Hardiman's History of Galway

Chapter 4: From 1484 to the commencement of the Irish Rebellion in 1641

Charter of Henry VIII and Mercantile bye-laws

Chapter 4

From 1484 to the commencement of the Irish Rebellion in 1641

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Old map of Galway

This exemption was followed by a new charter from the crown, granted by Henry VIII on 3d July, 1545, whereby he confirmed all former charters, and added several very considerable privileges. The limits of the port were described from the islands of Arran to the town; the corporation was freed from several excessive tolls within all the king's dominions; ant it was particularly granted that no person should pay any prisage for wines imported into the town, "because prisage had not therefore been accustomed to be paid there,"r nor any customs whatsoever for any other goods imported, save such as of old were accustomed to be paid. All manner of goods and merchandizes were allowed to be exported, except woollen and linen goods: all such liberties and privileges as were enjoyed by the town of Drogheda were fully granted and confirmed, saving how ever, to the king and his heirs, all emoluments to him and his ancestors. lords of the towns issuing thereout, and also the customs of the cocket; and also saving to portreve and burgesses of Athenry, and their successors, all such privileges as they were accustomed to have in times past, in the town and port thereof.t The flourishing state of commerce in Galway is fully evidenced by this charter; and at this period, and for upwards of a century afterwards, it was considered one of the first emporiums for trade, not only in Ireland, but, with very few exceptions, in the British islands. Its overflowing wealth and prosperity led the town to adopt measures and lay down certain regulations which proved contrary to the established laws of the land. Thus, a bye-law was enacted by the corporation in 1542, whereby it was "ordered, that no person of this town shall buy or sell with any merchants of Lymbricke, Coreke, Watterford, Dublin, or other towns or cities for any goods, or cause same to be transported by land or sea, unless they come to this town as other strangers and merchants, in shipps, on pain of forfeiting the goods and 20l." This byelaw being in force, one Thomas Fitz-Simon, a Dublin merchant, in the year 1548, imported a parcel of cloth into the town, which, after paying the accustomed legal duties, was found to be forfeited under this corporate regulation, and was accordingly seized by John Lynch and Edward Lynch, then customers of the town. The importer's only remedy was by complaint to the chancellor of Ireland, the sole resource in those times for many cases, which at present, can be redressed by the common law. The corporation, in their defence, represented that none, except the inhabitants, were allowed to sell any wares within the town, except in gross; and that even for such wares sold in gross custom should be paid according to the ancient form, "used tyme of minde," and confirmed by their charters. They also stated that the usage of the town was, that if any inhabitant should retail or sell the merchandize or ware of any stranger, colouring to be his own, by fraud and deceit, intending thereby to save the custom to the stranger, that such good should be forfeited to the common use of the corporation, as was the case in the instance complained of. The chancellor, however. On 13th February, 1548,u decreed otherwise, and declared that the citizens of Dublin could sell wholesale and retail, free of any custom whatever, in the port of Galway; and it was consequently ordered that the customers should pay back the customs, and restore the cloth. This decision, which was made according to the strictest rules of justice, however it might have militated against the particular monopoly of the corporation, must, by freeing so much of its trade, have been essentially beneficial to the town.

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