A New History of London Including Westminster and Southwark. Originally published by R Baldwin, London, 1773.
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From the great fire in 1666, to the death of king Charles II.
No time was lost in repairing the devastation occasioned by the fire; for the parliament on the 18th passed an act (fn. 1) for erecting a court of judicature to settle all differences between landlords and tenants; of which the justices of the courts of king's bench, common pleas, and the barons of the exchequer, were appointed judges: and so well were their decisions approved, that their pictures, which by deaths and promotions, amounted to twenty two, were ordered to be hung up in Guildhall where they are still to be seen.
After these judges had adjusted all disputes, and ascertained the limits of the landed property, an act drawn up by Sir Matthew Hale (fn. 2), was passed for rebuilding the city (fn. 3); directing how the houses were to be erected; for the regulation of builders; granting the corporation powers to open and enlarge the streets and lanes; for appointing an annual fast on the day the fire broke out; for erecting a column of brass or stone on the spot where it began, with a proper inscription, to perpetuate the memory of the disaster; and for imposing a duty of one shilling per chaldron or ton, on coals for ten years, toward the necessary expences, for carrying the act into execution.
Conformable to the powers given by this act, the court of common-council on April 29th 1667 published an act declaring what streets and narrow passages they proposed to enlarge, and to what respective widths they should be opened. An order framed by the court in consequence, was presented to his majesty, and approved by the privy-council. See Appendix No. XLIX.
The commissioners and surveyors published directions for levelling and pitching the streets and lanes in the city of London and its liberties, for the convenient current and running away of the water; and for the better suppressing of fires, the court of common council made the following resolutions.
" 1. That the city be divided into four divisions, and each thereof be provided with eight hundred leathern buckets, fifty ladders of different sizes, from twelve to forty-two feet in length, two brazen hand-squirts to each parish, twenty-four pickax-sledges, and forty shod shovels.
"2. That each of the twelve companies provide themselves with an engine, thirty buckets, three ladders, fix pickax-sledges, and two hand-squirts, to be ready upon all occasions. And the inferior companies, such a number of small engines and buckets, as should be allotted them by the lordmayor and court of aldermen, according to their respective abilities.
" 3. That the aldermen passed the office of sheriffalty, do provide their several houses with twenty-four buckets and one hand-squirt each; and those who have not served that office, twelve buckets and one hand-squirt each.
"4. And, for the effectual supplying the engines and squirts with water, that pumps be placed in all wells; and fire-plugs in the several main pipes belonging to the New-river and Thames water-works.
" 5. That the several companies of carpenters, bricklayers, plaisterers, painters, masons, smiths, plumbers, and paviours, do annually for each corporation, elect two master-workmen, four journeymen, eight apprentices, and sixteen labourers, to be ready, upon all occasions of fire, to attend the lord-mayor and sheriffs for extinguishing the same.
" 6. That all the workmen and labourers belonging to the several waterworks within the city, sea-coal meters, Blackwell-hall, Leaden-hall, ticket, package, and other porters, do constantly attend the lord-mayor and sheriffs in all such services."
Before we conclude this subject, we shall anticipate a little for the sake of observing, that by the prudent vigilance of all parties, London, to the amazement of all Europe, was in four years time, rebuilt in so different a style to what it was before the fire; that those who saw it in both states, could not reflect without wonder, at the wealth that could sustain the loss, and bear so prodigious an expence as was laid out in restoring it!
All however was not done that might have been done at so inviting an occasion; the former direction of the streets being too much complied with out of regard to private property. Had more powers been assumed in this respect, London might have realised the fable of the Phoenix, and rose out of its ashes unrivalled in beauty throughout the world. This design was not too great for the genius of the time, as two excellent plans were formed with this magnificent intention. Dr. Wren, afterward the famous Sir Christopher, immediately after the fire, took a survey of the ruined spot, by the king's order, and designed a plan for a new city. In this plan the irregularities in the old town were to be remedied by enlarging the streets and lanes, and carrying them as nearly parallel as possible; avoiding where conveniency would admit, all acute angles. This he would have effected by seating all the parochial churches conspicuous and insular; by forming the most public places into large piazzas, the centers of eight ways; by uniting the halls of the twelve chief companies, into one regular square annexed to Guild-hall; and by making a commodious Quay on the whole bank of the river; from Black-Friars to the Tower.
The ingenious Mr. John Evelyn produced another plan with the same view, and beside lessening the most considerable declivities, proposed farther to employ the rubbish in filling up the shore of the Thames to low water mark in a strait line from the Tower to the Temple; to form an ample Quay, if it could be done without increasing the rapidity of the stream. The bason, by this means, he observed might be kept always full and easy of access, like that at Constantinople.
One only objection occurred, but this was considered as unsurmonntable: the obstinate aversion of the inhabitants to alter their old foundations; though it was proposed for them to give up their properties for a time into the hands of public trustees, to receive equivalents under a new plan. It was shewn that by an equal distribution of ground into buildings, leaving out church-yards, gardens, &c. which were to be removed out of the town, there would have been sufficient room both for the augmentation of the streets; disposition of the churches, halls, and all public buildings; and to have given every proprietor full satisfaction. Prejudice however, which seldom fails to adhere to what is familiar to it, prevailed in this critical moment; the citizens would have their old city again; all therefore that remained, was to give it whatever amendments its former irregularities might comply with.
The popular persuasion that the city had been burnt by papists, produced a proclamation at the desire of the commons, for the banishment of all priests and jesuists: but the bad execution of this, as well as of former edicts against papists, destroyed all confidence in the king's sincerity, whenever he pretended an aversion to the catholic religion (fn. 4).
During the negociations at Breda, for treating of peace with the Dutch, their minister De Wit, to retrieve their honour lost during the war, meditated a blow that struck the metropolis with consternation. Charles who had uses for the national money, more agreeable to himself, than the applying it to national purposes, had rashly remitted his military preparations, on the prospect of immediate peace; and thereby exposed the nation to one of the greatest insults it ever received. On the 10th of June, 1667, a Dutch fleet under De Ruyter appeared in the river Thames; which seized Sheerness, and failing up the Medway as high as Upnor castle, burnt all the ships that lay there. As they were expected to extend their hostilities up the Thames next tide, to London bridge, nine ships were sunk at Woolwich, and four at Blackwall to obstruct their passage; platforms were raised in many places, furnished with artillery; the trained bands were called out, and a general alarm took place. De Ruyter however proceeded to Portsmouth and Plymouth, where finding his attempts unsuccessful, he returned; and after insulting Harwich, failed up the river as far as Tilbury fort, where he was repulsed; and the war which had been successfully prosecuted before, ended with this disgrace (fn. 5). When the Dutch first arrived in the river, it is said there was not a gun mounted at Tilbury fort, so that they might have failed directly to London, have destroyed the eastern parts which the fire had spared, and carried off all the merchant vessels in the river.
In the year 1668, the king, at the persuasion of Lord Ashley, chancellor of the exchequer, instituted a council of commerce, consisting of a president, vice president, and other counsellors, who instead of the former method of referring all commerical matters to a fluctuating committee of the privy council, were to apply themselves diligently to the advancement of the national commerce, colonies, manufactures, and shipping. But as Charles was never long constant in any laudable intentions, he in a few years laid aside a beneficial plan, the expences of which he could not spare from his pleasures (fn. 6). The scheme was revived in 1696, as will appear in due time.
The lord-mayor on November 11th, issued a precept ordering all housekeepers, for the health and cleanliness of the city, to keep the streets before their houses duly paved and swept; and that no ashes or dirt should be cast into streets or churchyards, or into any sink or fewer, but be kept in tubs or baskets until the rakers came: that the scavengers should fee the streets accordingly swept and cleansed, or the offenders punished according to the penalties imposed, and that the dirt was daily taken away by the rakers. For the safety and peace of the city, all inhabitants were ordered to hang out candles duly to the accustomed hour, and that all constables should sit and continue their watches according to the directions of former acts of common-council: that all immoralities, drunkenness, gaming, prophanation of the Lord's-day, should be prevented; rogues, vagrants, and sturdy beggars, suppressed.
A temporary market had been kept since the fire, in Aldersgate-street; but Newgate-market, and Stocks, or Woolchurch-market, being again fitted up, and a new market-place being made, at Honey-lane, to receive that formerly kept in Cheapside; these markets were established by act of common-council, dated September 8th, 1669, and the market in Aldersgate-street was ordered to be removed to them.
William prince of Orange, afterward king William III. who came over to England to settle some political negociations, was, on December 18th, entertained in an elegant manner by the lord-mayor at Draper's-hall.
The manufacture of fine glass was about this time introduced into England by the duke of Buckingham; he having sent for the best glass makers, glass grinders, and polishers, from Venice; which public spirited design succeeded so well, that we are now enabled to supply all the world with glass superior in quality to that of the place from whence we derived the art of making it (fn. 7).
Soon after the restoration, the ministers who then filled the livings and would not subscribe to the act of uniformity purposely conceived in rigid terms, were ejected; and were afterward prohibited coming within five miles of any corporation town (fn. 8).: so little were Charles and his ministers disposed to favour protestant principles. By an act now passed, every one who attended a conventicle, was to be fined five shillings for the first offence, and ten shillings for the second; the preacher 20l. for the first offence, 40l. for the second; and the person in whose house the conventicle was held, was subject to the same penalties with the preacher. One clause is deserving of notice, as it violated the most established maxim in all criminal prosecutions: this was, that in all doubtful cases with regard to the interpretation of the act, the judges should decide in the sense least favourable to conventicles (fn. 9). But what better could be expected under a prince who had conformed to the church of Rome during his exile (fn. 10), who married a catholic wife, who is known to lived and died a papist (fn. 11); and whose bigoted brother was afterward driven out of the nation for openly attempting to reduce us again under a yoke which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear.
This act was rigorously executed in London by a military force; and the dissenting meeting houses were converted into chapels or tabernacles by an order of council, and supplied with ministers of the established church, until the parish churches were rebuilt.
Prince Rupert, the king's cousin, and seventeen other persons of quality, and distinction, having engaged in 1669 a ship or two in a voyage to Hudson's bay; the success of it promising an opportunity of establishing a beneficial trade with the savages there, the adventurers obtained a charter constituting them a body corporate, under the name of "the Governor and Company of Adven"turers of England, trading into Hudson's bay (fn. 12)."
This company has lately been censured in severe terms by a writer who though perhaps not of consequence in other parts of his performance, appears to merit regard in the state he gives of their affairs. The copying a remark or two may perhaps be pardoned on this head. It is observed, that this company "without hazarding or even advancing more than a comparative trifle, have long reaped, and do still reap a profit, which a capital ten times as large, could not produce in any other channel of commerce: a reason which too many instances prove sufficient to overbalance national advantages, and to justify breach of faith; for by what other name can so manifest a violation of the professions of promoting that advantage, upon which all such charters are granted, be called; without as manifest a violation of truth?" (fn. 13)
One suspicious circumstance countenances what he farther observes on this lucrative monopoly. "The Hudson's bay company conduct all their affairs with such impenetrable secresy, that it is not possible to know at what rate they exchange their goods for those of the natives : an oath of secresy being imposed upon their servants; and the observation of all, upon whom they cannot impose such an oath, prevented, by the most brutal inhospitality, and exclusion from every kind of intercourse." (fn. 14)
The powers for enlarging the streets of London, were farther extended, and St. Paul's cathedral directed to be rebuilt, by an act of parliament passed in 1670 (fn. 15), which laid an additional tax of 2 s. a chaldron on coals to the 1 s. already imposed, for the term of 17 years and 5 months, to carry the act into execution. By another statute the sole power of regulating, keeping clean, pitching and paving the streets of London, and of making and clearing the drains and sewers; was vested in the mayor, commonalty, and citizens, to be executed by the appointment of the corporation, who might levy a tax on houses for the charges thereof. (fn. 16)
In virtue of these powers, the court of common council October 27, 1671, collected into an act, the several customs, rules, and orders, relating to paving and cleansing the streets, and preventing nusances in the passages within their jurisdiction; which was published by the commissioners of sewers, the 1st. of March following, for general information. This act is inserted in our appendix, No. L.
It became necessary also to ascertain the value of the livings in the city, for the maintenance of the parochial clergy. Before the fire, the tithes had been levied with great inequality, and subsequent alterations embarrassed them still more : an act of parliament was therefore procured, establishing certain stipends in lieu of tythes, and specifying what parishes were to be united; as will appear by the table in the note. (fn. 17)
Louis XIV. and Charles II. both actuated by hatred against the Dutch, as protestants and as republicans, entered into an unjust conspiracy to reduce the States and share the spoils; though it is remarked that neither of them at that time, had any real pretence for commencing hostilities against them. (fn. 18) Charles exhausted his supplies in preparations for war, and being averse to submitting his ill advised measures to parliamentary inspection, had promised the treasurer's staff to any one who could find an expedient for supplying his present necessities: (fn. 19) The ill designs of a prince are seldom baulked for want of assistance among his courtiers; Sir Thomas Clifford stole a hint from lord Shaftesbury of shutting up the exchequer, carried it to the king, and obtained those rewards which so frequently distinguish superior baseness from common honesty.
As merchants, widows, orphans and others, deposited their money in the hands of goldsmiths and bankers, sometimes as running cash, and sometimes at 4 per cent. interest; so it was usual for the bankers to carry their money to the exchequer and advance it to the king on security of the funds, at 8 per cent. beside the advantage of receiving it weekly as it came into the exchequer. (fn. 20) The king on January 2d. 1672, by a printed declaration informed the public, "that seeing all the princes and states his neighbours, were making great preparations for war, both by sea and land, his majesty for the safety of his government and people, looked upon himself as obliged to make such preparations as might be proportionable for the protection both of the one and the other." Then after declaring that his revenues were anticipated and engaged, he added, that he was necessitated (contrary to his own inclinations) upon these emergencies and the public safety, to cause a stop to be made of the payments of any monies now being or to be brought into, his exchequer, for the space of one whole year, unto any person or persons whatsoever, by virtue of any warrants, securities, or orders, whether registered or not registered therein, and payable within that time." He promised what he never performed, that "as to the principal money, he would punctually pay it hereafter, and till then, 6 per cent. for the same;" and directed his treasury to fit out his fleet with the money. (fn. 21)
By this fraud, Charles secured 1,328, 526l. (fn. 22) and the measure was so suddenly taken, that no one had any warning of the danger. A general confusion ensued in the city, and many families were ruined. The bankers stopped payment, merchants could answer no bills, a stagnation of commerce, and distrust, prevailed every where. It was now said, and even published, that a stop of this kind, could proceed from nothing less than a resolution of the court, to borrow no more hereafter, but to take. (fn. 23)
Even the lenitive acts of Charles's government became odious, when their motives were known. By a proclamation issued March 15th, all the penal laws enacted against nonconformists or recusants were suspended, and the private exercise of their religion permitted. (fn. 24) But this declaration of indulgence while it gratified the protestant dissenters, was found to have a more important object in view, the sheltering of catholics under it; who now enjoyed a greater license than the laws had hitherto allowed them. This dispensing power in the crown, however gave great offence to the commons, who were not averse to a legal toleration; therefore to cure it, a bill was prepared, for the ease of his majesty's dissenting subjects in matters of religion, in March following; but it came to nothing. Charles was nevertheless forced to revoke the declaration. The bill was, we are told, revived in 1680, but by a strange trick, it was stolen from the table when it was to have received the royal assent. (fn. 25)
To encourage the exportation of English products and manufactures, the parliament in 1672, passed an excellent law for taking off alien's duty from all native commodities, coals only excepted, and from the manufactures of England, exported by foreigners; putting them thereby on a level with English subjects under those circumstances. (fn. 26) By the same law, aliens, who exported English caught fish, in English shipping, conformable to the navigation act, were to pay duties only as Englishmen.
The several public markets in the city being in the autumn of 1674, fitted up and ready for use, the court of common council, September 17th, repealed a former act in 1672 for their regulation, and enacted under certain penalties, new rules and directions for their government; of which the following are the principal.
"That every country butcher, poulterer, farmer, victualler, lader, or kidder, not keeping shop in or within two miles of London, may fell openly in each market, beef, mutton, veal, lamb, bacon, pork, and other butchery or poultry wares, or other country provisions, from six o'clock in the morning until eight in the evenings, on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, weekly, and from six o'clock in the morning until ten at night on every Saturday, in their own right, and not as servants, or otherwise in behalf of any others.—That no butcher or poulterer residing in the city, or within two miles of the city of London, shall sell, utter, or expose to sale, any butchery or poultry wares, or other provisions whatsoever, in any of the said markets, upon any Friday in the year. That the market-bell in each respective market shall ring thrice every market-day; that is to say, at six o'clock in the morning, for all housekeepers and others, who are not retailers of victual, to buy in their provisions; at ten o'clock in the forenoon, for giving notice to retailers and traders of this city, who buy to sell again, then to buy and carry away such provisions as they want or stand in need of; and the third or last ringing, for raising the said markets, to be at eight o'clock in the evenings of the same day, except on Saturdays, and then the last ringing of the aforesaid bell, for raising the market, to be at ten o'clock of the same night.
"Provided always, that all country people resorting to the said markets, not being butchers nor poulterers residing or inhabiting as aforesaid, may stand or sit, and vend their herbs, fruit, butter, eggs, and other provisions and commodities, in any of the said markets, upon every working-day in the week, so as the same persons that bring them first to market do continue the felling thereof, and do observe the hours for ringing of the market-bell for keeping the said hours accordingly.
And further, that it shall and may be lawful for gardeners and other country people resorting to the said markets early in the morning with fruit, herbs, roots, weeds, plants, and other such-like commodities, and there continuing for some short time, and quitting the market about eight of the clock in the morning, to expose to open shew or sale, such their respective commodities at their first coming, and before the ringing of the market-bell.
"That the overseer, collector, or receiver of each respective market, and no other person or persons, shall provide one or more beam or beams with scales and weights, to be set up in some convenient place or places within each respective market, only for the due weighing between buyer and seller all such provisions as are usually bought or sold by weight; and that no overseer, collector, or receiver, shall or may demand or receive more than one farthing for every draught, or fourpence per week."
Prudent as these regulations are, it is doubted whether they are not in great measure forgotten.
The buildings were now so far restored, that we find an order of council once more for prosecuting every one who had erected houses on new foundations in the suburbs or vicinity of London (fn. 27). Probably, however, the bringing fines into a drained and bankrupt exchequer, was at this juncture an object of more importance, than the plea made use of to that end.
On the 29th of October, 1675, when Sir Robert Viner entered into his mayoralty, the king honoured the corporation with his company at Guildhall; and accepted the freedom of the city in the chamberlain's office, from the hands of Sir Thomas Player, then chamberlain. By a resolution of the court of common-council, to shew their sense of this instance of condescension, the lordmayor, aldermen and commonalty, waited on the king December 18th, at the banqueting-house Whitehall, and presented him with the copy of his freedom in a large square box of massy gold, with the seal inclosed in another box of the same metal, beautifully enriched with diamonds.
To enter into a general view of Charles's administration, would be foreign to the history of London; but an event that happened within a few days after the above transaction, clearly shewed that there was little sincerity in these exterior marks of cordiality. It appears that the king afforded the citizens abundant matter for animadversion, and that they indulged themselves in this way so much to his dissatisfaction, and that of his cabal ministry, that a proclamation was issued December 29th, for shutting up and suppressing all coffee-houses, "Because in such houses, and by occasion of the meeting of disaffected persons in them, divers false, malicious, and scandalous reports, were devised and spread abroad, to the defamation of his majesty's government, and to the disturbance of the quiet and peace of the realm." (fn. 28) Nothing is more easy to gain than popularity, and it is really worth obtaining; what the poet says of happiness, may be applied with more certainty in this sense, There needs but thinking right and meaning well." Evil governors only have cause to be jealous of observing eyes; as constant experience teaches, that no upright king is ever illtreated by his people: on the contrary he is considered as a common friend, and they are but too ready to overrate ordinary acts of prudence and generosity, perhaps because they so seldom occur; nor is it to be wondered at when they are equally severe with regard to measures obviously of a pernicious tendency. Thus much with regard to so ridiculous an edict. The opinions of the judges were taken on this great point of stopping peoples tongues; when they sagely resolved, "that retailing of coffee might be an innocent trade; but as it was used to nourish sedition, spread lies, and scandalize great men, it might also be a common nusance." In short, on a petition of the merchants and retailers of coffee and tea, permission was granted to keep open the coffee-houses until the 24th of June next, under an admonition that the masters of them should prevent all scandalous papers, books, and libels, from being read in them; and hinder every person from declaring, uttering or divulging, all manner of false and scandalous reports against government or the ministers thereof. (fn. 29) Thus by a refinement of policy, the simple manufacturer of a dish of coffee, was constituted licencer of books, corrector of manners, and arbiter of the truth or falsehood of political intelligence, over every company he entertained! and here the matter rested.
In the year 1676, great part of the borough of Southwark was destroyed by fire; it being as yet, like old London, chiefly built of timber, lath, and plaister: (fn. 30) commissioners were appointed by act of parliament (fn. 31) for the rebuilding it regularly and substantially with brick, as it now appears from the bridge-foot up to St. Margaret's hill and beyond it.
The citizens of London, who need never be at a loss for men of abilities, integrity, and character, to represent them in common-council, while they preserve the dignity of the body by a proper choice; appear to have been very careless in these particulars, when it became necessary for the lord-mayor and aldermen to order on December 12th, this year, that the precepts for holding wardmotes should require that no person who had been convicted of defrauding in weights, measures, or such like crimes, nor any person who had compounded through inability to pay his debts, should be chosen a common-council man; to prevent disreputation and scandal to the authority of the city. There are times indeed when the citizens ought to be particularly circumspect in point of character: and these chiefly happen when party contests afford opportunity for boisterous men to recommend themselves to the notice of their fellow-citizens, and by noisy professions to drown all sober considerations.
The year 1677, (October 23) was rendered memorable by the marriage of the lady Mary, eldest daughter of James duke of York, the king's brother, with William prince of Orange; a marriage which laid a foundation for the happy revolution that afterward took place: her portion was 40,000l. (fn. 32) This marriage received the joyful approbation of the whole kingdom; and the ensuing lord-mayor's day, the royal family with the prince and princess of Orange, accepted an invitation to dine in the city, and after having seen the procession in Cheapside, were magnificently entertained in Guildhall.
On some certain occasions a panic will seize a people in an unaccountable manner, and by the arts of designing men spread and improve from the most trivial beginnings, without being cured by the grossest absurdities or contradictions discovered in the object of their fears. Of this nature was the famous popish plot in 1678, for which the minds of the people had been prepared by the general belief that London had been burnt by papists; by their apprehensions founded on late measures of government; and by the immediate successor to the crown being an avowed catholic. This plot was to kill the king, to burn London again, with all the chief cities in England, a general rising of the catholics to massacre the protestants; and then to set the duke of York on the throne on condition of a general pardon, and his consent to the utter extirpation of the protestant religion: if these conditions were refused, the duke was to be killed also (fn. 33).
There is no wonder that such an horrible complication of villany, should alarm the people if it were credible; the wonder is that it should obtain credit. The policy alone of the catholics would not lead them to injure their own purposes by such extensive wanton devastation; and Titus Oates with the other informers of this plot, were not only the most infamous of men, but their depositions, were too contradictory and absurd to merit cool attention. Sir Edmundbury Godfrey, an active justice of peace, being found murdered at Primrose-Hill, that event and in short every cotemporary circumstance, were made to combine with this tremendous plot. His body was brought to town attended by great multitudes; and being publicly exposed in the streets, every one who saw it went away inflamed. His funeral was celebrated with great solemn parade; seventy two clergymen marched before, above 1000 persons of distinction followed behind; and two able bodied divines guarded the preacher, one on each side, in his pulpit, lest he should be murdered by papists, while he was paying the last duties to this unhappy magistrate. The city prepared for defence as if it was besieged; the posts and chains were put up; and an expression of Sir Thomas Player the chamberlain was remarked, that were it not for these precautions, all the citizens might rise next morning with their throats cut (fn. 34).
The parliament caught the contagion, they addressed the king to remove all popish recusants out of the cities of London and Westminster, and from within ten miles of them; and in another address besought his majesty to take care of his royal person; that he would command the lord-mayor and lieutenancy of London, to appoint proper guards of the trained bands during the sitting of parliament; and that the lords lieutenant of the counties of Middlesex and Surry, should appoint sufficient guards in Middlesex, Westminster, and Southwark. The houses attended to no other business but this plot; Oates who if his evidence was true, merited detestation as a villain, was caressed and called the saviour of the nation: he was recommended by parliament to the king, was lodged in Whitehall, protected by guards, and rewarded with a pension of 1200l. a year; a bounty which soon increased the number of informers, and multiplied the evidences of the plot (fn. 35). Under the blind prejudice with which all orders of men were at that juncture infatuated, it was easy to convict men of any thing; several were executed for this plot, and for the murder of Godsrey, all of whom uniformly protested their innocence at their deaths (fn. 36).
This delusive plot, though for a while it diverted the attention of the nation from the real plot concerted by the king and his brother, in conjunction with Louis XIV, to deprive this kingdom of both civil and religious libertles; yet in the result served to increase their dread of the schemes of the court, and in particular of the duke of York: at the king's desire therefore he retired abroad until the minds of the people should be somewhat composed. (fn. 37)
The good effects of the late regulations established by common-council for the public markets, produced an act of the corporation June 20, 1678, to supply the defects of former laws for the prevention of frauds in the sale of woollen goods at Black well-hall, Leaden-hall, and Welch-hall. See Appendix, No. LI.
The popish plot was not yet exhausted; it is disagreeable to dwell on matters important only by their influence on the minds of the people, and which at this distance of time, must be taken as handed down to us, without the hope of making any new discoveries that might assist us in unravelling them. In the beginning of May 1679, the house of one Bird in Fetter-lane was destroyed by fire; and his servant Elizabeth Oxley being apprehended on suspicion of firing it wilfully, she confessed that she had been hired to do it, on a promise of 5l. by one Stubbs a papist. On this, Stubbs was secured, who also confessed that he had been prevailed on to persuade her to fire the house by father Gilford his confessor; who assured him that destroying the houses of heretics would be doing great service to the church. Both the maid and Stubbs declared, that the papists were to make an insurrection in London, in expectation of being supported by an army from France. The absurdities of some stories will confute them, when no other means of detection can be found: such conspiracies must have competent leaders; who were they? Did any disposition or movement of the troops of France, concur with this information? How came two or three low men only of infamous characters to be intrusted with schemes of such importance, and no better keys to the plot to be found? As such questions cannot now be resolved, so they were not listened to at the time. Five jesuits were tried and executed for the plot, on the evidence of Oates, Bedloe, and Dugdale, though the prisoners proved by sixteen students of St. Omers, that Oates was in that seminary when he swore he was in London (fn. 38). The parliament continued greatly alarmed, and another proclamation was issued for banishing all papists from the city of London and from within ten miles of it. The frequent repetition of these proclamations, will furnish an inference that they were very badly enforced.
However well inclined papists may be to persecute others, it cannot be doubted that they were greatly enraged when persecution in such an odious mode came home to themselves. This resentment laid the foundation of the Meal tub plot, so named from the place where some papers relating to it, were pretended to be found. Conscious, as they probably were, of the falsehood of the plot charged upon them, they thought it easy to hatch one on their part to retaliate on the presbyterians: the king's connivance in this scheme has been suspected, as Dangerfield the informer, was countenanced by some catholics of condition, and had even been admitted to the presence of him and his brother. (fn. 39). But it soon appeared that nothing but a popish plot would suit the present disposition of men's minds. Dangerfield being detected and imprisoned, applied to the lord-mayor, made an ample confession of the imposition, and discovered his employers.
The exposure of this contrivance, again irritated the populace against papists, and added much pomp and ceremony to the annual burning of the pope on the anniversary of queen Elizabeth's accession to the crown. A person on a horse, this year, personated the dead body of Sir Edmundbury Godfrey, attended by a bellman to remind the people of his murder; then followed bishops in mitres and lawn sleeves, priests in copes, with a large silver cross; carmelites, grey friars, and jesuits: next appeared six cardinals who preceded his holiness placed on a stately throne, attended by boys with pots of incense, and his prime minister the devil, whispering in his ear. This procession went from Bishopsgate to Fleet-street, where a fire was prepared for the pope's viaticum. As the bishop of Rome was secure from insult otherwise than in effigy, such burlesque amusements had their use in keeping up the popular hatred of a baneful system of ecclesiastical policy; especially at this juncture: but humanity is shocked when this prejudice sported with the lives of our fellow creatures under the sanction of law.
These commotions did not prevent the duke of York from being respectfully received by the corporation of London when he returned from his exile; he was congratulated on his safe return, and together with the king was elegantly entertained at supper by the lord-mayor. But nevertheless occasions of discontent still continued to inflame the people. The king's aversion to parliaments being strengthened by the commons passing a bill of exclusion against his brother as a papist, and entering so warmly into the popish plot; he discontinued their sitting by long prorogations. The parliament, according to its last prorogation was to have met January 26th, 1680, but being again prorogued, petitions began to be framed in London and Westminster praying that the parliament might sit according to its former prorogation. This produced an order of council, that the lord-mayor and court of aldermen take care, in their several stations of his majesty's honour and the peace and safety of the city; and not suffer the persons that should sign such petitions, or go about to procure hands to them, to go unpunished: but that they should proceed against them, or cause them to be brought to the council board, to be punished, according to a resolution of all the judges of England 2 do Jacobi. Two days after this his majesty issued a menacing proclamation against those who should agitate or procure subscriptions to petiti ons; and at the same instant he by another proclamation declared his resolution to prorogue the parliament to the 11th of November. Notwithstanding these discouragements, Sir Gilbert Gerrard, accompanied by several eminent citizens, on January 13th, presented a petition from thousands of his majesty's subjects in London and Westminster, and parts adjacent, that the parliament might sit to try the offenders for the popish plot, and to redress grievances: which was but ill received (fn. 40). Seventeen peers presented a petition to the same purpose, and many of the corporations imitated the example, though they were accepted with evident marks of displeasure.
As the king found it impossible to check the importunity of petitions, a resolution was taken to balance these applications by others of a contrary tendency. Wherever the church and court party prevailed, addresses were procured, containing expressions of the highest regard to his majesty, the most intire acquiescence in his wisdom, the most dutiful submission to his prerogative, and the deepest abhorrence of those who endeavoured to encroach on it, by prescribing to him any time for assembling the parliament. This gave rise to a distinction between two parties, petitioners and abhorrers, who opposed each other with great rancour (fn. 41) : the king however being willing to try the complexion of another parliament rather than call the old one together, dissolved it, and issued writs for a new election.
That the citizens might be assured of having suitable juries returned to oppose the popish faction, they also on midsummer day, when sheriffs were to be elected, supported Bethel and Cornish, two independents (fn. 42), in opposition to Box and Nicholson who were put up by the court party; and elected them by a majority of almost two to one. A poll was demanded on the part of the latter, and produced a tumult; which Sir James Edwards, the lord-mayor, with Raymond and Lewis the acting sheriffs, tools of the court, exaggerated in such terms to the king, that he issued a commission the same evening to try the rioters.
The popish plot however began to receive some check even from London juries; by the acquittal of the earl of Castlemaine, who was accused by Oates and Dangerfield of a design to assassinate the king: but the zeal against popery was kept alive by the earl of Shaftesbury, who attended by several persons of distinction, appeared in Westminster-hall, and presented to the grand jury of Middlesex, reasons for indicting the duke of York as a popish recusant (fn. 43). The jury were irregu larly dismissed before they came to any resolution on this important point; but Shaftesbury, who had professed all principles in turn, without being constant to any, had by this bold step cut off all possibility of future accommodation with the court: it is in such circumstances that even bad men may become useful, without being intitled to the merit of patriotism.
When the parliament met, October 21, the commons after voting that it was the undoubted right of the subject to petition the king for the calling and sitting of parliament, fell with the utmost violence upon the abhorrers, whose addresses conveyed contrary sentiments: they lodged complaints against several of their members on this account, they addressed the king against Sir George Jefferies (of infamous memory) then recorder of London, for his activity in the same cause, and frightened him into a resignation of his office. He was succeeded by Sir George Treby, a great leader of the popular party (fn. 44). The exclusion bill was again passed by a great majority, but was after long debates thrown out by the lords. The apprehensions of popery rendered the parliament in all these transactions, the dupes of the informers of the popish plot; they appeared before the commons, and met with a favourable reception; their narratives were printed with the sanction of the house, and the king was applied to on their behalf for pensions and pardons. The impeachment of the catholic lords then in the Tower came under consideration; and lord Stafford, whose age, infirmities, and narrow capacity, rendered him the easiest victim, was tried and condemned by the peers on the evidence of Oates, Dugdale, and Turberville. The depositions of these witnesses, and the defence made by this unhappy peer, make his conviction asconishing! when sentence was passed on him, "God's holy name be praised" was the only exclamation he uttered. The king as usual in those cases, remitted the hanging and quartering, and left Stafford to be beheaded; but the republican zeal of the two sheriffs of London, Bethel and Cornish, started a doubt as to the king's power of mitigating the sentence in any part. They proposed queries on this point to both houses; the peers deemed them superfluous, and the commons, apprehensive lest a question of this nature should make way for Stafford's escape, expressed themselves content with his execution by severing his head from his body only (fn. 45).
The commons proceeded to oppose the court with so much rigour, that the king came to a secret resolution of proroguing them; and the commons on the 10th of January 1681 got intelligence of this purpose, but a quarter of an hour before the black rod came to the door: they employed this short interval in hastily passing some popular resolutions, one of which was "that thanks be given to the city of London for their manifest loyalty, and for their care and vigilance in the preservation of the king and the protestant religion (fn. 46)." On the 13th the lord-mayor and common-council presented a petition to his majesty to permit the parliament to sit " as the only means to quiet the minds, and extinguish the fears, of his protestant people:" this petition was full of the popish plot, and among other reasons enumerated insisted on "the continual hazards to which your sacred life, and the protestant religion, and the peace of the kingdom, are exposed, while the hopes of a popish successor, give countenance and encouragement to the conspirators in their wicked designs." But that passage, of which the court afterward took such advantage, was where the petitioners expressed themselves "extremely surprised at the late prorogation, whereby the prosecution of the public justice of the kingdom, and the making the provisions necessary for the preservation of your majesty, and your protestant subjects, have received an interruption." The ensuing proceedings against the city of London, shewed how highly Charles resented this application, which only contributed to a dissolution of the parliament.
The general discontent and dread of popery, now threatened a renewal of civil war, and the king's apprehensions of the power of the city caused him to summon the new parliament to assemble at Oxford March 21st. The citizens of London nowise intimidated, rechose on February 4th their former representatives (fn. 47), who were no sooner elected than they received a paper of instructions in the name of the citizens then in common-hall assembled, containing a "return of their most hearty thanks for their faithful and unwearied endeavours, in the two last parliaments, to search into and discover the depth of the popish plot, to preserve his majesty's royal person, the protestant religion, and the well-established government of this realm, to secure the meeting and sitting of frequent parliaments, to assert our undoubted rights of petitioning, and to punish such as have betrayed those rights, to promote the long wished for union of his majesty's protestant subjects, to repeal the thirty-fifth of Elizabeth, and the corporation act, and more especially for their assiduous endeavours in promoting the bill of exclusion of James duke of York." They concluded, "that being confidently assured, that they the said members for the city will never consent to the granting any money supply, till they have effectually secured them against popery and arbitrary power, they resolved, by God's assistance, to stand by their said members with their lives and fortunes." Most of the old members being re-elected in the several parts of the kingdom, these instructions were copied by many of the electors, and delivered to their several representatives for their observance.
The exclusionists had sufficient room to think by the dissolution of the last parliament and by the removal of this, that the king was determined to crush their favourite bill. The duke of Monmouth the king's natural son, whose popularity grew by the decay of that of the duke of York, with fifteen other peers, presented a petition against assembling the parliament at Oxford, where they said the two houses would be exposed to the swords of the papists; too many of whom had crept into his majesty's guards. At the meeting of parliament, the court party endeavoured to make a shew of their strength; the king had his guards regularly mustered; the popular leaders also, beside their ordinary servants, were attended with numerous bands of partisans: the four members for London in particular were followed by great multitudes wearing ribbands, on which were woven no popery, no slavery; and in short, the assembly had more the appearance of a tumultuous Polish diet, than of a regular English parliament (fn. 48). So violently did this parliament prosecute the bill of exclusion, and the popish plot, that they were abruptly dissolved, on the 28th, and both parties hurried away from Oxford, filled with apprehensions of the future designs of each other. This parliament which sat but seven days, was the last parliament that met in this reign (fn. 49).
The common-council having as before related, established rules for the ordering of public markets, proceeded on May 10th to encourage all buyers and sellers of goods by weight to make use of the king's beam. After reciting the antient duties payable for weighing at the said beam, which were paid three parts by the seller, and the other fourth part by the buyer; they declared that a freeman buying goods sold by weight of a foreigner or non freeman, should be acquitted of the said fourth part of the duties for weighing: with certain abatements of the duties on the part of non freemen selling to freemen. It was also enacted that the weigh house built since the fire in Little East Cheap, should for the future be used as the office of tronage and weighing of merchandize; and that it should be the common market for the buying and selling hops of English growth.
By the same act it was declared that no merchant, being his majesty's free born subject, or being naturalized according to law, and who should be desirous of becoming a freeman of the city; should be obliged to take upon him the office of aldermen or sheriff, within the space of seven years next after the time of his becoming a freeman. By this exemption they were encouraged to become freemen by a reasonable allowance of the term of an apprenticeship, before they were liable to offices which might be deemed burdensome.
The dissolution of the parliament, left the king and his ministers without controul, and the whole gang of informers, who had been supported by the leading patriots, turned short upon their old patrons, and offered their services to the ministry: to the disgrace of the court they were received with a hearty welcome, and their perjured testimony made use of to commit legal murder on the opposite party. It was asked with triumph and derision "Are not these men good witnesses, upon whose testimony, Stafford and so many catholics have been executed, and whom you yourselves have so long celebrated as men of credit and veracity (fn. 50) ?" There was one College a joiner of London, an active whig, who for his zeal against popery was called the protestant joiner (fn. 51); College had attended the parliament at Oxford, and was armed with sword and pistol, which served as a foundation for accusing him of a conspiracy against the king's person. This man was the first on whom the ministers fell; but the sheriffs Bethel and Cornish being of the whig party, it was natural to think that the grand jury returned by them would reject the bill against him; which they did to the universal joy and triumph of the city. But as the court were determined to gain their point, College was sent to Oxford, as the place where the offence he was charged with was transacted: measures were there taken to secure his condemnation, on the evidence of the same witnesses, who deposed against lord Stafford; and he died with manly fortitude, and protestations of his innocence (fn. 52).
On Midsummer day, the citizens obtained another victory over the court party, by electing Pilkington and Shute, men of the whig party for sheriffs; though on the ensuing Michaelmas day, they had the mortification to have Sir John Moor an addresser chosen lord-mayor. Charles with an unbecoming littleness, hinted his resentment at the choice of sheriffs when on October 13th they were sent with Treby the recorder, to desire the honour of his company at Guildhall on the approaching lord-mayor's day: his answer was, "Mr. Recorder, an invitation from my lord-mayor and the city, is very acceptable to me; and to shew that it is so, notwithstanding that it is brought by messengers so unwelcome to me, as those two sheriffs are; yet I accept it." In such critical junctures, trifling circumstances are worth noting, and it was observed on this occasion, that the king had not thought it beneath him to court the favour of the city apprentices; who seem at that time to have enjoyed the distinction of having an annual feast: for on the fourth of August he had sent them a brace of bucks for dinner at Sadlers-hall, where several of his courtiers dined with them, and his natural son the duke of Grafton, officiated as one of the stewards.
At a common-council held October 15th: it was enacted, that the government of all carts, cars, and caroons, with the carmen and all who used or worked carts for hire, should be in the president and governors of Christ's hospital; that their number should be limited to 420; and that each of them should have the arms of the city on its shaft, with a piece of brass having the number upon it. A penalty also was imposed upon all who worked with unlicenced carts; and some regulations made for the due measuring of coals sold by retail.
The king and his brother were both papists, yet as the duke of York only, avowed that religion, the popular hatred chiefly pointed at him, though he was so far the honester man of the two. Some person secretly cut and mangled his picture which hung up in Guildhall; to remove therefore the imputation of this act being countenanced by the city, the lord-mayor and court of aldermen on January 27 1682, offered a reward of 500l. for the discovery of the offender: and to remove any resentment the duke might himself entertain on the score of this indignity, when he arrived from Scotland, April 10th, the lord-mayor, aldermen, and recorder, congratulated him on his arrival, and conducted him to St. James's. Soon after, as captain general of the Artillery company, he accepted an invitation to their annual feast at Merchant-Taylors-hall, where he with numbers of the nobility and persons of distinction, were splendidly entertained.
To destroy however any satisfaction the duke of York might derive from these marks of public distinction, and the effects of them on the people, the popular or whig party, resolved to have a public dinner on their side; to which the guests were invited by the following ticket.
"It having pleased Almighty God, by his wonderful providence, to deliver and protect his majesty's person, the Protestant religion, and English liberties hitherto, from the hellish and frequent attempts of their enemies the papists; in testimony of thankfulness herein, and for preserving and improving mutual love and charity among such as are sensible thereof, you are desired to meet many of the loyal Protestant nobility, gentry, clergy, and citizens, on Friday the twenty-first of this instant April, 1682, at ten of the clock, at St. Michael's church in Cornhill, there to hear a sermon, and from thence to go to Haberdashers-hall to dinner; and to bring this ticket with you."
That this scheme did not fail in vexing the court, appeared by an order of council made on the 19th, which premised that the appointment of public fasts and thanksgivings belonged only to his majesty by his prerogative; and that his majesty looked on the invitation by the above printed tickets, as an insolent attempt in derogation of his right, and of dangerous consequence, as tending to sedition. The lord-mayor and aldermen were therefore commanded, as they should answer the contrary at their peril, to take effectual care to prevent the said meeting as an unlawful assembly.
The time for electing sheriffs now approached, and each side prepared to exert themselves in the contest; when at the Bridge-house feast on May 18th the lord-mayor Sir John Moor, on the court side, drank to Dudley North Esq. as sheriff; a ceremony by which the person so drank to, was understood to be put in nomination for that office (fn. 53). North, some time before the day of election, on the strength of the lord-mayor's nomination, came to the court of aldermen and entered into a bond to serve the office: and Moor issued his precept to the several companies in the following unusual form.
"By the Mayor.
"These are to require you, that at Midsummer-day next, being the day appointed, as well for confirmation of the person who hath been by me chosen, according to the ancient custom and constitution of the city, to be one of the sheriffs of this city and county of Middlesex, for the year ensuing, as for the election of the other of the said sheriffs, and other officers, you cause the livery of your company to meet together at your common-hall, early in the morning, and from thence to come together, decently and orderly in their gowns, to "Guild-hall, there to make the said confirmation and election.
"Given the 19th of June, 1682.
As this attempt to extend the simple power of recommendation, in the mayor to an absolute appointment, and to reduce the confirmation of the common-hall to meer matter of form, was much discussed; so the shortness of time occasioned some disagreement in the summons issued by the several companies: some of them conformed to the expressions of the precept, others adhered to the antient form, while others again only summoned their liverymen to elect city officers, generally. On Friday June 23d the court of aldermen took the affair into consideration; and the opinion of the recorder being desired, he declared the right of election of both the sheriffs to be in the commonalty, and that the sheriffs pro tempore were judges of the poll, if there was one; in which sentiments the court concurred. Upon this, some of those companies who had issued summons for confirmation and election, delivered out others for election only.
The hall on midsummer-day was very full, and when the common crier opened the business of the meeting by proclaiming, You gentlemen of the livery, attend your confirmation, the hall resounded with No confirmation, no confirmation! and this opposition continued for near half an hour. The recorder then stepping forward, addressed himself to the livery in a speech wherein he displayed the excellency of government in general, and the happiness of that of the city of London in particular; more immediately as to the great privilege of chusing their own sheriffs, for which he cited authorities from the charter of king John, downward. The lord-mayor and aldermen then retired and left the livery to proceed on the election; when the contest about confirmation being relinquished, the following gentlemen were put in nomination, Dudley North, Thomas Papillion, John Dubois, and Ralph Box, Esqrs. The shew of hands declared in favour of Papillion and Dubois, but a poll being demanded, was granted for all the four candidates.
Now the confusion began; for books and clerks being prepared about 3 o'clock for taking the poll, it was desired by some that a distinct column might be appropriated for those who were for confirming the choice of the mayor, but this was refused as irregular. Some factious men to create disturbance still demanded their poll to be taken for confirmation, and then made complaint to the court of aldermen, offering to make oath that they were denied the liberty of polling. During this time the recorder, some of the aldermen and citizens were insolently treated by a number of swordsmen and hectoring persons, who went about the hall giving insufferable provocations, on purpose as it was thought to create a riot; though they were disappointed by the moderation of the citizens. The suffrages appearing in favour of Papillion and Dubois, the lord-mayor came again to the hall, followed by a clamorous multitude, and sent for the sheriffs into the council chamber; but they excused themselves on account of their attendance on the poll, promising to come when the business of the day was over: he then came to the place of polling, and made some attempts to stop the proceeding, but at length desisted on the representations of the sheriffs. About 7 o'clock, the poll still continuing, his lordship with some few of the aldermen came upon the hustings; when the common crier, by his directions, spoke to the promiscuous company in the hall to this effect, "All you who were summoned to appear here this day, are required to depart, and to give your attendance on Tuesday, at 9 o'clock in the morning." But omitting to mention the occasion, some of the people asked for what? while others called out a poll, a poll! The sheriffs however continued the poll, hoping to finish it that night; but about nine they adjourned the poll and the declaration themselves until Tuesday.
These affairs not going on to the lord-mayor's liking, he to obstruct them exhibited a complaint of ill usage, in being jostled almost off his legs; and procured an order of the privy council, for the lord-mayor, aldermen and sheriffs, to attend them on the Monday; when being severally examined concerning the riot, the two sheriffs Pilkington and Shute, with alderman Cornish, were committed prisoners to the Tower; and the attorney general ordered to proceed against them in the court of King's-bench, where they were afterward arbitrarily fined.
On the Friday ensuing, the prisoners were by a writ of Habeas corpus, admitted to bail, which enabled the sheriffs to meet a common-hall on the first of July: the lord-mayor, then indisposed, more probably in mind than in body, sent an order to the recorder to adjourn the hall to the 7th, but the sheriffs objecting to the validity of the adjournment, finished the poll, and declared Papillion and Dubois duly elected.
The validity of the late adjournments was argued before the lord-mayor and his party by council at Guildhall on the 7th of July; but no determination being agreed on, they adjourned to the 14th, when the lord-mayor produced an order of council for a common-hall to be held on the morrow, and all proceedings to be commenced again. This order being read to the common-hall was vigorously opposed as an innovation in the antient rights and privileges of the citizens; the lord-mayor nevertheless declared North to be duly elected by him, and opened a poll for another sheriff. As none but the court party accepted this poll, no opposition appeared; and North with Box were returned as duly elected, while Papillion and Dubois were left to seek their remedy by law.
At a court of aldermen which met on the 27th, guarded by a company of trained-bands, a petition for the swearing in the sheriffs Papillion and Dubois, was rejected; but now the lord-mayor met with an interruption on his own side: for Box disgusted with the difficulties that lay in his way by this opposition, prudently chose to pay the customary fine, rather than serve the office. The free citizens had already made their choice, the lord-mayor therefore had the court game intirely in his own hands to play as he chose; he called a common-hall where Mr. Peter Birch was appointed in the room of Box, and together with North sworn into the office.
The mayor and new sheriffs to shew the court how worthy they were of the patronage they had received; were very active against the presbyterians, and executed the laws with great rigor: Sir William Pritchard who succeeded Moor, even prevented the populace from burning of the pope, on November 17th, in compliment to the king and duke. (fn. 54)
The king and his ministry by violently imposing two sheriffs on the city, suitable to the arbitrary schemes they had in view, were now sure of pliant juries to give a faint appearance of legality to their future proceedings; and they soon began to avail themselves of this auxiliary strength. The duke of York commenced a prosecution against the late sheriff, alderman Pilkington, for having said when the duke was about leaving Scotland, "He has already burned the city, and now he is coming to cut all our throats." The words were sworn to by two of his brother aldermen, Sir William Hooker, and Sir Henry Tulse; though Sir Patience Ward then lord-mayor who was present at the time, deposed that he heard no such expressions. For these rash words, if they really were spoken, the duke obtained a verdict for the enormous sum of 100,000l. damages! contrary to the law of England ratified by the great charter, which declares that no fine ought to extend to the total ruin of a criminal. On this cruel sentence, Pilkington, surrendered himself in discharge of his bail, and sheriff North succeeded him as alderman. Words may be spoken in company, without being heard or attended to, by every one present; but be this as it may, to compleat the transaction and satiate the duke's vindictive rancour, Sir Patience Ward was indicted for perjury, and condemned to the pillory!
The oppression and cruelty exercised by kings and their ministers, whenever they find opportunity to act discretionally, might, one would think, open the eyes of even the most bigotted adorers of regal power; and make them join in a salutary wish, that all political governors were, like ferocious animals, kept closely chained down by laws, and hedged round with restrictions, to save their otherwise defenceless subjects from being devoured by them.
In or about the year 1683, that useful method of conveying letters and small parcels by a penny post, was first set up in London and its suburbs, by a private undertaker, one Murray an upholsterer: he afterward assigned it over to a person of the name of Dockwra, who conducted it successfully for a number of years, until government laid claim to the project as connected, and partly interfering, with the general post office, which was part of the crown revenue. It was therefore annexed to the general post office, and Dockwra was gratified with a pension of 200l. for life; but the penny post is not mentioned in the statute book until the year 1711. (fn. 55)
On June 6th the committee appointed on the restoration to inspect the acts and proceedings of the court of common council, entered on their journals during the usurpation, in order to their repeal; (fn. 56) made their report to that court, and they were accordingly repealed as irregular. The court then passed the act for regulating the election of sheriffs; wherein it was enacted, "That every person chosen sheriff of London and the county of Middlesex, and refusing to serve the said office, shall pay 400l. to the mayor and commonalty of the said city, unless he can purge himself upon oath on account of his want or defect of ability in wealth: if an alderman, he shall pay 600l."
But though the crown had gained the victory over the city at the late choice of sheriffs; yet as the contest might be renewed every year at the election of magistrates, a more decisive blow was meditated, which would not only render the king master of the city of London, but also of all the corporations in Eng land. The common-council in their late petition, had charged the king with obstructing public justice by proroguing the last parliament at Westminster: (fn. 57) and on the principle that a libel is rendered more criminal for being true, Charles might well take offence at this accusation. On rebuilding the markets after the great fire, certain tolls had been established by the corporation on goods brought to market, toward the expence; which to suit the present intention of the court, were said to be illegal. The king did not want lawyers to assist him in his despotical purposes; having filled the benches with such as had been blemishes to the bar: for Sir Robert Sawyer the attorney general, by the advice of lord chief justice Sanders, undertook to overthrow the charter of the city of London on the above frivolous pretences. It was notably argued on this occasion, that all the crown gave, was forfeitable back to the crown again upon a malversation of the body; and that, as the common-council was the body of the city, chosen by all the citizens, so they were all involved in what the common-council did. It was inferred, therefore, that since they had both scandalized the king's government, and oppressed their fellow-subjects, they had of consequence forfeited their liberties.
A writ of Quo warranto, that is an inquiry into the validity of its charter, was issued against the city, which was argued at Hillary and Easter terms; and in Trinity term, June 12th the charter of the city was declared forfeited: but after sentence, the attorney general moved, contrary to custom, that judgment might not be recorded. A common-council was called to deliberate on this exigency; when a total submission to his majesty, and a petition abject in the terms of it, imploring his princely compassion, were agreed on by a great majority, and carried to Windsor on the 18th by the lord-mayor, at the head of a deputation from the council. North, the lord-keeper, by the king's order, after reproaching them for not having been more early in their application, told them that his majesty would not reject their suit on the following conditions.
"1. That no lord-mayor, sheriff, recorder, common-serjeant, town-clerk, or coroner of the city of London, or steward of the borough of Southwark, shall be capable of, or admitted to, the exercise of their respective offices, before his majesty shall have approved them under his sign manual.
"2. That, if his majesty shall disapprove the choice of any person to be lordmayor, and signify the same under his sign manual to the lord-mayor, or, in default of a lord-mayor, to the recorder, or senior alderman; the citizens shall within one week proceed to a new choice: and, if his majesty shall in like manner disapprove the second choice, his majesty may, if he please, nominate a person to be lord-mayor for the ensuing year.
"3. If his majesty shall, in like manner, disapprove the persons chosen to be sheriffs, or either of them, his majesty may appoint persons to be sheriffs for the ensuing year by his commission, if he so please.
"4. That the lord-mayor and court of aldermen may also, with the leave of his majesty, displace any alderman, recorder. &c. ut supra.
"5. Upon the election of an alderman, if the court of aldermen shall judge and declare the person presented to be unfit, the ward shall chuse again; and, upon a disapproval of a second choice, the court may appoint another in his room.
"6. The justices of the peace are to be by the king's commission; and the settling of these matters to be left to his majesty's attorney and solicitor general, and council learned in law."
He told them withal that the attorney general had received orders to enter upon judgment on the next Saturday, unless the common-council prevented it by an assent to all these particulars.
On the return of the lord-mayor and his attendants, a common-council met to determine on the acceptance of these stipulations; and violent debates ensued on the question: the friends of liberty declared they would sacrifice that all was dear to them rather than yield to such vile slavish conditions; nevertheless the acceptance of them was at length carried by a majority of eighteen. Odious as these conditions were which divested the citizens of the appointment of their magistrates, their most valuable privilege, the security of all the rest; they remained under them until the revolution. Some few corporations, terrified by the proceedings against London, the tendency of which was too notorious to be mistaken, had surrendered their charters before this judgment; but after that event, they almost all did so (fn. 58), to the great triumph of the court. Considerable sums were exacted for restoring them; but the crown retained the disposal of all offices of trust (fn. 59), and had now established a precedent which overturned the security of all national liberties.
To weaken the apprehensions of popery, and to acquire some degree of popularity, the king in 1684 happily thought proper to marry his neice the lady Anne, to prince George, brother to the king of Denmark; her portion being 40,000l (fn. 60). As from the known principles and practices of the two brothers, the securing a protestant succession could be no object in the marriages of the two ladies Mary and Anne, who came afterward to the crown; so these transactions only testified how regardless the king and the duke were of future consequences, if in the interim they could but compass their present views.
To shew what ascendency the court had gained over the city, it may be added, that the two rightful sheriffs Papillion and Dubois, after being set aside, that they might not be wanting in their duty, commenced a prosecution against the lordmayor, sheriff North, and those of the aldermen that assisted in depriving them of their offices. A writ of latitat being sued out of the court of king's bench it was served upon the parties by Brown an attorney, and clerk of the skinners company, who conducted his prisoners to Skinners-hall: upon this it was contrived to get Brown arrested for debt, when he being carried to the compter, and no person remaining in charge of his prisoners, they all returned home. The court of common-council were mean enough in fear of the king's anger, to publish an order May 22, disclaiming all consent to, or knowledge of, this action of the superseded sheriffs, and to declare their disapprobation of it.
Charles improved on this abject spirit of submission thus shewn by the corporate body; and in truth, all who tamely yield to the iron hand of power, deserve to feel the utmost weight of it. To humble them still more, it was alleged that the city had not tendered the king a formal submission; on which plea the judgment upon the Quo warranto was ordered to be entered: this was no sooner performed, than by a commission under the great seal, the office of mayor was granted to Sir William Pritchard the present lord-mayor, and the office of sheriff to Peter Daniel, and Samuel Dashwood; during pleasure. Sir George Treby the recorder was removed in favour of Thomas Jerner who was knighted on the occasion; eight of the aldermen in the country or whig interest were degraded, and the remaining sixteen made justices of the peace. Soon after eight new aldermen were appointed, and on the 20th of October, the king in virtue of his assumed power, constituted Sir Henry Tulse, one of the informers against alderman Pilkington, lord-mayor during his pleasure (fn. 61).
Such were the odious measures of the Stuarts! if the Tudors had been tyrannical when alive, the circumstances of the times differed; and they all left the nation some good legacies behind them, which incline posterity to allow particular degrees of merit, or to acknowledge some obligation, to them: but the Stuarts were all too worthless, to leave the nation any remembrance but of their baseness (fn. 62). It was high time for the people to grow sick of a family, of which, a worse king than even the present, remained still to plague them.
The spirit of the nation was not yet so far subdued, but these hasty advances toward despotism occasioned cabals among the popular leaders; but not to swell the work unnecessarily with disagreeable particulars, we shall proceed to the conclusion of this reign, without entering into the cruel use made of the Rye house plot, to cut off men whose merit had pointed them out for destruction. It was at this season that the company of Merchant Adventurers paid their court to the king by erecting his statue in the centre of the Royal Exchange, with a pompous flattering inscription on the pedestal (fn. 63); which may hint to us what kind of credit is due to public monuments erected in honour of princes.