A New History of London Including Westminster and Southwark. Originally published by R Baldwin, London, 1773.
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From the commencement of hostilities with France in the year 1755, to the death of George II.
The attention of government was now principally turned toward the conduct of France. Their two chief settlements in North America were Louisiana, up the river Missisippi in the gulph of Mexico; and Canada, up the river St. Laurence; along the extensive sea coast between which lay the English colonies. Ever since the peace of Aix la Chapelle, the French court had been intent on making encroachments on the back of the English colonies, with a view to a grand plan formed of extending a communication from Louisiana to Canada by a line of forts; between which and the sea the English were to be confined, while they were amusing us with delusive negociations about the limits of Nova Scotia. At Brest and other ports in Europe they were preparing military equipments; and as their movements seemed to indicate an intention of striking some important blow for the commencement of another war, it was judged proper to prepare for defensive measures on our side.
At this critical juncture the nation were averse to his majesty's going to Hanover; he set out however at the close of April, and during his absence hostilities commenced with the French at sea, and their navy was greatly distressed by the capture of about 300 of their homeward bound rich merchantmen (fn. 1) : by which timely vigilance 8000 of their seamen were brought into English ports, and their present schemes disconcerted. On the king's return the lord-mayor, aldermen, and common-council in their address August 19th, gave his majesty assurances of a chearful support in defence of the just rights and possessions of his crown against all attempts whatsoever.
A committee appointed to enquire into the state of Newgate made their report on November 6th, which being read, the court of common-council were of opinion that the goal should be rebuilt. Apprehending also, that under the charters by which the city hospitals were established, the members of that court for the time being, were governors of them; a committee was appointed to inquire into the rights of the city in the five great hospitals St. Bartholomew's, St. Thomas's, Bridewell, Bethlehem, and Christ-church, what part of them has either been given up or taken away, by whom, and under what pretence.
The court of aldermen received an order from the secretary of war on the 15th acquainting them that the motions of the French indicating an intention of invading England; the militia of the city must hold themselves in readiness to march: on which a court of lieutenancy was instantly summoned to carry the order into execution; and they directed the six regiments to be exercised in the Artillery ground, by divisions of four companies each day.
Under these apprehensions the forming a national militia began to be agitated for the internal strength of the kingdom against any foreign attempts to disturb us. Every nation that pretends to freedom ought to hold their arms in their own hands, and under due regulation parochial musters far from being a burthensome care, might be rendered an agreeable and laudable amusement every Sunday before or after divine worship (fn. 2) : but to substitute money for personal service, to hire mercenaries and call them militia men, is converting the whole into a mere farce! A people are too rich to maintain their freedom long, when they purchase exemption in every instance by their money. The commoncouncil on November 25th, even refused to petition for the establishment of a national militia; though on December 18th, a small majority of 34 agreed to petition for a bridge at Blackfriars.
This petition was presented January 13th, 1756, and an act was accordingly framed and passed for that purpose; directing the said bridge to be so constructed, as that there shall remain a free and open passage for the water through the arches of 750 feet at least, within the banks of the river; and that no buildings, except the proper gates and toll-houses be erected upon the said bridge.
Upon the credit of these tolls, the mayor, &c. were empowered to raise 30,000 l. per annum, until 160,000l. be raised in the whole, to be applied to the purposes of the act. They were farther impowered to fill up the channel of Bridewell-dock, between Fleet-bridge and the Thames, making sufficient drains and sewers into the river (fn. 3)
On March 18th, the common-council resolved to petition the parliament against the extension of the excise laws; a bill being then depending for a new duty on plate, which subjected every possessor of silver plate to the annual payment of 5 s. per 100 oz. to the excise office, under certain penalties which exposed them to the malice of their servants or other dissolute informers. They also instructed their representatives to oppose this bill, but without effect, for it passed into a law (fn. 4). When the minds of the people are eagerly engaged on some other object, as they now were on the insults the nation suffered from the French; advantage is generally taken to impose some odious tax injurious to the liberty of the subject, which would be more effectually opposed if attempted in calmer times.
In consequence of a message from the king to the two houses of parliament, informing them that the repeated advices of the military preparations in the ports of France, and the language of the French ministers in foreign courts, left little room to doubt their intention to invade Great Britain or Ireland; the lordmayor, aldermen and common-council presented an address to his majesty, April 6th, filled with assurances of the loyal affection of the citizens, and of their zeal in his defence (fn. 5).
The party in the city that solicited a new bridge, having obtained an act of parliament for it, now exerted their influence to obstruct the reparation of London bridge; and on May 5th, made a motion in the court of common-council to petition the parliament against the bill then depending for that purpose. The court was very full and the petition was carried after long debates by a very small majority (fn. 6): the drawing up this ill-judged petition was referred to the same committee that drew up the petition for the new bridge; but it proved no obstruction to so necessary a work, for the bill received the royal assent (fn. 7).
By this act the lord-mayor, &c. were empowered to purchase and remove the buildings on and contiguous to the bridge, in order to enlarge the passage over, and the avenues leading to it; to widen or enlarge one or more arches of the said bridge; to design how the passage might be rendered more safe and commodious, and the bridge preserved and kept in repair. It directed, that there should be a balustrade on each side of the bridge, a passage of 31 feet for carriages, and seven feet on each side for foot passengers; with lamps, to be kept lighted from sun setting to sun rising, and a number of able-bodied watchmen to patrole the same by night. That the expence of the lamps and watch, shall be defrayed out of the bridge estate. It was further enacted, that the tythes, poor's-rate, land-tax, and customary payments, due from the houses pulled down, shall be charged upon the bridge-house lands. There were also additional tolls established, to be paid by carriages and horses passing over the bridge, and by vessels under it; which were to continue until the repayment of the money borrowed for the purposes of the act; but the inconveniences attending these tolls, induced the parliament soon after to abolish them, and to grant 15,000l. to compleat the repairs (fn. 8).
Another statute of great public utility passed at the same time. There was as yet no ready communication between the great northern and western roads, nor from either of them with the several parts of London and Westminster, excepting by their proper entrances; an act was therefore passed for making a new road from Islington to Paddington (fn. 9): by virtue of the powers thus granted a fine road was formed which led round the suburbs at a due distance, from the great Edgware road at Paddington, across the north roads to Battle-bridge, and so to Islington; where it communicated with the road to Goswell-street. In its course, beside the convenience of connecting the great roads together without the necessity of carriages entering the streets; they may from either of them enter London at Picadilly, Marybone, Portland-street, Tottenham-courtroad, the duke of Bedford's private road, Gray's-inn-lane, Cold-bath-fields, St. John's street, and Goswell street; as will appear by inspecting the plan of London and Westminster belonging to this work.
The object of the French preparations now appeared by a descent on the island of Minorca, in the Mediterranean sea, the intelligence of which no sooner arrived than war was declared against France at London on May 18th, in the usual form, to the great satisfaction of the people; who were still more animated toward a vigorous prosecution of the war, and discontented with the conduct of the British ministers, by the reduction of Minorca, after an obstinate defence; and the miscarriage of the fleet sent under admiral Byng for its relief. It is however a known observation, that after an interval of peace, when our forces have been disbanded, and the people have returned to their commercial objects of attention; the English are seldom successful at the commencement of fresh hostilities, until the new levies have attained some experience, and the spirit of the nation is sufficiently roused to a determined exertion of that conscious strength, which is rather invigorated then depressed by the first successes of an enemy.
Motives of humanity united with public spirit, now inspired a number of merchants, gentlemen, and ladies, of London, at the head of whom appeared Mr. Jonas Hanway, a gentleman ever active in schemes for the public good, with the justices Fielding and Welch; to form themselves into a voluntary association under the name of the Marine Society, for the cloathing and fitting out such orphan, friendless, and destitute boys, as were willing to engage in the service of the navy. In consequence of this excellent and seasonable plan, which was prosecuted with equal zeal and discretion, many hundreds were rescued from misery, and an abandoned course of life, and rendered useful members of society, by adding a growing strength to that navy which is our best defence when engaged in war with other powers (fn. 10).
In the beginning of June the French king declared war in turn against his Britannic majesty, and his declaration was conceived in terms of uncommon asperity; immediately after, the French ships and cargoes which had been taken previous to these formal declarations, were tried and condemned as legal prizes: they were exposed to sale, and their produce lodged in the Bank; but in what manner the money has been distributed or employed is not publicly known (fn. 11).
To the loss of Minorca, the dilatory operations in America, which by no means kept pace with the eager expectations of the people at home, contributed to raise a general discontent. On the 20th of August an address was presented to the king by the lord-mayor, aldermen, and common-council of London, containing strong insinuations to the disadvantage of the ministry, by expatiating on our losses, and the mismanagement of the war: they now lamented the want of a constitutional and well regulated militia, and signified their hopes that the authors of the late losses and disappointments, would be detected and brought to condign punishment. In answer to this address his majesty assured them, that he would not fail to do justice upon any persons who should have been wanting in their duty to him and their country; in order to enforce obedience and discipline in his fleets and armies, and support the authority and respect due to his government. Remonstrances of the same nature followed from several counties and corporations, and the populace clamoured loudly for inquiry and justice.
The first victim offered to appease the enraged multitude was general Fowke, deputy governor of Gibraltar, who was tried by a court martial for disobeying the orders he received from the secretary at war in three successive letters relating to the relief of Minorca. The general pleaded that his orders were confused and contradictory; that they implied a discretionary power in him; and that had he sent the required number of men, the fortress of Gibraltar must have been left defenceless at a very critical juncture, while as it afterward appeared the detachment could not have been landed on the island. Be this as it may, the court being divided, the president decided against the general, and his majesty thought proper to dismiss him from his service (fn. 12).
The next sacrifice was that of the unfortunate admiral Byng, who commanded the fleet sent to relieve the fort of St. Philip in Minorca; and who, after an undecisive engagement with the French fleet, failed of executing his commission. He was tried by a court martial on board a ship in Portsmouth harbour, at the close of the year; the result of which was that his judges unanimously resolved that the admiral appeared to fall under the following part of the 12th article of the articles of war, to wit—"or shall not do his utmost to take or destroy every ship which it shall be his duty to engage, and to assist and relieve all and every of his majesty's ships which it shall be his duty to assist and relieve." They therefore farther resolved, that as that article positively prescribes death, without any alternative left to the discretion of the court under any variation of circumstances; that he be adjudged to be shot to death at such time and on board such ship, as the lords commissioners of the admiralty shall direct. But as it appeared by evidence that he shewed no backwardness, or any marks of fear or confusion, but seemed to give his orders coolly and distinctly; the court expressly added, that they did not believe his misconduct arose either from cowardice or disaffection: they therefore earnestly recommended him as a proper object of mercy; and in a letter to the lords of the admiralty, expressed the distresses of their minds on the severity of the articles of war, which obliged them to pronounce this sentence.
The gloomy suspicion and discontent apparent among the people, obstructed the extension of mercy to Mr. Byng, notwithstanding the great interest made to solicit his pardon; and he may be considered to have fallen, as he expressed in a paper he left behind him—"a victim destined to divert the indignation and resentment of an injured and deluded people from the proper objects (fn. 13)." His fate was undoubtedly hard; but it is to be considered that in warlike operations active resolution often effects what cool deliberation would not attempt; and temerity in officers is more readily excused than a failure from cautious prudence: in such cases, the general outcry is too loud to afford attention to the maxims of a Fabius. The severe punishment of Mr. Byng, and the change of generals in America, gave new vigour to our operations, as advantageous to the nation, as to the reputation of William Pitt, Esq; who was made secretary of state, December 4th, 1756, that his known abilities and character might give some credit to the succeeding measures of government. It was for the same reason that Henry Bilson Legge, Esq; was made chancellor of the Exchequer.
There appeared too much integrity in the conduct of these gentlemen to be agreeable to the circle in which they moved; their associates were therefore soon disgusted, and the king was prevailed on to remove them suddenly on April 9th, 1757. No sooner however was this revolution known than the whole nation seemed to rise up as one man in their favour; and they endeavoured by every studied mark of esteem to shew their respect for the men so abruptly thrust out of the administration. On the 15th, the court of common-council agreed to present Mr. Pitt and Mr. Legge with the freedom of the city in golden boxes; and the freedom of one of the city companies being previously requisite for admission to that of the corporation, the grocer's company the sollowing day resolved to receive those gentlemen into their fraternity. The example was followed by a great number of the most respectable cities and corporations in the kingdom; and nothing could be more expressive of the confidence the nation reposed in these gentlemen, and the displeasure they entertained at their removal, than the public distinctions conferred on them under their disgrace. It happened in this instance as in most other cases, that the popular regard for particular men arises not merely from their personal merits, but from a co-operating dislike of some others, which generally proceed to extreams, useful indeed at first, but ultimately productive of new disquiets; a fluctuation always to be expected in worldly transactions, and impossible to be guarded against. Numbers of addresses solicited the king to restore Mr. Pitt and Mr. Legge to their former employments; and to the honour of our late king be it remembered, that whatever might have influenced him to dismiss them, his private motives yielded to the general desires of his people. On the 29th of June Mr. Pitt was reinstated secretary of state for the southern department, and five days after, the office of chancellor of the Exchequer was again filled by Mr. Legge (fn. 14): some other corresponding alterations contributed to afford universal satisfaction.
There are several genteel and profitable employments under the corporation of London, which ought to be distributed among the most deserving of the citizens that apply for them, always regarding fitness and capacity in the candidates. The important and lucrative offices of town clerk, and of clerk to the commissioners of the land-tax for the city of London, were however now both held by Mr. Mann; but becoming vacant by his death on the 26th of April, the common-council and commissioners with great propriety rewarded two worthy citizens by dividing them. Mr. Dobson, who as having been many years clerk to Mr. Mann in the land tax department, was properly qualified to succeed him, had his long services acknowledged by being elected to that trust: Mr. Deputy Hodges a wholesale booseller, and a respectable and active member of the court of common-council, though his pretensions to the clerkship of the land-tax were not thought equal to the superior claim of Mr. Dobson; succeeded in his application for the office of town clerk, which he has ever since filled with great ability and integrity.
By a statute of queen Anne for the better preservation and improvement of the fishery in the river Thames, and for regulating the fishermen of the said river, power was given to the Fishmongers company to make bye laws to prevent abuses in the fishery (fn. 15): but whether the company were unable, or as fishmongers unwilling, to carry the powers given by this act into execution; the fishermen had been under no sort of government or controul during this reign. The court of common-council therefore in the beginning of this year presented a petition to the house of commons, setting forth this neglect, and praying that as the office of bailiff and conservator of the Thames and Medway had been vested in the mayor, &c. of London, time out of mind; leave might be given to bring in a bill for the more effectual preservation of the fry and spawn of fish in the river Thames and waters of Medway, for the better regulating the fishery thereof, and for the more speedy punishing of offenders. An act was accordingly passed, which declared that the lord-mayor and aldermen of London shall have full power, and were required, to make such reasonable rules and ordinances for the governing and regulating all persons who shall fish or drudge in the river Thames, and waters of Medway (within the jurisdiction of the mayor of London, as conservator of the said river and waters) as common fishermen or drudgermen, or otherwise: and for declaring in what manner they shall demean themselves in fishing, with what manner of nets and engines, at what times and seasons they shall use fishing; for ascertaining the assize of the several fish to be taken; and for the preservation of the spawn and fry of fish within the jurisdiction aforesaid: also for obliging every common fisherman, or drudgerman, or other such person, who fish with a boat, &c. to have his christian name and surname, and the name of the place where he dwelleth, painted in large and legible characters, in some convenient place of his boat, &c. where any one may see and read the same, and for preventing the same from being changed or defaced: to annex reasonable penalties and forfeitures for the breach of such rules, not exceeding 5l. for any one offence, and from time to time to alter and amend such rules, and to make new ones, touching the matters aforesaid; so as the same be allowed and approved of by the lord chancellor, lord keeper, or commissioners of the great seal, the two lords chief justices, and the lord chief Baron, or any two of them (fn. 16).
It was found necessary to construct a temporary passage over the river to preserve the communication between London and Southwark uninterrupted during the alteration and repair of London bridge. For this purpose a wooden bridge had been erected along side it, bending at each end and opening into the entrances of the stone bridge. Great was the astonishment of the citizens, when on April 11th, 1758, about 11 o'clock at night, this timber bridge appeared in flames! It continued burning till noon the next day, when the ruins fell into the river; and thus a total stop was put to all trade that depended upon the intercourse between London and the opposite shore, excepting what could be carried on by boats: the inhabitants of Southwark were much distressed by the destruction of the troughs that conveyed water to them over the bridge during its repair.
As unexpected calamities befalling public undertakings immediately set conjecture at work, so this affair was attributed to design; the government offered a pardon with a reward of 200l. for the discovery of the persons who set the bridge on fire; and a woman deposed before the lord-mayor that she saw three lanthorns among the wood work on the sterlings just before the flames broke out. But however this might be, there were not wanting natural causes capable of producing the effect; and it is not very probable that any persons who could be interested in obstructing the works, or in creating new jobs, would expose themselves to detection in so scandalous an attempt. In such a mixture of stone and wood, a heap of quick lime on the sterlings, accidentally wetted by the tide, might kindle any adjoining timbers: or, as it is usual for servants behind coaches with flambeaux in their hands to clear them by striking them on the hinder wheels; it is no forced supposition that some thoughtless fellow might have struck his flambeaux on the pallisade of the bridge for the same purpose; the flaming wax of which dropping into some joint on the outside, would have been sufficient for such a disaster. Either of these accidents in the dark would produce a fire without leaving any trace of the cause; and how this fire happened remains still unknown.
The lord-mayor licensed 40 boats extraordinary to work on the three succeeding Sundays, as ferry boats, whose stations were advertised in the public papers; and great numbers of workmen were employed to make a present passage over the remains of the old bridge (fn. 17): the common-council immediately ordered another temporary bridge to be erected with the utmost dispatch; and so diligently was this order executed, that it was compleated and opened for carriages in less than a month. Before it was finished, another rumour spread of an intention to fire it; the woman before mentioned, and a watchman, gave fresh depositions of lights having been seen among the timbers, and upon examination the wood was found scorched in three different places. The latter circumstance was however likely enough, for we are not told that none of the old damaged beams were made use of in the new erection : and the suspicion produced one good effect, for the temporary bridge was carefully watched every night to guard against future accidents.
It was upon this occasion that an act was passed to amend the former act for the repair of London bridge; which granted 15,000 l. for that purpose, repealed the late tolls imposed for passage over and under the bridge, and declared that persons wilfully attempting to destroy any part of the bridge, or of the works belonging to it, should suffer death without the benefit of clergy (fn. 18).
The age and growing infirmities of Sir John Barnard, whose patriotic conduct in every office of trust conferred on him by the corporation, had been acknowledged and perpetuated by a statue of him erected under the Piazza of the Royal-Exchange; induced him at length to desire permission to resign his gown. His request which was too reasonable to be refused was unwillingly granted, and on July 25th the unanimous thanks of the courts of aldermen and common-council, were ordered to be presented to him in form by the town clerk. Sir Robert Ladbroke, on his vacancy, was translated from the ward of Castle Baynard to that of Bridge without, as father of the city, that ward being generally held by the eldest alderman; and Nathanael Nash Esq; was elected his successor in Castle Baynard (fn. 19).
The war with France now wore a promising aspect; our men of war and privateers greatly distressed the enemy by their frequent captures, and intelligence arriving August 18th, of the reduction of Louisbourg on the island of Cape Breton; the lord-mayor, aldermen and common-council soon after congratulated his majesty on that occasion. A general thanksgiving was ordered on the 27th, when great rejoicings were made on an acquisition of little importance to the victors, otherwise than as diminishing the strength of the enemy. The colours taken at Louisbourg, which were at first brought to Kensington palace, were carried afterward by the king's order, with great military parade, under a discharge of cannon, to St. Paul's cathedral, where they were received by the dean and chapter attended by the choir, and hung up as trophies (fn. 20). Several attempts at making descents on the coasts of France kept that nation in continual alarm, though no great matters were effected in those precarious undertakings. Sufficient proclamation was however made of the success of an armament under commodore Howe and general Bligh, who destroyed the harbour and bason of Cherbourg on the coast of Normandy; and the parade of exhibiting the spoils brought from thence had a suitable effect on the spirits of the people. Twenty one pieces of battering cannon, with two mortars, were drawn triumphantly through the city to Hyde Park on September 8th, where they were placed at the south easterly corner of Kensington garden wall; and exposed for a week to a continued concourse of people, under the guard of a detachment from the train of artillery : they then formed another procession back again to the Tower (fn. 21).
Two very laudable charities were this year established by voluntary subscription in London which merit notice: the one proposed by Mr. Henry Fielding, for the reception and education of destitute young girls, daughters of the ignorant poor, to save them from wretchedness and vice; and a large new building on the Surry side of Westminster bridge, which had been an inn, was opened for their use, and named the Asylum: the other was planned by Mr. Robert Dingley for the reception of penitent prostitutes (fn. 22); where they might be kept under due regulations in a state of probation, for certain times; and then be restored to their friends, if they can be prevailed on to receive them; otherwise to be placed out in reputable service. This institution is characterised by peculiar humanity; for though no friend to civil society can wish to have the restraints on female virtue relaxed, yet every reasonable person who considers the weaknesses of human nature, and the arts made use of to insnare the young and inexperienced, must have great compassion for innocence when it becomes a prey to unprincipled debauchery. It is the hard fate of the fair sex, that when they fall they are never permitted to rise again; and when this lapse from virtue happens, their own sex become their most inveterate persecutors: they are at once, however tenderly beloved before, totally renounced, excluded from every opportunity of atoning for what is oftener the crime of others than their own; they are driven by despair to vice for meer subsistence, not only unpitied, but insulted by the outrageous virtue of their more fortunate friends and acquaintance. To open a door for such unhappy wretches to return to a life of sobriety was an exalted undertaking! and the objection often made to it, that the charity is abused by those who take the benefit of it, and then return to their abandoned life again, is as weak as it is cruel. There are many who after the loss of rank, character, and friends, yet retain a sense of virtue under their misery, and would gladly be received again into society upon any terms; and will christian principles justify the sacrificing these with the guilty? If one only out of ten or twenty are snatched from infamy and destruction, every person whose understanding and feelings are not choaked up by narrow prejudices will esteem the religious and political ends of the institution answered; and derive exalted pleasure from the reflection. The design was no sooner formed than the patrons of it were enabled to carry it into execution; a large house formerly the London Infirmary in Prescot street, Goodman's fields, was prepared for the purpose under the name of the Magdalen hospital; and fifty petitions for admittance received (fn. 23).
Among so vast a collection of people as the metropolis contains, there is seldom wanting some unaccountable occurrence or other to furnish topics for discourse; and among these the following strange adventure may be classed, which though of a private nature was taken the more notice of, as it was never unriddled.
About the close of the year 1758, according to the date, the duke of Marlborough received the following letter, which was put under the door of the office of ordnance, and sent to his grace by the door keeper.
As ceremony is an idle thing upon most occasions, more especially to persons in my state of mind, I shall proceed immediately to acquaint you with the motive and end of addressing this epistle to you, which is equally interesting to us both: you are to know then, that my present situation in life is such, that I should prefer annihilation to a continuance in it: desperate diseases require desperate remedies, and you are the man I have pitched upon, either to make me, or to unmake yourself: as I never had the honour to live among the great, the tenour of my proposals will not be very courtly, but let that be an argument to enforce the belief of what I am now going to write. It has employed my invention for some time, to find out a method to destroy another, without exposing my own life; that I have accomplished, and defy the law; now for the application of it, I am desperate, and must be provided for; you have it in your power, it is my business to make it your inclination to serve me; which you must determine to comply with, by procuring me a genteel support, for my life, or your own will be at a period before this sessions of parliament is over: I have more motives than one for singling you out first, upon this occasion; and I give you this fair warning, because the means I shall make use of are too fatal to be eluded by the power of physick: if you think this of any consequence, you will not fail to meet the author, on Sunday next, at ten in the morning, or on Monday (if the weather should be rainy on Sunday) near the first tree beyond the stile in Hyde-Park, in the foot walk to Kensington: secrecy and compliance may preserve you from a double danger of this sort; as there is a certain part of the world, where your death has more than been wished for, upon other motives; I know the world too well, to trust this secret in any breast but my own; a few days determine me, your friend or enemy.
You will apprehend that I mean you should be alone, and depend upon it that a discovery of any artifice in this affair will be fatal to you; my safety is insured by my silence, for confession only can condemn me."
On the receipt of this letter the duke went on horseback, with pistols before him, to the place appointed, having planted a friend at a distance; and, after waiting some time, observed a person stand loitering, to whom he rode up, passed him once or twice, then asked him whether he had any thing to say to him; and being answered in the negative, asked whether he knew who he was? The person said no, he did not. The duke told him who he was; asked him again whether he knew him, and was again answered in the negative. Upon which he came away.
You receive this as an acknowledgment of your punctuality as to the time and place of meeting on Sunday last, though it was owing to you, that it answered no purpose; the pageantry of being armed, and the ensign of your order, were useless, and too conspicuous. You needed no attendant, the place was not calculated for mischief, nor was any intended; if you walk in the west isle of Westminster Abbey, towards eleven o'clock on Sunday next, your sagacity will point out the person, whom you will address, by asking his company, to take a turn or two with you; you will not fail, on enquiry, to be acquainted with the name and place of abode, according to which directions you will please to send two or three hundred pound bank notes, the next day, by the penny-post; exert not your curiosity too early; it is in your power to make me grateful on certain terms; I have friends who are faithful, but they do not bark before they bite.
"I am fully convinced you had a companion on Sunday. I interpret it as owing to the weakness of human nature, but such proceeding is far from being ingenuous, and may produce bad effects, while it is impossible to answer the end proposed: you will see me again soon, as it were by accident, and may easily find where I go to, in consequence of which, by being sent to, I shall wait on your grace, but expect to be quite alone, and to converse in whispers; you will likewise give your honour upon meeting, that no part of the conversation shall transpire. These and the former terms complied with, ensure your safety: my revenge in case of non-compliance (or any scheme to expose me) will be flower, but not less sure, and strong suspicion, the utmost that can possibly ensue upon it, while the chances would be tenfold against you. You will possibly be in doubt after the meeting, but it is quite necessary the outside should be a mask to the in; the family of the Bloods is not extinct, though they are not in my scheme."
"I have reason to believe that the son of one Barnard a surveyor in Abingdon Buildings Westminster is acquainted with some secrets that nearly concern your safety; his father is now out of town which will give you an opportunity of questioning him more privately; it would be useless to your grace as well as dangerous to me to appear more publickly in this affair.
The duke upon this sent a person to the coffee-house, to desire Mr. Barnard to come and speak to him. Mr. Barnard expressed great surprize, but no fear, at this message, and told the person the story of the duke's coming up to him in Hyde-Park. Being obliged to go out of town the next day, he waited on the duke the day after, who found him to be still the same man he had seen in the park and the abbey. He was told the substance of the three first letters, and shewn the fourth; he expressed his total ignorance of the matter, and signified, on hearing the second, that the writer of it must be mad. The duke did not detain him, but told him that as he was named in the last letter, he ought if innocent to endeavour to find out the writer; to which he only answered with a smile and withdrew. He was brought before Mr. Fielding, who committed him to New-Prison, and whilst he was in prison, Mr. Fielding went, at twelve at night, to search his pockets. He shewed his pocket-book and papers very readily, to a gentleman whom Mr. Fielding carried with him, and gave him the keys of his escrutoir and compting-house.
On Mr. Barnard's trial at the Old-Bailey, no attempt was made to prove him the author of the letters from a similitude of hands. Ample evidence was produced that Mr. Barnard had no motive whatever to take such a method to obtain money, the promise of money, or of any place from the duke; being a young gentleman of an unspotted character, and of abilities as a surveyor: proof was also brought, that he had occasion to be in Hyde-Park, that his being in the Abbey, at the time he met his grace, was purely accidental; and that he had mentioned those encounters to several persons, as something extremely odd and surprising: he was therefore acquitted. Upon the whole, this affair seems either to have been a most detestable plot, or one of those sportive but wicked devices that some persons of no inconsiderable rank are said to be productive of, to surprize and torment their acquaintance. The duke certainly died in Germany this year, but it is imagined that few will incline to connect his death with this strange affair.
In the spring of the year 1758, the house of commons had appointed a committee to consider of reducing weights, and measures of capacity and length, to uniform standards throughout the kingdom. Magna Charta enacted a general uniformity, but the unskilfulness of artists, and the loss of the old standards, gave rise to varieties which are now established by the usage of different places; and which having obtained the sanction of subsequent acts of the legislature, have introduced much confusion, and afforded many opportunities for fraud in retail transactions. On June 2d in that year, this committee reported the progress they had made in a plan of so great mercantile utility; when it appeared that there were two kinds of weight in common use, known by the names of avoirdupois and troy weights: but as there could not, with any propriety, be more than one standard, the troy weight was the fittest, as being best known in our law, having been the longest in use, as being the measure of our coins, and being the best known by the rest of the world. It appeared also, that the difference between the measure of wine, and that of beer and other liquors, the one being 231 cubic inches in the gallon, and the other 282, first arose from a practice of resorting to a deficient standard sent to Guildhall, when the real standard might have been resorted to in the exchequer: and that the error was continued to prevent a loss in the revenue, by restoring the legal measure. In the following session December 1st, a fresh committee was appointed to resume the business, which they prosecuted with commendable industry, and made their report on the 11th of April, 1759, which the house agreed to and ordered to be published (fn. 24). So much however do schemes of public utility depend upon parties at court, that though lord Carysfort, the worthy patron of this undertaking, prepared and presented a bill in 1760 for enforcing an uniformity of weights and measures, yet the difficulties that occurred occasioning it to be deferred for farther consideration, this affair of general concern was lost by lord Carysfort not obtaining a seat in the house at the election in 1768.
On June 4th 1759, George prince of Wales, our present sovereign, being arrived at the age of 21 years, the lord-mayor, aldermen, and common-council presented an address of congratulation to the king his grandfather on the majority of a prince who the nation hoped, as the address expressed, would emulate the virtues that endeared his majesty's sacred person and government to a free people. They next presented addresses of the same nature to the princess of Wales and the prince himself, which were all kindly received and answered: congratulations also came in from most other cities, corporations and communities, who vied with each other in professions of dutiful attachment; and indeed there was no trace of disaffection perceivable at this juncture in any part of the island.
This happy spirit of unanimity produced a resolution of the court of common council August 14th to open a subscription in the chamber of the city of London to be applied as bounty money for able bodied landmen to enter as volunteers in his majesty's service; each person enlisting at Guildhall were to have five guineas, and as a farther encouragement were promised the freedom of the city at the expiration of three years, or sooner if the war did not continue so long. The chamberlain was ordered to advance 1000l. to this fund, and the town clerk was directed to wait upon the right honourable William Pitt with the said resolution, that his majesty might be informed of it: Mr. Pitt, the next day, wrote a letter to the lord-mayor, returning the city the king's thanks for this instance of zeal and affection. The county of Middlesex and city of Westminster followed the example; for on September 19th a numerous meeting of the nobility, gentry, &c. at the St. Albans tavern, subscribed 4726l. for the same purpose, with this restriction in favour of the men so enlisted, that they should not be sent out of Great-Britain; but were to have their discharge in three years, or at the close of the war.
Great rejoicings were made October 17th in the metropolis, when intelligence arrived of the reduction of Quebec, the capital of Canada in North America: indeed the successes of the war this year were remarkable, and were thus enumerated in the address of the city of London which was presented on the 20th—"The reduction of Fort du Quesne on the Ohio; of the island of Goree in Africa; and of Guadaloupe, with its dependencies, in the WestIndies; the repulse and defeat of the whole French army, by a handful of infantry, in the plains of Minden; the taking of Niagara, Ticonderoga, and Crown-Point; the naval victory off cape Lagos; the advantages gained over the French nation in the East-Indies; and, above all, the conquest of Quebec (the capital of the French empire in North-America) in a manner so glorious to your majesty's arms, against every advantage of situation and superior numbers; are such events as will for ever render your majesty's auspicious reign the favourite Æra in the history of Great-Britain. Measures of such national concern, so invariably pursued, and acquisitions of so much consequence to the power and trade of Great-Britain, are the noblest proofs of your majesty's paternal affection and regard for the true interest of your kingdoms, and reflect honour upon those whom your majesty has been pleased to admit into your council, or to intrust with the conduct of your fleets and armies."
Another terrible conflagration happened in the neighbourhood of the RoyalExchange, early in the morning of November 10th, which began at Hamlin's coffee-house close by the eastern side of the Change in Sweeting's alley. As the wind was then westerly, that noble building escaped destruction, but 13 houses were burned and many more damaged; the church of St. Bennet Fink was also greatly injured. Another fire, still more destructive, broke out December 22d in King-street Covent Garden; which, extending itself through Rose-street to Long Acre, consumed upward of 30 houses. The only consolation to be derived from such calamities are the opportunities thereby afforded to improve the construction of buildings so as to guard against them in future.
The little jealousies that actuated the citizens of the eastern and western parts of London at length gave way, and were resolved into a laudable emulation of rendering their city more airy and elegant; to prevent their merchants from removing to Westminster, and into the new buildings the bridges were giving rise to on the Surrey side of the Thames. The streets of London were in general ill contrived, being of progressive growth in the infancy of trade, and arts, when the inhabitants, confining their views to present convenience, had not extended them to general and future improvements. Before traffic called for a multiplicity of carriages for the conveyance of merchandize, the more closely and compactly artisans could lodge themselves, their mutual intercourse was the easier, and their rents the cheaper. As their descendants, under an alteration of circumstances, found the city in this condition, nothing remained but to give it all the improvements of which it was found susceptible; some of which had taken place after the great fire. The best parts of Westminster being of later date, the streets were more open and regular; and when the bridge was built, the avenues to it in the old narrow part of that city were laid out on a more spacious plan. The inhabitants had obtained additional powers (fn. 25), and opened the street at Charing-cross from Spring-Garden down to Westminster hall, which now made a beautiful appearance. All these circumstances made the corporation of London perceive the expediency of enlarging many inconvenient avenues, and making others; to render the city more healthful, and facilitate the passage of carriages, the stoppage of which in narrow places proved as dangerous as inconvenient. For this purpose the common-council on January 22d, 1760, agreed to apply to parliament for powers to carry these alterations into execution; which were accordingly procured in an act that contained two schedules of particular passages to be opened and enlarged; part only of which have as yet been carried into execution: these schedules are given in the note below (fn. 26). The corporation also determined to take down the gates of the city, which under the alterations in the art of war could be of no present security to the inhabitants, and being heavy constructions standing across the streets, obstructed the free current of air, which in great cities ought to be favoured by all possible methods. These gates being all city estates, there was no need of mentioning them in the act: the committee of the city lands therefore sold the materials to builders under limitations of taking them down within certain specified times; and Ludgate being the prison for city debtors, part of the London Workhouse in Bishopsgate street, was, at a subsequent court of common-council, ordered to be fitted up and prepared for their reception (fn. 27).
This year was distinguished to all lovers of impartial justice by the execution of Laurence Shirley earl Ferrers, for the murder of his steward. To bestow any extraordinary encomium on this criminal prosecution would be unnecessary, and would argue an opinion that persons dignified by titles were in some measure elevated above the reach of the laws of their country: but no instance in this reign shewed that George II. ever wished to establish such an absurd principle. This nobleman, whose brutal disposition nearly amounted to insanity, had with the most deliberate malice shot an old faithful steward; and for this he was committed to the Tower, tried by his peers in Westminster-hall, and sentenced to be hanged at Tyburn. This sentence was executed May 5th in the usual manner, excepting that a scaffold was erected under the gallows covered with black baize, in the middle of which was a space about a yard square, railed round, with a false bottom, that sunk down on a signal given by the sheriff, and left him suspended by the neck. He was carried to execution in his own landau, guarded by the peace officers, and by a party of horse grenadiers and foot; and suffered in his wedding cloaths. After hanging the customary time, he was carried to Surgeons hall to be dissected, an additional punishment the bodies of murderers were subjected to by a late law (fn. 28): and when it had served as a subject for a public lecture, it was exposed to the view of the populace in the theatre of the hall, and on the 8th delivered to his friends for interment (fn. 29). The body was first buried under the belfry in Pancrass church; but was taken up in a few days, and the grave being dug to the depth of fourteen feet, it was replaced, and a stone without any inscription laid over it (fn. 30).
The committee for the new bridge, after examining a variety of plans, had given the preference to the design of Mr. Mylne a Scots architect, who was just returned from his studies at Rome, where he had signalized himself by gaining a prize given by the academy of St. Luke, in that city, for a plan on a proposed subject in architecture (fn. 31); and the first pile for the bridge was driven in the middle of the river on the 7th of June.
There is not perhaps a country in the world better situated to be plentifully and constantly supplied with fish, than Britain; yet it is well known, that in London, fish is seldom seen but at the tables of the rich; and, excepting sprats and herrings, which are caught only during a short season, none are tasted by the poor, though fresh fish, of some kind or other, might be sold all the year, much cheaper than butcher's meat, if no sinister arts were used to prevent it. These arts, however, were known chiefly in their effects; and it was therefore very difficult to frame a law by which the practice of them would be prevented: among others, which time had gradually discovered, were the following. It was usual for fishmongers to contract with the fishermen for their whole cargoes, and oblige them to stop at Gravesend, instead of coming up to Billingsgate: then they caused the fish to be brought up to market only by boat-loads at a time, the remainder of the cargo being shifted into a wellboat, under the care of some servant, who sent it up by degrees, as the fishmonger directed. Thus the best fish was dealt out in small quantities, and great part remained behind a month, and sometimes six weeks, before it was ordered up; and having been then so wasted as to be unwholesome, it was destroyed, to make way for fresh: so that perhaps not a twentieth part of the fish that had been caught was sold, while the poor were distressed for food. To secure a continuance of this fraud, they became owners of fishing-vessels themselves, hired fishermen to go masters, and obliged the fishermen's apprentices to be bound not to the fishermen, but to them, as fishmongers, though the fishermen are a distinct company.
As to the fish brought to market by the fishermen, the fishmongers in conjunction employed persons as their buyers at the market, to take up all the best fish, and thendivided it among themselves by such lots or parcels as they thought proper; so that when it came into their shops, they enhanced the price at pleasure, and were sure not to be undersold.
When a new fish-market was lately established at Westminster (fn. 32), the trustees, and the inhabitants, raised a large sum of money by subscription, and purchased fishing vessels, to be employed solely in supplying this new market. Yet such was the influence of the fishmongers, and the fishermen in their interest, over those employed in these fishing vessels, that though they were bound under covenants, with large penalties, they broke through them all; so that the market was deserted for want of a supply, and the subscribers lost their money.
The fishmongers, since the late regulations (fn. 30), contrived a new method to keep the fish wasting in their well-boats at Gravesend, beyond the limited time; by causing the holds of these well-boats to be divided into several cells, with partitions between them. When a fishing-vessel came in, as part of the fish only was forwarded to the market directly, the remainder was put into one of these cells or receivers: another vessel, two or three days after, left part of her cargo in another receiver of the same boat, and so on till all the receivers were full; where it was kept as much beyond the limited time as the fisherman pleased. When the inspector came to see whether the fish had been forwarded to market as it ought, and found it remaining beyond the time, he was told that what he saw came by after-vessels, and that the time for sending it\forward was not expired: which he not being able to disprove, the fraud passed unpunished. It had been provided, that an entry should be made of the fishing-vessels, as they came in, under a very considerable penalty; but this was frequently eluded by prevailing upon those who had the charge of making the entry, to leave the entry to be made by some waterman, who took the entering-money, and made the entry upon pieces of paper, which remained with him, before they were posted in the entering book, perhaps twenty days. If the inspector, upon finding no entry made, gave himself no trouble, the end was answered; if he did and prosecuted, the defendant produced the waterman's paper, which brought the entry within time; and though this paper might be forged, as the proof of the forgery was scarcely possible, the end of the fisherman was still answered, and he cheated the public with impunity (fn. 31).
The master of every fishing-vessel, within three days after his arrival at the Nore with fish, shall report the time of his arrival to the deputed clerk in the Coast-office at the Custom-house in London, under 50l. penalty, and the clerk is to enter the report in a book kept for that purpose. He is also to leave a true account of all fresh fish which have been brought alive to the Nore in his vessel, upon pain that the owners of such vessel shall forfeit 20l. If any person on board such a vessel, after her arrival, shall destroy, or cause to be destroyed, any fish which shall have been brought from sea, that is not unmarketable, such offender is to be committed to hard labour for any time not exceeding two months, nor less than one month. The clerk at the Coast-office is on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, in every week, to return to the mayor of London, and to such persons as the trustees of the fish market at Westminster shall appoint, in the city of Westminster, and to the inspector of the fishing-vessels at such place as the said trustees shall appoint; a true account of the time when every such vessel shall have been entered as arrived at the Nore, and also of the fish, &c. which shall have been entered, under the penalty of 5l.
None of the above mentioned fish shall, at any time after their arrival at the Nore, be put into any well-boat or store-boat, under the penalty of 20l. nor be delivered out of any fishing-vessel (unless when sold by retail) but into the vessel employed to carry it directly to Billingsgate or Westminster; and no vessel is to remain above one tide with the fish, accidents of wind and weather excepted. If any one offends in the premises, he is to be committed to the house of correction, for any time not exceeding two months, nor less than one month: and the inspector of the fishing-vessels is duly to execute his office, under the penalty of 20l.
No person who shall sell or be concerned in the sale of any fresh fish by commission, is to buy or be concerned in the buying of any fresh fish to sell again on his own account, or for the joint account of him or any other person, under the forfeiture of 50l. No person is to sell at any fish-market within the bills of mortality, or within 150 yards of any such fish-market, and during the market hours, any of the fish specified in the act, before he shall have first placed up a true account of all the fish which he shall then have to sell, distinguishing the several sorts of such fish, and the quantity of every sort respectively, under 10l. penalty: and no person is to have in his possession, or expose to sale, any spawn of fish, or any fish unsizeable or out of season, or any smelt which shall not be five inches from the nose to the utmost extent of the tail.
The under water-bailiff of London, the yeoman of the water-side, and the persons appointed to supervise the fish-market of Westminster, are to take care and see, from time to time, that the provisions made by this act are put in execution, under the penalty of 5l. But however well calculated these rules may appear, to guard against abuses in the fish-trade, no accumulation of laws, or trials of schemes, have been yet able to bring fish to London in quantities and at prices answerable to its neighbourhood to the sea. One method yet remains to be tried, and this is to undo all that has been done; to throw the employments of catching and selling fish entirely open, clear of all corporation restrictions whatever; beyond what may be necessary to preserve the spawn or fry, and to maintain an impartial freedom of sale.
By an account published in the month of June, it appeared that the subscriptions at Guildhall for enlisting men in the national service, amounted to 7039l. 7s. and that 1235 men had accordingly been entered at 5l. 5s. each man.
On the 18th of October the lord-mayor, aldermen, and common-council, addressed his majesty on the completion of the conquest of Canada, by the reduction of Montreal; but while the people were enjoying the satisfaction of seeing the arms of Great Britain succeeding so prosperously against the enemy, their exultations were checked by a sincere concern for the loss of their king, who died suddenly early in the morning of the 25th of October, in the 77th year of his age, and the 34th of his reign.
The character of this prince was rather amiable than otherwise; his government was conformed to the institutions of law, and seldom interfered with the common administration of justice: if a partiality for his native country was observable in him, the prejudice was to be allowed for as natural to all mankind. The extension of ministerial power and influence, with their fatal consequences, were the worst circumstances that marked his reign, and were perhaps in some degree owing to our being governed since the revolution by three sovereigns who were foreigners, and the fourth who was a woman. The officers of government were thus permitted to exercise more power than became them, and to become in effect masters of those legislative bodies which were our only barriers against arbitrary powers in the crown. The national commerce was indeed greatly extended, but the rapacity of ministers increasing the expences of government, and an enormous public debt; trade was loaded with many heavy impositions, which were overlooked while the eyes of the people were dazzled by the brilliant victories which now intoxicated them. The national debt this year amounted to the amazing sum of 108,493,154l (fn. 33).