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Ballantyne Press




JANUARY, 1885.

The City Companies. By the Right Hon. Sir Arthur Hobhouse, K.C.S.I.
Dr. Johnson. By Augustine Birrell

The German Colonial Movement. By Baron von der Brüggen
Contemporary Socialism. By Professor Thorold Rogers, M.P.

The Church of England and the Evangelical Party. By R. E. Bartlett

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III. General Literature

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ENGLISH society may be said in one respect to resemble

those who are instructed unto the Kingdom of Heaven, and that is in constantly producing for our examination things new and old. Compared with the storm-tossed nations of Western Europe, our vessel has navigated the ocean of history under gentle gales. For eight centuries no wave of conquest has swept over us. For four centuries we have had hardly as many years of civil war. No sudden upheaval of the lower social strata has destroyed the surface with the goodly things that grow upon it. But simultaneously with this immunity from abrupt change and convulsion, and indeed as the prime cause of it, the hand of the reformer has never, during the four centuries to which I have referred, been idle amongst us. We have made at least as much progress, we have developed at least as high a civilization, as any of our neighbours. I am not going to dwell on the advantages of this gradual and steady method of admitting the growth of new ideas and adapting old arrangements to change of circumstances. I only now point out one effect of it, which is, that the old and the new stand side by side in singular companionship, and that in setting about the newest reforms we find ourselves engaged in examining the nature of social growths so old that their origin defies accurate analysis. The House of Lords throws out a new Franchise Bill, and we discuss what took place during the Barons' The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council incurs obloquy about a new, or newly revived, ecclesiastical ceremonial, and the


When this paper was put into shape, there was published only one volume of the Blue Book; which contains the Reports and Memoranda of the Commissioners, and the Oral Enquiry. Where not otherwise specified, my references are to that vol. Quite lately two other vols., containing the returns made by the Companies, have been published, and I have been able to insert some matter from them. There are more to come, which will show in detail the state of the accounts and properties.

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ancient relations of Church and State are straightway brought on the carpet. And the same thing happens with the subject of this paper.

2. In one of those skilful touches of graphic colour which lend beauty to all that Mr. Froude writes, he expresses the feeling with which in the year 1856 he regarded the London Guilds. I will quote a small portion, only adding that the whole is well worth reading for a view of the functions of the Guilds in the days of their vigour :

"The names and shadows linger about London of certain ancient societies the members of which may still occasionally be seen in quaint gilt barges pursuing their now difficult way among the swarming steamers, when on certain days, the traditions concerning which are fast dying out of memory, the Fishmongers' Company, the Goldsmiths' Company, the Mercers' Company, make procession down the river for civic feastings at Greenwich or Blackwall. The stately tokens of ancient honour still belong to them, and the remnants of ancient wealth and patronage and power. Their charters, or such fragments of them as the mildew and the rats have spared, may still be read by curious antiquaries. But for what purpose they were called into being, what there was in these associations of common trades to surround with gilded insignia, and how they came to be possessed of broad lands and Church preferments, few people now care to think or inquire."

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3. So it seemed in 1856. Enquiries there had been, and by Royal Commissions too. But the City Companies as a rule disliked enquiry and resisted it; and because those who cared to think or enquire were few, resistance for the time was effectual. Even then, however, there were keen eyes seeking what was behind that pageantry which struck Mr. Froude as equally picturesque and hollow. There were Londoners moved by zeal for the public interest, and I may without invidiousness towards others mention Mr. James Beal as the foremost and most energetic among them, in whose minds the visible phænomena raised a serious practical question. They thought that vast funds-designed for the public benefit-were being wasted by their administrators in feasting and show, or being absorbed in payments to the administrators themselves. In their view the existence of the Companies was a public scandal, and an injury to Londoners in particular; and they called for the dissolution of the guilty bodies and the application of their property to civic purposes.. 4. Others there were who, not seeing evidence on which to found any verdict of condemnation, still thought there was a very strong case for thorough public enquiry. They saw that the Companies were public bodies, originally charged with important public functions, still exercising some such functions, and holding possessions which had been handed down by their predecessors during long ages. There was at least a fair ground for thinking that property so situated was public property. For myself, I have now for many years advocated reforms of laws relating to charitable endowments, and amongst

* Hist. of England, vol. i. p. 40.

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