An Act Against Usury
Edward VI, King of England and Ireland
“…For as much as usury is by the word of God utterly prohibited as a vice most odious and detestable as in divers places in Holy Scriptures it is evident to be seen which thing is by no godly teaching, and persuasions can sink into the hearts of divers greedy, uncharitable and covetous persons of this realm, nor yet by any terrible threatenings of God’s wrath and vengeance that justly hang over this realm for the great and open usury therein daily used and practiced, they will forsake such filthy gain and lucre, unless some temporary punishment be provided and ordained in that behalf. For reformation whereof be it enacted by the authority of this present parliament, that from the first day of May, which shall be in the year of our Lord 1552, the said act and statute concerning only usury, lucre, or gain of or for the loan, forbearing, or giving days of any sum or sums of money, be utterly abrogated, void and repealed. And furthermore be it enacted by the authority aforesaid, that from and after the first day of May next coming, no person or persons of what estate, degree, quality or condition, soever he or they be by any corrupt, colorable or deceitful conveyance, slight, or engine, or by any way or mean shall lend, give, set out, deliver, or forbear any sum or sums of money to any person or persons, or to any corporation or body politic to or for any manner of usury increase, lucre gain, or interest to be had or hoped for over and above the sums so lent, given, set out, delivered or forborne, upon pain of forfeiture of the value, and well of the sum or sums so lent, given, set out, delivered or forborne, as also of the usury, increase, lucre, gain or interest thereof. And also upon pain of imprisonment of the body or bodies of every such offender or offenders, and also to make fine or ransom at the King’s will and pleasure.”
By this proclamation, the boy-king Edward VI restored the longstanding English legal prohibition against all forms of usury; a prohibition revoked by his father, Henry VIII.
It is well to consider thoughtfully the state of the English economy, and especially its social conditions, during the period where usury was outlawed:
What was our western world like before the debt-economy?
Thorold Rogers, Professor of Political Economy at Oxford University in the middle of the 19th century wrote: “At that time (i.e., the Middle Ages) a laborer could provide all the necessities for his family for a year by working fourteen weeks.”
…the fiery 19th century historian William Cobbett, after visiting Winchester Cathedral and marveling at its beauty, told his son: “That building was made when there were no poor wretches in England called paupers… when every laboring man was clothed in woolen cloth and when all had plenty of meat and bread …”
Thus we have a picture of a well-fed, prosperous community, working commercially, or for gain, about one third of the year and with dozens of holidays a year… It was a time when Englishmen called their land “Merry England,” when they owned their property with allodial title (irrevocably free and clear), instead of paying “rent” (as property owners do now… in the form of property taxes to the government).
It was in the Middle Ages of Europe when the magnificent Gothic cathedrals were constructed with voluntary subscription and labor, edifices of such beauty and power as to amaze the modern onlooker. Dozens were constructed, all without mortgages or debt of any kind; without usury. A society without usury is nowadays derided as inevitably backward, if not impossible. Those who visit the medieval Gothic cathedrals of Britain and Europe gaze upon massive edifices of splendor and proportion which we, with our usury and technology, have yet to equal.
Source: Michael Hoffman, Usury In Christendom (2013)