Papers: 1831

Pages 34-48

London Radicalism 1830-1843: A Selection of the Papers of Francis Place. Originally published by London Record Society, London, 1970.

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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 Reform Bill

The other was—

England expects that every man will do His Duty

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).

Handbill 1

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 them.

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 shew.

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 newspaper.

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 time.

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 an undertaking.

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 follows.

'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 localities.

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 resolutions.

5. That the memorial now read be adopted and signed by the gentlemen present.

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.


  • 1. See Handbill 1.
  • 2. Parliament was recalled on 6 December.