During the reign of James I.
By the extinction of the direct line of the English royal family with Elizabeth, the succession was peaceably admitted to be in James VI. of Scotland, as great grandson of Margaret, eldest daughter of Henry VII (fn. 1) ; who,
as usual with all new kings, was proclaimed with great demonstrations of
joy: an additional circumstance however concurred in the present instance
to add to the national satisfaction, which was, the prospect of future peace
and harmony between the two kingdoms, now united under one prince. The
only check to the general festivity on James's arrival, was that old enemy of
the metropolis, the plague; which, this year, destroyed 30,578 persons. The
lord-mayor assisted at the coronation according to custom, and with the other
magistrates not already dignified, received the honour of knighthood the succeeding day. James was indeed so profuse in his honorary favours, that the
distinction thereby intended was destroyed; and a pasquinade was fixed on St.
Paul's church, promising an art to assist weak memories, in retaining the
names of the new nobility (fn. 2) .
To anticipate a little for the sake of connection: We find that the number
of city knights soon gave rise to a dispute on the point of precedency, between the aldermen who were knights, and the knights commoners. The latter pleaded, that precedence was due to seniority; the former, that their magistracy gave them precedence independent of knighthood. The junior ladies
took the lead so warmly in this important contest, that the mayor and aldermen petitioned the king, that the affair might be determined by the earl marshal, to restore quiet to the city. The pleas on both sides were learnedly
argued; but at length the commoners tacitly giving up the point by default
of appearance, the marshal's court decided in favour of the aldermen; with
this distinction among the commoners, that an honourable employment conferred on a junior knight, should give him place before a senior: this distinction
was established in favour of Sir Thomas Smith, who had been employed on an
embassy to Russia.
Among the first acts of James's government, was a proclamation on account
of the plague, to prohibit all fairs that year within fifty miles of London;
and a renewal of the proclamation against laying new foundations in and
about the city. The first parliament also passed an act for the recovery of small
debts within the city and liberties (fn. 3) ; by which statute, the court of Conscience,
which hitherto had subsisted by acts of the corporation, was now established
by national authority.
December 21, 1603, the making bills of mortality was revived and continued;
but they were not published weekly; a general account being annually made up
and given. They underwent several alterations in subsequent years, as the limits of them were extended.
While England remained under the church of Rome, the people confined
to prescribed rituals they did not understand, and furnished with visible objects of worship, never troubled their heads about principles and doctrines;
nor did the priests desire that they should. But the case was far otherwise under
the reformation: idols, with the pageantry of religion, being taken away,
and the Bible put into the hands of the people; the right of private judgment
thus received a tacit sanction, which the new establishment, however disposed,
was unable afterward to check. This right was by no means suffered to lie
dormant: beside those of the established church, which was in some respects
a compromise with the Catholics; there were others who went still farther
lengths in their departure from the old religion, and these were denominated
Puritans. By their numbers and inflexible hatred of every thing that bore the
least resemblance to popery, they had proved the principal bulwark against all
attempts to restore that establishment: dividing afterward in doctrinal points
among themselves, they produced different sects, of opposite and even extravagant tenets, till mellowed by the course of time; but that time was yet distant.
They had been greatly depressed by the late queen; and James, who had been
plagued with the Puritans in Scotland, bore them no good will; but being
a great casuist, he opened a conference at Hampton court between the church
clergy and the Puritans, in order to bring about a comprehension of both parties. A petition signed by 750 of the Puritan clergy, had been presented to
him on his accession, to abate the rigour of the laws against them; but neither that petition, nor the conferences, produced any thing but a few alterations
in the liturgy, which by no means satisfied the Nonconformists. The great
share the Puritans took in some following events rendered it necessary to introduce them in proper time.
James called in those numerous patents for monopolies which had been
granted by his predecessor, and were such fetters on internal commerce; but
the foreign trade still remained principally in the hands of exclusive companies.
Almost the whole commerce of the nation centered in London, where the
customs amounted to 110,000l. yearly, while the rest of the kingdom produced only 17,000l. Mr. Hume, who cites this estimate from the parliamentary journals, adds from the same authority, that the whole trade of London was confined to about 200 citizens, who were able to fix their own
prices, on exports and imports: We shall not therefore be surprized at the city
being able to lend the king 60,000l. which he borrowed in the year 1604.
In the year 1605, a most extraordinary plot was concerted, by two catholic
gentlemen, Catesby, of an antient family, and Piercy, related to the earl of
Northumberland, to blow up the king and both houses of parliament on the
first day of the meeting! They administered the sacrament to all whom they
associated in this grand scheme of wickedness, intended to destroy the heads
of heresy thus collected together, and then to restore popery. The only objection that occurred to these diabolical conspirators was, that many Catholics
must of necessity be involved in this general ruin: but Tesmond a Jesuit, and
Garnet, superior of that order in England, obviated this scruple, by arguing
that the interests of religion required, in this instance, that the innocent should
be sacrificed with the guilty. A cellar was hired under the House of Lords, in
which 36 barrels of powder were lodged, covered up with faggots; and Guy
Fawkes, an officer in the Spanish service, fetched from Flanders on purpose,
was entrusted with the execution of the affair. Happily the compunction of
one of the conspirators withstood the arguments of the Jesuits, and an anonymous letter sent to the lord Monteagle ten days before the opening the session,
containing dark hints of the danger of his going to the parliament, and admonishing him to retire into the country and wait the event; proved the means of unravelling the plot, and saving the lives of all the great men in the kingdom. Lord
Monteagle carried the letter to lord Salisbury, and Salisbury laid it before the
king, who luckily conjecturing the truth, the vault was searched, Fawkes
seized, and the conspirators discovered and brought to punishment (fn. 4) . The
anniversary of this providential escape, was ordered to be for ever commemorated (fn. 5) .
In the third year of his reign, the king granted the city of London his
first charter; (see Appendix, No. XLII.) by which charter, the disputes between the corporation and the lieutenant of the Tower, about the metage of
coals, &c. were prevented in future.
June 12th, 1606, the king paid his former debt; and was magnificently
entertained at Clothworkers hall, where he accepted the freedom of the company, and granted them yearly two brace of bucks, for the anniversary feast on
the election of the master and wardens. On July 15th, he with his eldest son
prince Henry, dined with the Merchant Taylors; and on their shewing him
a roll containing a list of the kings and illustrious persons who had been free
of their company; he told them he belonged to another company, but that
his son should become a member. Prince Henry was accordingly admitted; and,
at his desire, such also of the nobility then present as had not entered into other
The metropolis still increasing, the former prohibitions against new buildings
were revived, and offenders were prosecuted in the Star-chamber: in consideration of the decay of wood, persons were also ordered to front their houses
with brick or stone. The common-council, moreover, revived the prohibition
of hawkers erecting stalls or vending goods in the city, with an exception,
however, in favour of persons who brought provisions into the city.
December 22d, a hard frost enabled people to keep a fair for all sorts of
commodities, on the Thames; and to carry on their diversions on the ice.
By his former punctuality, James, in May 1607, obtained another loan of
63,000l. and, in 1608, he granted the city a second charter of confirmation;
which, moreover, extended the jurisdiction of the corporation over Duke's Place,
St. Bartholomew the Greater and Less, Black and White Friars, and Cold
Harbour. See Appendix, No. XLIII.
Ireland being reduced to a state of peace; the king, for the purpose of peopling the province of Ulster with English Protestants, made a tender to the
city of London, in 1609, of the forfeited lands there; which, after due consideration, and proper surveys taken, the common-council thankfully accepted,
and passed an act for raising 20,000l. for the purpose of settling a colony upon
them. The lands were greatly improved; and Ulster, from being the wildest,
is now become the best cultivated province in the country. This grant will
be more particularly explained in another place.
The apprehensions of the too great increase of London still continuing, the
king, with the advice of his privy council, revived the prohibition of new
foundations; but it was found, that political regulations are unable to check
the natural tendency of things. James loved peace; peace advanced commerce;
and commerce will draw people together. Spital fields were at this time built
upon, and inhabited by weavers: Wapping, heretofore a distinct village, was
now, by the increase of mariners, connected to Tower-Hill: On the western
side of West-Smithfield, used to be a large pond of water; but this being
filled up, was occupied by Cow-lane, Hosier-lane, and Chick-lane, &c. Where the
fields, and gardens of the great priory of St. John of Jerusalem, and of another
convent on the north side of Clerkenwell-green stood, were now built upon;
and Holborn was gradually continued up to the village of St. Giles's in the
fields (fn. 6) . The old ruinous gate at the eastern entrance of the city, called Aldgate, was rebuilt in the same year.
In the eighth year of his reign, king James granted a commission on behalf
of the London archers, to level all ditches, banks, and other inclosures within
two miles of the suburbs; and to reduce the fields to the same state wherein
they were found, in the beginning of the reign of Henry VIII (fn. 7) . This
was indeed a retrograde proceeding, which removed to a distance the supplies
of a growing metropolis; but, by the nature of things, could not long be
maintained. A following regulation sprang from rather better policy; twelve
new public granaries were established in Bridewell, able to contain 6000 quarters of corn, to be sold to the poor at prime cost, in times of scarcity.
James has, by some writers, been taxed with inclining toward popery; and
it will be difficult perhaps to clear him totally from the imputation, while such
strong evidence exists as that of Elizabeth's ambassador at Paris, Sir Henry
Neville. Elizabeth's ministers were all instructed to have a watchful eye over
the transactions of the Scots king; and Neville procured intelligence of the
negociations of baron Ogilby in Spain, who offered, in the name of James,
"to be reconciled to the apostolic see, and to enter into a confederacy with
that crown, in order to rescue himself from the dangers he was exposed
to from Elizabeth, on whom he offered (upon condition of being assisted
with 12,000 men armed and paid all the time the war should last, and
500,000 ducats to begin it) to make war immediately (fn. 8) ." Should this
be palliated on the plea of resentment, it was certainly going great lengths
in his anger: however, two instances more directly in our way, will shew,
that if he was not actually a devotee to Rome, policy more than persuasion
with-held him, as he was gifted with the true catholic spirit of persecution.
Bartholomew Legate, a man well read in the scriptures, and of unblameable
life, was charged with Socinian tenets, and with saying, that the Nicene and
Athanasian Creeds did not contain a profession of the true Christian Faith.
James, like his learned predecessor Henry VIII. graciously attempted his conversion; but his royal arguments failing of effect, he directed the writ de bæretico comburendo to the sheriffs of London, and Legate was burnt to ashes in
Smithfield in 1611, for persisting in the unity of the Divine Being! Edward
Wightman, another unfortunate victim, was, to the shame of our Protestant
church, burnt for heresy the same year, at Litchfield (fn. 9) .
The religious house of the Carthusian monks near Smithfield, called the
Charterhouse, had, on its dissolution, fallen into the hands of the earl of
Suffolk. Mr. Thomas Sutton, a rich old bachelor, now purchased it of that
family for 13,000l; and expended 7,000l. more upon fitting it up for his
intended charitable foundation for pensioners and scholars. He obtained a patent in 1611, which was afterward confirmed by parliament, and endowed it
with lands then producing 4490l. per annum, but now valued at 6,000l. for
the support of eighty pensioners who ought to be decayed gentlemen, merchants, or soldiers; and for the maintenance and education of forty-four
scholars, some for the universities, and some for trade, with handsome allowances.
Sir Baptist Hicks, then one of the justices of the peace for Middlesex, but
afterward created lord viscount Camden, in the tenth year of James I. built a
sessions-house of brick and stone in St. John's-street, for the justices to hold their
quarter sessions in; which used, before this accommodation was provided, to
be held at the Castle-inn. It still preserves the name of Hicks's-hall.
The elector palatine Frederic, who afterward assumed the title of king of
Bohemia, arrived at London, October 16, 1612, to marry the princess Elizabeth, the king's only daughter; from which marriage the present royal family of Great Britain are descended. On the 29th he was entertained at
Guildhall by the lord-mayor and his company, who gave him several presents; and on the wedding-day the city presented the bride with a necklace
of oriental pearls valued at 2000l. This year died Henry prince of Wales, a
youth of the most promising good qualities.
The great enlargement of London and its suburbs had started a scheme for
the supplying the numerous inhabitants with water more commodiously and effectually than by the city conduits; and a supply of water for the prevention
of fires entered also into this consideration. An act had been passed in 1605 (fn. 10) ,
impowering the corporation of London to make a trench for bringing a
stream of fresh water from the springs of Chadwell and Amwell, &c. in the
county of Hertford. Mr. Hugh Middleton, citizen and goldsmith of London, was the projector and manager of this great work, and was thereupon
knighted by the king (fn. 11) . The channel, though conducted in a winding manner,
to accommodate it as much as possible to the natural level of the ground, was
in some places, obliged to be cut full 30 feet deep, through subterranean passages arched over; and is carried over two vallies in troughs lined with lead,
the one at Bushill 660 feet in length, and 30 feet high, and the other near
Highbury 462 feet long, and 17 feet high. Its course from Ware to the
reservoir at Clerkenwell near Islington, measures 38¾ miles, 16 poles: from
thence the water is distributed by elm pipes through the streets, like the veins
of the human body, to all parts of the city and suburbs; and conveyed into
every house that subscribes for it, by small leaden pipes of ¾ of an inch bore.
On Michaelmas-day 1613, when Sir Thomas Middleton, brother to the undertaker, was elected lord-mayor, Sir John Swinnerton, then the acting mayor,
with many of the heads of the corporation, went in solemn cavalcade to this
reservoir, since improperly termed the New river head. The labourers, handsomely dressed, walked with their tools three times round, preceded by drums
and trumpets, and addressing the mayor in a copy of verses, the sluices were
opened under the discharge of cannon, the sound of music, and the loud acclamations of all the spectators.
Notwithstanding the extensive utility and great profits since arising to the
proprietors of this useful work, we are sorry to remark that Sir Hugh Middleton was ruined by it. Having spent his whole fortune, he was forced to
part with half the property for money advanced by the king, and to sell many
other shares: the undertaking continued long in a declining way, until the advantages of it were generally perceived. The proprietors are incorporated, and
compose now one of the most flourishing companies existing; though the present high price of the shares, when they come abroad, reduces the profits to a
general average with all other purchases.
West Smithfield was paved, by the king's order to the lord-mayor in 1614,
at the expence of 1600l. Being the public market for cattle, horses, and hay,
it was almost impassable in rainy weather; and therefore well answered the
charges bestowed on it. The citizens now also began to pave the margins of
the streets before their doors with broad flag stones for the accommodation of
About this time the city obtained a third charter from the king; (see Appendix, No. XLIV.) which confirmed to the corporation the admeasurement
and metage of coals in the port of London, from Yenleet to Staines-bridge.
Sir Peter Proby, alderman of London and governor of the colony of Ulster, was sent over by a special commission from the king and city of London in 1616, to regulate the English plantation there. Londonderry, and Colerain, two good towns, had been raised; the former of which the king had
erected into a city, and the latter into a corporate town under a mayor.
Proby carried over two rich swords of state, as presents from the city of London, for the use of their chief magistrates. Aldersgate was rebuilt this year.
When king James made a progress to Scotland in 1617, he issued an extraordinary proclamation, commanding "all noblemen, knights, and gentle"men, who have mansion-houses in the country, to depart within twenty
days after the date hereof, with their wives and families, out of the city
and suburbs of London, and to return to their several habitations in the
country, there to continue and abide until the end of the summer vacation,
to perform the duties and charge of their places and service; and likewise
by housekeeping to be a comfort unto their neighbours, in order to renew
and revive the laudable custom of hospitality in their respective countries.
Excepting, however, such as have necessary occasion to attend in our city of
London for Term business, or other urgent occasions, to be signified to,
and approved by, our privy council (fn. 12) ." The true motive of this arbitrary
mandate appears to be, that James found his parliaments become refractory, and
thought that if the gentry were dispersed in their country seats, they could not
so readily concert measures of opposition during his absence, as they might if
he left them living collected together in the metropolis. He renewed this proclamation several times in the course of his reign.
In his journies between London and Edinburgh, James had observed a
Puritanical strictness in the observance of what the people affectedly termed
the Sabbath or Lord's-day, in opposition to the popular term Sunday, which
they rejected as of heathen origin. In catholic countries, after service on
festivals, the people dedicated the remainder of the day to sports and pastimes;
which was a sufficient reason to exclude them in the present temper of the times.
James therefore undertook by another singular proclamation to authorise the
practice of lawful games and exercises on that day, to the great astonishment
and grief of his pious subjects (fn. 13) . Certain rules were drawn up under the title of
The book of Sports, which the parochial ministers were enjoined to read in their
respective churches; but many of them refusing obedience, were prosecuted in
that species of inquisition called the High Commission court. The lord-mayor
of London also proved refractory, by stopping the king's carriages from travelling through the city during divine service; which when the king heard, he
swore he thought there were no more kings in England beside himself; and
sent an order to the mayor to let them pass. The mayor pacified him by a welltimed concession, the terms of which gratified the king: he said, "while it was in my power, I did my duty; but that being taken away by a higher power, it
is my duty to obey."
In 1618 a special commission was issued by the king, to several lords and
gentlemen, among whom was that great architect Inigo Jones, then surveyorgeneral of his works, for laying out and improving the ground called Lincoln'sInn fields; under the direction of that gentleman. The expence of laying
out the grounds was to be levied on the surrounding parishes and inns of court;
and several of the buildings round the square originally constructed by Inigo
Jones, still remain, on the south and west sides; as also on the southern side
of the adjoining street called Great Queen street (fn. 14) .
Though James was a strenuous asserter of ecclesiastical hierarchy and
orthodox opinions, he was a latitudinarian in morals; as appears not only by
his Book of Sports above mentioned; but also by a grant he gave in 1620 to
Clement Cotrel Esq. groom porter of his houshold, to license gaming houses
for cards, dice, bowling allies, and tennis courts. The numbers allowed,
were, in London and Westminster, including the suburbs, 24 bowling allies: in
Southwark 4; in St. Catharine's 1; in Shoreditch 1; and in Lambeth 2:
every other town or village within two miles of London and Westminster, was
allowed one. Within these limits also, 14 tennis courts were tolerated, and 40
taverns or ordinaries, for playing at cards and dice. The motives expressed in
the grant, for this indulgence, were—" for the honest and reasonable recreation of good and civil people, who for their quality and ability, may lawfully
use the games of bowling, tennis, dice, cards, tables, nineholes, or any
other game hereafter to be invented (fn. 15) ."
In 1620, the king impelled rather by the desires of his subjects, than his
own inclination, thought of giving some assistance to his son in law, the Elector
Palatine; and on the plea of the urgency of the case, he attempted to raise a
benevolence on his subjects. The lord mayor and citizens were required to
contribute 20,000l. but this on deliberation being thought too exorbitant,
they advanced only half the sum, which was raised by the several companies.
We are told that one Barnes a citizen, was the first who refused to contribute
any thing; and that in consequence of this refusal, the treasurer sent him notice
to prepare immediately to carry by post a dispatch to Ireland: he was glad to
buy. off this duty with 100l. and no one after that ventured to refuse their contribution (fn. 16) . This arbitrary measure not sufficiently answering, the king was
obliged to have recourse to parliament; but the commons, after a vote of money,
presented him with remonstrances against grievances, beginning first with
patents granted for monopolies: these attacks on his prerogatives were but ill
relished by James, who at length dissolved them.
Among other abuses discovered, that great man the lord chancellor Bacon
was convicted of taking bribes in the execution of his high office, and was degraded. The natural powers of his mind, and his literary abilities, rendered
this weakness the more inexcusable; though a perversion of justice was by no
means added to the charges against him (fn. 17) .
A great frost in 1620 enabled the people to carry on all manner of trades and
sports on the Thames.
The king's negociations with Spain, particularly that for a marriage between
Charles, now prince of Wales, and the Infanta, were so little relished by
the people, that Gondamar, the Spanish ambassador, who was perceived to have
great influence over the king, was insulted in passing the streets. This brought
the king in a great rage to Guildhall, where he severely reprimanded the city
magistrates for the insolence of the populace, and threatened to restrain them
by military power. The royal anger was appeased by the whipping one poor
fellow from Aldgate to Temple bar, for disrespectful words against this foreign
In the year 1622, king James issued a commission for licensing, registering,
and raising a tax from all aliens and foreigners, for the liberty of exercising their
professions under the restrictions formerly imposed on them (fn. 18) : an expedient
which obviously shews the short-sighted policy that actuated this prince, whom the
flatterers of that age honoured with the title of the Second Solomon. It may
suffice to remark in general, that commerce was more favoured by the interval of
peace enjoyed during this reign, than by any well calculated endeavours of James
to promote it: rather by his want of courage, than by his want of inclination to
oppress his people.
Though the king was so ill disposed toward the inoffensive Puritans, and
had even burnt two Schismatics, it is plain he tolerated papists, notwithstanding the imminent danger he was once in from their bloody machinations:
in 1623, a congregation of 300 persons being assembled at the French ambassador's house in Blackfriars to hear one Drury a famous Jesuist preacher; the
floor of the room used for a chapel, which was three stories high, gave way
to the weight, and bursting through the next, the preacher with nearly 100
of his auditors were killed, and most of the rest were more or less wounded. The
great encouragement, and consequent increase and insolence of the papists,
had been complained of, in a remonstrance presented by the commons
to the king, against the Spanish match, and to intreat him to support the
Palatine (fn. 19) .
James at last when it was too late, levied an army for the relief of his son
in law, toward which the city of London raised 2000 men. This army was to
march through France to the Palatinate; but when the transports arrived at
Calais, no orders had been received there for their admission: they were therefore
obliged to sail for Zealand, where no measures had been taken for their disembarkation. Mean while a pestilential disorder seized the soldiers by their
confinement on board: one half of them died, and the other half was found
unable to march to the place of their destination (fn. 20) . Nothing more clearly
demonstrates how much the known temper of the prince influences all
who act under his authority, than a comparison between the event of this
reluctant ill-concerted armament, and those of the gallant Elizabeth who preceded him.
Interest of money was in the latter part of this reign reduced from ten to eight
per cent. by parliament (fn. 21) .