An Apologie or defence of the Cittie of London

A Survey of London. Reprinted From the Text of 1603. Originally published by Clarendon, Oxford, 1908.

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'An Apologie or defence of the Cittie of London', in A Survey of London. Reprinted From the Text of 1603, (Oxford, 1908) pp. 196-199. British History Online [accessed 13 April 2024]

A Discourse of the names and first causes of the institution of Cities and peopled townes.

And of the commodities that doe growe by the same: and namely of the Cittie of London. Written by way of an Apologie (or defence) against the opinion of some men, which thinke that the greatnes of that Cittie standeth not with the profit and securitie of this Realme.

Citties and well peopled places bee called Oppida, in Latine, eyther ab ope danda, or ab opibus, or ab opponendo se hostibus. They be named also Ciuitates a coeundo, and vrbes either of the word vrbare, because the first inclosure of them was described with the draught of a plow, or else ab or be, for the rounde compasse that they at the first had.

In the Greeke a cittie is tearmed [polis], eyther of the worde [polys], multus, or of [poleuo], [poleuein]], id est, habitare, alere, gubernare.

In the Saxon (or old English) sometimes Tun, which wee now call towne, deriued of the word Tynan, to inclose or tyne, as some yet speake. But for as much as that worde was proper to euery village, and inclosed dwelling, therefore our auncesters called their walled townes [burh] or [birigh], and wee now Bury and Borow, of the Greeke word [pyplos] (as I thinke) which signifieth a Tower or a high building.

The walles of these townes had their name of vallum, because at the first they were but of that earth which was cast out of the trench or ditch wherewith they were enuironed.

But afterward, being made of matter more fitte for defence, they were named a muniendo mænia. By the Etimologie of these names, it may appeare that common Weales, Citties and townes, were at the first inuented to the end that men might lead a ciuill life amongst themselues, and bee saued harmeles againe theyr enemies: whereupon Plato saith, Ciuitates ab initio vtilitatis causa constitutæ sunt. Aristotle, I. Politicorum, 2. saith, Ciuitas a natura profecta est: homo enim animal aptum est ad cœtus, et proinde ciuitatis origo ad viuendum, institutio ad bene viuendum refertur. And Cicero, lib. primo de inuentione. in the beginning saith: Fuit quoddam tempus cum in agris homines passim bestiarum more vagabantur, &c., quo quidem tempore, quidam (magnus viz. vir et sapiens) dispersos homines in agris, & tectis siluestribus abditos, ratione quadam compulit in vnum locum, atque eos in vnamquamque rem induxit vtilem & honestam. Vrbibus vero constitutis fidem colere, & iustitiam retinere discebant, et aliis parere sua voluntate consuescebant &c. The same man discourseth notablie to the same effect, in his Oration pro Sestio, a little after the middest thereof, shewing that in the life of men dispersed, vis bearth all the sway: but in the ciuill life and societie, ars is better maintained, &c. This thing well saw king William the Conqueror, who in his lawes, fol. 125. saith, Burgi et Ciuitates fundatæ & edificatæ sunt, ad tuitionem gentium & populorum Regni, & idcirco obseruari debent cum omni libertate, integritate & ratione. And his predecessors, king Ethelstane, and king Canutus in their lawes, fol. 62, and 106. had commaunded thus: Oppida instaurentur, &c.

Seeing therefore that as Cicero, 2. officior., saith, Proxime et secundum Deos, hominibus maxime vtiles esse possunt. And that men are congregated into Citties and commonwealthes, for honestie and vtilities sake, these shortly bee the commodities that do come by citties, comminalties, and corporations. First, men by this nearenes of conuersation are withdrawn from barbarous feritie and force to a certaine mildnes of manners and to humanity and iustice: whereby they are contented to giue and take right, to and from their equals and inferiors, and to heare and obey their heades and superiors. Also the doctrine of God is more fitly deliuered, and the discipline thereof more aptely to bee executed, in peopled townes then abroad, by reason of the facilitie of common and often assembling. And consequently, such inhabitantes be better managed in order, and better instructed in wisedome: whereof it came to passe that at the first, they that excelled others this way, were called astuti of the Greeke worde [asty], which signifieth a City, although the tearme bee now declined to the worst part, and doe betoken euil, euen as Tyrannus, Sophista, and some such other originally good wordes are fallen: And hereof also good behauiour is yet called Vrbanitas, because it is rather found in Citties, then else where. In summe, by often hearing, men be better perswaded in religion, and for that they liue in the eye of others, they bee by example the more easily trayned to justice, and by shamefastnesse restrayned from iniurie.

And whereas commonwealthes and kingdomes cannot haue, next after God, any surer foundation, then the loue and good will of one man towardes another, that also is closely bred and maintayned in Citties, where men by mutual societie and companying together, doe grow to alliances, comminalties and corporations.

The liberall sciences and learninges of all sortes, which bee lumina reipublicæ, doe flourish onely in peopled towns, without the which a realme is in no better case then a man that lacketh both his eyes.

Manual artes or Handy crafts, as they haue for the most part beene inuented in townes and citties, so they cannot any where else be eyther maintained or amended. The like is to bee sayde of Marchandize, vnder which name I comprehend all manner of buying, selling, bartering, exchaunging, communicating of thinges that men need to and fro. Wealth and riches, which are truely called subsidia belli, et ornamenta pacis, are increased chiefly in Townes and Citties both to the prince and people.

The necessity of the poore and needy is in such places both sooner to be espied, and hath meanes to be more charitably relieued.

The places themselues bee surer refuges in all extremities of forraine inuasion, and the inhabitantes be a ready hand & strength of men with munition to oppresse intestine sedition.

Moreouer, for as much as the force of the warres of our time consisteth chiefly in shot, all other souldiers being either horse men or footemen armed on lande, or Mariners at the sea, it seemeth to me that Citizens and Townesmen be as fit to be imploied in any of these seruices, that on horsebacke onely excepted, as the inhabitants that be drawne out of the countrey.

Furthermore, euen as these societies and assemblies of men in Cities and great Townes, are a continuall bridle against tyranny, which was the cause that Tarquin, Nero, Dionisius, and such others haue alwayes sought to weaken them, So, being wel tempered, they are a strong forte and bulwarke not onely in the Aristocritie, but also in the lawfull kingdome or iust royalty.

At once the propagation of Religion, the execution of good policie, the exercise of Charity, and the defence of the countrey, is best performed by townes and Cities: and this ciuill life approcheth nearest to the shape of that misticall body whereof Christ is the head, and men be the members: whereupon both at the first, that man of God Moyses, in the commonwealth of the Israelites, and the Gouernours of all Countries in all ages sithence haue continually maintayned the same. And to chaunge it were nothing else but to Metamorphose the world, and to make wilde beastes of reasonable men. To stand longer vpon this it were, in re non dubia, vti oratione non necessaria: and therefore I will come to London.