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Economic Regulation

William Blackstone speaketh:

Article 1, Section 8, Clause 5: William Blackstone, Commentaries 1:264--68: [T]he regulation of weights and measures... for the advantage of the public, ought to be universally the same throughout the kingdom.... [N]o man can, by words only, give another an adequate idea of a foot-rule, or a pound-weight. It is therefore necessary to have recourse to some visible, palpable, material standard; by forming a comparison with which, all weights and measures may be reduced to one uniform size: and the prerogative of fixing this standard, our antient law vested in the crown.... This standard was originally kept at Winchester: and we find in the laws of king Edgar, near a century before the conquest, an injunction that the one measure... should be observed throughout the realm....

[U]pon these principles the first standards were made; which, being originally so fixed by the crown, their subsequent regulations have been generally made by the king in parliament. Thus, under king Richard I, in his parliament holden at Westminster, A.D. 1197, it was ordained that there shall be only one weight and one measure throughout the kingdom, and that the custody of the assise or standard of weights and measures shall be committed to certain persons in every city and borough; from whence the antient office of the king's aulnager seems to have been derived, whose duty it was, for a certain fee, to measure all cloths made for sale...


By the 1270s, the "clerks of the market" had:

... cognisance of all pleas, assizes whatsoever... the assize of beer, wine, and ale, in the town and suburbs, and [he] shall have the amends thereof, with fines, amercements and profits arising... and shall keep the assize and assay, and have the oversight of measure and weight therein in the king's presence and in his absence, burning and destroying such as shall be found false, sealing others... [which are] lawful and just and duly chastising trespassers in that behalf when need be, and he shall have power in the king's presence and in his absence to make inquisitions concerning forestallers and regrators, bad flesh and fish, awarding due punishment, and shall have the ruling and correction thereof, and fines, forfeitures, etc., as aforesaid...

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