(A) Petition of Nathaniel Hasselwood for the Freedom of the Borough

Showeth that the petitioner, being formerly a soldier and quartering in this town about eight years, took to wife one Margaret Sneape, a town-born child; where they have continued ever since, himself only having a dependence upon the army until the 25th of April, 1660.... Being disbanded ... , the petitioner was appointed to pass from the headquarters in Scotland into this county, there to follow any lawful calling for his livelihood ...; which he hath hitherto endeavoured to do in an honest way, as he humbly conceives. But being informed that he cannot be permitted so to do, in regard he is not made a freeman of the town, most humbly therefore he craves this assembly[1]would ... permit him to continue in the way he now is ... or ... admit him to be a freeman. This petition granted.

Stocks, Records of Leicester, 1603-1688, p. 477.

(B) Letter Concerning a New Municipal Charter (1664)[2]

... We desire you to take up so much money ... as Mr. Johnson, Mr. Deighton, Mr. Attorney's clerk, and yourself shall think necessary to do our whole business this and next term.... We have sent you the last charter past the privy signet under the clerk of the signet's hand; whereof entreat Mr. Johnson and Mr. Deighton to be careful, for we desire it may now pass in the same words as then it was granted by his late majesty without any diminution, but with addition of the things hereinafter mentioned.... That on our Saturday market we may also have a.horse market, and that foreigners of all trades that market day may depart in summer at seven of the clock and in winter at five of the clock, and not stay all night in town as now they do to prejudice the burgesses.... And that all our parishes, suburbs, and fields may be continued within the regulation of Mr. Mayor and the corporation ...; and that the encroachment of the country justices, stewards, sheriff, and foreign jurisdictions may be restrained.... Sir, we pray [you to] inform Mr. Attorney's clerk herein and get a draft prepared for our charter that we may see it and consider thereof till next term ...; and the next term we shall attend Mr. Attorney and pay all fees and perfect our business....

Ibid., pp. 490 f.

(C) Disputed Election to the Corporation (1665-66)[3]

[26 December 1665.] It is ordered and agreed at this meeting that the refusing of Edward Billers, William Warburton, and William Orton to renounce the Covenant and subscribe the declaration mentioned in the act for regulating corporations[4] shall be signified to the council according to the order of his majesty....

For the mayor, bailiffs, and burgesses of the borough of Leicester against Edward Billers, William Warburton, and William Orton. The effect of your petition to the council: That the mayor and aldermen of the said borough ... were wont, upon the death or removal of any of them or of the company of forty-eight called the common council, to elect other in their stead; that three of the said company of forty-eight being lately dead, the mayor and aldermen duly elected the defendants in their places, who, taking advantage of a clause in the late act of parliament for regulating corporations, refused to renounce the Covenant — whereby their election is declared void. Therefore they pray such order as his majesty should think fit.... [On] 29 November last, by an order of the council ... , the said parties are ordered to submit ... by taking the usual oaths.... The corporation under their common seal certify the tender both of the oath and subscription, but they persist in their refusal. Thereupon an order of this February ... requires the defendants to take the oaths and subscribe, or pay such fines as the corporation shall impose.... Before this order could be procured to be signed ... , the defendants, having by some means intelligence thereof, came up and are ordered to stand committed before they be heard. They allege in excuse: (1) that they are young men, no householders, and keep no apprentices or servants; (2) that they offered to pay such fines as the corporation should impose; (3) that they offered to submit to their election. Answer: (1) They are all shopkeepers and of very good trades and estates, and there are very few of like ability with them, considering the late regulation; (2) the corporation, if they should impose fines, have no power ... to recover them ...; (3) it is true they did offer to submit to their election by taking the oaths, but would never be persuaded to subscribe to renounce the Covenant, and by that means their election is void by the act.

[6 April 1666.] ... Memorandum that ... the aforesaid Edward Billers, William Warburton, and William Orton came to Mr. Mayor and desired they might be put in bond for payment of their fines, and that they might have the discharge for being elected of the company of the eight-and-forty, etc.... All which was granted them....

Ibid., pp. 498 f.

(D) Memorandum Concerning Conventicles (1671)

Upon the 12th day of February last, being Sunday, Thomas Ludlam, one of the constables of the borough of Leicester, John Vesey and Thomas Laxton, churchwardens of the parish of All Saints in the said borough, being informed of a conventicle or meeting to be held in a house in the said parish, about two of the clock in the afternoon of the same day went to the said house, where they found several persons met together — and of those two men and eight women, whose names they learned, being then and there sitting and standing in the said house; but they heard no praying or preaching by any person. The mayor of the said borough humbly prays your lordship's judgment and advice, whether this meeting may be accounted a conventicle according to act of parliament.[5]

This was delivered to Judge Wyndham by Mr. Recorder upon the bench at the gildhall of the borough of Leicester.... His lordship's opinion was it was not a conventicle within the statute if nothing more appeared; and, if Mr. Mayor and justices should make a warrant of distress, there might be an action of distress brought against the officers.

Ibid., pp. 522 f.

(E) Petition of the Stocking-makers

Showeth that the petitioners have for divers years last past employed themselves in the buying and combing of wool and in getting the same to be spun and knit up into stockings, to be sold to hosiers and other retailers, by which means they have wrought up yearly about 200 tods of wool, used great quantities of oil and soap, and kept constantly at work about 2000 poor people, men, women, and children of the town of Leicester and adjacent villages — to the great advantage of the town and country, to the support of the petitioners and their families and to the enabling of them to bear a great part of the public taxes. And although the employment before mentioned is no trade within any statute, nor any man by law prohibited the exercise thereof in any city or town corporate of England; yet divers freemen of Leicester, perceiving that the petitioners have brought the said employment to a considerable manufacture, do now endeavour to engross the same wholly to themselves and to turn it into a monopoly, and by unjustifiable ordinances to exclude the petitioners from the free exercise of their calling. And albeit that, at the general sessions of the peace lately holden for the said borough, it was after serious advice and consultation with the grand jury adjudged that it was lawful for the petitioners to keep on their said employment, and ordered that they should not be molested therein; yet several of the said freemen do attempt the procuring of some order of this common hall to hinder the petitioners from the further exercise of their calling.

And for the accomplishing of their designs [they] do use these false suggestions: that the petitioners do not give the spinners and knitters sufficient wages, and so the work is slightly done and the commodity brought into discredit; but, if the petitioners may be prohibited and some of the freemen only use the calling, they will give greater wages. They will employ none but the best spinners and knitters, and they will have all the yarn wound on clock reels, that so it may be perceived whether good or not and no stockings made but such as shall be very good. To which the petitioners do answer and humbly offer these following considerations: —

1. That it is improbable that, when a very great number of those that set the poor on work shall be restrained, those few which are left shall give greater wages to the poor than are given now when the work-folks will be as many still and fewer masters to employ them.

2. If the goodness of the work be the thing the freemen aim at, they may now take the best work-folks, give greater wages if they please, make better work, and outsell the petitioners, and none can hinder them.

3. If none but the best work-folks be set on work, then the children can never be taught, and the manufacture in short time will perish.

4. It is not the curious making of a few stockings, but the general making of many that is most for the public good; for that sets more people on work, as well children as others, and, when the stockings are made up and sorted, there are amongst them some for all sorts of people, and the buyer is able to judge of them and to give prices accordingly. If none but fine stockings be made, the poor must go without.

5. And as to the clock reels, there will be great inconveniency in them; for every workman is to buy such a reel, which many are not able to do....

6. The viewing of the yarn in the skein is altogether needless, for any man in doubling the yarn from off the spools can judge of the work sufficiently.

7. That driving the petitioners out of the town, if it could be effected, would be much to the damage of the town and hinder above 1000 of the poor people of the work they now have....

8. Divers persons, who by reason of some disasters and losses have been forced to leave off their trades ... , have learned and taken up this employment ...; which advantage or privilege will be taken away if the employment be confined to a small number....

9. If there be no law extant by which the petitioners can be restrained, how safe can it be to contrive ordinances or by-laws to hinder the public good?

10. If the increasing of a manufacture to the height be everywhere adjudged a public profit, that ought to be advanced rather than the gratifying of a few because freemen.

The premises considered, the petitioners humbly pray that this assembly will not act anything which may tend to the prohibiting of the petitioners from the exercising of the said calling.

Ibid., pp. 536 f.

(F) Letter Concerning Elections to Parliament (1677)[6]

Mr. Mayor and gentlemen: ... I have again discoursed, not only Mr. Finch, but some other great persons of quality who wish you had not disobliged my lord Huntingdon's tender of Mr. Finch.... To which, for you all, I answered you had prudently hitherto behaved yourselves, and none of your twenty-four or forty-eight were anywise engaged against him or on either side, but reserved your liberty of your own votes till the election.... But yet, for all this, I still perceive there is unkindness taken, which I will endeavour to mollify as much as I can. But I perceive, if you shall choose any that opposed Mr. Finch, it will not be forgotten. And truly, for my own part, I will neither oppose Mr. Gray or Mr. Finch; though all say here, if you shall choose one of your own members or myself, no offence can be justly taken on either side.

... I clearly know ... and believe the parliament will determine the election is in the mayor, aldermen, common council, and burgesses that are sworn freemen and in none other; though in Sir John Prettyman's election ...[7] the question was only whether the twenty-four and forty-eight alone should elect as formerly, which was carried in the negation. But had the question been merely betwixt burgesses and no burgesses, the case had been otherwise resolved; for the poorest burgess hath his vote ... , but those which are no burgesses are no members of the corporation of Leicester, though they dwell in Leicester ...

Now, gentlemen, I will study how I may to keep us all quiet; and 'tis in the power of the Hall to admonish and rule the burgesses for the welfare of the corporation.... Therefore you that govern must be unanimous and first rule yourselves, and the rest when they know it, will obey you.... As for the expense of a noble treat to the whole corporation upon the election, no man will deny it; but to hire or engage votes unduly by drinking on any side is so great a crime 'tis not to be suffered. But all other civilities which must occasion some expense will not be scrupled....

Ibid., pp. 545 f.

(G) Chamberlain's Account (1682-83)

... Item, paid at Mr. Pares' for ale and tobacco, when Mr. Mayor, several aldermen, and common-councilmen met to agree with John Brookes for setting up and building the North Gates and for his earnest of the bargain the same time, 7s.

Item, paid for wine at the White Lyon, when Mr. Mayor and several aldermen and others met about the Abhorrence[8] to be presented to his majesty, 5s. 6d.

Item, paid to Mr. Mayor and aldermen for defraying their charges when they went to London to present the Abhorrence to his majesty from the town, £14. 15s. 6d.

Item, paid for horse-hire and charges of Mr. Beckett and Mr. Goodall when they went to the earl of Rutland with the Abhorrence, 15s. 8d.

Item, paid Mr. Wagstaffe for two bottles of canary and a bottle of claret when Mr. Recorder, Mr. Steward, and Mr. Solicitor met about drawing the Abhorrence, 5s....

Ibid., p 559.

[1] The court of common hall (see above, p. 291, n. 11), which apparently admitted him as a freeman.

[2] Written by the mayor and some of his associates to a Mr. Browne, who was acting as agent for the corporation in London.

[3] The corporation consisted of the mayor and the two companies: one of the aldermen, called the four-and-twenty; the other of the common council, called the eight-and-forty. The following excerpts are from the records of the common hall.

[4] No. 114J.

[5] See no. 114P.

[6] Written by Robert Harding, recorder of the borough, to the mayor and corporation.

[7] In 1661 there was a disputed election: the aldermen and councillors returning one candidate, a tumultuous assembly of burgesses returning another. The house of commons decided in favour of the latter, Sir John Prettyman.

[8] One of the Tory petitions "abhorring" the Whig demand for the calling of a new parliament.