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Medieval Sourcebook:
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.

[Editor’s 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 usurer.]


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.

This text is part of the Internet Medieval Source Book. The Sourcebook is a collection of public domain and copy-permitted texts related to medieval and Byzantine history.

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© Paul Halsall, January 1999