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the consequential miseries of the abuses, and corruptions here complained of, shall have reduced us to a too late repentance.
A chief means for the preservation of state or government in good order is, that particular care be taken, not to stifle and discountenance, but admit and cherish the just impeachments, and reasonable accusations, which are the unquestionable right of the subject against those, who, being byassed by ambition, avarice, or pride, shall either contrary to law, or by elusion, and corrupt practice of the law, seek to invade and destroy their liberties, properties, and native rights.
'The want of a due and impartial administration of justice, in this particular, has been the grand cause of all the cruelty, oppression, and extortion that have so often interrupted the publick peace, and now hang over the nation, as a severe judgment.
I would not be misunderstood, as if I intended to fill the kingdom with perpetual clamours and informations, and designed to open a wide door of access for every little whiffler to alarm the magistrate's quiet, with petty vexatious complaints, and malicious suggestions. ( abhor that sort of cattle, and the indulging them, as much as any man alive. But it is unjust in itself, and of fatal consequence to a government, to reproach and stigmatise every honest man, with the scandal of a common informer, who, out of a true sense of his duty, and an unbyassed zeal for his king and country, shall endeavour to detect the wicked practices of such, who, by corruptly abusing the honourable employments they are intrusted with, directly strike at the life and happiness of both. I say such informations as these ought to be assisted with the encouragement of the magistrate; especially if the complaints are grounded upon reasonable evidence, or even upon probable suspicion : except they will tell us they have made such good provision before-hand, to supply the executive part of the government with honest and able officers, that it is morally impossible for a man in office, to act against his conscience, or betray his trust for money. This would be good news indeed, and at once discharge the people of their complaints and fears, and ease his majesty of the greatest part of his care and danger.
But alas ! our present circumstances afford us apparent reasons to believe the contrary; and the evils and disasters, that have con. tinually attended us, take away the very pretence, or umbrage of any excuse whatever. This is too visible to be denied, when the disposal of trust and power, in too many places in the government is set to sale to the highest bidder; or, what is as bąd, bestowed upon favourites, or private minions, though never so unqualified; many offices being only to be obtained by money: which infamous practice intails these two fatal calamities upon the nation, the very Source and spring of unavoidable mischief and disorder: for, by this means, many persons, utterly incapable of discharging the duty of the employments they hold, by vertue of a strong purse, though never so weak capacity, are admitted into such part of the publick administration, where this ignorance and inability render
them wholly unserviceable, and consequently trust notoriously mismanaged, to the government's irreparable prejudice.
And, though we will suppose some purchaser to be fitly qualified, and of honest principles, yet, by reason of this heavy fine for his admission, he lies under the daily temptation of stretching the duty of his office, in raising his fees to re-advance his purchase money. By which means, too many places, wherein the honour of the trust, with a moderate salary, would o herwise be an ample gratification, are now becoine a perfect mart of usury and interest; with this farther inconvenience, that all the sub-ministers and inferior officers lying under their master's circumstances, being wholly swayed by lucre and profit, are likewise exposed to the very same temptations in their lower class of trust. And what is still more calamitous, their misdemeanors and faults must be but very slenderly inspected, or, at best, but mildly punished, lest otherwise you strike at the offender's farm, I may see his fee-simple, his downright purchase and penny-worth.
. This is dtflouring the virgin purity of justice, checking and curbing her in the noblest exercises of ber dominion, and administering a plausible colour for defending injustice, bribery, extortion, and oppression. But to double and treble the value, to manage them for the best advantage to the seller, and put him upon the rack of improvement too; what is it but to bespeak the unfittest men, either through want of honesty or experience, that can be met with to manage those affairs and places, in which justice and reason require the most upright and judicious persons ?
But that the deformity, as well as iniquity of such an abominable practice, may become more odious, by being made more visible and conspicuous, though there are too many other grievances in the nation to be lamented, for brevity sake, we shall make some particular remarks, and commence our reflexions from the honourable city of London, the grand pattern, by whose measures snialler corporations are apt to make their precedents.
Inexpressible are the daily complaints and mischiefs, that arise through the excessive straining and advancing the exorbitant fees of counsellors, attornies, clerks, serjeants, gaolers, and other officers in this city, by reason of the too frequent, malicious, and impertinent actions, and general corruption among them: occasioned chiefly by their being forced to buy their places with money, without regard to merit: for never any man came into an office by the mediation of his gold, but he was compelled to exercise his authority wickedly. He that buys must sell
, or he loses by the bargain; which makes the public offices to be like briars, to which sheep repairing for shelter, must unavoidably be forced to part with some of their fleece.
Now to consider the consequences, and those very pernicious ones, of such purchase, we will begin with the serjeant, who, at this time, pays the sheriff near five hundred pounds for his place. It is true, it has been at a far lower rate, as well as all other places,
but the prices rise, as the world degenerates, and consequently corruptions improve and increase. Well
, suppose, here is five hundred pounds given for a place for life, which at seven years purchase, the customary value of a life, buys seventy pounds per annum in a dead rent upon land, where the purchaser has no more to do, than receive his annual revenue, as the money becomes due. But, in a place or office purchased, where there is constant toil, attendance, and business to supply that office, it is modestly computed, that a man ought in all reason and equity to make double as much per annum of his money, as in a lazy annuity. So that, for his five hundred pounds, a serjeant seems to have a justifiable pretension to get about a hundred and fifty pounds a year, a very round income, for a man that, in his post, is sworn but a varlet'; an income much larger than that of many an honest gentleman of good birth and quality, with a much fairer blazon in his coat of arms, than a blood sucking serjeant. This hundred and fifty pounds per annum is three pounds a week, about ten shillings a day; and how must the serjeant raise this money? If by taking only the now customary fees of his office, as allowed in court, viz. half a crown for every arrest, and no more, of which his yeoman, who gives above two hundred pounds for his place, goes one third snack with him; by consequence, he must arrest six men every day one with another, all the year round, to raise the profits of his purchase money, viz. ten shillings, per diem, for his own share.
But, supposing this serjeant instead of six arrests in one day, does not make above six, and half six more in the whole week, and a good week's work 100; how must the money rise then? Instead of half-crowns from the poor prisoners, here must be half-pounds, and whole pounds too, extorted for civility money, as they call it, and several other unreasonable pretences and demands, to make up the sum.
And what, I pray, are the consequences of these pounds so extorted? Only this: the poor debtor is so much the less enabled to . satisfy his creditor's just debt itself; and all by such unwarrantable extortions, from the serjeant first, and then from the gaoler afterwards, not only to the intire defrauding the creditor, but many times to the utter ruin of the poor prisoner, that perishes in gaol under no other load.
Who then the case thus fairly stated) lays all this oppression upon a poor debtor? The serjeant and gaoler? No; but Mr. Sheriff, that sells them their places: for they, good meri, do no more than raise the effects and perquisites answerable to their own fair pur
If the common right of Meum and Tuum thus manifestly suffers, by the creditor's want of his legal satisfaction, occasioned by these arrest or imprisonment extortions ; do the serjeant and gaoler obstruct that right ? Not in the least. Mr. Sheriff has borrowed a round sum of money of the serjeant and yeoman for their admission, and their great city lords and masters possibly six times
as much of the gaoler; and therefore their tallies and loans must be satisfied first.
If a poor prisoner, through such extorted sums, is reduced to starving in gaol, are his catch-poles and turnkeys in fault? No, not they.. For their head office jobbers, their great sales-masters have squeesed first, and it is their turn to squeese next. In fine, the face of the poor is ground, but the serjeants, gaolers, attornies, &c. only turn the grind-stone, the grind-stone itself is the magistrate.
The keeper's place of Newgate was lately sold for 35001. Now upon such a prodigious sum paid only for the head tyrant's jurisdiction of those stone walls, and iron grates ; considering likewise the numerous turnkeys, sutlers, and all his sub-janizaries, to be all fed and fattened also from the fees of their lower posts, what annual income must that one gaol raise, and how raise, to answer such a saucy purchase! Why truly thus :
First, for the criminal prisoners:
If a thief, or house breaker, would get unloaded of so many pounds of iron, or purchase a sleeping hole, a little free from vermin, or with wholesome air enough to keep his lungs from being choaked up, he must raise those extravagant sums to pay for it, as can no ways be furnished but from theft and vice, supplied by his jades or brother rogues abroad, who must rob or whore, to support him even with the common necessaries of life. Nay, instead of employing their time in amendment of life, and a religious preparation for their tryal, they are forced to drink, riot, and game, to curry favour with the gaoler, and support his luxury.
Thus a gaol, which should be a check to roguery and wickedness, in a high measure, by its extortion and oppression, encourages it.
And next, for the poor debtor committed thither (for it is the county gaol) he receives much the like severe treatment and hardships: for extortion and oppression, like the grave, make no distinction.
Now let us enquire by what right the magistrates sell that keeper's place, together with those of Ludgate and the Compters. It is well known that those places, as well as all others, were formerly given gratis. Now, if they bad then any inherent power of selling them, it is presumed that the then magistrates were not so extravagantly generous to part with such a considerable feather in the city cap for nothing, provided they had a title to sell. Then, as they took nothing, so we may reasonably presume they could rightfully demand nothing for them.
By wbat pretension then does the chair demand it now? We know of no donation or concession granted by law to intitle them to such a sale. And, without such a donation, it is all but incroachment, iniquity, injustice, and usurpation, where there was no original or fundamental claim to warrant and introduce their pretensions : nay it is expressly against the commands of God, and the laws of the land, as is here made appear.
Now, for the effects of this corruption, how often have the su
fering prisoners remonstrated against all this cruelty, and petitioned the magistracy for a redress of their grievances, and a retrenchment of the exorbitant demands of a gaol ? But all their prayers have either never been heard, or never minded. For the magistracy is deaf to such a work of reformation, by reason bis own interest is concerned in the matter; and therefore the abuses and oppressions of the gaoler (who not only repays himself, but acquires often-times a great estate to boot) are still connived at.
Having been thus more particular in the gaoler's and serjeant's case, we shall leave the reader himself to judge, what no less bard measures we daily groan under, without relief, from counsellors, attornies, and clerks, &c. in their sphere of law, when about 15001, is paid for a city council or attorney's place (and divers other of a ficers) which, by the same fore-mentioned proportion of annual advantage, must raise near 500l. per annum to balance the excessive price they pay for them. And, though they live ai very extravagant rates, yet, if they enjoy their places any considerable time, they leave great estates behind them.
It is by this means that purchased cruelty grows bold, and plumes itself in its extortion, being not only countenanced, but justified by the magistrate, who raises the value of an unlawful sale, because he finds a numerous sort of people thriving and doing well, by living and doing ill. It is example that corrupts us all: for how commonly do the under-officers, gaolers, &c. excuse their barbarity, and unreasonable exactions, in alledging that they have no other way to make up the interest of their purchase money? So that they are hereby forced to lay the whole design of their advantage upon the calamities of the miserable; which inhumanity is too frequently connived at by the magistrate, suffering justice to be over-ruled by the persuasion of many golden temptations. A degenerate and unworthy practice! quite contrary to the office of a good magistrate, whose duty and glory consist in curbing the growth of oppression, retrenching exorbitances, and in searing away the proud flesh of rapine and violence, and not in selling impunity to the evil-doer.
It is this alone that steels and case-hardens a gaoler's conscience against all pity and remorse, giving him the confidence to demand | extortionary fees and racked chamber-rent from his prisoners, or
else crowding them into holes, dungeons, and common-sides (designedly made more nasty, to terrify the prisoner, who for preservation of his life is thereby forced to part with his money; or) there to be devoured by famine and diseases.
This makes him let his tap-houses at such prodigious rates, that, where poor people ought to have the best and cheapest, they have the worst in quality, and smallest in quantity, at excessive prices. Also farming his beds to mere harpies, and his great key to such pieces of imperious cruelty, as are the worst of mankind, to the eternal reproach of the city's honour, and scandal of the Christian religion, while the bloated patron himself, all the while, maintains his family in pride, and an imperious wife, or perhaps impudent