Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

It

may

commenced at the outset of the sixteenth century. The monopolies and powers of search which they were supposed to have received were of more than doubtful legality. Their very constitution was only suited to a limited area, and the spread of London must seriously have early interfered with their efficiency ; probably by the end of the sixteenth century they had practically ceased to be of any use for industrial purposes. Mr. Froude, in the early pages of his History, gives it as his opinion that by the commencement of the Tudor period they had become to a great extent an obsolete institution as regards trade superintendence. Through admission by patrimony, by apprenticeship, and by special order the companies became full of persons of trades other than the trades whose names they bore; a solemn minute of the Court of the Grocers' Company in 1687 speaks of the company as a 'nursery of charities and seminary of good citizens,' but omits all reference to a connection with trade. A careful perusal of the evidence, both oral and documentary, laid before the Commissioners will show that for the last three hundred years at all events the companies of London have been mainly what they are at the present day--viz. associations identified in name with trade and manufactures, but whose real objects have been rather hospitality and benevolence.

be as well to say a few more words, which cannot be better given than in the words of the Commissioners, as to the constitution of the companies by way of explanation. There appear to have been always three grades of membership-(1) mere membership, the possession of the freedom which makes a freeman or freewoman; (2) membership of what is called the livery; (3) a place in the court, or governing body. The freedom of the companies has been from time immemorial obtainable in two ways—first by apprenticeship, which seems to have been by no means confined to the trades of the guilds themselves, for from an early period a practice prevailed of bestowing the freedom on persons who had been bound to any of the members, irrespective of their callings; secondly, by patrimony, by which

every son or daughter of a person who has been duly admitted to the freedom has always been entitled to claim, when of age, his or her admission to the freedom upon proof of his or her legitimacy and the membership of the father at the time of birth. From a very early period, however, the freedom of the companies has, under more or less restrictions, been sold, and has been conferred as an honour upon personages of distinction honoris causâ. Above the mere freeman and freewoman have always been the members of the livery, who ' had' the clothing' of the brotherhood or guild ; and the court possesses, as a general rule, the sole power of admitting or calling' to the livery. The courts, or governing bodies, early assumed the form of a master or prime warden and several other wardens, and a number of assistants were elected by co-optation, the fees payable in respect of the several promotions being so considerable that a free

man, on becoming master, might have had to pay as much as 300l. in fines and fees. The governing bodies, or courts, have in their hands the entire control of the companies' affairs. With rare exceptions all the proceedings of the courts are secret ; their accounts are not published, and the liverymen and freemen have not access to their proceedings. There are, however, a few companies—for instance, the Ironmongers’ and the Joiners', and for some purposes the Mercers'-in which the livery (and not merely the master warden and assistants) constitute the governing body.

Having thus briefly considered the origin of these companies, the objects for which they were originally founded, the functions which are still discharged by them, and their constitution, it is quite necessary for us to make some further inquiry into the amount of their property, into the circumstances under which they became possessedof it, into the mode in which it is managed, and the several ways in which it is expended. We stated at the outset of these remarks that the Commissioners had estimated their income at between 750,0001. and 800,0001. a year. It must not, however, be for a moment supposed that anything like this sum is held by them to be disposed of at their free will as they may think best. A very large amount is trust income, income clothed with distinct trusts, income which they hold merely as trustees, income which the companies or their courts are bound to apply (as the Commissioners state) in accordance with (1) the wills of the founders, (2) Acts of Parliament, (3) the decrees of the Court of Chancery, (4) schemes framed by the Charity or Endowed Schools Commissioners. There is a broad distinction between this trust property and the rest of the property held by the companies, which is usually known under the name of their corporate property; nor, as a rule, is there any difficulty in deciding as to any particular property to which class it belongs; the only case, perhaps, in which any real difficulty has been found to exist being the case where property has largely increased in value, and it has become necessary to determine the effect of the law of trusts on the increment; but even in this case the law itself may be considered as clearly settled, and may be very simply stated, the only remaining difficulty being the application of the law to each individual and particular case. The law itself cannot be more simply stated than has been done by Mr. Horace Davey, and we make no apology in a matter of such vital importance for quoting the written answer which he gave to the Commissioners on the point.

(1) Where the testator or donor apportions the whole income out to various charities, and by that means exhausts the whole income, the different objects will take the increased income in the same proportions.

Thetford School case. 8 Co. 131. (2) Where specified sums are given to certain charitable purposes, and the residue is given as such to another charity, or to certain persons, or where lands

are given to feoffees upon trust to pay certain specific sums and the residue is undisposed of, or lands are given subject to payment of specific sums, the charitable objects can only have the specific sums, and the feoffees or devisees or residuary cestuique trust take the whole increase.

Attorney-General v. Dean and Canons of Windsor, 8 H. L. Ca. 369.

South Molton v. Attorney-General. 3 H. L. Ca. 1.

(3) Where certain specified sums are given to charitable objects, and the residue is devoted to a purpose which is not for the benefit of the trustees or devisees, but of the persons entitled to the property generally, the charities take the increase.

Attorney-General v. Wax Chandlers' Co. (L. R. 6 Eng. & N. App. 1.)
Merchant Taylors' Company's case. L. R. 6 Ch. 512.

The Commissioners estimate the value of the property thus clothed with distinct trusts, and therefore administered more or less under the control of the Charity Commissioners, as no less than 200,0001. a year. Of this sum of 200,0001. a year about 75,0001. is expended in support of almshouses, such as those of the Goldsmiths' at Acton, the Merchant Taylors' at Lee, the Salters' at Watford, the Clothworkers' at Islington, the Weavers' at Wanstead, and the relief of poor members; about 75,0001, in education, i.e. on schools, such as St. Paul's, founded in 1519, managed by the Mercers; Tunbridge, founded 1553, managed by the Skinners; Aldenham, founded 1599, managed by the Brewers; and Great Crosby, founded 1618, managed by the Merchant Taylors ; and many middle-class schools for children of both sexes, at which schools upwards of 10,000 children are educated : apprenticing charities and exhibitions at the Universities, and about 50,0001. on charitable objects of a general kind, the two principal charities of this last class being endowments for the relief of the indigent blind, mainly administered by the Clothworkers; and a fund for the sustentation of elementary schools connected with the Church of England, administered by the Ironmongers' Company.

With regard to the way in which the several companies have administered the several trust estates of which they are trustees, there can be no doubt of their having been well and conscientiously administered : the reports of the Charity Commissioners make this quite clear. The evidence taken before the Royal Commissioners can leave no doubt in the mind of any impartial person that they have submitted their accounts to the Charity Commissioners as required by law with the greatest regularity, and that they have been exceedingly liberal in the administration of their trusts, and in many cases bave very largely subsidised the trust funds out of their corporate income. The Commissioners themselves point out the considerable sums spent from the same source by the Mercers and Skinners on St. Paul's and Tunbridge Schools respectively; and the Merchant Taylors' School, which has no endowment, has recently been rebuilt by the Merchant Taylors' Company, who have spent no less than 140,0001. upon it out of their corporate income; and it should

be added that it has not been the practice of the companies to charge for administering the charities, except when the terms of the charitable bequests, or when an Act of Parliament or a scheme in Chancery or one framed by the Charity Commissioners has expressly authorised them so to charge ; nor, indeed, have the courts of the companies ever charged the trusts with the ive per cent. on the annual value which is constantly allowed in such cases, their practice having been to manage the several trust estates gratuitously through their corporate funds.

Nor is this trust fund of 200,0001. a year the only sum which has to be deducted from the amount with which we at first started, for in estimating the income of the companies at 750,0001. a year the Commissioners took into account a good deal that is not, properly speaking, in any sense available income, for they have taken into consideration property from which no income can be said to be derived—for instance, the value of the halls, almshouses, and schools, the value of their plate and furniture, and the value of the Church livings of which they are the patrons. The rateable value of the halls of the twelve great companies is taken by the Commissioners as about 35,0001., that of their schools and almshouses as about 12,000l. The value of their plate and furniture is stated to be 270,0001., and the annual income of the livings in their gift to be about 12,000l. a year. The rateable value of the halls of the minor companies is taken as about 20,0001. a year, that of their schools and almshouses as about 3,0001. a year, the value of their plate and furniture as about 50,0001. They are not patrons of any livings. The debts of the great companies amount to about 180,0001., that of the minor companies to about 90,0001. In order, therefore, to arrive at the available corporate income at the disposal of the companies it is necessary to make a further deduction from the gross sum of 750,000l. to 800,0001., after first deducting the sum of trust income, amounting to 200,0001. ; and the Commissioners, after making these proper deductions, estimate such available corporate income of all the companies, roughly speaking, at 425,0001. a year.

The sources from which this corporate income is derived may be said to be both internal and external-i.e. internal, from fees on admission by patrimony, by servitude or apprenticeship, or by redemption from fines on admission to the livery, by fees on admission to the court, or on promotion, and from quarterage, estimated on the whole to amount to some 20,0001. a year; and external, from property purchased and conveyed from the Crown or otherwise acquired by the companies in their own corporate right, by bequest or gift from members or other persons.

There has, no doubt, been a large increase in the value of this corporate property of late years, owing to the general increase of the value of house property in London, where much of it is situated, but

such increment in value cannot in any way affect the title of the companies to the property as part of their corporate estate. Several of the companies possess, and are interested in, a considerable amount of real property in Ireland--the remnant of the lands in Ulster, which the companies of London and the Irish Society were compelled to purchase at the commencement of the seventeenth century. What may be the value of this property it is difficult to determine ; it may probably seem to many that the majority of the Commissioners have taken a very sanguine view of the prospective value not only of house property in London, but also of agricultural property in England and in the sister country.

Such being the sources of income, what are the sources of expenditure as regards the corporate estate to the amount of 425,0001. a year? The Commissioners compute that about 175,0001. a year is spent in maintenance,' which is made up, first, of 40,000l. paid to members of the governing bodies as court fees, for attendance at the courts or meetings for the transaction of business---e.g. admission to the freedom, calls to the livery, elections to courts, appointment of officers and servants, management of the corporate and trust estates, election of alms people and pensioners, superintendence of schools, invitations to entertainments, and the selection of public or benevolent objects to be supported out of the corporate income-secondly, of 60,0001. a year spent on the salaries and allowances of the officers and servants of the companies, including those employed in Ireland in connection with the Ulster estates; and, thirdly, of 75,000l. a year required for rates, taxes, rebuilding, repairs, and improvements, the word improvements including not only the restoration and decoration of the balls, but such improvements (especially in Ireland) as drainage, farm buildings, the construction of roads and bridges, and the support of places of worship, schools, and dispensaries for the use of the tenants on their estates, leaving a net amount of 250,0001. a year to be accounted for, of which sum about 150,0001. is spent annually in public and benevolent objects, and about 100,000l. annually on entertainments. The accompanying statement, the tables

[merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]
« ZurückWeiter »