London

County

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1660-1690, ed. B.D. Henning, 1983
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Background Information

Right of Election:

in the livery

Number of voters:

abut 4,000 in 1661; about 6,000 in 1680

Elections

DateCandidateVotes
27 Mar. 1660WILLIAM WILDE 
 RICHARD BROWNE I 
 JOHN ROBINSON I 
 WILLIAM VINCENT 
19 Mar. 1661JOHN FOWKE 
 SIR WILLIAM THOMPSON 
 WILLIAM LOVE 
 JOHN JONES 
 Sir Richard Ford 
10 Feb. 1663(SIR) JOHN FREDERICK vice Fowke, deceased 
17 Feb. 1679SIR ROBERT CLAYTON 
 SIR THOMAS PLAYER 
 WILLIAM LOVE 
 THOMAS PILKINGTON 
 Sir Joseph Sheldon 
7 Oct. 1679SIR ROBERT CLAYTON 
 SIR THOMAS PLAYER 
 WILLIAM LOVE 
 THOMAS PILKINGTON 
4 Feb. 1681SIR ROBERT CLAYTON 
 THOMAS PILKINGTON 
 SIR THOMAS PLAYER 
 WILLIAM LOVE 
15 May 1685SIR JOHN MOORE 
 SIR WILLIAM PRITCHARD 
 SIR SAMUEL DASHWOOD 
 (SIR) PETER RICH 
9 Jan. 1689SIR PATIENCE WARD 
 SIR ROBERT CLAYTON 
 WILLIAM LOVE 
 THOMAS PILKINGTON 
14 May 1689SIR WILLIAM ASHHURST vice Love, deceasedc.1700
 Sir Samuel Dashwoodc.1100

Main Article

Thanks to the diary of Samuel Pepys no period of London history is better known than the years of the Restoration, which had indeed come about through a tax-payers’ revolt against the Rump, in alliance with the well-disciplined forces of George Monck. It was widely believed that London always ‘led the dance’, and great was the dismay at Court when the general election of 1661 returned four opponents of the Church; but on this occasion the rest of England marched to a different tune. The spectacular growth of the western suburbs, accelerated by the Great Fire of 1666, suggested that a second capital might arise at Westminster, as a centre of administration, fashion and commerce. Pepys, one of the comparatively few to be equally familiar with both places, wrote about the bonfires lit for the sixth anniversary of the Restoration:

Lord, to see the difference between how many there was on the other side, and so few our, the City side of the Temple, would make one wonder the difference between the temper of one sort of people and the other.

Hence the obstructive attitude of the City Members to the proposal to build a bridge at Putney: ‘this will make the skirts (though not London) too big for the body’. The exclusion agitation, during which most political literature was produced and printed in London, and the City’s obstinate but unsuccessful defence of its charter against a quo warranto, once again placed it in the forefront; but it did nothing to bring about the Revolution, and when a hotly-contested by-election was fought a few months later nobody except a casual American visitor even noticed.

The executive branch of the corporation of London comprised the lord mayor and aldermen, consisting of 26 members elected for life; while the legislative branch consisted of the 236 members of the common council elected annually in the several wards by the inhabitant householders. The aldermen, being the wealthier merchants, many of them members of the monied companies and government contractors, tended to be more moderate and amenable to court pressure than the common council. The City of London was virtually a state within a state, able to afford sanctuary to the ‘guilty Commons’ between sessions. Its vast patronage was exercised mainly through the powerful committees of the common council, run by a handful of people, including most of the men who were or became the Members for London. They controlled the City lands from which most of its revenue came, the hospitals, the prisons, the markets and the Ulster plantation. The chamber of London (its treasury) combined municipal finance with public banking. The loans voted to the crown by the common council on the security of the parliamentary taxes were collected by way of subscriptions by the chamberlain of London, paid into the chamber, transferred to the Exchequer in bulk payments, and later repaid with interest to individual subscribers. The common hall, consisting of the members of the City companies who had taken their livery, elected the four Members of Parliament and the two sheriffs, who were returning officers for Middlesex as well as for London. They also elected annually the chamberlain, the bridgemasters, and the auditors of the bridgehouse accounts, all ‘places of profit and advantage’. The corporation enjoyed a unique relationship with the Commons; its sheriffs alone had the right to present petitions directly at the bar of the House. Most, if not all parliamentary elections in this period were decided by the show or the cry; at general elections all the aldermen were presented in turn, followed by any other candidates who had been nominated. All were either present or past members of the corporation. Although the population probably shrank, the electorate was substantially enlarged. Hon. Roger North complained:

Increasing the number, and debasing the quality of the livery trades and liverymen ... hath been effectually, though almost insensibly, done in a few years. ... First the lord mayors and aldermen were gained so far as to give the privilege of the livery to divers companies that were poor and populous; and commonly the meaner the trade, the more numerous the traders. ... This led immediately to invigorate the course of garbling and forming the common hall, which only had to do with elections.

During this period the financial stability of the chamber became increasingly dubious, despite official denials, a situation reflected in the erratic payment of parliamentary wages. The Convention was the only Parliament in this period in which London was represented by its recorder (William Wilde), and he received 5s. a day to cover boat-hire and diet. One of his colleagues, John Robinson, who was in Pepys’s view good only for giving sumptuous banquets, recovered £37 4s. after he had failed to secure re-election. In the Cavalier Parliament the tight-fisted John Fowke demanded his wages, and on 8 Apr. 1662 it was resolved to pay him his livery (£6 13s.4d. per session) and those wages ‘due by the Statute’; but he died before the resolution could be carried into effect. His successor, (Sir) John Frederick, was paid in February 1664, but returned the money as a gift to the corporation. Only John Jones received payment throughout his service in the Cavalier Parliament, and it has been suggested that this must have been a charitable grant. In 1677 two of his colleagues, Sir William Thompson and William Love, testified that London had ceased to pay them.1

On the day before the general election of 1660 a declaration was issued in the name of the City renouncing any form of government except by King, Lords and Commons, and, out of the 30 or 40 candidates nominated, four Royalists ‘were chosen without any dispute, which was never known before’. Of these only Major-General Richard Browne could be called a national figure; a Presbyterian who had served with distinction in the parliamentary forces, he had been removed from the bench in 1649, and at the time of his election held no London office apart from the command of the train-bands. The other wing of the Royalist conspiracy was represented by John Robinson; the son of an archdeacon and executor of the martyred archbishop, he had concealed his Anglican and royalist convictions sufficiently to be elected alderman in 1655 and appointed to the command of a militia regiment. Wilde and William Vincent were less colourful figures. The provisional government and the restored monarchy depended heavily, and not always successfully, on loans from the City until the revenue could be settled and the army disbanded. An advance of £30,000 on 10 May was produced by the three merchant Members, together with Thomas Bludworth and Thomas Rich. Robinson’s little nest-egg of £4,500 ‘in ready gold’ proved particularly useful, and the remainder was provided by bills on Amsterdam. But another group of Members, Londoners sitting for provincial constituencies, headed by Frederick in the absence of the other aldermen who were in attendance on the King, found it too difficult to raise even the modest additional sum of £2,000, which they eventually advanced themselves. The most substantial loan was the £100,000 for which a joint committee of both Houses attended a special meeting of the common council on 14 Aug.; but according to Arthur Annesley they ‘could then have no positive answer’. Eventually the corporation agreed, but only on condition that their own chamber staff should take charge of the disbandment payments, an unsatisfactory arrangement because no accounts were ever rendered to the Exchequer. Evidence of the widening gap between the aldermen and the electorate was provided by the proposal to levy a rate for the militia. Leave to bring in a bill to raise £140,000 for this purpose was refused on 26 Nov., with Robinson acting as teller for the minority. By claiming that the money was needed to defray the expenses of the Restoration, Silius Titus, an associate of Brown’s, had more success; but even then Alexander Baker, as representative of the small property-owners, claimed that there was no popular support for the expenditure, and 56 Members voted against the second reading. Eventually Bludworth piloted the bill through its remaining stages on the day before the dissolution of the Convention.2

The Government failed to take account of these warning signals, and in particular of the resentment aroused by the poll-tax and the excise. Complaints were heard in the City that ‘none of their Members opened their mouth against them’, though this was unfair to Vincent, for one. The measures taken after Venner’s millenarian rising provoked a campaign in the pulpits, most of which were still occupied by the enemies of the Church. In his ‘subtle, witty’ preaching little Dr Crofton ceaselessly ‘banged’ the bishops, ‘which theme he doth most exquisitely handle’. Preparations for the 1661 election were made in a republican club under the direction of John Wildman I and the political theorist Harrington, and the management committed to Francis Jencks, a linen-draper of Cornhill. On behalf of the Court, letters were written in favour of Wilde, Sir Richard Ford, Sir Nicholas Crisp, and the philanthropic alderman, Sir Thomas Adams. Ten thousand voters were said to have attended the hustings ‘in their liveries’, and 33 candidates were proposed. The hecklers had evidently been well rehearsed. When Wilde was nominated for re-election, there was an answer made: ‘We have been too wild already’. Even popular churchmen, like Robinson and Bludworth, were hissed and cried down with ‘No bishops!’. The only contest was between Ford and the Presbyterian Jones, who never attained the bench and had lost his seat on the common council as long ago as 1647. But the crowd never ceased crying ‘A Jones! a Jones!’, and he was successful by five to one. There had never been seen ‘so general a union of Presbyterians, Independents, and Anabaptists crying down the Episcopalians, who went away cursing and swearing and wishing they had never come’. The other successful candidates were all aldermen: Fowke, ‘not much noted for religion, but ... deeply engaged in bishops’ lands’, Love, one of the republican committee, and the Presybterian Sir William Thompson who, like Jones, had represented the City in Richard Cromwell’s Parliament. ‘Never knew so small an affair create such a prattle’, wrote one of their supporters; but most of the 68 letters intercepted in the Post Office urged other constituencies to follow suit, and in an account of the election written for the ambassador to the Sublime Porte it was admitted that ‘the choice hath much disgusted his Majesty’. In the event the two Presbyterians gave little trouble in Parliament; ‘Jones of late years has been esteemed both honest and able’, a Royalist wrote. Love was effectually excluded from the House for most of the Clarendon administration by the sacramental test. But in the opening session of the Cavalier Parliament until his death in April 1662 Fowke was the boldest opponent of the Court. In the following month Love was removed from the bench. But the King refused to renew the charter until four other aldermen had been displaced, and only then was the writ issued to fill the vacancy caused by Fowke’s death. Although his successor, Frederick, probably had Presbyterian inclinations, his firm was heavily involved in financing diplomatic missions throughout Europe, and his election cannot have been displeasing to the Court. Moreover the common council had been taken in hand by Robinson, who was clearly much more than the ‘talking, bragging bufflehead’ depicted by Pepys. It concentrated on its own affairs without meddling in high politics, and voted regular loans to the crown, though after 1664 they were generally undersubscribed. The situation changed with the calamities of the second Dutch war, including the Plague and the Fire. In the mass of legislation that followed, the administrative measures were often bold and successful, notably the creation of the Fire Court under (Sir) Matthew Hale, the suspension of guild privileges, and the ‘sanitary charter’ of 1671. But the financial expedients, such as the levy on coal, were inadequate to arrest the decline of the chamber into insolvency. Much revenue was lost to the corporation by the destruction of property in the Fire, and the westward drift of trade accelerated. The deficit rose from £265,000 in 1666 to £700,000 in 1680. The lapse of the first Conventicles Act in 1669 showed that the Church had failed to make any serious inroads on dissent; although its successor was not strictly enforced, it was much disliked by the aldermen, most of whom considered that molestation of dissenters must be prejudicial to trade, ‘which is driven by many worthy persons of that opinion’. A demonstration against it, which coincided with the King’s absence at Dover to conclude the alliance with France, alarmed the magistrates, not least by its good order and discipline. The third Dutch war caused less damage to commerce than its predecessor, and the City lost little in the Stop of the Exchequer; but several years later Sir Richard Wiseman urged the Government to win the support of the London Members and induce the citizens to lend by ‘ascertaining the interest of the bankers’ debt’. Moreover Colbert’s protectionist policy in France was damaging one of the few trades beyond the scope of the great companies, and in 1673 a group of merchants headed by Sir Patience Ward began to attack the alliance, calling for retaliation to right the balance of trade. A bill of ease for dissenters was introduced, with Love acting as their very competent spokesman. In 1676 Buckingham and Shaftesbury took up residence in the City with the object of organizing pressure for the dissolution of Parliament. Jencks, who had been introduced to Buckingham by Wildman, and the City chamberlain, Sir Thomas Player, were active to this end in the common council. Player was also in touch with Shaftesbury, together with more substantial City men like the financier Sir Robert Clayton and Thomas Pilkington, the dominant figure in the radical Skinners’ Company.3

On the dissolution of the Cavalier Parliament it was clear that none of the sitting Members except Love could hope for re-election. ‘Sir Thomas Player, Mr Pilkington, and (amongst a few) Mr Jencks are talked of among our friends’, wrote an opponent of the Court. ‘Much trouble has been taken to baffle Sir Thomas Player’, who had used his office to obstruct government loans. ‘Some say Sir Thomas cannot serve by reason of his other employments ... but the current in his favour was too strong to be withstood.’ He was returned unopposed with Love and Pilkington, a common councilman and deputy of his ward. The only poll was between the two aldermen Clayton and Sir Joseph Sheldon, the late archbishop’s nephew; ‘but the latter was prudent enough to retire’, and Clayton was awarded the senior seat by virtue of his office. All four Members voted for the committal of the first exclusion bill. According to Sir John Reresby, when the King prorogued this Parliament,

the City of London, where the anti-Court party had a great interest, seemed so angry ... that some thought they would have risen; but all, with much ado, kept quiet.

In September Jencks stood for sheriff, the first political candidate for many years for an office that was commonly avoided because of its difficulties and expenses; but he was defeated by a court supporter. ‘Great banding for Parliament men’ was now expected, ‘many being banded to pass by Sir Thomas Player and Mr Pilkington, who stick like glove and hand together.’ Court supporters believed that ‘Jencks also aims to be chosen, and so does Mr Box the druggist, who is an honest man’; but the sheriffs did not dare to take a poll. Over 5,000 liverymen were present, it was said, and on the show no court candidate had over 500 votes at the outside. The sitting Members were re-elected ‘with so much alacrity that in an hour’s time it was fully ended’. Clayton, who succeeded to the mayoralty in November, summoned a common council on 20 Jan. 1680 to petition for the meeting of Parliament, but was thwarted by the recorder, Sir George Jeffreys. About 1,300 new liverymen are said to have been made in the country interest, and they easily carried the next shrieval election for two exclusionists, the radical Slingsby Bethel and Henry Cornish, a Presbyterian. With their under-sheriff, Richard Goodenough, ‘who does take a great deal of pains to make juries out of disaffected and fanatical people’, they could ensure complete legal immunity for the Opposition by judicious selection of jury panels. When the second Exclusion Parliament met in October Jeffreys was attacked as an Abhorrer, and forced to resign. Most of those who had opposed petitioning were likewise swept out of the common council in the December elections. At the general election of 1681 a seat was offered to the new lord mayor, Ward, but he preferred Pontefract, his birthplace.

Then the court proceeded to their election, the hall crying out they would have no other in nomination but the four late Members; but some persons desiring that others might be in nomination, that so the election might appear more free, accordingly several aldermen were put up with them; but the election fell unanimously upon the four late Members.

Pilkington, who had been elected alderman in December, was promoted to one of the senior seats at Player’s expense, and an address was presented to him and his colleagues, thanking them for:

Your most faithful and unwearied endeavours to search into and discover the depth of the horrid and hellish Popish Plots; ... to assert our undoubted right of petitioning, and to punish such who would have betrayed those rights; to promote the happy and long-wished-for union amongst all his Majesty’s Protestant subjects; to repeal the 35th of Elizabeth [against Protestant nonconformists] and the Corporations Act; and especially towards what progress has been made towards the exclusion of all Popish successors. ... We offer and return to you our most hearty thanks, being confidently assured that you will not consent to the granting of any money supply until you have effectually secured us against Popery and arbitrary power.

When the Irish adventurer Fitzharris was caught red-handed in the composition of a seditious libel, presumably designed to be planted on some troublesome opponent of the Court, he was examined by Clayton and Treby and sought to save his life by accusing the Queen and Danby of involvement in the Popish Plot. But an attempt to secure damaging publicity for these charges by impeaching him failed when the Oxford Parliament was dissolved.4

Once the Government’s hands were untied by the French subsidy, London became the prime target. The militia was brought under control after a purge of the lieutenancy in May 1681, and the Court already had a strong party among the aldermen. But Sir Leoline Jenkins could not even hope for a majority on the common council, which petitioned against the dissolution. Moreover the shrieval elections in June were carried by Pilkington and another Whig, Shute, though the poll was not above suspicion. The senior alderman, who by custom should be elected the next lord mayor, was a Tory, Sir John Moore. The Whig vote split almost half and half between a moderate and a radical candid ate, and Moore had a majority of 270. Pilkington was still able to choose an ignoramus panel for Shaftesbury’s trial in November; but quo warranto proceedings began in the following month, and the Tories registered some gains in the common council elections, notably in Clayton’s ward. In May 1682 Moore ensured that one of the next year’s sheriffs should be a Tory by drinking to Dudley North II at the Bridgehouse feast, a whimsical proceeding that had been used in the past by Clayton and others only to collect a fine from a victim who was known to be unwilling to take office. By arrangement with the Court North undertook to serve, and at the election Moore instructed Pilkington and Shute to poll for only one sheriff. When they refused he adjourned the hall amid riotous scenes. After three weeks the poll was resumed, and Moore declared Box, another Tory, elected. Alarmed at the prospect of expensive litigation with his rivals, he fined off, and another election had to be held. The new Tory candidate was a more determined character, Peter Rich; the lord mayor declared him elected, but according to the outgoing sheriffs the Whig candidates, John Dubois and Thomas Papillon, had a majority of several hundred on the show. On the day after North and Rich were sworn in, Shaftesbury took to flight. For the mayoral election a fortnight later the Tories nominated the senior alderman, Sir William Pritchard. The Whigs again failed to agree on a candidate, and over 7,000 votes were divided almost equally between Pritchard, Cornish and Sir Thomas Gould. Pritchard actually finished 66 behind Gould; but the scrutineers disallowed the votes of enough unsworn Quakers, excommunicates and non-residents to transform this into a majority of 14. With the charter in jeopardy and a prosecution for riot impending over Pilkington and other leading Whigs, it was left to the enterprising Goodenough to make the running by claiming damages on behalf of Dubois and Papillon against the lord mayor and sheriffs for a false election. After they had refused ‘to give in an appearance’ Goodenough induced the City coroner to issue a warrant for their arrest, and they were detained with all the Tory aldermen for some six hours in Skinners’ Hall until released by the loyal train-bands. Juries empanelled by North and Rich gave short shrift to the Hon. William Russell and others accused of the Rye House Plot, and Moore still hoped to save the charter. Judgment was pronounced on the quo warranto on 12 June 1683, but the common council accepted by 103 votes to 85 Treby’s advice not to surrender, whereupon it was declared forfeit, and no replacement was issued. Treby and Player lost their offices, but Pritchard and 18 of the aldermen were continued under a special commission, which set about weeding out Whigs among the inferior officials. The City companies came next; new charters were imposed on them, giving the crown the right to remove members at will, and the sacramental test was enforced on the livery.5

Before the 1685 election the King ordered the lord mayor to ensure that only ‘loyal and worthy members’ were approved as liverymen. There was no contest, three of the seats being taken by Moore, Pritchard and Rich, who had succeeded Player as chamberlain. Sir Samuel Dashwood, an excise commissioner who had been nominated alderman, took the other seat; his family had an interest at Banbury, for which North was returned, doubtless by mutual agreement. This was the only Parliament in the period in which all four Members were serving aldermen. Among its legislative activities was a bill to continue an imposition on coals for the relief of the widows and orphans of the City of London. Duncombe was teller for the second reading, and the committee was given power to inquire into the misuse of the moneys received by the chamber; but it never reported. In the summer of 1687 seven Tory aldermen, including Moore, Pritchard, and Dashwood, were dismissed by order-in-council for ‘opposing the address for liberty of conscience’. Similarly the City companies were remodelled, 864 of their members being removed and replaced by dissenters and Roman Catholics, in such a way ‘that some have esteemed it a scandal to be kept in’. The City charter was restored in October, and the company charters in the following month; Ward resumed his seat on the bench, but Pritchard and Clayton, among others, refused to act. The common council was functioning normally, however, and on the flight of the King addressed the Prince of Orange for protection. But there was little disorder and no bloodshed. James was surprisingly well received by the people on his enforced return, but on Clayton’s advice the common council refused to guarantee his safety, and he soon left again for France. The court of aldermen and a delegation of 50 from the common council were summoned with the Members of Charles II’s Parliaments to ask the Prince of Orange to assume the Government, and a loan of £200,000 was very rapidly subscribed.6

At the general election of 1689 Sir William Ashhurst stood down to avoid a contest with his fellow Whigs. Ward, Clayton, Love and Pilkington were returned unopposed. The common council resolved to petition for a bill to reverse the quo warranto and for a tax on coals and hackney coaches to meet the deficit of £60,748 in the widows’ and orphans’ fund; but neither reached the statute book in this Parliament. It was not until almost a month after Love’s death at the end of March that a new writ was authorized. At the by-election Ashhurst defeated the Tory Dashwood by some 600 votes. A committee had been set up under Paul Foley to inquire into the grievances relating to London. It was believed that they hoped to exact reparations from Moore, North and Rich, and the Tories tried to obstruct its proceedings by a move to expel Ward and Papillon from the House for not having taken the sacrament; but it came to nothing. A report on 29 May condemned Moore and North as authors and advisers of grievances; but the House took no action against them. At a meeting of the common hall on 24 June the dissenters secured a petition for the abolition of the sacramental test for officeholders. The Tories tried to obstruct it on the grounds that it was not signed, but Clayton and Ward spoke in its defence, and it was resolved by 174 votes to 147 to read it. But again no action was taken. The only measure that the London Whigs succeeded in passing was for the reversal of the attainder of Cornish, who had been executed, largely on Goodenough’s evidence, for complicity in the Rye House Plot. But leave to bring in a bill for reparations to Pilkington, who had been heavily fined for riot after the shrieval elections of 1682, was refused by 169 votes to 152. All four City Members supported the disabling clause in the bill to restore corporations, and lost their seats to Tories at the general election of 1690.7

Author: Eveline Cruickshanks

Notes

R. R. Sharpe, London and the Kingdom, ii. 364-8; HMC Finch, i. 116; Pepys Diary, 2 Sept. 1663, 29 May 1666; Grey, i. 415-17; K. H. D. Haley, Shaftesbury, 448-9; J. R. Jones, Revolution of 1688, pp. 306-8.

  • 1. Guildhall Lib. mss 507; P. E. Jones and R. Smith, Guide to Recs. at Guildhall, 70-78; State Trials, x. 360; Williamson Letters (Cam. Soc. n.s. ix), 157; North, Examen, 90-93; Grey, iii. 357; iv. 179; EHR, lxvi. 35-36; Pepys Diary, 20 Oct. 1663.
  • 2. Guildhall Lib. mss 507; Cal. Cl. SP, iv. 630; CJ, viii. 33, 45, 119, 127, 192, 206; Grey, iii. 360; Old Parl. Hist. xxiii. 50-51, 75.