Henry Craik, ed. English Prose. 1916. Vol. II. Sixteenth Century to the Restoration
The City of London
By Edward Hyde, Lord Clarendon (16091674)
From the History of the Rebellion
THE CITY of London, as the metropolis of England, by the situation the most capable of trade, and by the most usual residence of the court, and the fixed station of the courts of justice for the public administration of justice throughout the kingdom, the chief seat of trade, was, by the successive countenance and favour of princes, strengthened with great charters and immunities, and was a corporation governed within itself; the mayor, recorder, aldermen, sheriffs, chosen by themselves; several companies incorporated within the great corporation; which, besides notable privileges, enjoyed lands and perquisites to a very great revenue. By the incredible increase of trade, which the distractions of other countries, and the peace of this, brought, and by the great license of resort thither, it was, since the access of the crown to the king, in riches, in people, in buildings, marvellously increased, insomuch as the suburbs were almost equal to the city; a reformation of which had been often in contemplation, never pursued, wise men foreseeing that such a fulness could not be there, without an emptiness in other places; and whilst so many persons of honour and estates were so delighted with the city, the government of the country must be neglected, besides the excess, and ill husbandry, that would be introduced thereby. But such foresight was interpreted a morosity, and too great an oppression upon the common liberty; and so, little was applied to prevent so growing a disease.
As it had these and many other advantages and helps to be rich, so it was looked upon too much of late time as a common stock not easy to be exhausted, and as a body not to be grieved by ordinary acts of injustice; and therefore, it was not only a resort, in all cases of necessity, for the sudden borrowing great sums of money, in which they were commonly too good merchants for the crown, but it was thought reasonable, upon any specious pretences, to void the security, that was at any time given for money so borrowed.
So after many questionings of their charter, which were ever removed by considerable sums of money, a grant made by the king in the beginning of his reign (in consideration of great sums of money) of good quantities of land in Ireland, and the city of Londonderry there, was avoided by a suit in the star-chamber; all the lands, after a vast expense in building and planting, resumed into the kings hands, and a fine of fifty thousand pounds imposed upon the city. Which sentence being pronounced after a long and public hearing, which time they were often invited to a composition, both in respect of the substance, and the circumstances of proceeding, made a general impression in the minds of the citizens of all conditions, much to the disadvantage of the court; and though the king afterwards remitted to them the benefit of that sentence, they imputed that to the power of the parliament, and rather remembered how it had been taken from them, than by whom it was restored; so that, at the beginning of the parliament, the city was as ill affected to the court as the country was; and therefore chose such burgesses to sit there, as had either eminently opposed it, or accidentally been oppressed by it.
The chief government and superintendency of the city is in the mayor and aldermen; which, in that little kingdom, resembles the house of peers; and as subordinate the common council is the representative body thereof, like the house of commons, to order and agree to all taxes, rates, and such particulars belonging to the civil policy. The common council are chosen every year, so many for every parish, of the wisest and most substantial citizens, by the vestry and common convention of the people of that parish; and as the wealthiest and best reputed men were always chosen, so, though the election was once a year, it was scarce ever known that any man once chosen was afterwards rejected or left out, except upon discovery of an enormous crime, or decaying in fortune to a bankrupt; otherwise, till he was called to be alderman, or died, he continued, and was every year returned of the common council.
After the beginning of this parliament, when they found by their experience in the case of the Earl of Strafford, of what consequence the city might be to them, and afterwards found, by the courage of the present lord mayor, Sir Richard Gurney, who cannot be too often nor too honourably mentioned, that it might be kept from being disposed by them; and that the men of wealth and ability, who at first had concurred with them, began now to discern that they meant to lead them further than they had a mind to go; they directed their confidants, that at the election of the common councilmen by the concurrence and number of the meaner people, all such who were moderate men, and lovers of the present government, should be rejected; and in their places men of the most active and pragmatical heads, of how mean fortunes soever, should be elected; and by this means all that body consisted of upstart, factious, indigent companions, who were ready to receive all advertisements and directions from those who steered at Westminster, and as forward to encroach upon their superiors, the mayor and aldermen, as the other was upon the house of peers. And so this firebrand of privilege inflamed the city at that time.