London Radicalism 1830-1843 A Selection of the Papers of Francis Place. Originally published by London Record Society, London, 1970.
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It was my opinion that the society should as it had promised cease to exist with the commencement of the new parliament, and employ the small sum which remained in paying the persons who had hitherto been employed in extracting from the parliamentary debates and other authentic sources the political acts of the members; to announce this and ask for donations to enable them to continue the work till near the eve of another election; then to revive the society by calling together, not the dandyish gentility, which was seeking to obtain seats in the house of commons; but such men as were unlikely to have any sinister views; men whose habits of business and intelligence would lead them to work without intermission or fear for the accomplishment of the real objects of the society. To publish in a volume as cheaply as possible the information collected—from which all might select whatever could be useful. It was only necessary to follow closely the plan in progress, to accomplish this proposal. In every case which had been published—the matter was carefully collated and verified—and in no instance that I ever heard of, was the society accused of making a false statement or even of having in any instance in any way exaggerated the facts. The opinion of the majority was that an effort should be made to continue the society, it wholly failed, no money was obtained, the small balance in hand was soon expended and the society died what is usually in such cases called a natural death.
That the unwillingness of your petitioners to delay the expression of their opinion at the present awful moment until a public meeting could be called, has induced your petitioners thus to address your most excellent majesty.
That the astonishing unanimity displayed by the great body of the people on the subject testifies how inseperably [sic] they think their dearest rights and liberties are connected with the success of that measure.
That your petitioners further believe that if the principles of the Reform Bill be nullified or invalidated that the most awful consequences will ensue, commencing either in the tumultuous proceedings of a resolute Scotch or a famished Irish multitude, or on the more gradual but not less complete convulsion which the refusal to pay taxes by large bodies of the [people] in England will inevitably bring about.
Your petitioners therefore pray your most excellent Majesty to insure the success of the Reform Bill, and thereby avert revolution bloodshed and anarchy by commanding the instant dissolution of the Commons House of Parliament.
Copies of the petition were with a note of its having been delivered immediately sent to all the London newspapers and was printed in almost every one of them. Had the dissolution been delayed1 but a very few days many hundreds of similar petitions would also have been presented.
The proceedings of the people fully answered the purposes of ministers, as they served to fix them in office, to guarantee and support them; while they more than answered their purpose, respecting the measures to be taken to promote reform in the commons house of Parliament. That some among the ministers desired reform for its own sake may be safely admitted as truth. Others among them now desired it because they had committed themselves before they knew how far they would be obliged to proceed, and could not now back out, and all of them because such demonstrations had been made, and were still being made by the people as rendered it impossible for them to continue in office unless a very considerable measure of reform was proposed, and because they saw that any paltering with it would have the further consequence of producing commotions the end of which no one could forsee. So fully indeed, so far beyond their expectations had the proceedings of the people been carried that all retreat was cut off and however much some of them disliked the proposed bill they dared not openly dissent from it. The business—for such the people really made it was immense and was carried on as systematically as it could have been had there been an arrangement made for the whole of it, yet there was not even the smallest communication between places in the same neighbourhoods, each portion of the people appeared to understand what ought to be done and each did its part—as if it were an arranged part of one great whole. The systematic way in which the people proceeded, their steady perseverance, their activity and skill astounded the enemies of reform and produced an effect sometimes observed in considerable bodies of men, yet scarcely ever in a nation. The enemies of reform had so strong a feeling of the impossibility of any thing like a successful opposition that they remained in a state of comparative quiescence quite at variance with their proceedings on former occasions.
The evils inseparable from mis-government, having at length pressed upon the people with a severity too great to be any longer quiescently endured, their first efforts have been directed to put an end to a system, the workings of which have entailed upon them such accumulated ills.
Thay have long been conscious, that a small but dominant faction has grown up in this country, which has usurped and wielded a controlling influence over the councils of the King, and the deliberations of the Senate; and that this faction has uniformly exercised its power for the promotion of its own exclusive and sinister interests.
The origin of this anomalous body, and the seat of its strength, are to be found in the defective state of the representative branch of the legislature, which, by enabling it to command a majority of votes in Parliament, has given it a direct dictatorial sway over the measures of government, and an unlimited and irresponsible power in the disposal of the nation's wealth. While such a faction is suffered to exist, no honest ministry can efficiently serve the King, nor can the People be in any degree assured of having their rights protected, or their welfare advanced.
Conscious of this truth, and of the injustice wrought by such usurpation, both King and People have resolved to put it down. Hitherto their efforts have been attended with success; but much yet remains to be done. The enemy is strong, and must be met with proportionate firmness. Experience has taught the people, that their power consists in numbers allied with intelligence. Let them then unite, and instruct one another. By these means alone, can they aid their Sovereign in his efforts to rescue them from out the hands of a faction, and to restore to them that salutary influence over public affairs, which justice entitles them to demand, and good policy dictates should be conceded to them.
Deeply impressed with the conviction, that the present crisis is eminently auspicious for such a course being adopted by the people, We, whose names are hereunto subscribed, have by this act resolved ourselves into a National Reform Association, with a view to use our utmost and united exertions to promote, on all occasions, such measures as shall be calculated to advance the real interests of the community, and give strength and stability to the empire at large—but more especially, at this particular juncture, to devote our best energies in assisting the King and his Ministers, to carry on the great measure of Reform now pending to a successful issue: and, forasmuch as it is probable, that on this measure being carried, another Parliament will be speedily summoned by the King, we deem it to be an indispensable duty on our part, to aid in securing the return of honest and talented men to represent the people in such Reformed Parliament—and also, to the end that these objects may be accomplished, and the Parliament so elected be made subservient to the general good, it shall be our endeavour, by discussion and through the medium of the Press, to diffuse among the people, sound and practical knowledge upon all political subjects, by which means we hope to create an enlightened public opinion, that shall be capable at all times of being brought to bear with an irresistible moral force, upon all important public questions, and be made productive of a permanent system of just policy and wise legislation.
II. That any person desirous of becoming a member of this Association shall furnish the Secretary with his name and address, and subscribe his name to these regulations in the book prepared for that purpose; and thereupon shall be admitted a member, and receive a ticket of admission to the general meetings of the Association.
VII. That there shall be a Secretary and also a Treasurer of the Association. The Treasurer to be accountable to the Committee for all receipts and disbursements, and he shall not be at liberty to make any disbursements without the authority of the Committee.
VIII. That the Committee shall at all times be open to the strictures of, and be responsible for their conduct to, the members; and that each member shall have free access to the books of account and proceedings of the Association.