1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Purveyance

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PURVEYANCE (Lat. providere, to provide), in England in former times the right of the sovereign when travelling through the country to receive food and drink and maintenance generally from his subjects for himself and his retinue. The custom dates from Anglo-Saxon times and is analogous to the right of fodrum, or annona militaris, exercised by the Frankish kings. Although in early times purveyance was reasonable and necessary, enabling the king to make journeys for the purpose of administering justice and discharging the other duties of government, it was liable to grave abuses, and under the later Plantagenet kings it became very oppressive. Provision for the royal needs was interpreted in the widest possible sense, and the right was exercised, not only on behalf of the king, but on behalf of his relatives. Besides victuals it included the compulsory use of horses and carts and even the enforcement of personal labour. Not infrequently no payment was made; when it was it often took the form of tallies, which gave the recipient the right to deduct the amount from any taxes he might have to pay in the future. Purveyors were appointed to requisition goods, and they also fixed the price. The abuses of purveyance, which appear to have reached their climax during the reign of Edward I., frequently provoked legislation. Chapter xxviii. of Magna Carta is directed against them, while further attempts to curb them were made in the Statute of Westminster of 1275 and in the Articuli super cartas of 1306. Purveyance was entirely forbidden by the ordinance of 1311, but in spite of all prohibitions its evils grew and flourished. During the reign of Edward III. ten statutes were directed against it, and by a law of 1362 it was restricted to the personal wants of the king and queen; at the same time the hated name of purveyor was changed to that of buyer, and ready money was ordered to be paid for the articles taken. From this time little was heard about the evils of purveyance until 1604, when the House of Commons petitioned James I., giving some striking illustrations of its hardships. It was asserted that when the royal officials required 200 carts they ordered 800 or 900 to be brought, in order that they might obtain bribes from the owners. Bacon called purveyance “ the most common and general abuse of all others in the kingdom.” Twice James entered into negotiations with his parliament for commuting his crown rights, of which purveyance was one, for an annual payment, but no arrangement was reached. In 1660, however, the right of purveyance, which had fallen into disuse with the execution of Charles I., was surrendered by Charles II. in return for the grant of an excise on beer and liquors. The custom was exercised by almost all European \sovereigns, and in France at least was as oppressive as in England. The word purveyor now means merely a vendor, generally a vendor of food and drink.

See W. Stubbs, Constitutional History of England (1896), vol. ii.; H. Hallam, Constitutional History of England (1863); and S. R. Gardiner, History of England (1905), vol. i.