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Mansion House London - Framed Print - 14"H x 11"W


Mansion House London - Framed Print - 14"H x 11"W

Mansion House is the official residence of the Lord Mayor of London. It is used for some of the City of London's official functions, including an annual dinner, hosted by the Lord Mayor, at which the Chancellor of the Exchequer customarily gives a speech – his "Mansion House Speech"

Mansion House was built between 1739 and 1752, in the then fashionable Palladian style by the surveyor and architect George Dance the Elder. The construction was prompted by a wish to put an end to the inconvenient practice of lodging the Lord Mayor in one of the City Halls.

Mansion House was paid for in an unusual way. William Edward Hartpole Lecky in his History of England during the Eighteenth Century describes it as "a very scandalous form of persecution".

In 1748 the City of London Corporation devised a Catch-22 situation to raise money, passing a by-law levying a heavy fine on any man who refused to stand for election, or who, once elected to office, refused to serve. In order to serve as a Sheriff of the City of London, the individual had to have "taken the sacrament according to the Anglican rite" within the past year. This was exactly what English Dissenters could not, in conscience, do.

The City of London systematically elected wealthy Dissenters to the office in order that they should be objected to and fined, and that in this manner it extorted no less than £15,000. The electors appointed these Dissenters with a clear knowledge that they would not serve, and with the sole purpose of extorting money.

In order to avoid this financially ruinous persecution, some Dissenters were known to take Communion in their parish church once a year; in the phraseology of the time, "occasional conformity".

The American author Mark Twain recounts the story in his own inimitable style in A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court:

It reminded me of something I had read in my youth about the ingenious way in which the aldermen of London raised the money that built the Mansion House. A person who had not taken the Sacrament according to the Anglican rite could not stand as a candidate for sheriff of London. Thus Dissenters were ineligible; they could not run if asked, they could not serve if elected. The aldermen, who without any question were Yankees in disguise, hit upon this neat device: they passed a by-law imposing a fine of £400 upon any one who should refuse to be a candidate for sheriff, and a fine of £600 upon any person who, after being elected sheriff, refused to serve. Then they went to work and elected a lot of Dissenters, one after another, and kept it up until they had collected £15,000 in fines; and there stands the stately Mansion House to this day, to keep the blushing citizen in mind of a long past and lamented day when a band of Yankees slipped into London and played games of the sort that has given their race a unique and shady reputation among all truly good and holy peoples that be in the earth.

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