« AnteriorContinua »
But to turn to the extracts which we propose to make illustrative of the former state of London: they are to be found not in the statutes themselves, but in the observations upon them, by Sir John Fielding, at the end of each division of his work.
Under the head of enlightening the streets, Sir John makes some suggestions, which shew the condition of the metropolis in that particular. Let any one read the following passage, and then traverse, in a winter's evening, any of the principal thoroughfares of the town.
"As the above acts only oblige inhabitants to hang out lights till twelve o'clock; and, as the manner in which many of them do hang out their lights, is the occasion of much inconvenience, it were to be wished, that one law was made for enlightening the city of Westminster, and the adjoining parishes, in the county of Middlesex, by which, lamps should be fixed on posts on the outside of the footway, or otherwise, and in courts and passages, in the best manner they will admit of, at such distances as the church-wardens and overseers, for the time being, of every parish, and one justice of the peace, shall think proper; with a power for every such parish, to make and raise a rate for the payment of the same. The said lamps to be lighted by five in the evening, from Michaelmas to Lady-day, and during the other part of the year by nine. And as the watch at present are of very little use, from the smallness of the wages given, which puts the trust into the lowest hands, and from the length of the time which they watch, which makes them often leave their stands to refresh themselves, or subjects them to sleep, it would be useful, if, in the same law, one provision was made for the watch throughout the above-mentioned parishes, whereby each parish might be enabled to make a larger rate for the watch; so that there might be a double number of watchmen, who might relieve one another in the middle of the night, which would not much increase the present expense, but would induce more reputable persons to undertake this duty, as they would be able, by means of this relief, to follow their ordinary callings the next day, which at present is impossible, as they are obliged to sit up the whole night."
The following passage will remind those of our readers who attend to the events of the day, of some projects which have been lately broached. The more we look into old books, and old measures, the more we are tempted to confirm the hackneyed proverb, which declares, that nothing under the sun is
"When one reflects as an Englishman, what a blessing the seas on our coasts have in store for us, what a peculiar benefit the plenty of sea fish would be to the poor, what a conveniency to the rich of this metropolis, and that this immense blessing is intercepted from us by the contrivance and combination of a few designing, avaricious men,
how can we sufficiently lament that the pains and attention of the legislature to redress this evil, has been hitherto fruitless? Nay, I am informed, that the evil is rather grown worse than better; it is, therefore, with great deference and respect, that I offer my opinion on this subject, which I do rather that it may beget in some other a better plan, than that I think the following one to be perfect: but I do apprehend, that if the gentlemen belonging to the free British herring fishery, a large, able, and respectable body, would (besides the catching of herrings) become fishermen for this metropolis; which, as they have much leisure from their other fishery, are accustomed to, and conversant in, the building of boats, making of nets, and hiring of fishermen, they can carry on, with more ease, and less expense to themselves, and more utility to the public, than any other body whatever. By this means an immense quantity of fish would be brought to Billinsgate and Westminster markets, yet not more than this town would consume, and would totally destroy the present monopoly of different fish, viz. lobsters, turbots, &c. as well as the little combinations lately practised to make an artificial scarcity.
"In this plan, public spirit and interest will go hand in hand; and as they will be enabled to fit out a larger fleet of fishing-boats than was ever yet sent to sea, great plenty of fish must be the consequence, and cheapness will naturally follow; and by little bounties and rewards, which they themselves will be able to give to fishermen, it is hoped that the evil now so loudly complained of, will be most effectually cured; and the fishmongers themselves, who have lately been the dupes of the fishermen, and the monopolizers of particular fish, would have reason to rejoice; for, by selling more fish at reasonable rates, their gain would be the same, if not greater.
"But while salesmen and fishmongers have shares in, or, perhaps, the whole property of fishing-boats, it will always be in their power to bring as few fish to market as they please, and, consequently, to raise the price agreeable to this no less artful than wicked scarcity of their own making. In what an amazing manner do the fish of the sea multiply, and how shamefully is this blessing intercepted, as well from the poor as the rich; and, yet, how easy the remedy, if this plan be practicable; though the bringing sea fish by land carriage to London, bids fair to reduce the evil."
* The new companies, for supplying the metropolis with fish, proceed upon similar arguments. A much more novel, as well as more remarkable, and, perhaps, in the end, infinitely more useful plan was broached by Dr. M'Culloch, in some philosophical journal. The scheme of breeding sea fish in fresh water ponds, which he has proved practicable, is again produced, and very pleasantly urged in a late number of the London Magazine, in an excellent article on the " Domestication of Wild Animals."
In the chapter respecting "the keeping and breeding of swine," in the metropolis, we find this extract from the statutes, and the observation appended to it.
By 8 and 9 W. 3, which has the following remarkable preamble, viz. Whereas, by a statute made in the second year of the reign of William and Mary, the breeding, feeding and keeping any 'sort of swine within the backsides of paved streets of the said cities, borough or parishes, where the houses are contiguous, is prohibited 'on pain of forfeiting all such swine; which, nevertheless, hath not prevented the same; but, that the inhabitants of the said cities and borough, are still much annoyed, and the health and lives of many 'families endangered by the unwholesome savour of such swine, 'which are still in great numbers, kept within the backsides of several ⚫ paved streets of the said cities and borough:' It is enacted, That the said Act, and the Clause therein, against the breeding, feeding, and keeping of swine, shall be, from and after the 10th day of April, 1697, actually put in execution against all persons whatsoever, who shall presume to breed, feed, or keep any manner of swine within any part of the houses, or backsides of the paved streets, or lanes, of the said cities, borough or parishes, so far as the contiguous buildings of them, or any of them, extend, or within the space of fifty yards thereof.
"OBS. Either from the ignorance of, or inattention to, the above statutes, the evil they were intended to remove is increased to an enormous degree; and a number of sows for breeding, and other hogs, are kept in cellars, and other confined places, in the city and liberty of Westminster, which are very offensive and unwholesome."
In one respect, the metropolitans may be supposed to have degenerated.
"The very common use of silver tankards, cups, &c. in public houses at this time, has been attended with very melancholy consequences, as it is too great a temptation for many low persons to withstand, who frequent public houses; for, as an alehouse is free for every body, there is no guarding against this inconvenience, otherwise than by disusing plate."
The next passage betrays an illiberality, from which most men of the present day, of Sir John Fielding's condition and education, are pretty well emancipated. The second part of the extract will remind the reader of the change in the English law respecting slavery.
"And, here I cannot avoid taking notice, that among the various instances of domestic reformations, which we have lately experienced in this kingdom, none gives me so sensible a pleasure as the great scarcity of French cooks, French valet de chambres, and French milliners, now to be met with in the English families of rank and fortune; and, as they first obtained a footing here by their artifice, and our own
caprice, I hope that they have now lost it from a conviction, for ever to be established in the minds of our ladies and gentlemen, that the English cook can dress ragouts, the English valet de chambre can dress hair, and the English milliner dress caps better than any French man or woman whatever. The mixture of foreign servants with the English, never fails to beget jealousies, quarrels, and disturbances in the families where they live; for, as the former are too often beheld by the master or mistress with a partial eye, they, consequently, enjoy a greater share of their confidence, which they constantly abuse by making them dissatisfied with the behaviour of their own faithful countrymen. Indeed, I have now and then heard a jemmy gentleman say, that no Englishman could dress hair in taste; but when he recollects, that hair was never more wore, or better dressed than at present, and that chiefly by Englishmen too, he may, perhaps, allow himself to be in the wrong for once; and it is clear to demonstration, to every impartial mind, that there cannot be a conveniency that ought to be expected from a servant, but what may be certainly found among those who are born and brought up in Great Britain. The immense confusion that has arose in the families of merchants, and other gentlemen who have estates in the West Indies, from the great number of negro slaves they have brought into this kingdom, also deserves the most serious attention many of these gentlemen have either, at a vast expense, caused some of these blacks to be instructed in the necessary qualifications of a domestic servant, or else have purchased them after they have been instructed; they then bring them to England as cheap servants, having no right to wages; they no sooner arrive here, than they put themselves on a footing with other servants, become intoxicated with liberty, grow refractory, and, either by persuasion of others, or from their own inclinations, begin to expect wages according to their own opinion of their merits: and, as there are already a great number of black men who have made themselves so troublesome and dangerous to the families who brought them over, as to get themselves discharged, these enter into societies, and make it their business to corrupt and dissatisfy the mind of every fresh black servant that comes to England; first, by getting them christened or married, which they inform them makes them free, (though it has been adjudged by our most able lawyers, that neither of these circumstances alter the master's property in a slave.) However, it so far answers their purpose, that it gets the mob on their side, and makes it not only difficult, but dangerous, to the proprietor of these slaves to recover the possession of them, when once they are spirited away; and, indeed, it is the less evil of the two, to let them go about their business, for there is great reason to fear that those blacks who have been sent back to the plantations, after they have lived some time in a country of liberty, where they have learnt to write and read, been acquainted with the use, and entrusted with the care, of arms, have been the occasion of those insurrections that have lately caused and threatened such mischiefs and dangers to the inhabitants of, and planters in, the islands in the West Indies; it is, therefore, to be hoped, that these gentlemen will be extremely cautious, for the future, how they bring blacks to England; for, besides that they are
defeated in the ends that they propose by it, it is a species of inhumanity to the blacks themselves, who, while they continue abroad in a degree of ignorance so necessary to render a state of slavery supportable, are, in some measure, contented with their condition, and cheerfully submit to those severe laws which the government of such persons makes necessary; but they no sooner come over, but the sweets of liberty, and the conversation with free men and Christians, enlarge their minds, and enable them too soon to form such comparisons of the different situations, as only serve, when they are sent back again, to imbitter their state of slavery, to make them restless, prompt to conceive, and alert to execute, the blackest conspiracies against their governors and masters."
The subject of combinations of workmen is looked upon in rather a new light.
"The master taylors in this metropolis have repeatedly endeavoured to break and suppress the combinations of their journeymen to raise their wages, and lessen their hours of work, but have ever been defeated, notwithstanding the excellent provision of the above statute; and this has been, in some measure, owing to the infidelity of the masters themselves, to each other; some of whom, taking the advantage of the confusion, have collected together some of the ablest of the journeymen, whose exorbitant demands they have complied with, while many other masters have had a total stop put to their business, because they would not be guilty of a breach of so necessary a law; but the success of the journeymen in these disputes, and the submission of their masters, is chiefly owing to the custom the masters now have got, of charging extra wages in their bills, by which means they relieve themselves, and the imposition is thrown entirely on the public, who can alone redress it, by throwing it back again upon the master taylor, for whose benefit and security the legislature has taken such pains as leaves him without room for complaint."
The next extract is a very long_one, and consists of a little treatise on the ways of thieves. It is interesting to the antiquary in manners, and betrays, we think, some touches of the hand of Sir John's immortal brother.
"CAUTIONS to Shopkeepers, and Tradesmen in general, and to their Journeymen, Apprentices, Errand Boys, and Porters; and to Bookkeepers, Inn-keepers, &c.
"Misfortunes and distresses have been observed to have very different effects according to the disposition of the party on whom they fall. When well-disposed persons are afflicted, it is apt to make them mild, humble, grateful, and resigned; but when the malevolent meet with difficulties, it generally makes them envious, impatient, malicious, and repining. Necessity, they say, is the mother of invention; and when that arises rather from accident than extravagance, the in