LONDON CORPORATION DEFORM.
WE have been unlucky enough never to find ourselves contented with the later attempts to "reform" the City of London. They appear to us always to have gone in the wrong direction, at once destroying what is ancient, and restricting what is popular; whereas we would enlarge rather than narrow, and while reform- ing preserve. The bill just introduced into Parliament has been urged forward with an unusual amount of hurry at all the earlier stages, only two days allowed between the first and second read- ings. We cannot suppose, however, that either the public, or even Members, will be denied time and opportunity for a thorough examination. Let us investigate a few of the points on which this reform is to abolish ancient rights, which are popular defences. The City of London is the combination of the Guilds ; these Guilds embodying all the industrial arts and trades of the City and representing the commercial aspect of civilization. In this aspect the City is the complement to the representation of the various classes in Parliament. The Livery of the Guilds, that is all the persons that form the units of these embodied trades, meet and by a sort of universal suffrage elect the Lord Mayor; who is thus in the State the impersonation of the industrial and producing community. The London Corporation Bill introduced by the present Ministers destroys the elective power of the Livery, and gives it to the ten-pound resident householders. This is le- gislating by pattern, equally without regard to enlarged reforms or to time-honoured precedent. It tends to destroy. the City of London as it has existed from time immemorial, and to make it nothing better that a common borough ; it abolishes the Lord Mayor, and makes him nothing better than the senior church- warden of a local district.
The City affords a popular shield against the Crown, which has not been appreciated because our times have been quiet, our Crown not encroaching ; but how do we know that these advan- tageous circumstances will continue ? The Crown cannot punish any person accused of treason, save through a Jury. In London City the Sheriffs have selected the Juries ; heretofore the right of electing the Sheriff has lain in the Livery; but the Livery is abo- lished, and to whom shall it be given ? By a summary contri- vance, or what is by courtesy called a " compromise," the authors of the bill have given the selection of one Sheriff, for London City, to the Common Council,—the representatives henceforward of the ten-pounder class,—while the election of the other Sheriff, for Middlesex, reverts to the Crown. Thus the popular shield, in the election of Juries within London City, which has worked well, and is not accused of working ill, is abolished, simply for the sake of rounding off a so-called reform after the modern pattern. Another provision separates the Borough of Southwark from the City ; removing one item which has contributed to give import- ance, influence, and power, to the ancient corporation. One of the reasons pleaded in favour of the change is, that tolls may be abolished which no longer exist, and that freemen may take apprentices for five years instead of seven as they do now. All the practical good of the measure could be accomplished by a Tolls Bill, or an Apprenticeship Bill ; whereas the remainder is legislating on a pattern, without any definite explanation of the manner in :which the details will work henceforward. We con- fess that we view the measure with a suspicion amounting to dis- like, and we challenge Members on both sides, earnest Reformers and sincere Conservatives, not to let it pass unless they can see that our suspicions are groundless.