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´╗┐Title: The Corporation of London, Its Rights and Privileges
Author: Allen, William Ferneley
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Corporation of London, Its Rights and Privileges" ***

The Corporation of London: its rights and privileges.

by William Ferneley Allen,

sheriff of London and Middlesex, and alderman of the ward of Cheap.


Some apology is necessary on the part of one whose acquaintance with
civic affairs is of such recent date, for presuming to stand forth as
the champion of the fights and privileges of the City of London.
No man of common spirit, however, could tamely submit to the insulting
charges and coarse insinuations with which the Corporation has long
been assailed by malevolent or ignorant individuals.  That the civic
system is free from spot or blemish, no one in his senses would
pretend to assert.  But it may honestly and truly be asserted that the
Court of Aldermen have both the power and the inclination to amend
whatever is defective, and to introduce whatever reforms are
desirable, without the irritating and officious interference of the
imperial legislature.  The system may not be perfect, for it is of
human origin; but its administrators are men of upright character,
practically conversant with the requirements of trade, and animated by
am earnest desire to promote the interests of their fellow-citizens.
Why, then, are they not intrusted with the honourable task of
gradually improving the machinery of the civic government, and of
completing the good work they have long since spontaneously
inaugurated?  It might, perhaps, have been better had this pamphlet
never taken form and substance.  A feeble advocate endangers, and
oftentimes loses, the best possible cause; but still, out of the
fulness of the heart the mouth will speak, and pour forth sentiments
and feelings that no longer brook control.  This, at least, is the only
excuse that can be offered for troubling the public with the opinions
of a comparative novice.

7, LEADENHALL STREET, July 26th, 1858.



London under the Romans
Charter of William the Conqueror
Subsequent Charters
City divided into Wards
Civic Hospitality
The Quo Warranto Case
Restoration of the Charter



The Municipal Constitution
The Lord Mayor
The Aldermen
The Court of Common Council
The Citizens
The Livery Companies
The Sheriffs

The Law Courts
Public Charities
Conservancy of the Thames
The Metage Dues



The Commission of Inquiry
The New Wards
Aldermen and Common-Councilmen
City Expenditure
City Receipts
Removal of Restrictions




London under the Romans--Gilds--Burghs--Charter of William the
Conqueror--Reflections--Subsequent Charters--City divided into
Wards--Civic Hospitality--The Quo Warranto Case--Restoration of the

The first historical notice of the City of London occurs in that
portion of the Annals of Tacitus which treats of the insurrection of
Boadicea.  At that time it was a place much frequented by merchants,
attracted partly by the natural advantages of the site, and partly by
the vicinity of the Roman camp at Islington.  It is stated that 70,000
persons, of both sexes and of all ages, were massacred by that fierce
heroine in London and at St. Albans; but it must not be supposed that
the ordinary  population of those two towns could have formed so large
an aggregate.  It is far more probable that numbers of old men, women,
and children flocked thither from the neighbourhood, in the hope of
escaping from the violence and rapine of the patriot army.  Their
expectations,  however, were disappointed, as the Roman general deemed
it more prudent to evacuate an untenable post, than to risk the
dominion of the entire island on the event of a battle fought under
adverse circumstances.  At the same time the slaughter of the
inhabitants justifies  the inference that they were foreigners rather
than natives, some being traders from Gaul, but the majority either
Roman colonists or the followers and hangers-on of the stationary
camp.  Indeed, it may be gathered from the description of Tacitus, that
these traders were chiefly commissariat contractors and brokers or
money-changers.  The Romans do not appear to have evinced a high order
of commercial instinct, nor to have looked upon the development of
trade as one of the chief objects of government.  Their mission was to
overrun other nations, and to prevent them from indulging in
internecine  warfare.  To them mankind are therefore indebted for the
preservation of whatever civilization was then extant, and for
stopping the retrogressive course of the human race.  This was
particularly observable in their conquest of Greece and the kingdoms
of Asia Minor, where incessant quarrels between rival cities and
principalities had checked the progress of the arts, sciences, and
literature.  Content to conquer in battle, and, as the just reward of
their superior prowess, to impose tribute and a governor, they seldom
interfered with local customs and usages.  Perhaps one great secret of
their marvellous success was this systematic abstinence from
intermeddling with the local administrations.  The principle of
self-government  was never more fully appreciated than by this
remarkable people, who, sending forth consuls, vice-consuls,  and
prefects, yet left to the conquered the management of  their own
affairs and the guardianship of their own interests.  Not even in the
most corrupt days of the empire was it attempted to absorb the
patronage of every department and province for the benefit of a few,
under the pretext of imparting greater vigour to the administration of
public affairs by centralization.  It was not deemed wise or necessary
to constitute central boards for the direction of matters with which
not a single member might, possibly, be acquainted.  They did not aim
at an ideal perfection, but were satisfied with doing what was
practicable, and with a large average of general prosperity.  To each
civitas--corresponding to our phrase of "city and county"--was
assigned the regulation of its own domestic policy, by means of annual
magistrates, a chosen senate, and the general assembly of the free
inhabitants.  Through this wise policy of non-interference, the City of
London rapidly acquired wealth and importance, and before the
evacuation of the island by the Romans, had attained a position of
considerable grandeur.  The civic institutions of the Saxons were,
indeed, admirably suited for the adaptation of the municipal customs
bequeathed to them by their predecessors, and which became developed
to their full proportions through the greater amount of individual
liberty that prevailed among the Germanic races.

Of the purely Teutonic institutions, one of the most characteristic
was that of Gilds.  Originally, a gild was nothing more than an
association of ten families, for purposes of mutual protection and
security.  By the custom of "frankpledge," every freeman at the age of
fourteen was called upon to give securities for his good behaviour.
Gilds were therefore formed, binding themselves to produce the
offender if any breach of the peace was committed by one of their
members, or to give redress to the injured party.  To carry out these
objects a small fund was raised, to which every one contributed; and
thence was derived the name of the association: "gildan," in Saxon,
signifying to pay.  With a view to becoming better acquainted with one
another, and to draw more closely the bands of friendship, convivial
meetings were held at fixed periods, when a vast quantity of beer was
quaffed in honour of the living, and to the memory of the dead.  In
after-times this truly Saxon institution assumed greater proportions,
and embraced both ecclesiastical and secular gilds.  Of the former it
is unnecessary to make further mention, but the latter formed the germ
of the present livery companies.  The earlier secular or mercantile
gilds were associations of members of a particular trade or craft, for
the purpose of maintaining and advancing the privileges of their
peculiar calling.  The term was also applied to a district or "soke,"
possessed of independent franchises, as in the case of the Portsoken
Ward, which was anciently known as the Cnighten Gild.  A "soke," or
soca, it may be incidentally observed, was the territory in which was
exercised the soca, or the privilege of hearing causes and disputes,
levying fines, and administering justice within certain limits.
The practice of gildating or embodying the aggregate free population
of a town was of considerably later date.  In France and in Flanders,
corporations and communes, or commonalties, appear to have existed in
the middle of the eleventh century, but the earliest mention of the
Corporation of London occurs in the second year of the reign of
Richard I.  Availing himself of the king's absence in the Holy Land,
his brother John, Earl of Moreton, anxious to acquire the co-operation
of the city of London in his traitorous designs upon the crown,
convened a general assembly of the citizens, and confirmed their
ancient rights and privileges by a formal deed or charter.  It was
then, for the first time, that the commonalty of the city was
regularly and officially recognized as a corporate body.  The
distinctive rights of a town corporation were the election of a
council presided over by a mayor or bailiff, a common seal, a bell to
convoke the citizens, and local jurisdiction.

But although it was not before the reign of Richard I. that the
citizens of London were formed into a body corporate, they had
enjoyed, as the inhabitants of a free burgh, the immunities and many
essential privileges of a corporation, from the time of Edward the
Confessor, if not of Alfred.  Without stopping to discuss the etymology
of the word "burgh," it may suffice to observe that at the period of
the Conquest by far the greater part of the cities and towns of
England were the private property of the king, or of some spiritual or
secular lord, on whom they had been conferred by royal grant.  These
burghs, as they were called, were said to be held in demesne, and paid
to their superior certain tolls, duties, and customs, levied on goods
exposed for sale at markets and fairs.  The inhabitants were actually
little better than villeins or serfs, and were entirely at the mercy
of their feudal lord.  Immense, therefore, were the advantages
possessed by the free burghs, such as London, which governed
themselves, and compounded for all dues by the payment of a fixed
annual sum.  These annual contributions were styled the "farm," and,
when perpetual, the burghs so compounding were said to be held at
fee-farm of the king in capite, as was the case with London.  One of
the chief privileges implied by this tenure was that of exercising an
independent jurisdiction, both civil and criminal, administered by
magistrates chosen by the burgesses.  It is supposed that criminal law
was originally dispensed in the free gilds into which the city was
divided, under the presidency of an alderman.  These divisions were
afterwards called wards, and were analogous to the corresponding
division of the shire into hundreds.  In each ward was held a
court-leet, or ward-mote, dating from the time of Alfred, though the
actual institution of wards by that name is no later than the reign of
Edward I. Civil causes, in London at least, were tried before a
peculiar tribunal, the president of which was probably the portreve,
or, in minor causes, an alderman.

The Norman Conquest naturally suspended for a time all these
privileges, and reduced all free towns to the level of burghs in
demesne.  Desirous, however, to secure the good will of the citizens,
William hastened to assure them of his protection, and to confirm
their prescriptive rights and immunities.  Thus ran the gracious
expression of the royal pleasure:--"William the king greets William
the bishop, and Godfrey the portreve, and all the burghers within
London, French and English, friendly.  And I make known to you that I
will that ye be law-worthy, as ye were in the days of King Edward.
And I will, that each child be his father's heir after his father's
days. And I will not suffer that any man command you any wrong.
God keep you."

The import of this charter was to make the citizens "free tenants,"
reserving to the king the seigniory, or proprietary title.  The epithet
"law-worthy" is equivalent to a declaration that they were freemen,
for in the feudal ages none other were entitled to the forms of law;
while the right of heirship apparently exempted them from the rule of
primogeniture which prevailed among the Norman conquerors;--it is
probable, however, that this exemption did not long hold good.
In other respects the citizens of London continued to be governed by
their own laws and usages, administered by their own magistrates after
the ancient and established forms.  A nucleus of liberty was thus
preserved amidst the tyrannical usurpations of the Norman barons, and
the bold burgesses many a time stoutly resisted the encroachments that
were attempted to be made on their hereditary rights.  At all periods
of English history, indeed, have the citizens of London stepped
forward as the champions of freedom, and shown themselves the
incorruptible guardians of the public interests.  Never at any time,
however, was there greater necessity for a sturdy bulwark against the
growing power of the oligarchy than at the present moment.  Little by
little--or, rather, by rapid strides--does the Government seek to get
within its grasp the control of every department of the commonwealth.
To-day, the East-India Company is abolished, for the sake of the
"better government of India;" to-morrow, the Corporation is to be
"reformed," for the "better government" of the City; the day after,
some other long-established institution will be swept away.
There is nothing so repugnant to a ministry as whatever savours of
self-government; for how.  in that case can the "Dowbs" be provided
for? So long as the citizens manage their own affairs, there is no
patronage at the disposal of ministers to bestow on a faithful or a
wavering partisan.  Young "honourables" and other needy scions of the
governing classes have little ambition to undertake civic duties,
while they are only onerous and expensive.  Let the wedge be first
applied.  Let "reform" worm its way into the constitution of the
Corporation, and then by degrees the whole edifice may gradually be
subverted.  Stipendiary magistracies and paid offices of any kind,
if not too laborious, are always acceptable for sons, nephews, cousins,
and influential supporters.  The danger from this quarter is in truth
greater than when Norman William had the island prostrate at his feet,
and when the liberties of the City hung upon his word.  That word went
forth to save and to preserve.  The stern warrior respected the rights
of the industrious burgesses, and by his wisdom paved the way for the
future greatness of the metropolis.  But theoretical and doctrinaire
statesmen are willing to risk all for the sake of consistency to
certain arbitrary first principles, which do not apply to the spirit
of the British people.

The charter of William the Conqueror, the reader will have remarked,
alludes in a very general manner to the liberties and privileges
enjoyed by the City.  The first detailed and specific notice of their
character occurs in the charter of Henry I.  In the early part of his
reign, being anxious to fix himself securely in his seat, the usurper
conveyed, or confirmed, a grant to the citizens to hold Middlesex to
farm for the yearly rental of 300 pounds; to appoint their own sheriff
and their own justiciar; to be exempt from various burdensome and
vexatious taxes in force in other parts of the kingdom; to be free
from all denominations of tolls, customs, passage, and lestage,
throughout the kingdom and along the seaboard; and to possess many
other equally important privileges.  This valuable charter was renewed
by King Stephen, during whose stormy and troubled reign the metropolis
enjoyed a degree of prosperity unknown to the rest of the kingdom.
The comparative peace and security which distinguished the happy lot of
the citizens of London, have been justly attributed to the maintenance
of their ancient institutions, which may be said to have grown out of
the habits, requirements, thoughts, and feelings characteristic of the
Anglo-Saxon race.  Nor were the Londoners unconscious of their power,
or ungrateful to their benefactor.  It was chiefly through their
influence and exertions that the empress was finally driven out of the
kingdom, and Stephen established on the throne.  Henry II. confirmed
the purport of preceding charters, and added some further immunities,
concluding with the declaration that their ancient customs and
liberties were to be held as of inheritance from the king and his
heirs.  They became, therefore, the property of the citizens, and were
bequeathed from father to son, as a cherished heirloom.  It is true
that under Richard I. they were exposed to some extortion, for which
they received ample amends during the reign of his weak and inglorious
successor.  Not only did they obtain five different charters
confirmatory of their ancient privileges, together with the
restoration of the sheriffwick, usurped by the last three monarchs,
but also the first formal recognition of the mayoralty.  These favours,
however, did not render them untrue to the general interests of the
nation, or betray them into a corrupt acquiescence with the absolute
tendencies of the Crown.  At that time, as at all others, while duly
reverencing the royal prerogatives, they resolutely opposed themselves
to the undue aggrandizement of the kingly power at the expense of the
other estates of the realm.  It was within the precincts of the City,
at the metropolitan church of St. Paul's, that the articles of Magma
Charta were first proposed and accepted by acclamation, the citizens
binding themselves by oath to defend and enforce them with their
lives.  Nor was it for themselves alone that they were prepared to shed
their blood.  Their solicitude extended to all other cities and towns
throughout the kingdom, for the preservation of whose free customs and
immunities they expressly stipulated.  During the long feeble reign of
Henry III., no fewer than ten charters were granted to the citizens of
London.  In the thirty-first year of that monarch, the mayor and
commonalty of the City of London are mentioned for the first time as a
corporate body, possessing a common seal.

The reign of Edward I. was rendered memorable for the convocation of
the first parliament of the freely-elected representatives of the
people, for the purpose of voting the supplies necessary for the
conduct of public affairs.  Previously to this, grants of money were
usually obtained through the personal influence of the barons over the
cities and towns held in demesne.  The burgesses, however, did not sit
with the knights of shires, but apart by themselves, and, through
loyalty or obsequiousness, assessed themselves in a contribution
nearly one third greater than that granted by the barons and knights.
The convenient precedent was not overlooked, and it became henceforth
customary to expect the like liberality from subsequent parliaments.
At this period, also, the principal divisions of the city were first
denominated wards; these wards were presided over by an alderman,
assisted by a council chosen by the inhabitants of each division.  In
the twelfth year of his reign, Edward, incensed by what he considered
the disrespectful conduct of the civic magistrates, disfranchised the
city, and governed it for twelve years through means of a custos.
The experiment, however, did not answer, and the king was glad to
restore the liberties of the City on payment of a heavy fine.
At a later period, the mayor and sheriffs successfully resisted a
second attempt to infringe on the privileges of the citizens.
Under the second Edward, London continued to maintain its ascendancy
over all the other cities in the kingdom, and it was now for the first
time authentically ordained, that no person should be held to enjoy
civic freedom unless he were a member of some trade or "mystery,"
or admitted by full assent of the commonalty assembled.

Two remarkable incidents marked the reign of Edward III. in connection
with the City of London; the Lord Mayor was now constituted, by royal
charter, one of the judges of oyer and terminer and gaol-delivery at
Newgate.  The ancient trading gilds also became developed into the
present livery companies, so called, because a peculiar uniform was
chosen by each.  They were then likewise denominated crafts or mysteries,
their president being styled a warden; the title of alderman being now
reserved for the chief magistrates of wards.  It may, too, be worthy
of note that, in the 28th year of this reign the city serjeants
received permission, when engaged in their official duties, and on
great ceremonial occasions, to bear maces of gold or silver, with the
royal or other arms thereon.  We are told that this was considered a
most flattering distinction, and that the mace-bearer, by virtue of
his office, was deemed an esquire.

So gladly did our valiant and victorious kings of the olden times
avail themselves of every opportunity to do honour to the liberality,
courage, and fidelity of the wealthy and intelligent burgesses of

After various unsuccessful attempts to establish a representative form
of government, it was at length decided, in the seventh year of
Richard II., at a special convocation of the whole community of
citizens, that there should be both a deliberative and an elective
assembly.  The latter, of course, consisted of the aggregate body of
citizens, anciently designated immensa communitas, or folkmote, who
were annually to elect four persons at the wardmote for each ward to
represent the commonalty on all occasions of a deliberative nature.
During the early part of this reign the City of London had no reason
to complain of any lack of royal favour.  Afterwards, however, Richard
was guilty of many attempts at extortion, and even seized upon the
franchises of the City, on the pretext of a riot, notwithstanding that
the first charter of his grandfather, Edward III., had debarred such
forfeiture as the consequence of individual misconduct.  These acts of
oppression very naturally and justly alienated the attachment of the
Londoners, and prepared them to give a hearty welcome to Bolingbroke.
This good-feeling was maintained throughout the reign of Henry IV., who
testified his gratitude by the grant of several valuable privileges.
A like cordial understanding between the citizens and their sovereign
existed under Henry V., and the City, in consequence, increased in
opulence, population, and influence.  Guildhall was built, and the
streets were lighted at night by public lanterns.  The halcyon days,
however, of the City of London must be referred to the reign of the
fourth Edward.  The citizens never wavered in their attachment to his
fortunes, nor did that gay and gallant monarch ever exhibit any
coldness of feeling--at least, towards their fair dames.  Of Richard III.
it is unnecessary to speak, and even of Henry VII there is little
to be said, save that he never omitted an opportunity of fleecing the
citizens and replenishing his exchequer.

Under Henry VIII. the City of London earned the honourable distinction
of being the only body of men in the realm who dared to resist the
king's systematic abuse of the royal power.  Henry had revived the
unconstitutional practice of imposing taxes without the consent of the
Commons; but the citizens opposed his illegal demands with such
resolution that he was compelled to desist for the time and to proceed
with greater caution for the future.  Another distinguishing feature of
this reign was the profuse extravagance of the citizens on ceremonial
occasions.  The chronicles of the period teem with marvellous
descriptions of the pomp and pageantry displayed whenever a royal or
illustrious personage honoured the City with a visit.  In modern times
this semi-barbarous love of ostentation has been superseded by a
genial and dignified hospitality, that has tended in no slight degree
to increase the fame and influence of that important quarter of the
metropolis.  Each successive sovereign of this great empire has
accepted with grateful pride the magnificent demonstrations of loyalty
tendered by the faithful burgesses.  Foreign potentates and ambassadors
have equally deemed it an honour to receive the congratulations of
these princely traders at their sumptuous banquets, celebrated
throughout the world.  The ministers of the day feel their position to
be insecure until it has been ratified by the acclamations of the
citizens, and the hospitable attentions of the civic magistrates.
Statesmen and warriors, poets and historians, men of thought and men
of action, are all stimulated to exertion by the honourable hope of
being distinguished by the burgesses of London, and enrolled in the
lists of freemen.  On such occasions the city magnates hold high
festival, and by their graceful hospitality inspire every breast with
generous sympathy.  Formal and priggish persons are said to exist who
object to the cost of such entertainments, and, in the spirit of
Judas, ask why, instead of purchasing these dainty cates, the money is
not distributed among the poor.  Is it possible that they do not
perceive that every farthing spent on these stately banquets finds its
way into general circulation, benefiting almost every branch of trade,
and giving employment to thousands of artisans? To hear them speak,
one would suppose that the cook and the butler alone profited by such
occasions, whereas it is strictly and literally true that not a single
gala takes place in the City without the circulating medium
percolating through every warehouse, magazine, shop, and stall within
the Bills of Mortality.  Independently of this consideration, these
civic feasts are symbols of those great old Saxon institutions which
have made England the home and guardian of liberty.  Our hearty and
large-souled ancestors never dreamed of weighing every miserable coin,
or of stinting the measure of their generous wines or foaming ale.
They gave not less to the poor because they delighted to honour the
brave and good, or to greet one another in the loving cup.  Unlike the
coldly intellectual reformers and theorists of the present day, they
did not consider the gaol and the workhouse as the only asylums for
poverty.  They were men of feeling and kindly impulse, not of abstract
principles.  They gave their cheerful alms to the mendicants, and
spread a bounteous board for their neighbours.  Fools that they were!
How is it that they did not recognize the mendicant to be an impostor
and a drone, or bethink them that the money with which they feasted
their neighbour might have purchased a field? It was because they were
warm-hearted, warm-blooded men, and not mere calculating machines.
They were glorious creatures, with thews and sinews, and they made
their country great and powerful among the nations of the world; but
they never paused to denounce the cost of a dinner, or to grudge a
flowing bowl to their kinsfolk and neighbours.  Besides, our Pharisees
of reform conveniently forget that the copious banquets at which they
turn up their envious eyes are mostly defrayed from private funds.
The sheriffs, for instance, derive no aid from public moneys; their own
fortunes provide the means for handsomely entertaining friends and
strangers, and for dispensing open-handed charity.  The Lord Mayor
himself almost invariably draws upon his own resources to a large
amount, in order to maintain the ancient reputation and actual present
influence of the City of London.  Demolish Gog and Magog, put down the
civic banquets, break up and melt down the weighty and many-linked
chains of solid gold round the neck of my lord mayor and the sheriffs,
strip off the aldermen's gowns, make a bonfire of the gilded
carriages, wring, if you will, the necks of both swans and cygnets.
It is all vanity and vexation.  Man is an intellectual animal: he wants
none of these gewgaws.  Alas! Wisdom may cry aloud in the streets, but
no one will heed her words if she speaks beyond his comprehension.
In theory, these Pecksniffs of retrenchment might possibly be correct
if mankind had attained the same degree of marble indifference with
themselves.  In the mean time, while we are honest and true, it is good
to be merry and wise.

Passing lightly over the intervening reigns, we now arrive at that of
James I., who granted three very valuable charters to the Corporation
of London.  The first alludes to the immemorial right of the mayor and
commonalty to the conservancy of the Thames, and to the metage of all
coals, grain, salt, fruit, vegetables, and other merchandise sold by
measure, delivered at the port of London.  Of the exact nature of these
privileges and of their beneficial operation, so far as public
interests are concerned, we shall have occasion to speak hereafter,
merely premising in this place that they have been enjoyed "from time
whereof the memory of man runneth not to the contrary." The second
charter, after confirming former liberties, enlarges the limits of the
civic jurisdiction and ordains that the mayor, recorder, and two
aldermen, shall be justices of oyer and terminer.  The third one is
simply an amplification of the preceding two, and clears up various
doubts as to the weighing and measuring of coals: both offices are
granted or confirmed.

The tyrannical and oppressive treatment of the citizens of London by
Charles I. is too well known to need more than a passing allusion.
Not only did he imprison the aldermen for refusing to act dishonourably
towards their fellow-citizens; not only did he make illegal demands
and impose arbitrary fines, but he even deprived them of the right of
petition and remonstrance.  Such despotic conduct could not do
otherwise than alienate the affection of those who had previously
displayed many proofs of their loyalty to the Crown and attachment to
the royal person.  The City consequently made common cause with the
Parliament, freely expending both blood and treasure in defence of the
national freedom.  Who has mot read with kindling cheeks how the bold
'prentices, armed only with spears, withstood a furious charge of the
fiery Rupert at the head of his gallant cavaliers?  But though prepared
to resist the abuse of the royal prerogative, the citizens were not
disposed to transfer their allegiance to a usurper, who, in the name
of liberty, trampled liberty under foot.  Accordingly we find them
consistently opposed to the military absolutism of Cromwell, and among
the first to co-operate with Monk in effecting the restoration to the
throne of the royal line of Stuart.

The Stuarts, however, like the Bourbons, were incapable of benefiting
by the lessons of adversity.  It was not long before "the merry
monarch" was involved in most unmirthful disputes with the citizens,
whom he endeavoured to deprive of their ancient right to elect their
own sheriffs.  For the moment he partially succeeded, and, encouraged
by this success, formed the design of seizing the charters of every
corporate borough in the kingdom.  The chief difficulty rested with
London: if that could be overcome, the smaller cities would fall an
easy prey.  The law officers of the Crown were accordingly instructed
to make out a case to sanction the forfeiture of the city charters.
A double pretext was soon invented.  It was stated that nine years
before, the Common Council had levied a new scale of tolls on the
public markets rebuilt after the great fire, and at a more recent
period had printed a libellous petition impugning the king's justice.
On these slender pleas a writ of quo warranto was taken out against
the City, and the judges, under the undoubted influence of the Court,
pronounced sentence of forfeiture, although a charter of the 7th
Richard II. expressly provides against any forfeiture of the City's
liberties notwithstanding any abuse of them whatsoever.  This
exhibition of violence so terrified the other corporations of the
kingdom, that most of them at once tendered the surrender of their
franchises, with the ignominious hope of obtaining better terms for
themselves.  James II. walked in the steps of his brother, and showed
even greater determination to destroy the liberties of the nation.
The disaffection of his subjects and the landing of the Prince of Orange
warned him, when too late, that he had gone too far.  Anxious to make
friends in his hour of extremest peril, he despatched the infamous
Jefferies to Guildhall to announce the restoration of the ancient
privileges of the City.  But the citizens were not thus to be cajoled.
No sooner had the king set out to join his forces, than the Court of
Aldermen declared themselves in favour of the Prince of Orange, as the
champion of civil and religious freedom.  The Lord Mayor, the aldermen,
and fifty common councillors, had a seat and voice in the convention
which pronounced the deposition of James, and the elevation to the
throne of William and Mary.  The first act of the nation was to
establish and perpetuate a constitutional form of government, and this
was accomplished by passing the famous statute known as the Bill of
Rights.  Experience had proved the vital importance of placing the
privileges of the City of London beyond the caprice of the sovereign
and the possibility of a coup d'etat.  It was therefore declared by
Parliament that the judgment passed on the quo warranto of Charles II.
was unjust and illegal, and that all the proceedings in the case were
informal and void.  It was further enacted, "that the mayor,
commonalty, and citizens, should for ever thereafter remain a body
corporate and politic, without any seizure or forejudger, or being
thereof excluded or ousted, upon any pretence of forfeiture or
misdemeanour whatsoever, theretofore or thereafter to be done,
committed, or suffered." The constitution of the corporation was
nevertheless subsequently violated by the statute of 11 Geo. I., which
conferred on the livery the elective franchises exercised in common
hall.  By a still more recent act, 12 & 13 Victoria, the right of
voting in the election of aldermen and common councilmen has been
further extended and enlarged.  It was then enacted that that privilege
should belong to every freeman of the City rated at 10 pounds per annum
to the police or any other rate, and registered among the voters for the
city of London at elections of members to serve in Parliament.  Still
greater innovations are now in contemplation, in violation of law and
usage, and in defiance of prescriptive right, royal charters, and
parliamentary statutes.

Audax omnia perpeti, Gens humana ruit per vetitum nefas.*

* The materials for this slight sketch have been gathered from
Norton's "History and Franchises of the City of London;" Dr. Brady's
learned dissertation on Boroughs; and Herbert's "History of the Twelve
Livery Companies."



The Municipal Constitution--Lord Mayor--Aldermen--Court of Common
Council--Citizens--The Livery Companies--Sheriffs--Law Courts--Public
Charities--Conservancy of the Thames--Metage Dues.

In the preceding hasty sketch it has been attempted to trace the rise
of London from being the bazaar to a Roman camp to its present
position as the capital of the commercial world.  It is now worth while
to glance at the nature of the municipal institutions through which it
has attained such a proud ascendancy.*

* The authority chiefly consulted for the following statements is
Pulling's "Practical Treatise on the Laws, Customs, Usages, and
Regulations of the City and Port of London."

Strictly speaking, London cannot be said to possess any original
charter, or specific definition of its rights and franchises.  Those
conferred since the Conquest, without exception, allude directly or
indirectly to preceding documents of a similar nature.  In fact the
customs and usages of the City grew out of the ancient Saxon
institutions, grafted, as they were, on the Roman municipal stock.
The City of London represents a county, and as such is divided into
hundreds, called wards; each having its own wardmote, presided over by
its own alderman.  The Lord Mayor, the Court of Aldermen, and the
Court of Common Council, together with the incorporated guilds which
elect the civic magistrates, form the municipal constitution.

In ancient times the chief civic magistrate was styled the Reve,
or Portreve, but in 1207 John changed this title to that of Mayor.
The appellation of Lord was first prefixed in the fourth charter of
Edward III., when the honour of having gold or silver maces borne
before him was conferred on the "Lord Mayor," who ranked moreover as
an earl.  His duties are multiplex and ubiquitous.  In his own person
he represents all the rights and privileges of the Corporation.  He is
said to hold the same relation to the City as the Crown does to the
rest of the kingdom.  He is chief butler at the coronation of the
sovereign, lord-lieutenant of the county of London, clerk of the
markets, gauger of wine and oil, meter of coals and grain, salt and
fruit, conservator of the Thames, admiral of the port, justice of gaol
delivery for Newgate, chairman of every committee he attends, and
subject to many other burdens.  The election of Lord Mayor takes place
on the 29th September, when the livery usually nominate the two senior
aldermen who have not passed the chair; of these the senior is generally
chosen by the Court of Aldermen.  The chain of office is then placed
round his neck, and he himself presented to the Lord Chancellor.
He does not, however, immediately enter upon his important duties,
but remains in a chrysalis form, under the title of Lord Mayor elect,
until the 8th of November, when he takes the oath of office, at the
Guildhall, and on the following day is presented to the Barons of the
Exchequer, at Westminster, for the confirmation of the Crown.
The annual salary is 8,000 pounds, which rarely suffices to meet the
incessant demands on the Lord Mayor's charity and hospitality.
He is expected to contribute to every charitable institution within
his jurisdiction, and to a great many beyond it, and to head every
subscription for praiseworthy purposes.  His private alms also amount
to a very large sum, and his hospitality is proverbial.
He represents, in short, the best phase of the old feudal baron,
or rather of the Saxon eorl, exercising a paternal and beneficient
supervision over all who reside within the limits of his authority.

The Aldermen.

Among the Anglo-Saxons the title of alderman was regarded as one of
the most honourable distinctions to which a freeman could aspire.
After a time, however, it was conferred with somewhat too liberal
courtesy on nearly every individual vested with authority.
The presidents of district guilds were especially known by this
designation, which they afterwards monopolized when the guilds became
raised into wards or hundreds of the city.  The aldermen then partially
recovered their former dignity, and in the charter of Henry I. are
mentioned as barons.  The position and authority of an alderman, though
they have much declined since the olden times, are still a reasonable
object of ambition.  He is a justice of the peace, as well as the
presiding officer of his ward, and, by virtue of his office, a member
of the Court of Common Council; but it is rather in their collective
than their individual capacity that their power and usefulness are
most conspicuous.  Independently of their judicial duties, the Court of
Aldermen constitute the executive department of the Corporation; with
them rests the cognizance of the return of every civic officer elected
at a wardmote court, and also of the election of common-councillors.
They swear in brokers and other officers, and investigate the validity
of claims to civic freedom.  For the proper discharge of these and
similar duties, they are singularly adapted through their local
knowledge, which is likewise of material service to her Majesty's
judges at the Central Criminal Court.  This circumstance further
renders them most efficient as city magistrates,--far more so,
indeed, than any police or stipendiary magistrate could ever hope to be.
Personally acquainted with the inhabitants of their respective
wards, they are in a position to obtain peculiar and authentic
information as to the characters, habits, and motives of witnesses,
accusers, and accused.  Their devotion to public business is wholly
disinterested, for there are no pecuniary emoluments attached to the
office, which has truly little to recommend it, save as being a sphere
of active utility, and as a gratifying token of the good-will of one's
fellow-citizens.  The proper style of the Court is the "Court of the
Mayor and Aldermen in the Inner Chamber." It consists of the Lord
Mayor or his deputy--an alderman who has passed the chair--and not
less than twelve other aldermen.  The proceedings of the Court are
entered in journals called "Repertories," which are kept in the
muniment-room.  The Recorder, the Steward of Southwark, the Clerk to
the Lord Mayor, the keepers, governors, chaplains, and surgeons of the
different prisons, and other officers of the Corporation, are elected
by this Court, which, for assiduity, intelligence, and
incorruptibility, yields to no body of men in the kingdom.

Court of Common Council.

But however distinguished may be the civic position, however great the
moral influence, of the Lord Mayor and the Court of Aldermen, the
controlling power is, after all, centred in the Common Council.  At a
very remote period the freemen of the City were accustomed to meet in
general assembly, and to act as one body.  As their numbers increased,
the many inconveniences of such a mode of proceeding soon became
manifest; and so early as the reign of the first Edward
representatives began to be chosen from each ward for the despatch of
real business.  At first the guilds, or trading companies, claimed the
right of election as their exclusive privilege, and consequently
excited the jealousy of the mass of the inhabitants.  It was therefore
arranged that the men of each guild or "mystery" should choose their
own delegates from among themselves, and this was the more easily
accomplished, as at that time each craft occupied a separate quarter,
as is still the custom in the East.  This arrangement, however, was of
brief duration, and a more permanent settlement was effected in the
reign of Richard II.  It was then agreed that every ward should
annually elect four of the most efficient persons in the ward to sit
in the Common Council for the following year, and whose names should
be presented to the mayor --that high functionary being charged to
accept no more than eight members of any one "mystery" for the whole
city.  As the wards varied in extent and population, it was further
agreed that the larger wards should return six councillors, and the
smaller four or two, according to their sufficiency.  The number of the
Common Council was then fixed at 96 members, but gradually increased
to the present number of 206, who are chosen as follows:-

Bassishaw and Lime Street each return 4; Dowgate, Candlewick,
Cordwainers, Cornhill, Queenhithe, Vintry, and Walbrook, 6; Bread
Street, Bridge, Billingsgate, Broad Street, Cheap, Coleman Street,
Cripplegate Within, and Cripplegate Without, Tower, Langbourn, Castle
Baynard, Aldersgate, Aldgate, and Portsoken, 8; Bishopsgate and
Farringdon-within, 14; and Farringdon-without, 16.  These true
representatives of the citizens constitute the Court of Common
Council, under the style and title of "Court of the Lord Mayor,
Aldermen, and Commoners of the City of London in Common Council
assembled." It requires the presence of the Lord Mayor, or his
deputy--an alderman who has passed the chair--two aldermen and
thirty-eight common councilmen, to make a quorum.  There are usually
twelve ordinary meetings in the year, and on an average thirteen
extraordinary meetings, convened for special purposes by a requisition
to the Lord Mayor signed by seven members.  The proceedings are
conducted as nearly as possible according to the routine of the House
of Commons, and embrace a vast variety of subjects of local and
sometimes national importance.  The Court has a double function
--legislative and executive.  In the former capacity it enacts by-laws
for the better government of the Corporation, in conformity with
immemorial usage confirmed by 15 Edward III., and again more recently
and fully by the Municipal Corporations Act.  The charter of Edward III.
authorizes the mayor and aldermen, with the assent of the commonalty,
"where any customs theretofore used and obtained proved hard or
defective, or any matters newly arising within the City needed
amendment, and no remedy had been previously provided, to apply and
ordain a convenient remedy, as often as it should seem expedient; so
that the same were agreeable to good faith and reason, for the common
advantage of the citizens, and other liege subjects sojourning with
them, and useful to king and people." Vested with such powers as
these, the Corporation of London are clearly competent to introduce
whatever reforms circumstances may render desirable.  As practical men
of business, the Court of Common Council may fairly be supposed to be
the best judges as to the nature of the amendments to be made, and the
right time of making them.  Persons engaged in commercial pursuits are
not usually obstructive, or opposed to useful innovations.  On the
contrary, being wedded to no theories, they are constantly impelled to
change, and to act upon each emergency as it arises.  The past history
of the City of London is one long illustration of this position,--it
is an uninterrupted series of reforms, many of them rather beneficial
to the nation at large than to the Corporation itself.  On what grounds,
then, is it justifiable to supersede this salutary internal action of
the Corporation, and to exercise the arbitrary power of the
legislature to enforce crude and inapplicable innovations?
This interference with the self-government of the City is, in fact,
a vote of censure on the duly elected representatives of the citizens,
with whom the majority of the citizens themselves are, however,
perfectly satisfied.  But, in truth, that "self-government" is the
head and front of their offence, for is it not a stumbling-block to
ministerial and oligarchical influence?  In addition to the power of
enacting by-laws, the Common Council superintend the disposal of the
funds of the Corporation; and without their previous consent no larger
sum than 100 pounds can be paid for any purpose whatsoever.
Their executive functions are also considerable.  Upon this court
depends the responsibility of electing the common serjeant, the town
clerk, the two judges, and officers of the Sheriffs' Court, the clerk
of the peace, the coroner, the remembrancer, the commissioner of the
city police, and various other officers of inferior note and standing.

The Citizens.

The "complete" citizen may be defined as a ten-pound householder,
paying scot and bearing lot.  The freedom of the City is not, however,
attainable by simple residence.  It is to be acquired only by three
modes--by patrimony, by apprenticeship, or by redemption.  A royal
charter, even, is insufficient to make the grantee free of the City.
The freedom of the City is not confined to the male sex.  Freewomen
are called free sisters, but cannot transmit their freedom, which is,
moreover, suspended during coverture.  Freedom by service is acquired
by a seven years' apprenticeship to a freeman or freewoman, the
indenture being enrolled at the Chamberlain's office within twelve
months of its execution.  The apprentice need not necessarily be
articled to a member of any guild, fraternity, or trading company, but
he must not be the son of an alien.  Freedom by redemption, or
purchase, is of a threefold nature:--1st.  It may take the form of a
fine for any breach of the apprenticeship indentures; 2nd.  It is
often bestowed as an honorary distinction on individuals eminent for
their public services; and 3rd.  Admission to the freedom of the City
is by presentment by persons entitled to confer that privilege.  It is
imperative on all persons elected to a corporate office, or "occupying
premises and carrying on any trade, business, or profession, within
the City and its liberties," to become free of the City.  This is done
by the payment of the fees of the officers and of 5 pounds to the
Corporation.  The advantages of the freedom, though not so great in
the present day as in ancient times, are still considerable.  Besides
being a bond of union and mutual protection, it entitles its possessor
to a vote at the elections of the aldermen and the common council of
the ward.  Only freemen can act as brokers, or, indeed, carry on any
trade within the boundaries of the City.

The Companies.

As the City of London waxed mighty and opulent, proportionate was the
increase of the wealth and importance of its component parts.  The
humble guilds or crafts gradually developed themselves into large and
influential trading companies, to belong to which was deemed an honour
not beneath the consideration of royalty.  Edward III., for instance,
did not disdain to be enrolled in the Worshipful Company of Linen
Armourers, now Merchant Tailors; and his example was followed by his
successor, Richard II. The example, indeed, was contagious, for in the
reign of the latter monarch the company in question could boast of the
fellowship of four royal dukes, ten earls, ten barons, and five
bishops.  The custom has come down to our own times, and the proudest
names in the aristocracy are recorded in the books of the City
companies.  The presidents of these crafts or mysteries were styled
Wardens, who were assisted by a small number of delegates of the guild
in presenting to the City Chamberlain all defaults against the rules
and ordinances of the mystery.  These companies were not all equally
regarded by either the sovereign or the citizens.  Towards the close of
the reign of Edward II. the more important companies separated from
the less wealthy; and this distinction was soon so far recognized,
that precedency was given to the following twelve companies:-
1. Mercers; 2.  Grocers; 3.  Drapers; 4.  Fishmongers; 5.  Goldsmiths;
6. Skinners; 7.  Merchant Tailors; 8.  Haberdashers; 9.  Salters; 10.
Ironmongers; 11.  Vintners; 12.  Cloth workers.  In these companies the
freemen from early times have been of two classes; the upper, entitled
to wear the "livery" or uniform of the company; and the lower,
consisting mostly of workmen.  The representatives of the companies
were chosen from the former, and are mentioned in the charters as
probi homines.  In the fifteenth year of Edward IV. the Common Council
enacted, that the masters, wardens, and probi homines of the several
mysteries should repair to the Guildhall in their last liveries, for
the purpose of electing the Lord Mayor, sheriffs, and other civic
officers; and that the members of the Common Council should be the
only other persons present.  This court now consists of the Lord Mayor
or his deputy--an alderman who has passed the chair--four aldermen,
and the liverymen of the companies who are also freemen.  Their office
is to elect the Lord Mayor, sheriffs, chamberlain, bridge-master, and
auditors of the City and Bridge-house accounts, and the four ale-conners.
The official style of the court is, "A Meeting or Assembly of the Mayor,
Aldermen, and Liverymen of the several Companies of the City of London
in Common Hall assembled." The franchise is confined to liverymen of a
year's standing, who have paid their livery fines in full, without
receiving any drawback or allowance.  The mode of proceeding is by a
show of hands, but a poll may be demanded by any of the candidates, or
by two electors.

The Sheriffs.

The office of Sheriff has somewhat fallen from its ancient "high
estate." According to Stow, they were formerly "the mayor's eyes,
seeing and supporting part of the case, which the person of the mayor
is not alone sufficient to bear." In olden times the sheriffs were
always conjoined with the mayor and aldermen in proclamations
requiring them to preserve the peace of the City.  From a very remote
period the right of electing these officers belonged to the citizens,
and later charters acknowledge and confirm the privilege.  Henry I.
granted to them to hold Middlesex to farm, for 300 pounds a year, and
to appoint their own sheriff; while the second charter of John confirms
to them the sheriffwick of London and Middlesex at the rent or farm of
300 pounds, "blank sterling money," and declares that they "shall make
amongst themselves sheriffs whom they will, and remove them when they
will." In those times this was a very important privilege, for the
sheriff, or shire-reve, as the king's bailiff, was possessed of
extraordinary powers, which he usually exercised in a very corrupt and
oppressive manner.  The sheriffs of London are the sheriff of
Middlesex; in the former capacity they are addressed in the plural, in
the latter in the singular.  Though shorn of its beams, the office of
Sheriff is still a highly honourable one, nor are the duties light or
unimportant which devolve upon these functionaries.  The honour,
moreover, is as costly as it is onerous; not only do the sheriffs
receive no salary, but they are conventionally expected to disburse
several thousand pounds in charities and hospitality.  The inspection
of the city gaols occupies no small portion of their time, nor do they
enjoy much intermission from the incessant demands for eleemosynary
aid.  That an office so costly and troublesome should be an object of
competition, is certainly a striking proof of the disinterested and
patriotic spirit of the citizens of London.

The Law Courts.

With characteristic love of fair play, our ancestors laid it down as a
leading principle, that "justice should be administered at every man's
own door, in the presence of his neighbours." It is, indeed, a primary
element of good government, that the dispensation of justice should be
prompt and inexpensive, and without favour of persons.  With the
exception of the City of London, however, and a few other privileged
places, the local tribunals were gradually superseded through the
centralizing action of the superior courts.  But even in London the
civic franchises have been seriously diminished through the ruling of
those courts that the privilege claimed by the citizens to be sued
only before their own local tribunals is confined to real, and does
not extend to transitory actions.

The highest court of civic judicature was the Hustings Court, so
called from the Saxon word hustings, signifying the "house of things,"
or causes.  It was presided over by the Lord Mayor and Sheriffs, but
the proceedings were actually conducted, and judgment pronounced, by
the Recorder.  All real and mixed cases, saving ejectment, fell within
the province of this court, which was held at Guildhall on every
alternate Tuesday.  This court, however, though not formally abolished,
does not now sit, and all the business formerly transacted at it is
transferred to the Lord Mayor Court and the City Small Debts Court.
In ancient times, the registration of deeds, wills, and titles to land,
belonged also to this court, and the record in the Hustings of a sale
or purchase of lands was deemed a sufficient voucher.  It has been
suggested that, as the necessity of a proper system of registration of
the sale or mortgage of real property is becoming daily more evident,
the machinery for accomplishing that purpose is afforded by the Court
of Hustings, so far, at least, as the City is concerned.  Practically,
the most important court, however, at the present day, is the Lord
Mayor's Court, or Court of Aldermen of the Outer Chamber.  As in the
Hustings Court, the actual judge is the Recorder, though the Lord
Mayor and Aldermen are supposed to preside.  In some respects, this
court is one of equity, with the advantage over the Court of Chancery
of being at the same time more expeditious, quite as equitable, and
far less expensive.  As a court of common law, it takes cognizance of
all personal and mixed actions, without exception, and in its
operations and bearings is altogether a striking example of the
benefits incidental to local self-government.  The Sheriffs' Court of
the City of London for the recovery of small debts is also admirably
adapted to the requirements of a free commercial people, and is of
inestimable value to the small tradesmen of London.

Public Charities.

The monastic institutions in Roman Catholic countries provide for, and
thereby foster, a large amount of idle and reckless habits.  Previous
to the Reformation, this was certainly the case in England.  Not only
the sick, the maimed, and the accidentally necessitous were fed and
clothed,--the same indiscriminating charity was extended to those far
less worthy of the sympathy of their fellow-creatures.  On the
suppression of conventual establishments, it would have fared badly
with the deserving poor in London had not the Corporation stepped
forward to help them.  At present, the princely sum of 10,000 pounds
is annually disbursed from the corporate funds in contributions to
various hospitals, asylums, schools, dispensaries, and local
charities; but even this large sum of money would be inadequate to the
purpose, were it not supplemented by the individual munificence of the
citizens.  The Lord Mayor, the Sheriffs, the Aldermen, and the other
civic dignitaries vie with one another in an open-handed liberality,
which asks no other condition than that the recipient shall actually
stand in need of aid, and be worthy of relief and assistance.  It is
much to be feared, however, that with the declining influence of the
Corporation, the stream of private charity will also dry up.
The continued payment of the 10,000 pounds a year may, indeed, be
secured by Act of Parliament; but no Act of Parliament can alter human
nature.  Proud of their position as the chosen delegates and
representatives of their fellow-citizens, among whom they and their
fathers have lived for generations, the City potentates have, of their
abundance, contributed lavishly and without stint to every local
institution deserving of sympathy and support.  And not only these,
but the livery companies likewise have given lordly amounts to
charitable establishments both within and without the City liberties,
and have founded schools in many distant parts of the kingdom.
But if the Corporation is to be "reformed" after the manner of
Sir George Grey and his coadjutors--if the esprit de corps, which is
now so beneficially and beneficently exhibited, is to be suppressed,
what reasonable hope remains that men who have been arbitrarily
deprived of all real interest in City matters will still devote their
time, their energies, and their fortunes to purposes which only
remunerate them with toil, anxiety, and personal discomfort?
The inevitable tendency of the proposed Bill is to reduce the entire
administration of the City to a dull, heartless routine.  Step by step
the continental system of home government is being insinuated into
this hitherto free country. Yet a few years of unchecked progress in
that direction, and it will be proposed to appoint crown officers to
preside over county and town, city and borough.  The approaches to
absolute power, under the less alarming title of centralization,
though insidious, have long been apparent to all who study the
workings of system-mongers.  Unless a vigorous stand be now made
against these continued encroachments of ministerial and oligarchical
influence, the middle classes will, ere long, have to content
themselves with being literally a "nation of shopkeepers," without any
object of honourable ambition in view, without any hope of obtaining
distinction and eminence in the annals of their country, and reduced
to the one narrow pursuit of "making money." Are the free burgesses of
London prepared thus to sacrifice their birthright to gratify the whim
or envy of a Whig ex-minister?

Conservancy of the Thames.

To the disciples of the modern doctrine that ancient charters were
given only to be abolished, and parliamentary statutes enacted only to
be repealed, it is idle to state that the first charter of James I.
acknowledged that the conservation of the water of the Thames had been
held time out of mind by the mayor and commonalty.  Those, however, who
still reverence the ancient landmarks, and regard with respect the
honest feelings and manly wisdom of their ancestors, will not treat so
lightly claims derived from immemorial usage and prescriptive right.
>From time, then, "whereof the memory of man runneth not to the
contrary," the conservancy of the Thames has been one of the duties
and privileges of the mayoralty of the City of London.  The
jurisdiction of the Thames conservator extends from Staines Bridge to
Yendall or Yenleet, and from Colemouth Creek to Cockham Wood in the
Medway, including every bank, shore, and wharf within those limits.
The duties of the office are to remove all wears and other
obstructions, to prevent the construction of piers or wharfs
calculated to impede the navigation of the river, to protect the
fisheries, and generally to take care that neither the channel nor the
banks suffer injury through the malice or heedlessness of individuals,
or from accidental causes.  This department of the corporate
administration is at present intrusted to the Navigation Committee,
annually selected from the Court of Common Council, who make
periodical excursions on the river, and judge with their own eyes as
to what is desirable to be done or avoided.  No doubt these functions
could be discharged by a government officer, the friend or relative of
a man of parliamentary influence, and equally without doubt this
consideration is likely to carry more weight in the House of Commons
than any claims derived from immemorial usage and centuries of
beneficial operation.

The Metage Dues.

The same charter of James I. which confirmed the ancient right of the
mayor and commonalty of London to the conservation of the water of the
Thames, declares that the citizens are equally, and on the same
grounds, entitled to exercise the office of measuring all coals,
cereals, fruits, vegetables, salt, and other merchandise sold by
measure, brought to the port of London.  In the beginning, this
privilege arose out of the necessity of ascertaining the exact
quantity of these articles actually imported into the City, in order
fairly to collect the king's customs.  It has since been found mutually
beneficial to all parties that all measurable goods should be meted
out by sworn meters, carefully selected for their responsible duties,
and over whom is maintained a constant and jealous supervision.  The
Court of Common Council appoint ten "corn-meters in trust," who are
placed over 150 deputy meters, chosen by the Corn and Coal and Finance
Committee, and sworn in the Lord Mayor's Court to do their duty
without fear or favour.  There are also a few other officers connected
with this very important branch of the civic regulations as to trade,
to whom, however, it is unnecessary further to allude than as an
illustration of the useful and practical precautions adopted by the
Corporation to secure strict fairness of dealing between buyer and
seller.  The fruit-meters are four in number, who appoint their own
deputies, and are equally bound to impartiality.  There are likewise
twenty-one deputy oyster-meters, one salt-meter and several deputies,
and a fruit-shifter and a salt-shifter.  It is now proposed to deprive
the Corporation of the funds realized by these metage dues.  The
principle of free trade is to be carried out to an extent that will
exclude honesty as an essential ingredient in commercial transactions.
Everything, we are told, finds its own level.  Every man is the best
guardian of his own interests.  Neither seller nor buyer will submit
to be wronged by the other.  It is contrary to the modern system of
trade to interfere between dealers and purchasers; they are quite
competent to take care of themselves, and are quite ready to dispense
with the intervention of a third party.  Besides, there is no
necessity to do away with sworn meters, payable by the job according
to a fixed scale.  The only alteration that is required is the
confiscation of the right of the Corporation to derive any profit from
their labours.  This doctrine of confiscation is a convenient one, but
it is somewhat inconsistent with the outcry that has so recently been
raised because Lord Canning was supposed to have confiscated the
rights of certain farmers of the revenue in India; for that is the
exact position of a talookdar.  Now the Corporation farms, and has
from time out of mind farmed, the revenue arising from these various
sources.  The sovereign is the seignior of the City, and therefore
entitled in the first instance to all customs, duties, revenues, and
imposts levied within its precincts.  But on various grounds, and by
various means,--such as petition, purchase, composition, and
extraordinary services--the citizens of London have at various times
obtained the remission or enjoyment of these different sources of
income.  The metage dues are therefore as much their property as an
hereditary estate is that of its acknowledged proprietor.  Their title
to these dues is of considerably longer standing than that of his
Grace the Duke of Bedford to Woburn Abbey, and those of so many lay
impropriators of church property.  If royal charters and Acts of
Parliament are of no greater value than waste paper, there is of
course nothing more to be said on the subject.  There is nothing,
then, to oppose as a barrier to any act of spoliation.  Blackstone,
indeed, says that Parliament is omnipotent to bind or to loose, and
competent to annul charters and to repeal its own statutes.  It is
certainly no new thing for Parliament to stultify itself, but it is
also certain that the Legislature will better consult its reputation
by occasionally repressing its eagerness to cancel the proceedings of
its predecessors, and by abstaining from too frequent indulgence in
acts of confiscation.

The coal duties, however, demand a fuller consideration than any other
department of City finance.  The first charter of Richard II. confirmed
to the Corporation of London "the custody" of the persons and property
of all orphans.  According to ancient custom, the citizens could
dispose by will of only one-third of their personal estate, the
remaining two-thirds being paid into the Court of Orphans in trust for
their children.  A very large sum of money was at times thus invested,
to the no small advantage of all parties concerned in the arrangement.
But in the seventeenth century the Corporation became involved in debt
to this fund, and to private individuals, to the extent of
three-quarters of a million sterling.  This state of bankruptcy was by
no means the result of imprudence or ostentatious extravagance.
During the Rebellion the City had been despoiled by both parties under
various pretexts.  After the Restoration the great fire consumed a vast
amount of city property and necessitated a ruinous outlay in the
reconstruction of entire streets.  To this was added the shutting up of
the Exchequer by Charles II., and the seizure of the charter when the
City refused any longer to provide the means for his selfish and
disgraceful prodigality.  A better era, however, was inaugurated by the
accession of William and Mary, in the fifth and sixth of whose reign
an Act was passed for raising what was called an "Orphans' Fund."
The estates of the Corporation were charged with the annual payment of
8,000 pounds towards the liquidation of their debt, and for the same
purpose a duty of 2,000 pounds a year on the personal property of the
citizens was paid till 1795.  To meet these heavy charges a duty of
fourpence per chaldron was levied on coals and culm imported into
London, and also an additional duty of sixpence per chaldron for fifty
years.  By this means the debt of 750,000 pounds was finally
discharged in 1782, but another debt had been contracted by the
Corporation being called upon to contribute to public improvements
beyond the just limits of their jurisdiction.  By the year 1823 no
less a sum than 846,300 pounds had been expended in this manner out of
the Orphans' Fund, and in the l0th of George IV. a further sum of
1,000,000 pounds was charged upon the fund to defray the expenses for
improving the approaches to London Bridge. Under William IV., however,
the coal duties were fixed at one shilling per ton in lieu of metage,
and an additional one penny per ton was allowed for the expenses of
the market.  This statute extends to a circle measured by a radius of
twenty miles from the General Post-office, and up to the present time
has been productive of much good to the general interests of the
entire metropolis.  A duty upon coals is naturally unpopular, and it
would be difficult to devise one that was otherwise.  It is always
easy to raise a popular clamour against taxes that press upon matters
of first necessity, but in what other way is the public exchequer to
be replenished?  It will not suffice to tax objects of luxury alone,
and with regard to the coal duty it is very improbable that the poor
would benefit in the slightest degree by its repeal.  The utmost
reduction in the price of coals that could be expected, would be a
little more than a halfpenny per hundredweight, and this difference is
far more likely to find its way into the pocket of the vender than
into that of the needy purchaser.  There is, moreover, another
trifling consideration to be taken into account before the abolition
of these duties be decided upon.  Relying on the respect usually paid
to property in this country, and confiding in the good faith of the
House of Commons, the Corporation have mortgaged these duties in order
to raise a very large sum of money.  It was not for any purposes of
civic ostentation, or indeed for any purely civic object, that they
were induced to incur this heavy obligation.  Cannon Street, the Model
Prison at Holloway, the admirable improvements and enlargements of the
Gaol of Newgate, attest the disinterested application of the funds
thus obtained. But how is faith to be kept with their creditors, if
their property be snatched from their hands, and with it all means of
making repayment? If the Legislature deem it just and expedient to
deprive the Corporation of one of their chief sources of revenue, they
are bound to release them from all obligations incurred through the
possession of those sources.  It is not disputed that the Corporation
were justified in raising money upon these securities.  If, therefore,
the securities be arbitrarily confiscated by Parliament, it is to
Parliament alone that the holders of those securities must look for
redress.  But whence are funds to be obtained for future improvements?
It would be well if the "faithful Commons" would take the trouble to
find a satisfactory answer to this obvious inquiry before they finally
decide on ruining the City of London.



The Commission of Inquiry--The New Wards--Aldermen and Common
Councilmen--City Expenditure--City Receipts and Removal of

The Commission of Inquiry.

In the year 1834 a commission was appointed "to inquire into the
existing state of the municipal corporations, and to collect
information respecting their defects." These commissioners applied
themselves to the discharge of their somewhat invidious duties with
both earnestness and impartiality, and in their Report, published in
1837, acknowledged the superior excellence of the London Corporation
as compared with other corporate bodies. They readily admitted that
the Common Council possessed the necessary powers to effect whatever
reforms might have become necessary through the lapse of time. They
also bore witness that the Corporation had already of itself corrected
much that was amiss in its constitution, and that its history
furnished "honourable testimonials to the vigilance, good sense, and
justice of its legislative body." On these grounds the Imperial
Legislature expressly exempted the City of London from the action of
the Municipal Corporations Act, and left it in the undisputed
enjoyment of its ancient franchises--which, moreover, are declared by
2 William & Mary not to be liable to confiscation.  A period of twenty
years then passed away without any cause of complaint having occurred
to justify the interference of Government, until some disputes arose
on the subject of the City markets, and the conservancy of the Thames.
Sir George Grey at once availed himself of this pretext to appoint a
commission to investigate "the existing state of the Corporation of
the City of London, and to collect information respecting its
constitution, order, and government." These commissioners, unlike
their predecessors, exhibited from the commencement of their
proceedings a strong bias and feeling of hostility against the
Corporation. The witnesses they called before them were, with scarcely
an exception, the avowed enemies of the existing state of things, and
prepared to convert trifling blemishes into radical and monstrous
defects. And yet even these did not agree among themselves, or assign
any sound reasons to render compulsory innovations expedient or
justifiable.  The general tenor of their evidence, indeed, was actually
in favour of the Corporation, when due allowance is made for the
spirit by which they were actuated.  Nevertheless, it was upon the
report of this one-sided and unconstitutional commission that the late
ministry founded their Bill for "the better Regulation of the
Corporation of the City of London." They had arrived at a foregone
conclusion, and asked for only the shadow of an excuse to mask their
preconcerted designs against the chief and last stronghold of
self-government.  The fate of the Corporation was clearly doomed from
the hour the House of Commons sanctioned the appointment of a
prejudiced and illegal tribunal.

The New Wards.

The first clause of the proposed Bill directs a new division of the
City, and recommends that it be redistributed into sixteen wards,
instead of twenty-five as heretofore.  No reason is assigned for this
innovation, beyond an allusion to the fact that no other city--not
even Liverpool--possesses more than that number of divisions or
departments.  The object of the Government was evidently to abase and
humiliate the City of London, and to reduce it to the level of the
provincial municipalities.  It is alleged, that while the metropolis
has extended far and wide in every direction, the boundaries of the
City have remained unchanged, so that they now inclose barely 1/108th
part of the entire metropolitan area.  The population also does not
embrace 1/20th part of the inhabitants of the aggregate of villages
and boroughs collectively known as London.  An undue importance,
therefore, has been ascribed to that small portion which constitutes
the City proper, to the prejudice of the more populous districts,
which inclose it on every side.  This overrated influence is now to be
diminished in good earnest, and henceforth the sole criterion of
importance is to be the number of men, women, and children existing
within a certain area.  Intelligence, wealth, enterprise, industry,
commercial reputation, and ancient rights are to be regarded as of
little value when compared with the register of births and marriages.
So, the City of London is to be divided into sixteen wards, that it
may learn not to lift up its head above other corporations.  The
division is, of course, to be effected by the inevitable barrister of
seven years' standing--the modern type of all that is wise, good,
intelligent, and incorruptible.  It matters not that these gentlemen
may and must be totally unacquainted with local peculiarities and
requirements.  There may be ward charities, and ward bequests, which
will create confusion and perplexity under any new arrangement.
The inhabitants, too, of one ward may have strong personal objections
to be transferred to another.  They may dislike the disrupture of old
family ties and connections, and cling fondly to the traditions and
associations of their youth.  Such considerations as these, however,
have no weight with red-tapists, who believe in the infallibility of
precedents, and apply one measure and one standard to all things.

The only plausible objection that can be urged against the existing
distribution of the wards is their inequality as to extent and
population; but even if like portions of territory were set apart for
each ward, the number of the inhabitants and their influence will vary
according to circumstances far beyond the control of any barrister, be
he of twice seven years' standing.  Besides, though unequal as to area
and inmates, the wards are fairly enough represented; for, while the
Lime Street Ward returns only four members to the Common Council,
Bishopsgate sends fourteen, and Farringdon Without sixteen.  This,
after all, is surely the point most worthy of attention.  The object is
not so much to obtain an equality of districts as an equality of
representation.  It is of no consequence that Cornhill be twice as
populous as Bassishaw, if it return twice the number of
representatives, for in that case the disparity at once ceases to
exist.  Sir George Grey, however, is partial to arithmetical equality.
There must be sixteen wards and ninety-six Common-Councilmen, or six
to each ward.  Not that there is anything novel or original in this
suggestion.  Sir George merely purposes to revert to the arrangements
which prevailed in the reign of Richard II.--a period few students of
history would select as an illustration of the happiest and most
constitutional balance of power throughout all departments of the
commonwealth.  No proof is adduced that this parcelment of the City was
attended with the best possible results, to justify its restoration in
the present century, after so long an interval and such elemental
changes of the social and commercial system.  It is quite possible, and
not at all unlikely, that in the time of the second Richard ninety-six
Common-Councilmen may have been amply sufficient to discharge all the
duties that devolved upon them.  But it does not thence follow that
that same number will now suffice.  If it is proposed by Sir George
Grey to establish the civic administration on the broadest, safest,
and least assailable foundation, it is scarcely consistent to begin by
narrowing that basis.  It is generally believed that it is more
difficult to corrupt or influence a large number of persons than a
small one.  In the multitude of counsellors there is strength of will,
integrity of purpose, and variety of knowledge.  There is less
opportunity for jobbing among two hundred than among one hundred
individuals, The smaller number is certainly more likely to come to a
mutual understanding among themselves, and to apportion to each member
his share of the loaves and fishes.  On this head no better evidence
need be adduced than the report of the commissioners of 1855, by no
means too favourably disposed towards the Corporation.  It is in the
following terms that they speak of the City, and of the advantages
incidental to a large representation:-"The antiquity, extent, and
importance of its privileges, the long series of its charters, the
large amount of its revenues, its metropolitan position, and its
historical associations, combine to give it a character different from
that of any other municipal borough.  It may be added, that the
continued predominance of the popular element in the formation of its
governing body furnished a reason in 1835 for excepting it from the
Municipal Corporations Act; seeing that one of the principal defects
which that Act was intended to remedy was the practical exclusion of
the principle of popular election from the government of the borough,
and the accumulation of power in the hands of a small body of persons.
The commissioners state, in their general report of 1835:--'The most
common and most striking defect in the constitution of the municipal
corporations of England and Wales is, that the corporate bodies exist
independently of the communities among which they are found.  The
corporations look upon themselves, and are considered by the
inhabitants, as separate and exclusive bodies; they have powers and
privileges within towns and cities from which they are named, but in
most places all identity of interest between the corporation and the
inhabitants has disappeared.' From the defect described in this
passage, the Corporation of London has for many years been exempt.
The manner in which the Common Council is elected has produced, to a
great extent, an identity of interests between the governing municipal
body and the existing municipal community, and has secured to the
latter a council representing their general opinions and feelings.
The Municipal Commissioners particularly advert to the Common Council
of London, as distinguishing that corporation from the close
corporations which then prevailed throughout the country."

It is difficult to imagine a better reason for upholding the existing
order of things than this very report of the commissioners.  They admit
that there is an identity of interests between the governing and the
governed, between the representatives and their constituents, between
the stewards and those for whom they act.  No higher commendation can
be desired.  The system is described as giving satisfaction to all
concerned in its operation, and as being free from the great defect
which vitiated the municipal arrangements of other cities.  The
administrative power is not accumulated in the hands of a few, but is
freely intrusted to an ample number of representatives chosen by
popular election, and liable to removal at the expiration of a year.
The fact that the votes of the citizens are usually given to their
representatives of many years' standing, is an indisputable proof that
the latter do not neglect their duty, or overlook the identity of
interests that exists between the governing body and the municipal
community.  And yet, in the teeth of this report, and in defiance of
this good accord, the very defect is to be introduced which was
reprobated in other corporations.  The administrative power is to be
vested in the hands of a comparatively small governing body, and an
opportunity afforded for those practices which were considered so
objectionable elsewhere.

It is perhaps hardly worthy of remark that the selection of the
persons to be appointed to set out the new wards should rest with the
Secretary of State.  Were it not for the constant augmentation of
patronage afforded by each innovation, very little would ever be heard
about reform of any kind.  But every change, every act of abolition,
affords am irresistible opportunity for providing for poor relations
and importunate constituents.  The Secretary of State, therefore,
reserves to himself the choice of the "fit person or persons," which
might more decently have been left to the citizens themselves.  It is
true the latter have not been altogether forgotten, and will not be
altogether passed over.  To them is to be assigned the privilege of
paying five guineas a day to each of these "fit persons," as a
recompense for their exertions in introducing confusion and perplexity
where order and contentment now prevail.

Aldermen and Common-Councilmen.

The contemplated reduction of the governing body of the City is based
upon a specious theory, which will soon be found to be utterly
untenable.  It is pretended that if the Courts of Aldermen and of
Common Council were rendered more exclusive, it would be considered a
greater distinction to belong to them, and that consequently a more
wealthy and influential class of individuals would seek to be elected.
In the first place, the exclusiveness sought to be established in the
Corporation of London is the very blot which the Municipal Act was
intended to remove from other corporate bodies.  What was in them a
blemish, is to be engrafted as a beauty into the City of London.
But granting that a certain degree of exclusiveness may be not only
unobjectionable, but even desirable, is it so very certain that
opulent bankers and men of high standing in the commercial world will
be thereby induced to offer themselves as candidates for civic
offices? Have they themselves offered any suggestion to this effect,
or asked for any such motive to do their duty as free-born citizens?
Nothing of the kind.  It is pure assumption to assert that when the
honour is more difficult of attainment it will become an object of
ambition to the mighty men on 'Change.  The witnesses who gave evidence
on this head before the commissioners were unanimous as to the cause
that keeps our princely merchants aloof from the civic arena: it is
want of time.  One and all declared that they could not spare the time
from their own pursuits and engagements.  Private interests have more
weight with them than those of a public nature; they wish no harm to
their fellow-citizens, but will not sacrifice their own comfort or
profits to toil for their benefit.  Indeed, it is by no means manifest
that bankers and merchants are the fittest persons to administer the
affairs of the City.  As a rule, their homes are as remote as possible
from the scene of their daily labours.  They know nothing whatever of
their neighbours, and care no more for one ward than for another, all
being equally indifferent to them.  They are bound together by no
common ties, nor have they any local or traditional sympathies.  It is,
therefore, very doubtful that their presence among the aldermen, or in
the Court of Common Council, would prove at all beneficial to the
City, or likely to enhance their own personal reputation.  And if, as
they themselves allege, they have hitherto been deterred from
undertaking civic duties by the pressure of private affairs, there is
no ground for the hypothesis that they will henceforth have more
leisure to devote themselves to promoting the welfare of their
neighbours.  In truth, the office of alderman is no sinecure.  He is not
merely a very stout gentleman, wearing a blue gown, and guzzling
enormous quantities of turtle-soup.  That caricature is of a piece with
the old fable of the lean Frenchman, starving upon frogs, and capable
only of dancing and grimacing.  An alderman of the City of London has
most onerous duties to discharge, for which he expects no other
remuneration than the approval of his own conscience and the respect
of his fellow-citizens.

It is matter of public notoriety, that in the year 1834 the
Corporation cheerfully complied with the requisitions of the
Government with regard to the business of the Central Criminal Court.
The number of sessions and of courts was increased, prison
accommodation considerably enlarged, and other arrangements made with
the utmost liberality in order to facilitate the administration of
justice.  By the Act passed in that year, it was specially provided
that the aldermen of London should be members of the commission, which
should be presided over by the Lord Mayor.  The local knowledge
possessed by these magistrates has enabled them on very many occasions
to render important service to the judges in apportioning the
punishment due to offenders.  At the same time they acquired, on their
part, a practical knowledge of the administration of law.  The result
of this training displayed itself in the soundness of their
magisterial decisions, and the correctness of their application of
criminal law.  Six aldermen are placed on the rota for each month, and
compelled to attend at the Old Bailey, unless they can furnish a
sufficient excuse for their absence.  If the number of aldermen be
reduced to sixteen, it is not easy to perceive how this important
branch of their duties is to be adequately discharged.  In addition to
their compulsory attendance at the Central Criminal Court, the
aldermen are called upon to exercise various other magisterial
functions, including the inspection and management of prisons.  They
have likewise to attend at the London Quarter Sessions; the special
sessions for hearing appeals; the special sessions for licenses; the
petty sessions; the special sessions; the Southwark Quarter Sessions,
and the annual meetings and adjournments.  Even this enumeration of
duties, however, is no equivalent indication of the work to be gone
through, the whole of which is done gratuitously and without
expectation of reward.  It is proposed, indeed, that the Court of Mayor
and Aldermen of the City of London in the Inner Chamber shall retain
the power of appointing the Recorder and certain other officers, and
of exercising a supervision over the internal discipline of prisons,
and in relation to charities and other trusts, but in most other
respects their privileges and jurisdiction are to terminate.

On some points the Common Council are to be exalted at the expense of
the Court of Aldermen.  They are to administer the money and funds of
the City, subject to the audit of three persons annually elected, an
abstract of whose statement is to be laid before Parliament.  The
Corporation are therefore deemed unworthy or incompetent to manage
their own finances.  Men of business are told that their ignorance is
so crass, or their honesty so doubtful, that the Legislature is
compelled to keep a watchful eye on their expenditure.  The proposition
is as absurd as it is insulting and uncalled for.  The Corporation are
further to have no power to sell, mortgage, or lease their own
estates.  It may, perchance, be true, that in former times less regard
was paid to the discovery of secure and profitable investments than
suits the more grasping spirit of the present times.  It may also be
that greater extravagance was occasionally exhibited than would now be
either justifiable or tolerable.  But on neither of these grounds was
it fitting to affix such a stigma, to pass such a vote of censure, on
the existing governing body.  Many economical reforms have of late
years been spontaneously introduced, and an unmistakable tendency
shown to make such further retrenchments as might be consistent with
the efficiency of the public service.  No doubt the expenses attendant
on the collection of the City's income are susceptible of reduction,
nor would it be amiss if the heavy outlay connected with the civic
government were lightened of some of its items.  Still, these are mere
questions of detail, and might fairly be left to the good taste,
judgment, and discretion of the municipal magistrates.  The steps
already taken by the Common Council clearly evince their desire to
keep pace with the liberalism of the age.  Since the year 1835,
the sum of at least 100,000 pounds has been offered on the altar of
public opinion by the gradual abolition of the fines and fees which
restricted the freedom of the City.  In the same spirit they sacrificed
the street tolls, which annually produced upwards of 5,000 pounds,
as soon as they had redeemed the mortgage which enabled them to lay out
the new street running north from Farringdon Street.  They have also
courted publicity, by admitting to their deliberations the reporters
of the public press, and by publishing minutes of their proceedings
and detailed statements of the receipt and expenditure of public
moneys. In these and many similar ways they have manifested their
anxiety to act in strict good faith towards their constituents,
and to do the utmost in their power to promote the welfare of the
City of London. No allegations, indeed, have been made against their
scrupulously honourable administration of the funds intrusted to
their stewardship. Their integrity has never been impugned by their
bitterest enemies--the charges that have been brought forward reflect
only upon their judgment.  They are accused of lavishing untold sums
upon idle pageantry and luxurious entertainments, while they have
neglected to improve the great thoroughfares, to cleanse the river,
and generally to embellish the metropolis and ameliorate the sanitary
condition of its inhabitants.  It is worth while to consider how much
of truth lies in these accusations.

City Expenditure.

There is no denying that at the first blush it does appear that an
unnecessarily large amount of money is laid out annually on festivities.
For instance, in the year 1855 upwards of 14,000 pounds were expended
on the entertainments given to the Emperor of the French, the King of
Sardinia, and the Prefect of the Seine.  On minor occasions also very
considerable sums are lost in like manner to the City treasury.
But this apparent extravagance is not without its advantages.
This generous hospitality has rendered the Corporation of London
famous throughout the civilized world, and given it a fabulous
influence among the nations of the Continent.  The chief magistrate
of the City is looked upon as only inferior to the sovereign, and far
above all other princes and potentates.  Thus, in a popular French
play the principal personage is made to exclaim in an enthusiasm of
ambition --"Yes, I will make myself great; I shall yet be count,
marquis, duke, perhaps lord mayor." The credit acquired by the City
has been reflected upon the whole nation, and there are none so mean
as not to have heard of the wealth, magnificence, and genial hospitality
of the free-born citizens of the metropolis of the British empire.

With regard to thoroughfares, it has already been stated that the
street tolls were mortgaged for some years, in order to raise the
requisite funds for carrying out Farringdon Street to the northern
boundary of the City.  More recently an enormous debt has been incurred
in the construction of Cannon Street.  Half a million sterling has been
sunk in the attempt to erect a handsome street, which should take off
from Cheapside a portion of the exodus to London Bridge, and at the
same time furnish a noble example of street architecture.  In a
pecuniary point of view the experiment has not thus far proved
successful, but the very errors of the Corporation are on a grand and
magnificent scale.  Upwards of another half-million has gone to the
construction of the new cattle-market at Islington and the model prison
at Holloway.  Newgate, also, is being enlarged and improved, and it is
proposed to build a lunatic asylum on some lands recently purchased
for the purpose in the neighbourhood of Croydon.  A very large sum is
annually expended in street improvements, besides a contribution of
nearly 12,000 pounds a year to a metropolitan fund for objects not
comprised within the liberties of the City.  The Corporation also pays
11,000 pounds per annum towards the maintenance of the police force,
though in other metropolitan districts this proportion of the expenses
is debited to the Consolidated Fund.  Of the charitable donations and
subscriptions of the Corporation it is needless to speak, for their
fame has gone forth throughout the world.  The City of London School
was built at a cost of 20,000 pounds, and year by year receives
substantial support and encouragement.  The education and maintenance
of a hundred orphan children are provided for at another establishment;
nor is there any charitable institution worthy of support that is not
assisted with ungrudging liberality.

The conservancy of the Thames is another of the responsible duties of
the Corporation.  For all purposes of navigation the river is admirably
adapted by nature, and improved by the thoughtful vigilance of its
conservators.  As a navigable river the Thames is actually in a better
condition at the present day than at any period of its past history, a
remark that cannot be applied to any other tidal river in the world.
As for the filthy and polluted character of its waters, that at least
cannot be laid to the charge of the Corporation.  So far back as the
year 1842 the City authorities issued a commission to survey and
report upon the state of the Thames, and in accordance with the report
of those gentlemen proceeded to take measures for embanking the river
so as to prevent the deposit of mud on the banks, to deepen the
channel, and to improve the wharfage.  Strange to say, these spirited
proceedings in the interest of the entire metropolis drew down upon
the Corporation the wrath of the "Woods and Forests." The foul
fermenting accumulations of putrescent matter which send forth the
pestilential exhalations that engender so much disease, are declared
to be the property of the Crown, as "seised of the ground and soil of
the coasts and shores of the sea, and of all the navigable rivers
within the flux and reflux of the tide throughout the kingdom."
Thanks, therefore, to this precious prerogative of the Crown, her
Majesty's lieges have for the last fifteen years continued to be
poisoned "by virtue of the common law," while the Corporation have
been punished by the infliction of a suit in Chancery for seeking to
cleanse the river and purify the atmosphere, without first invoking
the wisdom of the "Woods and Forests."

If the crown lawyers be correct, it will follow that the entire
seaboard of Great Britain and Ireland is the actual property of the
Crown, as well as all lands reclaimed from the sea, and that all other
manorial rights are purely imaginary and unfounded.

Hitherto the tonnage rates levied on vessels in the port of London
are admitted to have been as moderate as was consistent with the due
maintenance of the port.  The citizens, being themselves engaged in
trade, have always been interested in holding out inducements for the
shipping of all nations to frequent their port, and have thus
systematically reduced the tonnage dues to the lowest possible scale.
The Government, however, looking only to the actual amount of revenue
to be obtained, intimate the probability of a future augmentation of
these dues.  The effect of even a trifling increase will naturally be
to divert a portion of the trade to other ports, and to inflict a
proportionate amount of injury on the port of London.  Such will be the
first fruits of Government interference, such the inevitable result of
superseding customs and usages which have grown out of the character
of the Anglo-Saxon race.

City Receipts.

It has already been stated that in order to carry out street
improvements and the construction of public buildings, the Corporation
has incurred a very considerable amount of debt.  These pecuniary
obligations, however, were not rashly undertaken.  There was excellent
security to offer for their gradual but certain redemption; nor is it
anywhere affirmed that the governing body exceeded their powers, or
evinced a want of proper caution and foresight.  The money raised was
applied to just and legitimate purposes, and secured on revenues
enjoyed from time immemorial, the usufruct of which might fairly be
deemed perpetual.  Prescriptive right, however, is no barrier to
reformers greedy of patronage, whose only thought is to buy cheap
popularity by yielding to vulgar prejudices at the expense of their
neighbours.  It is thus proposed to abolish all metage dues, to deprive
the Corporation of their portion of the coal duties, to remove all
restrictions upon brokers, and to sanction the establishment of
additional markets within the prescribed distance of seven miles.
Nothing is more easy than to pull down and destroy, but to fill up the
vacancy thus created is a very different matter.  It requires no great
amount of moral courage, or of power, to dry up the sources whence the
corporate funds are derived, but far less easy will it be to obviate
the consequences of a step so ill-judged.  It is one thing to demand
the usual tale of bricks when the supply of straw is cut off, and
another to obtain it.  In vain will the Government call upon the City
to construct prisons and asylums, to widen the thoroughfares, to
cleanse the river, to embellish the streets.  Such work as this can
only be accomplished through the employment of large funds, and these
will no longer be at the disposal of the Corporation.  In the first
place it is proposed to take away "all such right of metage of any
grain, fruit, wares, or merchandise as the Corporation is entitled to
by custom, charter, or otherwise." In other words, 11,000 pounds a
year of the income of the City is to be confiscated for nobody's
benefit, but simply out of deference to a senseless clamour.  The
officers employed in the collection of this revenue are to receive
compensation out of a fund provided for the purpose by a duty of three
farthings on every quarter of grain, seed, and pulse brought into the
port of London. But nothing is said about compensating the Corporation
by remitting their annual contribution to the expenses of the police
force, and by defraying the same out of the Consolidated Fund.
However, there is cause for gratitude that a still more serious loss
is not yet to be inflicted upon the ways and means of the City.  The
metage duty on coals which may belong to the Corporation after the
year 1862, under 1 & 2 William IV., and 8 & 9 Victoria, is not to be
affected by the present Bill; but he must be a confiding and
unsuspecting individual who can trust to a long enjoyment of that
source of income.  It is now commonly supposed that the Corporation
receive the entire duty of thirteen pence per ton, whereas their
actual share of the impost is only fourpence.  The remaining
nine-pence are taken by the Metropolitan Board of Works, for the
general benefit of the capital of the British empire.  Against this
arrangement no valid objection can be urged, but it is at least unfair
to throw the odium of the tax upon those who derive the smallest
benefit from its proceeds.  It was upon the security of this revenue
that the Corporation were enabled to raise the 580,000 pounds required
for the construction of Cannon Street.  From the same hitherto secure
source of income, two millions and a half sterling have been expended
on City improvements since the reign of William and Mary.  But whence
are means to be obtained for carrying out any enterprise of large
utility if this revenue be confiscated?  It is, besides, not a little
characteristic of the late, perhaps of every ministry, that not a word
has been said about the surrender of the nine-pence per ton received
by the Government.  The City alone is to be made the scape-goat--the
least offending party is to be sacrificed to screen the real
delinquents,--the Corporation is to be thrown overboard, that the
ministerial vessel may be the more easily righted. Equally silent was
Sir George Grey on the subject of compensation.  And yet, when it
pleased the Legislature to take from the Duke of Richmond the duty of
one shilling per chaldron on coals shipped in the Tyne for home
consumption, which had been granted to the family by Charles II., it
was deemed only just and equitable to make a reasonable compensation
to his grace.  The duty at that time (1799) yielded some 21,000 pounds
a year, and was commuted for a perpetual annuity of 19,000 pounds,
payable out of the Consolidated Fund.  In like manner the Duke of Grafton
was indemnified in 1806 for loss incurred through the resumption of
the "prisage and butlerage" of wines; nor was Lord Gwydir permitted to
suffer by the compulsory surrender of his lease in the mooring-chains.
In the reign of William IV. the Crown claimed and received a
compensation of 300,000 pounds for giving up the passing tolls, and
the Corporation itself was awarded upwards of 160,000 pounds on the
abolition of the "package and scavage" dues.  But if such zeal for
retrenchment and economical reform fills the breasts of modern
statesmen, how comes it that they have no qualms about retaining the
duty of four shillings on every ton of tin extracted from Cornwall,
and which swells the revenues of the duchy? In what respect, in short,
is the tenure by which the duchy is held more sacred and inviolable
than that which entitles the Corporation to the permanent possession
of its various sources of income?  It were well that the advisers of
the Crown first cleared away all obstructions and nuisances front
their own precincts, before undertaking to cleanse the premises of
their neighbours.  But it is far easier to preach than to practise,
and to detect the failings of others than to correct one's own.

Another "liberal" clause repeals any charter or grant which prevents
the holding any new market within seven miles of the city.  The framers
of the Bill appear to have overlooked, or laughed to scorn, the
ancient common law of the land which prohibits the establishment of
any fair or market within "a third part of twenty miles" from one
already in existence.  This common-law right has been further specially
confirmed, so far as the City of London is concerned, by an Act of
Parliament in the reign of the third Edward.  But considerations of
mere law cannot be expected to have much weight with those who have
resolved upon setting at naught the eternal principles of justice and
equity.  Little did the wolf care which way the stream ran, when once
he had made up his mind to dine upon lamb.

Yet one other proof of "liberality" before we close these desultory
observations.  At present the Corporation exercises a watchful
surveillance over all persons acting as brokers within the City of
London.  No one, indeed, is permitted to carry on that highly
responsible business without the previous sanction of the Court of
Aldermen.  This restriction is admitted to have been most beneficial to
the public, and the brokers themselves are fully sensible of its
advantage to themselves by inspiring a reasonable confidence in their
honour and respectability.  All this, however, is to be done away with.
Government care for none of these things.  They prefer punishment to
prevention.  Let every man do as seemeth good in his own eyes, provided
only that he escape conviction for evildoing.  In that case the
"majesty of the law" will be vindicated by the house of correction or
the gallows.  Why then take any thought to check the downward step?
That is the province of parents, masters, and pastors.  The wisdom of
the Legislature cannot stoop to such elemental questions.  It is
unworthy of the wise and illustrious senators of this great empire to
take heed of such a vulgar consideration as commercial morality.
This is a free country, wherein every man may freely live, providing
for himself, and warring upon his kind.  Such throughout is the tone
and the spirit of the proposed measure for the "better regulation"
of the City of London.  If this is better, it is devoutly to be
hoped that no future ministry will bring forward a Bill for the
"best regulation." Every additional step in this direction can only be
worse than its predecessor, for the goal to be attained is not only
the ruin of civic influence, but the subversion of self-government
throughout the realm.

For the present, indeed, this precious Bill has been withdrawn; but
let not a suspension of hostilities be construed into a conclusion of
peace.  The question will certainly be brought before Parliament under
a modified form in the ensuing Session, and it is then that the fate
of the Corporation will be decided.

Are the citizens of London--are the people of Great Britain--prepared
to resign without a struggle the last of the glorious rights and
privileges bequeathed to them by their Saxon ancestors?  Are they
willing to exchange their old ancestral customs and usages for the
dogmatic theories and arbitrary practices of continental systems?
In short, will they consent to barter freedom for absolutism, the
happiness and independence of the many for the aggrandizement of the
few?  For that is the real question at issue, and one the answer to
which cannot be much longer deferred.

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Corporation of London, Its Rights and Privileges" ***

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