London: volume 2

Knight, Charles.


XLIV.-The Royal Exchange and the South-Sea House. (Concluded from No. XLIII.)

XLIV.-The Royal Exchange and the South-Sea House. (Concluded from No. XLIII.)




The Great Fire, in which, as we have seen, Sir Thomas Gresham's Exchange was burned down, took place in the beginning of ; and almost before the flames were extinguished Wren's plan for the rebuilding of London was before the King. In that plan, the Exchange, rebuilt on its own site, was to

stand free in--the middle of a piazza, and be as it were the nave or centre of the town, from whence the


-feet streets, as so- many rays, should proceed to all principal parts of the city.

Of all the grand features of the architect's magnificent scheme: this was of the grandest. London was now fast becoming the commercial centre of the world; and it was a fine thought that of placing the home of the merchants who made it so in a corresponding position in their own metropolis. Napoleon's famous directions on the outlets of Paris-

To Rome


To Madrid

--had not half the real significancy of Wren's sending his streets off from the , in every direction of the compass, as so many visible channels of the mighty streams of commerce ever flowing between that Exchange and the remotest countries of- the world. The building, it appears, was to be

after the form of the Roman Forum, with double porticoes.

But the principal scheme being abandoned, these views for the Exchange also shared its fate. A month after the Fire, the city surveyors were requested to prepare an estimate for rebuilding the Exchange; and in the early part of the following year the ground was cleared, and an order obtained from Charles II. for the Portland stone required. Sir John Denham, the poet of

Cooper's Hill,

was on this occasion the successful prosecutor of their suit.with the monarch. Denham was his Majesty's Surveyor of the Works, and in that office so exerted himself to serve the Committee appointed by the Corporation of the City and


the Mercers' Company to superintend the rebuilding, that on occasion, when they expected a visit from him, they made

provision of




dishes of meat at the Sun Tavern to entertain him withal,

and agreed

to present him with


pieces of gold as a token of their gratitude.

Much delay, however, ensued, principally, it appears, from the difficulty of deciding which of the surveyors should be the architect, the chief having

overmuch business.

At last, after a show of some modest reluctance on the part of of the others, Mr. Jernan, that gentleman was named, in ; and, in answer to an application for instructions, was told

that the new Exchange should be built on the old foundations ;


the pillars, arches, and roof should be left for him to model according to the rules of art, for the best advantage of the whole structure.

From this time the work was carried on with great rapidity. The gossiping Pepys, ever on the watch for materials for his


writes, on the in the same year-

Sir W. Pen and I back into London, and there saw the King, with his kettle-drums and trumpets, going to the Exchange; which, the gates being shut, I could not get in to see. So, with Sir W. Pen to Captain Cockes, and thence again toward


; but in my way stopped at the Exchange and got in, the King being newly gone, and there find the bottom of the


pillar laid (that on the west side of the north entrance). And here was a shed set up, and hung with tapestry and a canopy of state, and some good victuals and wine for the King, who it seems did it.


good victuals

comprised, we are elsewhere informed, a chine of beef, grand dishes of fowl, gammons of bacon, dried tongues, anchovies, caviare, &c., and several sorts of wine. Charles gave to the workmen. Similar ceremonies commemorated the laying of the stone of the eastern column a few days later, by the Duke of York, and of the stone of of the pillars of the south entrance, in November, by Prince Rupert. These ceremonies appear to have been thought such very agreeable things that there could not be too many of them. The edifice was completed in , at an expense of nearly , besides an expenditure for additional site of about , or twice the cost of the entire original site; such had been the advance in the value of property here in the course of a century. The Exchange was re-opened to the merchants on the .

The new building in its essential features greatly resembled the old, but was larger and more magnificent. A general view of it is shown in a subsequent page. It had, like the old, its ranges of statues, sculptured on this occasion principally by Cibber, with their painting and gilding; its shops above and below, now increased in number to ; its bell-tower; and its uncovered quadrangle in the centre for the merchants, where was placed a statue of Charles II.,


says Maitland,

the ingenious hand of Mr. Gibbons,

with an inscription to the

British Caesar, the father of his country,

&c. The grand entrance from was also decorated on each side by statues of the same King and of his father. We may observe, by the way, that the statue of Charles I., which stood in the old Exchange, was, immediately after his execution, removed from thence, in pursuance of a Parliamentary vote proposed by the famous Harry Marten, and the following inscription set up in its place:

Exit Tyrannus, Regum ultimus, Anno Libertatis Anglicae restitutae primo,

with the date. The ascent


to the shops was by spacious staircases of black marble, the colonnade beneath was paved with white and black marble, and the open area with Turkey stones of a small size, the gift, according to tradition, of a merchant trading to that country, whose heart perhaps was opened by some unusually fortunate venture, which he thus fitly recorded.

The long cessation of the business of the shops appears to have wrought no permanent injury to their occupiers, for but a very short time after the rebuilding we find them in full activity, and paying continually increasing rents, in spite of the great addition to their number. Some of these shops were at period let for as much as a-year. The old characteristics were also revived in full force. In the satirical ballad of

Robin Conscience, or Conscionable Robin, in his progress through Court, City, and Country

(), the hero walks into the Exchange, but the merchants tell him-

For we have traffic without thee,

And thrive best if thou absent be.

Now, I,

continues Robin,--

being thus abus'd below, Did walk up stairs, where in a row Brave shops of ware did make a show Most sumptuous.

But when the shop-folk did me spy, They drew their dark light instantly, And said, in coming there, was I Presumptuous.

It is remarkable enough to notice in connection with the line printed in italics that above years before the authorities of the Old Exchange had ordered

That none of the shopkeepers in the Exchange be hereafter permitted to draw or hang any curtains or cloths before the windows or lights of their shops, to diminish, obscure, or shadow their lights, whereby such as have come to buy their wares have been much wronged and deceived.

Down to the time of Sir Richard Steele, and

The Spectator,

the attractions of this part continued undiminished, for in his day's ramble, described in No. of that work, he makes a point of calling in at the Exchange, where, he says,

It was not the least of my satisfaction in my survey to go up stairs, and pass the shops of agreeable females. To observe so many pretty hands busy in the folding of ribbons, and the utmost eagerness of agreeable faces in the sale of patches, pins, and wires, on each side of the counters, was an amusement in which I could longer have indulged myself, had not the dear creatures called to men to ask what I wanted, when I could not answer,

Only to look at you.

I went,

continues the genial and light-hearted philosopher,



of the windows which opened to the area below, where all the several voices lost their distinction, and rose up in a confused humming; which created in me a reflection that could not come into the mind of any but of


a little too studious: for I said to myself, with a kind of pun in thought,

What nonsense is all the hurry of this world to those who are above it!

But the scene commanded by the spot on which the writer now stood was calculated to arouse reflections of a.higher nature in his mind than he has here recorded.


Putting aside the merely picturesque, he could not have viewed so many merchants of so many different nations, bound together in common pursuit, without thinking of the moral grandeur exhibited in that potential assemblage to those who could penetrate beneath its superficial aspect, who could understand what was going on for the general good of mankind beneath that incessant all-pervading struggle for self-interest and self-aggrandisement. Why Steele contented himself with the brief but pleasant notice we have transcribed is easy of explanation: he had been anticipated. His friend and fellow-essayist Addison, who has not only recorded his frequent visits to the Exchange, but also says there was no place in town which he so much loved to frequent, had previously published in

The Spectator

of his most delightful papers. Literary memories of this kind appear to us to give to old buildings of their greatest charms, and belong, indeed, as much to them as the very stones of their foundation. Before we transcribe the passage in question, let us see what the satirist has to say on the subject: the contrast will be neither unamusing nor uninstructive. In a clever poem, entitled

The Wealthy Shopkeeper,

published in , we read

For half an hour he feeds; and when he's done,

In's elbow-chair he takes a nap till one;

From thence to »Change he hurries in a heat

(Where knaves and fools in mighty numbers meet,

And kindly mix the bubble with the cheat);

There barters, buys and sells, receives and pays,

And turns the pence a hundred several ways.

In that great hive, where markets rise and fall,

And swarms of muckworms round its pillars crawl,

He, like the rest, as busy as a bee,

Remains among the hen-peck'd herd till three;

Thence to Lloyd's coffee-house, &c.

How much more there is in heaven and earth than is dreamt of in the philosophy of such writers is finely illustrated by Addison's reflections on the same scene:

There is no place in the town,

says he,

which I so much love to frequent as the Royal Exchange. It gives me a secret satisfaction, and in some measure gratifies my vanity, as I am an Englishman, to see so rich an assembly of countrymen and foreigners consulting together upon the private business of mankind, and making this metropolis a kind of emporium for the whole earth. I must confess I look upon high-«change to be a great council, in which all considerable nations have their representatives. Factors in the trading world are what ambassadors are in the politic world: they negotiate affairs, conclude treaties, and maintain a good correspondence between those wealthy societies of men that are divided from one another by seas and oceans, or live on the different extremities of a continent. I have often been pleased to hear disputes adjusted between an inhabitant of Japan and an alderman of London; or to see a subject of the Great Mogul entering into a league with one of the Czar of Muscovy. I am infinitely delighted in mixing with these several ministers of commerce, as they are distinguished by their different walks and different languages. Sometimes I am jostled among a body of Armenians; sometimes I am lost in a crowd of Jews; and sometimes make one in a group of Dutchmen. I am a Dane, Swede, or Frenchman at different times; or rather fancy myself like the old philosopher, who, upon being asked what countryman he was, replied that he was a citizen of the world .... This grand scene of business gives me an infinite variety of solid and substantial entertainment. As I am a great lover of mankind, my heart naturally overflows with pleasure at the sight of a prosperous and happy multitude, insomuch that at many public solemnities I cannot forbear expressing my joy with tears that have stolen down my cheeks. For this reason I am wonderfully delighted to see such a body of men thriving in their own private fortunes, and at the same time promoting the public stock. .

If we consider our own country in its natural prospect, without any of the benefits and advantages of commerce, what a barren and uncomfortable spot of earth falls to our share! Natural historians tell us that no fruit grows originally among us besides hips and haws, acorns and pig-nuts, with other delicacies of the like nature; that our climate, of itself, and without the assistance of art, can make no further advance towards a plum than to a sloe, and carries an apple to no greater perfection than a crab; that our melons, our peaches, our figs, our apricots, and cherries are strangers among us, imported in different ages, and naturalized in our English gardens; and that they would all degenerate and fall away into the trash of our own country, if they were wholly neglected by the planter, and left to the mercy of th( sun and soil. Nor has traffic more enriched our vegetable world than it has improved the whole face of Nature among us. Our ships are laden with the harvest of every climate; our tables are stored with spices, and oils, and wines; our rooms are filled with pyramids of china, and adorned with the workmanship of Japan; our morning draught comes to us from the remotest corners of the earth; we repair our bodies by the drugs of America, and repose ourselves under Indian canopies. My friend Sir Andrew calls the vineyard of France our gardens; the Spice Islands our hot-beds; the Persians our silk-weavers; and the Chinese our potters. Nature indeed furnishes us with the bare necessaries of life, but traffic gives us a great variety of what is useful, and at the same time supplies us with everything that is convenient and ornamental. Nor is it the least part of this our happiness that, whilst we enjoy the remotest products of the North and South, we are free from those extremities of weather which gave them birth; that our eyes are refreshed with the green fields of Britain, at the same time that our palates are feasted with fruits that rise between the tropics. For these reasons there are not more useful members in a commonwealth than merchants. They knit mankind together in a mutual intercourse of good offices, distribute the gifts of Nature, find work for the poor, and wealth to the rich, and magnificence to the great. Our English merchant converts the tin of his own country into gold, and exchanges his wool for rubies. The Mahometans are clothed in our British manufacture, and the inhabitants of the Frozen Zone warmed with the fleeces of our sheep. When I have been upon the «Change,

he concludes,

I have often fancied


of our old kings standing in person where he is represented in effigy, and looking down upon the wealthy concourse of people with which that place is every day filled. In this case how would he be surprised to hear all the languages of Europe spoken in this little spot of his former dominion, and to see so many private men, who, in his time

would have been the vassals of some powerful baron, negotiating, like princes, for greater sums of money than were formerly to be met with in the royal treasury. Trade, without enlarging the British territories, has given us a kind of additional empire. It has multiplied the number of the rich, made our landed estates infinitely more valuable than they were formerly, and added to them an accession of other estates as valuable as the land themselves.

[n.302.1]  Writing like this gives so much interest to a locality as to deserve commemoration in a marked manner.
Soon after the time of the great essayists a decay in the prosperity of the shops in the upper part of the Exchange took place, caused, probably, by the gradual removal of their wealthier and more fashionable customers towards the west end. That decay too must have been very rapid; for Maitland, writing in , spoke of the shops having,

till of late,


stored with the richest and choicest sorts of merchandise; but the same being now forsaken, it appears like a wilderness.

Still busier tenants however began to occupy the vacant place. The Assurance and other offices, the Gresham Lecture Room, and, above all,


extensive and famous establishment, were all to be found here down to the period of the destruction of the edifice on the night of Wednesday, the . It was from the windows of Lloyd's coffee-room that the flames became visible to the watchmen of the neighbouring Bank, and to the astonished merchants and others, who quickly came hurrying to the spot, only in time to behold the edifice perish by the same agency as its predecessor. We need not say the spectacle was, as usual with such large edifices, of the most magnificent character; but there was little circumstance


of an interesting nature connected with it, not undeserving mention. Amidst the tumult of the populace, the shouts of the firemen, and the crash of the falling masonry, the bells in the tower began to play their popular air and then to fall after the other into the common ruin beneath.[n.303.1]  The damage done by the fire was immense, apart from the loss of the building; as may be well supposed when we consider how closely the Exchange was surrounded by wealthy shops and warehouses, and the vast quantity of papers, deeds, securities, &., included in its own chambers and vaults.

A time burned out, the merchants had once more to seek a new, though temporary, home. This matter was soon accomplished. The South Sea House received the members of


whilst the court of the , formerly the court of Sir Thomas Gresham's house; and subsequently of Gresham College, accommodated the general mercantile body, as it had done before, on the occasion of the similar calamity. In this long quadrangle, with its temporary wooden roof down the centre, and its time-stained surrounding walls, even feels more strongly the natural magnitude of the transactions of the merchants who at the hour of come pouring daily into it and filling it to overflowing, than when we beheld them surrounded by the architectural magnificence of their proper habitation. Overlooking the character and influence of the ordinary business of the place which Addison has so finely described, few can stand among such a throng without reflecting on the mighty power that lies in the hands of some of these men, perhaps in the very individual leaning by the pillar here at our side,--men who by their loans stop or promote a war, raise or sink a dynasty. The plain walls too have metal more attractive for those who principally look upon them than any the architect or sculptor can afford; as you may see by marking the attention with which those clusters of bills which line the walls are read every now and then. Let us glance over them. They comprise announcements of the departure of

good ships

to almost every noticeable place on the globe that can well manage to think of; announcements of Bank dividends, new arrangements of the Post Office or Trinity House, mingled with most flattering accounts of new inventions or new speculations-a Glasgow Tontine, for instance, or a Jamaica sugar-estate. No doubt these are all interesting matters to the merchants, and must be treated with respect, but we may be excused dwelling on them; so, amusing ourselves as we take a last walk round the sides of the quadrangle with the thoughts raised by the inscriptions on the boards scattered at intervals upon the face of the walls above our heads, explaining--that beneath this is the

Scotch Walk,

beneath that the


; and then, successively, the


East Country,










Dutch and Jewellers'

Walks--we pass on towards that building which remains to us as the monument of the excesses into which a sedate nation like ourselves can be betrayed by an unnatural development of the principle speculation--which is the heart of all commerce, and which in its healthy action gives life, vigour, and prosperity to the social body.




commences the late Charles Lamb, in of those charming combinations of wit, philosophy, and quaint individualism, the

Essays of Elia,

in thy passage from the Bank, where thou hast been receiving thy half-yearly dividends, (supposing thou art a lean annuitant like myself,) to the Flower Pot, to secure a place for Dalston, or Shacklewell, or some other thy suburban retreat northerly, didst thou never observe a melancholy-looking, handsome brick and stone edifice, to the left, where

Threadneedle Street

abuts upon Bishopsgate? I dare say thou hast often admired its magnificent portals, ever gaping wide, and disclosing to view a grave court, with cloisters and pillars, with few or no traces of goers--in or comers-out, a desolation something like Balclutha's.

I passed by the walls of Balclutha, and they were desolate.--OSSIAN.

This was once a house of trade, a centre of busy interests. The throng of merchants was here, the quick pulse of gain, and here some forms of business are still kept up, though the soul be long since fled. Here are still to be seen stately porticoes, imposing staircases, offices roomy as the state apartments in palaces, deserted or thinly peopled with a few straggling clerks; the still more sacred interiors of court and committee rooms, with venerable faces of beadles, doorkeepers; directors seated in form on solemn days, (to proclaim a dead dividend,) at long worm-eaten tables that have been mahogany, with tarnished gilt-leather coverings, supporting massy. silver ink-stands long since dry; the oaken wainscots hung with pictures of deceased governors and sub-governors, of Queen Anne and the



monarchs of the Brunswick dynasty; huge charts, which subsequent discoveries have antiquated; dusty maps of Mexico, dim as dreams, and soundings of the Bay of Panama! The long passages hung with buckets, appended in idle row to walls whose substance might defy any short of the last conflagration; with vast ranges of cellarage under all, where dollars and pieces of


once lay, an

unsummed heap

for Mammon to have solaced his solitary heart withal,--long since dissipated or scattered into air at the blast of the breaking of that famous



It is remarkable with what felicitous accuracy and expressiveness the public will occasionally coin a designation; and never was that power more felicitously exhibited than in the present instance. It was, indeed, and from the , a bubble; but of such vast dimensions that men were unable to perceive its true character. The glorious play of its colours dazzled their eyes; its magnificent vistas, opening on every side, and all leading to the same conclusion,--

Gold-yellow, glittering, precious gold,

attracted them into its vortex; as it rose and whirled upwards into that airy region distinguished from time immemorial for the ease with which castles and a variety of other structures are there reared, the soberest individuals grew giddy in the contemplation of the future that awaited them,-- man determined to feed his horses on gold,--when, lo! the gigantic insubstantiality bursts, and in their fall the credulous learn for the time the nature of the thing on which they have been so long buoyed up. Were it not in its consequences so full of the materials that make tragedy, the South Sea bubble might have been represented on the stage as an admirable farce; satirising more broadly than Comedy would have thought befitting her dignity, or the common sense of probability, the eternal passion for wealth. But, alas! there can be no mirth provoked by the


jest that takes the bread from many a family: we can have no pleasure in witnessing the humour that may be drawn from what has made a nation miserable and degraded in its own eyes.

The origin o« the South Sea Company may be traced to Harley, Earl of Oxford, who, to restore the public credit, which had suffered from the removal of the Whigs from power, brought forward his


This was the forming the creditors, to whom was owing the floating debt of the nation, into a company, which should have per cent. interest insured to them on their debts (in all millions), by rendering permanent various duties, such as those on wines, vinegar, tobacco. As a still greater allurement, the South Sea trade, from which great things were at that time expected, was to be secured to them only. The idea was marvellously well received, and the Company incorporated as the

Governor and Company of Merchants of Great Britain trading to the South Seas and other parts of America.

But the King of Spain had his own views of this matter of admitting British merchants into his Transatlantic ports; and the result was, the Company obtained only such advantages as were to be derived from the infamous , or contract, empowering them to supply Spanish America with negroes from the African continent, and from the permission to send ship annually with a cargo of goods for sale. Even these advantages, such as they were, had scarcely been granted before they were recalled by the war with Spain, which broke out in , or the year after the annual ship had sailed. Still there seems to have been an indefinable sort of confidence that something great would yet result from the South Seas; the merchants could not cease to look upon its islands as their Promised Land; consequently the Company's stock still kept up its value, the Company still enjoyed the public confidence-their next movement was to show how worthily. The ministers had conceived the idea that means might still be devised for the formation of a great South Sea trade, which should be so profitable as to pay off all the national incumbrances. Their prompter, it is highly probable, was Sir John Blunt, a leading Director of the Company, who is known to have taken great pains to show ministers the advantage that would result from consolidating all the funds into , and to have particularly pointed out the effective assistance which his Company might render. An offer even was made by Sir John, on the part of the latter, to liquidate the entire national debt in years, if the different funds were formed into as proposed, if certain commercial privileges were granted, and, lastly, if they were empowered to take in by purchase or subscription both the redeemable and irredeemable national debt, on such terms as might be agreed on between the Company and the proprietors. Ministers laid the scheme before Parliament. A competition was proposed and agreed to. The sent in- a proposal; which so alarmed the Directors of the South Sea Company that they reconsidered theirs, and prepared still more favourable than either their own previous or that of the Bank. The latter, on its part, imitated the Company's example, and ultimately plans lay upon the table of the for consideration. The Directors of the Company had said they would obtain the preference, , and they made good their word. Leave was given to bring in a bill founded on


their proposals. It may now be worth while to inquire what the Directors really intended; and perhaps the best answer is to be found in their private proceedings at this moment, which are known to us by means of the subsequent Parliamentary inquiry. The books now presented a total sum of above a million and a quarter of money, upon account of stock to the amount of , which was there stated to have been sold on various occasions, and at prices varying from to per cent. Of this professed worth of stock, only about was real, all the remainder was assigned, without value received of any kind, to the Directors, or the members of Government, whom it was desirable to bribe. Thus stood against the Earl of Sunderland's name; against the Duchess of Kendal, the King's ill-favoured German mistress; to the Countess of Platen, a lady enjoying a similar position, and a like sum to her nieces; to Mr. Secretary (of State) Craggs; to Mr. Charles Stanhope, of the Secretaries of the Treasury; and some large sums by a more circuitous mode to Aislabie, the Chancellor of , who introduced the propositions to Parliament. Some of our readers may not readily perceive the immediate effect of this arrangement; we offer, therefore, a slight illustration. The day before the Parliament gave leave for the bringing in of the bill referred to, the Company's stock stood at ; almost immediately after it rose by great leaps to . Supposing Mr. Secretary Craggs, for instance, to be satisfied with the profit now within his reach, the cashier perhaps of the Company sold out his stock at the rate of per cent., kept per cent. for the Company (thus, for the time, making its nominal subscriptions real), and handed over the difference, per cent. on , to Mr. Secretary Craggs. On the other hand, had the stock, instead of rising from , fallen, what then? Why, then Mr. Secretary Craggs would have consoled himself with the reflection that it could not sink below its cost to him, which was simply-nothing. During the progress of the bill, the stock continuing to rise, the Directors made more subscriptions, or, in other words, repeated the manoeuvre above described. On the last of these occasions Mr. Aislabie's name was down for , Mr. Craggs, senior, for , the Earl of Sunderland for , and Mr. Stanhope for The bill passed, and some time after the stock rose in value to above per cent. The unheard--of profits that it was in the power of the prime movers in this affair to make, under such circumstances, are very evident; though it is highly probable that some even of them were carried away by their own schemes, and, venturing too long, shared in the general loss at the last. To produce the continual rise in the value of their stock, means as infamous as the ends which some at least of the Directors had in view were adopted. Markets of inestimable value were every day being discovered in those wonderful South Seas, mines of incalculable depth full of the precious metals. per cent. dividends, in short, were the least that the holders of the stock were to expect. Landlords sold their estates, merchants neglected their establishments, and tradesmen their shops,--to flock to the Exchange and vest their all in the Company's stock; and to find there a promiscuous crowd of noblemen and parsons, brokers and jobbers, country squires and ladies, as eager as themselves in the same pursuit.



Swift, likening »Change Alley to a South Sea gulf, says-

Subscribers here by thousands float,

And jostle one another down,

Each paddling in his leaky boat,

And here they fish for gold, and drown.

Now buried in the depths below,

Now mounted up to heaven again,

They reel and stagger to and fro,

At their wits' end, like drunken men.

Meantime secure on Garraway cliffs,

A savage race,Swift is referring to the brokers, &c. of the famous meeting-place known as Garraway's. by shipwrecks fed,

Lie waiting for the founder'd skiffs,

And strip the bodies of the dead.

The original speculation became at last insufficient to the demands of the public to lose its money. Associations of every conceivable kind, and many which it may be safely asserted none of us could now conceive of were not the facts before us, started up in imitation of their great parent. Brought forward under more favourable circumstances, some of these would have deserved the encouragement they now, undeserving, met with; such, for instance, as some of the great fisheries proposed, the fire-assurance companies, silk and cotton manufactories, &c. &c. But of the major part we may say they were as extravagant as the period in which they were proposed, and of some that they were as ludicrously absurd as the heated imaginations of those for whose especial benefit they were intended. In the list of bubbles declared illegal, when the evil became too imminent for the Government to leave it alone, we find those for trading in human hair, for furnishing funerals to any part of Great Britain, and for a wheel for the perpetual motion. Maitland also mentions, among his general list of bubbles, those for an Arcadian colony, for feeding hogs, for curing the gout and stone, for furnishing merchants with watches, for making butter from beech-trees, for an engine to remove the South-Sea House into , for making deal boards of saw-dust, for a scheme to teach wise men to cast nativities; and above all was with a gloriously expressive title, , for the knaves and the fools could each read it in their own way, and be equally pleased with it.

During the King's absence, even--the Prince of Wales, the heir to the throne, joined in the general scramble that was going on, and put down his name as governor of some Welsh copper company although warned that he was subjecting himself to a prosecution in so doing,. He soon made , and then withdrew in time to avoid the evil that had been pointed out. These prosecutions were carried on at the instigation of the South Sea Company, who, as it has been observed,

desiring to monopolise all the folly and all the money of the nation,

obtained writs of against the managers of the minor bubbles, and thus destroyed most of them. Their very proceedings, however, it is probable, caused attention to be paid to the basis of these speculations, and most alarming was the result. Many began now to see very clearly that the value of the South Sea stock really rested on nothing but the delusion of its supporters. At


the beginning of August the price was quoted at a . The bubble had now reached its highest point, and began to descend. Suspicion became raised apparently by the means adopted in making out the share-lists for the different subscriptions, with what reason we have already shown. The next circumstance was of a much more startling nature: it was generally reported that Sir John Blunt, the chairman, and some others, had sold out. By the the stock had fallen to . The Directors, to allay the alarm, called a meeting at Merchant Tailors' Hall on the . The room was filled to suffocation. Sir John Fellowes, the sub-governor, was made Chairman. Many Directors spoke, inculcating union, and others in praise of the Directors' conduct. A Mr. Hungerford, a member of parliament, with thoughtful kindness, observed,

They had enriched the whole nation, and he hoped they had not forgotten themselves.

The Duke of Portland wondered how anybody could be dissatisfied; and, in short, the Directors had it all their own way. That same evening, however, the stock fell to , and the next day to . Bankers, brokers, and merchants began to break daily, and many, in utter despair of redeeming anything, even character, fled the country, each involving hundreds of lesser houses with him. Gay, the poet, was a sufferer, under peculiar circumstances. The younger Craggs had at an early period made him a present of some stock, which, as the bubble expanded, became nominally worth He was then begged to sell it, or even a portion of it large enough to secure him, in Fenton's words,

a clean shirt and a shoulder of mutton every day.

But the true gambling spirit had infected the poet as well as everybody else: it should be all or nothing; so it was-nothing. For some time afterward Gay's life was in danger, so deeply did he take to heart his loss, and perhaps his folly. The aspect of affairs was now so dangerous, that the King was sent for from Hanover; and Walpole, who from the , be it said to his credit, had in the most earnest and impressive manner prophesied the result, was desired to come up from his country seat to London, and use his influence with the to assist the falling Company by circulating a number of their bonds. The Bank at consented; but afterwards, seeing more clearly the desperate condition of the Company, drew back, and gave a decided refusal. It was a curious coincidence that, whilst at that moment a Director was scarcely safe in the streets from the vengeance of the populace, Law, the projector of the great Mississippi scheme in France, was flying for his life from the people whom he had beggared. But error and knavery, however similar in their results, must not be confounded together: Law gave the most decided proofs that the miserable love of lucre had not been the instigating motive with him. The refusal of the to risk their property in the vain endeavour to save the Company was a last and finishing blow. It burst the bubble. The stock soon fell to .

It would be impossible to describe the extent of the confusion, the misery, the utter loosening of all the bonds of confidence, which more than any laws keep up the harmonious movements of the social machinery,--or the universal desire for vengeance that pervaded all classes, now that the delusion had passed from before their eyes. Gibbon, the historian, whose grandfather was of the Directors, has led the way in describing the injustice of the people and the parliament at


this time, who, he says, and with truth, put aside the ordinary forms of justice in the punishment of the criminals. But was this an ordinary case? Could any statesman or lawgiver have anticipated such conduct as was proved against such men? A gigantic system of fraud, which shakes the nation to its centre, is not to be looked upon as a petty larceny. It would be as reasonable to ask a commander in time of civil war to wait for the decision of the County Assizes before he determined on the fate of his prisoners. We can, accordingly, well understand the feeling of Lord Molesworth, even whilst we condemn the vindictive length to which he carried it. That noble lord is reported to have said, in his place in parliament, that it was stated

by some that there was no law to punish the Directors of the South Sea Company, who were justly looked upon as the authors of the present misfortune of the state. In his opinion they ought, upon this occasion, to follow the example of the ancient Romans, who, having no law against parricide, because their law supposed no son could be so unnaturally wicked as to imbrue his hands in his father's blood, made a law to punish this heinous crime as soon as it was committed. They adjudged the guilty wretch to be sewn in a sack, and thrown alive into the Tiber. He looked upon the contrivers and executors of the villanous South Sea scheme as the parricides of their country, and should be satisfied to see them tied, in like manner, in sacks, and thrown into the Thames.

, This may serve also as a specimen of the feeling of the House and the country. objects now engaged attention: , the re-establishment of the public credit in the best possible manner,--the other, the punishment of the men who had brought that credit to its low state. The Walpole undertook: His ultimate measures consisted essentially of the grafting upon the stocks, and the. stocks of the East India Company, large portions of the stock held by the South Sea Company, and remitting the bonus of millions which the latter had engaged to pay. The -the punishment of the criminal authors of all the mischief-needed no leader: there were but too many ready to proceed like Lord Molesworth to undue lengths in that matter. After some hot disputes, the following measures were adopted: A bill was passed restraining the Directors from leaving the kingdom, and obliging them upon oath to deliver in a strict account of their estates. Next, a Commitee of Secrecy was appointed to examine the Company's accounts and other papers. Immediately after this, intelligence reached the House that Knight, the cashier, had absconded, taking with him a register called the

Green Book.

The excitement was now greater than ever. The Commons ordered the doors of the House to be locked, and the keys laid upon the table, when General Ross, of the Committee of Secrecy, acquainted them that they had already discovered a train of the deepest villainy and fraud that Hell had ever contrived to ruin a nation. reward was offered that night for the apprehension of the cashier, and some of the Directors were arrested, including Gibbon's grandfather and Sir John Blunt.

Our space will only allow us to give a summary of the astounding discoveries made by this committee. They stated at the outset that the Company's books they had seen were full of false entries, blanks, erasures, and alterations, and others were missing or destroyed. They had, however, been able to detect the sale of


fictitious stock (in the mode before pointed out) to the amount of at least ; they had found that Charles Stanhope, Esq., the Secretary of the Treasury, had received a real profit on his assignment of fictitious stock of , through the medium of Sir George Caswall and Co., but that his name had been altered to ; that Mr. Aislabie, the Chancellor of , had accounts of profits evidently derived in a similar manner, with different brokers and merchants, to the enormous amount of ! James Craggs, the Secretary of State, died, professedly of the small-pox, at the very time of the publication of the report. Stanhope was proceeded against, who escaped by a majority of , on account of his relationship to the much-esteemed Earl of Stanhope, who had been killed just before by this altogether melancholy business. In a discussion in the Lords the blood rushed to his head, and the next day he was a corpse. Aislabie's case followed Stanhope's, whose case was so bad that scarcely any defence was offered. He was expelled the House, sent a prisoner from thence to the Tower, and ordered to make out a statement of his estate for the benefit of the stockholders of the company. No sooner was this result known than London presented universal blaze of bonfires. Sir George Caswall was next expelled the House, and ordered to refund the paid to Stanhope. The Earl of Sunderland was acquitted by a majority of to , and demonstrations of a very opposite kind marked the dissatisfaction of the people. The same day the elder Craggs, whose case was coming before the House on the morrow, took poison. We need not further follow the consideration of the Directors' cases individually: all were gone through, and at the conclusion their entire estates confiscated, amounting to above millions, for the benefit of their victims, with the exception of a small allowance left to each. Sir John Blunt, for instance, had out of ; Sir John Fellowes out of Now we ask, reverting to what has been before stated, was not this justice? It has been urged that no consideration was paid to the fact that some of the Directors left off poorer than they began; we do not think the circumstance deserved any consideration. Is the character of fraud lessened by the common fact that those who live by it often end in defrauding themselves? The real point to be observed is, Were any of these Directors of the essential parts of the fraud in question? The contrary is known to have been the case. Upon the whole, it appears to us, considering that no was injured during the popular frenzy in life or limb, that no was left to the beggary he had been the means of inflicting upon countless families, and that no suffered the more degrading penalties daily visited upon crimes infinitely less infamous, the result, as far as the Directors of the South-Sea Company were concerned, is creditable rather than otherwise to the national character. The loss of the stock-holders was mitigated in several ways. A computation being made of the stock of the Company it was found to amount to , of which the part belonging to individual proprietors was ; the remainder being in the Company's own possession, and forming the profit they had made during the mania. millions of the latter were taken from the Company and divided among the individual proprietors, making a dividend of about We have already said that above millions


from the confiscated estates were also added to the proprietors' stock, and still further helped to alleviate their loss. Money borrowed from the Company on the pledge of South Sea stock, during the high prices, was now allowed to be paid back at the rats of only for each .

Of course, no measures within the scope of possibility could the losers; who, whilst Walpole was carrying his plans through the House, thronged the lobbies, exhibiting their excitement in violent outcries and gestures. On the day of the reading, the proprietors of the short annuities and other redeemable debts completely filled the place, demanding justice of the members as they passed, and putting written and printed papers into their hands, with the view of showing that they ought not to lose any portion of their money; which, to say the least of it, had been most imprudently expended. The tumult became so great that the House could not proceed to business. The Justices of the Peace for were called in, and the Riot Act was read, in order to disperse the assemblage; many of whom called out,



pick our pockets, and then send us to gaol for complaining.

On the conclusion of the business, Parliament was prorogued with a speech of a consolatory tone, but not very well calculated to assuage the national anger. In our list of the persons about the court who received assignments of stock we have before seen the names of the King's mistresses included. We have also noticed the Prince of Wales's profitable, however brief, connexion with of the bubbles. What, then, must the nation have thought, when, seeing this, and suspecting much more, they read the following passage?-

The common calamity,

said the King,

occasioned by the wicked execution of the South Sea scheme, was become so very great before your meeting, that the providing proper remedies for it was very difficult; but it is a great comfort to me to observe that the public credit begins to recover.

I have great compassion for the sufferings of the innocent, and a just indignation against the guilty; and have readily given my assent to such bills as you have presented to me for punishing the authors of our late misfortunes, and for obtaining the restitution and satisfaction due to those who have been injured by them.

The Duchess of Kendal, however, remained a Duchess; and, with the other foreign favourites, still appeared at the English Court, to excite the not unnatural jealousy of the English people.

It is pleasant to turn from the narration of events like these, so full of wild excitement, yet, at the same time, so destitute of everything in the shape of high principles or great passions, to such recollections of the building itself-the South Sea House--as Charles Lamb has left us; when as yet


had not intruded upon its silence, and made the great hall wonder whether a new South Sea Company was getting up for the edification of the century. Still might fancy that even underwriters respect the melancholy reflective solitude of the place, gliding in and out as they do from the small alley at the side, whilst the great entrance gapes as wide, and apparently as needlessly, as ever. They remember, no doubt, they are but tenants of the hour. The new Exchange will again rise from its ashes,--already the notes of preparation are sounding,--and probably once more the South Sea House will assume its old aspect-

a desolation, something like Balclutha's.

The wind


that has for the moment resuscitated the face of the sleeping waters will have subsided. The moths will again batten upon the obsolete ledgers and daybooks. The idle or merely contemplative will once more feel the charm of its quiet--the coolness--the cessation from business--the indolence, almost cloistral, which--Elia found so delightful; or seek to

unveil some of the mysteries of the tremendous hoax, whose extent the petty speculators of our day look back upon with the same expression of incredulous admiration, and hopeless ambition of rivalry, as would become the puny face of modern Conspiracy, contemplating the Titan size of Vaux's superhuman plot. Peace to the manes of the Bubble!


[n.302.1] Spectator, No. 69.

[n.303.1] The chimes played at 3, 6, 9, and 12 o'clock--on Sunday, the 154th Psalm--Monday, God save the King, Tuesday, Waterloo March ; Wednesday, There's nae luck about the House; Thursday, See the Conquering Hero comes; Friday, Life let us cherish; Saturday, Foot-Guards' March.