain distinction among those who thus offend. And
from what is added, " has employed himself in public usury," one may suppose
that some are not public, in which if anyone engages I am wholly ignorant if he is subject
to the laws of public usury.
M- But thus much concerning this: what has gone before will fully resolve the former
part of your question, inasmuch as a clerk who is employed in usury forfeits the privilege
of his dignity, so he deserves the same punishment as a layman; that is, all his movables
shall fall to the Treasury. The Royal Authority would not do a Christian-like action
was it to proceed thus against a clerk or layman who had offended, while he was living,
for there is time to repent. But when he is dead, all his goods (the Church laying
no claim to them) become the King's.1 It remain-s to show *hat is public, and what is not
public, usury. We call that public and common usury when, according to the manner of
the Jews, anyone takes more by agreement of the same species of money than he lent: as a
pound for a mark, or twopence for a pound of silver, for a week's interest besides the
principal. We do not call that public, but damnable usury, when anyone takes a
church or an estate for what is lent, and receives the profits of them till the principal
is paid off.
[Editors note: The State thus followed up the Church condemnation of usury by
confiscating the personality of those who died in that sin. In this regard
equal measure was dealt out to both Jew and Christian, and if a Jew's property fell into
the king's hand at his death that would be no more than would happen if a Christian were a
Source: Dialogue of the Exchequer, II. x. Joseph Jacobs, The Jews of Angevin
England: Documents and Records (London, 1893) p. 49-51.
Scanned by Elka Klein.
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© Paul Halsall, January 1999