London, with an estimated population of over half a million people in 1700, was by far the largest urban community in England. As a stronghold of dissent and a major commercial city, the capital had played an important role in the constitutional and religious struggles of the seventeenth century in which the people of London earned a formidable reputation for intervening on major issues. Their actions were usually intricately bound up with opposition from within the City administration to the government or its policies. At several points in the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries the City of London, or sections of it, were in opposition to the administration of the day, as during the Exclusion crisis when City politicians and the London ‘mob’ were recruited to the aid of Shaftesbury’s ‘country party’. Opposition could emanate from the City’s concern for its commercial interests or from divisions within the merchant community, with the ‘middling sort’ opposing administrations with which the richer citizens were allied. Still more important was the use to which oppositions within parliament could put the organised ‘support without doors’ which the City could provide. As Dame Lucy Sutherland has written:

City leaders were expert, from long experience of organising commercial agitation affecting both London and the ‘outports’, in the art of bringing pressure to bear on authority from without, Petitions, instructions, from the Common Council to the City representatives, pamphlets and press campaigns were rapidly planned there, while whenever political excitement ran high the London crowd could be relied on to emerge and give the added support of their clamour to the Opposition cause. 1

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