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For that John Mortimer, which now is dead,
According to this introduction, Cade was a soldier of approved valour; and though this is not plainly said by Holinshed, it is rather to be gathered from his Chronicle, than that he was a clothier, as he is represented in the scene before us. That scene, as well as all those in which Cade is introduced, is highly characteristic of a rising of low and ignorant men, at war with property and learning, setting at nought the principles of political economy, and hoping to make all men equal, and to abolish every tax. I will bring together various passages:–
“George.t. I tell thee, Jack Cade, the clothier, means John. So he had need, for it is threadbare, Well ! I
to dress the commonwealth, and turn it, and set a new nap upon it.
* Act iii. Sc. l. + Act. iv. Sc. 2.
say it was never merry world in England since gentlemen came up.
Geo. The King's council are no good workmen. John. True; and yet it is said, Labour in your vocation; which is as much as to say, Let the magistrates be labouring men, and therefore should we be magistrates. Geo. Thou hast hit it; there's no better sign of a brave mind than a hard hand. Dick. The first thing we do, let us kill all the lawyers Cade. Nay, that I mean to do. Is not this a lamentable thing, that of the skin of an innocent lamb should be made parchment, that parchment being scribbled over should undo a man 2 Some say the bee stings; but I say ’tis the bees’-wax, for I did but seal once to a thing, and I was never mine own man since.
Cade (to the Clerk of Chatham). Dost thou use to write thy name for hast thou a mark to thyself like an honest plain-dealing man Clerk. Sir, I thank God, I have been so well brought up, that I can write my name. All. He hath confessed Away with him he's a villain and a traitor | Cade. Away with him, I say ! hang him with his pen and ink-horn about his neck.
Cade. Away! burn all the records of the realm. My mouth shall be the parliament of England. . . . . . . . Henceforward all things shall be in common.” This view of Cade and his schemes is amplified from the old play, and is very consistent with the political notions of Shakspeare. But it is not conformable to Holinshed, whose narrative in this instance consists of public and apparently authentic documents.” Except in one passage (quoted by Malone)+ in which Cade is said to have undertaken that no more fifteenths or other taxes should be imposed, there is nothing which supports Shakspeare's representations of the grievances set forth by Cade. And that passage which is not taken from any document, contemplates this “economical reform” as resulting from a better administration of the government. “The Captain, assembling a great number of tall personages, assured them that the enterprize was honourable both to God and the King, and profitable to the whole realm. For if, either by force or policy, they might get the King and Queen into their hands, he would cause them to be honourably used, and take such order for the punishing and reforming of the misdemeanors of their bad counsellors, that neither fifteens should hereafter be demanded, nor once any impositions nor taxes spoken of.”: * Hol., 222, from Stow, 388. I can trace them no farther
Here is a too sanguine view of the effects of reform; but the truth is, that, although, if Holinshed * be correct, Cade, or his people, when in possession of London, committed disorders of all sorts, incompatible with regular government, their demands, as they appear in the petitions presented to the King in council, were not the demands of ignorant levellers. They said that the King purposed to punish the men of Kent for the murder of the Duke of Suffolk, of which they were not guilty; they complained that the King gave away his revenue, and lived upon the Commons' (that is, upon taxes); they set forth many abuses in the administration of the law and the collection of the revenue, some general and some local. How far these complaints were well founded, we cannot now judge, but they are all plausible and constitutional. Two of the articles are remarkable:— “3. Item. That the lords of his royal blood are put from his daily presence, and other mean persons of lower nature exalted, and made chief of his privy council, the which stoppeth matters of wrongs done in the realm from his excellent audience, and may not be redressed as law will, but if bribes and gifts be messengers to the hands of the said council. “13. Item. The people of the said shire of Kent may not have their free election in choosing knights of the shire; but letters have been sent from divers estates to the great rulers of all the country, the which enforceth their tenants and other people by force to choose other persons than the common will is.”
* P. 226.
The precise nature of the interference or intimidation complained of in this 13th article does not appear, nor is it much to our present purpose; but the 4th article certainly does not complain that the king's counsellors are not men of “a hard hand,” but rather that such hands are apt to take bribes.
These complaints were accompanied by several requests:—
“2. Item. Desireth the said captain (Cade called himself the captain of Kent) that the king will avoid all the false progeny and affinity of the Duke of Suffolk, the which hath been openly known, and they to be punished after the custom and law of this land, and to take about his noble person the true lords of his royal blood of this his realm, that is to say, the high and mighty prince the Duke of York, late exiled from our sovereign lord's presence” (by the motion and stirring of the traitorous and false disposed, the Duke of Suffolk and his affinity), and the mighty princes the Dukes of Exeter, Buckingham, and Norfolk,t and all the earls and
* Meaning, I suppose, his appointment to the command in Ireland. f John Mowbray, third duke, nephew of the Norfolk who