A New History of London Including Westminster and Southwark. Originally published by R Baldwin, London, 1773.
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From the trial of the Brentford rioters, to the death of the right honourable William Beckford, in his second mayoralty.
Two Irish chairmen Laurence Balfe, and Edward Mac Quirk, were apprehended, in consequence of the verdict of the coroner's inquest on the body of George Clarke the person killed at the riot in the late Middlesex election; who were tried at the sessions held at the Old-Bailey in January. It appeared by evidence that these men were hired on the part of the unsuccessful candidate by Broughton, once a stage fighter, but then a yeoman of the guard, to assist in keeping the peace during the poll; and that after the poll had proceeded with great regularity for some time, these men with others under the same engagement, began to execute their commission by outrageously knocking down indiscriminately all who came in their way with bludgeons until they drove every one from the hustings. It appeared farther that in this riot George Clarke received the blow which was the declared cause of his death: the trial was conducted with great solemnity and candour, but their guilt was so fully proved, that the jury pronounced them both guilty and they were sentenced to be hanged.
More work was now prepared for the ministry, and mean as the drudgery may appear, they did not disdain to go through with it. Broughton, the agent who was employed to hire these ruffians, was sent out of the way, and great industry used to set aside the sentence passed on them; lest the popular party should undertake to extend the claims of justice farther. Their execution was respited from time to time, on the plea of some conscientious doubts having been entertained as to the cause of Clarke's death; and a letter was sent from lord Rochford, one of the secretaries of state, to the master, wardens, and examiners of the company of Surgeons, desiring their opinion in relation to these doubts. These gentlemen who were ten in number met at their hall on February 27th, and after examining the surgeon and apothecary who attended the deceased, with other persons, returned an answer to the secretary of state the same evening, containing their unanimous opinion, "that the blow was not "the cause of Mr. Clarke's death." The principles of art are not so inflexible but that they may occasionally in proper hands be adapted to particular emergencies: it did not however escape notice at the time, that the committee thus engaged to invalidate the verdict of a court of justice in a capital case, was chosen out of a profession expressly excluded from being jurymen on trials for murder. Nevertheless on the foundation of this extra-judicial proceeding, a free pardon for Edwark Mac Quirk was published in the London Gazette of the 11th of March; and a private pardon was sent to Laurence Balfe at the same time.
During the important contest between the ministry of Great Britain and Mr. Wilkes, a paper under the name of the North Briton, to give it importance, had been continued by other hands; and which endeavoured to merit notice by supporting the same stile of writing that distinguished the original. The success was so far similar that about the middle of the last year an attachment was moved for by the attorney general, in the court of King's-bench, against Mr. Bingley a publisher for publishing No. 50, and afterward for No 51, of that paper; which issued accordingly. The proceeding against a man by attachment was another mode of arbitrary prosecution, which afforded an additional subject of complaint against the ministry; and Bingley, who now thought himself in a situation to become popular, naturally endeavoured to make the most of it. Being required to answer the interrogatories of the court, he refused; saying very justly, that he did not know the law of the land would oblige him on a criminal charge to accuse himself; and that he would sooner suffer imprisonment for life, than take an oath to answer interrogatories: on this refusal he was committed to prison, until he complied. When in the King's-bench prison he made a voluntary affidavit February 16th, that "he would not at any time, without torture, answer to any interrogatory tending to accuse himself, or any other person, of being author, printer, or publisher, of the North Briton No. 50, the North Briton No. 51, or either of them." By this resolute act Bingley subjected himself to imprisonment so long as the judges could assert this inquisitorial process; but interested the compaffion of the public in his behalf in the interim: thus another martyr, was added to the patriotic calendar; who though not so formidable to the ministry, as to rival Mr. Wilkes in the opinion of the opposition, was certainly as an individual suffering under undue power, equally, at least, intitled to support, on true public spirited motives.
The freeholders of Middlesex had drawn up instructions to their members on the several subjects of popular discontent, which were transmitted to Mr. Wilkes and serjeant Glynn the knights of the shire: and at a meeting of the Westminster electors January 25th, in the great room over Exeter Exchange in the Strand, a set of instructions nearly the same with those for the county of Middlesex, were agreed to be given to the right honourable earl Percy, and the honourable Edwin Sandys their representatives in parliament: for a copy of these instructions see the note below (fn. 1).
Mr. Wilkes had transmitted a petition to the house of commons in his own behalf, which contained a recapitulation of all the proceedings against him, from the time of his first apprehension by the general warrant, to his commitment to the King's-bench prison. But he had also by a fresh attack on the ministry totally destroyed all reasonable expectation of this petition operating in his favour. On his being first committed to the King's-bench prison, after his election at Brentford, a letter had been sent by lord Weymouth secretary of state, to Daniel Ponton, Esq; chairman of the Quarter sessions at Lambeth, recommending to the magistrates not to delay a moment, if there was occasion, to call in the aid of the military, and to make use of them effectually, if the civil power was trifled with or insulted: as a military force could never be employed to a more constitutional purpose, than in the support of the authority and dignity of the magistracy. After the unhappy use which had been made of these soldiers on the 10th of May, Mr. Wilkes having by some means procured a copy of this letter, he published it at full length, with a short prefatory introduction of his own writing; in which the affair of St. George's-fields was termed an horrid massacre, and the consequence of a hellish project deliberately planned and determined upon. When the house therefore had voted the complaint in Mr. Wilkes's petition srivolous; and the aspersions cast upon lord chief justice Mansfield for amending the informations exhibited against him, utterly groundless; they took this recent publication under consideration, and voted his introduction to that letter an insolent, scandalous, and seditious libel; tending to inflame and stir up the minds of his majesty's subjects to sedition, and to a total subversion of all good order and legal government. These resolutions were on the 3d of February, after long and obstinate debates, followed by a vote of expulsion; grounded on his former offences complicated with the present charge: a new writ was then issued to elect another member in his room.
Mr. Wilkes now seemed involved in difficulties that nothing could surmount; but as his resolution withstood the persecution of the court, so that persecution raised him up new friends in every quarter. At a public meeting of the freeholders of Middlesex, they unanimously resolved to confirm their former choice, and to support it intirely at their own expence. On the 16th of February therefore he was rechosen at Brentford without opposition: but when the return was on the next day made to the house, it was resolved, that Mr. Wilkes having been expelled this session, was, and is, incapable of being elected a member of the present parliament. The last election was then declared void, and a new writ issued for another.
He was still however an alderman of London; but as he was deprived of his privilege of parliament by repeated expulsion, which indicated a determined purpose in this house of commons not to admit him; his heavy incumbrances of debt left no hopes of his recovering his liberty, when the term of his present imprisonment should expire. At a meeting therefore of his friends at the London tavern in Bishopsgate-street, February 20th, a subscription was opened to support the cause of Mr. Wilkes, and 3340l. immediately subscribed: fifteen of the gentlemen present, subscribed 100 guineas each.—The preamble to the subscription paper was in the following terms: "Whereas John Wilkes, Esq; has suffered very greatly in his private fortune, from the severe and repeated prosecutions he has undergone in behalf of the public, and as it seems reasonable to us, that the man who suffers for the public good should be supported by the public; We, &c. &c. "The gentlemen who agitated this subscription associated themselves on the 25th, under the appellation of Supporters of the Bill of Rights; which rights they concluded had been infringed by the late measures of the ministry in relation to Mr. Wilkes, and other collateral transactions. They solicited subscriptions by public advertisements appointing certain bankers to receive them; and declared the intentions of the society in these terms. "Their sole aim is to maintain and defend the legal con stitutional liberty of the subject. They mean to support Mr. Wilkes and his cause, as far as it is a public cause. For this purpose only they solicit the countenance and encouragement of the public, whose emolument and advantage alone are intended."
The situation of affairs was esteemed so critical, that the Middlesex freeholholders, the electors of Westminster, those of Southwark, and the livery of London all held frequent meetings as well for concerting general measures to vindicate the rights of election, as for instructing their particular members to support them in their parliamentary capacity. The livery of London met in a common-hall on the 10th for the purpose of instructing the city members. Mr. Charles Clavey common-council man of Farringdon ward without was voted chairman, who read a set of instructions twice over, and then offered each article separately to the assent or dissent of the whole assembly. Mr. alderman Beckford's attendance on the hustings was requested; when he declared with honest frankness the instruction of members to be a constitutional right; that if any instructions should be given to him which were inconsistent with his own sentiments, he should always take the liberty with decency and humility to say that in his opinion they are improper; but that far would it be from him to oppose his own judgement against that of six thousand of his fellow citizens. He then properly advised, that the livery in their instructions, should attend to measures and not to men, which he declared he himself had always done; and that he never would accept of place, pension, title, or any emolument, whatsoever. After hearing the instructions, he said he intirely acquiesced in them, and that for his part he was ready to execute them to the utmost of his ability. The instructions were unanimously agreed to, in the form contained in the note below (fn. 2).
A numerous meeting of the electors of Southwark was held at the townhall for the same purpose of instructing their members, who both of them attended and acknowledged the propriety of being instructed by their constituents: Edward Stevens, Esq; was chosen chairman, and the previous question proposed whether instructions should be given to their representatives? Which being almost unanimously agreed to, a set of instructions was twice read, and voted to be the sense of the assembly. See the note (fn. 3).
A feeble attempt was made by some citizens in the court interest to balance these popular proceedings by procuring an address to his majesty containing the hackneyed professions of loyalty and duty; complaints of licentiousness, profaneness, and irreligion; with the usual abhorrence of every attempt to spread sedition, and alienate the affections of a free and loyal people from the best of kings, &c. The merchants and citizens were invited on March the 8th, to the King's-arms-tavern in Cornhill to sign this address which was produced ready prepared for subscription: a warm debate ensued on the propriety of the measure, when not being able to convince each other by words, they at length had recourse to blows. Mr. Charles Dingley, who was a zealous promoter of the address, struck Mr. Reynolds, attorney to Mr. Wilkes, and as warm an opposer of it; but Reynolds maintained a superiority in this argument, by knocking Dingley down: the fray beginning to spread, the loyalists retreated, taking their address with them, and left the patriots in possession of the place of combat; who adjourned the meeting to the ensuing Friday. The address was then lodged in the Merchant-Seaman's office over the Royal Exchange, where the merchants were again invited to sign it; and here it lay for subscription until the 22d, when it was proposed to present it. On Friday the adjourned meeting of the merchants was held at the same tavern, where they came to some resolutions respecting the transactions of the former meeting, which the reader will find in the note (fn. 4).
This address was equally unfortunate at the hour of its delivery. A long train of carriages attended it from the Royal Exchange, preceded by the city marshal with constables; but, before they got through Cheapside, the mob shewed every mark of contempt and resentment by hissing, groaning, and even throwing dirt at them. A dumb peal of muffled bells was rung as they passed Bow church, and by the time the procession reached Fleet-street, the mob then greatly increased, grew quite outrageous, and disconcerted all the addressers by shutting the gates of Temple bar against them. The city marshal with his attendants were roughly handled in attempting to force the passage; and were at length obliged to retreat: the gentleman, who carried the address, was forced to take refuge in Nando's coffee-house, but in his hurry left the address in the coach, and ordered his coachman to return home. The mob still keeping possession of the gates of Temple bar, the addressers turned back and got into Holborn by Chancery-lane and Fetter-lane, being severely pelted all the way; so that their coaches were covered with mud, and some of them greatly damaged. When they came down again into the Strand, they found a hearse waiting for them drawn by a black horse and a white one; on one side of the hearse was a painting of the murder of Allen in St. George's-fields, on the other, that of Clarke at Brentford; and the addressers were subjected to the mortification of seeing this hearse thus decorated drive slowly before them to St. James's gate. When they alighted, they discovered that they had lost the address they came to present, and while a messenger was dispatched in search of it, they began hastily to sign a copy of it: at length however the original was found, and the dangers of their journey were so far of advantage as to prove they had suffered by their loyalty; and without doubt increased their abhorrence of the party that occasioned their being treated with so much scorn.
Some of the rioters were seized at St. James's gate, five of whom were detained for prosecution (fn. 5); and the same evening an extraordinary Gazette was published, containing a proclamation for suppressing riots, tumults, and unlawful assemblies.
On the 16th of March the election of a member for Middlesex in the room of Mr. Wilkes, came on at Brentford; when he was a third time chosen with out opposition. An opposition was indeed intended by Mr. Charles Dingley, who had already rendered himself unpopular by his activity in promoting the address; and whose intention in putting up for the county proved still more disagreeable, from an apprehension that advantage would be taken of the power exercised by the house of commons of deciding all disputed elections; some hints of this nature having transpired. He appeared indeed at the place of election; but being rather roughly treated by the populace, and not being able to prevail on any person to propose him as a candidate, he hastily retired, and left Mr. Wilkes to receive the unanimous suffrages of all the freeholders present.
The following day this election was declared null and void; and a new writ was issued.
The plan before suspected was now actually formed, to stop these repeated elections of a man so odious to the court; and in order to this some candidate was to be found who for sake of the recommending himself to the ministry would not value exposing himself to the hatred of the nation. Colonel Henry Lawes Luttrell, an Irish officer, son of Lord Irnham, and who was at that time a member of parliament, thought proper to vacate his seat to qualify himself for this honourable service; under the promise, as was reported, that if he had only four votes, the election should be secured in his favour. The election was appointed to be on the 13th of April, and it was remarked that the horse guards were that morning exercised in Hyde Park. As in this contest it was natural to expect that Mr. Wilkes would certainly still have a great majority of votes, and as it afterward appeared that the form of election was now only made use of as a sanction to throw the appointment of a member into other hands; it is not to be supposed that the ministry gave themselves much trouble to secure votes for their intended member.
At the close of the poll the numbers stood thus:
For Mr. Wilkes 1143
Colonel Luttrell 296
There were indeed two other candidates put up, Serjeant Whitaker, and one Major Roach; but as the former polled only five, and the latter not one, they deserve no farther mention.
Two days after, the house of commons, on the foundation of their former declaration of Mr. Wilkes's incapacity, carried a resolution by 221 against 139, that Colonel Luttrell ought to have been returned as knight of the shire for the county of Middlesex: and the clerk of the crown was ordered to amend the return by erasing the name of Wilkes and inserting the name of Luttrell in the place.
Of all the unpopular transactions of all the unpopular ministers, during this reign, for the public sufficiently knew in what light to view the agency of the house of commons (fn. 6); the seating Colonel Luttrell in that house in flat contradic tion to the result of a fair election, was the most alarming. Mr. Wilkes personal injuries were now superseded by a bold stroke that was considered as aimed at the constitutional rights of the whole nation; in setting aside a representative chosen by the freeholders of Middlesex, by a power not competent to the creation of a legal disability. As the popular cause therefore now stood upon a broader foundation, so numbers of people joined the patriotic party who did not consider the personal interests of Mr. Wilkes, under the objections his private character was liable to, as worthy their attention.
On the 18th of April the first term of Mr. Wilkes's imprisonment expired, and the fine of 500l. imposed on him for republishing the North Briton No. 45, was paid by his attorney to the master of the Crown office.
The Middlesex freeholders were nowise disposed to acquiesce under this violent invasion of their rights of election. At a general meeting held on the 17th in the assembly room at Mile End, a committee was appointed to consider of proper measures to be pursued for maintaining their freedom of election, and for supporting their rights and privileges. At another meeting on the 27th a petition to the king was produced, read, and approved; and Mr. Seajeant Glynn (fn. 7) their member was appointed to present it to his majesty, which was done the 24th of May following, after it had been signed by 1565 freeholders: a copy of it is in the note below (fn. 8).
During this interval the court of aldermen had been at an uncertainty how to act with regard to their brother in the King's-bench prison: most of them wishing to be able to set his election as alderman aside, yet cautious of opposing a man, whose spirit, genius, and popularity, had supported him so long against superior resentment. The opinions of the most distinguished men of the law had been consulted on his eligibility; and of these the attorney general, the solicitor general, the honourable Mr. Yorke, Mr. Serjeant Glynn, Mr. Serjeant Leigh, declared the inhabitants had a right to choose him, but gave no opinion as to the power of the aldermen to refuse him as a member of their body: Sir Fletcher Norton, the recorder, and the common serjeant, pronounced him not legally eligible to the office of alderman. At a court of aldermen held on the 25th of April, the opinions of these gentlemen were read, and the question put, whether notice should be sent to Mr. Wilkes of his being declared duly elected? which passed in the negative by ten against six.
About 30 gentlemen of the livery waited on the lord-mayor on April 27th, requesting him to issue a precept for calling a common-hall to take the sense of the livery concerning the necessary measures to be pursued under the present circumstances of public affairs. His lordship gave them a polite reception, but requested a short time to consider of an answer: the next day he told them he did not think himself justified in calling together so large a body as the livery of London, at the desire of a few of them. These gentlemen then invited all those of the livery who concurred in the desire of a common-hall, to a meeting at the Half-Moon tavern in Cheapside on the 2d of May: from whence a body of nearly 500 waited again on the lord-mayor, hoping this increase of numbers would obviate the former plea of excuse. His lordship then still willing decently to evade taking a step, which he feared might produce troublesome consequences; told them he apprehended this method of soliciting a common hall to be rather unprecedented, though the present times might require a new method: that he would do every thing in his power to oblige so respectable a body as the livery of London; and that he would call a court of common-council as soon as he conveniently could, to lay their request before that court, and would abide by their determination.
This court was called on the 5th, when the lord-mayor desired the statute 13 Car. II. st. 1.c. 5, against soliciting tumultuary petitions might be read; and a motion being made afterward that the lord-mayor be desired to issue a precept for assembling the livery in a common-hall, pursuant to their application to him; it was after long debates carried in the negative.
At a court of aldermen which was held on the 30th the nephew of Sir Mathew Blakiston, alderman of Bishopsgate ward, attended with a letter from Sir Matthew, petitioning for leave to resign his gown, on account of his age and ill state of health: but the aldermen apprehensive that the grant of this request would open a door for some one of Mr. Wilkes's friends to enter, and thereby increase his influence in the corporation, they after starting a doubt whether the letter was his own hand writing, postponed the farther consideration of it to another court. On the 6th of June when the next court was held, an affidavit of two of Sir Matthew's friends before a master in chancery was produced, attesting the letter to be his writing; but when this doubt was thus removed, an endeavour was made to fix the charge of insanity upon him, a circumstance which could it have been established, would have been the strongest reason for setting him aside, and electing a magistrate equal to the exercise of the office. On the contrary however it was made use of as an argument against accepting his resignation: so little are the real merits of things attended to, when men act under the influence of some indirect bias. The affair was again revived on the 20th at Sir Matthew's desire by Mr. Alderman Beckford, nineteen aldermen beside the lord-mayor being present; when after some debates his resignation was allowed by a majority of one. A wardmote was held on the 23d for the choice of a successor, at Leatherseller's-hall, at which James Townsend Esq; member of parliament for West Loe in Cornwall, and one of the society for the support of the Bill of Rights, was elected without opposition.
A state of Mr. Wilkes's debts was delivered in at a meeting of the Supporters of the Bill of Rights on the 6th of June, to the amount of 17,000l. of which 7,000l. had been then compromised. A circular letter was at the same time read and approved by the chairman, to be sent to the gentlemen of the minority, that they might promote it in their different counties, for inviting the friends of liberty throughout the whole British empire to concur in the constitutional purposes for which the society was established.
Though the diffidence rather perhaps than the disinclination of the lord-mayor had withheld him from granting the friends of liberty a common-hall under his sanction; the livery determined to pursue their purpose at the common-hall on Midsummer-day, when sheriffs and other annual officers were to be chosen. The hall was extraordinarily crouded on that day, and so suspicious were the livery of being deprived of the present opportunity, that they would not suffer the recorder to open the current affairs of the day; until the lord-mayor assured them that if they would permit the business of election to go on, he would afterward hearken to any proper proposal they should make. Being at length pacified, the several aldermen who had not served the office of sheriff, with some other gentlemen, being offered to their choice, the new alderman Mr. Townsend, with John Sawbridge, Esq; another supporter of the Bill of Rights, were elected sheriffs with the general acclamations of the whole assembly. When the other offices were supplied, and the lord-mayor came back to the hustings, he told them according to his promise, that he was then ready to hear what proposal the livery had to make. On this a liveryman Mr. Michael Lovel harangued his brethren on the many grievances the citizens of London had to complain of; and introduced the proposal of petitioning the king for redress. A petition was then twice read, in which the lord-mayor, still cautious, begged leave to make one alteration; that instead of "the humble petition "of the lord-mayor, aldermen, and livery, of the city of London," it should stand thus, "the humble petition of the livery of London;" which was admitted. A motion was then carried that the lord-mayor, sheriffs, and the three worthy (fn. 9) members of the city should be requested to wait on his majesty with this petition: Sir Robert Ladbroke, Mr. Beckford, and Mr. Trecothick, all declared their readiness to comply with this desire; Mr. Beckford in particular added that "the giving in the petition was a request that made him happy, as it agreed intirely with his own opinion, and that in regard to the particulars now read (as far as he could judge from twice hearing it) he knew most if not all the particulars to be facts (fn. 10)." Some evasive replies were at first given by the officers of state to the applications made for knowing when the king would please to receive the petition; but the sheriffs at length obtained his majesty's answer, that he would receive it on Wednesday the 5th of July.
On the appointed day the right honourable Samuel Turner, lord-mayor, the sheriffs Halifax and Shakespeare, with the above mentioned three city members, attended by Peter Roberts, Esq; the city remembrancer, carried the petition to St. James's-palace; and after many disrespectful obstructions, were admitted to the levee. The king being near the door, the lord-mayor addressed him to the following effect.
"Most Gracious Sovereign,
"We, the lord-mayor, the representatives in parliament, together with the sheriffs of your majesty's ancient and loyal city of London, presume to approach your royal person, and beg leave to present, with all humility, to your majesty, the dutiful and most humble petition of your majesty's faithful and loyal subjects the livery of London in common-hall assembled, complaining of grievances; and from your majesty's unbounded goodness, and paternal regard and affection for all your subjects, they humbly presume to hope, that your majesty will graciously condescend to listen to their just complaints, and to grant them such relief, as in your majesty's known wisdom and justice shall seem meet."
His lordship then delivered the petition, but received no answer; the king instantly turning about to baron Dieden the Danish minister, and giving the petition to the lord in waiting. A copy of this petition is inserted in the note below (fn. 11).
The following letter was received in reference to a passage in the petition.
"To the right honourable the Lord Mayor.
"In a petition presented by your lordship it is mentioned as a grievance—Instead of punishing, conferring honours on a pay master, the public defaulter of unaccounted millions. I am told that I am the pay master here censured: "may I beg to know of your lordship if it is so? If it is, I am sure Mr. Beckford must have been against it, because he knows, and could have shewn your lordship in writing, the utter falshood of what is there insinuated.
"I have not the honour to know your lordship, so I cannot tell what you may have heard to induce you to carry to our sovereign a complaint of so atrocious a nature.
Your lordship, by your speech made to the king at delivering the petition, has adopted the contents of it; and I don't know of whom to enquire but of your lordship concerning this injury done to an innocent man, who am by this means (if I am the person meant) hung out as an object of public hatred and resentment.
"You have too much honour and justice not to tell me whether I am the person meant, and if I am, the grounds upon which I am thus charged, that I may vindicate myself, which truth will enable me to do to the conviction of the bitterest enemy; and therefore I may boldly say, to your lordship's entire satisfaction, whom I certainly have never offended,
I am, with the greatest respect,
Your lordship's most obedient,
"And most humble servant,
"July 9th, 1769. Holland."
The Lord-Mayor's Answer.
"The lord-mayor presents his compliments to Lord Holland, and in answer to the honour of his lordship's letter delivered to him by Mr. Selwyn, he begs leave to say that he had no concern in drawing up the petition from the livery of London to his majesty; that he looks on himself only as the carrier, together with other gentlemen charged by the livery with the delivery of it; that he does not, nor ever did, hold himself accountable for the contents of it, and is a stranger to the nature of the supposed charge against his lordship."
"Mansion-house, July 10th, 1769."
This letter with the answer by some means or other immediately appeared in all the public papers.
The death of Sir Joseph Hankey, alderman of Langbourn-ward, afforded another opportunity for strengthening the public interest in the court of aldermen: a wardmote was held on the 1st of July by the lord-mayor at Pewterer'shall, where John Sawbridge, Esq; the sheriff elect, was unanimously chosen alderman of that ward.
The institution of the Magdalen hospital for penitent prostitutes has been
mentioned in its proper place (fn. 12); it remains to add that the utility of so humane
a charity was so evident, and it was so well supported, that the views of the
benefactors extended to the building an edifice more enlarged and convenient
for the purpose than the house hitherto used in Goodman's-fields. They
pitched upon a spot on the west side of the new-road from Blackfriar's-bridge to
the circus in St. George's-fields; where on the 28th of July the earl of Hertford
president, with the vice presidents and governors, laid the first stone at the altar
of the chapel, placing a brass-plate under it, containing the following inscription.
On the 28th day of July,
In the year of our LORD,
And the ninth year of the reign of
his most sacred Majesty,
King of Great Britain,
Patronized by his royal consort
For the reception of
Supported by voluntary contribution,
Was begun to be erected,
And the first STONE laid by
FRANCIS Earl of HERTFORD,
Knight of the most noble order of
the garter, lord chamberlain of
his majesty's houshould, and one
of his most hon. privy-council,
Joel Johnson, Architect.
This hospital is now finished, and consists of four brick buildings inclosing a quadrangle, with a bason in the centre: the chapel is an octangular edifice erected at one of the back corners; and to give the inclosed court an uniformity, a building with a similar front is placed at the opposite corner.
August 29th, the electors of Westminster to the amount of about 7000, assembled in Westminster-hall to petition the king for a redress of grievances. Sir Robert Bernard, bart. was called to the chair, which at first had been placed at the upper end of the hall on the flight of steps leading to the courts of King's-bench and Chancery; but this situation of it did not please the electors, who removed it to the steps of the court of Common-pleas, where they said general warrants had been first condemned. Robert Jones, Esq; informed them that he had been chosen chairman of the committee appointed to draw up a petition, which if it was their pleasure, should be read to them. It was accordingly read, first by Sir Robert Bernard, and then by Mr. Martin; when the question for approving it was agreed to by every one present: for when the uestion was reversed not one dissenting hand appeared. Eight clerks were then immediately employed to write eight copies on skins of parchments in different parts of the hall for the electors to sign, and it was computed that near 4000 names were subscribed to it that afternoon. It was afterward lodged at different taverns in Westminster for the conveniency of the inhabitants, and was signed by 5137, which was esteemed a respectable majority. On December 6th it was presented to his majesty at the levee by Sir Robert Bernard, and Mr. Jones: a copy of it is inserted below (fn. 13).
When the choice of lord-mayor was to be made on Michaelmas-day, the livery were too much displeased with the conduct of Sir Henry Bankes then next the chair, for opposing their petition, to admit his pretensions from seniority. Alderman Beckford who had ever shewn himself a firm friend to the rights of the people, and who had passed through the mayoralty in 1763, was put again in nomination (fn. 14); scarcely a hand was held up for any but for him and alder man Trecothick, but a poll was afterward demanded in favour of Sir Henry Bankes. At the close of this poll the numbers stood thus;
The two former were therefore on Octocter the 10th, returned to the court of aldermen for their choice. Mr. Beckford earnestly desired his brother aldermen to appoint Mr. Trecothick to the office, on account of his age and infirmities, he being then 70 years of age; and when this request had no effect, he on the same plea refused to take the office upon him. The debates were very long among the aldermen in the council-chamber; a very crouded hall being kept four hours waiting for the result. When the lord-mayor and aldermen returned, Mr. Beckford still persisted in declining the office; saying his age and infirmities had so impaired his abilities, that he did not think himself capable of going through the duty, with that spirit, vigor, and dignity it required: adding that the spirit was indeed strong, but the flesh was weak. His reasonable desire was however as little attended to here as in the court of aldermen, though probably from different motives; the livery were very clamorous in their importunity, until at length his fatigue obliged him to retire: Mr. sheriff Townsend then told them, that the decision must be left to the court of common-council, who he did not doubt would prevail on Mr. Beckford to accept the office; and informed them that the lord-mayor was willing to hear any other matter they might have to propose. On this Mr. Lovell stepped forward and proposed the resolutions inserted in the note (fn. 15), which were unanimously agreed to.
The lord-mayor in reference to the first resolution informed the livery that no answer had been received to the petition; but he doubted not his majesty would take such constitutional measures as would tend to the well being of his subjects: with regard to the second, he said the copy of lord Holland's letter which appeared in the papers was a true one; but he added he left it to lord Holland to justify himself for having published his answer to it, and reconcile it if he could with the character of a gentleman. The common-hall was then closed at half an hour past seven in the evening, the livery having with great patience and resolution remained nine hours standing in a crouded uneasy situation without refreshment.
Two days after, the sheriffs attended by a respectable deputation from the livery, waited on Mr. Beckford, to request his compliance with the desires of the livery at this crisis. He no longer withstood solicitations so urgent, and it might be added from the event, so cruel; but yielded at length as will appear from the letter below which he intreated them to deliver to the lord-mayor (fn. 16). It was remarkable that the day he entered upon his office, he was attended only by the old lord-mayor, and seven of the aldermen, including the sheriffs: these seven were, Stephenson, Trecothick, Crosby, Peers, Halifax, Townsend, and Sawbridge. The recorder met him in the court of Exchequer and quitted him there; the town clerk and the common-serjeant went out of the way: of all the great officers and ministers of state invited, the lord chancellor was the only one who attended. The exterior dignity of the absent was however amply compensated by the brilliant appearance of many others of real intrinsic worth.
The electors of the borough of Southwark held a general meeting October 17th, to agree on a petition, for redress against the violation of the rights of election. Sir Joseph Mawbey, member for Southwark, explained the case of the late Middlesex election, and concluded with recommending to the assembly to petition his majesty for a dissolution of the parliament: when Edward Stephens, Esq; the chairman of the meeting read a petition, as contained in the note below (fn. 17); which was received with the greatest applause. Committees were then appointed in the different parishes to wait on those who had not a present opportunity of signing it; and after it had been subscribed by above uthree fourths of the inhabitants, it was, on the 22d of December, presented to his majesty by Sir Joseph Mawbey, attended by six other gentlemen of that borough.
After having thus exhibited the petitions of London, Westminster and Southwark, on this critical occasion; it may be added that the general discontent of the nation at the late conduct of government, particularly in the treatment of the freeholders of Middlesex; produced petitions of the same general import, from Buckinghamshire, Derbyshire, Devonshire, Durham, Cornwall, Gloucestershire, Herefordshire, Kent, Northumberland, Somersetshire, Surry, Wiltshire, Worcestershire, and Yorkshire: from the cities of Bristol, Coventry, Durham, Exeter, and Wells: and from the towns of Berwick upon Tweed, Liverpool, Morpeth, Newcastle upon Tyne, &c.
Ministerial influence was exerted all this while, and some faint addresses were procured from the two universities and a few other places where the public good was postponed to private interest; but the addresses fabricated to countenance the last Charles and James, justified all the ridicule these adulations of courtiers and their dependents were in general treated with.
In the month of October died Samuel Wilson, Esq; of Hatton Garden, who by his will left 20,000l. to be paid into the chamber of London, as a perpetual fund to lend sums of money, not less than 100l. nor more than 300l. to young tradesmen and manufacturers, in London or within three miles, who have been set up in business one year, or not more than two years; on good security, for the term of five years. For such loans they are to pay one per. cent. the first year, and two per cent. for the remaining time. The profits arising from the interest of the money are to defray the charges of the trust, to pay annuities left to two of his servants, and the surplus to be added to the principal.
There are more charitable legacies left to the corporation of London, and for particular purposes therein, some of them of very old date, than are generally known; and it would be a commendable object of inquiry if the court of common-council would order and procure an exact account of them.
On the 10th of November, the great cause between Mr. Wilkes and the earl of Halifax (lord Egremont the other secretary of state being then released by death, from his apprehensions as well of the private as of the public consequences of his share in this transaction) was tried at the court of Common-pleas in Westminster-hall; relative to the imprisonment of his person and the seizure of his papers under a general warrant. The cause was learnedly argued on the part of the plaintiff by serjeant Glynn, serjeant Leigh, with counsellors Lee and Davenport; on that of the defendant, by serjeant Whitaker, serjeant Davy, serjeant Nares, and counsellor Wallace. An excellent charge was given by the lord chief justice Wilmot, who advised the jury to give liberal but not excessive damages; and a verdict was found in favour of Mr. Wilkes with 4000l. damages: so little however did this decision satisfy the populace, that the jury were forced to retire privately to avoid insults. More damages would perhaps have been given, had it not been discovered by the minute book at the treasury, that all the expences incurred by this prosecution were to be defrayed by the crown; and that the defendant, before his resignation in 1765, had obtained a privy seal warrant of indemnification, for whatever damages Mr. Wilkes should recover. This is probably the last time we shall hear of general warrants issued by ministers of state against British subjects, while they preserve that spirit so nobly exerted of late against illegal stretches of magisterial power.
The Spital-fields weavers continued still in a riotous disposition. Numbers of them having by tumultuous meetings thrown themselves out of employment, they took it into their heads to levy contributions on their more industrious brethren, of a certain tax on every loom; to support themselves while they endeavoured to oblige their masters to advance their wages, before they would consent to work: if this tax was not complied with, they cut the work and the looms to pieces; and hence they obtained the name of cutters. On the 30th of September, two justices of the peace in the Tower-hamlets, with peace officers and a party of the guards, went in the evening and invested the Dolphin ale-house, where a body of these cutters were then assembled. Upon their entring the house, the weavers who had arms with them began the attack by firing down stairs on the soldiers, and killed one of them; the soldiers whose arms were not at first loaded, then loaded, and returning the fire killed two of the rioters. Most of them made their escape from the top of the house; four were however apprehended; and a pardon with a reward of 10l. were offered to any of them who should discover their accomplices.
Two of these rioters, John Doyle and John Valline, were capitally convicted at the ensuing session in October; and the recorder passed sentence on them, in the common form, that they should be hanged at "the usual place of "execution." On the 9th of November, the recorder sent the sheriffs a warrant to execute these men on the 15th, "at the most convenient place near "Bethnal Green church." The sheriffs startled at this deviation from the sentence pronounced in the Old Bailey, and doubtful how far they should be justified in complying with it, stated the case to serjeant Glynn for his opinion: the serjeant, in his written opinion, professed he knew no authority that could justify an alteration in the sentence of a court of justice; but not being able to determine positively on the materiality of the alteration, he advised the sheriffs to represent their doubts to his majesty. They accordingly inclosed a state of the affair, directed to the king, in a letter to lord Weymouth secretary of state, begging his majesty to respite the execution for reconsideration, and informed the secretary they would wait on his majesty the next morning. Lord Weymouth in answer wrote to them that their mode of application was irregular, but that he was ready to receive and lay before his majesty in a proper manner any doubts they might entertain with regard to the discharge of their duty. The next morning they went to lord Weymouth and delivered into his hands a petition to the king, the same they had before inclosed in a letter to his lordship, to be by him presented to his majesty; and at night received from lord Weymouth the king's authority to respite the execution for a week, with an order to transmit the counsel's opinion on the case, that from the view of it farther directions might be given them.
Serjeant Glynn's opinion was accordingly sent inclosed in a letter from the sheriffs; which letter as it contains a nice examination into the merits of what might else be deemed a trifling or officious objection, it is laid before the reader in the note (fn. 18) : lord Weymouth in consequence of it sent the recorder his majesty's command that the two criminals should be respited from execution a fortnight longer. On November 23d the lord chancellor communicated to the sheriffs, a copy of the case and question he had that morning referred to the consideration of the twelve judges; but the sheriffs answered that this case was not so stated as to bring the points upon which their doubts were conceived, compleatly before the judges, and gave their reasons for thinking so. The opinion of the judges was sent them by lord Weymouth on the 30th, which was,—"that the time and place of execution are in law no part of the judgment; and that the recorder's warrant was a lawful authority to the sheriffs as to the time and place of execution." On this the sheriffs in a letter to the lord chancellor acknowledged their doubts to be over-ruled but not satisfied; they added—" If we have had our doubts, and have been mistaken in our opinion, we hope your lordship will excuse us, when you consider, that even the Recorder, so conversant in these matters, and whose warrant is for the future to be our authority, was himself uncertain: for when he directed us in court to the usual place of execution, he must either have supposed it a part of the sentence, or that he was exercising a discretion in that particular vested in himself.—His subsequent warrant contradicted both these suppositions.
"Supposing the place to be no part of the sentence, how could we avoid being startled, when we saw,
"First, a discretion exercised by the Recorder, directing us to the usual place of execution.
"Secondly, A discretion exercised by the crown, setting aside the Recorder's discretion.
"Thirdly, This discretion of the crown not signified to us by writ or sign manual, but by warrant from the Recorder, whose discretion is over-ruled.—And,
"Lastly, A discretion left to ourselves to execute, not in, but as near to a church as we should judge convenient?"
Doyle and Valline were executed at Bethnal Green on the 8th of December, by the sheriffs and their peace officers only; though this direction to execute them in the very midst of that turbulent neighbourhood, was generally considered as an artifice at that time contrived to draw the civil power into disgrace, and of consequence to prove a necessity of accepting military aid to enforce the laws. It is truly unhappy, and not much to their credit, that the officers under the crown should think their master's honour concerned in maintaining a constant hostility of purposes and sentiments with the people. While this absurd plan is pursued, and while reason and law so constantly decide against them; it is impossible to behold their continual mistakes and defeats without some degree of pleasure.
Indeed the ministers of state were far from being agreed among themselves concerning the propriety of the measures then pursued; but the non contents finding it impossible to overcome the firmness with which these measures were urged, several important resignations took place at the opening of the year 1770. The upright and worthy chancellor lord Camden, was judged unfit for his office at this time, and was ordered to resign the seals; which fatally for himself were unguardedly accepted by the right honourable Charles Yorke, son of the late lord Hardwicke: three days he held them, but saw so great reason to repent his compliance, that it cost him his life, though the circumstances of his departure are not generally known. His sudden death disconcerted the court managers once more; and the seals were lodged in commission until a man could be found more tractable than Camden, and of less delicate sensations than the unhappy Yorke.
The total disregard shewn to the representations relating to the Middlesex election, contained in the late petitions, were far from discouraging the livery of London, who determined to reiterate their applications to the throne on this interesting subject of complaint. A committee of the livery on the 1st of March presented a memorial to the court of common-council; representing that though a petition had been presented by the livery to his majesty, no answer or redress had been received; notwithstanding they had a right to both. They therefore applied to the court of common-council to join in a request to the lord mayor to call another common-hall, that farther measures might be taken for the re-establishment of their antient rights and franchises. The question was carried in the court by 112 against 76, and a common-hall was summoned accordingly on the 6th, when the meeting of the livery being very numerous, a second application to his majesty was read and unanimously agreed to in the form contained in the note below (fn. 19). A motion was then carried, that the lord mayor, the representatives in parliament, the court of aldermen, sheriffs, the court of common-council, the recorder, and city officers, should attend the delivery of this remonstrance in a full body. The sheriffs with the city remembrancer were desired to wait upon the king to know when he would please to receive their remonstrance; which was done immediately upon closing the hall: his majesty being then at dinner, desired their attendance the next day; when he told them that the case being entirely new, he would take time to consider of it, and transmit his answer by one of the secretaries of state.
The resolute perseverance of the livery of London, immediately following the disagreement among themselves, might be supposed not very agreeable to the new minister Lord North and his associates: it was therefore concerted to throw all possible obstructions in the way to the delivery of this remonstrance. On the 8th, Lord Weymouth wrote to the sheriffs, desiring to know in what manner this remonstrance was authenticated, and what the nature of the assembly was in which this measure was adopted? The next day at noon the sheriffs went again to the palace, and having waited till one o'clock, Lord Bolingbroke the lord in waiting appeared; when the remembrancer told him, the sheriffs of London were attending his majesty's pleasure, and that they required an audience. Some time after Lord Bolingbroke came again, and enquired of the sheriffs whether he was to tell his majesty that they came with a fresh message, or with a message? The sheriffs answered, with a message. Soon after the two secretaries of state, Lord Rochford and Lord Weymouth, came to the sheriffs. Lord Weymouth asked them, "Whether they had received his letter, which was written by his "majesty's order ?"
Sheriffs. "We have."
Lord Weymouth. "His majesty desires to know whether you come in "consequence of that letter; or whether you come on any fresh business?"
Sheriffs. "We come in consequence of that letter."
Lord Weymouth. "Would it not be more proper to send an answer in wri"ting through me?"
Sheriffs. "We act ministerially. As sheriffs of London we have a right to "an audience; and cannot communicate to any other person than the king the subject of our message."
Lord Weymouth. "I do not dispute your right to an audience; but would it not be better and more accurate to give your message to me in writing?"
Sheriffs. "We know the value and consequence of the citizens right to "apply immediately to the king, and not to a third person; and we do "not mean that any of their rights and privileges shall be betrayed by our means."
His majesty's levee began at a quarter past two, at which time the two secretaries came to the sheriffs, and Lord Weymouth said, "his majesty under"standing that your come ministerially, authorised with a message from the "city of London, will see you as soon as the levee is over."
When the levee was ended, the sheriffs were introduced into the king's closet. The king did not as usual receive them alone, but Lord Gower, Lord Rochford, and Lord Weymouth were present. Mr. Sheriff Townsend addressed his majesty in these words:
May it please your majesty,
"When we had the honour to appear before your majesty, your majesty was graciously pleased to promise an answer by one of your majesty's principal secretaries of state; but we had yesterday questions proposed to us by Lord Weymouth. In answer to which we beg leave humbly to inform your majesty, we wait as sheriffs of the city of London, by the direction of the livery in common-hall legally assembled. The address, remonstrance and petition, to be presented to your majesty by their chief magistrate, is the act "of the citizens of London in their greatest court; and is ordered by them to be properly authenticated as their act."
To which his majesty was pleased to reply, "I will consider of the answer your have given me. "Whereupon the sheriffs withdrew.
When the sheriffs went into the closet, the city remembrancer, according to his office and duty, would have attended them; but Lord Bolingbroke rudely shoved him back; insisting upon it, that he had not a right to go in, and should not enter there. When the audience was ended, the remembrancer very properly told Lord Bolingbroke, that he had done wrong; for that as remembrancer, attending the sheriffs, he had a right to enter the closet with them. Lord Bolingbroke said, it might perhaps be so; but that he had never been in waiting on such an occasion before, and hoped he never should again.
The sheriffs received a note from Lord Weymouth on the 12th, informing them, that his majesty would receive the remonstrance on Wednesday the 14th at two o'clock. On that day therefore the lord-mayor, with aldermen Sir William Stephenson, and Mr. Trecothick; Mr. Townsend and Mr. Sawbridge, sheriffs; 153 of the common-council, and the committee of the livery, in their proper gowns; proceeded in their carriages to St. James's, attended by the common serjeant, town clerk, remembrancer, two secondaries, sword bearermace bearer, water bailiff, common crier, common hunt, city marshals, &c. They were introduced to his majesty, who received them seated on his throne. The common serjeant (in the absence of the recorder) began to read the remonstrance; but being in too much confusion to proceed, Sir James Hodges read it very distinctly: his majesty then read the following answer to it.
"I shall always be ready to receive the requests, and to listen to the complaints of my subjects; but it gives me great concern to find, that any of them should have been so far misled as to offer an address and remonstrance, the contents of which I cannot but consider as disrespectful to me, injurious to parliament, and irreconcileable to the principles of the constitution.
"I have ever made the law of the land the rule of my conduct, esteeming it my chief glory to reign over a free people: with this view I have always been careful, as well to execute faithfully the trust reposed in me, as to avoid even the appearance of invading any of those powers which the constitution has placed in other hands. It is only by persevering in such a conduct that I can either discharge my own duty, or secure to my subjects the free enjoyment of those rights which my family were called to defend; and while I act upon these principles, I shall have a right to expect, and I am confident I shall continue to receive, the steady and affectionate support of my people."
At a court of aldermen held on the 13th Sir Robert Ladbroke said that a paper had been agreed to in a common-hall, which bore a false title; being called "the "address, remonstrance, and petition, of the lord-mayor, aldermen, &c." and beginning "We have already in our petition &c." he therefore made a motion that it should be disavowed by that court: and this motion was seconded by alderman Alsop. Mr. Townsend replied, that the aldermen were summoned to attend the common-hall, and do make a part of all common-halls which are periodically convened; that therefore every act of a common-hall is the act of the lord-mayor, aldermen, and livery, who are all summoned, and do all together compose the common-hall. He added, that it would have been much more candid and honourable for the aldermen to have attended and made their objections there, than to suffer the citizens to do what they might think improper, meerly to have an opportunity afterward of condemning the measure in an inferior court, not competent to decide on the act of the whole body, of which the court of aldermen only made a part. The lord-mayor, Mr. Sawbridge, Sir Charles Asgill, and Mr. Trecothick, all spoke against Ladbroke's motion; which on the other hand was supported by the aldermen Halifax, shakespeare, Turner, Bird, Rossiter, Kirkman, Nash, and Harley. The lord-mayor refused to put the question as improper; and was for proceeding to other business: but Mr. Harley said no! since he would not put that question the aldermen might retire. When therefore the lord-mayor put the question for the admission of James Shepherd as a broker; it passed in the negative: the lord-mayor asked Mr. Alsop—"Is there any reason for this?" Mr. Alsop answered "no my lord-mayor; but if you will not put our question, we will put a negative on all other questions." These gentlemen however soon found that Mr. Beckford was not a man that would be treated in this childish manner; he told them—" if that is the case, and if the aldermen will not suffer any business to be done here, I must do the necessary business of the city in the court of common-council, which I am empowered and have a right to do." He tried them again, and put up William Ward, and Gabriel Anthony Ernst for admission as brokers; still they remained sullen: at last Mr. Townsend insisted on a division, that it might be clearly seen who they were that stopped all proceedings, and made the court liable to a mandamus from the person so refused. They would not agree to this, saying that court never divided; he then demanded that hands should be held up, and the numbers taken: they now thought proper to recollect themselves and said "no no, let us put an end to all this, and "let the business go on." The three brokers were then proposed again, and their admission was voted unanimously! Mr. Alsop even recovered his good humour so far as to give an air of pleasantry to this odd whim, by saying—" it was only a joke."
The joke was continued in the public papers, where the following protest appeared the next day.
"We the aldermen of the city of London, whose names are hereunto subscribed, observing that the address, remonstrance and petition, agreed upon by the livery who met at Guildhall on Tuesday the 6th of this instant March, is intituled, the address, remonstrance and petition of the lord-mayor, aldermen and livery of the city of London, to the king's most excelleŐt majesty, do declare that we were not assenting to, nor signified our appro bation of the said address, remonstrance and petition. Dated this 13th of March, 1770.
|Robert Ladbroke||Richard Peers||Samuel Plumbe|
|Robert Alsop||William Nash||Brackley Kennet|
|Richard Glynn||Thomas Halifax||J. Kirkman|
|Thomas Harley||John Shakespear||James Rossiter|
|Samuel Turner||James Esdaile||John Bird.|
This protest is a convincing proof how expedient it was to deprive this court of the privilege of imposing their negative on proceedings of the court of common council: three of the city companies assumed courage from this example to dispute the power of the lord-mayor in calling common halls for any other purposes than meerly for the election of city officers. At a court of assistants of the Goldsmith's company, March 22d, the following resolution was agreed to.
"The right honourable the lord-mayor having issued precepts for summoning the livery of this city to meet at Guildhall on Tuesday the 6th inst. to consider of a further application for redress of grievances, at which meeting a most indecent remonstrance was ordered to be presented to his majesty;
"Resolved and ordered, that for the future the wardens of this company do not summon the livery thereof, to attend at any meeting in the Guildhall (except for the purpose of elections) without the express approbation or consent of this court."
The companies of Grocers and Weavers, at their next court days, distinguished themselves by passing resolutions of a like nature.
The following state of Mr. Wilkes's affairs was at this time published by the
Supporters of the Bill of Rights.
"London Tavern, March 13, 1770.
Supporters of the Bill of Rights.
William Tooke, Esq; in the chair.
"An account of Mr. Wilkes's affairs having been this day laid before the society, it appeared that (since the establishment thereof on February 20, 1769) there have been paid by the voluntary subscriptions of this society,
"No money has hitherto been applied by this society to any other purpose whatever. The cash now remaining in the treasurer's hands is 7761. 6s. 2d.
"N. B. 7149l. 6s. 2d. of Mr. Wilkes's debts appear to have been incurred by his having been security for other persons."
On the 28th at noon the Westminster electors met in Westminster-hall, when Sir Robert Bernard took the chair, and a remonstrance, much the same in substance with that presented by the livery of London, was read and agreed to unanimously. It was signed by the chairman and committee in behalf of the whole assembly; and being levee day at St. James's, it was immediately presented to the king, who without speaking a word gave it to one of the lords in waiting.
The freeholders of Middlesex also held a general meeting at Mile End assembly room on March 30th to consider of presenting an humble address, remonstrance, and petition, to the king, on the subject of their former complaints. Mr. Sawbridge in the unavoidable absence of Mr. Townsend, took the chair; and a remonstrance being twice read and approved; it was presented on April 9th by those two gentlemen as sheriffs of the county.
On the 12th a common-hall was held at Guildhall, to report to the livery his majesty's answer to their remonstrance; with the resolutions and addresses of the two houses of parliament relating to it: as also to take into consideration the late resolutions of the Goldsmiths, Grocers, and Weavers companies. The last committee of the livery were appointed to consider the proper mode of proceeding against these refractory companies; and to report their opinion to the court of common-council.
Mr. Wilkes's confinement expiring on the 17th, he was discharged from the King's-bench prison, and his second fine paid; the Supporters of the Bill of Rights having settled all his debts the preceding day: it was remarked with astonishment that there never were perhaps such general and voluntary illuminations on any occasion, as on the event of his enlargement; not in London only, but in all parts of England. No sooner was he released than he published two addresses, the one to the freeholders of Middlesex, and the other to the inhabitants of Farringdon ward without; each of them severely animadverting on the late unpopular measures of the ministry, and abounding with professions of disinterested attachment to the cause of the people. On the 24th he was sworn into his office as alderman of the ward of Farringdon without at Guildhall, the motion being carried without a division. He then took precedence from the time of his election, which was before aldermen Bird, Rossiter, and the two sheriffs.
The dependants on the ministry, with the dependants on those dependants, through all their ranks of subordination, in justification without doubt of the virtuous characters of their masters, continued zealous enemies to Mr. Wilkes; and stigmatized all the popular party with the most indecent epithets, for supporting a man whose character was so open to objection: but thinking men saw that Mr. Wilkes's affairs proved only the occasion for the discovery of the plan of irregular measures then establishing; and of course only the occasion of the people taking the alarm on that discovery. Secure as the great officers of state were of a majority to support them in parliament, the people had many able and distinguished advocates in both houses to support and countenance their complaints. A bill was brought into the house of peers by the earl of Chatham, on the 1st of May, intitled "A bill for reversing the adjudications of the house of commons, whereby John Wilkes Esq; has been adjudged incapable of being elected a member to serve in this present parliament, and the freeholders of the county of Middlesex have been deprived of one of their legal representatives." When this bill was read, a motion was made for the second reading of it the following Thursday; which gave rise to much debate: but upon putting the question it was resolved in the negative by 89 to 43. This step being gained, a motion was made for the rejection of the bill, which passed in the affirmative; but occasioned the following protest, signed by a respectable number of the most illustrious personages in the kingdom.
"Because the foundations of this bill being so fully laid in the reasons contained in two protests entered upon the journals of this house on the second day of February last, we think it indispensably necessary to protest against the rejection of the same, to the intent that it may be delivered down to posterity, that this great constitutional and effectual method of remedying an unexampled grievance hath not been left unattempted by us; and that, to our own times, we may stand as men determined to persevere in renewing, on every occasion, our utmost endeavours to obtain that redress, for the violated rights of the subject, and for the injured electors of Great Britain, which, in the present moment, an over-ruling fatality hath prevented from taking effect; thereby refusing reparation and comfort to an oppressed and afflicted people.
The livery of London had not only petitioned the king, but had seconded this application by a remonstrance, which producing no good effect, the body of the corporation determined to add their sanction and weight to the complaints of their fellow citizens, and of the majority of the independent part of the nation. A court of common-council was held on May 14th, to consider of an address, petition, and remonstrance to his majesty; upon his majesty's answer to the address, petition, and remonstrance of the common-hall; and of the resolutions and address of both houses of parliament thereupon: when a motion was made, that the part respecting the answer given by his majesty should be left out; but on a division, seven aldermen, and 104 commoners, were for retaining the part respecting his majesty's answer, and eight aldermen, and fifty-seven commoners, were for rejecting it, and for confining it to the Middlesex election only. A motion was then made, that a committee be appointed, and that they do immediately withdraw and prepare an humble petition, address, and remonstrance, respecting the Middlesex election, and the answer given by his majesty to the livery address, &c. The committee consisted of the aldermen Trecothick, Stephenson, Crosby, Townsend, Sawbridge, and Wilkes; to whom twelve commoners were added. They accordingly produced an address which was approved by seven aldermen and 91 commoners, against six aldermen and 40 commoners. The recorder stood up and declared he protested against it as a most abominable libel; but was answered by Mr. Wilkes, who said he claimed some knowledge of the nature of a libel, not from theory only, but from having bought much experience on that subject: that the remonstrance was founded throughout on known and glaring facts, every word bearing the stamp of truth.
This remonstrance by his majesty's appointment was presented on the 23d, as contained in the note (fn. 20); by the lord-mayor, aldermen Stephenson, Treco thick, Crosby, the two sheriffss, and 75 of the common-council (fn. 21). The recorder refused to attend, and was called to account for his disobedience, as will appear in due time. The remonstrance was read by the town-clerk, and his majesty seated on his throne read the following answer to it.
"I should have been wanting to the public as well as to myself, if I had not expressed my dissatisfaction at the late address.
"My sentiments on that subject continue the same; and I should ill deserve to be considered as the father of my people, if I could suffer myself to be prevailed upon to make such an use of my prerogative, as I cannot but think inconsistent with the interest, and dangerous to the constitution of the kingdom."
When the king had concluded his answer, the lord-mayor with that modesty and yet with that resolution, which conscious integrity dictated, thus humbly replied.
"Most Gracious Sovereign,
"Will your majesty be pleased so far to condescend, as to permit the mayor of your loyal city of London to declare in your royal presence, on behalf of his fellow-citizens, how much the bare apprehension of your majesty's displeasure would, at all times, affect their minds; the declaration of that displeasure has already filled them with inexpressible anxiety, and with the deepest affliction.
"Permit me, Sire, to assure your majesty, that your majesty has not in all your dominions any subjects more faithful, more dutiful, or more affectionate to your majesty's person and family, or more ready to sacrifice their lives and fortunes in the maintenance of the true honour and dignity of your crown.
"We do therefore, with the greatest humility and submission, most earnestly supplicate your majesty, that you will not dismiss us from your presence without expressing a more favourable opinion of your faithful citizens, and without some comfort, without some prospect, at least, of redress.
"Permit me, Sire, further to observe, that whoever has already dared, or shall hereafter endeavour, by false insinuations and suggestions, to alienate your majesty's affections from your loyal subjects in general, and from the city of London in particular, and to withdraw your confidence to and regard for your people, is an enemy to your majesty's person and family, a violator of the public peace, and a betrayer of our happy constitution as it was established at the glorious and necessary revolution."
As this address was unexpected, no reply had been prepared for it; and none being ready, his lordship and company, after waiting about a minute, withdrew to the great relief of the disconcerted audience. A vote of thanks was passed at the next court of common-council, to the lord-mayor for his noble behaviour at the delivery of the remonstrance.
When the city address was presented on May 30th, on the birth of a princess, another surprize of this kind was guarded against: for after the lord-mayor had waited in the antichamber at St. James's a considerable time, the lord Chamberlain came out with a paper in his hand, and read to the following effect: "as your lordship thought fit to speak to his majesty after his answer to the late remonstrance, I am to acquaint your lordship, as it was unusual, his majesty desires that nothing of this kind may happen for the future." The lord-mayor desired the paper might be delivered to him: the lord chamberlain said he acted officially, and had it not in orders to deliver the paper: the lord-mayor then desired a copy: to which the lord chamberlain replied, he would acquaint his majesty, and take his directions; but he did not return until the order was brought for the whole court to attend with the address.
The next day the lord-mayor, attended by the gaol committee for rebuilding Newgate, laid the first stone of the intended new building. Several gold coins of the present king were deposited under the stone; and at the conclusion of the ceremony his lordship drank success to the new building, that the liberties of the people might be as lasting as that stone, and that the place might want inhabitants. If No. 45. was cut upon this stone in large characters, as was reported, it is to be hoped the antiquarians of the present time are employed in deciphering more sensible monuments, than those who find these mystical figures ages hence may be, if they labour at a meaning for them.
Mr. Bingley the bookseller had been all this time confined in the King's bench prison for refusing to answer interrogatories in the court of King's-bench (fn. 22); during which interval he had withstood all applications to induce him to a submission. The odium perhaps of keeping a man in perpetual confinement, by an administration sufficiently unpopular on many other accounts, induced the attorney general to make an unexpected motion on the 28th of May for his enlargement: that court tenacious of its powers objected, but the attorney general insisted that the two years imprisonment Bingley had suffered, was adequate to any crime be had committed. To insist on punishment for crimes where no trial had taken place, was certainly an odd stile of discourse to be used in an English court of justice: however as the attorney general expressed himself satisfied with the measure of his sufferings, the following order was made out for his discharge.
|The king against Bingley||Monday next after the morrow of the ascension of our Lord, in the ninth year of the reign of king George the third.|
Mr. Attorney-general now present in court informing the court that he does not intend further to prosecute the attachment against the defendant, it is ordered by the court that the said defendant be now discharged out of the custody of the Marshal as to the said attachment.
On the motion of Mr. Attorney-general By the Court (fn. 23)."
Thus the attorney-general thought proper to commence a prosecution against a man, and after confining him two years, thought proper to drop it; yet we never heard that Bingley obtained any recompence for this wanton rigor. The merits of the cause for which he was apprehended make no part of the present consideration, as they were never brought to a legal discussion; and that they never were, may be accepted as a tacit confession that the prosecutor gave the defendant his liberty from not being able to support his cause. Attachment is either a legal mode of proceeding, or it is not: few will credit the lenity of the crown so far as to conclude that it was dropped from motives of mercy; as mercy is reserved for objects of a different complexion. If it is not justifiable, an English subject was confined from his family and business two years illegally; and to his ruin. If such transactions occur in the reign of the best of princes, the epithet cannot with equal truth be extended to his servants.
Mr. Beckford's earnest pleas for refusing this second mayoralty, were fatally justified by his sinking under the burden of the office. Having made an excursion to his feat at Fonthill in Wiltshire for the benefit of his health, he there contracted a severe cold; his anxiety to attend his duty in London, nevertheless induced him to travel 100 miles in one day, and this brought on a rheumatic fever of which he died June 21st, at his house in Soho-square. His death occasioned three vacancies; that of chief magistrate, of alderman for Billingsgate ward, and of one of the members of parliament for the city. A common-hall was summoned on the 22d, for the choice of lord-mayor for the remainder of the year in his stead; when the shew of hands were greatly in favour of Barlow Trecothick, Esq; and Brass Crosby, Esq; A poll was however demanded on the behalf of Sir Henry Bankes, the result of which was as under.
The two former were accordingly on the 29th returned to the court of aldermen, who made choice of alderman Trecothick; and he was immediately invested with the insignia of magistracy.
The sheriffs chosen on Midsummer-day, were William Baker and Joseph Martin, Esqrs.