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The Lord Mayor' s Answer to the Lord Hertford' s Letter



Mansion House, May 2d, 1775.

MY LORD: It is impossible for me to express, or conceal the extreme astonishment and grief I felt at the notice your Lordship' s letter gave me, as Chief Magistrate of the City, "that, for the future, his Majesty will not receive, on the Throne, any Address, Remonstrance and Petition, but from the Body Corporate of the City."

I entreat your Lordship to lay me, with all humility, at the


King' s feet, and as I have now the honour to be Chief Magistrate, in my name to supplicate his Majesty' s justice and goodness in behalf of the Livery of London, that he would be graciously pleased to revoke an order, highly injurious to their rights and privileges, which, in this instance, have been constantly respected and carefully preserved by all his royal predecessors. The Livery of London, my Lord, have approved themselves the zealous friends of liberty and the Protestant succession; they have steadily pursued only those measures which were calculated to secure the free Constitution of this country; and this, your Lordship well knows, has created them the hatred of all the partisans of the exiled and proscribed Family. They form the great and powerful body of the Corporation, in whom most important powers are vested, the election of the First Magistrate, the Sheriffs, the Chamberlain, the Auditors of the Receipt and Expenditure of their Revenues, and of the four Members, who represent, in Parliament, the Capital of this vast Empire. The full Body Corporate never assemble, nor could they legally act together as one great aggregate body: for, by the Constitution of the City, particular and distinct privileges are reserved to the various members of the Corporation, to the Freemen, to the Liverymen, to the Common Council, to the Court of Aldermen. His Majesty' s Solicitor General, Mr˙ Wedderburn, was consulted by the City in the year 1771, respecting the legality of Common-Halls, and the Remonstrances of the Livery. In conjunction with Mr˙ Sergeant Glynn, Mr˙ Dunning, and Mr˙ Nugent, he gave an opinion, which I have the honour of transcribing from our record.

"We apprehend that the head Officer of every Corporation may convene the Body, or any class of it, whenever he thinks proper; that the Lord Mayor, for the time being, may, of his own authority, legally call a Common-Hall; and we see no legal objection to his calling the two last. We conceive it to be the duty of the proper officers of the several Companies, to whom precepts for the purpose of summoning their respective Liveries have been usually directed, to execute those precepts; and that a wilful refusal on their part, is an offence punishable by disfranchisement."

The City, my Lord, have been careful that all their proceedings should be grounded in the true principles of Law and the Constitution, notwithstanding it is the clear right of the subject to petition the King for the redress of grievances; a right which so many thousands of our fellow-subjects, my Lord, have justly thought it their duty, very frequently, to exercise in the last ten years; yet the City, from excess of caution, took a great legal opinion in the case, and I find the following words entered in their Journals by the express order of the Common-Hall:

"The Livery of London, legally assembled in Common-Hall, either on Midsummer, Michaelmas, or any other day, have an undoubted right to take into consideration any matter of publick grievance they may think proper. It is beyond dispute that the right is inherent in them." A Jury have likewise declared this in a solemn verdict.

I have been thus particular, my Lord, on this subject from our records, because I differ in one point from the last opinion, which I quoted; for I know there is no right or privilege of this free people, or of mankind, but what has been disputed, and even denied, by pensioned pens and tongues in the service of the arbitrary Ministers of arbitrary Kings.

Your Lordship, I am sure, will now no longer suffer a doubt to remain in your mind as to the legality of Common-Halls, or of their extensive powers, and, therefore, I presume to lay claim, on behalf of the Livery of London, to the ancient privilege of presenting to the King, on the Throne, any Address, Petition, or Remonstrance. In this manner, have the Addresses of the Livery constantly been received, both by his present Majesty and all his royal predecessors, the Kings of England. On the most exact research, I do not find a single instance to the contrary. This immemorial usage, in the opinion of the ablest lawyers, gives an absolute right, and is as little subject to controversy, as any fair and just prerogative of the Crown.


Other rights and privileges of the City have been invaded by despotick Monarch; by several of the accursed race of the Stuarts, but this, in no period of our history. It has not even been brought into question till the present inauspicious era. I have an entire confidence, my Lord, that a right left uninvaded by every tyrant of the Tarquin race, will be sacredly preserved under the Government of our present Sovereign, because his Majesty is perfectly informed, that, in consequence of their expulsion, his family was chosen to protect and defend the rights of a free people, whom they endeavoured to enslave.

It cannot escape your Lordship' s recollection, that at all times when the privileges of the Capital were attacked, very fatal consequences ensued. The invasion of the liberties of the Nation, we have generally seen preceded by attempts on the franchises of the first City in the Kingdom, and the shock has spread from the centre to the most distant point of the circumference of this wide extended Empire. I hope his Majesty' s goodness will revoke an order, which might, perhaps, in this light, be considered as ominous to the people at large, no less than injurious to the citizens of this Metropolis. Such a measure only could quiet the alarm, which has already spread too far, and given gloomy apprehensions of futurity.

The privilege, my Lord, for which I contend, is of very great moment, and peculiarly striking. When his Majesty receives, on the Throne, any Address, it is read by the proper officer to the King, in the presence of the Petitioners; they have the satisfaction of knowing that their Sovereign has heard their complaints; they receive an answer. If the same Address is presented at a levee, or in any other mode, no answer is given; a suspicion may arise, that the Address is never heard, or read, because it is only received, and immediately delivered to the Lord, in waiting. If he is tolerably versed in the supple, insinuating arts practised in the magick circle of a Court, he will take care never to remind his Prince of any disagreeable and disgusting, however important and wholesome, truths; he will strangle in its birth the fair offspring of Liberty, because its cries might awaken and alarm the parent, and thus the common father of all his people may remain equally ignorant and unhappy in his most weighty concerns.

Important truths, my Lord, were the foundation of the last humble Address, Remonstrance and Petition, to the King, respecting our brave fellow-subjects in America. The greatness, as well as goodness of the cause, and the horrours of an approaching civil war, justified our application to the Throne. It comprehended every thing interesting to us, as a free and commercial people, the first principles of our common liberty, and the immense advantages of the only trade we enjoy, unrivalled by other Nations. I greatly fear, that your Lordship' s letter, immediately following his Majesty' s unfavourable answer to the Remonstrance, will be considered as a fresh mark of the King' s anger against our unhappy brethren, as well as of his displeasure against the faithful citizens of his Capital. The Livery, possessing the purest intentions, the most noble and exalted views for the publick good, will comfort themselves with the appeal to that justice in the Sovereign' s heart, which cannot fail of soon restoring them to the royal favour; but the Americans may be driven to despair, unless a merciful Providence should graciously interpose, and change the obdurate hearts of those unjust and wicked Ministers, who have been so long permitted, by Divine vengeance, to be a scourge both to us and our brethren. The true friends of liberty, I am sure, will not be remiss in their duty. I doubt not, my Lord, from that love of your country, and zeal for his Majesty' s glory, which have equally distinguished your Lordship, that the Livery of London will have your hearty concurrence with them, as well as your powerful intercession with the King for the revocation of the late order. Such a conduct will secure to your Lordship the esteem and affection of all good men, and add to the unfeigned respect, with which I have the honour to be, my Lord, your Lordship' s most obedient, humble servant,


To the Right Honourable, the Earl of Hertford, Lord Chamberlain of the King' s Household.