City of London Livery Companies Commission. Report; Volume 1. Originally published by Eyre and Spottiswoode, London, 1884.
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Mr. J.R. Phillips
1278. And that you have written articles which have appeared in various periodicals upon the questions which in this Commission we are considering ?—I have in the "British Quarterly," "New Quarterly," "Fraser's," and in other reviews and magazines.
1279. I think, among other things, you have come to the conclusion that the estimate which has been made by the Companies themselves as to the value of their property is considerably below the mark ?— If they have represented 700,000l. a year as the value of their property and not the actual income that they receive, from an inquiry that I have made I think that they have under-estimated it. The value of their property must be considerably more than 700,000l. a year.
1280. How have you arrived at that conclusion ?— I very carefully went through the rate books of the city, and in the rate books I found that the gross estimated rental of the property that they had in the city alone was worth about 516,000l. a year. Then I examined the Domesday Book (that is the new return of landed proprietors), and so far as the Companies are concerned I find that they there own a very large amount of property in various counties to the extent of about 100,000l. a year. I estimate that their property in the metropolis outside the city (that is in the parishes which are not included in the Domesday Book), although I have not been able to go through all the parish assessment books, comes to at least 200,000l. a year, and their estate in Ireland amounts to 77,000l. a year, and their personal property I estimate at something like 150,000l. a year, making altogether 1,020,000l.
1281. Then I think you consider that there is some question as to whether we have full information as to the amount of trust property in the hands of the companies ?—I think so, and for this reason. The Charity Commissioners, so far as I understand from their return, have adopted and accepted as almost conclusive the reports made to Lord Brougham's Commission in 1819–21. The title deeds of those trust properties were exhibited to the Commissioners. The Charity Commissioners have adopted those as showing the whole of the trust properties the Companies have. Lord Robert Montagu's return, which was published I think in 1868, shows that the Companies themselves have since disclosed some trust property which was not included in the first reports to the Charity Commissioners,—that is Lord Brougham's Charity Commissioners. That in itself, I think, clearly shows that further inquiries ought to be made, and that they ought to exhibit their title deeds as to all their property in order to enable the Charity Commissioners to see whether the trust is impressed upon such property. The Charity Commissioners have hitherto accepted the admissions of the companies as a complete disclosure.
1282. Then I understand you to contend that much of what is not acknowledged by the Companies as being trust property is so in reality ?— (fn. 1) I think so.
1283. Do you mean that it is legally trust property as the law stands, or that there is a moral claim upon it ?—I mean that the property is itself impressed with the trust. There is an extraordinary case to which I may call the attention of the Commission. Some time ago a book was published by the Clothworkers' Company called a "Register for 1838 of the Charities and " Properties of the Clothworkers' Company," from which it appears that some suspicion of the integrity of a former clerk of the Clothworkers' Company occasioned the appointment by the court of that Company of a committee of investigation. The president of this committee was the Master of the Company, Mr. Alsager, who seems to have been indefatigable in his endeavours to discover the truth of matters. And a very extraordinary state of things was discovered. The clerk appears to have had everything his own way; charities were kept back, and the deeds and wills creating them were alleged by him to have been burnt in the great fire of London. No entries were made in the accounts of the proceeds of some trust properties, and it was actually discovered than an important suit in Chancery respecting one of the trusts had been instituted against the Company and had been carried on through all its stages by the clerk without the knowledge of the Court of Assistants, who were never informed of any such proceedings whatever. In one of the answers in the Chancery suit the clerk stated that all the records of the Company and their muniments had been destroyed in the great fire, which was simply untrue. It is beyond doubt that similar statements kept from the Commissioners of 1818 much information which they were entitled to, and that in this way many deeds and wills of vital importance in an investigation of the kind they were making were withheld.
1284. In the case of such property as is not invested with the legal character of a trust, do you consider that nevertheless it is property applicable to public uses only?—Certainly. I think it is perfectly clear that those companies are in no sense private companies, and that in no sense can their property be deemed private property, and in support of that view I think I may quote from a speech made by Lord Selborne in a debate in the House of Lords in 1877 on the Inns of Court and General School of Law Bill. There on the second reading Lord Selborne said this, "He" (that is Earl Cairns) had spoken of what he called the private character of the Inns of Court, but he (Lord Selborne) confessed that he knew no single circumstance which gave them the character of private societies unless it was that they were not incorporated. He declined to look upon incorporation as a test for that purpose; some private societies, such as clubs and trading companies might be incorporated," (trading companies, as such, do not include these trade guilds, and there is a great distinction between trading companies and trade guilds) "and institutions not incorporated might be of a public character. Looking back to the history of the four Inns he could not find a single fact which went to establish that they were private societies. Not one of them, he believed, had ever applied one shilling of their funds to private uses. As to two of these Inns, the properties which they possessed were held under charter of James I., as the Royal Commissioners had pointed out, expressly for the purpose of legal education. There was a well-constituted trust for the purposes of education. As to the other two Inns he was not aware that there was the same kind of proof of any express trust, but their endowments had been acquired in times when a trust for public purposes might be constituted without writing, and they were so alike in other respects that there was no single fact to justify the conclusion that they were institutions of a private character, and therefore their property could not be treated as private." And again, speaking of the fees paid on admission to the Inns of Court (the fees are paid on admission to the city Companies in almost a similar manner), Lord Selborne said this, "These fees were not voluntary subscriptions but compulsory payments." (So were the fees of the city Companies.) He then says this, It therefore seemed to him that as the position and functions of the Inns were recognised by law, and as every shilling they possessed was legally the result of ancient endowments, or of fees so received, no element of a private character could be recognized in them." If it is thus with regard to the Inns of Court, which are not incorporated, much more so, I contend, is it with regard to the property of the city Companies, which are incorporated companies enabled to hold property for certain specific purposes.
1285. Then that being so, you consider that they ought to be dealt with by legislation rather than by any attempt at legal action ?—There is not sufficient power. The principles of the Court of Chancery as they exist do not enable the Charity Commissioners to move in the matter, therefore I suggest that Parliament should come in and deal with the property of these Companies, that is the corporate property, which they claim to be private property, as Parliament has before this dealt with property of a similar character.
1286. In the event of Parliament dealing with those bodies as having an exclusively public character, do you consider that there are any functions which may be usefully performed in the present ordinary condition of society ? We know what the functions of the Companies were in the middle ages; we know that the performance of those functions at the present day is impossible ?—It would be almost absurd to apply the property in the way the Companies applied their property 300 years ago at this day; but I think inasmuch as it is now admittedly a perfectly sound principle for Parliament to interfere with property and dispose of property of which no proper use can be made according to the original intention of those who gave the property, that Parliament should set forth some other public use for that property.
1287. Do you conceive it to be practicable to bring these Companies into closer connexion with the trades which they ostensibly represent ?—I can hardly think so, unless it is in the way of the extension of technical education. I think that is about the only proper use that can be made of their trade functions at this day.
1288. Then have you formed any idea as to what is the use to which you desire to put these very large funds if they are no longer to be applied as at present, but treated as public trusts ?—Yes; my idea is this, that the whole charitable educational endowments of the metropolis, including all property which Parliament should take cognisance over, such as the corporate property of these city guilds, should be brought into hotch-potch or into one mass, selling all the real estate and converting it into funds, and that when so brought together into a mass Parliament should devise some scheme for its application and administration suitable to the wants and exigencies of the time we now live in, and that all the mischievous charities—that is charities which have really a bad influence upon the recipients—should be absolutely suppressed, such as doles of bread and doles in kind, and that the objects to which Parliament should apply the revenue should be mainly educational, and that in this, technical education should be liberally provided for, that elementary education should be subsidised, so as to decrease the school board rates, and intermediate and university education provided for the metropolis.
1289. Can you show any special reason why the rates of the city of London or of the metropolis generally should be relieved from a charge which falls upon the rates everywhere else for educational purposes ?— London stands in this way; there is this vast amount of wealth which requires to be properly utilised, and inasmuch as the wealth was given by Londoners to Londoners, Londoners should reap some benefit from the value of the property so taken.
1290. Have you considered what, under any such plan as yours, you would do with the halls, the buildings, of the Companies ?—I would sell the halls, every one of them. I do not think they are wanted at all; the Guildhall is quite enough for any municipal functions that the city Companies might wish to give effect to. I think the halls are not wanted and they would realise a large amount of money which could be much more usefully applied.
1291. (Sir Richard Cross.) Do you say that all this property that they possess is clothed with a trust ?—In the sense that Lord Selborne stated I think it is, except in this way. I may say in regard to a gift which the Commissioners no doubt know of, a member of the Clothworkers' Company gave some 20,000l. to the Clothworkers' Company simply for the purpose of making themselves comfortable with.
1292. What do you say to that?—In that case the gift is quite a recent one, long after the Company had ceased to perform any of its trade functions, so that it cannot be considered as clothed with a trust for trade purposes, but I further say, inasmuch as we prevent lunatics from disposing of their property, I think Parliament should in the same way prevent a lunatic bequest of money. It is perfectly absurd to give 20,000l. to a city Company with which to make themselves comfortable.
1297. Do you not think that a great deal of this property was left to them quite irrespective of their having any trade at all ?—Then we must go to the origin of the Companies, and what were they intended for and what were they incorporated for, and what they were doing with their wealth when property was so left to them.
1298. I mean to say in the case of many Companies long after they had ceased to have anything to do with the trade after which they are named they had received many gifts of property, bequests, and otherwise, from members of their body ?—I do not think the gifts are numerous, and if they are they should probably be dealt with in the way the Irish Church property was dealt with. All grants to the Irish Church for the Irish Church antecedent to 1660 were, I think, dealt with by Parliament as absolutely public property and disposed of so by them; as to gifts subsequent to 1660 (I do not know exactly why the line was drawn at 1660) the donor's intention was a little more respected.
1299. I see you draw a distinction in some of your writings between the case of some of the Companies and the case of Serjeants' Inn ?—Yes, there is a very great distinction, I think, between them. Serjeants' Inn in the first place was not an incorporated body. Serjeants' Inn in the second place had no functions to perform. The appointment of serjeant did not vest in them, but in the Lord Chancellor, who could submit any barrister's name to the Queen, the Queen would appoint him, and Serjeants' Inn could not say nay to him.
1300. You think Serjeants' Inn was not such a body? —To a certain extent. The order of serjeants has never been extinguished even to this day. Although the Judicature Act of 1875 stipulates that it shall not be necessary for the judges to be members of Serjeants' Inn, Lord Cairns stated, in a debate in the House of Lords—I think he was actually the promoter of that Act—that it was never contemplated that the order of serjeants should be extinguished.
1304. (Sir Sydney Waterlow.) I think you told the Commission just now that the Companies' property was worth a great deal more than they returned, and I think you based that on the statement that you had examined the rate books ?—Yes.
1305. Are you not aware that in many cases or in all cases the amount in the rate book is the value of the property as rated to the poor, and that in a very large number of cases the city Companies are only the owners of the ground rents, which are perhaps a twentieth part of the property?—I guarded myself against that. I said if you return 700,000l. a year as your income that is really larger than ever I thought the income was, but the value of the property from which the income is derivable is a great deal more as shown by the rate books. The value is shown by the rate books.
1306. I want to know how you can get any correct information from the rate books, when such a very large quantity of property on the rate books is assessed at the full value, whereas only the ground rent belongs to the Company ?—I do not know whether it is proper or right for me to put a question to you; but can you show me any land owned in the city of London by a Company of which they own simply the ground rent and not the freehold ? Of course it may be that they have leased the property out, and that a man has built upon it and only pays the ground rent to the Company, or a small nominal rent to the Company, still they are the owners of that property, and the value of the property will ultimately be what it is now rated at.
1307. I thought you wished to lead the Commission to the conclusion that the amount the Companies returned was not anything like what it ought to be, because of the rateable value in the rate book? —I said the value and not the income.
1308. You asked me whether I could call your attention to any instances where the Companies are only the owners of the land and not of the buildings. Are you not aware that the majority of the large buildings in and around Fenchurch Street and Draper's Gardens are not the Companies' buildings, but that a very large acreage has been let by the Companies for buildings of late years, and that they receive only the ground rent?—There is no doubt about it; therefore I was surprised at the admitted income of the Companies being 700,000l. a year.
1310. Then do I understand you to say that you think that they have made a faithful return of their income?—I say the return of actual income they have made exceeds my anticipation. I had no idea they were in actual receipt of 700,000l. a year, and never so stated; but the property of which they are the owners is stated in the rate books to which I had access as being worth a great deal more. They may have let out the ground for building purposes, and may only be in receipt for a time of the ground rent, but the property is the property of the Companies nevertheless.
1311. Then if the Companies return their income at 700,000l. a year or thereabouts, do you still wish to lead the Commission to the conclusion that it is worth 1,200,000l. as you said?—I have repeatedly stated my answer. The Companies have returned their income at 700,000l., that is very nearly 200,000l. more than I ever anticipated their income was; but what I said was that the property, the property of which they are the freeholders, is worth more than 1,000,000l. a year, not that they are in receipt of 1,000,000l. a year. I do not question their returns at all.
1315. You think that the Companies have made a faithful return of their present income, but you wish to convey to the Commission that their reversions are very valuable and would increase that income if sold? —I have seen no return of the Companies. I have seen simply one statement that they are in receipt of an income of 700,000l. a year, and I have no means of saying whether they have made a faithful return or not, but I can say this that the return they have made of their income exceeds what I thought they had.
1316. I understood you to convey to the Commission an impression or to state that with regard to trust property, the whole of the trust property was not fully and faithfully disclosed, because the Charity Commissioners have not sufficient powers to compel them to disclose it? — Not because they have not sufficient powers; I am arguing from the fact that the reports made to Lord Brougham's Commissioners did not disclose the whole property clothed with a distinct trust, and since the appearance of that report they have made confession of other property which they ought to have returned at that time which they did not, and arguing from the dishonest proceedings of the Clothworkers' former clerk, I think there is ground to believe that they have not disclosed the title deeds of their whole property.
1318. You have told us of an instance in which a servant of one of the Companies dealt improperly with his employers' property. That of course may always happen, but subject to that kind of exception, do you believe the Companies have made faithful returns of their trust properties to the Charity Commissioners?—I say this, that arguing upon the basis which I have given you, I have the right to draw this inference, that until absolute proof is given to me that every title deed in the Companies relating to every inch of ground which they hold has been exhibited to the Charity Commissioners the Charity Commissioners have not a full account of their property.
1319. Can you refer the Commission to any statement of the Charity Commissioners in support of your belief that the Companies have not returned their trust property faithfully?—I cannot. I have stated my reasons fairly, I think. So far as they have disclosed they have, I have no doubt, disclosed fairly, but my contention is that every title deed belonging to these companies should be produced to the Charity Commissioners, who would then see whether all the trusts had been disclosed.
1321. I think you told the Commission that in your opinion the corporate body is impressed with a public trust?—( (fn. 2) ) Clearly, and that in no sense is it private property.
1322. Are you aware that the Livery Companies have constantly during the last quarter of a century sold their property and conveyed it and made a title satisfactory to the courts?—They may have done so, but people accept titles that are not always good.
1323. I say to the satisfaction of a court of justice? —It may not have been brought up in the way I suggest before a court of justice. I do not know of a single case upon which a court of law was called upon to decide.
1324. In what way do you consider their property is held?—They were entitled to hold land in mortmain simply for the use of the poor and the advantage of their trade, that is, of decayed members of their trade, and for the advancement of their trade. That was the license in mortmain which they had, and it is subject to that license alone that they hold lands.
1326. You are aware, I presume, that they have sold their property and made a good title to it, and not a single suit has been brought in which the title to the property has been overthrown?—I am not aware that there has been a single dispute which would have brought the matter before a court of law. It cannot therefore be said that this title has ever been sanctioned by a legal tribunal.
1327. Do I understand you to say you cannot refer the Commission to a single instance in which the right of the Companies to deal with their corporate property has ever been successfuly challenged by any individual in a court of law?—I am not aware of any.
1329. Apart from the question of legal right, I want to ask you this as a question of fairness. I think you have told the Commission that for very many years, or for centuries, the majority of members have obtained their membership by patrimony or purchase?— I have made no admission to that extent. I said, in answer to Sir Richard Cross, that the effect of patrimony in course of time became manifest, and that there were persons who were not connected with the trade who were freemen of the Company.
1330. Is it not a fact that for some centuries past a large mass of the members have obtained their membership either by patrimony or redemption, by paying a sum of money?— (fn. 3) The first severance from the trade of the governing body of a Company I think is that of the Skinners', in which a complaint was made, and James the First provided in his charter that the master at least should be a skinner, if not every year, alternately. That is the first proof of severance from trade that I have seen.
1332. Has not that tended to bring the Companies into a condition in which a very small number indeed of the members belonged to the trade which the Company was connected with?—In so doing I claim that they exceed their charter rights.
1333. I want to know whether you agree that that is the fact?—It must be so; looking at the Court of Assistants of these Companies, there are very few members of the trades upon them now, and that is a grievance.
1334. If for nearly two centuries persons have so acquired their membership, are they not really more like private bodies than public bodies?—There is no statute of limitations as regards trust property.
1335. Has not the trust property been largely built up during the last two centuries by persons unconnected with the trade?—I doubt it very much. The gifts since 1668 have been exceedingly few. With the exception of the 20,000l. given to the Clothworkers' Company quite recently I suppose I could on my fingers count the gifts of any substantiality made to the Companies during the last 200 years.
1336. Have you had the means of examining the accounts and returns of the Companies before expressing the opinion that you could count them upon your fingers?—I can only go upon the declarations made to Lord Brougham's Commissioners, Lord Robert Montagu's return in 1868, and upon Herbert's facts.
1337. Are you aware that for the last 10 years large donations have been made to the Clothworkers' Company, and the Stationers' Company, the latter especially being left residuary legatees to a large estate?—I am not aware of that.
1339. Supposing money has been left for such a purpose as Mr. Thwaites left his money, do you think the Companies are not fairly entitled to deal with it as much as any other society with its funds? —They can never unclothe themselves, as I may say, from their original constitution.
1340. Then, although a testator leaves them 20,000l. to make themselves comfortable with, they are not entitled to make themselves comfortable with it?— He gives the bequest subject to the chances of legislation.
1342. Have they?—They have had their dinners, representing quite the money they have paid in; they have had a vote, which is an essential thing; they have had votes as liverymen. If I wanted to have a vote in the city I should have to buy property; this is property they have bought, and they have exercised the franchise.
1346. Whatever they are do you think I am or am not entitled to that which I paid for?—If by getting on the livery you either win a position which you would not otherwise win, that is a compensation itself, and you cannot claim a double compensation.
1348. Then you say they ought to be?—Dinners compensate to a certain extent, and the position you acquire on the livery to a further extent, unless the liverymen are disenfranchised by an Act of Parliament; I should allow them to continue to give their votes until they died, and I think that would be the value of the property for which they invested in the livery.
1350. And that whenever Parliament chooses they are entitled to take them away without compensation? —He must have joined the Company knowing very well that his membership was incident to all the chances which the Company itself was incident to.
1351. I think you told the Commission that the fees to city Companies were not voluntarily paid; do I understand you rightly?—( (fn. 4) ) Yes; a fine is not voluntarily paid; everybody was compelled to join his guild, and it is that which made the bulk of their property in the olden time, which has aggregated to the great wealth they now have.
1354. Quote me an instance in which 40 years ago fees were compulsory?—I do not remember the case, but I have a distinct recollection of one in which there was an enormous hardship. I think it was the Barbers' Company. Every barber was compelled to join his guild, and there was a great noise about it in the city. If you will allow me I will supplement this evidence on another occasion; I am perfectly certain they have exercised it harshly and lately.
1355. I will not trouble you to do that; is there any other case existing where a person can be compelled to pay fees whether he liked it or not?—If they could be compelled then they can now; they have never lost their rights.
1359. I understood you to object to the moneys of the Company being used for doles of bread. Can you quote an instance in which doles of bread are given away by a Company at the present time?—It is given to the city parishes and the parishes distribute it. I mentioned that in my answer upon what should be done with the endowments of the whole metropolis.
1364. Is it not the fact that the Companies have given up all such distributions, and that there is not one instance in which a Company doles bread?—I never knew that the Companies themselves actually distributed the bread, but they hold property clothed with trusts for that purpose, and it has to be distributed through another channel.
1366. Are you aware of the amount which is now paid annually in support of that object?—Since we started the agitation some seven years ago the Companies have made some strides certainly in that respect, and have come forward somewhat liberally, though I think mistakenly.
1369. Did I understand you to say that Mr. Thwaites in making a bequest of 20,000l. to the Clothworkers' Company was acting like a lunatic?—He did a most foolish thing, in my opinion. Of course you ask my opinion upon it. I say that he did a most absurdly foolish thing. They had plenty already to make themselves comfortable with. It was simply overloading them with the means of gorging.
1372. That may be a matter of opinion, I suppose. Do you really mean seriously to tell the Commission that the Companies' halls should be sold?—I think so, most certainly. I think they are not needed at all. For what purpose is that great Drapers' Hall wanted? For what purpose is the Clothworkers' Hall wanted? Simply for festivities, and I say it is time to put an end to the waste of money in these festivities, because it is trust money, which ought to be applied to other and better purposes; and inasmuch as the halls are not wanted for other than feeding purposes, they should be sold.
1373. Do you think the halls of the Livery Companies under any management could not be utilised for public purposes, and that they are not an ornament for the city?—We do not want so many museums in the city, but if you could convert them into educational museums they would be very good. I cannot see any other purpose for which they could be used. They are unsuitable for any business purposes, and in order to be utilised they would have to be pulled down and rebuilt. They are certainly an ornament to the city; they are beautiful buildings, and I admire them very much.
1376. (Mr. Pell.) Are the guilds under any obligation to reveal the amount of their corporate property?—Unfortunately this Commission cannot drive them to it. I think if there had been a proper Commission, that is, if there had been a Parliamentary Commission, giving the Commission power to enforce divulgement, it would have been better.
1378. Without giving such power to a Commission, or without such an enactment, can you suggest to the Commission any way by which the amount of their corporate property could be revealed?— Except by those who have influence with the Companies inducing them to do so.
1380. By any civil power could it be enforced?—I do not know about that. I do not know how far a member of a particular trade might not move in the matter to get a mandamus or quo warranto or something of that sort. I have not considered the point.
1381. You have not considered the question of whether they are in the nature of trust property?—I have stated that in my opinion all the corporate property is coupled with trusts, and I base that opinion not only on my own legal knowledge, which is very humble in itself, but upon the opinion of Lord Selborne, the present Lord Chancellor, with regard to the property of the Inns of Court, which are not incorporated.
1382. Would the line be a very distinct one that could be drawn between property of a trust nature and that of a corporate nature?—The trust of course would be a distinct trust apparent on the title deed of the gift itself. If I had a house and were to say I give you my house, but you are to pay the rent to poor people, that would be a distinct trust; but if I gave it to the Company, and the Company had certain functions which it was its duty to perform under its charter, functions which were performed when the gifts were made, that property would be applicable to those purposes and to those purposes only.
1383. Might there not be some property which these Companies hold which would be of such a doubtful nature that an honest man, even a lawyer, might have a difficulty in impartially settling?—There is no doubt about it. Thwaites' gift is a case in point. Parliament alone can deal with that by legislation.
1384. Let us keep away from Parliament at present. If it be the case that the nature of some of this property may be doubtful and there has been misstatements (supposing that that is conceded) as to the real value of this property, might it not have arisen from the guilds being really unable themselves to say with respect to some of the properties whether they were corporate or whether they were trust properties?—I should think there could be no question whatever that all the property held by guilds from the time anterior to 1688 ought to be considered strictly corporate property, and public property.
1385. From when?— (fn. 5) 1688; that is when the severance from the trades began. I should draw that line for this purpose, just as the line of 1660 was drawn for the purposes of the Irish Church.
1388. Was it not after the Reformation?—A great deal of it after the Reformation, because the Church was the principal recipient of charity before that, and when the Church was no longer permitted by law to take gifts for what was called superstitious uses the Companies became the channel for the charitable to give their property to.
1389. Do you explain the origin of this large amount of corporate property to be this: that society (or the so-called charitable portion of it) was disturbed by the revolution of ideas as to the sanctity of property at the time of the Reformation, that they felt there was no longer the Church to leave the money to, and that then the charitable people cast about to see in what way they could get rid of their money very much like Mr. Thwaites has done at the present time, so as to satisfy their charitable impulses?— ( (fn. 6) ) There is no doubt that that is so. No doubt the charitable people found the Companies after that a suitable medium for distributing their alms, and therefore left their property to them, but anterior to that the Companies were very wealthy, in fact long before that time.
1390. You are familiar with the uses to which the founders of those charities left them generally?—Of course I have seen the reports of Lord Brougham's Commissioners, and there I find they give them for various purposes, some of which are no longer applicable.
1391. Do you think, to use your own term, that they were as foolish as Mr. Thwaites was in leaving his money?—As I did not live in those days I cannot form an opinion as to what the opinions of those days were. They might have thought it very proper to do what they did, but now we do not think so.
1392. Coming down to the time of Mr. Thwaites, or the present time, have you anything to say as to the unlimited right to dispose of property by way of gift or bequest to these Companies or Corporations?— Parliament has not interfered so far, and I do not think for some time Parliament will be advanced enough to do so; but I think in time we shall have a Parliament that will do so, and which will prevent these foolish bequests being made.
1395. You think, as I understand, that the whole of the funds and the property of these Corporations should be brought into hotch-potch, and that some scheme suitable for the present condition of society should be made for the redistribution of it?—Yes.
1397. 700,000l. a year appears to be the present value?—That would be nothing to the scheme which I have in my mind. I would have the city parochial charities dealt with in the same way; I would have all the big charity schools dealt with in the same way; the whole of the educational endowments and all corporate property held by these Companies should be brought into one mass, and I would establish large day schools in the various parts of London, and I would have no charitable schools like Christ's Hospital, where boys are clothed as paupers or anything of that sort.
1400. (Mr. James.) When you commenced your investigations into that matter you encountered a good many difficulties in finding any materials for the articles which you wrote, did you not?—Enormous difficulties. The only things I went upon were the public reports, which were very defective, as I found. Then I made a diligent search of the rate-books, and I myself went all through the city rate-books and found this out.
1401. I think you have seen a paper which has been circulated amongst the Commission, in which some extracts have been made from some letters which you wrote to the "Weekly Despatch," and which are signed "Censor"?—Yes.( (fn. 7) )
1402. I do not know whether you wish to say anything upon them to the Commission?—At the time I wrote "Censor's" letters—that was at the very outset of the agitation—very little was known. As we went on we gathered further information and became more authoritative. I think the only inaccuracy was this, that I said four-fifths of the entire city was vested in those Companies. I did not state it on my own ipse dixit, but I quoted it from an answer given by a common councilman to a Royal Commission in 1854. That is the only inaccuracy in all those 13 letters, notwithstanding the enormous difficulty we had in finding out anything about these Companies. Of course the others are mere argumentative matters, remarks, and observations. For instance, I have here the poor prisoners' charges. That is a thing as to which I found out afterwards that a scheme had been in Chancery which did away with the expenditure of this money in aid of "poor prisoners," and that it was used for a better purpose. To the contention that the guilds are private bodies like clubs "'Censor' answers that the Companies exist and hold their property by force of their incorporation and under charters, so that there is no analogy between them and these mere voluntary associations." Then I find it stated in this paper of "Observations" on my letters that the theory of the Companies themselves is that "they are (1) chartered Companies, (2) guilds by prescription, and (perhaps) that as guilds by prescription they cannot be legally dissolved or disendowed." Reverting to the subject of the corporate property of the Companies, "Censor" says:—"It is quite clear that the open gifts to the Companies were bestowed upon them when they took active part in the regulation of the trades, when they insisted upon a due course of apprenticeship, and not since the Restoration, when they began to give up that control over trade which they had exercised for so long a time." I state almost identically the same opinion to-day. "Their private estates consist of the accumulation of funds and gifts made to them in their direct connexion with trades, and for the regulation and advancement of trade." I have said so to-day. Then these remarks are made in this paper of "Observations:— It is true that a very large proportion of the city property now held by the Companies has been held by them since before the Restoration. The charters of James II. often contain long lists of houses. But the Companies must at all times have been full of non-craftsmen, and there is no evidence that any considerable amount of city property was left for any trade purpose. The searches and apprenticing were mostly paid for by the fees of the convicted tradesmen and the parents." I say that all the property which they had so long as they carried on the functions which they had under their charters was given to them and held by them for the purposes of those functions alone. In the same paper is this further contention, "The Companies might also urge that much of the property alluded to is 'chauntry' land, which is absolutely theirs by Act of Parliament." When superstitious uses were declared illegal the Companies bought their property back from the King, that is the land forfeited; but with what money did they buy it? The accumulated fees and funds. They did not waste their wealth in festivities, as they do now. It was with the wealth accumulated by the exercise of their chartered functions that they were able to buy these lands back, and all the "chauntry" land bought back was bought back with money received under the charters, and is trust property.
1403. At the bottom of page 3 you speak of the Innholders' Company "spending its whole income in court fees, and entertainments." I believe that relates to a statement which actually appeared in the "Morning Advertiser"?—Yes, it is a statement that was actually made.
1405. You thought some of the money which had been spent by the Companies in connexion with educational movements in the last few years has been mistakenly spent?—I think so. At the time when this technical college idea at South Kensington was promulgated I thought a good deal of the matter, and having given a good deal of attention to it I wrote an article in "Frazer's Magazine," in April 1881, in which I stated that I thought the hurry in maturing a scheme like this was rather disrespectful to your Commission, because until the Commission had finished their labours it would have been as well and more decent in my opinion if the Companies had held their hands before establishing such a college as this, because the conclusion to which the Royal Commissioners might come might not be quite in keeping with such a scheme.
1406. You think if they had awaited the report of the Commission they might have acted in concert in some better matured scheme?—I think so. I think it is absurd to have a technical college at South Kensington far away from the artizans who can never go to it. Like the School of Cookery it will become fashionable, and the artizan will be elbowed out just as I say in the article referred in "Frazer's Magazine," Sarah Jane is ousted by Lady Georgiana from the cooking classes."
1407. You stated that the funds would be well given for educational purposes, and what you meant generally by that answer was that the funds of the Companies ought to be much more utilised at the present time for education than they are?—If you can find some better purpose than education well and good, but let it it be the very best purpose that can possibly be found. If you could have open spaces, or something of that sort, or hospitals, I should have no objection to that mode of applying some of the funds.
1409. If you think that the whole of these funds should be brought into hotch potch, and brought together, can you suggest any body that you think ought to undertake their control for the future?—The charities of London are so enormous that either there should be a separate Charity Commission for London alone, or the staff of the present Charity Commission should be increased, and there should be a sub-body, as it were, for London; but it would be far better, in my opinion, that it should be a representative body, a duly elected body, elected by the whole of the metropolis having control over these vast funds.
1411. Suppose the affairs of all the Companies were to be placed in liquidation, have you thought out any scheme under which you would provide compensation for vested interests, and what vested interests should be compensated, such as officers, for instance ? —The only vested interests are those of the officers. I know nobody else who would suffer by it. Those who have joined the guilds have had their benefits out of them already.
1412. You stated at the commencement of your evidence that you contended that the Companies were public bodies, and you made some quotations from speeches by Lord Selborne. Do you not think that they may be also considered public bodies by reason of their connexion with the corporation ?—I think so, certainly
1415. Do you not think it may be urged that their connexion with the corporation is only an incident of their existence?— I do not think it was so. I think they are an essential and integral part of the corporation. The Lord Mayor is elected by them, the Chamberlain is elected by them, the Bridge-master is elected by them, aud the auditors are elected by them, such auditors as they are.
1416. No control whatever has been exercised by the corporation over the funds of the Companies within the last 200 years. I believe that is so?—No, unless you come to the Irish estate; and, really, the Irish estate is public property. It is in no sense private property. The contributions made by the Companies were simply got from the Companies as the instruments of raising rates in the city of London; nothing more than that. They were not voluntary gifts at all.
1419. Notwithstanding that you clearly think the Companies form an integral part of the corporation ? —( (fn. 8) ) I do. They exercise municipal functions.
1420. (Mr. Firth.) There was a period a few centuries when no one had any rights whatever in the corporation, unless he were a member of one of those Companies, was there not?—He could not carry on anything within the walls of the city unless he was a member of one of those guilds.
1422. Yes?—I am not aware of that, but the aldermen were, and the Lord Mayor. I am not aware as to the common council; in fact there was no common council, originally it was the Lord Mayor, aldermen, and livery.
1423. At the present time every alderman of the city of London is a member of one of these Companies. Are you aware of the fact that every alderman must be?—I will not say must be, but necessarily is so. I am not aware of any alderman of the city of London who is not a member, and, as a rule, men who have aldermanic ambition join three or four of the biggest Companies, and directly they are made aldermen they are placed on the courts of those Companies and made assistants.
1425. I notice in this paper which has been sent round that at the bottom of page 4 it is stated, "an aldermanship, a seat in the court of one of their friends, and its etceteras, are worth from 4,000l. to 5,000l. a year." Is that your writing?—I am not responsible for "Nemesis;" "Nemesis" is another gentleman. I think you have had him before you already from what I understand, but I can say that I think I am responsible for the allegation.
1426. Tell us what the justification for it is?—I was in the city and I had a conversation with a gentleman who had aldermanic ambition and was actually put up for the aldermanship, but was not elected. He had a very large business in the city, and he said he meant to join three or four of the biggest Companies, and as soon as he was an alderman he would go on to the courts of each of those Companies, and he said that that would double his income, and from my estimate of his business I imagined that that would be 3,000l. or 4,000l.
1427. You did not in going through this paper of "Observations, Censor's Letters," make any observation about the comment number 3. It was suggested "that the Companies might also urge that their London house property was burnt in the fire and restored by individual members at a time when the Companies had little to do with the trades, and (2) that the great increase in its value has taken place during the last half century;" have you any- thing to say upon those two points ?—Certainly. If the increase in value has occurred in the last half century it is an increase that ought to be applied to the same purposes as the original property was, and as regards saying that property was burnt in the great fire and rebuilt by individual members it is not so. The land was let for building purposes in the same way as that suggested by the Commissioner opposite me; the Companies received ground rents and afterwads they became proprietors of the buildings as well as the ground. They were not the property of individual members in any shape or form.
1428. You have not seen these returns of the Companies, have you ?—I have not seen the returns, but I have seen a paper which sets forth an abstract of the returns, and there is a large sum there applicable to educational purposes. At page 2 I find there for educational purposes 115,000l., of which 75,000 is trust, and only 40,000l. corporate property 75,000l. is actually trust educational funds, and 40,000l. is the amount of the corporate funds.
1429. With respect to that 40,000l., so far as it is expended on technical education, that has been a device or an arrangement that has been developed since the agitation against the Companies ?—Undoubtedly.
1432. For instance, take the history of the Mercers' Company; if you had a return of the Mercers' Company could you from your knowledge tell us whether it was complete or not ?—If they divulged the places they own, described the property, and so on, I could very soon find out whether it was true and exhaustive or not; that is if they specify the actual properties.
1433. (fn. 9) You have been asked as to members of the trade not being members of these Companies; is there any case that you have found in your investigation where any Company was ever formed that at the time of its formation, or at the time of the grant of the charter to it, had any member belonging to it who was not a member of the trade ?—No.
1434. So far as you are able, from your investigation to form an opinion, is it not a fact that at the time of the formation of the Company every member of the Company was a member of the trade ? —Certainly.
1435. Just one other question about mortmain. You say you think the real estate of these Companies ought to be sold ?—I do. I think it is impolitic that any land should remain in the hands of undying bodies.
1436. What are the disadvantages of its remaining in the hands of bodies like these Companies?—It is an advantage to have land in the market that it may change hands. It is also a great disadvantage that these Companies pay no succession duty. They do not pay one farthing succession duty. I have gone over the Domesday Book very carefully, and I think from what I have found out in that book, and having regard to the information obtained on the examination of the city Companies' property also, there seems to be something like a loss to the country (putting only 10 per cent. on it, which is treating them as intestate strangers) of over a million a year.
1437. I will just put this question to you upon that point. The total rental, or the total yearly value of land held in mortmain in this country, is slightly over 10,000,000l. stering, is it not ?—It is more than that.
1438. You may take it that it is slighty over 10,000,000l. sterling—how then do you make out your calculation ?—I would consider them as dying every 20 years, that is really the average lifetime of an owner of land so far as I can find out. It is not to extend to a life of 30 to 31 years, as it has been suggested here, and I should impose the "stranger in blood" duty of 10 per cent., which would be half per cent. per year, and I should have re-valuations of the property made every 20 years.
1439. (Mr. Alderman Cotton.) Are you aware of the number of liverymen and freemen in the city interested in this 700,000l. a year ?—The only parties that I know interested in it are the members of the Courts of Assistants, and they are somewhere between 10 and 30 in number to each Company.
1442. It comes in time to very many of them, does it not ?—There seems to be great grumbling against the formal character of the courts, and with respect to persons who are passed over and who, according to seniority, ought to be admitted into the courts.
1444. And that it is really a pride for citizens of London and well-to-do men to attain a position on the court of a Company and to become the warden and master of it in good time ?—I have no doubt that it is an inducement to them to join the Companies, but there are other inducements also. They have the management of large estates, and they actually get very good fees for their attendance upon these courts, which I cannot find any reason whatever for their taking. I find nothing in the world in any of the charters about these fees to the courts. I do not know when they began to take fees for courts.
1445. In unity with that question, you do not seriously believe that the position of a liveryman is worth from 4,000l. to 5,000l. a year, from the simple fact that he might be a member of three or four of the guilds and have fees from those guilds, do you ?— (fn. 10) I do not say so. I simply state that a gentleman who was nominated for alderman, who was a prominent member of the Common Council of London so stated to me, that he would double the value of his business, and his business I estimate really at 3,000l. or 4,000l. a year.
1446. You intimated just now, at least so I understood it, that the fees alone that he would derive from those Companies would give him that 4,000l. to 5,000l. a year ?—I never said anything of the kind. It was simply a correction of a remark made in this paper upon a statement in a letter of "Nemesis," and I said I was the father of that allegation by "Nemesis." I believe I must have told Mr. Beal so, and it was stated to me by a gentleman in London who was a member of the Common Council, and nominated for the portion of alderman, that that was so, and that generally in anticipation of becoming an alderman it was usual to join two or three or four of the biggest Companies, and as soon as they became aldermen they were, as a matter of course, promoted to the court.
1447. Are you aware that for the court fees that they receive they give from three to five hours' work when they attend their courts ?—I have no doubt that they give their time; there is no question whatever as to that. But inasmuch as this is all trust property, I do not think the trustees have any right to take any payment whatever.
1448. The court fees are not from their trust properties ?—That is the questioin. I submit that all the property is trust property, not trust property, accountable to the Charity Commissioners, but trust property, nevertheless.
1449. You will admit, just for my argument, that we do not touch the properties recognised by the Companies and the Charity Commissioners as trust properties ?—The admitted trusts which you give an account of to the Charity Commissioners are distinctly trusts, but the other corporate property I claim also to be trust property.
1450. I am not quite certain about this, and hardly wanted to put the question to you on that account, but I fancy at the time of the formation of the Charity Commission they sent down persons to examine the deeds of the respective Companies, and then determined which were trust deeds and which were not, is not that so ?—The Companies had the selection of what deeds they should produce. They did not exhibit all their title deeds, and according to this story of the Clothworkers' clerk they denied many of the deeds, and said that they had been burned in the fire, and afterwards admitted that they had not been so burned.
1453. That could hardly apply to all the other guilds, could it ?—I do not think it appears anywhere (and I am not under that impression) that the city Companies did at the time of Lord Brougham's Commissioners exhibit all the title deeds of all their property. I think they themselves made the selection, and said what was trust and what was not, and exhibited the title deeds only of those that they admitted to relate to trust property.
1454. Do you believe that a body of citizens who compose the court of a Company, and under whose directions all these returns have been made, would be capable of doing what you assert here that they would, namely, that they have not produced the title deeds of all their property ?—I contend that they have not produced every title deed in their possession. They made a great fight against it, and quoted some Lord Chancellor who said, "Never produce your title deeds." And it is a fact that they have not exhibited all their title deeds.
1455. Do you give that as evidence from facts you have ascertained, or are you merely giving it as an opinion or conclusion of your own ?—What I have stated as opinion I have so stated; what I have stated as fact I have so stated it.
1458. Is not education provided for already ?— Primary education only; this would be for intermediate education, University education, and the promotion of deserving objects from the board schools and passing them upwards to the Universities. I should also devote a large sum to technical education.
1459. Are you of opinion that you would necessarily do great good by giving people a very high education without giving them any means when they had got it for employing it? Is there not very considerable difficulty in that ?—I do not think so.
1460. If you make of a man a good Greek scholar and he has not a shilling in his pocket, what would be the result ?—The German nation are very highly educated, but they do not disdain doing menial labour. The Americans also are a very highly educated people; they do all sorts of laborious and manual labour though they are so educated. It is an advantage to everybody, no matter what his position in the world is, to have the best possible education; there can be no question about that.
1462. Supposing that London were made into one great municipality, do you think the money might be properly employed in relieving the rates ?—If the municipality were a truly representative one I think the management of the funds should be entrusted to that body, Parliament having decided how the funds should be applied.
1467. Even in matters in which the people were not themselves very much concerned?—They soon would be concerned in the application of this vast fund, and the education which is now being given to the working classes would make them all the more on the alert for the proper application of these funds.
1468. You think that really by raising very highly the education of the people who have not got any immediate means of employing that education you would be conferring a great benefit upon them, are you satisfied of that ?—There is a question as to the making use of particular means of education. I think that education is good in itself; whether the man educated is likely to elevate his position and get out of one class or rank into another is another matter.
1469. By giving a man a certain taste of knowledge who has no money or position to support it, do you think you are necessarily making him a happier, wiser, or better man ?—He would have so much self-respect encouraged by this education that he would work and obtain the money, and so live a happier and better life, and the taste he would acquire would elevate him altogether.
1470. (Lord Coleridge.) Let me ask you one question which may possibly alter somewhat the tone of the examination. I do not know whether you would admit that it may be very possible for a system to be bad without the men who come into it to administer it being themselves dishonourable or bad ?—Never in my life by one word that I have ever written have I suggested any dishonour to any single member of these Companies. They have learned to administer the property in this way; they think it is no harm so to do; they contend that it is theirs, and that being so they are acting as any other honest men would do having such views. (fn. 11)
1471. It is open to the suggestion that this is not the best way of managing the property without suggesting that the people who manage it are not honest? —I have never suggested that they are not honest. They contend that it is their own property to do what they like with.