The Diary of Thomas Burton: 19 December 1656

Pages 175-182

Diary of Thomas Burton Esq: Volume 1, July 1653 - April 1657. Originally published by H Colburn, London, 1828.

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Friday, December 19, 1656.

Major-General Whalley brought in a Bill concerning the dividing of Commons, &c. Read the first time.

The Master of the Rolls was for rejecting of it, for he never liked any Bill that touched upon property.

It can never be made a good Bill what in itself had a tendency to any inconvenience; this the putting of the power of determining of property in three persons. Time was when I durst hardly have trusted the justice of peace with determining of a cow grass. You have good justices now: who can tell what may be hereafter ?

Major-General Whalley. I shall rather be loser than gainer by this Bill, for I have no commons; all mine are inclosed. It is for the general good, to prevent depopulation and discourage to the plough, which is the very support of the commonwealth. It is not to put it in three commissioners' power, but in a jury also.

Mr. Fowell. This is the most mischievous Bill that ever was offered to this House. It will wholly depopulate many, and destroy property.

Resolved, that this Bill be not read the second time.

Resolved, that this Bill be rejected.

Mr. Speaker. The aldermen of London are waiting here with a petition. I desire they may be called in.

The. Aldermen, to the number of ten, were called in; and, at the bar, one of them [Fowke] made a short speech before they presented the petition.

Mr. Speaker. This city is an antient, honourable, and fa. mous city; it is called camera regis, (fn. 1) &c.

The citizens being the life of this commonwealth, and so exempted from going out to wars, yet many of them have ventured their lives and fortunes for this commonwealth in the late wars. Privilege and duty, the Lord Chief-Justice of heaven hath married together. Some have neglected that duty; yet during the privilege get great estates by their freedom, yet never respect to bear any of the duty or offices in the city.

Presented a Petition from the Lord Mayor, Aldermen, and commons, and Common Council of the city of London.

The clerk fetched the Petition at the bar; and the Aldermen, to the number of ten, with officers, withdrew.

The Petition read. It was to debar all from being eligible to be free men there that do not contribute with their pains and persons, and purses, to the burthen of the justice of that magistracy, to support it.

Mr. Recorder. There is no fail of justice in that great city yet; but unless the contents of the Petition be considered, magistracy will fall to the ground.

He made a long speech to the purpose of the petition, that the non-residents might be liable to duty as well as the inhabitants. They have the best houses and most convenient for trade, and have got great estates in the city, each of them.

Aldermen Foot and Pack spoke to the same purpose as to the necessity of the committing of it, and that a Bill might be brought in to this purpose; for else, in time, none shall support the duty of the city, but such as are mere mechanics.

Mr. Bond. This is a most mischievous petition to the gentry of England, that ever was. I thought that, long ere this, we should have the trade dispersed all the nation over; and this city, it seems, must have all the trade. If you let this pass, you pull up by the roots all the privileges of the people of England, and put them into the power of a few men of this city. They durst not have ventured to have brought in such a petition in any age. They surely have privilege enough. Shall this fall upon the gentlemen of the nation that have bound their younger sons apprentices, and, the elder brothers dying, they come to the estate. These never had a penny profit by the city, yet they must fine seven or eight hundred pounds for Sheriff, Alderman, and the like; it is not to know what vast sums have been raised that way. When they got a stranger amongst them, they squeezed them to the purpose. I paid, myself, four pounds a week, while I lived in the city, to the Earl of Essex's assessment. My estate was all sequestered, and I was not able to bear it; so left the city. This is the complaint of a many. I desire that this petition may be rejected.

Mr. Lloyd. This gentleman is angry. All the intent of the petition is to bring an equality of burthen, as well as profit, qui sentit commodum sentire debet et onus. The city has served you faithfully; nay, more than any city in England. You owe them now 300,000l. They pay a fifteenth part of the assessment. You may have occasion to use them afterwards. I desire it may be committed.

Mr. Bodurda. This gentleman hath dealt rmore ingenuously than the petition. They would have strangers bear the burthen. They tell you how they have suffered, and they likewise imply how they will make up their losses by these fines. They choose sheriffs by design. They will pick you out thirty or forty that they know will fine for sheriff, rather than stand. They choose but two out of them all, and if the two first stand, their design is broken for that year. Instanced in one gentleman that was chosen sheriff. He told them ingenuously he would do the duty of a sheriff to the full, but would not spend all the estate he had got in many years, in one year. He told them plainly he would go in his cloak, and in the same clothes. He would be at no charge. Whereupon the Council rejected him, and he paid not a penny fine. Otherwise their design had been spoiled. I would have this rejected.

Sir Christopher Pack, for information sake, supported the motion.

Sir Thomas Wroth spoke again. That gentleman is mistaken, I do aver there is no such design in the choosing sheriffs. That person he speaks of was a man much wedded to his own opinions, and therefore rejected.

Major-General Kelsey. I am a free-man myself. I know that gentleman that was chosen sheriff. He was no such baseminded man as is represented. He is now chosen sheriff for a county. I desire the petition may be committed. That of the factors is no danger at all. I am not afraid to be sheriff.

Captain Baynes. It may be committed and all these inconveniences considered; as that of factor's and gentlemen's sons top.

Mr. Highland. This city has lost nothing by the Parliament. What by offices, and what otherwise, they have been no losers. I am for the rejecting of the petition. It is true what is said. They do choose sheriffs out of design, and. go a birding for sheriffs every year.

Colonel Hewitson. The city has done you eminent service, never to be forgotten. This is the first petition that they ever troubled you with; it ia no great matter. It is only to restore them to their ancient privileges and their order and government I would have you give them thanks for their good service.

Colonel Whetham. I am sorry to see so great a reflection upon this honourable city; especially by those that are by the skirts of it, (fn. 2) and have got good profit. I desire it may be committed.

Mr. Noel. I have lost 20,000l. since I have had the honour to be a free-man of London, and yet I never lost by being a free-man. I have a competency left yet, and I hope shall never lose by the relation. The desires of the petition are just and good. I desire it may be committed.

Mr. Robinson. There are some things in the petition which may be made good by commitment, except against the words " such as trade or such as have traded."

Mr. Bampfield. I am sorry that this City has no greater boon to desire of you. I desire the petition may be committed with this exception, that aliens shall not be liable.

Resolved, that this petition be referred to a Committee, to meet to-morrow afternoon in the Inner Court of Wards.

Mr. Bodurda. I move that Mr. Bond may be added to this Committee. I am informed that, in the case of a petition, though one speak against it, they may be of that Committee, but otherwise, in a Bill.

The Master of the Rolls. It was an ancient ceremony to call in the Aldermen of London to the bar, to acquaint them what was done in their petition. It is but seldom that they trouble you, and it is but a compliment. I desire they may be called in. They have been a faithful city to you, and have raised 40,000 men in twelve hours' warning, &c. and done you many considerable services. I well remember it.

The Aldermen were called in, and Mr. Speaker told them how the House had considered of their petition, and referred it to a Committee to prepare an expedient for what they desired therein.

To the business of the day.

Captain Baynes reported from the Committee, the arrears of the assessments from the City of London.

February 1,1644, to June 24,1656 30751l 1s. 0d.
Whereof discharged by the Act of Oblivion 6600l. 0s. 0d.
Due by Offices and Officers employed by the State 2600l. 0s. 0d.
From the Stillyard and Intercourse Merchants 6883l. 15s. 5d.
Owing by the Temple and Inhabitants thereof 2325l. 10s. 0d.

Both which ought forthwith to be levied by distress.

Alderman Foot. The burthen ought not to lie upon the intercourse merchants.

Lord Whitlock spoke to the same purpose, that the stillyard merchants should pay it.

Mr. Lloyd proposed that the stillyard might pay these assessments, and not the merchants of the intercourse. They are not intercourse merchants.

Lord Strickland. The English merchants have now got the trade of the stillyard. They are but five or six that the burthen lies upon. They are not able to pay it. The agent from Hambrough did clear it when he was here; and now he has put in another paper to clear the stillyard merchants from that tax. We are freed in Holland both from custom and excise, upon the very account of the stillyard merchants trading here. I would have my Lord Protector consulted in it, lest grasping for a little monies we break our public faith with foreign states. Let us do nothing till well informed.

Major-General Disbrowe. You need not hire foreigners to live amongst you. They will give you monies to trade here. I hope you will not use strangers better, seeing you use them no worse than you do your own inhabitants. This has been before the council, and both there and in the little Parliament, it was resolved they ought to pay this assessment.

Captain Baynes. It was resolved last Parliament, that the stillyard merchants ought to pay this part of the assessment; either they must pay it, or the city. It is good you would declare your opinion of it, for the city till then will lay the assessment there still, and in the mean time the commonwealth wants it. I desire the Committee may be agreed with.

Sir Christopher Pack. This is a great business, and was never yet fully determined. I desire that you would either order the merchants of the intercourse to pay it, otherwise take so much of the city. In former times their subsidies were allowed in the Exchequer, upon defalcations.

Sir William Strickland. Suspend your vote till you have well advised in it, lest you draw more enemies upon you. It seems these were dispounded by privy seals, in the Exchequer. Upon the accounts of subsidies this gentleman leaves it very intricately.

Mr. Downing. This is no damage to Holland, they have renounced that trade long since. Subsidies were a free grant to the king, and he might give them back again by privy seals if he pleased, but. we must have, pecuniis numeratis, our charge carried on.

The intercourse merchants are many of them traders into the Spanish countries, which are your enemies, and with other countries: It is by contract and agreement, and not at all relating to Holland. Again, Holland has engrossed and put great inconveniences upon our manufactures. They get 30,000l. per annum by our laces; a new trick of the Hollanders. They are far too politic for us in point of trade, and do eat us out in our manufactures. I desire they may pay as well as we.

Mr. Noel. It were good it should be determined whether the city or the merchants of the intercourse should pay it; for it has been an old dispute and never decided.

Sir William Strickland proposed that the word "stillyard" might be left out of the question, and let it stand only, "upon the intercourse merchants."

Lord Strickland. Either leave out both words, or neither word.

Captain Baynes. If you take out the word "stillyard," you lay it upon the intercourse merchants; unless you divide them, that each may know his proportion and what to pay.

Colonel Mathews. The proportions of the stillyard are but a small part to that of the intercourse. I desire they may be distinguished, and divide your question.

Alderman Foot. We make no distinction of Hambrough or stillyard merchants, but upon the merchants of the intercourse.

Dr. Clarges. We need not keep up our league with Spain, whether they will or no. This will make no breach between Holland or Hambrough and us.

Major-General Kelsey. I am for dividing of this question, that, as well the intercourse merchants and the still-yard merchants may know what they shall pay. I should be sorry it should breed a difference between us and foreign states, for so small a matter, or upon any account where it can be otherwise remedied.

Resolved, To agree with the Committee in this part of the Report, That the sum of 6823l. 15s. 5d., arrear of assessment upon the Merchants of the Intercourse and Still-yard be levied by distress, &c.

Resolved, To adjourn this debate till to-morrow; nothing to intervene.

This afternoon the Grand Committee for Religion sate, but I was not there. I dined with Captain Baynes, and stayed three hours with Sir Thomas Sandford, who came home on Saturday last, and I knew not.


  • 1. Thus Selden, "Londinum camera regis Anglisæ."—Mare clausum, (1636.) b. ii. ch. 22.
  • 2. Mr. Highland was M. P. for Southwark.