Front Page Titles (by Subject) Exaction of Benevolence. - Selected Writings of Sir Edward Coke, vol. I
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Exaction of Benevolence. - 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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Exaction of Benevolence.
First Published in the Reports, volume 12, page 119.
Ed.: In this note case, Coke described the precedents for the monarch requesting gifts from wealthy nobles to fund various projects when there was no money left from the last Parliamentary supply, or grant of taxes. Because the benevolences were technically voluntary, they were lawful. This case has a considerable significance as a predecessor decision to the Five Knights’ Case and the Petition of Right.
Concerning Benevolence.Note, the exaction under the good name of Benevolence began in this manner.
When King Edward the fourth, had a Subsedy granted to him in the 12 Edw. 4. by Parliament, because he could have no more by Parliament, and without a Parliament he could not have any Subsedy to be levied of the Lands and Goods of the Subject, he invented this shift or device, in which three things are to be observed.
1. The cause.
2. The Invention.
3. The Successe.
1. The Duke of Burgandy, who had married Margaret, the Sister of Edward the fourth solicited King Edward to joyn in War with him against the French King, to which the King easily consented, because he sought revenge against the French King for aiding the Earl of Warwick, Queen Margaret, and Prince Edward, and their party, and therefore, to make War against the French King, was the cause.1
2. The invention was, The King called before him at severall times a great number of the wealthiest of his Subjects, to declare to them his necessity, and his purpose to levy War for the honour and safety of the Kingdom, and demanded of each of them a certain summ of money, and the King treated with them, with such great grace and clemency, and with such gentle prayer to assist him in his necessity, for the honour of the Realm, that they very freely yeelded to his request, for the honour and safety of the Realm. Amongst the rest, there was a Widow of a very good Estate, of whom the King meerly asked what she would willingly give him for the maintenance of his Wars; By my faith, quoth she, for your lovely countenance sake, you shall have twenty pound, which was more then the King expected; the King thanked her, and vouchsafed to kisse her, upon which she presently swore he should have twenty pounds more.
3. The successe and event was: That wheras the King called this a Benevolence to please the people, yet many of the people did much grudge at it, and called it a Malevolence.
Primo Ed. 5. in the Oration of the Duke of Buckingham in Guild hall in London, he inveighed, amongst other things, against this Taxation under the name of Benevolence. 1 Ric. 3. cap. 2. the Subjects of the Realm shall not be charged with such charge or imposition called Benevolence, which tendeth to the subversion of the Law, and destruction of Commonalty, as appears in the Preamble (where any such charge). And that such exaction before taken, under the name of benevolence, shall not be drawn into example | to make such or the like charge, but shall be damned and adnulled for ever: But it appears by the Preamble, that this was against the wil and liberty of the Subject, but a free-wil offering is not restrained.
An. 6 Hen. 7. The King declared in Parliament, that he had just cause of War against the French King, which for the causes there shewn was approved, and for that he desired a Benevolence towards the maintenance of it; and every one promised his helping hand, the which the King greatly commended; and to the intent that the poorer sort might be spared, he demanded it by way of a Benevolence, according to the example of Edward the fourth and published, that he would by their open hands measure their benevolent hearts; and he who gives but a little, according to his gift.
By this means he collected great summs of money, with some grudge for the extremity shewn by the Commissioners, 11 Hen. 7. cap. 20. An Act was made for levying of that Benevolence, according to their assent, but only of such as assented.
An: 20 Hen. 7. A Commission to levy what was granted by 11 Hen. 7.
Note, that 15 Hen. 8. a Commission under the great Seal, called a Commission of Anticipation, to collect the Subsidy before the day.2
An: 16 Hen. 8. For War with France, a Benevolence levied by Commission with great Curses and Imprecations against the Council, and with successe, for it was to levy a sixth part of the value in money or Plate against the good will of the Subject.
An: 26 Hen. 8. Another Benevolence levied by Commission for maintenance of War against France, with ill successe, for it was exacted of the Subject against his good will. But if the Subjects of their free will, without any compulsion, will give to the King for publick uses any summs of money, this is not prohibited by any Statute.
And the Statute 11 Hen. 7. cap. 18. proves this, where the Parliamentcompels them who have freely granted any thing to the King for publick use, to pay it.
Feb. An: 40 Eliz. It was resolved by all the Justices and Barons, that a free Grant to the Queen without coercion is lawfull, and accordingly they granted to the Queen, Quod nota bene, quia, &c.3
Part Thirteen of the Reports
The Thirteenth Part of Coke’s Reports was published in 1659 under the initial title of the publisher, Certain Select Cases in Law, Reported by Sir EDWARD COKE, Knight, Late Lord Chief Justice of ENGLAND And one of His Majesties Council of State: Translated out of a Manuscript written with his own hand. Never before Published. In later editions of the Reports, it was bound in under the title The Thirteenth Part of the Reports published from the notes of Sir Edward Coke, Knight. after his Death. The reports in this part were drawn from the same manuscript as those in Part Twelve.
[1. ]Hollingshead, 11 Edw. 4 694. Stow. 701.
[2. ]Stow 880.
[3. ][Ed.: which note well, because, etc.]