Despite the conceptual similarities between the royal imposts of the 1630s and the industrial excises of the 1640s and 1650s, these fiscal exactions receive separate treatment in the scholarly literature. The ‘Soap Makers Complaint’ of 1650 offers an opportunity to view disputes about the excise on soap through the lens of the controversies attendant to the earlier soap patents. Rather than offering evidence for generalised resistance to the excise by humble artisans, the ongoing pamphlet war between rival companies of soap boilers involved some of the most powerful men in London. Unpacking these rivalries reveals the highly contingent nature of the Long Parliament’s fiscal experiments, while also underscoring the contribution of parliamentary revenue committees to the development of the procedures and practices that governed the growing excise establishment. It also offers a case study in how the Long Parliament and Commonwealth regimes conducted their management of the public revenue and illustrates their commitment to standards of transparency and accountability that North and Weingast ascribed to the Williamite regime (North and Weingast, 1989).
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