He wished to abolish serfdom and throw open state employments to all.
At Mile End the king met Wat Tyler; a lengthy and tumultuous conference, during which several persons were slain, took place, in which Tyler demanded the immediate abolition of serfdom and all feudal services, and the removal of all restrictions on freedom of labour and trade, as well as a general amnesty for the insurgents.
But, in fact, serfdom naturally took the form of an ugly ownership of live chattels on the part of a privileged class, and all sorts of excesses, of cruelty, ruthless exploitation and wanton caprice, followed as a matter of course.
The abolition of serfdom without cancellation of the peasants' prerogatives as to pasturage and timber rights served to accentuate classantagonism.
The object of this ordinance was to secure revenue, but it led to the institution of serfdom in its most grinding form.
In Jutland, too, after the repression, in 1441, of a peasant rising, something very like serfdom was introduced.
In Russia, a country which had not the same historical antecedents with the Western nations, properly so called, and which is in fact more correctly classed as Eastern, whilst slavery had disappeared, serfdom was in force down to our own days.
Still the tendency to treat merchet as a distinctive feature of serfdom has to be noted, and we find that the custom spread for this very reason in consequence of the encroachments of powerful lords: in the Hundred Rolls it is applied indiscriminately to the whole rustic population of certain hundreds in a way which can hardly be explained unless by artificial extension.
The nobles who dominated the diet did nothing to remove the most crying evil of the country - the miserable state of the peasants, who had been freed from personal serfdom by Napoleon in 1807, but were being steadily driven from their holdings by the landlords.
The serfdom which had sprung up in Russia in the 16th century, and became consecrated by law in 1609, taking, however, nearly one hundred and fifty years to attain its full growth, was abolished in 1861.