« PreviousContinue »
and the collier's ships sailing, to the vast improvement of navigation, and the general satisfaction of the nation.
And this contagion, like the fretting leprosy, bas spread itself over all the petty corporations and companies in this city, where they daily exact extravagant sums of money from the subject, taking sometime sixteen, twenty, thirty, and forty shillings; and oftentimes much more, for the admittance of every freeman, whereas, by the statute of 22 H. VIII. cap. 40, they are to receive but three shillings and four-pence for the entry of a freeman, and two shillings and sixpence for the entry of an apprentice.
But, which is much worse and grievous, are the arbitrary and prodigious fines, of fifteen, twenty, and thirty pounds, more or less, which they squeese out of their members, for coming on the livery, and for places of stewards, assistants, master-wardens, and divers other offices, to the intolerable oppression of poor citizens, and to their utter ruin : contrary to those most ancient and excellent laws of de tallagio non concedendo, the petition of right, &c. intended for the great bulwarks and barriers of the liberties and properties of the people of England.
This corruption has likewise crept into lesser societies, even into the parishes where the parsons, churchwardens, overseers, and the rest of those parochial officers, exercise the greatest injustice imaginable, in taking excessive and arbitrary sums of money, for burying in churches and churchyards; and for christenings and marriages;. and also in taxing and exacting money on pretence of relieving the poor, with a true design, at the same time, to expend it in luxury, &c. and forget the miseries of their afflicted neighbours.
A kin to these iniquities is that of the city's farming out the markets at three thousand six hundred pounds a year, whilst the farmers have made the burden intolerable to the people by extortion and oppression, and most unconscionably swelled the income to above ten thousand pounds a year, as has lately been fully proved against them, at the instance and pains of divers well-affected citizens. Thus is the right and interest of the poor and needy farmed out to a parcel of unmerciful harpies, and vultures, the inhuman ministers of cruelty and violence.
The case of the orphans also ought not to be passed over in si. lence. We question whether there has yet been repentance enough testified, sufficient restoration made, to clear them from the guilt of such horrible injustice. We shall but just touch the point, because it is so well known already. Was it not scandalous, as well as abominably sinful, and injurious, for the city to assume a right to force the estates of deceased citizens into their own hands, as guardians to the poor orphans, and others: And, when they had got about seven hundred thousand pounds into their custody and clutches, unrighteously refused to pay the monies where they be. came due, to the utter ruin of great numbers of distressed children (great part of whom have been forced to take extravagant courses to maintain themselves, having been necessitated to sell their es
tates to men of money at very small and inconsiderable rates) they afterwards pretending to make' atonement, by procuring an act of parliament, as is well known, to levy a tax upon all the personal estates in London for ever? We pray God they may repent and
It is not that we are ignorant of the abuses committed in several other offices throughout the kingdom, that we have principally confined ourselves to represent the mismanagement of some of those in the city of London, but only to avoid the being too voluminous : these few papers would have swelled juto many folio's, if particular notice had been taken of all the corruptions and miscarriages under which the nation groans, and by which our publiek affairs have so miserably suffered, and been so treacherously defeated.
Besides, our tenderness, in launching out further into these troubled waters, has been directed by this consideration, that the gentlemen in places and offices not here mentioned (who have, by their sinister practices, prejudiced the interest, or obstructed the happiness of the present settlement) may, by contemplating the deformity and evil attendances of the city exorbitant corruptions, be timely made sensible of their sin, and endeavour to make some reparation for the injuries they have done the kingdom, as an atonement and expiation of their crying guilt.
Thus, I think, we have made it undeniably apparent from what grounds our calamities and mischiefs have sprung, and by what means they have continued their daily progress to that fatal heighth we now so justly complain of, and which requires all the application of the wisdom and power of the government to restrain and remedy. It is by virtue of this golden key alone, or the favours of unjust partiality, that little or no regard has been had to industry and merit: That the halt and blind, and, what is worse, ostentimes the malicious, have been let into the knowledge and management of our publick affairs, whilst the able and honest, for want of that powerful charm, are shamefully excluded and contemned.
The sale of offices is a practice so infamous, that it has been condemned and detested by the best men, and best governments in all ages, as a cursed omen, foreboding the certain and inevitable destruction of that state, where it has been in the least tolerated and connived at. It is a shackling justice herself, a direct usurpation upon the native and incontestable rights of mankind, and giving a publick license for the exercise of extortion and bribery.
If we at all valued ourselves as Christians (but that great name is too much become a mere cant or term of art to flatter ourselves, and impose upon the credulous) our holy religion would sufficiently inform us of the sinfulness and danger of this abominable practice. What dreadful judgments bas the God of impartial justice thundered out against the sale of publick justice, or its depen. dencies? What excessive and astonishing penalties has he threatened upon all manner of extortion ? Nay, so severe are the terrible denunciations of his wrath, poured out upon all that shall dare to
suffer or encourage it, as are able to stagger and confound the confidence of the most hardened sinner, but his who lies under the curse of final and incorrigible unbelief.
The very heathens themselves abhorred the connivance and countenance of such base and unworthy proceedings: they thought it a degree below the dignity of human nature, to descend to the contemptible practice of taking bribes, and selling licenses 10 iniquity. We find these two maxims, like two golden pillars, supporting the most flourishing and victorious cities in the world, which Aristotle has not been a little industrious to maintain, viz. That the sale of offices is the greatest wrong and affront that can be offered to a commonwealth. And that money ought not to buy those places, which may, nay, ought to be the reward of virtue; and are the fittest means to supply the necessities of good men. The sale of offices in the meridian and glory of the Athenian government (where arts and arms equally flourished, to the delight and satisfaction of all the world) was strictly forbidden, and continually declaimed against. The Lacedemonians, a people the most obstinately virtuous of all the other cities of Greece, utterly exploded it, as a practice altogether inconsistent with their strict morals, and destructive of the fundamental rules of their policy: and I bardly believe there was ever a human government beiter founded than that of Sparta. The Roman empire, when it seemed to be in its greatest beauty, and most happy condition, severely fined and punished those who sought offices unjustly, by bribery, &c. And it is remarkable, that she then first fostered dissension, and laid foundations for her after ruin and cala lies, when she brooked so patiently the sarcastic scoff of Jugurtha, That all things at Rome are to be had for money. It was then that Rome became so enfeebled by her daily corruptions, that she, whose virtue had made her mistress of the world, bad not power enough left to conquer herself; nor could she hinder her own streets from being the stage, whereon so many dismal tragedies of intestine discord were acted. Their historians assign the reason, viz. They made justice a pimp to covetousness, and virtue a stalking. horse to extortion. * Yet there was not any other city, in the world, more jealous of her honour in this point than Rome, or more careful to relieve the poverty of her citizens ; of which, in the times of her innocency, she had many. And what other fate can London, &c. expect, if you dam up the current of her meum and tuum ? If she thus continue selling of justice, her sun shine and splendor will soon be eclipsed. In short, unavoidable ruin is an inseparable subsequent of antecedent unrighteousness.
It is very observable what is reported of the Persian Cambyses, how he flead one of his judges for bribery. Certainly it had been a very urjust punishment, if he had first sold him his place, much mos u he had farmed it to bim at a racked rent, Can we believe that this judge's son would have been willing to pay an exacted sum to sit upon his faiher's skini which however he was forced to receive for his cushion (being preferred to his father's seat upon the
bench) in order to terrify him from the like offence; which the king very honestly told him would deserve the same punishment. This instance is enough to convince us of the necessity of an universal and equal administration of justice, since even the Persians themselves, one of the most delicate and effeminate nations in the world, found the due execution thereof so essentially requisite to the preservation of publick peace, that they thought no punishment too severe for the transgression of so inviolable a law, upon which the welfare of all government depends.
In fine, there neither are, nor have been any nations so barbarous, nor any conjunctions or united bodies of men so inhuman, who, though they have exercised all manner of violence and oppression towards their neighbours, or their enemies, have not at the same time established and required an exact observation of justice among themselves, as fundamentally necessary for the maintaining the true interests of their own community.
But our ancient English law-makers seem to have a deeper apprehension of the necessity of this truth, than any others; and, by those noble and never-to-be-forgotten laws, they have left us, one would think they had a prophetick respect to the degeneracy of the present times, particularly in relation to the grievances, against which this discourse is designed, as abundantly appears from the instances and citations immediately annexed. This Act was made Anno 5, 6 Edw. VI. Cap. 16, against the
Sule of Offices. THE
penalty for buying or selling of some sort of offices, for
the avoiding of corruption, which may hereafter happen to be in the officers and ministers in those courts, places, or rooms, wherein there is requisite to be had true administration of justice, or services of trust : and, to the intent that persons. worthy and meet to be advanced to the place where justice is to be ministered, or any service of trust executed, should hereafter be preferred to the same, and no other :
• Be it therefore enacted by the king our sovereign lord, the lords spiritual and temporal, and the commons in this present parliament assembled, and by the authority of the same, That if any person or persons, at any time hereafter, bargain or sell any office or offices, or deputation of any office or offices, or any part or parcel of any of them; or receive, have, or take any money, or fee, reward, or any other profit, directly or indirectly; or take any promise, agreement, covenant, bond, or any assurance to receive or have any money, fee, reward, or other profit, directly or indirectly, for any office or offices, or for the deputation of any office or offices, or any part of them, or to the intent that any person should have, exercise, or enjoy any office or offices, or the deputation of any office or offices, or any part of any of them; which office or offices, or any part or parcel of them, shall in any wise touch or concern the administration or execution of justice; or the receipt, comptrolment, or payment of any of the king's highness's treasure, money, rent,
revenue, account, aulneage, auditorship, or surveying of any of the king's majesty's honours, castles, mannors, lands, tenements, woods, or hereditaments ; or any the king's majesty's customs, or any administration, or necessary attendance to be had, done, or exécuted in any of the king's majesty's custom-houses houses; tbe keeping of any of the king's majesty's towns, castles, or fortresses, being used, occupied, or appointed for a place of strength or defence, or which shall concern or touch any clerkship to be occupied in any manner of court of record, wherein justice is to be ministered: That then all and every such person and persons, that shall so bargain or sell any of the said office or offices, deputation or deputations ; or that shall take any money, fee, reward, or profit, for any of the said office or offices, deputation or deputations of any of the said offices, or any part of any of them; or 'that shall take any promise, covenant, bond, or assurance for any money, reward, or profit, to be given for any of the said offices, deputation or deputations of any the said office or offices, or any part of any of them, shall not only lose
and forfeit all bis and their right, interest, and estate, which such · person or persons shall then have, of, in, or to any of the said
office or offices, deputation or deputations, or any part of any of them; or of, in, or to the gift or nomination of any of the said office or offices, deputation or deputations ; for the which office or offices, or for the deputation or deputations of which office or offices, or for any part of any of them, any such person or persons shall so make any bargain or sale, or take or receive any sum of money, fee, reward, or profit : or any promise, or covenant, or assurance of to have or receive any fee, reward, money, or profit: But also that all and every such persons, that shall give or pay any sum of money, reward, or fee; or shall make any promise, agreement, bond, or assurance for any of the said offices, or for the deputation or deputations of any of the said office or offices, or any part of any of them, shall immediately, by and upon the same fee, money, or reward given or paid, or upon any such promise, covenant, bond, or agreement, had or made for any fee, sum of money, or reward to be paid, as is aforesaid, be adjudged a disabled person in the law, to all intents and purposes, to have, occupy, or enjoy the said office or offices, deputation or deputations, or any part of any of them; for the which such person or persons shall so give or pay any sum of money, fee, or reward, or make any promise, covenant, bond, or other assurance, to give or pay any sum of money, fee, or reward.
* And be it also enacted by the authority aforesaid, That all and every such bargains, sales, promises, bonds, agreements, covenants, and assurances, as before specified, shall be void to and against him and them, by whom any such bargain, sale, bond, promise, covenant, and assurance shall be had or made.'
Cook, Rep. Lib. xii. 78. Hil. 8. Jac.
• Cook, Lib. xii. 78.