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No. X.- WEDNESDAY, JULY 22, 1835.
GOLDSMITHS HALL. On Wednesday last I was shown over the new Hall of the ancient and wealthy City Company of Goldsmiths, when it was in a complete state of preparation for the opening dinner. It is not my intention to say more of its architectural merits than to express my full agreement with the general opinion, that it exhibits an extraordinary union of magnificence, good taste, and comfort. It is in a political and moral point of view that I am going to .consider it as one of the institutions in accordance with
ideas of free, efficient, and enjoyable government. I have long entertained great admiration of the constitution of the government of the City of London, and I believe to that constitution we are greatly indebted for the preservation of our liberties through so many ages. Not only on many critical occasions have the citizens stood forth the sturdy champions of political rights, but it can scarcely be doubted that apprehension of their power has not frequently prevented arbitrary measures from having been even meditated. Such a citadel, always well garrisoned, and, what is of no small consequence, always well provisioned, close to the seat of government, cannot have been without the most influential effects. The circumstances, too, of the King himself not entering the City without first being announced to the Lord Mayor at the gate, and of no soldiers being allowed to be introduced without consent, have been outworks not without use—especially the latter, because it has enabled spirited magistrates to furnish examples of the superiority of moral influence over physical force in quelling disturbances. The strength of the City has depended both upon
the union and the division of its government-upon its union under the Lord Mayor and Aldermen, the Court of Common Council, and the Livery; upon its division into wards and companies, though the latter may be considered as only collateral, but still very important. The union has produced unity of action and influence—the division has produced discipline, and that confidence which arises from a habit of consulting and acting together in compact bodies, without which everything is vague and mob-like. The reasons why the City government has not exhibited all the advantages of which it appears capable, I apprehend to be two-fold ; first, because the boundaries have not from time to time been extended, in like manner as the Romans were wont to extend their city boundaries, as population and wealth increased ; and secondly, for want of local improvement, which has gradually driven away the higher classes of inhabitants, so
that City honours have had a continual tendency to fall into lower and lower hands. In other parts of the country the machinery and splendour of local government are quite inadequate to what is wanted ; in the City it is the reverse, and there is consequently a waste, upon a population diminishing both in number and quality, of what would suffice for far more extended purposes. The City is like an ancient mansion kept up in all its former splendour, after it has become so inconvenient that the best members of the family will no longer live in it; and, consequently, that which would amply supply their wants is lavished upon less worthy objects, and for inadequate ends. It is an establishment much larger and more expensive than the locality requires, and those who are called citizens are for the most part no longer really such, but out-lying members and foreigners, who attach themselves for what they can get, without having any corresponding duties to perform, or any substantial interests to connect them. If government and the means of government were made co-extensive, the benefits would be great in all ways. The distinctions, wealth, and various advantages pertaining to the City, in the different ramifications of its government, would be increased in attraction by diffusion, instead of being inconveniently confined to a limited district of crowded or narrow streets, thronged with business, and deserted as to residence by the chief persons who have occasion to attend there. The City companies, which were originally so many brotherhoods for the protection of different trading interests, have become in these times, I apprehend, nearly useless in that view; but as social bodies, governing themselves, I consider them of high importance, and as so many strongholds of freedom, if it were seriously attacked. They give a community of interest, they increase each individual member's stake in the country, they create aggregate power, and a brotherly and social feeling, forming altogether solid bulwarks to the body politic. I have already alluded to the importance of the City being well provisioned; and although City feasting is often a subject of joke, and is no doubt sometimes carried to excess, yet I am of opinion that a great deal of English spirit is owing to it; and that as long as men are so often emboldened by good cheer, they are in no danger of becoming slaves. The City halls, with their feasts, their music, and their inspiriting associations
, are so many temples of liberty; and I only wish that they could be dispersed through the metropolis, and have each a local government attached in proportion to the means of the establishment. Then would there be objects worthy of the highest intelligence, united with social attractions ; and improvement in government might be expected to become steadily progressive.
SILVER THREEPENCES AND FOURPENCES. I have often thought it would be very advantageous in our daily money transactions to have some silver coins of smaller value than sixpence. In pursuing the subject I have come to the conclusion, that it would be beneficial in three ways, and to a more considerable extent than I at first supposed. First, it would greatly increase small traffic, to the convenience of buyers and the profit of sellers. Copper money is both disagreeable and cumbersome, and, to avoid carrying it, we continually abstain from laying out trifling sums, to the privation of many little enjoyments and comforts. It is hardly necessary to mention instances. They occur constantly, in passing along the streets, in travelling, and, in short, in much of our every-day intercourse; so that at the end of the year both we, and those with whom we should deal, are considerable losers. How often would a biscuit or an orange be grateful and wholesome! but the nuisance of fivepence is a general bar to the purchase, and the same with a multitude of twopenny and threepenny matters. How often, to avoid the weight and gingle of copper, do we avoid, or stop short of a turnpike!
The second advantage would be the more accurate regulation of prices and payments, which is of no small consequence in our daily dealings. How many articles are charged sixpence, or a shilling, when they could be well afforded much cheaper, merely for the convenience of payment! Consequently, the traffic is very much diminished by a natural repugnance to give more than the value; or if the purchase is made, it is accompanied by a certain degree of dissatisfaction, which takes off from the enjoyment. Not only is cheapness an inducement to buy, but all prudent people like to have value received. On the other hand, for the same convenience of payment, the price is necessarily sometimes fixed too low, to the loss of the seller. At the great clubs, where no article is served for less than sixpence, double the quantity wanted is often given, or nothing at all is charged. The consequence is, a restraint on the consumption of many extras, or a loss to the general account. The want of smaller coins is a great drawback to the frequent use of cabs, and the same may be said perhaps of boats on the Thames. People do not like to be constantly paying an over-price, or to be encumbered with pence, to the great detriment of the callings; for though sometimes too much is paid, far more frequently employment is altogether lost.
The third advantage would be in the regulation of gratuities for small services, such as to waiters, or porters at inns, on occasions
where sixpence is beyond reason too much, or to horse-holders in the streets; and here those employed are either paid extravagantly, or not at all, or their services are refused. Every one must have experienced again and again the annoyance of applications for gratuities, which it is difficult equitably to make payment of, and the consequent dissatisfaction of one party or the other, or perhaps of both. The instances I have given of the inconvenience of the want of small coins are only by way of specimens, but others will easily suggest themselves. In conclusion, I am of opinion that an abundant supply of silver threepences or fourpences would materially increase the profits of many small branches of trade, and of various humble callings—that it would contribute much to the convenience and contentment of those who have purchases to make, or services to requite, and that any expense of coinage would be far more than counterbalanced by an increase of revenue, from an increase of traffic. I say nothing of the effect it would have upon casual charity, because I am decidedly opposed to the practice; but its greatest merit in my eyes is, that it would improve the market for honest industry.
The following table will show, that by means of a supply of threepenny and fourpenny pieces, any sum, not involving the fraction of a penny, might be paid without the intervention of copper. For the information of those unacquainted with algebraical signs, the sign + signifies with the addition of; - signifies less by; and =, equal to. Thus, 8 + 2 – 3 = 7 signifies 8, with the addition of 2, and less by 3, is equal to 7. d. d. d.
d. d. d. d.
12 + 3 = 15
4 + 4 3 = 17
12 + 4 + 6 + 3 =
12 + 4 + 4 = 20 6 + 4 = 10
12 + 6 + 3 = 21 4 + 4 + 3 = 11
12 + 6 + 4 = 22 6 + 4 + 3 = 13 12 + 12 + 3 4 = 23
INJURY AND INSULT. People are generally very ready to put up with even intentional injury, when neither preceded nor followed by insult. I recollect a strong instance of this. A man applied to me for a warrant against another for knocking out one of his front teeth, which he held up
On my remarking upon his loss, he replied, “ Oh! I should not have come for that, only he called me a thief.” It is useful in going through life to bear in mind that
courtesy to, and sympathy with, those we have accidentally injured, ordinarily diminish greatly the amount of reparation required, and sometimes even inspire as much good-will as a benefit conferred.
COUNTRY HOUSES. When I used to frequent country houses, I often heard complaints made of the difficulty of getting down London society, especially in parts remote from the metropolis. Invitations for a short period, it was said, are not worth accepting, and for a long one, except in particular cases, not desirable. The easiest remedy for this dilemma seems to be for persons acquainted with each other, who reside in the same part of the country, or on the same route, to make out lists of those they would wish to invite, and for what periods and at what times. Then, by a comparison, arrangements might often be made, holding out sufficient inducements, and satisfactory to all parties.
MARRIAGE IN LOW LIFE. A few days since when sitting on the bench, I received the following note from a clergyman :-“ W. B. is in custody on a charge of drunkenness. He is wanted here to be married. If his case will allow, discharge him, that he may be at church before twelve o'clock.” It then only wanted a quarter, so I had the prisoner brought up immediately, and finding his offence was not of a very grave nature, in consideration of the feelings of his intended, I let him go, under a promise that he would return to be judged. He was as good as his word; indeed I am not sure that the police did not keep an eye upon him. It appeared that in order to make the most of his last moments of bachelorship, he had gone with three companions to Astley's Theatre, thence to supper, and was finishing his amusements with knocking at doors and ringing bells, when he was captured at three o'clock in the morning after an assault upon a policeman. From church his wife attended him to the office, and waited, I suppose with anxiety, the result of my decision, which was a fine of five shillings. This is rather an extreme case; but I am afraid that marriage amongst the very lowest classes is in general a very thoughtless, joyless affair from beginning to end. Why it is so, I may on some future occasion endeavour to show.
Now I am on the subject of low life, which may have some interest with those of my readers who know nothing of it but by report, I will here mention a scene I witnessed in one of my rounds alluded to in my last number. On entering an obscure