1628 Ship Tax

Apart from the Poll Tax in England and the institution of income taxes in the various states around the world, there are very few individual tax measures that live in historical memory. They all just sort of merge together into one big monstrosity of state hunger and rapaciousness.

The Ship Taxes under Charles I, on the other hand, might live in people’s memory if only because without Ship Taxes, he would probably not have been able to rule without parliament for as long as he did.

Ship Tax or Ship Money had been covered by the traditional rights of the Kings of England; in times of emergency, the King could demand that towns submitted a certain amount of money to the defense of the nation, for the creation of maintenance of a navy or ships.

Thing is, up until the 1620s, it had always been the coastal towns that paid. Also, up until the 1620s, it was used for very clear and specific purposes. When Charles abandoned the idea of ever getting Parliament to do what he wanted, he just decided that he would demand Ship Money from every town in England. This was in keeping with his policy of “forced loans” that got him into no little trouble throughout his reign.

After all, those taxes and forced loans were needed for the ongoing war England was fighting (30 Years War). It wasn’t like Charles was going to blow all that money on extravagances and voluptuousness… right?

In February 1628, Charles issued decrees that all cities in the realm submit Ship Money to the exchequer by March 1. I’ve never found out exactly how many cities refused, but it does make one wonder about tax revolts then and now…



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