A New History of London Including Westminster and Southwark. Originally published by R Baldwin, London, 1773.
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From the Revolution to the death of king William III.
The first step after William had received the supream authority by act of the convention, was for the new king to convert that assembly into a compleat regular parliament, by a joint act (fn. 1). This was followed by another act impowering the magistrates of the city of London to tender the declaration made for the more effectually preserving the king's person and government (fn. 2), to all papists coming to the said city, that were not inhabitants or foreign merchants; and upon refusal to read and subscribe it, to order them to depart the city and ten miles round, on pain of suffering as popish recusants convict (fn. 3). It was indeed incumbent on the nation to be very cautious of papists, and vigilant against any attempts from them; now a popish family existed and was harboured in France, that might naturally be expected to keep up pretensions to the English government, and to be employed as an engine to disturb it upon any disputes with our catholic neighbours.
The assistance given by the French to James for invading Ireland, producing an address from the commons for a declaration of war against France, and a proclamation for the encouraging French protestants to transport themselves into this kingdom; the French papists here, became very insolent, traducing the government, and dispersing libels and seditious papers against it. The house of lords, fearing that if this was suffered, it might lead to more dangerous attempts; addressed his majesty for a proclamation that no French papist might come into Whitehall, St. James's, or St. James's Park; and that all French papists not being merchants or householders, should leave the kingdom in six weeks, and all others within six months, on pain of being prosecuted as alien enemies. The king however giving them to understand that he apprehended such a procedure would be injurious to trade, they rested in his discretion; having often heard him declare, that he came over to deliver the protestants, not to perscute the Romanists. Indeed, not only foreigners but English papists were gainers by the revolution; as king William protected their persons and estates from the fury of the people, to which, had he connived at it, they would in great part have been sacrificed (fn. 4). War was declared against France on the 7th of May, and some letters sent over by the late king having been intercepted, the earl of Arran and others suspected of agitating his restoration, were imprisoned (fn. 5): these letters William, whose support depended on popular affection, laid before the parliament, and communicated to the city of London; for which instance of confidence the city on June 22d returned him an address of thanks, and assurances of their zeal in maintaining his government.
The king soon after went to Portsmouth to hasten the naval preparations there; and on his return went with the queen to view the earl of Nottingham's house at Kensington, which he purchased for its convenient and healthful situation to reside in during the sitting of parliament, for 20,000l (fn. 6).
Among the supplies voted by parliament toward the war, we find a tax voted upon all ground rents for buildings upon new foundations within the bills of mortality erected since March 25th 1660, excepting such as were within the walls of the city (fn. 7). This however is to be considered only as an expedient for supply, as we hear no more of prohibiting future buildings (fn. 8). On the contrary a new addition was now made to the suburbs, by building the streets round the Seven Dials in the parish of St. Giles in the fields; which was then crown land, and was granted by king William to the earl of Portland (fn. 9).
Before the adjournment of the parliament, a bill was brought in to enjoin the wearing of woollen manufactures at certain times of the year (fn. 10); this compulsory bill, however good its intention, might well give offence, but the parties more immediately interested took the first alarm. The company of silk weavers, when the bill was sent up to the house of lords, presented a petition against it; but gave great offence by the tumultuous manner of bringing it: the vast multitude of the fraternity being considered by the lords as intended to intimidate them into compliance. They therefore addressed his majesty for a guard, told the petitioners their manner of application was improper, and that the bailiff, wardens, and assistants of the company, should have directed their members better; they required the crouds to go home, when they needed not doubt justice being attended to by the lords in this and every other affair that came before them. The lord-mayor was also ordered to get ready a proper number of the trained bands to prevent the passage of such numbers of them through the city; and when due measures were thus taken to stop the return of such unruly multitudes, the bill was unanimously rejected (fn. 11).
The lord-mayor Sir Thomas Pilkington, who was knighted by the king on the 10th of April, being rechosen, gave an invitation to the king and queen, the prince and princess of Denmark, with both houses of parliament, to dine at Guildhall, on the lord-mayor's day; which was accepted. Accordingly their majesties attended by their royal highnesses, and a numerous train of nobility and gentry, went first to a balcony prepared for them in Cheapside, to see the procession: which by the numbers of liverymen of the several guilds or companies, the richness of the pageants, the full appearance of the artillery company; but particularly the royal city regiment of volunteer horse, which richly accoutred and led by the earl of Monmouth, escorted their majesties from Whitehall into the city; surpassed any thing before seen on the like occasion. The cavalcade being over, the sheriffs conducted the royal company to Guildhall, where the entertainment was equally splendid; and the king expressed his satisfaction by conferring the honour of knighthood on Christopher Lethullier and John Houblon, the two sheriffs; as likewise on Francis Child and Edward Clark, two of the aldermen. Five days before, the king had permitted the Grocers to chuse him master of their company; and the wardens with some principal members, presenting him with his freedom and election in a golden box, they received his thanks, and his majesty honoured also the chief warden Ralph Box with knighthood (fn. 12).
Within a few days after, some disaffected person was weak enough to express his disgust at these manifestations of cordiality between the government and the city, by cutting away the crown and sceptre from the king's picture in Guildhall; an indignity which the lord-mayor and court of aldermen resented by offering a reward of 500l. for the discovery of the perpetrator.
In the ensuing parliament which met March 20th, 1690, the citizens of London received a fresh assurance of the king's equitable regard to their corporation rights, by his passing an act (fn. 13) declaring the proceedings of the former reigns on the Quo warranto, illegal and arbitrary. By this national act every judgment given and recorded for seizing the franchises of the city, were reversed and made void; and vacates ordered to be entered upon the rolls: the mayor, commonalty, and citizens, of the city of London, were declared to remain for ever, a body corporate and politic, by the name of the mayor, commonalty, and citizens of the city of London. They were to have and enjoy all their rights and charters; and all charters, letters, patents, &c. concerning any of the liberties, lands and tenements, rights, titles, &c. made since the said judgment by the late kings Charles and James, were thereby declared void. The officers, companies, and corporations were also restored; and this being the last confirmation of the rights and privileges of the citizens, ought justly to be known by all: it is therefore added in the Appendix, No. LII.
When king William went over to Ireland to oppose the French invasion of that kingdom, under the late king James; the administration devolved on the queen, who had not hitherto interfered in affairs of state. Her situation was delicate; her consort was gone to carry arms against her father, and she could not but be anxious on the event, as well as concerned for the safety of both: she was in imminent hazard of being invaded by France, and at home she had a divided people to manage. Under all these apprehensions she betrayed no fear, and lost no time: for as soon as she heard of the king's arrival in Ireland, she began to exercise her power by two proclamations: the one, commanding all papists and reputed papists to depart the cities of London and Westminster, and from within ten miles of them; the other for the confinement of popish recusants within five miles of their respective dwellings. There was perhaps more than usual reason now to keep a strict watch over the adherents of James, who began to be distinguished by the term of Jacobites; as the king's absence afforded an opportunity for concerting measures to restore the abdicated monarch. It had been schemed that while a part of the French fleet should bear up the Thames to countenance an insurrection of the papists who had flocked to London, and who were to seize the queen and chief ministers; another part of the fleet, after landing a force in Torbay, were to sail into the Irish seas to prevent the king's return (fn. 14).
On the 30th of June, the French fleet was encountered by the combined Dutch and English fleet, when the engagement terminated to the disadvantage of the latter, owing to the misbehaviour of Lord Torrington the English admiral; but this bad success at sea was amply balanced by the total defeat of James at the battle of the Boyne, which happened on the preceding day. As our strength at sea however is our principal security, the apprehensions of a descent now spread a consternation over the whole kingdom: but at this critical juncture the lord-mayor, aldermen, and lieutenancy of the city of London, were not wanting in expressions of zeal and affection for government to dispel any fears of danger the queen might entertain. They attended her majesty in council, and beside the usual formal professions of attachment, represented that the several regiments of city militia consisting of about 9000 men, were compleat in numbers, well appointed, and ready for her majesty's immediate service: that the lieutenancy had also resolved to raise six regiments of auxiliaries; and that the lord-mayor, aldermen, and common-council, would moreover by the voluntary contribution of themselves and the citizens at large, forthwith raise not only a large regiment of horse, but 1000 dragoons, and maintain them for a month or longer as occasion required. They referred the nomination of the officers to her, and were thanked for their ready loyalty and zeal on the occasion; as to this last article, she answered she would consider of it, and appoint officers to command according to their desire (fn. 15). Such are the advantages of a mutual confidence between prince and people! from which the prince derives far more honour and security, than from undue power exercised over a disgusted people whose strength in that case is exerted in counteracting his purposes.
The king arrived at Kensington, after his successful expedition to Ireland, on the 10th of September; and was attended the next day by the lord-mayor, aldermen and recorder, with the compliments of the city, upon the happy event of his arms and safe return.
In the parliament that met January 5th, 1691, an act passed granting general powers for paving, cleansing, and lighting, the streets of London, Westminster, Southwark, and other places within the bills of mortality, and for regulating the markets therein (fn. 16). The proprietors of the water works in York-buildings, were also incorporated by a private act passed this session (fn. 17).
On April 9th, four days before the king's arrival from the congress at the Hague, the palace at Whitehall suffered greatly by fire, owing to the negligence of a maid-servant, who, about eight at night, to save the labour of cutting a candle from a pound, burnt it off, and threw the rest carelessly by, before the flame was out. It burnt violently until four the next morning, and destroyed the dutchess of Portsmouth's lodgings, with all the stone-gallery and buildings behind it, down to the Thames (fn. 18).
The king went abroad again on the last day of April, to command the confederate army in Flanders, after giving the necessary directions for the reduction of Ireland; and returned on the 29th of October, when the citizens received him with all imaginable demonstrations of joy. The Irish war also being brought to a happy period by general Ginkle, who in consequence was created earl of Athlone; he with his principal officers were invited by Sir Thomas Stamp the Lord Mayor of London, to dine in the city at Merchant Taylors hall, where they were entertained with equal respect and magnificence.
The papists though hitherto disappointed in their machinations, still kept up their views of restoring James; and the king going to Holland March 5th, 1692, his absence seemed to afford opportunity for another trial. A descent upon England was projected in France, an insurrection was to favour it at home; and the assassination of William abroad, was to crown the scheme with success. The queen being informed of these designs, and of preparations for carrying them into execution, renewed the proclamation, on May 5th, for papists and reputed papists to leave the metropolis : and ordered diligent search to be made for the most disaffected persons, who absconding, a proclamation was issued for apprehending the principal of them by name. She ordered also the militia of Westminster, consisting of two regiments of foot, of about fifteen hundred men each, and a troop of horse, to appear in Hyde-park, on May 9th, under the earl of Bedford, lord lieutenant of the county of Middlesex. The following day the six regiments of London trained bands, containing about ten thousand men, were drawn out in the same place, under the command of the lord-mayor and their respective colonels. Her majesty reviewed these regiments herself on both days, and expressed herself extreamly satisfied with the good order of their appearance, and with the readiness and zeal they shewed for her service. The queen also at this critical juncture obtained a loan of 200,000l. from the corporation of London. The glorious victory however gained by the combined English and Dutch fleets over the French, off la Hogue, once more disconcerted the attempts on the English government, and relieved the nation from apprehensions of danger (fn. 19).
On Thursday September 8th, an earthquake was felt at London, without doing any damage; yet it extended wide, being felt in most parts of England, France, Germany, and the Netherlands : about two months before, earthquakes had been felt at Sicily and Malta, of which terrible accounts are related; and about the same time the town of Port Royal in Jamaica was totally ruined by these subterraneal commotions. These calamities occasioned the learned in apocalyptical studies, to conjecture that the end of the world was approaching; and the government, that ought at all times vigilantly to discourage vice and immorality, not only by wholesome institutions, but, by what has even greater influence, though least thought of, by virtuous example; gave orders now to execute the laws against drunkenness, swearing, and debauchery. But such intermitting fits of reformation, excited by fear, resemble death-bed repentances too much to merit any encomium.
Disputes had arisen on the right of non-freemen living in the city to nominate aldermen and elect common-council men for the respective wards; which required an act of the corporation to determine : it was therefore declared by act of common-council, that none but freemen, being householders, paying scot, and bearing lot, should enjoy such rights of election. But the election of city officers and magistrates will be more particularly attended to, when we come to the time when their last regulation by parliament took place.
On the 20th of October the queen met his majesty at Newhall, on his return to England, and they passed through the city on their way to Kensington, amidst the acclamations of the people, and every indication of sincere joy at the king's safe return. Two days after, the lord-mayor, aldermen and recorder, carried a congratulatory address to the king, and invited their majesties to dine at Guildhall on the approaching lord-mayor's day; when he accepted the invitation, and knighted Salathiel Lovel, serjeant at law, the recorder. The king and queen saw the procession as before, were magnificently entertained; and in acknowledgement of their satisfaction, the king bestowed the honour of knighthood on aldermen John Wildman, William Gore, and James Houblon; Leonard Robinson, the chamberlain; Rowland Ainsworth, William Scawen, Josiah Child, and John Touch, citizens.
It was at this time that several French refugees, in conjunction with some English merchants, supported by the protection of the earl of Pembroke, whom they chose for their governor, were incorporated under the name of the Royal lustring company; having the full and sole privilege of making lustrings and alamodes in England. The patent which made them a body politic, was read in a full committee at their house in Austin Friars, October 26th, their governor farther assuring them of his majesty's great satisfaction in their undertaking, and that every encouragement might be expected for promoting it (fn. 20).
The king went again to Flanders in March 1693, to assist the allies against France; and on the news of the battle of Landen, the lord-mayor and aldermen presented the queen with a congratulatory address on the safety of his majesty's person; he having exposed himself with such courage as extorted praises even from the enemy. They also returned her thanks for the care taken of the trade of the city, by providing convoys for the merchants; and assured her of their zeal in her service. As the queen had applied to the city for a loan of 300,000l. the citizens realised their professions by raising the money and paying it into the Exchequer.
The corporation of London, had for many ages taken the guardianship of her orphan children and their property, under protection. The first incidental men tion we find of the orphan's fund is in the year 1391 (fn. 21), at which time it must have been of some standing, since 2000 marks were then borrowed out of it to purchase corn during a dearth, and in 1569 we again find it mentioned as paying regular interest for their benefit (fn. 22). By negligence or bad management of the city revenues, this fund was suffered to run so far in arrear, that the chamber of London, where it was then, and is still kept, was shut up for several years; and the distress of the orphans, many hundreds of whom were ruined for want of their portions, which had been put into the chamberlain's hands, on the security of the city, occasioned great complaints at different times. The city was now indebted to her orphans and other creditors, in the sum of 747,500l. a sum by no means capable of being discharged without the authority of a national act, which had been solicited in vain for three years; but the bills that had been brought into parliament for that purpose were always neglected: to prevent the starving these orphans therefore, the most effectual way was thought to be to engage some men of interest to do for profit, what they could not be prevailed on to do for justice. Accordingly by an indirect application of several sums of money, an act was obtained creating a fund for the repayment of the debt owing to the orphans by the chamber of London (fn. 23). Among other sums disbursed on this account, it appeared by an entry on the chamberlain's books dated February 12th 1694, that Sir John Trevor, speaker of the house of commons, had received 1000 guineas for his services in this affair: which being afterward discovered, he was expelled the house the next session, for bribery and breach of trust; as was also Mr. Hungerford another member for receiving 20 guineas on the same account (fn. 24).
By this act all the city estates, except those belonging to the hospitals and the bridge, were charged with the raising of the annual sum of 8000 l. clear of all deductions, for settling a perpetual fund for paying 4l. per ann. interest, for every 100 l. due from the city to the said creditors. It was farther enacted, that the profits arising from the several aqueducts belonging to the city, should be applied toward the payment of the said interest: that the lord-mayor and common-council might raise 2000l. per ann. by equal assessments upon the personal estates of the citizens: that the 600 l. per ann. paid by the lighters of the convex-lamps, should be applied in the same manner: that every apprentice at his binding, should pay 2s. 6d. and every person made free, 5s. toward the said fund: that 5s. shall be paid for every ton of wine, and 4d. extraordinary metage for every chaldron of coals, in the port of London, to the said fund: and that the said 4d. per chaldron should be raised to 6d. after the 29th of September, 1700, or 6d. per ton, if weighable, for the term of fifty years. At the end of that term, the imposition on coals was to cease, and the city estates to stand charged with the yearly sum of 6000l. over and above the before named sum of 8000l. applicable to the same use.
This fund will be farther mentioned under the year 1747, when another act of parliament was made with relation to it (fn. 25).
By the great increase of shipping, and navigation, those parts of the suburbs of London eastward of the Tower, and below St. Catharine's, called Wapping, were become so populous, that it was found necessary in the year 1694, to erect a new church and parish for the inhabitants; which obtained the name of the parish of St. John in Wapping (fn. 26).
This year is distinguished by the first erection of a national bank, or the Bank of England; an event that must not be passed over without notice. There were at this time but four considerable banks in Europe; those of Amsterdam, Hamburgh, Venice, and Genoa: of which, all but the last, were solely for the conveniency of merchants; who were saved much trouble, by having bills of exchange and other large payments usually paid at those banks. The bank of Genoa and those in other parts of Europe, were not only cash keepers for merchants, but were maintained for the profit of the proprietors; who having originally advanced money for the state, had a perpetual fund of interest for it: and upon this plan was the intended bank of England now modelled. Men of great abilities had for several years employed their thoughts on this important object; and it was concluded that in order to bring down the high rates of interest, and premiums paid by the government, which proved injurious to commerce, by tempting men to draw their money out of trade; it would be requisite to establish a public transferrable fund of interest, and that the bank should be constituted a body politic with suitable powers.
At this time Mr. William Paterson, merchant, one of the first projectors of the bank, observed, that so greatly were the ministerial people distressed for raising the annual supplies, as to stoop to solicitations to the London commoncouncil for the borrowing of only 1 or 200,000l. at a time, on the first payments of the land-tax: as particular common-council-men likewise did to the private inhabitants of their respective wards, going from house to house for the loan of money (fn. 27).
An act having passed for granting several duties on tonnage of ships, and on beer, ale, and other liquors; for securing certain recompences &c. to such persons as shall voluntarily advance 1,500,000l. (fn. 28) it was thereby enacted, that their majesties might grant a commission to take particular subscriptions for 1,200,000l. part of the above sum, as the ministry would not trust the whole to this new scheme; of any persons, natives or foreigners, whom they were impowered to incorporate, with a yearly allowance of 100,000 l. (viz. 96,000l. or eight per cent interest, until redeemed, and 4000l. allowed to the intended bank for charges of management.) In virtue of this act a draught of a commission for taking subscriptions, together with a schedule or draught of a charter, were approved and signed by her majesty in council on June 8th, and the subscriptions being compleated in ten days time, 25 per cent being paid in; the charter of incorporation was executed on the 27th of July (fn. 29).
By the above mentioned act of parliament, and charter of incorporation, the bank was impowered to lend money on pawns or pledges; but little or no use has been made of this power. The directors have hitherto contented themselves with banking only, including therein the dealing in bullion, discounting bills of exchange, the advancing money to the public on the credit of acts of parliament; the circulating their own sealed bills which bore interest, (since laid aside) and of their cash notes on demand, bearing no interest: they circulate beside, exchequer bills for government on a stated allowance. In all these articles of business, the corporation has proved of great advantage to government, perhaps too much so, and has preserved its credit even in precarious times; chiefly owing to the great care of the proprietors in electing for governors and directors, only gentlemen of known abilities and integrity, as well as fortune.
Great opposition was made to the first constituting this national bank; the monied men opposed it, as they saw the tendency it had to diminish their gains in contracts with government; while others alleged that it would engross all the riches of the kingdom. When we survey the immense debt since entailed upon the nation, by the extravagant system of anticipation (fn. 30), it justifies the apprehensive eyes with which public credit has been viewed all along; notwithstanding it has outlived some mistaken prognostications.
By an act of the same session of parliament, a tax was laid on hackney coaches, the number of which was then fixed at 700, of 4 l. per annum each, beside a fine of 50 l. for their first licence for 21 years; and 8l. per annum on stage coaches (fn. 31).
The suppression of hawkers was once more thought deserving the attention of the corporation, as they interfered greatly in the retail trade of the city. By act of common-council it was therefore ordered, that no person should presume to sell any goods or merchandize, in any public place within the city or liberties, except in open markets and fairs; on penalty of 40s. for each offence, both on buyer and seller. The same penalty was imposed on all house-keepers who should suffer hawkers or pedlars to expose their goods to sale in their respective houses.
To evade this act, the hawkers and pedlars carried their goods to the public markets; which occasioned another act of common-council, whereby it was enacted and and ordained, "that no person or persons whatsoever, whether free or not free of this city, shall sell or expose to sale in the public markets, or any ground belonging to them, within the city and liberties, any mercery wares, lace and linen, grocery or confectionary wares, hosier's wares, cutler's wares, tin wares, drapery wares, millinery wares, glass or earthern wares, toys, or any such like commodities, or merchandizes, which are sold in open shops or warehouses of the freemen of this city, and liberties thereof, upon pain to forfeit, and pay, for every such offence, the sum of 3l. with costs of suit, if prosecuted within fourteen days, in the name of the chamberlain, in the lord-mayor's court: one moiety to the prosecutor, the other to St. Thomas's hospital."
On the 28th of December, queen Mary died of the small-pox; on which occasion the corporation presented a warm address of condolance to his majesty. On March 5, 1695, her funeral was celebrated with a magnificence suitable to the affection the nation had for her; the lord-mayor and aldermen of London, both houses of parliament, the judges, serjeants at law, and all her majesty's houshold, joining the mournful procession (fn. 32).
It appearing necessary to ascertain the due and regular method of calling, adjourning, and dissolving common-halls for the election of city officers, to prevent disputes in the exercise of those powers; an act of common-council was passed on June 21st, under Sir Thomas Lane mayor, which declared "that the right of assembling common-halls, for the election of lord-mayor, sheriffs, and other public officers for the city, is and ought to be in the lordmayor, for the time being. That the right of taking a poll and scrutiny, and of adjourning the hall from time to time, till the same shall be concluded, shall be in the sheriffs: but that, if the sheriffs disagree, so as to impede the completing of a poll or scrutiny, and refuse to observe the orders sent to them on that occasion by the lord-mayor, to put an end to the difference, his lordship may proceed himself in granting and taking the poll and scrutiny, and in adjourning the hall, until all shall be finally finished."
Conformable to these regulations, it is now the established custom at commonhalls, for the lord-mayor, attended by the aldermen and sheriffs, to appear on the hustings; when a proclamation being made by the common crier for the liverymen to draw near and give attention according to their summons, and for all others to depart the hall on pain of imprisonment; the recorder and common serjeant address themselves to the livery to declare the purpose of their meeting : after which the lord-mayor and aldermen retire to the council-cham ber, leaving the sheriffs to manage the intermediate proceedings of election. The candidates being then proposed by the common serjeant, the sheriffs judge in whose favour the majority of hands appear; if a poll is demanded, it is taken by clerks under their appointment; if a scrutiny is demanded, it is referred to their judgment; and it is they who make a declaration of the majority under all these circumstances to the lord-mayor. His lordship then returning to the hustings attended as before, declares the election to the common-hall, by the mouth of the recorder; and the court is then dissolved by his order.
The election of representatives to sit in parliament, is however an exception to this rule, as they are not supposed to be included in the general description of city officers, though like them they are chosen by a common-hall of the liverymen of London, in virtue of a writ directed to the sheriffs. In this case the sheriffs only are the returning officers, and are the sole directors of all the proceedings in the election.
In the election of a lord-mayor, all the aldermen under the chair, who have served the office of sheriff, are proposed in rotation, two of which are to be returned by the common-hall to the court of aldermen; whose choice is limited to one of those two. It has been the usual custom of the livery-men to nominate the two senior aldermen under the chair; and the court of aldermen, upon the like example, have usually elected the senior of those two into the office. But that each of them have a right to deviate from this usual method of rotation, is what no one can dispute; and in cases where a particular dislike is taken to any of the aldermen, especially when the city is divided into parties on political considerations, the order of rotation is seldom regarded.
In like manner, upon the election of sheriffs, all the aldermen who have not served in that office, are first put up in their order of seniority; but, by whatever laws these might have formerly claimed the priority of being so elected, yet it is certain, the liverymen at present are at liberty to choose whom they think proper, either out of that court, or of those nominated by the lord-mayor, or any others that shall be proposed at the time of election. This indeed is the true and proper freedom of election, which the livery reserve to themselves upon this, and every other occasion.
Under the year 1668, an account was given of king Charles's attempt to institute a council of commerce, to regulate all matters relating to trade and the colonies; with the causes that rendered the plan abortive (fn. 33). The merchants now making repeated complaints of the great captures by the French, and the little regard that had for several years been paid to trade and commerce; king William in the year 1696 established a new standing council for commerce and plantations in their most comprehensive sense, who are commonly stiled the Lords Commissioners for Trade and Plantations. To this board proposals are made by merchant and others for the improvement of trade, manufactures, fisheries, navigation, &c. for the redress of grievances in trade, which are argued before the board, chiefly by council. British consuls appointed to reside in foreign parts, receive instructions from them, and maintain a correspondence with them; as do all the governors of the American plantations, who transmit to them the journals of their councils and assemblies, and the accounts of the collectors of the customs, navy officers, &c. with reports how the balance of trade stands between England and foreign nations. Upon all such matters brought regularly before them, the commissioners make their reports and give their opinions to the king and his privy council (fn. 34).
The market people exhibiting a complaint to the lord-mayor and commoncouncil against the farmers of the city markets, for extortions; a committee was appointed to enquire into the cause of that complaint, who on the 29th of July, reported that the farmers of Leadenhall, Stocks, Honey-lane, and Newgate, markets, had extorted an annual rent of 10,896l. 9s. 10d. per. ann. for stalls, and fines amounting to 2194l. 1s. 6d. from the present tenants; and thereby had forfeited their leases. Divers suits being commenced against the said farmers on this report, the court of king's bench referred the cause to the arbitrement of Sir Nathan Wright, and Sir Bartholomew Shower, serjeants at law, who awarded, that the said farmers should refund the several sums of money unjustly extorted, and that for the future, every thing should remain according to the regulation made by the common-council in 1674.
Some disaffected persons had entered into another assassination plot to destroy the king, but the history of it would be a digression we could ill spare room for; it will suffice to observe that the citizens of London to manifest their attachment to the king, instructed their members to use their endeavours for a thorough examination into the conspiracy. After the parliament had proceeded in this affair and brought Sir John Fenwick and other of the principal contrivers to justice, they entered upon the removal of a grievance of long standing in the metropolis. Several places in and about the city of London, which in the times of popery, had been allowed as sanctuaries to criminals and debtors, had ever since the reformation pretended to a privilege of protecting the latter; no officers daring without a hazard of their lives to arrest the lawless debtors who took refuge in them. One of these, Whitesriars, which lay in the very heart of the metropolis, was become a notorious receptacle of broken and desperate men; where to the dishonour of government, and to the great prejudice of the community they defended themselves against all justice, and public authority (fn. 35). This intolerable mischief the parliament redressed by an act, "For the more effectual relief of creditors in cases of escapes, and for preventing abuses in prisons and pretended privileged places (fn. 36)." By this statute the following places of pretended privilege were suppressed, viz. that in the Minories; those in and near Fleet-street, as Salisbury-court, White-friars, Ram-alley, and Mitre-court;in Holborn, Fulwood's Rents, and Baldwin's-gardens in Gray'sinn-lane; in the Strand, the Savoy;in Southwark, Mountague-close, Deadman's-place, the Clink, and the Mint. Yet this last named place, the Mint, was afterward suffered to spring up again in a more outrageous manner than ever before; and was not finally suppressed until the reign of George I (fn. 37).
In the year 1697, the silk weavers in London grew very tumultuous and outrageous on account of the great importation of silks, calicoes, and other Indian manufactures, imported by the East India company, and worn by all sorts of people. They even attempted to seize the treasure at the East India house, and were with difficulty reduced to order. Yet great clamour was raised against the company both in conversation and in pamphlets. The company engaged the fmous D'Avenant as their literary champion, who was encountered by Mr. Pollexsen an eminent merchant; and the latter both as to matter of fact and in popularity, was thought to have greatly the advantage (fn. 38).
After concluding the peace of Ryswick, the king returned to England and landed at Greenwich, November 15th. He was received by the magistrates of London, at St. Margaret's-hill Southwark the next day, and attended to Whitehall, in a kind of triumphal procession, with all the magnificence he would permit. There had been some progress made in erecting triumphal arches on this occasion, but he put a stop to them; and seemed from a kind of innate modesty, quite the reverse of his antagonist Louis XIV. to have contracted an antipathy to all vain ostentatious shews and pageantry (fn. 39).
The French commissary sent over to London, in consequence of this peace, to conclude a treaty of commerce between the two nations, found unsurmountable difficulties in the way to the execution of his commission. High duties had been laid on French goods; and these were appropriated to various uses: beside the English had now in great measure learned to do without French merchandize, by supplying themselves with wine from Italy, Spain, and Portugal; and with linen from Holland and Silesia. The French refugees settled here, had introduced the manufactures of silks, stuffs, hats, and paper; for which we were no longer obliged to send abroad: as France moreover had not relaxed the high imposts laid there on English manufactures; all these circumstances concurred to obstruct the conclusion of any tariff or treaty of commerce, and therefore none was made (fn. 40).
On the 5th of January 1698, another fire happened at Whitehall (fn. 41), by the carelessness of a laundress, by which all the body of the palace, with the new gallery, council chamber, and several adjoining apartments, were entirely burned down. That famous piece of architecture, the banqueting house, was so particularly the object of the king's care, that he sent messenger after messenger, from Kensington for its preservation, and it was saved with great difficulty (fn. 42).
Having mentioned the lustring company erected in 1692, the history of it may be concluded in few words: they had obtained an act for perpetual incorporation (fn. 43), but new fabrications driving out the wear of those glossy silks, the company soon came to decay, and did not revive (fn. 44).
Many complaints continuing to be made against the East India company, the house of commons took the state of the trade into consideration; to stop which the company offered to advance 700,000l. for public service at 4 per cent. provided the exclusive trade to India might be legally settled on them. In opposition to this, another set of merchants, offered to advance two millions at 8 per. cent. on the same condition; an offer which not only indicated the great increase of mercantile wealth, but also how profitable that trade must be for which the candidates were so anxious. This latter offer was the best relished, and an act was passed in their favour (fn. 45), in which however it was provided that the present company might continue their trade until Michaelmas 1701. Thus we had two East India companies subsisting; and the old company artfully subscribing 315,000l. into the new stock in the name of their treasurer, obtained a private act of parliament in the next session, declaring that in consequence of this subscription the old company should continue a corporation, until the redemption of the new fund (fn. 46).
London at this time abounded with new projects and schemes some of them productive of rational improvements, but many of them delusory, promising mountains of gold, to take in the unwary. Writers of that time complained much that the Royal Exchange of London was crouded with projects, wagers, fairy companies of new inventions and manufactures, stock jobbers, &c. but soon after this time, the stock jobbers, that pernicious spawn of the public funds, were justly removed from the Royal Exchange. They settled in Exchange-alley just opposite (fn. 47); and though a public nusance, they serve the purposes of ministers too well, in propagating a spirit of gaming in government securities, to be exterminated, as a wholesome policy would dictate. Private schemes of lotteries became so general, not only in London, but in most of the cities and great towns of England, to the defrauding of the lower people and servants, that an act of parliament was passed for the suppressing such lotteries (fn. 48); which however was not effectually done until some years afterward.
In consequence of disbanding the army on the peace, a visible concourse of the papists and Jacobites was observed about the town and court; and this in so bold and insolent a manner, that the house of commons took notice of it in an address to the king on the 21st of February 1699. His majesty replied that the laws should be put in execution according to their desire; and to this end, he on March 2d issued a proclamation for them to depart from within ten miles of the metropolis, on pain of suffering as recusants convict.
On the 10th of May this year Billingsgate by virtue of an act of parliament (fn. 49), was opened as a free market for fish every day in the week; Sunday being so far only excepted, as that mackarel should not be sold during divine service. Provisions were made by this act against engrossing or forestalling fish, to be sold in lots afterward to other fishmongers; so that no person should buy at the said market but for his own immediate sale or private use.
On the king's return from Holland October 18th, the lord-mayor, aldermen, recorder, and sheriffs, waited on him two days afterward with a con gratulatory address on his safe arrival; which was favourably received: he moreover earnestly recommended to them a vigorous execution of the laws against prophaneness and immorality; and that effectual provision might be made for the poor, to prevent their begging about the streets for relief. On this occasion the king conferred the honour of knighthood on Charles Duncomb, and Jeffrey Jeffreys, the two sheriffs, and on alderman William Withers. Some time after the lord-mayor and aldermen were ordered to attend the privy council; where the king told them he had received information that in defiance of the laws, great numbers of papists resorted to the city, and frequented public mass-houses; that he had caused proclamations to be prepared, commanding all popish priests and jesuits to depart the kingdom; for calling home all his subjects who might be educating in popish seminaries abroad; and for ordering all papists to depart from within ten miles of London and Westminster: he therefore strictly enjoined the London magistrates to put the laws against known and reputed papists in execution, to prevent his subjects going to mass, to suppress all popish schools, and popish books; to tender the oaths to all papists and reputed papists; and from time to time to report their proceedings to the council.
Information being given the next year, 1700, that papists and other disaffected persons were collecting arms and ammunition; the proclamation for banishing them from the metropolis, &c. was renewed, and all magistrates ordered to make vigilant search for arms in their possession.
The late king James died at St. Germaines on September 6th 1701, and the French king acted the inconsistent part of immediately proclaiming the pretended prince of Wales, king of England Scotland and Ireland, by the name of James III. when at the same time he had concluded a peace with king William, and had an ambassador from William residing at his court! The king was then abroad, but the corporation of London alarmed at so menacing a transaction, drew up the address to him in the note below (fn. 50), which was presented to the lord's justices, and transmitted to Holland: the lords were in return ordered to acquaint the lord-mayor and aldermen with the satisfaction he received at this declaration of the city's attachment to him; which was reported in common-council. Numerous addresses to the same import came in also from different parts of the kingdom (fn. 51); and the parliament being dissolved November 11th, and another summoned for December 30th, the citizens of London chose Sir Robert Clayton, Sir William Ashurst, Sir Thomas Abney, and Gilbert Heathcote, Esq. to represent them; giving them instructions to pursue the engagements made to his majesty in their late address.