Nec nos nec ballivi nostri seisiemus terram aliquam nec redditum pro debito aliquo, quamdiu catalla debitoris sufficiunt ad debitum reddendum; nec pleggii ipsius debitoris distringantur quamdiu ipse capitalis debitor sufficit ad solutionem debiti; et si capitalis debitor defecerit in solutione debiti, non habens unde solvat, pleggii respondeant de debito; et, si voluerint, habeant terras et redditus debitoris donec sit eis satisfactum de debito quod ante pro eo solverint, nisi capitalis debitor monstraverit se esse quietum inde versus eosdem pleggios.
Neither we nor our bailiffs are to seize any land or rent for any debt, as long as the debtor’s chattels suffice to pay the debt. Nor are the debtor’s pledges to be distrained as long as the principal debtor has enough to pay the debt. And if the principal debtor defaults on the payment of the debt, not having the means to pay it, the pledges are to answer for it, and if they wish they are to have the debtor’s lands and rents until they have been satisfied for the debt which they previously paid for him, unless the principal debtor shows that he is quit with regard to the pledges.
The treatment of crown debtors was always apt to vary under the Angevin kings, but on the whole they seem to have been handled more leniently by Henry II and Richard I than they were by John, who in 1201 issued an ordinance laying down much stricter conditions for the recovery of money owed to the king. In particular, the lands of debtors, as well as their moveable goods, now became liable to seizure, thereby placing their social rank, in an age in which this was indissolubly bound up with landownership, at risk along with their material resources. The men who stood surety for the payment of debts were treated with the same rigour, and since these could be very numerous – in some cases hundreds of people guaranteed the payment of a single large sum – a growing number of people came to be threatened with the loss of their status and assets. The ever-widening pressure exerted by the exchequer, though effective in the short term, was greatly resented, probably the more so because it was inconsistently applied, with much depending on the king’s personal decisions, perhaps even on his likes or dislikes for the people involved. Due process of law might be observed, but without necessarily being applied to everyone caught up in the workings of the exchequer. Clause 9, while perhaps only spelling out what was already regarded as acceptable practice, attempted to bring order and routine to this situation., by ensuring that the chattels of debtors were targeted before their estates, by preventing steps being taken against pledges until every effort had been made to raise the money owed from the principal debtors, and by providing the means for sureties who had been obliged to pay on behalf of the principals to recover their outlay from the latter.
Clause 49 (The 1215 Magna Carta)
Clause 55 (The 1215 Magna Carta)
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