Kingdom Truth: Volume Seventeen

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The petition of the Common Council was against the Bill as being destructive to many of the rights and privileges which they and their fellow citizens enjoyed by ancient charters. When the Bill was before the committee, several petitions against it were presented from Livery Companies of the city. On the 19th March it was read a third time and passed the Commons. For their services in this respect the Common Council passed 22 March them a formal vote of thanks.

The Court at the same time prepared to oppose the Bill in the Lords. When the Bill was carried up to the Lords, petitions from "the major part of the aldermen" and from the Common Council were again presented, as well as another petition subscribed by certain freemen who objected to parts of the Bill.

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There are three clauses in the Act of special interest. First, the clause No. Just when the reign of George I was drawing to an unexpected close, it seemed as if England was on the point of becoming involved in a European War. The emperor and the king of Spain had laid aside their quarrels and become united in a confederacy against France and England. Unless Gibraltar were ceded by England, another invasion of the Pretender might be shortly expected.

The citizens were highly incensed at the thought of their trade being periodically put in jeopardy by Jacobite risings, and they hastened to assure the king once more of their [Pg 30] determination to sacrifice their lives and fortunes in defence of the constitution both in church and state against all enemies whatsoever.

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Journal House of Commons, xviii, Rolls of quarter sessions of this period containing the signatures of those who had not previously subscribed to the oaths are preserved at the Guildhall. Journal 56, fo. Journal 57, fo. He was taken at Preston, and being brought to trial was condemned to death.

He managed, however, to make his escape from the Tower and fled to France. See Journal 40, fo. Repertory , fo. Journal House of Commons, xix, The address as well as the king's reply are set out by Maitland i, During the debate in committee, a proposal had been made to ask the opinion of the judges whether the Bill repealed any of the privileges, customs, or liberties of the City restored to them or preserved by the Act passed in 2 William and Mary for reversing the judgment on the Quo Warranto and for restoring the City its ancient rights and privileges.

The proposal was negatived; but 16 lords entered a formal protest against rejecting it, whilst 25 lords protested against passing the Bill. On the 24 April, , the Common Council passed a general vote of thanks to the lord mayor and Aldermen who had assisted in bringing about the repeal of a clause which had been "productive of great jealousies and discontents and might, if continued, have proved subversive of the rights and liberties of the citizens of London. On the 15th June, , the Court of Aldermen were informed by Sir John Eyles, the lord mayor, that he had received an order of council dated from Leicester House the residence of the Prince of Wales for his lordship and the Court to attend at eleven o'clock the next morning at Temple Bar for the purpose of proclaiming King George II.

The Court thereupon agreed to be present, and instructed the lord mayor to see that they were allowed to follow in the procession immediately after the lords of the council. But when it was submitted for approval the aldermen insisted upon exercising their right of veto—recently confirmed by parliamentary authority—and as they and the commons failed to agree on the several clauses of the address it had to be abandoned altogether. The mayor was asked to summon another court, "in pursuance to common usage and ancient right," to consider another address, [Pg 32] but after consultation with the aldermen he declined to accede to the request.

The coronation did not take place until October. The ceremony was one of far greater splendour than that of George I, such pageants being "as pleasing to the son as they were irksome to the father.

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The manner in which these claims were made, as set out in a report made to the Court of Aldermen by the city Remembrancer, whose duty it was to make them, was shortly this. Having first obtained the names of the masters of the twelve superior companies, he put in two claims—written on parchment, and stamped with a treble sixpenny stamp—for the usual services in attendance upon the king and queen.

The claims being allowed, he obtained certificates to that effect, and on presenting them at the lord great chamberlain's office he received warrants to the master of the king's jewel office for two gold cups, each weighing 21 ozs. One of these, the king's cup, he conveyed to the lord mayor; the other, the queen's cup, he left until after the ceremony, "for note"—says he—"they were not nor are they used to be carryed down to Westminster Hall to be made use of on that solemnity.

According to custom the king attended the first lord mayor's banquet after his accession.

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He was accompanied by the queen, the royal family, the great officers of state, and a large number of the nobility. The matter having been brought to the notice of the Court of Aldermen, the Town Clerk was instructed to search the city's Records for precedents, and upon his reporting that he had failed to find one the claim was dismissed. The day that the king was invited to the lord mayor's banquet the Common Council resolved to set up his statue at the Royal Exchange.

Jervas had been originally apprenticed to a frame maker, and this may account for the anxiety he displayed to put the portraits into better frames than was usual. To do this he asked for and obtained the consent of the [Pg 34] Court of Aldermen.


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For a short time after the king's accession it appeared as if Walpole's ascendancy was to be suddenly cut short. The minister was fortunate, however, in winning over the queen to his interests, and her influence, combined with his own masterful tact, turned the scale in his favour, and he was allowed to remain at the head of affairs. Before long he succeeded in gaining the entire confidence of the king himself, but during the lifetime of the queen it was chiefly to her that the minister turned in times of difficulty.

She was a woman of considerable ability, and thoroughly appreciated Walpole, and together they were able to avoid many political pitfalls and to persistently carry out that policy of peace which characterised the whole of this reign. Thus it was that in , when the government was placed in an unpleasant dilemma over an attempt that was being made by Dissenters throughout the country to obtain the repeal of the Corporation and Test Acts Walpole took counsel with the queen, and these two laid a plan with Hoadley, Bishop of Salisbury, for getting the Dissenters to postpone bringing their petition before parliament.

The plan as we learn from Lord Hervey, [85] who had every means of making himself acquainted with the inner workings of the Court of George II, was this. Hoadley, in whom the Dissenters placed much confidence as an [Pg 35] avowed advocate of ecclesiastical as well as civil liberty, was to do all he could to persuade them to postpone, at least for a short time, their petition to parliament, whilst Walpole was to see that the committee of London Dissenters, which was to be chosen to confer with government, should comprise none but creatures of his own.

The scheme succeeded entirely. The Dissenters were hoodwinked.

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The packed committee went through the form of an interview with the ministers, and in due course reported to the general assembly of Dissenters that the time was inopportune for petitioning parliament. The general body agreed, and the ministry was thus saved.

Although it was chiefly as a financier that the great minister, under whom England enjoyed an unexampled period of peace and prosperity, excelled, it was a financial reform that nearly brought him to ruin three years later. This was his famous Excise Bill. In a hasty desire to curry favour with the landowners by reducing the Land Tax Walpole proposed to establish a new system of levying duties on tobacco and wine.

The tax itself was not new, but only the manner of levying it.

Hitherto the duty on wine and tobacco had been payable on importation. The new proposal was that these commodities should be allowed to lie in bonded warehouses duty free until taken out for home consumption, when their sale was to be restricted to shops licensed for the purpose. In other words the customs' duties on these commodities were to be changed into excise duties, a form of taxation especially hateful in those days, as seeming to infringe the rights of the subject by giving revenue officers the right of entering and searching houses at any hour without [Pg 36] further warrant.

The City and the country were up in arms, and the city members of parliament were instructed to oppose the Bill for reasons set out in writing and delivered into their hands.

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Walpole delayed bringing in the Bill as long as he could in hopes that the clamour against it—"epidemic madness," as Hervey called it—might subside. Neither London nor the kingdom, however, would listen to reason, and the universal cry was No slavery—no excise—no wooden shoes! During the debate the doors of the House were besieged by such a noisy crowd that Walpole in an unguarded moment characterised the mob as "sturdy beggars.

Barnard thereupon took Walpole severely to task for the expression he had let drop.

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After some further debate Walpole gained the day, and on the 4th April the Bill was read a first time. Before the Bill came on for its second reading a copy of it had been laid before the Common Council 9 April , and a petition had thereupon been drawn up and presented to the House asking that the City might be heard by counsel against the Bill. He postponed the further consideration of the Bill 11 April for a period of two months, and afterwards withdrew it altogether. On leaving the House the day that the motion for postponement was carried the minister was mobbed.

The affair was little more than an "accidental scuffle," but it was studiously represented to parliament as "a deep-laid scheme for assassination. The defeat of the Bill was received with extravagant joy, and in it was proposed to celebrate its anniversary in the city with bonfires. For this purpose subscriptions were invited through the medium of the press.

The mayor, Sir William Billers, on learning this consulted the Court of Aldermen as to what was best to be done under the circumstances, and by their advice he issued his precept for a special watch to be kept, and for the arrest of all persons attempting to make bonfires or to create disorder. Insult was added to injury by the newspapers of the day holding him up as having himself been the real cause of all the disorder. The Court of Aldermen, on the other hand, accorded him a hearty vote of thanks for the courage he had displayed.

On both occasions the City presented congratulatory addresses. But if the City sinned in this respect it sinned in good company, for Oxford University and other corporate bodies made similar allusions. The tenor of them all was to express their satisfaction in this match from remembering how much this country was indebted to a prince who bore the title of Orange, declaring their gratitude to his memory, and intimating as plainly as they dared, how much they wished this man might follow the example of his great ancestor, and one time or other depose his father-in-law in the same manner that King William had deposed his.

So far from being offended at the City's allusion to William of Orange he was pleased. For nearly twenty years England had enjoyed uninterrupted peace at home and abroad. The last action in which an English force had been engaged had taken place in the summer of , when Admiral Byng defeated a Spanish fleet off Cape Passaro.

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