Bates's Case

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Bates's Case or the Case of Impositions (1606) 2 St Tr 371 is a UK constitutional law case of the Court of the Exchequer, which enabled the King to impose duties for trade.


John Bates was a merchant of the Levant Company. He refused to pay the import duty on currants imposed by James I, and the matter was taken to the Court of the Exchequer.


The Court of the Exchequer held that Bates had to pay the duty. The Crown could impose the duty as he pleased to regulate trade. The Court could not go behind the King’s statement that the duty was indeed imposed for the purpose of regulating trade.

It followed that the Crown could impose a duty on imported currants if this was done to regulate foreign trade, and not simply to raise revenue.[2]


The case had the effect that such impositions were extended, giving the Treasury a "windfall".[3]

In the long run, if the Crown could levy taxes without resorting to Parliament, one of the main reasons for that body's existence might disappear, thus perhaps allowing the King to dispense with Parliaments altogether, although this did not really become apparent until the reign of Charles I.[4]

Sir Richard Lane's Reports in the court of exchequer, published posthumously in 1657, contained an important report of Sir Thomas Fleming's opinion in this case.[5]

Chief Baron Fleming, who came from a family of merchants, displayed a notable contempt for the business community in his opinion. To the argument that the common good requires merchants to have unrestricted access to foreign markets, he made the scathing reply that "the end of every private merchant is not the common good but his particular profit".

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Dalzell Chalmers, Sir Cyril Asquith, Owen Hood Phillips, Chalmers and Hood Phillips' Constitutional laws of Great Britain (Sweet & Maxwell, 1946), p. 178
  2. ^ Chalmers, Asquith, & Phillips, p. 170
  3. ^ Sharp, David (2000). "2 James I's reign 1603 - 25". The Coming of the Civil War, 1603 - 49. Heinemann Advanced History. Heinemann. p. 30. ISBN 0-435-32713-5. 
  4. ^ Kenyon, J.P. The Stuart Constitution 2nd Ed. Cambridge University Press 1986 pp.47-8
  5. ^ D. A. Orr, 'Lane, Sir Richard (bap. 1584, d. 1650)', in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edition (subscription required), accessed 27 January 2011