A New History of London Including Westminster and Southwark. Originally published by R Baldwin, London, 1773.
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From the death of alderman Beckford, to the close of the year 1771.
On July 14, a wardmote was held in Butcher's-hall, Pudding-lane, for the election of an alderman for Billingsgate-ward, in the room of the late lord mayor, when Richard Oliver, Esq; merchant in Fenchurch-street, and one of the Supporters of the Bill of Rights, was chosen without opposition.
The high esteem in which the corporation of London held the memory of Mr. Beckford for his great abilities and stedfast attachment to the interests of his fellow-citizens, appeared at a court held on the 5th of July; when a motion was made that a statue of the late right honourable William Beckford, Esq; lord-mayor, might be erected; with an inscription containing his lordship's speech to his majesty on presenting the city remonstrance. This motion being agreed to, a committee of six aldermen and twelve commoners were appointed to carry it into execution, with power to draw on the chamber of London for any sum not exceeding 1000l. for that purpose. It was determined that this statue should be placed over the sheriffs court at the bottom of Guildhall, fronting the hustings; that it should be of white marble, in the attitude he stood when he addressed the king, and that the speech should be in gilt letters on a tablet of black marble (fn. 1).
Thomas Oliver, Esq; treasurer to the society for the support of the Bill of Rights, and brother to the newly elected alderman of Billingsgate-ward, was the gentleman who first offered himself candidate to succeed Mr. Beckford as representative for London: but happening to be attacked with a sudden and dangerous fit of sickness, at the time of election, he declined, and his brother Richard Oliver, Esq; offered himself in his stead. At the common-hall on July 11th, the several aldermen who were not in parliament being proposed to the livery, afforded them an opportunity to shew their sentiments of the candidates by the reception they gave them. Some of the names produced every uncouth noise that could express contempt; others were so far approved as to be heard with silence, or to receive a general clap. Mr. Wilkes put a paper into the hand of the secondary who called over the names, which was read to the livery in these words. "Mr. alderman Wilkes gives this notice to the secondary, that he considers himself as one of the legal members for the county of Middlesex, and therefore that he will not suffer his name to be in the list of those aldermen, who according to custom are put in nomination as candidates to represent the city of London in parliament." This paper was heard with long continued shouts of applause; but when the name of Richard Oliver, Esq; citizen and draper was proposed, every hand in the hall was held up to signify the general approbation, with loud acclamations. He was therefore declared by the sheriffs duly elected a representative for the city of London. Then stepping forward he returned thanks in a genteel speech for their as yet unmerited confidence in him; told them he should consider himself as deputed for their benefit; and not for his own advantage; that he would be obedient to those instructions they had a right to give to their servants; that he would contribute his share in any manner, to render justice to the freeholders of Middlesex, and in them to all the other counties and boroughs in Great Britain, for the injury they had received in being deprived of a representative in parliament, who had been duly and repeatedly elected by those who alone have and ought to have the right of election. He added that as he never had or desired, so he never would either directly or indirectly accept, either place, pension, emolument, contract, or gratification, of any kind whatever, from the crown or its ministers. These voluntary professions were worthy a British senator, and no person is fit to sit in the great council of the nation, who cannot make the same declarations, and support them by his future conduct. Under a house of commons filled with men of such independent, liberal, noble principles, we should not have the conduct of government continually arraigned; nor the nation filled with complaints of being betrayed by those who used to be considered as the natural guardians of the liberties of the people.
The recorder of London is a servant of the corporation, and receives very liberal wages for his services; he had failed in one article of his duty by refusing to attend the late lord-mayor when he carried the city remonstrance to the king; which was an unnecessary proof of his courtly principles, as his concurrence in opinion was not concerned in meer official acts. Two motions were therefore carried in a court of common-council on July 26th, the one was "that the conduct of the recorder of this city be taken into consideration at the next court of common-council, and that the lord-mayor be desired to order notice of it to be inserted in the summons:" the other, "that the oath taken by the recorder on his admission into office, be forthwith printed, and sent to every member of this court."
The nation was at this time apprehensive of being engaged in a Spanish war, on account of the Spaniards taking hostile possession of a small British settlement just made on one of the barren spots lying off the coast of Patagonia, known by us under the name of Falkland islands. The government made some shew of preparing for a contest, which added a fresh article to the popular complaints; by discovering how much the navy had been neglected, while the ministers were exerting all their powers in carrying on an internal contest with British subjects. At a court of aldermen held the 25th of September, the lord-mayor reported a letter he had received from the lords of the Admiralty, desiring him to back the press warrants for the city of London; with his answer to it, that it had never been usual for the lord-mayor to sign such warrants unless when applied to by the privy-council (fn. 2). His lordship then read a letter from the recorder, requesting leave of absence for a month, on the plea of indisposition. The date of this letter being discovered to be since the declared intention of inquiring into his conduct; the application was construed into a fresh slight offered to the court of common-council: Mr. Townsend therefore observed that the aldermen might grant him leave of absence from their court; but could not dispense with his attendance on the court of common-council. The aldermen then desired the lord-mayor to inform the recorder that they con sented to his request, and referred him to the court of common-council for a similar dispensation.
The common-council met on the 27th, at which the recorder attended; and the lord-mayor observing that as the proposed inquiry into the recorder's conduct was one article of their business, and as he was there present, he hoped they would begin with that; adding he was ready to hear any motion. The recorder being then called upon for the reasons of his non-attendance, he not only justified his former refusal, but declared his intention to persist in such refusal on any like occasion. Some excellent remarks were made by the aldermen on the recorder's defence, after he withdrew; but as Mr. Kirkman stated the merits of the case very concisely, his speech is worth producing. "My lord, said he, though I did not approve of the address, I cannot pretend to justify the recorder's conduct. His opinion it was his duty to give; but having given it, it was his duty to obey. If his advice and counsel must needs be followed, it ceases to be advice, my lord, it becomes command. Mr. Recorder has a double duty—to counsel, and to act. They are very distinct offices. His counsel is his own, his acts are those of the corporation; they are merely official. He must give no advice which he does not approve; but it may be his duty to do many things which he does not approve. If Mr. Recorder will do nothing but what he chuses; if the corporation must do nothing but what he approves; he is no longer their officer, he is their commander." Mr. Wilkes then made a motion—" That it is the opinion of this court, that the recorder, by refusing to attend the lord-mayor, aldermen, and commons of this city with their humble address, remonstrance, and petition, to his majesty, acted contrary to his oath and the duty of his office." This was carried in the affirmative; but a division being demanded, there appeared to be six aldermen with 90 commoners, for the affirmative; and six aldermen with 51 commoners, for the negative. The farther consideration of this affair was then postponed, and other business entered on.
The prison of the Fleet was very old, some part of it had lately fallen down; and a treaty had been entered into with the lords of the treasury, for removing the prison to a piece of ground belonging to the city in St. George's-fields, Southwark: for placing the Fleet-market on the scite of the old prison; and then to make a clear open road from Turnmill-street to Blackfriars-bridge. The terms of the exchange however could not be settled to mutual satisfaction; and the city remembrancer acquainted the court at the above meeting, that the lords of the treasury had resolved to build the Fleet-prison on the spot where it now stood.
At the common-hall on Michaelmas-day for the election of lord-mayor, Brass Crosby and James Townsend, Esqrs. were returned to the court of aldermen, who made choice of the former as the senior, and he was therefore declared duly elected.
The consideration of the recorder's disobedience was resumed by the court of common-council on the 12th of October; when an order of common-council in the year 1716 was read as follows. "That the recorder and common serjeant be advised with in all cases relating to the affairs of the city, where it may be necessary to have the opinion of any counsel learned in the law." After long and obstinate debates, the following resolutions passed by great majorities.
"That the order of this court, of the 19th of June 1716, so far as it relates to the recorder's being advised with in all cases relating to the affairs of this city, where it may be necessary to have the opinion of any counsel learned in the law;—be repealed."
"That James Eyre, Esq; the present recorder, be no more advised with, retained or employed, in any affairs of this corporation; he being deemed by this court unworthy of their future trust or confidence."
"That in all cases relative to the affairs of this city, where it may be necessary to have the advice, opinion, or assistance, of any counsel learned in the law, John Glynn, Esq; serjeant at law, shall for the future on all such occasions be advised with, retained, and employed."
"That the freedom of this city be presented to John Dunning, Esq; for having, when solicitor general to his majesty, defended in parliament, on the soundest principles of law and the constitution, the right of the subject to petition and remonstrate."
The alterations then making on the bank of the river near Durham-yard,
were taken into consideration at this council. What had already passed relating
to the affair was reserved to this place, as the transactions would have been too
much dispersed under the respective dates. They are brought into one connected view in the case laid before the house of commons some time after by
Mess. Adam and Co. the undertakers. This case will give the reader a short
state of the proceedings, and every one may form his own judgment on the
merits of the argumentative part of it. Some particulars referred to in it are
supplied by way of notes.
"Case of the petitioners for leave to embank Durham-yard, &c.
"The river Thames is the king's highway; the navigation and fishery of which belong to the public. To secure this important object in the most interesting part of the river, between Staines Bridge and the sea, the office of conservator thereof, but without any property in the soil, has been granted to the city, to be exercised by the lord-mayor for the time being.
"The lord-mayor accordingly holds courts of conservancy in different places within the limits of his jurisdiction, for punishing offences against the said navigation or fishery; but nothing less than the power of the legislature can authorise any encroachment, how beneficial soever it may be to individuals, or even to the public; and therefore, the city of London themselves were obliged to apply to parliament for leave to make the embankment at Blackfriars, though evidently for the public good.
"Encouraged by the precedent of this act, and in hopes of obtaining the sanction of parliament, for prosecuting at their own expence so noble an improvement, some of the petitioners took leases of two extensive pieces of ground, on the north side of the river, called Durham-yard and Salisbury-street, with a view to convert the same into streets, with elegant houses fronting the Thames, and commodious warehouses underneath; uniting by this means in one design the beauty and utility of the river. Previous, however, to any application to parliament, the petitioners, out of deference to the city's right of conservancy, and in hopes of preventing an opposition from that quarter, did, in July 1768, lay their plan before Mr. Harley, the then lord-mayor, and the court of aldermen, for their approbation.
"In the mayoralty of Mr. Alderman Turner, his lordship and the court were again applied to by memorial, and a plan, a second time, laid before them; to this memorial Mr. Kitchiner, proprietor of three wharfs in Beaufort Buildings, also acceded, in consequence of which the plan of embankment was altered as to its length. It was again resolved by the court of aldermen, that a committee should be appointed to visit the premises. One was accordingly named, which did actually visit them; and no objection was raised by this committee to the proposed embankment: they however made no report to the court of aldermen (fn. 3).
"The petitioners, in 1770, applied a third time to the lord-mayor, Mr. Beckford, who repeatedly expressed his own approbation of the scheme, subject, however, to the opinion of the court of common-council, giving them leave in the mean time to petition the honourable house of commons, as the matter was urgent, and the time for presenting petitions near expiring.
"A petition was accordingly presented to that honourable house, pending which the proposition was laid by Mr. Beckford before the court of common council, and by them referred to the consideration of a committee, who "reported strongly in its favour (fn. 4); and recommended an extension of the proposed embankment, from the fire engine at York Buildings to the bastion at the south west corner of Somerset Gardens, as likely means of removing the great sand bank on the south side of the river, and of deepening the channel, and thereby improving the navigation; but, the court appearing inclined to have further advice, Mr. Beckford was desired to take the opinions of engineers and other persons skilled in navigation. Till such advice could be obtained, the petitioners, out of respect to the city, deferred bringing the affair before the committee of the house of commons.
"In July last, after the death of Mr. Beckford, the court of common-council resumed the consideration of the proposed embankment; and, without waiting for the opinions of engineers, and other persons skilled in navigation, which they had formerly deemed necessary to take, they referred the matter to a new committee, who contented themselves with reporting the objections of some lightermen and watermen, very unfit judges of matters of this kind, and, from motives of private interest, declared opposers of the scheme.
"At last the petitioners, having suffered considerably by the city's delay, and seeing yet no period to their indecision, determined to defer no longer their application to parliament; and accordingly have, this sessions, renewed their petition to the honourable house of commons for a bill. The consideration of which petition now stands referred to a committee of that honourable house.
"One of these objections is grounded on a misapprehension that the embankment is proposed to be extended as far into the river as the present temporary "incroachment (necessarily made for the purpose of carrying on the adjoining buildings) whereas the former is not designed to come so far as the latter by near one hundred feet.
"Another of the objections is the want of a sufficient number of wharfs for carrying on the necessary traffic of this end of the city; whereasthe proposed embankment must be some remedy to the evil so justly complained of, and without it the public will be deprived of the use of three of its best and most central wharfs; for without an embankment there can be no room for the craning, landing, and carting of goods, and other such purposes. —At the same time that the mud and filth, collected in this part of the river from the many common sewers that empty themselves in this neighbourhood, and from the want of sufficient current, owing to the great width of the stream (being above three hundred and seventy feet more than at Blackfriars Bridge) render the present wharfs extremely incommodious at low water, it being often necessary to raise the barges out of the mud by levers.
"It is also objected that the embankment will prejudice the navigation, and increase the sand bank on the opposite shore; whereas this bank is principally owing to the breadth of the river, and the consequential flackness of the stream, and would be removed, or at least thrown into a less inconvenient form, by narrowing the channel, and thereby giving weight and velocity to the water.
"But the objection on which the greatest stress seems to be laid, is, that by "this embankment the lightermen will be deprived of one of their usual places for mooring of their craft with safety; whereas no craft can legally be moored in the front of any ground (whether converted into wharfs or not) without the express consent of the proprietors; and should the proposed embankment take place, there will still remain sufficient room, in slack water, for a considerable number of lighters, more than ever were moored there at any one time, for the use of the former owners of these wharfs.
"The idea of a quay or embankment all along the north side of the river Thames, was first suggested by that able architect and engineer Sir Christopher Wren after the fire of London. Its not being carried into execution at that time, has been matter of much regret to every one who has since given attention to that subject. The first effort towards effecting this favourite scheme, was the bill lately obtained by the city for embanking from Paul's Wharf to Milford Lane. This plan originally took its rise, and the utility of it was fully investigated, in that very common-council which now opposes the prosecution of it in the present case: as if a wise and useful improvement at Blackfriars Bridge could be a dangerous and destructive one at Durhamyard, where the river is so much wider, and its beach at low water extends no less than two hundred and sixty feet into the river.
"Upon the whole, therefore, the petitioners humbly hope that a scheme, so evidently tending to promote the navigation of the river Thames, and the trade of this great capital, and more particularly the trade, the convenience, "and the health of the inhabitants of this part of the town, and which at the same time greatly. affects the property of individuals, for some of the petitioners relying upon the apparent approbation of four successive lord mayors, and upon the justice and even public utility of their request, have already, at a very great expence, in some degree carried this plan of embankment into execution, as necessary for compleating one of the grandest undertakings on the banks of the Thames hitherto attempted. They therefore flatter themselves that they shall meet with a favourable reception from parliament, who being free from all local and partial considerations, will examine the scheme upon the principle of public utility; and if it shall appear to them a benefit instead of a detriment to the navigation, will honour it with the sanction of their authority (fn. 5)."
The report set forth, "that the buildings erected by Mr. Adam project into the river 28 feet, and that their farther encroachment by earth and rubbish projects into the river 175 feet in depth, and 397 feet in length.
"That Mr. Paine's buildings project at the east end 18 feet, at the west end 9 feet, in length from west to east 83 feet 6 inches; and that Mr. Paine's farther encroachment by rubbish, &c. projects into the river 108 feet in depth, and 136 feet in length.
"That these encroachments are prejudicial to the public, and hurtful to the navigation: and that the representations and memorial of the committee of watermen and lightermens company, of the chief owners of coal craft, and of the corn lightermen; contain allegations against the said encroachments, which the committee find by evidence to be fully verified and established."
The debate of the common-council upon this report was in general very warm, and very tedious. The lord-mayor endeavoured in vain to maintain order and decency, and to keep the speakers to the point in question; he declared that if they continued to wander in the manner they did, he should be obliged to revive the rule which forbids any one to speak twice to the same question. In short after much personal invective had been exchanged between the courtiers and the patriots, they were satisfied, and left the affair just as they found it.
Mr. Wilkes came into the hall, attended by Mr. Sawbridge, and after informing the company of the intent of their present meeting, he began to read a paper of instructions to their members, the purport of which was, that as petitions, addresses, and remonstrances to the throne, for a redress of grievances hitherto unprecedented, had been of late despised, and by the advice of evil counsellors, dismissed from the throne; therefore, that their representatives be instructed to move for an impeachment of Henry North, commonly called Lord North, as not only the contriver and schemer, but even the carrier into execution of these cruel and unconstitutional machinations.
Mr. Sawbridge opposed the instructions, for this reason, that Lord North, having places and pensions at his disposal, was at the head of a set of people, against whom the nation had evident reason to complain: that in the house of lords he had the bishops and Scots peers; and all the placemen in the house of commons on his side; that if his conduct was brought into question in either or both houses, he would be acquitted, and they precluded from any complaint hereafter. He therefore moved for a remonstrance; and the question being put, was carried in the affirmative. A committee went out to draw it up, and returned in half an hour, with a remonstrance renewing their solicitations for a dissolution of the parliament. It was then agreed that it should be presented by Sir Robert Bernard; not, as Mr. Sawbridge politely observed, out of any disrespect to Lord Percy, whom they could not help thinking a worthy representative, and a friend to liberty, but because that nobleman was out of the kingdom. This remonstrance was accordnigly presented on the 7th of November to the king at St. James's, and was honoured with just as much regard as had been thewed to all the rest. It was signed "by order of the general meeting, John Wilkes chairman."
At a common-council held on the 15th of November, it was resolved that the sum of 40s. for every able seaman, and 20s. for every ordinary seaman, over and above the bounty granted by his majesty, be given during the pleasure of the court, and not exceeding one month from this day, to every such seaman as shall enter at the Guildhall of this city into the service of his majesty's navy: and the standing order of the court for adjourning the consideration of questions, which in their consequences may affect the cash or estates of the city, upon this particular important occasion, was by a resolution suspended.—It was then ordered, that the remembrancer do immediately wait on the right honourable Sir Edward Hawke, first lord commissioner of the admiralty, with a copy of the resolution fairly transcribed and signed by the town-clerk; and signify the request of this court, that his lordship will at a proper opportunity lay it before his majesty, as an humble testimony of their zeal and affection for his most sacred person and government.
When the common-council had manifested their loyalty, by opening the chamber of London to assist the government in providing for the safety of the people against external foes; they thought the same duty to their country called upon them to turn their attention once more to the internal complaints of the people. A motion was made and carried for presenting another humble address, remonstrance and petition to his majesty, touching the violated right of election, and praying for a dissolution of the parliament. A division was demanded on this question, when there appeared 7 aldermen with 73 commoners for it, and 8 aldermen with 40 commoners against it. A remonstrance being prepared, read, and approved, it was ordered to be fairly transcribed, signed by the town clerk, and presented to his majesty by the whole court; and that the sheriffs with the remembrancer, should wait on his majesty to know when he would be pleased to receive it. The 21st being appointed for this audience, Brass Crosby Esq; the lord-mayor, with the aldermen Trecothick, Stephenson, Townsend, Oliver; the two sheriffs, and about 100 of the commoners, went with it to St. James's. The recorder being still absent from his duty, the remonstrance was read to the king by the town clerk, as contained in the note below (fn. 6); and the citizens received the following answer. "As I have seen no reason to alter the opinion expressed in my answer to your address upon this subject, I cannot comply with the prayer of your petition."
At a court of common-council held on December 4th the king's answer to the remonstrance of the corporation, was reported and entered in the journals of the court; as was a letter from the lords of the admiralty in return to the bounty offered for seamen to enter the national service: a petition was then prepared and ordered to be delivered to the house of commons, against Mess. Adam and others, for incroachments on the river Thames at and near Durham-yard.—This petition appears in the light of a very strange proceeding: these builders had applied to the corporation at the commencing of their undertaking to improve that ruinous spot; nothing decisively had been done to oppose it, though a view of the vast works carrying on there must have continually reminded every spectator of its progress: yet now when the plan was almost finished at an immense expence, a petition was preferred against the completion of the design! A report from the committee of city lands being read, which represented that Wood-street computer was in so ruinous a state that it must be rebuilt; it was referred back to the committee to consider of a proper place on which to rebuild the said computer, and to report their opinion to the court.
All the rendezvous lieutenants employed in the press service attended the lordmayor the next day from the lords of the admiralty, to have their press warrants backed by his authority, which he refused; alleging that the bounty given by the city was intended to prevent such violence (fn. 7). The unanimous thanks of the court of common-council were on the 14th given to the right honourable the lord-mayor and committee, for their diligence in prosecuting the intentions of the court, to procure seamen for his majesty's service; by which means the former disagreeable method of impressing seamen has become unnecessary, &c. By the committee's account, it was found that 482 men were enlisted, and had received the city bounty.
It appeared by the abstracts of the accounts, laid by the Blackfriars-bridge committee before the court of aldermen, that the sum of 166, 217l. 3s. 10d½ paid to the several artificers, in the bridge account, included the sum of 5830l. for arching and filling up Fleet-ditch, and making the way from Fleet-street, to the upper ground in the parish of Christ-church, Surry; 5000l. for piling the foundations of the several piers; 400l. for three privies at the ends; and 2167l. for making, altering, and repairing the temporary bridge: which being deducted, the nett expence of the building the bridge, is 152,840l. 3s. 10d½. It was compleated by Mr. Mylne in ten years and three quarters, from the time of his being employed by the city for that purpose, for which his salary for himself, as surveyor, architect, engineer, measurer, and his clerks, amounted to 3762l. 10s.
It appeared also by the said abstract, that the repairs of London-bridge amounted to 80,060l. for which the architects and surveyor had five per cent. on the artificers bills, and one per cent. of the purchasers.
Westminster-bridge cost 218,810l. and was eleven years and nine months in building, for which the parliament granted for building and procuring the several conveniencies requisite thereto, from the year 1737 to 1749, inclusive, the sum of 389,500l. and the persons employed in the characters of architect, engineer, surveyor, and comptroller to the bridge and avenues, received the sum of 10,731l. 10s. exclusive of gratuities to the inventors of centers, and of the several engines and machines used in the said work; all which business Mr. Mylne executed for 3762l. 10s.
There had been, according to the above abstract, on the 22d of last January, 70,000 loads of rubbish laid on the marsh grounds on the Surry-side of Blackfriars-bridge, toward making the new roads from thence by the Magdalenhospital to the turnpike, in order to give it a solidity before gravelling. It also appears, that the tolls received by the temporary-bridge paid the interestmoney to the Watermen's-company, for the Sunday ferry; the charge of erecting, altering, and watching it; and added to the building fund, the sum of 1757l.
At a court of common-council held January 15th, 1771, a motion was made to censure Mr. alderman Harley for having backed the press-warrants sent into the city; but Mr. Harley not being present, the motion was withdrawn. Another motion was made to thank the lord-mayor and those worthy aldermen, who had refused to back the press-warrants; but this likewise, after much debate and personal altercation between Mr. Wilkes and Mr. Townsend, was withdrawn. A third motion was made for prolonging the time for granting a bounty to seamen, who should voluntarily enter themselves to serve his majesty; to which strong opposition was made, because the benefits arising from the bounty were totally defeated by some of the aldermen backing the press-warrants: the city it was said, was no longer a sanctuary for their servants; for that notwithstanding near 2000l. had been paid in bounty money by the city, a set of lawless russians were set loose upon the citizens, who in the face of magistracy had pressed those who had a desire to enter voluntarily, and who for that purpose were in their way to Guildhall. The court grew clamorous on this occasion, till a messenger arrived from the Trinity-house with an offer of adding 20s. more to the city bounty, on which it was agreed to continue it some time longer.
The common-council on the 22d, passed a resolution, "that if any person
shall be impressed within this city or liberty into his majesty's service, by
virtue of any warrant granted or backed by any of his majesty's justices of
the peace for this city, that this court will immediately direct their solicitor,
at the city's expence, to prosecute, in the name of the person so impressed
(if he desires it) not only the justice of the peace who granted or backed the
said warrant, but the constable or peace officer who executed the same."
But the following letter which the lord-mayor received, as it superseded the
necessity of raising any more men, put an end to the farther consideration of
that subject (fn. 8).
"St. James's, Jan. 22, 1771.
"I take the earliest opportunity of informing your lordship that the Spanish
ambassador hath this day, at two o'clock, signed a declaration relative to
the expedition against Fort Egmont in Falkland Island, which his majesty
has been pleased to accept.
"I am, My Lord,
Your Lordship's most obedient,
At a court of common-council held February 28th, a resolution was passed to petition the house of commons, that the bill then depending in that house for leave to embank a certain part of the river Thames near Durham-yard, might not pass into a law. A petition to be heard by counsel, was prepared, approved, and ordered to be delivered by a committee attended by the city remembrancer, who were impowered to employ such counsel as they thought proper. This application was made the next day, and the house of lords was afterward petitioned on the same subject, but without effect, as the bill for the embankment received the royal assent soon after.
A fresh occasion now started for the London patriots to distinguish themselves in asserting their corporation privileges. The votes of the house of commons are duly published by order of the speaker, who expressly forbids all other persons to print them, but those of his appointment; and printers have been frequently punished by the house for publishing their proceedings in the news papers. A desire however of gratifying the public curiosity, at critical times, had frequently tempted them not only to publish their votes but also their speeches the copies of which, though often far better than they were originally delivered, were sometimes illustrated by very severe commentaries. Complaint was made at this time of R. Thompson the printer of the Gazetteer, and John Wheble the publisher of the Middlesex Journal, for offences of this nature; and though this was a very ill judged season for the house of commons to risk the assertion of their privileges beyond their own doors, orders were issued for them to attend the house: no obedience being shewn to these orders, another was made for taking them into custody of the serjeant at arms, who not being able to find them, a proclamation was published March 8th, offering a reward of 50l. each for apprehending them.
In consequence of this proclamation, Wheble was brought before Mr. Wilkes, the sitting alderman at Guildhall on the 15th. Upon examining the person who apprehended Wheble, the alderman found he had no accusation against him, and only apprehended him on the authority of the proclamation, which he brought in his hand. Wheble, at the same time, declared that the apprehender had forcibly detained him, and brought him there. The alderman therefore immediately discharged him, and bound him over to prosecute his accuser; to whom he nevertheless gave a certificate for intitling the apprehender to the reward from the lords of the treasury, as the proclamation directs.
Thompson, printer of the Gazetteer, was apprehended at his own door, in Newgate-street, and carried before Mr. alderman Oliver, at the Mansionhouse, as being the person described in his majesty's proclamation: but not being accused of having committed any crime, he was in like manner set at liberty. The man who apprehended him then desired a certificate of his having acted in pursuance of the proclamation, in order to obtain the reward of 50l. which was immediately granted.
Six other printers were also complained against, one of whom was J. Miller the printer of the London Evening Post, who refusing to attend the house, an order was made to take him into custody for contempt, and he was accordingly seized by a messenger, in virtue of a warrant from the speaker. Miller finding he had no warrant from any city magistrate, sent for a constable, and gave him charge of the messenger for assaulting him in his own house: and the constable carried him to the Mansion-house where he was examined before the lordmayor, then ill of the gout, and the aldermen Wilkes and Oliver. In the mean time, the serjeant at arms being informed of this transaction, came to demand the bodies of the messenger and of Mr. Miller; upon which the lordmayor asked the messenger if he had applied to a magistrate to back the warrant, or to any peace officer of the city to assist him? he replied in the negative. His lordship then said, that so long as he was in that high office, he looked upon himself as a guardian of the liberties of his fellow-citizens; that no power had a right to seize a citizen of London, without an authority from him or some other magistrate; and that he was of opinion, the seizing of Miller and the warrant were both illegal: he therefore declared Miller to be at liberty, and proceeded to examine witnesses to prove the assault on him by the messenger; which being done, his lordship asked the latter whether he would give bail? if not, he should be committed to prison. He at first refused, but the commitment being made out, and signed by the above three magistrates, the serjeant at arms said, that he had bail ready for him; and two sureties were bound in 20l. each, and the messenger in 40l. for his appearance at the next session at Guildhall.
The ministerial party in the house of commons were greatly enraged at this opposition to their authority, and indignant treatment of their officer : the lord-mayor as a member of the house was required, ill as he was, to attend in his place to answer for obstructing the execution of the speaker's warrant, and for signing a warrant of commitment of the messenger for an assault, and holding him to bail. His lordship justified his conduct upon his oath of office, by which he was obliged to preserve inviolate the franchises of the city; by the city charters, which exempt them from any law process being served but by their own officers; and by the confirmation of those charters, which were recognized by an act of parliament: that he was compelled by all these ties, as chief magistrate, to act the part which he had done, and desired to be heard by counsel, in respect to the charter and act of parliament; not so much on his own account, as on that of the city of London, of whose rights he was now the guardian.
A laughable proposal was hereupon made on the part of the court, that the lord-mayor should be heard by counsel, so as they do not affect or controvert the privilege of the house! Those privileges must be of a very frail and tender nature indeed, that will not endure discussion: the minority might well exclaim as they did, that this was a barefaced mockery; that it would be impossible to plead the lord-mayor's case, without, in some degree, controverting the privilege of the house; and that it was as gross an insult upon him; as it was a ridicule upon justice and every thing serious, to tell him he might employ counsel in every case he pleased, except the only one, in which he wanted them.
On March 20th James Morgan, clerk to the lord-mayor, attended at the house of commons by order of the house, with the minute book belonging to the lord-mayor's court; wherein were entered the process against Whittam the messenger, and the recognizance for his appearance: the entry of these minutes being read, an order was made that the lord-mayor's clerk should expunge the said entry at the table; which order James Morgan was weak enough to obey, contrary to the duty he owed to the corporation. A very alarming resolution then followed,— that there should be no farther proceedings at law in that case! If the house of commons can stop proceedings at law by a meer vote, the privileges of that body are very extensive indeed!
The court of common-council on the 21 st, voted the thanks of the court to the lord-mayor, with the aldermen Wilkes and Oliver, for supporting the privileges and franchises of the city; and a committee of four aldermen and eight commoners were appointed to assist them in their defence on the charge brought against them by the house of commons; who were impowered to employ such counsel as they thought proper on the occasion, and to draw on the chamber of London for any sum not exceeding 500l.
Mr. Wilkes likewise received an order to attend the house, but he returned for answer that the order was defective in form (fn. 9); a second order was sent him, which being disregarded, a third followed, requiring him to attend on the 8th of April: here the house perceived themselves in a disagreeable dilemma; it was sufficiently easy to foresee that Mr. Wilkes would yield no obedience to their mandate, and as difficult to determine how to punish his contumacy. One only expedient offered to elude the renewal of a contest with so troublesome an antagonist; they adjourned over the day appointed for his appearance, and thus seemed to prevent what he had no intention to do.
Mr. Oliver's conduct came next under consideration; who being asked what he had to say in his defence, answered, that he owned and gloried in the fact laid to his charge: that he knew no justification could avert the punishment that was intended for him; that he was conscious of having done his duty, was indifferent as to the consequences; and, as he thought it in vain to appeal to justice, so he defied the threats of power. It was then moved that he should be sent to the Tower, but great heats arose upon this question; the severest censures, not without threats, were thrown out; and above thirty gentlemen quitted the house in a body, with declarations of the utmost asperity. Some of those who cultivated an interest in the city, declared; that they would, in the same situation, act the part that Mr. Oliver did; and therefore they should all be sent to the Tower together. Several attempts were made from the other side, to bring Mr. Oliver to a submission, or at least an acknowledgment of error; that they might terminate the contest on their parts decently; but he continued inflexible, declaring that he had acted from law and principle, and therefore would never submit to an imputation of guilt. The question for his being sent to the Tower was at length put, and carried by 170 to 38, most of the minority having before quitted the house. This was on the 26th at three o'clock in the morning.
On the 27th, about one o'clock, the lord-mayor attended the house of commons to receive his sentence; the whole city was in commotion, and the crouds prodigious: the sheriffs attended by the Westminster justices, and a whole army of constables, were unable to preserve order; and a knowledge that the horse and foot guards were prepared and ready to support the decrees of the commons, had a natural effect on the minds of the populace. The confusion and disorder was so great, that it was evening before the house could proceed to business; the order of the day, with respect to the lord-mayor, being then called for, most of the principal gentlemen in the opposition declared, that as he was not permitted to be heard by counsel, they considered it as a prohibition of justice: that for the same reason, they could not be sufficiently informed of the strength of the plea, and therefore they would not stay to give judgement on it; and accordingly quitted the house. The chief magistrate said, that he looked upon his case as already pre-judged, and would therefore add nothing to what he had before urged in his defence. It was then said, that though his crimes were of a higher nature than those of Mr. Oliver, yet in consideration of his ill state of health, it should only be moved to take him into the custody of the serjeant at arms. This intended favour was utterly disclaimed by the lord-mayor, who said, he wished for none; and that whatever state his health might be in, he gloried in undergoing the same fate with his friend. The motion was accordingly amended, and the question for his commitment to the Tower, carried by 202 against 39. The populace took his horses from the coach, and drew it to Temple-bar, though it was then midnight; and having conceived some suspicion of the deputy serjeant at arms who attended him, when they got there they shut the gates, and informed his lordship that his company had been drawn to the utmost extent of their boundaries, and that they must now immediately get out: the chief magistrate comprehended the full extent of the danger they were in, and told them that the gentlemen with him were his particular friends, who were to accompany him home; upon which they proceeded to the Mansionhouse with loud huzzas. Here he lay down to rest till 4 o'clock, when he sent for a hackney coach which conveyed him to the Tower.
Motions were made and carried in the court of common-council to provide tables for the lord-mayor and alderman Oliver in the Tower, at the city expence; the acceptance of which however both those gentlemen politely declined.
The committee of the common-council of the city of London unanimously resolved on the 3d of April, "That Mr. Solicitor do immediately apply to Mr. serjeant Glynn, Mr. Dunning, and Mr. Lee, or such of them as are in town; and under their directions, to move for a writ of Habeas Corpus for the right honourable the lord-mayor, and also for Mr. alderman Oliver, now detained in the Tower of London." They were accordingly brought on the 5th, the lordmayor to the chief justice De Grey's in Lincoln's-inn-fields, and Mr. Oliver to lord Mansfield's chambers in Serjeant's-inn; but their enlargement being refused by both, they were remanded back to the Tower.
A quarrel that had happened between Mr. Wilkes and one of his patriotic associates, the rev. Mr. Horne, vicar of Brentford, engaged the attention of the public at this time; but would have been of too insignificant a nature to claim notice here, had it not extended to the friends of each party in the city, and thus afterward interrupted that concert with which they had hitherto acted respecting public affairs. Some anonymous charges had been brought in the news papers against Mr. Horne's conduct relating to the application of certain subscriptions, he had received on different late occasions of opposing the ministry. To these Mr. Horne replied, and considering the accusations as coming indirectly from Mr. Wilkes, he commenced an open attack on that gentleman's character in a series of letters: Mr. Wilkes retorted; and the public were thus furnished with many pretty anecdotes of both of them, greatly to their edification, and to the comfort of all the ministerial party. Men of reflection however could as little conceive the public cause to be any wife concerned in the bickerings of a Wilkes and a Horne; as that any undue acts of ministerial power could derive justification from these mutual recriminations. If cabinet counsellors were to fall out and delineate each others portraits as faithfully in the public papers, the people might be equally entertained, and perchance come at the knowledge of more profitable particulars.
As the Society of Supporters of the Bill of Rights had associated during Mr. Wilkes's misfortunes, the support of him was the first object of attention; and a resolution stood on their books, restricting them from opening any new subscription whatever, excepting for the private purposes of Mr. Wilkes, until the whole list of his debts was discharged. It was natural to suppose that Mr. Wilkes wished to confine the proceedings of the society to a close adherence to this line of conduct; while the members of it took umbrage at his expecting them to discharge debts contracted and delivered in since the institution of the society. They had departed from their own restriction by voting a gratuity of 100l. each to the printers Miller, Thompson, and Wheble, for their resolute appeal to the laws of their country in opposition to the assumed power of the house of commons; which with the personal quarrel between Mess. Wilkes and Horne, threw the society into confusion. As Supporters of the Bill of Rights, every sufferer under irregular power had a claim to their protection; but as they had tied themselves to a single object, this resolution should have been repealed before the subscriptions had been diverted from the original purpose: again, Mr. Wilkes as pensioner to the society, was by no means a proper person to be admitted as a member; and the introduction of fresh debts was abusing the generosity of his benefactors. At a meeting on the 9th of April, a violent altercation ensued between Mr. Wilkes and Mr. Horne, which produced a motion from the latter for a dissolution of the society: Mr. Wilkes on the other hand proposed that the sense of the company should be first taken on rescinding the restrictive resolution; that the charge, of the society existing only as his committee, might be obviated. The question for dissolution was however moved; and the negative was barely carried by 26 against 24. For dissolving the society, there appeared, Mr. Alderman Sawbridge, Sir Robert Bernard, Sir Francis Delaval, Mess. Bellas, Tooke, Horne, T. Oliver, Twogood, &c. Against it, Mess. R. Jones, Ellis, Bull, Baldy, Adair, Dr. Wilson, Mr. Wilkes, Mr. Churchhill, and other gentlemen who divided against putting the question. Those who were for the dissolution, having failed in their motion immediately proceeded to strike their names out of the society's book, which was first done by Mr. Alderman Townsend, who also struck out the names of Sir Cecil Wray and Mr. Charles Turner, being authorised so to do. After this, they withdrew into another room, and there signed a resolution to form a new society (fn. 10) to exist only upon the public ground. Some other gentlemen declared they would follow them in their secession, unless the remaining members of the society came to a resolution to rescind the vote of restriction against opening new subscriptions, as public exigencies should require, whether gentlemen were willing to contribute farther to the discharge of Mr. Wilkes's debts or not.
The popular party in the city was much weakened by this ill judged quarrel,
which disconcerted their plan of future operations; it proved a check to Mr.
Wilkes's hopes, while the seceders also suffered greatly in the public opinion for
permitting personal disgusts to prevail over the public motives of their association.
The first effect of this disunion appeared on Mr. Wilkes and his friends entertaining thoughts of his putting up for the office of sheriff at Midsummer: Mr.
Oliver was pitched on as a proper associate; but when Mr. Wilkes waited on
Mr. Oliver in the Tower to inform him of these intentions, Mr. Oliver strongly
dissuaded him from attempting to serve the office, and finding his arguments
ineffectual, he afterward sent him the following letter.
"To JOHN WILKES Esq.
That I may be explicit as early as possible after your desire that I should explain myself concerning the shrievalty, I must inform you that I am determined not to serve the office of sheriff with you; because I really do not think from your own declarations that your political aims are similar to mine.
This resolution I must communicate to the livery, if you join me in your nomination.
I am, sir, your most humble servant,
Tower, 11th April, 1771."
The bill for the embankment at Durham-yard had passed the house of commons; and on the 8th, the city were heard by counsel at the bar of the house of lords, against it. The counsel were, Mr. Leigh, Mr. Davenport, and another gentleman, for the city, and Mr. Maddox on the other side. Mr. Leigh spoke for some time against the bill, and in defence of the city's right to the soil or bed of the river: he acknowledged, that Messrs. Adam were very able and experienced architects; but although he admired the elegance of their buildings, he never could allow that from thence alone arose a right of building on that ground, which was the property of others. That the city had a right, and had exercised a right, for numberless years, as landlords of the bed of the river, could be easily proved from the written minutes of the court of aldermen. Accordingly, from many different volumes of repertories, various cases were read (some of them 200 years back) where the city had destroyed stairs and causeways erected on the sides of the river, received rents for sheds and embankments, granted leave to erect stairs, &c. and all in parts of the river that were beyond the land limits of the city. In particular, a lease of a part of the river now tenanted at 40s. per. annum, by Sir Joseph Mawbey, on the Surrey-side, was produced, and Mr. Montague, of the chamberlain's office, swore to the receipt of the rent, together with 4d. yearly, that had been paid almost 150 years, for an erection on the side of the river, between Temple-Bar and Somerset-house. Among other written testimonies, one was read, where the commissioners of the navy had petitioned, and received leave from the court of aldermen to make an erection on the Surrey-side of the river. Having had the fullest evidence on the subject, and heard counsel, they debated the question in the house; and it was carried in favour of the embankment, and for committing the bill, twenty-nine to four (fn. 11). The court of common-council then petitioned the king, but to as little purpose, for the bill received the royal assent on the 8th of May, at the close of the session.
The lord-mayor was by virtue of a writ of habeas corpus on the 22d, brought to the court of Common Pleas, to procure his discharge. Many learned arguments passed between the judges and the counsel on points of form, to determine whether the lord-mayor was actually in court or not; the lord chief justice De Grey insisting that he was not there, and serjeant Glynn with serjeant Jephson, as positively asserting that he was. When the legal doubts of the bench were satisfied, the evidence of their senses was admitted; and it was decided that no court of justice had any jurisdiction over the house of commons, who in the present case only exercised a power over their own members; as every court must be the sole judge of its own contempts: that his lordship's deed was not only a contempt of the house of commons, but even of the citizens of London themselves; who are virtually a part of that house by their representatives; on which account they found themselves incapable of relieving his lordship. He was therefore once more remanded back to the Tower.
Mr. Oliver on the 30th was brought by a habeas corpus before the barons of the exchequer, where serjeant Glynn made a motion for his enlargement: but the barons were of opinion that he ought to be remanded. Mr. Baron Perrot nevertheless declared he could by no means subscribe to the doctrine, that every thing the house does under pretence of privilege, must therefore necessarily be legal.
The courts of law thus refusing to relieve them against a vote of the house of commons, they were forced to remain in prison until the power that detained them expired. During their confinement the lord-mayor was presented with the freedom of the city of Worcester, and of the town of Bedford: addresses of thanks were also presented to him and Mr. Oliver, from most of the wards in the city of London (fn. 12), from the counties of Carmarthen, Pembroke, and Cardi gan; and from the towns of Newcastle, Stratford, and Honiton; from the Supporters of the Bill of Rights, and from the Westminster association of the friends of Freedom at the Standard tavern.
On May 3d the common-council ordered 30,000l. to be laid out in 3 per cent. consolidated annuities, and vested in the names of the chamberlain, town-clerk, and comptroller, as a security in lieu of the toll, and other matters respecting the Bridge-House estate. It was then moved and carried, that this court, with the city officers, be desired to attend the right honourable Brass Crosby, lordmayor, and Mr. alderman Oliver, in their gowns in procession from the Tower to the Mansion-House, on their enlargement from their present consinement.
At last the wished for day approached; and as soon as it was certainly known that his majesty would go to the house, to put an end to the session of parliament, summons were issued out from Guildhall, to the aldermen and commoncouncil, desiring their attendance, to conduct the lord-mayor and Mr. alderman Oliver to the Mansion-house in the state coach. Accordingly, on the 8th about two o'clock, part of the court of aldermen, and almost the whole common-council, preceded by the city marshal and his deputy, went from Guildhall to the Tower. There were fifty-three carriages in the train. The members of the artillery company accompanied the procession in their uniform, which made a very fine appearance. On the lord-mayor and Mr. Oliver's being brought to the Tower gate by the proper officers of that fortress, they were saluted by twenty-one pieces of cannon belonging to the artillery company, and received by the people with the greatest acclamations, which were continued all the way to the Mansion-house. The city was grandly illuminated in the evening; and the populace as turbulent as they usually are on public occasions of rejoicing. It may be added that since this affair, the daily news-papers have continued to inform the public of parliamentary proceedings without reserve and without obstruction.
One of the city marshal's places becoming vacant by the death of Mr. Cook, the common-council on the 28th of May, resolved that the place should be sold; and an order was made that the marshals should not deal in any sort of victuals, beer, wine, spirits, tobacco, coals, or candles, under pain of forfeiture of their offices.
Upon a motion of Mr. alderman Rossiter, it was resolved, that a committee be appointed to consider of the most effectual method of encouraging the taking and bringing the largest quantity of mackarel and herrings to this city, as a seasonable relief to the poor in this time of general scarcity of butchers meat, and as the most probable means of reducing the present high prices thereof. A committee, consisting of alderman Rossiter with five other aldermen, and twelve commoners, were appointed for this purpose; and they were empowered to draw on the chamber to the amount of 500l.
It was resolved and ordered, that it be referred to the committee appointed to assist the lord-mayor and alderman Oliver in the Tower, to state cases, and take opinions, whether there is any, and what method to bring into a course of trial, the legality of an imprisonment by a vote of either house of parliament.—That in case the said committee should be advised that the legality of the commitment of the lord-mayor and alderman Oliver can be put into a due course of trial at law, they be authorised so to do.—That it be referred to the Durham-yard committee to put the rights of the citizens of London to the soil of the river Thames in issue, by trying the title to the encroachment lately made by the board of works at Scotland-yard, in such manner as they shall be advised.—That it be recommended to the right honourable the lord-mayor to view and remove all such nuisances and encroachments as are making on the banks of the river Thames.
The opinions of the counsel who had been consulted by the committee above mentioned, relative to the imprisonment of the lord mayor and Mr. Oliver, were read to the court of common council on June 5th, when it appeared they did not think any action could be commenced on that account. At the same time the committee that were charged with the consideration of a proper mode of proceeding against the three refractory companies (fn. 13), reported their proceedings: they had stated queries to counsel on the power of the lord-mayor in calling common-halls; on the obligation of the masters and wardens of the several livery companies to obey the lord-mayor's precepts; and on the method of punishing them on refusal; whether they were punishable by the lord-mayor only, or by the court of aldermen, or court of common-council, separately, or by the common-hall, or livery in common-hall assembled, or how otherwise. The answer to the queries proposed on these points, was as follows.
"We conceive it to be the duty of the proper officers of the several companies, to whom precepts for summoning their respective liveries have been
usually directed, to execute those precepts; and that a wilful refusal on their
parts is an offence punishable by disfranchisement. If it be thought proper
to prosecute with that view in the present case, we think it most adviseable to
proceed in the usual way, by information to be filed by the common-serjeant
in the mayor's court, which the common-serjeant may file, ex officio, if he
pleases, or at the instance of either of the bodies mentioned in the query.
At a common-council held on the 13th an unexpected the petition of Mr. Mylne the architect of Blackfriars bridge, was taken into consideration; who laid claim to 5 per cent. on the money laid out for building the bridge, which amounted to above 7000l. This demand gave rise to much debate, during which Mr. Bellas proposed the giving him a gratuity of 4000 l. but this proposal as well as the petition were both dismissed.
A resolution was carried in the court of aldermen on the 18th at the motion of Mr. alderman Wilkes, "that the lord-mayor, or sitting alderman, upon complaint made before him of any person or persons, suspected of forestalling, engrossing, or regrating any kind of provisions, shall (if such complaint appears to him well grounded) be impowered to direct the solicitor of this city to prosecute the offender or offenders at the expence of this city."
The common-hall on Midsummer-day was extreamly crouded; all the aldermen who had not served the office, were put up in order; after which, Frederick Bull, Esq; with some other gentlemen were proposed for sheriffs: and the shew of hands appearing for Mr. alderman Wilkes and Frederick Bull, Esq; they were returned; but a poll was demanded for the aldermen Plumbe, Kirkman, and Oliver. The sheriffs then proceeded in the other elections; which being ended, Sir James Hodges read the motion for taking advice of counsel respecting the carrying on a legal prosecution against the superior officers of the three companies, the goldsmiths, grocers, and weavers, for refusing to issue summons, for calling together the livery to meet at a common-hall, agreeable to a precept from the lord-mayor for that purpose. Motion being made and question put, whether the common-hall were of opinion, that a prosecution for the disfranchisement of such officers of the three companies should be set on foot, it was carried by a great majority.
The former applications of the citizens to the throne, were for the redress of grievances in a general view; but when their own magistrates had been imprisoned for a strict execution of their duty to the corporation; it was an act of oppression that came home to themselves, and therefore naturally produced a desire to complain to the king of so odious a transaction. Another remonstrance was moved for, read, and approved, as inserted below (fn. 14); and ordered to be presented by the lord-mayor, aldermen, sheriffs, four representatives in parliament, the common-council, and the livery of the city of London, attended by their proper officers. An officious motion was then made, "that the livery of London do desire the common-council to present a silver cup to the right honourable the lord-mayor, of the value of 200l. with the city arms engraved thereon; and to the aldermen Wilkes and Oliver one each of the value of 100l. as marks of their gratitude for their upright conduct in the affair of the printers, and for supporting the city charters." As no money can be issued from the chamber of London, by any other authority than that of the commoncouncil, it was unbecoming to dictate the bestowing of gratuities to them, and to expect the corporate body to fulfil grants the merit of which was anticipated. But when popular assemblies are in a proper humour, they will vote for any thing that coincides with it; and thus the injudicious proposals of an individual sometimes receive a hasty sanction from those who would on cool deliberation, totally reject them. The motion was therefore eagerly passed by the livery; but when brought into the common-council, was bandied from one court to another, into the following year, before a fiat could be obtained.
Though Mr. Oliver stood so very low on the poll books, his merit was known and acknowledged; but as it was more than probable that Mr. Wilkes would be chosen, Mr. Oliver's prior declaration withheld his own friends from voting for him, and it was unpardonable in the eyes of Mr. Wilkes's friends for any man to differ in opinion with him.
The sheriffs with the city remembrancer waited on the king at St. James's
on the 4th to know when he would receive the remonstrance of the livery of
London. They attended above two hours before an audience was granted them,
but at last his majesty appointed them to bring it on the 10th, at two o'clock. The
lord-mayor therefore issued precepts for summoning the aldermen, commoncouncil, and the livery of the several companies to attend him in presenting it;
but on the evening preceding the day appointed, he received the following letter.
As in consequence of the notice given of the time your lordship proposes setting out to-morrow, the livery may be induced to attend your lordship to St. James's, I have the king's commands to acquaint you, that it being unprecedented to admit the livery upon such occasions as well as impracticable to introduce so numerous a body, no persons beyond the number allowed by law to present petitions to the throne, will be admitted, except your lordship, the aldermen, common-council, and city officers. I am, my lord, with the greatest respect, your lordship's most obedient humble servant,
Grosvenor-street, July 9th, 1771.
The next morning copies of the above letter were stuck up in different parts of the city for the information of the livery, to save them the trouble of coming to Guildhall; and when the lord-mayor came to Guildhall, he read the letter to the liverymen who were there assembled: in consequence, a committee of ten were appointed out of them to attend the lord-mayor; that being the number limited by law (fn. 15) to present petitions. Accordingly between twelve and one o'clock, the lord-mayor, the aldermen Stephenson, Trecothick, Townsend, Sawbridge, and Oliver, the two sheriffs, &c. with upward of 100 of the common-council, in about 50 carriages, attended by the above committee, town clerk, the city marshal, &c. proceeded, amidst the greatest acclamations of the people, to St. James's palace. The remonstrance being read to the king by Sir James Hodges town clerk, the following vague answer was returned which concluded with the usual repulse.
"I shall ever be ready to exert my prerogative, as far as I can constitutionally, in redressing any real grievances of my subjects; and the city of London will always find me disposed to listen to any of their well-founded complaints: it is therefore with concern that I see a part of my subjects still so far misled and deluded, as to renew, in such reprehensible terms, a request, with which, I have repeatedly declared, I cannot comply."
On July 16th a court of Escheats was held before the lord-mayor at Guildhall, by virtue of his majesty's commission, issued from the court of chancery, directed to his lordship, as the king's escheator in the city of London; to enquire into that kind of escheat, of an estate devolved to the crown pro defectu sanguinis, or want of an heir. The case was, the late major General Browne, who died in 1764, was proved to be an illegitimate son of one Mrs. Elizabeth Dean, by the honourable Mr. Lumley. Mrs. Dean, the general's mother, devised several real estates to Mr. Browne in fee; he lived and died unmarried, therefore could have no heir: however, by his will, properly attested, he gave several of his mother's estates to the foundling hospital; which bequest, by the mortmain act, was void in law. The testator discovering this mistake, in six days after, endeavoured to cure it by a codicil: and if the charitable legacy proved ineffectual, gave the estates to one Mrs. Beecrost. Fatally for her, this codicil was attested but by a single witness, which by statute-law is void; so that the general may be said to have died without a will, and his estates to have escheated to the crown, and so they were found, and returned by the inquisition.
The lord-mayor made a point at first as to the return of the inquisition by virtue of the king's writ, insisting on his having an independent jurisdiction, by virtue of charters and his oath; but the writ being issued on the petition of Mrs. Beecrost, praying to obtain the estate, or some part of it, his lordship waved in this instance his objection, but insisted for the future, that informations of escheats should be originally brought to the lord-mayor, who would officially proceed in such enquiries without any royal mandate.
At the above court it was observed, that several houses in Fenchurch-street, formerly belonging to a freeman, for want of a will were never claimed, but that the tenants had enjoyed the houses for many years without paying rent: the lord-mayor being obliged to attend the court of aldermen, the consideration of that affair was put off for a further hearing.—There had not been a like court held since the mayoralty of Sir Woolaston Dixie, lord-mayor of London, 186 years ago.
On Wednesday the 17th, the lord-mayor, Sir Richard Glyn, Mr. alderman Peers, several of the city officers, the gentlemen of his lordship's houshold, attended by the city-marshal and under-marshalmen, held a court of conservancy at Stratford for the county of Essex; after which they went to Woolwich, and held another court for the county of Kent. They then embarked on board two yachts and proceeded down the river to the extent of the city's jurisdiction, to examine what encroachments had been made, that the parties offending might be proceeded against according to law.
The lord-mayor arrived at Rochester on Thursday afternoon, and was immediately complimented by some of the principal persons in the town. On the Friday morning the lord-mayor, the aldermen, and their retinue embarked again on board their yachts, and landing near Upnor-castle, marched in procession to the stone which marks the bounds of the city jurisdiction; on which the sword of state was immediately laid. His lordship observing some letters fresh cut on the side of the stone next the land, and being told they were intended to signify a claim of Mrs. Hill lady of the manor; he ordered them to be erased, and attended while the following inscription was cut on it —Brass Crosby, Esq. Lord Mayor, 1771. The common crier then proclaiming silence, several public toasts were drank by the whole company, and plenty of small silver distributed to the children and the rest of the populace who had gathered round them.
Though some respectable members of the society for supporting the Bill of Rights had suffered private pique to influence them so far as to weaken a laudable association; those that remained still exerted themselves in the public cause by framing and publishing a set of articles which they recommended to the consideration of all the electors in Great Britain, to secure the house of commons from future contamination. They are worth preserving, and are therefore given in the note (fn. 16); though it is doubtful, whatever public spirit may still exist in individuals, whether any one county or borough in the nation has a sufficient share of this virtue left to adopt the proposed plan.
The society of Artists of Great Britain had purchased a piece of ground between Essex-street and the Strand, for the purpose of erecting an Academy for themselves; and on the 23d of July, the president, directors, and fellows, laid the first stone of their building, on which, and on a silver medal of his majesty deposited with it, was the following inscription. Hoc (una cum directoribus et sociis) posuit Jacobus Paine armiger, architectus; Artificum societatis Magnae Britanniae, diplomate Regio incorporatae, 26 die Januarii 1765, praeses, 1771.
On the 25th of September, a committee of merchants deputed by the corporation of Dublin, waited on the lord-mayor, and presented him with the resolutions of thanks voted by the guild of merchants at Guildhall Dublin, to the lord-mayor of London, with the aldermen Wilkes and Oliver, for their manly perseverance in the cause of constitutional liberty; in rescuing the printers from the arbitrary hands of illicit power.
At the common-hall for the choice of lord-mayor on Michaelmas-day, the livery did not forget the desertion of the aldermen Townsend and Sawbridge from the Bill of Rights society; but received them with manifest tokens of dissatisfaction: nor did these gentlemen overlook the slights cast on them, but as soon as the hall was opened by the recorder, they severally addressed the livery with complaints of being traduced in the public papers by anonymous para graphs which they plainly insinuated to be done by Mr. Wilkes, and called upon him to stand forth. This however he then prudently declined; and the business of the day commenced. When the aldermen withdrew and the names of those below the chair were called over, the present lord-mayor was by desire proposed again; when the shew of hands appearing in favour of the lord-mayor and Mr. Sawbridge, a poll was demanded on the parts of Sir Henry Bankes, Mess. Nash, Halifax, and Townsend; which began immediately. Before the hall was closed, Mr. Sheriff Wilkes, to prevent the livery from being under any constraint in their voting, assured them the poll should not be published; a declaration which was received with great applause, as the poll for city members at the last general election had been published, with a view to point out those who voted for the popular patriot, and expose them to all the consequences that might follow the discovery of their independent principles.
The return was made to the court of aldermen on the 8th, who came on the hustings and declared Mr. Nash lord-mayor for the ensuing year. The aldermen Wilkes, Townsend, and Sawbridge, then engaged in an altercation concerning the writing of news paper paragraphs, less to the edification than to the amusement of the assembled livery.
The city solicitor the same day filed informations of disfranchisement in the mayor's court, against the master and wardens of the three refractory companies of goldsmiths, grocers and weavers, for refusing to obey the lord-mayor's precept for a common-hall. Mr. alderman Plumbe, as late master of the goldsmiths company, was one of the delinquents.
Mess. Adam, the undertakers of the new buildings in Durham-yard, which buildings obtained the name of the Adelphi from the circumstance of these gentlemen being brothers; had offered a plan to the Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures, and Commerce, for erecting an elegant edifice there for their use. On the 18th of December the society took the proposal into consideration, and agreed to give them 1000l. immediately, with the annual rent of 270l. for the term of 94 years, for the proposed building. The direction of this building was intrusted to a committee of the society, consisting of Lord Romney, Mess. Fitzherbert, Fitzgerald, Hooper, Duane, and Phillips.
Having thus arrived at the close of the year 1771, here the history of the metropolis must terminate. The author has spared no pains to collect every fact the English history could furnish him with, that came within his plan, or had any proper relation to his subject; and has been particularly attentive to all the public acts of the corporation of London. It would have given him great satisfaction could he have finished with a declaration, that more concord reigned among the members of the corporation; and that the city and the court were more agreeable to each other: but this would be no credit to the former without some alteration of conduct took place in the latter. Indeed good and evil are so blended in all earthly affairs, that in a nation which forms any pretensions to freedom, times of internal peace and unanimity are the most dangerous to popular liberty. An assertion has been advanced in a foregoing part of this work, for the truth of which, the history of all nations and all times may be appealed to; that whatever frame of government is established, the limits of its power are continually incroaching over the people. The exercise of authority is very tempting to human nature; every wise people therefore have contrived to check the executive power by legislative assemblies, and have provided that these bodies should be changed periodically. The sitting of the British parliament has been prolongued to seven years, a fatal alteration; as since that time we find our deputies grow too intimate with those on whom they were intended to be a restraint. Hence popular discontents are generated; and may the people always be sufficiently active to prevent their servants, of whatever rank, from becoming their masters. Before the revolution, our kings were tyrants; their prerogatives were at that time defined; but since that epoch the officers of the crown taking advantage of the little acquaintance princes born in another country had with our domestic oeconomy, have contrived to get the exercise of supreme authority into their own management: and have erected a most extravagant system of policy calculated for their own private emolument, for that of their numerous swarms of dependants; and to uphold a large standing army, cantoned over the face of the country. The regal powers are now vested in a fluctuating aristocracy; and the nation is from time to time distracted by the competition of intriguing nobles, who are continually circumventing each other to snatch at a temporary participation. It is of very little importance to the people, whether the lords A, B, C, or D, E, F, hold the reins of government: we may take the parts of one set against another, and flatter ourselves with the hopes of better measures when an old junto is turned out; but while they all follow each other in the same system of corrupt profusion, we are successively the dupes of them all.
These remarks may be thought wandering in too wide a field for the professed subject of this undertaking; but the topics which have lately agitated the corporation of London will it is hoped excuse a few general observations at the conclusion of this part of the work. Both in the affairs of the corporation, and in those of the nation at large, we are too ready to content ourselves with weighing the merits of men who stand candidates for public offices by their general declamatory professions; and to rest secure of their future conformity to those professions. But after having been so continually disappointed by the gross apostasy of men who have acquired the highest confidence of their deluded constituents, the people are justified in exacting the strictest security for the public conduct of all men who solicit public trust. Hence the plan lately suggested to the British electors (fn. 17) by the Supporters of the Bill of Rights, appears to be the only step that can enforce an effectual redress of those grievances which we now see no petitions will procure voluntarily where it was so naturally expected. The question that remains to be decided, is, whether any body of British electors will adopt so self denying a scheme?
On a general review of our national circumstances it is but too probable that the height of our prosperity is now producing our ruin; and that we shall begin to decline from causes the operation of which is scarcely within human power to counteract. Nothing in this world is ever at a stand; the rise, growth, and decay of political bodies, are as observable as of natural bodies. We were once a rude barbarous nation; after successive conquests by more improved foreigners, we learned the first rudiments of civil policy under the feudal establishment, which vested all power in the proprietors of land: manufactures and trade created a rival commercial or monied interest, which has at length perhaps proved but too successful; and introduced such a plenty of real specie, and even of artificial wealth, that the gains of actual labourers on land, and the produce of land, bear no proportion to those of traders and meer transferrers of commodities, when referred to the advanced prices of absolute necessaries. Hence while the latter riot in luxury, the former feel all the hardships of want! Those who really see, and those who do not see, the source of this twofold inconvenience, are content with amusing others and themselves with temporary expedients, which proving meer palliatives, rather aggravate than lessen the evils they are ill calculated to cure.
Inordinate accumulations of property by trade, and unlimited possessions in land, appear equally injurious to the public, whether the rich individuals are men of virtue and prudence, or luxurious and extravagant. In the former case, by living much within their incomes, the accumulation is accelerated and becomes injurious to the public, by concentering and locking up undue portions of the national property in few hands; as well as by the power and influence which extraordinary wealth confers on the owners: in the latter case they diffuse a spirit of emulation in dress, gaiety, and dissipation, that corrupts the morals of the people in general; and when this is once effected, it is to be feared their ruin is commenced beyond redemption. The liberty of the Roman people was subverted by the extension of their conquests and colonies, which brought home the wealth and vice that marked the height of their prosperity: when after a series of profligacy, public rapine, villainy, and bloodshed, they gradually sunk so low, as to become an easy prey to their more hardy and less refined neighbours. Intelligent observers see the present circumstances of Britain; and our actual knowledge renders it superfluous to say any thing more of the state of our legislative assemblies; on whose virtuous example and prudent laws, the safety of this country primarily depends. But what is the view before us? We see our nobility and gentry totally resigned to effeminate disgraceful pleasures; we see the shameful practices they stoop to for the support of those pleasures; we see instead of a happy general mediocrity, extreams of wealth and wretchedness, and the middling classes of mankind rising or falling to one or other of these extreams, by the means of irregular arts, or by that luxury and profusion which tends to destroy the whole. In the midst of this general profligacy, the gaudy appearance of which deludes us into a fatal security, and carries us giddily along we care not whither; we find the mass of the people clamorous and turbulent, no less by what they see than what they feel; we find them continually deserting their own country from despair, and emigrating to our rising settlements on that extensive continent on the other side of the Atlantic ocean; while we are left behind waiting the result of all these co-operating symptoms of national decay.
Absolute levelling principles are visionary and absurd; the different talents of mankind will constantly operate on their worldly circumstances; and there ought to be a latitude to the laudable emulation of industry and ingenuity: but as the good of the whole has ever been thought to justify laws to regulate the transactions of individuals; and as the ambition and avarice of mankind know no bounds; overwhelmed as we are by a multiplicity of laws, it would be happy if we had some to check the monopoly of wealth. The engrossing of land, trade, and money, in a few hands, is not only dangerous to the liberty and morals of the people; but by reducing the proportion of independent men, increases the number and aggravates the distresses of the poor: evils which nothing will be able to cure, but guarding against the undue enlargement of private fortunes, and the princely aggrandisement of individuals.
That no articles whatever of home trade for internal consumption, shall be allowed to pass through more than two hands between the raiser, last manufacturer, or importer, and the consumer: that is to say, the general collector or wholesale tradesman, and the retailer.
The wisdom of a legislature inclined to postpone private interest for views of public utility, would fill up the blanks so liberally as to render the operation of such restrictions far from being violent or oppressive. They would not even be felt but by a few avaritious ambitious men, who like the great fish in the sea, grow to a terrible size by swallowing up the smaller. Should a proposal of this nature be thought to require any justification, it may be stated in one instance and in few words. By keeping down the size of farms, the land being more attentively cultivated in small portions, would yield a greater produce. Five farms of 200 acres each, tilled by as many pains-taking farmers with their servants, would furnish more of the necessaries of life, than the same quantity of land thrown into one large farm and intrusted wholly or chiefly to servants: as we see a garden by minute cultivation will produce more than an equal surface in a field. It is also clearly more favourable to population that 1000 acres should maintain several independent families, than that they should be occupied by one overgrown man; under whom none but a few hired servants are to be found, whole labour enables him to keep an equipage. It will be obvious to every common understanding, that the same reasoning may be applied to manufactures and trade; without entering into a tedious detail of particulars. In the present state of things, it is not doubted but plans of such a nature will be laughed at as chimerical; and if private interest is so predominant and powerful, that no effectual care is to be taken of the public, the few may continue to laugh, as long as the many will permit them; or in other words, until retributive justice is accomplished, and they sink themselves in the general ruin effected by their own selfish unjust schemes.