Category Archives: Customs

The London Stock Exchange – Principal Stock

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We had a ‘dig’ around in our library on the history of the London Stock Exchange and discovered this interesting article which we will publish in several parts over the next few days – its from the book London – Volume 3 published in 1824 by Sholto and Reuben Percy – Brothers of the Benedictine Monastery.

Read other posts in this series on the Stock Exchange

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The London Stock Exchange – Principal Stock

In the Stock Exchange great pains are taken to exclude improper persons, and no one is allowed to transact business there unless admitted a member by ballot. Four days a week the commissioners for the redemption of the national debt attend to purchase stock.

The principal stock is the three per cent, consols, which amount to upwards of 365 millions. The  price of this stock has fluctuated in a singular manner during the last ninety years. In the month of July 1736, it was at 113; in February 1746, at 75; in 1752, at 106; and it continued at various prices, from 70 to 100, until the year 1778. The greatest and most sudden depression that the stocks ever experienced was in the early period of the French revolutionary war. In the month of March [1792] the three per cents, were at 96, and in 1797 they were as low as 48, which is the minimum. Although they had gradually declined every year from the commencement of the war, yet this great depression was owing to the Bank suspending its cash-payments.

As the funds are necessarily much affected by political events, individuals who possess prior or exclusive intelligence will at any time be enabled to speculate with great success. A broker, who, by means of an intelligent Frenchman, with whom he became casually acquainted, obtained the first information of the failure of Lord Macartney’s negotiation with the French Directory, made £16,000 while breakfasting at Batson’s coffee-house, and had he not been timid might have gained half a million; so great was the fluctuation owing to the intelligence being quite unexpected. As real events affect the funds, many efforts have been made to produce the same result by false rumours, and that with great success. The most memorable instance of this was on the 21st of Feb 1815, when a Mr. Random de Berenger, in concert with some stock-jobbing gentlemen, played a singular hoax on the Stock Exchange. Mr. De Berenger had gone to Dover, and personated a French officer just landed with despatches, announcing that in a late action Bonaparte had been killed. After writing to Admiral Foley at Deal, who would have telegraphed the Admiralty had not the foggy weather prevented it, De Berenger set off in a post-chaise to town, drove rapidly past the Royal Exchange spreading the news, which had such an effect that Omnium rose nearly five per cent. The trick was afterwards discovered, and Lord Cochrane, Mr. Butt, and De Berenger were indicted for a conspiracy. They were found guilty; when Lord Cochrane and Mr. Butt were sentenced to one year’s imprisonment, and to pay a fine of £1000 each. De Berenger and some others were sentenced to a year’s imprisonment, and the Hon. Cochrane Johnstone, who was also indicted, quitted the country. This severe example has not been without benefit, as it is the last great attempt at fabricating false news that has been made, though minor rumours are circulated daily.

A singular custom, worthy only of the cupidity and intolerance of a barbarous age, is connected with the Stock Exchange. The number of Jew brokers admitted is limited to twelve, and these only on condition of purchasing the privilege by a liberal gratuity to the lord mayor for the time being. During the mayoralty of Wilkes, one of the Jew brokers was taken seriously ill, and his lordship is said to have calculated pretty openly on the advantage he would derive from filling up the expected vacancy. The son of the broker meeting the lord mayor, reproached him with wishing his father’s death. “My dear fellow” said Wilkes, with that sarcastic humour which was peculiar to him, “you are completely in error, for I would rather all the Jew-brokers were dead? than your father.”

Excerpt from London Volume 3 1824 by Sholto and Reuben Percy – Brothers of the Benedictine Monastery

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Further reading and external links

The London Stock Exchange on Wikipedia

The London Stock Exchange Website

The Bank of England – Part IV

 

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Part IV of our series on the origins of the Bank of England – its from the book London – Volume 3 published in 1824 by Sholto and Reuben Percy – Brothers of the Benedictine Monastery.

Read other posts in this series on the Bank of England

Read other posts in the London series

The Bank of England – Part IV

The restriction on cash payments, authorized by the privy council in 1797, and confirmed by an act of parliament, though intended as a temporary measure, was continued by various legislative acts until the month of September, [1817], when the Bank issued a notice that cash would be given for all their notes of £1 and £2 value, dated previous to the 1st of January, [1816]: so great, however, was the demand for cash, that in the course of two years, from the 1st of January, [1817], to the 1st of January, [1819], the gold coin issued amounted to £1,596,356 in guineas and half guineas, and £4,459,725 in sovereigns. Had this sum been withdrawn merely for the purpose of superseding paper money in internal circulation, it would have occasioned no uneasiness; but it was found that it was exported to France at a premium, and that in such quantities, that out of a new coinage of £5,000,000. made by the French government, nearly four millions of it was out of the coin of this country.

In order, therefore, to prevent such a drain of the precious metals, it was determined once more to interdict cash payments. After this measure was adopted, two parliamentary committees were appointed to investigate the affairs of the Bank; In the report of the secret committee of the House of Commons, dated May 6, [1819], we have a clear and decisive proof of the flourishing state of the Bank of England, fully justifying that ample confidence which the public have reposed in the stability of its resources. It appears by this parliamentary document, that the sum which the Bank was liable to be called on to pay, in fulfilment of its engagements, on the 1st of January, [1819], was £33,894,580. and that it was then in possession of government securities, and other credits, to the amount of £39,096,900. leaving a surplus in favour of the Bank of England, of £5,202,320. exclusive of the permanent debt due from government to the Company, of £14,686,800 repayable on the expiration of the charter. Thus the total capital of the Bank exceeds twenty millions sterling.

The proposal again to restrict the Bank from payments in cash, met with considerable opposition in both houses of parliament, though the usual orders of the house were suspended, that the bill might pass through all its stages in one day; and it passed through the commons on the 5th of April, [1819], and through the lords on the following day. This act, which is known by the name of Mr. Peel’s Bill, limited the restriction to the 1st May, [1822], on which day cash payments were resumed, and have continued uninterrupted, and unlimited to the present time.

Excerpt from London Volume 3 1824 by Sholto and Reuben Percy – Brothers of the Benedictine Monastery

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Further reading and external links

The Bank of England on Wikipedia 

The Bank of England Archives

The Bank of England – Part III

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Part III of our series on the origins of the Bank of England – its from the book London – Volume 3 published in 1824 by Sholto and Reuben Percy – Brothers of the Benedictine Monastery.

Read other posts in this series on the Bank of England

Read other posts in the London series

The Bank of England – Part III

A more imminent danger threatened the bank, which had been steadily increasing in prosperity and consequently in capital, during the fanatical riots of [1780]. Fortunately, this great establishment was not the object of attack at the commencement of those daring outrages; for, unprepared as it then was, it is almost certain that it would have been entirely despoiled.  Dr. Johnson, in his Letters to Mrs. Thrale, when giving what he calls a journal of “a week’s defiance of government,” unhesitatingly states that if the mob had attacked the bank “at the height of the panic,” on Tuesday instead of the Wednesday night, “when no resistance had been prepared, they might have carried irrecoverably away whatever they had found.”  Wilkes headed the party who drove the rioters away, and this was the first effectual resistance they encountered. Since this period, a guard of soldiers has been regularly sent every evening from the Horse Guards, or from the Tower, and lodged in the bank for its protection.

The punctuality with which the interest on the bank stock, and the dividends on government securities were paid, and the facility with which the principal is obtained, soon pointed out the funds as the most convenient, and often the most advantageous modes of investing capital, and to such an extent was this done, that in the year [1791], when government called for a return of the unclaimed dividends which had accumulated in the bank, they were found to amount to £660,000 of which half a million was advanced to government without interest.

When the French revolution, that pivot on which so much of European history turns, was extending its principles to neighbouring states, and strong symptoms of attachment to them had been, manifested in England, the stability of the government, and consequently of the bank, began to be questioned, and several persons withdrew their confidence and their money from the public funds; this had been done to such an extent, that in the year 1797, the bank felt some difficulty in obtaining the requisite quantity of specie, which had been drained out of the country by loans and subsidies, to meet the demand, The bank had also been so liberal in its advances to government, that it had felt some inconveniences on this account; but the minister still sued for aid, and the directors, though protesting against further advances, could not refuse them. At length, when the wants of the government and the demands of the public threatened to drain the bank of its last guinea, the directors sent a deputation to Mr. Pitt, then Premier, on the 24th of February, 1797, to represent the state in which they had been placed, and to ask him “how far he thought the bank might go on paying cash, and when he would think it necessary to interfere before their cash was so reduced as might be detrimental to the immediate service, of the state.” Mr. Pitt was not the minister to hesitate on such an occasion; a meeting of the Privy Council was held two days afterwards, who passed an order, declaring it necessary for the public service, that “the Directors of the Bank of England should forbear issuing any cash in payment until the sense of Parliament could he taken on the subject.”

This order was extensively circulated, accompanied by a notice from the Secretary of the bank, stating, “that the general concerns of the bank were in the most affluent and prosperous situation.” The merchants and bankers of London, with that generous confidence which has always marked their conduct, again assembled, as in the year 1745, to declare their confidence in the Bank of England, and their determination to receive bank notes on all occasions. Upwards of four thousand of the most eminent mercantile men in London signed this declaration, but the panic had spread to the country, and a great shock was given to public credit. A parliamentary committee was soon afterwards appointed to examine into the affairs of the bank, when it was ascertained that the company had a surplus of £3,826,890 beyond all their debts, exclusive of a sum of £11,686,800. due to them from government, forming a total net capital of £15,513,690.  

This assurance was deemed satisfactory, though it was some time before the funds recovered the shock they had received. In consequence of cash payments being abolished, it became necessary to substitute a paper currency in notes of smaller sums than had been hitherto issued. Until the year [1759] no bank notes of less than £20. had been circulated, but in that year, others of £10 and £15 were used; in [1790], bank notes for £5 were put in circulation, and in 1797, when it was no longer obligatory on the bank to pay in cash, notes of £1 and £2 were issued, and continued in circulation until the year [1822], when they were wholly withdrawn, and cash payments resumed, an event which sadly disconcerted political economists, who declared that a return to cash payments was totally impossible. Although in 1797, a paper succeeded a metallic currency, yet the actual amount of bank notes in circulation in the month of December in that year did not exceed those issued in February by more than two millions, and the sum was altogether less, by about three millions, than in [1795].

The run on the Bank, as the call for cash in 1797 is generally called, reduced the issues of bank notes very considerably; and at the moment that the Bank was relieved from the necessity of cash payments, the amount in circulation was only £8,601,964. From this period, however, the issues were continually augmented, and they appear to have reached their maximum in the month of August, [1817], when the Bank had actually in circulation, bank-notes and bank post bills, to the amount of £30,099,908.

Excerpt from London Volume 3 1824 by Sholto and Reuben Percy – Brothers of the Benedictine Monastery

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Further reading and external links

The Bank of England on Wikipedia 

The Bank of England Archives

The Bank of England – Part II

Part II of our series on the origins of the Bank of England – its from the book London – Volume 3 published in 1824 by Sholto and Reuben Percy – Brothers of the Benedictine Monastery.

Read other posts in this series on the Bank of England

The Bank of England – Part II

The relief of Parliament became necessary, and a new act was passed, authorizing the bank to increase its capital to £2,201,171.10s and other privileges being granted to the company, its credit was completely restored; so much so that the bank stock, which had been given in exchange for exchequer tallies, then at a discount of from forty to fifty per cent rose twelve per cent, above par. The exchequer tallies were afterwards paid off by the bank, at par, by which means many persons, who had bought them when at a great discount, amassed large fortunes: one gentleman, Sir Gilbert Heathcote, is said to have gained £60,000. by the fluctuation.

The bank had hitherto been a corporation, assisting, but not connected with the State further than in the relation of a lender to a borrower, but in the year [1706], it became the direct and immediate agent of government by undertaking to issue exchequer bills to the amount of a million and a half, which paid as in later times an interest of two-pence per diem for every £100.

The Bank of England now became prosperous; and the act passed in 1708, for preventing more than six persons engaging in a firm, though now a law of questionable policy, did much service to the company, so that in the following year, when the bank was empowered to double its capital, the sum of £2,201,171,10s was subscribed in the course of five hours, at an advance of fifteen per cent. This advance in the price of bank stock was however nothing to what took place when the South Sea bubble had frenzied the British capitalists, and bank stock was actually sold at 260 per cent.

Successive acts of Parliament were passed to enable the bank to increase its capital, and on all occasions when the government required aid, the bank was willing to accommodate it on terms of reciprocal advantage. The affairs of the company were highly prosperous, and its capital stock more than ten millions when the rebellion of 1745 threatened to paralyse its operations. In the first moment of alarm, persons became anxious to obtain cash for their notes, and crowded to the bank for that purpose. Unfortunately the bank was not at that time very well supplied with the precious metals, and certainly not, in any thing like the quantity necessary to exchange the notes issued: some expedient was necessary, and in order to gain time, the directors paid the notes in silver, and wherever they could in sixpences, which rendered the process slow and tedious. But although the demands on the bank were numerous they were not very heavy, and the merchants and bankers in London felt so assured of its stability, that eleven hundred of the most respectable signed a declaration, expressive of their confidence in the safety of the bank, and of their determination to support its credit by receiving the notes in all payments, and circulating them on all occasions.

Excerpt from London Volume 3 1824 by Sholto and Reuben Percy – Brothers of the Benedictine Monastery

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Further reading and external links

The Bank of England on Wikipedia 

The Bank of England Archives

The Bank of England – 1694 – Part I

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We had a ‘dig’ around in our library on the history of the Bank of England and discovered this interesting article which we will publish in several parts over the next few days – its from the book London – Volume 3 published in 1824 by Sholto and Reuben Percy – Brothers of the Benedictine Monastery.

Read other posts in this series on the Bank of England

Read other posts in the London series

The Bank of England – 1694

It was an observation of the father of political economists,  Dr. Adam Smith, that ‘the stability of the Bank of England is equal to that of the British government’ and the history of this establishment has proved that the remark is just: it is an institution whose welfare is so intimately connected with that of the state, that they must stand or fall together; not that the State is dependent on the bank which it enriches, but that the obligation and services are reciprocal. The bank is the agency house through which the government pays the greatest portion of-its creditors, allowing a liberal sum as a compensation for the trouble, which has of late years been somewhat reduced in amount.

The origin of the banking system has been traced by more than one historian to the time of Pharoah, when Joseph gathered all the money in Egypt to the house of his master, thus manifesting a partiality for the precious metals which the descendants of his tribe and nation have preserved unimpaired to the present day. Among the moderns Venice, the cradle of European commerce, was the first to form one of those institutions, which have since been found so advantageous to its progress. The first bank in this flourishing republic was established so early as the twelfth century, when a bureau, called the Chamber of Loans, was opened for receiving the deposits of a forced contribution, which the pressing necessities of the republic rendered necessary, and paying the interest of four per cent. Such was the origin of the first national bank in Europe, which continued to flourish until the invasion of France, in 1797, when the independence of this republic was overthrown.

Venice was so much in advance of the other states of Europe in commerce, that it was long before her example was followed. Amsterdam was the next, but the bank was not established there until the year [1609]. London was still later in adopting so excellent an institution, the Bank of England not having been established until the year 1694. Not that the merchants of London were ignorant of the principles of banking, for considerable business had long been carried on in that line by private individuals, particularly the Lombard merchants. It has already been stated, [vol. 1.] p. 323.) that the goldsmiths were the first regular bankers in London, and it exhibits a singular instance of what may be termed the longevity of prosperous commerce, that the descendants of the first two bankers still carry on the business, and that, too, where they first commenced. In an old tract, printed in [1675], entitled “The Mystery of the new-fashioned Goldsmiths or Bankers discovered,” the adoption of banking in England is attributed to the distrust which was generated in the reign of Charles I, when the merchants and tradesmen, who before trusted their cash to their servants and apprentices found it no longer safe to do so; neither did they dare to leave it in the Mint at the Tower, on account of the distress of majesty itself.  It is, however, rather to be wondered at, that banks were not established long before, than that they were only adopted in the year [1645]. The first regular banker in London was Mr. Francis Child, a goldsmith, who kept a shop in Fleet-street, Temple-bar, where the business of the respectable firm of Messrs. Child and Co. is still carried on. The next bankers were Messrs. Snow and Denne, whose shop is said to have been a few doors west, and on or near the site of the banking house of Messrs. Snow and Paull.

Excerpt from London Volume 3 1824 by Sholto and Reuben Percy – Brothers of the Benedictine Monastery

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Further reading and external links

The Bank of England on Wikipedia 

The Bank of England Archives

The Curtain Theatre – London – 1577

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Following a BBC news article on the discovery of the remains of the Curtain Theatre we had a ‘dig’ around in our library and unearthed the excerpt below; from the book London – Volume 3 published in 1824 by Sholto and Reuben Percy – Brothers of the Benedictine Monastery.

The Curtain Theatre London – 1577

If the Globe was rendered memorable by Shakespeare’s connection with it, the Curtain Theatre near Shoreditch, the name of which is preserved in the Curtain-road, had a similar distinction, by its being the place where “rare Ben Jonson” acted, before he obtained celebrity as an author; yet the Curtain Theatre never appears to have flourished, although it had, as an actor, Dick Tarlton, one of the best comedians of the time of Elizabeth. Aubrey, who wrote in [1678], nearly a century after the theatre was probably erected, notices it as “a kind of nursery or obscure playhouse, called the ‘Green Curtain’ situate in the suburbs towards Shoreditch.” Although there is no positive evidence of the fact, it is by no means improbable conjecture, that the Curtain Theatre took its name from its being the first to adopt that necessary appendage of the stage.

The Red Bull, St. John’s Street, Clerkenwell, was another of our early theatres, where the poor players, when suppressed by the puritans, sometimes assembled, during Christmas and Bartholomew fair, on the summons of Alexander Goffe, the woman actor (for ladies had not been yet introduced on the stage), at Blackfriars. They were, however, frequently disturbed and imprisoned. The Red Bull appears to have been of an inferior rank to the Globe and Blackfriars theatres; for, in a poem addressed to Sir William D’Avenant, in 1633, it is described as that

“degenerate stage

Where none of the untun’d kennel can rehearse

A line of serious sense.”

In the reign of Charles I. there were six playhouses allowed in town, says old Downes, the prompter to Sir W. D’Avenant’s company, which he enumerates as “the Blackfriars company, his majesty’s servants; the Bull; one in Salisbury-court; another, called the Fortune; another, at the Globe; and a sixth, at the Cock-pit, Drury-lane; all of which continued acting till the beginning of the civil wars.

Excerpt from London Volume 3 1824 by Sholto and Reuben Percy – Brothers of the Benedictine Monastery

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Further reading and external links

BBC News article on the discovery of the remains of the Curtain Theatre

Amalfi and the Hospitallers of St John

 

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Below is a piece on the Italian town of Amafi well known for its connections to The Hospitalliers of St John, The Mariners Compass and the Pandects of Justinian.

Excerpt from The Catholic World Volume 72 – December 1901

 Amalfi and the Hospitallers of St John 

 Amalfi Panoramic ViewAmalfi was the Athens of the Middle Ages. It is believed to have been founded by emigrants from Melfi, the Greek city lying some seventy or eighty miles inland. We find mention of Amalfi in the sixth century; in the seventh it was governed by doges, and in the ninth Sicardo, Prince of Salerno, came there for the pious purpose of collecting the relics of various saints, and, being opposed in his intent by the no less religious inhabitants of the city, plundered and pillaged the town and carried off a vast number of prisoners. These prisoners afterwards got free, burned Salerno, the rival of their native city, and inaugurated thenceforward a wonderful period of prosperity for Amalfi.

The city now assumed a species of independence. The Emperor of Constantinople fixed there a tribunal for the settlement of all disputes regarding naval matters, and the Tabula Amalfitana, or Code of Amalfi, soon became recognized as the guiding laws for all Europe, and Amalfi was regarded as the foremost naval power in the world.

Amalfi in the time of Robert Guiscard had fifty thousand inhibitants. Its merchants traded all over the known world, and established colonies at Byzantium, in Asia Minor, and in Africa. They also instituted the order of the Hospitallers of St. John, who became afterwards known as the Knights of Malta, and these merchants were the foremost traders in the world, for only after their decline did Venice, Genoa, Florence, and Pisa rise to greatness. It was consequently inevitable that at the time of the Crusades the city swarmed with armed men, and that from its port multitudes of knights, with the cross as a device, set out in the interests of the good cause and to satisfy personal love of gain and adventure.

Amalfi at this period was a proud and haughty city, and took every occasion of defying the Norman sovereigns of Naples. King Roger finally made war upon the city and, after two years of more or less constant attack and circumvallation, obliged it to capitulate in 1131, after which he placed it under a species of suzerainty while still allowing it perfect freedom as to its internal government.

A few years later Amalfi had a quarrel with Pisa. The Pisans took the offensive and, in spite of the efforts of King Roger to protect Amalfi, the enemy raided the city and carried off its greatest treasure, the celebrated manuscripts of the Pandects of Justinian, now one of the principal treasures of the Laurentian Library in Florence, the Florentines having taken it from the Pisans in the fifteenth century. The Pisans returned again in 1137, two years after their first attack, and obliged Amalfi to sue for peace. The little republic had thence forward lost its power and its primacy, and became subject to the Dukes of Anjou.

In 1343 the lower part of the town, which had been gradually undermined by the sea for at least a couple of centuries, collapsed and almost the whole of its buildings, with arsenals and harbor, were thenceforward covered with water. Amalfi from this on was merely an antiquarian relic of its former greatness. It retained, however, the glorious boast of having been the first of the dominating naval powers of Christian Europe, and of having given birth to Flavio Gioja, the man who in 1302, by the discovery for the Caucasian race of the mariner’s compass, led the way to the discovery of America and helped powerfully to spread civilization and practically to revolutionize the world.

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Further Reading and External Links

The Hospitalliers of St John

St John Ambulance on Wikipedia

St John Ambulance Association Website

The Mariners Compass

The Pandects of Justinian

The Order of The Hospitallers – 1510

 

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Excerpt from The Gentleman’s Magazine – Volume 265 published in 1888 – Article ‘The St John Ambulance Association by Alfred J H Crespi – November 1888’

The St John Ambulance Association – The Order of The Hospitallers – 1510

To return to the history of the order. It had many strange vicissitudes. In 1510 the knights, under Foulkes de Villaret, in conjunction with certain Crusaders from Italy, seized Rhodes and seven adjacent islands. In 1523 they were driven from Rhodes by Sultan Solyman, and retired first to Candia, and afterwards to Viterbo. In 1530 Charles V. gave them Malta, adding Tripoli and Gozo. After the Reformation the decay of the order was rapid, and in [1798], through the treachery of some French knights and the cowardice of D’Hompesch, the grand master, Malta was surrendered to the French. Since [1801] the grand mastership has not been filled up, though the order survives in some fashion in Italy, Spain, and Russia, and the highest official – the deputy grand master – lives in Spain.

The members of the order at first wore a long black habit, with a pointed hood, embellished with a cross of white silk on the left breast, of the form called Maltese, and with a golden cross in the middle of the breast. In their military capacity they had red surcoats with a silver cross in front and at the back. The badge of all the knights was a Maltese cross, enamelled white and edged with gold, suspended by a black ribbon. Half a century ago the order was resuscitated in England as a Protestant body – that is, it was wholly unconnected with the Catholic organisation abroad.  Although in [1858] some difficulty was made as to the religion of the revived English langue, the order, as now constituted, has done good work in building and endowing hospitals, relieving suffering, organising the “Eastern War Sick and Wounded Relief Fund,” and the “National Society for Aid to the Sick and Wounded in War;” but perhaps incomparably its greatest and noblest undertaking has been “The St. John Ambulance Association for giving instruction in rendering First Aid to the injured in peace and war.”

Thank Heaven! the last grand outcome of the ancient order recognises, in the true spirit of the Amalfi founders, only one claim – that of suffering humanity. Princes and peasants, men, women, and children, rich and poor, young and old may be taught in the same place and by the same teacher, and may be examined at the same time by the same examiner. In this way the order has proved equal to the exacting requirements of the age, and has entered into the spirit of Him who found His most trusted followers not in the ranks of tetrarchs and Roman consuls and proconsuls, not in the schools of Athens and the senate of Rome, but among the fishermen of Galilee, the tent-makers of Tarsus, and the despised and hated publicans.

Excerpt from The Gentleman’s Magazine – Volume 265 published in 1888 – Article ‘The St John Ambulance Association by Alfred J H Crespi – November 1888’

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Further Reading and External Links

St John Ambulance on Wikipedia

St John Ambulance Association Website

Hospitaller Brothers of St John

 

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Excerpt from The Gentleman’s Magazine – Volume 265 published in 1888 – Article ‘The St John Ambulance Association by Alfred J H Crespi – November 1888’

Hospitaller Brothers of St John

St Johns Gate, ClerkenwellAt Jerusalem there were then living some Italian merchants of Amalfi, who daily witnessed scenes that wrung their hearts, and, with the consent of the Calif of Egypt, they built a hospital for the reception and relief of pilgrims. This nursing community was at first known as the Hospitaller Brothers of St John the Baptist of Jerusalem, though some authorities contend that it was originally dedicated to St. John the Almoner. Before long, however, it was placed under the protection of St John the Baptist, and it bears his name to this day. The nursing community threw itself into its work with impassioned zeal, knowing no weariness and recognising no distinction of race or creed the only passport to its help was to need it; and it has been in that catholic spirit that the work has been ever since carried on “for the glory of God and the good of man.” The fame of the order rapidly spread – rich gifts poured in upon it, many recruits joined its ranks, its power increased, and the good it did augmented. But the Seljuk Turks did not always continue to respect the hospice, and when the Crusaders entered Jerusalem in 1099 they found Gerard, the rector of the order, in prison.

Released from captivity, he commanded the doors of the hospital to be flung open for the reception of the sick and wounded. Some of the Crusaders before long joined the order and devoted themselves to the good work, while Godfrey de Bouillon, the leader of the expedition, and some of his companions, were so grateful for the benefits which they received that they endowed the hospital with lands and manors in many parts of Europe. Gerard, after a time, persuaded the brethren to take vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience before the Patriarch of Jerusalem, and in 1113 Pope Pascal II. gave his official sanction to what had been done. Raymond du Puy, the successor of Gerard, framed a code of laws which was confirmed by Pope Calixtus II. To the obligations taken by the earlier members were subsequently added those of fighting against the infidels and defending the Holy Sepulchre. Hospices, called commanderies, were established in many parts of Europe, and the order soon included in its ranks numbers of powerful and high-born recruits, more particularly after it added a military organisation to its religious duties. In 1187, after the capture of Jerusalem by Saladin, the Hospitallers retired to Margat in Phoenicia, and in 1285 to Acre; in [1291] they again removed, this time to Limisso, where Henry II. of Cyprus gave them a residence. In its days of greatest power it counted as a valuable factor in the wars against the infidels; its members were then divided into three classes – the knights, the chaplains, and the serving brothers, the last being fighting squires who accompanied the knights to battle. At one time the order consisted of eight langues – Provence, Auvergne, France, Italy, Aragon, Castile, Germany, and England. Most European countries had several priories, under which there were a number of commanderies. In England the chief establishment was the magnificent priory of Clerkenwell, the head of which was styled Premier Baron of England, and had a seat in the Upper House of Parliament. Quite recently the headquarters of that most useful body, the St. John Ambulance Association, has been placed in the gateway of the ancient building, and there the chief secretary, Major Sir Herbert Perrott, Bart., and his efficient and untiring staff of assistants and friends, get through their noble work – work far grander than that of the old knights, for the modern representatives concern themselves only with the relief of suffering – a far wider field than that of the original order, for it is co-extensive with the world, and good is being done in India, Russia, the Cape, and wherever any opening is found for it.

Excerpt from The Gentleman’s Magazine – Volume 265 published in 1888 – Article ‘The St John Ambulance Association by Alfred J H Crespi – November 1888’

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Further Reading and External Links 

St John Ambulance on Wikipedia

St John Ambulance Association Website

The Red Cross in Europe – 1903

The Red Cross in Europe – 1903

Excerpt from The Westminster Review Volume 159 – published in 1903

Under the banner of the Red Cross marches a greater army than ever mustered any other flag that floats. Stars and Stripes, Union Jack, banners of France, Germany, and Russia, all of them yield, in glory and sovereignty, to the banner that bears the message of love, healing, and peace.

For more than thirty years that Red Cross flag has been flying on the battlefields of Europe, and kings, queens, and people of every rank have paid homage to its colours.

More glorious than battle’s victory, more honouring than worldly conquest, are the triumphs of the Red Cross. Britain’s Empress, the Presidents of France and the United States, the Emperors of Germany, Austria, and Russia, and the kings and princes of every nation in Europe, hold that flag as sacred and inviolate as their religion; and they would sooner trample their national flag in the dust than do aught that would cast dishonour on the Red Cross flag of Geneva.

Men and nations for five thousand years have been warring against each other, and deluging the earth with their blood, before the pioneers of Red Cross brought about that Red Cross Conference which met at Geneva on the morning of October 26, [1863]. At that Conference fourteen Governments were represented; and the result of their deliberations was the Convention of Geneva, which has been adopted by all the nations of the world, except China, Mexico, and Brazil.

Travel where we may in almost every part of the globe we shall behold the sign or flag of the Red Cross of Geneva on the steppes of Russia, in far Siberia, among the mosques and minarets of Turkey, in the cities of Persia, on the flag-staffs of the Argentine Republic, on the mountains of San Salvador, in the passes of Roumania, high up amid the snow-clad heights of Chili, by the fiords of Norway and dykes of Holland, in the Alps of Switzerland, on the shores of Italy, in the vine-clad valleys of France, in the castles and cottages of Germany, on the banks of the St. Lawrence and Ottawa, Hudson, and Mississippi, from the Golden Horn of the Bosphorus to the Golden Gates of San Francisco, in Asia, Africa, and every corner of Britain’s Empire go where we will, from sea to sea and continent to continent and we shall still see that Red Cross flag of Geneva, proclaiming to the world its glorious message of peace and good-will.

Excerpt from The Westminster Review Volume 159 – published in 1903

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Further Reading and External links

International Committee of the Red Cross – War and Law

Henry Durant