HC Deb 22 February 1833 vol 15 cc1114-29
Mr. Attwood

rose for the purpose of moving, that the order for referring the petition of R. H. Franks to the Committee on Municipal Corporations be discharged. He certainly was astonished to find that there was any hesitation upon the subject. It appeared to him quite clear, that the Committee on Municipal Corporations could not deal with the petition, and therefore it ought not to be referredto it. It had been attempted to maintain, that the trading Corporations of the city of London were Municipal Corporations. How was that possible? Could there be two Municipal Corporations in one town? Most assuredly not. Such a thing was never heard of; and yet in this case there must not only be two, but a great many more. The absurdity was too evident to receive the countenance of that House. A question had been raised as to whether the trading Corporations of London were really traders—as to whether they traded upon joint stocks or at all—or whether they were even formed for the purposes of trade. He contended, that they were in the strictest sense of the word trading Corporations. The Merchant Tailors' Company, like the Apothecaries' Company, trafficked with individual property, for the benefit of the persons to whom the property belonged. But the best way of deciding that point would be by reference to the charters by which they existed, and wherein the purposes for which they were created were set forth. Upon a reference to the last charter to the Merchant Tailors' Corporation, it would be seen, that it was strictly a trading Corporation. That charter was granted by Henry 5th. It contained the following passage:—'And, moreover, as we have been informed, that the men of the Mistery aforesaid, in our city afore-said, or at least the sounder part of them, have, from time whereof the memory of man is not to the contrary, and daily do use, occupy, and exercise, in all quarters and kingdoms of the world, all and every kinds of merchandizes, to the renown, honour, and benefit of our kingdom and subjects, and the great advantage of us and our progenitors, formerly Kings of England; and that the same men of the said Mistery have, during the whole time aforesaid, used, occupied, and exercised the buying and selling of all and every wares and merchandizes whatsoever, and especially woollen-cloths, as well wholesale as retail, throughout our whole realm of England, and particularly with in our city aforesaid, and the suburbs thereof—we, of our especial grace, and of our certain knowledge, and meer motion, have transferred and changed, and do transfer and change, the said guild or fraternity into the name of the guild of Merchant Taylors, of the fraternity of St. John the Baptist, in the City of London. That was the origin of this Corporation, and its charter was still the same. He begged leave to tell hon. Gentlemen, that the Company continued to exercise the callings and mysteries described in the charter. It had been asked, did this Corporation trade at present, and how many of the Corporations of London did carry on a trade, and all had a right peculiarly to do so. The Stationers Corporation, the Goldsmiths Corporation, and others of the trading Corporations, traded upon a joints-tock. Others of the Corporations traded upon a number of stocks, each trader being subject to the general rules of the Corporation to which he belonged. Such was the origin, and such the present character, of these Corporations, and therefore he contended that it would be monstrous to pretend to consider them as Municipal. He knew that many of the members of these Corporations had never been traders. That was beyond doubt. Such had been the fact from the very commencement of these Corporations. From the earliest periods it had been the custom to admit into them, as honorary members, the most eminent public characters. The Plantagenets, and the Tudors were found enrolled in the City Companies. Hotspur was a member of the Corporation of Merchant Tailors, even as the Duke of Wellington now was. Neither of these great men ever worked with the shears or the needle; the Duke of Wellington did not handle the goose, but the Corporation was nevertheless essentially a trading one. It had ever been the pride of that Corporation to number among its members the most illustrious members of the community. That the Merchant Tailors' Corporation was a trading body was beyond doubt. They formed the rules for carrying on the trade in the article with which they were most intimately concerned; and he might mention, as a further proof, that the officer of the Corporation regularly attended the Cloth or Bartholomew Fair at Smithfield, and with a silver yard measured the yards of the cloth-merchants, to see that they agreed with the standard. It had been said, that the members of the Corporation of Merchant Tailors, enjoyed municipal rights. They did not as members of that Corporation, but as members of the Municipal Corporation. The two things were quite distinct. With respect to the right of voting for Members of Parliament, that did not exist under the present law; nor did it exist under the charters of the trading Corporations. Long after the formation of the trading Corporations, the Municipal Corporation had made an order that it would admit none to vote for Members of Parliament, who were not members of some one of the trading Corporations. Surely, then, if it was intended, that that circumstance gave to the House a right to inquire into all the affairs of these Corporations, the present law must give a right of inquiry into the affairs of all the 10l. householders. Look at the effect of such reasoning. Under the present law, persons living in chambers in Inns of Court, within the limits of the City of London, had a right of voting for Members of Parliament for London. Now no person could occupy those chambers without the permission of the Corporation under whose rule they were. Were then those Corporations Municipal Corporations? Such they must be if the reasoning with respect to the trading Corporations was good, and the House would do well to consider the dangerous consequence such a course of proceedings would load to. He then came to the effect of the order he proposed the House should discharge. He contended, that the application was one which ought not to be countenanced by that House. The petitioner had already made a similar application to the Court of King's Bench, and that Court had dismissed the application with costs. It had decided that the petitioner had no legal right to require to be permitted to inspect the charters and the documents of the Corporation. He there fore put it to the House to say, whether it would enable the petitioner to do that which the law had emphatically said, he had no right to do, whether the House would lend its authority to enable an individual to do that through its assistance which was contrary to a deliberate decision in law? He thought the House could not lend itself to any such course, and therefore he would not dwell longer on that part of the subject. He must assure the hon. and learned member for Hull (Mr. Hill), that when the question was before under discussion he had meant to him nothing personal. He had understood, that the hon. and learned Member had acted as counsel to the petitioner, and he still believed such to have been the fact. He had complained, that the hon. and learned Member looked at the matter as affecting his client, and not as affecting a great question. He begged also to say, that he believed the hon. and learned Member considered that he had given him (Mr. Attwood) notice of his intention to oppose the petition the Motion related to; but, he must say, that he had not so understood the hon. and learned Member. He objected, then, to the reference of this petition respecting a trading Corporation to a Committee appointed, especially to inquire respecting Municipal Corporations. But he objected as much, if not more, upon general principles, as he did out of consideration to the rights and privileges of the Merchant Tailors' Corporation. Indeed he doubted much the power of that House to demand the inspection of that which the law had declared should be sacred. The trading Corporations of London held their privileges and rights from a higher tribunal than the House of Commons. They held them under the authority, and under the protection of the law of the land, and nothing short of an Act of Parliament could enforce the surrender of them. And he would recommend to the House to consider well before it attempted to countenance a proceeding which the law had expressly forbidden, for it might be found that there were Members of these trading Corporations who would maintain their rights in spite of the interference of that House. Indeed he lamented much to see that House so hastily entering upon subjects of the utmost importance for the purpose of change, if not of destruction. That House was itself but an experiment, and an experiment be it remembered, the effect of which was still uncertain and doubtful. He certainly thought, that under the circumstances the Government would have acted still more wisely if, instead of mooting highly important questions, which to be dealt well with should be dealt with deliberately, it had directed the attention of the House to that for which it was expressly summoned, the despatch of pressing public business. For Church Reform so much anxiety had been expressed, that the Government were compelled to take it up; but with respect to the projected inquiry into the Municipal Corporations, with a view to their alteration, if not abrogation, it was altogether unnecessary. For the conduct of the Government he could conceive but one reason, and that was its desire to perpetuate agitation. That was the secret spring of the whole of the proceeding of Government; and if such conduct was to be countenanced, it was not merely the Municipal and Trading Corporations of the country, that would be overthrown, but the whole fabric of our civil and social society would be shaken, if not destroyed. He moved, that the order of Monday last for referring the petition of R. H. Franks to the Committee on Municipal Corporations be discharged.

Lord Althorp

said, that the hon. Member concluded his speech by adverting to the mode in which the business of that House was conducted. It was for this reason that he rose to make a few observations in reply. The hon. Member was certainly mistaken, if he thought that any propositions could be allowed to interfere with the regular business of the Session. The business of the House should be conducted with the strictest regularity, and nothing would be allowed to interfere with it. The hon. Gentleman had also said, that the House was an experiment. So it was, and a very successful and satisfactory experiment. It was the result of the elections under the Reform Bill; and the country had, as yet, every reason to be satisfied with its composition. Every party had reason to be satisfied; and the sad predictions uttered by the hon. Gentleman, during the gloomy discussions of last year, on the Reform Bill, would, he felt confident, prove completely fallacious. As the party that made those woeful forebodings said, that they should rejoice if they failed in their prophecies, they ought now to rejoice, for they had failed. Not only ought that party to rejoice, but feel satisfied, and have confidence in that Parliament for the future. In proposing large measures of Reform, the Government would adhere to the institutions of the country. The only thing that that Parliament could be guilty of would be, deceiving the expectations of the people. It would not deceive those expectations, for it was composed of the real Representatives of the people, and would refer for its acts to the good sense of that people whom it now fully represented. With respect to the view the hon. Member took of the order to refer the petition under debate to the Committee on Municipal Corporations, he thought that the hon. Member was not exactly correct. The Committee was to inquire into the defects of the Corporations of England and Wales, and to report thereon. It was to look into and to ascertain those defects, and in order to do so, every company, and (to use the expression) every subordinate company connected, as they must be, with Municipal Corporations, should come under the cognizance of the Committee. With respect to the question whether a trading company was to be considered as connected with the constitution of a corporation, he thought that it certainly was. Let the Corporation of London be taken as an instance. To become a liveryman, it was necessary to belong to one of those trading companies, and, without being a liveryman, one could not be said to possess the privileges that being a part of the constitution of the Corporation of London gave. The Committee, undoubtedly, had no right to interfere with what it deemed did not affect Municipal Corporations, and would not do so. Yet, if the order of reference with respect to the present petition should be rescinded, that would amount almost to a declaration, that the Committee had no right to examine into those trading companies. As he was of opinion that the Committee possessed the right, he felt it his duty to object to the present Motion.

Mr. Hill

denied, that he had been the counsel of the petitioner. If he were, he would not have presented the petition; as he considered, that doing so would be derogatory to his character and station. He stood there as a legislator, and was bound to act uprightly and impartially. With respect to the application made by the petitioner to the Court of King's Bench, he could say, that the dismissal of the application ought not to have any ought not to have any eight with that House. That Court had been for upwards of four centuries a consistent supporter of all Corporation abuses. As he knew that, he formerly advised the petitioner (for he had been once his counsel) not to apply to that Court, for it would be useless. Petitioner followed the advice of others, and failed in his application. The great question was, whether a Reform could be carried into Civic Corporations without investigating Civic Companies? It was clear it could not; for, to purify the stream, it was necessary to begin with the purification of the source. No one could become a freeman of London unless he belonged to one of those Companies, and to become a liveryman one must be a freeman. By 11th George 1st, in the election of the Lord Mayor, Sheriffs, and City Chamberlain, freemen had no power; but all was vested in the hands of the liverymen, who may be properly considered as the mere creatures of City Companies. Unless inquiry was made into those companies, the abuses of Municipal Corporations could not be effectually and fully detected. The Corporation of London was anxious for the assistance of Parliament to remedy its defects, therefore small companies should be also willing to accept that assistance. As to what the hon. Member said about keeping up agitation, it was the party to which the hon. Member belonged which was doing that, by objecting to ameliorations which were peremptorily called for Not only was that party keeping up agitation, but it was heightening it, and would be the cause of making the people, in a short time, disdain the concessions they would now receive with thankfulness. The Court of Assistants had raised the dues of entry from 3s. 4d. to 3l. 15s. It was very evident why they had so great a dislike to an inquiry, when such matters were to be the subject of that inquiry. The hon. Member had spoken of this inquiry as an abstract question. He (Mr. Hill) did not entirely understand what the hon. Member meant by saying this was an abstract question. He could not conceive such a person as an abstract Lord Mayor, or an abstract member of the Merchants' Company; but if the present inquiry was to be a complete and effectual one, it should certainly have his assistance. The first who refused to make an inquiry into Corporations was the right hon. Baronet opposite; and in doing so, he (Mr. Hill) conceived, that he had been the cause of greater calamity to the cause of liberty in this country than any man that ever existed. The great defect in those Corporations, and the cause of the evils which resulted from them was, the want of security under them. If, by the delay now wished, they meant to delay all inquiry—if, by denial, they meant to deny all inquiry—he hoped that the House would not agree to the proposition, but would agree to the Motion. He considered the opposition made to the Motion as part of the usual tactics of the party from which it emanated, and he trusted that the defeat which they would now meet with would make them more careful in future how they obtruded their antiquated ideas on the country. On these grounds he would give their proposal his humble, but hearty opposition.

Sir Edward Knatchbull

thought, he did not claim too much credit for himself and the party with whom he acted, when he said, that they were actuated, on this and on every other occasion, by as much independence of feeling as the hon. Gentleman who spoke last, A great deal of unnecessary warmth had been imparted to this question, which he (Sir Edward Knatchbull) would not imitate. The proceedings of the Courts of Justice, for instance, he thought, had been most unnecessarily introduced. The question which had been put (o the noble Lord, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and which the House had really to consider, was one of the simplest nature—namely, whether the petition was such as came, in point of fact and substance, within the inquiry of the Committee to which it had been referred? The noble Lord, with his usual candour admitted, that the trading Companies did not come generally within the scope of the Committee's inquiries; reserving to the Committee, however, the right of inquiry into those Companies so far as they were connected with Municipal Corporations. Now, he liberated himself, and those with whom he acted, from all the unfounded observations made upon them, by admitting the accuracy and fairness of the noble Lord's view, and adopting at once his doctrine, that the Committee should have the power of inquiry into the trading Corporations, so far as those Corporations were connected with the Municipal Corporations, but no further. He should, therefore, suggest that the hon. member for Whitehaven should not press his Motion, and he would undertake to move an amendment, which would merely state in substance what the noble Lord admitted. If the House did not agree to some such resolution, the Committee would consider that they were expected to inquire into all the affairs of the trading Companies. The hon. Baronet concluded by moving—"That it be an instruction to the Committee on Municipal Corporations to confine their attention to such parts of the condition and management of the trading Companies as refers exclusively to Municipal Rights." He thought, that if this Amendment were agreed to, both parties would give the subject their best consideration.

Mr. Grote

hoped the noble Lord (Althorp) would not accede to the Amendment of the hon. Baronet. It would be impossible to conduct an inquiry into the condition and management of the Corporation of London with advantage, if the Committee was restrained from investigating those sectional parts of the Corporation which he considered the corporate companies might be justly designated. The hon. member for Whitehaven was certainly consistent, for he objected to inquiring into Corporations altogether, and therefore objected to an inquiry into the state of the corporate companies. Those companies had been called trading companies, but they were nothing like trading companies in the proper sense of the word. When he heard of trading companies, he should expect to find such companies referred to as the Bank of England Company, or the East-India Company, which carried on trade or commerce for the benefit of the members. The companies carried on no trade or commerce. They made laws for particular trades; and this was of the essence of Municipal Corporations. There was the Fishmongers' Company, for instance, which made and enforced certain regulations respecting the importation and sale of fish, and, he believed, last summer had exercised its authority in a manner very advantageous to the community, by preventing the sale of unwholesome fish. He did not quarrel with the exercise of such privileges, he only contended that such powers belonged properly, and were a part of the power usually belonging to Municipal Corporations. In his opinion the inquiries of the Committee would be most injuriously restricted if the Amendment of the hon. Baronet were agreed to.

Lord Althorp

did not feel, that it would be consistent with his sense of duty to adopt the Amendment proposed by the hon. Baronet. If the Committee were to be constrained to pursue a limited course of inquiry with respect to the corporate bodies of which the Municipality of the city of London was composed, and were to be debarred from instituting any examination which they might choose into such matters as seemed to them to be relevant topics of inquiry, it would be impossible for them to do their duty properly, or in a manner that would be satisfactory to the public. In order, however, to show the disposition which prevailed in the Committee with respect to the subjects of inquiry, he would read to the House a resolution which had already been adopted by them at the only sitting which they had hitherto held, and which stated, that they considered the object chiefly to be had in view was, the improvement of the corporate bodies, and that, in order to effect this object, there was no necessity to go back into past grievances, but their principal endeavours would be confined to the inquiry into the present and existing evils and abuses in those Corporations, with a view to their exposure. Such being the only resolution to which the Committee had come, at the first and only meeting they had yet had, he would leave the House to judge from this how far they were likely to pursue the subject of their inquiries to an extent which could reasonably afford any alarm to those interested in these Corporations. He, therefore, did not think, that the House would be acting advisably in laying down any rules for the guidance of the Committee, and objected to the adoption of any such suggestion.

Mr. Goulburn

said, that, in his opinion, the House ought distinctly to state what were to be the duties of the Committee; for although he had, when the noble Lord moved for its appointment, taken the same view of its duties as the noble Lord had done, still what had occurred in the course of the debate upon the present question showed that each individual upon that Committee might take a very different view of the meaning of the term Corporation to that of any other Member of it, and for that reason it was incumbent upon the noble Lord definitively to give a clear understanding what Corporations were to form the subject of inquiry. The resolution of the Committee which the noble Lord had just referred to, certainly showed a prudent apprehension on their part of the bounds within which their inquiries ought to be confined; but he knew quite enough of Committees of Inquiry to foresee that these apprehensions would incur a great risk of being totally forgotten as the inquiry proceeded—

Mobilitate viget, viresque acquirit eundo; and, if there were some Members of it who would be prudent enough to avoid getting entangled in a" in retrievable maze of useless matter, they might not always be present to check the ardour of others who might be disposed to pursue their inquiries upon forbidden ground. He was, therefore, decidedly of opinion, that an exact line of inquiry ought to be drawn out for the purpose of this investigation, for it was absolutely necessary, however fair and open the proceedings of the House might be, that the proceedings of the Committee should be restricted, not by an understanding among them alone, but by some recorded opinion of the House, and it was this motive which prompted him to press on the noble Lord the necessity for defining the objects for the examination of the Committee. There was another reason why this recommendation ought to be adopted, and which might be deduced from the petition upon which the present debate turned. The petitioner had stated, in detail, the grievances which Franks had suffered from the abuses of the particular Corporation of which he complained, which grievances the Committee were not empowered to inquire into; but the petitioner asked the House to instruct the Committee to extend the inquiry into the state of the trading Corporations of London. If the House acted in conformity to this petition, the Committee would at once be compelled to enter into that general inquiry which the noble Lord had just now deprecated; and this, in his opinion, formed an additional reason for laying down some limit to their operations.

The Attorney General

One benefit of the present discussion was that they were all at length agreed that, if not now, some distinct inquiry must speedily be made into the state of these trading Corporations, seeing that some of the functions exercised by them were clearly Municipal functions, and therefore make them Municipal Corporations. It was quite clear, that though these Corporations held charitable funds for their own benefit, and for the benefit of others, the House had authorized the Committee to inquire into their management. If such an instruction as the hon. Baronet had proposed was necessary to guide the Committee in the case of the Merchant Tailors' Company, it was equally necessary to guide the Committee in their examination into the management of every other Corporation. The question, stripped of all circumlocution, was, whether the trading companies of London were to be inquired into at all? Now, they were all agreed that they must be inquired into at some time, for no man could deny that they were either members of the Corporation of London, or so connected with it that they could not be excepted from the same inquiry to which that Corporation was itself subjected. No Gentleman had been bold enough to assert that the Corporation had not exercised Municipal functions, and enjoyed Municipal rights. But was there any Member able to draw a line, and tell the House from historical detail, what portion of this body was connected with the Corporation of London, or with the trading interests of London, and what portion of it was independent of them? No Gentle-roan, not even the Member who brought forward the Motion, and who, consequently, must be well acquainted with the subject—no Gentleman could, by any possibility, draw such a line, and therefore the House must be incapable of giving any particular directions in reference to this Corporation. They must, therefore, be under the necessity of doing one of two things; either to exempt the Corporation altogether from the proposed inquiry, or have the investigation committed entirely to the good sense and parliamentary knowledge and integrity of the Gentlemen composing the Committee. As there could be no question of their integrity and knowledge, it would be better to adopt the latter alternative. No Gentleman would say, that till the inquiry bad proceeded to some distance, it would be possible to assign what portion was connected with the Corporation, and what portion was not, and, therefore, it would be necessary to get a long way into the matter previous to attempting a decision. He repeated, there must be an inquiry, and it must be left entirely to the knowledge and integrity of the Committee. The hon. Baronet had stated, that the inquiry might be stayed at the threshold, by saying that this was a body not exclusively connected with a Corporation; but, as he before said, the Committee must get a long way into their inquiries before they could possibly form a judgment on that point. This was a question of the highest importance, as proved by one of the hon. members for London (Mr. Grote), who had given them the history of the Fishmongers' Company, which had fully proved that that Corporation had a share in the Municipal Government. This Corporation had the power of directing what amount of fish should be sold in London; and although this might be said to be a matter of trade, yet, at the same time, it was exercising a very great Municipal power. The hon. Gentleman concluded by repeating that one trading Corporation should be subject to the same inquiry as other trading Corporations.

Mr. Warburton

said, that this Corporation must be subject to inquiry as well as others, for it was strictly Municipal. He agreed with the hon. member for Hull, that the term "Municipal" was a term unknown to the English law. It was borrowed from the Roman law, and to the Roman law they must refer to ascertain its meaning. He should therefore refer to a quotation from the Digest to show what municeps was. The Digest explained munus by officium, a civil duty, and then proceeded municipes igitur appel-lantur quia munera civilia perficiunt—that is to say, "they are called municipes because they undertake Civil Offices. Now, the Civil Office of the Fishmongers' Company was to cast stinking fish out of the market, and of the Merchant Tailors' Company to preside over cloth brought into the City. The former Company had raised the price of admission to their freedom from 3s. 4d. to 3l. 14s. If asked the reason of this, they would say they did it out of poverty—from their feastings and drinkings; these expenses and all their accounts ought to be examined into from their own books. The Committee would stultify itself by confining its inquiries to the limits proposed by the hon. member for Kent.

Mr. Abercromby

rose to make a few observations with respect to his own views on the subject. He was deeply aware of its importance, and of the general anxiety which prevailed throughout the country as to the result of the inquiry. The hon. member for Whitehaven (Mr. Attwood) had said, that the presentation of Mr. Franks's petition had given rise to all the agitation or interest felt by the country on this subject of corporations, but the hon. Member laboured under an unfortunate mistake. He had only been engaged upon this subject for the last five or six days, and yet during that time he had been visited every morning by several individuals, all anxious to have this inquiry made fully and fairly. Several gentlemen from large towns had told him that the state of the corporations within them had agitated the inhabitants of them for some time past. It was, therefore, clear that the present agitation had not followed, but preceded, the motion of his noble friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He complained of the conduct which some individuals in that House had pursued towards the Committee. The Committee had scarcely taken one step, and yet, for the last two evenings, a debate had been studiously spun out, for the purpose of inspiring the country with a distrust, not only of the proceedings, but also of the intentions of the Committee. That was particularly unfair. He felt that this inquiry was an inquiry of deep and general interest, and he was, therefore, desirous to do his best to gratify the wishes of the country. There were several difficulties with which the Committee would have to contend. The first difficulty which he feared was, lest the Committee should be overwhelmed by the magnitude and multiplicity of its inquiries. It ought, therefore, to limit them to the inquiries into those abuses which were the most open to public view, which were the easiest to remove, and to which a safe and prompt remedy could at once be applied. The duty of the Committee was to ascertain the practice of existing Corporations. The House ought to know what the Corporations did, whether their police was sufficient, and whether their jurisdiction was efficient for the purposes for which it was given. All these points, ought to be discussed in order to see whether there was any thing vicious, and what, in the present system. When the Committee had examined into these practical points of Municipal Corporations, if the result of the examination should establish the fact that these Corporations were insufficient for the purposes for which they were intended, and that they were capable of improvement, a great benefit would be obtained. What ulterior improvements were to be made in them would remain with the House; all the Committee had to do was, to point out what was vicious and wanted correction. When hon. Members insisted that the Committee should enter into an examination of the accounts of these Corporations, they must have overlooked this fact, that if the Committee ever went into such accounts, they would never be able to get out of them. If what had been spent by these Corporations could be recovered—if the expenses which had been incurred, and which ought not to have been incurred, could be replaced—it might be all well to refer to the past; but as that could not be, the advice he should give would be this:—"Place your Corporation in good hands, and all this species of mischief will be stopped for the future." To those Gentlemen who had asserted that all members of Corporations would resist this inquiry he was happy to say that, so far as he knew, they were most anxious to co-operate with the Committee, being convinced that the Committee was determined to act with fairness and impartiality to all parties.

An Hon. Member

said, that if the inquiry were not confined to the limits mentioned by the hon. Member who spoke last, the labours of the Committee would extend beyond three years. The proper course, he thought, would be, to ascertain the original foundation and institution of Corporations, and then to find out how far they had deviated from this their original institution. As the Lord Advocate, on a former occasion, had stated, with reference to Scotland, all Corporations were once conducted on the same system—that is, under the management of the whole of the burgesses. As to the meaning of the word Municipal, all Corporations were originally trading Guilds, before they were Corporations; and the Merchant Tailors' Company was therefore a municipal corporation. In all charters they were originally called Merchant Guilds.

Mr. James

agreed with Mr. Abercromby in stating, that the agitation on this subject was not of recent growth. He had a petition on the subject from his constituents, which had been agreed to some weeks since.

Sir Edward Knatchbull

said, that he had proposed his Amendment in the hope that it expressed the opinions of the noble Lord opposite, but as he found that it did not, and that the opinion of the House was against him, he would, with permission, withdraw his Amendment.

Mr. Attwood

briefly replied to the arguments of the different speakers, and defended the course which he had thought himself bound to take on the present occasion. He would, however, yield to the sense of the House, although his own opinions remained unchanged. He was convinced of the impropriety of giving these extended powers to the Committee; at the same time, he begged to assure the House that the Company against which Mr. Franks had presented this petition were ready to give to the Committee every explanation respecting their management of the funds intrusted to them for charitable purposes. They did not mean to shelter themselves under the petty pretexts which some hon. Members appeared ready to afford them. He asserted, on their behalf, that there was no part of their conduct, as a corporate body, for which every one of them was not ready to make himself responsible, not only with his person, but also with his character. He begged leave to withdraw his Motion.

Motion withdrawn.