19. [Add. Ms. 27790, ff. 8, 9 and 11. Following the rejection of the second
reform bill on 8 October 1831, Place wrote:]
Meetings were held on the saturday in many of the Metropolitan
Parishes and many more were called for the monday. The Parish of
Mary-le-bone had taken the lead respecting parliamentary interference for
the regulation of vestries, and had succeeded in inducing a considerable
number of parishes to appoint deputies to confer together in their mutual
interests, the persons who in that parish had assembled frequently appointed
a committee to watch over their interests and this committee now considered themselves a political committee in respect to the reform bill. They
assembled and being joined by a considerable number of the inhabitants
they issued the following notice.
The Lords have rejected the bill. England expects every man will do his duty.
The parishioners of Mary-le-Bone will assemble at the Horse Bazaar at
twelve o'clock on Monday next, to address the King, support his ministers and
consult on the present state of affairs. Pursuant to a resolution passed at two
preparatory meetings, the inhabitants are desired to devote Monday next
solemnly to these objects, to suspend all business and shut up their shops.
Long before the time appointed the capacious square of the Horse Bazaar
was not only filled but an immense number of persons—said to amount to
30,000 could not gain admittance. A call became general to adjourn to
Hyde Park and it was announced that Mr Hume who had agreed to take
the chair would meet them there. An orderly procession of the people
immediately took place and an immense number, estimated at 50,000 congregated in the open space north of the Serpentine River. They had come
nearly a mile to this spot and had waited some time when two gentlemen on
horseback rode among them and told them that Mr Hume thought the
meeting would be illegal if held out of the Parish and as Mr Maberly had
granted the use of a piece of ground in Regents Park they requested the
meeting would assemble there as speedily as possible. 'If any thing,'
observes the Chronicle (very justly)
could have cooled the ardour of the people, who however proved themselves
as ardent as patriotic, it was this demand upon their patience after waiting
above an hour at the Bazaar, and dragging through the Park for an hour more;
but nothing daunted they proceeded in good humour, to the Regents Park and
arrived there between one and two o'clock. Several waggons were placed at
the lower part of the grounds and the assembled multitude which before the
chair was taken must have amounted to 80,000 persons formed themselves on
the rising ground into a sort of semi-circle and the wind being in their faces, the
majority could hear the proceedings.
Mr Hume took the Chair (fn. 1)
Large Placards were exhibited, one was
Remember it was the Bishops—and the Bishops only
whose votes decided the fate of the
The other was—
expects that every man will
Mr Hume—said it was no ordinary occasion which had called them together,
and in the great and important measures they were about to discuss, every man
from the King to the Peasant had a deep interest. He knew they would act
peacably and orderly, and would not despair, as long as they had a Patriot
King, a liberal ministry, and a majority in favour of the measure. They would
tell the petty pitiful majority of the house of Lords that they had rights as
Englishmen as sacred as their own and that an oligarchy which had usurped
their rights should be compelled to relinquish their tyrannical power which
they had so long exercised against the people. He respected the words of Lord
Grey that he would stand by the people and the King so long as the King gave
him his confidence, said he reposed confidence in his sincerity, and though
ministers had not been so active in promoting the bill as they ought to have
been, he hoped they would profit by experience and not coquet with the Tories,
since it was vain to expect the tories could be induced to approve of measures
favourable to the people. He said there must be either reform or revolution
(immense cheering and cries of we will have it). It was because in case of a
revolution the working and useful classes would be the greatest sufferers that
he wished to effect a reform by constitutional means and hoped to avoid such
a revolution as the Duke of Wellington wished should take place. He knew the
people would not be drawn in to commit acts of violence (no—no) they would
protect the property of the country (we will).
Add. MS 27790, f.10
20. [Add. Ms. 27790, f. 13]
Some little explanation may here be necessary—the meeting was a meeting of the inhabitants of Mary le bone according to the notice which called
it together, but considerably more than half the persons present were of the
working classes from all parts of the town. Mr Savage and several others
who composed the so called Mary le Bone committee were understood to
be the promoters of the meeting and of these three or four were like himself
leaders in the National Union of the Working Classes. Mr Savage was
convinced that any attempt to procure more than the bill which had been
rejected would fail and he wished therefore to see the bill carried as a first
step to the more perfect reform he and others contemplated, but he was
unwilling to lose his power among those who were more obstinate and less
informed than himself by directly opposing their notions. He wished the
whole of the working people to withold for the present their usual propositions and to make common cause in favour of the Bill, and this he
effected to a very considerable extent. There had been a meeting of the non
conformist working people at which resolutions demanding universal
suffrage etc. had been voted, and he knowing he could not lead these men,
wished to lead all who were not associated with them, and this his speech
was better calculated to effect than any thing and every thing which had
hitherto been done. The proofs however of the efforts made to demonstrate
the consent of the working people to forego their claims and to support the
bill were incessant and the result was plainly shewn by the procession two
days after this meeting when the King held his levee at St James's.
21. [Add. Ms. 27790, f. 11]
The National Union of the Working Classes had on the Wednesday
evening preceeding the rejection of the bill by the Lords at their regular
weekly meeting, adopted a declaration etc.—and had placarded it until the
time the St Mary le Bone meeting was held.
[Here follows a newspaper cutting reporting the meeting]
Last Wednesday evening, a numerous meeting of the members of the
National Union of the working classes, took place at the Rotunda, Blackfriars-bridge.—Mr. Watson was called to the chair.
The adoption of the declaration issued by the Committee was moved by
Mr. Lovett, seconded by Mr. Cleave, in animated speeches, and carried unanimously.
'Declaration in behalf of the working classes by the committee of the
National Union.—We declare individual property of every description,
acquired by honest industry, or under the sanction of laws (however unjustly
enacted), to be sacred; and that we will, by every means in our power strive
to bring those to punishment, who seek individual wealth or gratification, by
an invasion of the rights of others, instead of promoting the public good.
'Although we are, in many respects, the victims of property and the slaves
of monopoly and individual wealth, yet we seek not redress in the chaos of
confusion, or an indiscriminate struggle for pre-eminence we are only anxious
that property should be turned into those channels which an enlightened legislature, chosen by all, should determine to be promotive of the happiness of all.
'We, therefore, assure all classes, not interested in existing corruptions, but
who are desirous of promoting the happiness of mankind, that we will cordially co-operate with them in resisting and opposing tyranny of every description! and in seeking to procure for this country such institutions as shall, in
the opinion of the majority, be deemed the most efficient to promote the greatest happiness of the greatest number.
'We further declare it to be our opinion, that the most safe, just, and honest
mode of obtaining this object, is, by choosing a legislature on the principle of
every man above the age of twenty-one having a vote—that he be protected by
the ballot—that patriotism and intelligence be the only qualification for both
electors and representatives, and that parliaments last but for one year.
'We, therefore, rely on the honest intentions of a Patriot King, and on his
Ministers, who, we trust, have the happiness and welfare of this kingdom at
heart; and not their own exclusive privileges and distinctions; and we hereby
call upon them to unite their solicitations with those of a loyal people, so
urging upon his Majesty forthwith, to take such measures as will lead with the
least delay to the attainment of this just system of representation.'
The following resolution was moved by Mr. Gast, seconded by Mr. Benbow,
and carried unanimously:—
'That this meeting, duly impressed with the importance of the present crisis,
do hereby declare to the King's ministers and the country, that they will not
be satisfied with any future measure for improving the Representation, which
does not recognize the just right of every man to the elective franchise, the
protection of the ballot, and no property qualification whatever, and in the
expression of these sentiments we only echo the feelings of our fellow-labourers
in all parts of the country.'
22. [Add. Ms. 27790, ff. 22-5]
In many places, the working people had withdrawn the claims they had
made for annual parliaments and universal suffrage, with voting by ballot
and had agreed to support the bill. But as has been noticed, the National
Union of the Working Classes in London, had published a declaration
against conceding any thing, had placarded the town with their address,
and had called upon their fellow workmen all over the country to join with
The National Union was composed of a very small body; not so many as
five hundred out of the many thousands which London contained were
actually members of it; though the payment was but a halfpenny a week for
a card, which admitted any person to a meeting and constituted him a
member for one week. In the agitated state in which the people had been and
still were the weekly meetings of this Union at the Rotunda on the Surry
[sic] side of Blackfriars bridge were numerously attended and it sometimes
happened that many who could not obtain admission made a crowd about
the entrance, all who attended were inconsiderately classed as members and
the society was supposed to be very numerous. The leaders were not more
than twenty persons and they never at any time had more money at command than would pay their current expenses. So little indeed were the real
circumstances of this union known that it was very generally supposed a
vast majority of the working people in London were members and that
they were under the control of its managers.
The bill having been rejected it was much feared that the working classes
all over the country would take advantage of the circumstances and say
we have hitherto refrained from insisting on our claims to Annual Parliaments, Universal Suffrage and voting by Ballott [sic], to accomodate [sic]
ourselves to the times and that we might be no impediment to the passing
of the Reform Bill. That Bill is lost and we are no longer disposed to concede anything, we will now insist upon our 'rights'—they can be as easily
procured as can a limited suffrage which excludes us.
This apprehension had great effect on many people, who feared that a
division of interests would give great advantage to the tories and with the
other obstacles before them either set aside all chance of reform, and produce convulsion, or break down the ministerial project to something not
worthy of acceptance. These were not unreasonable apprehensions.
Many well informed men among the working classes were indignant at
being classed with the 'Rotunda people' and were with a vast many others
desirous to shew their dissent from the proceedings of that body, and their
concurrence in the reform bill. I saw many of them who from time to time
complained of the conduct of the union, and I always advised them to get
up meetings, trade meetings and meetings of working men indiscriminately;
declare their opinions that they were competent to act as citizens and exercise
the rights which Annual Parliaments, Universal Suffrage and voting by
Ballot would secure to them, but that under the present circumstances of the
country and the government, they were willing to suspend any demand for
those rights, and were ready to support the Government in any way which
could be necessary to promote the passing of the Reform Bill. Many were
well disposed to assist in doing what I recommended, but none were willing to
take the lead.
On sunday the ninth of October I had many people with me of which
some notice will be taken presently. In the afternoon when I was alone
there came to me, a very respectable looking man, Thomas Bowyer. I had
heard of him and was desirous to see him; he was a journeyman bookseller,
he introduced himself, and told me that he in conjunction with an attorneys
clerk named Powell had a project to get up a great meeting of the working
classes and others to form a procession and present to the King at his
Levee to be held on the wednesday following an address from the working
classes and others resident in as many parishes as time would allow them to
consult and arrange with for that purpose. That the address should pledge
the working people to stand by the King—his ministers the House of
Commons and the Bill. He laid his scheme before me and I encouraged
him all I could to proceed with it, gave him a circular note with the names
of many persons to whom he might shew it, as well for pecuniary aid as for
personal assistance and reference to others—and especially seperate [sic]
notes to every person I knew who was at all influential in conducting the
daily papers, requesting them to insert notices and laudatory paragraphs;
and I recommended Bowyer to see and converse with them immediately. He
and his friend Powell did so and obtained all the support they desired, and
the project was immediately made public.
I gave him a note to Mr Young, Lord Melbournes private secretary,
advised him to communicate freely with Young, but to tell him he did not
come for either advice, approbation—or disapprobation—as he had
resolved to go through with the business, and to let him know that the
whole of it would be conducted in an orderly discreet way so that no one
need fear any disagreeable results. This was done and when I saw Mr Young
I repeated what I had said to Bowyer and advised him to keep the Police
and the Soldiers out of sight. I told him there would be a great mob at the
Palace whether there were or were not a procession, and that some mischief
in the way of breaking windows would probably take place, as had always
happened at times of great excitement, but that the men who went in procession would be much more disposed to prevent than to promote mischief.
I wrote to every member of Parliament I knew, informed him of what was
going on and requested him to subscribe a trifle to pay the expenses which
would be incurred.
Bowyer and Powell having devoted themselves to the business, proceeded
with it in a very extraordinary manner as the narrative of Mr Powell will
23. [Add. Ms. 27790, ff. 39-47. Place had written to Powell for an account
of the procession to assist him in completing his narrative of political
events. The following is as Place transcribed it from the original.]
Mr Powells account of the Procession 22 May 1834
To state briefly the multitude of events which were crowded into the
small space of time to which you refer is matter of some difficulty, but, I
will endeavour to make my personal narrative, which is I believe what you
require, as sussinct [sic] as possible.
I must premise that for some time previous to the period in question I
had in conjunction with Bowyer and some others got up a reform association in the parish of Bloomsbury, which though small was very active and
useful especially in the way of propagandism, and which subsequently
merged in the National Political Union.
On the morning of the 8 Oct. 1831 I was compelled to go down to
Gravesend by the Steamer and thence to Chatham. Before I started I
obtained in the City a copy of the Sun Newspaper published at half past
6 o clock, fringed with black, and announcing the loss of the peoples bill in
the house of Lords by the frightful majority of 41. Never shall I forget the
excitement which prevailed in the breast of every one at hearing the news.
The morning papers were not out, the boat was crowded and the passengers
were conversing in groups on the deck on rumours which had reached their
ears. I was the only person on board who possessed anything like an authentic account, and, when the paper with a black border was seen in my
hand, the passengers rushed towards me, I was instantly mounted on a
chair and compelled to read the debate through from beginning to end. The
excitement, the disapprobation, and approbation of the several speakers
were as energetic as they could have been had they been the actual spectators of the scene which the report described. The denunciations against the
Bishops were fearful, and when I came to Lord Greys noble declaration
that he would not abandon the helm of affairs as long as he could be useful
to his King and his country the very shores of old father Thames reechoed
the reiterated shouts of applause. A kind of meeting followed in which
most of the persons present declared their determination to return to town
that evening, to stir in their respective parishes, and above all to pay no
taxes unless measures were taken to carry an efficient Reform Bill. I hurried
through my business, hastened to town the same evening, and found as I
expected the rooms of the association crowded with members. A strong
petition to the King was carried, calling on him to retain his Ministers—to
dismiss the Bishops—to create new Peers, in short to do any thing to carry
the bill. I told them that petitions would be useless, that the Tories had the
upper hand and would keep it, and that the moral power of the people
could be of no avail unless we gave the King and the Tories reason to expect
it would be backed by a tolerable portion of physical power. I urged them
to go up with their petition to the King themselves, and to use all their
influence to prevail with the various parishes in London to do the same.
My proposal met with a very cold reception. It was argued that the undertaking was too vast for persons having no influence, such as we were, to
accomplish it and that the intervening space of time, from Saturday night
to Wednesday morning was too short for any effectual demonstration to
be made, and that a small shew in point of numbers would rather injure
than promote our cause. This I may as well once for all observe was the
difficulty, started afterwards wherever I went. It was the most serious
difficulty I had to encounter. The character of the English is in this respect
very different from that of the French, Englishmen are generally reluctant
to make any attempt, unless they see an immediate prospect of success, but
when they have once made up their minds to an attempt they are more
energetic in following it up; but unless they see that the chances are greatly
with them, the fear of encountering ridicule for making an abortive effort
damps their energies and prevents their acting. The french are the reverse,
and hence their progress is more rapid than ours.
I contended against the objection with all my might, I urged that nothing
was impossible to the determined, and that it was not a question of our
insignificance but of the state and feelings of the people, and that a spark
which under some circumstances would be useless, would under others be
alone sufficient to explode a powder magazine. I was warmly seconded by
Bowyer, but the utmost we could accomplish was permission on our own
responsibility to endeavour to bring it about.
We accordingly started on our pilgrimage, and from that moment 'till
wednesday we scarcely had an hours rest.
I cannot detail our proceedings in the order they occurred, nor indeed
the whole of them. Our first object was to visit leading reformers in the
different parishes to suggest the matter to them, and also to start it through
the press by means of paragraphs. Here again we had the same difficulties
to encounter, and another arising from the variety of the leaders who did
not like any interference. This we got over, by arguing that our views were
disinterested and that we sought no notoriety, we urged them to put forward the project as their own. We did the same with the men in the parishes
and piqued their pride by advising them not to be outdone by other parishes.
We were successful and on sunday night became assured that the proposal
would be supported by many at several parish meetings on Monday and
Tuesday. We had also made some arrangements for a sort of committee.
On the same evening we heard there was to be a meeting at Bethnal Green.
A large and influential meeting of the working classes of that district.
Whither we went and addressed them. We found that many of them were
bitten with the Rotunda notions, and would do nothing unless we would
forego the Reform Bill, and demand at once Annual Parliaments, Universal
Suffrage and Voting by Ballot. I explained that we looked upon the Reform
Bill as a stepping stone to these things, and we at length prevailed by creating a considerable diversion in my favour, numbers expressed their determination to attend, one or two of the leaders undertook to lay the matter
before a parish meeting which was to be held, and on the day of the procession about 5000 of the inhabitants of Bethnal Green and its neighbourhood
joined us in Portland Place.
In Clerkenwell, my own parish, though no housekeeper, we were more
successful. We had previously in our character of propagandists converted a
Parochial reform association held on Clerkenwell Green into a Political
Reform association, and this was the lever by which we moved that Parish.
We called a meeting for monday, at which meeting the room could not
contain us, and we were obliged to adjourn to the Green. Here all the propositions we made were carried, with the greatest enthusiasm and arrangements were made, for meeting again on the Green on Wednesday morning.
On tuesday the Parish meeting in favour of the Bill was held, but the Parish
Officers being opposed to the parochial reformers tried to set aside the main
proposition. They refused even the use of the Parish crier or bell-man. We
therefore placarded the parish—got a dustmens bell went round the parish
ourselves on tuesday evening, announcing the meeting and the procession
and calling on other parishes to attend. By the time we cleared the parish
the next morning we were 10,000 strong.
In St Lukes Old Street we met with no difficulty. We called on several
of the leaders who embraced our proposition with eagerness. Their bell
man was instantly sent round to summon a parish meeting. The Reverend
Dr Rice the Rector took the chair. The Churchwardens supported the
proposition and it was carried unanimously. The next day the Rev'd. Dr
Rice followed the Parochial Authorities on Horseback and led the St
Lukes procession which joined the Clerkenwell association in Claremont
Square Pentonville and with them marched down Portland Place, the
rendezvous for the Northern Parishes. Several other parishes in that
neighbourhood which we had excited to attend, which sent detachments to
us, but the meetings in parishes we were unable to attend. We had a large
body from the parish of St Mary Islington.
In St James Westminster and the adjoining parishes, we were after some
difficulty successful. In them we did not appear, but only consulted with the
leaders, leaving them to make their own arrangements. They and also the
Bloomsbury people joined us at the bottom of Regent Street.
The southern parishes, the last of which was St Mary Newington managed
their own business in the same way. They also fell in at the bottom of
Regent Street at the same time that the Mayor and Corporation of the City
of London reached the spot.
The most formidable part of the procession came perhaps from the
parishes which constitute the great borough of Mary le bone viz Mary le
bone Paddington and Pancrass [sic]. With these Parishes we also had some
difficulty on account as well of the reasons I have alluded to as of an internal
jealousy among themselves. At last however we succeeded, by arguing with
the leaders and by addressing the committees of these three parishes.
Mr Thelwall, was one of these and he too was at first against us, but he
afterwards yeilded [sic] to the reasons we urged, and to confidence conferred by deputies from various other parishes whom I induced to meet
them. In this district Major Revell was of infinite service. The result was
that the proposition being made to a great meeting of these parishes was
received with immense applause. On the wednesday morning the procession
from these parishes joined us in Portland Place in number of 20,000 to
25,000. There may perhaps have been other parishes in the procession but
they must have been worked on by example and by the paragraphs in the
The numbers of the procession were variously estimated by the newspapers at from 70,000 to 300,000—I think about 70,000 is near the truth,
but taking into consideration the crowds which met and accompanied us on
the line of march there might have been nearer 500,000. All the windows of
the streets through which we passed were crowded with spectators the
greater part of whom were elegantly dressed ladies, and Ribbons—Flowers
—and Cockades were frequently showered upon us as we passed, accompanied with loud cheers waving of handkerchiefs and expressions of sympathy.
At many points of the road we were saluted with bands of music, some
playing the dead march, others God save the King—and Rule Brittannia
[sic]. Church bells tolled out as we passed. Flags and other items were hung
out and with the exception of the mere City most of the Shop windows were
closed, and business was suspended even in the private streets.
The march of so many citizens of the Metropolis to present petitions in
person, and to wait until they had an answer; for that was our expressed
determination; was not however viewed at the palace without alarm.
Mr Hume and Mr Byng were requested by a high personage to meet us,
which they did, and prevailed on the deputies to forego their original
intention of claiming personal admission to the King, and to entrust them
with their addresses, they promising to return an answer, it being arranged
that the procession should wait in the Park in St James's Square, and the
neighbouring streets. That a certain number of deputies from each of the
Parishes should be admitted into the square in front of the Palace to communicate with the county members.
The favourable reception the King gave to the addresses and the enthusiasm of the people when made acquainted with it by the communication
thereof through Mr Hume and Mr Byng, I need not describe to you who
have had so much experience of their feelings on the Reform question.
The greatest order prevailed throughout, which shews I think that for
young soldiers we were not bad generals, we had arranged that the files
should be six, eight, or ten abreast and that each flank man should be
known and responsible for the order of his file, and the consequence as was
universally admitted was, that spite of the excitement which prevailed not a
single disorder was committed by the persons composing the procession,
unless indeed it can be called disorder to groan or cheer as the files passed
by the houses of the friends or enemies to the Bill. Among the former the
Duke of Cleveland was particularly well received.
Much too of the prudent conduct observed was owing to the equally
prudent conduct of the Government. We had previously received a message
from the police intimating that they knew we were the promoters of the
scheme, and requesting to know our opinions on the propriety of employing the police force. We told them there was no danger if they would only
keep the Police out of sight, and let all who did appear be in coloured
cloaths. This advice was adopted and the result shewed its prudence.
The only disorders of the day were the attacks on the Marquess of
Londonderry in the afternoon, this was by a mob with which we had no
connection, and which he much provoked by his ridiculous display of
pistols. And on the houses of the Duke of Wellington and the Marquess of
Bristol. Both were by mobs and not by the procession. The procession did
not go near the Duke of Wellingtons, and the men belonging to the procession actually seized those who threw stones at Lord Bristols windows and
delivered them over to the Police.
There was a slight attempt by the Police and Soldiery who formed a line
across the end of Pall Mall to prevent our progress but the attempt was as
vain as were Mrs Partingtons endeavours to mop out the atlantic. They
prudently gave way and the procession filed off part into the Park, part up
St. James's Street and to different parts to await the answer to their
addresses. When that answer was obtained they quietly left the ground and
returned to their parishes by different routes.
For my own part exhausted almost to fainting by the excessive fatigue
and excitement of both body and mind I had undergone for four days, but
which till the task had been fully accomplished I had never felt, I threw
myself into a coach and went home to recruit my strength by necessary rest.
This is the scant history of that memorable event without which I have
heard it said by many well informed persons the present ministry would have
been certainly thrown out and the Tories would have triumphed a second
It was a bold and a hazardous experiment, for our personal responsibility in case of a riot was very great. No such thing had occurred either
before or since, for the class of persons comprising the procession were
respectable house-keepers, shop-keepers and superior artizans, the bone
and muscle of a nation.
There was at this time no general union; each parish acted seperately,
and even the leaders did not come into communication with one another.
Unless therefore we had acted judiciously in keeping ourselves in the background and acting only as the medium of communication between them,
we never could have prevailed on them to recognise the possibility of such
It has taught me a lesson. It has taught me that in speculating on human
nature despight [sic] of forms and customs we can never err. It has taught
me that no man is too insignificant to serve his country, or to promote the
march of great events. Above all it has taught me the truth of a creed I was
before disposed to entertain, that to the energetic determined and persevering nothing is impossible.
Few knew the secret springs of that great metropolitan movement. It is
perhaps a curious chapter in the history of life, and one which strikingly
illustrates the excited and combustible state of society at that period, for I
repeat that few things more repugnant to the general habits, customs and
prejudices of the middle classes of London than walking through the streets
in a procession can scarcely be conceived, and yet we the promoters were
young and unknown men. I have sometimes jestingly said, that if the
ministry had any consideration for their old supporters the least they could
do would be to offer me the first good place that became vacant.
John H. Powell.
24. [Add. Ms. 27790, ff. 54-9]
The meeting [on 12 October 1831] was held in pursuance of the resolution passed at the great Mary le bone meeting on the 10th by which 'the
committees and delegates of the various parishes and wards be requested to
assemble at the Crown and Anchor Tavern in the Strand on wednesday
evening Oct. 12 at 6 o clock to consult on the best means of giving effectual
support to the King and Government, and on the measures necessary to
secure the peace and safety of the metropolis.' . . .
In the evening at 5 o clock I attended at the Crown and Anchor Tavern
to meet Mr Perry Major Beauclerk and two others for the purpose of
concocting a scheme for a Metropolitan Political Union on a large scale, to
amalgamate as much as possible all classes without distinction. It was
proposed to construct it as much as possible on the plan of the Birmingham
Union omitting only such matters as related to the particular views of
Mr Attwood respecting the currency. Soon after 6 o clock we were requested to go up stairs to a meeting of delegates from certain parishes who
were assembled in consequence of the Mary le bone resolution.
The room in which the meeting was held was a very long room with
tables down the middle at each side of which about twenty or twenty-five
persons were seated, behind these close to the walls were other chairs, also
filled with people; at the top on each side of the fire place and behind the
chairman as well as at the bottom of the room were chairs—two or three
deep and all occupied, on each side of the chair were a number of persons
standing, upon the whole the number must have exceeded one hundred. On
our entrance chairs were given to Major Beauclerk, Mr Perry and myself
about the middle on one side of the table. Mr Potter of Mary le bone was
in the chair, and Mr Drake of Paddington was acting as secretary. The
coversation was desultory. No one appeared to have thought of what was
proper to be done, none seemed to entertain any notion respecting any
precise mode of proceeding, all who spoke talked vaguely of being firm,—
that is, as a working man at one of the public meetings said, 'staring at the
Government,—staring at the Government firmly.' After much talking some
one proposed, 'that it be recommended to Counties Cities Boroughs and
Towns to appoint persons to meet forthwith in London to consider of the
best means of giving support to the King and his ministers for the passing
of Lord John Russells Bill, for reforming the house of commons! This
absurd proposal led to a long discussion in which Mr Merle took a conspicuous part, his purpose was to prevent any thing being done, confidence
he said was to be placed in Ministers who would of themselves do every
thing which ought to be done. In this opinion several concurred, and some
most ridiculous nonsense was uttered, one had been to St James's, another
had seen an eminent commoner who had said something, another had seen
a noble lord who had also said something, and therefore full reliance was to
be placed in ministers—and the King was firm, and therefore again they had
nothing to do but to use means to preserve the peace of the Metropolis; all
were abroad and some seemed bewildered, suggestion upon suggestion was
made, all to no purpose. Some of the really good and clever men who were
present were vexed and ashamed to see men who were usually shrewd and
energetic so completely deluded and stultified.
Several of these gentlemen were so offended by the proceedings that they
were indisposed to take part in them. It appeared, to them, that nothing
could be done at this meeting, that as soon as the intention to prorogue the
parliament should be generally believed, the whole matter would be abandoned, and it was with some difficulty I persuaded them to remain, and
compelled me in order to keep them in their seats to address the meeting.
I said I should concur in the resolution of confidence proposed by some of
the gentlemen who had called the meeting, if I like them were satisfied that
ministers would act in the manner they concluded they would, but that I
felt no assurance that they would do any one of the things they so confidently anticipated. That I could not help believing that if things were left
in their present state, to their guidance with the apparent consent of the
people we should never again see Lord John Russells bill in the House of
Commons.—That no new Peers would be made,—That parliament would
be prorogued 'till after Christmas, and they might easily estimate themselves
the chances there were of the whole of their expectations becoming disappointed. That I would state several circumstances which would probably
convince them that the view I had taken of the matter was a correct one,
that at any rate I would state such facts, and lay before them such reasons
as would prove I did not speak inadvisedly. I did so at some length, and this
set the matter right. I pointed out to them the passage in the Chancellors
speech which seemed to imply backsliding and had produced a suspicion
that there were disagreements in the cabinet. I commented on the passage
and on another in a speech of Lord Althorpe's made only two days previously in which he said, 'I do not mean to say that after the discussions and
consideration the measure has gone through, some modification may not be
made in it which without diminishing its efficacy may render it more perfect.'
That I had had two communications with one of Lord Althorpes confidential friends, and more than one with a gentleman in office, and from what I
had gathered from these two gentlemen I was compelled to conclude that
the statement I had made was correct. I reasoned on all the parts as correctly
and put the points forward as forcibly as I could, I was cheered as I went
on, the whole appearance of the meeting was changed, and the business went
at once into the right channel.
Mr Merle again interposed and while he was speaking I was dictating to
Mr Perry the substance of two or three resolutions. When Mr Merle had
concluded his exhortation, Mr Rogers, of St Giles, rose at the bottom of
the table and without either preface or ceremony said, I move that Mr
Place do now draw up a memorial to Lord Grey. The proposition was
received with shouts of applause. It would have been about as useless as
absurd for me to have either refused or hesitated, so I immediately wrote as
'To the Right Honourable Earl Grey etc. etc.
The memorial of the undersigned
That your memorialists are resident in various parishes of the Metropolis,
and have considerable knowledge and some influence in their respective
That they have heard with astonishment that it is intended to prorogue
the Parliament, and not to reassemble it again 'till after Christmas.
That they should neither do their duty to themselves, to their country,
nor to the Government itself, if they did not assure your lordship, that it is
their firm conviction that unless the parliament be prorogued for the shortest
possible period of time, (fn. 2) (not exceeding seven days) and that the bill for
reforming the parliament which has passed the house of commons, and been
rejected by the house of lords, be then again introduced and the necessary
means be adopted to secure its becoming the law of the land, this country
will inevitably be plunged into all the horrors of a violent revolution, the
result of which no one can predict.
Your memorialists therefore most urgently implore your lordships
immediate attention to this memorial.'
The memorial was immediately carried by shouts—and while a fair copy
was being made, the following resolutions were agreed to—
1. That this meeting has heard with feelings of dismay that it is intended
to prorogue the parliament until after Christmas.
2. That this meeting composed principally of deputies from various
parishes in the Metropolis is confident that the state of feeling in their
respective parishes is of such a nature as to render a prorogation for
so long a period of imminent and instant danger to the lives and
properties of his Majestys subjects.
3. That this meeting urge upon his majestys government the necessity of
immediately proroguing and reassembling the parliament, within
seven days, so as to enable them to reintroduce Lord John Russells
bill without delay.
4. That a memorial be written to Lord Grey founded on the above
5. That the memorial now read be adopted and signed by the gentlemen
6. That the memorial be conveyed to Earl Grey tonight by a deputation
to consist of one gentleman from each parish.
7. That the thanks of this meeting be given to Mr Thomas Potter for
his conduct in the chair.
Adjourned 'till friday at 7 p.m. in the same place.
Joseph Drake Hon. Sec.
As soon as a fair copy of the memorial was made it was handed round
for the signatures of the persons present, and they who were to go as a
deputation were named. It was then asked at what time the memorial should
be presented when Mr Carpue said instantly, this was assented to by
acclamation, and the 5th resolution was accordingly passed.
The moment the resolution was passed two gentlemen who had been
seated against the wall behind the chairman, in the darkest part of the room
and before whom others had been standing rose and with Mr Merle left the
room. I had no doubt then, I have had none since, that the two gentlemen
were there from the Treasury, and that they with Mr Merle went to Earl
Grey and informed him of all the particulars.