Ship Money in England and Wales 1636


Map Code: Ax00391

Levied intermittently since Medieval times in England and Wales, ship money was a tax that was raised by royal prerogative, without parliamentary consent. It was inflicted on coastal cities and counties for naval defence in times of war. In 1629, after constitutional disputes, King Charles I had dismissed parliament and, without parliamentary revenue, was forced to find new ways of raising money. In 1634 Charles made a treaty with Philip IV of Spain, in which he promised to help him against the Dutch. Seeking to raise money for military expenditure, Charles enlisted the help of his Attorney-General, William Noy, who testified to the legality of ship money, based on historic precedent. The first writ of 1634, while met with dismay and disgruntlement by the maritime counties, raised £104,000. A second demand in 1635, which was directed at the sheriffs and justices of inland as well as maritime counties, provoked widespread discontent. By the time Charles issued the third writ in 1636 it was clear that he had swept away the historical precedent that had ensured that the tax was only levied on coastal counties in times of war. Ship money had, in effect, become another form of general taxation, but without parliamentary sanction, and resentment against the tax had become one of the grievances that would lead to the English civil war. In 1641, by an act of the Long Parliament, ship money was made illegal.

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