Available from Boydell and Brewer
Right of Election:
in the livery
Number of Qualified Electors:
8,200 in 1710
Number of voters:
6,638 in 1710
|11 Mar. 1690||SIR WILLIAM PRICHARD||3026|
|SIR SAMUEL DASHWOOD||3117|
|SIR WILLIAM TURNER||3131|
|SIR THOMAS VERNON||2942|
|Sir Thomas Pilkington||2519|
|Sir Robert Clayton||2368|
|Sir William Ashurst||2326|
|Sir Patience Ward||22891|
|2 Mar. 1693||SIR JOHN FLEET vice Turner, deceased||1925|
|Sir William Ashurst||17412|
|26 Oct. 1695||SIR ROBERT CLAYTON||2619|
|SIR JOHN FLEET||4876|
|SIR WILLIAM ASHURST||2821|
|Sir William Prichard||2334|
|Sir William Russell||2287|
|Sir Thomas Vernon||2276|
|30 July 1698||SIR JOHN FLEET||3595|
|SIR WILLIAM ASHURST||3505|
|SIR JAMES HOUBLON||2684|
|1 Feb. 1701||Sir Robert Clayton||3124 5||30886|
|SIR WILLIAM ASHURST||3291||3245|
|SIR WILLIAM WITHERS||2798||2758|
|Sir Charles Duncombe||2714||2631|
|Sir John Fleet||2544||2480|
|Sir Francis Child||2255||2189|
|Sir William Prichard||2126||20687|
|20 Mar. 1701||SIR JOHN FLEET vice Heathcote, expelled the House||2356|
|Sir Thomas Stamp||20898|
|24 Nov. 1701||SIR ROBERT CLAYTON||2602|
|SIR WILLIAM ASHURST||2759|
|SIR THOMAS ABNEY||2647|
|Sir Charles Duncombe||1494|
|Sir John Fleet||1428|
|Sir John Houblon||995|
|Sir Richard Levitt||945|
|Sir John Parsons||1379|
|18 Aug. 1702||SIR WILLIAM PRICHARD||2993|
|SIR JOHN FLEET||3177|
|SIR FRANCIS CHILD||2849|
|Sir Robert Clayton||2791|
|Sir Charles Duncombe||2777|
|Sir William Ashurst||2738|
|Sir Thomas Abney||271310|
|17 May 1705||SIR ROBERT CLAYTON||2919|
|SIR WILLIAM ASHURST||2961|
|SIR GILBERT HEATHCOTE||3346|
|Sir Richard Hoare||2195|
|Sir John Fleet||2187|
|Sir William Withers||1964|
|Sir John Parsons||170011|
|16 Dec. 1707||SIR WILLIAM WITHERS vice Clayton, deceased||3146||3109|
|Sir John Buckworth||2893||284212|
|14 May 1708||SIR WILLIAM WITHERS||3189|
|SIR WILLIAM ASHURST||3209|
|SIR GILBERT HEATHCOTE||3216|
|Sir Samuel Stanier||3012|
|Sir John Buckworth||2284|
|Sir Richard Hoare||2245|
|Sir Francis Child||202613|
|16 Nov. 1710||SIR WILLIAM WITHERS||3629|
|SIR RICHARD HOARE||3572|
|SIR GEORGE NEWLAND||3385|
|Sir Gilbert Heathcote||3185|
|Sir James Bateman||3104|
|Sir William Ashurst||304814|
|12 Nov. 1713||SIR WILLIAM WITHERS||3763|
|SIR RICHARD HOARE||3842|
|SIR JOHN CASS||3802|
|SIR GEORGE NEWLAND||3826|
There is no election so solemn and so important as that of London, your Members representing the capital of the British Empire, the greatest emporium of trade in the world, and a city that has always been looked upon as a main bulwark of liberty, as it is the main seat of the property of the people of Great Britain.
Even though this assessment of 1713 betrayed the exaggerated claims of civic patriotism, the size and wealth of London clearly retained a fascination for political analysts during the Augustan age. At the time of the Glorious Revolution the population of the metropolis had swollen to half a million, a tenth of the entire nation, and not surprisingly politicians considered London elections a weather-vane of public opinion. Although only some 120,000 actually resided within the City, the square mile retained immense importance as a focus for political and economic power. The views of the capital’s mercantile elite were closely monitored by ministers as an essential source of credit to finance the wars against the French. City leaders were conscious of their usefulness to government, and in March 1690 one had the temerity to remind a Treasury lord that ‘we citizens love to be advised with in money matters’. With the commercial and financial ‘revolutions’ of the late 17th century consolidating London’s position as one of the leading markets in western Europe, trade retained a vital significance for any group wishing to establish an interest in the capital. The foundation of the Bank of England, and of the New East India and South Sea companies, constituted political landmarks, highlighting the special significance of the period for the City’s longer-term development.16
Although the sprawling mass of the capital appeared to defy control by a single authority, the corporation remained the key forum of London politics. However, while the City’s electoral structure afforded politicians ample opportunity for manoeuvre, its elaborateness also helped preserve the independence of the electorate. The parliamentary election was clearly of prime significance, since the four seats on offer were always bitterly contested, but civic elections were often just as factious, with thousands of liverymen casting their votes in common hall. In particular, the mayoral election was a scene of great partisanship throughout William’s reign, for even ministers recognized that it was ‘no small advantage’ to have the support of the incumbent. Such was the ferocity of party strife that aldermanic contests were frequent sources of contention, thereby allowing the freemen, estimated at around 20,000 in number, to have a direct influence upon the political process. Furthermore, each December the freemen could vote at the annual round of elections for the 234 seats on the common council, which were at times regarded as a significant test of political strength. The livery companies also gave the freemen the opportunity to influence City matters, and many were accustomed to petition Parliament for redress of grievances. In contrast, the Court had little direct influence over the running of City affairs, except in the case of the London lieutenancy, the composition of which could allow party leaders to claim the support of the crown.17
The corporate constitution thus ensured the enfranchisement of a wide section of the City populace, and even Londoners without the vote could play a decisive political role. The havoc wreaked by supporters of Dr Sacheverell in March 1710 was the most dramatic manifestation of the capital’s popular political culture, but there were many other incidents which highlighted the awareness of the London crowd. The politicization of the London electorate was certainly a source of concern for contemporaries, and has been identified by modern historians as an important feature of London’s development after 1689. In particular, the rapid growth of the press after the expiry of the Licensing Act in 1695 has been widely credited as a major influence on London politics. Rival newspapers took increasing pains to organize voters in preparation for parliamentary and civic contests, and provided daily reports on the progress of the polls. In addition, the sophistication of argument displayed by many of the capital’s pamphleteers reflected the close interest taken by electors in current affairs, and suggests vigorous debate over national issues in the capital. The survival of only two London poll books makes it difficult to measure the electoral independence of the liverymen across the period, but many of their leaders revealed a remarkable freedom from any party line, and in the course of their careers several London Members moved between Whig and Tory camps. Of course, the status of a City Member, equated by some contemporaries with that of a knight of the shire, meant that successful candidates were invariably men of means and influence. However, they could not ignore the wishes of their constituents, and were expected to play a full part in promoting commercial matters, whether of sectional, or national, interest.18
The London election of 1690 saw much controversy as Tories and Whigs continued their struggle for control of the City. Since the Revolution the Whigs had generally dominated civic contests, and despite Tory advances at the common council elections of the preceding December, the Whigs still maintained a slight majority there, as well as in the court of aldermen. Even though the Whigs also boasted the four sitting Members, early forecasts suggested that their rivals would succeed, and Tory supporters were encouraged by reports that their allies were making ‘great endeavours’ to persuade the ministry to alter the City lieutenancy in their favour. Tory strategy was to fight the election on religious issues, for their candidates were chosen for their appeal to ‘those that are the true Church of England men’, three of them having resigned their aldermanic posts in 1687 after refusing to acknowledge James II’s Declaration of Indulgence. Conversely, their opponents were all closely associated with Nonconformity, and a pamphleteer later claimed that three-quarters of their votes came from Dissenters. Although this report probably exaggerated Nonconformist support, recent research has highlighted the strength of the Dissenting churches, which may have administered to between 15 and 20 per cent of the metropolitan population. Indeed, Narcissus Luttrell* characterized the contest as one between the ‘Dissenting party’ and the ‘Church party’. Whig election propaganda did not dwell solely on religion, as it also cast doubt on the loyalty of Tory candidates. However, such slurs were ‘not regarded by men of any sense’, and from the outset of the poll the Tories established a clear majority. In desperation, the ‘Presbyterian’ sheriffs adjourned proceedings so that the Whigs could rally their followers, a tactic also designed to prevent the London result from influencing elections at Middlesex and Westminster. Despite ‘all the devices imaginable for delay’, and even though Sir Thomas Pilkington† was reported to have demanded a scrutiny to challenge the return of Sir Thomas Vernon, the sheriffs returned all four Tories. The losing candidates later petitioned the Commons, accusing the sheriffs of having obstructed the scrutiny, but the elections committee never reported their case.19
Within a week of this victory, City Tory leader Sir Peter Rich† eagerly sought to press home his party’s advantage, endeavouring to secure support at Court by co-ordinating Tory contributions to a government loan of £100,000. The preceding month the City’s committee for loans had expressed doubts to the Treasury that such a sum could be raised, but on 13 Mar. the common council ‘unanimously’ agreed to promote the loan. Furthermore, even before the election had been declared, the Tories had secured a significant victory when the City militia was remodelled in their favour, some 20 lieutenants being removed, and 30 Tories brought in. The political impact of these changes was evident at the end of the month, when five of the six Whig colonels lost their commands. The City Whigs were evidently dismayed by these changes, and the Dissenter Roger Morrice even suggested that some of the new lieutenants were men of low estate. Bishop Burnet blamed the remodelling on the bishop of London, Henry Compton, accusing him of supplying the names of ‘the most violent Tories’ to the King when requested to provide a list of moderate replacements. Luttrell was more sanguine in his judgment on the new commission, observing that ‘there are members in it of all persuasions, but the majority are Church of England men’.20
The significance of this Tory coup became apparent during the ensuing parliamentary session, a motion being tabled on 24 Apr. by Sir Thomas Clarges* to address the King with thanks for the late alteration of the City lieutenancy. However, despite calls for an inquiry, the Tories successfully carried a motion to thank King William for the care he had shown for the Church of England in altering the London militia. Whig opposition had not been completely in vain, for in early May the Upper House launched an inquiry into the activity of the lieutenants during the reigns of Charles II and James II. This investigation conjured up many ghosts from London’s bitter past, and incriminated no fewer than three of the City Members in previous Tory outrages, but it petered out at the end of the session without having secured the Whigs any advantage.21
The lieutenancy controversy remained a source of friction between City leaders in the first parliamentary session, but the political battle centred on the bill to reverse the judgment which had been pronounced against the City charter in 1683. There was still uncertainty over the legality of the charter after its restoration in October 1688, but bills to address the problem had failed in the Convention. At the outset of the 1690 Parliament the City Whigs took the initiative by drafting a bill to make radical amendments to the municipal constitution, most notably the elimination of aldermanic selection when choosing senior civic officers, and the expansion of the wardmote electorates to include all rate-paying householders. The common council approved the proposal, but the Tory Members for the City were unwilling to present it to the Commons, for directions were given on 5 Apr. for other Members to be approached to broach the matter at Westminster. However, even though the radical bill was never presented to the House, the Commons did debate the charter on 8 Apr., Tory leader Sir Edward Seymour, 4th Bt.*, alleging that moves were afoot in the capital ‘to make the City a commonwealth’. At the end of a heated debate the Tories prevailed by 55 votes to introduce a bill to reverse the judgment of 1683. Unlike the Whigs, who wished to ‘declare’ the judgment illegal, the Tories sought by this bill to re-establish the corporation of 1683, and hold fresh elections to counter Whig success in civic contests since 1688. The bill was presented on 14 Apr. and three days later opposition was raised to the presentation of a petition from the sheriffs. Although the Journals do not specify the contents, this petition almost certainly concerned the resolution taken by common council the day before to inform the Commons of its fears for the City’s ancient rights. During debate Sir John Parsons* cast aspersions on the manner in which the petition had been passed in common council, but his Whig adversaries argued strongly for the petition to be heard, stressing the need to attend to the City’s grievances at a time when its fiscal support was at a premium. However, even though Sir Robert Clayton went as far as to open the petition before the House, a motion to call in the sheriffs was defeated.22
Five days later the second reading of the bill saw further friction, with Clayton raising practical objections against the measure, such as its lack of provision for restoring the livery companies. More dramatically, when discussing the magistracy he warned, ‘if all be restored that were before, you may see King James here again if the King go into Ireland’. On 24 Apr., following the referral of the matter to a committee of the whole, counsel on behalf of ‘several citizens’ were denied a hearing, and then two motions for adjournment were defeated by the Tories. The matter was then debated in committee, with Tories sufficiently confident to move the address of thanks to the King for remodelling the lieutenancy. After the third reading on 8 May, the Tories won two key divisions: for the reading of an additional clause to retain the civic officers of 1683 if new elections were not held within the time set by the bill; and for the passage of the bill. Seymour took the bill to the Lords, where it gained a swift passage, despite opposition from the corporation.23
An immediate consequence was that elections had to be held for municipal offices in late May, and for common council the following month. However, thanks to ‘a great oversight or neglect’ in the wording of the statute, there was no requirement for new aldermen to be chosen, thereby allowing the Whigs to maintain their majority on the bench. ‘Great imputations’ were laid against Hon. Heneage Finch I* for this error, ‘it being called his bill’, while the recorder, Sir George Treby*, was commended by the Whigs for having influenced its final form in their interest. The Tories met with further frustration at the civic elections, where they were unable to prevent the magistrates returning Whig candidates for lord mayor and chamberlain despite their having trailed in the polls. Pilkington’s success in retaining the mayoralty was particularly galling for the Tories, especially after his mayoral procession had marched on 2 June to the tune of ‘Lilliburlero’, ‘to the great offence of the Tory blades’. Writs of mandamus were subsequently issued against him by the losing mayoral candidate Sir Jonathan Raymond*, and by Sir William Prichard, the latter arguing that since the election was void, the London Charter Act required him, as lord mayor in 1683, to take the chair. Neither managed to unseat Pilkington, but the Tory candidate for the chamberlainly, Sir Peter Rich, eventually ousted his Whig rival after recourse to the courts.24
The common council elections were more encouraging for the Tories, Morrice recording the Whigs’ loss of some 30 seats, which left the council ‘very equally balanced’. Luttrell went even further, suggesting that ‘the Church party’ now had the majority, an assessment upheld by recent research. Bitter disputes followed, concerning the returns from Dowgate and Aldersgate wards, which caused conflict in both common council and the court of aldermen. The rejection of six Tory councilmen for Dowgate ward even embroiled Secretary of State Nottingham (Daniel Finch†), who urged the lord mayor to resolve the matter, regarding it as a threat to the collection of a government loan in that ward. These contests also caused some magistrates to question the aldermen’s right to resolve disputed common council elections, particularly after the aldermanic court had declared both elections void, and restored the councilmen of 1683. The Church party had failed to establish control of the corporation, but its hold on the lieutenancy was manifested by an address to the crown in late June, which won the approval of the Marquess of Carmarthen (Sir Thomas Osborne†).25
The summer of 1690 was a time of particular anxiety for all City leaders, when the threat of French invasion forced them to take emergency measures to shore up the capital’s defences. Despite the urgency of the situation, divisions appeared over the raising of voluntary forces, with the Tory-dominated lieutenancy endorsing the enlistment of six new regiments of auxiliaries, and the City choosing to raise a regiment of horse and 1,000 dragoons. Signs of tension were apparent in July, when the six colonels appointed to command the auxiliary regiments declined to serve. In the same month several councillors were ‘full of fury’ after Pilkington had warned them that many disaffected persons still enjoyed positions of authority in the City. Moreover, when the militia mustered at Hyde Park on 21 July, the Nonconformist minister Roger Morrice criticized the impoverished appearance of the troops, attributing it to the unpopularity of their ‘very ill affected’ officers. However, although ministers attended the common council to promote subscriptions to a loan of £100,000 and encourage the mobilization of voluntary forces, the emergency had passed by mid-August. The scare served to reopen debate concerning the regulation of the lieutenancy, but Whig hopes of a remodelling were to be disappointed. In September there was even ‘a great contest’ over the presidency of Bridewell and Bethlehem Hospitals, with the Tory Sir William Turner emerging the victor. In that month the corporation resolved on an address to congratulate the King on his return, but there was little unity among City leaders on any other matter.26
In the next parliamentary session the London Tories renewed their attack, viewing the Commons as sympathetic. On 2 Dec. 1690 Sir Samuel Dashwood presented a petition signed by 117 common councilmen, which detailed alleged Whig malpractice in the corporation since the passage of the London Charter Act. Pilkington and the court of aldermen received greatest censure, and probably the most significant charge levelled against them was that on 3 Oct. Pilkington had obstructed a common council motion to petition the Commons for an explanation of the Charter Act. The Tories were evidently seeking to close the loopholes exploited by their opponents, and received initial encouragement when the Commons voted to accept the petition. There followed a full hearing by counsel at the bar, ‘a very great trial of skill betwixt Whig and Tory’, and on 11 Dec. the Whigs moved successfully for a week’s adjournment, a victory ‘beyond the expectation of all mankind’ which effectively ended Tory hopes of redress. Although the publication of the petition had ensured it great attention, the Tories found themselves vilified in the press, their enemies accusing them of disloyalty for having delayed public business, especially the supply. The Whigs could thus portray the petition as ‘a wicked Jacobite’s contrivance’, and at the subsequent common council elections they were said to have recaptured 20 seats from the Tories.27
The second session of the 1690 Parliament saw renewed debate on another issue of fundamental importance to the City, the massive debt of over £700,000 owed by the corporation to the orphans whose estates had been placed for safe-keeping in the Chamber of London. As spokesmen for the corporation argued, the debt had been steadily rising ever since the late 1630s, due to the upheavals caused by the Civil Wars and the Great Fire, but it was now deemed of critical importance for the City’s future to resolve the matter. Most worryingly, the uncertainties caused by the surrender of the charter in 1683 had undermined the confidence of the City’s creditors, and the corporation faced bankruptcy unless it could find external aid. In desperation, the City had sought the aid of the Commons in every session since the Revolution, but to little avail. In December 1690 a bill was introduced in the Lords to establish a court of inquiry into the orphans debt, but although it received the rapid consent of the Upper House, it was defeated in the Commons. The fact that former alderman Thomas Papillon was a teller against the bill suggests that the City was opposed, and for some time afterwards the issue appeared to confuse party alignments within the capital, with neither Whigs nor Tories taking firm party positions. Indeed, such was the sensitivity and complexity of the problem that it would take another three sessions, and much political manoeuvring, before it was resolved.28
In the wake of the December petition, it was predictable that City leaders would continue to snipe at each other at every opportunity. The election of a new town clerk in February 1691 gave Tories in common hall another chance to vent their disapproval of Pilkington, and they reportedly chose not to back a civic office-holder for fear of creating another vacancy, which in turn would have profited the lord mayor by some £1,500. Three months later Pilkington had to answer a mandamus brought against him by Sir James Smyth, a former non-juror who wished to be restored as alderman in place of John Wildman†. At that time Wildman was described as ‘the mouth and life’ of the Whigs in the court of aldermen, but Tory hopes went unfulfilled, for Smyth did not regain his place. However, the case did serve to expose the inconsistencies of the Charter Act, particularly its interpretation of the impact of the quo warranto of 1683. Despite these attacks, the Whigs retained a predominant position in the City, and found continuing success in common hall. In June Sir William Ashurst scored a resounding victory in the shrieval contest, polling over 3,600 votes, and his fellow Whig Sir Richard Levitt also finished well ahead of Tory candidate William Gore. Moreover, even though the courts had restored the Tory Sir Peter Rich to the chamberlainship shortly before the Midsummer Day elections, he was well beaten by his adversary, Leonard Robinson. The struggle for the mayoralty was much closer, but the Whigs prevailed to have both their candidates, Sir Thomas Stamp and Sir John Fleet, returned to the aldermen, who chose the former.29
In the next parliamentary session the attention of London leaders was again focused on the debt to the orphans. In late November 1691 the City made a formal approach to the Commons for assistance, having agreed in common council to apply an annual £8,000 of its property rental to establish a fund to pay the orphans. The House ordered the drafting of a bill for the orphans’ relief, which was presented by Sir William Turner on 2 Dec., and later referred to a committee of the whole, where on 29 Jan. 1692 London Whigs and Tories joined in refuting Seymour’s claim that the City only promoted the bill ‘to take the clamour from themselves’. The committee reported on 13 Feb., recommending that the debt be satisfied by a wide variety of existing City revenues and new tolls, most contentiously on coals imported into London. There was some opposition to these proposals, but the House ordered a bill to be drafted in line with the committee’s resolutions. In the meantime the Lords had passed their own orphans’ relief bill, again seeking to establish a court of inquiry, but the Commons remained hostile, rejecting a motion on 18 Feb. to read the Lords’ bill a second time. Two days later another move to read the Lords’ bill was defeated by an even greater margin, after ‘all the Whigs’ had spoken to it, but proponents of the Commons bill were unable to secure its passage before the end of the session.30
Although City partisans had yet to divide over the orphans issue, factionalism continued to influence civic elections. In December 1691 there was a ‘great contest’ at the common council elections, in which the Whigs were said to have gained ‘50 more voices than last year’. The shrieval elections of 1692 passed with little incident, with the offices shared between the parties, but the mayoral contest saw fierce competition. The Whigs launched a virulent attack on the Tory candidates, Sir Jonathan Raymond and Sir Peter Daniel†, recalling their activities during the 1680s, and accusing them of Jacobitism. In response the Tories also went into print, stressing the aldermanic seniority of Raymond and Daniel. However, even though the Tories polled more votes than the year before, their efforts were insufficient to challenge either of the Whigs, Sir John Fleet and Sir John Houblon, and the court of aldermen subsequently chose Fleet as lord mayor. Raymond and Daniel then ordered the arrest of two common councilmen who had dispersed anti-Tory literature, but their actions only sparked further controversy. In November, a petition was presented to the common council which accused Secretary Nottingham of having committed a ‘breach of privilege’ by imprisoning members of the corporation, and fears for the loss of City liberties soon took priority over Tory grievances.31
Further proof of the ministry’s limited influence in the capital was provided in the next session, when on 16 Nov. Turner presented a petition of London merchants, highly critical of the Admiralty’s protection of trade. The merchants claimed losses of some £3,000,000 since the start of the war, and even though this was almost certainly an exaggerated figure, the Commons responded favourably. However, Tory ministers did not escape lightly, for during this session party leaders sought to embarrass them over the City lieutenancy, with both Lord Wharton and his son Goodwin* complaining of its current membership. In February 1693 the Upper House was ready to embark upon another examination of the lieutenancy, but the presentation of an ‘insolent’ and ‘scandalous’ paper to the Lords against the London militia effectively brought a halt to the investigation. The Lower House revealed a much greater readiness to reopen the orphans’ affair following a petition from the City on 17 Nov. This was referred to a committee of the whole, where a proposal for an annual tax on unfree City residents was ‘much opposed by some rich merchants not free of the City in the House’. Such self-interest was overcome, and the committee reported on 17 Feb. 1693, endorsing many of the proposals made in the preceding session. However, the City reacted unfavourably, petitioning the Commons on 27 Feb. to be heard against the bill which had been drafted according to the committee’s resolutions. Their request was only granted after a most significant division, when for the first time rival party leaders in the City acted as tellers on opposite sides. Further politicking obstructed subsequent debate on the bill, and it failed to pass the Commons before the end of the session.32
Against this background of in-fighting, a City by-election was occasioned by the death of the venerable Sir William Turner. The preceding common council elections had confirmed the current supremacy of the Whigs, who gained ‘about 20 men’ after ‘great struggling’. Such success may have prompted rumours that the moderate Whig Sir James Houblon would stand, but when the contest began on 20 Feb. 1693 there were only two candidates, Lord Mayor Fleet and Whig leader Sir William Ashurst. The sheriffs declared for Ashurst on a show of hands, but in the ensuing poll Fleet had a clear majority, for which he may have been indebted to Tory support. Although Fleet had been closely identified with the Whigs since the Revolution, having stood in their interest at the mayoral election only five months before, in the course of 1693 he became increasingly associated with the East India Company, in particular its leader Sir Thomas Cooke*. The by-election may have signalled his break with the Whigs. At the time of the election the City Tories appeared to be badly in need of leadership, for at a common council on 22 Feb. their most prominent citizens were less supportive of a proposed government loan than were the Whigs, prompting James Vernon I* to observe: ‘I fear the Church party will not preserve the good opinion the King has of them.’33
Support for the ministry in the City was clearly undermined by the maritime disasters of 1693. At a common council on 19 July a petition signed by over 1,500 merchants was submitted, calling for an inquiry into the recent miscarriages of the fleet, but a motion for an address to the crown concerning ‘the discouragements lying upon trade’ was obstructed by Fleet. An address was presented a week later, but it was much less inflammatory in tone. In response, the ministry appeared sensitive to mercantile grievances, delaying a request for a new loan until August, when Sir John Somers* was employed to argue the government’s case for the advance. The common council was once again unanimous in agreeing to the request for supply, but also resolved to send thanks to the Queen for ‘the deep sense your Majesty hath of the great losses at sea that have befallen the traders of this City and the kingdom’. One observer commended the ‘Whig party in the City’ for these initiatives, asserting that ‘by lending and addressing so seasonably, [they] have restored matters here’. The ensuing mayoral election saw the Whigs score an easy victory, with Ashurst defeating his nearest Tory challenger, Raymond, by almost 1,000 votes. In his moment of triumph, Ashurst issued a plea for an end to faction, and condemned those who labelled the King’s supporters as republicans, a Tory clergyman having recently characterized the Whigs in such a manner. Moreover, on Ashurst’s inauguration day in late October, Lord Chief Baron Atkyns (Robert†) was even more outspoken, making a speech ‘reflecting much upon Lord Nottingham and the Church’.34
In the parliamentary session of 1693–4 many City leaders were preoccupied with the continuing battle between the East India Company and its interloping competitors. This session also saw the resolution of the orphans’ affair, with the passage of a relief bill. The Act was certainly not to the liking of all sides, a succession of divisions having threatened to sabotage it. This was not simply party rivalry at work, for particular interest groups had petitioned the House against proposed tolls. These pitfalls successfully negotiated, the Act saved the City from the immediate threat of bankruptcy, even though the funds allotted for the orphans’ benefit failed to meet expected yield for over a decade. Another source of concern was the passage of a bill to naturalize foreigners, against which a petition in the name of London traders was presented on 17 Jan. The metropolis may have benefited from recent influxes of refugees, but its merchants were ever jealous of their privileges, and their warnings concerning the threat to local tolls helped to obstruct the measure.35
Before the end of the session, the Court gave belated recognition to Whig dominance within the City by regulating the London militia, a reform which may have been hastened by the outcome of the preceding common council elections, when it was reported that ‘the Whig interest has very much prevailed’. As a result, the Whigs established a clear majority in common council, which they maintained for the rest of the reign. The militia regulation was equally decisive, with some 40 Tories removed and 34 new lieutenants appointed, most of them Whigs. The subsequent election of six leading Whigs as colonels highlighted the significance of this reform, as did the common council’s address of thanks to William for the remodelling. Moreover, the party’s supremacy was further consolidated by the establishment of the Bank of England, the first board of directors being almost exclusively Whig. Predictably, the foundation of the Bank was not to the liking of the Tories, but it also alienated some Whig financiers, most notably the goldsmith Sir Francis Child*, who subsequently became identified with the Tories. In general, however, the Bank’s existence strengthened links between Whig City leaders and the ministry, while diminishing the government’s reliance on the corporation for loans. Such mutual advantage did not deter the administration from reviewing its policy of employing City magnates as commissioners of the revenue, but the financial usefulness of the likes of Sir Robert Clayton and Sir Samuel Dashwood could not be denied, and they retained their places.36
Although the Whigs had gained a significant advantage over their Tory rivals, the municipal elections of 1694 were no walkover for them, with a major controversy emerging over the shrieval elections. Shortly before Midsummer Day the common council passed an act to abolish the lord mayor’s right to choose one of the sheriffs, and further steps were taken to limit the powers of the City hierarchy after the ensuing common hall, for the liverymen challenged the sole right of the court of aldermen to accept fines from recalcitrant office-holders. Opposition was raised as soon as the aldermen had allowed the successful candidates to fine off, but the magistrates ignored all protests and had amassed £5,200 in fines by late September when two candidates were finally found who were ready to serve. However, the dispute was far from resolved, and would cause an even greater storm the following year, when it became clear that it had caused divisions within Whig ranks. In contrast, there was no apparent contention surrounding the mayoral election, when the Whig Sir Thomas Lane was chosen. Moreover, the common council elections in December saw ‘much the same’ choices as the previous year, preserving the Whig majority.37
Although the London Tories had been almost completely outmanoeuvred by their rivals in the course of 1693–4, they did not meekly accept Whig hegemony. On 19 Jan. 1695 a petition of City merchants launched an attack on the Bank, describing it as ‘ruinous and destructive to trade in general, injurious to his Majesty’s revenues, prejudicial to the lands and manufactures of this nation, and . . . only a private advantage to the said corporation’. However, the Bank had already gained sufficient support to combat these claims, and the petition was dismissed after a narrow division. London leaders faced greater discomfort later in the session when an inquiry was launched into the corruption surrounding the passage of the Orphans Relief Act of 1695. Aldermen of both parties were implicated in scandal when the Commons committee reported their findings on 12 Mar., with the most serious allegations levelled against Sir Robert Clayton and Sir James Houblon, who had passed payments of 1,000 guineas to Speaker Trevor, and 100 guineas to a clerk of the House. Although the evidence was damning and led to Trevor’s expulsion, no punishment was exacted on any member of the corporation. Only a month later Clayton was called before the Lords to answer charges that the corporation had bribed Lord Normanby with a generous lease of City lands in order to recruit support for the orphans’ bill in the Upper House. Again, proof was brought forward to substantiate the accusation, but no action was taken.38
Civic leaders enjoyed little respite from controversy during the recess, for a major dispute again surrounded the levying of fines on sheriffs-elect who declined to serve. On 24 June the liverymen contested the right of the common council to accept these fines, adhering to their initial choices, and refusing to proceed to another election after the first brace of successful candidates had fined off. However, a minority of liverymen were ready to elect new officers, and another series of returns were made until two citizens gave bond to hold in September. The contest was pursued ‘with great warmth by some men’, and, most significantly, led to the publication of a number of pamphlets, their authors keen to take advantage of the lapse of the Licensing Act in the preceding March. No accord was reached, and in subsequent years the aldermen continued to levy shrieval fines. Although one commentator saw the division as essentially between Whig and Tory, it was clear that within the ranks of the ‘adherers’ to the original election there were dissident Whigs, driven into opposition by the high-handedness of the aldermen. As one pamphleteer observed, ‘there was (as some call you) Whig against Whig, and the Tory party, as they were called, [were] . . . in the meantime laughing in their sleeves to see you fall out’. The ferocity of the contest may also have been influenced by expectation of a parliamentary election, each side eager to secure control of the returning officers. The ministry was very keen to influence the ensuing mayoral election, hoping that Admiralty commissioner Sir John Houblon would take the chair. Houblon did gain the mayoralty, and his return was regarded as a victory for the Whigs.39
Within a few weeks of the mayoral election Parliament had been dissolved, and soon there were ‘great heats’ as the parties set about ‘caballing’ for votes. Most significantly, even though divisions between Whig and Tory had dominated City politics, the configuration of parties prior to the poll was complicated by recent disputes. The shrieval controversy had an obvious impact, and a number of factions sought to take advantage of recent division to advance their cause. There were even reports of renewed Jacobite activity in the capital, the authorities having been alarmed by disorders in Drury Lane and the Haymarket. One of Robert Harley’s* correspondents attempted to clarify the situation on election day, observing that
the division occasioned by the election of sheriffs not being made up, there never was such confusion and variety of parties as now there are. The Tories have divided and printed two lists of four [candidates] apiece to recommend. The Jacobites have printed for another four. The adherers, or common hall party in the election of sheriffs, have printed for four others, and those that take with the aldermen (or the non-adherers) have printed two lists each of four. Sir John Fleet is on all lists but two, Sir William Ashurst in three of four, Sir Robert Clayton in two or three, Sir John Houblon in two, Mr [Thomas] Papillon in four or five, as I am told at the coffee house, for I have not seen the several lists and therefore cannot warrant the truth of what I say in this matter. But all this division is at length ended in a dispute of Whig and Tory for the four named by the non-adherers, viz. Sir Robert Clayton, Sir William Ashurst, Sir John Fleet, and Mr Papillon, were by the sheriffs declared to have the majority of hands (as in truth they had).
In response to the declaration several candidates withdrew, most notably the Whigs Sir John Houblon and Sir Thomas Stamp, and the only concerted challenge to the four front-runners came from three Tories. Another Tory, William Falkner, gained little support, as befitting his relative civic obscurity. Indeed, his name only appeared on the poll because he did not attend the election on the opening day, and so could not decline. Significantly, Houblon’s decision to retire was heavily influenced by the recent unpopularity of the Admiralty, and one report suggested that he would have been returned ‘had it not been for the loss of the last East India ships’. His failure should not be interpreted as evidence of the current standing of the Bank, of which he was governor.40
The asymmetrical character of the ensuing poll reflected the confusion of political groupings prior to the election. Fleet clearly received support from both Whigs and Tories, his ambiguous political stance of recent years paying dividends. However, his Tory allies were unable to overcome the Whig slate, which had been strengthened by the addition of victualling commissioner Thomas Papillon. The Tories had drafted in former alderman Sir William Russell† to bolster their challenge, but were unable to capitalize on support for the Church of England as effectively as they had done in 1690, and could not match the City status of Clayton and Ashurst. Fleet’s stunning victory offered some comfort, but the Whigs were still unquestioned masters of the City.
In the first session of the 1695 Parliament, petitions from the capital indicated that the coinage was the most pressing issue in the minds of City leaders. One report suggested that London was not so badly hit by the monetary crisis as the rest of the country, but this view does not square with the difficulties communicated to the Commons by anxious merchants. However, the City rallied to the crown upon news of the Assassination Plot, with only one member of its ‘grand conseil’ failing to sign the association drawn up by the corporation. In order to demonstrate its resolve to stamp out disaffection, the common council issued orders for the livery companies to signify their loyalty, and also agreed upon ‘a very loyal address’, the tone of which was imitated by a representation from the London lieutenancy to the King. In a more factious vein, a petition of London citizens was presented to the House on 19 Mar. 1696 which asserted the right of common hall to choose the sheriffs, and claimed that in recent years ‘new and partial elections’ had taken place. It was clear that the divisions of 1694–5 lived on, but the House gave the petitioners short shrift, immediately rejecting the petition. Just before the end of the session the City presented a more unanimous front against the abortive Members’ qualification bill, with the London MPs leading opposition to a measure whose property requirements would have debarred many substantial citizens from standing for Parliament.41
In the summer of 1696 the ministry once again had cause to thank Whig City leaders at the Bank for helping to raise an urgent supply of £200,000, with Lord Mayor Houblon and his ‘confreres’ singled out for particular praise. However, continuing financial difficulties forced the government to turn to the common council for another loan later that year. Despite the hardship caused by the recoinage, the civic elections were more peaceful than their immediate predecessors, with the sheriffs chosen with little apparent contention, and the mayoralty unanimously declared for the Whigs Sir Edward Clarke and Sir Humphrey Edwin, the former being chosen. Moreover, at the mayoral election a paper was presented to the sheriffs calling for ‘a speedy and vigorous examination in Parliament into the late horrid conspiracy’, which was resoundingly endorsed. This paper was printed and reportedly created a ‘great noise’, but no party appeared to gain a significant advantage from this campaign. It was clear that political tensions still bedevilled the City, for in September the Tory Sir Jonathan Raymond resigned as magistrate in protest at being overlooked for the mayoralty on several occasions when senior alderman beneath the chair. Moreover, the chamberlain’s election in late October saw a terrific struggle, with over 5,000 votes polled before a Presbyterian candidate, Thomas Cuddon, emerged victorious. There can be little doubt that Cuddon stood in the Whig interest, since it was reported that a mob of armed youths had ‘exclaimed promiscuously against Mr Cuddon, and the Whigs, etc., calling them damned dogs, with other such villainous language’.42
In the next parliamentary session the City had frequent occasion to lobby the Commons with its grievances. On 27 Nov. 1696 the corporation presented a petition against another Members’ qualification bill, maintaining its stance that such legislation would prevent the election of ‘eminent and fit merchants and traders, of great personal estate’. In February 1697 the City’s counsel were heard in the Lords against a bill to prevent the sale of offices, which, it was argued, would remove an important source of municipal revenue. An attempt was subsequently made in the Commons to comprehend civic offices within the bill, but was defeated. The issue of venality had been raised during the passage of the Charter Act in 1690, and would continue to be exploited by opponents of the ascendant municipal party. A pamphlet of 1697 listed the posts at the disposal of the lord mayor and sheriffs, valuing them at some £170,000, and claiming that each lord mayor could gain some £20–30,000 each year. Such figures clearly exaggerated the rewards to be made from office, for many substantial citizens were only too ready to pay large fines to avoid the burdens of magistracy. However, the most spectacular expression of City opinion in that session was the appearance of a mob of discontented weavers at Westminster on 21 Jan., which forced its way into the lobby of the House to vent support for a bill to ban the import of East Indian textiles for the domestic market. The militia was called out to prevent further disturbances, but could not prevent a group of weavers from burning the residence of the governor of the East India Company after the bill had been sabotaged in the Lords.43
In the last year of the war the ministry once again turned to the City in search of supplies, despatching Lord Wharton (Hon. Thomas*) to the capital in April ‘to dispose people’s minds aright’ for the circulation of Exchequer bills. Surprisingly, the scheme did receive opposition in some Whig quarters, with Clayton reportedly losing his post at the customs for failing to give it full backing. Of course, the subsequent end to hostilities was welcomed by trading interests, and by late November the capital had helped to raise £320,000 in response to the government’s request for funds. Plans were soon under way for a triumphal progress for the King through London, which took place on 16 Nov. However, a shadow was cast by the election of the Presbyterian Sir Humphrey Edwin as lord mayor, an event which revived religious divisions within the City. Edwin had encountered no opposition in common hall, but his subsequent decision to attend a conventicle with his civic entourage provoked an outraged response from Churchmen. There were recent precedents for Edwin’s action, but even Nonconformists disapproved, ‘the most considerate’ looking upon it ‘as a very imprudent act which may do them prejudice’. So bitter was the controversy that Edwin’s son assaulted the Tory Sir John Parsons, but tension subsided after Edwin agreed to go to meeting-houses without official accompaniment.44
The most important development for City politics in the session of 1697–8 was the foundation of the New East India Company. Led by Samuel Shepheard I* and Gilbert Heathcote, the interlopers successfully out-bid their Old Company rivals by raising a £2,000,000 loan for the government, and created a powerful new force within the capital. Although several Tories featured on the board of the New Company, it was dominated by Whigs, and regarded as inextricably linked with that party. In tandem with Whig allies at the Bank, New Company leaders soon had an impact on civic elections, for in June Heathcote and Shepheard were chosen sheriffs. Despite such immediate success, both fined off, evidently aware that the office might have precluded their candidacy at the forthcoming general election.45
London’s parliamentary contest began on 30 July, and it soon appeared that there existed a similar confusion in political groupings to that of 1695. Many candidates were put forward on the opening day, with various reports suggesting that between 12 and 20 citizens were standing. Of all those who reportedly failed to make the poll, Sir Robert Clayton remains the most intriguing, as it is inconceivable that he would have performed so ineffectually had he really designed to put up. Most probably, he was nominated without his consent, for he did not even take up his customary seat at Bletchingley. The Tory leader Sir William Prichard was also said to have put himself forward, but his name did not appear on the poll. Other reported candidates included prominent Dissenters Sir Thomas Abney, Sir Thomas Cuddon and Sir James Collet, all of whom were perhaps motivated by the recent controversy surrounding Sir Humphrey Edwin to take a stand on the issue of Nonconformity. In addition, the Tory William Falkner was said to have challenged for a seat, but made little impact, as did the deputy-governor of the Bank of England, Nathaniel Tench, and moderate Tory Sir William Hedges.46
The voting suggests that even the strongest candidates enjoyed fragmented support among the London citizenry. Fleet again topped the poll, although on this occasion he was challenged by Sir William Ashurst, whose performance reflected the power of the Whig interest in the capital, particularly on account of the Bank. Moreover, the Bank’s influence was further demonstrated by the return of moderate Whig Sir James Houblon, whose family connexions with that institution were undoubtedly the key to his success. The fourth seat was taken by Papillon, who narrowly prevailed against the New Company partnership of Shepheard and Heathcote. Although it was reported that a scrutiny was demanded, the losing candidates appear to have accepted Papillon’s return, there being no sustained attempt to overturn the result. Indeed, soon afterwards Papillon became a leading advocate of unity in the East India trade. Thus, even though Fleet’s victory gave the Old Company cause for celebration, the Bank and New Company had dominated the contest, and would continue to play a vital role in City politics.47
The ensuing mayoral election gave the Tories much needed encouragement, since they managed to secure the chair for the first time since 1691. However, Sir Francis Child still had to fight off a determined challenge from Whig Sir Richard Levitt and Tory Sir Peter Daniel, before emerging the victor by 200 votes. Significantly, Child, like Fleet, had transferred his allegiance to the Tories during the 1690s, and continued to represent opposition to the Whiggish supremacy of the New Company and the Bank. His mayoralty bore witness to endemic animosities within the capital, he being attacked by Clayton for discouraging the collection of a rate for the London corporation of the poor, a recently created institution with strong Dissenting links. However, in general petitions from the City in the first session of the 1698 Parliament principally related to trading privileges, and did not reflect party divisions.48
The most important development in London politics in 1699 was the emergence of Charles Duncombe* as a major influence within the corporation. Having earned national notoriety at the centre of the Exchequer bill affair, Duncombe viewed the City as a springboard from which to relaunch his political career, and was eagerly supported by Tory allies who saw his wealth as a means to challenge Whig dominance. His first important success came at the shrieval election of June 1699, after which he embarked upon a campaign to win over the London citizenry by a series of charitable acts. The capital’s prisons were the chief beneficiaries, and, having earned great publicity by freeing large numbers of debtors, Duncombe was said to have become the ‘idol of the mob’. The Whigs still managed to regain the mayoralty in late September when Levitt was chosen without opposition, but even the King appears to have responded to Duncombe’s lead, urging civic leaders in October to promote the reformation of manners and care of the poor. Not surprisingly, City poverty was an important issue in the ensuing parliamentary session, and the introduction in March 1700 of a bill to relieve the London poor rekindled the dispute between Child and Clayton. Opposition to the measure from the inhabitants of Faringdon Without, Child’s ward, was particularly significant, and helped to obstruct the bill.49
During that session Duncombe secured further advancement in the City by gaining the aldermanship of Bridge Within, having wooed the ward with gifts to the local church. Ever keen for personal advancement, he subsequently made interest for the mayoralty, and rumours spread of his intention to spend £40,000 for ‘the good of the City’. The indecent haste with which he had climbed the municipal ladder further antagonized his Whig opponents, and his candidacy predictably met with fierce resistance. Such was the intensity of the campaign that the City took steps to publicize its disapproval of printed propaganda, asserting that a Whig circular was ‘inconsistent with the freedom of elections, and greatly tends to keep up divisions within the City’. Most significant, several reports suggested that national politicians had attempted to influence the election, with Lord Sunderland, the Earl of Marlborough (John Churchill†), and Charles Montagu* all said to have exerted themselves. However, it was later observed that ‘in all [mayoral] elections it was usually a little insinuated what party would be agreeable to the Court, but in this election not one word was any way intimated to them’. Whatever influence the Court may have had, it was clear that it could not challenge Duncombe’s popularity in common hall, where he emerged the victor by over 800 votes. His Tory running mate, Sir Samuel Dashwood, trailed in a disappointing fourth, and thus Duncombe’s name was put forward to the aldermen alongside a Whig, Sir Thomas Abney. Tory election managers were still confident of Duncombe’s return, having apparently secured promises of support from 13 aldermen, but Abney gained the majority by 14 votes to 12. Duncombe’s supporters, especially Sir Thomas Cooke, reacted furiously, simultaneously launching an investigation into the identity of the ‘false brother’, and calling for an inquiry into the proceedings of the aldermanic bench. Neither initiative succeeded in overturning the result, and Abney was sworn as mayor in late October. Although the affair caused ‘great animosities’ in the capital, the Lord Mayor’s Day procession passed without any disorder, ‘notwithstanding the infinite multitude of people that resorted to the City to see the cavalcade’.50
Helping to intensify passions during the mayoral contest was the expectation of an imminent parliamentary election. Even though the dissolution was not announced until the middle of December, the death of sitting Member Sir James Houblon in late October gave the parties early cause to commence their campaigns, with Duncombe predictably cited as the Tory candidate to replace him. In late November it was reported that ‘splendid’ entertainments had been thrown in the capital, probably for the purpose of securing votes, and the following month the common council drafted a bill to prevent treating before civic elections. The ongoing struggle for control of the East India trade soon emerged as the most potent cause of division, and, in contrast to previous elections, liverymen could choose from two clear party platforms. The inclusion of Sir William Withers on the Whig ticket was particularly significant, for although a Tory in conviction, he was a member of the New Company. In response, the Old Company could count on solid Tory support, particularly when represented at the polls by its committeemen Child and Fleet. Despite the desperate rivalry between the two companies, when the election began on 20 Jan. 1701 there were reportedly 14 candidates, including the Tories Sir Samuel Dashwood, Sir Jeffrey Jeffreys*, Thomas Powell and Sir William Russell, as well as Whigs Sir Thomas Stamp and Sir Richard Levitt. None was willing to contest the poll, and thus the election predictably resolved itself into a struggle between supporters of the two companies. Early forecasts had suggested that the election would be ‘a measuring case’, but three of the Whigs drew away from the field, and the only option left to their rivals was to demand a scrutiny in a desperate attempt to oust Withers in favour of Duncombe. However, the Whigs managed to scoop all four seats, an ample reward for the ‘great diligence’ shown by their supporters.51
Although the City Whigs had considerable cause for satisfaction at the opening of the new Parliament, the wave of ill-feeling directed against the New Company’s recent electioneering soon rebounded on them. In particular, the allegations levelled against Samuel Shepheard I brought opprobrium on the New Company leaders in the House. Heathcote was quickly singled out for attack by the Tories, who argued that his service as a trustee for Exchequer bills rendered him liable for expulsion as a placeman. This charge was clearly stretching the parameters of existing place legislation, but the Tories succeeded in ousting both Heathcote and fellow City magnate Sir Henry Furnese*. Heathcote at once offered to resign his office, but was unable to do so in time for the by-election in March, and thus the Whigs put forward Alderman Sir Thomas Stamp, who was promoted as ‘a true friend to the weavers, clothworkers, cordwainers, and all other manufacturers of the growth of England’. However, Stamp was defeated by the Old Company leader Sir John Fleet, his campaign possibly undermined by the revelations of the Commons’ investigation into New Company electioneering. On the other hand, Tory success may also have reflected a swing of opinion in favour of peace with France, an issue of obvious importance in mercantile circles. Condemnation of the tactics of both parties appeared in the course of the year, with John Toland accusing politicians of having ‘miserably divided the capital city of this nation, and consequently all the boroughs by reason of their dealing there’. More constructively, another pamphleteer suggested that a secret ballot be adopted in London elections to combat ‘the influence [which] a Bank and two companies . . . have had upon our elections all over England’.52
Subsequent bitter clashes indicated that both parties were anxious to seize the political initiative while uncertainty surrounded national policy towards France. The furore over the Kentish Petition caused great upheaval in common council in May, as attempts were made to address the King in support of the petitioners. In a dramatic dénouement, the vote for the address was lost by the single vote of the lord mayor, Sir Thomas Abney, whose desertion of his Whig allies may well have been influenced by pressure from the Court. Supporters of the Old Company were cited as leading opponents of the address, and rumours circulated of possible widespread unrest in the capital. In this tense atmosphere, reports suggested that the Whigs desired a further regulation of the London militia, but the King responded by leaving orders for the lieutenancy to be enlarged to undermine their position. This directive was never executed, and during the summer the City Whigs had much to celebrate, with bonfires greeting news of the acquittal of Lord Somers (Sir John*), and of the release of the Kentish Petitioners, who were treated to a ‘great entertainment’ at Mercers’ Hall.53
Although the City Tories had succeeded in suppressing one address, the continuing volatility of national politics meant that increasing pressure was placed upon the corporation to take a public stand. In August there was great expectation that the City would give the lead to a campaign for the immediate calling of a new Parliament, but no such petition came forth. However, the storm of protest which greeted Louis XIV’s recognition of the Pretender overwhelmed all opposition in common council. Although a loyal address to William was accepted by the corporation without a dissenting voice, several leading Tories were vilified for obstructionism, with Sir Samuel Dashwood censured for trying ‘to put it off by delays’, Sir Thomas Cooke condemned for his ‘barefaced opposition’, and Duncombe discredited for having ‘absented himself while it was under consideration’. Such tactics did not help to clear the party of Jacobite slurs, and the address proved a triumph for Abney, particularly as it had given ‘new life to the Whig interest at home and abroad’. Of more immediate importance, it provided the Whigs with a strong platform from which to contest the ensuing mayoral election. Whig leaders still thought it necessary to boost their challenge with the candidacy of erstwhile Tory Sir William Gore, possibly in expectation of mass popular support for Duncombe. However, Duncombe polled 1,000 fewer votes than he had managed the year before, allowing Gore to gain a comfortable majority in common hall. Gore then succeeded in the court of aldermen, which favoured him over Duncombe by 17 votes to four.54
The mayoral contest was a great boost for the Whigs in the build-up to the parliamentary election, due to take place in November. Their cause may have been further advanced by the Court, for although declining an invitation to make a progress of the capital, the King was subsequently perceived to have given a ‘helping hand’ to the preparations of the London Whigs. Intensive canvassing took place, with reports of the distribution of election literature to London homes. Furthermore, the bitterness of party rivalry even prompted City leaders to campaign against their adversaries in other constituencies, with Sir Thomas Abney attempting to obstruct Cooke’s election at Colchester, while opponents of Clayton strove to blacken his name by suggesting that he was backing the controversial freethinker John Toland at Bletchingley. However, the Whigs were widely forecast as likely winners, and their four candidates dominated the poll, gaining a majority of over 1,000 votes over their nearest rival. The co-ordination of their support was highlighted by the appearance at the Guildhall of a 500-strong crowd, led by the victors of the recent Southwark contest, Charles Cox* and John Cholmley*. This resounding victory reflected the lacklustre nature of the Tory campaign, hamstrung by allegations of crypto-Jacobitism which had been levelled at Parsons and Duncombe. The party was also frustrated by the reticence of the lord mayor, Sir William Gore, who had been touted as a candidate on the eve of the election, but made no impact on the contest. In desperation, the Tories had even enlisted the former Whig Levitt, probably in an attempt to split the rival vote, but to no avail. The poll also served to expose the difficulties of Whig independents such as Sir John Houblon, who reportedly withdrew before the books were opened.55
After the result had been declared the victorious Whigs were presented with an instruction, urging them to support the King against France, and to unite Parliament in the national interest. In addition, they were encouraged ‘to take care of trade, support public credit, make good the deficiencies, and to have a special regard to the Royal Navy’. As had been the case with the City address of the preceding September, this advice prompted a number of provincial imitations, thereby consolidating the image of London’s Whig leaders as active loyalists. Indeed, an observer thought that the success of the Whigs in the metropolitan elections reflected a ‘great aversion to Jacobitism, and a French faction, notwithstanding the powerful endeavours to support it’. There were reports that the losing candidates would contest the return in Parliament, on the basis that the Whigs had transgressed the Act against treating, but no petition was presented. A shrieval by-election in February 1702 provided the Whigs with an opportunity to assert their supremacy, with the Bank director Sir James Bateman* defeating a Tory, Sir Robert Bedingfield*, by some 200 votes.56
The death of King William in March was greeted with a number of loyal addresses to the new Queen from the various London groups, and the corporation itself submitted a ‘very hearty’ declaration. However, both the Commons and the lord mayor were forced to take steps to reassure a nervous City that public credit would be maintained. During this period of uncertainty, the London Tories made great strides, evidently viewing Anne as more sympathetic to their views, particularly in Church matters. Their first major success was to seize control of the London lieutenancy, for when the new commission met on 9 July six new Tory colonels were elected by a ‘great majority’. Only a few weeks later, the City’s parliamentary election took place, and although the Whigs were expected to win, in recognition of their recent support for national finance, the poll was strongly contested. Three of the seats were quickly decided for the Tories Prichard and Fleet, and the Whig Heathcote, but there followed a tense battle for fourth place between Clayton and Child, the latter emerging triumphant after a scrutiny. Jubilant Tories regarded the result as a major success for the Church, a victory made all the sweeter in consideration of their poor showing in parliamentary elections since 1690.57
The Tories had further cause to celebrate after the mayoral election in September, when Sir Samuel Dashwood was chosen unanimously, leaving the Whigs ‘quite down in the mouth’. For several years Dashwood had been the senior alderman below the chair, but had been denied office by his Whig opponents, and his victory was thus regarded as highly significant, especially as a reflection of Tory success in aldermanic elections since 1694. It set an almost unbroken pattern of Tory mayors over succeeding years, and ushered in a period of relative political calm in the capital. The recent accord between the Old and New East India companies was certainly regarded as having contributed to Dashwood’s election ‘in some measure’, even though tensions would continue to disrupt that trade. The Queen herself played a full part in promoting unity within the capital when attending Dashwood’s mayoral feast in October, for she not only knighted the Whig magnate Gilbert Heathcote, but also Dashwood’s brother Francis*, and the Tory Richard Hoare*.58
In great contrast to the early years of the preceding reign, after 1702 City leaders did not choose to fight their battles in the parliamentary arena. A steady stream of petitions concerning commercial grievances were read, but none sparked the acrimonious political debate which had dominated earlier discussion of the Bank and the East India trade. Moreover, a corporation act of 1703 even managed to establish a compromise on the thorny issue of shrieval fines, by acknowledging the liverymen’s right to choose the sheriffs, while permitting the court of aldermen to levy fines. However, there were still many determined partisans within the capital, particularly on the Tory side. In November 1702, a mob lit a bonfire outside the celebrated Vine tavern in Long Acre, and ‘obliged all persons that passed by to drink a health to the loyal gentlemen of the Black List’. Moreover, the following year mention was made of ‘a club, consisting chiefly of non-resisting clergymen’, who had published the Heraclitus Ridens to ridicule their Whig opponents in the same vein as the Tory balladeers of the early 1680s. The Tory interest did prevail at the mayoral election of September 1703 to return Sir John Parsons, but it was reported that the compliance of the Whigs on this occasion had been secured by Lord Somers, who was keen to preserve good relations with Sir John, his main political rival in the borough of Reigate.59
Wartime hardship may have helped to dampen factionalism in the capital. However, there was evidence of party manoeuvring before the shrieval elections of June 1704, when the Whig candidates were chosen at a ‘very great meeting’ at the Crown tavern, and it was even suggested that the Whigs were ready to ‘run counter to the lord mayor and court of aldermen in the case of fines’. One of the sheriffs-elect did fine, and a poll was required to secure his replacement, but the contest did not revive the constitutional issues of the 1690s. Less divisively, in September both the City and the lieutenancy sent a congratulatory address to the Queen to mark the victory at Blenheim. Soon afterwards Sir Thomas Cooke was chosen lord mayor, as the senior alderman below the chair, but was subsequently allowed to be discharged from office on grounds of ill-health. His place was taken by the Whig Sir Owen Buckingham*, once again in an uncontested election.60
The fragile peace achieved by the parties since Anne’s succession was seriously threatened in the third session of the 1702 Parliament by controversy over the Tack. Of course, the strong Dissenting interest in the capital incited the City Whigs to oppose the measure, but the Tack evidently alienated several London Tories as well, with aldermen-Members Child and Duncombe joining the ‘Sneakers’ who left the House prior to the crucial vote on 28 Nov. One report subsequently suggested that the City was ready to raise loans should the Tories continue to append measures to supply bills, and Whig leaders clearly wished to extract the maximum political capital from the affair. For example, in January 1705, when the corporation lavishly entertained the Duke of Marlborough, one table of guests was reported to have drunk a toast to the ‘confusion’ of those supporting the Tack. In the same month the City Whigs emerged victorious from a strongly contested election for the aldermanship of Broad Street ward, and thereby regained a majority in the court of aldermen. This success was particularly welcome news, following their loss of overall control at the preceding common council elections. Two months later feelings were reportedly still running high over the Tack, with crowds forming outside the London residences of Tacking Members.61
The parliamentary election predictably saw the Tories suffer for their tactics in the previous session, with all four Whig candidates gaining a decisive victory over their rivals. The failure of Duncombe and Child to appear at the polls suggests that divisions had hampered their party’s preparations for the election, and even the restoration of Withers to the Tory platform could not compensate for the loss of such leaders. Furthermore, the independent Tory candidate Sir Jeffrey Jeffreys, who had voted against the Tack, failed to make any impression at all, despite having been promoted by ‘several eminent citizens’ as ‘well experienced in trade’. Most significant, the Tory candidate Sir Richard Hoare identified the Whig monied interest as a major obstacle, observing to a friend, ‘the Bank and New Company do oppose to a great degree; therefore you may conclude we work under great disadvantages’. When the result was declared, the victorious candidates were presented with an advice, making predictably Whiggish arguments in favour of the Protestant Succession and the war effort, and calling upon them to ensure the keeping of ‘the several parts of the legislative within their due bounds’. Moreover, there was also a customary reminder of the commercial implications of the war, which was not only to secure European liberties, but also ‘the honour and trade of England’.62
In June, the Whigs reasserted their supremacy in common hall by dominating the shrieval contest, after which a Tory observer thought his party ‘passive obedient’, having discovered ‘which way the Court will have the stream go’. Yet three months later Whig leaders made no attempt to challenge for the mayoralty, allowing Tory senior alderman Sir Thomas Rawlinson to take the chair. Moreover, throughout the 1705 Parliament the rival City factions refrained from seeking party advantage at Westminster. Such a lack of contention perhaps reflected general contentment with the progress of the war, as demonstrated in May 1706 by another congratulatory address from the corporation to the Queen, which lauded the success not only of Marlborough at Ramillies, but also that enjoyed in Spain by the Whig generals Peterborough and Galway. The following month the Queen attended the City’s thanksgiving service for these victories, and at the end of the year, after a singularly uneventful round of civic elections, the corporation again invited Marlborough to dinner. Furthermore, ‘as a signal mark of her Majesty’s favour to her loyal and faithful City’, permission was granted for the trophies captured on campaign to be exhibited at the Guildhall. One London group which displayed considerable satisfaction with the allied war effort was the Huguenot community, which addressed the Queen in March 1707, requesting her to intercede with Louis XIV on behalf of beleaguered French Protestants. Moreover, the City’s Dissenting ministers also sent thanks to the Queen for the Act of Union, expressing hope that it would aid the cause of Protestants abroad.63
The Whig ministry, of course, derived the most advantage from increased support for the war, and in early January 1707 City Whigs such as Heathcote were already anticipating a remodelling of the London lieutenancy to advance their cause. Following substantial alterations to the commission, all six Tory colonels were turned out in June in favour of Whigs, leaving Francis Annesley* to observe despondently that the lieutenancy had been ‘put entirely into the Whig hands’. A month later the Whigs gained further encouragement from the election of Peter King* as recorder. However, the death of Clayton in the same month gave rise to a more meaningful test of political strength. The by-election did not take place until November, but from as early as August the rival candidates had been established as the Whig Sir John Buckworth, and the Tory Sir William Withers. The intervening mayoral election once again saw no apparent contention, with Withers taking the chair in order of seniority, which may have given a boost to the ailing Tory interest in the capital. Although Withers had finished a poor seventh at the London election of 1705, as lord mayor he was in a strong position to fight the by-election, particularly against Buckworth, who was engaged in his first parliamentary campaign. The keenness of the contest ensured a far higher turnout than for the by-election of 1693, and, although Buckworth was initially declared the winner, the poll favoured Withers by several hundred votes. Buckworth demanded a scrutiny, but was unable to make up any ground on his rival.64
Although a notable Tory success, the by-election of 1707 did not herald an upturn in the party’s political fortunes, and the Whigs were soon provided with opportunities for counter-attack. At the end of the year Whig aldermen infuriated Tories in common council by intervening in disputed elections for two wards. More significantly, Whig fortunes received an unexpected boost in February 1708 when news broke of an imminent invasion. Although the Pretender’s plans came to nothing, the scare was sufficient to send the City into great anxiety, and rumours soon spread that leading Tories had sought to aid the Jacobite cause by encouraging a run on the Bank of England. In particular, private bankers Sir Francis Child and Sir Richard Hoare were accused of attempting the Bank’s ruin, an allegation which prompted Hoare to go into print to defend his name. In contrast, the emergency allowed Whigs to demonstrate their loyalty, with both the City and the lieutenancy presenting addresses of support to the Queen.65
The invasion was a key influence on the parliamentary election of May 1708. Before the end of April two party tickets had already been announced, the Tory candidates claiming to be the choice of a meeting of ‘several hundreds of eminent citizens’. The Tories gambled by putting forward the recently censured Hoare and Child, but chose wisely when plumping for John Ward II as their new candidate, knowing that he enjoyed the respect of many Whigs, particularly as a former ally of Sir Robert Clayton. Ward’s willingness to join with the Tories may be partly attributed to dissatisfaction with the ministry’s maritime policy, he having led opposition to the Admiralty in the preceding session. For their own part, the Whigs were forced by the recent desertion to Tory ranks of Samuel Shepheard I to find a replacement, and chose Alderman Sir Samuel Stanier. However, the seats were shared, the London electorate once again demonstrating its independence. The closeness of the contest appears to have surprised the Whigs, for halfway through the poll Buckworth withdrew, and directed his supporters to give their vote to Stanier; a tactic which, in part, explains Stanier’s strong performance. In contrast, the poor showing of Child and Hoare can be ascribed to their recent mauling at the hands of Whig propagandists. Yet for once the City election had not mirrored the national pattern, the liverymen having failed to rally behind the Whigs in response to the recent emergency.66
It was predictable that the struggle for control of the corporation would now intensify. Although the ensuing shrieval election saw two Whigs ‘unanimously’ returned, contention surrounded the choice of mayor for the first time since 1701, with Duncombe’s succession to the chair as senior alderman being reportedly opposed by ‘some great men’ and ‘a furious Whig party’. His seniority was, however, respected by common hall and the aldermanic bench. Unfortunately for Duncombe, plans for a spectacular Lord Mayor’s Day parade were frustrated by the death of Prince George, and he then faced opposition from Whig aldermen to the printing of the sermon preached by High Churchman Francis Atterbury on the day of his inauguration. The Whigs appeared most sensitive to the influence of Tory clergymen such as Atterbury, and, having ‘pretended his doctrine came up to passive obedience’, successfully blocked plans for publication. Even a Tory alderman such as Hoare was keen to avoid a vote on this contentious issue, but the dispute indicated that religion was threatening once again to exacerbate party divisions. The ensuing parliamentary session saw a return to the political skirmishing of William’s reign, with Heathcote moving in December 1708 for an investigation of the attack on the Bank at the time of the recent invasion scare. However, the issue which animated the corporation most in this session was a general naturalization bill, against which the City petitioned in both Houses. Embarrassingly for civic leaders, one of their principal arguments, that an influx of foreigners would lead to a serious fall in municipal revenues, was shown to be specious, and the bill was passed.67
The massive influx of poor Palatine refugees which followed the passage of the naturalization bill increased political tensions within the corporation in 1709. Moreover, in the spring of that year religious partisans made great interest at an election for a chaplaincy at St. Saviour’s, Southwark, a contest dominated by the High Churchman and self-publicist Henry Sacheverell. London Member Sir William Withers and Lord Mayor Duncombe featured among Sacheverell’s backers, and his victory was hailed as a major Tory triumph. Duncombe gave further evidence of his political loyalties the following summer by giving only a token lead to the subscription in aid of the poor Palatines, whom the Tories had quickly condemned as a burden on the country. However, in September the dominance of the London Whigs was seemingly confirmed by the addresses presented to the crown by the City and the lieutenancy, both of which lauded the victories of Marlborough and the Duke of Savoy, albeit while expressing hope for a lasting peace.68
Although tension had been building within the capital for some time, it was not until the mayoral inauguration of the Tory Sir Samuel Garrard, 4th Bt.*, that bitter party conflict resurfaced. The catalyst was the ‘very remarkable sermon’ preached on 5 Nov. by Sacheverell before the corporation. Only three days later, when a motion was tabled at the court of aldermen for the publication of the sermon, irate Whig leaders rose in opposition, and defeated it ‘by a majority’. However, Lord Mayor Garrard foiled an attempt to censure Sacheverell, adjourning the court to prevent further proceedings. Having received great encouragement from the lord mayor to go into print, Sacheverell boldly decided to publish the sermon, with a dedication addressed to Garrard, thereby elevating the controversy onto the public stage. The City’s Whig leaders were only too ready to reap political advantage from the affair, and were probably instrumental in bringing the matter to the attention of the Parliament at the outset of the ensuing session.69
Whig Members in the Commons were quick to take the opportunity to humble Sacheverell, and on 13 Dec. (Sir) Peter King led the attack against the sermon, in response to which the House ordered Sacheverell to attend the next day. Before the Commons Sacheverell insisted that he had only followed the lead of Garrard, who had ‘desired’ him to publish the sermon, but the latter even denied giving such indirect encouragement. Garrard was clearly trying to escape punishment himself, and was duly vilified by both parties for cowardice. Other City Tories were not so willing to desert their champion, and the House’s determination to impeach Sacheverell saw a great mobilization of support for the High Church cause in the capital. On the first day of Sacheverell’s trial, 27 Feb. 1710, a crowd of some 400 accompanied him to Westminster, an ominous sign of popular interest in the affair. Within days this mob had swollen to some 3,000, and High Church supporters vented their anger by stoning Dissenting meeting-houses. There followed on the night of 1 Mar. a complete breakdown of order in the western suburbs, as rioters destroyed several Nonconformist chapels, and even threatened to storm the Bank, the symbol of Whig authority in the capital. The authorities managed to regain control of the streets within a few hours, but the violence ensured that a close guard was kept until the end of the trial.70
The leniency with which Sacheverell was treated by the Upper House caused wild celebrations in London in late March, although there was no repeat of earlier disorder. Tory leaders in the City seized the moment to address the Queen, managing to overcome opposition in both common council (by 114 votes to 95) and the court of aldermen. Even though the address protested ‘a tender regard to all persons of consciences truly scrupulous’, it was clearly intended to antagonize the Whigs, for it condemned the dispersal of ‘seditious and scandalous books and pamphlets’ which infused ‘republican notions’ into the populace. In retaliation, the City lieutenancy, whom Abel Boyer identified as mostly ‘of the Low Church party’, assembled without the knowledge of the lord mayor, and agreed upon a rival address, labelling the recent riots as the work of ‘papists, non-jurors and other such-like disaffected persons, who aim at the entire subversion of our present establishment’. Whig pamphleteers also depicted their opponents as disorderly Jacobites, who sought ‘the peaceful enjoyment of . . . glorious midnight revels’. The shrieval elections in June gave heart to the Whigs, since they outnumbered their rivals by ‘at least two to one’, but the party leaders then had to force two of their supporters to hold office, no doubt aware that they could prove of great value should a general election take place in the near future. Although the Whig sheriffs did serve, the common council subsequently passed an act giving itself the right to discharge sheriffs-elect for fines, usurping a power previously exercised by the aldermen alone.71
The struggle over the shrievalty was only one of the political skirmishes which took place within the capital during the summer of 1710, as rumours circulated of impending changes in the ministry. Of course, access to City finance remained a key issue for the politicians jockeying for power, and in June Garrard and the Tory aldermen reportedly pledged a loan should the Bank react adversely to the appointment of a new administration. The furore which followed the audience granted by the Queen to a Bank delegation on 15 June certainly rebounded to the advantage of the Tories, Heathcote being widely reviled for having overstepped his authority by daring to influence Anne in favour of her present ministry. The following month came the first rumours of a possible alteration of the London lieutenancy, as City Tories sensed that the Court was ready to advance their cause. However, when the City clergy addressed the Queen in August, expressing loyalty, and condemning ‘all the people that delight in war’, Whiggish clerics rallied in opposition, publishing a refutation of the address.72
Preparations for a possible parliamentary election were reported as early as July, some two months before the dissolution was officially announced. At this stage forecasts suggested that the Tories were likely to take at least two of the City seats, and perhaps scoop all four, but in mid-September the liverymen were cited as ‘indifferent’ towards them, ‘by reason of the Bank and companies’. Electioneering was very much in the minds of the Tory-dominated common council, for in August it passed an act to prevent expenditure at aldermanic elections, hoping to weaken Whig dominance in the magistracy. However, the Tories faced a stern test of their civic interest at the ensuing mayoral election. Although both parties had respected the claims of the senior alderman beneath the chair since 1702, the next incumbent was Heathcote, and the Tories went to great lengths to humble him. Their principal tactic was to back the second most senior alderman, the Whig Sir Robert Beachcroft, in the hope that a landslide victory for him in common hall would influence the court of aldermen against Heathcote. Moreover, Tory leaders actively promoted the long-planned remodelling of the lieutenancy, trusting that such a demonstration of influence would impress the liverymen. Although the new commission was dominated by the Tories, it was introduced too late to affect the mayoral struggle. Even more frustratingly for Tory leaders, although Beachcroft achieved a majority of some 2,200 over Heathcote in the poll, the latter was returned by the aldermen.73
The mayoral election was a setback for the City Tories, but the parliamentary poll remained their main objective, both parties having chosen their candidates before the mayoral contest, the Tories at ‘a general meeting of many hundreds of eminent citizens’. The Whig slate was predictably headed by Heathcote and Ashurst, and strengthened by the return of John Ward to the Whig fold, as well as by the inclusion of Alderman Sir James Bateman, a director at the Bank and East India Company. Even though Withers and Hoare were City figures of considerable personal means, the Tories could not boast the mercantile eminence of their adversaries, and endeavoured to fight the election on religious issues. Their two new candidates bore impeccable High Church credentials, since Sir George Newland’s son, William*, had been most conspicuous in support of Sacheverell earlier in the year, and John Cass, who reportedly replaced Duncombe on the Tory platform, was one of the staunchest Churchmen in the capital. Furthermore, in the course of 1709–10 Cass had helped to expose the arbitrariness of the Whig-dominated aldermanic bench, which for a year had stubbornly refused to admit him as alderman. Tory propaganda also sought to depict the Whigs as war profiteers, and attacked the influx of poor Palatine refugees as detrimental to the London workforce.74
On the first day of the election, 9 Oct., the sheriffs actually declared in favour of the Whigs, but a poll was demanded. The Whigs opened up an early lead, but Tory leaders rallied their supporters over the next five days, encouraged by news on 10 Oct. that the new lieutenancy had chosen six new colonels, all of whom were of the ‘Church party’. Although the sheriffs were commended for having kept reasonable order during the poll, other reports suggested that the mob had a significant impact, and particular outrage was reserved for the citizen who spat at mayor-elect Heathcote at the Guildhall. When the books were closed, the Tories were declared to have won a famous victory, although the Whigs were particularly keen to contest the return of the fourth-placed Cass, who had only finished 16 votes ahead of Ward. In response, the Tories accused the Daily Courant of attempting to sabotage Cass’s campaign by printing false polls each day, which were said to have prompted ‘many honest gentlemen’ to vote for Ward ‘in order to distance Sir Gilbert Heathcote; otherwise Mr Cass would have had a much greater majority’. A scrutiny was granted for the losing candidates, and took until 16 Nov. to complete, but, ‘to the great mortification of the Whig party’, did not affect the result. Analysis of the poll reveals that the liverymen were highly polarized, with very few splitting their votes. Moreover, the canvassing of party managers had evidently worked to politicize the electorate, for an estimated 80 per cent of London electors cast votes.75
Even before the scrutiny, Tory celebrations had begun throughout the capital, and ‘the bells fell a ringing as tho’ the Churchmen would have pulled the steeples down’. Amid the euphoria a number of civic leaders had their windows broken, including the Tory candidate Sir Richard Hoare. Tory confidence was subsequently articulated by an address to the Queen from the City lieutenancy, expressing loyalty to Church and the Succession. The corporation did not follow their example, such reticence perhaps reflecting Whig strength in the court of aldermen. Popular opinion certainly appeared to be running against the Whigs, and at the end of October Heathcote’s mayoral procession was marred by insults from the crowd. Furthermore, Heathcote himself was snubbed by members of the new ministry, who refused to attend his mayoral feast. In contrast, the Tories Child and Duncombe were fêted at court by Robert Harley, who regarded them as key City contacts for his new administration. At the end of the year the common council elections brought little joy for the Whigs, with the Tories making significant gains, and, according to one analyst, the wardmotes returning the smallest number of Nonconformists since the Revolution.76
Although buoyed by their great victory at the polls, City Tories recognized that further steps would have to be taken if they were to establish a longer-term supremacy. In particular, the stranglehold of the Whigs over City finance represented a continuing threat to Tory authority. Fortunately for Harley, several Whig financiers were prepared to work with his administration, most notably Sir James Bateman, who chose not to follow the fractious example of Bank leaders Heathcote and Furnese. Despite such aid, the Whig financial interest remained a constant threat, and thus the ministry endeavoured in the spring of 1711 to contest elections at both the Bank and East India Company. Although the ministerial tickets were boosted by the presence of Whigs as well as Tories, the polls for both directorates proved disastrous for the government. Most significantly, Sacheverell was publicly rebuked when he went to cast his vote at the Bank, being informed that ‘this was no mob business’. The subsequent establishment of the South Sea Company gave Harley a more secure foothold in the City, but he had not undermined Whig commercial strength in the capital.77
In contrast to their limited success in financial institutions, the Tories were able to advance the cause of the Anglican Church. Their main achievement was the establishment of the commission to build 50 new churches, which received the full backing of both Queen and Parliament in the spring of 1711. Although the commission fell well short of its brief, it served to co-ordinate the activities of High Churchmen in the capital, and to some extent sustained the momentum provided by the great electoral victory of 1710. In addition, one historian has recently identified the rapid growth in the number of charity schools in the metropolitan area after 1710 as specifically Anglican in inspiration.78
Of course, the Tories did not neglect to press home their advantage in civic elections, taking heart at the beginning of 1711 when Cass was finally admitted to the court of aldermen. Although the Tories were unable to prevent the return of Furnese in April at a strongly contested election for the ward of Bridge Within, the Tory-dominated common council subsequently passed an act to regulate aldermanic elections, whereby the number of nominees put forward by the wardmotes to the court of aldermen was reduced from four to two. Significantly, a Tory observer had anticipated this reform in the aftermath of the common council elections of the preceding December, viewing magisterial influence as a vital advantage for the London Whigs. Moreover, the Tory candidates carried the shrieval elections by ‘une grande superiorité’, with Cass enjoying another personal success. Further evidence of the ‘heat of rage and fury’ in the capital was provided in the autumn when a dispute arose concerning the return made by Lord Mayor Heathcote for an aldermanic election for Broad Street. The common council actually issued a mandamus against Heathcote to overturn the result, and, even though ultimately unsuccessful, this legal process kept up pressure on the Whig leadership. By way of response, in November Whig supporters planned to demonstrate their popularity by holding a spectacular pope-burning procession, but magistrates moved quickly to suppress the parade for fear of disorder. Contention also surrounded elections for the Honorary Artillery Society in 1711 and 1712, but the Whigs managed to overcome the Tory challenge on each occasion.79
From late 1711 onwards the most pressing issue in City politics was the cessation of hostilities in Europe. In November it was reported that both Whigs and Tories were opposed to moves for the corporation to address the Queen about a possible peace, but party divisions were reanimated over the issue the following year. In January 1712 the Whigs may well have attempted to steal a march on their rivals, two aldermen attending the Queen to obtain permission to entertain Prince Eugene. However, their entreaty met with a smart rebuff from Secretary Dartmouth, who directed them to make an official approach through the sheriffs. The following June several aldermen, led by Heathcote and Sir Charles Peers, were reported to have opposed moves for the City to imitate the address of thanks which the Commons had drafted in response to the Queen’s promise to communicate peace terms, but the common council rejected their argument that such an action would contravene the royal prerogative. Significantly, this victory for the peace party was attributed by one observer to gains made at the common council elections of the preceding December, when the Whigs had even lost seats in their inner-city strongholds. Besides the usual expressions of loyalty and support, the address praised Anne’s ‘distinguishing care’ for national trade, and condemned the opposition of ‘a factious and malicious party’ towards the peace. Predictably, the Tory-dominated lieutenancy followed the example of the City, attending the court on the same day as the delegation from the corporation.80
In contrast to the intensity of party strife of recent months, the mayoral contest passed without undue incident, as the Tory Sir Richard Hoare took the chair as senior alderman. However, much publicity was given to a disturbance in Gracechurch Street on 4 Nov., when the militia was called out to re-establish order after Whig revellers had incited a Tory mob. The ensuing common council elections were closely monitored by political observers, and despite the Whigs making a ‘great bustle’ about them, the ‘loyal Churchmen’ were said to have gained ‘the majority by a vast number’. Prior to this contest Tories in common council had sought to undermine their aldermanic rivals with the passage of an act to regulate wardmote elections, the preamble of which noted that ‘several abuses’ had been committed ‘by long and unnecessary adjournments of polls and scrutinies’. The Tories had further cause for celebration in March 1713, when bonfires were lit throughout the metropolis to mark the end of Sacheverell’s suspension. The signing of the Treaty of Utrecht in April gave Tory leaders another opportunity to demonstrate their supremacy, and both the City and the lieutenancy presented addresses of thanks. Each sought to demonize their Whig opponents, with the militia address congratulating the Queen on overcoming ‘the daring insolence of a clamorous and ungrateful faction’. Only a month later, seven Whig leaders managed to postpone the return of Tory Sir Joseph Lawrence as alderman by absenting themselves from the bench, but such peevishness only highlighted their current weakness in the face of general support for peace.81
After months of discouragement, Whig fortunes were finally revived when Parliament took into consideration the proposed commercial treaty with France. Fears that preferential treatment for French merchants could inflict serious damage on the country’s trade sparked a flurry of petitions from various London interest-groups, predicting disaster for the wine trade and textile manufacture in particular. On 4 June three livery companies petitioned the Commons against the commerce bill, and the capital’s mercantile lobby was sufficient to influence three of the City Members to vote against their party in the key division on the 18th. In addition, two City aldermen who sat for other constituencies voted against the ministry. Only a few days later ‘several hundreds of eminent citizens’ met to agree the nomination of two anti-treaty candidates for the forthcoming shrieval elections, who were recommended to the liverymen as ‘lovers of their country for encouraging the woollen and silk manufacturers of Great Britain, by which the landed interest is secured, the poor employed’. However, in the ensuing poll they were well beaten, trailing the ministerialists by over 1,000 votes.82
With a parliamentary election due to take place in the autumn, such a crushing victory in common hall was most encouraging for the Tories, and soon after the announcement of the dissolution on 8 Aug. the four sitting Members were put up for re-election. They did not learn the identity of their opponents until late September, when it was reported that merchants John Ward II, Thomas Scawen* and Robert Heysham* would run alongside the recorder, (Sir) Peter King. King subsequently withdrew from the contest, having gained a seat at Bere Alston, and was replaced by the trader Peter Godfrey†, whose candidacy had been approved by a meeting of ‘above 1,000 eminent citizens’ at the Swan tavern. This platform was calculated to cause divisions within the ranks of the ministerialists, for, as one observer suggested, the three traders were regarded as moderate Tories. However, it was over the ‘shibboleth of trade’ that the battle was principally fought, with both sides claiming in the press to be the guardians of the commercial interest. Partisans did not seek to turn the mayoral election in late September into a political battleground, when the Whig senior alderman Sir Samuel Stanier gained the chair without opposition, but it was clear that the parliamentary poll would be bitterly contested.83
By all accounts the election of October 1713 was the most tempestuous of the period, as supporters from both sides strove to intimidate their rivals. William Newland, son of sitting Member Sir George, led a ‘rascally mob’ to the Guildhall proclaiming ‘High Church’, and in opposition there appeared ‘a great mob of weavers and such people . . . who made a disturbance and caused much fighting and quarrelling in the streets’. According to one Whig observer, Tory supporters distinguished themselves with ‘papers in their hats with the crown, the Queen, the Church and the four old Members upon them’, while their rivals also sported a uniform ‘badge’. Most dramatically, the lord mayor, Sir Richard Hoare, was said to have come to blows with Robert Heysham after a quarrel ‘about two men that had seven guineas apiece for voting’, and Heysham was reportedly ready to ‘call him to account’ as soon as Hoare had relinquished the chair. The closeness of the contest predictably caused disputes concerning the eligibility of voters, with the Tories insisting that Quaker liverymen swear the Abjuration. However, they retracted this demand when their rivals moved that oaths be tendered to all voters. Amid the violence and squabbling, the actual course of the poll mirrored that of its predecessor, with the Tories trailing in the early stages before rallying to take all four seats.84
For certain, the election had seen the highest turnout in the period, with probably some 7,500 votes polled. Intensive preparations by the parties can partly explain the eagerness of the liverymen to vote, with reports of electors being brought from Bristol, but the final totals must have contained many ineligible votes, for the poll books which were subsequently printed only contain the names of about 6,800 electors. The Tories, in particular, were accused of underhand tactics to gain the backing of ‘hundreds of papists, dead men and other false pollers’, and a scrutiny was expected well before voting was ended on 24 Oct., when the election was declared in favour of the sitting Members by a slim majority. Analysis of the poll books suggests that even though the issue of trade had helped to blur party distinctions, the overwhelming majority of liverymen who had voted in 1710 stuck loyally to their party. It was thus the ability of Tory leaders to attract the occasional voter which was the key to their second successive triumph. However, even in defeat Whig publisher George Ridpath could take heart at the result, particularly in consideration that his allies had been ‘opposed by the lieutenancy, the guards, the common council, the officers of the customs house, pay office, navy, admiralty, South Sea Company and Sacheverell’s mobs’.85
The sheriffs had little time in which to organize the scrutiny, for the writs had to be returned by 12 Nov., and it was widely predicted that the losing candidates would petition the House. In preparation for such an eventuality the Whigs published on 2 Nov. a list of Tory voters, calling for fraudulent electors to be identified. By 12 Nov. the voting of only nine of the City companies had been reviewed, and even though it appeared that the sitting Members had lost ground to their opponents, the four Tories were returned. Such news did little to dampen the ‘extraordinary rejoicings’ which had commenced after the poll, as Tories delighted in the defeat of ‘Whigs, atheists, deists, Quakers and republicans of all distinctions’. Even before the end of the scrutiny the Tories had sought to demonstrate their supremacy, for Stanier was snubbed by the court on his Lord Mayor’s Day, ministers declining his invitation to dine. Moreover, on 5 Nov. a row erupted in the court of aldermen over a motion to print an anti-papist sermon preached at Stanier’s inauguration, with Tory Members Withers and Cass condemning the oration as ‘full of sedition and reflection on her Majesty and the ministry’. However, they were rebuffed by Sir Thomas Abney, whose arguments prevailed in favour of publication.86
For their own part, the Whigs were determined to carry the fight to their rivals, and continued the scrutiny of the parliamentary election ‘by themselves’, hoping thereby to bolster their case before the Commons. They were still consumed by this task in mid-December, but the common council elections distracted their efforts, causing ‘great struggling . . . over the City’. Most significantly, during the build-up to these contests Lord Sunderland (Charles, Lord Spencer*) was cited as a key influence in London. However, the Tories were confident of matching their opponents, and forecasters did not think that the wardmotes would turn to Whig advantage. Early reports suggested that some 30 to 40 common councilmen had been replaced by anti-treaty candidates, but the Whigs were to be disappointed in their expectation of getting ‘a great body of their party in’, and the Tories maintained their majority. Nevertheless, the Tories shelved plans to address the Queen in support of the French commerce treaty, evidently viewing the elections as a local referendum on the matter.87
Following six months of upheaval over the commerce treaty, the City remained in a state of unrest. In February 1714 the Queen felt it necessary to write to the lord mayor to allay fears concerning her health, and Tories belatedly imitated their rivals by publishing the poll of Whig voters at the preceding parliamentary election, in order to ascertain bogus voters. On 5 Mar. 1714 a petition was presented from ‘several aldermen and . . . great numbers of liverymen’, which alluded to the ‘great tumults’ which had obstructed voting at the Guildhall. A motion was then tabled to hear the case at the bar of the House, which the Tory majority easily defeated. An observer thought this decision particularly unwise at a time when the City was gripped by acute anxiety over its political and economic future, but the Tories could take comfort that the election controversy would probably be buried in committee for some time. The following day the losing candidates petitioned the House, accusing the sheriffs of having adjourned the poll without their consent, and complaining of ‘several other notorious practices’. This too was referred to the committee of elections.88
The untimely death of Newland on 26 Mar. forced both sides to reconsider their position, and there was even speculation that the losing candidates would withdraw their petition if the Tories acquiesced in the election of Ward to replace him. There is no evidence to suggest that such a scheme was seriously contemplated, although it may be significant that neither party campaigned in preparation for a by-election. Political skirmishes did take place outside the parliamentary sphere, for the East India Company’s elections in April saw much intrigue, as Bank leaders made an unsuccessful attempt to seize control. From May onwards Whig initiatives in the City were co-ordinated by a society of some 20 members, which gained increasing importance over succeeding years by organizing the party’s assault on the wardmotes. It was clear that there was much work for this club to do, since in April the Tory majority on the common council prevailed to pass yet another act to regulate aldermanic elections, prescribing that only one candidate would be submitted to the aldermen for approval. This initiative delivered a major blow to Whig magisterial authority, and the Tories enjoyed further success in July when Withers succeeded in appending an expression of thanks for the Schism Act to the common council’s loyal address.89
Despite continuing factionalism, and fears of Jacobite plots and disturbances, the death of Anne sparked no disorder in the capital. However, the accession of George I promised major political change, especially after the new monarch had revealed a preference for City Whigs when bestowing honours and offices at the outset of his reign. In October the new King attended the celebrations for the newly elected Whig mayor Sir William Humphreys, and gave further evidence of political bias the following month when the lieutenancy was altered in favour of the Whigs. The Tories were able to maintain their ascendancy at the ensuing common council elections, despite renewed Whig efforts in the wardmotes. In particular, one Whig pamphlet condemned the Tories for embarking on expensive lawsuits against the return of Whig aldermen, and accused them of having ruined the entertainment of the King. Thus, at the end of a year of great uncertainty a pattern of London politics had been established which was set to continue for several years, with the Whigs holding a decisive advantage at Court and among the aldermen, while their rivals used the common council as a base from which to oppose the government and its allies.90
Author: Perry Gauci
Unless otherwise stated, this article is based upon G.S. De Krey, Fractured Society.
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- 8. London Post, 19–21 Mar. 1701.
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