Henry Craik, ed. English Prose. 1916. Vol. I. Fourteenth to Sixteenth Century
Illegal Profits of Kings Officers
By Hugh Latimer (c. 14851555)
BUT now I will play St. Paul, and translate the thing on myself. I will become the kings officer for awhile. I have to lay out for the king twenty thousand pounds, or a great sum whatsoever it be; well, when I have laid it out, and do bring in mine account, I must give three hundred marks to have my bills warranted. If I have done truly and uprightly, what should need me to give a penny to have my bills warranted? If I have done my office truly, and do bring in a true account, wherefore should one groat be given? yea, one groat, for warranting of my bills? Smell ye nothing in this? What needeth any bribes-giving, except the bills be false? No man giveth bribes for warranting of his bills, except they be false bills. Well, such practice hath been in England, but beware; it will out one day: beware of Gods proverb, There is nothing hidden that shall not be opened; yea, even in this world, if ye be not the children of damnation. And here now I speak to you, my masters, minters, augmentationers,1 receivers, surveyors, and auditors: I make a petition unto you; I beseech you all be good to the king. He hath been good to you, therefore be good to him: yea, be good to your own souls. Ye are known well enough, what ye were afore ye came to your offices, and what lands ye had then, and what ye have purchased since, and what buildings ye make daily. Well, I pray you so build, that the kings workmen may be paid. They make their moan that they can get no money. The poor labourers, gun-makers, powder-men, bow-makers, arrow-makers, smiths, carpenters, soldiers, and other crafts, cry out for their duties. They be unpaid, some of them, three or four months; yea, some of them half a year: yea, some of them put up bills this time twelve months for their money, and cannot be paid yet. They cry out for their money, and, as the prophet saith, Clamor operariorum ascendit ad aures meas; The cry of the workmen is come up to mine ears. O, for Gods love, let the workmen be paid, if there be money enough; or else there will whole showers of Gods vengeance rain down upon your heads! Therefore, ye minters, and ye augmentationers, serve the king truly. So build and purchase, that the king may have money to pay his workmen. It seemeth ill-favouredly, that ye should have enough wherewith to build superfluously, and the king lack to pay his poor labourers. Well, yet I doubt not but that there be some good officers. But I will not swear for all.
I have now preached three Lents. The first time I preached restitution. Restitution, quoth some, what should he preach of restitution? Let him preach of contrition, quoth they and let restitution alone; we can never make restitution. Then, say I, if thou wilt not make restitution, thou shalt go to the devil for it. Now choose thee either restitution, or else endless damnation. But now there be two manner of restitutions; secret restitution, and open restitution; whether of both it be, so that restitution be made, it is all good enough. At my first preaching of restitution, one good man took remorse of conscience, and acknowledged himself to me, that he had deceived the king; and willing he was to make restitution; and so, the first Lent, came to my hands twenty pounds to be restored to the kings use. I was promised twenty pound more the same Lent, but it could not be made, so that it came not. Well, the next Lent came three hundred and twenty pounds more. I received it myself, and paid it to the kings council. So I was asked what he was that made this restitution? But should I have named him? Nay, they should as soon have this wesant2 of mine. Well, now this Lent came one hundred and fourscore pounds ten shillings, which I have paid and delivered this present day to the kings council: and so this man hath made a godly restitution. And so, quoth I to a certain nobleman that is one of the kings council, if every man that hath beguiled the king should make restitution after this sort, it would cough the king3 twenty thousand pounds I think, quoth I. Yea that it would, quoth the other, a whole hundred thousand pounds. Alack, alack; make restitution; for Gods sake make restitution; ye will cough in hell else, that all the devils there will laugh at your coughing. There is no remedy, but restitution open or secret; or else hell.