London Radicalism 1830-1843: A Selection of the Papers of Francis Place. Originally published by London Record Society, London, 1970.
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109. [Add. Ms. 27821, ff. 42-6]
The Convention met on Monday 4th March . Mr Whittle in the Chair.
The secretary read a letter inclosing resolutions—passed at a public meeting called by the London Democratic Association, which had been transmitted to him, requesting him to bring the resolutions before the Convention at the earliest opportunity, which he now did, it was as follows.
'To the members of the General Convention
'At a public meeting held in the Hall of Science City Road the following resolutions were unanimously agreed to. G. J. Harney in the Chair.
'1st Moved by Mr Combe, seconded by Mr Fisher. That this meeting is of opinion that the Peoples Charter would be established by law within one month from the present time provided the people and their leaders do their duty—and—This meeting is of opinion, that it is essentially just and indispensably necessary to meet all acts of oppression with immediate resistance.
2nd Moved by Mr Rider seconded by Mr Marsden. This meeting convey to the General Convention their opinion that for the due discharge of the duties of the Convention, it is essentially necessary to be prompt in the presentation of the National Petition; and we hold it to be the duty of the Convention to impress upon the people the necessity of an immediate preparation for ulterior measures.
'We the undersigned, appointed as a deputation, at the aforesaid meeting to communicate the foregoing resolutions to the General Convention, respectfully requesting that they will consider them at their first meeting.
Mr Richardson would confine himself to the motion moved and seconded by Mr Rider and Mr Marsden, over them they had control as members of the Convention. Their conduct was highly culpable and deserved censure, they as members of the Convention had acquiesed [sic] in an unanimous vote to suspend the presentation of the petition for two months, and then at a public meeting condemned the proceeding and proposed ulterior measures, which the good sense of the Convention had refused to entertain. The letter was an insult to the Convention and a libel on their constituents. The same attempt had been made at Manchester by the same parties who were prominent in this matter, and their perseverance in proposing matters at once criminal and dangerous, and not less absurd shewed a most criminal intention and looked like a conspiracy to destroy the Convention.
The chairman rose to order, he thought the language too strong, and the imputation of motives improper.
Mr Richardson thought he had drawn a fair inference.
Dr Taylor objected to Mr. Richardsons language.
Mr Marsden said that himself and Mr Rider had acted only with the view of conveying the sentiments of a public meeting to the Convention.
Mr Collins was astonished at the conduct of the two members, their duty was to have protested against and not to have moved and seconded such a resolution.
Dr Wade concurred with Mr Collins—such conduct was calculated to ruin their friends and encourage their enemies.
Many members spoke, some on one and some on the 'other side of the house' as Mr Neesom said, most of the speakers were physical force men and they seemed disposed to justify the members, Harney, Rider and Marsden, but they voted for Mr Richardsons motion.
Mr Carpenter towards the close of the debate said. He hoped an opportunity would occur when the question might be fully entertained. Incalculable mischief had been done by the repeated indiscretions of members of the Convention.
Mr Harney. Had put his name to the resolutions as Chairman of the meeting and because he highly approved of them. The resolutions were not a command but an opinion which the parties to them had a right to offer. As a member of the Democratic Union he would say what he pleased and do what he pleased. He called upon Mr Richardson to make good his charges and he would meet them, not by an appeal to the Convention, but by an appeal to his constituents.
Mr Richardson would meet Mr Harney at the Democratic Association and make good his charges there.
17 were absent, some of them having left the meeting, but most of them being missionaries out of London. Adjourned till Wednesday
A meeting of the Democratic Association was held at the assembly room in Theobalds road in the evening.
The account of the meeting was headed 'Recommendation to Arm'.
'The attendance was not large, this was said amongst other impediments to have been caused, by the proprietor of their usual place of meeting being alarmed at the violent language used. It was hinted that the refusal was caused by the intrigues of some of the members of the Convention, this elicited loud expressions of disapprobation against the treachery of that body to the cause of the people.
Mr Marsden one of the three delegates who had been censured by the Convention was voted to the Chair.
Williams moved that the National Petition should be presented at the latest early in April. He recommended that every shopkeeper should be called upon to contribute to the funds of the Convention, and that the people should deal with those only who should stick a receipt for the money given on one of his shop windows. Much as the employment of faggots and daggers had been condemned he thought it better for the people to redress their grievances by those means than to pine in hopeless misery. (loud cheering)
G. J. Harney condemned the proceedings of the Convention against him and his colleagues. He recommended the people to arm themselves and to resist to the death the continuance of the poor law. If any mercenary of the scoundrel government attempted to take his arms he should have them only with his life. He regretted the division in the Convention, but the truth was that, that body was no longer worthy of the peoples confidence. Mr Williams's motion was carried as was also another expressing confidence in the delegates who had fallen under the displeasure of the Convention.
The meeting was dissolved.
110. [Add. Ms. 35151, ff. 146-8]
Friend and fellow Citizen
13 March 1839
Many thanks for the papers, be so good as to let me have copies of every paper of which you have a duplicate.
I do not like the address, at all. It has neither the words nor the style which a paper issuing from a body of deputies appointed by the people should have. It is a common vulgar address, very much below any one issued by the Working Mens Association. It will do no good as a seperate [sic] transaction, it is offensive to all men, but a portion of the working people and to that portion it is misleading. It is the worst thing the deputies have done and it ought to have been the best.
The rules are good, and well constructed. I have attended to your proceedings with considerable anxiety because I take great interest in them. Some of the speeches, and especially some of those made soon after the deputies assembled were in parts very absurd and calculated to lessen the importance of the assembly. This I regretted. Carpenter has taken much pains to put the best face upon every part of the proceedings, and he has done it cleverly without either committing himself or the deputies, but I who have had many years experience in committees and associations can see much which he does not expose to the general reader.
Upon the whole the proceedings have been better than I expected. I know well enough how inexperienced men must act, and I have observed nothing, except now and then in language, which I have not seen over and over again in each of our houses of parliament. At first the deputies, as you know I expected, they would, talked as if the whole power of the people was lodged in their hands and could be used by them at will. This mistake they were sure to discover and to act accordingly. This,—to some extent—they have done. They are learning a practical lesson of wisdom, and will return home wiser and better men than they came, but they will not generally have pleased those who sent them. They will have seen some part of the great difficulty of moving a whole people, and will each of them have learned patience and forbearance. I hope they will learn perseverance. They who sent them will not have had the same advantages and will have learned nothing, will be disappointed, impatient and will shew their displeasure. It will then become each of the deputies in his particular district, to bear with the people and not to give up the cause either from chagrin or despair.
Before the time comes for the deputies to disperse they will be thoroughly convinced that with a few exceptions, the people instead of being excited will become torpid. They—the deputies—will also be convinced how greatly they miscalculated their own power and influence and it will behove them, each one as far as his circumstances will permit him, to cheer up the people and encourage them steadily to pursue their object.
Upon the whole much good will be done, good far overbalancing all the trouble and expense which will be occasioned. They would were they to be reappointed on some future occasion, do a vast deal more good, they would then be experienced men, and would not commit the same errors twice.
Were they to know what I have here written, they would all probably,— some more, some less, be offended with me, this would however be wrong, since men called into public action for the first time, on a large scale, as they have been, and in the particular way in which they have been called could not avoid committing errors, and each should remember, that in most things, and most of all in public matters, men acquire much knowledge through their errors, which they never could obtain by any other means.
111. [Add. Ms. 27821, ff. 87-8]
A meeting was held on Monday the 15th of April headed in the Charter thus. 'Disgraceful conduct of members of the London Democratic Association'.
It seems that in consequence of advertisements in the Charter, and Operative newspapers inviting two members to attend at the large room in the Old Bailey on Monday evening for the purpose of forming a general Metropolitan Radical Association on the plan set forth by the so called general association projected by O Connor Beaumont Harney and others but never carried out; a numerous meeting took place. Two members deputed from almost every Radical association in the Metropolis being present. Mr Neesom was called to the Chair and Mr Hartwell consented to act as secretary, but before the business for which they had been called together could be laid before them upwar[ds] of 50 members of the Democratic association headed by G. J. Harney and others burst into the room, and a miscreant who had been convicted of stabbing a man, whose name is Wall commenced an attack upon the Convention the Charter and all the political associations in London. Mr Rogers attempted to explain the business when as many of the Democratic Association as the Tables and unoccupied benches could hold jumped upon them and endeavoured to out vie one another in noise and abuse. Harney and Coombe declared that there should be no Union. The democratic association had raised the standard and they who refused to join the association were cowards and traitors. Utter confusion ensued and was continued during two hours, during which time many of the delegates went away. This was the thing the intruders wished and finding they had a majority, proposed a resolution the purpose of which was to throw the whole organisation of London into the hands of the leaders of the Democratic Association.
112. [Place collection, set 56, vol. 6, Sept.-Nov. 1839, f. 213. Printed.]
At a Meeting of this Club, held at Radley's Hotel, on Thursday, the 31st day of October, 1839, it was unanimously Resolved—
That this Club is desirous of marking the strong feeling of abhorrence and disgust with which it regards the cruelties practised by the Magistrates of Warwickshire, and sanctioned by the late Home Secretary, Lord John Russell, towards Mr Lovett and Mr Collins, sentenced to imprisonment for an alleged political offence. And that this Club determines to promote a subscription for the subsistence of the family of Mr Lovett, a member of the Club, during the time of his imprisonment.
That these resolutions be advertised in the Morning Chronicle, the Sun, Weekly True Sun, and the Birmingham Journal.
That Mr Harrison, Treasurer of the Club, be appointed to receive the Subscriptions, at Radley's Hotel, Bridge street, Blackfriars, or No. 4, Cumberland place, Grove lane, Camberwell.
R. G. Welford, Chairman
113. [Add. Ms. 35151, ff. 231-2]
Manchester 27 July 1840
My dear Sir
I think every possible effort should be made to get your proceedings into the London papers. The country is now just ripe to take the cue from the metropolis. Every movement upon the corn law will vibrate through the length & breadth of the land. A good stirring appeal—short & pithy— from the Metropolitan Association, calling upon the nation to unite & cooperate against the bread-tax, would be responded to & such an address is necessary to put the Association on its proper footing with the Country, & to give it claims upon the community for support. The address ought to appear immediately in the London papers, & it should recommend petitions to be forwarded immediately for the abolition of all taxes on the first necessaries of life. The Sun & Chronicle are the two most important papers for the country—The Advertiser is not much seen out of London. The object to be kept in view by your Association in my humble opinion ought to be to influence the country at large more than the metropolis. London is generally well represented so far as the Corn question is concerned. But we must change the parliamentary representation of a great many other boroughs before we can carry our point with the House of Commons. I hope you will bear in mind always the great power you have at command over the country through the London press. We in Manchester are looked upon with some jealousy by the agriculturists (I mean the populations of rural towns, as well as farmers & labourers) but they will follow the metropolis as their natural leader.
I throw this hasty suggestion before you & I remain
My dear Sir
Yours very truly
F. Place Esq.
114. [Add. Ms. 35151, ff. 230 and 233]
Brompton 4 March 1840
To Richard Cobden, Esq.,
My Dear Sir,
I duly received your letter of the 27 February, but until now have had no time to reply to it. I do not say so as an excuse for neglect but as a fact for I have not lost an hour since its receipt. I have worked from 7 a.m. till midnight. Mr. Smith has told you how we have been going on, and he being one of the most sanguine and impetuous of men has no doubt told you from time to time that we were doing nothing. His eagerness to 'go a lecturing' would prevent him believing that we were not losing our time. He however will have enough to do in his time to satisfy him. He will have to lecture 6 nights a week, and sometimes in the day time also. Mr. Paulton will have as much to do as he can undertake without injury to his health. We shall need more lecturers not only for London but for many places within some twenty miles of it.
The people here differ very widely from you at Manchester. You some of you at Manchester resolve that something shall be done and then you some of you set to work and see it done—give your money and your time and need none but mere servants to carry out the details. Our men of property and influence never act in this way—they themselves must be operated upon and that too with care and circumspection to induce them even to give us their mites and to permit us to put their names on the list of our General Committee. Of the committee of eleven appointed at the meeting which you attended and half a dozen who we put on the next day we have met no more in committee than three four or five until yesterday when we met to discuss our Constitution when seven attended. Our subscription does not amount to quite £100. I do not tell you this as a matter of complaint but simply as facts. The few who have met in committee, and the 3 or 4 who come constantly day by day were well experienced men and men of business— among them Peter A. Taylor, whom I believe you know, and with whose aid if no other person had attended the business would have been done just as it has been.
We have done an immense amount of business, but it is all preparatory —all absolutely necessary.
1. We have sent out some 600 notes to as many persons requesting permission to put their names on the General Committee list. About 250 are to M.P's. we shall have from 100 to 150 consents.
2. We have issued in like manner a much larger number to persons requesting them to become members of the association.
3. Time has, unavoidably, been consumed in discussing rules and regulations.
4. The same in preparing an address to the people.
5. In procuring places in which to read lectures and discussions.
6. In obtaining the consent of bankers to receive subscriptions.
7. In endeavouring to persuade a considerable number of persons of the right sort to consent to work for us in various ways.
We could not put forth an address without producing certain ruin until a considerable number of names were obtained for the general committee, Bankers to receive subscriptions and it would have been impossible either to have obtained subscriptions or men to join us until we published an address with names of committee, bankers etc. The necessity of delaying to come before the public without these formalities was seriously discussed when it was decided that it was not losing time by delaying until we had these things at our command. We could not hope to obtain any considerable accession of members until we had our rules and regulations to put into their hands. Two or three days more must yet pass away before we shall be able to make a public display. The moment we are in a condition to come before the public as we ought to do an extensive vigorous and I believe well planned scheme of business consisting of many particulars every one of which has been settled and preparations made to carry them fully into operation.
London differs very widely from Manchester, and indeed, from every other place on the face of the earth. It has no local or particular interest as a town not even as to politics. Its several boroughs in this respect are like so many very populous places at a distance from one another, and the inhabitants of any of them know nothing, or next to nothing, of the proceedings in any other, and not much indeed of those of their own. London in my time and that is half a century has never moved. A few of the people in different parts have moved, and those whenever they come together make a considerable number, still a very small number indeed when compared with the whole number, and when those are judiciously managed i.e. when they are brought to act together not only make a great noise which is heard far and wide, but which has also considerable influence in many places. But isolated as men are here, living as they do at considerable distances, many seven miles apart and but seldom meeting together except in small groups, to talk either absolute nonsense or miserable party politics, or to transact business exclusive of every thing else will tell you they have no time to give to the association, to help to repeal the Corn Laws, while the simple fact is that (that excepting the men of business and even they lose much time) 4/5th of the whole do nothing but lose their time.
With a very remarkable working population also, each trade divided from every other, and some of the most numerous even from themselves, and who, notwithstanding an occasional display of very small comparative numbers, are a quiescent, inactive race as far as public matters are concerned. The leaders, those among them who do pay attention to public matters, are one and all at enmity with every other class of society. True it is as they allege they have been cajoled and then abandoned by the middle class as often as they have acted with them, but their opinions are pushed to extremes and are mischievous prejudices. They call the middle class—'shopocrats'—usurers, (all profit being usury)—money-mongers—tyrants and oppressors of the working people and they link the middle class with the aristocracy under the dignified appellation of 'Murderers of Society'— 'Murderers of the People'. With such a population so circumstanced, the well informed honest zealous men, few in number, there is no way of making those who give a tone to any such project as ours, but by such preparatory measures as I have described, and by unweariedly working them out.
You who have seem much of the world, and written well, respecting some considerable countries will at once see how necessary it is for us to proceed as we have done, and that we had no other chance for success.
All we want is money, we shall come forth in a few days not as I hope a miserable puling brat but a young hercules and if we are well fed with money shall rapidly become a most powerful (as we shall then be called not) Hercules but Minister.
115. [Add. Ms. 27822, ff. 152-63]
A Brief Memorandum of circumstances connected with the first operations of the Anti-Corn Law League, and the Formation of the Metropolitan Anti-Corn Law Association.
It may be recollected that in the years 1828-9-30 there was great agricultural distress, and that in the rural districts incendiary fires spread over England. The Tories had not forgiven Wellington and Peel for Catholic emancipation—the country gentlemen were discontented with government finding difficulty in receiving their rents, patronage began to be more impartially distributed, and the ministry were turned out by the landed interest. These things happening at the same time with revolutions in France and Belgium, Parliamentary Reform began to be loudly demanded. This struggle was carried on for several years, and the Whigs were fortunate enough to enjoy the advantage of the fine harvests of 1831-2-3-4-5-6 and part of 1837. The struggle for reform and collateral measures of a Reforming kind, distracted the nation from all attention to mere fiscal and social legislation, and the manufacturers of Lancashire and Yorkshire particularly enjoyed great prosperity, and made large sums of money. New mills were everywhere erected, and large immigrations took place of agricultural families and paupers, to find employment in the manufacturing Districts, where Mr R. H. Greg, Ashworth and others complained of a want of hands.
In the end of 1837 a bad harvest gave a great check to the manufacturers —a worse year in 1838 made them very discontented, and stimulated many to look to the causes. At the end of 1838 the price of food rose high, every manufacturer was losing money, many were ruined. Then arose the vigorous movement in the Manchester Chamber of Commerce for the Repeal of the Corn Laws, which ended in a Town's meeting and a Subscription of £7,000.
On 30th December 1838 Mr Cobden, who had taken an active part in the proceedings, wrote to Mr William Tait his Edinburgh publisher 'We are now organising a society on a very large scale for following up the agitation. Money will be liberally raised, but we are badly off for talent, and are on the look out for a Secretary to whom we would give £200 or £300 a year, if we could find a man of energetic character, good education, and ability, and one whose heart is in the cause. Such a man would find himself placed in a career of permanent usefulness to himself and others here, for we shall always have work for him. Do you know of any young man of talent and good conduct (without the latter all else is valueless) in Edinburgh or the north.' Mr Tait recommended me.
I went to Manchester in January 1839. Mr Villiers brought on his motion, and delegates from Manchester London etc. watched its progress in Palace Yard. On its defeat Joseph Sturge moved the adjournment of the delegation to Manchester. There Mr W. Coates, Mr G. A. Young (Marylebone) Mr P. A. Taylor, and I think T. F. Gibson attended, to represent London. At the Corn Exchange I heard and saw Mr P. A. Taylor for the first time. His speech was a noble one, and made a great impression on all. I was deeply struck with it.
In March 1839 I lectured at Huddersfield, Doncaster, Louth, Boston, Peterborough, Huntingdon, Cambridge etc.
Mr Paulton & Mr J. B. Smith laboured to raise the metropolitan community, but without any success so far as permanent effect was concerned.
I was instructed by the League to go to London and to establish an Association. I got letters to Mr Henry Warburton M.P. I also saw Mr Joseph Parkes. He referred me to Mr Francis Place for advice and assistance, as the person most competent to put me on the best way of organising a society, or a Branch of the League. I waited on Mr Place, and received from him the heartiest assurances of sympathy, and a consent to make use of his name in any way I considered useful. I also received much advice and information suited to the peculiar character and circumstances of the London community. I consulted him as to calling on various gentlemen in a list I had received at Manchester. Mr Place pointed particularly to Mr Taylor's name. I waited on Mr Taylor and he gave me great encouragement of which I had had much need, considering the gloomy views entertained by many on whom I waited, as to the uselessness of attempting any thing in London. Mr Taylor gave me a letter to Mr John Travers Swithins Lane.
I waited on Mr Travers, who was very zealous in the cause, and received me with all his hearty kindness. He sent for Mr G. A. Heppell. They looked at each other as I developed my scheme of rousing London, and laughed at my sanguine tone, considering it very hopeless to attempt anything. They however said they were very anxious for the great cause, they liked my hopefulness and resolution, and plan, and they gave me a list of leading liberals, the liberty to make use of their names to others, and a hearty pledge to help with money.
I showed the list to Mr Place, and got one of West End people from him. With the liberty to use the names of Messrs Place, Taylor, and Travers, as approving of the formation of an Association, I canvassed others, and got more approvers.
I then issued a Circular to all whose names were on the lists with which I had been furnished, stating the importance of forming a London Association, and that when I had received their answers stating whether they consented to become members I would call a meeting. I got to 400 circulars only ten or twelve answers. After reporting progress to Manchester, I resolved to proceed as if an Association was already resolved on and established.
I took our first rooms in the Strand, put up a great Board with 'Metropolitan Anti-Corn Law Association' painted on it, and called a meeting of all to whom circulars had been sent, for the purpose of constituting the Association. The meeting was so numerously attended that the place of meeting could not contain above half of those who came. Mr Place came and brought Mr Warburton with him. Mr Travers came, and exerted all his influence to get men of mark to support Resolutions and subscribe. A good deal of money was subscribed on the spot—Mr Warburton as chairman heading the list with £100. Mr Lloyd Jones, who has since been so conspicuous as a member of the City Improvement Committee, took an active part in the business part of the new society. Mr Place remained with some others whom he detained after the public meeting, to put the Society at once into a business shape. For the first month the Committee met every day. Mr Place drew out a code of rules—the principle of which was that the society had one sole object, and could not by its constitution ever entertain any other 'the Total and Immediate Repeal of the Corn and Provision Laws'. A strict adherence to this rule kept the Society out of many scrapes, and sometimes was the means of saving its very existence. Mr P. A. Taylor and Mr Place, who had given me the most valuable assistance, advice, and, what was of far more consequence than either at that time, hope and encouragement that we would succeed in rousing London, were present at every meeting—once a day at first, and afterwards once at least every week for seven years of toil, excitement, contention, struggle, sometimes hopelessness and alternate encouragement. For a long time also Mr William Arthur Wilkinson and the Right Honourable Thomas Milner Gibson the present vice President of the Board of Trade were very punctual and actively useful attenders at the Committee meetings, as also Messrs Thomas Field Gibson, R. Ricardo, R. B. Whitesides, and a little later Samuel Harrison and James Wilson Editor of the Economist.
Mr H. S. Chapman the present Chief Justice of New Zealand was appointed Secretary, and the Society immediately commenced operations in the way of agitating London. I lectured at a great many places opened and paid for by the Society, as did also Mr G. Greig of Leeds. In all /?/ public meetings were held under the society in the course of the first year.
The Lecturers being called away by the League to the country, and the League itself languishing for want of funds caused by the high price of food, and consequent manufacturing depression, the Metropolitan Association fell back. To get up the lecturing again Mr Place wrote me a letter from the Committee, asking me to become Secretary, and although their funds were at zero they offered me a most liberal salary. I referred them to Mr Cobden as having from the first placed myself at his disposal. A deputation was sent to Manchester to negotiate my engagement with the League, and in January 1840 I entered on my labours as Secretary of the Metropolitan Anti-Corn Law Association.
It held  Public meetings and lectures. It published and distributed  number of Tracts and Reports. It organised  branches in the Metropolis.
It held lectures and meetings in all the principle towns of Middlesex, Surrey, Essex, Northamptonshire, Sussex, Wiltshire, Hampshire, Berkshire, Kent, Buckinghamshire, and it was, by its branches, the chief instrument in the return of Mr Pattison for the City of London, prepared the way for the establishment of the League in the Metropolis, by enlightening the public mind, and organising societies; and it was by its Branches that the first Great London Meetings were so crowded and made to go off with a spirit which afterwards established their success, and overawed the Chartists, who had formerly routed public meetings.
By the Metropolitan Anti-Corn Law Association the voice of London was effectively heard in Parliament by  Petitions signed by  and by  Memorials presented to the Queen for the repeal of the Corn Laws.
I was seven years the Secretary of the Association, and look back to my intercourse with its members with the greatest pleasure. I had no sooner become officially connected with its business Committee, than I found myself among a society emphatically of Gentlemen. Mr Place's great experience, and the thorough business habits of all, reduced the whole management of the Association to the greatest order, regularity, and method. I found myself treated with great friendliness, perfect courtesy, and respect. I found that the Committee were determined to do their own business with care and punctuality, making me strictly responsible for what it was my official duty to do, but taking a labouring [role?] themselves, and consulting with and assisting me with the most valuable advice and experience, without over-ruling me, or taking my own proper functions out of my hands. I can most safely say that we never could have achieved the great success we accomplished but by the methodical punctuality and business experience of the Committee, and that I never could have worked with heart, zeal, and pleasure, but for the kind and judicious way in which the Committee discriminated betwixt what was their own department and duty, and what was mine. Their meeting every week, and having reports from me every week in every department, compelled order and diligence, and acted as a stimulus on every member of the Association. I ought also to observe that, as a lecturer and public speaker, entire freedom of speech was always completely conceded to me, and I was never asked to do other than to make a fair and unqualified declaration of my own honest convictions.
Notwithstanding the comparative magnitude of our operations, the Association was never a shilling in debt—and in its political action before the public which was constant and extensive, it is enabled to say that neither in print nor in speech did its members or its officers ever commit an act of indiscretion calling for the animadversion of any kind, or from any quarter. Mr P. A. Taylor one of its most active and efficient members of Committee, was uniformly chosen President of the aggregate meetings of League Delegates, and did great service to the cause by agitating it in the Common Council, and in getting City meetings in Common Hall to petition for free Trade. I refer with confidence to our minute Books reports, and other Documents, for the evidence of the valuable services of Mr Place the Chairman of the Business Committee. Such proceedings, so recorded and arranged, could never have been so conducted without the superintendance [sic] of a vigilant and effective chairman. These Books also are the best testimony of the public spirit, and silent and unostentatious usefulness of such men as Mr Samuel Harrison, T. F. Gibson, R. Ricardo, W. A. Wilkinson and others, who without placing themselves before the public, or in any way of procuring distinction, were always to be found at their post, doing that real business without which nothing effective could have been accomplished.
Such is a naked and meagre memorandum of bare facts in relation to the history of the Metropolitan Anti-Corn Law Association.
13 March 1847
London 4, Charlotte Row.
116. [Add. Ms. 35151, ff. 261-3]
To Peter A. Taylor Esq.
July 14 1840
Thanks for your letter. The matter is true and well put. Mitchell is a sample of the out and out active leaders of the radical working men of London. There are others much more vehement, inconsiderate and reckless than he is, and many who are less so. Some of the worst among them, unfortunately have the most time to spare and are most active in getting up the dinner in honour of Lovett & Collins.
There was an association, in London, of working men, a small one, which called itself the 'democratic association'. At the head of this was, George Julian Harney, who had been shop boy and cheap publication hawker to Hetherington, it was composed of half crazy not over honest fellows, who abused and quarelled [sic] with every body who did not concur with them in every move they made or proposed to make. Some of these men still continue to meet, and they are pushing on the dinner. They are hawking the tickets about for sale and others are helping them. There will be a great assemblage of people and much harm will be done by the countenance they will afford to one another, and the encouragement they will give to the talking of mischievous nonsense.
Great apprehension has been entertained by the Chartists all over Great Britain lest there should be a combination of working people and middle class people, and special pains have been taken in the newspapers which advocate the Charter to keep the breach between these classes as wide as possible and this is still done. There is not however now one paper in London which advocates the Charter, every one has driven itself out of existence, by its perpetual abuse of all who are not working men, and consequently confining the sale to those only among working men who are chartists, and there are not enough of these who are able and willing to support a weekly newspaper. A short time before the dissolution of the Convention Hetherington with some assistance composed a conciliatory address to the public in which he shewed that the working people could not of themselves, in their present state obtain the Charter, and he shewed the necessity for combining as much as possible with the middle class, the Convention adopted the address and published it. This alarmed some of the members, a muster was made and in about a week another address was published, in it pains were taken to offend the middle class who among other imputations were called 'Murderers of the people', 'murderers of society'.
It may perhaps seem strange to you that men who are otherwise sensible and discreet men should fall into and continue in such gross errors, but so it is. The dinner is intended to put the whole affair in its very worst position and it will accomplish the intended purpose. Ill will and malice will be spread further and wider than ever. The middle class have committed a deadly sin, never to be either forgiven or forgotten, and this is the feeling of even the best and wisest among the chartists. The very narrow view they take shuts out all hope of present amendment. It was they say the duty of the middle class to come forward and support the Convention—why say they—why did not the middle class do their duty? Why did not they come forward and join the convention? if they had done so the Charter would now be the law of the land. They still think that the middle class has nothing to complain of, in being held out in newspapers, in addresses, in speeches at public meetings, as 'base, cruel tyrants'—'bloodsuckers—usurers— robbers—murderers' etc. nothing to fear from the perpetual denunciations against their holding property which belonged to the hands which created it, and were about to resume it, but were bound in justice & reason to join the Convention, and for not having done so they are to be punished. The very best among the members of the Convention hold the language of complaint on this account against the middle class people and do not wish that any of them should join them. Argument to shew how impossible it was for the middle class to join the working class is useless. The reply is. 'Well we shall do without them', and to do without them; and against them is the desire of the present leaders. I doubt that there is one man who was a member of the Convention who does not entertain a more rancorous feeling towards the middle class than he did a year ago. For this there is no present remedy and much mischief will be done.
The two great, conspicuous and constantly pervading faults of the working people are Impatience and Intolerance. You saw both in Mitchell. At our April dinner when I was in the Chair I humoured Mitchell and Huggett. They wished the [Radical] Club to present a petition to the House of Commons in favour of Vincent, and they wished the petition to be such an one as they would have caused to be drawn which none of the members would have signed. Now these men like other working men have been too ill educated and have seen too little of the ways of men in associations for business to become either patient or tolerant. The proposal for a petition was to them the whole universe, and excluded every thing else, they could not imagine that any other mans notion could deserve attention. Their notion was to them all important, and hence the petulance, impatience and intolerance manifested by both. Mitchell spoke 13 times, Huggett 9 times. I was offended at the abrupt departure of Galloway and Lawrance, both had been working men, neither of them have acquired any considerable scope of intellect, nor any thing in their demeanour, which could make their contumely pass of[f] easily, it was awkward, out of place and offensive. Men like Mitchell and Huggett want the knowledge of the ways of men which induce them to pay respect to the opinions of one another, and there was an appearance of difficulty which I could only get rid of by allowing them to exhaust themselves, and then to permit me to draw the petition. They were impatient intolerant, and vehemently suspicious of our sincerity and the time was consumed in allowing them to talk down their own misconceptions & absurd apprehensions. It was not time lost, the petition effected more than was expected, and they poor fellows were intitled to the indulgence. I was well pleased to see you indulge them in a similar way at our last meeting though the result was different. Mitchell understood the men he was acting with, and fully concurred with them, he had no disposition to join with us in any proposition, and dared not to have done so even had he wished. Depend upon it he had so completely cajoled himself as not in the least to understand us, and will be surprised when I on some occasion shall tell him of his bad conduct in writing the paragraph for the Northern Star.
Apply what I have said to any matter in which you may be engaged with such men, attend to what they say as indicating what they think but mean to conceal; observe what they applaud and what they condemn and you will discover that Impatience and Intolerance are the especial vices which govern them. In the present case the whole proceeding is bad. Besides my intercourse personally with some of the committee I have applied to the committee by letters, and have represented the danger to Lovetts health, and the probable injury to the reputation he has acquired which should be turned to account to enable him to maintain his family, the danger the language which some will use at the dinner to a subscription which I am raising for him, and the still greater danger of mischief from the Commissioners of Stamps. Lovett was one of the securities to the Stamp Office for advertisement duty for the Charter Newspaper. He being in prison that paper was allowed to run into debt, or was rather pushed into debt in every possible way with every possible person and terminated in a disgraceful swindle. Sometime since I caused enquiry to be made at the Stamp Office and found that Lovett was liable for a debt of £61 and some costs in a Law suit against Hartwell. I am negotiating for his release from this claim and I represented to the committee that nothing should be done until I was able to get the matter adjusted, not the least attention has been paid to the request, though Mitchell, Moore and others who are members of the dinner committee were also members of the newspaper committee and knew how this affair stood, before I wrote to them. The notice was given to them before our Club dinner, of course before the vituperative paragraph for the Northern Star was written.
Mischief is brewing. About 6 months since, fearing there would be a mischievous reaction, Dr Black and I set to work, quietly to revive the London Working mens Association, in the hope that as we should be able to assist them with some money and put them at the head of such associations into a similar but more respectable condition than they were in when the Brumagem men pushed in and caused the mischief, which now presses heavily in several respects. The men think our proposal will not do, it will move too slowly for them. There must be more activity, more bustle, to stand in the place of making progress, and our project has failed. There are however no less than 6 projects to obtain the Charter at once, from four of them I have been addressed, each has a plan, utterly illegal in all its parts. I have written to each shewn them the law and the 'transportation' they will risk if they go on, and I have shewn them that they must, or rather should begin again with the working mens associations, spread them upon one plan every where, make them schools of instruction and teach the multitude, and thus from time to time have cognisance of their actual state, and let one another know what they are about. Not one of them has replied, nor do I expect that any one will, unless they get into danger or difficulty. Nothing of any importance will be done, disappointment will result from every one of the many silly schemes now in embryo, and there will be a pause presently, a death it will be called, but it will be no death, and no consequent resurrection but there will be 'a revival'. Four of the Scheming sets have invited Lovett to become their secretary, and 6 or 7 places have invited him and Collins to a jollification. Lovett has not learned much if any thing by his imprisonment, he has been worried and like a worried animal, when he is recruited, he will be operated upon by increased excitement of his enemies and the shewey noisy nonsense of his friends.
Yes, we are all infirm of purpose and this it is which gives the enemy the power he has over us.
The Statistical committee and Hume have made a sad mess of their business. I am ashamed of them, but I have long been used to such things, so I let that pass.
The Manchester men are noodles after all, but that too must be let go by, and we must make the most of whatever means we may have.
Wilson says, we shall have a crop above the average, he ought to know best, but I cannot reconcile myself to his prediction, or to the possibility from what I read and hear of their being an average crop however good the season may be.
Come to the rooms on friday, I have ordered the committee to be summoned,
I have cleared myself from every political connection for any particular purpose, Corn Laws alone excepted, and I will embark in no new matter. however large or small, or important or insignificant it may be, unless there should be some really national matter started.