London Radicalism 1830-1843 A Selection of the Papers of Francis Place. Originally published by London Record Society, London, 1970.
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. . . The people have made up their minds to have the bill, coute qui coute—they have long forseen the probability of the present emergency, and their conduct has proved that, while on the one hand they were not unprepared for the occurrence of this disastrus [sic] event, neither on the other do they want sufficient spirit and energy to enforce their determination in a manner which cannot fail to ensure success. The whole country seems to be animated by one spirit. Individuals bodly avow their determination to pay No Taxes in Money and every meeting concurs in calling upon the house of commons to Cut off the Supplies, or Place them in the Hands of Parliamentary Commissioners, Not to be Applied until the Reform Bill shall be Passed into a Law. The utmost confidence is placed in earl Grey and his administration, the most resolute determination to place no reliance upon any other. His noble conduct in vindicating the honour and dignity of the people, by refusing to suffer the integrity of the bill to be invaded, and the nation to be insulted by a postponement of its just demands, has called forth a feeling of gratitude, love and respect for him, the full extent of which it would be in vain to attempt to describe. Last night the National Political Union led the way, a splendid meeting of 5,000 members assembled together—declared their devoted attachment to Lord Grey and Reform— denounced the treachery which had been practised, and announced not only their determination to petition the commons to take the supplies into their own hands but one and all declared their determination Not to pay Taxes in Money till the Reform Bill shall become law. The people are rallying round the unions. Yesterday 1,200 more members enrolled themselves at Saville House. Today up to the hour we are writing many hundreds more have been enrolled—a body of about 100 from one factory alone marched up today in procession from the east end of the town and entered their names. The meetings of this Union will continue nightly until the bill be carried. Tonight also the National Union of the working classes will assemble, as will also the Bloomsbury Householders Union. At each of these strong resolutions will be passed and declarations will be made by individuals Not to Pay Taxes. The south western—Clerkenwell—Lambeth —Greenwich—Deptford—Cripplegate—East London—Whitechapel and other Unions have all announced meetings for the same purpose. The City of London has set an excellent example to the Empire—the Court of Common Council which assembles today, have denounced those who advised his majesty to act as he has done, as enemies to the people, they have declared the country to be in danger and have determined to continue to meet de die in diem. They have petitioned the house of commons to cut off the supplies until the Reform Bill be a law.—That petition has been presented, and has received the support of all the four city members.
Tomorrow the Common Hall will assemble, similar resolutions of confidence in Lord Grey—cutting off the supplies etc. etc. are to be proposed— they will declare that they have no faith in any reform proposed from any other source. It is said that a proposition will be submitted to the meeting to call upon the house of commons to suspend all public business till the reform bill be carried. A permanent reform committee of citizens will be proposed accompanied with a recommendation to every city, town and parish throughout the kingdom to adopt the same course. Requisitions are being signed in every ward of the City of London to call Wardmotes—and in every parish to call parish meetings. Ten or twelve parishes meet tomorrow, and thrice as many more in the course of the next day. Westminster will meet tomorrow, and a requisition has been forwarded to the High Bailiff of Southwark to convene a public meeting which will probably be held on saturday. Mary le bone—Pancrass [sic]—Paddington, Clerkenwell, St Lukes, Cripplegate, St Brides, St Clement, Lambeth and many other parishes are moving.
The principal purpose of the meeting was to discuss the propriety of carrying into effect the resolution of the General Meeting held on the preceeding evening, relative to calling a meeting of the various reform unions at a distance from the metropolis.
Mr Leonard seconded the resolution, which produced a long discussion when Mr John Taylor moved, that the further consideration of the instructions from the general meeting, be deferred to monday evening next at 8 o'clock. This motion was seconded by Mr Millard—and carried.
This was a most important subject and considering the highly excited state of the people was discreetly managed, the generality wanted a public meeting to demonstrate the feeling of the people—many wanted a public meeting to out do in respect to numbers the Birmingham meetings while some wished for a meeting for the chance of plundering. The council hardly dared to set aside the resolution of the General Meeting, and they dared not carry it into effect, they feared too that if the matter were referred back to a general meeting that the resolution would be confirmed and a special committee appointed to carry it into effect. It was plain to the most discreet and best informed members of the council that such a meeting could not be held without great danger of a premature riot. Hampstead Heath was the place designated, and thither had the meeting been called more than half a million of persons would have attended. People would have come from considerable distances, trade in London and its environs would have been suspended, and as no arrangement could be made to engage the attention of all present to the same subject at the same time, ample scope would be given to the mischievously disposed to hold separate meetings on the ground and propose and carry their own resolutions; this was known to many of us as a matter determined upon by several leaders of working men who did not concur in the plan and proceedings of the National Political Union, and to these all the miscreants and vagabonds in the metropolis would have clung. This too was not a thing to be said if it could be avoided, but still it had been determined that it should be said not only in the council of the Union but at any general meeting of its members, and arguments be offered why the members of the council who took this view of the case could not consent to carry the order of the General Meeting of members into effect. Nothing at the moment could have been more favourable to the Tories nothing so injurious to the cause in which the people were engaged than the riotous proceedings of a mob, and a firm resolution of many members of the council was taken to use every possible means to prevent the holding of such a meeting.
In the afternoon, the deputies from Birmingham, other deputies and several persons who were not deputies came to my house. They had been in various parts of the metropolis had conversed with many people merchants, bankers, traders, and members of parliament, all whom they had seen as well as themselves were greatly excited at the no longer doubted intelligence that the King had ordered the duke of Wellington to form an administration, they observed that such was the dread of his probable conduct and so strong the desire to prevent him doing mischief that already, his protest on the second reading of the bill on the 7 May was reprinted, placarded and distributed with a caution to the people against permitting him to govern them. It was generally understood that the duke would endeavour and would probably succeed in forming an administration of desperate men and proceed at once to put down the people by force, cost whatever it might. No one present, however doubted that the people would put down the Duke, and each was ready to do his best for that purpose. It was quite certain that the bulk of the people would rise en masse at the call of the Unions, and the deputies now in London and other Cities. It was now considered necessary that as soon as it was ascertained that the Duke had formed an administration, all the deputies, excepting three, sent by the three principal places should return home and put the people in open opposition to the government of the Duke. While the leading reformers in London should themselves remain as quiet as circumstances would permit, and promote two material purposes. 1. Keeping the people from openly meeting the troops in battle, supposing the soldiers were willing to fight them. 2. to take care, to have such demonstrations made as would prevent the soldiers being sent from London, if it should turn out as seemed next to impossible that the mass of the people did not make these demonstrations themselves.
It was very clearly seen that if a much more open and general run for gold upon the banks, the bankers and the Bank of England could be produced, that the embarrassment of the Court and the Duke would be increased, and that if a general panic could be produced the Duke would be at once defeated. To this purpose the attention of us all was turned, and many propositions were made to increase the demand for gold. Several suggestions were made, several hints were adopted and agreed to be put in train, but some measure which would operate extensively and at once was still desired and this put us into a perplexity, respecting the means of accomplishing this purpose. Among the persons present were two Bankers, and although they were likely to be inconvenienced greatly and perhaps to be considerable losers they entered very heartily into the business. There was a general conviction that if the Duke succeeded in forming an administration, that circumstance alone would produce a general panic, and almost instantaneously close all the banks, put a stop to the circulation of Bank of England notes and compel that Bank to close its doors, and then at once produce a revolution. The question therefore, among us, was. Can we adopt means to cause such a run upon the Banks, as may either intimidate the Duke and induce him to give up the attempt to form an administration and coerce the people, or prevent him having the means of aggression if he persists in his attempt. It was thought we might succeed in one, and if in the first, prevent the second, and consequently the revolution which though much deplored was no longer feared. While the discussion was going on some one said, we ought to have a placard, announcing the consequences of permitting the Duke to form an administration and attempting to govern the country, to call upon the people to take care of themselves by collecting all the hard money they could and keeping it, by drawing it from Savings Banks, from Bankers, and from the Bank of England. This was caught at, and Mr Parkes set himself to work to draw up a Placard, among the words he wrote were these,—we must stop the Duke—These words struck me as containing nearly the whole that was necessary to be said, I therefore took a large sheet of paper and wrote thus.
I held up the paper and all at once said, that will do—no more words are necessary. Money was put upon the table and in less than four hours, the bill stickers were at work posting the bills. The Printer understood to work all night, and to dispatch at four o clock on the next—sunday morning— six bill stickers each attended by a trust worthy man to help him and see that all the bills were stuck in every part of London. Other persons were engaged to distribute them in Public houses and in shops wherever the people would engage to put them up, to send them to the environs of London by the carriers carts, and thus cause as general as possible a display at once. Parcels were sent off by the evening coaches and by the morning coaches of the next day to a great many places in England and Scotland and with some of these parcels a note was also sent requesting people to reprint them as posting bills and as hand bills.
Between 2 and 3 o clock in the afternoon a report was spread that the King had sent for Lord Grey, and this report being confirmed it passed from mouth to mouth with amazing rapidity. Men ran about spreading the news in every direction, each putting his own surmises and wishes as facts and every one believing whatever he heard. The general conclusion which each drew for himself was that Earl Grey and his colleagues would be at once restored to office with full power to carry the Bills for England Scotland and Ireland. Every body concluded that if Lord Grey were restored to power it must be conditioned that he should have the power mentioned, full confidence was placed in his integrity in respect to the bills and few enquired by what means he was to accomplish his purpose, that was left to him, as no one doubted he would take all the security the case demanded and could be obtained to enable him to accomplish his purpose. The demand for Gold which had been rapidly increased stopped at once; no purpose was now to be accomplished by any such means, all danger of loss by holding of Bank Notes was at an end and balances were safe in Bankers hands. The gratulations and congratulations of the people were extravagant beyond description.
The restoration of Lord Grey was rationally considered a matter of immense moment, a change from impending—nay almost commenced civil commotion, to peace and prosperity, every mans life and property was safe, and every one feeling this to be the case the extravagance they enacted may well be excused, as might also be the general persuasion that Lord Grey being sent for was the same as being restored to power on his own terms.
You and I can afford to differ, and may perhaps at times improve each other by differing. I expected to have seen in the Standard a simple denial from you, no more was necessary. It is taking the chance of too much personal abuse, and mischief to write any explanation to newspaper people.
Here is the conclusive answer to your note of yesterday, containing your, what?—Oh! arguments against Go For Gold—shewing that it was no go at all, just as an early copy of the Standard was brought to me containing your letter to the Editor, came a great man, (fn. 1) who seeing the placard Go For Gold on my table, pointed to it and said, in a tone of admiration, 'that's the settler, that has finished it,' this he said without any hesitation or reservation before a gentleman, whom he had never before seen. When the gentleman was gone, he told me that 'the placard and some other matters of less importance had worked out the reformation'. Earl Grey was with the King. That 'there had been fears of a hitch of a very extráordinary nature', that others might occur and if any did occur he would come and relate them to me; in the evening. It is now 11 p.m. and as he has not called I conclude that all is going on well. I shall I expect see him again tomorrow morning.
The great man came to me from other great men, greater than himself to ascertain my opinion of the chance there was that the excited people would become quiescent on Lord Grey and his colleagues being restored to office. I pledged my existence that they would be perfectly quiescent on the restoration of Earl Grey etc. provided that he in the Lords and Lord Althorpe in the commons made sufficiently clear and plain declarations that the bills unmutilated should, so far as depended upon ministers be carried.
I went to the National Political Union in the evening every one of the large rooms was crowded to excess all the people in high glee, all well disposed as could be wished, Now do pray recollect that Go For Gold was only an enlivener. I told you it would send the country to the Bank of England and send the Bank of England to the Palace of St James and thus stop the Duke, It has done its duty well.
16 May 9 a.m. When I look at the City news in the Chronicle this morning—see what the Bank Directors did, and hear as I did yesterday the great man applaud the placard I am mightily pleased with the result. As for risks any thing everything was to be risked 'To Stop the Duke'.
Several persons came to me before eight o clock in the morning, each filled with apprehension, each having his own version of what had happened, all however had come to the same conclusion,—resistance to the Duke at any cost and in every possible way. Others came in and at about half past eight, a gentleman came with a message from Sir John Hobhouse. He said there was to be a meeting in Downing Street at noon, and Sir John wished me to write a letter to him, telling him all the facts I could and giving him my opinion of the state of feeling among the people as far as I could and my view of prospective results. I therefore as soon as I could dismiss the persons who were with me, and shut others out, for a time, wrote as rapidly as I could the following letter. In quiet times, or in troubled times, when matters were not so far gone as they were now, the letter might have been thought treasonable, but on the day it was writen the memorable 18 May 1832 when all were ready and willing not only to write treasonably but to act treasonably, there was nothing very remarkable, much less extraordinary in my sending such a letter to his Majesty's Secretary at War. (fn. 2)
I am again becoming anxious, you promised to come and tell me what was going on, in case of any peculiar difficulty, or any hitch—or any thing conclusive. I have not however seen you, and spite of my desire to believe that all may go right I cannot satisfy myself that any thing is going right.
Last night at the National Political Union I had much of difficulty in appeasing many members of the council. The persons who assembled in the Great Room and in the passages were gloomy and sulky. This mornings newspapers will make things worse. The moment it was known Earl Grey had been sent for, the Demand for Gold ceased. No more placards were posted, and all seemed to be going on well at once. Proof positive this of the cool courage and admirable discipline of the people. We cannot however go on thus beyond to day. If doubt remain until tomorrow, alarm will commence again and panic will follow. No effort to Stop The Duke—by Going For Gold was made beyond a mere demonstration and you saw the consequence. What can be done in this way has now been clearly ascertained and if new efforts must be made they will not be made in vain. Lists containing the names addresses etc. of persons in every part of the country likely to be useful have been made. The name of every man who has at any public meeting shewed himself friendly to reform has been registered. Addresses and proclamations to the people have been sketched, and printed copies will, if need be, be sent to every such person all over the kingdom— means have been devised to placard towns and villages, to circulate hand bills and assemble the people. So many men of known character, civil and military have entered heartily into the scheme, that their names when published will produce great effect in every desirable way. If the Duke came into power now, we shall be unable, longer to 'hold to the laws'— break them we must, be the consequences whatever they may, we know that all must join with us, to save their property, no matter what may be their private opinions. Towns will be barricaded—new municipal arrangements will be formed by the inhabitants and the first town which is barricaded, shuts up all the banks. Go For Gold it is said will produce dreadful evils,— we know it will, but it will prevent other evils being added to them. It will Stop The Duke. Let the Duke take office as premier and we shall have a commotion in the nature of a civil war, with money at our command. If we obtain the money he cannot get it. If it be but once dispersed, he cannot collect it. If we have money we shall have the power to feed and lead the people, and in less than five days we shall have the soldiers with us. Here then is a picture not by any means over drawn—not too highly coloured, no, not even filled up. Look at it, it is worthy the serious contemplation of every man. Think too upon the results. Think of the consequences to the public creditor—to the Church—the King—the Aristocracy—think of the coming Republic.—Think of the certain destruction of those from whom opposition may be apprehended, and you will at once discover how all depends on Earl Grey being restored or not being restored to office. You will see the fearful necessity there is for prompt proceedings to compel the King to request his services, and to enable him to possess sufficient means to accomplish his purposes. Keep him up for Gods sake. Let us have one man worthy of a statue in every town and village, and let us have through him and his colleagues (we can have it in no other way) peace among ourselves, safety comfort and prosperity.
At a numerous meeting of the committee it was resolved unanimously. That the committee hails with heartfelt satisfaction the declarations which were last night made in both houses of parliament by his majesty's ministers, which they regard as the first determination not to enter into any compromise with their opponents, or with any unconstitutional advisers of the crown and that they will not retain office unless they are enabled to carry the great measure of reform without mutilation or curtailment.
That deeply impressed with the conviction that the stability of the throne and the peace of the country depend upon the speedy accomplishment of this important measure, this committee cannot but deprecate these perilous delays which are interspersed as the expiring efforts of a desperate faction, the effects of which on the present state of the country, must be to paralise [sic] the arm of industry destroy public confidence in the commercial world and put to fearful hazard the best interest of society.
'The impending mischief has passed over us, thanks to the inlightened state to which large masses of the people have attained; thanks indeed to their foresight, the steady conduct of their leaders and the unlimited confidence the people felt in themselves, and that which they placed in the men who came forward in the common cause. But for these demonstrations a revolution would have commenced, which would have been the act of the whole people to a greater extent than any which had ever before been accomplished. Now, relieved from all present apprehension, the sunday was indeed a day of repose, of solid gratulation, and satisfaction to the people generally, in every rank and station. Of disappointment, bitter disappointment, however, to some who were opposed to any change whatever, persons by whom the inevitable consequences of increased intelligence of the people was not recognised, and who therefore supposed that the power still remained in the hands of the aristocracy to compel submission to their will, these people felt the disappointment deeply. They would have pushed matters to extremities in the full persuasion that success was certain. Disappointment to others who were unwillingly convinced, that with a house of commons which had twice passed the Reform Bill, with nearly all thinking people in the kingdom to support them, were not at all likely to deviate from the line of conduct they had so steadily followed, and that even were it possible for them to do so, had they been so disposed, it was made impossible by the conduct of the people who felt that they were pushed to the last extremity, and determined to go through with the business to which they had devoted themselves. These persons were too circumspect to attempt, to subdue the house of commons and the people by any power that the King and themselves possessed. They therefore submitted to inevitable necessity, after having made as courageous an opposition, as any set of men could make, and carried that opposition to the utmost possible extent. Of the disappointment of those to whom a state of confusion however short would have been advantages [sic] it is scarcely worth the trouble of alluding. Sunday was then a day of real repose.
'Here let us hope the turmoil will end. We were within a moment of general rebellion, and had it been possible for the Duke of Wellington to have formed an administration, the King and the people would have been at issue, it would have been soon decided, but the mischief to property, especially to the great Landowners and the Fundholders—and personally to immense numbers would have been terrible indeed. Yet upon the coolest calculation, it would have been by far less terrible, than that which must have resulted from, a submission to the Duke of Wellington and the Army. His acceptance of office, and his attempt to exercise the power conferred upon him would at once have put a stop to business of every kind, and thrown hundreds of thousands of persons out of employment without the means of subsistence. Barricadoes of the principal towns—stopping the circulation of paper money—and consequently the supply of the markets; and the falling to pieces of the government. The mischief to the country would at the moment have been nearly as great as an actual civil war, though the continued mischief would have been much less. Happily the general demonstration of resistance compelled the Duke to withdraw and made it necessary for the king to recal [sic] Early Grey to office, with the assurance of means to carry the Reform Bills unimpaired and unmutilated in their principal clauses. The bold honest discreet men who took the lead during the eleven days from the 7th to the 18th of the month have saved the country.
'I always doubted the courage of the people, as well as their judgment to do, at the right time, the thing which might be most requisite to produce the greatest amount of good, on any great emergency. There had however been no means at any time of judging correctly on this subject, the people never in any case having acted for themselves, but always as the tools of some party for party purposes, even when national good was the result this was the use which was made of them. This was indeed the first time they ever combined of their own free will for a really national purpose and this it is which marks the era as of more importance than any former proceeding, which makes it prospective of still greater importance as the first of an inevitable series, which from time to time will increase the power of the people and lessen that of the government until it has either totally destroyed it by a violent ebullition, or quietly absorbed it.
'Thanks to the King and his stultified advisers. Thanks to the Duke of Wellington for his blind courage. Thanks to the tory Lords for their ignorance of the people, since it is to these things we owe the demonstrations and communication all over the country of the knowledge and power of the people, and the assurance it has given to all that these important particulars were about equally shared by them in every part of Great Britain.
'The thorough conviction they have now obtained of the moral power to control the government, and the confidence that conviction will give to them when the reformed house of commons at no great distance of time shall, as it must, prove how inadequate will be the reform bill to satisfy the expectations of the people. Even a year ago the people as a body may be said to have been essentially loyal, desirous to support the government of the King—the Bishops—the other Lords and the Commons, but the weakness and meanness of the King—the unholy arrogance of the Bishops— and the determination of the Peers to rule as of old, when the people were ignorant, besotted easily led and easily intimidated. Much of this absurd loyalty has now been destroyed and can never again exist. The demonstrations made by the King—and the Lords have shaken these absurd notions, and compelled the people to progress towards entertaining republican opinions to an extent which no one had anticipated.
'So great a change in so short a period, which from its very nature must be permanent never was so generally and so effectually manifested by any people. Kings and Lords will of themselves, if permitted, in time go quietly out of existence, and as it may be hoped, at least in this country, representative government will be established without tumults or any extensive convulsion. The only apprehension which can reasonably be entertained of any considerable disturbance is want of patience of the people. If they be not too much in a hurry representative government will be produced exactly at the time when it can best be maintained, and that will be when the people have been prepared to carry it on with the least possible difficulty and the consequent certainty of reaping all its advantages.'
Mr Carpenter was a member of both Unions and more disposed to promote the views of the Working mens, than those of the National Union. His purpose was so to amalgamate the two, that as the Bills for Reform were now sure to be passed and the members of the National Union would rapidly decrease, the leaders of the Working-mens Union should have the predominance in both Unions. It has been shewn that the leaders of the working mens union had endeavoured to prevent the formation of the National Union, but having failed in their endeavours, some of them had subsequently joined it for the purpose of embarrassing its proceedings and had suffered no opportunity to escape which promised the smallest chance of success, and these efforts had always received the countenance of Mr Carpenter. The leaders of the working mens Union, were of opinion that their own class could compel the parliament to consent to enact Universal Suffrage and they believed that, then, they by their numbers could and would elect men of their own class to parliament, to put in practice, their peculiar notions of political economy and an equalization of the possession of property. They thought they saw, the means of establishing a government which would compel all to work, and that all by working a few hours each day might produce in abundance every thing that mankind ought to desire to have, the whole produce and commodities being made common stock and served out equally to all. There would then they said no longer be the competition among men which had hitherto been their ruin;—no profitmongers—no usurers—no shopocracy—no money-mongers—this doctrine inculcated by Mr Robert Owen was not only considered the true one, the only true one, but like the professors of every other, only true doctrine, they hated and would had they the power, have either compelled conformity or destroyed those whose opinions differed from theirs. The National Political Union was therefore held by them to be their enemy, and therefore to be opposed on every possible occasion.
Mr Carpenter who had previously to this time been a preacher was a shrewd cunning, voluble fellow, precise, plausable [sic] and persuasive. He made a long and very ingenious speech which was replied to by several of the members.
National Political Union.—The Council of this Union held its weekly meeting last evening: but its discussions were occupied principally in considering the propriety of a Motion introduced by Mr. William Carpenter, to permit the Members of the Union of the Working Classes to become auditors at the Meetings of this Union. Mr. Carpenter produced many arguments in favour of his Motion, particularly the reciprocal benefit likely to result from Members of either Union being permitted to attend the Meetings of the other, so as to incorporate both in the bond of amity and similar prospects and objects, and to annihilate all feelings of hostility that might exist between both bodies. He was supported by Major Beauclerk, but was opposed by Messrs. Place, Churchill, Revell, Leonard, and Wallis, because the Motion would be unjust to the Members of this Union, who have at present not room to attend the Meetings—because the subscription to the Union is so small as to exclude none, even of straightened circumstances—and because it would be illegal, as it rendered the Union amenable to the Act against Corresponding Political Bodies. It was hence considered imprudent and unjust, as well as inexpedient and illegal, and was, therefore, negatived: but not from any feeling of hostility to the Members of any other Union, though, to give the preference to one Union would be an invidious distinction, little gratifying that body and odious to all the other Unions, which might be denied on demanding the same favour. No other discussion occurred, and the Council adjourned at a late hour.'
The Secretary made a statement of the affairs of the Union. He said that, though they [sic] were not many fashionable reformers among them, their numbers had doubled during the last four months. A short time ago they were compelled to meet in any place they could meet with, but the Union, had made a great step and secured a place to itself, and similar places would be taken in different parts of the Metropolis. (Cheers)
Mr Benbow moved the appointment of Auditors—he said, the fact that the number of members had been doubled since the last quarterly meeting, proved that it had its effect upon some of the working men.—He believed that there were at least 10,000 efficient members of the Union. (Cheers) By the word efficient he meant, not what their enemies would imply by it, mere pecuniary efficiency, but men who did their duty and observed the laws of the Union. Then he had to congratulate them on the possession of the place to meet in, and the prospect of having others. This he might well do when he recollected that a few months ago they were turned out of the Rotunda. He eulogised a free press, and recommended the extention [sic] of Unions—Sir William Jones, who was good authority, had said—'It is my deliberate opinion that the people of England will never be happy, in the majestic sense of the word, unless 200,000 of the Civil state can be ready in twenty four hours notice to enter the field without rashness or disorder.' (Cheers)
By the laws of Edward 1 every man ought to have a Halbert, an axe and a large knife, and if that law had been still duly observed, Sir Robert Peel's Military Police could not have been established, there could be no necessity for it.
Preparations in anticipation of the passing of the Reform bills had been making in many places for the purpose of selecting candidates for the forthcoming General Election. Many persons had announced themselves as Candidates, and almost all of them in their addresses had put forward pledges as to future conduct. Some of these were full, direct, and clear, some were few, and many were doubtfully or vaguely expressed. (fn. 3)
It was evident that in places where the people would for the first time be called upon to exercise the right of voting for representatives would be benefitted by a clear exposition of the nature of Pledges, and the printing out such as might reasonably be required of every candidate who professed himself a reformer. The bill was considered a means to an end and not at all as Lord Grey and some of his colleagues represented it a final measure. It therefore became necessary that some recommendation on the subject of Pledges which would apply to all persons and might be used in all places should originate somewhere and in no place could it originate so well as in the Council of the National Political Union and by no body could such a paper when composed be so fully and so usefully distributed. This was one of the principal reasons which induced me to write it, there was also another reason scarcely less important which will be noticed presently.
The subject of Pledges occupied the attention of all the more active reformers, meetings had been held resolutions had been passed and it was evident that many more meetings would be held and many more sets of resolutions would be passed. All that had been done in this way had been ill done, all differed, many very widely and no pledges could be generally adopted.
The propriety of exacting any pledge was questioned by some well disposed persons, others made no question of the matter, but insisted that no pledge whatever should be demanded or even expected. Others and these by far the most numerous body wished to exact pledges for even the most minute particular, on very many indeed, respecting which the widest difference of opinion existed.
By those who were the most rational and best qualified to judge, it was thought advisable that the opinions of candidates, on all the great leading questions should be accurately obtained, and pledges on these alone demanded.
The first meeting on the subject which reported its proceedings was a meeting of the Liverymen of London who had formed what during the passing of the bill, from the resignation of Earl Greys administration, had sat continually at Guildhall. This committee assisted by a number of new electors for the City held a meeting at the Guildhall on the 19th of June— for the purpose of considering, if any—and what Pledges should be demanded from candidates for the City of London, when it was resolved that a sub-committee of 7 Livery-men and 7 of the new electors should be appointed to draw up such resolutions as might seem to them proper and to report to the General Committee as soon as possible.
On the 22. They made their report, and the General Committee adopted the resolutions reported to them, and ordered that they should be laid before a general meeting of Electors. A deputation was then appointed to wait upon the Lord Mayor to request he would allow the use of the Guildhall for the meeting.
3. That therefore it appears to this meeting that those to whom the law now commits the sacred trust, of the power of chusing members who are to represent their non-voting neighbours as well as themselves, ought to be scrupulously careful to chuse no man on whom firm reliance cannot be placed, that he will obey the wishes and directions of his constituents.
4. That in order to obtain the best possible ground for such reliance every candidate ought in the first place, to give the Pledges following—to wit— That I will omit nothing within my power, to cause, in the very first session,
5. That we the electors of the City of London pledge ourselves to each other, and our country, that we will give our votes to no man who will not give the above pledges, and we earnestly recommend to our fellow electors in every part of the Kingdom to make and strictly to adhere to the same determination.
Neither the sense nor the stile [sic] of these resolutions were likely to recommend them to the adoption of any body of electors but their having laid them before the public somewhat increased the necessity for something better to be done.