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
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
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
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
"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
"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.
"The court in general seemed to approve of this plan, and appointed a committee to visit the premises; but this committee, for want of time, never did
visit them during Mr. Harley's mayoralty.
"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
"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
"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.
"They therefore beg leave to weigh the objections which have been raised
against the proposed embankment.
"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
"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 of the last committee mentioned in the above memorial, was taken
into consideration this day, together with five presentments of the jury of conservancy to the same effect.
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 the encroachment by Mr. Kitchiner is 52 feet at the west end, and
40 feet at the east end, and about 104 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
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
The electors of Westminster assembled in Westminster-hall on the last day
of October to consider of some farther means of procuring redress for their political complaints.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
The poll for sheriffs closed on the 2d of July, when the numbers polled
were as under.
|For Mr. Wilkes,
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
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
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,
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 poll ended October 5th, when the numbers on the books stood as under.
|For alderman Nash
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
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
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.
To diffuse the national property, on which the safety of a people depends,
some mediocrity ought to be imposed on private possessions; which might be
effected by laws of the nature following.
That no person possessed of [...] annual income in land, be suffered to purchase more: leaving the increase of families to moderate present possessions.
That no entails should be created in future beyond [...] in annual value.
That no future leases be granted of farms containing more than [...] acres;
or of more than [...] annual rent; and no person to hold more than one farm.
That no manufacturers employ more than [...] numbers of workmen
under them, equitably proportioned to the nature of their respective professions.
That no merchant importing or exporting raw commodities, be allowed to
own or employ at any one time, more than [...] tonnage of vessels: nor those
dealing in wrought goods, more than [...] tonnage.
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.
END OF THE FIRST BOOK.