Page:Debrett's Peerage, Baronetage, Knightage and Companionage.djvu/75

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TITLES, ORDERS, AND DEGREES OF PRECEDENCE AND DIGNITY. XXXvii an object of ambition to gentlemen of the middle | class; and Camden says that "the title of! esquire, which in former times was a title of charge and office only, crept forth among other titles of dignity and worship." The same author enume- rates five classes of esquires, of graduated degrees i of honour. We know no such distinction at the I present tune, but it has been a subject of dispute ] amongst our most learned writers to whom the ! title of esquire really belongs. It is, however, well understood that those to whom 1 the title is of right due are noblemen's younger ! sons, and the elder sons of such younger sons; the . sons of baronets, and the eldest sons of knights ; ! officers of the sovereign's court and household, if holding notable employment ; Companions of any order of Knighthood and their eldest sons ; Companions of the Distinguished Service Order ; persons to whom the Sovereign grants arms with the title of esquire ; persons who are styled esquires by the Sovereign in their patents, commissions, or appointments, such as sheriffs of counties, officers in the army and navy, etc. ; barristers-at-law ; justices of the peace, and mayors, while in the commission, of in office', royal academicians ; graduates of universities ; and attornies in colonies, where the departments of counsel and attorney are united. GENTLEMEN. If antiquarian controversy wax warm as to the classes entitled to the style of esquire, the quali- fication for the name of gentleman has engrossed still more elaborate discussion. The question is not who is above it, but who is below it ; for the highest in the land is proud of being a true gentle- man ; and it was regarded as the highest compli- ment ever paid to King George IV., when, as Prince Regent, he was called " the first gentleman in Europe." But if the true gentleman stand at so exalted an elevation, the assumption of the word has become so common as to have marred its meaning. One not improbable derivation of the word gentleman is, that towards the decline of the Roman empire there were two companies of particularly distinguished soldiers, mostly of good families ; one of these were called Gentiles, the other Scutarii ; and it has been suggested that the titles, gentleman and esquire, may have been derived from this. Again, it is surmised that gentleman means descent from gentle lineage, to which Selden adds, that it is necessary he should follow the example of that lineage. Solicitors, and persons in sundry other posi- tions, are personally entitled to the addendum of "gentleman " to their names an honour which few care to contend for, while fewer still would care to see " gent " written at the end of their names. The word " esquire " and " gentleman" have become so hackneyed, that though in their intrinsic acceptation they are highly honourable, yet as popularly written, each one is literally nominis nmbra the sh,adow of a name. The fol- lowing, however, may be accepted as a direct definition of the relations of gentlemen, as between each other : "The chief of the family takes place of any gentleman of the family, and though gene- rally it be believed that gentlemen have no precedency one from another, yet reason and discretion allow that a gentleman of three generations should cede to a gentleman of ten, if there be not a very great disparity between their fortunes, and for the same reason that a gentleman of three generations claims pre- cedency from any ordinary landed man who has newly acquired his lands." MEMBERS OF THE CLERICAL, NAVAL, MILITARY, LEGAL AND MEDICAL PROFESSIONS, AND OF SOME OTHER CLASSES, Have among themselves certain relative rank that is peculiar to each class ; but, when associating together, the precedence is mostly of a local character, and being arbitrary, it does not give a defined position to any person who is excluded from the recognised " Table of Precedence." CITIZENS AND BURGESSES. Camden tells us that these " are such as in their own city perform any public function, or fill any particular office, or by election have a room in our High Court of Parliament. ' But this description must now be considerably enlarged, and prac- tically the name is applied to all freemen and electors.