(Lord Mayor 1770 - 1771)
Brass Crosby (1725-93) started his working life as a solicitor and attorney. He joined the Musicians' Company in 1748, becoming a Liveryman in 1752 but left in 1756 to join the Company of Goldsmiths. He had married three wives in succession and amassed a great fortune. He became a Common Council member for Tower Ward in 1758, Remembrancer in 1760, Sheriff in 1764 and Alderman of Bread Street Ward in 1765.
He became MP for Honiton in 1768 and gave support to his fellow Alderman, John Wilkes, who was facing expulsion from the House of Commons on grounds of libel. Crosby became Lord Mayor in 1770 and declared that at the risk of his life he would protect the just privileges and liberties of the City of London. He refused to back Royal Navy warrants to press-gang men into naval service, and declared that “the city bounty was intended to prevent such violences”.
In the following year, he gained greater notoriety for refusing to pass sentence on John Miller, the London Evening Post printer, for publishing leaked reports of Parliamentary debates, to the outrage of Parliament which considered them privileged information. Parliament sent a messenger to arrest Miller with assault, but a City constable arrested the messenger and Crosby refused to release him. Crosby was ordered to attend the House of Commons and did so twice; he defended himself by declaring his Aldermanic oath to protect the rights of the City.
For his continued defiance of the Commons, he was sent to the Tower of London, where he was visited by City politicians and opposition leaders, and received thanks and acclaim from across the country. At the end of the Parliamentary session a few weeks later, he returned in triumph to the Mansion House. During his Mayoral year, an obelisk was erected to him at St George’s Circus, Blackfriars Road; it was later moved to a site that the Imperial War Museum now occupies.
Crosby’s stand led to the right to report Parliamentary debates, and by the 1830s this business became dominated by the printer Thomas Curson Hansard. The name Hansard is used to this day to denote records of Parliamentary proceedings.