But though these sequences are fairly clear, the history of the rise, development and fall of the English

mercantile system is by no means a simple matter, and there is need for much further research into both mediaeval and modern economy before the subject can be dealt with satisfactorily. There is legitimate difference of opinion as to when we are to find the beginnings of Mercantilism in our national policy-a problem which requires a resolution of the question as to how far measures which are mercantilist in their practical bearing were conceived upon mercantilist principles by those who framed them or were parts of any consistent scheme of policy at all. There is also the recurring doubt as to how far the Mercantilism of the statute book or order in council was enforced in practice and was therefore accountable for some of the benefits or evils which are put down to it, and lately the question has been raised as to whether with regard to agriculture and the corn trade there was not an intermediate stage between the dominance of local economies and that of national economic regulation, which would give the effective Mercantilism of the State in this department a much shorter life than has been usually supposed. 1

It seems certain that the towns first fully developed that policy of economic exclusiveness which when it is employed, with adaptations, on the larger basis of the State we label Mercantilism. Schmoller has given a brilliant survey of the reign of municipal egoism in Germany, though he perhaps exaggerated the degree of its actual realization. In England there was clearly more freedom of inter-municipal trade, but the general spirit was much the same. 2 The ruling aim alike of gild and of burgess body was

the advantage of the local craft or the local community. The restrictive practices which we associate with mediaeval town economy seem to have been mainly evolved by local custom, and grants by charter were often nothing more than a formal, purchased register of rights and privileges which had been actually enjoyed long before. The main features of thu system have already been indicated. In England, as in Germany, the whole commercial and industrial life of the urban community was regulated by authority which rested, here or there, on a narrower or broader basis. In some cases the management of a business or craft was in the hands of the gild or company, but yet under the ultimate, though sometimes little more than nominal, control of the local magistrates. In others the magistrates exercised direct authority, especially in trades or occupations which were concerned with the food and drink of the people, with beer and bread and victuals. Internally, the municipality protected, on the one hand, the several trades as economic units, and, on the other hand, the whole of the townsfolk regarded as consumers. In its external aspect the town stood forth as an economic unit seeking to regulate its transactions or those of its citizens with the outside world to the benefit of the municipal economy. The stranger had to pay toll on bringing goods into the town, or attending its markets-the object being partly revenue and partly the protection of home industry, and in all its relations with other districts, whether with surrounding country from which the town obtained food supplies and to which it sold the products of its industry, or with other

boroughs, it was the aim of the municipality to establish a balance of advantage in its favour against the "foreigner." His operations were liable to other restrictions, besides those of toll and team. He could not sell retail within the liberties and was forbidden on pain of forfeit of .the goods to sell to another stranger there. His settlement was commonly regarded with suspicion, only allowed when it was not likely to bring any charge upon the town, and only welcomed when it was likely to bring some stimulus to the industry of the community. At the same time, many towns had a free list so far as petty customs are concerned, whilst some had a general chartered freedom in this direction, and urban economy tended generally to be much less rigid in its working than in the letter of its law.