[Court of] The TEMPORAL GOVERNMENT. [Common Council.]375

[Court of] The TEMPORAL GOVERNMENT. [Common Council.]

The Court of Common Council.


THE Court of Common Council is another Court of the City, of great Use and Authority: and so much the more honourable, as it is observed by some, to have a Resemblance to the High Court of Parliament, as consisting of two Ranks of Men, like the Upper and Lower House, viz. the Lord Maior and Aldermen, resembling the House of Peers; and the Comon Council Men, answering the Commoners. And these are ordinarily such as are of the best Abilities, both for Discretion and Wealth; and elected by the Inhabitants of each of the twenty six Wards, as their respective Representatives. And the Matters here agreed and concluded upon, are stiled Acts. And in this Court are made Laws for the Advance of Trade, and for the good Government of the City, according to the Emergencies thereof. Which are obligatory to all Inhabitants, as consistent with the Laws of the Land. The Commons do give their Assent by holding up their Hands.

Resembles the Estates in Parliament, Coke in his Instit. P. 4. p. 249.

It is held in the Chamber of Guild-Hall, by the Lord Maior, Aldermen, and Common Council of the City, at such times as the Lord Maior shall appoint and direct. And it is in the said Maior's Power both to call and dismiss this Court at his Pleasure.

How ancient this Common Council was, is uncertain; but I find that in the 2d of Rich. I. (which was about the Year when the City began first to be governed by a Maior) on the 11th of October, there was a solemn Meeting in St. Paul's Church-Yard; it is likely in that Place where the Folkmote used to assemble. At this Meeting came John Earl of Moreton, the King's Brother, the Archbishop of Roan, and all the Bishops, Earls, and Barons, with the Citizens of London. Where, among other things done, the said Earl, the Archbishop, (who was Chancellor of England) and other the King's Justices, granted to the Citizens of London, to have and enjoy Communiam suam; i.e. their Commonalty: which it seems had some time before been restrained or interrupted. And the same Year the said Earl Moreton, the Archbishop, and almost all the Bishops, Earls and Barons of the Realm, took an Oath, that they would firmly and steadily keep the same Commonalty, as long as it should please their Lord the King; as Dr. Brady sets it down from Hovedon.

The great Lords of the Realm, 2 R. I. swear to to preserve the Commonalty.

J. S.

Brady's Historical Treatise of Cities and Burghs, p. 20.

And because several other things, besides making Laws, are necessarily required to be lookt after, for maintaining good Estate of the City, as the Letting of the City Lands, as also those in Ireland, and the taking care of the common Sewers, and such like; particular Committees are yearly appointed by the Common Council, to order, and direct, and act in such Matters. And such Committees make Report to the same Court of their Doings and Proceedings, as occasion requires. The Committees are these:

1. There is a Committee of six Aldermen, and twelve Commoners, for letting and demising the City Lands and Tenements. Who usually meet every Wednesday in the Afternoon at Guild-Hall, for that Purpose.


2. There is another Committee of four Aldermen, and eight Commoners, to let and dispose of the Lands and Tenements given by Sir Thomas Gresham. And they commonly meet at Mercers-Hall, at such time as the Lord Maior directs ands appoints; it being the Custom to elect the Lord Maior one of this Committee.

3. Other Persons are elected Commissioners for the Sewers and Pavements.

4. This Court also elects a Governor, Deputy Governor, and Assistants, for Management of the City's Lands in Ulster and London-Derry in Ireland, pursuant to a Charter of the King; whereby he granted, that the Society of the Governor and Assistants of London, of the new Plantation in Ulster, should be yearly elected and appointed by the Maior, Aldermen, and Commonalty of the said City, at the First Common Council to be holden next after the Purification of the Blessed Virgin MARY. Accordingly, the Governor, Deputy Governor, and Assistants do meet as occasion requires, in a Chamber in Guild-Hall, called the Irish Chamber.

See this Charter in Lex Londin. p. 118.

There be moreover these Proprieties of this Court. A Stranger born, may be made free of this City by Order of this Court, and not otherwise.

The Places of Common Serjeant, Common Clerk or Town Clerk, Judges of the Sheriffs Courts, Common Cryer, Coroner, Bailiff of the Borough of Southwark, and Garbler, are in the Gift of this Court.

The Clerk of the Court of Requests, commonly called the Court of Conscience, was once elected by this Court, viz. Major Gunston, upon the Death of John White. But by the Judgment of Counsel learned in the Law, the Right of Election of the said Clerk of Requests, is not in this Court, but in the Court of Aldermen.

The Commoners in this Court are 234 Persons, and in Representation many Thousands.

This Court of Common Council, in the 6th of Hen. VII. April 15. conferred a Power upon the Lord Maior and Aldermen, that at the Election of the Chamberlain, the Lord Maior and Aldermen should present two Men to the Commonalty, and the Commonalty to chuse one of them to be Chamberlain. In the same Act of Common Council, this Court conferred a Power upon the Lord Maior and Aldermen, that at the Election of Bridge-Master, the Lord Maior and Aldermen should present four Men to the Commonalty, and the Commonalty to chuse two of them to be Bridge-Masters. But June 21, 1643, this Court of Common Council repealed the former Act of Common Council of Hen. VII. and took away that Power from the Maior and Aldermen, which before was by the Law conferred upon them: and so settled the Choice of Chamberlain and Bridge-Masters in statu quo prius.

The Election of Chamberlain and Bridge-master.

Plea for the Commonalty of London, p. 13.

In the Year 1644, Sir Thomas Atkins Lord Maior, there happened a Controversy between the Commoners of the City, and the Maior and Aldermen, claiming their long lost Liberties and Privileges, in the Choice of City Officers, which they pretended were encroached upon by former Maiors and Aldermen. This occasioned John Bellamy, one of the Common Council, and, as it seems, well seen in the Laws, especially of the City, to make a Motion in a Common Council Jan. 16, 1644, to the Maior and Aldermen, to this Purport: "That one special means, that he had oft observed to obstruct the good Proceedings of that Court, might be removed. Which was, that the Maior caused the Sword to be taken up, and then went away; and so dissolving the Court, without the Consent, yea, against the Desire of the major part." The Remedy he proposed, for the Redress of this Grievance, was, "That by the Power of the Council, there might a Law be established, that the Court might not at any time be dissolved or adjourned, without the Consent of the major Part, both of Aldermen and Commons, in Common Council assembled." Upon this Speech, and their foresaid pretended Claim, there was a Committee appointed to state the Question in Debate, between the Aldermen and Commoners, Mem-

A Debate in Common Council about electing City Officers.