THERE was one meeting in the Guildhall for the nomination of members of parliament for the city, which will show something of Mr. Beckford's high spirit. He attended in order to justify his conduct from the charge made against him by some of the citizens, "that he had not duly attended, for some time past, his duty as an alderman." The hall was filled. When he came forward to address the Livery, he was received with marks of disapprobation. He attempted to speak for a full hour in vain, encountering nothing but groans and hisses; but he stood firm at his post, and ultimately his perseverance was rewarded, and silence obtained. He then commenced: –

[36] "Gentlemen of the Livery and fellow-citizens, I thought it my duty to attend here this day, both in justice to you and to your faithful, humble servant. I had been informed, and my present experience convinces me I was truly informed, that a very unfavourable opinion had gone forth against me among my worthy constituents. Permit me to say, gentlemen, with the boldness becoming an honest man, that I have not deserved it. It has been my chief pride to be a representative of the first city in the world, and I shall relinquish such an honour with much concern and mortification; but I will not flatter you in order to obtain a continuance of it. It is my duty to speak out, and act, as I have ever done, with openness and integrity. My abilities may not be equal to those of many other gentlemen whom you may choose to represent you, but I defy you to find any one who will serve you with more zeal and attention than I have done - a zeal and attention, which, give me leave to say, dues not deserve the degrading reception I have met with from you this day. I am informed that I am more particularly accused of not regularly attending [37] my duty in the Court of Aldermen and elsewhere as one of your magistrates. In some degree I plead guilty to the charge; but I must beg of you to remember, that during the winter, I am engaged in doing my duty as your representative in parliament; and when I am obliged to attend the House of Commons, I cannot attend the Court of Aldermen, for no man can be in two places at the same time. During the summer, gentlemen, I have of late been engaged in doing my duty as an officer in the militia, and thereby promoting, to the utmost of my power, that excellent, necessary, and constitutional establishment; and when I am engaged with the militia I cannot be in the Court of Aldermen. It has been told me also that I have given offence to many of you by not canvassing your votes. I am sorry for it, because I respect you too much, and love the constitution of my country too well, to infringe on the freedom of election, of which in corrupt times this city still continues to give a most glorious example. If you recollect, I did not canvass you at the last general election. I have not canvassed you for the approaching one, and [38] I will tell you honestly I never will canvass you; you shall elect me without a canvass or not at all. This is the defence of myself which I have to offer to you. If it should not satisfy you, I must be content to thank you for past favours, and to assure you I shall still have a seat in the House of Commons, and I will continue to exert my best endeavours for your service as I have always done."

A burst of applause followed this high-minded address, and the speaker left the Hall amid marks of approbation that were never exceeded within those walls. He was re-elected, and up to the time of his death, became an increasing favourite with his constituents.

So great a favourite was Mr. Beckford in London, that he was put in nomination for the mayoralty again in November, 1769; an honour which he declined in vain, urging his age and bodily infirmities as an excuse. The show of hands was declared in his favour, being put to the vote with Alderman Trecothick. Having been declared duly elected, he urged that as it was the second time of his election he did not think himself bound to serve, besides being too [39] infirm for the duties. The livery still shouted "Alderman Beckford! Alderman Beckford!" He then came forward, and reluctantly assented to their urgent requests, declaring at the same time, that though willing, he was unable to serve, and should take office at the hazard of his life, which proved a foreboding but too true. The livery continued to redouble their cheers, and continued their shoutings; but the object of them was obliged to retire from fatigue. It was then agreed that the Common Council should wait upon the alderman at his house in Soho Square. Here again he pleaded his age and infirmities in vain; being literally pressed into an assent, he reluctantly wrote to the Lord Mayor:


"I cannot resist the importunate requests of my fellow citizens. Their desires have overcome resolutions that I once thought were fixed and determined. The feeble efforts of a worn-out man to serve them can never answer their sanguine expectations.

"I will do my best, and will sacrifice ease [40] and retirement, the chief comforts of old age, to their wishes. I will accept the office of Lord Mayor. I shall hope for the assistance of your Lordship and my brethren of the Court of Aldermen. The advantage and good effect of their advice were experienced on many occasions in my late mayoralty, by your Lordship's

"Most obedient, humble Servant,

The re-elected Lord Mayor gave a dinner and ball a short time afterwards. Many of the principal nobility of the kingdom attended. The ball was opened by the Duke of Devonshire and the Lady Mayoress. At a preceding entertainment, on a court being held for swearing in an alderman named Byrd, in the room of Sir William Baker, the Lord Mayor also gave a splendid entertainment. On this occasion, fourteen aldermen, in place of attending at the Mansion House, dined together at a private tavern. To understand this display of ill-humour, it must be observed that Mr. Beckford and Mr. Trecothick had been returned by the Common Hall to the Court of Aldermen, to fill the office of [41] Mayor. The town-clerk and common-serjeant objected, and produced a document made with a different view, for the purpose of preventing Mr. Beckford's return. This was a bye-law made temp. Henry VI. 1324; it imported that no one should be rechosen to serve the office of Lord Mayor of London, within the term of seven years after his former mayoralty. The reply of the livery was, that there were precedents to the contrary; for example, Sir John Barnard, who had been re-elected within that term. The town-clerk and common-serjeant denied the assertion thus made, and the latter declared Mr. Beckford ineligible. This was clearly done out of spite towards him; and the sheriff in consequence declared, that if there was no precedent, he was bound to prevent the nomination. The city records were then produced, to the dismay of the gentlemen learned in the law, who had declared otherwise. It was shown that Sir John Barnard, who had served the office in 1737, was re-elected in 1740. The town-clerk and common-serjeant became woefully crest-fallen, on the imposition they had deliberately attempted upon the livery being [42] thus exposed. The livery became indignant – the common-serjeant made a mean attempt at justification, because Sir John Barnard’s election occurred before he, the common-serjeant was retained for the corporation, with whose concerns he ought to have made himself fully acquainted after taking office. It was with difficulty the uproar was appeased, and the nomination proceeded. Several aldermen were put in nomination but the show of hands was greatly in favour of Beckford and Trecothick; notwithstanding which, a poll was demanded for Sir Henry Banks. It was a just cause for popular indignation. Even the case quoted by the common-serjeant and town-clerk showed they had gone for the bye-law back to the reign of Henry VI., while Sir John Barnard's election occurred in the reign of George II.; and the reason of the bye-law of Henry was given as being to prevent the heavy burden of office from being laid upon those who might not be able conveniently to meet the expense. The town-clerk was named Hodges, and he seems to have been ready to do any kind of party work. His excuses aggravated his offence, and Mr. Beckford was re- [43] turned by a triumphant majority; there being for Beckford, 1969; Trecothick, 1911; Banks, 676. Upon this occasion Mr. Beckford addressed his fellow-citizens, and showed that even the precedents quoted against him only rendered him not compellable, but still left him eligible to serve. The reign of Henry VIII. showed three re-elections, and in the years 1688, 1689, and 1690, Sir T. Pilkington was successively Lord Mayor. Even as late as 1740, Sir John Parsons had been re-elected; and in 1741 Sir John Barnard, within three years of his former mayoralty. The recorder and town-clerk insisted that the bye-laws were still in force. The adverse party wanted counsels' opinion to be taken on the question; but it was overruled, and the court determined to receive the sheriffs' return. Sir Robert Ladbroke made several efforts in vain to proceed to a new election. The recorder then declared that the choice of the aldermen had fallen upon Mr. Beckford, who in vain wished to decline the honour from his age and infirmities; and having quoted a statute of Henry V., to show the state of the country and colonies if obsolete laws were to be [44] carried out, he concluded by again reiterating his wish to decline the honour of serving the office. The livery, notwithstanding became only the more pressing, calling out, "Mr. Beckford, assist to save your Country!" "Mr. Beckford is at present Lord Mayor elect!” Of twenty-two aldermen present, sixteen voted for Beckford, and six for Trecothick. Sundry resolutions were also carried, of no moment to detail, and after the livery had been kept on their legs for nine hours, the common hall was adjourned.

When, as before stated, Mr. Beckford had been prevailed upon to take office, he went in great state on the occasion to Westminster Hall, attended by an immense concourse of people. His carriage was drawn by six magnificent horses, purchased abroad at a great price. Only five aldermen and the preceding Lord Mayor accompanied him. The recorder, generally a creature of the party in power, met the new Lord Mayor in the Court of Exchequer, and left him there to return alone, as did others of the city officials. The attendance at the Mansion House the same evening was brilliant beyond example. The absent aldermen gave [45] out that their non-attendance was owing to the breach of the regular succession to the chair. The absence of the friends of the minister of the day was compensated by the numerous and splendid bevy of nobles and distinguished characters who honoured him with their company. The Lord Chancellor was the only minister who attended. The public feeling had been strengthened in the Lord Mayor's favour by the dismissal of their favourite Pitt and Lord Rockingham from office. Upon no former occasion was the public indignation more strongly exhibited in the unpopularity of the ministry, who with their friends had no small distaste for the independent conduct of a Lord Mayor, who, amidst all, conducted himself in the course dictated by good sense.

A copy of the celebrated remonstrance which afterwards rendered the ministry and the king himself so indignant, was moved for by the Lord Mayor in the House of Commons, and strongly and violently opposed. On this occasion Beckford justified the part he had taken. He said openly, that he himself had put the question regarding it in the Court of Common [46] Council and Common Hall, and though he had legal authority to put a negative upon the Court of Aldermen, he would not do it. He was the great criminal answerable to the charge, and he then stood forward to avow it. Parliament was charged with corruption, and the remonstrance said as much. The fact remained to be proved, and he declared himself ready to abide the issue. His motion was seconded by one of the sheriffs and one of the city members. He had stated in his address that he came forward to vindicate the right of petition. The formidable way in which it was evident the remonstrance from the city was supported by the people, alarmed a ministry destitute of moral courage. The affair with Wilkes, the general discontent expressed regarding the Middlesex election, and the arbitrary conduct of the crown, in which it must not be supposed that the king was neutral, but the reverse, obstinate and arbitrary in disposition as he notoriously was; in all these conflicts the Lord Mayor took his stand on the popular side. He was therefore exceedingly obnoxious to the government. In the year preceding 1767, he presented a petition from the majority of the [47] Council of Massachusetts' Bay, which was in opposition to some of the old and the newly contemplated measures in relation to the taxation of America, "signed, in behalf of the petitioners," by the chairman, J. Doniforth. The house slighted it by the excuse that it was only the petition of one individual, and ordered it to lie upon the table. He expressed his sense of the injustice of taxing America, insisted on the non-existence of any such right, and exposed the ridiculous character of the establishment of revenue officers there. These it appeared cost £500,000, and they returned £295 collected! Mr. Grenville, the author of the baneful measure which cost England the colonies for ever, insisted, by the unanswerable argument of a treasury majority, that the step was just and necessary.

The argument regarding Wilkes used by Beckford, was, that the House of Commons could only bind itself. If by a vote alone it could disqualify one person, it could do so by others up to any number, by which means it could wield the whole power of the government. He bade the house take care and remember the story of Rehoboam, son of King Solomon, when [48] the ten tribes of Israel revolted from his rule: let the ministry apply the story to itself.

When Mr. Pitt (Lord Chatham) received honours from the crown which were wholly unsolicited, upon his resignation of office, his enemies made it a reflection upon his character. Some of his friends censured him, as not exhibiting that independence of spirit which had marked his conduct upon all other occasions. His lordship, when he resigned the seals, wrote a letter addressed to a person in the city, in the way of a justification, giving his reasons for his conduct. That person was Beckford. The latter replied characteristically: –


"The citizens of London, as long as they have any memory, cannot forget that you accepted the seals when this nation was in the most deplorable circumstances to which any country can be reduced: our armies were beaten, our navy inactive, our trade exposed to the enemy, our credit as if we expected to become bankrupt, sunk to so low a pitch, that there was nothing to be found but despondency at [49] home, and contempt abroad. The city must also for ever remember, that when you resigned the seals our armies and navies were victorious, our trade secure and flourishing more than in a peace, our public credit restored, and people readier to lend than ministers to borrow. Then there was nothing but exultation at home, confusion and despair among our enemies – amazement and veneration among all neutral nations; that the French were reduced so low as to site for peace, which we from humanity, were willing to grant, though their haughtiness was too great, and even our successes too many, for any terms to be agreed upon. Remembering this, the city cannot but lament that you have quitted the helm. But if knaves have taught fools to call your resignation (when you can no longer procure the same success, being prevented from passing the same measures) a desertion of the public; and to look upon you for accepting a reward, which can scarcely bear that name in the light of a pensioner; the citizens of London hope they shall not be ranked by you among the one or the other. They are truly aware, then, that though you cease to guide the helm, [50] you have not deserted the vessel, and that, conscious as you are, your inclination to promote the public good, is still only to be equalled by your ability, that you sincerely wish success to the new pilot, and will be ready not only to warn him and the crew of rocks and quicksands, but to assist in bringing the ship through the storms into a safe harbour.

"These, sir, I am persuaded, are the real sentiments of the city of London - I am sure you believe them to be such of,

“Dear sir,
"Yours, &c."

A debate in the House of Commons a few months before his decease, will afford a specimen of Mr. Beckford's manner of speaking in parliament. An amendment had been moved to the address of thanks by the introduction of a few words on the motion of Mr. Dowdeswell, to enquire into the causes of the "unhappy discontents which at present prevail in every part of his Majesty's dominions."

"I rise, Mr. Speaker, to support the sentiments of my honourable and worthy friend who [51] has proposed the amendment. The silence of the Ministers, with respect to the complaints of the people, is an insult as gross and cruel as oppression and insolence ever offered to any people. It is aggravated, too, by substituting something in the place of the evil against which they have petitioned, that has no real existence. They have given us a windmill for a giant; they have endeavoured to conceal fire by smoke; the distemper among the cattle, which has been made the subject of a tedious harangue, exists nowhere or if it does exist anywhere, it is in obscurity; and what then can we think of distempers of such a character? What is there lurking in the dark but works of darkness which must disappear in the blaze of noonday? The petitions of the people are not of this kind; they were not produced in the dark, or in a corner; they are the works of daylight, and were fabricated as it were upon the house-tops. These, however, are wholly neglected, and that which is dark and obscure is made the substance of a speech, a speech which indeed excluded anything pretending to importance, let the shape be what it might. No notice is taken of an impending [52] war. Can the Minister hope to conceal what must so soon be manifest from its effects ? Does he hope, like the ostrich, by running the head of this war into a bush, we shall lose sight of its body ? Does he think that because the desertion of the island of Corsica, and the addition of that island to the power of France, has caused a war with that powerful and insidious neighbour, more dangerous to him as well as to us, and therefore rendered it convenient for him not to see it, that therefore it will be less seen by others? France is now arming in all her ports, arming by land and sea; and though she was beaten during the last war by a series of successes on our part, almost without example, she is, notwithstanding her defeats, preparing vigorously for other conquests. Spain is arming with the same diligence, and there are already troops in America menacing our colonies.

"These are objects that demand attention, and yet no attention is paid to them. The Minister would indeed mention them with an ill grace, who had taken none of the measures which precaution points out. But though one neglect and one fault naturally produce others, [53] the second is no excuse for the - first. England is the only power in Europe which is not in a condition to go to war; but that is no reason why circumstances should be concealed which make it probable other nations should go to war with her. Perhaps the Minister has arts in contemplation for practice, that are not fit to meet our ears, by which he hopes to avoid a war. He may be, and probably is, as servile and submissive abroad, as he is tyrannical and oppressive at home. Sir, servility and submission will not answer his purpose; while they may increase our dishonour, they will not secure us from danger. If France feels her superiority - a superiority alone arising from the ignorance and supineness of our ministers - can it be supposed that she will forego any advantage which enables her to procure, in consequence of submission on our part, that which, though they may flatter her, she must despise?

“I am for no such servile, slavish, tame, temporizing measures. I am for striking the first blow, whether we are in a condition to do so or not. I have many reasons for this opinion, of which I will mention but one. Everybody [54] in the kingdom has, among other grievances, suffered by the scarcity of silver; a Spanish war is the only means by which this evil can be remedied. My zeal may perhaps have carried me away from the immediate object in view, but the expedience of the amendment proposed by the hon. gentleman to the address, is too manifest to need ally further enforcement."

But the one celebrated act of the elder Beckford's political life, was his conduct on the remonstrance of the city of London, which the ministry had treated disdainfully.

It was on the 13th of May, 1770, in his second mayoralty, that at a common council it had been moved, “That an humble address, remonstrance, and Petition, be presented to his Majesty, (George III.) touching the violated right of election, and the applications of the livery of London, and his Majesty's answer thereupon," when his Lordship made a Spirited speech on the occasion Protests had been signed in the House of Lords against the proceedings of the ministers as dangerous to popular rights. On the 1st of May, Lord Chatham brought in a bill for reversing the adjudication [55] of the House of Commons in the affair of John Wilkes, which was negatived. On the 14th of March preceding, a humble address and remonstrance from the city, condemning the minister, was presented, signed by the town clerk. This was pronounced a most disrespectful act. A second humble address was presented May 23rd in the same year. This second drew from the King the following reply to the Lord Mayor.

"I should have been wanting to the public as well as to myself, if I had not expressed my dissatisfaction at the late address.

“My sentiments on that subject continue the same; and I should ill deserve to be considered as the father of my people, if I could suffer myself to be prevailed upon to make such a use of my prerogative, as I cannot but think inconsistent with the interests and dangerous to the constitution of the kingdom."

Mr. Beckford here requested leave to reply, which being accorded, he addressed the King as follows:


“Will your Majesty be pleased so [56] far to condescend as to permit the Mayor of your loyal city of London, to declare in your royal presence, on behalf of his fellow-citizens, how much the bare apprehension of your. Majesty's displeasure would at all times afflict their minds. The declaration of that displeasure has already filled them with inexpressible anxiety, and with the deepest affliction.

"Permit Me, Sire, to assure your Majesty, that your Majesty has not in all your dominions any subjects more faithful more dutiful, or more affectionate to your Majesty's person and family, or more ready to sacrifice their lives and fortunes in the maintenance of the true honour and dignity of your crown.

We do therefore, with the greatest humility and submission, most earnestly supplicate your Majesty, that you will not dismiss us from your presence without expressing a more favourable opinion of your faithful citizens, and without some comfort - without some prospect, at least of redress.

"Permit me, Sire, further to observe, that whosoever has already dared, or shall hereafter endeavour by false insinuations and suggestions [57] to alienate your Majesty's affections from your loyal subjects in general, and from the city of London in particular, and to withdraw your confidence in, and regard for your people, is an enemy to your Majesty's person and family, a violator of the public peace, and a betrayer of our happy constitution as it was established at the GLORIOUS AND NECESSARY REVOLUTION."

The Lord Mayor waited a few moments for a reply: no reply was given, the King became flushed with angry feeling, and the Lord Mayor withdrew.*

[58] After this spirited and far-famed rejoinder, the Lord Mayor had to go up to the court with an address of congratulation from the city on the birth of a royal child. Upon this occasion displaying the animus of royalty - for George III. was an ill-bred man - the Lord Mayor was kept waiting in an anti-chamber for a considerable time. At length the Lord Chamberlain came out with a paper in his hand - "As your Lordship thought fit to speak to His Majesty after the answer to the remonstrance I am to acquaint your Lordship, that as it was unusual, his Majesty desires that nothing of the kind may happen for the future."

Mr. Beckford died at his house in Soho Square, June 21st, 1770, at five o'clock in the morning. He had travelled to town from Fonthill to discharge his official duties while labouring under a severe cold, which ended in a rheumatic fever.

He possessed an undaunted spirit, and great democratic pride. He was above all inclination or temptation to become the creature of a court by the usual low means of bribe or place. The first he did not want, he was wealthy as man could desire; the second he despised, because it [59] was seldom the reward of talent or virtue. He could therefore well afford to be opposed to the ministry at a time when the liberty of the subject was placed in jeopardy by the government. In parliament, as well as in private society, his voice was crude and inharmonious, nor could he speak without great vehemence of action even in the social hour. Perhaps from being a native of the torrid zone, his feelings were too warm for the conventional impassiveness of the north. Hence he did not often afford the pleasure or communicate the instruction he might have done, from his extensive knowledge and undoubted talents, while he supported the Pelham administration. He was deemed rough by strangers and somewhat crabbed, which were the results of an impetuous and ardent disposition which he had not the power to control; and of these the creatures of the court made the most to his detriment. He sometimes caused a smile in the House of Commons, and at others failed to interest from the rapidity of his utterance, and the quick flow of his thoughts preventing the due arrangement of his matter; the best orators being cool men, of limited fancy and few ideas. [60] Sometimes he was led away into the discussion of subjects of which he was by no means the competent master; but this was balanced by his unimpeachable integrity. He considered it a bounden duty to defer to the instructions of his constituents. He presented petitions in parliament, to the prayer of which he did not give his assent, but as chief magistrate of London he thought himself bound to act in accordance with those who returned him to the senate.

He was exceedingly generous, and his liberality in the city astonished traders living only to accumulate. He was a great encourager of the arts, and possessed a noble collection of paintings placed at Fonthill, which he made one of the finest places in the West of England. The materials of his house there, when pulled down by his son, sold for ten thousand pounds. The house, he built was much injured by an accidental fire, and many precious things were consumed; but its owner speedily rebuilt the portion destroyed, at an expense of thirty thousand pounds.

He left one son, William, by his second wife, and several illegitimate children whom he had [61] before his first marriage, and after his love disappointment already mentioned. To each of his children he left five thousand pounds, having carefully educated them. His eldest married a lady of fortune, and settled in Jamaica.

He was remarkably generous to the instructors of his children, and to all persons concerned in the work of education. He paid them liberally, and made them handsome presents, because, he said, much depended upon their exertions; the task was weighty, and ought to be well remunerated. In like manner he gave considerable sums to charities for the instruction of youth; every thing he did being marked by plain good sense.

He kept up the splendour of his entertainments to the last. Subsequently to those already mentioned, he gave one on the 22nd of March, 1770, the splendour of which eclipsed anything of the kind prepared in the city within human memory, and never since approached. He was anxious to see the distance lessened between the conflicting parties in the state. After a debate which he fancied had some approximation to what he desired, he invited [62] the members of both houses of parliament to dine with him. The respectability of the city was, as yet, fully maintained among people of rank, it not having fallen to its existing vox et præterea nihil. The usual dining apartments of the Mansion House would not accommodate his guests, and all the rooms that could be applied to the purpose were occupied. The unparalleled munificence and novelty of the occasion attracted great attention. The guests went in procession to the city from the Houses of Parliament. Six dukes, two marquises, twenty-three earls, four viscounts, fourteen barons, and eighteen baronets, were among those who attended. This dinner cost the Lord Mayor, on his private account, £10,000.

At this dinner the Lord Mayor gave among other toasts, but a month or two before his death:

"May justice and wisdom ever follow the public councils."
“May the fundamental liberties of England be revered and defended."
"May the noble assertors and protectors of English liberty be held in perpetual remembrance."
“May the violators of the rights of elec- [63] tion, and petitioning against grievances, be confounded."
"May the wicked be taken away from before the king, that his throne may be established in righteousness."
"May corruption cease to be the weapon of the government."
"May the spirit of the constitution prevail over secret and undue influence."
"Lord Chatham and our absent friends."

The dinner, consisting of six hundred dishes, was served upon plate.

At this banquet it is said to have been the Lord Mayor's intention to propose to his guests an agreement for their signature, binding them while in public life to speak and act purely by the dictates of conscience, and to pledge themselves to maintain inviolably the integrity of the constitution, without views of ambition or aggrandisement, unaccompanied by place, pension, promotion, or any personal advantage whatever. Thus, if they apostatised, they would proclaim their own infamy, and lose for ever the public respect. The Marquis of Rockingham, disapproving of such a proceeding, [64] it was not urged; but it well exhibits the earnestness, pure intention, and rare patriotism of this very eminent individual, so long and deservedly a popular favourite.

As a magistrate he was vigilant and unremitting in his duties, strict, but never exercising an undue severity. He laid it down as a maxim that no one should be suffered to sign his own confession of a crime when brought before himself. He decried the practice as barbarous and tyrannical. He gave an example of this in the case of one Rice, a broker, executed for forgery in 1763.

The recorder of London having given his formal legal opinion that the magistrates had no right, under certain existing circumstances, to hold a man in custody who was accused of murder, Alderman Beckford declared that no murderer should escape justice while he lived, upon such a plea as the recorder's - he would make himself answerable for all the consequences of bringing the criminal to punishment.

He led a life of great activity - his vast wealth never leading him into luxury or idleness in its enjoyment. Though a very singular man, [65] his manners somewhat peculiar, yet being always accessible, made him a general favourite. Possessing independence in every sense of the word, he never availed himself of its advantages to lessen his multifarious duties. These must have involved much anxiety and time. He was a great West India planter, a member of Parliament, an alderman of London, a country gentleman and magistrate, an officer of the militia, and a man of refined taste, as his pictures and Foothill House proved; nor was he without finding time for moderate dissipation. Passionate and proud, the former was rather the result of temperament than inclination; his pride appears to have been a species of reserve rather than pride, with a feeling not inclined to bend so flexibly to the world's idolatries as people in general are prone to do. As to his fortune, no man ever piqued himself less upon his possessions.

Not only were the highest honours paid to his memory in the city, but a committee was appointed to consider the best mode of recording the sense entertained by the citizens of his eminent services. A monument was fixed upon [66] for this purpose, and erected in the Guildhall, upon which was inscribed the best part of his reply to the king, on taking up the city address. On the south side of the church of St. George, Botolph Lane, a scroll of iron-work was placed, embellished with the arms of Beckford, viz. per pale g. and az. on a chevron ar. between three martlets o. an eagle displayed of the second. The city regalia and arms, together with the arms of England, were added, and an inscription - "Sacred to the memory of that real patriot the Right Hon. William Beckford, twice Lord Mayor of London, whose incessant and spirited efforts to serve his country hastened his dissolution on the 21st of June, 1770, in the time of his mayoralty and sixty-second year of his age."

Numerous panegyrics were published upon the deceased citizen, some in prose and others in verse. From one poem, published upon the Lord Mayor's death; the following is an extract: –

"Beckford, who to such honours did arise.
Now cold, now breathless, now inactive lies -
Twice London's lord; good senator, adieu!
As Cato steady, and as Lucius true
[67] A patriot firm, from motives ever just,
Nor place nor pension could betray his trust;
His soul untainted with the golden bait,
Still scorned the reigning maxims of the state,
His mind with honest meaning richly fraught
Did what he said, and said whate'er he thought.
Where he profest, most stedfast to the end,
A timely succour, and a hearty friend.
Free was his hand, and open was his door
To save the wretched and relieve the poor;
Delayed not justice, did no villain screen;
In sentence merciful, in judgment keen,
Before him fraud and base injustice fled,
And vile extortion hung its greedy head"

The town of Bedford owes a debt of gratitude to Alderman Beckford, for obtaining a regulation of a noble but abused charity, called “Sir William Harpur's charity," which he set on a right footing, solely upon the conviction of its abuse from strangers. Harpur was a native of Bedford, and making a fortune in London, where he had filled the civic chair, he bequeathed in 1566, to the Bedford corporation, a property in land and houses; the former thirteen acres of meadow, in the parish of St. Andrew's, Holborn. The product to portion poor maids, support a grammar school, and educate poor [68] children. Encroachments robbed the charity of an acre before 1668. In that year building leases were granted for £97, and in 1684 for £150 on a term of fifty years. Within that term streets, rows, and courts were built, and the estate much augmented.* In 1747 certain persons, said to be in the Duke of Bedford's interest, filed an information against the corporation for new arrangements and in 1761 obtained the removal of the trust, to a certain extent, out of the hands to which it was bequeathed, and into those of five persons to be joined to them; persons notoriously interested in the return of members under influence - the Duke of Bedford, the Marquis of Tavistock, the Duke of Bedford's steward, and two other persons notoriously connected with them – so much for impartial Courts of Equity. The objects selected to be benefited, the leases to be bringing the improvements of an estate then ringing in £3,000 per annum, were thus [69] openly placed under illicit influence. Accordingly, subservient members of the corporation reckoned with the newly-named trustees, soon began to dispose of the charity to those in the town who were not entitled to it by the donor's will. Election purposes were served, freedom of choosing members could no longer exist, and the independent part of the corporation was neutralized. Some persons wholly unknown to the Lord Mayor, applied to him by letter on the subject, and stated that they had no friends to back them in saving the charity from ill usage and perversion. The Lord Mayor requested to see the parties who had written to him. He told them he was disinclined to interfere with any election interest of the Duke of Bedford, for the people had offered him their interest in the borough. But thus disposed, as regarded the borough, he did not hesitate a moment in regard to the abuse of the charity. He advised a draft for an act of parliament to be sent him, with a petition signed by the majority of the corporation and inhabitants. This was done, and the abuses of the charity under chancery sanction shewn. The Lord Mayor [70] then requested the friends of the bill to request their parliamentary representatives to present it. This, of course, they refused to do. The Lord Mayor then got a friend, indifferent in the question, to present the bill, followed up its introduction by a strong speech in its favour, and carried it through the House of Commons. It met no great opposition in the Lords, and passed, the evidence being so clear as to the perversion of the charity. The efforts of the Lord Mayor showed his determined will to do right; and the picture of the Court of Chancery only added another blot to its escutcheon in the matter of charities Many were the actions of Lord Mayor Beckford in remedying wrongs in which he had no personal interest; this will suffice to show his disposition in all such cases.


[p. 57] * There is now a fashion prevalent of gratuitously contradicting the records of the past. Richard III. has been proclaimed all ill-used prince Shakespeare did not write the plays attributed to him, and there never was such a personage as Homer! Horne Tooke was reported to have had a hand in drawing up the address spoken so effectively by Beckford - this is an old story, and he may or not have been consulted on the occasion. But it is further asserted that no such address was ever spoken by Beckford at all! What was the Bute party about at the time, that they suffered this truly excellent address to stand a fact as to its delivery - that they did not contradict it instanter through their hirelings, but that nearly a century afterwards it remained for some one not less impudent than ignorant in the matter to coin a denial of it!

[p. 68] * Bedford Street, Princes Street, Lower Conduit Street, Queen's Street, Eagle Street, North and East Streets, Bedford Row, Theobald Row, Bedford Court, Boswell Court and others.

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