AIDS, a term of medieval finance, were part of the service due to a lord from his men, and appear to have been based upon the principle that they ought to assist him in special emergency or need. The occasions for demanding them and the amount to be demanded would thus be matters of dispute, while the loose use of the term to denote many different payments increases the difficulty of the subject.
Both in Normandy and in England, in the 12th century, the two recognized occasions on which, by custom, the lord could demand "aid," were (1) the knighting of his eldest son, (2) the marriage of his eldest daughter; but while in England the third occasion was, according to Glanvill, as in Normandy, his payment of "relief" on his succession, it was, according to the Great Charter (1215), the lord's ransom from captivity. By its provisions, the king covenanted to exact an "aid" from his barons on these three occasions alone-and then only a "reasonable" one-except by "the common counsel" of his realm. Enormous importance has been attached to this provision, as establishing the principle of taxation by consent, but its scope was limited to the barons (and the city of London), and the word "aids" was omitted from subsequent issues of the charter. The barons, on their part, covenanted to claim from their feudal tenants only the above three customary aids. The last levy by the crown was that of James I. on the knighting of his eldest son (1609) and the marriage of his daughter (1613).
From at least the days of Henry I. the term "aid" was also applied (1) to the special contributions of boroughs to the king's revenue, (2) to a payment in lieu of the military service due from the crown's knights. Both these occur on the pipe roll of 1130, the latter as auxilium militum (and possibly as auxilium comitatus.) The borough "aids" were alternatively known as "gifts" (dona), resembling in this the "benevolences" of later days. When first met with, under Henry I., they are fixed round sums, but under Henry II. (as the Dialogue of the Exchequer explains) they were either assessed on a population basis by crown officers or were sums offered by the towns and accepted by them as sufficient. In the latter case the townsfolk were collectively responsible for the amount. The Great Charter, as stated above, extended specially to London the limitation on baronial "aids," but left untouched its liability to tallage, a lower and more arbitrary form of taxation, which the towns shared with the crown's demesne manors, and which London . resisted in vain. The two exactions, although distinct, have to be studied together, and when in 1296-1297 Edward I. was forced to his great surrender, he was formerly supposed by historians to have pledged himself, under De tallagio non concedendo, to levy no tallage or aid except by common consent of his people. It is now held, however, that he limited this concession to "aides, mises," and "prises," retaining the right to tallage. Eventually, by a statute of 1340, it was provided that the nation should not be called upon "to make any common aid or sustain charge" except by consent of parliament. The aids spoken of at this period are of yet another character, namely, the grant of a certain proportion of all "movables" (i.e. personal property), a form of taxation introduced about 1188 and now rapidly increasing in importance. These subsidies were conveniently classed under the vague term "aids," as were also the grants made by the clergy in convocation, the term covering both feudal and non-feudal levies from the higher clergy and proportions not only of "movables" but of ecclesiastical revenues as well.
The "knight's aid" of 1130 spoken of above is probably identical with auxilium exercitus spoken of in the oldest custumals of Normandy, where the phrase appears to represent what was known in England as "scutage." Even in England the phrase "quando Rex accipit auxilium de militibus" occurs in 1166 and appears to be loosely used for scutage.
The same loose use enabled the early barons to demand "aid" from their tenants on various grounds, such as their indebtedness to the Jews, as is well seen in the Norfolk fragments of returns to the Inquest of Sheriffs (1170).
Sheriff's aid was a local payment of a fixed nature paid in early days to the sheriff for his service. It was the subject of a hot dispute between Henry II. and Becket in 1163.
AUTHORITIES.-Stubbs' Constitutional History and
Select Charters; M'Kechnie's Magna Carta; Pollock and
Maitland's History of English Law; Maitland's Domesday
Book and Beyond; Dialogus de Scaccario (Oxford, 1892);
Madox's History of the Exchequer; Round's Feudal
England and The Commune of London; The Pipe Rolls
(Record Commission and Pipe Roll Society). (J. H. R.)
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)