Sources M, N and O disagree with the statement ‘Wolsey could have done more to reform government at home’ but all three sources suggest he was more inclined to help the poor and villains than the more powerful and influential nobles. Source P agrees with the above statement depicting that Wolsey was second-rate and could/ should have done a better job at being Cardinal and right-hand-man to the King. Both sources M and N make the point that Wolsey’s main aim was to help the villains who had been neglected and dealt with unjustly for many years thus reforming the government and how/why it operated.
Source O states that Wolsey made one of the biggest contributions towards the change in taxation which now meant ‘the Crown was levying taxation which accurately reflected the true wealth of taxpayers. ’ Whilst source N asserts that Wolsey was ‘remarkable’ when referring to the 260 people known that he had brought to court. Therefore both these sources would agree that Wolsey did a good job of reforming the government and enabling villains to gain more justice henceforth making changes that show a significant reform.
Most importantly both sources agree that villains were in favour of Wolsey and had much respect for him but whether this means Wolsey did his best to reform the government is debatable. Source N only makes points about the change is the feudal system however source O gives us more of an idea of the change in taxation and how when this is done effectively it is a ‘valid index of the strength of an early modern regime’ and its ‘sophistication and attention to principles of distributive justice was several centuries ahead of its time. Both of these characteristics of the government reform would have been praised upon but John Guy makes a point in saying it was only a ‘contribution’ and Wolsey should not take full credit for reforming the taxation system.
Furthermore both sources plus influence from source M highlight Wolsey was liked by the villains due to these reforms suggesting that this was the key reason for making changes in the first place this can be seen in source M: ‘he favours the people exceedingly, and especially the poor’ and source N ‘Wolsey wanted to do something for the common wealth. All three of these sources view the government’s reforms from a supposed non-biased perspective but neither of the sources reflects on the effect it had on other society member s such as nobles. Source M was written by Venetian Ambassador Guistiniani in 1515 and only out lines some of Wolsey’s more positive traits, nevertheless this could also have been written to keep hold of any alliances made between the two gentlemen.
Source O also talks about a system of taxation which in this case was a replacement of fifteenths and tenths which was the previous form of taxation paid by towns and boroughs to the Crown. This new system reflected accurately the true wealth of taxpayers and rejected a fixed rate which the fifteenths and tenths were based around, so people were now paying taxes based on their income, land, and power they held therefore creating a greater financial burden on the very rich.
Source P agrees with the statement stating that Wolsey did little to reform the government and may have even hindered its progress. Therefore source P is of the opinion that Wolsey could have done more towards the restructuring of the government. It talks in terms of Wolsey being one of the ‘greatest weaknesses’ and that he was a ‘bad financier’ G. R. Elton doesn’t seem to bare a grudge against Wolsey and all his other sources seem to be diplomatic if on the slightly negative side. G. R.
Elton does make a very valid point regarding nobles he made ‘enemies of many whose hostility could be dangerous’ which was very true as by effectively ‘steeling from the rich and giving to the poor’ the Nobles and Lords were very unhappy as the new system of taxation meant they lost a lot more money than they would have done if it was kept as fifteenths and tenths. Also Wolsey was known to use his new power to use the Star Chamber to target nobles who were abusing aristocratic privileges; which was most of them.
An example of this would be in 1515 Earl of Northumberland was sent to fleet prison on Wolsey’s order. This meant when Wolsey needed money from the Nobles or help such as in the Amicable Grant (1525) many were reluctant to support him and therefore this did contribute to the failings of the government reform which is also confirmed in the source ‘he had little understanding of economic facts’. Ultimately it is written knowledge that Wolsey had failed to carry out any lasting institutional reform.
He may have meant well and was very active as Lord Chancellor but it is also true that there was an enormous backlog of cases to be heard in Star Chamber by 1529 and much of the administration there was chaotic. Therefore source P agrees with this statement and Wolsey could have done more to reform the government however this source does focus more on the institutional reform rather than the domestic reform. It is clear that Wolsey did contribute to the reforming of the government. Sources M, N and O show us the positive effects and views of his actions whereas; source P shows the much more negative consequences.
However much Wolsey’s contribution was great to the reforming of the taxation system and therefore how England was governed, but it was only a ‘contribution’ and we cannot give him all the credit as along the way he had made some very powerful enemies and ultimately the peoples allegiance lied with the King; as seen in his death. Wolsey was a very powerful man and was sometimes seen as the most powerful, he managed to better the lives of many villains during his power surge and this could be related to his lesser background which demonstrates that Wolsey was rather empathetic.
I believe his reforms were generally made to be used as revenge against Nobles and Lords as there are many examples documented therefore he must have had a passion for justice and evidently this caused some positive effects from his reforms with given his lack of financial skills he did very well to ‘reform the government at home’ but this did very little and may have hindered the institutionalised reformat as no he could not make any of his laws ‘stick’ such as the Enclosure action to took against the Nobles, this also benefitted the villains and didn’t benefit the Nobles but because the Nobles still held more power and he was unable to exert his when it came to the enclosures and the laws were overthrown and left in tatters, this makes use question the long-term practical results of his activities and how many of his choices were made to benefit the land or serve vengeance to the villains.