London Radicalism 1830-1843: A Selection of the Papers of Francis Place. Originally published by London Record Society, London, 1970.
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36. [Add. Ms. 27791, ff. 147-8]
Feb'y 8 The new Council assembled
Mr Rogers in the chair and 42 councillors
Mr Detrosier was appointed secretary for the ensuing year. A business committee of nine members was also chosen. In consequence of efforts making by some of the members to promote a public dinner on the day appointed by proclamation for a general fast, Mr Howell moved
'That a public dinner of the members of this union on the day which is commanded by his majesty's proclamation to be observed as a fast would operate prejudicially to the objects proposed by this institution.'
An amendment was moved in the following words
'That this council will not countenance any proposition for a dinner of the members of the union as such on the day set apart for a general fast.'
The amendment was carried.
37. [Add. Ms. 27791, ff. 376-8. Place's printed copy of the comments of the Poor Man's Guardian on the proclamation for a general fast, 11 February 1832.]
Friends, Brethren and Fellow-Countrymen,
When we first heard of a General Fast, we thought that Perceval was a madman; but it seems we must have been mistaken in our opinion, or else the government are suffering under the same mental delusion as himself; as witness the following:
Monday, Feb. 6
By the King
A Proclamation for a General Fast
We, taking into our most serious consideration the dangers with which this country is threatened by the progress of a grievous disease, heretofore unknown in these islands, have resolved, and do, by and with the advice of our Privy Council, hereby command that a public day of fasting and humiliation be observed throughout those parts of the united kingdom called England and Ireland, on Wednesday the 21st day of March next ensuing, that so both we and our people may humble ourselves before Almighty God, in order to obtain pardon of our sins, and, in the most devout and solemn manner, send up our prayers and supplications to the Divine Majesty for averting those heavy judgments which our manifold provocations have most justly deserved; and particularly beseeching God to remove from us that grievous disease with which several places in the kingdom are at this time visited: and we do strictly charge and command, that the said public fast be reverently and devoutly observed by all our loving subjects in England and Ireland, as they tender the favour of Almighty God, and would avoid his wrath and indignation and upon pain of such punishment as may be justly inflicted on all such as contemn and neglect the performance of so religious and necessary a duty: and for the better and more orderly solemnizing the same, we have given directions to the Most Reverend the Archbishop and the Right Reverend the Bishops of England and Ireland, to compose a form of prayer suitable to this occasion, to be used in all churches, chapels, and places of public worship, and to take care that the same be timely dispersed throughout their respective dioceses.
Given at our Court at St. James's, this 6th day of February, 1832, and in the second year of our reign.
God save the King.
On the 6 feb'y at the meeting of the [National] Union [of the Working Classes] a resolution was adopted (fn. 1)
That this meeting hope that on the day appointed for a general fast (or sooner, if the people think fit), all sinecurists, placemen, and extortioners, whether in Church or State, who are now living in luxury and extravagance, upon the taxes drained from starving industry, may be made to disgorge and give up their ill-gotten plunder, as a humiliation to themselves, and a peace-offering to this patient and long-suffering nation.
Some of the members proposed a feast on the fast day.
On the 20 feb'y at a meeting of the Union 'Mr Watson announced, the intention of having a procession on the fast day to make a display, not only of their numbers, but of their destitution, peaceably but publicly. He deprecated all violence as the conduct of a mob and not of thoughtful and sensible men'. The information was received with cheers.
On the 17th March notice was given in the Poor Mans Guardian thus. General Fast, on Wednesday at 11 o'clock the members and their friends will assemble in Finsbury Square from whence the whole will start in procession. 'Be soberly, be orderly for your enemy the devil goeth about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour.'
James Osborne Sec.
38. [Add. Ms. 27791, ff. 381-2. Place's copy of the Morning Chronicle's comments.]
Precautionary measures of government to prevent tumults this day 21 March 1831.
The determination of the meeting held on monday night to call together the Union of the Working Classes, to move in procession through the streets of the metropolis in defiance of the Proclamation to the contrary has caused a considerable sensation in the public mind, and great fears are entertained, that among the anticipated thousands who are expected to assemble at the rendezvous in Finsbury Square this morning many will be found with a predisposition to create tumult and disorder. We hope these fears will prove groundless and that the day will pass over in as peaceable a manner as the promoters of the intended procession anticipate it will. To secure the public peace and suppress any disposition to riot extensive arrangements have been made by the Commissioners of Police. Upwards of 4,000 men will be quartered in different parts of the Metropolis under the command of their respective superintendents and inspectors. In Finsbury— Spital Fields—and at all the chief station houses at the east end, detachments of 400 and 500 men are ordered to assemble. The Kings Mews, Palace Yard, and Waterloo place, with Hyde Park and other stations at the west end will contain large numbers of the Police, all of whom are to take up their respective quarters before ten o clock this morning. All the ward constables throughout the City of London have received instructions to be in attendance at stipulated places and another description of force we understand has received orders to hold themselves in readiness to preserve the peace of the metropolis should it be menaced. The police offices will be closed, but all the officers of the various establishments have been required to attend. Magistrates belonging to the various offices will also be in attendance, to act if necessary.
39. [Add. Ms. 27791, f. 390. Place's printed copy of the Poor Man's Guardian's account of the procession, 24 March 1832.]
Our readers are already aware, that a few days since the Committee of the National Union of the Working Classes issued a placard, calling upon the latter to meet them at Finsbury Square, for the purpose of walking round the metropolis in procession, and enjoying the fresh air. Immediately on the publication of this placard, however, a counter one was issued by Government, cautioning the people to abstain from joining any of these tumultuous assemblages.
Notwithstanding this, the Union, it would appear, determined to meet, and various notices were issued, calling on the people to assemble in Finsbury Square. Soon after eight o'clock in the morning, in pursuance of these notices, a considerable number of persons began to assemble in Finsbury Square, and to increase in numbers up to eleven o'clock, when there could not have been less than 20,000 men of the Political Unions alone present. The streets leading in every direction towards the Square presented immense masses of people moving towards it; and it is no overstatement to say that there were at least 100,000 persons on foot in connection with the object of the procession. Between eleven and twelve o'clock, the Committee of the Union, which had assembled at the Philadelphian Universalist Chapel, in Windmill Street, Finsbury, headed the people, who formed themselves into a procession, three or four abreast. They then commenced moving, and in the memory of the oldest inhabitants in the metropolis, there has not been so great a mass of people seen marching in procession and order through this part of the town. The leaders, who had a perfect command over the great body, consisted of five or six individuals, amongst whom were Mr Hetherington, the Editor of The Poor Man's Guardian, Mr Lovett, and Mr Watson.
Up to the hour of moving, we did not in the immense mass observe a single drunken man, or any disorderly spirit. Quiet and order seemed to be the wish of every man, and a peaceable display of the power of the people was apparently the object of the meeting. Having commenced the movement, the procession directed its course towards the City Road along the south and east sides of Finsbury Square, thence through Sun Street into Bishopsgate Street, from whence they turned down Cornhill, and proceeded along Newgate and Skinner Streets, thence down Farringdon Street, and up Fleet Street, towards Temple Bar. Up to this time there appeared not to be the smallest indication of riot or disturbance. Not a single individual was in possession of even a stick. On reaching Temple Bar, a party of police was drawn across the street, on the west side, armed with their staves, and the cutlasses already alluded to, for the purpose of preventing the procession moving westward. The supposed object which the body had for wishing to pass through the Bar, was to reach Palace Yard by that route, in which place it was understood they had some notion of forming themselves into a condensed mass again, and thence to disperse to their homes. Seeing, however, that their progress was resisted, the procession retrograded, and turned its course up Chancery Lane, and into Holborn, where they were also met by another body of Police, who showed the same intention to prevent them from advancing westward; but here, as at Temple Bar, the concourse was again directed by its leaders, who directed its course from this point towards Gray's Inn Lane. From Gray's Inn Lane they proceeded up the King's Road, where they were again met by the police. Guildford Street was next attempted, and having passed through Lamb's Conduit Street and Great Ormond Street, they arrived in Queen Square. They next proceeded down Gloucester Street, but being met there also by the police they returned to Queen Square, and again through Great Ormond Street into Brunswick Square. They reached, through Hunter Street, the New Road, and then proceeded unmolested to Tottenham Court Road, having scouts before them to give notice whenever the police were seen approaching through any of the cross streets. The procession in its progress towards this place acquired considerable strength, every street pouring forth its contribution; hundreds of women followed in its train, each attaching herself to her friend or husband.
All the persons composing the procession were in excellent spirits, and they frequently called on those who lagged in the rear to hasten forward. These cries were at times intermingled with cheers, and now and then an excitement was caused by the exclamation of the outscouts, 'Here come the police!' The leaders, on this, turned round, and frequently exhorted their followers to be peaceable, and on no account to commit a breach of the peace. The eyes of the whole metropolis, perhaps the whole country, were upon them, and they should not disgrace themselves. Cheers and exclamations of assent followed such addresses. Sometimes a member of the procession would express a fear that the police and the military would resort to harsh measures, and cut them down with their swords. The leaders, and some of the leading members, endeavoured to repress such fears, and said if they committed no breach of the law—and surely it was none to walk the streets quietly—the police would not interfere. In this way the procession which quietly acceded to the measures of the police in preventing their progress through certain streets, went on until it reached Tottenham Court Road.
Just before the procession reached Howland Street, the out scouts came running back in breathless haste, with the intelligence that a large party of the police were concealed in one of the bye-streets. On hearing this, the advanced part of the procession, which the leaders again exhorted to be careful lest they allowed their passions to lead them into a breach of the peace, pushed hastily on. A small portion passed Howland Street before the police, who were stationed in Howland Street, could throw themselves across the road, in order to prevent the further passage of the procession. In consequence of their not being prepared for the steady advance of the procession, they were only enabled to make their passage through the first part, and prevent the further advance of the rear of the procession. When the Members of the Union were thus divided, and whilst the police were certainly in an awkward position, of which no advantage was taken, a pause of a few moments took place, the rear of the police stopping, and driving back, as well as they could, any straggler who attempted to pass in the way which they were disposed to prevent them from going. At length the head of the phalanx took off their hats, and having cheered their companions in the rear, they answered to the call by a rush forward, by which they broke the line of the police, and the procession was again united.
In consequence of this movement, a conflict took place between the police who were still near the advanced part of the procession and the members of the Union. The staves of the policemen (who at this part of the town were not armed) were freely used, and stones and other missiles were thrown from various directions. Several of the police were wounded, and a number of individuals received serious injuries from the truncheons of the constables before the affray terminated and the parties dispersed. Seven persons, who were considered to be most active in urging the others to resist the police, were taken into custody, and conveyed, amidst the most deafening yells, to Albany Street station house. The confusion that at one time prevailed, with the shrieks of a number of women who had followed the procession, caused the utmost alarm to exist in the minds of the inhabitants, who crowded every window from which a view of the scene could be obtained.
By the advice of some of the parties in the procession, the whole body were drawn into North Crescent, where one of the leaders addressed them nearly in the following words:— 'Gentlemen—You have this day shown the country your united strength, and you have conducted yourselves like peaceable, well-disposed men. Having now effected your object, I would now advise you to disperse, and to retire immediately to your respective homes.'
He then, with his friends, withdrew, and the crowd quietly dispersed.
[Lovett, Watson and Benbow, as the leaders, were later arrested for creating a disturbance but were acquitted on trial.]
40. [Add. Ms. 27792, ff. 12-17]
On the 14 March . . . motion was made [at the National Political Union] That the business committee be directed to propose a petition in energetic terms, calling upon the house of lords to pass the reform bill in its present state.
The motion gave rise to a vehement and long discussion, one party contending that timely measures ought to be taken, in every possible way to prevent the lords rejecting the bill, and that petitions which shewed the disposition and determination of the people would have their effect. Another party contended that petitioning the house of Lords would be worse than useless, in as much as such petitions tended to mislead the people by inducing them to believe their petitions would be attended to when it was well known to the council that they would have no attention whatever paid to them, that they neither produced any results on the peers nor were at all regarded by the aristocracy, who utterly despised the people, and persuaded themselves that they had the power in their hands by means of the soldiers to compel submission to whatever they might wish, and were eager to use the means. Several members of the council were of opinion that the lords would wilfully drive the matter to a desperate issue and have it decided by brute force, that it was therefore necessary to have the matter well understood by the whole body of the people, who could whenever they pleased put down the aristocracy.
The agitation caused by the motion was extreme, and as several desired to deliver their opinions, who could not on that evening be heard, the question was adjourned to the next meeting of the council. . . .
At the council of the National Political Union on the 21, Mr Churchill (barrister) was in the Chair and there were present thirty six other members of the council and an auditory of about 300 members of the union, the seats would not hold the audience and the space occupied by the council of the union was encroached upon for the purpose of accomodating [sic] the members with standing room.
As the reform bill progressed towards its end in the house of commons, the agitation among the people increased, the feelings which the conduct of the lords in throwing out the former bill had excited, were again excited, and the abhorrence of their conduct in their corporate capacity, an abhorrence which had been gradually increasing ever since the proceedings against the Queen in 1820-1821 was again shewing itself in many places. The appeal to the people by the National Political Union, in their address headed 'Crisis' (fn. 2) had now greatly increased the apprehensions and excited the feelings of large numbers of people all over the country. This appeal was in the nature of a call, including advice and it was as spiritedly as generally responded to. The feeling was becoming intense and there was a much stronger and more general inclination among the reformers to coerce the lords than to petition them. It was in this temper and under these circumstances that the council of the Union again met to discuss the motion. The discussion was generally very able though with respect to some three or four of the members injudicious if not absurd.
The prevailing desire of the audience was evidently to provoke the aristocracy to commit violence against the people. A notion was prevalent among considerable bodies of the working people that if the lords were to oust the ministers on the reform bill and get into power, the Duke of Wellington would attempt to govern by the army, this course they not only expected but desired, they doubted not that such an administration of the government would produce a revolution in which they might gain but could not lose. It was this expectation and desire which to a considerable extent prevented them joining the Political Unions in London, Manchester Bristol and other places, and to use no efforts to promote the passing of the bill. These notions were sufficiently expressed during the debate in the Council of the National political union and were gratifying to the spectators. The rational side was taken principally by Messrs Roebuck, Place, Perry, Noel and the Chairman, the revolutionary by Messrs Wakley, Rogers, Fox Smith and Carpenter. It was a debate well worth preserving as an example of the opinions and expectations of a very large portion of the people, a fair and unequivocal display in London of the state of the whole kingdom. It was however no where reported but in the Morning Chronicle by a man whose understanding was not equal to a clear conception of what he heard, and the account given in the Chronicle is utterly absurd.
When in the course of the debate it became apparent to some of those who opposed petitioning that the motion would be carried they shifted their ground and argued that if the lords would receive a petition which contained plain truths, so plain indeed that they could be comprehended by all men and be denied by none, it might perhaps be expedient to petition, not indeed on account of any attention the lords would give to it, but in [sic] might be a useful paper to the people. This was met by the assertion that the Council could say whatever it wished in a petition to the lords, which could not be rejected by them and might be printed for general distribution, and coming from the council of a large and influential body of people could not fail to produce a good effect, that some members of the Council who had thought much upon the subject and would if permitted prepare such a petition, one which should go far enough to satisfy the expectations of the most ultra among them and yet meet with no objection in the house of peers. Objections were much more likely to be taken to manner than to matter provided the wording was what was called respectful, and there need be nothing left to cavil at by any noble lord in the manner. After some further debating the offer was accepted and Mr Place, Mr Roebuck and Mr Mongredien were appointed a committee to prepare a petition.
On the 28 March, at the Council of the Union, Mr Styles a journeyman carpenter in the chair, and thirty seven other members attending with a crowded audience, Mr Place was called upon to report from the committee appointed to draw up a petition to the lords. When after some introductory observations he read a draft, which he said contained a series of facts in a plain form each of which he was prepared to shew were correctly stated. That it was his opinion, that petitions to parliament with very few exceptions ought to consist wholly of allegations of facts, each capable of being sustained by evidence and reasoning, but that petitions should not be encumbered with reasons, which it was desirable should be used by those who presented them, the allegations being used as texts by the speaker. The petition he held in his hand consisted of three parts.
The first related to the defective state of the representation, the efforts made to amend it, and the evil consequences the want of a more adequate and equal representation had produced.
The second related to the former and present state of the house of peers, their power and influence, and the means they had used and were still using to govern the country.
The third related to the intelligence and power of the people and the probable use which would be made of them if the Reform bill were again rejected. Its prayer was consonant to the allegations of the petition. He then read the petition, pausing at each of the three divisions and commenting thereon, for the purpose of shewing that there were abundance of proofs to sustain the allegations. He concluding [sic] by challenging those who were averse to petitioning because as they said petitions were useless, to shew that it was possible this petition could fail of being highly useful, since being produced and widely circulated it would tend to increase the rising spirit of the people and produce good effects upon many influential men, who would see in it that the power of the people might be called into action peaceably if so the lords willed it should be, physically if so the lords opposed it in an improper manner when the consequences to themselves would be of their own seeking and not the fault of the people. That it was only by the demonstrations made by the people that the Lords would ever be induced to consent that the Reform bill should become the law of the land.
He challenged those who objected that the lords would receive no petition which told them truths in plain language to say that this petition did not tell important truths in plain language, yet so worded as to insure its reception. That there was nothing in it which consistently with the rules and usages of the house could cause its rejection, and if any Noble Lord should be silly enough to cavil at it, the public would have the advantage of the discussion which would ensue, and of its being thus recommended to their notice.
The petition was then read clause by clause and some merely verbal alteration having been made it was adopted unanimously, ordered to lie during three days to receive the names of the members of the council, and then taken to Lord King with a request that he would present it to the house of peers.
41. [Add. Ms. 27792, ff. 249-54. On 8 May, following the motion of Lord Lyndhurst in the House of Lords, to postpone consideration of Schedule A of the bill, the disfranchisement of small boroughs, a number of reform meetings were held in London.]
Prompt measures were necessary, a considerable number of the members of the Council of the National Political Union assembled in the morning at Saville House, and determined to call a public meeting of the inhabitants of Westminster at the Crown and Anchor Tavern on the same evening. There was no time to consult with any of the leading inhabitants, so the room was taken, notice sent to the evening papers and a few placards were carried about the streets on boards, this was all the notice given. At 8 o clock in the evening the time when the chair was to be taken, more than twice as many persons as the large room would hold attended, great numbers had gone away and numbers of others who came were also obliged to go away. The meeting would have been immense could a place have been found to contain the people.
Mr Thomas Murphy was called to the chair. He stated the reasons which had induced the council of the Union to take the liberty of calling a meeting of the inhabitants of Westminster. He explained the purpose of the meeting and the course recommended to be pursued in a speech of great energy, well calculated for the time and circumstances of the case for which he was himself also well calculated. He was a fearless man, possessed with one desire which was the total destruction of the present government, and the substitution in its place of one purely representative. He as well as a considerable portion of his audience thought the time was close at hand when a thorough revolution would be effected.
The time had certainly arrived when prosecution by the government of Earl Grey was at an end, when no legal process against any one either for writing or speaking could be commenced, when any public general movement against the government could be opposed by any power but the force of arms in the hands of the soldiers of the regular army. It was concluded by vast numbers of the people, that if a great shew of their power and determination was made, the King would be thereby induced to concede power to his ministers to carry the bill either by the creation of peers or a prorogation of parliament for a few days and then to introduce the bill anew, meanwhile to come to an understanding with a sufficient number of peers, that in the event of their pledging themselves to Earl Grey to vote for the bill by some, and to absent themselves at the divisions that peers would not be made. It was concluded that if the people shewed themselves with the activity the circumstances of the case required, the king would not make common cause with the duke of Wellington. It became clearly seen, that if the king did make common cause with the duke, the people would at once be compelled to resort to force in self defence. These matters were openly laid before the audience by the chairman, and their consequences anticipated in a total and permanent change in the very form of the government. These sentiments were received with enthusiastic shouts of applause.
Mr Daniel Wakefield maintained the same opinions and anticipated the same results. He reprobated in severe but just terms the conduct of those Westminster men who in the preceding october had pretended to establish an union of the—as they called them—the respectable electors, trifled with them and with the public, and formally destroyed their own union on the publication of the Kings proclamation against illegal assemblies which had no reference to them, he called upon them to wash out that stain by energetic conduct at the present crisis of affairs, which their pusillanimity had helped to produce, by its baneful operation [upon] but too many of their fellow citizens and by furnishing what was considered a want of any strong desire in the people for the bill, and used by the tories against them. It was he said but too plain that they who mismanaged the matter so badly, did one thing and meant another, as the tories were now doing. He hoped the men of Westminster would now do their duty to themselves and the country. It was, he said, probable, that at the very moment he was speaking to them, the ministry of Earl Grey was being dissolved, and the reform bill doomed to destruction. If Lord Grey and his friends went out of office and the King put the Duke of Wellington and his friends into office, an attempt would be instantly made to coerce the people, to put down the unions, and all other assemblies of the people, and establish a military government in support of the aristocracy. He was satisfied the people would not permit any such government to be established, but it was better by early and resolute exertions to prevent any such attempt being made. The people he was sure would no more put up with such a government under the Duke of Wellington than the Parisian people would with such a government under prince Polignac. Cries of no, no, and long continued cheering. Will they—said Mr Wakefield—submit to have their privileges their liberties destroyed when they have in their own hands the power to prevent it.—shouts of no, no, and cheers—The time for action was close upon them, the time for merely talking was all but passed away, the eyes of the people must be turned towards the true remedy, and they must achieve it with their own hands. He recommended the open refusal to pay taxes, the example being once set would be immediately followed all over the country, the immediate consequence would not be the mere privation of the amount but by such other consequences on the circulating medium as would palsy the hands of a tory government, and totally disable them from doing any thing of importance against the people, would indeed ruin such a government irretrievably in a very few days. If the lords endeavoured to withold from the people, their rights, the people should do their duty to themselves and prevent them, they should at once withold the means and thus bring the matter to issue. No administration could now carry on the government without consenting to a reform to the extent, at the least of the bill before the lords, and if the tories came into office and attempted to delay that reform; the opportunity to save themselves from the consequences of such conduct would be lost. If the people at once resolved to take proper steps they would secure reform, if they delayed to take such measures, they would have to work through a revolution; and in as much as reform was better than revolution he doubted not that the people would secure the one to prevent the other.—Great applause—
He then moved an address to the King.
Mr H. B. Churchill seconded the motion. He did not expect much good from the adoption of the address, but it was the duty of the people in the first instance to leave no peaceable means untried. He was not at all disappointed at the turn things had taken with respect to the bill, nor did he much regret it. It was now the duty of the people to watch the waverers in their pretended guise of friends and prevent them from assuming the domination they hoped to attain. The people must refuse to pay taxes, and turn the consequences of their refusal to account in every possible way. If power went into the hands of the absolutes they must prepare their powder, and cast their balls.—Great Cheering—
The address to the King was then read as follows.
'The address of the undersigned persons, assembled at the Crown and Anchor Tavern in the Strand London on the 8th day of May 1832.
May it please your Majesty.
We your Majesty's faithful subjects, beg leave to express our thanks for the kindness and goodness of your Majesty towards the people, by the countenance and support given to your ministers in bringing forward and carrying through the house of commons, the bill for Reforming the Representation of the People—particularly for the energy and determination of your Majesty displayed in the dissolution of one parliament adverse to the Bill, and the prorogation of another parliament; when the Bill had been rejected by the lords.
We beg also to express our anxious apprehensions lest the bill should again be rejected, or should be mutilated by the lords, and in expressing our apprehensions, we beg leave to add also our sincere convictions, that should such a rejection or mutilation occur, the country and government will become a prey to tumult anarchy and confusion, terminating in the utter extinction of all the present privileged orders of society.
We therefore most earnestly and urgently implore your Majesty to exert the prerogative vested in the Crown for the good of the nation, and save us from the impending evils,—by creating a sufficient number of Peers, not only to secure the passing of the Reform Bill, but to enable your ministers to conduct the government in such a manner as shall insure the prosperity and promote the peace and happiness of the people.'
Messrs Wakefield—Churchill and Detrosier were appointed a deputation to present the address to Lord Melbourne.
Mr George Rogers had intended to move two resolutions which he was happy to see embodied the opinions of the company.
1st That it is the opinion of this meeting that a creation of Peers should take place sufficient to secure the passing of the Reform Bill unmutilated, as a measure absolutely essential to prevent the country from falling into a state of anarchy.
2nd That it be recommended to every town, parish, and hamlet to hold meetings and of every inhabitant to attend such meetings for the purpose of praying to create peers to meet the present emergency. In the process of his remarks he said the Tax Gatherer had called at his house for taxes but he told him to defer another call until the reform bill had been passed. Great cheering.
The Chairman said he had done the same, and the consequence was that when the tax gatherer last called upon him he said he could not collect any money in the neighbourhood, the people had followed his example and said, 'I will not pay any more taxes until Mr Murphy pays his'. Cheers.
Mr Carpenter said he also had refused to pay taxes, the time was come when instead of meetings wasting their time in sending useless addresses they would come at once to the serious determination, of not paying taxes until the bill were passed.
The resolutions of Mr Rogers were not pressed to a division on the suggestion that they might be proposed at a more formal meeting of the inhabitants of Westminster called by the High Bailiff of which notice had already been given.
42. [Add. Ms. 27793, f. 23]
At the National Political Union the officers and several members of the council were occupied during the day [10 May], enrolling the names and addresses of new members. In the evening the throng was so great that many hundreds could not be entered on the books. Vast numbers came from distant parts of the metropolis, among whom were many whose apprehensions of violence had hitherto deterred them from joining this or any other unions, these persons now declared their conviction that the unions must proceed with vigour in support of the reform bill at whatever hazard to individuals. Every accessible part of the building—the rooms, the hall, the passages and the stairs were crowded, and an immense crowd congregated in the Square in front of the house.
The enthusiasm of the people was beyond all description.
43. [Add. Ms. 27793, ff. 74-6]
On the 10th, in the evening, there was a meeting of the National Union of the Working Classes at which it is said upwards of 2,000 members attended, this was an exaggeration, the whole number of members was less than three fourths of that number, and of these it is not probable two thirds attended the meeting. The place in which they met would not entertain more than a thousand. A considerable number of persons who were not members attended outside the building, but the whole number within and without was under the great excitement which prevailed among the small number, of members.
The proceedings at this meeting clearly coined the disposition of the leaders and the feelings of the members.
Mr Parkins was in the Chair.
Mr Cleave moved a resolution as follows:—'That this union being anxious for the welfare of their fellow workmen recommend in the present state of affairs, an active preparation for the worst, combined with a sober and watchful solicitude for the preservation and happiness of all.'
The resolution was received with great cheering, and seconded by Mr Mee. He thanked the Tories for what they had done as it was at least a means of shewing up the Bishops, those black locusts, who have been long fattening on the country. The object of these men all along and under all circumstances had been to feather their nests, by plundering the people. The responsibility was now however thrown upon the people, and it would be their own fault if they now failed to recover their rights. Notices were posted up in several houses in the City, expressing that, 'No more Taxes will be paid for this House, until a Reform in Parliament has taken place'. Enthusiastic cheering and cries of that's the plan. Several other members spoke in the same strain, and all expressed satisfaction that the tories had rejected the Reform bill.
Mr Benbow proposed an address, in what the 'Poor Mans Guardian' called 'a long and able speech'—but did not report it.
The address was as follows.
To the Working Men of England
'These are the times which try mens souls!—Paine
'Brethren—At this momentous period, we request your attention. An era has arrived that has aroused you. We having suffered with you the wrongs heaped on the millions, by the successive oligarchies that have swayed the destinies of this great people, desire to warn you of the danger there is in your being misled by the Factions now contending for the spoil. Anxious for our own emancipation, we would earnestly caution you against being made subservient to the few. Viewing every where around us the dreadful effects of virtual representation, and knowing the chicanery of the crafty few, our political creed henceforth is, equal rights and equal laws, how best can we secure to ourselves such blessings? All our interests—all our experience proclaim aloud, by, being men! Men prepared to suffer much for the common good. Knowing what craft and subtlety will be used to seduce you, we feel it our duty to call on you to bend the whole energies of your minds to this all important object.
'Be prepared for every sacrifice:— remember he who is not for us, is against us, and they who would disunite us are our worst enemies. If we have not union, how shall we resist the tax gatherer? or rate collector? or how accomplish the glorious work of our regeneration? We therefore call upon you, our brothers to enrol yourselves in unions to effect these great objects! to cast aside your jealousies and contentions, and to unite all who will unite against the common enemy. Let order be our rule—union our motto—equal justice our object, and the happiness of all our aim and end.'
Several members in their speeches recommended the non payment of taxes. A refusal to accept any reforms offered by the tories. The non payment of tithes and even of rents. The withdrawal of money by Savings Banks and Benefit Clubs, and every exertion likely to promote reform in parliament.
In this discussion care was taken that no reference was made to the National Political Union or any other association the purpose of which was to promote the passing of the bill. At this union every one who dissented from their doctrine was included under the appellation of whigs, whose desire was to keep down the people, and therefore to be considered as enemies. The bill did not give the right of voting to the working people and it was evident the time was not yet come, when any effort to introduce universal suffrage would be countenanced by but a small number of persons of the working people, and of this the working peoples unions were the best possible proofs, they would hear of no proposition which did not include universal suffrage, and they were just at this time more mischievous than useful. 'Standing at ease' which had been recommended by them, meant, observing whatever might occur and taking advantage of any circumstance likely to push forward their purpose. The mistake those among them who meant honestly made was, that they could control those who might prove dishonest, as well as the mass of purely mischievous persons who might under peculiar circumstances be let loose on society.
The great peculiarity causing a difference between the Political Unions and the Unions of the working classes was, that the first desired the reform bill to prevent a revolution, the last desired its destruction as the means of producing a revolution.