Extracts from Daniel Defoe’s Account of London

Selected by Pat Rogers
Introduction and Contents

The Government of the City

The government of this great mass of building, and of such a vast collected body of people, though it consists of various parts, is, perhaps, the most regular and well-ordered government, that any city, of above half its magnitude, can boast of.

The government of the city of London in particular, and abstractedly considered, is, by the lord mayor, twenty four aldermen, two sheriffs, the recorder and common council; but the jurisdiction of these is confined to that part only, which they call the City and its Liberties, which are marked out, except the Borough, by the walls and the bars, as they are called, and which the particular maps of the city have exactly lin’d out, to which I refer.

Besides this, the lord mayor and aldermen of London have a right presidial, as above, in the borough of Southwark, as conservators of the bridge, and the bridge itself is their particular jurisdiction.

Also the lord mayor, &c. is conservator of the River Thames, from Stanes Bridge in Surrey and Middlesex, to the River Medway in Kent, and, as some insist, up the Medway to Rochester Bridge.

The government of the out parts, is by justices of the peace, and by the sheriffs of London, who are, likewise, sheriffs of Middlesex; and the government of Westminster is, by a high bailiff, constituted by the Dean and Chapter, to whom the civil administrations is so far committed.

The remaining part of Southwark side, when the city jurisdiction is considered, is governed, also by a Bench of Justices, and their proper substituted peace officers; excepting out of this the privileges of the Marshalseas, or of the Marshal’s Court, the privilege of the Marshal of the King’s Bench, the Mint, and the like.