Available from Cambridge University Press
The ‘great beehive of Christendom’, London in the early seventeenth century was the largest city in England, home to more than 200,000 souls. Its population growth, more rapid than that of the rest of the country, was not halted even by severe plague outbreaks like that of 1603, which claimed the lives of around a fifth of its inhabitants.
The ‘great beehive of Christendom’, London in the early seventeenth century was the largest city in England, home to more than 200,000 souls. Its population growth, more rapid than that of the rest of the country, was not halted even by severe plague outbreaks like that of 1603, which claimed the lives of around a fifth of its inhabitants.
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|14 Feb. 1604||SIR HENRY BILLINGSLEY , alderman and Haberdasher|
|SIR HENRY MONTAGU , recorder|
|RICHARD GORE , Merchant Taylor|
|2 Dec. 1606||SIR THOMAS LOWE vice Billingsley, deceased|
|1 Mar. 16142||SIR THOMAS LOWE , alderman and Haberdasher|
|SIR HENRY MONTAGU , recorder|
|ROBERT MYDDELTON , Skinner|
|20 Nov. 1620||SIR THOMAS LOWE , alderman and Haberdasher|
|ROBERT HEATH , recorder|
|ROBERT BATEMAN , Skinner|
|WILLIAM TOWERSON I , Skinner|
|13 Jan. 1624||SIR THOMAS MYDDELTON I , alderman and Grocer|
|(SIR) HENEAGE FINCH , recorder|
|ROBERT BATEMAN , Skinner|
|Martin Bond , Haberdasher|
|26 Apr. 16253||SIR THOMAS MYDDELTON I , alderman and Grocer|
|(SIR) HENEAGE FINCH , recorder|
|ROBERT BATEMAN , Skinner|
|MARTIN BOND , Haberdasher|
|11 Jan. 16264||SIR THOMAS MYDDELTON I , alderman|
|(SIR) HENEAGE FINCH , Recorder|
|(SIR) MAURICE ABBOT , Draper|
|ROBERT BATEMAN , Skinner|
|19 Feb. 1628||THOMAS MOULSON , alderman and Grocer|
|CHRISTOPHER CLITHEROW , alderman and Ironmonger|
|HENRY WALLER , Draper|
|JAMES BUNCE , Leatherseller|
The ‘great beehive of Christendom’, London in the early seventeenth century was the largest city in England, home to more than 200,000 souls. Its population growth, more rapid than that of the rest of the country, was not halted even by severe plague outbreaks like that of 1603, which claimed the lives of around a fifth of its inhabitants. As the population rose, so the demand for additional housing increased, and by the early seventeenth century London was no longer defined by the area within its medieval walls, though it was administratively separate from nearby Westminster, to which it was physically joined. Many contemporaries lamented the capital’s expansion, among them James I, who commented that ‘soon, London will be all England’.5
London’s rapid growth was driven by its economic prosperity. The City had long been the financial centre of the kingdom, and its banking facilities were used by successive monarchs, though the early Stuarts kings found it harder to extract loans from the City than many of their predecessors.6 During the first half of the seventeenth century perhaps the most prominent feature of London’s trade was the new draperies, light-weight fabrics that were exported mainly to south and eastern Europe. The trade in shortcloths continued to form the backbone of the City’s economy, but by 1640 the volume of exports of the newer fabrics almost equalled the old.7 Seasonal tourism, too, remained important. Starting in the autumn and ending in June, a steady flow of visitors arrived in the capital, their numbers tending to peak around Christmas. They came to shop and socialize, and their spending on goods, services and entertainment contributed greatly to the capital’s prosperity.8 The summons of a Parliament helped to swell this influx, there being more than 600 members of the Lords and Commons, many of whom were accompanied by wives and dependants.9 When James I considered reconvening Parliament at York in 1607 if the Commons did not hasten its consideration of the Union, he was in part threatening the economic interests of the capital.10
By the early seventeenth century, London had pretensions to being regarded as the first city in Europe. Not long after James’s accession Dekker described the capital as ‘Europe’s jewel’, and in 1628 he characterized it as a new Troy or new Rome.11 Civic improvements, such as the New River project, which brought an important new supply of fresh water to London during James’s reign, undoubtedly enhanced the City’s reputation. Yet prosperity brought with it severe social problems: dirt, noise and overcrowding appalled visitors and residents alike, especially those used to small-town or rural life. After spending just three days in London in December 1604, John Packer* complained that he felt as if he had been there three years, ‘so unpleasant a thing it is to live here for him which hath tasted the quiet pleasure of the country’. Conditions were considerably worse in the summer, when plague was rife and the stench unbearable. Writing from London in August 1617, Sir John Holles* bluntly referred to ‘this stinking town’.12 Environmental corruption was accompanied with moral decay too, as those who admired the city for its virtues were ready to admit. ‘Thou hast all things in thee to make thee fairest’, Dekker wrote, ‘and all things in thee to make thee foulest’.13 Then, as now, it was perfectly possible to love and loathe London simultaneously.
London’s government was in the hands of the City Corporation, which comprised the Courts of Aldermen and Common Council. Its executive functions were discharged by the aldermanic court, whose chairman was the lord mayor. The aldermen, of whom there were 26 (one for each ward) were appointed for life, and took turns to serve as mayor. Legislative functions were in the hands of Common Council, whose membership numbered 196 at the start of the century. This body has been likened to the contemporary House of Commons, as it enjoyed the power of taxation and its members were elected by the freemen of each of ward, the municipal equivalent of a parliamentary constituency. However, the comparison is not exact. Unlike Members of the Commons, councilmen were required to submit themselves for re-election each year. Moreover, whereas the Commons determined to a considerable degree its own business, Common Council was more strictly circumscribed, as the aldermen could veto its bills while the lord mayor controlled its sittings.14
I. Representation and Elections
London was the only borough apart from the combined borough of Weymouth and Melcombe Regis, to send four representatives to Westminster. Nevertheless, considering its immense population, the capital was severely under-represented. To some extent this problem was more apparent than real, for in most parliaments there were several leading Londoners who, unable to secure seats in the capital, found places elsewhere. In the first Jacobean Parliament London’s honorary Members included the alderman and Vintner Sir John Swinarton, who sat for East Grinstead. A member of London’s committee for parliamentary legislation, Swinarton was instructed by the Corporation in February 1606 to help lobby the House regarding one of its bills.15 The prominent City merchant Sir Thomas Smythe also sat in the same Parliament; he served for Dunwich, and went on to represent Sandwich in 1614 and Saltash in 1621. Other leading Londoners to serve in the Commons during this period for constituencies outside the capital included the Goldsmith Sir William Heyricke, who served for Leicester between 1605 and 1610, and again in 1621; the Skinner Robert Bateman, who represented Weymouth and Melcombe Regis in 1614; the Draper Maurice Abbot, who sat for Hull in 1621 and 1624; the Mercer Sir Baptist Hicks, who represented Tavistock in 1621 and Tewkesbury thereafter; the Muscovy merchant and City financier Sir William Russell, who sat for New Windsor in 1626; and the Draper George Lowe, who sat for Calne in 1625, 1626 and 1628. In 1610 the former remembrancer, Clement Edmondes, came in for Caernarvon Boroughs at a by-election, and in 1621 the City’s serving remembrancer, Robert Bacon, was elected for St. Ives. An expectation that Bacon would serve London interests was stated explicitly in January 1621, when the Court of Aldermen ordered that he be paid 100 marks in view of ‘the great and extraordinary pains’ that he ‘must necessarily take for the City’s service, especially against the Parliament now approaching’.16 In 1624 and 1625 the City’s fee’d counsel, Thomas Crewe, served as Speaker and sat for Aylesbury and Gatton respectively. Shortly before the 1624 Parliament was prorogued, the Court of Aldermen ordered that Crewe be paid £10 as thanks for ‘the favours and respect shown unto this City by him’.17 Alongside these unofficial London Members, there were many others who could be relied upon in matters of interest to the City. Some invested in the London trading companies, while others had townhouses or regular lodgings in and around the capital.
The two senior London Members were considered knights of the shire, a distinction not accorded to the parliamentary representatives of other county boroughs. In May 1628 the Commons queried whether the City’s senior Members were entitled to be regarded as knights, and ordered London’s writ to be examined,18 but nothing came of its investigation. In 1571 London’s Members, like those of York, had sat on the right of the Speaker, below the privy councillors.19 Whether they continued to enjoy this privilege under the early Stuarts is unknown, though they probably sat together: in March 1624 Edward Alford moved to have Martin Bond summoned to the bar ‘for whispering his partner Bateman in the ear’.20
All four Members received wages. In 1584 the junior Members had each been paid the statutory rate of 2s. per day, and their senior colleagues received twice that amount. Every Member also received a clothing allowance of £6 13s. 4d. to purchase a scarlet gown.21 In the early seventeenth century the remuneration was unchanged, for in July 1604 Common Council ordered that the City’s Members be paid ‘all such duties and allowances as are due unto them for their robes, service and attendance as in former times hath been accustomed’.22 Travelling expenses to Westminster were not paid after 1587, but in December 1625 London’s representatives were reimbursed for ‘their extraordinary charges and expenses for the time the Parliament was kept at Oxford’.23 As well as their remuneration, the City’s Members were accorded the right, by the Corporation, to nominate collectors for the subsidy whenever Parliament voted the king money.24
London’s parliamentary elections during this period are poorly documented, for while the Common Council minute books for the years 1604-28 survive intact, they record only the election of 1604.25 Nevertheless, the general procedure governing elections is clear. The returns indicate that elections were held at the Guildhall, and were presided over by the City’s two sheriffs. The law required that they be held in the Court of Husting, London’s equivalent of the county court, but ever since the mid-fifteenth century they were actually held in the Court of Common Council, which was restyled a meeting of the Court of Husting for the purposes of the return. The decision to hold elections in Common Council rather than the Court of Husting may have reflected purely practical considerations. By the mid-fifteenth century the Husting Court, unlike Common Council, was primarily a court of law rather than an arena for debate. Moreover, by transferring elections to Common Council London’s oligarchs perhaps hoped to deter the freemen from attending.26 One reason for this was to avoid overcrowding, for by the early seventeenth century there were around 2,500 freemen, far too many to squeeze into the Guildhall, whereas there were only about 200 common councilmen and just 26 aldermen, including the mayor. However, it was probably also the case that the Corporation thereby hoped to increase its own influence. If so it was unsuccessful, as both the medieval and early modern evidence indicates that considerable numbers of ordinary freemen regularly continued to vote. Indeed, the financial records of the livery companies for the early seventeenth century are certainly telling. In 1614 the Carpenters spent 11s. ‘when we came from Guildhall for election of knights and burgesses for the Parliament for dinner at the King’s Arms at Bassishaw’, and following the 1621 election ‘some of the Company [of Turners], meeting at the choice of the burgesses for the Parliament’, paid ‘for a supper at Mr. Pike’s’.27 Similar payments are among the Mercers’ accounts for 1606, 1614 and 1625.28 Dinners like these demonstrate the continuing involvement of the rank and file freemen, as well as showing that elections were as much social occasions as political events.
Although ordinary freemen were permitted to vote, the right of nomination was more narrowly controlled. The aldermen alone selected the candidates for the two senior seats. For the prime place they chose from their own number someone who had recently held the mayoralty and was of knightly status. Often the man picked was a Merchant Adventurer, and he usually belonged to one of the Great Twelve livery companies.29 The choice for the second seat traditionally fell upon the recorder. In both cases the electors were expected merely to ratify the aldermen’s decision. For the two junior seats the aldermen presented a slate of up to 12 men to the rest of the assembly. Successful candidates were drawn from outside the aldermanic circle but were usually senior members of one of the Great Twelve. Robert Bateman was master of the Skinners when he represented London for the first time in 1621, while Maurice Abbot was master of the Drapers when he sat in 1626. Martin Bond was a former first warden of the Haberdashers when he took his seat in 1624, and was master by the time he sat again in 1625. Richard Gore and William Towerson, who sat in 1604-10 and 1621 respectively, were former masters of their companies, and Robert Myddelton had recently served as warden of the Skinners when he was elected in 1614. These men also tended to be leading members of London’s powerful trading companies. Abbot was governor of the East India Company when he sat, while Gore and Towerson were senior Merchant Adventurers. Bond and Robert Myddelton, too, were Merchant Adventurers, as was Bateman, who was also an officer of the Levant Company. The sole exception to this pattern was Nicholas Fuller, the City’s common pleader, who neither belonged to a trading company nor was a member of a livery company. However, his father had been a Mercer, and by 1604 he himself had forged close links with several of the livery companies, inspecting proposed legislation and accepting a retainer from the Vintners to keep a watchful eye out for them in Parliament.
A third characteristic which distinguished many of the men elected to the junior seats was their association with the City government. Fuller was a Corporation lawyer; Gore was a deputy alderman and a former City auditor; and Bond was a serving auditor, as was Abbot, who may also have been a deputy alderman. Robert Myddelton’s electoral prospects were undoubtedly improved by the fact that, at the time of his election, his brother, Sir Thomas Myddelton I, was lord mayor.
London elections rarely gave rise to controversy, let alone contests, but in 1614 there may have been a tussle for one of the junior seats, as one observer reported that the Skinner William Towerson had been returned, whereas the successful candidate was actually Robert Myddelton. Confusion also surrounded the election to the second of the two senior seats, which was customarily bestowed upon the recorder. It appears that the City initially declined to choose its recorder, Sir Henry Montagu, because it was feared that the king had selected Sir Thomas Lowe, the City’s choice for the first seat, as Speaker of the forthcoming Parliament. Under normal circumstances Lowe’s selection as Speaker would not have posed any difficulty; after all, a London Member had served as Speaker in 1601. However, in this instance the matter was complicated by the fact that Montagu had recently been promoted to king’s serjeant. London’s ordinary voters, and perhaps also many in Common Council, realized that, were they to return both men, the king rather than the City would have first claim on the loyalty and service of both its senior Members. Consequently, at the election on 1 Mar. the City endorsed the return of Lowe, but would ‘in no wise … admit master recorder, alleging only that he is the king’s serjeant’. As no alternative candidate was offered, the seat remained vacant for several days.30 However, sometime before 12 Mar. the City relented and agreed to return Montagu.31 The reason for this change of heart is unclear, but it seems likely that London had discovered that Ranulphe Crewe would be Speaker rather than Lowe.
Technically speaking London managed to avoid a contest in 1628, when hostility to the Forced Loan spilled over into the parliamentary election. London was incensed at the demand for a Loan, as it had not yet been repaid the money it had lent the king in 1617 and 1625 and was in the middle of raising money to pay for a fleet of 20 ships for the Navy. In April 1627 individual members of the Privy Council went to the Guildhall to persuade the citizenry to contribute, but though the City’s officers said they would oblige it was ‘generally refused by the commons’.32 The aldermen’s unwillingness to oppose the Loan cost them dear. The most notable casualty was the recorder, Sir Heneage Finch, who had served as a Loan commissioner, paid his own contribution with alacrity, and was closely connected to the royal favourite, the duke of Buckingham.33 As the electors would not hear of him, Finch, whose name appears on the indenture as one of the voters, evidently stood aside in favour of one of the aldermen, Christopher Clitherow.34
City anger over the Forced Loan may have also played a part in the election of Thomas Moulson for the first seat. Moulson is unlikely to have been the aldermen’s preferred choice, for though an alderman, Grocer and governor of the Merchant Adventurers, he had never served as mayor nor had he been knighted. City-wide anger certainly lay behind the election of the Loan refusers James Bunce and Henry Waller to the junior seats. Both were common councilmen, but Waller had never been an officer of his Company and Bunce, though a prominent Leatherseller, was not a member of one of the Great Twelve. The electoral upset of 1628, in particular the rejection of the recorder, was deeply humiliating to the Court of Aldermen and caused ‘great heart-burning in the City’. Indeed, one Jesuit observer noted with relish that London was ‘as much distempered as ever Florence was’.35
II. Purveyance and Parliament
Criticism of the abuses associated with purveyance was acute in later Elizabethan parliaments, and following James’s accession this resentment increased. Whereas Elizabeth had remained unmarried, James had a wife and children, thereby multiplying the number of servants requiring to be fed. London, being the seat of royal government, suffered particularly badly from the purveyors, who frequently exceeded their commissions, and grievances quickly surfaced. In July 1603 the City instructed its common pleader, Nicholas Fuller, to seek a legal remedy for the Poulterers, who complained that their stock had been impounded by the purveyors.36 An alternative source of redress became available at the beginning of 1604, when Parliament was summoned. On 7 Feb., eight days after the writs were issued, the corporation sent a deputation to secretary of state Sir Robert Cecil, and another to the king’s cousin, the duke of Lennox, ‘about the special affairs of this City’.37 Both bodies included Alderman Sir Thomas Lowe, soon to be returned as the City’s senior knight. Shortly before Parliament assembled, the City also forwarded a petition from the Poulterers complaining of the abuses of purveyance to Sir John Fortescue, one of the two privy councillors elected to the Commons. These overtures were received favourably, for on the first day of Commons’ business (23 Mar.) Cecil’s client, Sir Robert Wroth I, included purveyance among the list of topics he wished to be considered. The House accordingly established a small committee that included the London Member Nicholas Fuller to draft a bill to restrain the purveyors.38
The 1604 session ended without resolving the problem. When Parliament reassembled in November 1605, London’s attitude towards the demands of the board of Green Cloth had begun to harden. Until then the Corporation had sought merely to reform purveyance, but on 6 Nov. the London-based Spanish Company declared that the capital’s ancient charters freed the City ‘from all such purveyance, exactions and charges’.39 The Corporation, aggrieved that these immunities had been excluded from the new charter recently granted by the king, responded six days later by establishing a committee to consider its charters ‘in that point’, whose members included two of its parliamentary representatives, Sir Henry Montagu and Nicholas Fuller. It also resolved to bear the cost of any resultant lawsuits itself. Two days later, it dispatched a four-man deputation, including Montagu, to speak with the lord chancellor regarding ‘the affairs of this City’.40 This meeting evidently achieved nothing, for though the Privy Council had recently discussed the importance of reforming purveyance in the forthcoming parliamentary session,41 there was no appetite for granting London the immunity it sought. A legal challenge was therefore mounted, but was presumably interrupted when the law term ended on 28 November.42
Why had the Spanish Company suggested a radical solution to the problem of purveyance? Pauline Croft argues that one reason must lie in the strained relations between those of its members who traded with the Levant and the board of Green Cloth. In 1597 the Levant merchants had entered into a composition agreement with the Green Cloth, but they objected to the size of the sums demanded and fell into arrears. In June 1604 the king’s Grocer summoned them to complain, and by November 1605 continued non-payment had led the purveyors to seize several cargoes of imported currants, including those belonging to the influential Levant merchant, John Bate, whom the Spanish Company named to the small committee set up on 6 Nov. to resist the demands of the royal Household.43 Nevertheless, the grievances of the Levant merchants were probably not the only reason why the Spanish Company adopted an uncompromising stance. It is striking that the latter was following the example recently set by Bristol’s merchants. In January 1604 Bristol had complained at being forced to provide wine and other provisions for the royal Household, ‘being a matter never heretofore taken in this city until now of late by Simon Harvey, His Majesty’s Grocer’.44 After failing to persuade the Green Cloth of its case, Bristol had taken its claim of immunity to the Exchequer and King’s Bench during the first half of 1605.45 These developments cannot have gone unnoticed by the Spanish Company, among whom were several leading Bristolians, including Alderman John Whitson, who helped pursue Bristol’s suits at Westminster.
London now appeared determined to fight for complete immunity based on its charter. Many in the capital may have believed that the chances of success were high, as two years earlier the City had successfully stood on its charter rights to help strike down in Queen’s Bench the patent for the import, manufacture and distribution of playing cards.46 However, London was not a unified entity, and while many merchants, angry at the greed of the purveyors, doubtless wished to fight for immunity it is doubtful whether the Corporation seriously believed that the Crown would agree to relinquish its right of purveyance in the capital. Its earlier success was misleading, for the loss of the card monopoly had not seriously dented the royal finances, whereas London’s claimed exemption from purveyance posed a far more serious threat to the Exchequer. Perhaps the Corporation’s real object remained the same as ever – to reform purveyance – and the adoption of radical demands was merely a tactic designed to achieve this end. Evidence that the Corporation remained committed to reform is to be found in a letter from the City’s mayor to the Privy Council in December 1605. The City had seized control of the warehouses containing the currants impounded by the purveyors, and the Council naturally wished to regain possession for the king. The mayor refused, but rather than argue the case for London’s immunity he merely stated that the merchants wished that no more should be taken from them than was needed for the king’s service.47
The Corporation’s essentially moderate position is also discernable in the Commons’ debates of 1606. These revolved mainly around the bill preferred by John Hare which, in effect, aimed to abolish purveyance on the grounds that it was illegal. While the king would retain the right of pre-emption he would no longer be able to pay less than the market price for goods taken up, nor would he be compensated for the additional cost to the Exchequer. However, Recorder Montagu, who seems to have acted as London’s chief spokesman in the Commons on this issue, threw his weight behind the more moderate measure preferred by Sir Robert Johnson, which advocated composition.48 On 26 Feb. Montagu criticized the preamble of Hare’s bill, and on 12 Mar. he ‘taketh some exception to a clause against London’. The previous day he made an important concession when he stated that the fourteenth century charter granting London immunity from purveyance should not impede a nationwide composition if that was thought convenient. However, cracks in London’s position can also be discerned. Nicholas Fuller, who was well known for speaking his mind, was not prepared to support composition, fearing that in time it would become little more than an extra source of royal income, and that the king would continue to demand provisions regardless.49 Indeed, like most of the Commons, Fuller seems to have preferred Hare’s bill to Johnson’s. By April 1606 London had begun to lose interest in the issue of purveyance, probably because, as Croft suggests, it now faced the more urgent matter of impositions. It was Fuller who represented the complaints of the merchants, just as he had spoken up for them over purveyance. On 7 Apr. he declared that the recent increase in the impost on currants ‘is so heavy that men have given over to build ships. Yea, the best merchant of London is determined to sell four great ships, and doth offer in them to lose diverse thousand pounds’. One month later, he brought in from committee the bill to outlaw impositions.50
Following the end of the second session, purveyance largely vanished from the Commons’ agenda. When one of the Members for Gatton, Sir Nicholas Saunders, proposed that a fresh bill against purveyors and cart-takers be drafted he found no support, not even among the London Members despite the fact that abuses by purveyors continued to antagonize the City’s government.51 However, in 1621 the issue resurfaced, albeit on a smaller scale, when the Brewers’ Company complained to the Commons about a composition agreement of 1614. By the terms of this agreement, each Brewer was meant to pay 4d. for every quarter of malt that he brewed to a royal farmer, who provided the royal Household with beer worth £3,000 p.a. In return, the Brewers were no longer troubled by the purveyors. Although only a handful of Brewers had actually entered into this agreement, the Green Cloth insisted that it bound them all. When Christopher Smyth took over the farm in 1617 he encountered widespread refusal to pay the ‘composition groats’, and responded by prosecuting offenders in the Court of Requests, many of whom were imprisoned.52 The matter came before the Commons on 25 May 1621,53 and the matter was fully debated on 30 Nov., when the Brewers’ case was argued by Thomas Malet, one of the Members for Tregony, who had represented individual Brewers in the preceding lawsuits. Malet argued that the king had no right to purvey beer because it was manufactured and that consequently he was not entitled to demand composition. His fellow lawyer William Noye concurred, for if the king’s officers could purvey beer ‘they may purvey bread and at last purvey in cook’s shops’. Questions were also raised about the nature of the composition agreement, for as only a handful of Brewers were involved it could hardly be considered binding on the rest. However, not all were convinced. Sir Edward Coke and the solicitor general argued that the Crown’s rights certainly extended to beer, and indeed beer had always been taken up for as long as anyone could remember.54 The inconclusive nature of the debate meant that the Brewers renewed their complaint in 1624, 1626 and 1628.55 On the last of these occasions they also distributed a printed broadside which maintained that the groats were ‘more grievous and burthensome unto them than if they paid ten subsidies a year’.56 Moreover, they revived the claim, last heard in 1606, that London was exempt from purveyance. The Commons, then engaged in a wider battle with the Crown over arbitrary taxation and imprisonment, now took pity on those Brewers who had been imprisoned for refusing to compound, and on 19 June the composition was condemned as ‘a grievance both in creation and execution’. At last it seemed as if the Brewers would obtain redress, but when Parliament was dissolved one week later they were no further forward. In December the exasperated Company, perhaps taking their cue from the Levant merchants who now withheld Tunnage and Poundage, resolved to pay no further composition. The following month, it ordered legislation to be drafted for the forthcoming session ‘with all expedition’. However, if a bill was ever drawn up it was not read before the Parliament broke up in March.57
III. Free Trade and Parliament
As the greatest port in England, London handled a large share of the country’s overseas trade. Much of this commerce was in the hands of a small number of chartered trading companies, of which the most important at the beginning of James’s reign was the Merchant Adventurers, who dominated cloth exports to the Continent. Trade with the Indies was controlled by the newly formed East India Company, while the route to Russia was monopolized by the Muscovy Company. Of the major London trading companies, only the Eastland Company, which traded with the Baltic, did not enjoy a monopoly. London-based trading companies were in theory national ventures, open to anyone who had the money to invest in their stock, but in practice they were dominated by a small number of wealthy London merchants, who jealously guarded their monopoly rights at the expense of the outports. Their extensive trading privileges were a source of envy outside the capital, particularly during the final years of Elizabeth’s reign, when there was general hostility to all forms of monopoly.
London’s dominant position came under attack at the beginning of James’s reign. On 18 Apr. 1604 a bill to grant free trade to all merchants was given a first reading in the Commons. The Venetian ambassador believed that this bill, which threatened to dissolve the London trading companies, was drawn up in response to a petition ‘signed by many merchants’.58 By 24 Apr. the bill had been joined by a second, and the two measures were entrusted to the same committee, which pursued only one of them. A period of intensive lobbying followed. Large numbers of merchants ‘from all parts of the realm’, but ‘especially’ from London, besieged the committee. The Trinity House of Deptford sided with the Merchant Adventurers, whose dissolution, it claimed, would weaken the kingdom’s naval power and diminish the standing of English merchants abroad, as trade would henceforward be carried on by ‘peddlers and not with merchants’. However, the committee was not susceptible to these arguments, being dominated by the outports, whose representatives had been granted membership of the committee en bloc. On 21 May it announced, through its spokesman Sir Edwin Sandys, that London’s joint stock companies ‘cannot be otherwise counted than a monopoly’. A mere 200 Merchant Adventurers enjoyed ‘the managing of the two thirds parts of the clothing of this realm’, and yet the trade might ‘well maintain many thousand merchants more’. The Muscovy Company, whose recent whaling expeditions to Spitzbergen aroused the hostility of the outports, particularly Hull and King’s Lynn, was even more objectionable as it was ‘a monopoly in a monopoly’, for though there were 160 investors it was controlled by just 15 directors. The Muscovy merchants did not deny this accusation, but argued that ‘the state of the country [Russia] cannot bear any other kind of managing of the trade’. The Commons concurred with the committee, however, and the first of the free trade bills was permitted to continue.59 London’s Members subsequently did their best to hinder its progress. On 31 May Montagu, supported by the Merchant Adventurer Gore, made such a powerful case that on 4 June Sandys was obliged to rebut his speech ‘point by point’. Five days later the bill was sent up to the Lords, where it encountered considerable hostility.60 However, the bill’s fate was probably sealed when it was learned that James had urged the Muscovy Company to dispatch an embassy to Russia, which the Company had delayed sending for fear that it was about to be dissolved. James needed the Muscovy Company to continue in order to maintain diplomatic relations with Russia, and his intervention gave a clear signal that the free trade bill would never receive the Royal Assent.61
The failure of the free trade bill did not deter the opponents of London’s trading companies from mounting fresh attacks. When Parliament reassembled in November 1605, the attentions of the free-traders focused on the Spanish Company, which had been recently revived after a long period of inactivity caused by the Elizabethan war with Spain. The Company was aware of its vulnerability, and in order to avoid parliamentary opposition it had obtained a fresh charter in June 1605 that widened its membership. As a result, almost half the governing assistants were drawn from the outports.62 However, the free-traders in the Commons ignored the new charter, and on the first day of the second session Sir George Somers, sitting for Lyme Regis, complained of ‘inconveniences’ arising from the revived Company. Consequently a committee was appointed which drafted a bill throwing open the Spanish trade to all-comers. Faced with this assault, and without the assistance of the king, who did not need it for his diplomacy, the Company began to melt away. Its meetings ceased and the Bristol members seceded, leaving those who remained to argue that free trade would ‘discourage the expert and skilful merchant from trading’ and cause confusion that would ‘utterly overthrow the whole trade’.63 By the time the bill was enacted in June 1606 the Spanish Company was already defunct.
The overthrow of the Spanish Company was not quite the final act in the free trade dramas of 1604-6, as it put fresh heart into the opponents of the London trading companies. On 17 Mar. 1606, five days after the bill condemning the Spanish Company was sent up to the Lords, a measure to throw open the Muscovy trade received a second reading and was committed.64 A few weeks later, on 3 Apr., a bill ‘for the liberty of free trade into all countries’, received a second reading and was committed.65 Although neither bill progressed any further,66 the renewed attacks of the free trade lobby were bolstered by separate legislative assaults on the Eastland Company and Merchant Adventurers. These related attacks repay close attention.
The free trade debates of 1604-6 underlined sharp differences between London’s economic interests and those of the rest of the country, particularly the outports. However, opposition to the London trading companies was not confined to lobby groups outside the capital. In his report on free trade in May 1604, Sir Edwin Sandys observed that London was not a single economic entity but a city of competing commercial interests. All the merchants who had come before the committee had
complained grievously of the engrossing and restraint of trade by the rich merchants of London, as being to the undoing or great hindrance of all the rest; and of London merchants, three parts joined in the same complaint against a fourth part; and of that fourth part, some standing stiffly for their own Company, yet repined at other companies.67
The truth of Sandys’s observation is borne out by the hostility expressed by the Clothworkers towards the Merchant Adventurers in 1604 and 1606. Longstanding enemies of the Merchant Adventurers, the Clothworkers existed to dress cloth whereas the Merchant Adventurers wanted to export cloth in an unfinished condition. In 1566 a bill protecting the Clothworkers’ interests was enacted but was widely disregarded, not least by the Crown, which had recently granted several licences allowing unfinished cloth to be exported. Consequently, soon after Parliament met in March 1604, the Clothworkers agreed to finance a bill drawn up by their yeomanry concerned with ‘work’. Ten days later, on 31 Mar., a bill ‘against transporting of woollen cloths and for setting on work the poor commons of this realm’ was given a first reading. However, the Merchant Adventurers, not yet under fire by the free trade lobby, were prepared. When the bill was given a second reading on 4 Apr. another measure, to permit the export of unfinished cloths, was also read. The Clothworkers failed to make headway, and not until the Spanish Company was mired in difficulties, in early 1606, was the climate right to try again. In February 1606 a bill to prevent the export of undressed cloth received two readings in the Commons. The following month a bill forbidding the export of undressed coloured cloths received a second reading and was opposed by the Merchant Adventurer Richard Gore ‘as against the common conditions of peace with our neighbours’. Sent up to the Lords in April, it was rejected as unfit, although the Clothworkers had tried to enlist the aid of the earl of Salisbury (Robert Cecil†).
The Clothworkers were not the only livery company to throw in their lot with the free trade lobby in 1604 and 1606. The artisan skinners, reluctant members of the Skinners’ Company, were restricted to dressing furs as they were barred from the export trade by the Eastland Company’s charter. This limited trade was jeopardized altogether by the Eastland merchants, who by 1604 had begun buying up undressed skins from petty chapmen.68 The artisan skinners, with the blessing of their Company, consequently preferred to the Commons a measure ‘for the relief of such as use the handicraft of skinners’. Laid twice before the House, the bill failed to gain support and was rejected.69 However, like the Clothworkers, the artisan skinners were encouraged to try again by the attack on the Spanish Company, and on 6 Mar. 1606 their bill was read in the Lords. This renewed assault so alarmed the Eastland Company that it turned to the Court of Aldermen, who referred the matter ‘to the consideration of the knights and burgesses for this City’ and ordered its counsel to act for the merchants at its own charge.70 Despite this powerful opposition, the bill was enacted as ‘An Act for the Relief of such as lawfully use the Trade and Handicraft of Skinners’. It obliged the Eastland merchants to buy their furs from the skinners, and only to export black rabbit skins that they had dressed.71
The acts to relieve the artisan skinners and dissolve the Spanish Company dealt a significant blow to the London joint stock companies. Although the assault was not renewed in the 1606-7 session widespread resentment at London’s privileges remained, and resurfaced as a result of the Southampton charter bill. Towards the end of Elizabeth’s reign, a London merchant named John Davies had set up shop in Southampton, even though Southampton’s charter of 1445 prohibited merchants not free of the town from buying or selling merchandize within its precincts upon pain of forfeiture of the goods. After the mayor seized Davies’ goods as ‘foreign bought and sold’, Davies bought back his property for £40, but subsequently sued in King’s Bench for the return of this money, arguing that London’s charters entitled him, as a London merchant, to buy and sell freely anywhere in England.72 By the beginning of 1607 the case had dragged on for six or seven years, and had cost Southampton more than £200 in legal fees. As no resolution seemed to be in sight, Southampton’s corporation ordered that a bill be laid before the Commons, and on 29 Apr. a measure confirming the town’s fifteenth century charter received a first reading.73 This was not a threat that London could safely ignore. At the second reading on 1 May, three of its Members secured places on the committee; the fourth gained a place soon afterwards, as did the London Skinner Robert Myddelton. On 7 May the Court of Aldermen instructed an eight-man deputation to lobby the committee.74 These efforts to smother the bill were not well received in the Commons. Indeed, according to Southampton, the bill received no opposition except from ‘the citizens of London, who have the like grant themselves but cannot be content that any other town besides themselves should enjoy any liberty’. In early June the bill was sent up to the Lords, when London again tried to stifle it. A City deputation was ordered to attend the Lords’ committee, and a hearing for counsel was sought, even though London’s lawyers had previously addressed the Commons for two hours. The Southampton side responded by accusing London of dragging out the bill in the hope that Parliament would be prorogued before the matter could be resolved, and indeed the bill was only just enacted, completing its passage the day before both Houses rose.75
When Parliament reassembled in 1610, London’s privileges were largely forgotten amid concern for impositions and the Great Contract. By 1614, however, there was renewed interest in London’s trading companies. A quarrel between the Muscovy Company and Hull over whaling off Greenland saw the establishment of a Commons’ committee of inquiry, and when the House learned of plans to replace the Merchant Adventurers with a rival consortium of London merchants led by Alderman Cockayne it responded by summoning representatives of both groups.76 The Commons’ main interest, however, focused on the newly incorporated French Company, which enjoyed a monopoly of the export trade to France in defiance of the 1606 Free Trade Act, which had dissolved not only the Spanish Company but opened up trade to France to all-comers.
Like the ill-fated Spanish Company, the French Company was not entirely composed of London merchants but it was clearly dominated by them. Many Members of the Commons, particularly those from Devon and Bristol, saw the establishment of the Company as yet another sign that greedy London merchants were trying to monopolize trade at the expense of the rest of the country, and they reacted accordingly. The Plymouth Member, Sir William Strode, complained that ‘the Londoners’ had obtained the patent in an underhand fashion, and tried to whip up support for a new free trade bill.77 The Navy treasurer and Harwich Member Sir Robert Mansell declared that ‘the reducing of commerce into companies, especially of the French, is the cause that the western parts are altogether barren of sailors’. Those who ‘would have all trade brought to London’, he added, could show ‘no reason why every port town should not govern themselves as well as London govern the whole kingdom’. The Commons’ investigating committee shared these concerns at the exclusion of the West Country merchants, and observed that ‘the western men can go and return twice before the Londoners can go once’.78 However, the French Company offended certain vested London interests almost as much as those of the West Country. The Company’s chief opponents in London were the Vintners. In 1610 they had closely monitored the French merchants’ bill to prevent wine from being imported at certain times of the year.79 After the French merchants were incorporated in 1611, the Vintners had fought a running battle with them with the assistance of London’s recorder, Sir Henry Montagu. When the Commons called in the French Company’s charter for inspection in April 1614, the Vintners joined in the attack, spending £4 8s. on legal fees in the process.80 Montagu, then sitting in the Commons for London, naturally supported his clients, as did his London colleague Nicholas Fuller, who suggested that the patent be ‘made convenient’. The open hostility of Montagu and Fuller, and the silence of London’s other parliamentary representatives, may have taken the free trade lobby in the Commons by surprise. It certainly prevented the debate from becoming polarized along the usual lines, and perhaps explains why, despite Strode’s suggestion, a free trade bill was not introduced. The unlikely alliance of London’s Members with the representatives of the outports may actually have helped save the French Company from dissolution, especially as attention was soon diverted by impositions. Lacking friends, the French merchants confessed their fault and offered to surrender their objectionable patent in exchange for an Act that would place its government on an acceptable footing.81
The 1614 Parliament was dissolved before the matter could be resolved to the Commons’ satisfaction. By the time Parliament reassembled in 1621, attitudes towards the London trading companies had hardened owing to the trade depression and the general unpopularity of monopolies. Indeed, so numerous were the complaints that one historian has rightly observed that ‘the Parliament of 1621 represents the high point of the hostility of the Commons to the national chartered companies’.82 The Merchant Adventurers, blamed for the cloth depression, were subjected to a series of attacks, including a bill to undermine their monopoly by restoring the free trade of the Merchants of the Staple, which received two readings. Feelings ran so high that, when the Cinque Ports petitioned against them, Sir Edward Coke remarked that there was ‘no greater cause in all this Parliament’.83 The French Company, too, came in for renewed criticism. This time there was no question of putting the Company on a statutory footing, as the years before 1621 had seen fresh disputes arise between the Company and its opponents, among them Shrewsbury’s drapers. Moreover, while London’s Members were no longer critical of the Company, the Vintners continued to side with the free trade lobby, spending money on ‘the general bill of grievance exhibited against the French patent’.84 Hostility towards the French Company resulted in the Commons twice ordering the French merchants to submit their charter for examination, and in May a bill to permit free trade into France received a first reading.85 Another London trading company to feel the wrath of the Commons was the East India Company, which had previously escaped criticism. In February it was accused of contributing to the general shortage of coin by its export of bullion to the Orient, a charge it denied, and had to be defended by its allies in the House, including the London Members William Towerson and Robert Bateman, both of whom were members of the Company.86 It was against this backdrop of general hostility towards the trading companies that in May the Eastland Company preferred a navigation bill to the Commons aimed at prohibiting Dutch imports. Perhaps the most striking feature of this ill-judged piece of legislation is that it actually received a second reading, albeit not until November.87
The wave of hostility against London’s merchants emanated mainly from the outports, but there were also elements within the City which sought to capitalize on the discomfiture of the trading companies. As well as the Vintners, the Grocers’ Company exploited the situation to its advantage. After refusing to pay the Levant Company for currants they had received, complaining of high prices, they appealed to the Commons for redress. They did so at the suggestion of the Venetian ambassador, who explained to his political masters that this was ‘the best way to unsettle the [Levant] merchants, since they know that there are many in the assembly [i.e. the Commons] who intend to destroy all the companies, the roots of a thousand disorders, and to make free trade’.88
When Parliament reassembled in 1624 the Commons’ antipathy towards the London trading companies had begun to soften. There was now some sympathy for their grievances where these coincided with the interests of the commonweal. Indeed, the House endorsed the complaint of the Levant Company, which petitioned to have an increase of 2s. 2d. in the impost upon currants removed, although it refused to condemn an even higher rise in the levy on raw silk, regarding this as ‘but an increase in subsidy’. It also supported the Merchant Adventurers when they complained of the pretermitted customs, undue levies by the Customs house, and exactions by the Dutch and the archduchess.89 However, broad hostility to the London trading companies remained. Five days after the session opened, the Dartmouth Member, William Nyell, denounced the patents of the London trading companies as ‘the principal means of decay of trade’ and called for the charters of both the Eastland Company and Merchant Adventurers to be brought in.90 He was especially aggrieved that the Eastland Company compelled West Country shipowners to buy their masts, cordage and pitch from London. He later observed that before the mid-1560s the Merchant Adventurers had been known as the Merchant Adventurers of England but they were referred to simply as being ‘of London’. The Commons shared Nyell’s anger, and took up his grievances in the committee for trade. However, Nyell undermined his own case against the Eastland Company when he argued that shipowners should be free to buy their supplies from the Dutch. The Commons was unwilling that this trade should pass into foreign hands, particularly in the midst of a trade depression, and consequently refused to condemn the Eastland charter as a monopoly ‘for the present’. Greater sympathy was expressed for the outport merchants, who complained of being forced to join the Company against their will. Shortly before Parliament rose the Commons agreed to include their grievance in its petition to the king.91 Nyell’s complaint against the Merchant Adventurers was also endorsed; an impost laid on cloth by the Company was ordered to be removed, being ‘unlawful, unjust and a grievance to the people’, and the Company’s charter was denounced as ‘a grievance, both in the creation and execution’. A new charter was to be sought for the Company, which would no longer give it the exclusive right to export dyed or dressed cloths to Germany and the Low Countries. The House also contemplated opening up the export trade in white cloths, ‘the rich commodity of this kingdom’, but it preferred to recommend that if the Merchant Adventurers failed to buy any white cloths within a month of their being put on sale in Blackwell Hall the owners should be free to export them themselves.92 The enthusiasm with which the Commons pursued the Merchant Adventurers served to encourage the latter’s old antagonists, the Clothworkers, who revived their earlier parliamentary campaign to be permitted to export a limited number of dressed cloths in accordance with the 1566 Act.93 During the course of the free trade debates of 1624, which closely resembled those of 1604 in their focus on the Merchant Adventurers and Eastland Company, the Merchant Adventurers were defended unsuccessfully by London’s recorder, Sir Heneage Finch.
The parliaments of 1625-9 saw an end to the Commons’ criticism of the London trading companies. The single exception was that of 1628, when the Greenland Company, an offshoot of the Muscovy Company, was condemned for aggressively monopolizing the North American whaling trade.94 The absence of criticism was partly due to the outbreak of war with Spain, which made allies of London and the outports, all of whom suffered heavy losses at the hands of the Dunkirkers. Instead of quarrelling over free trade, the two sides were united in complaining about the disruption to trade and the inadequate protection afforded to shipping by the Navy. Another factor was the growing convergence between City merchants and the Commons over unparliamentary customs duties. The Commons had long opposed impositions, and in 1624 had supported the Levant Company after it complained about an additional duty laid on imported currants. However, in March 1628 the issue came to a head when the wine merchants trading to France complained that some of their members had been impounded for refusing to pay a new imposition that had been laid on wines in December 1627. Their petition was shortly followed by another from the Levant merchants, protesting that the Customs’ officers had impounded currants belonging to several merchants who were refusing to pay the additional 2s. 2d. impost laid upon currants. The Commons, already deeply critical of the king’s continued levy of Tunnage and Poundage without parliamentary approval, sympathized with both sets of grievances, but despite its representations the king refused to lift the offending imposts or release the imprisoned merchants and impounded currants.95
The failure of London’s merchants to obtain redress in 1628 caused some of them to take radical action. In September 1628 14 Levant Company merchants broke into the Customs house to take back their currants, among them the governor of the East India Company and former London Member, Sir Maurice Abbot. By the beginning of 1629 some radical merchants, among them the Levant Company merchant-MP John Rolle, were refusing to pay any customs duties not specifically sanctioned by Parliament, including Tunnage and Poundage, thereby linking their cause with that of the Commons, which had explicitly condemned the king’s continued levy of this duty in June 1628. When Parliament reassembled in January 1629, the Commons took up their cause, though without success. Following the dissolution, however, both the Levant Company and the Merchant Adventurers cited the Commons’ Protestation of March 1629 as the reason for their continued refusal to pay.96
The period between the accession of Charles I and the dissolution of 1629 clearly witnessed a major political realignment. Whereas before 1625 the London trading companies and the Commons had seemed natural enemies, by 1629 they were natural allies. As relations between the two sides thawed the trading companies turned to the Commons for support, and not just in matters connected with unparliamentary customs duties. In 1626, for example, the Levant Company appealed to the Commons for help in its fight to retain Sir Thomas Roe as ambassador to Constantinople.97 In April 1628 the London Member and Eastland merchant Christopher Clitherow seconded secretary of state (Sir) John Coke, who appealed for a generous vote of supply to pay for a naval squadron for the Baltic and troops to assist the Danes. Commenting on the strategic importance of the Baltic, Clitherow pointed out that the fortunes of the whole country were bound up with the continuation of his Company’s trade:
There we vent our cloths and wool, and from thence we bring tar, pitch, etc.by which the kingdom is provided with the Navy, and if the emperor take it [the Baltic] he will master us all, and that he will easily do if we take not part in defence of it.98
The East India Company also took advantage of the improved relations between the trading companies and the Commons by drafting a petition to the Lower House pointing out the benefits to the kingdom of the East India trade and asking for a public declaration of encouragement. In 1626 the Company had evidently been widely criticized for failing to stand up to Buckingham, who had extorted £22,000 from them. Responsibility for the petition was handed to its deputy governor, Clitherow. Soon after he appealed to the Commons on behalf of the Eastland Company, Clitherow privately approached the chairman of the committee for trade, Sir Dudley Digges, to learn whether the petition would be well received. Digges, himself a member of the East India Company, assured him that it would, for ‘though two years ago there was a little imputation on the Company by the gentry of the kingdom, they were now better affected towards them’. However, despite repeated attempts, Clitherow failed to get the petition read, probably because other issues were more pressing.99
IV. Corporation Legislation
As the largest city in England, London had a tremendous appetite for legislation. Indeed, during Elizabeth’s reign, as David Dean has remarked, ‘more bills pertained to London than to any other locality’.100 Under James London continued to generate more legislation than any other constituency, much of it drafted by the Corporation.
The business of determining the City’s legislative agenda was usually entrusted to a committee appointed by the Court of Aldermen. Consisting mainly of aldermen and common councilmen, it was normally established shortly before Parliament met. However, in 1614 this committee was not appointed until the first day of the session, and for the first Jacobean Parliament it was not appointed until October 1605.101 Once established, the committee usually continued for the duration of the Parliament, although the committee of 1605 was replaced in January 1610, presumably because so much time had elapsed since its appointment.102 The committee tended to vary in size: the largest, that of 1605, consisted of 23 members, while the smallest, appointed in 1624, was only nine strong.103 All four London Members usually belonged to the committee, ensuring that they were acquainted with the legislation they were expected to promote, and in 1605 the committee also included one of the Members for East Grinstead, Sir John Swinarton. However, in 1610 and 1614 London’s Members were inexplicably omitted.
Although the City’s parliamentary committee largely determined the legislative agenda, the Court of Aldermen continued to take a close interest in parliamentary business. The committee kept the aldermanic council informed of its proceedings, and from time to time the aldermen intervened directly to order particular bills to be drafted or followed. In April 1606, for example, the aldermen instructed that bills for weighing seacoal and prohibiting the sale of ‘unsized’ loaves within the City be preferred.104 The aldermen also co-ordinated opposition to hostile bills. In May 1604, for example, London’s Members, two lawyers and four merchants were ordered to attend the Commons’ committee for the London tithes bill, ‘and in the meantime to meet and confer together touching the same’. In April 1624 the Court of Aldermen instructed the City’s Members to ‘use their best endeavours’ to kill off a bill hostile to the interests of the London Butchers’ Company.105 Aldermanic control of parliamentary business left little scope for Common Council to become involved, and indeed the only legislation to which it gave rise were the New River bill of 1606 and the Leadenhall market bill of 1610.106
Corporation bills were usually drafted by the City solicitor, who attended the City’s parliamentary committee and took advice from the recorder and the City’s other law officers.107 He was also responsible for preferring completed bills to the Speaker, paying the appropriate fees and lobbying behind the scenes. During the first three sessions of the first Jacobean Parliament the office of solicitor was held by William Dyos, who frequently requested reimbursement for prosecuting the City’s legislative business.108 In July 1609 Dyos was appointed remembrancer, but he continued to be valued for his lobbying skills. Indeed, in 1610 it was Dyos who followed the City’s legislative business rather than the new solicitor, Clement Mosse, who was merely granted membership of the 1610 parliamentary committee.109 Dyos’s successor as remembrancer was Robert Bacon, who in 1621 sat for St. Ives and in 1624 helped Mosse lobby on behalf of the corporation.110 As well as the solicitor and remembrancer, who were chiefly responsible for prosecuting the City’s legislative agenda, other lobbyists were sometimes employed to pursue individual measures. In 1610 a bill to prevent the abuses of brewers, paid for out of corporation funds, was ‘solicited by Mr. Stanley, scrivener, by my lord mayor’s directions’.111
The precise volume of legislation pursued by the Corporation is difficult to establish. Decisions regarding the legislative programme were mainly taken in committee, whose proceedings went unrecorded, while the accounts of the City chamberlain, which doubtless indicated the exact number of bills preferred each session, no longer exist for this period. Nevertheless, the City’s legislative programme can partially be reconstructed from the minutes of the Court of Aldermen, which often mention bills, and from the parliamentary records themselves.
In 1604 the Corporation, despite neglecting to appoint a committee to determine its parliamentary business, may have preferred or sponsored as many as eight bills. Four were certainly drawn up or paid for by the City: the bill to relieve debtors and recover small debts in London (which concerned the City’s Court of Requests, also known as the Court of Conscience);112 a measure for the better execution and explanation of the Statute of Bankrupts (which was paid for, in whole or in part, by the Grocers’ and Merchant Taylors’ companies);113 a bill prosecuted by the searchers and sealer of tanned leather;114 and a bill to modify the 1529 Act on seacoal.115 The contents of four other bills suggest that they were City measures. One addressed the problem of overcrowding, a perennial concern of London’s governors, by seeking to restrict new building in and around the capital and prevent the subdividing of existing buildings into tenements;116 another sought to suppress unauthorized quays and wharves in the City and ratify those properly established by statute.117 A third aimed to establish a Court of Merchants in London along the lines of those in Scotland and France, and was perhaps a revamped version of the 1601 bill ‘for policy of assurances used among merchants’.118 The fourth bill concerned the garbling of spices, and the evidence to suggest that it originated with the City is particularly strong. On 9 May 1604 the king, responding to complaints against the City’s garblers and knowing that the matter had been disputed in Elizabeth’s reign, ordered an investigation to determine whether the right to appoint the garblers belonged to the City or the Crown. James’s action led the Court of Aldermen nine days later to order several of its members to confer with the wardens of the Grocers’ Company and two of its lawyers, Sir Henry Montagu and Nicholas Fuller, both of whom also represented London in Parliament.119 The outcome of this meeting is not certain, but on 22 May a bill concerning spice garbling in London received a first reading in the Commons.120
The City’s legislative programme for the 1605-6 session was just as extensive as it had been in 1604. As well as the New River bill and measures concerning seacoal and ‘unsized’ loaves, London’s governors preferred a bill regarding the manufacture, finishing and searching of cloth, which was drafted in consultation with the appropriate livery companies.121 They also reintroduced the bill to curb new building and overcrowding122 and submitted a measure to supplement the 1604 bill for relieving poor debtors in London, which had been enacted.123 A further measure, to bring London under the jurisdiction of the commissioners of sewers, must surely have been drafted by the corporation’s lawyers.124 Common Council authorized the introduction of an eighth bill, to give statutory authority to Leadenhall market as the venue for selling new drapery, but it was evidently not preferred until 1610.125
During the third session, the City’s legislative programme was only slightly less ambitious. Shortly before Parliament reassembled, William Dyos was told to prefer a bill ‘concerning new buildings and divided houses in and about London, and to follow the same in such manner as it may best take effect’, previous attempts to secure legislation having failed.126 In the event three separate bills were drafted, two of which began in the Lords.127 Another bill preferred by the Corporation was designed to supplement the New River bill of 1606, which had been enacted.128 However, the City’s main focus was undoubtedly on the London estates’ bill, which sought to give London’s various corporations, including the livery companies and London hospitals, secure title for their lands. The City government not only contributed towards the cost of enacting this bill, but also charged its recorder, Sir Henry Montagu, with raising contributions from the livery companies. Prosecution of the bill fell to Dyos, aided by the clerk of the Vintners’ Company.129
The records relating to the fourth session in 1610 are more helpful than those for the period 1604-7. On 14 June 1610 the Court of Aldermen recorded that six bills had been drawn up on their behalf.130 Three were certainly presented to the Commons, and can be traced in its records. They concerned those who cheated their creditors by assigning their debts to the king, ‘contentious’ suits against constables and magistrates, and overcrowding (the bill ‘against inmates and new buildings’).131 It is unclear whether a fourth bill, concerning brewers’ malpractices, was the same as the measure to prevent brewing in victualling houses that was rejected at its first reading on 21 March.132 A bill to suppress ‘the infinite number of alehouses’ was penned by counsel ‘but upon the reading stayed by order of this court’. The sixth bill, concerning the employment of merchant strangers, left no mark on the records of either House. The Corporation must also have been behind a bill concerning Leadenhall market, which was probably identical to the one drafted by Common Council in 1606. While the 1610 bill was going through the Commons, the Corporation was busily negotiating to lease part of the market for the new draperies to a consortium of clothworkers.133
The City submitted no legislation to the fifth session, although it did give Hugh Myddelton leave to petition the Commons to inspect the New River works.134 When Parliament reassembled in 1614 the Corporation rediscovered its enthusiasm for legislation, although it delayed appointing the customary committee until 5 Apr., the first day of the session. On 14 Apr. the City Solicitor, Mosse, was instructed to follow a bill for preventing the removal of small claims of £10 or less from the City’s Court of Requests. It is unclear whether the measure was ever heard, as it seems not to have been the twice-read bill for the speedy recovery of small debts, whose author was apparently the Bristol Member John Whitson.135 On 19 Apr. the Court of Aldermen ordered a bill concerning overcrowding to be drawn up. This was presented to the court on 4 May, together with three more bills that presumably originated in the Corporation’s parliamentary committee. These additional measures aimed to prevent the fraudulent dyeing of silk, drunkenness, the inordinate consumption of corn and deceits in the use of weights and measures.136 All four bills were subsequently laid before the Commons,137 as was a measure to exempt London’s cheesemongers and butter traders from the penalties imposed under an Edwardian Act for selling butter and cheese in bulk. This latter bill was drawn up by the cheesemongers themselves, and was not, strictly speaking, a piece of Corporation legislation. However, the cheesemongers lacked formal organization and could not easily pursue legislation on their own. Consequently, the Corporation agreed to sponsor the bill, although the cheesemongers were to bear the cost themselves.138
The cheesemongers’ bill made little progress before the Parliament was dissolved. It was resubmitted with Corporation sponsorship in 1621, when the Corporation promoted little legislation of its own. In April the Court of Aldermen ordered another bill to be drafted concerning new buildings and the subdivision of existing properties. London’s governors may also have been behind bills for relief of the poor in and around London and for the recovery of small debts in the capital.139 The decline in City legislation continued in 1624. Apart from again sponsoring the cheesemongers’ bill, which was finally enacted, the Corporation laid no bills before Parliament apart, perhaps, from a bill on poor relief, which was described as a London bill during the second reading debate on 8 May.140 The Corporation did contemplate introducing a bill to put a stop to ‘corrupt and heavy dyed silk throughout the realm’, but the measure was probably not drafted, as four days later the Commons ordered the mayor to deal with the abuses of dyeing heavy silks himself.141
In 1625 the Corporation did not tender a single bill to Parliament. The severe outbreak of plague may have been largely responsible, but the previous two assemblies showed that its enthusiasm for legislation was waning. In 1626 the Corporation made clear to the City Members and its committee for parliamentary affairs that its main concern in Parliament was with ‘the monies disbursed by the City about levying of the soldiers’ for the war against Spain.142 Consequently, the only bill that seems to have been introduced by the Corporation was the routine measure to restrict the number of inhabitants per building, which received two readings.143 On 6 June the Court of Aldermen also referred the preservation of London bridge to its committee for parliamentary affairs, but as the Parliament was dissolved nine days later there was insufficient time to prepare a bill.144 The absence of legislation in 1626 is especially remarkable as the Speakership was then occupied by the City’s recorder, Sir Heneage Finch. Since the Speaker controlled which bills were read, any City measures would inevitably have been guaranteed a hearing. No bills at all were submitted by the Corporation in 1628/9, when the Court of Aldermen seems not to have appointed the usual committee to manage its parliamentary business.
The striking collapse in the Corporation’s appetite for legislation was mirrored by a similar decline in the legislative interests of London’s companies.145 So far as the Corporation is concerned, the reasons for the collapse are obscure, but they may lie in a dramatic alteration in its legislative fortunes. During the first Jacobean Parliament the Corporation had enjoyed a degree of legislative success. In 1604 four bills (out of the seven or eight promoted) were enacted: those concerned with the Court of Conscience, bankruptcy, spice garbling and leather. Following the second session three more, out of the six or seven preferred, became law: those concerned with the New River, small debts and sewers. Lastly, the third session produced the London estates Act and the second New River Act, and in 1610 bills were enacted to prevent the harassment of magistrates and constables and the assigning of private debts to the king. This picture of broad success altered dramatically in 1614. The premature dissolution caused the Corporation to lose all four of its bills plus the cheesemongers’ measure which it sponsored. In 1621 it scaled back its legislative programme, but again came away empty-handed. These setbacks proved so discouraging that in 1624 the Corporation scarcely bothered to prefer bills, and during the first three assemblies of Charles’s reign it offered just one.
An important factor in the Corporation’s abandonment of its customary legislative programme was undoubtedly the money wasted on the fruitless pursuit of bills. The financial losses incurred in 1614 and 1621 are unknown, but spending on bills in previous sessions was certainly heavy. In 1604 around £100 was spent, and in addition, as tradition demanded, a gratuity of £10 was given to the Speaker at the beginning of the session.146 The 1605/6 session saw no less than £238 17s. laid out.147 In 1610 Dyos received £131 15s. 10d. to offset the cost of the City’s legislative programme, and a further £10 was given to the Speaker.148 Sums of this magnitude could only be justified if there was a realistic prospect of success. As this dwindled, the Corporation’s attitude to parliamentary spending changed. After 1610 the only Speakers to receive a gratuity were Thomas Crewe in 1624 and Sir John Finch in 1629.149 London’s governors must also have been swayed by the emptiness of their coffers, though, for early in Charles’s reign the City’s chamber calculated that its annual expenditure exceeded its income by almost £2,900.150
The Corporation’s abandonment of parliamentary legislation meant that it was compelled to explore other avenues to solve its problems. Royal Proclamations had long been regarded as an alternative to legislation, even before the 1620s, especially in relation to the problems posed by overcrowding and new buildings. After the parliamentary sessions of 1604-7, which witnessed the loss of five bills on these subjects, the king stepped in and issued two Proclamations. Another, designed to close various loopholes, was issued in July 1620. Proclamations lacked the authority of statute law, however, and consequently in 1614 and 1621 the Corporation again tried to persuade the Commons to pass legislation. Far from lending a sympathetic ear, in 1621 and 1624 the House took up the complaint of the Carpenters’ Company which, along with various builders, protested at the Crown’s establishment of commissions restricting building activity in and around the capital. In May 1624 the Commons found for the Carpenters, and included their complaint in the grievances presented to the king. However, James was fully behind the City’s governors, and expressed surprise that the Commons had made ‘a matter of building about London a grievance’.151 Another alternative to parliamentary legislation was the City’s own ordinances. After the Corporation failed to obtain statutory authority to set up a cloth market specifically for the new draperies in 1610, it decided to press ahead regardless, and by 1622 at the latest a new market at Leadenhall had been established.152
Despite abandoning its customary legislative agenda in the 1620s, the Corporation continued to take an interest in others’ bills, particularly those it deemed harmful to the City’s interests. After the artisan Clothworkers submitted a bill to the 1624 Parliament seeking to prohibit freemen belonging to other London livery companies from employing apprentices to row, shear and dress cloth, the aldermen instructed the City’s Members ‘to use their endeavour and best intents to suppress the said Act [sic]’. The aldermen also intervened on behalf of the Butchers’ Company, which complained that a bill to prevent butchers from grazing their cattle disadvantaged its members. Indeed, they instructed London’s representatives to ‘use their best endeavours for stay of the same Act [sic], which is conceived by this court to be hurtful unto this City’.153 Even if it was only suspected that a bill was hostile, it was essential to monitor it. After Sir Henry Poole introduced a measure for the better sale of home-produced white woollen cloths, several aldermen were instructed to attend the bill committee, ‘to the end that they may maintain and preserve as much as in them lieth the privileges and freedoms of this City’.154 In April 1621 the Court of Aldermen established a committee to take notice of a bill preferred by the Fishmongers’ Company to the Commons ‘against the use of the trawl net’ and advise them what to do.155
V. London’s Companies and Hospitals
The Corporation of London was the major interest group in the City, but it was not the only one. Most of the capital’s livery or trading companies approached Parliament at one time or another, either to extend their authority or defend their interests. The almost complete absence of any reference to Parliament in the highly detailed accounts of the Turners’ Company is striking precisely because it is so untypical.156 Even if they did not have business of their own to pursue, the London companies often found it prudent to watch for hostile bills or petitions. In 1606 the Cordwainers paid the clerk of the Commons 16s. 4d. ‘to give notice of any bill that should pass this Parliament concerning the Company’, and in 1621 the Grocers gave him 22s. so that he would ‘give this Company notice of the Apothecaries’ proceedings’.157 Payments included among the parliamentary expenses of the Vintners’ Company in March 1604 may have had a similar purpose. The recipients, a Mr. Moore and a Mr. Fuller, were presumably the Reading Member Francis Moore and the London Member Nicholas Fuller.158 An alternative method of keeping a watch on Parliament was adopted in April 1614 by the Vintners, who established a committee to ‘give directions touching all such bills or other matters as shall be preferred to the Parliament House and may concern this corporation to prevent as much as may be such dangers or hindrances as may fall to this Company for want of due care’.159
Unlike the Corporation, London’s companies were not automatically entitled to instruct the City’s parliamentary representatives. However, as we have seen, the Court of Aldermen sometimes required London’s Members to further a particular Company’s parliamentary interests. Moreover, the companies often employed London’s lawyer-Members when they had business in Parliament. In 1604, for example, Nicholas Fuller seems to have been active on behalf of five livery companies, as well as Bridewell Hospital, whose bill he may have helped to draft. Fuller’s fellow London lawyer and Member, Sir Henry Montagu, provided the Vintners with legal advice on an alehouse bill, and in 1614 both he and Fuller advised the Bakers over their legislation. The companies also approached those London Members with no legal expertise. In 1621 the Plaisterers evidently lobbied Sir Thomas Lowe to oppose the Bricklayers’ bill, as they bestowed 3s. 8d. upon his servant.160 That same year the Grocers paid 2s. 6d. to a coachman ‘for carrying Sir Thomas Myddelton to Westminster’ in connection with their continuing battle with the Apothecaries.161
Many livery companies looked beyond London’s own parliamentary representatives for assistance in the Commons, particularly to those barrister-Members who counted them among their clients. In 1604 the Vintners turned to the Berkshire lawyer Francis Moore, who had been giving the Company legal advice since about 1599.162 In 1621 the Brewers’ advocate in the Commons was the Cornish lawyer Thomas Malet, who had defended several of their members in the Court of Requests.163 It was not unknown for a Company with interests outside London to seek help from the parliamentary representatives of the area concerned. In May 1624 the Fruiterers asked Kent’s knights of the shire to lobby on their behalf for ‘some good law’ to curb Dutch imports, as they represented the county ‘in which is the greatest plantation’ of fruit.164 Many companies also had friends among the gentry sitting for other constituencies. In 1610 the Salters evidently depended upon the Warwickshire Member Sir Edward Greville, who reported their bill against logwood and belonged to the bill committee for confirming them in possession of their lands. The source of the connection is unclear, but whenever he visited London Greville stayed at The Swan with Two Necks in Milk Street, thereby making him a close neighbour to the Salters, whose hall lay in nearby Bread Street. The Woodmongers had an astonishing range of friends at Westminster. In 1621, having discovered that the wharfingers had introduced a hostile bill to the Commons, they appealed for assistance to the Hampshire squire Sir Thomas Jervoise (Whitchurch), asking him to nominate several named individuals if the bill was committed. As well as the London Members and two of the City’s honorary representatives, Sir Baptist Hickes and Robert Bacon, the list included Sir Robert Knollys II (Berkshire), Sir Dudley Digges (Tewkesbury), John Angell (Rye), Richard Digges (Marlborough) and John Pym (Calne).165
Although many London companies enjoyed an enviable range of contacts in the Commons, they did not neglect to lobby the vast mass of Members with whom they were unconnected. In 1610 the Grocers paid their clerk 10s. for making copies of a summary of the Apothecaries’ bill, which they opposed, ‘and other instructions for the knights of Parliament to speak to [sic] the bill for this Company’.166 In 1621 the Plaisterers’ clerk received 15s. for ‘writing several things for the burgesses in the Parliament House’, while in 1624 the Apothecaries ordered breviates detailing their dispute with the Grocers to be drafted quickly so that ‘some may be delivered to as many Parliament men as shall be thought fit’.167 During the first Jacobean Parliament a few companies used the printing press to generate lobby documents in bulk, such as the Clothworkers, whose 1604 petition was printed, and the Carpenters, who in 1607 printed three quires of breviates of their bill at a cost of 14s. 4d.168 By the 1620s the use of print had become widespread. In 1621, for example, the Apothecaries were anxious to lay their hands on ‘bills and printed briefs preferred to the House by the Physicians, Chirurgeons [Barber-Surgeons] and Distillers’.169 That same year the Woodmongers printed their petition against the wharfingers, and the Tylers and Bricklayers produced ‘printed breviates’ costing 11s.170 Many other examples could be given.171
While print made for more effective distribution of information, there was no substitute for lobbying in person. In 1604 a delegation from the Cordwainers visited Sir John Savile, the chairman of the committee for the tanners’ bill, to put their case.172 Ten years later, the clerk of the Bakers’ Company and another man travelled to Westminster ‘to speak with Mr. [John] Hoskins, one of the burgesses’ about their bill. The clerk subsequently made several more journeys to Westminster in the hope of hearing the bill read, and also ‘to deliver briefs … to divers other of the burgesses’.173 Direct lobbying of individual Members of the Commons is not always so well recorded, though it can sometimes be inferred from Company accounts. A case in point concerns the Brewers, who in 1614 succeeded in getting their bill committed. As they did not know the identities of the Welsh Members, who had been appointed to the committee en masse, they spent 5s. in ‘going to Westminster to fetch out the names of the knights of Wales’.174 Clearly they intended to lobby the Welsh Members individually once they had learned who they were. Lobbying Members of the Commons in person was not necessarily guaranteed to succeed. In February 1621 the Physicians, learning that the Barber-Surgeons were about to seek parliamentary permission to encroach upon their privileges, instructed its fellows to ‘visit as soon as possible those friends whom they had among the burgesses of Parliament and win them over, particularly those representing the universities’. However, the Physicians’ easy assumption that the university Members would sympathize with their cause proved ill founded. At a meeting between the college’s representatives and the Members for Cambridge University, the Physicians were accused, inter alia, of admitting to their ranks too many doctors from other universities.175
Under Elizabeth, London companies sometimes dined or bought drinks for Members of the Commons whose views they wished to influence. In 1566, for instance, the Clothworkers spent £4 10s. on ‘fish sent to Sir Ambrose Cave’s [sitting for Warwickshire] for dinners at two several times when the committees of our bill met there’.176 By the beginning of James’s reign, however, this practice had largely ended or was no longer being recorded. When Company officers travelled to Westminster to pursue parliamentary business they certainly dined at their Company’s expense, as did key witnesses and the Company lawyers, but Members of the Commons were not accorded the same hospitality. Nor was it usual for the companies to bestow gifts or food on individual Members, although in 1604 the Coopers gave ‘a runlet of Rhenish wine’ costing 23s. 6d. to ‘one of the Parliament House’.177
Unlike the Corporation, London’s companies were not entitled to use the City solicitor to prosecute their business unless they hired his services. In 1614 the Bakers paid him 20s. ‘for his pains’ in preferring their bill, and in 1621 the Plaisterers gave him 11s. for helping them to oppose the Bricklayers.178 From time to time the companies roped other City officials into lobbying for them. In March 1621 the Carpenters gave 5s. to Mr. Bayard, one of the mayor’s officers, ‘when the committees met for buildings’, and they gave another of the Mayor’s men 20s. ‘towards an offering for his maid’. How far Bayard and his colleague were acting with the mayor’s authority is uncertain, as the Carpenters were opposing City legislation to control the amount of new building in and around the capital. City officers were not the only lobbyists for hire. In 1604 the Brewers gave £5 ‘to one George Whitton to help us to prefer our bill in the Parliament House’. Whitton, a minor Oxfordshire gentleman, had sat in the Commons during the 1570s and 1580s, and seems to have been the first former Member of the Commons to become a lobbyist.179 In 1626 the Bakers paid £15 to Thomas Reading, ‘a solicitor’, to prefer their petition against Sir Abraham Williams’ patent for a machine to sieve and dress meal.180 Many London companies with business in Parliament, however, preferred to use their own officers to lobby the Commons, as did the Carpenters in 1621 and the Brewers in 1624 and 1626.181 The Charterhouse Hospital, too, employed its solicitor and auditor to prosecute its bill in 1624 and 1628.182
Legislation was expensive, and for most companies it represented a major drain on their resources. In the financial year 1586/7 half the Curriers’ spending went on a single piece of legislation.183 Not everyone could afford this sort of outlay. Indeed, in 1624 the Fruiterers’ claimed that they were ‘not able to be at the charge to prefer a bill’.184 The most costly piece of Company legislation during the early Stuart period was the London estates Act of 1607. As well as the usual fees payable to the officers of both Houses, the companies who contributed were forced to find £2,500 between them to buy off the king’s chief ministers.185 Each Company paid in proportion to their size and importance. At one end of the spectrum were the Goldsmiths, who forked out £300, while at the other were the Barber-Surgeons, who paid just £10.186 The London estates Act was exceptional, however, as bills were not normally this expensive. Nevertheless, statutory confirmation of the Charterhouse Hospital in 1628 cost £100 1s. 9d., an astonishing sum.187 Failed legislation was not as costly as enacted bills, of course, and the amounts spent tended to vary wildly. This was partly because spending depended on how far a bill had progressed. For example, the Tallowchandlers’ bill of 1621, which was read just once, cost £5 12s., whereas the Carpenters’ bill of 1607, which was read twice, cost £16 13s. 3d.188 Another important factor in determining cost was the House of origin, as a bill preferred to the Lords would immediately incur the higher fees charged there. Not surprisingly, few London companies initiated their legislation in the Upper House. Cost was also partly determined by experience. Companies versed in lobbying Parliament often declined to disburse money until they had received some service in return. In 1589, for instance, the Coopers, veteran lobbyists, withheld paying fees to the officers of the Commons until after it was ordered that their bill be engrossed.189 However, a Company inexperienced in the art of lobbying was sometimes less wary about paying fees in advance. In 1614 the Bakers, who had no recent experience of approaching Parliament, spent £20 17s. 8d. on parliamentary and legal fees, drinks, dinners and travelling costs, but failed to obtain even a first reading of their bill.190
Most livery company legislation was drawn up on the orders of the Company officers, but ordinary members might also offer up their own bills for approval. In May 1604 the Fishmongers were asked by one of their members, Thomas Fuller, to help pay for a bill to enforce the observation of fish days, which he and another man had already introduced to the Commons. The Company agreed, and though the bill failed to proceed beyond a second reading Fuller was repaid all the money he had laid out, amounting to £11 13s. 4d.191 Companies naturally liked to be asked before any of their members approached Parliament in their name. In 1624 two Leathersellers cheekily requested the wardens of their Company to attend the committee for grievances that afternoon after they petitioned the committee in the Company’s name against Sir Thomas Glover’s patent for searching tanned leather. The Company was naturally annoyed at these unauthorized proceedings, and though it agreed to the request it declared that it would not be put ‘to any charge about the same’.192
In theory, the livery companies were expected to obtain the approval of the Court of Aldermen before preferring legislation to Parliament. In practice, however, this requirement was widely disregarded: between 1571 and 1601 only the Bakers, in 1589, are known to have sought permission to submit a bill.193 After 1603 most livery companies continued to act without reference to the aldermen, although the Painters’ bill of 1604 seems to have been drafted with the assistance of a committee appointed by the Corporation. Moreover, in 1621 some of the Dyers asked the City’s permission to present a bill to reform abuses in the dyeing of black silk.194 The independent outlook of the livery companies contrasts with the deference of London’s unincorporated workers, who also occasionally looked to Parliament for redress. Lacking the lobbying and organizational skills of the companies, they tended to seek aldermanic approval before approaching Parliament, perhaps in the hope that the City would aid their cause. In 1614, and again in 1621 and 1624, the cheesemongers, who had never been incorporated, requested and obtained aldermanic approval of their bill. In each case the aldermen agreed to support the measure, and ordered the City solicitor to follow it through Parliament, but added that the cost was to be borne by the cheesemongers themselves.195 In 1621 the Court of Aldermen were approached by the ‘poor flaxdressers, shopkeepers and traders in undressed flax within London’, who desired to approach Parliament by petition rather than by bill. After ordering the petition to be redrafted by its committee for parliamentary affairs, the aldermen promised that the City solicitor would follow the matter at the charge of the petitioners.196 London’s unincorporated workers were not alone in seeking aldermanic approval before taking their grievances to Westminster. In 1626 several tanners living outside the capital asked to petition Parliament to alter the weekly meat market at Leadenhall from Monday to Tuesday, because many tanners refused to bring their meat to market for Monday for fear of transporting it on the Sabbath contrary to Proclamation. As the resultant shortage of meat had meant high prices, the aldermen readily agreed.197
Livery companies generally preferred bills to Parliament on their own, but where the interests of more than one Company coincided it made sense for those concerned to pool their resources. In 1606 the Great Twelve jointly preferred a bill to clarify an Act of 1504 regarding the execution of Company ordinances. Each Company paid a share of the cost, and the responsibility for following the bill settled upon William Dyos, the clerk to the Goldsmiths’ Company and City solicitor.198 This bill disappeared after it was engrossed, but an even more ambitious collaborative venture was undertaken soon afterwards. In December 1606 the livery companies complained to the Privy Council that they were required to compound for lands bequeathed to them, despite having already done so several times.199 The matter was referred to Parliament, and in February 1607 a bill was laid before the Lords.200 The measure, enacted at the end of the session, was supported by the Corporation, which sought security of title for its own lands and those belonging to the London hospitals. Responsibility for collecting financial contributions fell to the City’s recorder, Sir Henry Montagu, while the task of lobbying was entrusted to Dyos and the clerk of the Vintners’ Company. From the outset the chief obstacle to progress was money, as the king’s ministers demanded £2,500 in return for allowing the bill to pass, and there were also the fees payable to the officers of both Houses.201 While most companies were anxious to benefit from the bill, few were willing to part with the large sums required. During the Easter recess the Court of Aldermen, learning of this, summoned the wardens of the companies and demanded to know whether to proceed further.202 The assurances they received over the next few days inclined them to continue,203 but many companies remained cautious, disbursing only what was needed until they were sure that the bill would pass. The Mercers, for instance, voted £200, but only ‘provided that the Royal Assent be absolutely procured’. Even after the bill was enacted, some foot-dragging continued. The Goldsmiths delayed making arrangements to pay their contribution until 17 July, while the Barber-Surgeons ordered no payment until 20 July.204 The Tallowchandlers’ contribution of £15 was not paid until 1609 at the earliest.205 Many companies probably also prevaricated because they feared being charged more heavily than others of comparable wealth and status. None were more worried about favouritism than the Merchant Taylors who, on 18 Apr., ordered £5 to be paid to Recorder Montagu ‘to have special care that the Company may be reasonably charged’.206
The ordinances bill of 1606 and the London estates bill of 1607 were notable examples of co-operation between the livery companies, but they were far from unique. In 1604 the Blacksmiths and the Girdlers jointly presented a bill to Parliament, which failed to gain a first reading.207 That same year the Cordwainers spent £5 11s. 8d. ‘in joining with the other companies about the tanners’ bill’, and in 1607 they laid out a further £5 10s. ‘in defending the Curriers’ bill’.208 In 1610 the Salters not only collaborated with the Dyers to promote a bill against logwood,209 they also allied themselves with the Brewers to plug a gap in the London estates Act of 1607 regarding some properties they owned in Fleet Street.210 On the latter occasion the Brewers paid their share of the costs to the Salters, who presumably prosecuted the bill on their behalf.211 In 1624 the Bakers and Brewers acted jointly to oppose ‘a bill preferred by the Kentishmen for suppressing extortion in meal porters and other such like’ by hiring a barrister to represent them at the Commons’ committee.212
Co-operation between the livery companies was less common, however, than conflict. Many companies had overlapping economic interests, and regarded legislation as a useful means of improving their position at the expense of their rivals or those in associated trades. For example, in 1593 and 1604 the Coopers preferred legislation to force individual Brewers to limit the number of coopers they retained.213 Over the course of three successive parliaments the Painters introduced legislation to prevent other workers engaged in the building trade from practising their art, to the dismay of the Plaisterers, who put up a dogged resistance. The Painters’ persistence paid off in 1604, when their bill was finally enacted.214 In 1621 the Distillers preferred a bill to benefit their members, only to run into the opposition of the Apothecaries, who resolved ‘to set down their several reasons to induce the Parliament not to allow of the Distillers’ bill’.215 Many other examples of conflict based on competing economic interests could be given.
Companies with overlapping interests were often reluctant to consult each other before introducing legislation, with predictable results. In 1607 the Carpenters preferred a bill for the proper measuring and marking of timber. After a first reading in the Commons on 10 Mar., the bill encountered opposition from the Shipwrights. The Carpenters responded by belatedly conferring with the Shipwrights, paying them for copies of their objections and bestowing 20s. upon their clerk. Despite these conciliatory gestures, the bill was rejected at its second reading in May.216 Another Company which listened too late to its opponents’ objections were the Barber-Surgeons, who in March 1607 laid before the Lords a bill ‘for the more convenient examination and approbation of surgeons in and about the City of London by men expert and skilful in that science and faculty’. Intended to permit the Surgeons to administer internal as well as external medicaments, it was rejected at its second reading.217 The Surgeons were bitterly disappointed and blamed their failure on hostile lobbying by the Royal College of Physicians. At first they considered reintroducing the bill ‘with considerably more favourable conditions’, but on reflection they arranged to meet the Physicians in early April. At this meeting they admitted that their bill had been ‘extremely unjust and unreasonable’, but denied that they had sought to undermine the Physicians’ privileges, instead blaming the lawyers who had drafted the bill for giving it ‘excessive clarity’, which had ‘distorted the sense’. The Physicians replied that it would have been prudent had the Surgeons consulted them first, ‘for everyone agreed that they had tried to achieve their purpose secretly and treacherously’.218 Chastened, the Surgeons ordered their bill to be redrafted, ‘and that part … which concerneth the practice of physic is to be showed to the Physicians’.219 However, there is no evidence that the redrawn bill was submitted before Parliament was prorogued in July.
While some companies were at odds with each other, others were at war with themselves, and these internecine conflicts sometimes spilled over into Parliament. In 1624 the Goldsmiths presented a bill to the Lords to force its members to reoccupy the shops along Cheapside and Lombard Street, many of which were closed or occupied by ‘mean traders’. However, those Company members who lived outside London were unwilling to move their premises, and in April more than 100 of them descended upon the Lords’ committee for the bill ‘in a tumultuous fashion’ to protest. Their noisy intervention effectively scuppered the bill.220 Internal divisions also appeared in the Grocers’ Company in 1610. The Grocers were a broad church, and before 1617 their ranks included London’s apothecaries and druggists. However, the vast increase in the number of imported drugs between 1567 and 1609 opened up the possibility of large profits for the apothecaries if they could secure independence from the Grocers. In June 1610 a wealthy foreign apothecary named Gilbert de Laune, who was not himself a member of the Grocers, preferred a bill to the Commons granting independence to the apothecaries, which secured a first reading. When the Grocers learned of this they rounded up those of their members whom they suspected of involvement and forced them to distance themselves from the bill, which failed to progress any further.221 Another Company threatened with secession by part of its membership was the Leathersellers. In January 1620 the glovers in their ranks petitioned the Privy Council for the right to form their own Company, but were opposed by the City government. When Parliament assembled the following year the glovers drafted a bill, which failed to gain even a first reading.222 The wharfingers, too, sought permission to break free of the Woodmongers.223
Unlike the capital’s trading companies, none of London’s livery companies found their right to exist explicitly questioned by Parliament before the early 1620s, with the possible exception of the Pinmakers in 1606.224 However, the general antipathy towards monopolies in the Commons in 1621 and 1624, and the concurrent revival of the free trade debates, meant that hostility towards the London companies, particularly those which had been newly created and therefore seemed vulnerable, quickly surfaced. In 1621 the shipwrights of Ipswich tried to persuade the House to order the dissolution of the Shipwrights’ Company, which had been founded in 1605, as it was said to ‘impose exceedingly upon builders of ships’. The master of the Company, William Burrell, was so alarmed that he appealed for assistance to his fellow Navy Commissioner John Coke, then sitting for Warwick.225 The Shipwrights were not alone in being threatened with dissolution. In 1621 and 1624 the Grocers asked the Commons to suppress the Apothecaries, who had been incorporated in 1617. A sympathetic Commons denounced the offending patent as a grievance in May 1624 because it forced merchants to sell only to the Apothecaries. However, James rejected their criticism, declaring that the patent had been granted at his express wish ‘for the health of his people, knowing that grocers are not competent judges of the practice of medicine’.226
The agitation against monopolies, which resulted in attacks on two of the livery companies, also blighted attempts by several companies to pass legislation. In March 1621 a bill to confirm the Gardeners’ Company was rejected after a first reading ‘without one negative’, and the Company’s patent was called in to be examined.227 The fate of the bill may explain why the Apothecaries, who early in the Parliament drafted legislation to confirm their own charter, had still not introduced their own bill in December.228 In 1624 the Goldwiredrawers introduced a bill to confirm their letters patent, but this too fell at the first reading after Sir William Strode declared that to pass it would be ‘to confirm a monopoly by Act of Parliament’.229 The Apothecaries fared slightly better as their bill was committed, but there was never any realistic prospect that the House would endorse a measure confirming the Company’s charter when it condemned the charter itself.230 There were further legislative casualties in 1621. A bill preferred by the Bricklayers’ and Tylers’ Company to reform abuses in the making and selling of bricks, tiles, lime and sand in the London area was rejected at the first reading ‘because it was generally conceived to be a monopoly’.231 Soon afterwards the Pewterers’ bill ‘touching divers inconveniences in our trade’ was also cast out at the first reading after it was described as a monopoly.232
The volume of legislation laid before Parliament by London’s companies and hospitals is difficult to gauge accurately because of gaps in the records, but it is clear that between them they were responsible for generating more bills than the Corporation. During the 1604 session the Corporation promoted seven or eight bills at most, whereas London’s other lobby groups introduced at least ten: the Blacksmiths, Brewers, Clothworkers, Coopers, Painters, Skinners and Watermen all introduced bills;233 the Fishmongers paid for a bill drafted by one of its members to preserve small fry;234 the Leathersellers contributed £15 towards the cost of a bill ‘for pelts’;235 and Bridewell Hospital twice introduced legislation to confirm its charter. The Barber-Surgeons also drafted a bill which seems not have been presented.236 The Merchant Taylors may have introduced a bill regarding woollen cloth, but the recorded expenditure implies that they actually paid to have their views on someone else’s bill represented in the Commons.237
After 1604 the companies’ initial burst of legislative enthusiasm began to subside. Nevertheless, in 1605/6 the Great Twelve jointly sought to confirm their ordinances, and measures were also preferred by the Brewers, Clothworkers, Plaisterers, Pinmakers and Skinners, though the Brewers’ seems never to have been read.238 In addition, the City’s unincorporated cheesemongers were probably behind a bill concerning London’s traders in butter and cheese, which was twice laid before the Commons.239 In the 1606/7 session most of the livery companies were involved in the London estates bill, and separate measures were presented by the Barber-Surgeons, Carpenters, Curriers, and (perhaps) the Leathersellers. The Curriers may actually have been behind two separate pieces of legislation, one to relieve poor members of their craft and the other to prevent leather being made from horse-hides and pigskins.240 The spring session of 1610 also gave rise to a clutch of Company bills. The Salters and Brewers combined to confirm their title to their Fleet Street properties; the Horners attempted to revive a fifteenth-century statute to stop aliens from buying unfinished English horns;241 the Dyers and Salters combined to outlaw the use of logwood; and a splinter group of Grocers evidently supported de Laune’s bid for independence for the Apothecaries. In addition, the butter and cheese bill resurfaced, and a measure to bring water to the college at Chelsea from Hackney marsh was introduced.242
Only one of the London companies preferred legislation to the winter session of 1610. This was the Fishmongers, who agreed to pay the charges of a bill to repeal an Act against barrelled fish.243 The absence of legislation suggests that it was widely believed that the session’s main purpose was to consider the Great Contract rather than bills. Interest in legislation revived in 1614, when five companies (the Bakers; Brewers; Haberdashers; Plaisterers; and Tylers and Bricklayers)244 all preferred bills, as did the newly founded Charterhouse Hospital.245 This enthusiasm for bills continued into 1621. The Blacksmiths, Carpenters, Coopers, Dyers, Gardeners, Pewterers, Tallowchandlers and Watermen all put in bills, as did the Eastland Company and the Tylers’ and Bricklayers’ Company.[footnote] The Fishmongers, too, gave financial backing to several fish traders who laid two or three measures before the Commons;246 the Apothecaries, Grocers and Saddlers ordered legislation to be drawn up;247 the Charterhouse Hospital and New River Company sought statutory confirmation of their charters; the Merchants of the Staple asked for the legal right to trade freely;248 and the glovers and wharfingers tried to break free of the Leathersellers and Woodmongers respectively.249 By 1624, however, the appetite for legislation was considerably reduced. Only eight bodies – the Apothecaries, artisan Clothworkers, Feltmakers, Goldsmiths, Goldwiredrawers, Charterhouse Hospital, New River Company and cheesemongers – put in bills.250
Like the Corporation, none of the London companies preferred legislation to the 1625 Parliament, presumably because of the plague epidemic. However, when Parliament reconvened in 1626 very few companies submitted bills, even though Parliament sat for more than four months and the threat of plague had lifted. The New River Company and Apothecaries offered one each, and London’s clothworkers and dyers were probably behind a measure to relieve those in their trades who were suffering as a result of the Spanish war and the trade depression, but that was all. By 1628 the picture had worsened. None of the livery companies submitted legislation in 1628, and in 1629 only the Brewers contemplated doing so.251 The sole London body to submit legislation in 1628 was the Charterhouse Hospital, which finally secured statutory confirmation of its patent.252
The sharp decline in Company legislation in the 1620s broadly mirrors the Corporation’s abandonment of its customary legislative programme. In both cases, the main reason for the decline undoubtedly lay in falling success rates. Seven of the 29 or so Company measures laid before the first Jacobean Parliament were enacted, these being the Watermen’s (1604), Painters’ (1604), Skinners’ (1606), Leathersellers’ (1607), Salters’ and Brewers’ (1610), Horners’ (1610), and London estates’ bills (1607). However, the Parliaments of 1614 and 1621 were entirely sterile, enacting no private legislation at all. At first several companies regarded this as an aberration, and in 1624 eight of them preferred legislation. However, they soon discovered their mistake, as only the Cheesemongers saw their bill pass into law. Thereafter only a handful of companies were prepared to finance legislation that had little or no chance of success. The persistence of the Charterhouse Hospital was almost certainly down to the fact that its parliamentary costs were funded, not from its own limited resources, but from the personal estate of its late founder, Thomas Sutton, who had died the wealthiest commoner in England.253
Another factor which helps to explain the decline in volume of Company legislation was the development of an alternative method of bringing business to Parliament’s attention. In 1621 many companies chose to petition the Commons rather than prefer bills, especially when their intention was to seek redress of their grievances rather than extend their authority. Petitioning the Commons was not entirely new, of course, but the emergence of the committee of the whole House, which dealt exclusively in non-legislative business, resulted in a vast increase in petitioning. One of the main advantages of proceeding by petition was that it obviated the need to pay fees in the Lords, thereby reducing the cost of parliamentary lobbying. Petitioning was also regarded as an attractive option because there was a good chance that any grievances taken to the Commons would be presented to the king, whereas a bill had to succeed for it to have any effect.254 Among the livery companies to petition the Commons in 1621 were the Barber-Surgeons, Bookbinders, Brewers, Dyers, Stationers and Grocers, who petitioned against both the Apothecaries and the Levant Company, and perhaps also the starch monopolists, although they originally intended to attack them by bill. Evidence that petitions displaced bills as the preferred means of approaching the Commons is provided by examination of the Brewers’ approaches to Parliament. Between 1601 and 1614 the Brewers laid bills before the Commons on five separate occasions, but only one entered the statute book, the measure promoted jointly with the Salters to secure the title of their Fleet Street lands in 1610. Given this poor success rate it is not surprising that during the 1620s, when they tried to get the groats on malt lifted, the Brewers abandoned legislation in favour of petitioning. Only after exhausting this new method, at the beginning of 1629, did the Company began to contemplate legislation once more.
The plague outbreak of 1625 meant that none of the London companies petitioned the Commons that year, although a petition from the London merchants trading to France was warmly entertained.255 However, during the parliamentary sessions of 1626 and 1628 a steady stream of petitions reached the Lower House. In 1626 the Bakers, Brewers, Goldwiredrawers and Levant Company, plus the London merchants trading to France, all tendered petitions. In 1628 the Apothecaries, Brewers, Goldsmiths, artisan Clothworkers, Levant Company and merchants trading to France all lobbied in this way,256 as did the East India Company, although its petition calling for its trade to be defended may never have been formally presented.257 It was probably because of the shortness of the session that in 1629 none of the London lobbies petitioned the Commons, with the possible exception of the Leathersellers.258
Petitioning helps to explain the reduction in the volume of legislation preferred by London companies during the 1620s. Even so, the number of petitions was smaller than the shortfall in bills. Indeed, the overall volume of Company business before the parliaments of the later 1620s was markedly less than it had been at the beginning of James’s reign. When the Corporation’s abandonment of its legislative programme is also taken into account, it is clear that the 1620s witnessed a general collapse in the volume of London’s parliamentary business. This was ironic, for the 1620s were a time when fears for the survival of Parliament were widespread. At the very moment when many Englishmen were desperate to preserve the nation’s representative body, London’s institutions evidently lost confidence in Parliament, and in particular its role as a legislative assembly.
Author: Andrew Thrush
- 1. I. Archer, Pursuit of Stability, 19.
- 2. Recs. of Carpenters’ Co. VII ed. A.M. Millard, 490.
- 3. GL, ms 4326/7, f. 119.
- 4. Ibid. f. 128v.
- 5. Harl. Misc. ix. 312; C. Creighton, Hist. of Epidemics in Britain, ii. 473-4, 519-20; F.J. Fisher, ‘Development of London as a Centre of Conspicuous Consumption in the 16th and 17th Centuries’, TRHS (ser. 4), xxx. 41. In Apr. 1621 Sir Edward Coke claimed that London’s population at the time of the Armada had been 900,000, ‘and there are not fewer mouths now’: CD 1621, v. 97, 349; vi. 99.
- 6. R. Ashton, Crown and the Money Market, passim.
- 7. F.J. Fisher, ‘London’s Export Trade in the Early 17th Century’, EcHR ( ser. 2), iii. 154.
- 8. Fisher, ‘Development of London’, 43, 46.
- 9. P. Croft, ‘Capital Life: Members of Parl. outside the House’, in Pols., Religion and Popularity ed. T. Cogswell, R. Cust and P. Lake, 66-7.
- 10. CSP Ven. 1603-7, p. 488.
- 11. J.F. Merrit, ‘Perceptions and Portrayals of London’, Imagining Early Modern London ed. J.F. Merritt, 16; P. Lake, ‘From Troynouvant to Heliogabulus Rome and back’, Imagining Early Modern London , 220-1.
- 12. Winwood’s Memorials ed. E. Sawyer, ii. 39; Holles Letters ed. P. Seddon (Thoroton Soc. Rec. ser. xxxv), 193.
- 13. Merritt, 16; Lake, 222.
- 14. R. Ashton, City and the Ct. 6-8; Archer, 18-19.
- 15. CLRO, Reps. 27, ff. 104v, 156v.
- 16. CLRO, Reps. 35, f. 63.
- 17. CLRO, Reps. 38, f. 129v.
- 18. CD 1628, iii. 354, 358.
- 19. J. Hooker, Order and Usage ed. V.F. Snow, 164. For a detailed discussion of seating arrangements, see the SURVEY.
- 20. Holles 1624, p. 24.
- 21. Chamber Accts. of Sixteenth Cent. ed. B.R. Masters (London Rec. Soc. xx), 39-40.
- 22. CLRO, Letter Bk. CC, f. 1v.
- 23. CLRO, Reps. 40, f. 53.
- 24. CLRO, Jors. 28, ff. 42v, 158v.
- 25. CLRO, Jors. 26, f. 172v.
- 26. C. Barron, ‘London and Parl. in the Lancastrian Period’, PH, ix. 345.
- 27. Recs. of Carpenters’ Co. VII, 490; GL, ms 3297/1, unfol. The Turners also spent 9s. 6d. on a dinner following the 1624 election.
- 28. Mercers’ Hall, London, renter warden’s accts. 1603-24, unfol.; second warden’s accts. 1617-29, f. 205.
- 29. The exception was Sir Stephen Soame in 1601: his Co. was the Girdlers, which ranked 31 in the pecking order.
- 30. Chamberlain Letters ed. N.E. McClure, i. 515-16; HMC Downshire, iv. 325.
- 31. HMC Downshire, iv. 333.
- 32. Harl. 7010, ff. 5r-v, 8.
- 33. Ibid. f. 75v; Fairfax Corresp. ed. G.W. Johnson, i. 89.
- 34. C219/41A/130.
- 35. Lansd. 494, f. 41 (intercepted letter addressed to the rector of Brussells).
- 36. P. Croft, ‘Purveyance and the City of London, 1589-1608’, PH, iv. 14.
- 37. CLRO, Reps. 26/1, f. 275.
- 38. CJ, i. 153b.
- 39. P. Croft, ‘Free Trade and the House of Commons, 1605-6’, Ec.HR (ser. 2), xxviii. 64.
- 40. CLRO, Reps. 27, ff. 112, 114v.
- 41. Croft, ‘Purveyance’, 19-20.
- 42. For payments associated with the lawsuit, see CLRO, Reps. 27, f. 131.
- 43. Croft, ‘Spanish Co.’, 20-1.
- 44. LS13/280, f. 158.
- 45. Ibid. ff. 166, 168; Bristol RO, Common Council Procs. 1598-1608, pp. 91, 93.
- 46. Darcy v. Allen: Croft, ‘Purveyance’, 22.
- 47. Croft, ‘Purveyance’, 22.
- 48. Ibid. 28.
- 49. CJ, i. 261b. See also Fuller’s speech of 5 Mar. 1606: ibid. 278a.
- 50. Bowyer Diary, 105; CJ, i. 307b.
- 51. CJ, i. 1005a; CLRO, Remembrancia, ii. no. 281.
- 52. REQ2/393/118; 2/400/68; 2/402/67; 2/420/133.
- 53. CD 1621, ii. 390.
- 54. Ibid. 480-1; vi. 215-17.
- 55. GL, ms 5445/14, unfol., entries of 20 Feb. 1624, 17 Jan. and 27 June 1626; Procs. 1626, iii. 344-5.
- 56. GL, Bsides 24.20. In 1626, counsel for the Brewers had claimed that the groats were ‘heavier than 40 subsidies upon each particular man per annum’: Procs. 1626, iii. 344-5.
- 57. GL, ms 5445/15, unfol. entries of 23 Dec. 1628, 27 Jan. and 12 Feb. 1629. The Brewers had contemplated a tax strike in June 1626: GL, ms 5445/14, unfol. entry of 27 June 1626.
- 58. CJ, i. 176a; CSP Ven. 1603-7, p. 163.
- 59. Ashton, City, 89; CJ, i. 218a-21b; SP14/8/59.
- 60. CJ, i. 229b, 232a, 236a.
- 61. CSP Ven. 1603-7, p. 164.
- 62. Croft, ‘Free Trade’, 18-19.
- 63. SP14/19/97.
- 64. Bowyer Diary, 81-2. It is not known when the Muscovy bill was first read, but it is unlikely to have been before 9 Mar., when one Company member wrote: ‘though much hath been attempted against us in Parliament, yet nothing is done harder than of old nor as I hope will be’: SP14/19/26.
- 65. CJ, i. 292b. No first reading is recorded in the Journal.
- 66. The Muscovy bill was reported as fit to sleep: ibid. 301a.
- 67. CJ, i. 218a.
- 68. LJ, ii. 388b, 389b; Cott. Titus B.V, ff. 303-7. The artisan skinners came close to establishing their own Company in 1607: CLRO, Remembrancia, ii. no. 282; Add. 11402, f. 123.
- 69. GL, ms 30708/2, ff. 351v, 356v, 370; CJ, i. 189a, 214b, 233b, 235b, 237b.
- 70. CLRO, Reps. 27, f. 172. The City’s order perhaps placed Nicholas Fuller, counsel for the corporation and one of the Members for London, in a difficult position, as he probably sympathized with the Skinners, having reported their bill in 1604.
- 71. SR, iv. 1084-5.
- 72. HMC Hatfield, xix. 476-7.
- 73. Soton’s Mayor’s Bk. 1606-8 ed. W.J. Connor (Soton Rec. Ser. xxi), 70-1; CJ, i. 364b.
- 74. CJ, i. 365b, 372a; CLRO, Reps. 27, f. 19v.
- 75. LJ, ii. 523b, 526a, 530a, 531a, 532a, 535b; CLRO, Reps. 27, f. 43v; HMC Hatfield, xix. 475-7; CJ, i. 380a-b, 1056b. For the Act, see SR, iv. 1148-9.
- 76. CJ, i. 488b, 491a-92a, 502a, 504.
- 77. Ashton, City, 97; CJ, i. 461a.
- 78. HMC De L’Isle and Dudley, v. 176.
- 79. The bill was rejected: ibid. 412b, 414a, 437a; GL, ms 15201/1, p. 133.
- 80. GL, ms 15333/2, p. 606.
- 81. CJ, i. 469b-70a, 471b; Ashton, City, 100-1.
- 82. Ashton, City, 108.
- 83. CJ, i. 592a, 594a 598b, 612a, 613a, 618b, 620b, 630a.
- 84. GL, ms 15333/3, unfol.
- 85. Ibid. 563b, 609a, 605b.
- 86. CJ, i. 510b-11a, 527a-8a, 552a; CSP Col. E.I. 1617-21, pp. 431-2; Ashton, City, 107-8.
- 87. CJ, i. 615a, 642a; Ashton, City, 107.
- 88. CSP Ven. 1621-3, pp. 22-3. The Grocers originally planned to proceed by bill: GL, ms 11588/3, pp. 165-6. For the Levant Co.’s response, see SP105/148, ff. 52, 53v-5.
- 89. CJ, i. 710b; Harl. 4289, ff. 183-4v.
- 90. CJ, i. 672b; ‘Earle 1624’, f. 15.
- 91. CJ, i. 681a, 710a-b, 712b.
- 92. Ibid. 689a-b, 695b, 698b, 699a, 702a-b, 706b; Harl. 4289, ff. 180v-2v.
- 93. CJ, i. 711a, 712b.
- 94. CD 1628, iv. 467. For the complaint against the Company by Hull’s merchants, see KINGSTON-UPON-HULL, and CD 1628, iii. 122, 344, 437, 620.
- 95. R. Brenner, Merchants and Rev. 228-30; CJ, i. 877a, 882a, 885b, 890b, 899a, 900a, 904a, 915b.
- 96. Brenner, 232-6; Ashton, City, 129-30.
- 97. Procs. 1626, ii. 271-2, 329-30; SP105/148, ff. 145-6.
- 98. CD 1628, ii. 300, 305.
- 99. CSP Col. E.I. 1625-9, pp. 489-90, 493, 507.
- 100. D.M. Dean, ‘Public or Private? London, Leather and Legislation in Elizabethan Eng.’, HJ, xxxi. 529.
- 101. CLRO, Reps. 27, f. 104v; Reps. 31/2, f. 290. For the late Elizabethan committee, see Dean, 529.
- 102. CLRO, Reps. 29, f. 165v.
- 103. CLRO, Reps. 38, f. 61.
- 104. CLRO, Reps. 27, ff. 176, 178.
- 105. CLRO, Reps. 26/2, f. 360; 38, f. 61.
- 106. CLRO, Jors. 26, f. 384. For the 1610 bill, which originated in 1606, see below.
- 107. E.g. CLRO, Reps. 27, f. 295v; 38, f. 108v.
- 108. CLRO, Reps. 26/2, f. 405r-v; 27, ff. 135v, 143v, 168, 191, 196v, 178r-v, 295v, 363v; 28, ff. 38, 44, 55.
- 109. For Dyos’s activity in 1610, see CLRO, Reps. 29, f. 185v, 238v. For Mosse’s role in 1614, see ibid. 31, f. 292v. For Dyos’s appointment as remembrancer, see Remembrancia ed. W.H. and H.C. Overall, 188, n. 2.
- 110. CLRO, Reps. 35, f. 63; 38, ff. 114, 135v.
- 111. CLRO, Reps. 29, f. 238v.
- 112. CLRO, Reps. 26/2, ff. 378, 405. For the bill’s progress, see CJ, i. 178b, 209a, 229b, 236a; LJ, ii. 316b, 317b, 320a, 322a.
- 113. GL, ms 11571/9, f. 146v; GL, Merchant Taylors’ accts., unfol., acct. for 1604/5. For the bill’s progress, see CJ, i. 965b, 208b-9a, 236b, 239a.
- 114. CLRO, Letter Bk. CC, f. 1v.
- 115. CJ, i. 182b, 228b; CLRO, Reps. 26/2, f. 340.
- 116. CJ, i. 181a, 188a; LJ, ii. 318a, 333b.
- 117. CJ, i. 178b, 243b.
- 118. The 1604 bill was introduced twice: CJ, i. 165a, 178b, 190a. For the bill breviate, see Soc. Antiqs., ms 552/5, which includes a list of the names of the merchants who supported it. For the 1601 measure, which sought to bypass Chancery because ‘the merchant cannot endure delays’, see Procs. in Parls. of Eliz. I ed. T.E. Hartley, iii. 439-40.
- 119. CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 107; CLRO, Reps. 26/2, f. 365. For the Elizabethan dispute, see Archer, 35-7.
- 120. CJ, i. 221b. For the progress of this bill, which was enacted, see ibid. 228b, 232b, 251b; HLRO, ms Jnl. 4, f. 268v (the 3rd reading, unrecorded in the printed Journal); LJ, ii. 318a, 320a-b. The Crown responded to the City’s bill by preferring to the Commons a measure to resume the office of garbler into the king’s hands, but it was rejected after a 1st reading: CJ, i. 237a.
- 121. CJ, i. 267a, 270b; Bowyer Diary, 33-4, 47; CLRO, Reps. 27, ff. 161v, 351v.
- 122. CJ, i. 258b, 259b, 273b, 277a, 292a.
- 123. The first three Members named to the cttee. sat for London: CJ, i. 259a, 260b, 269b, 277a, 278b.
- 124. CJ, i. 261b, 262a, 265b
- 125. CLRO, Jors. 27, ff. 26, 30. For the 1610 bill, see below.
- 126. CLRO, Reps. 27, f. 295v.
- 127. CJ, i. 328b, 349b, 351a, 364a, 374a, 386a, 1008a, 1029a-b, 1035b, 1038a, 1941a; LJ, ii. 456b, 457b, 460b, 461a, 469b, 481b.
- 128. CLRO, Reps. 28, f. 6. For the bill’s progress, see CJ, i. 346b, 1038b, 371a, 372b, 312b.
- 129. CLRO, Reps. 27, f. 56v. For a more detailed discussion of this bill, see the section on the livery companies and hospitals below.
- 130. CLRO, Reps. 29, f. 238v.
- 131. Debtors: CJ, i. 407b, 411b, 419b, 429b, 430a, 434a, 445a-b, 447a, 449a; suits: ibid. 408b, 415b, 429a, 441a; overcrowding: ibid. 425a, 426a, 429a, 436b, 441b, 445a, 448a.
- 132. Ibid. 413a-b.
- 133. For the bill’s progress, see CJ, i. 415a, 419a, 423a. For the negotiations, see CLRO, Reps. 29, ff. 165v, 276r-v.
- 134. CLRO, Reps. 30, ff. 24v-5.
- 135. CLRO Reps. 31/2, f. 292v; CJ, i. 474b, 481a, 490a.
- 136. CLRO, Reps. 31/2, f. 302v.
- 137. CJ, i. 476b, 481a, 483a, 489a, 492a, 495a, 504a.
- 138. CLRO, Reps. 31/2, f. 322. The bill received a 1st reading in the Commons: CJ, i. 502a. It was not enacted until 1624: SR, iv. 1231. On the cheesemongers’ failure to form a company, see W.M. Stern, ‘Where, oh where, are the Cheesemongers of London’, London Jnl. v. 228-9.
- 139. CJ, i. 521b, 568a, 602b.
- 140. ‘Pym 1624’, iii. f. 33.
- 141. CLRO, Reps. 38, f. 108v; CJ, i. 771a-b.
- 142. CLRO, Reps. 40, ff. 94-5.
- 143. CJ, i. 824b, 830b.
- 144. CLRO, Reps. 40, f. 233.
- 145. For a discussion of the livery companies, see below.
- 146. Payments to Dyos amounting to £125 6s. 10d. are recorded, but they include unspecified sums for lawsuits: CLRO, Reps. 26/2, ff. 320, 405.
- 147. CLRO, Reps. 27, ff. 135v, 143v, 168, 178v, 191, 196v. Croft estimates that the City spent £284 18s. on legislation between 1604 and 1606, but the total expenditure for the 1st and 2nd sessions alone amounted to around £340, not including the fees payable to the recorder and Nicholas Fuller: Croft, ‘Purveyance’, 34, n. 40.
- 148. CLRO, Reps. 29, ff. 168, 238v.
- 149. CLRO, Reps. 38, 129v; 43, f. 36.
- 150. CLRO, Misc. MSS/166/1.
- 151. Stuart Royal Procs. ed. J.F. Larkin and P.L. Hughes, 171-5, 193, 485-6, 597-8; CJ, i. 711a, 796a. For the Carpenters’ lobbying, see GL, ms 4329/4, ff. 43v, 46; 4326/7, ff. 85v-6.
- 152. CSP Dom. 1619-23, p. 363. See also GL, ms 12806/3, ff. 122-3; CLRO, Jors. 28, f. 239v. Jones claims incorrectly that Leadenhall was not in use as a cloth market before 1631: D.W. Jones, ‘The “Hallage” Receipts of the London Cloth Markets, 1562-c.1720’, Ec.HR (ser. 2), xxv. 576.
- 153. CLRO, Reps. 38, ff. 115, 117v.
- 154. CLRO, Reps. 40, f. 239v. Curiously, none of London’s Members were named to the cttee.: CJ, i. 866b.
- 155. CLRO, Reps. 35, f. 155.
- 156. GL, ms 3297/1. The only mentions of Parliament relate to dinners following London’s parliamentary elections in 1621 and 1624, for which see above.
- 157. GL, ms 7351/1, unfol. (1605/6 acct.); ms 11571/10, f. 445.
- 158. GL, ms 15333/2, p. 359.
- 159. GL, ms 15201/2, pp. 136-7.
- 160. GL, ms 6122/1, unfol. entry for 21 Apr. 1621.
- 161. GL, ms 11571/10, f. 445.
- 162. GL, ms 15333/2, pp. 279-80, 298, 320, 338.
- 163. For Malet and the Brewers, see above, sub ‘Purveyance’.
- 164. Add. 33924, f. 32.
- 165. Hants RO, TD540/Scrapbook, note appended to the foot of the Woodmongers’ petition. We are grateful to Chris Kyle for this ref.
- 166. GL, ms 11571/9, f. 356. For an Elizabethan e.g. of the same, see Dean, 546.
- 167. GL, ms 6122/1, unfol. 1621 acct.; ms 8200/1, p. 130.
- 168. SP14/6/109; Recs. of Carpenters’ Co. VII, 287.
- 169. GL, ms 8200/1, pp. 55-6. For the Surgeons’ petition, which was copied out by the Physicians, London, see Royal Coll. of Physicians, ms 2288, Annals III, pt. 1, pp. 144-6.
- 170. GL, ms 3054, unfol. 1620/1 acct. For a copy of the Tylers’ petition, see Soc. Antiqs., Broadsides no. 138.
- 171. For some other companies which ordered documents to be printed, see GL, ms 6440/2 (Butchers), f. 322; 5257/5 (Surgeons), 28. For some examples of petitions printed by the companies, see GL, Bsides 24.20 (Brewers), 24.31 (artisan Clothworkers).
- 172. GL, ms 7351, unfol.
- 173. GL, ms 5174/3, f. 250.
- 174. GL, ms 5442/4, unfol. (1613-14 acct.).
- 175. Royal Coll. of Physicians, London, ms 2287, p. 142.
- 176. Clothworkers’ Hall, London, renter warden’s acct. 1566-7, f. 4v. For other e.g.s, see Dean, 533.
- 177. GL, ms 5606/2, f. 298v.
- 178. GL, ms 5174/3, f. 249v; 6122/1, unfol.
- 179. GL, ms 5442/5, unfol.
- 180. GL, ms 5174/4, ff. 6v, 7v.
- 181. Carpenters: GL, ms 4329/4, ff. 43v, 46; Brewers: GL, ms 5445/14, unfol. entries of 20 Feb. 1624 and 27 June 1627.
- 182. LMA, Acc/1876/01/10/2-5.
- 183. Dean, 537.
- 184. Add. 33924, f. 32.
- 185. GL, ms 5570/1, p. 492.
- 186. Goldsmiths’ Hall, London, min. bk. 1605-11, p. 536; GL, ms 5255/1, unfol.(1606/7 acct.) For further discussion of this bill, see below.
- 187. LMA, Acc/1876/G/01/10/5.
- 188. GL, ms 6152/2, f. 164v; Recs. of Carpenters’ Co. VII, 287.
- 189. GL, ms 5606/2, f. 152v; S. D’Ewes, Jnls. of all Parls. of Queen Eliz. (1682), p. 452.
- 190. GL, ms 5174/3, ff. 249v-50v.
- 191. GL, ms 5570/1, pp. 379, 384.
- 192. Leathersellers’ Hall, London, min. bk. 1623-32, f. 5.
- 193. Dean, 527-8.
- 194. Cott. Titus F.IV, f. 328; CLRO, Reps. 35, f. 121.
- 195. CLRO, Reps. 31/2, f. 322; 35, ff. 121, 133; Reps. 38, f. 92v. There is no evidence that the bill was read by Parliament in 1621.
- 196. CLRO, Reps. 35, ff. 129v-30.
- 197. CLRO, Reps. 40, f. 142. The bill subsequently received one reading in the Commons: CJ, i. 830b. For a summary of its contents, see Add. 34218, f. 99v. The Ct. of Aldermen had themselves consented to the change of day in May 1621: Reps. 35, f. 165. CLRO, Reps. 35, ff. 129v-30.
- 198. Drapers’ Hall, London, WA6/3, p. 47; Mercers’ Hall, London, Acts of Court 1595-1629, f. 69; GL, ms 30708/2 (Skinners’ mins.), f. 381; ms 30727/5, unfol. Skinners’ accts. 1605-6; ms 11571/9 (Grocers’ mins.) f. 191; GL, microfilm Merchant Taylors’ accts. vol.9, unfol. For the progress of the bill, see CJ, i. 272a, 275b, 282a.
- 199. CJ, i. 372a.
- 200. For the progress of the bill, see LJ, ii. 474b, 479a, 496b-97a, 498a-b, 499b, 507b; CJ, i. 364a, 365a, 368b, 370b, 372a-b, 521a, 1037a, 1040a; Bowyer Diary, 254.
- 201. GL, ms 5570/1, p. 492. It is not known which ministers demanded payment, but the most likely candidates are Dorset, Salisbury and Northampton, to whom the king initially referred the matter: Cott. Titus B.V, f. 349.
- 202. GL, ms 5570/1, p. 494.
- 203. Companies which responded to this prodding included the Drapers and the Saddlers: Drapers’ Hall, London, ct. of assts. min. bk. 1604-40, f.46v; GL, ms 5385, f. 10v.
- 204. Goldsmiths’ Hall, London, min. bk. 1605-11, pp. 352, 356; GL, ms 5257, p. 246.
- 205. GL, ms 6152/2, f. 99.
- 206. GL, microfilm, Merchant Taylors’ accts. vol. 9, unfol.
- 207. GL, ms 2883/3, p. 92. The contents of the bill are unknown.
- 208. GL, ms 7351/1, unfol., 1603-4 and 1606-7 accts. The 1604 bill may have been the one promoted by the searchers and sealer of tanned leather mentioned above.
- 209. CD 1621, vii. 407-8. For the bill’s progress, see CJ, i. 409a, 416b.
- 210. For a breviate of the bill, see Cott. Titus B.V, f. 349. For its progress, see CJ, i. 396a, 397b, 398b, 403b, 404b, 411b, 419b, 421a, 422b ; Procs. 1610, i. 84, 90, 94. The bill was enacted: HLRO, O.A. 7 Jas.I, c. 49.
- 211. GL, ms 5442/5, Brewers’ accts. 1609-10, unfol.
- 212. GL, ms 5174/3, f. 354. The bill was probably the one concerning London and Westminster brewhouses, which was introduced in the Lords: see CJ, i. 715b, 786b, 790a, 792a.
- 213. Dean, 544; GL, ms 5602/2, f. 48. The bill received 2 readings: CJ, i. 178b, 183b.
- 214. Procs. in Parls. of Eliz. I, iii. 418-19, 467; Cott. Titus F.IV, f. 328 (undated breviate printed in late May 1604). For the bill’s progress in 1604, see LJ, ii. 292b, 294b, 295b, 305a, 338b; CJ, 228a, 239b, 246a, 996a. For the Plaisterers’ lobbying, see HMC Hatfield, xvi. 454; GL, ms 6222/1, unfol. 6 July 1604. For the 1604 Act, see SR, iv. 1037-8.
- 215. GL, ms 8200/1, pp. 55-6, 59. The bill received one reading only: CJ, i. 529a.
- 216. Recs. of Carpenters’ Co. VII, 287; CJ, i. 351a, 373a.
- 217. GL, ms 5257/3, p. 234; LJ, ii. 495a-b.
- 218. Roy. Coll. of Physicians, ms 2287, pp. 192-3.
- 219. GL, ms 5257/3, p. 238.
- 220. P. Griffiths, ‘Pols. made visible: Order, Residence and Uniformity in Cheapside, 1600-45’, Londinopolis ed. P. Griffith and M.S.R. Jenner, 179, 181; Goldsmiths’ Hall, London, min. bk. 1618-24, pp. 702, 707. The Goldsmiths’ had contemplated petitioning Parl. about the same matter in 1621: min. bk. 1618-24, pp. 484, 494, 496.
- 221. P. Hunting, Hist. of Soc. of Apothecaries, 29-30; GL, ms 11588/2, pp. 586-7; CJ, i. 436b.
- 222. CD 1621, vii. 144-56, 363.
- 223. Hants RO, TD540/Scrapbook; CJ, i. 533b.
- 224. Cott. Titus B.V, ff. 287, 314; CJ, i. 264b, 291b.
- 225. CJ, i. 563a; HMC Cowper, i. 111.
- 226. GL, ms 11588/3, p. 172; 11571/10, f. 445; 11571/11, ff. 74, 117; CD 1621, vii. 80-5; GL, ms 8200/1, p. 130; CJ, i. 756a; C.R.B. Barrett, Hist. of Soc. of Apothecaries of London, 23-4.
- 227. CJ, i. 544b. The Gardeners were incorporated in 1605, and obtained fresh letters patent in 1616: CD 1621, vii. 361. For the bill see ibid. 119-21.
- 228. GL, ms 8200/1, pp. 55-6, 59, 67.
- 229. CJ, i. 726b.
- 230. Ibid. 770a, 772a-b, 696b, 785b, 704a, 715b.
- 231. CD 1621, ii. 97. Nicholas alleges that the bill was thrown away because the bill would have given the Company power to impose fines on offenders. For the bill, see Soc. Antiqs., Broadsides no.138; GL, ms 3054/1 (Tylers’ and Bricklayers’ accts.), unfol., 1620/1 acct.
- 232. GL, ms 7090/4, f. 148; CJ, i. 619b-20a. For the bill and its breviate, see CD 1621, vii. 287-93.
- 233. Blacksmiths: GL, ms 2883/3, p. 92; Brewers: GL, ms 5442/5, unfol. (1603/4 acct.); CJ, i. 156b; Clothworkers: Clothworkers’ Hall, London, Bk. of courts 1581-1605, f. 232; quarter warden’s acct. 1603-4, f. 8v; Coopers: GL, ms 5606/2, f. 188; ms 5602/2, f. 48; CJ, i. 178b, 183b; Painters: GL, ms 6122/1, unfol.; Cott. Titus F.IV (undated breviate, but late May 1604); LJ, ii. 292b, 294b, 295a, 305a, 338b; CJ, i. 228a, 239b, 996a, 246a; Skinners: GL, ms 30708/2, ff. 351v, 356v, 370; CJ, i. 189a, 214b, 233b, 235b, 237b, Watermen: CJ, i. 194b, 204a, 212a, 215a, 224b.
- 234. GL, ms 5570/1, pp. 379, 384. For the bill’s progress, see CJ, i. 194b, 209a, 243a.
- 235. Leathersellers’ Hall, London, ACC/1/2, f. 112v. The bill was presumably the one described as ‘concerning tanners of leather’ which received a first reading on 2 Apr. The relationship of this bill with the one promoted by the searcher and sealers of leather (see above) is unclear.
- 236. GL, ms 33022/4, f. 441v; J.F. South, Memorials of the Craft of Surgery in Eng. ed. D’Arcy Power, 197. For the progress of the Bridewell Hosp. bills, see CJ, i. 173a, 187b, 228a, 235b, 996a, 999a.
- 237. GL, microfilm of Merchant Taylors’ accts. vol. 8, unfol.
- 238. The Great Twelve may also have been behind the corporations bill of 1606, which looks like a precursor of the 1607 measure to secure the companies’ lands: CJ, i. 287a. For the ordinances’ bill and those of the Clothworkers and artisan Skinners, see above. For the Brewers’ bill, see GL, ms 5445/12, unfol. entry of 1 May. For the Plaisterers’ bill, which was committed by the Commons but has not been traced in the CJ, see GL, ms 6122/1, unfol., entries of 31 Jan. and 25 Apr. 1606. For the Pinmakers’ bill, see Cott. Titus B.V, f. 314; CJ, i. 264b, 291b.
- 239. CJ, i. 259a, 260b, 273b, 286a, 292a, 293b; Bowyer Diary, 82.
- 240. For the Barber-Surgeons’ and Carpenters’ bills, see GL, ms 5257/3, p. 234; Recs. of the Carpenters’ Co. VII, 287, and also above. The Curriers’ records for this period are missing, but for the poor curriers’ bill see GL, ms 7351/1, unfol. (Cordwainers’ accts. 1606-7); CJ, i. 352b, 355a, 357b, 1038a, 373b, 1045a, 1056b, 390a-b. For the bill to prevent the use horsehides and pigskins, see CJ, i. 389a, 389b, 390a; SP14/7/88. The Leathersellers’ do not mention that the company was behind a bill, but see CJ, i. 328a, 329a, 1029b, 352b, 355a, 357b, 1035b, 1039b, 1045a.
- 241. CJ, i. 398b, 399a, 403b, 408a, 409b; SR, iv. 1170-1. No Company records for this period survive.
- 242. For the butter and cheese bill, see CJ, i. 419b, 428a, 433a, 434a; LJ, ii. 605a, 629a. For the Chelsea College bill, see CJ, i. 436b, 442b, 446b, 448a; SR, iv. 1165-7.
- 243. GL, ms 5570/2, p. 1.
- 244. Bakers: GL, ms 5174/3, ff. 249v-50; Brewers: GL, ms 5445/13, unfol. (1613-14 acct.); Haberdashers: CJ, i. 465b; Plaisterers: CJ, i. 457a, 465b; Soc. Antiq., Broadsides, no. 138; Tylers and Bricklayers: GL, ms 3054/1, unfol.; CJ, i. 495a. The Brewers’ bill was probably the measure to prevent brewers from becoming magistrates: CJ, i. 495a, 503b.
- 245. LMA, Acc/1876/G/01/16/1-3.
- 246. GL, ms 5570/2, pp. 408, 413; CLRO, Reps. 35, f. 155.
- 247. GL, ms 8200/1, pp. 55-6, 67; ms 11588/3, pp. 165-6; ms 5385, f. 93. The Grocers may have abandoned proceeding by bill in favour of petition: see below.
- 248. CJ, i. 568b, 611a, 612a-b, 592a, 612a.
- 249. See above.
- 250. Apothecaries: GL, ms 8200/1, p. 130; artisan Clothworkers: CLRO, Reps. 38, f. 117v; Feltmakers: Kyle thesis, 454; Goldsmiths: Goldsmiths’ Hall, London, min. bk. 1618-24, pp. 702, 707; Goldwiredrawers: CJ, i. 726b; Charterhouse Hosp.: CJ, i. 877a, 880a, 880b, 887a, 894b; New River Co.: CJ, i. 727a, 745a, 749b, 755b; cheesemongers: CLRO, Reps. 38, f. 92v.
- 251. GL, ms 5445/15, unfol., entries of 27 Jan. and 12 Feb. 1629. Parliament’s dissolution prevented the company from introducing the bill.
- 252. CJ, i. 877a, 880a-b, 887a, 894b; LMA, Acc/1876/G/01/10/5.
- 253. LMA, Acc/1876/G/01/10/1-2.
- 254. For a more detailed discussion of the legislative crisis of the 1620s and the concomitant growth in petitioning, see the SURVEY.