London Radicalism 1830-1843 A Selection of the Papers of Francis Place. Originally published by London Record Society, London, 1970.
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Major Beauclerk and Mr Perry went to his [Sir Francis Burdett's] house and had an interview with him, when he at once with much cordiality agreed to be the Chairman, with the declaration that one of the objects of the union was to support the King and his minister against a small corrupt faction in accomplishing their great measure of Parliamentary Reform.
After the interview with Sir Francis Mr Perry came to me and we had a conversation on the objects of the Union, and I recommended a much more general object than merely 'supporting the King and his Ministers', which seemed to be all that Sir Francis desired to have done. It was necessary that we should make our declaration such an one as would induce the better sort of the working people to join us. There were two very substantial reasons for this. 1 to induce them by joining the union to prevent them being mislead [sic] by some, a very few persons, of their own class who were brawlers for what they called the rights of the working man, whose object was to keep them detached from every other class and to hold them in readiness to commit any mischief, should an opportunity offer. 2 we were very desirous that those among the working people who were discreet orderly well informed men should be associated as closely with us, and such as us, as a step towards leading the two classes to a better understanding and diminishing the animosity which prevailed among the working people against those who were not compelled to work with their hands for wages and 3 to hold up the example for imitation to other persons not only in London but in every town where a union might be established. After having finally settled what ought to be done, I consented to go to Sir Francis and talk the matter over with him.
On the 26 [October] I saw Sir Francis and explained our views to him minutely, he concurred in them. I then went to Mr Perry and we put the matter in writing, this Major Beauclerk and Mr Perry took to Sir Francis, he agreed to it, and that it should form part of the proceedings at the meeting to be held to form the union, and he suggested that it should be held on the monday following. This was agreed to.
On the 24 [October] the ususal weekly meeting of the Rotunda was held. The leaders had now acquired as they thought a great addition of power and to some extent the belief was correct, but they knew neither how to use it, or to cherish it so as to increase it. The proceedings at this meeting afforded proofs of the opinion they entertained that the time was come when the people might proceed from words to actions. It will be seen that there was considerable dexterity shewn on this as there had been on other occasions to avoid an open declaration of the intention of those who meditated mischief, as well as of those whose persuasion it was that a general insurrection of the working people could be obtained, and that it would be the means of establishing an equality of property, the only state of society as these men imagined in which there could be peace and happiness. Each of these parties were equally reprehensible for their conduct, since could they have succeeded the result in either case would be the same, the same horrible mischief be perpetrated, the same miserable results be produced.
Last Monday night, an adjourned meeting of the National Union of the Working Classes took place at the Great Theatre of the Rotunda, Blackfriars Road. The meeting was numerously attended; and there were many new members who paid their admission.
Mr. Watson said, that in proposing the first resolution he felt a little embarrassed, in consequence of being so often obliged to throw himself on their indulgences. (Hear, hear.) He then read the following resolution:— 'That this meeting is of opinion, that unless the Working Classes be alive to their best interest, and enroll themselves in Political Unions throughout the country, and seriously resolve to put forth their opinions in a manner not to be mistaken, that they will be again duped and deceived, as they have often been, and remain the oppressed and degraded victims of the present corrupt system.'
Mr. Watson proceeded to observe, that unless they were organized they would be again duped. He considered it a disgrace upon civilized man to be any longer oppressed by Lords and Bishops, and that that class of persons dreaded nothing so much as a union of the people; because they were aware, that if the people were but once united, their fate was sealed for ever; and he would ask, How could a manifestation of their union be known, but by an exhibition of their strength? (Cheers.) It was idle to expect justice could be obtained from Lords and Bishops, although events have proved, and that recently, that it may be extorted by their fears. They no doubt, at the present juncture of affairs, may attempt to intimidate the people; but he would maintain that it was legal for the people at present to meet in the open air. He however would not recommend force of any kind, for that was a nullity—at the same time he could not banish from his views or his manhood the idea of an armed force assuming a dictatorial language to a united people. (Cheers.) The Whigs rang the alarm bell, and brought in a Reform Bill, which was scouted by the Lords: but for a moment suppose the people were united, and prepared a Bill themselves, for universal freedom to all, and went in a body with it to Parliament, 'who,' he would ask, dare refuse it? He begged to be distinctly understood to mean that he did not use such language in the shape of intimidation; on the contrary, he was merely going to suggest, and to prove the necessity of a field meeting, as in his mind that would be the best test of principle, as well as the only criterion to judge of their public virtue and courage. The country was anxiously looking for an example from the capital, and in that respect he would refer them to the organized parties in France, who turned out and raised the siege of Paris. (Cheers.). . . He concluded by giving it as his opinion, that in less than one month there would be in the city at least 100,000 members attached to the Union. (Great cheering.) . . .
'4th. That the list of class leaders be read over in the first general meeting of the Union, every month, and that each class leader be then either continued or changed, according to the will of the meeting.
'5th. That each class leader shall keep a list of the names and residences of the different individuals who leave their names with him, and that he shall receive their monthly subscription and send it to the secretary.
'8th. That all the branches of the Union, who adopt the resolutions submitted to them by this committee, be requested to send class leaders to this meeting, at the rate of one person to 25 members, on Friday evening, November 4, at eight o' clock. . . .
Mr. Osborne said that in consequence of the declaration (fn. 1) then read, and which met with such approbation, he would propose the following resolution, which he read.
'That a Public Meeting of the useful classes of London be held on the open space in front of White Conduct [sic] House, on Monday, November 7th, at One o'clock precisely, for the purpose of expressing their political opinions at this important crisis, of making known to the government and the country their wants and greivances [sic], and for solemnly ratifying a declaration of their principles.'
He was quite satisfied the North of England would instantly join us and than an irresistable force would be formed, and if the plan of organization was to be so acted on, there would be no necessity for friendly and benefit societies, for all would merge into a national society. He highly approved of the plan of placing twenty-five members under one class leader, and hoped that on the day of the grand meeting such a moral force would be displayed, as would convice their task masters that they could not any longer withhold from them their just rights. (Great cheering.)
The resolution being seconded was carried unanimously. . . . Mr. Cleave then observed that in moving the adoption of the next resolution he did not look for or expect any other kind of victory except a legislative one, and read the resolution as follows:—
'That as our object is just, we wish our proceedings to be peaceably conducted; and, therefore, earnestly impress on every working man to conduct himself with order and propriety, and to consider himself a special constable for that day, for the purpose of enforcing peace from others, if necessary.'. . .
The influence of the [National] union [of the Working Classes] had become extensive, and was increasing, it was felt, acknowledged and acted upon in many places, especially in the large manufacturing towns, in Bristol and in the southern and south western parts of England.
The resolutions passed at the weekly meetings of the Union in London, and the speeches made at these meetings being regularly published in the Poor Mans Guardian induced large numbers of the working people in the country to attribute an importance to the union it did not possess.
They were misled by the advertisements in the Guardian of meetings to be held in some part of London on several days in each week, these announcements made people at a distance conclude that the whole body of workmen were confederated together, and this was a powerful inducement to them to form unions in various places.
The leaders of all these unions, with but a few exceptions had suceeded [sic] in persuading themselves that the time was coming when the whole of the working men would be ready to rise en masse and take the management of their own affairs, i.e. the management of the affairs of the nation into their own hands, and efforts were made in various places and in various ways to ascertain their present strength, among these efforts may be reckoned the intended meeting in White Conduit fields, as well as the 'holiday' to which reference had been frequently made by Benbow at the meetings of the Union in London . . .
Much art was employed by those among the leaders in London who had purposes of their own to accomplish. They were compelled in words to pretend that persons and property were to be secure, while the whole tenor of what they said and what they did shewed that the true meaning of their words and actions was that the working people should seize and divide among them the whole wealth in the Kingdom.
That this was clearly understood by the members of all the unions of the working classes is sufficiently shewn by their proceedings. The same doctrine was admitted as sound by all, and sufficiently declared by the two lines.
Another persuasion was as generally prevalent, namely that they would probably have to fight the way to their possessions, of the result of which no doubt was entertained, by the leaders, and especially by the leaders in the country, by a great majority of the most active men of the union in London, by the members of the union generally and by the large number who were occasional attendants at their public meetings, yet no one had as yet shewn how they were to proceed.
There were, at this time, several delegates from Manchester, and some from other places in London. Most of these came to me and I conversed with them. So thoroughly satisfied were these men that in a very few months 'the people would rise and do themselves justice', that when I expressed my doubts, they became irritated, and on being pushed to extremities, they threw aside all disguise and declared their conviction that within a few months there would be a simultaneous rising of the whole working population, and then the proud tyrants who oppressed them and kept them out of their just rights would be taught a lesson, such a lesson as none before had ever been taught. They admitted it was probable that large numbers of their fellows would be slain in the contest which might, and probably would take place. A great many they said might perhaps be 'murdered', but numbers would prevail and then ample revenge would be taken. They talked of the men they would lose as a matter of very small importance, a trifling sacrifice to obtain a great good, they said it would be of no importance to the great body, they would not be missed, and might as well be killed in so righteous a cause, as linger on in a life of privation and misery. I should be convinced by the circumstances which would take place that what they said was true. I need only wait until a commencement was made the result of which was certain.
The whole of the proceedings of this day were remarkable and singularly perplexing. The meeting which preceded the public meeting was very extraordinary. The room in which the persons who were conducting the business was on the ground floor of the Crown and Anchor Tavern, it was about twenty five feet long and about twelve broad, before eleven o clock it was crowded almost to suffocation, the door which is at the bottom of the room and opens into the hall, was blocked up with a crowd of persons vainly endeavouring to gain admittance.
There was a strong muster of the men who led the meetings at the Rotunda, some of these men were remarkably ignorant, but fluent speakers, filled with bitter notions of animosity against everybody who did not concur in the absurd notions they entertained, that every thing which was produced belonged to those who by their labour produced it and ought to be shared among them, that there ought to be no accumulation of capital in the hands of any one to enable him to employ others as labourers, and thus by becoming a master make slaves of others under the name of workmen; to take from them the produce of their labour, to maintain themselves in idleness and luxury, while their slaves were ground down to the earth or left to starve. They denounced every one who dissented from these notions as a political economist, under which appellation was included the notion of a bitter foe to the working classes, enemies who deserved no mercy at their hands. Among these men were some who were perfectly atrocious. Most of these men were loud and long talkers, vehement resolute reckless rascals whose purpose was riot as providing an opportunity for plundering. They had drawn round them a considerable number of others like themselves, who were eager to commit any outrage which circumstances would permit, while by their plausible vehement and continued appeals to large bodies of the working people they had succeeded in persuading a vast number that the absurdities they promulgated were truths. They were now of opinion that the time was come when by a desperate effort they might be able to cause a successful insurrection and so completely had they succeeded in deceiving themselves that they supposed the whole body of the working people were of the same opinion as they were or were so far advanced towards it as to be easily and speedily led to adopt it. They therefore publicly proposed as well by hand bills and small publications as by speeches that the whole body of the working people should on a day to be named cease to labour at any kind of employment for others, and refuse again to be employed for a month. To take whatever they might during that time need from those who had whatever they wanted.
Benbow who at this time kept a coffee shop in Fleet Street near Temple bar had an evening meeting in one of his rooms of the most unprincipled of the persons alluded to, and here they concocted a plan for a public meeting of the working people to be held on the 7 November in an open space in the front of White Conduit House. To this meeting it was openly proposed that every man should come armed to preserve the peace. The weapon they recommended was a stave about twenty inches long of a proportionate thickness the handle of which was made smaller than the other part and was turned in furrows that it might be firmly grasped, a strong string was tied to the end of it to go over the wrist to prevent it being taken away or dropped. It is a formidable weapon, one blow with it would break a mans arm or fracture his skull. I bought one as a curiosity—it cost fourpence.
To pay the expenses of calling the meeting and carrying on of a correspondence with the country, they collected weekly, small subscriptions. For several successive days, and as the bill stickers were induced to side with them their bills were left uncovered while others were covered by the bill stickers according to their rule of permitting a bill to remain only a certain number of hours. Hand bills in vast numbers were distributed and placed in the windows of as many small shop keepers as would thus exhibit them. They had some peculiar facilities to effect this purpose in the men who attended their meetings at the Rotunda in the Surrey Road, living in all parts of the town and passing through it daily in all directions, a great number of whom would distribute the bills, see other working men in workshops and other places and urge them to attend the meeting. Delegates were sent to every place where there was a meeting of working men for the purpose of inducing them to attend the meeting. One of the most vehement ill-judging of men, Mr Thomas Wakley, proprietor of the Lancet Medical Journal and the Ballot Newspaper was advertised as the chairman.
Wakley was in the room as the leader of the Rotunda men. He is a remarkably good speaker, a tall stout man, with fair hair and a rather florid complexion, he has a round full voice a somewhat low-lived swaggering air, a suspicious cast of countenance and would be a formidable fellow were he not as all such men are in most particulars, a coward, one of those who will fight hard and long when screened from danger, but will not fight at all where danger is present. He is physically and morally a coward.
These men came attended by many others to bully the proposers of the meeting and to possess themselves of the power of controlling the proceedings. I am a pretty resolute chairman, and know I think how to manage a tumultuous assembly, but it was with extreme difficulty I was able to manage this. A tumult was expected and it had therefore been determined to put me in the chair. I knew however that there were clever resolute men to support the chair, and I therefore resolved to go through the business patiently but resolutely to the end. One purpose of the mischief makers was to compel the chairman to quit the chair, to put Wakley into it, vote their own resolutions and then propose them at the public meeting. They knew well enough however that I was not to be driven away and so far their hopes were defeated.
Their proposition to call a public meeting in the open space opposite to White Conduit House was brought before the meeting by them and argued as the proper course in opposition to the proposed union, which they said was to be governed by aristocrats and shopocracy people for the purpose of keeping the working people in slavery. This was vehemently insisted on and the promoters of the union were stigmatised and condemned in no measured terms. Some check was however placed on several of them by the knowledge they had of my good wishes for the welfare of the working people and of the exertions I made to serve them. After much time spent in angry debating and vilification I appealed to all the working men who were present, and to all who wished them well to support me not only as the chairman of the meeting, but as their well known friend, to submit and compel others to submit to the order of business in the way I was determined to conduct it and they did so, after much noise and some confusion, I succeeded in compelling the refractory to observe the order of proceeding I laid down, and something approximating to a regular discussion attended with many interruptions was had. When this had gone on for some time, I took the large posting bill calling the meeting at White Conduit House, and read it slowly to the company. I then said with their permission I would make some remarks upon the most material passages, and with the aid of the company would confine the discussion to these points. This was assented to by shouts and I proceeded to explain the meaning of the words used and the intentions of the parties to the meeting. I told them how the scheme had been concocted and by whom, and what must be the inevitable result if it were held, the rogues were obliged to hear me out, since it was evident, that interruption would cause their forcible expulsion from the room. The consequence of the exposition and anticipation of the consequences of the meeting if it were held induced Mr Wakley to declare that he had been named for the chair and had consented to take it without being aware that it would be so obnoxious to objections as he saw it was and he declared he would not take the chair at the proposed meeting but he would take care that his reasons for withdrawing from it should be well known.
The resolutions for the public meeting about to be held were now discussed. The disappointment occasioned by Mr Wakleys refusal to take the chair was displayed in the most vehement and offensive manner, and in the grossest words, this conduct and these words were equally unavailing and were not much regarded. Finding they could not produce the alteration of any one of the resolutions, nor procure the adoption of their own, they declared that as they were prevented doing one thing it was still in their power to do another thing—namely make a riot—this they were determined to do, and disperse the meeting.
This was said at the last moment when information was brought that Sir Francis Burdett had arrived and had gone up stairs to the committee room. This room was a very large one, it was taken for the use of those who were to manage the business at the public meeting nearly all of whom however had been detained below stairs.
On going to the committee room we found it crammed as the room below had been and Colonel Jones standing on a chair advising the people to retire that arrangements might be made for conducting the business of the meeting. This was just what the disturbers wanted, it afforded them another chance to produce a riot, and ardent and continued were their efforts to produce one. The scene in this room, where no regular chairman had been appointed, was one of intense confusion. Sir Francis Burdett was illdisposed and intractible, his perverse conduct gave countenance and support to the rioters, the great room was crowded with persons eager to have the business commenced, when one of the rioters who had been in the committee room ascended the orchestre [sic] in the great room and told the company that the committee had declared against universal suffrage and the working people that they intended to exclude them from all their rights and aid the middle class to keep them down. That the working people had therefore no interest whatever in the meeting. This caused a prodigious sensation, and a great uproar followed, the noise of which induced many persons to leave the committee room to ascertain the cause, among them was Thomas Murphy who had been advocating the insertion of a resolution that the union would never disperse until it had succeeded in obtaining annual parliaments and universal suffrage, but was not willing to go the length of his associates deliberately to produce a riot. To calm the turmoil he went upon the platform at the top of the room and being well known was attended to. He told the audience that he had just that moment left the committee room and he entreated them to have patience and hear the whole of the proposed resolutions before they came to any decision. He assured them that if they were not such resolutions as were calculated to secure the cause of the people he would not support them.
The large room was filled with people, the committee room was also filled, the passages were being blocked up by people coming in and it was plainly seen the meeting was by far too large to be held in the Tavern, Mr Wakley was therefore requested to go into the large room, state the circumstance and advise the company to proceed to the top of Serle Street in Lincolns Inn Fields—persons were dispatched to procure three waggons, the people proceeded to the spot pointed out, and as soon as it was possible to detach the necessary persons from the wrangle going on in the committee room the persons who were in that room moved off to Lincolns Inn Fields.
A Gentleman, an attorney in Portugal Street, the back of whose house and offices were in Lincolns Inn Fields, was prevailed upon to let us have the use of one of his offices and of the leads above the office, here were placed an arm chair, and a table and here Sir Francis Burdett commenced the business. Here too all the rioters were mingled with the promoters of the meeting and the spectators arranged themselves in front of the office on the ground.
These circumstances gave the rioters great scope for mischief, though they were by then cut off from all chance of making a riot. It was however expected they would propose amendments at variance with the intended resolutions, and that as not more perhaps than half of the people assembled could understand what was addressed to them it was probable that any amendments or new resolutions they proposed would be carried. But Murphy who did not at the moment agree with his co-adjutors, and Wakley who had partly cut them and greatly offended them, were now much feared by them, they apprehended that if they proceeded to extremities they would be opposed by their own two best orators, and could have no hopes of success against them, they as well as some among the managers compromised the matter as well as they could.
The conduct of Sir Francis Burdett during the stormy proceedings at the Crown and Anchor Tavern made it doubtful whether or no he would take the Chair, he seemed resolved to have the business confined to one single point, that of an union to assist in promoting the passing of the reform bill, by declaring unbounded confidence in the King and his ministers. This was absurd, it was clear enough from the tone of all the public meetings, and of at least four fifths of all the newspapers that doubts were entertained respecting the intentions of the King and his ministers, doubts were also entertained of their capacity to fill as they ought to do their respective positions amid the expected turbulence, and of their courage to go through the trying times which all now began to see were near at hand. To expect that the people of London should declare unbounded confidence in all respects, or indeed in any one respect in either the king or his ministers was the height of folly—yet Sir Francis could not be made to see this, and he arrogantly demanded that all should succumb to his opinions, ignorant as he was of the actual state of the people, and obstinate as he was in determining not to believe any thing he disliked. His conduct in the chair in Lincolns Inn Fields was still more absurd and particularly offensive to those who were endeavouring to form the Union. To such a length were disagreements pushed by him that it was every minute expected he would abruptly leave the Chair and break up the meeting. The scene on the top of the office where he sat was one of continued confusion, the rioters endeavouring by every means in their power to impede the business and increase the disputing with the chairman. The motion made by William Lovett [that the Union should commit itself to trying to obtain universal suffrage], and the speech with which he introduced it was well calculated in such a meeting to produce the effect intended and it seemed wonderful that it was not adopted. Lovett was a journeyman cabinet maker, a man of a melancholy temperament, soured with the perplexities of the world, he was however an honest hearted man, possessed of great courage and persevering in his conduct, in his usual demeanour he was mild and kind, and entertained kindly feelings towards every one whom he did not sincerely believe was the intentional enemy of the working people, but when either by circumstances or his own morbid associations he felt the sense he was apt to indulge of the evils and wrongs of mankind he was vehement in the extreme. He was half an owenite half an Hodgskinite a thorough beleiver [sic] that accumulation of property in the hands of individuals was the cause of all the evils which existed. He believed that in endeavouring to procure the adoption of his resolution he was promoting the good of his own class.
John Cleave had become a sailor and was now the keeper of a coffee shop. He was a sturdy little fellow totally devoid of fear and like Lovett ready to undergo any persecution to bear any punishment. He was not however so well informed nor so placid a man as Lovett, he on the contrary was passionate and revengeful, and not at all scrupulous as to the use of any means of accomplishing his purpose the end of which was improving the condition of the working people. His notions were all vague, any change however brought about was in his opinion sure to be useful and this was enough to induce him to labour continually to promote changes.
John Savage at this time a Linen Draper in Crawford Street Mary le bone was an exceedingly ill-disposed malignant ignorant man, in failing circumstances, as fully desirous of producing general confusion as any one of those who have before been mentioned. He was a remarkably shrewd cunning fellow and could talk nonsense in a plausible way by the hour. He saw as he thought the means of dispersing the union and this was the reason he conducted himself in the way described in the newspapers.
Wakley more furious in his manner than either of these persons, more openly impudent, and scarcely better informed, scarcely knew what he was at or why he acted at all—he however saw in the motion he made a chance of being restored to favour with the Rotunda men whom he knew he had greatly offended by refusing to take the chair at the proposed meeting at White Conduit House. His conduct was essentially mischievous. Instead of approximating, as an honest man would have done to a better understanding between the working and middle classes they took the utmost possible pains to increase and perpetuate the animosities existing between them. In these particulars the conduct of most of the self appointed leaders of the union of the working classes was atrocious. It alarmed and disgusted every one but themselves. The proposed meeting at White Conduit House was for the purpose of ascertaining how far they could rely upon the mob for mischief and this they took no pains to conceal. Their small publications recommending abstinence from all sorts of labour for a month for the purpose of ruining the classes above them, and the open determination they expressed to live during the time on plunder, had made even persons who were well disposed towards the working people averse from having any sort of intercourse with them, this Wakley knew and he like a rogue as he was did his best to keep up the ill will between these classes of people.
There was great exultation when the resolution to appoint working men in equal or greater numbers than others on the council. They believed that this determination would drive away all the 'shopocracy', that the management would fall into their hands, and they were in an excess of delight in having as they said completely beaten the aristocrats who were getting up an union to keep them down. It appeared pretty certain at the moment that it would not be possible under these circumstances to form an extensive union. This appeared to be the opinion of all those with whom I had been acting, we feared that an end had been put to the amalgamation in the union of those who were not working men with those who were working men. It had this effect to a much lamentable extent. It was however saved from immediate ruin by the extraordinary energy of my associates and the business-like way in which we proceeded.
While the vote of thanks which was not at all merited by the Chairman was being proposed I left the meeting and went to the Crown and Anchor Tavern expecting to be immediately followed by some of the exulting rioters and some of my own associates. Here I remained alone until I concluded no one would come and then I went home. Scarcely had I left the house however when a number of my friends and some few of the rioters came to the tavern, and immediately proceeded to business.
It was moved by Mr Roebuck and seconded by Mr Charles Fox Smith that a select committee be appointed to carry the preceeding resolution into effect, and to devise plans for the election of the council. This was also carried unanimously. The following persons were appointed
To these five more were
afterwards added making in
the whole thirteen.
Some of those who were put upon the committee were particularly obnoxious, but it was impossible to proceed without them and it was therefore determined to put as many of them on the committee as chose to go on and to fight them out.
There had been a large enrolment of members at the Tavern in the course of the day, and altho' nearly all of those who took tickets, took them only for one quarter and paid a shilling each—the sum received amounted to £23 9/-.
I and my friends were early at the Tavern and remained there all day and until late at night. Between three and four hundred more entered their names as members, whenever any respectable working man took a ticket he was asked questions for the purpose of ascertaining if he were a Rotundanist and upon finding that he was not he was invited into the committee room, questioned as to his political notions, and requested to give the name or names and references to the character of any man or men whom he knew in his trade who was a sober discreet clever man, and many such men were designated. Almost every man who was invited into the committee room appeared to understand the men who managed at the Rotunda, disliked them much, and were willing to aid us as well as they could to promote the election of such working men for the council as were honest sensible well intentioned men having the confidence of their fellow workmen. Many of our coadjutors came in and as no time was to be lost; and no one in our circumstances was to be either idle or to regard the consumption of his own time, each of them was dispatched to see the workmen who had been named to us, enquire their characters of their employers and their neighbours and then to invite them to join the union with a view to their being elected on the council. The bill 'this is not an union' etc. and copies of all our publicacations were given to these men; as they were to every one who became a member, and in a few days we had a sufficient number of such men for the council, and the certainty that their fellow workmen would vote for them.
They who were constant attendants at the Rotunda and other such meetings were much more desirous of having nonsense talked to them for a penny a week or for nothing than to work for the good of others and to pay a shilling to put them into a position to do so, kept away from the union, and we saw very clearly that the mischief makers had no chance to become members of the council in any considerable number. We saw plainly enough that Wakleys resolution had produced the anticipated consequences, as a comparative few who were not working men joined us, and some of those who were not working men left us, still we hoped that if we could succeed in procuring a really respectable council we should be able to induce a large number of such persons to join us, and we were not mistaken.
Mr Perry and others were at the committee room all day energetically systematically and successfully carrying on the business. Numbers of useful co-adjutors attended part of the day and went about on various necessary occasions.
The meeting as had been anticipated was exceedingly turbulent almost a riot. The abuse ill humour and bad language used roused Roebuck and he attacked the Rotunda gentlemen who were present and absent who were represent[ed] by Lovett Wakley and Cleave, Cleave had been the most indiscreet and abusive, and on him Roebuck fastened. He used no ceremony but unmasked the Rotunda men completely; called them and their proceedings by their right names challenged them to do their worst, told them the working people were much too wise to be led by them and much too honest to be used by them for villainous purposes, that none of them would be elected to the council, and that unless they conducted them with becoming decency they would be treated as they deserved. The room was crowded to excess no one being refused admittance. The violence and virulence of those of the rotunda men who being members of the committee were allowed to make speeches had disgusted the spectators while we had succeeded in convincing the better sort of people who were present that we, not they, were really their friends. The rioters were not men to be subdued but they were overpowered and left in a condition no longer to do us any further mischief.
From this time for some consequtive [sic] days several of us attended at the committee room all day long, and many of our best friends gave us whatever time they could spare, every thing went on satisfactorily, we had many good men to assist us as well in the room as in going about the necessary business out of doors. Nothing, which appeared likely, however remotely to assist us, was neglected, every thing that could be done was done and well done.
Great numbers of our printed papers were distributed. (fn. 2) The town was placarded daily, shops were supplied with bills for their windows and they were stuck up in public houses. The business was laborious but it was perfectly regular. Deputations were sent to several places to promote and to open Unions, I knew the law relating to political societies, but I had no doubt we might for a long time disregard it, and it was violated by the persons who went from the union to other societies but I took especial care that there should be no violation of the law by any authorised correspondence. As the business of opening Unions increased it became necessary for us to be more cautious. I therefore expounded the law and shewed that as it related to communications between societies when formed it had no relation to those meetings which were intended as preliminary to the formation of societies. They who went as deputies to promote unions were therefore instructed to go on vigorously until the moment the union was about to be formed and then to withdraw, the business was adroitly managed and all the speaking excepting agreeing to the articles for governing the union was gone through before it was actually formed. The leaders of every such union were made acquainted with the law and instructed how to proceed.
The Union was fully formed and the unusual if not unparallelled [sic] energy and activity of its conductors, with the eagerness of the people to join it changed the whole aspect of affairs. The impulse was felt and responded to all over the Kingdom, projects of unions appeared in immense numbers. (fn. 3) The formation of the National Political Union at this moment was of all but inappreciable importance.