Page images

fering prisoners remonstrated against all this cruelty, and petitioned the magistracy for a redress of their grievances, and a retrenchment of the exorbitant demands of a gaol ? But all their prayers have either never been heard, or never minded. For the magistracy is deaf to such a work of reformation, by reason his own interest is concerned in the matter; and therefore the abuses and oppressions of the gaoler (who not only repays himself, but acquires often-times a great estate to boot) are still connived at.

Having been thus more particular in the gaoler's and serjeant's case, we shall leave the reader himself to judge, what no less hard measures we daily groan under, without relief, from counsellors, attornies, and clerks, &c. in their sphere of law, when about 15001. is paid for a city council or attorney's place (and divers other officers) which, by the same fore-mentioned proportion of annual advantage, must rajse near 500l. per annum to balance the excessive price they pay for them. And, though they live at very extravagant rates, yet, if they enjoy their places any considerable time, they leave great estates behind them.

It is by this means that purchased cruelty grows bold, and plumes itself in its extortion, being not only countenanced, but justified by the magistrate, who raises the value of an unlawful sale, because he finds a numerous sort of people thriving and doing well, by living and doing ill. It is example that corrupts us all: for how commonly do the under-officers, gaolers, &c. excuse their barbarity, and unreasonable exactions, in alledging that they have no other way to make up the interest of their purchase money? So that they are hereby forced to lay the whole design of their advantage upon the calamities of the miserable; which inhumanity is too frequently connived at by the magistrate, suffering justice to be over-ruled by the persuasion of many golden temptations. A degenerate and unworthy practice! quite contrary to the office of a good magistrate, whose duty and glory consist in curbing the growth of oppression, retrenching exorbitances, and in searing away the proud flesh of rapine and violence, and not in selling impunity to the evil-doer.

It is this alone that steels and case-hardens a gaoler's conscience against all pity and remorse, giving him the confidence to demand extortionary fees and racked chamber-rent from his prisoners, or else crowding them into holes, dungeons, and common-sides (de. signedly made more nasty, to terrify the prisoner, who for preservation of his life is thereby forced to part with his money; or) there to be devoured by famine and diseases.

This makes bim let his tap-houses at such prodigious rates, that, where poor people ought to have the best and cheapest, they have the worst in quality, and smallest in quantity, at excessive prices, Also farming his beds to mere harpies, and his great key to such pieces of imperious cruelty, as are the worst of mankind, to the eternal reproach of the city's honour, and scandal of the Christian religion, while the bloated patron himself, all the while, maintains his family in pride, and an imperious wife, or perhaps impudent ·

mistress, in excess and luxury, with what he has unconscionably drained from the ruin of the unfortunate. But see I pray, whither will not thcse lewd and infamous precedents at last lead us, when even the common hangman, encouraged no doubt by these examples, will scarcely give a malefactor a cast of his office without a tribe, very formally, forsooth, demanding his fees, and higgling too, as nicely with him, as if he was going to do him some mighty favour?

I will appeal now to the tribunal of justice itself, by what law or what authority, not claiming under the bad title of illegal custom, any sheriff, who is the immediate gaoler himself, and ought (as we shall hereafter prove by reciting the law) to receive the prisoner gratis into custody, can so unjustly presume to sell the deputation of any man's liberty and life to the countroul of sordid and imperious avarice? I would fain know by what surmise of common sense (and it would be very hard, if common law and common sense should not agree) a keeper of a prison can demand a recompence or fee of a prisoner for detaining him in prison.

There is an admission fee, he cries; as if any person can deserve a reward for opening the door of misery and destruction to his neighbour and common friend: for being so civil as to admit him into the horrid grave and abyss of imprisonment.

There is a dismission fee too: as if it were reasonable to demand money for letting him go, whom the law has set free.

Abundance of such absurdities must of necessity follow; to which no law of God or man, nor no sense or reason, can afford the least shadow or pretext of countenance (nay they all forbid and condemn it) besides that unanswerable one before-mentioned, viz. that the officers buy their places, and therefore it is reasonable in them they should make the best of thein,

But let that be once remedied, and ulu whole Babel superstructure, erected upon so abominable a foundation, will sooni tumble down, to the unspeakable joy of all good men, the infinite honour of the city magistrates, the comfortable relief of the poor, and to the long desired triumph and restoration of banisi.ed justice and charity.

Now for a due redress of all those crying mischiefs, what could be more easily reformed?

For instance, if the council, attorney, clerk, serjeant, gaoler, &c. had their places gratis, the very retrenchments of their exorbitant fees would be a favour rather than grievance; for, whilst the one keeps his hundreds in his pockets, and the other his thousands, he is neither under the temptation, nor want of extortion. This established fee would not only be enough for his maintenance, but be infinitely more to his ease and satisfaction. For in this case he would lie under no care, or necessity, to fetch up the large sums given for his place, wbich, till recovered, are reckoned as so much bread taken out of his children's mouths.

Besides, a moderate perquisite in an office, that comes free from a kind patron's gift, is gratefully received, whilst, on the contrary,

there is no thanks owing to a purchase, tho' with never so large profits. But, above all, every man would be then naturally careful of a legal discharge of his trust, because he holds by the tenure of a Quam diu se bene gesserit, viz. As long as he does honestly demean himself: and lies liable to be turned out for misdemeanors, when neither the patron, or lord he holds from, would uphold him in injustice, nor indeed could he himself reasonably complain of being punished for it.

And lastly, What could the city'speak more magnificent in history, than to bestow her places upon good men, some of her own members, unfortunately fallen to decay, who would naturally be content with the lawful and modest gains of their employment? on the contrary, what more dishonourable than to sell her poor citizens to be dilaniated and macerated by the hand of injustice; and for money to make slaughter houses and shambles of her houses of restraint, which were built at the city's charge for a city, so fairly decked with the jewels of freedom and privilege, to sell the last remains of a prisoner's comfort? for in selling a gaoler's place, &c. it sells the liberty, the estate, the person, nay the very life of the prisoner under his jurisdiction: seeing that, through the cruelty of the prison-keepers, such great numbers of poor people have been stripped to their naked skin, and, when all was gone, have been suffocated in holes and dungeons, to the loss of many of their lives, dishonour of our nation, and scandal of the christian religion.

For is it not, think ye, a goodly sight, to behold the tears of the poor congealed by a frost of neglected charity and injustice, into a pearl glittering in the ears of such or such a lady? to see the scarlet of the receiver's magistrácy dyed with the blood of helpless innocents, or the purchase of extortion and, to see some, that ought to be the chief punishers of iniquity, drinking healths of forgetful plenty in hundred pound goblets, the price of their own infamy?

One considerable advantage that would follow the so much de. sired prevention of the sale of places is, that the civil government would not find ber offices so overstocked with her mortal and implacable enemies, I mean such as, in the late reigns, employed their utmost power in introducing upon the nation an arbitrary and tyrannick sway; and, since this revolution, have endeavoured to obstruct the kingdom's true interest and welfare.

Is it not an indelible reproach to the government to see so many of her offices now filled and supplied with those very men, who, for several years together, were throwing dirt in her face, and ridiculing and deriding the constitution itself ? neither have they yet, though employed by the government, given any evidence of their change of principles, but retain still the same sentiments and inclination to serve their old master, as they frequently call bim, when a favourable opportunity presents itself on bis behalf! Is it possible to believe that these vipers thus every where croud themselves into places of trust, for any other purpose, but only to carry on the same designs clandestinely, which they found they had not power enough to effect openly? It is, indeed, their master-piece of policy; and that

which has done their eursed cause more service than all the strength and courage of the faction could otherwise be ever able to accomplish: by this means, the king and parliament's endeavours have been so continually disappointed, our publick undertakings embarrassed, our councils discovered, and designs defeated. Thus does the government indiscernibly receive ber mortal wound from the very band she nourishes, who, under the hypocritical mask of serving her interest, strikes her to the very heart.

And, in fine, it is by this door only that men, of whatever denomination, are admitted into a government. And this consideration is of greater importance than most are aware of: for, as it is a certain inlet to unavoidable dangers, which every prudent state would endeavour to prevent, so it reflects on the wisdom of our government, to suffer the safety of their persons, and the peace and happiness of the subjects, to be exposed to the lust and malice of every rich and villanous purchaser.

Another inconvenience, that follows the allowance of what is here complained of, is : that not only many of the king's enemies are let into places of trust, but, what is more deplorable, many of his real friends are utterly locked out. There are several, even in this city, who have given such instances of their affection to his majesty, and firm adherence and fidelity to the constitution of the present government, as cannot possibly fall under any doubt or question; whos partly by their expences in serving the publick, and partly by other occasional accidents, are reduced almost to insupportable necessities. Now, is it not inhuman, as well as unreasonable, to suffer so many hone-t, well-affected persons to starve for want of employment (who would be glad to accept of any of the meanest offices for a mere livelihood and subsistence) only because their pockets are not large enough to purchase that, to which their virtues and abilities had before given them an unquestionable right and claim? Is not this sufficient to discourage any man from deserving well of a government, which makes no distinction between her friends and enemies, but indifferently sells her favours to the fairest chapman?

The prodigious multiplication of officers, also, is no inconsiderable grievance of the publick, and the natural result of the corrupt practice of selling of offices. For, wben the superiors have once tasted the sweets of this sort of dealing, they are easily induced to believe, that business may better be dispatched by more hands, and so unnecessary officers are trumped up, as often as they have occasion to give a portion with a daughter, or match a son, or want to make up a sum, to purchase the remaining part, perbaps, of a poor client's estate, after the former has been spent in council's fees, and paying the extravagant and exacted fees and charges of their several courts and offices.

And, by this means, all the numerous officers belonging to, and depending on the law, who were at first, no doubt, designed for the service of the publick, in the administration of justice, and the defence of the rights and liberties of the people, are now, by this lewd toleration of the buying and selling of places, become so

desperately wicked, that they seemed to be joined in unanimous and direct conspiracy to rob and defraud the rest of mankind, and violate all the rules of justice and good policy.

But, though we have been so earnest and vehement in pleading the cause of the poor oppressed prisoners, &c. yet, let us not altogether pass by, without some just reflexions, the heinous injustice that is every day done to the poor, and helpless people at liberty.

There is one remark that we have made, that very well deserves the most serious and solemn consideration of the magistracy of the honourable city of London ; it is this. Before this city was so miserably overspread with corruption and covetousness, it was a custom no less honourable in its institution, than extremely useful and christian in its end, for the two and fifty companies, to have their particular granaries, where they used to store up great quantities of sea-coal, and thousands of quarters of corn, which were bought with the charity of those who were brought upon the livery, the company at the same time giving them a receipt, with a promise, That, if crer they should be reduced to want, they should have the value of the money laid down in corn and coals, gratis ; which fund was mightily advanced by many dying persons bequests, and legacies, and the fines of aldermen, sheriffs, livery-men, and others, which annually amounted to vast sums.

This was of infinite advantage to the whole city, both rich and poor : for buying these commodities, when cheapest, and going to market with ready money, they were obliged, in times of scarcity, to sell them out to the poor at a very moderate price. Which commendable practice has been, for several years, discontinued to the unspeakable prejudice and disservice of the poor, many of whom, by neglect of so good a custom, are reduced even to starving in winter, and times of scarcity, yet the said money is still exacted, as due by law, and converted to other uses.

The inexpressible advantage of this laudable and never to be forgotten custom is further evidenced in the frequent scarcity of corn: for, since the city and suburbs have near doubly increased the number of inbabitants; and the corn now coming into the hands of a very few factors, and several notorious hucksters, most of them Joseph's brethren, there being, in all, rarely a month's, and sometimes a week's, store in London: so that, upon contrary winds, frosts, want of convoys, or any other true or pretended reasons, they unjustly raise the market upon the poor, on purpose to improve their own profit, although there be enough in the nation; an inconvenience the city seldom suffered under in those charitable times, when the abovementioned custom was duly observed and practised.

The same may be affirmed in the case of coals, &c. And this, as well as the other, was an advantage likewise to the sellers, who were under no apprehension of having their goods lie upon their bands, because they were sure to come to a certain, though not always an equal market, which kept the plough continually going,

« PreviousContinue »