Tonnage And Poundage - Encyclopedia




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TONNAGE AND POUNDAGE, in England, customs duties anciently imposed upon exports and imports, the former being a duty upon all wines imported in addition to prisage and butlerage, the latter a duty imposed ad valorem at the rate of twelvepence in the pound on all merchandise imported or exported. The duties were levied at first by agreement with merchants (poundage in 1302, tonnage in 1347), then granted by parliament in 1373, at first for a limited period only. They were considered to be imposed for the defence of the realm. From the reign of Henry VI. until that of James I. they were usually granted for life. They were not granted to Charles I., and in 1628 that king took the unconstitutional course of levying them on his own authority, a course denounced a few years later by 16 Car. I. c. 18 (1640), when the Long Parliament granted them for two months. After the Restoration they were granted to Charles II. and his two successors for life. By acts of Anne and George I. the duties were made perpetual, and mortgaged for the public debt. In 1787 they were finally abolished, and other modes of obtaining revenue substituted, by 27 Geo. III. c. 13 (1787).

Poundage also signifies a fee paid to an officer of a court for his services, e.g. to a sheriff's officer, who is entitled by 29 Eliz. c. 4 (1586-1587) to a poundage of a shilling in the pound on an execution up to loo, and sixpence in the pound above that sum.

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