The sacerdotal powers were well aware that

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Unformatted text preview: m of thief, preying upon desperate and starving families who would risk the entire family estate to last through a drought or harsh winter. Naturally the church stood against this practice when the agrarian feudal nature of society precluded loans for production or manufacturing purposes. The church's trenchant criticism of the practice of usury grew concomitant with its ascendance to the pinnacle of political and social influence in the 13l century. This rise to dominant power was only possible because the church had monopolized the instruments of learning and literacy. By controlling the flow of literate servants able t contribute to the governmental tasks of oversight, the church controlled the societies in which it operated. Governmental officers were clerics, and the church's law comprised the single most influential factor in the formation and execution of the laws of the political entities in Europe and England during this time. 343 T hus, the King's law was the church's law. The early judges in England were clergymen trained in ecclesiastical law and the church's doctrines. The church dominated commercial practice and enforced contracts in the secular as well as the sacred realm, legitimizing its oversight of commercial practice through the social belief that contract were covenants of faith between people. The church regarded commerce as an unruly horse, which needed continual breaking. The sacerdotal powers were well aware that merchantmen, traders, and Jewish financiers continually sought ways to circumvent the church's prohibition on the practice of usury. This persistent tension gave credibility t the church's view that usury was a hateful practice, perpetuated by evil men who cared only for profits at the expense of their souls, and who sought to infect society with the idea that usury was not a mortal sin. As the church confronted other heresies throughout society during the Medieval Inquisition, usury was included into those prohibited practices which led to capital punishment. Both the Medieval Inquisition and the Investiture Struggle, beginning in the 11th century, motivated social interest in the gro of universities and raised the social legitimacy of legal argument. The church, at first, was the master of this technique, and triumphed victorious in the struggle for nearly universal supremacy in Europe and England during the period. The time during which the church enjoyed the very apex of social power and influence was the coincidental formation period of the English common law. The very life blood of the common law flowed from the King's justices on assize who gradually molded the various customary oral traditions of the Germanic English clans, shires, and boroughs into law 'common to all England'. These same justices, as well as the later Chancellor, were clerics who carried into the courts the hatred of usury in all its various forms. Wh the tumultuous social transition of the English monarchy to the Angevine lineage after the anarchical reign of Stephen ended in 1154, and in 1215 the Magna Carta specified 344 that courts should be held in one place, the settling of the courts at Westminster in the subsequent period birthed the precursor to the modern model of the common law. This model, built upon the integral use of clergy during the church's overwhelming social influence, was thoroughly infected with church doctrine, and by default, the hatred of usury. The extant case reports and plea roles from early times manifestly indicate the hatred that the members of the bench exhibited toward usurers who sought recovery of any sum in excess of the capital sum lent. Repression by the church of commercial practices did not easily acquiesce to the burgeoning commercial practices collateral with the Renaissance period. The shift to a capitalist society, essentially complete by the end of the 16th century, bred social forces unswervingly against the church's prohibition of usurious practices. Yet, the church had an almost unassailable ally in the common law. The common law doctrines developed in the early formation period provided a strong defense against the critics who sought to have courts overturn the prohibition in the common law, despite the intervention of the Henrician statutes in the 1540's which redefined usury and limited its legal practice to interest rate often percent. The doctrine of stare decisis proved fundamental in this cur resistance by enabling members of the bench to reach back to previous case judgments and extract rules which lent social legitimacy to the judicial rejection of usury. Opportunity cost recovery, as it is intimately connected with the practice the courts cal usury, did not escape judicial acrimony. The time value of any sum dictates one aspect of the opportunity costs of a capital placement, determined by reference to the alternative choices in the financial environment. Since usury was defined in terms which, in modern terminology, comprise an opportunity cost, the courts' refusal to award opportunity costs in any litigation whic 345 w as tainted with usurious overtones is understandable. In contrast to...
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