The Corporation of London by W.N. Massey

Page ix

The Aldermen of the City of London Temp. Henry III - 1912. Originally published by Corporation of the City of London, London, 1908.

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THE CORPORATION OF LONDON FROM 'The History of England during the Reign of George III.'

By the Right Hon. W. N. Massey, (Cabinet Edition), i. 334-335.

'It was the only corporation in England, the members of which were elected by popular suffrage. It was the most dignified, the most powerful, the wealthiest of all the municipal bodies. Its origin, like that of many other corporations, was lost in prescription, but its privileges were recognized or extended by no less than one hundred and twenty charters, beginning with the reign of William the Conqueror. . . . . The constitution and privileges of this famous body are, indeed, a remarkable proof of what the bold and independent spirit of the people could effect even in the earliest times. They erected a Government side by side with that of the Sovereign in his capital City; imitating, if not emulating, the great institutions of the realm. This government had its Chief Magistrate, its Court of Aldermen, its Common Council, analagous to King, Lords, and Commons. It was in some respects an imperium in imperio affecting independent rights, and almost equal degree. The City of London to this day closes its gates on certain occasions at the approach of royalty, or the representatives of the Crown. By a particular exception in the annual Mutiny Act soldiers are not to be billeted within its domain. In all acts of Parliament touching municipal rights, the privilege of the City is expressly excepted. When the Corporation address the Crown, the Lord Mayor and principal officers insist upon being received in state by the King on the throne. If they approach the House of Commons, their petition is not presented in the ordinary way by one of their representatives but is delivered at the bar by their Sheriffs in full dress.

'On the 9th of November in every year, the new Lord Mayor is presented to the judges of the land sitting in banco in their respective courts. On that occasion their lordships appear in their robes of state, but the great Magistrate stands covered, while the Recorder claims respect for the ancient rights and privileges of the City of London. Every event of great national importance, the demise of the Crown or a declaration of war, is immediately communicated to the Lord Mayor by one of the principal Secretaries of State. But it would be tedious to enumerate in all its particulars the grandeur of this mighty corporation; which, if it has sometimes assumed the air of sovereignty, equals many sovereign states in the extent of its revenue and the value of its domains. . . . . The Corporation of London will claim a more prominent place in history than many petty states whose existence has not been illustrated by any great or useful actions. The liberties of England are indebted to the City of London. Many a time it has been a safe refuge from tyranny, and at all times the steady and potent ally of national freedom.'