A New History of London Including Westminster and Southwark. Originally published by R Baldwin, London, 1773.
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From the rebellion in the year 1745, to the commencement of the war with France in 1755.
The use which the French court had meditated to make of the Pretender's claims, inspired his son with a resolution to make an effort in favour of them; to which he was undoubtedly stimulated by the Scots refugees who maintained an attachment to his family. The season flattered his intentions; at the beginning of the war, a regiment of highlanders had been formed, and transported with the rest of the British troops to Flanders; after having been decoyed into the service under assurances that they should not be sent abroad. Before they embarked a number of them finding themselves deceived, deserted with their arms and marched regularly homeward; but being overtaken by a party of horse, they were persuaded to submit, and were brought back pinioned like malefactors: they were tried for desertion, three of them shot in terrorem, and the rest sent to the plantations. This unworthy treatment was considered by the clans to which they belonged, as a national outrage; and as the highlanders are naturally vindictive, their dissaffection was thus heightened by a desire of revenge. To this may be added that Scotland was quite unfurnished with troops, and that the king was in Germany.
Charles furnished with a sum of money and a supply of arms by France, and accompanied by a few Irish and Scots adventurers on board a small frigate, landed on the coast of Lochaber in Scotland; depending on the strength of the clans in his interest. Had the government acted with proper vigour on the first notice of his arrival, the attempt might have been crushed before his adherents could have collected under his standard; but the lords of the regency seemed to slight the information, and to suspect the integrity of those by whom it was conveyed; until by his improving the time that they lost, they were convinced of their mistake. They then issued a proclamation offering a reward of 30,000l. to any person who should apprehend him; a courier was dispatched to Holland to hasten the king's return; a requisition was made of the 6000 Dutch auxiliaries; and several British regiments were recalled from the Netherlands (fn. 1).
The lord-mayor received a letter from the duke of Newcastle, in his majesty's name, September 5th, informing him that one of the Pretender's sons had erected his standard in Scotland, and that several persons had assembled there in open rebellion; the quiet of the city was therefore recommended to his care and vigilance. Addresses were presented to his majesty from the lord-mayor and aldermen, from the court of common-council, from the lieutenancy, and from the merchants of London; also from the clergy of the diocese of London, the dissenting ministers, and in short from most of the public bodies in the kingdom: all containing the warmest professions of attachment, and promises of assistance in crushing this rebellion. Nor were these professions confined to words, for under this general alarm, the merchants for the support of public credit, entered into an agreement to receive and pay bank notes as usual in their dealings; and resolved to raise two regiments at their own expence. Orders were issued to keep the trained bands in readiness, to array the militia of Westminster, and instructions to the same effect were sent to all the lords lieutenants of the counties throughout the kingdom. The principal noblemen made tenders of their services to the king, and some of them received commissions to levy regiments for the suppression of the rebellion. Bodies of volunteers were incorporated in London; and among the rest at a meeting in the Middle-Temple-hall, an association was subscribed by several gentlemen of the law, who agreed to form themselves into a regiment, under the command of the lord chief Justice Willes, to be denominated, "the associated regiment of the law, for the defence of the royal family, and the preservation of the constitution in church and state." The lord Chief Justice received his commission as colonel of the said regiment.
On the third of December, at a court of common-council, it was unanimously agreed to subscribe 1000l. out of the chamber of London, toward the support, and encouragement, of such soldiers as should be employed during the winter season, toward the suppression of the rebellion. The companies of Stationers, Coopers, Drapers, Goldsmiths, and other fraternities paid several sums into the chamber of London, for the same good purpose. The lord Chief Justice Lee, the master of the rolls, and the judges, subscribed 1200l. on the same account. In pursuance of this laudable scheme, the committee of the Guildhall subscription contracted for 12000 pairs of breeches, 12000 Shirts, 10000 woollen caps, 10000 pairs of woollen stockings, 1000 blankets, 12000 pairs of woollen gloves, and 9000 pairs of woollen spatterdashes, to be immediately provided for the use of the army. Even the Quakers reconciled it to their pacific tenets to furnish warm woollen waistcoats for the soldiers to wear under their uniforms while they kept the field in winter. So general was the spirit in support of the established government against this popish pretender that many of the most considerable citizens, especially young gentlemen of fortune, merchants and tradesmen, entered into voluntary associations, learned military exercise, and provided themselves with proper accoutrements and arms; to support the operations of the army, in case of need. The London trained bands were reviewed by his majesty, the county regiments were compleated, volunteers in different parts of the kingdom formed and trained themselves to arms, and the whole nation seemed to rise as one man against this formidable invader.
The rebels mean while got possession of Edinburgh; the young pretender lodged himself in Holy Rood house, and caused his father to be proclaimed at the market cross, and a manifesto to be read in which the chevalier de St. George declared his son Charles, regent of his dominions, promised to dissolve the union, and to redress the grievances of Scotland. His being in possession of that capital gave reputation to his arms and increased the number of his adherents; but though he proposed to seize the treasure in the two banks of that kingdom, he was in this respect disappointed, as it had been previously conveyed into the castle, which was too strong and too well defended for him to master (fn. 2).
After defeating the royal army under Sir John Cope, by which he gained a train of artillery, arms for his men, and an addition of honour, the young chevalier ventured to make an irruption into England. General Wade lay inactive at Newcastle with another army, but Charles entering by the western border, took the city of Carlisle in three days, and by forced marches penetrated as far as Derby, which town he entered on the 4th of December. Wade lingered in Yorkshire, the duke of Cumberland had taken the command of another army assembled in the neighbourhood of Litchfield; but the rebel army had gained a march between him and London, and the metropolis was filled with consternation (fn. 3).
On this success of the rebels, as alarming as it was unexpected, orders were given for forming a camp on Finchley-common, where the king resolved to take the field in person to cover the metropolis: the volunteers in the city were incorporated into a regiment, the weavers in Spital-Fields and other communities immediately formed, and even the managers of the theatres offered to raise a body of their dependents for the service of government. But all this commendable ardour was far from quieting the apprehensions of the thoughtful, while report intimated an intended invasion from Calais and Dunkirk, and while they dreaded an insurrection of the catholics among themselves. The jacobites on the otherhand were elevated by the present posture of their affairs to a degree of insolent exultation which they were at no pains to conceal: in brief at this critical point of time, all was hurry, confusion, and uncertainty (fn. 4).
Happily however, this state of anxious suspence was but short; the young adventurer had boldly pushed into the middle of England, in hopes of receiving considerable reinforcements from the friends of his family; but those friends were at least one generation removed from the jacobites of the last century, and though they derived enough of the principles of their parents to drink his health in private upon their knees, yet excepting a few who joined him at Manchester, he met with no encouragement where he most wanted and expected assistance. The French made no attempts in his favour, his travelling court was divided by faction, his highland chiefs began to murmur, and their clans to be unruly: he found himself in the middle of winter, with a handful of men, between two considerable armies; and in a country disaffected to his cause. To hazard a battle under these circumstances, promised inevitable destruction to them all; so having called a council at Derby, it was determined after violent disputes, to return to Scotland with all possible expedition (fn. 5). On the whole, it was perhaps better that he wasted his strength and exhausted the attachment of his followers by feeling this disappointment, than if more vigorous measures had been taken against him while he continued in England.
The rebel army abandoned Derby on the 6th of December early in the morning, and marched northward with great speed; they left a garrison at Carlisle and entered Scotland: Wade made some attempt to intercept them, but as they passed him, he returned to his old quiet station at Newcastle; the duke of Cumberland took Carlisle the 31st, after investing it ten days, and then returned to London. The citizens had by this time recovered their apprehensions of impending danger; and at a court of common-council on January 23d 1746, it was unanimously resolved to present the duke with the freedom of London in a gold box. The same court also agreed to petition the parliament for taking away the negative power of the court of aldermen in commoncouncil; and a committee was named to draw up a petition for that purpose. The clause II Geo. II. c. 18. sec. 15 (fn. 6), which gave the aldermen this undue privilege in the assembly of the corporation, was accordingly repealed (fn. 7).
General Hawley who commanded the forces now assembled at Edinburgh, had boasted that with two regiments of dragoons he would drive the rebel army from one end of the kingdom to the other; he was nevertheless easily defeated by the young pretender at Falkirk on the 17th of January: it was therefore judged proper to give the command of the Scots forces to a general in whom the soldiers should have some confidence; and as a prince of the blood might have a favourable influence over the minds of the people in Scotland, the duke of Cumberland was appointed to the command. Not to enter into a circumstantial detail of the military operations there, it will suffice to mention that the sons of the reigning king, and of the pretender, met on the field of Culloden on the 16th of April, where the duke of Cumberland gained so compleat a victory, that those of the rebels who survived, were either totally dispersed or taken prisoners. The vanquished chevalier dismissing his few followers, for their mutual safety, wandered about among the mountains and isles a solitary fugitive for five months variously distressed, and often in great hazard of his life: at length a privateer of St. Malo, hired by his friends, took him on board September 17th, and landed him at Roseau near Morlaix in Britanny (fn. 8).
This happy event which rescued the nation once more from the violent attacks of despotism and popery, produced congratulatory addresses to the king from the parliament, the city of London, and other bodies of the people who had before distinguished themselves by their loyalty in the hour of danger; and the house of commons in gratitude to the duke of Cumberland, added 25,000l. per annum to his former revenue (fn. 9). Sir Richard Hoare who was lord-mayor in this troublesome year received the particular thanks of the court of commoncouncil and court of lieutenancy, for his diligent attendance, and steady attachment to his country, during this time of imminent danger; and for his constant readiness to call those courts together.
The earls of Kilmarnock and Cromartie, with the lord Balmerino, who were taken in this rebellion, were tried by their peers in Westminster-hall on July 28th, when the two former pleaded guilty: Balmerino pleaded not guilty, and denied his being at Carlisle at the time specified in the indictment; but this being plainly proved against him, he waved his plea, and submitted to the court who voted him guilty. Favourable circumstances in the case of the earl of Cromartie (fn. 10), induced the king to spare his life, but Kilmarnock and Balmerino were beheaded on Tower-hill August 18th. Seventeen officers of the rebel army were condemned and executed on Kennington common in Surrey, nine at Carlisle, six at Brumpton, seven at Penrith, eleven at York; some few obtained pardons, and a considerable number were transported to the plantations (fn. 11).
November 21st Mr. Charles Ratcliffe, titular earl of Derwentwater, who had been condemned for his concern in the rebellion of 1715, but who then escaped out of Newgate, and was now taken on board a French ship bound for Scotland; was arraigned at the King's-Bench bar on his former sentence: when the identity of his person being proved, a rule was made for his execution; and he was accordingly on December 8th, beheaded on Tower-hill, thirty years after his former sentence and escape (fn. 12).
But the most extraordinary personage executed for this rebellion, was old Simon Frazer lord Lovat. In 1692, he was a captain in Tullibardine's regiment, and in 1695, he with the assistance of his clan, violently forced the lady dowager of Lovat to marry him, for which rape and treason he was tried and condemned: but though king William pardoned the latter, he fled to France for the former crime, and turning papist, accepted a commission under the late king James. For acting a double part between the two crowns of England and France, he was confined for some years in the Bastile, and at length took priest's orders to gain his liberty. He officiated as a jesuit priest at St. Omers until the rebellion in the year 1715, when coming over, he espoused the cause of government, and assisted in recovering Inverness from the rebels; for which he got the title of Lovat, and obtained a highland company, with other favours (fn. 13). In this rebellion, aged as he was, he again fluctuated in his conduct if not in his principles, and while he endeavoured to preserve appearances himself, he sent his son with the best part of his clan to join the Pretender, as appears by an expostulatory letter sent to him by the lord president (fn. 14). In his answer he endeavoured to exculpate himself, and was base enough to reproach his son in very severe terms (fn. 15); and in a letter to the duke of Cumberland used much hypocritical flattery to convince him of his innocence (fn. 16). He was apprehended by lord Loudon, from whom he found means to make his escape; but was at last taken concealed in a hollow tree, while he was preparing to go abroad: he was condemned by the house of peers: his defence was filled with satirical turns, and he preserved a jocose behaviour to the last (fn. 17). Among the preparations for his execution, a quantity of powder intended for the detachment of soldiers appointed to guard him, and which was lodged in the suttling house under the Tilt-yard coffee-house Whitehall; by some accident took fire: by this explosion the front wall of the room, with that of the coffee-house over it, were blown into the street, several people were hurt, but as there happened to be no company in the coffee-room, no lives were lost. On the day of his execution, April 9th, 1747, one of the largest scaffolds on Tower-hill, computed to have contained above 400 spectators, fell down; by which accident about 20 persons were killed, and a much greater number maimed by broken limbs and bruises. Lord Lovat's son was afterward released from confinement, and the circumstances of his case being considered, he was provided for in the army.
Though the detail of these particulars relating to this last attempt in favour of the descendants of James II. which could not well be separated, have led the reader into another year; yet it is to be observed that in 1746, an hospital was founded by subscription between London and Islington, for relieving poor people afflicted with the small-pox, and for inoculation. This is said to be the first foundation of the kind in Europe, and consisted of three houses; one in Oldstreet, for preparing patients for inoculation; another in Islington, when the disease appeared; and the third in Cold Bath fields for patients in the natural way (fn. 18)
Two attempts were made in 1747, to revive a law for the naturalization of foreign protestants, but the city of London petitioned each time against the bill (fn. 19).
In the month of May a perpetuity passed the great seal, incorporating the bishop of London, &c. into one body politic, for the relief of poor clergymen's widows and children within the diocese of London, and to hold in mortmain lands to the annual value of 1500l. (fn. 20).
The parliament had now sat six years, and had voted money to the government with a very liberal hand, great part of which was injudiciously dissipated in continental subsidies: the usual time for a new election was not far distant, and it being doubted whether another set of members might be procured equally agreeable to the present train of measures, the ministry resolved to surprize the kingdom with an unexpected election, before any means could be concerted to oppose them (fn. 14). The parliament was accordingly dismissed June 18th, and the 30th, was appointed for the election of representatives in the city of London. After a sharp contest between a list set up by the corporation, and another by the merchants of London, Sir John Barnard, Sir William Calvert, Slingsby Bethel, and Stephen Theodore Janssen, Esqrs; were declared to have a majority of hands; and carried their election by a great majority upon the poll.
Under the year 1693 was given a short account of the act passed for the relief of the orphans of London, and the support of their fund (fn. 21); the court of commoncouncil, on October 22d. resolved to raise 2000l. on the personal estates of the citizens from midsummer 1747 to midsummer 1748, for the service of the fund, pursuant to the powers of the said act: and as the duty of 6d. per chaldron imposed on coals by that act was to expire at Michaelmas 1750; they agreed on the 18th of December to petition the parliament for its farther continuance. A bill was accordingly introduced and passed (fn. 22), which continued the duty of 6 d. per chaldron or ton on coal and culm for 35 years longer, for the following purposes. First for raising 3000l. yearly to the Mercers company, for payment of annuities and other debts; and secondly that the residue should be applied to the orphans fund: for the benefit of which all the city manors, lands, &c. shall stand charged with the yearly sum of 2,000l. over and above the 8,000l. applied by the former statute. It was likewise enacted, that as the fund for raising the 4 per cent. interest on the orphans capital stock had produced a very large surplus, (including the sum of 21,735l. 17s. 9d. due from the citizens to the said fund,) to make good the yearly sum of 2000l. which ought to have been raised on their personal estates; this surplus should be applied to pay off the principal sum of the orphans debt. Provided that no orphan under age shall be paid paid off, so long as there shall be any person not an orphan, or not under age, proprietor of any part of the said principal debt. The chamberlain of London was also ordered yearly to lay the state of this fund before each house of parliament, from midsummer to midsummer.
To connect the subject, it is to be observed that upon obtaining this act, a committee was appointed in September following to deliberate on the discharge of the orphans debt, and to consider what savings might be necessary to enable the citizens to pay the additional 2,000l. per annum to the fund, which was to commence at Michaelmas 1750. This committee on the 6th of November in that year, reported, that it would be necessary to borrow 25,000l. for the purpose of discharging the orphans debt; which was agreed to by the court of common-council, who impowered the committee to treat for the loan at 3l. 6s. per cent. interest. Out of this sum the chamberlain was ordered, June 20th 1751 to discharge the sum of 21,735l. 17s. 9d. due to the fund from the city, and place it to the credit of the orphans fund in discharge of the debt. From that time 2000l. per annum. has been constantly raised by the corporation, in conformity to the terms of the above mentioned statute (fn. 23).
On January 28th, 1748, the subscribers to the Guildhall subscription for the encouragement of the soldiers employed in suppressing the late rebellion, held a general meeting; and finding a surplus of 3300l. in the hands of the committee, they generously applied it to the following public charities.
|To St. Bartholomew's hospital||1000|
|St. Thomas's hospital||1000|
|Hospital at Bath||1000|
|Infirmary at Hyde-park-corner||100|
Since the fatal year 1666, many precautions have been taken by the legislature in the rebuilding of houses, to guard against fires; yet carelessness in so populous a city will sometimes occasion accidents of that nature, which to enumerate would swell the history unnecessarily: the burning down of a house or two, however distressful to individuals, being trivial in a general view, except we remark that on such unhappy events, the houses are soon restored in an improved state; and that by strong party walls, and by employing less timber in them than formerly, fires are less liable to spread. The chief complaint at present is of the bad composition of bricks, the great consumption of which, has given opportunity to some shameful abuses in this very important article: so that before a wall has stood many years, the face of it is so injured by the weather, that the pressure of a finger will often crush the substance of the bricks to powder; and the fronts of houses are continually patching up with fresh bricks and mortar to preserve a decent appearance. This is an affair that certainly merits consideration, and if the dimensions of bricks were altered more conformable to the Roman size, (see p. 10) broader and thinner, our walls would bind the better, and consequently have more independent strength in them than they have at present.
A terrible fire happened however in the centre of the city early in the morning on March 25th, that calls for particular mention. It began at one Eldridge's house, a peruke maker in Exchange-alley Cornhill, opposite to the Royal Exchange; the whole family were burnt, and Mr. Cook, a merchant who lodged in the house, broke his leg by jumping out of the window and died soon after. The flames in a few minutes spread themselves three different ways, and before noon consumed, according to the best computation, near 100 houses; about twenty of which fronted Cornhill, the rest were in Birchin-lane, Exchange-alley, George-yard, and all the avenues thereabout: notwithstanding all possible means were used to stop them, there being upward of fifty engines, which were in general well supplied with water. The wind being S. S. W. the banker's houses in Lombard-street, and their effects, were all safe; and no public office was burnt, except the London Assurance, but the company had time to save theireffects, and suffered only in the loss of their house.
So destructive a disaster had not happened in the city since that emphatically distinguished as the great fire of London; and it was observed that it was extended from house to house by the roofs over the party walls, which were not built high enough to cut off the communication of the rafters. By the care of the magistrates who opened the Royal Exchange to receive the goods of the sufferers; by the vigilance of the firemen, and the assistance of parties of soldiers sent from the Tower and St. James's, the chief effects of the sufferers were preserved as well from theft as from the flames (fn. 24). The court of common-council on the 29th, for the greater expedition in rebuilding the houses, agreed to permit the employment of as many non-freemen as should be found necessary, in the building way. A subscription was opened for the relief of such of the sufferers who should be found objects of charity; for the management of which a committee was appointed, and Stephen Theodore Janssen Esq; one of the city members was chosen chairman.
As there are several companies established in London, who insure houses and goods from fire, at very trifling annual payments per cent. no person of property is to be pitied who wilfully omits availing himself of a security by which the many unite to alleviate the distresses of individuals, on such sudden unforeseen casualties.
The common-council on the 7th of April, passed an act for repealing all former acts, orders and ordinances, relating to the nomination and election of sheriffs of the city of London; and for regulating and enforcing such nominations and elections for the future. For which see Appendix No. LV.
Preliminaries for a general peace having been signed on the 19th of April at Aix la Chapelle, by the plenipotentiaries of the contending powers, a cessation of arms was proclaimed May 9th, at the Royal Exchange and other usual places in London and Westminster.
Poland and Hungary had this summer been greatly pestered with locusts, a large species of grasshopper about the size of a man's little finger, which coming in vast clouds, settled on the ground and devoured all the fruits of the earth: at length they reached Scotland, Ireland, and England; and on the 4th of August in the evening many swarms of them were seen in the air near St. James's. The next day great numbers of them were found in St. James's park, St. James's-street, and Pall-mall (fn. 25). But happily the decline of the summer and the unsuitableness of our climate for them, proved our protection; and rendered this transient visit rather an amusement to exercise our curiosity, than a presage of danger from them.
The definitive treaty of peace was signed October 7th, and to the disgrace of this nation, the ministry agreed to send two noblemen to France as hostages for the restitution of Cape Breton and other conquests in the East and West Indies (fn. 26). On the king's return from Germany, he was addressed on November by the lord-mayor and aldermen on his safe arrival, and incidentally only, on the restoration of public peace. This peace was celebrated in England, France, and Holland, by fireworks, illuminations, and other evidences of joy, in which they seemed to exert themselves with a spirit of emulation in point of magnificence: and in all probability the three powers were sincerely pleased with the termination of the war. England obtained a respite from intolerable supplies, exorbitant insurance, and interruptions of commerce: Holland was delivered from the brink of a French invasion; and France gained a breathing time for re-establishing her naval power, for exerting that spirit of intrigue by which she so often embroils her neighbours; and for executing plans of gradual encroachment in America, which might be more securely prosecuted than open hostilities (fn. 27). We shall soon have opportunity to remark how well the French court improved the leisure afforded by this peace.
On January 10th, 1749, the lord-mayor received a letter from alderman Heathcote then at Bath, desiring leave to resign his gown; his reasons for deserting the corporation, were expressed in strong terms, and may justify an old man in retiring from, much better than an young one in renouncing, the service of the public; which service whatever the times are, becomes an indispensable duty on all who live in them. As this letter may gratify the reader it is given in the note (fn. 28). The thanks of the court of common-council were soon after voted to him for his public spirited independent behaviour during his magistracy.
The people in general were far from being satisfied with the peace, and an humourous incident which happened at this time, has been ascribed to a contrivance of the then duke of Montagu to ridicule the public credulity. About the middle of January the following advertisement appeared in the news papers.
"At the New Theatre in the Hay Market, on Monday next, the 16th inst.
to be seen a person who performs the several most surprizing things following,
viz. first, he takes a common walking-cane from any of the spectators, and
thereon plays the music of every instrument now in use, and likewise sings to
surprizing perfection. Secondly, he presents you with a common wine-bottle, which any of the spectators may first examine; this bottle is placed on a
table in the middle of the stage, and he (without any equivocation) goes into
it in sight of all the spectators, and sings in it; during his stay in the bottle,
any person may handle it, and see plainly that it does not exceed a common
tavern bottle. Those on the stage or in the boxes may come in masked habits,
if agreeable to them, and the performer, if desired, will inform them who
Stage 7s. 6d. Boxes 5s. Pit 3s. Gallery 2s.
To begin at half an hour after six o'clock.
Tickets to be had at the theatre.
*** The performance continues about two hours and a half.
N. B. If any gentlemen or ladies, after the above performance (either singly or in company, in or out of mask) are desirous of seeing a representation of any deceased person, such as husband or wife, sister or brother, or any intimate friend of either sex, (upon making a gratuity to the performer) shall be gratified by seeing and conversing with them for some minutes as if alive: likewise (if desired) he will tell you your most secret thoughts in your past life; and give you a full view of persons who have injured you, whether dead or alive. For those gentlemen and ladies who are desirous of seeing this last part, there is a private room provided. These performances have been seen by most of the crowned heads of Asia, Africa and Europe, and never appeared public any where but once; but will wait of any at their houses, and perform as above, for five pounds each time.
There will be a proper guard to keep the house in due decorum."
It could hardly be imagined that so gross an attempt to impose on the common sense of mankind, would be seriously attended to. Yet so it was, and on Monday the 16th the house was crouded with nobility and gentry, male as well as female. About seven the theatre being lighted up, but without so much as a single fiddle to keep the audience in good humour, many grew impatient. Immediately followed a chorus of catcalls, heightened by loud vociferations, and beating with sticks; when a fellow came from behind the curtain, and bowing, said, that if the performer did not appear, the money should be returned: at the same time a wag called out from the pit, that if the ladies and gentlemen would give double prices, the conjurer would get into a pint bottle: presently a young gentleman in one of the boxes seized a lighted candle, and threw it on the stage. This served as the signal for battle. The greatest part of the audience made the best of their way out of the theatre; with the loss of cloaks, hats, wigs, and swords. A party however staid in the house, in order to demolish the inside, when the mob breaking in, they tore up the benches, broke to pieces the scenes, pulled down the boxes, in short dismantled the theatre entirely, carrying away the materials into the street, where they made a mighty bonfire; the curtain being hoisted on a pole by way of flag. A large party of guards were sent for, but came time enough only to warm themselves round the fire.—Such is the history of the famous bottle conjurer.
A court of aldermen was held January 17th for the choice of a recorder in the room of Sir John Stracey deceased; the candidates were Mr. Adams and Mr. Morton, each of whom having eleven votes, the lord-mayor gave the casting vote in favour of Mr. Adams, who was declared elected accordingly. The settled salary of the recorder was 120l. per annum, which was augmented to 200l. by a common-council on the 26th of the same month. On February 2d, the peace was solemnly proclaimed with the customary formalities. On the 15th, the lord-mayor and the rest of the court of lieutenancy addressed his majesty jointly on the peace and on his safe return from his German dominions; and at last, on the birth day of the princess Louisa Anne, when the lordmayor, aldermen, and common council in their full corporate capacity, addressed his majesty on that event, March 21st, they introduced a congratulation on the peace in it (fn. 29). As no express address was presented on account of this peace, the occasional dragging it in to fill up addresses framed on other occasions, was a sure indication that it was not generally agreeable.
After six months preparation, and great misapplied expence, the English fireworks were played off in the Green park opposite the royal library, on the 27th of April in the evening: the machine consisted of a magnificent Doric temple, from which extended two wings, terminated by pavilions; it was 410 feet long, the ornaments were all in relief, and it was decorated with frets, gildings, lustres, artificial flowers, inscriptions, statues, allegorical pictures, &c. Over the centre were placed the royal arms, behind which on a pole 50 feet high, stood a grand sun, composed of three circles of rays, whose diameter of fire was 70 feet; and in its centre appeared Vivat Rex in bright fire. After a grand overture of warlike instruments composed by Mr. Handel, the fireworks commenced with a royal salute of 101 brass ordinance (fn. 30). The pavilions at each extremity served as storehouses for the engineers, and between the hours of nine and ten the fire they made so free with, got the better of them, and disconcerted their operations by burning down one of the pavilions (fn. 31).
Thomas Wallis, Esq; elected one of the sheriffs of London and Middlesex, this year, having sworn off, and Thomas Corbet, Esq; the other sheriff-elect, having been chosen under the denomination of salter, when he was a grocer; a new election came on September 8th, when Stephen Theodore Janssen, Esq; alderman and stationer, member for the city, and Thomas Corbet, Esq; citizen and grocer, were chosen by a majority of hands. A poll was demanded and granted in favour of William Whitaker, Esq. alderman and clothworker, against Mr. Corbet, which began the next day, and ended on the 16th, when Mr. Alderman Whitaker was declared duly elected.
Mr. Sheriff Janssen distinguished himself by supporting his civil authority with becoming dignity during his office; and clearly shewed that the decisions of the law could be carried into execution without military aid, an assistance as unsuitable and unnecessary, as it is odious in such cases. On the 18th of October he conducted 15 criminals to execution, one of whom Bosavern Penlez a young sailor was convicted for a riot at a house of ill same in the Strand, where he and others had been ill used; and whose case made a great noise at the time. A rescue of this convict was apprehended, and a party of the foot guards attended at Holborn-bars, to guard the prisoners to Tyburn; but Mr. Janssen, who to his honour attended the duty of his office in person, and had provided a sufficient guard of the civil power, dismissed the officer and his men genteelly, and the malefactors were executed without obstruction. A body of armed sailors indeed attended the execution, and began to be clamorous; but it appearing that they only wanted to preserve the body from the surgeons, the sheriff pacified them by promising to comply with so reasonable a desire. A laudable precedent was thus afforded to magistrates in general of executing the laws without military interposition; and it had been well, if the example had been duly copied in all cases. To use soldiers in quieting every trifling disturbance, shews great want of judgment in magistrates, who thus betray their own constitutional authority, for the puerile satisfaction of a temporary command over men whose presence only aggravates the populace. Few tumults will ever really require a military force to suppress, but those that arise from real grievances: if such unhappy times arrive, and if the people are thus dragooned into submission; we may and must cease to talk of liberty, except it be in the stile that we sigh over the memory of a departed friend.
A public spirited citizen and member of the common-council (fn. 32), Mr. Richard Holland, knowing that by an antient franchise of the citizens of London, they were exempted from all toll, &c. for their goods throughout England; asserted his claim to this immunity, and obtained of the lord-mayor and court of aldermen a formal certificate as a declaration of his right of exemption which extends to every freeman of the corporation. See the note (fn. 33)
The ferment and commotions raised at the close of this year by the election of a member for Westminster, shewed that the people were by no means satisfied with the present measures of the ministry. By the 4 and 5 Anne a member of the house of commons who accepts a place of profit under the king, thereby vacates his seat; but he is artfully left free for a new election: however, those electors who rechoose a man that thus sells his independency, pay very little regard to their own, and give up all right of finding any fault with his conduct afterward. Lord Trentham, eldest son of earl Gower, and member for Westminster, had vacated his seat by accepting a place at the board of Admiralty; and under that circumstance solicited a re-election. The independant part of the Westminster electors, who resented the tergiversation of the earl, formerly one of the most respected leaders of the opposition, determined to use their utmost efforts to disappoint the intentions of the court in this instance. In this disposition and under the countenance of the prince of Wales, they set up a private gentleman Sir George Vandeput, as a competitor of lord Trentham, and engaged to support his pretensions at their own expence. The opposition was laudable, but in such times, it could not be maintained without matching the antagonist at his own weapons, however contrary to reason and to positive laws (fn. 34). Houses of entertainment were opened by both parties; for whatever the professions of a candidate may now be, he is seldom, if ever, successful without he washes them down with liquor, and furnishes his worthy electors with the means of continual intoxication, gratis: votes were solicited, serious remonstrances circulated, and every species of ludicrous abuse propagated with surprizing spirit and perseverance, against the whole interest of St. James's. Mobs were hired and tumultuary processions formed by both parties, and the whole city of Westminster was filled with noise and uproar (fn. 35). The poll began November 22d, but the tradesmen of Westminster, who are chiefly retail dealers, are so much under the influence of the nobility and gentry among whom they live, and who are their principal customers, that the public motives of the majority gave way to their private interests; and when the poll closed on the 8th of December, the numbers on the books appeared to be, for lord Trentham 4811, and for Sir George Vandeput 4654 (fn. 36). A scrutiny was demanded for Vandeput, and above 700 unqualified votes were found on each side; but the result terminated in a majority of 170 in favour of Trentham (fn. 37).
An act of parliament passed this year for erecting a court of conscience for the recovery of small debts in the borough of Southwark (fn. 38); and soon after two other acts of the same nature took place, the one for the city of Westminster and the dutchy of Lancaster adjoining (fn. 39); and the other for the Tower hamlets (fn. 40).
On the 8th of February 1750, between the hours of twelve and one at noon, the shock of an earthquake was felt all over the cities of London and Westminster, and parts adjacent, the chairs shaking in the houses, and the pewter rattling on the shelves. A chimney in Leaden-hall-street was thrown down, another in Billeter square, several chimneys and part of a house near Horsleydown; and a slaughter-house with a hay-lost over it, was overturned in Southwark (fn. 41). The counsellors in Westminster-hall, were so alarmed, that they expected the building would be demolished. At Hampstead, Highgate, and all round, within six miles of London, it was felt very sensibly, but at those two places more particularly. It was felt on both sides the river Thames, from Greenwich almost to Richmond; and the inhabitants were struck with so great a panic, that they left their houses, and ran into the streets, being apprehensive that the houses were falling. Even the vessels at their moorings in the river perceived the shock, as did the inhabitants of Gravesend and Hertford.
March 8th, at half an hour after five in the morning, the town was again alarmed with another shock, more violent, and of longer continuance than the former; as it threw down several chimneys, and damaged some houses. It was accompanied with a rumbling noise, which seemed to break three times. In the high grounds by Grosvenor-square, &c. it was said to have been felt more than in other parts, the brasses and Pewters of several kitchens being thrown down. In St. James's Park, and all the open places, the ground moved very perceptibly, and it was observed, about five o'clock, that there was a continual, though confused lightning, till within a minute or two of the shock, which darted very low. It was reported by a many people, that there was a small shock between one and two the same morning. The great shock at first mentioned was felt at Copt-hall, at Loughton, and in the skirts of Epping next to London, but not in Epping-street; likewise at Thegdon-Mount and Nettswell; at Cheshunt, Ware, and Hertford, and very violently at Waltham; also at Bromley, Beckenham, and Croydon, in Kent, at which two last places it occasioned the hammers of the clocks to strike upon the bells.
On occasion of these two earthquakes, the bishop of London published an excellent letter to the clergy and inhabitants of London and Westminster; wherein he took notice, that it is every man's duty to give attention to all the warnings, which God in his mercy affords to a sinful people, and lamented the general depravity of the times, the horrid oaths and blasphemies, and the detestable lewdness and impiety, luxury and love of pleasure, that prevailed among us. This representation of the immorality of the people had but too much foundation in truth, whatever may be said of the use to which his lordship converted the earthquakes. Pious remonstrances against vice, are seasonable at all times, though most likely to be listened to by the ignorant when under a temporary alarm; but the truth is, that there is more depravity among the rich than among the poor, and that if a reformation does not begin with the former, it will never extend to the latter. In this view, as it will do neither good nor hurt, so it is not worth while, to scrutinze too nicely how far it is justifiable to support the doctrine of judgments from the indiscriminate convulsions of nature, when the scripture fails (fn. 42) in such assistance. These events are much better understood on other principles; though it were well if no worse advantage had ever been taken of the fears of mankind. On the 20th of March, the lord-mayor and court of aldermen voted their thanks to the bishop of London for this letter, which were presented to his lordship two days after by the common crier (fn. 43).
A fanatical crazy lifeguard man went greater lengths than the bishop; for as the second earthquake happened exactly four weeks after the first, he terrified the town by predicting a third and more fatal earthquake to happen at the end of four weeks after the second. On the evening therefore preceding the dreaded 5th of April, incredible numbers of people left their houses and passed the night with fearful suspence in the fields, or lay in boats on the river; the roads were so thronged with the carriages of persons of fashion, that lodgings were hardly to be procured even at Windsor (fn. 44). Many were said to have sat during the night in their coaches in Hyde Park; and as coaches will hold four, scandalous whispers circulated that they dissipated their apprehensions by the help of cards and wax candles.
Though London stood unmoved over the fourth week, the terror of the people did not altogether abate until the 8th of the month was past, because the earthquakes had happened on the 8th of the two former months. The wisest thing done on this ridiculous occasion, was the sending the prophet to a madhouse.
The reduction of the army at the late peace, had dispersed over the nation such numbers of dissolute soldiers, that the prisons were all now crouded with felons for variety of crimes which immorality, idleness, and indigence give rise to. Newgate was rendered so infectious by an uncommon number of prisoners, confined together in close unwholesome apartments, that the very air they breathed acquired a pestilential degree of putrefaction. This contagion brought by the foul cloaths and infected bodies of the criminals into the court of the Old-Bailey at the session in May; produced a pestilential sever among the audience, that proved fatal to Sir Samuel Pennant the lord-mayor, Sir Daniel Lambert alderman, baron Clark of the exchequer, judge Abney of the court of Common Pleas, Mr. Cox under sheriff, most of the Middlesex jury, and several of the spectators. In consequence of this disaster, and a representation from lord Chief Justice Lee, to the court of aldermen, Newgate and other gaols were at last taken into consideration, were well cleansed; accommodated with ventilators to supply a circulation of fresh air; with other humane precautions to preserve the health of the prisoners (fn. 45). Evils that affect the people in general are seldom thought worthy of notice, until they begin to be felt by those from whom redress is justly to be expected: and to digress to a familiar instance, when some ill treated ox shall happen to toss an alderman of London, member of parliament or peer of the realm, over his head; we may hope to have our persons secured from these enraged animals, and our humanity relieved, from seeing the shocking brutality with which they are so continually and wantonly treated in all the streets of the metropolis.
A society was this year incorporated by virtue of act of parliament for the encouragement of the British white herring and cod fisheries (fn. 46); and on the 25th of October, Frederic prince of Wales went in state to Fishmongers-hall, to accept the charter as governor of the new company. Here he was received by the president, vice president, with others of the society, and afterward by the master and court of assistants of the Fishmongers company in their gowns; who all waited on him into the parlour. The charter of the new fishery being read, his royal highness wished all success to this national undertaking; and being requested to accept the freedom of the Fishmongers company, he was pleased to signify his consent. The table was then spread with a large quantity of Shetland pickled herrings, of which the prince ate heartily, as did the whole company present; and there was a great concourse of ladies and gentlemen to see this ceremony (fn. 47).
The act for building a bridge over the Thames at Westminster, has already been mentioned in its proper place (fn. 48), under the year 1736; the first stone was laid January 29th, 1739, and it was now finished in a simple uniform stile, which strikes the spectator with its beauty at the first view. It had been 11¾ years in building, being somewhat retarded by the sinking of one of its piers, which was at last settled by loading it with an immense weight of iron cannon. On November 17th at midnight it was opened by a procession of several gentlemen of Westminster, the chief artificers of the work, with a croud of spectators, preceded by trumpets, kettle-drums, &c. and guns firing during the ceremony. The next day being Sunday, Westminster was like a fair by the throngs which came to view so useful and magnificent a structure. This bridge will be more particularly described under the survey of Westminster.
The many disputes that arose from the employment of foreigners or nonfreemen in the city, had occasioned a committee of aldermen and commoners to be appointed to examine into the merits of the complaints on both sides between masters, and journeymen freemen; and from their report, the court of common-council on November 22d passed a good act for the occasional licensing foreigners to work in the city, under the restrictions that appear in the Appendix No LVI.
At a court of common-council held February 7th, 1751, it was agreed that the addition of 80l. made to the recorder's salary in 1749 (fn. 49), should be altered to 280l. which augmented Mr. Adams's income to 400l. to commence from the preceding Christmas; and to continue until he should be removed by preferment. The recorder being then called in, he returned his thanks for so distinguishing a testimony of the city's approbation of his conduct.
During the passage of a private bill for the naturalization of John Meyboehm through parliament, a considerable number of the merchants of London took the opportunity to present a petition to the house of commons, on March 11th, representing that several foreigners have, of late years, been induced to come over into England, in order to obtain private acts of parliament for their naturalization, with a view to gain advantages to themselves in point of trade; and in particular to avoid the payment of aliens duties on the goods and merchandizes, which they transport from foreign parts into this kingdom: but having obtained such acts, they return back to their own country, where they reside, and consequently bear no part of the public taxes, nor in any manner contribute toward the support of the state, or answer the intention of the legislature: that these persons, so naturalized and returning to foreign countries, out of the jurisdiction of the crown of Great-Britain, frequently cover, under their names, the goods of aliens imported into this kingdom; and, not being answerable to the process of the courts of justice here, are in no danger of incurring the penalties, to which the subjects residing within this kingdom are liable for such offences. On these facts they prayed the house to take the premises into consideration, and to make provision for preventing this abuse of the favour of parliament, by restraining, for the future, the benefit of naturalization to the time during which foreigners shall reside within this realm, in such manner, and under such limitations, as to the house should appear fitting. The petition appeared so reasonable, that it was complied with, and a clause was added to the bill for the purpose mentioned.
The nation was sensibly affected by the death of Frederic prince of Wales, on March 20th, in the 45th year of his age. This prince was seized with a pleuretic disorder in consequence of a cold caught in his gardens at Kew; but had been in a declining state of health for some time, which some ascribed to a hurt received by a fall about two years before, and others to the stroke of a ball at cricket, a diversion of which he was very fond. His character was universally esteemed (fn. 50), and the nation could not but be much afflicted at seeing a prince of such expectations snatched away so prematurely, as the king his father had attained to an advanced age, and as prince George his eldest son, our present sovereign was then a minor.
Sir John Bosworth chamberlain of London, who found himself in an ill state of health, resigned his office April 16th; and of five candidates that put up for the place, the poll decided in favour of Mr. Deputy Harrison; who was therefore May 7th declared duly elected.
On May 22d was passed that memorable act for regulating the commencement of the year, and correcting the calendar then in use (fn. 51); or in other words for abolishing the old stile, and establishing the new stile, which had been adopted by most other nations of Europe. The Julian year or old stile, had been in general use until pope Gregory XIII. in the year 1582, by the assistance of the best astronomers, discovered the errors of the Julian computation. It is well known that the mean tropical solar year, wherein the sun or earth departing from any point in the ecliptic, returns to the same point again, consists of 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes, and 55 seconds; which being less by 11 minutes 5 seconds, than the mean Julian year, the Julian calendar was then so far erroneous (fn. 52). Hence in 129 years and 337½ days, it altered one whole day, which error, from the time of the council of Nice, in the year of our Lord 325, to this time, amounted to 11 days. Pope Gregory's principal view in his alteration of the calendar, was to regulate the time of celebrating the feast of Easter, but more important considerations led us at length to adopt it; as beside its being more correct, the correspondence between English merchants and those of foreign countries was much facilitated, mistakes in business removed, and errors in chronology obviated for the future. For as the year did not commence by the Julian calendar until March 25th, a whole year was frequently mistaken in dates between January 1st and Lady-day. It is hoped however that few such mistakes will be found in this history, where January has been understood throughout as the first month of the year.
By this law it was decreed that the new year should begin on the first day of January; and to allow time for the whole nation to be apprized of the alteration, that eleven nominal days following September 2d 1752, should be dropped, and the next day instead of being called the 3d should be accounted the 14th, to which regulation all acts, writings, and proceedings in law were to be conformed, excepting courts usually held with fairs or marts. But this act was not to accelerate the opening, inclosing or shutting up grounds, common of pasture, or the times on which a temporary and distinct property and right in any such lands or grounds commenced: nor the payment of rents, annuities; or other monies, under usages, deeds, contracts, or agreements then subsisting. The annual admission and swearing in of the lord-mayor of London at Guildhall, was by this act, for the future to be on November 8th and the solemnity of swearing him in at the court of exchequer in Westminster to be on the 9th. By this establishment of the Gregorian, or new stile, the equinoxes and solstices, happen nearly on the times they did at the above-mentioned council of Nice.
The animosities excited by the Westminster election did not subside by the success of lord Trentham; the independent electors chagrined at the victory of the court party, complained to the house of commons of an undue return, and the high bailiff of Westminster was ordered to attend the house, to be examined as to the proceedings. The honourable Alexander Murray, brother to lord Elibank, and two others who had been very active in the interest of Sir George Vandeput, being by way of recrimination accused by the high bailiff of impeding the scrutiny and of treating him ill, they were brought to the bar of the house. The other two made their submissions and were released, but as the consideration of the affair was adjourned for some days, Mr. Murray was after warm debates committed to the custody of the serjeant at arms, but gave bail for his appearance. When the consideration of his conduct was resumed, the result was a resolution that he should be committed close prisoner to Newgate, and that he should receive this sentence on his knees. When he appeared and was ordered by the speaker to kneel, he considered the command as an oppressive exertion of unjust power and nobly refused obedience. He knew the limits of their authority, though they hoped no one would venture to know them, and he determined to go to Newgate without kneeling for that favour, rather than make submissions unbecoming the dignity of a man. Upon this refusal the whole house was in commotion; and he was no sooner removed, than they resolved that his having in a most insolent and audacious manner, refused to be on his knees at the bar of the house, was a high and most dangerous contempt of the authority and privilege of the commons: he was therefore ordered to be committed close prisoner to Newgate, to be debarred the use of pen ink and paper; and that no person should have access to him without leave of the house. A committee was finally appointed to consider what methods might be proper to be taken by them, in relation to this instance of contempt. In the mean time the petitioners against the return by the high bailiff, perceiving the temper and complexion of the house, withdrew their petition, and the order for hearing the merits of the election was discharged.
Mr. Murray was taken dangerously ill in Newgate, and application was made to the commons that he might be removed to a more commodious place; in order to which his physician being examined, gave it as his opinion that he was affected with the gaol distemper. The house then agreed that the speaker should issue a warrant for removing him from Newgate to the custody of the serjeant at arms: but Mr. Murray mortified them again by refusing to accept their favour, and expressed a resentment against his relations for their application in his behalf (fn. 53).
The British house of commons, respectable as they may appear, if considered as the representatives of the people, have often been charged with assuming privileges not defined or justified by any authority beyond their own votes; which may declare any privilege. But as the present writer has no ambition to acquire popularity under such hands, he desires to be understood as calculating his observations for the year of which he is now writing.
The 25th of June put an end to the session of parliament; and with that to Mr. Murray's extrajudicial captivity. On the first firing of the guns for the king's going to the house, his friends prepared to receive him; on the second firing for his majesty's return, he stepped into a coach accompanied by lord Carpenter, and Sir George Vandeput in whose cause he suffered; with the sheriffs of London in a chariot, and other gentlemen whose carriages formed a procession. A flag was carried before him with Murray And Liberty on it, and thus attended he went from Newgate to the house of his brother lord Elibank through a vast concourse of the shouting populace (fn. 54). His case was published in a spirited pamphlet, which reviving the resentment of the house at their next assembling, an order was once more made to send Mr. Murray back to Newgate, and that he should receive the sentence on his knees; but as he perceived his own country afforded him no protection against oppression, he very prudently withdrew from it in proper time. Smaller game was then to be pursued; and a prosecution was commenced against the publisher of his case for a libel: but the facts contained in it were so notoriously true, that the house of commons were again baffled by the jury bringing in a verdict of acquittal (fn. 55).
It often happens that when houses in obscure parts of London belong to indigent or avaritious persons, when clear titles cannot be made out to them, or while such titles are in a course of tedious litigation; they are suffered to stand in a ruinous condition, to the great hazard of those who are tempted by trifling rents to venture their lives in them. On July 27th, the insides of two houses in Brewhouse-yard Shoe-lane, fell in, and killed seven of the inhabitants, beside breaking the limbs of three more. Such accidents frequently happen, and a temporary pity for the sufferers, is all the notice taken of them. The Romans had their Ædiles, masters of public works or surveyors; part of whose charge was to see that buildings were kept in good repair; and an incident in Scotland this very year, affords a good hint for the magistrates of London to copy, when they become sensible of the reproach of suffering their neighbours to surpass them in their civil institutions. The dean of guild and council of Edinburgh, alarmed by the falling of a house, which crushed one person to death, condemned seven tenements in which were above 700 inhabitants, (the houses or lands as they are called, being there very large and high) to be pulled down, their condition being deemed hazardous (fn. 56).
Thomas Winterbottom, Esq. the lord-mayor, died of a fever June 4th 1752; whose death occasioning a vacancy of alderman for Billingsgate-ward, the inhabitants of that ward to shew their esteem for Sir Peter Warren, who had been presented with the freedom of the city and of the Goldsmiths company, for his gallant behaviour at sea; elected him for their alderman. But the admiral who viewed this transaction in a proper light, declined the office in a genteel letter, as being inconsistent with his military employment: he presented them at the same time with 200 guineas, the one half for a dinner, and the other moiety to the poor of the ward. The deputy and common-council-men of the ward then waited on him to intreat his acceptance of the office, but without success; for he sent a message to the court of aldermen, desiring to be excused taking the office of alderman on him, and paid the fine of 500l. to that intent. A new election then took place on the 24th, when William Beckford Esq. an eminent West-India merchant, and member for Shaftesbury, was chosen in his room. Robert Alsop Esq. was elected mayor for the remainder of the year.
The transactions of mankind are ever intermixed with strange and ridiculous instances of popular credulity; some notable facts of this nature have already been noticed in the course of this history, and more are yet behind, which though they originate from molehills, these soon swell to the size of mountains when the eyes of the public are directed to them. Which was the mistaken party in the case of Elizabeth Canning will perhaps appear, now the frenzy she excited is cooled, from the following state of the affair which has been carefully collected from the best relations of it.
"Lost, a girl about eighteen years of age, dressed in a purple masquerade stuff gown, a white handkerchief and apron, a black quilted petticoat, a green under-coat, black shoes, blue stockings, a white shaving hat, with green ribbons, and had a very fresh colour. She was left on Monday last near Houndsditch, and has not been heard of since. Whoever informs Mrs. Canning a Scowrer (fn. 57), at Aldermanbury-Postern, concerning her, shall be handsomely rewarded for their trouble."
This girl whose character was well reported, had lived as servant with one Lyon a carpenter in the neighbourhood of her mother for about ten weeks before her being missed. On New Years-day she had leave to make a holiday, and went to see an uncle and aunt who lived at Salt Petre Bank near Rosemary Lane; they walked as far as Houndsditch with her on her way home, and there parting with her, no intelligence was heard of her afterward until the close of the month. The above advertisement was repeated on the 6th with the addition of her name, and some other particulars, especially that it was supposed she was forcibly taken away by some evil disposed person, as she was heard to shriek out in a hackney coach in Bishopsgate-street. Her mother was of a fanatical turn of mind, and public prayers were offered up for her daughter in churches, meeting-houses, and at Wesley's Tabernacle, "that her return might be speedy, that she might not be led into temptation, but delivered from all evil." Even a fortune-teller was consulted, who gave Mrs. Canning assurance that she would soon see her daughter again, though she was then under the keeping of an old black woman. This may appear a leading circumstance to what followed; which was, that on the evening of the 29th of the same month, Mrs. Canning summoned her little family to prayers, and Heaven was implored for a sight of her daughter dead or alive: when lo! on a sudden the object of her wishes entered! she entered indeed, but far different was her appearance from that she wore when she was first missed; she was now pale, meagre, almost naked, and exhibiting all the marks of wretchedness. Curiosity and compassion drew the neighbours about her; to whom she related, that on the night she was missed, she was attacked under the wall of Bedlam by two fellows, who pulled off her cap, gown, and apron, gagged her, and threatened to cut her throat if she cried out: that they then forcibly carried her along Moorfields, where one of the men giving her a violent blow on the right temple she fell into a fit, she being subject to fits: that when she came again to herself, she found them pulling her along a road, and they at length brought her to a house which they reached by 4 in the morning: that here a woman cut off her stays and drove her into a room, where her only sustenance had been about a quartern loaf in quantity of stale crusts, and a gallon of water. This usage she said was to bring her to prostitution and thieving, to which several young creatures in the house had been induced to comply, by the like severities: but that at last she found means to break through a window almost naked and come home.
The novelty as well as cruelty of this treatment, could not but excite the utmost astonishment and resentment in the auditors; and a resolution to bring the authors of such barbarity to justice, was but the natural consequence of these passions: but the mother's poverty disabling her to seek justice for her daughter's sufferings, a subscription was negociated for this purpose. The place where she had been so ill treated, remained yet to be found; but as the girl said that through the crevices of the boards where she was confined, she saw at a distance the Hertford stage coach pass by, it was determined that the house stood on the Hertford road; and a notorious house kept by a woman that went by the name of mother Wells, between Endfield wash and Waltham-Cross, was immediately suspected. On the 31st she was taken before alderman Chitty at Guildhall, where she made oath of the robbery in Moorfields, and of the confinement and ill treatment she received at Endfield wash; the alderman accordingly granted a warrant to apprehend mother Wells. A numerous body of her friends accompanied her on the 1st of February to Endfield wash, and when they examined the house, though the majority of the company were perfectly well satisfied with the truth of her story, there were not wanting some who remarked that the situation and other circumstances relating to the room they supposed to be that of her confinement, did not in any respect correspond with her deposition before the sitting alderman. The bad character of the house however over ruled all scruples, and strengthened the prepossessions in favour of the girls story; which grew more circumstantial after a view of the premises. From eight other persons then in the house, Elizabeth Canning, singled out an old gypsy woman Mary Squires, of a very remarkably unfavourable physiognomy, as the person, who used her ill, and cut off her stays; upon which they were all secured for examination.
Mary Squires and mother Wells, were tried at the Old-Bailey session in February, for this fact; Squires for robbing Canning of her stays and putting her in fear of her life, and Wells for harbouring and concealing Squires. Canning's positive evidence, was confirmed by Virtue Hall, a girl who lodged with Wells; (but who after the trial as peremptorily unsaid before the lord-mayor, all she then deposed:) but though two witnesses of credit from Abbotsbury in Dorsetshire swore that Squires, who was well known, was there at the time of the alleged robbery, and another from Coombe near Salisbury deposed that he saw her at that place on January 14th, yet so strong were the evidences thought to appear against the prisoners, that Squires was capitally convicted, and Wells ordered to be branded, and imprisoned for six months. So strangely were the people animated on the behalf of Canning, that inconsistencies in the depositions of her and her friends were overlooked, several of the witnesses for Squires were intimidated from entering the court, and those who did, ran the risk of their lives from the fury of the populace.
To finish this odd affair in one relation, it is to be observed that parties are upheld by names rather than things, and all London, dividing on the sides of Canning and Squires, suffered themselves to be actuated by the bitterest animosity against each other under the denomination of Canningites or Canaanites, and Egyptians. Many pamphlets and pasquinades appeared on each side; but happily for the condemned gypsy those in power remained uninfected; and the evidence in favour of her alibi, appeared so strong, that she first obtained a reprieve and then a pardon. Sir Crisp Gascoyne who succeeded Mr. Alsop in the mayoralty, exerted himself with that laudable courage and humanity to discover the truth, that ought ever to distinguish a magistrate: he obtained additional evidence that the gypsy was at Abbotsbury when the facts charged against her were sworn to have been committed at Enfield-wash; discovered some indirect practices of Canning's friends; received the recantation of Virtue Hall's evidence against Squires; and finally laid a clear state of facts before the public in an address to the livery of London. Indictments for perjury were preferred on both sides; the evidences for the gypsy were tried and acquitted; Canning absconded; but to prevent an outlawry she was surrendered, and tried for perjury herself; was convicted; and on the 30th, of May 1754, was sentenced to one month's imprisonment, and transportation for seven years. The zeal of her friends however was inflamed by her conviction; and those who carried on the prosecution against her were insulted to the hazard of their lives: even under this sentence of transportation, public subscriptions were opened to alleviate her distresses as the advertisements expressed. While she remained in Newgate, she was plentifully supplied with the best provisions from the immediate tables of some of her party in the neighbourhood; she was transported in a private ship, furnished with all the possible accommodation and necessaries her situation admitted; and was furnished with such recommendations as secured her a very agreeable reception in New England (fn. 58).
As the secret history of this strange occurrence was probably at first lodged in very few hands; as the eager spirit with which all ranks of people at London entered into the parties it gave rise to, produced plenty of money to manage it; and as the primitive merits of the case, were soon resolved into a contest for victory between the volunteers on each side; it is not likely the world will ever know the true history of Elizabeth Canning for the month of January 1753: to this time the history must now go back again.
The city of London had not only the important concerns of Elizabeth Canning to attend to, but the expediency of admitting Jews to be naturalized, to investigate and decide at the same time. In the spring of 1753, a bill was brought into and passed the house of lords, intitled "An act to permit persons professing the Jewish religion to be naturalized by parliament; and for other purposes therein mentioned." It was supported by some petitions of merchants and manufacturers, who upon examination appeared to be Jews or their dependents; and was countenanced by the ministry, who thought they foresaw in the consequences of such a naturalization, a great accession to the monied interest, and a considerable increase of their own influence among the individuals of that community. The common-council of London however adopted different sentiments; for on the 22d of May, they agreed to petition the house of commons against it. In this petition they expressed their apprehensions that the bill if passed into a law would tend greatly to the dishonour of the Christian religion, the subversion of the constitution of this kingdom, and the detriment of the trade of the nation in general. This application was balanced by another petition in favour of the bill, signed by a great number of merchants, traders, shipwrights and others (fn. 59). The advocates for the bill pleaded that it would encourage persons of wealth to remove with their effects from foreign parts into Britain, increase the commerce and credit of the kingdom, and set a laudable example of industry, temperance, and frugality. The adversaries on the contrary affirmed that such a naturalization would throng the nation with brokers, usurers, and beggars, that the rich Jews under the shelter of this indulgence would purchase lands and in time even advowsons; so as not only to acquire an interest in the legislature, but also in the church, to which they were inveterate and professed enemies: that the adoption of the lower classes of that people from all parts of the world, would interfere with our own industrious natives, rob the real subjects of their birthright, disgrace the character of the nation, and be an indelible reproach on the established religion of the country. Finally, as the climax of their objections, they affirmed that such an act was directly flying in the face of the prophecy, which declares that the Jews shall be a scattered people without country or fixed habitation until they shall be converted from their infidelity, and gathered together in the land of their forefathers. To be apprehensive of counteracting a prophecy was as odd, as it would be to do any thing that it might be fulfilled; as either conduct will make a prophecy of any thing: be this as it may, the bill passed into a law (fn. 60), greatly to the dissatisfaction of the people in general; which whether the measure proved right or wrong, was certainly an evidence of very wrong policy in the ministry, who were shortly after forced to undo it.
Another act that received the royal assent at the same time, gave equal disgust to the nation, though fatally for the true interests of the people, it still remains a check to legitimate population, and to the diffusion of property (fn. 61). Many clergymen prisoners for debt, and little scrupulous in points of decency and decorum, used to carry on a profitable exercise of their function in the verge of the Fleet-prison, by performing the ceremony of marriage at a cheap price in private rooms and alehouses, without licence or strict examination of circumstances. Advantage was taken of these irregularities, to frame a law for the prevention of clandestine marriages, which has imposed such restrictions on matrimony, and vested parents and guardians with such undue powers, that mercenary matches only are encouraged at the youthful time of life, to the future ruin of domestic happiness; or licentious amours, to the present ruin of morals and character: while the poor are likewise checked in their lawful desires by the extraordinary expence, and the nature of the required forms. Clandestine marriages for mere love, which includes a suitableness of the parties to each other, in general promise much fairer for future felicity, than those bargains framed by unfeeling avarice or pride; which destroy all regard to modesty, and produce open adulteries, separate maintenance, and divorces. As there is not a passion woven into the human constitution, but has its wife purpose, human reason is to find out their uses, and human laws to guide them to their true ends; but if they are injudiciously thwarted and obstructed, they will burst all bounds and exert themselves irregularly. All that parents and guardians get by this law is, that the attachments of love still elude their vigilance by trips to Edinburgh, or if young persons cannot undertake so long a journey, they take a shorter road and gratify themselves at home without that trouble. If there is any truth in the late assertions of the decrease of the people, we may justly esteem this marriage act as a co-operating cause of it.
Sir Hans Sloane the celebrated physician and naturalist, had collected a curious magazine of rare productions of the vegetable, animal, and mineral kingdoms, as well as of antiques and works of art. He was now dead, and had directed in his last will that his valuable Museum, together with his large library, should be offered to the parliament at a certain sum, for the use of the public. The offer was at this time accepted by the house of commons, who agreed for the purchase at 20,000l. and an act was passed "For the purchase of the Museum or collection of Sir Hans Sloane, and of the Harleyan collection of manuscripts; and for providing one general repository for the better reception and more convenient use of the said collections and of the famous Cottonian library, and of the additions made, and to be made thereto (fn. 62)." Trustees and governors, consisting of the most eminent persons in the kingdom, were appointed, and regulations established for the management of this noble public Museum; which was afterward deposited in Montague-house, one of the most magnificent edifices in the kingdom, for the free inspection of all curious and studious persons, under certain prudent restrictions; and exhibits a glorious monument of national taste and liberality. This repository will be more particularly described in another part of the work.
At the expiration of Sir Crisp Gascoyne's mayoralty, he received the usual compliment of a return of thanks from the court of common-council, in which his conduct in Canning's business was alluded to in the following words—" for his steady perseverance in the cause of justice, his generous protection of the distressed, and his remarkable humanity." His successor Edmund Ironside, Esq; was so dangerously ill of the gout, that he was carried in a sedan chair to be sworn into his office at the Exchequer, while alderman Benn rode in the state coach and performed the honours of the day: he acted at the mansionhouse as locum tenens until November 27, when the lord-mayor died, and on the next day Thomas Rawlinson, Esq; was elected in his stead. It not being term time he was sworn in before lord Cornwallis constable of the Tower at the Tower-gate, where a conveniency was erected for the occasion (fn. 63).
The act permitting Jews to be naturalized, which had triumphed over all opposition the last session of parliament, became such an object of national disgust, and execration against the ministry; and the prospect of what the clamour might produce at the approaching general election, (the session this winter being the last of the parliament;) that they urged its repeal with more eagerness, than they shewed to pass the law itself; it being the very first act of the session. The alleged motive for this retraction was, "that occasion had been taken from the said act to raise discontents, and to disquiet the minds of many of his majesty's subjects (fn. 64)."
The convenience and elegance of the new-bridge at Westminster, were so obvious, that the citizens of London began to be apprehensive that the superiority of the western end of the town might operate to the prejudice of the easterly parts; they therefore entertained a desire to build a bridge between those at London and Westminster. At a common-council held on December 20th, a motion was made for that purpose and carried; at another court held February 22d, 1754, a motion was indeed made to repeal the former resolution, which after a debate of four hours failed, 93 being for it and 95 against it. A committee consisting of the aldermen, all the deputies, and one commoner of each ward was then formed to consider of a proper situation and plan; who were also to take into consideration the best means to make the passage of Londonbridge more safe and commodious.
In a valuable pamphlet published at this time and attributed to Samuel Dicker, Esq; intitled "An Essay on the many advantages accruing to the Community, from the superior neatness, conveniencies, decorations, and embellishments, of great and capital cities, &c. addressed to Sir John Barnard;" the author among many other judicious hints, recommended the arching over of Fleetditch, and building the new bridge from thence to the opposite shore, either all of stone, or of oak timber on stone piers. But the committee who met March 21st. judged it proper first to consider the state of Londonbridge; and to that end ordered the several necessary particulars to be laid before them by the city surveyor. At their meeting in July, a motion was made for pulling down the houses on London-bridge to widen the horse and foot passage over it; and on September 26th, the common-council resolved that the only proper place for building a new bridge, was from the end of Fleetditch to the opposite shore in the county of Surrey.
The election of representatives for the city of London, came on April 30th when the shew of hands were in favour of Sir John Barnard, Slingsby Bethell, Esq; Sir Richard Glynn, and William Beckford, Esq. A poll was however demanded in favour of Sir Robert Ladbroke and Sir William Calvert; and after a strong contest Barnard, Bethell, Ladbroke, and Beckford were declared elected: the number of the livery that polled at this election was 5931 (fn. 65).
At the election of sheriffs on Midsummer-day, the common-hall returned George Streatfield and Alexander Sheafe, Esqrs. both of them dissenters; but a poll being demanded for aldermen Fludyer and Beckford, the two former had still greatly the majority. A scrutiny was demanded for the aldermen but afterward dropped; and on the 16th of July the sheriffs elect represented to the court of aldermen by their attornies, that Mr. Streatfield was in the 73d year of his age; and that both of them being protestant dissenters, they had not conformed to the act of parliament which required that all persons chosen to offices of magistracy or places of trust in any city, coporation, or borough, should have received the sacrament of the lord's supper, within one year next before such election (fn. 66) : and that therefore they should expose themselves to the censure of the law for usurping an office to which by that act they could not be elected. Upon this a common-hall was ordered to be summoned for a new election, which being held on the 23d. Allan Evans and John Torriano, Esqrs. were now chosen; but Mr. Evans refusing to serve the office on the same plea of being a protestant dissenter, alderman Fludyer was elected in his stead. The court of common-council however ordered actions to be commenced against all these gentlemen for the penalties incurred by their refusal; though by the terms of the act pleaded in their behalf they were not eligible; a committee was appointed to manage the prosecution, and impowered to draw on the chamberlain for money to defray the expences (fn. 67).
This year gave birth to a noble voluntary association for the improvement of mechanical knowledge and the trade of Great Britain, under the name of a Society for the encouragement of arts, manufactures, and commerce. It was first formed by the lord Folkstone, lord Romney, Dr. Stephen Hales, and a few other private gentlemen : and as there were already two societies of a similar nature in Scotland and Ireland, this limited its premiums for the exciting industry and ingenuity, to England and the several colonies in America, Africa, and Asia. The society immediately began to advertise premiums for the encouragement of young persons of both sexes in the arts of drawing and designing, and for the encouragement of our planters in America, to raise several valuable productions of Spanish and Portugueze America, as well as of Asia and Africa. The utility of the plan was so quickly perceived, that the society presently consisted of above 1000 subscribing members. Every person who solicits admission, must be balloted in by two thirds of the members; a subscribing member pays any sum not less than two guineas, and the payment of 20 guineas at once constitutes a person perpetual member. They generously invite all mankind to propose subjects for improvement, which when agreed to by the committee, and confirmed by a general meeting, the matters proposed, with the premiums offered, are annually advertised in the public papers. All possible impartiality is maintained in the distribution of these premiums, by concealing the names of the claimants, appointing committees for the strict examination of their respective merits, and occasionally by consulting the most skilful artists in every branch (fn. 68).
The laudable spirit of emulation which actuated the citizens to wish for a new bridge, was almost frustrated by a narrow illiberal jealousy among themselves. The inhabitants of the wards nearest to the old-bridge, fearful of losing the advantages they derived from their neighbourhood to the only communication between London and Surrey, were for improving London-bridge, but urged that the building a new bridge at Blackfriars would greatly prejudice the navigation of the river: and so strenuously was this objection supported in the common-council, that a committee was formed to inquire into the validity of it. The advocates for a new bridge, on the contrary, though they could not deny the propriety of reforming and repairing London-bridge; were so sanguine, that they would not come into any measures for that purpose, before the new one was carried into execution. When therefore at a common-council held on December 20th, a committee was appointed to prepare a petition to parliament, for power to remove the stalls and other nusances in the Borough-market then held in the high street; and a motion was made to represent the state of London-bridge in that petition, and to pray for power to pull down the houses on it, to render it more commodious and ornamental; the motion was quashed by a division of 88 against 84 (fn. 69). The above mentioned committee reported January 15th, 1755 that " the building a new bridge, would greatly obstruct the navigation of the river, and be very prejudicial to the commerce of the city;" a conclusion drawn either from want of penetration or want of candour, an alternative not greatly to their credit. However upon a division on the question of agreeing with the report, there appeared a majority of 26 against it. As Mr. Torriano was now ordered by the common-council to present the petition for the removal of the Borough-market, the patrons of the old bridge again endeavoured to tack a clause to it for the alteration and repair of London-bridge; but in vain, the consideration of it being postponed to their next meeting (fn. 70).
The petition from the city relating to the Borough-market was taken into consideration by the legislature, and an act was passed which represented that king Edward VI. did by charter (fn. 71) grant to the corporation of London the right of having a market in the borough of Southwark; but that the high street from London-bridge to St. Margaret's-hill, where that market was kept, being the great thoroughfare from the counties of Surrey, Kent, and Sussex; the holding the market there was found an inconvenient stoppage of carriages, and an obstruction to trade: the mayor, aldermen, and commonalty, being therefore desirous of giving up the market with the profits thereof, it was enacted that no market or stands for the sale of provisions should for the future be held in the said high street of the borough of Southwark; and that no coaches or other carriages should stand or ply for hire therein (fn. 72). This act was followed by another on the petition of the inhabitants of Southwark, enabling the churchwardens, overseers, and inhabitants of the parish of St. Saviour in the borough of Southwark, to hold a market near the former spot, but not interfering with the high street, in a piece of ground called the Triangle; and commissioners were appointed to carry it into execution (fn. 73).