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Author Topic: Objections to Perceived(?) Corruption Paving & Lighting Chatham, 1771  (Read 2080 times)

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Offline Leofwine

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Kentish Gazette - Tuesday 24 December 1771
For the KENTISH GAZETTE.
To the Proprietors of Lands and Houses in the Parish of Chatham.
Gentlemen,
You undoubtedly have heard of a project for paving and lighting your streets, it may therefore not be unnecessary to apprize you of some consequences that may attend it.
THE projectors estimate 4000l. for doing it, although, if the work is equally done to all parts of the parish where the parishioners are to pay three times that sum will not be sufficient; and should they be suffered to begin, and the money raised, or to be raised, prove inadequate to the purpose, be we should be in a fine condition; the subscribers who have no property, it is to be feared, would desert us, and the work left off before half what they proposed was finished; so that we should be put to a most extravagant expense, with an everlasting tax on our estates, be the derision not only of our Rochester neighbours, but the whole country, and after all forced to repair and keep up our pavements into the bargain. What could be said for us? Or to whom should we complain? The projectors disclaim knowing any thing of the matter, and tell us, they only desire a meeting to find out ways and means for such a work, which is saying as plain as they can, that they know-not how to do themselves, and would be glad we would find out a method for them, and thereby make it our own act and deed.
No, Gentlemen, by all means let them have the reputation of their project to themselves, and if they can find out any probable means of raising the money, (if they are equitable and consistent with the welfare of the parish) I I believe may safely pronounce they will meet with no opposition.
All we can get of this project is, that they modestly propose charging our estates with two shillings per foot front, and a tax of one shilling in the pound annually, and that too without asking our consent. ---- No, no, replies one of them, we intend to subscribe very handsomely, that is, they will pay down four or five guineas once in their lives time, to have the management of our estates, and oppress and grind the poor for ever; for every subscriber must be a commissioner.
By what I can learn, their principal object is paving and lighting the High-street only; so that, it it is much to be feared, all the other places will be left in the same condition the common and back parts of, Rochester are at present; therefore it may be necessary, before we suffer them to take our money, that they give us some surety, that all who pay shall have new pavements;  if they refuse, although we are not suffered to know who are the knaves,  if any thing should fail, it is obvious enough who are to the fools.
The part of the inhabitants who are to be taxed, and it is much to be feared, are designed to have no benefit from this project, are those at the lower part of the town, and in lanes, alleys, and back bouses, all through the High street, who, on enquiry, perhaps will he found nearly, if not quite, as many those who front it; those round the Pound, and on Slicket's Hill; those in Queen-street, Cross-street, King street, and all along the Brook, in which last place again are nearly as many back as front houses; those all round the church, and all belonging to us in Brompton, to which we may add the farmers. The whole I believe, at moderate computation, amounts to more than two-thirds of the parish, who are all to be abused and and have the honour of being called a parcel mean-spirited fellows, for not joining in this equitable and laudable project.
And those noble and public-spirited gentlemen who front the High-street, and are in the secret, in order to induce others there to join them, give out, that in a long run, they shall have money by it; for their pavements cost them more annually than they are to be taxed; so that they want only an Act of Parliament, to extort and tear money from the vitals of the parishioners who are least able to bear it; and they are to save money by it; and what gives the greatest aggravation to their inhumanity is, that some of them have been parish officers, and know the misery and distress many of those poor people are driven to, to pay the taxes they are already burthened with.
Although we cannot possibly get at the knowledge who these invisible gentry are, yet we may give a shrewd guess of some of them. Those who live near the bottom Rome-lane, Globe-lane, and the Sun-key, &c. whose houses are in the dirtiest part of the town, nor can all the money they will be able to raise by their imaginary a schemes >...of a tax upon coals, erecting turnpikes, and building castles in the air, make them cleaner; it would therefore be shewing  true public spirits, would think no more of saving money, but set about it themselves, and mend their bad ways, and get out of their dirty work as fast as they can, without involving the poor people of a whole parish to do it for them; let them shew the example, and if others do not follow, it will be soon enough then to complain.
All we are suffered to know of them is from their attorney, who would have us believe that he is employed by gentlemen, but must not betray his clients, although few clients, gentle or simple, if their designs are just and honest, are ashamed of their being known, especially to those who are to find money for the execution of their project; but what sort of gentlemen they are may be judged of from a letter which lately appeared this paper, wherein no less a person than one of our magistrates is stigmatised for only endeavouring to keep the parishioners out of their clutches; they accuse him of leading the parish by the nose, and pocketing all their money, which is such an impudent falsehood, that themselves know he transacts all public business gratis, and is abused in this scurrilous manner, because he will not suffer them to lead the parish by the nose, as they call it; but that gentleman has lived too long in the county, and is too well known, to affected by any thing from the tongues, or pens, of such miscreants. However, we are obliged to the author, the whole of his letter exhibits to us a lively image of his abilities as writer, and is a sufficient specimen of what we are to expect from a project, where such a malicious, illiterate, ignorant wretch is to be concerned in the management.
I am Your's, &c,
Chatham, Dec. 26, 1771.
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