A New History of London Including Westminster and Southwark. Originally published by R Baldwin, London, 1773.
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From the accession of George III. to the commencement of the prosecution of Mr. Wilkes.
No prince perhaps ever mounted a throne under happier circumstances, or amidst more unanimous applause from his subjects, than did George III. grandson of the former king. Immediately upon notice of the king's death, the privy council, with the lord-mayor of London, assembled at Carleton house to give orders for proclaiming his successor; who being present, the lords of the former privy-council were sworn of his majesty's privy-council: he declared "that animated by the tenderest affection for this his native country, he depended on their advice, experience, and abilities, the support and assistance of every honest man:" and that as he "mounted the throne in the midst of an expensive, but just and necessary war, he should endeavour to prosecute it in the manner the most likely to bring about an honourable and lasting peace, in concert with his allies." The next day, the 26th of October, he was solemnly proclaimed by the heralds, properly attended at Saville-house in Leicester-fields, where the young king then resided, and at Charing-cross: when they entered the city the procession was joined by the lord-mayor, aldermen, the principal city officers, with their attendants; and the proclamation being read at the end of Chancery-lane, in Fleet-street, at the end of Wood-street in Cheapside, and at the Royal Exchange, the ceremony finished. The following day, by order of the lieutenant of the Tower, the justices within the Tower-hamlets went in carriages, with proper officers, and proclaimed the king at Shadwellmarket, Ratcliff-cross, Norton-falgate, Spitalfields-market, Shoreditch, and Bethnal-green.
On the 28th, the lord-mayor and aldermen of London waited on his majesty at Leicester house with an address on the death of the late king, and on his accession. "It is, said they, our peculiar happiness, that your majesty's heart "is truly English; and that you have discovered in your earliest years the warmest attention to the laws and constitution of these kingdoms; laws so excellently formed, that, as they give liberty to the people, they give power to the prince; and are a mutual support of the prerogatives of the crown, and the rights of the subject.
"Your majesty is now in possession of the united hearts of all your people, at "a time, when the honour and the credit of the nation are (by the courage and activity of your majesty's fleets and armies) in the highest extent; a time, when we have happily no divisions at home to obstruct those measures, which have carried terror to our enemies abroad."
On the 30th the lord-mayor, aldermen, and common-council in their full corporate capacity presented a similar address to the king, and also to the princess dowager of Wales the king's mother: after the city had thus led the way, all the counties, corporations, and communities in the kingdom, seemed to vie with each other in expressions of loyalty and affection to their new sovereign.
The first stone of the new-bridge at Blackfriars was laid with great ceremony on the last day of October, by the lord-mayor and the bridge committee. Several gold, silver, and copper coins of the late king were deposited under the stone, together with the silver medal given to Mr. Mylne by the Roman academy. By order of the court of common-council, a plate with the following inscription engraved on it was placed there likewise, the classical latinity of which was much burlesqued by the wits at the time.
Sir Matthew Blackiston, whose mayoralty commenced Sunday November 9th, was sworn into his office on Monday 10th, but an account of the recent death of the king who was not yet buried, the usual ceremony was omitted, and he went privately in his coach, attended by the aldermen, to Westminster to be sworn into his office (fn. 1). In the evening of the same day the body of the late king was removed from Kensington palace where he died, to an apartment called the prince's chamber, adjoining to the house of peers; here it lay in state until the next night, when it was interred with great funeral pomp, in the royal vault under the chapel of Henry VII. contiguous to Westminster abbey: his youngest son the duke of Cumberland attending in the character of chief mourner (fn. 2).
At a court of common-council held February 18th, 1761, a motion was made to present the freedom of the city to Sir John Phillips, bart. a patriotic Welch member, and to George Cooke, Esq; member for Middlesex, for their independent services in parliament. The court was thin, and as no previous intimation had been given to the members that such a question would be moved, it was considered as a motion intended to be carried by surprize, and was warmly, opposed as an irregular proceeding; but upon putting the question it was carried by 38 against 33. The court however, though nowise averse to the compliment bestowed on those gentlemen, resolved to guard against any such hasty measure in future, by an unanimous resolution, that no person should have the freedom of London presented to him, unless the motion be made at a court preceding that in which the question should be put.
The reign of a new king is usually distinguished by acts of grace in favour of delinquents and debtors; and petitions had been presented to the house of commons, by persons confined for debt in the several gaols of London, Southwark, and other parts of the kingdom, representing their miserable situation, and imploring relief from the legislature. The favourable prejudices entertained of the new king had even inspired the prisoners confined for debts due to the crown with fond hopes, who are the most wretched and forlorn of all, as they receive no kind of allowance, and have no prospect of liberty, excepting on such incidental occasions as the present. An act was passed therefore for the relief of such insolvent debtors as were in actual custody before the death of the late king; or who being then beyond sea should surrender themselves (fn. 3); crown prisoners, and bankrupts who had not obtained their certificates in due time, were excluded: and all persons who owed above 1000l. to one person, were also excluded, unless their creditors consented. But creditors opposing a prisoner's enlargement were to allow him 3s. 6d. per week, and he was to be discharged on non-payment.
This act contained a clause calculated to operate as a perpetual indulgence. It imported, that as many persons too often chose rather to continue in prison, and spend their substance there, than to discover and deliver up to their creditors, their estates or effects, for the satisfaction of their lawful debts; the creditor may compel any prisoner, committed, or who shall hereafter be committed and charged in execution, to appear at the quarter sessions, and deliver upon oath, a just schedule of his estate: and that a prisoner making such discovery, and subscribing the schedule, shall be discharged at the general quarter sessions, under this act; but on his refusal so to do, or concealing to the amount of 20l. he was to suffer death as a felon.
As some remarks have already been hazarded in this work on the consequences of extensive credit, and on the hardships and ill policy of our present laws for imprisoning the bodies of debtors, it will be needless to repeat them (fn. 4) : this compulsive clause was favourable both to debtor and creditor, but was productive of an abuse which was scarcely foreseen. Numbers of people who might have honestly discharged their obligations in due time by industry and frugality, laid hold of this opportunity to disincumber themselves from their debts by an artifice: for those who were thus desirous of taking the benefit of the act, prevailed on some relation or friend to perform the part of a compelling creditor, and the goals of London were crouded by a succession of these voluntary captives, to the great injury and even ruin of honest men (fn. 5) . These frauds were taken notice of by the corporation, as will soon appear, and this clause was afterward repealed.
The parliament was dissolved March 20th, and writs issued for a new one. On the 26th, the livery of London were convened for the choice of representatives for the city: the shew of hands was in favour of Sir Robert Ladbroke, Sir Richard Glynn, William Beckford, Esq; and the Hon. Thomas Harley; but a poll being demanded for Sir Samuel Fludyer, it ended April 2d, unfavourably for the last gentleman, the four former being declared duly elected.
Arthur Onslow, Esq; who had been continued speaker of the house of commons for five successive parliaments, and filled that respectable office with great abilities and dignity, now declared his intentions of retiring; and among other acknowledgments of his long and faithful services, the common-council of London, on May 5th, voted him the freedom of the city in a gold box, of 100l. value. The return for public services on resignation ought to be merely honorary as in the present instance, (unless narrow circumstances render pecuniary rewards convenient) that sinister views may neither taint men in public capacities, nor be imputed to them. But the house of commons having requested the king to bestow some mark of his favour on this gentleman, an annual pension of 3000l. was settled on him for his life, and on his son after him. Perhaps public money has been worse bestowed, but as merit is personal, and the obligation to Mr. Onslow more strictly so; there was little propriety and less oeconomy, in extending so ample a provision beyond the immediate object of regard.
At the opening of this reign, the people were highly delighted with a young king who was their countryman, and who had improved their attachment to him on that account, by declaring in his first speech from the throne, that "born and educated in this country, he gloried in the name of Briton." The parliament, led away by the same warmth of affection, had been prevailed on to exceed all measure in their grants, which in the first session amounted to very near 20 millions of money (fn. 6) ! This parliament was now closed, and it was remarked that in the course of seven sessions they had granted 78 millions (fn. 7); a dear purchase that will be long felt, for conquests which, after all that has been said of them, will upon close scrutiny appear of problematical value to this involved and degenerating country.
The tax that gave the most immediate disgust in this metropolis, was the additional imposition upon strong beer (fn. 8). The duties laid on commodities in gross quantities, being reduced to irregular fractions in the retail sale, the dealers by raising the advance to even money, often make the consumer pay double the sum which accrues to the government. In this instance the additional duty of 3s. per barrel, which amounts to but one farthing the quart, prompted the alehouse keepers to lay a halfpenny on the quart; as they should otherwise lose the duty on the pint, which in such case would become the only measure of sale. The weight of this tax fell on the labouring poor of London who will not touch small beer; and occasioned great uneasiness and clamour among them: nor was it long before disgust was perceived in the superior classes of the people.
The management of state affairs might be expected to shift to other hands, upon the acoession of a new king; and unfortunately, as the Scots themselves confess, the earl of Bute, a Scots nobleman of reserved deportment, and of imperious disposition, who had been the tutor of the king's youth, was found to hold the highest place in his esteem, and has been supposed the secret adviser of every transaction in this reign. Mr. Legge, the friend and joint favourite of the people with Mr. Pitt, was removed from the office of chancellor of the exchequer to make way for lord Barrington; and the earl of Holdernesse, one of the secretaries of state, was superseded by the earl of Bute. Mr. Pitt, whose expensive management had at least been successful, was now unequally yoked with an associate of superior influence; the subordinate departments of state were new modelled, and a number of peerages bestowed, to strengthen the interest of the new ministry. From this time parties began to revive and impede the public business; the tories adhered to the new favourite, and the almost forgotten prejudices between the English and Scots nations generated those popular discontents that have been since so successfully improved.
The court of common-council on the 5th of June unanimously resolved to present the freedom of the city in a gold box of 150 guineas value, to his majesty's brother the duke of York, one of the rear admirals of the blue squadron, as a pledge of the grateful respect they bore his royal highness for his early entrance into the naval service of his king and country: and on the 17th, they congratulated his majesty on the reduction of the island of Belleisle on the coast of France.
The new road from Paddington to Islington has already been noticed (fn. 9), and by virtue of an act passed for that purpose (fn. 10), another road was opened from the end of Goswell-street road next Islington, by which the former new road was continued across the New river down to Old-street road opposite the Doghousebar. This road, which is known by the name of the City road, opens an easy and pleasant communication from the eastern parts of the city about the Royal Exchange to all the roads between Islington and Paddington, and from thence down to Oxford road, and the great Western road, without the necessity of travelling over above three miles of paved and crouded streets. See the plan of the metropolis belonging to this work.
Her serene highness Charlotte princess of Mecklenburg Strelitz, who had been demanded in marriage by our sovereign, arrived at St. James's palace, on the afternoon of September 8th, and about 9 o'clock of the same evening, the marriage ceremony was performed with great state in the royal chapel, by Dr. Secker, archbishop of Canterbury. The bride in her nuptial habit was supported by the duke of York and prince William, his majesty's brothers; and her train was borne by ten unmarried ladies daughters of dukes and earls. The duke of Cumberland gave her hand to his majesty, and immediately on their joining hands, the Park and Tower cannon were fired (fn. 11). The whole nation united in testifying their joy on their king's union with a princess, whose amiable character promised future felicity both to her royal consort and his subjects; and so well have these expectations been justified, that even calumny has never yet ventured to whisper the least disrespectful insinuation against her. On the 14th, the lord-mayor, aldermen, and common-council of London presented their congratulations to the royal pair on their nuptials, as also to the princess dowager of Wales: it was on this account that the common-council first appeared in mazarine blue silk gowns, agreeable to an order of that court; and which adds greatly to the solemnity of their public appearance.
The ceremony of the coronation remained to be performed, which took place on September 22d, and Westminster-hall was prepared for the coronation banquet by taking away the courts of judicature, boarding the floor, erecting canopies, and building galleries for the accommodation of spectators. A platform was laid from the hall to the abbey-church where the king and queen were crowned; and all the houses and streets within sight of the procession were faced and crouded with scaffolding, as was the inside of the cathedral on each side almost up to the choir. These occasional erections, which were well contrived both for convenience and security, prepared the spectators for something solemn and sublime; but when all these benches were filled with above 200,000 people of both sexes in gay apparel, they exhibited an astonishing specimen of the wealth and populousness of Great Britain, from all parts of which their curiosity had brought them; and they even eclipsed in grandeur the procession they came to view, notwithstanding the profusion of jewels, and other circumstances of pomp attending it (fn. 12).
Spain had not as yet taken an open part in the war, but some overtures toward a peace having been made, France artfully contrived to bring Spain in as a party; and Mr. Pitt seeing a perfect union of interests and councils between the two courts, thought the intentions of Spain remained no longer equivocal, and that a war with her was therefore inevitable. He had received intimation of a private treaty lately concluded between the courts of Versailles and Madrid, since known by the name of the family compact; he is said to have expatiated on these particulars in council, and to have proposed sending an armament immediately into the Mediterranean without any formality, to strike some important blow, if the ministry of Spain should refuse to give instant satisfaction as to her intentions, to the court of Great Britain. He declared that should his proposal be rejected or postponed, he would resign his employment; and the same declaration was made by his brother-in-law earl Temple, who supported the secretary's advice: but the other members were not for such decisive proceedings, they considered this prompt proposal as a step too delicate to be hazarded, and were for having recourse first to negociation. On the 5th of October Mr. Pitt resigned his office; that, as he expressed himself in a letter to a friend in the city, he might not remain responsible for measures which he was no longer allowed to guide: but notwithstanding his abrupt secession, his services were rewarded with a pension of 3000l. per annum. which was to extend during the lives of his lady and son; and as he then declined the distinction of nobility for himself, his lady was made baroness of Chatham, with the title of baron to descend to her heirs male (fn. 13). The seals were on the 9th, delivered to the earl of Egremont, and this removal of the popular minister, by thwarting those vigorous measures that had raised the nation from despondency, was the source of great clamour among his numerous friends; and heightened the animosity between the court and country parties.
The corporation of London, from whom the voice of the nation is generally first heard, and by whom it is often first guided, carried two motions in a court on the 22d, the one, to instruct the city members in the sense of the citizens on the present critical conjuncture; and the other, to return the thanks of the court to Mr. Pitt, for the many and important services, rendered to his king and country: a third motion was engrafted on the latter, which was, that in the said thanks, they do lament his resignation, its consequences, &c. at this critical juncture. The points on which the city members were instructed, were to endeavour at a repeal or amendment of the late act for the relief of insolvent debtors, "in respect of the inconveniencies arising from the compulsive "clause; by which a door has been opened to the greatest frauds and perjuries, and if continued, must become the destruction of all private credit, so essential to the support of a trading people (fn. 14):"—to promote all necessary measures for the establishing good oeconomy in the distribution of the national treasure, and endeavour to get a committee appointed to inquire into illicit practices in the management of it:—that considering the importance of our conquests, they should, with their utmost power and abilities, oppose all attempts for giving up such places as might tend to lessen our present security, restore the naval power of France, and expose us to fresh hostilities; particularly to preserve our sole and exclusive right to our acquisitions in North America, and its fisheries:—and lastly to concur in prosecuting the war with the utmost vigour, so as to obtain a safe and honourable peace.
Another grand exhibition yet remained to compleat the pageantry of this year; in which according to custom the citizens of London have an opportunity of shewing their affection to a new king by entertaining him at Guildhall on the first mayoralty which commences after his accession. Sir Samuel Fludyer was the mayor that enjoyed the honour of this royal visit; and while he went as usual to Westminster by water, their majesties, the princess dowager of Wales, the princesses Augusta and Carolina, the duke of York, the princes William, Henry, and Frederic, the princess Amelia, and the duke of Cumberland, with a numerous retinue of nobility, officers of state, and foreign ambassadors, went into the city to see the procession at its return. The most remarkable circumstances that distinguished his majesty's journey into the city were the prodigious acclamations and tokens of regard bestowed by the populace on Mr. Pitt, who was accompanied in his chariot by lord Temple! At every stop, the mob clung about the carriage, hugged his servants, kissed his horses, and even wanted to unharness them that they might draw his chariot themselves. There was a continued shout all the way, and the gentlemen and ladies in balconies and windows, waved their hats and handkerchiefs to him as he passed. The earl of Bute did not pass unnoticed, though the salutations he received were of a different nature from those bestowed on the discarded secretary.
Their majesties and the rest of the royal family first went to Mr. Barclay's facing Bow-church in Cheapside, where a room had been decorated for their reception; and having seen the lord-mayor and the city companies pass, they were conducted by the sheriffs to Guildhall, in which the dinner, both for magnificence and order, was generally allowed to surpass that in Westminsterhall at the coronation. His majesty was pleased to declare that to be elegantly entertained he must come into the city; the foreign ministers in general expressed their surprize, and one of them said that this entertainment was fit only for one king to give to another (fn. 15). A ball followed; the dancing continued till 12 o'clock, and the croud of carriages and throng were so great, that the royal guests did not reach St. James's till two in the morning. The houses both in London and Westminster on their return were all illuminated, and some of them adorned with ingenious transparent devices: Mr. Pitt was attended back to his own house with the same tumultuous tokens of regard that he was honoured with when going into the city. How the distinctions that were paid to Mr. Pitt were construed at court may be guessed, by an indiscreet fashion adopted during this reign of affecting to despise the sentiments of the people, and of stigmatizing the honest though perhaps coarse expressions of popular favour or dislike, with odious epithets.
The common-council, on November 18th, resolved to erect a statue of his majesty in the Royal Exchange among the other sovereigns of England which decorate the inner court; and to put up his picture with that of the queen in Guildhall. The committee that superintended the late entertainment waited upon their majesties to return the thanks of the court for their condescension in honouring the city with their company; to acquaint them with the intentions of the court; and to request them to sit for their pictures. The favour was granted; the pictures were placed over the hustings in Guildhall, and the statue erected in the niche next to that of George II. but without making any encomiums on the other statues, it may be remarked that this is so clumsy and aukward, with so little resemblance of the royal personage whose name it bears; that it would be a greater compliment to all parties to take it down, than it was to set up so tasteless a piece of sculpture, to offend the spectator by standing there for his admiration.
The British minister at Madrid was directed to demand in respectful terms of that court, an explanation of the secret treaty which had been lately concluded with France; and to declare that a refusal of this satisfaction would be considered as a denunciation of hostilities. The answer was evasive, and imported that this demand was itself a declaration of war: Mr. Pitt's intended measures were therefore indirectly justified on January 4th, 1762, when war was declared against Spain in due form (fn. 16). The successes that so speedily followed were owing to our being already in condition for instant action, and Spain entering into the contest when her ally was already exhausted and reduced.
The nature of this history calls sometimes for odd transitions from events of importance to ridiculous occurrences, which yet must not be overlooked; and may be accepted as an apology for shifting the scene from the war with Spain to the Cock lane ghost, which became a subject of equal importance at the time.
In the year 1756, Mr. K. a broker, married a young lady of Norfolk with whom he lived very happily for a short time, until she died in childbed, and the child also; when her sister came to reside with him in the character of his housekeeper. Their familiar situation soon ripened into a tender affection for each other, and the strictness of the canon law not admitting them to marry, they resigned themselves to the impulses of nature without the sanction of the church, made their wills mutually in each other's favour, and removing to town, lodged for some time in the house of one Parsons in Cock-lane West Smithfield, who was parish clerk to St. Sepulchre's without Newgate. While K. remained here, his landlord borrowed money of him, and he was obliged to sue him before he could be repaid; which creating uneasiness between them, K. left his lodgings at an hour's warning and removed to Clerkenwell: here the young lady soon after died of the small pox on February 2d, 1766, as was attested in the course of the ensuing transaction, by the physician and apothecary who attended her.
The scheme of revenge concerted as may be supposed by Parsons, proved the occasion of this piece of secret history being blazed abroad. In the month of January this year, an alarm spread that Parsons's daughter, a girl of about II years of age, was visited by a spirit; she was seized with fits and strange agitations, while noises like scratching, knocking, fluttering, and whispering, disturbed the apartment where she lay. The family contrived to enter into conversation with this invisible spirit by means of these noises, by dictating how many knocks should serve for answers either affirmative or negative; scratching was understood to express displeasure. The terms of conference being thus established, the spirit was interrogated, and made to declare itself the spirit of Fanny, which was the name of the deceased lady; and that she had been poisoned by K. when ill of the small pox, by putting arsenic into purl.
The sound of the noises varied at different times, seeming to proceed occasionally from different parts of the room where the child lay; and as her presence was necessary to the production of the noises, so the spirit declared it would follow her wherever she went. The circumstances of this strange visitation being reported with many idle exaggerations, interested the public to such a degree, that in all companies nothing was heard but remarks on the ghost in Cock-lane; and at this place superstition and curiosity occasioned a perpetual flux and reflux of people of all ranks and conditions. What was at first undertaken from malicious views, now became a source of considerable profit; and some who entered the house from motives of mirth and ridicule only, were so struck with a scene that coincided with the early prejudices of education, as to become converts to the general persuasion. The girl was actually removed to other houses; the noises accompanied her: the strangeness of an occurrence that no one could account for from natural causes, made an impression on persons of superior understanding; and two clergymen became the avowed patrons of this inarticulate revelation. The infidel part of the audience took some pains to find the ghost by unripping wainscots and floors where they thought they heard it, as if they were in search for a rat; by making the girl lie with her arms out of bed, and afterward by muffling and binding her hands and feet; but the sounds still defeated all precautions to silence them: it was in vain they mentioned ventriloqui or persons who were known to have the faculty of talking or uttering strange inward noises, and making them appear to come from any distance they please without moving their lips; for their unbelief brought them to shame, and their defeat to vexation.
At last Fanny was decoyed into an unguarded promise to attend one of the gentlemen down to the vault of St. John's church, Clerkenwell, where the body was buried; and to give a token of her presence there by a knock upon the coffin, as a test of her veracity. At one o'clock in the morning, the spirit being then duly informed of the intention, the two believing clergymen, with a gentleman well known in the literary world for his abilities in language, went to the vault, where the spirit was solemnly required to fulfil her promise! But neither hearing nor seeing any thing beside themselves, they returned; and were rewarded for their nocturnal embassy, by having it perpetuated in a well known satirical poem published on the occasion (fn. 17).
The credit of the ghost, the girl, and the three deputies stood now in great jeopardy; to elude the disgrace therefore, a report was spread that the coffin and body had been removed out of the vault : but Mr. K. who began to interest himself in defence of his reputation, deprived them of this last refuge, by ordering the coffin to be opened before sufficient witnesses. The undertaker soon discovered and knew the coffin; it was opened before the clergyman of the parish, the clerk, the sexton, Mr. K. and some others, and exhibited the sad remains of mortality. Mr. K. then judged proper to vindicate his character in a legal manner : on the 10th of July therefore, Parsons and his wife, Mary Frazer a woman who lived in the house, and who officiated as interpreter between the ghost and the spectators; one of the clergymen, and a tradesman, who had been active dupes in the affair; were all tried and convicted of a conspiracy against the life and character of Mr. K. by a special jury at Guildhall. The court being willing that the prosecutor, who had been so much injured in the transaction, should receive some reparation from the offenders; deferred giving sentence for seven or eight months, in hopes that the parties might make it up in the interim : accordingly the clergyman and tradesman compromised their share of the matter by a large sum of money, and were dismissed with a severe reprimand. Parsons was sentenced to stand in the pillory three times in one month, and to be imprisoned two years; his wife was imprisoned one year; and Mary Frazer was committed to Bridewell for six months (fn. 18).
This mode of prosecution was the only expedient to suppress an infamous scheme, and prevent other ghosts from plaguing mankind: for as the doctrine of spirits is supported by our religion, it could not be disproved by law. This ghost therefore being beyond the reach of a court of judicature in every respect, was wisely overlooked, and the living actors in the scheme, as tangible beings, were laid hold of in the manner they deserved.
The reader has already seen the complaints made by Mr. Evelyn (fn. 19), of the incommodious pavement of the streets in the metropolis, some little time before the great fire; and no considerable reformation had taken place since. The high streets had indeed flat pavements on each side for foot passengers; but these were very negligently repaired : ranges of thick posts, which took up the space of a line of passengers, divided the horse way from that of the foot; and beside abridging the passage by day, stood dangerous obstructions by night. Projecting spouts in narrow old-streets still poured the collected rain from the roofs of houses, impetuously on the dripping passenger; while in all the streets, large sign-boards hung across, by irons from the fronts of houses, which in proportion to the abilities of shop-keepers, were carried to extravagant degrees of ostentation, and not only obstructed the view but also the free circulation of the air; grating the ear with most discordant creakings as they swung to and fro in windy weather. The middle of the streets were paved with large pebbles, of all sizes and shapes, rough to the horse and uneasy to the rider; which continually worn by carriages into dangerous holes, the mud lay in too great quantities to suffer the streets to be called clean, excepting in extreme dry weather, when the dust was as troublesome as the dirt while wet. Westminster had the honour of setting the first example in correcting all these nusances and deformities, by procuring an act (fn. 20) with ample powers; by virtue of which all the signs and projections from shops were removed, the posts were taken up, the streets were either raised or lowered to bring them nearer to a level, the footways on each side were elevated, defined by kerb stones, and paved as smooth as the floor of a room: the carriage way was paved with squared Scots granate, closely laid in gravel, arched in the middle, with proper channels on each side. The lamps were uniformly disposed at equal distances; and the expedition with which this grand design was executed, was as remarkable as the elegant appearance of the streets when finished.
On the 7th of April, the lord-mayor, aldermen, and commons of London, waited on the king with an address of congratulation on the conquest of Martinico, the strongest and most valuable of the French sugar islands, and of the island of St. Lucia; which were reduced by general Monckton and admiral Rodney.
None of the regulations hitherto made having been able to reduce fish to reasonable prices at the London markets, a scheme was undertaken by the society for the encouragements of arts, manufactures and commerce (fn. 21), to bring fish: from distant ports to London and Westminster by land carriage: and an act of parliament was obtained for that laudable purpose (fn. 22): the following were the principal heads of this law. Any person whatever, though no fisherman, was allowed to buy at any market, sea-coast, port, or river, all sorts of sizeable fish, and to sell the same in those cities, paying the customary dues; Covent Garden market and its precincts excepted : the carriages employed in this service were to carry fish only, and might travel on Sundays and holidays; they were to be numbered and entered at the Hackney coach office : no proprietor of such fish was to break bulk, or sell any fish until brought to the respective markets, and there publicly exposed to sale; salmon and lobsters excepted: fishmongers and others were not to buy any of the said fish to be divided into lots or shares, in order to be retailed by any but the first buyer, on penalty of 20l. To prevent engrossing large quantities of fish, the lots were limited; as for instance, fresh salmon, sturgeon, or large cod, by the single fish; large haddocks, four in a lot; mackrel, herrings, &c. sixty in a lot; and other kinds of fish in proportion to their sizes: exceptions were made with regard to salted or dried fish, oysters, carp, or tench.
The society for the encouragement of arts, &c. advanced 2000l. for this scheme, and the gentleman who planned and undertook the superintendency of it added 1500l. more; with which capital he actually brought great quantities of fish to market for two or three years. But the scheme being to reduce the price of fish, it follows that the better this end was answered, the less profit accrued to increase the fund, or even to support it, the wear of carriages considered. Beside, the fishmongers were powerful opponents and counteracted the plan by various expedients; so that at last it dwindled to nothing. Indeed no artificial projects for supplying the necessaries of life are likely to establish themselves; and without they do this the ends are rather perverted by the defeat. To establish themselves the persons engaged in them must find their private account in them; they must be built on the common principles of trade : it seems therefore that no more can be done than to keep every trade as open as possible, and then prices will be regulated by natural circumstances, the only laws by which they can be governed.
The great cause which had been often argued and long depending, between the city and the dissenters, concerning their eligibility and obligation to serve the office of sheriff, came on at Guildhall the 5th of July: when after several learned pleadings, the judges gave their opinion that dissenters were not liable to serve the office. The city afterward appealed from this decision to the house of Lords (fn. 23) where it was confirmed.
On the 12th of August a little after 7 in the morning, the queen was delivered of a prince, which event was immediately announced by a discharge of the Tower guns; and just after, the waggons loaded with the treasure of the Hermione, a Spanish register ship taken by the Active and Favourite, two English frigates, entered St. James's street in their way to the Tower. They were twenty in number, and were preceded by a company of light horse with kettle drums, trumpets, french horns, and hautboys; each waggon was escorted by four marines with bayonets fixed, and was decorated with English colours over those of Spain. The treasure was soon after conveyed to the Bank, and was estimated at 2,276,716 dollars, beside other rich effects among the cargo (fn. 24). On the 14th an address from the city was presented on the birth of the prince, who was on the 17th created prince of Wales &c. and was on September 11th baptised by the name of George Augustus Frederic.
The duke of Newcastle first lord of the treasury, and who had always been a staunch leader of the whigs, finding a decay of that influence he had long possessed in the administration, had resigned his high office the latter end of May; and the interest by which he was supplanted, became the ruling power, by the appointment of Lord Bute to succeed him : other resignations followed of disgusted whigs; for though the names of whig and tory were almost lost, the principles remained alive, and it became evident that the latter party were now elevated into the sunshine of the court, and directed the affairs of the nation (fn. 25). Dissensions grew violent, the conduct of the war became difficult, and its supplies uncertain: if the present administration failed, their failure would be attributed to incapacity; if their measures continued the national success, that success they thought would be made use of as an argument for such terms of pacification, that they despaired of procuring. These reasons disposed the new ministry cordially toward peace; and on the 30th of August the lordmayor received a letter from the earl of Egremont's secretary, informing him that the duke de Nivernois was come over to negociate a treaty, and that the duke of Bedford was nominated to go to Paris, on the same pacific errand.
Alderman Beckford, who was a gentleman of ample fortune, and carried on an extensive trade; who was above all reserve in the declaration of his sentiments, which were free and manly, though not expressed with that grace which is often of more service in the disguise of real opinions, than to the honest declaration of them; openly joined the opposition to the new ministry under the earl of Bute. He was now in rotation for the mayoralty, but finding the usual practices employed by the court party to set aside independent men were in agitation against him, he declared a resolution of resigning his gown: but his request being referred to future consideration by the court of aldermen, he was put up to the common-hall on Michaelmas-day with alderman Bridgen; who returned them both to the aldermen for their choice. Whether it was in hopes that he would persist in declining his future services to the city, or whether the choice of the aldermen was guided by more sincere motives; every of one them voted for Beckford, one excepted, who scratched for Bridgen. It would have been a very ill compliment to so respectable a testimony of the city's regard for him, had he refused compliance with their desires; he therefore promised that notwithstanding the ill state of his health, he would exert the utmost of his abilities in discharging the great trust reposed in him, and support the privileges, customs, and immunities of the city to the extent of his power.
The operations of the war however still continued amidst the negociations for peace, and Havanna the principal sea port on the island of Cuba being gallantly reduced by admiral Sir George Pococke, and the earl of Albemarle; the lordmayor, aldermen, and commons of London, congratulated his majesty on October 4th on that important acquisition. The French had endeavoured to gain the honour of a puny conquest by taking possession of St. John's in Newfoundland; but on the 12th of October a letter from the secretary of the admiralty informed the lord-mayor of its being retaken by lord Colville and Colonel Amherst, and the garrison of 800 men made prisoners of war (fn. 26). On the 8th of November the secretary of state sent to inform the lord-mayor that the preliminaries of pacification had been signed by the duke of Bedford at Fontain bleau on the 3d; in consequence of this, a cessation of arms was proclaimed at London on December 1st, and leave given for persons to go out of the kingdom in the packet boats, without taking passes from the secretary's office (fn. 27). The definitive treaty of peace, which was signed at Paris on February 10th 1763, was proclaimed at London on the 22d of March.
The original cause of our quarrel with France was for her incroachments on our settlements in North America: by this peace full security was obtained against future depredations; the fourth and seventh articles confirming to Great Britain the country named Canada, in its utmost extent, and so far the original object of the war was obtained. This stretched the northern part of our continental possessions in America, from one sea to the other; while the cession of Louisbourg to the Missisippi, and of Spanish Florida, rendered our American empire compleat: no frontiers can be more distinctly defined, or more perfectly secured. But this peace was procured by a long contest, and at a great expence of blood and treasure; we gave up several important conquests; and the great point of discussion with the nation, especially now party dissensions gave additional force to every objection against the ministry, was, how far we were indemnified in all these respects by the terms agreed to? These particulars must be left to the decision of others; it is sufficient to observe that this peace was far from giving general satisfaction.
Without going out of our way to enter into the merits of this negociation, it may be observed in general, that as we are usually successful in war, and as these successes naturally give us pleasure; so are we as uniformly discontented with whatever peace is made. We are apt to conclude that we are to retain all our conquests, or to receive equivalents for them; but those who have ever heard of the balance of power will consider the states of Europe, as an eminent writer somewhere expresses it, as forming one great republic, which interests itself in the concerns of every individual state; and will not let any one power so far oppress another, as to grow too great by destroying or endangering its independency. The maintaining this grand equipoize gives rise to continual negociations and to many wars on the continent, the causes of which are less known to common observers than the events of them. If on this view of things the question is started, of what benefit it is to make conquests by arms, if we are liable to lose them by treaties? The reply may be, they are seized as pledges to reduce an unreasonable state to submit to the arbitration of a congress: and should success incline to the unjust side, the same end is still effected of bringing private disputes to a public discussion.
The citizens of London had not been in good humour since the resignation of Mr. Pitt, and the bill now depending in parliament granting additional duties on wine, cyder, and perry, which was to subject the makers of cyder and perry to the excise laws; was far from reconciling them to the measures of his successors in power. On the same day that the peace was proclaimed, the court of common-council resolved on a petition to the house of commons against so much of the bill as brought the makers of those liquors under the excise; and the following day they prepared instructions for their members, to oppose this new attempt at extending the excise laws "as inconsistent with those principles of liberty which have hitherto distinguished this nation from arbitrary governments:" and they hinted "that whatever may be the necessity of the times, the smallness of the sum indicates that cannot be the only motive for so extraordinary a measure." So strenuously did the city exert itself against a bill the consequences of which were so justly dreaded, that on March 28 the common-council resolved to petition each branch of the legislature before whom it was depending. These petitions were accordingly presented, though without any effect, for it passed into a law (fn. 28); but gave rise to so much disturbance, not only in the cyder counties but all over the kingdom, that it was first altered (fn. 29), and afterward repealed (fn. 30).
It was in the midst of these growing indications of general ill humour, that the earl of Bute thought proper to retire from his high station by an abrupt resignation: he was succeeded by the right honourable George Grenville, but was still thought to continue the secret director of those measures he no longer chose to avow.
Addresses are so statedly presented from the corporation on all public events, that the sentiments of the people on ordinary occasions often give way to what has now become a meer formal ceremony: but when this compliment was proposed, to return thanks for the peace, which was perhaps more disagreeable to the people on account of the parties that managed it than on its own intrinsic merits, the common-council could not be prevailed on to comply with the usual formality. An address in the name of the lord-mayor and court of aldermen was indeed obtained, but it was very feebly supported: when it was to be presented on the 12th of May, the lord-mayor pleaded indisposition, and did not attend; Sir Charles Asgill supplied his place as locum tenens, with only six aldermen, the sheriffs, chamberlain, town clerk, and recorder (fn. 31). The populace saluted the procession with hisses; the great bell in St. Bride's steeple tolled as if a funeral was passing, and a dumb peal with muffled bells succeeded: Bow bells also paid the addressers the same indecent compliment at their return.