On the 9th of November I dined at Guildhall. It was the day of the inauguration of the Lord Mayor. Mr. Alderman Atkins had been the successful candidate for the mayoralty. There was the grand procession upon the Thames, and through the streets. I need not give a description of it; for it has been as often described as St. Paul’s Cathedral or Westminster Abbey. The dinner was in the large Gothic Hall. There sat down about nine hundred persons. The giants and knights clad in steel, the band of music slowly moving round the hall, the Aldermen in their costumes, the Sheriffs with their gold chains, the Judges in their robes, the Lady Mayoress in her hoop, with long rows of prosperous-looking citizens, presented a novel mixture of modern things, with symbols of the ancient banquet. The lights, the decorations of the hall, and all that covered the tables, gave a high impression of municipal plenty and munificence. The Premier, Lord Liverpool, with Lord Bathurst, Lord Sidmouth, and Mr. Vansittart, as cabinet ministers, were guests. There were many other official characters.
One of the knights wore the helmet which the City of London gave to Henry the Seventh. Its weight was fourteen pounds. The other knight wore the entire armour of Henry the Fifth. It was that of a small man. Lord Sidmouth, who sat near me, remarked, that all the armour of that day and earlier, indicated the stature to be smaller than at present. I thought of what Sir John Sinclair said, at Ormly Lodge. The reasons assigned were, improved agriculture, better personal habits from the greater diffusion of comforts among the people through the increase of wealth and science; also, the disappearance of certain diseases, as leprosy and scurvy, and the advancement of medical knowledge, Mr. Vansittart said, that the remains of Roman armour had shown the Romans to be a smaller race of men than the moderns.
After the King, Prince Regent, and members of the Royal Family, had been given as toasts, the Lord Mayor did me the honour to propose my name, that he might make it the medium of cordial sentiments towards the United States. These the company received with applause. In returning thanks I reciprocated the friendly feelings he had expressed.
Before going to dinner we were in the council-room. Among the paintings was a very large one of the scene between Richard the Second and Wat Tyler. Another of that between Mary of Scots and Rizzio; one of the siege of Gibraltar, by Copley; and other pieces. But I looked with chief interest at the portraits of the naval commanders. Pausing at Nelson’s, Lord Sidmouth said, that in a visit he had from him three weeks before the battle of Trafalgar, he described the plan of it with bits of paper on a table, as it was afterwards fought. When we came to Duncan’s, he recited the lines, by Lord Wellesley, on the victory over the Dutch, off Camperdown. At Howe’s, Mr. Vansittart said, that just before his battle with the French fleet, the sailors expressed a wish for a little more grog. Howe replied, “Let ‘em wait till it’s over, and we’ll all get drunk together.” At Rodney’s, some conversation took place on the manoeuvre, which he first practised in his victory over De Grasse, of breaking the line. I asked, whether the success of that mode of attack did not essentially depend upon the inferiority of your enemy, especially in gunnery. It was admitted that it did, and that Lord Nelson always so considered it. The Marlborough, Rodney’s leading ship, received the successive broad-sides of twenty-three of the French ships of the line, at near distance, and had not more than half-a-dozen of her men killed. My motive to the inquiry, was a remark I once heard from Commodore Decatur of our service, that, in an event, which I trust may be remote, of English fleets and those of the United States meeting, the former would probably change their system of tactics in action. Speaking of naval science in England, Lord Sidmouth said, that it had greatly improved of late years; that Lord Exmouth told him that, when he was a young man, it was not uncommon for lieutenants to be ignorant of lunar observations, but that now no midshipman was promoted who could not take them. He intimated his belief, that naval science generally, was destined to far higher advances than it had yet reached.
After dinner we went into the ball-room, where a ball terminated the festivities.
I should not soon have done if I were to mention all the instances of which I chanced on this occasion to hear of riches among mechanics, artisans, and others, engaged in the common walks of business in this great city. I make a few selections. I heard of haberdashers who cleared thirty thousand pounds sterling a-year, by retail shop-keeping; of brewers, whose buildings and fixtures necessary to carry on business, cost four hundred and fifty thousand pounds; of silversmiths worth half a million; of a person in Exeter Change, who made a fortune of a hundred thousand pounds, chiefly by making and selling razors; of job-horse men, who held a hundred and forty thousand pounds in the Three per Cents; and of confectioners and woollen drapers who had funded sums still larger. Of the higher order of merchants, bankers, and capitalists of that stamp, many of whom were present, whose riches I heard of, I am unwilling to speak, lest I should seem to exaggerate. I have given enough. During the late war with France, it is said that there were once recruited in a single day in the country between Manchester and Birmingham, two thousand able-bodied working men for the British army. It is the country so remarkable for its collieries, iron mines, and blast furnaces. Its surface is desolate. A portion of it is sometimes called the fire country, from the flames that issue in rolling volumes from the lofty tops of the furnaces. Seen all around by the traveller at night, they present a sight that may be called awful. Sometimes you are told that human beings are at work in the bowels of the earth beneath you. A member of the diplomatic corps, on hearing of the above enlistment remarked, that could Bonaparte have known that fact, and seen the whole region of country from which the men came, seen the evidences of opulence and strength in its public works, its manufacturing establishments and towns, and abundant agriculture, notwithstanding the alleged or real pauperism of some of the districts, it would of itself have induced him to give over the project of invading England.
In like manner, let any one go to a lord mayor’s dinner; let him be told of the sums owned by those he will see around him and others he will hear of, not inherited from ancestors, but self-acquired by individual industry in all ways in which the hand and mind of man can be employed, and he will be backward at predicting the ruin of England from any of her present financial difficulties. Predictions of this nature have been repeated for ages, but have not come to pass. Rich subjects make a rich nation. As the former increase, so will the means of filling the coffers of the latter. Let contemporary nations lay it to their account, that England is more powerful now than ever she was, notwithstanding her debt and taxes. This knowledge should form an element in their foreign policy. Let them assure themselves, that instead of declining she is advancing; that her population increases fast; that she is constantly seeking new fields of enterprise in other parts of the globe, and adding to the improvements that already cover her island at home, new ones that promise to go beyond them in magnitude; in fine, that instead of being worn out, as at a distance is sometimes supposed, she is going a-head with the buoyant spirit and vigorous effort of youth. It is an observation of Madame de Staël, how ill England is understood on the Continent, in spite of the little distance that separates her from it. How much more likely that nations between whom and herself an ocean interposes, should fall into mistakes on the true nature of her power and prospects; should imagine their foundations to be crumbling, instead of steadily striking into more depth, and spreading into wider compass. Britain exists all over the world, in her colonies. These alone, give her the means of advancing her industry and opulence for ages to come. They are portions of her territory more valuable than if joined to her island. The sense of distance is destroyed by her command of ships; whilst that very distance serves as the feeder of her commerce and marine. Situated on every continent, lying in every latitude, these, her out-dominions, make her the centre of a trade already vast and perpetually augmenting — a home trade and a foreign trade—for it yields the riches of both, as she controls it all at her will. They take off her redundant population, yet make her more populous; and are destined, under the policy already commenced towards them, and which in time she will far more extensively pursue, to expand her an empire, commercial, manufacturing, and maritime, to dimensions to which it would not be easy to affix limits.
Richard Rush, A Residence at the Court of London 1833
[gratefully copied from David Skilton's
pages at University of Cardiff
The annual salary of the Lord Mayor is 8000l.; and the
annual income of the Corporation of London, about 156,000l. arising
Coal and Corn Dues - estimated at £60,881
Rents and Quit Rents - " £56,896
Markets - " £17,126
Tolls and Duties - " £7,067
Brokers Rents and Fines - " £3,892
Admissions to the Freedom of the City - " £4,518
Renewing Fines for Leases - " £728
The Lord Mayor generally spends more than his income, but how the Corporation money is spent is not very well known. The administration of justice at the Central Criminal Court in the Old Bailey costs about 12,182l. a-year; the City Police, about 10,118l. a-year; Newgate, about 9223l. a-year; the House of Correction, about 7602l. a-year; the Debtors' Prison, about 4955l. a-year; and the expenses of the Conservancy of the Thames and Medway, (of which the Lord Mayor is Conservator) about 3,117l. a-year.
Peter Cunningham, Hand-Book of London, 1850