Front Page Titles (by Subject) The Case of the Tailors of Habits &c. of Ipswich. - Selected Writings of Sir Edward Coke, vol. I
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The Case of the Tailors of Habits &c. of Ipswich. - Sir Edward Coke, Selected Writings of Sir Edward Coke, vol. I 
The Selected Writings and Speeches of Sir Edward Coke, ed. Steve Sheppard (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2003). Vol. 1.
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The Case of the Tailors of Habits &c. of Ipswich.
(1614) Michaelmas Term, 12 James 1.
In the Court of King’s Bench.
First Published in the Reports, volume 11, page 53a.
Ed.: The Corporation of the Tailors of Ipswich was a guild incorporated under a charter from the King, giving them authority to regulate theirtrade. The guild barred anyone from practicing as a tailor in Ipswich, unless they had been approved by its master and wardens. William Seninge moved to Ipswich and practiced as a tailor. The guild sued Seninge in debt, seeking £3 13s 4d. The Court of Common Pleas declared that the common law will not allow a man to be prohibited from a lawful trade, the protections of the law are for those in the public trade and not family servants, but that the plaintiffs could recover nothing by their suit. For another case on restraint from the professions, see Dr. Bonham’s Case, p. 264, and on the restraint of trade, see Case of the Monopolies, p. 394.
Trin. 11 Jac. Regis in the Kings Bench, Magistri, Gardiani, et Communitas Scissorum et operatorum pannorum villae Gipwic’ in com’ Suff’,1 brought an Action of Debt for three pound, thirteen shillings and four pence against William Shening, and declared, That whereas the King by his Letters Patents had incorporated the Plaintiffs by the said name, and granted to them, That they should have plenam potestat’ et authoritat’ facere et constituere rationabiles leges, ordinationes et constitutiones, in script’ quae eis viderentur bon’, salubr’, util’, honest’ et necessar’ secundum eorum discretiones pro bono regimine et gubernatione, &c. societatis praed’, &c.2 and to set Fines and Amercements for breach of the said Laws, &c. And recited the Statute of 19 Hen. 7. 7. By which it is enacted, That no Master, Wardens, and Society of Crafts and Mysteries, take upon them to make any Acts or Ordinances, nor to execute any Acts or Ordinances, in exhaeredationem seu diminutionem praerogativae vel aliorum aliquorum, vel contra commune profic’ populi, nisi iidem actus et ordinationes examinat’ et approbat’ furent per Cancellar’, Thesaur’ Angliae, Capital’ Justic’ utriusque Banci, vel tres eorum vel aliter coram Justic’ Assisae in eorum itineribus, &c. sub poena forisfact’ 40l. pro quolibet tempore quo ipsi in contr’ facerent.3 And afterwards the said Corporation, in the fourth year, made divers Constitutions, and (amongst others) that no person exercising any of the said Trades within the Town of Ipswich praed’4 should keep any Shop or Chamber, or exercise the said Faculties, or any of them, |[53 b] or take an Apprentice or Journeyman, till they had presented them to the said Master and Wardens of the said Society, for the time being, or any three of them, and should prove that he had served seven years at the least, as an Apprentice, and before he shall be admitted by them to be a sufficient Workman; and if any offend in any part thereof, That he should forfeit and pay to the said Master and Wardens, and Society aforesaid, for every such offence five marks, and to levy the same by Distress, or Action of Debt, &c. The which (amongst others) was allowed by the Justices of Assise of the same County, according to the said Act of 19 H. 7. And that the said William Shening, Tailor, using the trade of a Tailor, after the said Orders made and ratified as aforesaid, the tenth of October in the tenth year of the King came to the said Town of Ipswich, and there used the Trade of a Tailor by the space of twenty days, before he had presented himself to the said Master and Wardens, or any three of them, or had made proof that he had served as an Apprentice for seven years in the said Trade, and before he was admitted by the said Master and Wardens, or any three of them, to be sufficient a Workman, per quod actio accrevit eisd’ Magistr’ Gardian’ et Com’5 to have of the said Henry the sum of three pound, thirteen shillings and four pence.
The Defendant pleaded that he was an Apprentice by the space of seven years, viz: 1 from the first of September, in the first year of the King till the second of September in the eight year to one Henry Backet in the art of a Tailor, &c. And that ninth of September, Anno 10. Anthony Penny, Esquire inhabitant in Ipswich, retained him to be his household servant to serve him for one year; And that within the same time, he by the Commandment of the said Anthony made divers Clothes and Garments for him, his wife, and children, as was lawful for him to do, which is the same use and exercise of the Trade of a Tailor, whereof the Plaintiffs have declared: Upon which the Plaintiffs did demur in Law. And in this case, upon Argument at the Bar and Bench, divers points were resolved.
1. That at the Common Law no man might be forbidden to work in any lawful Trade, for the Law doth abhor idleness, the mother of all evil, Otium omnium vitiorum mater,6 and chiefly in young men, who ought to their youth, (which is the time of their sowing) to learn lawful Sciences and Trades, which are profitable to the Commonwealth, and whereof they might gather the fruit in their old age, for idle in youth, poor in age; and therefore the Common Law doth abhor all Monopolies, which forbid any one to work in any lawful Trade; And the same appearth in 2 Hen. 5. 5b. a Dyer was bound that he should not use the Dyer’s craft for two years, and there Hull held, that the Obligation was against the Common Law, and (by God) if the Plaintiff were here, he should go to prison, till he pay a fine to the King: So, and for the same cause. If a Husbandman be bound that he shall not sow his land, the Obligation is against Law. And see 7 Edw. 3. 65b.; If he who taketh upon him to work be unskilful, his ignorance |[54 a] is a sufficient punishment to him; for, imperitia est maxima mechanicorum poena, et quilibet quaerit in qualibet arte peritos:7 And if any one taketh upon him to work, and misdoeth it, an Action upon the Case lieth against him. And the Statute of 5 Eliz. 4., which forbiddeth any person to use or exercise any Craft, Mystery or Occupation, if he hath not been an Apprentice by the space of seven years, was not enacted onely to the intent that Workmen should be skilful, but also that youths should not be nourished in idleness, but trained and brought up in lawful Sciences and Trades: And therefore it appeareth, that without an Act of Parliament, none can be in any wise retained to work in any lawful trade. Also the Common Law doth not forbid any person to use many Arts or Mysteries at his pleasure, Nemo prohibetur plures negotiationes sive artes exercere,8 until it was forbidden by Act of Parliament of 37 Edw. 3. cap. 6. scil. That the Artificers and people of Mystery tye every one to one Mystery, and that none use other Mystery but that which he hath chosen; but presently this restraint of Trade and Traffick was found prejudicial to the Commonwealth; and therefore at the next Parliament it was enacted, That all people should be as free as they were at any time before the said Ordinance.
2. That the said restraint of the Defendant, for more than the said Act of 5 Eliz. hath made, was against Law; And therefore for as much as the Statute hath not retained him who hath served as a Apprentice for seven years to exercise the Trade of a Tailor; the said Ordinance cannot forbid him to exercise his Trade, till he be presented before them, or till he be allowed by them to be a Workman; for these are against the Freedom and Liberty of the Subject, and are a means of Extortion in drawing moneys to them, either by delay, or some other subtle device, or of oppression of yong Tradesmen, by the old and rich of the same Trade, not suffering them freely to live in their Trade; And all this is against Law, and against the Commonwealth. But Ordinances for the well ordering and government of men of Trade and Mysteries are good, but not to restrain any one in his lawful Mystery.
3. It was resolved, That the said branch of the Act of 5 Eliz. is intended of publick use and exercise of a Trade to all who will come, and not of him who is a private Cook, Tailor, Brewer, Baker, &c. in the house of any for the use of a Family; And therefore if the said Ordinance had been good and agreeable to Law, such private exercise and use had not been within it, for every one may live in such private manner, although he hath never been an Apprentice in the Trade.
|[54 b] 4. It was resolved, That the Statute of 19 Hen. 7. 7. doth not strengthen any of the Ordinances made by any Corporation, with one so allowed and proved as the Statute speaketh, but leaves them to be affirmed as good, or disaffirmed as unlawful by the Law; the only benefit which the Incorporation getteth by such allowance is, That they shall not incur the penalty of forty pound mentioned in the Act, if they put in use any Ordinances which are against the Kings Prerogative, or the common profit of the people. And afterwards Judgment was given, quod querentes nihil caperent per billam.9
[1. ][Ed.: The master, wardens and commonalty of tailors and clothworkers in the vill of Ipswich in the county of Suffolk,]
[2. ][Ed.: full power and authority to make and constitute reasonable laws, ordinances, and constitutions, in writing, which seem to them good, wholesome, useful, honest, and necessary, according to their discretions, for the good rule and governance, etc., of the aforesaid fellowship, etc.]
[3. ][Ed.: to the disinheritance or diminution of the prerogative or of any others, or against the common profit of the people, unless the same acts and ordinances have been examined and approvedby thechancellor and treasurer of England, the chief justices of both benches, or three of them, or else before the justices of assize on circuit in those parts etc., on pain of forfeiting forty pounds for each time when they do the contrary.]
[4. ][Ed.: aforesaid.]
[5. ][Ed.: whereby an action has accrued to the same master, wardens and commonalty.]
[6. ][Ed.: Idleness is the mother of all vices,]
[7. ][Ed.: lack of skill is the greatest punishment for a workman, for in each art everyone looks to those who are skilled:]
[8. ][Ed.: No one is prohibited from exercising several businesses or arts.]
[9. ][Ed.: that the plaintiffs should take nothing by their bill.]