A New History of London Including Westminster and Southwark. Originally published by R Baldwin, London, 1773.
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History of London from the accession of George II. to the rebellion in the year 1745.
The news of the death of king George I. being brought to London June 14th, the prince of Wales was proclaimed the next day with the customary forms; and addresses from the city of London were on the 16th presented to the new king and queen. At a common-council held October 6th, it was resolved to invite their majesties with the duke of Cumberland, and the three eldest princesses, to Guildhall on the next lord mayor's day: as also to desire permission for putting up the king and queen's pictures in Guildhall; both which requests were consented to. The royal family viewed the procession as usual on such occasions, from Cheapside; were afterward superbly treated at dinner, honoured the ball with their presence; and the king ordered the payment of 1000 l. for the relief of insolvent debtors.
A daring project had been formed to rob the queen, on her return at night from the city, as was afterward confessed by one of the gang that formed the plan, when under sentence of death; but though the queen luckily passed by, while they were engaged in robbing alderman Heathcote on his return from the house of commons, a letter was sent from the secretary of state to exhort the magistrates to suppress such villainies.
In the beginning of December, 1728, his majesty's eldest son prince Frederic, who had hitherto resided in Hanover, arrived at St. James's; where he was waited on by the lord-mayor, and aldermen with a complimentary address from the city of London: he was created prince of Wales, and took his place at the privy-council.
Mr. Oglethorpe, having been informed of shocking cruelties and oppressions exercised by goalers upon their prisoners, moved the house of commons for an examination into these iniquitous practices, and was chosen chairman of a committee appointed to inquire into the state of the goals in this kingdom. They began with the Fleet prison, which they visited in a body; where they found Sir William Rich baronet loaded with irons, by order of Bambridge the warden, to whom he had given some slight cause of offence. They made a discovery of many inhumanities exercised by the warden, and detected a most wicked system of extortion, fraud, and villainy. When the report was made by the committee, the house unanimously resolved that Thomas Bambridge acting warden of the Fleet, had wilfully permitted several debtors to escape; had been guilty of the most notorious breaches of trust, great extortions, and the highest crimes and misdemeanors in the execution of his office; that he had arbitrarily and unlawfully loaded with irons, put into dungeons and destroyed, prisoners for debt under his charge; treating them in the most barbarous and cruel manner, in high violation and contempt of the laws of the kingdom. A resolution of the same nature passed against John Huggins Esq; who had been warden of the Fleet prison. The house presented an address to the king, that he would direct his attorney general to prosecute these persons and their accomplices, who were accordingly committed prisoners to Newgate (fn. 1). A bill was brought in to disable Bambridge from executing the office of warden, for the better regulating the prison of the Fleet, and for more effectually preventing and punishing arbitrary and illegal practices of the warden of the said prison (fn. 2).
It may be hinted on this occasion, that the laws respecting debtors, are no less impolitic than cruel. That the fraudulent debtor ought to be punished, is too evident a truth to be contested; but the general power of creditors ought not in equity to extend farther than the property of debtors: and if this limitation should operate to restrain the facility of obtaining excessive credit, it might be better for the fair trader on both sides. This would certainly check the schemes of intentional fraud; and if it should hinder a few enterprizing geniusses from accumulating rapid fortunes, it would save many from as quick ruin on the failure of rash adventures; without impeding the progressive gains of honest industry. When a debtor surrenders his all, he ought to remain free in his person to apply himself to his future maintenance; but to confine his body to gratify revenge, which is all that then remains to be satisfied, is a degree of cruelty repugnant to the principle of christian remission, which we all pray for conditionally on the plea of conforming to it ourselves: it is punishing a man for his misfortunes. It is as inconsistent with sound policy; and however severe the laws of the early Romans might be respecting debtors, yet when the case of Publilius came before the senate in the year of Rome 427, that august body passed a law which was afterward confirmed by the people, "that creditors should have a right to attach the goods only, and not the persons of their debtors (fn. 3)," But it is needless to search history on a subject which is compleatly before us in present view. When an unhappy man is cast into prison, he loses all his connexions in life; and whatever may be his disposition when he enters, his continuance there deadens all industrious emulation, and depraves his morals: so that if he ever obtains a discharge, he comes out destitute of property or friends, and indisposed to resume his former employments even if an opportunity appears of reinstating himself, which does not often offer to his choice. Many hundreds of useful members of the community, are thus continually, with their families, thrown a dead weight upon society for an unprofitable subsistence, which is a truly important object for legislative attention.
The grand jury of the county of Middlesex, on the 12th of February, 1729, taking into consideration the great mischiefs arising from the number of shops or houses, in which, at that time, a liquor called Geneva was sold, in and about this city; presented them to the court of King's Bench as public nuisances, to be ranked amongst the most disorderly houses: it being notorious, that they not only harboured the vilest of both sexes among the meanest of the people, but by inuring them to a habit of laziness and debauchery, brought them to want and misery; and, when intoxicated with pernicious spirits, they were hardened enough to attempt the greatest villainies, such as were formerly scarcely known to any other nation: they therefore prayed that honourable court would use their endeavours to obtain a remedy equal to so great a mischief. They likewise prayed that the laws might be vigorously executed against beggars, and to prevent begging in the streets, which was become an intolerable nuisance, burden, and disgrace, to the metropolis, and its environs: and they also presented the fashion able and wicked diversion, called masquerades, and particularly the contriver and carrier on of masquerades at the king's theatre, in the Hay-market, in order to be punished according to law.
As the great consumption of spirituous liquors by the poor, afforded an opportunity to add to the revenue, this opportunity was not neglected (fn. 4); what became of the complaint against masquerades, which as an article of genteel licentiousness, came home to the persons of our legislators themselves, will appear from these nocturnal scenes of promiscuous revelry being still carried on with impunity; and the members of both houses frequently reap the just fruits of them.
This year an act was passed for the regulation of watermen, wherrymen, and lightermen rowing on the river Thames (fn. 5), principally relating to the manner of their taking apprentices, which being their particular concern, it need only be mentioned that no waterman's apprentice is, between Gravesend and Windsor, to be trusted with the sole care of a boat, until he is 16 years of age, if he is a waterman's son; or if a landman's son, until he is 17 years old; under penalty of 10s. on the master.
The increase of the eastern suburbs of London, occasioned some new parishes to be now erected. The hamlet of Spitalfields was vastly enlarged by the number of silk manufacturers, and was therefore made a distinct parish by the name of Christ-church (fn. 6); the hamlet of Wapping Stepney, from the like cause, became a separate parish, by the name of St. George in the East (fn. 7); and, to connect matters so near in point of time, it may be added, that the next year the hamlet of Limehouse was made independent by the name of the parish of St. Ann's Limehouse (fn. 8); that Deptford, by means of the dock yard was grown too large for the old parish church to contain the inhabitants, so that it was divided into two parishes, the new one being that nearest to London; which was named St. Paul's Deptford (fn. 9). The parish of St. George Bloomsbury was also erected at the same time (fn. 10).
A bill was brought into parliament to prevent the subjects of Great Britain from advancing money to any foreign prince or state, without license from the king under his privy seal (fn. 11); the plea for which was to hinder the emperor from borrowing money from English merchants, for raising troops to disturb the peace of Europe. The bill contained a clause impowering the king to prohibit by proclamation all such loans, and the attorney general to compel the discovery upon oath of any such loans; and in default of answer, that the court of Exchequer should decree a limited sum against the person so refusing. This measure was strongly opposed by Sir John Barnard, Sir William Wyndham, and Mr. Pulteney, as a restraint upon trade, that would render Holland the market of Europe, and the mart of money to all the nations of the continent: that we were thus disabled from assisting our best allies, and while the licensing power remained in the crown, the minister through whose hands they issued, might by this new trade gain 20, 30, or 40,000l. a year; and that it would render the Exchequer a court of inquisition. But notwithstanding these and many other objections, the bill being vindicated by Sir Robert Walpole, Mr. Pelham, Sir Philip Yorke, the attorney general, and supported by the whole weight of ministerial influence, it passed into a law (fn. 12).
We are informed that in and during the year 1731, the whole exports of London consisted of 105 different species of merchandize; of which those in the woollen manufacture, are thus specified: 894 suits of apparel, 2216 pairs of blankets, 3847 dozens of caps, 10,437 dozens of castors and felts, 4822 cloths long and short, 385 coverlets, 48,436 yards of flannel, 1577 garments, 827Cwt. of haberdashery, 7773 dozens of hose, 2319 kersies and dozens, 1995 perpets, 9640 goads of plains, 713 rugs, 38,915 pieces of stuffs and baize. Beside large quantities of grain, biscuit, flour, cheese, and bacon; East India goods, linen, thread, tapes, sail-cloth, iron, copper and brass ware, lead, tin, &c. Of imports there were 85 different species of merchandize, consisting of many sorts of drugs, spices, cotton, deer skins, goat skins, ivory, indico, gums, iron, many kinds of dying woods and oils, naval stores, rice, rum, turpentine, wine, wool, &c. There were re-exported from the port of London alone, in only two commodities imported from the British American colonies, viz. tobacco 15,787,155lb. avoirdupois; and of sugar 58,446 Ct. of 112lb. or 6,545,952lb. which equally demonstrated the extensive foreign trade of London at this time, and the great improvement of the English plantations (fn. 13).
It is worth noting, that this year an act of parliament ordered that all pleadings and writings in courts of justice in England, and in the court of Exchequer in Scotland, shall be in the English language (fn. 14). As we had long been allowed to understand our prayers, it was indeed high time to understand how the decisions of law were conducted in this world; though the knowledge only enables us to perceive that a reformation is now as much wanted at the bar, as it ever was in the church.
On the 26th of February, 1733, a petition was presented to the house of commons by the sheriffs of London, from the lord-mayor, aldermen, and commons of the city of London, setting forth, that by an act of parliament, made in the 22d of Charles II. intitled, "An additional act for the rebuilding of the city of London, uniting of parishes, and rebuilding of the cathedral and parochial churches within the said city;" the channel of Bridewell-dock, from the river Thames to Holborn-bridge, was directed to be sunk to a sufficient level, to make it navigable, under such limitations as are prescribed by the said act: and in pursuance of the said act, the channel was soon after made navigable from the Thames to Holborn-bridge; but that the profits arising by the navigation had not answered the charge of making: that part of the said channel, from Fleet-bridge to Holborn-bridge, instead of being useful to trade, as was in tended, is filled up with mud, and become a common nusance, and that several persons have lost their lives by falling into it: that the expence of cleansing and repairing the same will be very great, that a greater annual charge will be required to keep it in repair, without answering the intent of the said act. They therefore prayed that a bill might be brought in to repeal so much of that act, as relates to the said channel; and to impower the petitioners to fill up that part of it from Fleet-bridge to Holborn-bridge, and to convert the ground to such uses as they shall think fit and convenient.
Leave was given to introduce a bill, according to the prayer of this petition; which Sir John Eyles, Sir John Barnard, Mr. alderman Perry, and Sir John Williams, were ordered to bring in; and it passed into an act (fn. 15).
By this act, the fee-simple of the ground and ditch is vested in the mayor, commonalty, and citizens of London for ever: with a proviso that sufficient drains shall be made in and through the said channel or ditch, and that no houses or sheds shall be erected thereon, exceeding 15 feet in height.
The ditch was accordingly arched over with a double arch as common sewers, from Holborn to Fleet-bridge, and converted into a market. In the middle a long building was covered in, containing two rows of shops, with a proper passage between, into which light is conveyed by windows along the roof. Over the centre is placed a neat turret with a clock in it. From the south end of this market house, piazzas extend on each side of the middle walk to Fleetbridge, for the conveniency of fruiterers. At the north end are two rows of butcher's shops, and from thence to Holborn-bridge, a spacious opening is left for gardeners and herb stalls. The whole market was well paved, and was opened September 30th, 1737.
The ministry ever watchful to enslave the people, had concerted an artful scheme to extend a general excise over the nation; which was this year disconcerted principally by the noble opposition of the citizens of London.
The court leaders of the house of commons, began by amusing the members with plausible hints of an intention to ease the nation of some heavy taxes, by a new and advantageous scheme, which would be more equitably borne by the people in general, and prove more profitable to the fair trader in particular. No sooner however were suspicions entertained of the nature of the project, than the friends of liberty in the house gave the minister sufficient hints of their being prepared to guard against it. On the 14th of March, the house having resolved itself into a committee to deliberate upon the most proper methods for the better security and improvement of the duties charged upon tobacco and wines, all the papers relating to these duties were submitted to the perusal of the members; the commissioners of the customs and excise were ordered to attend the house, the avenues to which were crouded with multitudes of people; and the members in the opposition, waited impatiently for a proposal in which the liberties of their country appeared so deeply interested. In a word, there had been a call of the house on the preceding day.
In the mean time, a common-council being summoned, they unanimously agreed to recommend it to the city members, to use their utmost endeavours to defeat the design; and the reasons were set forth in the following representation which was delivered to them.
"This court doth apprehend, from the experience of the laws of excise now in being, that extending those laws to any commodities not yet excised, must necessarily be very prejudicial to trade, both as it will probably diminish the consumption of the commodity to be excised, and subject the fair trader to the frequent and arbitrary visitation of officers, and judicial determination of commissioners, removeable at pleasure, and from whom there is no appeal.
"That the extension of such laws must necessarily increase the number and power of officers; which will be inconsistent with those principles of liberty on which our happy constitution is founded; and will farther deprive the subjects of England of some of those valuable privileges, which have hitherto distinguished them from the neighbouring nations.
"Wherefore, this court doth earnestly recommend it to you, their representatives, to use your utmost diligence in opposing a scheme of this nature, should any such be offered in parliament, in any shape, or however limited in its first appearance; being fully convinced that an inland duty upon goods now rated at the custom-house cannot be effectually collected, even with the extension of the powers, or the severest exercise of all the rigours of the present laws of excise."
The session was very full, and both sides appeared ready for the contest, when Sir Robert Walpole opened his design in an elaborate speech. He took notice of the arts which had been used to prejudice the people against his plan before it was known. He affirmed that the clamours occasioned by these prejudices, had originally arisen from smugglers and fraudulent dealers, who enriched themselves by cheating the public; and that these had been strenuously supported by another set of men fond of every opportunity to stir up the people to sedition. He expatiated on the frauds committed in that branch of the revenue arising from the duties on tobacco; upon the hardships to which the American planters were subjected by the heavy duties payable on importation, as well as by the ill usage they received from their factors and correspondents in England, who from being their servants were now become their masters; upon the injury done to the fair trader, and the loss sustained by the public with respect to the revenue. He asserted that the scheme he was about to propose, would remove all these inconveniencies, prevent numberless frauds, perjuries, and false entries, and add two or 300,000l. per annum to the public revenue. He entered into a long detail of the frauds practised by knavish dealers in those commodities; recited the several acts of parliament that related to the duties on wine and tobacco, and declared he had no intention to promote a general excise: he endeavoured to obviate some objections that might be made to his plan, the nature of which he at length explained.
He proposed to join the laws of excise to those of the customs; that the farther subsidy of three farthings per pound charged upon tobacco, should be still levied at the custom-house, and payable to his majesty's civil list as heretofore: that then the tobacco should be lodged in warehouses appointed by the commissioners of excise; that the keeper of each warehouse appointed likewise by the commissioners, should have one lock and key, and the merchant importer another: and that the tobacco should be thus secured until the merchant found a vent for it either by exportation or by home consumption. The part designed for exportation, he said, should be weighed at the custom-house, discharged of the three farthings per pound paid on its first arrival, and then exported without farther trouble: that the portion destined for home consumption should, in the presence of the warehouse keeper, be delivered to the purchaser upon his paying the inland duty of 4d. per pound to the proper officer appointed to receive it. By this means he added the merchant would be eased of the inconvenience of paying the duty upon importation, or of granting bonds and finding sureties for the payment, before he had found a market for the commodity; that all penalties and forfeitures so far as they belonged to the crown, should for the future be applied to the use of the public. To obviate the objection of the subject being thus liable to trial in multitudes of cases before the commissioners of excise, from whom there is no appeal but to commissioners of appeal, or to justices of peace in the country, from whom nevertheless he thought no man ever had just reason to say he had suffered wrong; he proposed that appeals in this, as well as in all other cases relating to the excise, should be heard and determined by two or three of the judges to be named by his majesty; and in the country, by the judge of affize upon the next circuit, who should hear and determine such appeals in the most summary manner, without the formality of proceedings in courts of law or equity.
Such was the substance of the famous excise scheme, in favour of which Sir Robert Walpole moved, that the duties and subsidies on tobacco should from the 24th of June cease and determine. The debate that ensued was maintained by all the able speakers on both sides the question. Sir Robert was answered by alderman Perry member for London; Sir Paul Methuen joined the opposition. Sir John Barnard distinguished himself in the same cause, and was supported by Mr. Heathcote, Mr. Pulteney, Sir William Wyndham, and other patriots. The scheme was espoused by Sir Philip Yorke, Sir Joseph Jekyl, lord Hervey, Sir Thomas Robinson, Sir William Yonge, Mr. Pelham, and Mr. Winnington. In the course of the debate, Sir Robert Walpole took notice of the multitudes that beset the house, and an imprudent expression he made use of, was long remembered.—"Gentlemen, said he, may give them what names they think fit; it may be said, that they came hither as humble supplicants; but I know whom the law calls sturdy beggars, and those who brought them hither could not be certain, but that they might have behaved in the same manner."
This reflection produced some confusion, but order being restored, Sir John Bernard made the following reply to it. "Sir, I know of no irregular or unfair methods that were used to call people from the city to your door; it is certain, that any set of gentlemen or merchants may lawfully desire their friends, they may even write letters, and they may send those letters by whom they please, to desire the merchants of figure and character to come down to the court of requests and to our lobby, in order to solicit their friends and acquaintances against any scheme or project which they think may be prejudicial to them. This, Sir, is the undoubted right of the subject, and what has been always practised upon all occasions. The honourable gentleman talks of sturdy beggars; I do not know what sort of people may be now at our door, because I have not lately been out of the house, but I believe they are the same sort of people that were there when I came last into the house; and then, Sir, I can assure you, that I saw none but such as deserve the name of sturdy beggars as little as the honourable gentleman himself, or any gentleman whatever. It is well known, that the city of London was sufficiently apprised of what we were this day to be about; where they got their information I do not know; but I am very certain, that they had a very right notion of the scheme which has been now opened to us, and they were so generally and zealously bent against it, that whatever methods may have been used to call them hither, I am sure it would have been impossible to have found any legal methods to have prevented their coming hither."
Had the minister encountered no opposition but what he met within doors, he would certainly have carried his project into execution; for when the house divided upon the question, the numbers appeared, for the excise 266, against it 205: but the whole nation was alarmed, and clamoured loudly against the bill. The populace still crouded round Westminster hall, blocking up all the passages to the house of commons; they even insulted those members who had voted for the ministry on this occasion, and Sir Robert Walpole began to be apprehensive of his life.
Sir John Barber, lord-mayor at this juncture, summoned a common-council to deliberate upon measures to prevent passing this obnoxious bill; of which his lordship had obtained a copy. At the opening of the court he addressed himself thus to the whole body.
"There is a bill depending in the house of commons (a copy of which I have procured) for laying an inland duty on tobacco; which duty, it is universally agreed, will prove extreamly detrimental to the trade and commerce of this great city, as well as to that of the whole nation. And as the high station, I have the honour to be in, obliges me to be watchful over every thing that may affect the interest of my fellow-citizens, I should think myself wanting in my duty, if I neglected to call you together on this extraordinary occasion, that you might have an opportunity to deliberate on an affair of so much importance, wherein our liberty and property are so much "concerned." The bill being laid before the common-council, they agreed to petition against it, and ordered it to be presented to the house of commons on the 16th of April: in which, after delivering the sentiments of the citizens of London upon the bill depending in that house, and expressing the bad apprehensions they conceived of its effects, they prayed to be heard by their council against the said bill.
The city of London has always enjoyed this privilege, that any petition presented to the house by their sheriffs, and brought up by the clerk of the house, is read at the table, without asking leave of the house for that purpose; whereas all other petitions must be presented by a member of the house, and cannot be by him brought up, or read at the table by the clerk, till leave be first granted. Accordingly this petition was brought up and read at the table; and, as soon as it was read, Sir John Barnard got up, and shewed how much the city and citizens of London, as well as all the other trading part of the nation, were to be affected by the bill for altering the method of raising the duties payable on tobacco, and how just reasons they had to insist upon being heard by their council against it; and concluded with a motion for granting them leave to be heard by their council. This revived the debates, but on the question being put for the petitioners being heard by council against the bill, it was carried in the negative by 214 against 197.
The opposition of the people in general, had nevertheless so good an effect, that the second reading of the bill was put off to the 12th of June, in order to drop it decently; and the house being adjourned for that day, such was the end of the famous excise bill.
Complaint was made to the house by several members of the court party of ill treatment from the populace; which produced several resolutions relative to the privilege of parliament, that were communicated by order of the house to the lord-mayor of London, the sheriff of Middlesex, and the high bailiff of Westminster. The miscarriage of the bill was celebrated by public rejoicing throughout London and Westminster, and the minister who projected it was burnt in effigy by the populace.
It was at this time computed that within the compass of one year past, 800,000 quarters of corn had been exported to France, Portugal, Spain and Italy; for which those nations paid us, the freight of our ships included, at least a million sterling (fn. 16). In this fact we see the united effects of agriculture and commerce, and the happy change produced by the bounty on the exportation of grain!
On the 14th of March, 1734, the princess royal of England was married to the prince of Orange with a portion of 80,000l. and a customary address of congratulation was presented to the king by the corporation of London, on the occasion.
In the year 1708, great complaints being made against the London pawnbrokers for taking extravagant usury on pledges, from 30 to 60 per cent. application had been made to the crown for a charter to incorporate a number of persons of credit, under the name of the Charitable Corporation; for lending money to the industrious but necessitous poor at moderate interest upon small pledges, and to persons in better situations upon sufficient securities of goods impawned. Yet as their first capital was but 30,000l. their scheme was not sufficiently extended until the year 1719, when several gentlemen of fortune came into it, though their charter was never confirmed by parliament. Their conditions for lending money were at 10 per cent. interest, viz. 5 per cent. as legal interest, and 5 more for supporting the expences of the corporation. In 1725 they obtained liberty from the crown to extend their capital, and afterterward made another application for that purpose; the directors borrowing large sums for the support of their scheme. In October 1731, George Robinson Esq; member of parliament for Marlow, the cashier, and John Thompson warehouse keeper of the corporation, both disappeared in one day, which alarming the proprietors, a committee was appointed to inspect the state of their affairs. They reported that for a capital of 487,895l. no equivalent was to be found, as their money and effects did not amount to more in value than 34,150l. the remainder having been embezzled by means they could not discover: they therefore petitioned the parliament to inquire into the conduct of the managers, and to afford them such relief as the case in their opinion should require. A secret committee was accordingly formed, who soon detected a most iniquitous scene of fraud concerted by Robinson and Thompson, with some of the directors; many persons of rank and quality being concerned in this infamous transaction. Sir Robert Sutton, with Sir Archibald Grant, were expelled the house of commons for their share in it; and an act was passed to restrain them and other delinquents from alienating their effects or leaving the kingdom (fn. 17). In the mean time the committee received a letter from John Angelo Belloni an eminent banker at Rome, advising that Thompson was seized in that city with all his papers, and confined in the castle of St. Angelo; that the papers were transmitted to his correspondent at Paris who should deliver them up on stipulated conditions in favour of the prisoner. But it appearing that the Pretender assumed the merit of securing Thompson from his affection to the English people, the letter was ordered to be burnt at the Royal Exchange by the common hangman. In 1733, the parliament granted a lottery for the relief of the sufferers (fn. 18), which was this year 1734 distributed to them, amounting to 9s. 9d. in the pound (fn. 19); and this ill conducted corporation has retained nothing but its empty name since.
The frauds practised in stock-jobbing, and its injurious consequences to trade, were also now thought to require legal restriction; an act of parliament was therefore passed to prevent bargains for stock bought or sold for a future time, by persons on one hand not possessed of such stock, and on the other, by persons not being in circumstances or ability to pay for such stock (fn. 20). By this statute stock sold for a certain day and not paid for according to agreement, may be sold to any other person, and the seller may recover damages; the buyer likewise, when the seller refuses to transfer the stock according to contract, may recover damages: all persons who sell stock of which they are not possessed, are subject to the penalty of 500l. and brokers who negociate such contracts are liable to the penalty of 100l.
To allow any contracts for stock other than for present delivery, appears to be a defect in this act, as it suffers a pernicious species of gaming to be ingrafted on the simple act of fairly buying and selling; which the circumstances of families continually require, and to which this species of traffic should be strictly confined. But it is needless to enter into the merits of a law, which the licentious bargains still carried on by the adventurers in Exchange-alley, shews to be so insufficient.
The inhabitants of the precinct of Blackfriars had pretended to a privilege of exemption from the jurisdiction of the city of London ever since the dissolution of the monastery in 1539; but the right of the corporation was determined by trial in the court of King's bench on July 10th, 1735, when Daniel Watson a dealer in druggets and shalloons, was sued for opening a shop there without being a freeman of London. The cause was tried by a special jury of nonfreemen whose verdict was in favour of the city; and this district now sends two members to the court of common-council, as a precinct of the ward of Farringdon within.
On the marriage of the prince of Wales with the princess of Saxe Gotha, April 27th, 1736, the lord-mayor and aldermen presented separate congratulatory addresses to the king, queen, and their royal highnesses, as did also the court of common-council, the citizens soliciting a call of the court for that purpose. Some time before, the prince had accepted the freedom of the company of Sadlers, and he was pleased afterward to receive the freedom of the city, which was presented to him in form.
The method of lighting the streets of London at night, according to the plan now followed, was found to be very inadequate and ill-managed. The contractors paid the city 600l. per annum, for the bargain, and thus according to the practice of the present age, a public business was converted into a job: and the limited times during which the streets were lighted, were found to expose the citizens to the depredations of street robbers and house breakers. It was therefore thought needful to apply to parliament for powers to light the streets in a more effectual manner, and an act was obtained with that intent (fn. 21); but as this statute has been since superseded, and the lamps put under another regulation, it is needless to enter into the particulars of it.
It was not until this time, that the old absurd laws against witchcraft and conjuration were repealed (fn. 22); it is but justice however to remark that they had lain dormant for some time, and probably would not have been honoured with a formal repeal, had not a stupid jury in a neighbouring county attempted to make a cruel use of it. It would be well worth the labour to revise our statutes and repeal all those which are become obsolete or unsuitable to present circumstances.
Under every improvement, it is remarkable that for such a series of years a single bridge only had been built over the Thames from London to the Surrey shore; but the great enlargement of the metropolis pointed out at last the inconvenience of having but one bridge of communication with the borough of Southwark and the country on that side of the river: an act was therefore obtained for building a bridge across the river Thames, from New Palace-yard, or the Wool Staple, in the city of Westminster, to the opposite shore in the county of Surrey (fn. 23). An uniform and beautiful bridge was planned in consequence of this power, and compleated by the bounty of parliament, as will be farther mentioned in proper time; and several statutes were afterward made for laying out regular and open avenues to it in Westminster, instead of the former narrow dirty streets, consisting of old and decayed houses; which soon gave an air of grandeur to one of the worst parts of the town.
The drinking spirituous liquors, geneva especially, was still carried on by the inferior classes of people in London to an immoderate and even alarming degree, as dangerous to their health as destructive to their morals; the petty shops where they were supplied with these intoxicating liquors being receptacles for the most abandoned of the human species. The retailers of this poisonous compound called gin, set up painted boards, promising the people that they might get drunk for a penny, dead drunk for two-pence, and have straw for nothing. Accordingly cellars with straw were provided, for the repose of those who took the benefit of the invitation (fn. 24). An act of parliament was therefore passed, prohibiting any person from selling spirits in less quantities than two gallons, without taking out a licence for retailing them; under certain penalties (fn. 25).
The master and wardens of the company of bakers, in behalf of themselves and the other bakers within the bills of mortality, had presented a petition to the house of commons, objecting to the methods used for forming the assize of bread, as erroneous, and injurious to their profession; against which they prayed for relief. A committee was appointed to enquire into the complaint, and a bill ordered to be brought in to rectify it; but later regulations render it unnecessary to enter into the particulars.
The quakers also in a petition pleaded their conscientious objections to the payment of tythes and other ecclesiastical dues, and represented their sufferings by prosecutions on that account; against which they begged relief. A bill was introduced accordingly, but the clergy of the county of Middlesex and other places, alarmed that conscience should be allowed to interfere with the laws in their favour, applied to be heard by counsel against the bill; which being granted, it was cast out by the house of lords, though it passed the commons.
The powers enjoyed by the corporation of appointing the nightly watch of the city, not being thought ample enough for the security of the peace of the citizens, they at this time obtained an act (fn. 26) to empower the common-council of London, from year to year, to appoint such a number of beadles and watchmen, for the several wards of the city and liberties, as they shall judge necessary; to order the arming of them, with the times they are to watch, to ascertain their wages, to appoint the number of constables that shall attend in each of the said wards; and to assess the inhabitants by the aldermen and common-council men in each ward. That the said rate shall be paid quarterly; that whoever shall neglect or refuse payment when demanded, or desires to be excused from paying the watch-rate, shall be disqualified to vote at elections in London: and that houses let into tenements, shall be assessed on the owners of such houses, but paid by some one or more of the occupiers. It was farther enacted by this act, that the mayor, commonalty, and citizens, may impose any reasonable tax upon tenants and occupiers, and upon owners of houses, &c. where there is no present occupier; to be levied by distress; and to order such places before houses, shops, &c. untenanted, to be well and sufficiently paved and amended, as often as need shall be; to be paid for by the owner, under pain of distress. But this act has lately undergone such great alterations, that it is not necessary to follow it any farther.
We have already seen what a general alarm and disgust arose from the attempt of the minister, Sir Robert Walpole, to impose a general excise on the nation; all the blemishes of his administration, with the mystery of that corruption, which he had so successfully reduced to a system, had been exposed and ridiculed, not only in periodical writings, but in theatrical compositions, which met with uncommon success among the people. He engaged writers in his defence, but whether it was that he was unhappy in his choice, that he could get no men of distinguished genius to employ their pens in his service, or lastly that his measures were not capable of being justified; all the advantages in point of argument were on the side of his antagonists, and he saw himself exposed to the contempt of the whole nation. He resolved therefore to seize the first opportunity of choaking those channels through which the torrents of censure flowed upon his character. A manager of one of the playhouses communicated to him a manuscript farce intitled "The Golden Rump," calculated to abuse the government, and which had been offered to the stage for exhibition. This performance Sir Robert Walpole produced in the house of commons, and represented the insolence, malice, immorality, and seditious calumny, which had been of late propagated in theatrical performances. A bill was in consequence brought in to limit the number of playhouses, and to subject all dramatic writings to the inspection of the lord chamberlain, without whose licence no production should be acted. This bill was pushed through both houses with extraordinary dispatch, notwithstanding a vigorous opposition, in which the earl of Chesterfield distinguished himself by an excellent speech against it; he repre sented the laws in being as sufficient to punish any licentiousness of the stage, without imposing new shackles upon the liberty of the subject: "if, said he, poets and players are to be restrained, let them be restrained as other subjects are, by the known laws of their country; if they offend let them be tried as every Englishman ought to be, by God and their country. Do not let us subject them to the arbitrary will and pleasure of any one man. A power lodged in the hands of a single man to judge and determine without limitation, controul, or appeal, is a sort of power unknown to our laws, and inconsistent with our constitution. It is a higher, a more absolute power than we trust even to the king himself; and therefore I must think we ought not to vest any such power in his majesty's lord chamberlain (fn. 27)." It fared in this as in most other interesting occasions; the friends of the people in parliament may amuse themselves with urging the most convincing arguments against any ministerial measure, and when they have exhausted their powers of reasoning, find that a sufficient number of their otherwise instructed auditors might as well have been absent as within the hearing of them. The playhouse bill passed into a law (fn. 28), and hence mummery and pageantry have proved potent rivals to the compositions that under this blight have since found their way to the stage.
No particular mansion had hitherto been provided for the lord-mayor of London, who during this high office resided in one of the most convenient of the company's-halls; but this expedient being thought unbecoming the chief magistrate of the first corporation in the kingdom, it was determined to erect an edifice more suitable to his dignity. Out of several proposed situations, one was pitched upon, the most confined, and least advantageous in point of view; for Stocks market being removed to Fleet ditch, it was determined by the common-council to place their mansion house on that spot, which in February 1738, began to be cleared and prepared for the building. The heaviness ascribed to this edifice is principally owing to the spectator not being able to see it at a due distance, a misfortune common to most of our city buildings: a suitable area, would have been more favourable to the reputation of the architect (fn. 29).
Great complaints were at this time made by the mercantile part of the nation, of their commerce being obstructed by the Spaniards. They disputed the right of the English to cut logwood in the bay of Campeachy, and to gather salt on the island of Tortuga; the captains of their armed vessels, known by the name of guarda costas, made a practice of boarding and plundering British ships, on pretence of searching for contraband commodities and on these occasions behaved with the utmost insolence, rapine, and cruelty. Many vessels had been seized, their cargoes confiscated, and their crews imprisoned in violation of the treaties subsisting between the two nations. Repeated memorials had been presented to the court of Spain, to which only vague and evasive answers were returned; the orders they pretended to send to their American governors not being complied with, nor any of them questioned for disobedience: and though the Spaniards might in return have some plea of recrimination for the illicit commerce carried on with their subjects by some of our American islands, yet this could by no means justify the mode of redress which they pursued.
Alderman Perry, on the 3d of March brought into the house of commons a petition from the merchants, planters, and others, interested in the American trade, specifying these articles of complaint, which they recommended to the consideration of the house. This petition with others of a like nature, which produced warm debates, were referred to a committee of the whole house, and an order was made to admit the petitioners to be heard by themselves or by counsel. Sir John Barnard moved for an address to the king, that all the memorials and papers relating to the Spanish depredations, should be laid before the house, which with some alteration proposed by Sir Robert Walpole, w as actually presented, and a favourable answer was returned.
On the 24th of May, the princess of Wales was delivered of a prince at Norfolk-house, in St. James's-square, who was immediately christened by the name of George, and is now our present sovereign king George III. On which occasion, the lord-mayor and court of aldermen first, and then the lord-mayor, aldermen, and common-council, addressed his majesty. After the publication of the young prince's baptism, the lord-mayor, aldermen, the officers of the city and common-council, in a numerous train of coaches, waited on their royal highnesses with a loyal address.
Several public spirited gentlemen ever since the reign of queen Anne, had in contemplation the erection of an hospital for deserted young children, wherein those children, which by the inattention or inhumanity of parish officers were either lost to society, or for want of due education survived to the prejudice of the community; might be carefully bred to laborious and useful employments. This humane and political scheme was however obstructed by the narrow views of those who urged that such an institution would only operate as an encouragement to vice: as if the meer maintenance of spurious offspring was the only obstacle to a departure from virtue; and that it was an object of no importance to snatch numbers of innocent children from destruction, and educate them to honest industry. The honour of carrying this noble design into execution, is due to Thomas Coram, captain of a trading vessel, who with unwearied diligence solicited the patronage of persons of quality and distinction; and at length obtained a royal charter for erecting an hospital for foundlings, dated October 17th 1738 (fn. 30). The first stone of the hospital was laid in Lamb's conduit fields at the bottom of Red lion street Holborn, September 16th 1742, a house being hired in the mean time in Hatton-Garden for the commencement of the charity; and the first wing being finished in October 1745, the children were then removed into it. The charity is carried on by voluntary benefactions and has been occasionally assisted by parliament; but it remains to be wished that it could be rendered as extensive as the utility of the foundation deserves.
The session of parliament opened February 1st 1739, when the king in his speech to both houses gave them to understand that a convention was concluded with the king of Spain, who had agreed to make reparation to the British subjects for their losses by certain stipulated payments: and that plenipotentiaries were appointed for settling the matters in dispute in such a manner as might remove all future causes of complaint. The particulars of the convention were not as yet known, and therefore the motion for an address in approbation of it was disputed, although Sir Robert Walpole who was unwilling to have his plan of domestic management disturbed by foreign contests, extolled the convention with the most extravagant encomiums. When the convention was published, it was far from satisfying the people, who discovered that the Spaniards appeared to claim a right of searching British ships sailing to and from the plantations; by having insisted that the differences which had arisen concerning it, should be referred to plenipotentiaries, without promising to abstain from such usurped power, during the discussion of the dispute. On the 20th of February the common-council of London agreed upon a petition to both houses of parliament against the convention as unsatisfactory; which was followed by petitions from the merchants of Bristol, Liverpool, Edinburgh, Glasgow &c. who all prayed to be heard by counsel on the merits of their objections.
The eyes of all the kingdom were now turned toward the house of commons, where the two contending parties for and against the Spanish convention, collected their whole force for the important dispute. The debates were very long, the subject of them obstinately contested (fn. 31) and after all the dexterity of the minister, he carried the resolution for an address of approbation and thanks for the convention, only by 262 against 235: out of which 262 it was remarked that 234 were placemen, whose annual wages amounted to 2129,56l. 13s. 4d. a pregnant specimen of what kind of men now obtained the management of national affairs! The animosity thus excited was followed by a secession of the most eminent members of the minority, who shewed their disgust by retiring from parliament.
The dispute was maintained in the house of lords with equal warmth, where the victory was hard won, by a majority of 21; at the head of the minority appeared the prince of Wales (fn. 32), and a spirited protest was subscribed and entered by 39 peers, the most eminent for their virtue and talents in the nation.
The ministry endeavoured to ridicule the interposition of the city of London in matters of national concern, by an artifice as insignificant as it was mean and illiberal; printed lists of the common-council were distributed in all the avenues to the houses of parliament, with the addition of their trades and companies, to which a portion of scripture, Ecclesiasticus XXXVIII. 27,31,32,33. was sneeringly applied. What worthy divine assisted them with a quotation from the bible on this occasion is not material; but Sir Robert might have been told, and so may all his successors, that the London common-council at all times contains as many heads capable of conducting national affairs, as the superior councils do heads clear and steady enough to conduct a private trade or manufacture: common sense is equally sufficient for both, and the mysteries in either are seldom of an honourable kind.
Sir George Champion member for Aylesbury, who was the alderman next the chair, and who had hitherto been much respected by the citizens; experienced their resentment for voting in favour of the convention, by being set aside in favour of Sir John Salter and Sir Robert Godschall, who were returned to the court of aldermen for the choice of lord-mayor. The court made choice of the former. Mr. Sheriff Heathcote at the common-hall for this election, moved that instructions might be given to the four city members, to endeavour at a repeal of that clause in the act for regulating city elections, which impowered the aldermen to impose a negative on proceedings of the commoncouncil: but the lord-mayor (fn. 33) prevailed to have the present putting of the question waved; promising that the request should be considered in a short time and in a more proper place.
As the court of Spain did not pay the money stipulated by the convention within the limited time, letters of marque and reprisal were granted against the Spaniards; and as the king of Spain by a manifesto excused the non-payment of the money on the plea that the British court had broke through the treaty by preparations for war; a war became inevitable and was declared October 23d with the customary formalities. Upon the declaration of war, the seceding members returned to their seats in the house of commons; deeming this measure a justification of their conduct in that affair (fn. 34).
During the debates on the Spanish depredations, admiral Vernon who had distinguished himself in the house of commons by loudly condemning the measures of the ministry, which he did with all the bluntness of a seaman; affirmed that Porto Bello on the isthmus of Darien, might be easily taken; he even undertook to reduce it with six ships only. This offer was ecchoed by all the members of the opposition, who extolled Vernon as another Drake or Raleigh; and the minister pleased with an opportunity of removing so troublesome a censor, took him at his word, not without hopes, as was imagined, that he would disgrace himself and his party by failing in the attempt. March 13th 1740, however, a vessel dispatched by Vernon arrived, with intelligence of his having taken and demolished all the fortifications of Porto Bello (fn. 35). The nation was greatly elated by this exploit; both houses of parliament joined in an address of congratulation to his majesty on the success of his arms, which was followed by another from the city of London; and in these addresses, the circumstance of Porto Bello being taken by six ships only, was not forgot. Admiral Vernon was also presented with the freedom of London in a gold box.
This winter was a season of great distress to the poor, in consequence of a severe frost, which set in at Christmas and held until the end of February. The river Thames was so fast frozen, that multitudes of people dwelt upon it in tents, and variety of booths were erected on it for the entertainment of the populace. The stoppage of the navigation, disabled watermen and fishermen from earning their livelihood, as well as the lower classes of labourers who work in the open air; and the calamity was rendered more severe, by coals and other necessaries advancing in price, proportionably to the intenseness and continuance of the frost: even water was sold in the streets of London. Nothing can more redound to the honour of the English nation, than did the many instances of benevolence and well conducted charity, which were then exhibited: for had not those of opulent fortunes been inspired with a seasonable spirit of compassion for the distresses of the poor, many wretched families must have perished by cold and hunger.
On the 18th of May this year the princess Mary was espoused by proxy to the prince of Hesse, who was represented by the duke of Cumberland; and in June she embarked for the continent. The customary compliments were paid to the king and princess by the city on the occasion. Her portion was 40,000 l (fn. 36).
A place bill having been revived in parliament in the former session, the court of common-council on June 18th agreed upon an address of thanks to their four representatives for their diligence in supporting it; and begged them to renew their endeavours in procuring a bill for reducing and limiting the number of placemen in the house of commons. The faint attempts of this nature which have been repeatedly made, demonstrate the gradual diminution even of our pretensions to a free parliament: former bills for this salutary purpose were brought in to exclude placemen from parliament, we are now content to limit the number, and yet even this abatement will not procure any regard to the requests of the people.
At the election of the lord-mayor on Michaelmas-day, the common-hall returned Sir Robert Godschall, and George Heathcote, Esq; the two senior aldermen, (Sir George Champion being set aside) to the court of aldermen, who in their turn set aside Godschall, and chose Heathcote the junior alderman of the two. On this alderman Heathcote thankfully declined the office, which occasioned great contests in the court of common-council who were for compelling him to serve; the question was however carried in the negative. Another common-hall was summoned on October 14th, when Sir Robert Godschall, and Humphry Parsons Esq; who had already served the office in 1731, were returned to the court of aldermen; by whom Godschall was once more rejected, and Parsons appointed to the office. At a common-council on the 22d called by the desire of alderman Parsons, he declared his readiness to accept the office; for which a motion for the thanks of the court was made, but an amendment being proposed to the form of the thanks, gave rise to great debates. Several of the aldermen were for putting their negative upon this proposal; but Sir John Barnard with those of the aldermen who had voted for Godschall, and a great majority of the commoners, withdrew from the court, protesting, that the aldermen had no right to vote separately, or to put a negative on the forming a question. The remaining few, then returned thanks to Sir John Salter the lordmayor, for his wise and impartial conduct in his mayoralty; and also to the lord-mayor elect, for his accepting the office a second time.
On the 29th, the right honourable Humphry Parsons entered into his second mayoralty, and this procession was the first in which the lord-mayor rode in a coach drawn by six horses (fn. 37).
The animosities raised by this contested election did not soon subside; for at a common-council on the 11th of November, the extent of the aldermen's negative was revived, and the question put, "That the court of aldermen have the power of putting a negative upon the framing of a question," which passed in the negative in the council: and also in the court of aldermen, by a majority of ten to four. After this a motion was made, "that the court of aldermen have not the power of putting a negative upon the framing of a question," which passed in the affirmative in the council; and also in the court of aldermen, by a majority of eleven to four.
There is not a more useful body of men than the English sailors, and it is a cruel degree of oppression, that while all other orders of men in the nation have acquired freedom, the very merit of these men should exclude them from a participation in those benefits they so materially contribute to preserve to the rest of their countrymen. That due means ought to be taken for manning the royal navy, is what no one will contest; nor is the discovery of the proper method, a point of abstruse investigation. The British seamen always shew a particular degree of courage in action, though they have a reluctance to entering on board ships of war. To seize them by violence, is a manifest violation of their rights as British subjects, under whatever sanction it may be practised (fn. 38); and to offer them high bounties is a great and needless expence to the nation: were they treated with that justice their gallantry in a life of continual danger, deserves, the king would never want mariners in cases of the greatest emergency. A more equitable distribution of prize money would prove the best temptation to invite sailors to serve their country: for however ignorant these poor men may be, they are sensible of the hardship, after a successful exploit, of sharing twenty or thirty shillings each, when their commander may receive as many thousands of pounds! No refinements in reasoning are required to prove that there is not so great a disparity in their merit, though there may be, to justify such amazing disproportion in the rewards.
These remarks are suggested by the contests at this time in the house of commons, on a bill brought in by the ministry under the specious title of a bill for the encouragement and increase of seamen, and for the better and speedier manning his majesty's fleet. By this bill justices of peace were impowered to issue warrants to constables and headboroughs to search by day or night for concealed seafaring men, and to force open doors in case of resistance: a reward was offered for every seaman they should discover, and the poor fellows so found were to be dragged to the navy-office or admiralty, where their names were to be registered (fn. 39). Such a plan of tyranny did not pass unobserved; every exceptionable clause was warmly debated, and Sir John Barnard introduced a petition from the merchants and traders of London against it; as destructive to the liberty of the subject. After the contest had been strongly maintained on both sides, the severe clauses were dropped; and the bill passed with amendments (fn. 40).
March 21st, 1741, the lord-mayor Humphry Parsons died, who was remarked to be the only alderman that died during his mayoralty since Sir John Shorter who died in 1688; when Sir John Eyles, who had not served the office of sheriff, nor was even free of the city, acted as lord-mayor for the remainder of that year. At a court of hustings held on the 23d, for the choice of mayor for the remainder of the year, the livery once more honoured Sir Robert Godschall with their suffrages, together with Sir John Barnard; but Sir John in a genteel manner begging to be excused, and not being obliged to accept the office, as having served it in 1738, the livery returned Daniel Lambert Esq; with Godschall. Upon which the aldermen again thought proper to reject Godschall, in favour of Lambert. The barons of the Exchequer being then out of town, the new lord-mayor was by antient custom sworn into his office by the constable of the Tower (then lord Cornwallis) in a booth erected without the gate on Tower hill: a circumstance which had not happened since the time of the great plague, when the courts of law were held at Oxford.
At the general election of members of parliament, on May 12th the citizens made choice of Lambert the lord-mayor, with aldermen Barnard, Godschall, and Heathcote for their representatives. When the election was declared, a set of instructions was delivered to them from their constituents, requiring them vigorously to oppose the keeping up a standing army in times of peace, and all attempts toward an extension of the excise laws; to endeavour at a repeal of the septennial act, and the restoration of triennial parliaments; as also to procure a bill for reducing and limiting the number of placemen in the house of commons: that in granting all aids and supplies, they should not deviate from the genuine form of the constitution, but make strict examination into every account of the national expence; and lastly to persist with unwearied diligence in getting the exorbitant powers pretended to reside in the court of aldermen restrained, particularly to procure a repeal or explanation of that law which had been interpreted to extend even to the formation of every question that can be proposed to the common-council of the city.
During the election for Westminster, the high bailiff was guilty of some undue practices at the poll, and three justices of the peace, on the plea of preventing riots, had sent for a party of soldiers to overawe the election contrary to law (fn. 41); the grand jury for Westminster presented this transaction to the court of King's Bench, as dangerous to the liberties of the people, and as a restraint on the freedom of elections. The high bailiff was taken into custody; the officer who ordered the soldiers to march, and the justices who signed the letter in consequence of which he acted, were all reprimanded on their knees at the bar of the house of commons (fn. 42). The members elected were lord viscount Percival, and Charles Edwin, Esq; who were instructed to inquire into the cause of the ill success of the war with Spain, and upon such other general points as were contained in the instructions of the London electors.
By the first charter granted to the city by king Charles I. the mayor, recorder, all the aldermen of the city, who had served the office of mayor, with the three senior aldermen who had not passed the mayoralty, were constituted justices of the peace for the city and liberties (fn. 43); but under the present enlarged state of the metropolis, it was found necessary for the more effectual administration of justice, to extend that power to the whole body of aldermen at large: which was now granted by a charter from the king, for which see the Appendix No. LIV.
In a war with foreign powers, the natural strength of England is most successfully exerted on the sea; yet so strangely was this war conducted, that the merchants and traders of London found it necessary to lay their complaints before the house of commons in a petition presented January 20th, 1742, in which they represented their great sufferings from the Spanish privateers, for want of proper convoys, which was followed by a petition of the same nature from the city of London: when the discontents of the people gave such strength to the parliamentary opposition against Sir Robert Walpole that all his management could no longer withstand, and he resigned his employments; the common-council of London, and the electors of Westminster, in February, gave fresh instructions to their members on the several subjects of popular complaint at that time.
The 2d of March was celebrated with great rejoicings in the city, on account of the change of the ministry, and the vigorous resolutions taken in consequence for the better protection of the national commerce.
The petitions from the merchants, and from the corporation of London, acquired consideration by others presented from Bristol, Liverpool, Glasgow, and many other trading towns; which making like complaints of the losses they sustained by the negligent prosecution of the war, the house resolved itself into a committee to deliberate on the allegations they contained. The articles in the London petition were well explained by Mr. Glover an eminent merchant; and six days were employed in examining witnesses and perusing papers in support of it: the same gentleman summed up the evidence in a pathetic speech, in which he endeavoured to demonstrate that the commerce of Great Britain had been exposed to the depredations of the Spaniards, not by accident or inattention, but by one uniform and continued design of making the merchants uneasy with the war. This inquiry being resumed after the adjournment, the house passed several resolutions, and the lord-mayor and Sir John Barnard were ordered to prepare a bill for the better protecting and securing the navigation of the kingdom in time of war; which made its way through that house but was thrown out by the lords.
Sir Robert Godschall, who had at length obtained the mayoralty, in obedience to his trust as member for the city, moved for leave to bring in a bill to repeal the septennial act, in which he was seconded by Sir John Barnard; but being warmly opposed by Mr. Pulteney and Mr. Sandys, men who before the late change of the ministry had acted the part of patriots (fn. 44), but who perform ed afterward under the court managers; the question passed in the negative (fn. 45).
Sir Robert Godschall died of a violent fever in his mayoralty on June 26th, and his place was filled by alderman Heathcote, who had generously refused that honour when conferred on him in 1740 to the prejudice of Godschall, by the court of aldermen.
At a court of common-council held October 21st, a representation in the nature of instructions, was drawn up of domestic grievances which was presented to the city members. In this representation the common-council complain in general terms of some who under the mask of integrity, and a pretended zeal for their country, having acquired its confidence, should disgrace their former conduct, and openly conspire with the known enemies of the public: of the dropping the committee of inquiry into the conduct of the late ministers, of embezzelment of the public treasure, of defrauding the troops, and of parliamentary corruption: all which were earnestly recommended to their serious consideration. Afterward thanks were returned to the lord-mayor for holding frequent common-councils &c. and for his readiness on all occasions to act for the good of his country, and of this great trading city in particular. A mayor derives more true honour from such public testimonials in favour of his conduct, than from obeying cards of instructions from a minister of state in opposition to the citizens; however much little minds may be elevated by such a correspondence.
On the 29th the Right Hon. Robert Willimot, Esq; the new lord-mayor of London, was sworn into that office at Westminster, for the year ensuing. It was remarkable, that notwithstanding the common notion that a lord-mayor must be free of one of the twelve companies, this magistrate broke through that custom, upon the advice of council that there was no law for it. His lordship was of the Coopers company, and would have been translated to the Clothworkers, which is one of the twelve; but his admission being carried only by a small majority, and they having at the same time refused him the use of their hall, he was resolved to give them no farther trouble. It is now understood that belonging to one of the twelve companies, is necessary only to qualify the lord-mayor to be president of the Irish committee.
In Michaelmas term was tried, in the court of Common-pleas Guildhall, a cause between the Weavers company and Mr. Thomas Handyside. Handyside was free of their company; but, not being free of the city, apprehended himself not eligible to the livery. The company called him upon the livery: and the court gave a verdict in their favour; that every member of a company is eligible to the livery, though not free of the city.
In the year 1743, the suburbs of London on the side of the hamlet of Bethnall Green being found to consist of about 1,800 houses, and computed to contain more than 15,000 inhabitants, which is above 8 persons in a house, they being mostly the poorer sort of manufacturers (fn. 46); an act of parliament therefore passed (fn. 47) to make hat hamlet a distinct parish from St. Dunstan's Stepney, and for erecting a parish church therein; which bears the name of St. Matthew Bethnal Green.
His majesty, on February 15th, 1744, informed both houses of parliament of his having received undoubted intelligence of the arrival of the pretender's eldest son in France; and that preparations were making there to invade his kingdom. This information from the throne produced an address to the king from both houses, and another from the city, filled with assurances of attachment and support; that from the city was presented on the 18th, and graciously received: his majesty on this occasion conferred the honour of knighthood on the right Hon. Robert Westley, lord-mayor, serjeant Simon Urlin, recorder, alderman Daniel Lambert, alderman Robert Willimot, sheriff Robert Ladbroke, and sheriff William Calvert. Addresses of the same nature were presented from both universities, the principal towns in Great Britain, the clergy, dissenting ministers, quakers, and almost all the corporations and communities in the kingdom.
A proclamation was immediately published for putting the laws in execution against papists and nonjurors, commanding all papists, and reputed papists, to depart from the cities of London and Westminster, and from within ten miles of them; for confining papists, and reputed papists, to their habitations, (not to remove from thence above five miles) and for putting in execution the laws against riots and rioters. In another address from the parliament, his majesty was exhorted to augment his forces both by sea and land; the Habeas corpus act was suspended for six months; and several persons of distinction were apprehended on suspicion of treasonable practices. In short every precaution was taken that seemed necessary for the preservation of public tranquillity.
The different parts that the kings of Great Britian and France had taken with regard to the affairs of Germany, where hostilities had already commenced between their auxiliary forces; now produced a positive rupture between the two crowns. War was declared at Paris against Great Britain on March 20th (fn. 48), which being expected here, the duke of Newcastle, then secretary of state, sent for the lord-mayor, sheriffs, and representatives of London, on the 21st. to prepare them for such an event; due notice of which was accordingly communicated to the merchants and traders in the city. The French declaration was answered by one at London on the 31st. which was published with the usual forms.
The grand jury of Middlesex in the month of May made a laudable presentment of several public places of luxury, idleness and ill same, which tended to corrupt the morals of the people. These were, two gaming houses near Covent Garden, kept by the ladies Mordington and Castle; Sadler's-wells near the New river head; the New-wells in Goodman's-fields, the New-wells near the London spaw in Clerkenwell; and a place called Hallam's theatre in May fair. The prediction in the preamble to this presentment, appears to be verifying very fast; the jury complained of "advertisements in the daily papers, inviting and seducing not only the inhabitants, but all other persons, to several places kept apart for the encouragement of luxury, extravagance, idleness, and other wicked illegal purposes, which, by such means, go on with impunity, to the destruction of many families, to the great dishonour of the kingdom in general, and this county in particular, especially at a time when we are engaged in an expensive war, and so much overburdened with taxes of all sorts, both parliamentary and parochial, that it is as much as a prudent man can do, without a taste to extravagant and illegal pleasures, to support himself and family according to his degree and station in life, under the most regular oeconomy: and unless some stop be, by authority much superior to ours, soon put to extravagant luxury, we fear the progress thereof, in this county, will soon prove of such an evil tendency, as by its example, may in time lead to the ruin and destruction not only of this county in particular, but of this happy and flourishing nation in general."
The many riotous breaches of the peace, and robberies in the metropolis, induced the lord-mayor and aldermen of London to petition his majesty for "a speedy, rigorous, and exemplary execution of the laws upon the persons of offenders, as they shall fall into the hands of justice:" which produced some time afterward a proclamation offering 100l. reward over and above all other rewards, for apprehending robbers and murderers.
The licentiousness of the populace, which discovered itself in several riots upon different occasions this year, points out the tendency of such places of public diversion too plainly to be contradicted; but the consequences of alluring the people from their industry are not so much considered by those who ought to consider them, as the increase of the public revenue by licences and the consumption of liquors in all places of public resort. The application of this revenue is by no means calculated to atone for thus debauching the people, it rather corresponds too nearly with it.
The daring insolence of public robbers with which the accounts of this time abound, and which we have not by all the severities of the criminal law been since able to suppress, evidently springs from this unheeded cause. Dissipation produces distress, which under this circumstance is naturally relieved by fraud and rapine; and while the people are encouraged in idle expensive amusements, it is ridiculous, it is cruel, to think of suppressing the crimes to which they lead, by sanguinary penalties. The frightful increase of capital felonies in our statutes, only puts the inventions of evil minded persons to work in finding out evasions to elude them; thus we are continually patching up our former laws to no better purpose than to augment the destruction of lives. True policy will not confine itself to the mere punishment of crimes, but rather extend its views to the prevention of them.
While we indulge this digression, which it is hoped the reader will not think impertinent, it may be added that our laws do not sufficiently attend to the degrees of criminality: and though it may found like a parodox, the assertion is hazared, that death is too severe for many offences, while it is too light for the prevention of the greatest. Robbers should not be hanged, because though the punishment is too much under many circumstances, it fails of effect in all. Prudent men are apt to think death the severest exertion of penal law; but desperate men think otherwise, and brave a punishment which so quickly terminates all their cares: nor is there an execution exhibited, at which acts of theft are not committed in sight of the very gallows. Murderers also, should never be hanged, and for this plain reason, because though it is justifiable by the lex talionis, it nevertheless fails of preventing murders.
In a political view it appears absurd to lavish the lives of men, who are generally young, and who may be applied to make some recompence for the injuries they do to society. By offences against laws, men forfeit all claim to protection from them, and ought to be condemned to works of atonement to the offended public. A state of slavish labour for life, or for other terms proportioned to the crimes of which they are convicted, would be the severest punishment the profligate could be doomed to. When men are hanged their sufferings are momentary and they are quickly forgotten; but when condemned to hard, unwholesome, or dangerous labour, unfit for innocent men to exercise; they live striking examples of the consequences of doing evil to others.
The writer may perhaps expose himself to censure for the liberty so often taken of introducing his own opinion on affairs that may in general be deemed too far removed from his private station of life, unless offered with great modesty and diffidence. He would be sorry to appear dogmatical; but there are constitutional habits of thinking and writing, which, like the bodily features distinguish one man from another; and there is a guarded mode of writing which sometimes conceals more policy and latent sufficiency, than he yet possesses: his remarks though they may seem decisively expressed, are by no means delivered as axioms; but when occasion offers, and while the happy freedom of writing remains, he is willing to snatch the opportunity, and will consider even his errors as of service, if the discovery of them should lead to clearer investigations of points interesting to the public welfare. Before the subject of criminal law is dismissed, it may be added, that when laws appear, or become, injurious, that is a sufficient reason for altering them; but before such alterations take place, and while they continue laws, they ought to be duly enforced and executed: as habitual dispensations only weaken the reverence due to laws in general, expose the authority of civil magistrates to contempt, render the objects of misapplied mercy more audacious; and of consequence the public peace more liable to violation.
A small squadron of ships, consisting of one of 60 guns, two of 50 guns, one of 40, one of 20, a sloop, and two victuallers, had been equipped under the command of commodore George Anson, which sailed September 18th, 1740, for the South seas to act against the Spaniards on the coasts of Chili and Peru; and to co-operate occasionally with admiral Vernon across the isthmus of Darien. The scheme was well laid, but was ruined by unnecessary delays, as he suffered greatly by going round cape Horn at a wrong season of the year, where two of his large ships were finally separated from him: the Spaniards had fitted out an armament to oppose him which was destroyed in the same dangerous passage. One of Anson's frigates was wrecked on a desolate island in the South sea, but with the remainder he took some prizes, and sailing to the coast of Peru, he plundered and burned the town of Payta; but as the Spanish settlements were now alarmed he understood that the Manilla ship which was the present object of his attention would not sail that season. He therefore steered across for the Philippine islands, and having by storms and the scurvy lost so many men as not to have enough left to navigate his only two remaining vessels; he burned the Gloucester, and confined himself to the Centurion, which yet was but indifferently manned. At Macao in China he repaired his ship, procured some stores and a small reinforcement of sailors; when he returned back to the streights of Manilla, to wait for this rich annual vessel, expecting he might now find two, as the Spaniards had lost the former season. In the month of June 1743 he luckily met with the Neustra Senora del Cabadonga bound from Acapulco to Manilla; a ship much superior in strength to the Centurion, and with more than double the number of men on board. The commodore however who had carefully exercised his slender crew for the expected action, made an ostentatious shew of his small numbers and gallantly mastered her. He then carried his prize back to China, where he sold it, and returned home with his treasure round the cape of Good Hope, and thus compleated a circum navigation of the globe.
Though the few survivors only, reaped an accidental advantage from this enterprize, yet they owed even the preservation of their treasure to another accident, when they might reasonably suppose all their dangers surmounted. The Centurion anchored at Spithead on June 15th this year, after an absence of three years and nine months; and Mr. Anson who knew nothing of a French war till he came near the Lizard, learned on his arrival that a French fleet was then cruising in the channel, which from the account of their position, he found the Centurion had passed through concealed by a fog (fn. 49). The treasure consisting of 298 chests of silver, 18 of gold, and 20 barrels of gold dust, was triumphantly carried through the city of London on the 4th of July, in 32 waggons decorated with the Spanish colours, and lodged in the Tower: being preceded by a kettle drum, trumpets and French horns, and guarded by the captors commanded by their officers (fn. 50).
A more ample statute was at this time passed to check the commission of night robberies by better enlightning the streets of London; but as the powers granted by this act have since been put under another regulation, it is sufficient to refer to it (fn. 51).
The great improvement in the art of healing since the surgeons were incorporated with the barbers (fn. 52), now caused the former to consider the latter as unsuitable associates. At a general meeting of the company therefore on February 22d 1745, they came to a resolution to divide; but the barbers being the majority retained the property of their hall in Monkwell-street, and made an order that the surgeons should pay them 100 guineas annually so long as they continued to make use of it (fn. 53). An act of parliament was accordingly obtained to dissolve the united company and to incorporate each fraternity separately (fn. 54); the company of surgeons soon after built a convenient hall for themselves in the Old-Bailey.