London, Volume 5

Knight, Charles

1843

CVI. Civic Government.

CVI. Civic Government.

 

Antiquaries tell us that there was an ancient Saxon law-imposed probably by the rulers of that people after the conquest of this country, the better to keep its wild and conflicting elements in order--which ordained that every freeman of years old should find sureties to keep the peace; and that, in consequence,

certain neighbours, consisting of

ten

families, entered into an association, and became bound to each other to produce him who committed an offence, or to make satisfaction to the injured party. That they might the better do this, they raised a sum of money amongst themselves, which they put into a common stock, and when

one

of the pledges had committed an offence, and was fled, then the other

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made satisfaction out of this stock, by payment of money according to the offence. In the mean time, that they might the better identify each other, as well as ascertain whether any man was absent on unlawful business, they assembled at stated periods at a common table, where they ate and drank together.

[n.81.1]  This primitive custom, so simple and confined in its operations, was to beget mighty consequences in the hands of the amalgamated Anglo-Saxon people. We find its associating principle following them into the fortified places or burghs where they assembled for the purposes of trade

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and commerce (the nuclei of our towns), and affording to them an infinitely safer defence against aggression than any fortifications could give, in the If, therefore, there be of the great and still existing institutions of antiquity, possessing in its history matters of deeper interest and instruction than any other, it is that of our municipal government, whose very meeting-places constantly remind us by their designation what they were--the guild-halls, and what we owe to the system, which has, unfortunately, through causes into which it is not our province to enter, enjoyed of late years more of the popular contempt than of popular gratitude: a feeling which, if it promised to be permanent, might well excite the apprehension of the political philosopher as to the ultimate well-being of the country. All considerations, then, tend to invest the very word guildhall with a more than ordinary sense of the value of the associations that may belong to a name, and which is of course enhanced when it refers, not merely to a hall of a guild, but to the hall of the guilds generally of the metropolis, as in that we are about to notice in connection with Civic Government.

The building itself, as we now approach it from , through , appears no unapt type of the discordant associations that have grown up around the institution: the old hall, in the main, is there still, but with a new face, which shows how ludicrously inadequate were its builders to accomplish their apparent desire of restoring it in harmony with, but improving upon, the general structure; and they seem to have had some misgivings of the kind themselves; for they have so stopped short in the elevation, as to leave the dingy and supremely ugly brick walls, with their round-headed windows, added by their predecessors to the upper portion of the hall after the fire of London, obtrusively visible. It is possible that the

little college

which stood here prior to the year , had been either in itself or in its predecessors founded by the Confessor, whose arms are yet visible in the porch; at the time mentioned, the present hall was begun by the corporation, Thomas Knowles being then Mayor. Among the modes adopted of obtaining the requisite monies, are some which, though common enough in connection with ecclesiastical structures, are remarkable as applied to a guildhall: Stow, whose authority is Fabyan, having remarked that the companies gave large benevolences towards the charges thereof, adds,

Also offences of men were pardoned for sums of money towards this work, extraordinary fees were raised, fines, amercements, and other things employed during

seven

years, with a [partial, probably is meant] continuation thereof

three

years more.

[n.82.1]  Even then the whole was not completed; a variety of miscellaneous items of a later date occur in connection with the edifice, such as that in - the executors of Whittington gave towards the paving of the hall with Purbeck marble; about the same time was also erected the Mayor's Court, the Council Chamber, and the porch; in , Sir William Harryot, Mayor, defrayed the expense of making and glazing louvres in the roof of the hall; the kitchen was built by the

procurement

of Sir John Shaw, goldsmith and Mayor, about ; finally, tapestry, to hang in the Hall on principal days, was provided about the same time by Sir Nicholas Aldwyn, another Mayor. If we add to this, that a new council chamber was erected in , that after the Great Fire the walls remained so comparatively uninjured, that only roofs and out-offices had to be rebuilt, and that it was towards the close of the last century

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that the

truly Gothic

facade,

as Brayley satirically calls it, using the word in its less usual but sufficiently evident acceptation, was built, we shall not need to dwell any longer on the general history of the erection. Before we enter the porch, we may cast a brief glance at the surrounding buildings. The on the left is the Justice Room of , where the ordinary magisterial business of that part of the City which lies west of is conducted, under the superintendence of an Alderman; the other, or eastern portion, forming the business of the Justice Room at the , where the Mayor presides. The building opposite, on the right, contains the Courts of Queen's Bench and Common Pleas, held, with the Court of Exchequer, at several days during each term, and on the next day but after each term, from time immemorial. The City receives for each verdict given in these Courts, in payment for the use of the buildings provided; and there the connection ends at present, whatever may have been the case in former times, when the custom originated. In both courts the excessively naked and chilly aspect of the walls is somewhat relieved by the portraits of the judges, who, after the fire of London, sat at , to arrange all differences between landlord and tenant during the great business of rebuilding; and who thus, as Pennant observes, prevented the endless train of vexatious lawsuits which might have ensued, and been little less chargeable than the fire itself. We wonder whether the judges or the legislature will ever take it into their heads to give us the blessing of such courts of reconciliation and summary determination of differences without a preliminary fire! Sir Matthew Hale was the chief manager of the good work in question, which so won upon the City, that, after the affair was concluded, they determined to have the portraits of the whole of the judges painted and hung in their hall, as a permanent memorial of their gratitude. Lely was to have been the artist, but, being too great a man to wait upon the judges at their respective chambers, Michael Wright, a Scotchman, obtained the commission. He is the painter of a highly-steeled portrait of Lacy, the actor, in characters, preserved in the collection at Windsor. each was his remuneration for the portraits at , and it certainly seems as much as they were worth. On the site of these Law Courts, there was standing, till the year , the chapel or college, shown in our engraving of the exterior of , in the preceding number, which was built so early as , and had, in its palmiest days, an establishment of a custos or warden, priests, clerks, and choristers.

Here used to be service once a week, and also at the election of the Mayor, and before the Mayor's feast to deprecate indigestion and all plethoric evils

[n.83.1] -the chapel having been given by Edward VI. to the City at the dissolution of the college. Adjoining the chapel there had been, before Stow's time,

a fair and large library,

belonging to the and College, which that wholesale pillager, the Protector Somerset, laid his hands upon during the reign of the young Edward, on the plea of merely borrowing the books for a time. In consequence, till the present century, the citizens of London, in their corporate capacity, had scarcelay a book in their possession; but in , an annual grant of , and a preliminary of , for the formation of a new library, was made; and

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the collection, already rich in publications in civic topography and history, promises to become, in course of time, not unworthy of the body to which it belongs.

As we enter the porch the genuine architecture of the original structure strikes upon the eye with a sense of pleasurable surprise. Its arch within arch, its beautifully panelled walls, looking not unlike a range of, closed--up Gothic windows, the pillars on the stone seat, and the numerous groins that spring from them intersecting the vaulted ceiling; and, lastly, the gilt bosses, so profusely scattered about, all seem to have remained untouched-certainly uninjured from the days of their erection, during the reign of Bolingbroke. They are, however, the only things here unchanged.. A citizen of that period would be a little puzzled, we suspect, to understand, for instance, the long bills which hang on each side of the doors leading from the porch into the hall, containing a list of the brokers authorised by the Mayor and Aldermen to exercise their vocation in the City: the funded system would certainly be too much for him. We enter the hall, and it does not need many glances to tell us that it has been a truly magnificent place, worthy of the extraordinary exertions made for its erection, and of the City-we might almost say, considering its national importance, of the empire, to which it belonged. Nay, it is magnificent still, in spite of the liberties that have been taken with it, such as closing up some of its windows with enormous piles of sculpture; and above all, in spite of the miserable modern upper story, with its vile windows, and of the flat roof, which has taken the place of the oaken and arched , with its carved pendants, its picturesque combinations, and its rich masses of shade, such as we may be certain once rose from the tops of those clustered columns. But the vast dimensions ( feet in length, in breadth, and about in height), the noble proportions, and the exquisite architecture are still there, and may possibly at no distant period lead to the restoration of the whole in a different spirit from that which at once mangled and burlesqued it, under the pretence of admiration, in the last century: already the restoring of the roof is talked of. The crypt below the Hall has been but little interfered with, and still shows the original design of the architect.

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The contents of the Hall are too well known to render any lengthened description necessary; we may therefore briefly observe, that they comprise in department of art the monuments of the great men whom the City has delighted to honour, and in another the renowned giants Gog and Magog. Among the former is that of William Beckford, Esq., who so astonished George III. by addressing him against all courtly precedent, on receiving the unfavourable answer vouchsafed by the monarch to the Remonstrance of the City on the subject of Wilkes's election; and so delighted the citizens, that they caused this memorial to be erected after his death, which is said to have been accelerated by the excitement of the times acting upon ill health. The others are Lord Nelson's, the Right Hon. William Pitt's, and his father's, the Earl of Chatham; the last by Bacon, the only that seems to us deserving even of criticism. Allan Cunningham says, an eminent artist reiarked to him day,

See, all is reeling-Chatham, the

two

ladies [Commerce and Manufacture], the lion, the boys, the cornucopia, and all the rest, have been tumbled out of a waggon from the top of the pyramid.

There certainly never was, in the history of art, men capable of such great things making such melancholy mistakes as our modern sculptors in a large proportion of their more ambitious productions. The author of the strange jumble here so justly satirized is alsb the same man of whom Cowper no less justly says-

Bacon there

Gives more than female beauty to a stone,

And Chatham's eloquence to marble lips:

referring, in the last line, either to the chief figure on this very monument, or to that on Bacon's other Pitt memorial in . The inscriptions on the monuments of Nelson and the Pitts seem to have called forth the literary powers of our statesmen in a kind of rivalry: Burke wrote the Earl of Chatham's, Canning William Pitt's, and Sheridan Nelson's. The fine old crypt beneath the Hall, extending through its entire length, is in such excellent preservation that we cannot but regret some endeavour is not made to restore it to the light of day. As it is, what with the rise of the soil on the exterior, and the blocking up of windows, we can only dimly perceive through the gloaming the pillars and arches which divide it lengthwise into aisles. Some of the uses of the great civic hall are well known. On the dais at the east end are erected the hustings for the parliamentary elections of the City of London. The Corporation banquets are also given here; and their history from the time Sir John Shaw-excellent man!-built the kitchen, in , down to the visit of her present Majesty, would furnish rich materials for an essay on the art science of good living, for that the latter is both, cooks and aldermen unanimously agree. The most magnificent of these feasts seems to have been that of , after the overthrow of Napoleon, when the chief guests were the Prince Regent, the Emperor of Russia, and the King of Prussia, when the dinner was served entirely on plate, valued at above , when all the other arrangements were conducted on a correspondingly sumptuous scale, and when, in a word, the expenditure was estimated at On some occasions--the banquets have had an historical interest attached to them. A good dinner, it is well known, is often the readiest and most effectual way of opening an Englishman's heart. Charles I.,

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acting upon this maxim, dined with the citizens just at that critical period of his history when a recourse to arms must have appeared to all thoughtful minds the only ultimate solution of the contest between him and the people. The long Parliament had met; Strafford had been arrested, tried, and executed: the city exhibiting its sentiments with regard to that nobleman, while his fate was yet undecided, by presenting a petition for justice against him, signed by citizens. To arrest these and other similarly dangerous symptoms was, therefore, an object of the highest importance. The banquet took place on the very day of the king's return from Scotland, the , the corporation having come out to meet him on the road. Its conduct was, of course, marked by every possible indication of external respect, and Charles took care to return their compliments in a truly royal manner. When the Lord Mayor, Recorder, and others met him, in the , with an address, he made a very gracious reply, in which he told them, that he had thought of thing as a particular affection to them, which was the giving back unto the city that part of Londonderry (Ireland), which had been formerly evicted from them; and, in conclusion, he knighted both the Lord Mayor-Acton, and the Recorder. Then they all went on together in stately procession to , where the dinner gave such high satisfaction to their Majesties (the Queen being also present) that, after it was over, Charles sent for Mr. John Pettus, a gentleman, says Maitland, of an ancient family in the

87

county of Suffolk, who had married the Lord Mayor's daughter, and knighted him too. The royal visitors were then conducted to , where his Majesty could not part with the Lord Mayor till he had most graciously embraced and thanked him, and charged him to thank the whole city in his name. Whether enough had not been done yet to soften the harshness of the city politics, and in despair further efforts were made, or whether the move was so successful that everything might be hoped for from a of a like kind, we know not; but whatever the cause, not many days elapsed before the Mayor received a patent of baronetcy instead of the knighthood so recently conferred (he was a Mayor, be it remembered, the having only just passed) ; and when a deputation of the citizens, consisting of the Mayor and certain Aldermen, with the Sheriffs and the Recorder, went to to thank their Majesties for all favours, and to ask them to winter at , &c., Charles agreed to their request, and

after his Majesty had ended his answer, and that Mr. Recorder and Sir George Whitmore had kissed his royal hand, the next alderman in seniority kneeled down to receive the like princely favour, when suddenly and unexpectedly his Majesty drew a sword, and instead of giving him his hand to kiss he laid his sword upon his shoulder and knighted him; the like he did to all the other aldermen and the

two

sheriffs, being in number

seven

;

whilst as an appropriate conclusion, we presume, to so much princely favour,

his Majesty commanded that they should dine before they left the court.

Maitland, vol. i. p. 343-346.

The annual feast in , on Lord Mayor's Day, is but the suitable close to the general business of the installation of the new chief magistrate, which takes place the day before, and to the somewhat tedious honours involved in the pageantry of the procession. The Aldermen, and common-councilmen of the City, have seen with their own eyes that the existence of the Corporation has not been endangered by the bare presumption of any momentary lapse as to its possession of a head; in other words, they have seen the Lord Mayor elect and the Lord Mayor in possession sitting side by side, arid then changing chairs; and the public have had their share of the enjoyment attached to the event, namely, the gilded coach and the men in armour; and now all parties, except the public, sit down comfortably to enjoy themselves after their toils, still further solaced by the fair faces and radiant eyes which glow and sparkle in every direction : the concentrated loveliness of the civic domestic world, which these occasions, with a few others of a more accidental character, as a fancy ball for the benefit of the Poles, alone adequately reveal to us. The election of the Mayor takes place on the preceding , and the electors are the liverymen of the several companies met in Common Hall, as it is called. To these the crier reads a list of Aldermen, in the order of seniority, who have served as sheriff (who alone are eligible), and who have not already passed the chair of mayoralty. In ordinary cases the persons named are accepted, but the Livery, if it pleases, may depart from that order, or even select those in preference who have already been elected and served. If the decision of a show of hands be not accepted, a poll is taken, which lasts days. The names finally determined upon are announced to the Mayor and Aldermen by the Common Sergeant; these also generally select the senior Alderman, but may

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reject him, as in a recent instance, for the other. The person elected then declares his acceptance of the office (rejection subjects him to a fine of ), and the Lord Mayor, Recorder, Sheriffs, and Common Sergeant, returning to the Hall, declare the result, and proclamation accordingly is made. There remains but to present him to the Lord Chancellor, in order to receive his assent on the part of the Crown to the election; to administer the usual oaths before the Mayor and Aldermen on the morning of the , after which the proceedings before alluded to take place; and lastly, the presentation to the Barons of , when he is again sworn, a custom that is an interesting memento of the state of things after the Conquest, when the chief municipal officers were the parties appointed by the king as the instruments of his pecuniary exactions, and who, when, in lapse of time, again elected by their respective municipalities, were sworn to pay duly into the crown rent then accepted in lieu of the former uncertain and arbitrary imposts: London had of these officers, called bailiffs, and paid yearly.

The mummeries and sensual enjoyments which seem to round in and to form so large a portion of London municipal life has had bad effect, which is as much to be regretted for the sake of its chief officers themselves, as for the institution: they have turned aside the public attention, not merely from the capacities of the , but have made it estimate very inaccurately the real nature and amount of the services performed by the other. Looking at it as a whole, it would be difficult to find a more arduous and responsible position than that of the mayoralty of London. Consider for a moment the Mayor's duties. He presides at the sittings of the Court of Aldermen, both in their own and in what is called the Lord Mayor's Court, at the Court of Common Council, and at the Common Hall. He is Judge of the Court of Hustings, which, however, does not make any extensive demands upon his time; a Judge of the Central Criminal Court, and the same of the London Sessions held at . He is a justice of the peace for , where he usually opens the Sessions, and continues subsequently to preside. He is escheator in London and , when there is anything escheatable, not a matter now of very frequent occurrence. He is conservator of the Thames, an office that involves, among other duties, the holding courts within the year, and occasionally a . He has to sign affidavits to notarial documents required for transmission to the colonies, to attend, when necessary, committees of the municipal body, and the meetings of the Sewage Commissioners, of which he is a member. Then, in matters of a more general nature, in which the City is concerned, or in which it feels interested, he is expected to take the lead, and in consequence is in continual communication with the Government; he presides at public meetings; distinguished foreigners have a kind of prescriptive claim on his attention and hospitality. He attends the Privy Council on the accession of a new sovereign; at coronations he is chief butler, and receives a golden cup as his fee. And as if his time were still insufficiently occupied with his own corporate business, and the things naturally growing out of it, other institutions look to him for assistance: he is a governor of Greenwich Hospital, governor of , a trustee of , and connected with we know not how many other schools, hospitals, and public foundations. Lastly, not that the list is exhausted, but that our

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space is, he sits in his own justice-room at the , for scarcely less than hours a day on the average. We are not aware how the mere enumeration of such an overwhelming amount of business as this may affect the fancy of the sportive wits who amuse themselves at the expense of the office and the officer, but we do know that the latter need desire no better revenge than to be allowed to catch of these said gentlemen, and place him in the civic chair for a single week.

Yet it must be owned that some of the interest formerly attached to the Mayoralty, and most of the romance, have been lost. There are no opportunities now for the incipient Walworths to show their prowess; no government, be it Whig or Tory, thinks now of making the Lord Mayor an occasional inmate of the Tower, as a mode of drawing his attention, as a wealthy and benevolent citizen, to its financial necessities. The history of the Lord Mayors of London in the century certainly looks rather insignificant beside the history of their predecessors some or centuries back. Take up any tolerably full index to a history of the metropolis, and mark the expressive items enumerated under the word Mayor. Here is Maitland's, which, beginning with the chief magistrate (after the bailiffs), Henry Fitz-Alwin, , and proceeding chronologically downwards, tells us that at time the Mayor-submits to the king's mercy, at another--is arrested, and purchases his liberty at a dear rate--is committed to prison-is, with of the aldermen, delivered up to the prince to be fleeced is degraded-presented to the Constable of the Tower again committed to prison-reprimanded by the privy council-flies with the other citizens-assaulted --fined;

warm work, my masters!

and this all in the century and a half. The cause was, no doubt, to be found very much in the feelings and conduct of the Mayor and his brethren in those days; they were neither content, on the hand, to help the monarch to their fellow-citizens, nor would be fleeced themselves, without being , on the other. And, after all, wonders why the monarch took so much trouble with men who were indignant at what he did rather than grateful for what he did not, but might have done; and seeing how much more easy it was to seize and take care of a charter than a mayor, how much more profitable its gracious restoration. Possibly the fact that the citizens of London could, if need were, use the arms with which they were then generally provided, may have had something to do with the matter, and rendered subtlety as necessary as force in dealing with them. Hence the interference of royalty in the earlier elections, and the variety of interesting events that sprang from this interference, among which is that it is strange has not been more dwelt upon, from the high interest attached to an actor therein. It may surprise many to hear that of the greatest of English poets, Chaucer, ought also to be looked upon as of the most eminent on the roll of the civic illustrious: no portrait, no memorial of any kind, reminds you in of his name, yet was he an exile in the cause of corporate freedom. Born in London, as he himself tells us, and feeling more kindly love

to that place than to any other in earth,

he was not to remain in inaction when its liberties were threatened with utter destruction by Richard II. Fortunately, we possess his own statement of what his views on this subject had been from an early period of his life.

In my youth,

says the poet,

I was drawn to be assentant-and in my might

helping--to certain conjuracions [confederacies], and other great matters of ruling of citizens; and thylke things being my drawers--in and exciters to these matters, were so painted and coloured, which at the prime face meseemed them noble and glorious to all the people. I then weening mickle merit [to] have deserved in furthering and maintenance of those things, busied and laboured with all my diligence, in working of thilke matters to the end. And truly to tell you the sooth, merought little of any hate of the mighty Senators

The Aldermen probably of that day ; a body that we find continually leaning towards royalty through the early struggles of the citizens against it.

in thilke city, nor of commons' malice, for

two

skilles [reasons]:

one

was, I had comfort to be in such plight, that both profit were to me and to my friends; another was, for common profit in communalty is not, but [unless] peace and tranquillity with just governance proceedeth from thilke profit:

observations worthy of the author of the

Canterbury Tales;

and presenting an interesting glimpse of the principles that guided the poet in action. Prior to the event we are about to notice, Richard had shown an almost open hostility towards the citizens, partly, it is said, on account of their manly remonstrances against the proceedings of his ministers, and partly from envy of their wealth. Accordingly, it appears,

he was accustomed,

says Godwin,

when they had fallen under his displeasure, to oblige them to purchase his forgiveness with large contributions in money ;

and he had also repeatedly imposed his own creature, Sir Nicholas Brember, as Mayor, upon them, in defiance of their wishes and rights. It may be here noticed that the City records show that, in former times, the election of the Mayor was claimed by some popular and. large constituency, which, no doubt, was the entire body of citizens; we shall perceive, in Chaucer's own account of the matter, that this was an element of the struggle between Richard and the Londoners. Describing (in his appeal to the government from the Tower, from which the foregoing passage is taken) the arguments used by his associates to induce him to adopt the line of conduct which had brought him into so much misery, he says,

The things which, quod they, be for common advantage, may not stand, but [unless] we be executors of these matters, and authority of execution by

common election

, to us be delivered; and that must enter by strength of your maintenance.

Again,

The government,

quod they,

of your city, left in the hands of tornencious [usurious or extortionate] citizens shall bring in pestilence and destruction to you, good men; and therefore let us have the

common administration

to abate such evils.

We have here still more clearly pointed out the motives that actuated Chaucer in engaging in the struggle between the King and the popular party in the City, and which rose to its climax in ; when the latter selected John of Northampton to be the candidate for the Mayoralty in opposition to Brember, and a most exciting contest ensued. Chaucer is supposed by Godwin to have had another motive besides his regard for the liberties of the City, namely, zeal for his patron, John of Gaunt, towards whose ruin, it seems, the proceedings of the Court were looked upon as the step. Of the details of the struggle we know very little. Chaucer says of it,

And so, when it fell

thatfree election by great clamour of much people

[who], for great disease of government, so fervently stooden in their election [of their own candidate] that

they themselves submitted to every manner face [or, in other words, every imaginable disadvantage] rather than have suffered the manner and the rule of the hated governors, (notwithstanding that [they], in the contrary, held much common meiny [followers] that have no consideration but only to voluntary lusts without reason), then thilke governor [Brember] so forsaken,

and fearing

his undoing for misrule in his time,

endeavoured to hinder the election and procure a new in favour of himself; and then burst out the insurrection, or in the poet's words,

mokyl roar areared.

The result shows how deeply he was himself concerned. After the

roar

had been quelled by a large armed body, under Sir Robert Knolles, on the part of the king, and Sir Nicholas Brember once more unduly installed in the chair, proceedings commenced against the principal leaders of the defeated party. Of these we find only names mentioned-John of Northampton's, who was committed to confinement in Corfe Castle, and thence removed to Carisbrook Castle whilst preparations for his trial were made, and Chaucer's, against whom similar process was commenced, but who, knowing the men with whom he had to deal, fled to Zealand. There he seems to have suffered much distress, and chiefly through the conduct of some of those with whom he had been connected in the business of the election. In he ventured to return to London, where he received a mark of the public approbation of his conduct by his being elected a member of parliament for Kent. It may have been this very election which determined the government not to overlook his former conduct, and so to get rid of a man whose abilities they must have dreaded; for it appears that he was arrested in the latter part of the same year, sent to the Tower, and deprived of the offices he held, namely, the Comptrollership of the Customs in the Port of London and the comptrollership of the small customs. Touchingly beautiful are his laments over his sad estate at this time. Having alluded to the delicious hours he was wont to spend enjoying the blissful seasons, and contrasted them with his penance in the dark prison, cut off from friendship and acquaintances,

forsaken of all that any word dare speak

for him, he continues:

Although I had little, in respect [comparison] among others great and worthy, yet had I a fair parcel, as methought for the time, in furthering of my sustenance; and had riches sufficient to waive need; and had dignity to be reverenced in worship; power methought that I had to keep from mine enemies; and meseemed to shine in glory of renown. Every

one

of those joys is turned into his contrary: for riches, now have I poverty; for dignity, now am I imprisoned; instead of power, wretchedness I suffer; and for glory of renown, I am now despised and fully hated.

He was set at liberty in , though not, it is said, until he had purchased freedom by dishonourable disclosures as to his former associates: the whole subject, however, is too much enveloped in mystery for us to venture on any unfavourable decision; we can only be sure of the important fact, that no suffered in consequence of Chaucer's liberation.

Ascending the steps opposite the entrance into the Hall, which lead to the other parts of the building, we find the room known as the court of aldermen, having a rich and elaborate ceiling in stucco, divided into compartments, the principal of them containing paintings by Sir James Thornhill. The cornice of the room consists of a series of carved and painted arms of all the Mayors since

92

. The apartment, as its name tells us, is used for the sittings of the Court of Aldermen, who in judicial matters form the bench of magistrates for the metropolis, and in their more directly corporate capacity try the validity of ward elections and of claims to freedom, who admit and swear brokers, superintend prisons, order prosecutions, and perform a variety of other analogous duties:. a descent, certainly, from the high position of the ancient eorculdmen, or superior Saxon nobility, from whom they derive their name and partly their functions. They were called

barons

down to the time of Henry I., if, as is probable, the latter term in the charter of that king refers to the Aldermen. A striking proof of the high rank and importance of the individuals so designated is to be found in the circumstance that the wards of London of which they were aldermen were, in some cases, at least, their own heritable property, and as such bought and sold, or transferred under particular circumstances. Thus the aldermanry of a ward was purchased, in , by William Faryngdon, who gave it his own name, and in whose family it remained upwards of years; and, in another case, the Knighten Guild having given the lands and soke of what is now called Portsoken ward to Trinity Priory, the Prior became, in consequence, Alderman, and so the matter remained in Stow's time, who beheld the Prior of his day riding in procession with the Mayor and Aldermen, only distinguished from them by wearing a purple instead of a scarlet gown. As to the present constitution of the body, it may be briefly described as follows: each of the wards into which the city is divided elects alderman, with the exception of Cripplegate-Within and Cripplegate-Without, which together send but ; add to these an alderman for , or, as it is sometimes called, Bridge Ward-Without, and we have the entire number of , including the Mayor. They are elected for life at ward-motes, by such householders as are at the same time freemen, and paying not less than per annum to the local taxes. The fine for the rejection of the office is Generally speaking, the aldermen consist of those persons who, as common-councilmen, have won the good opinions of their fellows, and who are presumed to be fitted for the higher offices to which they as aldermen are liable, the Shrievalty and the Mayoralty. Leaving the Court of Aldermen for the Council Chamber, towards which we now advance through an elegant corridor, we find ourselves surrounded by the chief artistical treasures of the Corporation. Before we notice these we may conclude our sketch of the component parts of the latter, with a few words on the Common Council and the general body from which they are chosen. The members of the Council are elected by the same class as the aldermen, but in very varying-and in comparison with the size and importance of the wards-inconsequential numbers. Bassishaw and wards have the smallest representation,-- members, and those of Farringdon-Within and Without the largest, namely and . The entire number of the Council is . Their meetings are held under the presidency of the Lord Mayor; and the Aldermen have also the right of being present. The other chief officers of the municipality, as the Recorder, Chamberlain, Judges of the Sheriffs Courts, Common Sergeant, the City Pleaders, Town Clerk, &c., &c., also attend. Of the functions of the Council it will be only necessary to observe, that it is the legislative body of the Corporation, and in that capacity enjoys an unusual degree of power, such as that of making important alterations in the constitution of the

93

latter, that it dispenses the funds, manages the landed property, has the care of the bridges and of the Thames Navigation, with many other powers and trusts.

In the earliest times,

say the Corporation commissioners, the words appear to have been applied sometimes to the whole body of citizens, sometimes to the Magistracy (that is, the Lord Mayor and Aldermen), or the Magistracy and Sheriffs. In the reign of Henry III. a Folkmote seems to have been summoned to meet the Magistracy or times in the year, and on special occasions.[n.93.1]  We have already seen that the election of the Mayor was claimed by the citizens generally; and altogether it seems evident, that in the Saxon time , as the meeting of the entire body of people in the open air was called, or the husting or common hall, when within-doors, exercised the most important functions of local government. And although these rights were placed in abeyance during the shock of the Conquest, they were again claimed and made the subject of frequent struggles, similar to that in which Chaucer was engaged, as reviving peace and prosperity afforded opportunities.

From the Lord Mayor, Aldermen, and Common Council, we descend to the Livery and the freemen, from which, step by step, the former have risen. Until of late years, the only path to freedom was through the halls of the companies (the ancient guilds), and they, in effect, still form the true base of the civic structure. As we shall devote an early number to them, we need only here observe that the Livery, of whom we hear so much, are favoured portions of the general body of freemen in each company, who possess the right of electing the Mayor, Sheriffs, Chamberlain, and other municipal officers, who form, in a word, the Common Hall of the present day. Glancing back over the general features of the entire corporate body, the analogy frequently pointed out between the national and the civic parliament appears no idle dream, such as we may fancy to have visited the slumbers of some ambitious aldermanic brain, but strikingly true, clear, and interesting. We perceive an elective head, as the sovereign once was elective, a comparatively irresponsible, and at a certain period-when, indeed, the very same parties probably sat as barons in both parliaments--hereditary estate, and a Commons representing, or professing to represent, the citizens or the people. To carry it still farther, as Mayor, Aldermen, and Common Council sit in chamber, so sat the component parts of the national parliament when it began to assume its present form; as the parliamentary constituencies really form but a fraction of the people, so do the Livery stand towards the general body of the citizens. But the most interesting result of the comparison is that, we suspect, does not altogether agree with the popular view of the subject--that the lesser apes the greater: when municipal government in England was in its freest, most energetic, and most flourishing condition, parliaments, in any just sense of the term as applicable to their existing constitutions and powers, were unknown. In short, of our original local government,

enough is discoverable to show most clearly that it had never been moulded by a central authority, but that, on the contrary, the central authority had been, as it were, built upon the broad basis of a free municipal organization.

[n.93.2] 

94

 

The scene of these united assemblages owes little of its interest to its beauty or splendour. would think, from the dingy appearance of the crimson lining of the walls, and the paltry matting of the floor, that the place belonged to the poorest rather than to the richest of municipalities, did not the numerous, and in some instances well-known, works of art around the walls, chiefly the productions of corporate patronage, show that it possessed no stinted exchequer. The sculpture consists of a full-length white marble statue of George III., by Chantrey, placed in a niche of a bluish-grey colour at the back of the seat of mayoralty, and of some busts, of them Granville Sharpe's, also by Chantrey, and of Nelson, by the lady sculptor, the Hon. Mrs. Damer, who so worshipped its subject, that after the hero of the Nile had sat to her, she not only

loved to relate the conversations which she had with her

Napoleon of the waves,

but

it was

one

of her favourite ideas to form a little book of his sayings and remarks, for the use of her young relative, the son of Sir Alexander Johnston.

[n.94.1]  Among the pictures are Northcote's

Death of Wat Tyler,

Copley's

Siege of Gibraltar,

Opie's

Murder of David Rizzio,

with some interesting portraits by Sir W. Beechey, Sir T. Lawrence, Copley, and Opie; of which Alderman Boydell's, by Beechey, may be particularised for the sake of the public-spirited man to whose generous and enlightened zeal art owes so much. feature of the collection is curious--the number of representations connected with Gibraltar: there are no less than

Defences,

and all by

R. Paton, Esq.

The other noticeable portions of are the Old Court of King's Bench, the Chamberlain's Office, and the Waiting or Reading Room. In the (where, among other pictures, is a pair of classical subjects-Minerva, by Westall, and Apollo washing his locks in the Castalian fountains, by Gavin Hamilton), the greater portion of the judicial business of the Corporation is carried on: that business, as a whole, comprising in its civil jurisdiction, , the Court of Hustings, the supreme court of record in London, and which is frequently resorted to in outlawry and other cases where an expeditious judgment is desired; secondly, the Lord Mayor's Court, which has cognizance of all personal and mixed actions at common law, which is a court of equity, and also a criminal court in matters pertaining to the Customs of London; and thirdly, the Sheriff's Court, which has a common-law jurisdiction only: we may add that the jurisdiction of both courts is confined to the City and Liberties, or, in other words, to those portions of incorporated London, known respectively in corporate language as Within the walls, and Without. The criminal jurisdiction includes the London Sessions, held generally times a-year, with the Recorder as the acting Judge, for the trial of felonies, &c.; the Sessions, held in times a-year; and the Courts of Conservancy of the River. Passing into the Chamberlain's Office, we find a portrait of Mr. Thomas Tomkins, by Reynolds; and if it be asked, who is Mr. Thomas Tomkins, we have only to say, in the words of the inscription on another great man-Look around! All these beautifully written and emblazoned duplicates of the honorary Freedoms and Thanks voted by the City, some or more, we believe, in number, are the sole production of him, who, we regret to say, is the Mr. Thomas Tomkins. The duties of the Chamberlain are numerous: among them, the

95

most worthy of mention, perhaps, are the admission, on oath, of freemen (till of late years averaging in number a-year); the determining quarrels between masters and apprentices (Hogarth's prints of the Idle and Industrious Apprentices are the things you see within the door); and lastly, the Treasurership, in which department enormous sums of money pass through his hands. In , the latest year for which we have any authenticated statement, the corporate receipts, derived chiefly from rents, dues, and market tolls, amounted to /. ls. ; and the expenditure to somewhat more. The Waiting Room is a small but comfortable apartment, with the table covered with newspapers, and the walls with pictures; among which, Opie's Murder of James I. of Scotland is most conspicuous. There are here also Studies of a Tiger and a Lioness and her Young, by Northcote. Near the door, numerous written papers attract the eye--the useful daily memoranda of the multifarious business eternally going on, and which, in addition to the matters already incidentally referred to, point out of the modes in which that business is accomplished --the Committees. We read of appointments for the Committee of the Royal Exchange--of Sewers--of Corn, Coal, and Finance--of Navigation--of Police, and so on.

The personal state of the head of so important an institution has always been an object of solicitude with the citizens. In his dignity they beheld the reflection of theirs. Hence the almost princely list of officers forming his household: his sword-bearer, his sergeant-at-arms, his sergeant-carver, sergeants of the chamber, his esquires, his bailiffs, and his young men: hence his heavy annual expenditure, which is expected to exceed the ordinary sum appropriated for that purpose, amounting to nearly , by or more. Yet, strange enough, with such a household and such a sum to be expended, they never thought of giving him a house till the last century; and the Mayors, therefore, had to content themselves with their own, or to borrow the halls of their companies. The present pile, finished in , was erected by Dance. It is of course handsomely fitted up, and the plate, used on all important occasions, is valued at above The Justice Room is immediately on the left of the chief entrance. A very interesting part of the business here is a remnant of a valuable old custom, which seems to show that the idea of a court of reconciliation is by no means a novelty in this country, though never fully developed. In this court private applications are continually made to the Mayor, for his advice and arbitration, and, we understand, with very beneficial results. The banquets which are here from time to time given, of a public character, as those to the chief members of the Government, or of a more private kind, as to the corporation, take place in the Egyptian Hall, an apartment of great size, with a detached range of large pillars, with gilded capitals, on each side, an ornamented roof in panels, and a throne for his lordship--the whole brilliantly illuminated by chandeliers. A long and very handsome corridor leads to the Hall, from which, near the centre, branch off the passages to the private apartments. As to the pictures, busts, and statues, which should give to all such mansions their principal charm, there is here a melancholy blank. What an opportunity for some new Boydell; what a rich gallery of civic historical portraiture might not be summoned at the call of the enchanter to people these now desolate walls. The

96

itself, as a building only a century old, can hardly be expected to have much historical interest attached to it. The most important event its annals can yet boast is, perhaps, the Wilkes riots, of which, during the mayoralty of Wilkes's friend, Brass Crosby, the neighbourhood--as shown in the prints of the time, from of which the following is engraved--was the frequent scene.

 
 
 
Footnotes:

[n.81.1] Johnson's Canons, Laws of Ina, transcribed from Herbert's Livery Companies, vol, i. p. 3.

[n.82.1] Survey, ed. 1633, p. 282.

[n.83.1] Pennant, London, ed. 1791, p. 415.

[n.93.1] Report, p. 35.

[n.93.2] Article, Boroughs of England and Wales, Penny Cyclopoedia.

[n.94.1] Cunningham's British Sculptors, p. 263.

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