A New History of London Including Westminster and Southwark. Originally published by R Baldwin, London, 1773.
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During the reign of king George I.
The protestant succession to the crown of England had on the death of the duke of Gloucester, son to the princess Anne of Denmark, afterward queen of England, been entailed on the princess Sophia, daughter of the prin cess Elizabeth, and Frederic the elector palatine (fn. 1), and her issue (fn. 2) : on her death, the inheritance rested in her son George Lewis, duke of Brunswick and Lunenburg, and Elector of Hanover. This prince was now 54 years old, had great talents and experience, which he had manifested on many important occasions: he was proclaimed immediately on the death of the queen, at the customary places in London and Westminster, by the proper officers assisted by the lord-mayor and aldermen, with the usual solemnities.
The king soon after, accompanied by his eldest son, prince George, set out for England, and made a public entry into London September 20th, attended by above 200 coaches of the nobility and gentry, all with six horses. At St. Margaret's-hill he was met by the lord-mayor, aldermen, sheriffs, recorder, and officers of the city of London; in whose name, Sir Peter King the recorder, made him a congratulatory speech: the lord-mayor delivered the city sword to the king, and receiving it back with a command to carry it before him, he bore it in the procession bare-headed. The Southwark militia, the London trained bands and artillery company, with the Westminster militia, lined the streets in their respective jurisdictions; as did the several city companies in their formalities, from Stock's-market to St. Paul's church-yard. The cannon at the Tower and St. James's park were discharged during the procession, and the evening concluded with every testimony of public joy.
A few days after, the city address was presented to the king, together with one from the court of lieutenancy of London; to which his majesty returned this pertinent and gracious answer: "I take these addresses very kindly. I have lately been made sensible of what consequence the city of London is, and therefore shall be sure to take all their privileges and interests into my particular protection." As an immediate mark of his favour, he conferred the honour of knighthood on John Ward, Gerard Conyers, Thomas Scawen, Peter Delme, Joseph Lawrence, and Robert Child, Esqrs.
On the ensuing lord-mayor's day, the king with the prince and princess of Wales having accepted an invitation of the city magistrates to dine at Guildhall, they went with a spendid retinue, to the usual place for seeing the procession, opposite Bow-church, Cheapside. Being conducted afterward by the sheriffs to Guildhall, the lord-mayor kneeling at the entrance presented the city sword to the king, and receiving it back, carried it before his majesty to the court-room, and thence to the hustings where the royal company dined. The lord-mayor having the honour to present the first glass of wine to the king, he ordered a patent to be made out for creating him a baronet, and directed 1000l. to be paid to the sheriffs as a donation for the relief and discharge of poor debtors.
With the new king a change of measures took place, and the pernicious maxims of the tories gave way to more wholesome counsels. The old parliament was dissolved January 5th, 1715, and a new one summoned, in the elections for which, the whig interest gained the ascendancy. The members chosen for London were Sir John Ward, Sir Thomas Scawen, Robert Heysham, and Peter Godfrey, Esqrs: to whom the citizens gave very particular instructions for their future conduct, under twenty-one heads, which by inference included very severe censures on the concluding measures of the late reign (fn. 3).
January 20th being appointed a day of general thanksgiving, for the king's happy and peaceable accession to the throne, his majesty with the prince and princess of Wales, the great officers of state, and a grand retinue, attended divine service at St. Paul's; the lord-mayor and aldermen assisted, the city companies in their stands, and the trained bands, lined the streets; at night the usual illuminations, bonfires, &c. proclaimed the general satisfaction.
His majesty having at the opening of the parliament, hinted his apprehensions of some attempt in favour of the Pretender, the citizens gave him assurances of their attachment by an address, which was thankfully received; as was another in the names of the merchants and other traders of the city of London (fn. 4) .
The tories, though discountenanced at court, were sufficiently insolent from the plan of disturbance now forming, to interrupt the public tranquillity on days of festivity. The justices of Westminster and Middlesex published an order for preserving the peace, but with so little effect, that on the king's birth-day, May 28th, the mob insulted the citizens who shewed their joy by illuminations and bonfires. By the care of the magistrates they were somewhat restrained on that day, but the next day which was the anniversary of king Charles's restoration, they made greater illuminations and rejoicings than had been made on the part of the whigs the day before, especially in the city of London; where the mob broke all the windows that were not illuminated, and among them those of the lord-mayor. They insulted four of the life guard who were patrolling, and made them cry High church and Ormond; and in Smithfield they burned a print of king William: a French or Irish school-master was sent to Newgate for high treason, having proclaimed in the street that king George had no right to the crown; for which he was afterward whipped.
An accidental circumstance increased the popular ferment much. On the king's birth-day new cloathing was delivered to the first regiment of foot guards, and the soldiers were much offended at a more than ordinary coarseness of the shirts; and there being numbers of Irish papists among them, the enemies to government easily improved the discontent: some of the shirts were insolently thrown over into the king's and the duke of Marlborough's gardens at St. James's; and a detachment marching from Whitehall through the city to relieve the guard at the Tower, the soldiers by the way pulled out their shirts and shewed them to passengers, exclaiming, These are our Hanover shirts! The court, being informed of these circumstances, made inquiry into the affair, and the duke of Marlborough finding that the contractors had delivered cloathing to the soldiers nowise answerable to the patterns agreed for, immediately directed the shirts to be burned, made them amends for the other complaints in their cloathing, and when he reviewed that regiment on the 2d of June, made a satisfactory apology to the men for their ill usage (fn. 5).
A detail of the rebellion in Scotland this year in favour of the pretender, does not belong to this history; it will suffice to remark that on December 9th, the most considerable of the prisoners taken at Preston in Lancashire, were brought to London on horseback, pinioned, each horse led by a foot soldier, and guarded by parties of horse and foot: the noblemen were sent to the Tower, and the rest were disposed of in different prisons. The earl of Derwentwater, and lord Kenmure, two of the lords who were condemned on trial, were executed February 24th, 1716, on Tower-hill, persuant to their sentence (fn. 6). When the rebels in Scotland and England were entirely reduced, the city presented an address of congratulation to the king, on May 12th, expressive of their satisfaction on the occasion; which was suitably answered.
At this time was passed the act for extending the sittings of parliament from three years to seven (fn. 7); the bill originated in the house of peers, where it was introduced by the duke of Devonshire, and was not carried without strong debates in both houses. It sets forth that triennial parliaments are grievous, by occasioning much greater and continued expences, and more violent and lasting heats, than ever were known before; and from the restlessness of the popish faction at that juncture, might be destructive to the peace and security of government: for these reasons it was enacted, that parliaments should have continuance for seven years, unless sooner dissolved by his majesty. It was a bad sign to see an acknowledgement of the expences of elections creep into a statute, and the easing of such expences urged as a reason for prolonging the duration of parliaments! But the whole reasoning is as weak as the measure was pernicious. For the very idea of treating and bribing electors, excludes that of constitutional, free, and impartial representation in a legislative assembly; and if these basely incurred expences were grievous to candidates by returning every three years, they must be much more grievous at a septennial election, inasmuch as a seat for seven years is worth a greater purchase than a seat for three: the popular heats and distractions arising from contested elections will increase in proportion. We need not now say what they will do, experience has since fatally shewn these consequences; the seven years are not long enough for the subsiding of party animosities thus excited, and successful candidates often enter the house with ruined fortunes, there to repair them. The tendency of these circumstances are but too obvious.
If any alteration became necessary, and if the qualification of electors must be continued according to the feudal ideas, they should have been raised in proportion to the decrease of the value of money from the time of Henry VI. to that of the passing the act; which would have restored the privilege of electing members to those hands that would have scorned a bribe and the man who offered it. The article of election expences need not then have disgraced the face of an act of the British parliament: but the representatives of bribed electors will ever act suitable to the principles of their constituents. A very material objection may however be offered against adhering to a system of policy long since extinct. To rectify the qualification established by Henry VI. would vest the election of members in too few hands for the liberal ideas of the present age. The system of popular liberty stands at present upon a broader basis than the arbitrary claims of landholders, who still retain too much of the feudal spirit, though happily divested of the power. Every man has now a free opportunity to earn an industrious independence; every man therefore of free condition, who by manufactures or trade supports himself and family, though he has not an inch of land, and though he is no member of any corporation; has an interest in the support of the constitution under which he enjoys these advantages, equally with the owner of terra firma, and the possessor of corporation privileges. The inference is obvious; every householder paying taxes ought consequently in all places to have a voice in the election of representatives to parliament: this increase of numbers would render the destructive arts of bribery impracticable; and a restoration of annual parliaments would perfect a beautiful frame of popular government. The quick return of elections would tear up corruption by the very roots, hold representatives to their good behaviour, rectify their motives of conduct from the base views of private interest to the noble principles of public virtue and honour; and give us parliaments as free and uncorrupt de facto, as they are supposed to be de jure.--But all this fair building is the baseless fabric of a vision (fn. 8).
Some time before the breaking out of the rebellion, many persons in London well affected to the government, in order to be ready on any proper occasion to quell the outrages of disaffected mobs on public rejoicings, established meetings at several alehouses, which from the vessels the liquor was sold in, obtained the name of mug houses. As these societies were a terror to the vulgar, so were they the principal objects of their fury, of which they had given many instances. Exasperated at the execution of some of the rebels, the jacobite mob, made several attempts to destroy the house of Mr. Read, one of the mug houses in Salisbury-court Fleet-street; and in an attack on July 24th, the landlord having shot the ringleader one Vaughan a small-coal-man, the rest with the assistance of the Bridewell-boys broke into the house and rifled it. The sheriffs caused the proclamation against riots to be read; but no obedience being paid to this, the privy-council sent a party of horse guards to suppress the insurgents: five of the most active were seized, tried upon the statute, and executed before the house. Some party zealots prosecuted Read for killing Vaughan, but the transaction appeared so fair on his side, that he was acquitted, and received 400l. from the treasury to indemnify him from his losses and expences (fn. 9).
The common-council, on the 18th of December, repealed all their former acts concerning the lighting of the city of London. And ordained, "that all housekeepers, whose house-door, or gate-way, fronts or lies next unto any street, lane, or public passage or place of the said city, or liberties thereof, shall, in very dark night, i. e. every night between the second night after each full moon and the seventh night after each new moon, set or hang out one or more lights, with sufficient cotton wicks, that shall continue to burn from six o'clock at night till eleven o'clock of the same night, on penalty of 1s. And that, under the like penalty, the occupiers of houses in any court, that faces any public place or passage, shall alternately hang or set such a light on the outside of such doors or gates as shall be next the said public place or passage. Unless the party offending is not charged to the poor, and whose house shall not be of the rent of 10l. per annum. Penalties to be levied by distress and sale of the offender's goods, by warrants from the mayor."
As a conclusion of all transactions relating to the rebellion, an act of grace was passed July 15th, 1717, which opened the prison doors in London and all over England, with very few exceptions.
An act had passed after the restoration, obliging all mayors and aldermen at their admission into offices, to sign a declaration against the Solemn League and Covenant, under a considerable penalty (fn. 10). As this act remained still in force, though universally neglected, all magistrates lay exposed to the penalty of it; but on a petition from the lord-mayor and aldermen of London, on November 6th to the king for relief in that point, an act was passed to repeal it, under the title of an act for quieting and establishing corporations (fn. 11).
War was declared against Spain December 17th, 1718, the causes of which are not material for us to enter into.
Two contested elections for the choice of aldermen in the wards of Broadstreet and Langbourn in the year 1711, when Gerard Conyers and Peter Delme Esqrs. had been admitted, upon the event of the polls and scrutinies; occasioned much party animosity in the city. The unsuccessful candidates by their interest in the court of common-council obtained an order to commence prosecutions against the new elected aldermen; and the expences of the suits were defrayed out of the chamber of London. This was complained of to the house of lords, who appointed a committee to examine into the expences of those and other elections from the above mentioned time. On April 17th, 1719, this committee reported, that since the 13th of November, 1711, the city had paid, on the said account, for Broad-street-ward, Langbourn-ward, Tower-ward, and Cheapward, the sum of 2827l. 10s. and that not one of the said suits, so ordered to be carried on by the common-council, for which so great a sum of money had been expended, were ever determined in favour of the prosecutors.
The report being read, the peers came to the following resolution: "Resolved, by the lords spiritual and temporal in parliament assembled, that it is the opinion of this house, that the common-councils of London, having issued great sums of money out of the chamber of London, in maintaining several suits of law between citizen and citizen, relating to controverted elections, have abused their trust, and been guilty of great partiality, and of gross mismanagement of the city treasure, and a violation of the freedom of elections in the city."
We now arrive at the remarkable year 1720, when trade received so material an injury, and so many unhappy families were ruined, by the fatal arts of stockjobbing; which intoxicated the nation to a degree that will be long remembered, and ought long since to have dictated an effectual check to the gains of fraud out of credulity.
The king in his speech, November 23d, 1719, had earnestly recommended the consideration of all proper means for lessening the debts of the nation. A scheme was accordingly formed for reducing all the public funds into one, in order to discharge them; and the South-sea company together with the Bank of England, presented their respective proposals to the house of commons. The opportunity of taking in the national debts, and in consequence, of increasing their capital stock and yearly fund, was looked upon as a very valuable liberty; and therefore the Bank and South sea company endeavoured eagerly to out bid each other in parliament. The South-sea company, for the liberty of taking into their stock, the redeemable and irredeemable debts, amounting to above 30 millions, by purchase or subscription; offered at first 3,500,000l. to be paid into the exchequer by four equal quarterly payments, beginning at Lady day 1721: and agreed that their whole capital should be reduced to 4 per cent. after Midsummer 1727, and be thenceforth redeemable by parliament. The Bank, for the like liberty, offered upon the long and short annuities, three years purchase; which if the whole purchase was compleated, would have amounted to about 2,367,600l. and 20 per cent. upon the redeemable debts, amounting to about 3,180,000l. so that their whole offer was about [5.5] millions.
The South-sea company by a second proposal, not only offered 500,000l. more, but also four years and a half's purchase upon all the annuities they should take into their capital stock, which had the whole been taken in, would have amounted to about 3,567,503l. so that their whole proposal was about 7,567,500l. Beside all this, they offered to circulate a million in exchequer bills gratis, and to pay 3 per cent. interest for that million; as also one year's purchase upon such annuities as should happen not to come into the the company's capital before March 1st, 1721. Though the Bank made some farther advances, this scheme of the South-sea company was approved by the commons, and a bill was ordered to be brought in to carry it into execution (fn. 12).
The practicability of the company's making good their offer, without being losers themselves, or egregiously deceiving and injuring the proprietors of these debts, was little considered by the ministry; and the South-sea company were so flushed by the success of their treaty, as to extend their views to the incorporating all the funds of the Bank, East-India company, and Exchequer, into their own capital. But though this scheme was not relished, the very rumour of it raised their stock to 126 per cent. at the shutting of their books for Christmas 1719 (fn. 13).
There were not wanting some in parliament who opposed this bill by arguments that afterward were but too well verified. It was urged, that this bill was calculated to enrich a few, by the ruin of many--- that it countenanced the pernicious practice of stock-jobbing, thereby diverting the proper genius of the people from trade and industry—that the artificial raising of South-sea stock so high as 319, its price while the bill was depending, was a dangerous bait to decoy the unwary to their ruin, by parting with the real produce of their industry, for imaginary wealth---that it would give foreigners an opportunity of perhaps trebling the great sums they already possessed in our funds, and of draining the kingdom of its treasure when they should realize their stock---that the proposal of the Bank was the fairest, but if nevertheless the South-sea company's proposal should be accepted, the rise of their stock should be limited for preventing the pernicious effects of stock-jobbing in so high a degree as was likely to happen. To all this and much more, the ministerial advocates replied, that neither the ministers nor the company could foresee this great rise of the stock; for had its price remained where it was when the bargain was first struck, viz. at 137, the public would have been the greater gainer—that the ministry had nothing in view but to ease the nation of part of its present heavy load of debt, and to put the remainder into a method of being gradually discharged—and lastly, that it was but reasonable for the company to enjoy the profit of the rise of stock, procured by their own prudent conduct: &c. (fn. 14) After these debates the bill passed without any amendment or division; and on April 7th, 1720, the king came on purpose to the house of lords to give his assent to it (fn. 15).
It is not material to our purpose to enter into the methods taken by the managers of the South sea company, toward the execution of so vast a scheme; such as making their dividend warrants at Christmas 1719, to carry Interest until Christmas 1720, &c. On April 12th, five days after the royal assent was given to their bill, the directors opened their books for the subscription of a million, at the rate of 300l. for every 100l. capital; and so great was the concourse of persons of all ranks, that this first subscription amounted to two millions of original stock. It was to be paid at five payments of 60l. each; but in a few days the stock advanced to 340, and the subcriptions sold for double the price of the first payment: to raise it still higher, the general court of the company on April 21st, voted a dividend of 10 per cent. for the ensuing Midsummer half year, as well to the new subscribers as on their old capital. This resolution answering the proposed end of the directors to improve the infatuation of the monied men, they opened their books for a second subscription for one million at 400 l. per cent. when a million and half was subscribed at that exorbitant rate in a few hours.
On the 19th of May the directors thought fit to settle the terms and prices for the long and short annuities, which had been subscribed; and their stock being that day at 375 per cent. it was resolved to allow for every 100 l. per annum of the long annuities 700l. of the capital stock; which at 375 per cent. amounted to 2625l. and 575 l. in bonds and money: so that the total for each 100l. per annum. amounted to 3200l. or 32 years purchase. For the other long annuities, called the 14 per cents, they allowed for each 98 l. per annum, the same quantity of stock, valued as above, at 2625l. and in bonds and money 511l. total 3136l. or 32 years purchase: and in proportion for any greater or less sum of those annuities. For every 90l. per annum of the short annuities, they allowed 350l. of their capital stock, at the same rate, amounting to 1312 l. 10s. and in bonds and money 217l. 10s. total 1530l. or 17 years purchase. Lottery prizes of 1710, for every 100l. per annum was allowed 400l stock, which was 1500l. bonds and money 200l. making 1700l. or 17 years purchase. Blanks in the same lottery, for every 98l. per annum, 350 l. stock, making 1312l. 10s. bonds and money 353l. 10s. making 1666l. or the same purchase.
Though the offers of the company's stock at this high premium caused some discontent at first, and occasioned many who had only left their orders, to with draw them, yet the managers contriving to raise the stock to 500 per cent. before the time of signing expired, the annuitants carried back their orders faster than they withdrew them, and happy was the person that could subscribe first. By May 29th, two thirds of the annuities were subscribed.
By the daily rise of the South sea stock, a general infatuation took place, though the subscribing parties themselves, especially in the early part of this singular transaction, were equally accessaries to their own future losses, with the conductors of the scheme. Now it was that the wife and thinking part of the people, who had hitherto laughed at the folly and madness of others, for being concerned in such a wild chimera, began to borrow, mortgage and sell, to raise all the money they could, in order to share in these amazing profits; whilst others, who had enriched themselves, strove as eagerly to get out, to secure what they had got. On June 2d, this stock sold at 890; but such fluctuations soon ensued, sometimes in the space of a few hours, as gave clear indications of its precarious value. These alarming symptoms caused the managers to lend out great sums on South sea stock at 400 per cent. and at 4 per cent. interest, to assist such as were reduced to sell their stock, to make good the payments on their subscriptions. These loans answered a double purpose; first by locking up the stock so pawned, and secondly, by supplying the borrowers with the means of purchasing still more. Thus though the stock was then under 800 per cent. the junto ventured so far out of their depth as to take a third money subscription for the purchase of stock at 1000l. per cent. in ten different payments of 100l. each, for five millions! What is more strange, crouds of people flocked to this astonishing subscription; so that in a few days the first payment of 100l. sold at market for 400l. the managers by their loans taking care to supply the market with cash!
While the South sea stock was in its meridian glory, the popular frenzy in part affected the other two companies, by raising their stocks above their just value; for East India stock sold at 445, and Bank rose to 260 per cent. The advanced prices of all these stocks were computed to amount to about 500 millions sterling; five times as much as the current cash of all Europe, and double the value of all the landed property in England. To render this madness still more absurd if possible, the people had immediately before their eyes, the failure of the Mississippi bubble in France, which the year before had almost ruined that nation. But the eagerness of acquiring riches by quick and easy methods, had so much possessed the minds of the people, that the most extravagant bubbles found ready subscribers; those who sold their first subscriptions reaped great profits, and left the buyers to deplore their disappointments.
Great multitudes of projects for manufactures, commerce or plantation were offered to subscribers at this time, the detail of which would be tedious; one however may be produced as a specimen of the lengths to which it is possible to carry public credulity. A proposal was offered to the public "for carrying on an undertaking of great advantage, but nobody to know what it is." The projector formed a scheme for half a million, by which every subscriber paying down two guineas for subscribing, was to reap 100l. a year for every 100l. he subscribed. How this was to be done did not appear in the proposal, which said only that in a month the particulars of the project should be laid open; and then the money subscribed was to be paid in. A scheme so inviting did not fail of encouragement; the projector received 1000 subscriptions, amounting to 2000 guineas, in the forenoon, and went off with the money in the afternoon.
The infatuation of the people was burlesqued in one of the public papers at the time, by an advertisement in the following strain. "At (a certain place named) on Tuesday next, books will be opened for a subscription of two millions, for the invention of melting down sawdust and chips, and casting them into clean deal boards, without cracks or knots."
Of all the rash proceedings of the South sea governors, none proved more quickly fatal, than their obtaining from the government, on the 18th of August, a scire facias against all these airy projects called bubbles; from a belief that the traffic in them obstructed the rise of their stock: whereas it was quickly found that these subordinate schemes assisted in keeping up the price of it. For the lower people who were not at first able to deal in South sea stock, ran greedily into these smaller bubbles; and having sold out their shares in them to great profit, they then purchased South sea stock and subscriptions: thus those small rivulets, were a constant supply to the great South sea. The earnestness of the South sea directors to crush these petty rivals quickly operated directly contrary to their expectations; for the publication of the scire facias by authority in the London Gazette, struck the conductors of all the projects with such a panic, that the suddeness and greatness of their fall was equally remarkable. The more barefaced bubbles shrunk immediately into their original non-entity; their undertakers shut up their offices and vanished; and these effects proved but the prelude to the downfall of South sea stock and subscriptions.
At the opening of the company's books on August 22d, the stock was at 820 per cent. and two days after the directors opened a fourth money subscription for the purchase of 1,250,000l. at 1000 per cent. whereof 200l. or 20 per cent. was paid down, and the remainder to be in four half yearly payments of 200l. each, though these were afterward split. This subscription was filled in three hours time, and sold that evening at 40 per cent. advance; but this advance was not lasting: on the 30th of August, the court of directors, to raise the expectations of mankind to the highest pitch, declared a dividend of 30 per cent. for the ensuing Christmas; and to compleat their extravagance, that for the next succeeding twelve years, not less than 50 per cent. should be the annual dividend on their stock. Nevertheless, on Sept. 20th, the stock sunk to 410, when a general court agreed to reduce the terms of the last subscribers of the public debts to the price of 400 per cent. as also of the third and fourth money subscriptions from 1000 to 400 per cent. These resolutions were far from giving satisfaction to the adventurers, the directors therefore to support their drooping stock, entered into a negociation with their original rival the Bank, to take a quantity of their stock at 400 per cent. in payment for 3,775,000l. redeemable debt, for which the South sea company was to pay off the Bank. This was afterward called the Bank contract, the very surmise of which, raised up the South sea stock again to 675, though it was afterward denied to have been executed as an actual contract: but the fascination was now over; on September 29th, the stock dropped to 175, and their bonds were at 25 per cent. discount. This produced great uneasiness and clamour among the monied men, and produced a great demand upon the Bank for cash, and still greater on the private bankers; who having lent out much of their money on South sea stock and subscriptions, many substantial bankers were obliged to stop payment for a time. Toward the close of this marvellous year were seen the great losses of many families of rank and quality; with the utter ruin of merchants of great credit, and of clergymen, lawyers, physicians, and tradesmen: some of whom after living in splendor, proved unable to stand the shocks of poverty and contempt, but died broken hearted, while others withdrew to remote parts of the world to hide themselves and never returned.
Many expedients were started for the relief of sufferers by South sea stock; among others an engraftment of 18 millions into the two other great companies, 9 millions into the Bank, and 9 millions into the East India stock: but though these companies at length agreed to it, and though an act of parliament confirmed the agreement, yet it was not carried into execution. The company also in their distress petitioned the king for a grant of that part of the island of St. Christophers in the West Indies, which was yielded up to us by France at the treaty of Utrecht; as also for the country of Nova Scotia, for the advantage of their trade. But though these applications were unsuccessful, they obtained a remission of the entire sum, they were bound to pay to government for taking in the national debts; whereby the public were deprived of all the expected benefit from that scheme, excepting the reducing the irredeemable debts into a state of redemption. This remission was however granted with a proviso that from Midsummer 1722, two millions of the company's capital stock should be annihilated for the benefit of the public: yet before that time arrived, those two millions of capital stock were again restored to the company from the said term (fn. 16).
On the 15th of April 1721, the princess of Wales was delivered of a son, afterward the worthy duke of Cumberland, at Leicester house; the next day the city of London presented the king a congratulatory address on this increase of his family; and his reply containing the following passage.
"I cannot omit taking this opportunity of assuring you, that I am truly concerned at the calamity brought upon you by the wicked management of affairs in the South Sea company. I have however this comfort, that the reproach of any part of this misfortune cannot, with the least justice, be imputed to me. Nothing will give me more ease and satisfaction, than the seeing you delivered from your present sufferings, your trade revived, and public credit re-established."
During these strange transactions, reports circulated of an infamous society in London, the members of which were said to be guilty of like enormities with the Mohocks formerly mentioned, and who assumed the shocking name of the Hellfire club: and though this club probably existed only in the distracted minds of the dupes to the bubbles of the preceding extraordinary year, yet the rumours produced a proclamation dated April 29, against blasphemous and scandalous clubs; in which the king declared his determination to shew all marks of his displeasure to any who even lay under the suspicion of such destructive practices. He also instructed the officers of his household to make strict inquiry whether any of his servants were concerned in these horrid impieties (fn. 17).
A treaty of peace with Spain was signed at Madrid on June 13th, N. S. which contained but few articles, and those relating only to a renewal of their former commercial treaties (fn. 18).
The general use of printed Indian callicoes in apparel and household furniture, was found to be very injurious to the silk and woollen manufactures of this kingdom; and occasioned several riots among the weavers of London. It was therefore thought necessary to redress a grievance by which so many thousands of families were affected; and a bill was brought into parliament for their relief. Some delay in the passing the bill giving the weavers to apprehend a rejection of it, they assembled about the parliament house in a very tumultuous manner, and tore the callico gowns off the backs of all the women they met: they threatened destruction to the East India house and that of a French weaver, nor were they totally quelled but by the horse and foot guards, assisted by the city trained bands. The bill passed into a law absolutely prohibiting the wear of printed Indian callicoes, under the penalty of 5l. for each offence on the wearer, and 20l. on the seller (fn. 19). We are told that the increase of the silk manufacture at this time, amounted to the annual value of 700,000l. more than it was at the time of the Revolution; and that till then we had used to import wrought silks from France to the amount of 500,000 l. per annum (fn. 20). The silk trade was now still farther encouraged by bounties on the exportation of certain articles of silk manufacture (fn. 21).
The plague raging this year in the southern parts of France, particularly at Marseilles, a proclamation was published, forbidding any person to come into England from any part of France, between the bay of Biscay and Dunkirk, without certificates of health. The streets of London were ordered to be paved and kept clean, and an act of parliament was passed for the performance of quarantine (fn. 22) , for preventing infection, by building pest houses for the reception of infected persons, and for ordering trenches or lines to be drawn round any city town or place infected, in order to cut off all communication with them. Sufficient guards were to be appointed for preventing escapes, and all persons endeavouring to escape without the observance of quarantine, were to suffer as felons convict.
The citizens of London deeming the powers of inforcing these regulations, injurious to their corporation rights, and inconsistent with the lenity of a free government; a petition from the lord-mayor, aldermen, and commons, was presented to the house of lords, for relief against it: but though the lords rejected this petition, so much of the act as related to removing persons to pest houses, and to drawing lines round any infected town or city, was repealed.
The increase of the western suburbs requiring a greater supply of water than the present works could furnish, an act of parliament was obtained to authorise a new company for a supply of water from Chelsea (fn. 23), where there is a creek from the Thames. The water is conveyed by a steam engine to a reservoir in Hyde park, from whence it is by pipes again conveyed and distributed to the houses of subscribers in the adjacent parts of the town.
The South Sea transaction had occasioned much discontent in the nation
among the sufferers, which was industriously fomented by the tory and jacobitical
enemies to the present government. The king had some intimations that a plot
was forming which he hinted in his speech March 7th, 1722, at the dismission
of parliament; but in the beginning of May he had full information of a conspiracy in favour of the pretender, the first notice of which came from the duke
of Orleans. Upon this intelligence a camp was formed in Hyde park, all military officers were ordered to repair to their respective commands, some troops
were called over from Ireland, and the Dutch states were desired to keep in readiness the guarantee troops in order to be sent into England in case of necessity.
To authorize these precautions and to sound the temper of the people, lord
Townshend writ the following letter to the lord-mayor of London.
Whitehall May, 8th 1722.
"His majesty, having nothing more at heart than the peace and safety of his good city of London, the protection of its inhabitants, and the support of public credit, has commanded me to acquaint your lordship, that he has received repeated and unquestionable advices, that several of his subjects, forgetting the allegiance they owe to his majesty, as well as the natural love they ought to bear to their country, have entered into a wicked conspiracy, in concert with traitors abroad, for raising a rebellion in this kingdom in favour of a popish pretender, with a traiterous design to overthrow our excellent constitution both in church and state, and to subject a protestant free people to tyranny and superstition. But I am persuaded that it will be a great satisfaction to your lordship and the city to find, that at the same time I am ordered to inform you of this design, I am likewise commanded by his majesty to let you know, that he is firmly assured, that the authors of it neither are nor will be supported, nor even countenanced, by any foreign power. And as his majesty has had timely notice of their wicked machinations, and has made the proper dispositions for defeating them, has no reason to doubt but, by the continuance of the blessing of Almighty God, and the ready assistance of his faithful subjects, this effort of the malice of his enemies will be turned to their own confusion.
"His majesty makes no doubt but your lordship, pursuant to the trust reposed
in you, will, in conjunction with the other magistrates of his good city of
London, exert, with the utmost care and vigilance, your authority at so
important a conjuncture, for the preservation of the public peace, and the security of the city."
"I am &c. Townshend."
The reception this letter met with, was very satisfactory to the court. An address was presented the next day by the court of aldermen to the king, thanking him for his indulgent regard to the city of London, by informing them of the designs of his enemies, and congratulating him upon the happy success of his negociations which had procured assurances that these traiterous purposes would meet with no foreign support. They added, "when we reflect on the many blessings which Britons enjoy under the protection of a prince, who makes the laws of this land his rule for the government of his people, when we consider that neither the civil nor religious rights of your majesty's subjects have met with the least instance of violation since your majesty's happy accession to the throne of these realms, when we recollect your majesty's royal clemency and benevolence (since the last rebellion) to numbers of those who had offended in the highest degree against their king and the laws of their country; we cannot but express the utmost abhorrence of those vile and detestable persons, who shall again conspire and attempt to bring a free and happy people under the yoke of tyranny and superstition, and to involve this nation in a state of blood, misery, and utmost confusion."
They concluded with assuring his majesty, that as they were bound in gratitude, they would exert themselves in their several stations with the utmost care and vigilance, for the preservation of the public peace and tranquillity, for the restoring public credit, for supporting him, and for making his reign easy and happy. The example of London was followed by many others cities and boroughs, who all expressed the same loyalty and zeal.
The conspirators had made application abroad for assistance, but being disappointed in their expectations, they nevertheless engaged numbers of officers from abroad, had secured large quantities of arms and ammunition, and confiding in their own strength on presumption of dissatisfaction in the people, determined to attempt a revolution of government. The first operation was to have seized the Tower; then the Bank, Exchequer, and other places where the public money was lodged; afterward the king and prince of Wales; the pretender was then to have been proclaimed at the Royal-Exchange. A declaration was sent over by the pretender, under the name of James III. in which he proposed that if king George would deliver up the throne to him quietly, he would in return bestow on him the title of king in his native dominions: this paper the king laid before the parliament, and they ordered it to be burnt at the Royal Exchange, and that the sheriffs should attend the execution of the order. Several persons were apprehended for being parties in this plot; of whom, counsellor Layer was executed May 17th 1723, at Tyburn and his head placed on Temple-bar; Dr. Atterbury, bishop of Rochester was by act of parliament deprived of all his dignities, rendered incapable of any office, and banished: in case he returned he was to suffer death, as were all persons who corresponded with him (fn. 24).
Under the year 1696, an act of parliament has been mentioned for taking away the pretended privileges of certain places in and about London, of screening debtors from their creditors (fn. 25); the Mint or Suffolk Place in Southwark was one of these sanctuaries, the inhabitants of which nevertheless still maintained their pretensions, in open defiance of the officers of justice. It was therefore now thought proper to redress so pernicious an abuse by an express act of parliament (fn. 26) , by which to obstruct the execution of any writ, rule, or order, of any court of law or equity, or of any escape warrant, or warrants of justice, in that place, was made felony: and the sheriff of Surrey was impowered to raise the posse comitatus for the taking by force any debtor out of the Mint; which law has since answered the intended purpose.
The practice of inoculating the small pox was about this time introduced into England from Turkey. Fame gives the honour of importing this happy invention for disarming a terrible disorder of its virulence, to lady Mary Wortley Montague, who resided some time with her husband at the Otoman court. In the letters lately published under her name, a description is given of the Turkish method of performing this operation. This method has been successfully improved here, and the practice received an early sanction at the time of which we are now writing, by the inoculating prince Frederic, the two princesses Amelia and Caroline, the duke of Bedford and his sisters, with many other persons of distinction, who underwent the operation with success (fn. 27).
England was now restored to quiet, excepting that now and then some sparks of division appeared, which shewed that the old parties were not yet extinct. At the election for sheriffs this year, Mr. Humphry Parsons and Mr. Child the acting sheriffs endeavoured to procure the election for Sir John Williams and Mr. Lockwood, in opposition to Sir Richard Hopkins and Mr. Feast, whose nomination was espoused by the lord-mayor and aldermen. Hopkins and Feast were declared duly elected by the lord-mayor and aldermen, notwithstanding Parsons and Child had made a contrary declaration in favour of Williams and Lockwood; and the lord-mayor having dissolved the common-hall, after the court had declared Hopkins and Feast duly chosen, the old sheriffs were prevented from proceeding farther. Feast opposed Williams in an election for alderman of Cripplegate ward, which being also contested, the court of aldermen decided then in favour of Williams; on this the rabble in that ward committed many outrages, for which the ringleaders were committed to Newgate (fn. 28).
Such disputes dictated the necessity of ascertaining the rights and modes of elections in the city of London, more clearly than they were at present understood; and a bill was in 1725 brought into parliament to effect this salutary purpose. The citizens however viewed the bill in an evil light, and therefore opposed it; the court of common-council on March 22d presented formal thanks to Francis Child, Richard Lockwood, and John Barnard Esqrs. for their strenuous opposition to it, which was presented to them by a deputation of four aldermen and eight commoners. Under this sanction a great ferment ensued, and printed summons were dispersed inviting the citizens to assemble on the 25th at Guildhall, to consider the merits of depending bill; but the lordmayor and aldermen resenting this measure, ordered the gates of Guildhall to be shut up at the appointed time, and sent information of what had passed to the ministry. Upon this, the guards at St. James's, Leicester-house, and Somerset house were doubled, and such other precautions taken, as kept all things quiet; the heads of the bill were also printed that the citizens might be better informed of the nature of the intended law.
This produced a petition from great numbers of the citizens to the house of lords, against the bill, as injurious to their liberties; principally with regard to the privilege thereby granted to the court of aldermen, of imposing a negative upon the proceedings of the court of common-council, however unanimous they might be exclusive of their concurrence, or however reasonable or necessary the proposed measures may be. When we advert to the true nature of popular representation; when we consider how few the aldermen are, compared with the commoners in the corporation assembly; and the motives that generally dispose the aldermen to favour the designs of a ministry regardless of the popular interests of the citizens they have the honour to preside over; the objection made to the undue power thus conferred on them, will appear to be very cogent, though it was then, for obvious reasons, disregarded.
At the third reading of the bill in the house of lords, a motion was made for asking the opinions of the judges, how far this bill affected the privileges restored to the citizens at the reversal of the judgment on the Quo warranto, by the act of 2 W. & M. c. 8. But on a debate, it was strangely resolved that the judges should not deliver their opinions on the proposed question! The bill therefore passed into a law (fn. 29), and as it is under this statute that all elections in the city are now conducted, it is copied at large in the Appendix to this volume, No. LIII. The negative power granted to the aldermen by the 15th clause was afterward repealed, as will appear in due time.
There is an irregularity observable in the frame of the corporation of London, that may be incidentally hinted while we are on this subject. At first view it is natural to think that every citizen, being a householder, ought to enjoy all the privileges under the corporation; but time has introduced a distinction in which this equity appears to be warped. The citizens at large, do indeed, as householders elect their aldermen and common-council men; but have no share in the choice of mayor, sheriffs, or members of parliament: nor can the city be strictly said to be represented in parliament. Were the members sent by the city, either elected by the citizens at large, or, if that was thought impracticable, by the corporate body deputed by them, and out of that body; the plan would be consistent and perfect: whereas, the members of parliament, the chief magistrate, sheriffs, and other subordinate officers, are chosen by a select few of the several city companies, whether householders or not, who are often inferior in point of consideration to those freemen who do not take up a privilege, which may be obtained in many companies for a very trifling purchase. (This want of regular gradation might be cured, if the freemen of the several companies being householders, arrived at the qualification of liverymen by seniority; as for instance, after having been freemen for seven years.) Hence the citizens collectively are represented in common-council, but not in parliament; nor are the mayor, sheriffs, &c. city officers in this point of view, but act for, or by commission from, the livery only of those city companies, that have livery-men among them: which livery-men however, unless as householders, have no voice in the election of aldermen or common-council-men, notwithstanding their peculiar privileges in other respects. From this want of orderly gradation arises a confusion of powers and a division of interests, which though they may be so far corrected in idea as to operate uniformly in general; are nevertheless founded in defect, and at critical times are liable to produce disagreeable contests.
By the new buildings after the great fire, people had acquired more just ideas of the requisites for safety against the spreading of fires, for conveniency and elegance both within and without doors. An act was therefore obtained to put a stop to disputes about party-walls and water-spouts; wherein among other things it was enacted, that if any person refused or neglected to build his share of a party-wall, after due notice given him, his next neighbour may build it for him, and oblige the person so neglecting to pay the charges of rebuilding it. The water falling from the tops of houses, balconies, and penthouses, was also directed to be conveyed into the channels by pipes down the sides of houses, under 20l. penalty (fn. 30).
The western suburbs still increasing, and chiefly by the town houses of persons of quality and distinction, the legislature by a clause in an act for laying a duty on victuallers, impowered the commissioners for regulating hackney coaches and chairs, to license 100 more sedan chairs, which augmented the number to 400; their licences being continued at 10s. a year as before (fn. 31) .
A separate treaty of peace and friendship had been entered into by Germany and Spain, on the last day of April; and strong suspicions were entertained that beside the avowed treaty, a private one had been negociated, for the recovery of Gibraltar and Portmahon, and for asserting the pretender's claim to the English crown. The citizens of London on this occasion presented an address to the king containing the warmest professions of attachment, and assurances of support against the designs of their common enemies; which his majesty returned them thanks for, with corresponding promises of his protection and favour. As a present testimony of his kind intentions, he invited the lord-mayor, aldermen, and the whole body of common-council to dinner at St. James's; where they were entertained by the principal ministers of state, with great appearance of cordiality and friendship.
On the 3d of June 1727, the king embarked for Hanover, where he had not been for two years before; but being taken ill on the road, he died at Osnabrug on the 11th and was buried at Hanover, among his ancestors. King James, instead of giving the laws their proper force, by a due exertion of his regal power, had employed it to dispense with them; queen Anne, educated under these prejudices, was flattered afterward into a persuasion that the supream authority was unlimited; but king George on the contrary desired no power beyond what enabled him to promote the welfare of his subjects (fn. 32). This is true power, the affections of a people fill up the measure of it, and fix it in security; as appeared by the success with which George I. disconcerted all the attempts made by the infatuated adherents of tyranny to disturb his reign. Happy is that king who has sense enough to cultivate his true interest, which consists in gaining the hearts of his people; and George I. was too wise to deem those his friends who would have paid their court to him by professions of obedience, which have always proved fatal to those princes who have given credit to them.
The great enlargement of ministerial power in the administration of our government, has indeed since his time, been found very injurious to the nation; who see all the evils of late complained of, originate from this cause. Under such a plan, the virtues of a king cannot operate so freely for the advantage of his people, as his vices can to their prejudice: for those who possess his confidence do not find the former so favourable to their private purposes as the latter. Hence any patriotic intentions of a good king, are checked by continual obstructions, while the pernicious views of a misguided one, are industriously forwarded; and that king must be obstinately virtuous, and possessed of very keen talents indeed, who is not misled by the insidious arts of bosom counsellors.
The national debt at the close of this reign, amounted to 50,261,206 l. (fn. 33) but it is believed that few will impute the accumulation to the king's management.