The early forms of the petitions or bills in chancery show a surprising resemblance to those of a more modern date. The causes for going into equity were, however, somewhat different from those at the present time.

"The Court of Chancery became necessary because it was found that the courts of common law were, from various causes, frequently unable to do justice to suitors. This might result from two classes of reasons: (1) From the inelasticity of its principles and practice; (2) from the peculiar situation of the parties in cases which could otherwise have been dealt with at common law.

"The first of these classes constitutes what came at a later date to be called equitable matters - cases to be decided in Chancery on principles peculiar to itself.

'The second class were not concerned in any way with its doctrines of equity; and some time towards the end of the fifteenth century, the Court of Chancery ceased to deal with them altogether. In the early days of the Court, however, such cases formed by far the principal bulk of the work of the Court."1

The cases of the second class are mostly concerned with the power and violence of the defendant, as can be seen from the following examples of early bills of this character:

"To the most honorable and most reverend Father in God, the Bishop of Exeter, Chancellor of England.

"Complaineth this poor chaplain, David Uspe, formerly Vicar of the church of Pawlett in the County of Somerset, that whereas one William Bawe, Parson of the church of Grenton in the said county, on the Friday before the Feast of Pentecost in the 20th year of our Lord King Richard, who now is, with force and arms, and six other men unknown, his adherents, with him, fully arrayed in arms in warlike manner, came to the said church of Pawlett when the said David was vested for mass, before he had said the Gospel of St. John which is called In principio; and in the chancel of the said church he commanded the said David, who was at his altar, vested, to take off his vestments and to speak with them; the which David answered and said unto them that he would not take off his vestments until he knew their will; the which William Bawe and the others of his covin said expressly that they would cut off his head if he would not make fine with them for 100 marks; and for fear of this menance, the said David made fine and ransom with the said William and his company for 10 sterling in order to save his life. And after the said William and his company ransomed the said David in manner aforesaid, the said William and his adherents made the said David swear in his priestly word to go with them out of his said church to the town of Bridgewater, and there they forced him to make a bond to them for 20, on condition to pay the said 10 on Friday then next following; and after the said David had made the said bond, the said William and his adherents compelled the said David to deliver unto them, in default of other payment, as the price of his said ransom, all his sheep, his lambs, his pigs, and his other goods, on the Saturday in the eve of Pentecost following next after the aforesaid Friday on which day the said William and his company took the goods of the said David and delivered up to him his said bond. And the said sheep, lambs, and other goods, they brought to the house of the said William at Alverton, and they are still there in ward, to the great destruction and annihilation of the plaintiff's poor estates, and against all law and right; May it please your most gracious Lordship to grant the said David a writ de quibusdam certis de causis, to make the said William come before you at a certain day and under a certain pain contained in the writ, to make answer to this bill; for God and in way of charity. Having consideration that the said William is so rich and strong in friends in the country where he dwelleth, that the said David will never recover from him at common law, if he have not aid from your most gracious Lordship."

1 Selden's Society Publications; Select Cases in Chancery.

"To the Most reverned Father in God, and most gracious Lord, the Bishop of Exeter, Chancellor of England.

"Beseecheth humbly Simon Hilgay, parson of the church of Hilgay, that whereas he hath charge and cure of souls of the same parish, and is menaced by one Robert de Wesnam, and by John at Gotere, John Bilney, John Walmer, Robert Walmer, John Mody and Henry at Fen, associated and confederated with the said Robert de Wesnam; and they do menace him from day to day, so that he dare not, in this most holy time of Lent, approach his said parsonage to hear the confessions of his parishioners, for fear of unmerited death; and for the purpose of their evil design, the said Robert de Wesnam, with the others above named, on the Tuesday in the first week on Lent last past, 22 Richard II, chased and pursued the said suppliant with force and arms, to-wit, naked swords drawn, clubs and bucklers, from the town of Fincham in the County of Norfolk to the town of Crimplesham, which are two leagues distant, in order to have killed him, and there they did beat one John Ouere, who was in his company at that time; and moreover, considering that the said Robert de Wesnam hath so many evildoers associated and confederated with him, and is of such horrible maintenance, so that the said suppliant can never come to his recovery against him and the others at common law without your most gracious aid; May it please your most gracious Lordship to consider the matter aforesaid and thereof to make tight and remedy for the said suppliant according to your most wise discretion; For God and in way of charity.

"Indorsed. By virtue of this supplication the within written Simon Hilgay, parson of the church of Hilgay, hath four writs directed to the persons within written (commanding them) to be before the King and his Council in his Chancery on the Thursday after the feast of S. Gregory next to come, to answer upon the contents (hereof)."