Ranulph, his first treasurer and representative at Ely, had been extortionate and dishonest, and the monks accused Nigel, probably with some justification, of spending the estates and treasures of the see in maintaining knights and gaining court influence.
This part of Henrys policy is connected with the name of his two extortionate fiscal judges Empson and Dudley, who turned law and justice into rapine by their minute inquisition into all technical breaches of legality, and the nice fashion in which they adapted the fine to the wealth of the misdemeanant, without any reference to his moral guilt or any regard for extenuating circumstances.
Exactions, debasement of the currency and extortionate taxation were ruinous palliatives, and insufficient to supply a treasury which the revenue from crown lands and various rights taken from the nobles could not fill even in times of peace.
The numerous outbreaks against the Jews are directed, not against their creed, but against them as keen business men and extortionate money-lenders.
Three kinds of cattle-tax, the tax for exemption from military service, levied on every newborn male, forced labour on the roads, forced loan of horses, a heavy excise on grapes and tobacco, and a variety of lesser taxes combined to burden the Christian serfs; but even more galling than the amount was the manner in which these dues were exacted - the extortionate assessments of tax-farmers and excisemen, the brutal licence of the soldiery who were quartered on recalcitrant villagers.
It was believed by its advocates that this system of prescribing the conditions of construction and operation of lines could promote public safety, prevent waste of capital and secure passengers and shippers against extortionate rates.