THE CORPORATION OF LONDON
'The History of England during the Reign of George III.'
By the Right Hon. W. N. Massey,
(Cabinet Edition), i. 334-335.
'It was the only corporation in England, the members of which were elected by
popular suffrage. It was the most dignified, the most powerful, the wealthiest of all
the municipal bodies. Its origin, like that of many other corporations, was lost in
prescription, but its privileges were recognized or extended by no less than one hundred
and twenty charters, beginning with the reign of William the Conqueror. . . . .
The constitution and privileges of this famous body are, indeed, a remarkable proof of
what the bold and independent spirit of the people could effect even in the earliest
times. They erected a Government side by side with that of the Sovereign in his
capital City; imitating, if not emulating, the great institutions of the realm. This
government had its Chief Magistrate, its Court of Aldermen, its Common Council,
analagous to King, Lords, and Commons. It was in some respects an imperium in
imperio affecting independent rights, and almost equal degree. The City of London
to this day closes its gates on certain occasions at the approach of royalty, or the
representatives of the Crown. By a particular exception in the annual Mutiny Act
soldiers are not to be billeted within its domain. In all acts of Parliament touching
municipal rights, the privilege of the City is expressly excepted. When the Corporation
address the Crown, the Lord Mayor and principal officers insist upon being received
in state by the King on the throne. If they approach the House of Commons, their
petition is not presented in the ordinary way by one of their representatives but is
delivered at the bar by their Sheriffs in full dress.
'On the 9th of November in every year, the new Lord Mayor is presented to the
judges of the land sitting in banco in their respective courts. On that occasion their
lordships appear in their robes of state, but the great Magistrate stands covered, while
the Recorder claims respect for the ancient rights and privileges of the City of London.
Every event of great national importance, the demise of the Crown or a declaration of
war, is immediately communicated to the Lord Mayor by one of the principal
Secretaries of State. But it would be tedious to enumerate in all its particulars the
grandeur of this mighty corporation; which, if it has sometimes assumed the air of
sovereignty, equals many sovereign states in the extent of its revenue and the value
of its domains. . . . . The Corporation of London will claim a more prominent
place in history than many petty states whose existence has not been illustrated by
any great or useful actions. The liberties of England are indebted to the City of
London. Many a time it has been a safe refuge from tyranny, and at all times the
steady and potent ally of national freedom.'