Pages vi-xxviii

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

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The people here differ very widely from you at Manchester. You some of you at Manchester resolve that something shall be done and then you some of you set to work and see it done—give your money and your time and need none but mere servants to carry out the details. Our men of property and influence never act in this way—they themselves must be operated upon and that too with care and circumspection to induce them even to give us their mites and to permit us to put their names on the list of our General Committee. . . . London differs very widely from Manchester, and indeed, from every other place on the face of the earth. It has no local or particular interest as a town, not even as to politics. Its several boroughs in this respect are like so many very populous places at a distance from one another, and the inhabitants of any of them know nothing, or next to nothing, of the proceedings in any other, and not much indeed of those of their own. London in my time and that is half a century has never moved. A few of the people in different parts have moved, and those whenever they come together make a considerable number. . . . But isolated as men are here, living as they do at considerable distances, many seven miles apart and but seldom meeting together except in small groups. . . . With a very remarkable working population also, each trade divided from every other, and some of the most numerous even from themselves, and who, notwithstanding an occasional display of very small comparative numbers, are a quiescent, inactive race as far as public matters are concerned.

(Francis Place to Richard Cobden, 4 March 1840.) (fn. 1)

The documents printed in this volume are concerned with political radicalism in London during the period 1830-43 and have been selected from the papers of Francis Place now in the British Museum. It is peculiarly necessary to begin by commenting on Francis Place, himself, because of his unique importance in, and impact on, radicalism, particularly in London, during these years. His importance for a study of radicalism lies in the fact that he not only belonged to most of the major radical movements in London during this period but was also a very active, even if 'behind the scenes', leader in them. His impact on London radicalism owed much to his experience and entrenched position and to his enormous range of political contacts. His radical past went back to the London Corresponding Society of the seventeen-nineties and he had established himself as the authority and chief organizer of radical local and national politics in Westminster by the end of the first decade of the nineteenth century. As such he had the ear of Sir Francis Burdett and Sir John Cam Hobhouse, the members of Parliament for Westminster throughout the twenties and early thirties, as well as other members such as Joseph Hume and J. A. Roebuck. In addition he had a wide range of contacts by correspondence with reformers, such as Joseph Parkes and Richard Cobden, throughout the country. These contacts gave him an aura of considerable importance among many radicals. Together with this he had a number of other advantages: much time and energy to devote to radical activity since he had retired from his tailor's business in 1817; an outstanding personal library, particularly of parliamentary papers and pamphlets and tracts published on radicalism; and exceptional ability as a thinker and organizer.

It will be seen, therefore, that a volume of documents drawn from the Place Papers will illustrate a period in the life of Place and will be influenced and constrained by him as much as it will illustrate radical activity in London. Some brief account of the man (fn. 2) is therefore necessary before considering the subject.

Francis Place was born 3 November 1771, son of Simon Place. He went to 'some sort of school from the age of four till he was nearly fourteen' at which latter age he was apprenticed to a leather breeches maker, having already shown an independence of spirit by refusing his father's suggestion that he should be apprenticed to a conveyancer. A brief connection with a set of dissolute drinking companions was soon thrown over for a life of care and frugality since at the age of nineteen, a year after becoming a journeyman at his trade, Place married Elizabeth Chadd. As Wallas noted 'This was the turning point in his career' and he determined to be sober, respectable and better their joint position in life. Place had early become a member of the Breeches-Makers' Benefit Society, which was as much a trade union as a benefit club. It organized a strike in 1793 for higher wages which led to Place finding himself unemployed and obtaining his first experience of industrial action. Although having no knowledge of the intention to hold a strike Place soon made himself one of its organizers, arranging methods by which the society's funds for strike relief could be raised but after three months the funds ran out, the strike was broken and Place was refused employment at his trade and remained unemployed for eight months. During this time he determined to study as many subjects as possible and put himself in the position to become a master. It was this period of his existence which, ever after in his dealing with working men, led him to tell them that however bad their circumstances they must never lose their self-respect.

At the end of 1793 one of his old masters relented and gave Place employment at his trade, thus enabling him to improve his living conditions. This employment lasted for only a few months at the end of which Place re-organized the Breeches-Makers' Society and obtained an advance of wages without a strike and also organized clubs for several other trades. In June 1794, a few weeks after the arrest of Thomas Hardy on a charge of high treason and at a time when the London Corresponding Society was losing members rapidly, Place took the brave but dangerous step of joining the Society which launched him on his career of political reform. He was soon elected as delegate for the local division of the society and became a member of its general committee. By the summer of 1795, at the age of twenty-three, having been recognized as a capable organizer, he was taking the chair at many of the meetings of the general committee. Here he adopted the attitude to which he was nearly always to remain true, that large meetings and agitation would not frighten government into granting reform and that the society should proceed slowly and quietly in educating the people to the need for good and cheap government. Place was proved correct by the Treason and Sedition Acts of 1795, and in 1797 he resigned from the society because of the violent attitudes of others on the committee. In 1798 the arrest of all the committee members in the Despard affair led to the collapse of the society.

During these years Place had slowly built up a private tailor's trade, having persuaded a number of drapers and clothiers to let him have cloth on credit. At first he made little money which meant great difficulties since by 1798 he and his wife had had four children (they were to have fifteen in all, of whom five died in infancy, (fn. 3) the last, twins, in 1817). He remained determined, however, and in 1799, with another poor journeyman, opened a tailor's shop, on credit, in Charing Cross. They prospered and were soon employing a number of workmen but his partner forced the liquidation of the business and bought the goodwill, leaving Place out of employment. This crisis brought out the best in Place. He found his creditors willing to advance money and within a couple of months, in April 1801, was able to open a larger shop also in Charing Cross on his own account. He organized the business well, doing little of the actual work himself, but obtaining and waiting on customers while he employed journeymen. His business prospered and at its peak in 1816 brought in more than £3,000 in profit and in the following year he retired and handed the business over to his eldest son. During its first few years he devoted himself to the business, spending the remaining hours after work in reading and commenced the building up of the famous library behind his shop. With more time to spare, from about 1806, he began to take an interest in local politics, already showing his later suspicions of the Whigs and their pretensions as reformers, especially when they brought forward the ineffectual Lord Percy as candidate for Westminster after Fox's death. With a general election in 1807, Place and a few friends decided to bring forward Sir Francis Burdett, who had refused to stand again for Middlesex because of the expense. As Place said, they were 'as insignificant a set of persons as could well have been collected together' but Burdett was returned at the top of the poll, through no efforts of his own, but entirely as a result of Place and his friends who became acknowledged as the radical Westminster election committee.

These proceedings brought Place from his previous insignificance to the notice of a number of important contemporaries. In 1810 he made the acquaintance of William Godwin, whose scrounging of money from him soon broke the connection. Robert Owen asked him to read and correct the manuscript of his 'New View of Society', and James Mill, with whom he worked on the committee of the Lancastrian schools society, brought him into Jeremy Bentham's circle. At the age of forty Place was to be much affected by the ideas and theories of Mill and Bentham and was persuaded by the former to adopt the system of analysis and rational argument with which he later endeavoured to inculcate the London artisans. He took the attitude on education which was to remain with him 'that the generality of children are organised so nearly alike that they may by proper management be made pretty nearly equally wise and virtuous'. With both Mill and Bentham Place kept up regular correspondence and visits, and for both of them he read and commented on manuscript works. Of Bentham he wrote, 'I never read anything of his without being both wiser and, as I believe, better in consequence of that reading', and Bentham had a considerable influence on Place's thought and writing. Despite an intellectual capability which enabled him to play a part with these distinguished men, Place had not the literary style to put his ideas into print at a time when factual material alone was insufficient for success in publication. After one or two dismal failures in writing articles (which turned out to be dry, complicated and little read) in the eighteen-twenties, Place turned to a career as 'backroom boy'. Neither a speaker or writer himself, he provided many others, including Hume and Hobhouse, with the factual material on which successful careers were founded and names made.

To return to the chronological precis of Place's life, his growing acquaintance with men of political importance together with his success in the Westminster election of 1807 led to an increase in his political power in Westminster and in 1819 and 1820 he led the committee which supported the candidature of John Cam Hobhouse to win back the second Westminster seat (Burdett having held the first for the radicals) from the Whigs who had won it in 1818. In 1819 Hobhouse was beaten by George Lamb, brother of Lord Melbourne, but in the election in 1820, following the accession of George IV, Place and his fellow workers obtained the election of both Burdett and Hobhouse and they retained their seats without contest until 1833 with Place and his co-adjutors too powerful a force to be challenged. (fn. 4) During this period there was little need for Place's organization in Westminster politics and in 1830 he turned successfully to the management of Joseph Hume's election for Middlesex.

During the twenties Place was involved in a variety of schemes. His interest in education was not forgotten when he ceased working for the Lancastrian schools society. With Bentham he had collaborated on the latter's Chrestomathic high school plan and in 1823 and 1824 he worked with Thomas Hodgskin, George Birkbeck and others to interest working men in and collect money to found the London Mechanics Institute, later to become Birkbeck College. Place also became involved in the population dispute which was later to cause him such difficulty in his dealings with working men; they could not understand how he could support a Malthusian doctrine and still be aiming at their betterment. In 1822 he published the Illustrations and Proofs of the Principle of Population which of all Place's writing was the only book to reach the printing press. In it he took a neo-Malthusian attitude which, while accepting the principle put forward by Malthus, did not accept much of the detail such as the criticism of early marriage (which Place himself favoured as his own life showed) nor the view that the poor had no right to relief and that the Poor Law should therefore be abolished. Place throughout argued that Malthus' principle was correct and that the important thing was to do away with the debasement of the working man to which the existing relief in support of wages led. This view was upheld by the report of the 1834 commission on the poor laws which Place attempted to justify to the London artisans. (fn. 5) He firmly believed that the New Poor Law would improve the condition of working men and despite their hatred of it he refused to tone down his views in order to seek their approbation.

As with population so in most other fields of economic doctrine Place was at one with the classical economists, influenced as he was by his contacts with such men as James Mill and his son, John Stuart, and the French economist, J. B. Say. In 1826, long before Nassau Senior's famous report on the condition of the handloom weavers, Place had commented on the 'absurd proposals' for minimum wage legislation and abolition of power machinery which had been put forward to improve the position of the weavers. (fn. 6) His views on capital and the role of labour in production are clearly seen in his correspondence with his friend, the pre-Marxist economist, Thomas Hodgskin in the twenties and in his attempts to draw the London artisans away from the labour theory of value. (fn. 7) He was an ardent and active free trader and finally, his addiction to classical economics, in the form of the free labour market, can be seen in his work to abolish the laws against combination of working men for trade purposes. (fn. 8) Place believed that trade unions were formed because of the oppression of working men by the anti-combination laws and that the abolition of the laws would lead to a reduction of combination, improved wages for workmen, since they would not be forced to accept work offered at any wage, less industrial strife and therefore an improved economic climate. In this respect his economic orthodoxy proved stronger than his concern for working men: he realized that in a free labour market the employee would be at a disadvantage but, in his view, still in a better position than under the existing system.

Place became involved in attempts to repeal the anti-combination laws after the prosecution of the compositors employed by The Times in 1810 and in the following year he prevented the London master tailors from obtaining an act of Parliament to put down the tailors' union. Thereafter he worked for repeal of the laws with no success beyond increasing public opinion against them, until in 1823 he persuaded Joseph Hume to bring the matter forward in Parliament, and in the following year a select committee was appointed to consider the embargo on the emigration of artisans and the exportation of machinery, as well as the laws against the combination of workmen. Circulars were distributed throughout the country inviting witnesses to come forward; these witnesses were carefully schooled by Place in his Charing Cross library and briefs were sent to Hume of the questions to be asked and the answers which the various witnesses would supply. The result of the committee's inquiry was, therefore, almost a foregone conclusion, although it could not be said that the committee was unfairly biased. Place and Hume did nothing to prevent hostile witnesses being heard and publicized the existence of the committee widely. Place was certain that the results of the committee would not be accepted by the House of Commons and he and Hume concocted a series of resolutions instead of a report, thinking that less exception could be taken to them, and altered to their own liking the bills based on the committee's work to be presented to Parliament. They then persuaded a number of members of both Houses not to speak to the bills and their passage through Parliament was almost unnoticed. In a rising period of trade in the mid-eighteentwenties, however, Place's expectations of the result of passing the bills were unfulfilled and there were a series of strikes which led to a demand in 1825 for the re-enactment of the anti-combination laws. A further select committee was set up to consider the situation but Place and Hume by further strenuous efforts prevented the complete abolition of the right of working men to combine and left them free to combine for the improvement of wages and hours of work.

In the later twenties Place was involved in a number of minor schemes (fn. 9) but his work was interrupted in October 1827 by the death of his wife, a blow which left him unable to concern himself with the detail of politics and for some time he went on with 'matters of laborious research'. In February 1830 he remarried and was soon immersed in the political agitation, with which this volume of documents begins, leading to the Reform Act of 1832. From then until the early eighteen-forties Place's life was involved with the story which the following documents reveal. He became a major (probably the major) force in the London reform agitation, emerging from his usual situation as éminence grise to take the leading role in drawing up the memorial for the midnight deputation to Lord Grey in October 1831, and in the formation of the National Political Union.

In 1833 as a result of a loss of income (fn. 10) he was forced to move from Charing Cross to Brompton Square, his wife's house, but although out of the immediate area of Westminster politics and no longer within easy reach from the Houses of Parliament, he maintained most of his contacts. In the following years he was involved with the agitation for the repeal of the newspaper stamp duty, with the commission on municipal corporations and with an abortive attempt to reform the Corporation of London. (fn. 11) Thereafter he was on the fringe of the reform agitation raised by Chartism and was invited by the London Working Men's Association to become one of the London delegates to the Chartist National Convention, but refused because he thought it was a job for younger men (he was sixty-seven at the time). During the winter of 1839-40, with many Chartist leaders imprisoned, he worked to raise subscriptions for the benefit of their families and although he became infuriated with a group of London Chartists who broke up anti-corn law meetings he maintained his contacts with many individual Chartists. In 1836 and again from 1840 when it was revived, he was involved in the organization of the Metropolitan Anti-Corn Law Association which was relatively unsuccessful, failing in London to stir up anything like the interest in free trade which the Anti-Corn Law League did in Lancashire and the surrounding areas. Place's final active participation in reform came in organizing the Metropolitan Parliamentary Reform Association, the short-lived London equivalent of the Complete Suffrage Movement. It came at a time when there was little chance of obtaining the immediate reconciliation of middle and working classes for which some of its members hoped. Most of them were not prepared to become involved in the tedium of a long campaign to educate the people to play their rightful political part which was what Place wanted.

There can be little doubt that in the late thirties and the forties Place was slipping out of the active political scene. He had much more time for correspondence than ever before, writing enormously long letters to his fellow reformers. He had the time to get on with some of the historical writing which had always been one of his major aims, although, from his own point of view, one of the tragedies of his life was that he had always been too busy and too involved to do the writing he wished to do. (fn. 12) Had his situation been different there would have been no need to have 'written the clock' and his style might have been more interesting. Not that Place's manuscripts are always as wooden and repetitive as some comments passed by Wallas and Thomas would have us think—the proposed address of the Parliamentary Candidate Society (fn. 13) shows that Place could be vitriolic with his pen. Although they were growing old, Place and some of his fellow reformers remained true to the advanced radical ideas put forward in the Charter. They refused in 1842 to accept its name, because of the disrepute which that name might bring to any new movement as a result of the earlier activities of the 'physical-force' Chartists. Among middle-class radicals, although not so extreme as men like Feargus O'Connor, Place was probably too advanced in his ideas for the support of those on whom he really depended—the middle classes. As he wrote 'By the word "people", when, as in this letter I use the word in a political sense, I mean those among them who take part in public affairs, by whom the rest must be governed'. (fn. 14) Although much has been written of Place's interest in and work for the working classes in the fields of trade unionism, education, freedom of the press and political reform, this improvement Place expected to come largely through the agency of middle-class pressure and it was with the middle classes that he aligned himself. When he writes in the Reform Bill period of the power of the people to control the government, (fn. 15) he is thinking of the power of the middle classes and not of the working classes who were merely a numerical addition. The middle-class reformers were, however, too conservative for the ideas put forward by Place, as may be seen from the following documents. The provisional addresses drafted by Place to inaugurate the Parliamentary Candidate Society, for the Westminster reformers after Lord John Russell's 'finality' speech in November 1837, and to inaugurate the Metropolitan Parliamentary Reform Association, were all drastically altered by provisional committees of the proposed societies because Place's ideas were too advanced. It is possible that if, as in the late autumn of 1831, Place had come out into open political agitation, many middle-class reformers would have followed him in his advanced radical ideas. As it was he preferred to run the ubiquitous business committees of the various societies and do the behind the scenes organization. When at the age of seventy-one, he finally had his own way with an organization, the Metropolitan Parliamentary Reform Association, he was too old and the circumstances were unpropitious for any good to come of his leadership.

In 1844 Place suffered a stroke and a kind of brain tumour which left him unable to read or write for a year, but by 1846 for a short period he was again involved in public matters. Still unable to do much reading or writing he continued his devotion to his work by spending part of his remaining years in cutting notices, from the various newspapers he had collected, about working men and reform movements and pasting them in to the 'guard books' which form the Place Collection of newspaper cuttings. He died on 1 January 1854.


It is necessary to say a little in the way of introduction to London radicalism. In most countries the capital city is now and has been historically an important centre for the raising and discussion of new ideas and theories and for the attempt to put into practice those which were considered acceptable to a body of reformers. In this London should have been no exception, since its possession of all the country's major authorities and especially the legislature made it an important focus for interest in change and it was also the only large centre of population in the country. In the eighteenth century this had been to a large extent true and London had been in the van of political reform movements. From the time of William Beckford there had been considerable interest within the Corporation of London in political reform, (fn. 16) which culminated in the Wilkesite activity, when the middle-class radicals obtained the backing of the London 'mob'. The mob had earlier been easily manipulated by the authorities but was now to become first the tool and later the willing accessory of radical leaders. In 1776 Major Cartwright, in his pamphlet Take your choice first formulated the advanced programme of political reform which was to remain the aim of reformers down to the Chartists and beyond. In 1780 a sub-committee of the electors of Westminster put forward a draft programme of reform (drawn up by Charles James Fox and Thomas Brand Hollis) which contained the six points subsequently adopted in the Charter. Westminster was one of the few parliamentary constituencies where enfranchisement resulted from paying 'scot and lot' and the electorate was therefore large and consisted of socially diverse groups—with many artisan voters. It was therefore prone to advanced ideas and as we have seen was to return two radicals in the eighteen-twenties. Marylebone was also an area of advanced political ideas and largely accounted for the advanced nature of Middlesex county politics, a seat represented at various periods by Wilkes, Burdett and Hume. The only other area of the country which vied with London for leadership in reform activity was Yorkshire and its county association led by the Reverend Christopher Wyvill.

Following the French Revolution and the publication of Tom Paine's Rights of Man there was an enormous upsurge of reform activity in many areas throughout the country but it was the London Corresponding Society with its correspondence with reformers all over the country which was considered to be the major influence (although the Sheffield society had probably as large a membership). From 1794, with obvious signs of repression of reform societies by the government, most of the provincial societies were disbanded or went underground; the London Corresponding Society was left as the only major reform organization endeavouring to encourage reformers in the provinces to nail their colours to the mast and ignore the danger of being labelled 'Jacobin', although provincial societies revived in the early months of 1795. As a result it was on the London society that most of the government prosecutions fell, marking a point after which London was no longer among the leading centres of radicalism. (fn. 17) Unlike the previous radicalism in London, which had been led and organized by the middle classes with working men to swell the numbers, the London Corresponding Society was basically composed of artisans and most of its committee were (like Place himself) artisans or tradesmen, (fn. 18) with a few professional men, surgeons and journalists. In this respect the London Corresponding Society represented an important step forward in radicalism, with working men gaining greater knowledge of their position in society and being prepared to put forward cogent demands for the reforms they desired (a similar development was to be seen at the same time in such towns as Sheffield). Such activity added considerably to London's radical heritage, but it was not to be a precedent for continuous working-class agitation, which declined in the first decades of the new century, what activity there was originating largely among the middle classes. The effect of the 1795 Treason and Sedition Acts was to be a rapid decline in membership and importance of the London Corresponding Society. The process of decline to the point of collapse was brought about in 1798 by the arrest of the whole committee of the society and a new act putting down reform societies among which the London Corresponding Society was named. This meant that London was without any radical organization of importance and from this blow it took a long time to recover. As we have seen there were in the first two decades of the nineteenth century parliamentary contests for both Middlesex and Westminster of importance from a radical point of view, but these were temporary and very much local affairs. London was never again during the period covered here to come firmly behind a reform movement without much delay and long after the provinces.

It is generally true of the first decade and a half of the new century that reform movements of any size were submerged under the fear of revolutionary France and under the legislation of 1795. Yet when radicalism revived, with the discontents at the end of the Napoleonic wars (discontents which were primarily economic rather than political in origin) the revival was of importance in the provinces rather than in London. In the aftermath of Peterloo it was in provincial towns such as Newcastle that there were large meetings to support reform and considerable fears on the part of the authorities that rioting would follow, whilst in London relatively little occurred.

Similarly, the twenties was a period of relative quiescence from the radical point of view; at the end of the decade it was again from the provinces that most of the initiative came. When a reform organization was set up in London in 1830, the Metropolitan Political Union, it is interesting to note that it needed Henry Hunt of Lancashire fame as one of its prime movers, and also that it only lasted for a very short time. Apart from this there was some radical activity. As the following documents show there was a group (albeit a very small one) of London artisans, who, during the twenties had been imbibing Owenite and Hodgskinite doctrines particularly with regard to the labour theory of value. These were to provide the nucleus for the National Union of the Working Classes and for ultra-radical activity in London. There was also in London, as in most towns throughout the country, a considerable amount of parochial agitation, in the form of opposition to select vestries and to the payment of church rates. This provided experience and often the initiative which led individuals into general political reform movements. (fn. 19) But these movements were insufficient to lead to any general reform agitation in London until after the first Reform Bill was made public in March 1831; then there was a series of public meetings to congratulate the Whigs on their measure and to express the hope that it would be successfully passed into law. In other words people in London could be stimulated by events but were insufficiently interested to provoke events. Although this was generally true of people everywhere, there had been much greater reform agitation, before the Bill was published, in the provinces. Even following its publication, in London there were only a few small parochial reform associations established. Although there was a limited amount of agitation following the defeat of the Bill in committee in the House of Commons, it was not until the second Bill was defeated in the House of Lords in October 1831 that the National Political Union was formed as a general reform organization in London. Again it was events rather than theoretical desire which had provoked activity and the problem was to be seen again between November 1831 and April 1832 when there was little of interest in the parliamentary proceedings over the third Bill and the National Political Union had difficulty in keeping up its membership. One may go on to look at the lack of interest in reform of the Corporation of London in 1835-6 at the time when the Royal Commission on municipal government in the provinces was reporting on the necessity for change and the lack of interest shown by London men in Chartism.

Many reasons could be advanced for the relative quiescence of reform activity in London. It is obvious from the quotation printed at the beginning of this volume that Place was well aware of some of these reasons. The very size of London, which at first glance would lead one to expect considerable activity, actually proved to be an inhibitory factor. London was an impersonal place where it was difficult to obtain the contact necessary to organize agitation; active leaders might have lived several miles from each other; suitable meeting places were probably less common than in villages and small towns; there were few large workshops or places where a large number of people met together at work as there were in textile, shipbuilding, or mining areas and, as Place noted, the trades were often distinct from each other. No doubt the list of features like these explaining why London's experience was different from that of provincial towns could be continued. For instance, in the context of Chartism, Place's note that London 'had no local or particular interest as a town not even as to polities' was important since the regional strength of Chartism depended very much on particular local grievances, and London was too diversified to have such a grievance.

Beyond the political background, however, the economic conditions within an area have a considerable effect in determining the attitude towards radical activity. Although there were many distressed labouring groups in London, such as the coal-whippers on the Thames, they were relatively small in number and sufficiently diversified to prevent London being affected by the 'bread and butter' radicalism which became so important in the northern manufacturing districts. These apart, working men in London were probably better off, in general, than their counterparts in provincial towns, (fn. 20) such, at least, was the reason to which several northern delegates to the Chartist Convention attributed Londoners' apathy to Chartism. (fn. 21) With regard to the apathy of the middle classes in London towards reform, it is impossible at the present time to give a satisfactory explanation. It may well be that an important factor lay in their poor relationship with the politically aware among the working classes. In the letter to Cobden, already quoted, Place went on to write,
The leaders [of the working people], those among them who do pay attention to public matters, are one and all at enmity with every other class of society . . . . their opinions are pushed to extremes and are mischievous prejudices. They call the middle class—'shopocrats'—usurers, (all profit being usury)— moneymongers—tyrants and oppressors of the working people and they link the middle class with the aristocracy under the dignified appellation of 'Murderers of Society'—'Murderers of the People'.

One might hazard that the effect of the propaganda of the small group of ultra-radical working men was to make the middle classes fight shy of reform agitation for fear of stirring up more than they bargained for. (fn. 22)


The remains of the material collected by Place are in two separate groups of volumes in the British Museum, the Place Papers in the Department of Manuscripts and the Place Collection of Newspaper Cuttings, etc., in the Department of Printed Books. Neither is as strictly differentiated as their titles or places of abode might suggest. Although the Papers are mainly of manuscript material, including much correspondence, (fn. 23) they also contain many newspaper cuttings and printed documents illustrative of the particular topic on which Place was writing. Conversely the Collection, although consisting largely of cuttings from newspapers and printed documents, contains manuscript comment and some correspondence.

The range of Place's interests is illustrated by the wide variety of material which the two sources contain. There is, for example, material for a history of the theatre; copious notes on drunkenness, public manners and morals; (fn. 24) material on the corn laws and the efforts to obtain their repeal. Far outweighing all the rest, however, is the material on political radicalism, stretching from the complete published materials and minutes of the London Corresponding Society, through a collection on Westminster elections in the first half of the nineteenth century, to the evidence on radical activity leading up to the passing of the first Reform Act, and then on to its aftermath of discontent and demand for further change in the following decade, including an unpublished narrative history, on which this volume of documents is based.

Among historians working on radical activity in the first half of the nineteenth century, the view has been expressed that the Place Papers have been overworked and too readily accepted without sufficient critical analysis of their accuracy and value. Since Graham Wallas, (fn. 25) Mark Hovell (fn. 26) and Julius West (fn. 27) first made general use of the Papers in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century they have rightly received much attention from historians of all kinds. This attention has, however, been patchy in its coverage. Following Hovell, much time has been devoted to the material on the Chartist period. It has not been overworked, however, something which is in reality impossible, since each generation has to rewrite history and has only limited tools with which to do so, and each successive historian of the Chartist Movement must reconsider those sources already used as well as attempt to find fresh evidence. The rest of the Place material on political radicalism has to a large extent been neglected. A detailed study of the London Corresponding Society has yet to be published; the material on Westminster politics, which provides a vast amount of information on the intrigues and procedures of local politics in a constituency with a wide social range of voters, has been little used; strangely the Place Papers have been relatively neglected for the first Reform Bill period with the exception of the material which implies that Place exerted pressure on members of Parliament to work for the passing of the Bill, under the threat of a social revolution if it were not passed; finally the various reform and radical societies, such as the National Political Union and the Metropolitan Parliamentary Reform Association have been largely ignored, along with the correspondence which shows how they were formed and run. Indeed one might say with considerable justification that radicalism in London, quite apart from the evidence the Place Papers provide for it, has been neglected, (fn. 28) a strange omission for a capital city and one which is only partially explained by the fact that radical activity gained little of a footing in London during this period (in itself something which needs explanation and deserves more study than it has received). (fn. 29) It is therefore justifiable to make more readily available these important documents, both those that are already well known and those which have been hitherto ignored.

On the question of bias in the documents—it would be unwise to claim that material collected by any individual could be free from bias, although that is no reason for failing to publish the material but merely one for endeavouring to understand the nature of the bias. There has, perhaps, been a too great readiness to accept uncritically the evidence mustered by Place, in some writing which has made use of his material. This is, of course, poor historiography and is unfair to the man. The brief account, given earlier, of Place's life and connections will suggest the general direction of bias which might be expected to be found in his papers but more obvious details of bias appear in the documents following.

Like everyone else Place did not exhibit complete objectivity and took an abbreviated and unfair view of people and ideas of which he did not approve. Frequently in his accounts of meetings on reform he commented that Mr. — made 'a long and rambling speech' when he did not feel like transcribing or paraphrasing it and/or when he disagreed with its sentiments. Occasionally this very brevity is more illuminating for the meeting or topic under consideration (as in the case of the lone Tory or reactionary view put at a Westminster reform meeting) than a long and tedious transcription would be. It must, however, be remembered that there were views on reform, other than those of Place and his colleagues, views which are still extant in manuscript and document form, but which are not included in this volume as they are not to be found amongst the Place Papers. Comparison with other material, such as the Poor Man's Guardian on the National Union of the Working Classes, proves illuminating in this respect.

A number of examples of the unfair attitude adopted by Place occur during the period covered by this volume. He criticizes the government for using spies, such as Popay, to infiltrate the radical movement but obviously fails to see that he was in no position to throw stones when he had been responsible for threatening government with revolution by that radical movement if the Reform Bill were not passed. Place also criticizes Sir Francis Burdett (with whom his relations had often been cool) (fn. 30) with regard to his hesitation in accepting the chairmanship of the National Political Union, but when Burdett accepts and maintains creditable control of the initial public meeting to form the union, he receives no credit from Place. (fn. 31) In other dealings Place could almost be described as two-faced. Before the formation of the National Political Union, Place argued against Burdett the necessity of giving the union some object beyond merely 'support for King and ministers in passing the Reform Bill' (fn. 32) and of continuing the union when the bill was passed. As a result the first object of the union was made 'To obtain a full, free, and effectual, Representation of the People in the Commons House of Parliament'. (fn. 33) Yet when the bill was passed Place showed little interest in continuing the union or for a number of years in doing anything to obtain the vote for the working classes. To some extent it may be said that Place adjusted his energies according to the circumstances and that in the mid-eighteen-thirties there was little demand for the extension of the franchise and therefore no point in wasting time and money in agitating for it. There remains, however, a suspicion that Place was not always genuine in the reasons he gave for his actions and that in 1831-2 he was anxious to attract the support of the working classes for the National Political Union for the sake of the effect this would have on Parliament rather than from any real desire to obtain their enfranchisement.

Place could also malign individuals from his estimates of their past attitudes and never revise his opinion in the light of new evidence. He criticized John Savage for wishing to prevent the formation of the National Political Union, (fn. 34) but failed to note subsequently in his narrative that Savage became a council member of the union and worked amicably within it to obtain the passing of the Reform Bill. Place was also guilty of criticizing in others a failing which he did not perceive in himself. For instance he criticized the list of pledges drawn up by the Liverymen of London, to be demanded of candidates for seats in the reformed House of Commons. (fn. 35) Yet his own pamphlet on pledges (fn. 36) was remarkably long and diffuse and in the section devoted to Law Reform expected candidates to pledge themselves to ensure 'the detection of crimes, and the certainty of speedy punishment', surely a visionary hope, and in general a much less reasonable proposition than that of the Liverymen which sparked it off.

The documents in the Place Papers can also be inaccurate because of Place's tendency to exaggeration. To belittle the importance of the National Union of the Working Classes at the time of the Reform Bill, he says it consisted of 'not so many as 500 members' (fn. 37) which was possibly true, but its membership figure was much less important than the fact that more than 1,000 people regularly attended its meetings. Yet when he wished to prevent the holding of a general meeting of the National Political Union on Hampstead Heath, Place claimed that 'more than half a million persons' (fn. 38) would attend and the dangers of riot were too great to risk the meeting. One should not, therefore, put unguarded reliance on the numbers which Place quotes. Similarly Place had the, not unusual, tendency to exaggerate the importance of affairs in which he was involved and his own part in them. He wrote that 'The formation of the National Political Union at this moment was of all but inappreciable importance' (fn. 39) in ensuring that the Whigs remained determined to pass the Reform Bill after its defeat in the House of Lords in October 1831 and the ensuing prorogation of Parliament. No doubt the National Political Union acted as an important 'ginger group' in London, but it was by no means the only reform association there, and to arrogate to it 'all but inappreciable importance' is to forget the agitation in the provinces and the pre-existence of organizations such as the Birmingham Political Union and the whole structure of contemporary society and politics. Similarly the documents covering May 1832 would suggest that Place and his pamphlet Go for Gold were the major reasons why the Duke of Wellington was prevented from forming a Tory administration. (fn. 40) As one of the few people with organizational ability within radicalism, and one who fed the more public radicals with ideas, there was some justification for his estimate of his importance but there is truth in the pun that 'He saw everything in Place yet failed to see everything in place'.

Place could also make mistakes and come to incorrect conclusions. In a letter to Hobhouse in November 1830 he wrote that 'the time is not yet come when a radical change can be made either so effectually as to prevent other similar changes, or so beneficially as to answer the purposes of any class of reformers'. (fn. 41) In the long run the assessment was probably correct but in the short term Place was as surprised and delighted as most reformers when Lord John Russell announced the Whig Reform Bill. He then changed his general attitude to one of accepting and working for the bill as being an effective reform. This view seems generally to have been held by all but the most advanced radicals, even a majority of the National Union of the Working Classes deciding to accept the Bill as an instalment. Only Hetherington's Penny Paper, with its 'the Mountain in Labour has been delivered—of a mouse' (fn. 42) article, and other similar comments, really saw how ineffectual the Bill would be in making immediate changes in the representation. Place was, however, able to change his opinions rapidly as fresh evidence altered the circumstances, and on 20 May 1832, with the Reform Bill only just passed through the House of Lords, he wrote 'the reformed house of commons at no great distance of time shall, as it must, prove how inadequate will be the reform bill to satisfy the expectations of the people'. (fn. 43)

With regard to the narrative history of reform it is important to note that Place is writing with the advantage of hindsight and not commenting on the events as they happen which is the impression given. The narrative on the Reform Bill period was written in the middle thirties and that on the London Working Men's Association and the Charter in the early forties (even so it is the earliest detailed account by a contemporary). To some extent this accounts for the farsightedness often seen in Place's remarks, but there is also genuine prescience in his writing. From the enhanced knowledge and experience of the people in the reform agitation he comments on the probability of aristocratic government disappearing and the people obtaining representative government 'exactly at the time when it can best be maintained, and that will be when the people have been prepared to carry it on with the least possible difficulty and the consequent certainty of reaping all its advantages'. (fn. 44) Similarly he realized that it was not the working classes who forced through the reform of 1832 (although their agitation was valuable) and that the Reform Act did not give parliamentary power to the middle class. He wrote 'the aristocracy lost no power over the House of Commons by the Reform bill, it was only changed' (fn. 45) and went on to show that repeal of the Corn Laws would be a greater blow to the aristocracy, a shrewd view which it has taken historians more than a century to resurrect. The material comprising the Place Papers is of as much importance, therefore, for Place's contemporary comment as for the factual information on radical activity, and the inevitable errors and areas of bias do not seriously detract from that importance.


Selection of actual documents from the Place Papers and Place Collection proved difficult because of the vast range of material. The period 1830-43 was chosen because this is the period for which Place provides most material on radical activity in London. During the eighteen-twenties Place's material concentrates on education and trade unionism and after 1843, as a result of Place's severe illness in the following year, there is little material. Within the given fact that the greatest amount of material is on the agitation for the Reform Bill, the basic premises on which selection was made were to provide as far as possible a broad coverage for the whole period 1830-43 and to make considerable use of the less well-known material. Thus the detail of Place's comments and material on Middlesex and Westminster elections has been ignored, although documents illustrating radical activity have been freely drawn from Westminster meetings in particular, evidence of which is generally available because of Place's contacts there. It should not be considered that the level of activity in Westminster was typical of that of London in general, although it was probably similar to the action in Marylebone, another borough with a long history of radical activity. There were, of course, reform associations formed and meetings held throughout the metropolis but leadership belonged to Westminster and Marylebone.

Newspaper cuttings have been ignored, on the ground that this material is available elsewhere, except where part of a document depends for its meaning on an annexed newspaper cutting. Place, himself, relief heavily on newspaper cuttings, particularly of reform meetings, which he frequently transcribed into his narrative. As well as newspaper cuttings, Place's accounts of the numerous parochial and borough meetings held in London during the Reform Bill agitation have had to be ignored with the exception of a few examples. Similar treatment has been given to the accounts of and comments on meetings of the National Union of the Working Classes. (fn. 46)

There is unfortunately no material, beyond the initial account of its formation and its rules, on the Metropolitan Political Union formed in March 1830. It was of far greater importance than the citing of only one document in this volume may suggest, since it was the first reform organization in London leading in to the Reform Bill agitation. Its rules and organization provided a formula for later associations and, even though its existence was brief, it was particularly of importance for endeavouring to bring together the middle and working classes in agitation against the oligarchy which controlled the House of Commons. The Parliamentary Candidate Society has been treated at considerable length, partly because it has been neglected by historians and partly because of the intrinsic importance of the idea behind such an organization of inquiring, on a country-wide basis, into the opinions and conduct on public matters of past members of parliament and prospective candidates, to ensure that voters could elect members who were really anxious to reform the House of Commons. Quite naturally it was an organization which was unpopular with members of parliament and much contemporary opinion since the idea was advanced for its time. It is unfortunate that none of the reports on candidates have survived in the Place Papers.

The next major organizations, chronologically, are the National Union of the Working Classes and the National Political Union. Inevitably the detail on the latter is the greater because of Place's connection with it and comment on it is, of course, much more favourable than that given to the former, some of the members of which Place described as 'perfectly atrocious'. (fn. 47) As has been noted Place denigrated the importance of the National Union of the Working Classes on the ground of its small number of members and criticized them for their violent attitudes and refusal to compromise with the middle-class reformers. The union was, however, important not for its figures of actual membership but its effect on the large audiences, many of whom were not members, at its public and private meetings and for its psychological effect on those at a distance from London who believed, as even Place noted, (fn. 48) that most of the working men in London were united in that union. One has also to accept that there was an obvious necessity, both for Place and his followers in the National Political Union on the one hand and the ultra-radicals of the National Union of the Working Classes on the other, to exaggerate the evils of the other one in order to draw the uncommitted members of the working class to support them. Hence neither of them had a good word to say for the other, particularly since the National Political Union was most anxious to expand its membership among the working classes.

Little has been written on either the National Union of the Working Classes or the National Political Union, which between them epitomize the wings of the reform movement—the ultra-radicals wanting revolution (so at least their opponents including Place said) (fn. 49) and the middle-class philosophic radicals with their 'deferential' working-class followers. The National Union of the Working Classes well deserves some serious study as the training ground for working men in which the theoretical ideas of men like Owen and Hodgskin were discussed and made the creed of the rapidly developing consciousness of identity among some working men, which was one of the factors leading into Chartism. The National Political Union, of less intrinsic interest for the ideas it promoted, was nevertheless as important a manifestation of public opinion of the times as its better known Birmingham counterpart, although probably not of as much importance as Place implies. Surprisingly, the two unions had much in common in the way of membership and could not be differentiated on a simple middle- or working-class structure, (fn. 50) nor even in the way Place divided them, '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.' (fn. 51) The real difference between the two was much more complicated, perhaps depending on the temperaments of individuals rather than their social class, and has yet to be unravelled. Both unions were, however, transient, being dependent upon the excitement engendered by the introduction of the Reform Bill for their support and soon falling away. By the end of 1832, for instance, the attendance at council meetings of the National Political Union was dropping and the minutes were purely formal. There was some fresh enthusiasm with the election of a new council in February 1833 but decline to extinction recommenced in April of that year. It may thus be seen that the spirit of union was only a temporary one brought about by circumstances and did not herald a general reaction against the form of government.

The account in the documents and the remaining evidence in the Place Papers of the meeting of the National Union of the Working Classes in Cold Bath Fields in May 1833 which led to the death of policeman Robert Culley, and the events surrounding the inquest on his body, reflect the bias of both middle- and working-class radicals against the metropolitan police. This is a subject which is insufficiently well explained by Gavin Thurston (fn. 52) in his book on the affair (which in whitewashing the police provides as much bias in the opposite direction and is a useful antidote to Place's material) and which will bear further scrutiny by historians. There is little material on the unstamped press and the agitation for the repeal of the newspaper stamp duty in the mid-eighteen-thirties in the documents following. Despite the fact that Place was intimately involved with J. A. Roebuck and Dr. Black on the committee for promoting petitions against the stamp duty and in the Pamphlets for the People, little evidence of this agitation remains in his papers, apart from some correspondence.

The London Working Men's Association has been given limited space in the documents, partly because it is already well known and much of the material appears in Lovett's autobiography (fn. 53) and partly because the minute books of the association, although in the Manuscript Department of the British Museum, do not form part of the Place Papers. On the other hand the Metropolitan Parliamentary Reform Association is given considerable space since it is much less generally known and because of its ideological connections with the Complete Suffrage Movement of Joseph Sturge.

Beyond the fact that the documents give a more widespread and favourable impression of middle-class moderate radical activity than they do of working-class ultra radicalism, it may well be said that they express only the views of the literate and important radicals and not those of the mass of their followers and that there is a disadvantage in this. While it is undoubtedly true that the thousands who took part in the Bowyer/Powell procession (fn. 54) and the meeting to elect candidates to the Chartist General Convention, (fn. 55) had ideas on the subject of reform, to a large extent they took them from the leading reformers or had their own ideas moulded by them. Lack of knowledge of the opinions of the majority of people involved in the reform agitation is probably therefore not of great significance, particularly since, as I have argued elsewhere, (fn. 56) the mass of people in London were peculiarly disinterested in the subject and were only stirred up to follow the leading reformers at times of particular excitement in 1831-2 and 1839. There was probably greater continuous interest in reform during the forties with the various trades' chartist societies but this was at a time when the excitement and ability to draw crowds in London was largely over.

A number of other points remain to be made about some of the contents of the documents. There has been a tendency among recent historians to denigrate the importance of the first Reform Act and it is certainly true that it did little to alter the type of representative in the House of Commons or to alter the methods of electing members to that House. It is, however, obvious from the documents that many ardent reformers were very surprised and delighted at the extent of the bill when it was first introduced and that they considered that it introduced considerable change. This is sometimes lost sight of in the light of the Reform Act's failure to live up to the change which was expected and because of the considerable reaction to that failure. Nevertheless the first Reform Act was a major step forward as compared with the very limited proposals for reform seen during the twenties. One should, however, be suspicious concerning Place's continual comments on the united spirit of the people with regard to the Reform Bill.

In a recent book Dr. Hobsbawm has continued the historical argument that in the years 1831-2, at the time of the agitation for the first Reform Act, England was near to revolution. He writes, (fn. 57) 'At no other period since the seventeenth century can we speak of large masses of them [the common people] as revolutionary, or discern at least one moment of political crisis when something like a revolutionary situation might actually have developed'. That this is an artificial and forced view of history is evidenced by the language used—'something like a revolutionary situation might actually have developed'. If his were a lone voice one would be less concerned about the impact of this view of the period on students of history, but it is in fact a much held view. E. P. Thompson in his stimulating study of the working class comes to a similar conclusion. 'Viewed from one aspect, England was without any doubt passing through a crisis in these twelve months [early in 1831 until the "days of May" in 1832] in which revolution was possible,' and 'In the autumn of 1831 and in the "days of May" Britain was within an ace of a revolution which, once commenced might well . . . have prefigured, in its rapid radicalisation, the revolutions of 1848, and the Paris Commune.' (fn. 58)

The importance of this question of nearness-to-revolution in 1831-2 for this volume of documents lies in the fact that Place is one of the authorities from whom evidence has been drawn to support such a thesis. Professor Rude has recently written, 'Francis Place . . . had actually hoodwinked both Whig and Tory Members of Parliament into believing that if the Reform Bill were not conceded revolution would be unleashed in all the great cities of the Kingdom!' (fn. 59) Many quotations from the documents could be made to support this. The decision of the King, under the threat of violence, not to make a state visit to the Lord Mayor of London in November 1830 was 'the first step in the British Revolution'. (fn. 60) 'There seemed to be but two things between which a choice could be made—the bill or a revolution.' (fn. 61) With the Reform Bill passed Place wrote, 'We were within a moment of general rebellion, and had it been possible for the Duke of Wellington to have formed an administration, the King and the people would have been at issue. . . .' and also 'But for these demonstrations [the mass meetings of the people, etc.] a revolution would have commenced, which would have been the act of the whole people to a greater extent than any which had ever before been accomplished'. (fn. 62)

This was not, however, always the attitude adopted by Place. His general view was of the necessity of preventing revolution (fn. 63) and of horror at the attitude of the ultra-radicals who wanted a complete upheaval. After talking to some of them in October 1831 he wrote, 'So thoroughly satisfied were these men that in a very few months "the people would rise and do themselves justice", that when I expressed my doubts, they became irritated . . .'. (fn. 64)

Most important of all, however, are the questions as to how far Place was genuine in his belief as to the nearness of revolution and how far he was trying to make a case, as Rudé has put it, in order to hoodwink the authorities to force the Reform Bill through. On 18 May Sir John Hobhouse wrote to Place informing him that 'there was to be a meeting in Downing Street at noon' and requesting a letter 'telling him all the facts I [Place] could and giving him my opinion of the state of feeling among the people as far as I could and my view of prospective results'. (fn. 65) Realizing that the Downing Street meeting would be an important one which would settle whether or not the Duke of Wellington should form an administration, and knowing his own standing with Hobhouse, Place quite naturally produced a strong-worded reply. 'If the Duke came into power now, we shall be unable, longer to "hold to the laws"—break them we must, be the consequences whatever they may, we know that all must join with us, to save their property, no matter what may be their private opinions. Towns will be barricaded . . . we shall have a commotion in the nature of a civil war . . . Here then is a picture not by any means over drawn . . . Think too upon the results. . . . think of the coming Republic.' etc.

It is difficult to believe that this was anything but gross exaggeration and it would seem reasonable to accept that Place was playing a double game with Hobhouse (whom he had before used because of his parliamentary position) and overstating a danger which his considerable knowledge of the people, especially in London, did not really justify. It is, however, possible that Place was led astray from the realities by the infectious excitement he encountered. There still remains, quite apart from this letter, a considerable number of comments by Place on the nearness of revolution as shown above, but it may be seen that these were part of the agitation leading up to the passing of the bill, when it was necessary to create a climate to force the bill through, and in such circumstances one may expect a lot of hot air to be loosed. Finally, in his narrative comments (which he intended to publish) when the bill was passed, Place could hardly produce a volte-face and say that it had been a complete spoof after all.

There were, of course, people at the time who would have welcomed a revolution, even such a one as Place had in mind to secure the supremacy of the middle classes, but they were too few and insufficiently organized to have created one in the climate of the time. It is particularly worth noting that this was especially true of London, which as the capital city and the major population centre would surely have had some say in the course of a revolution. As a postscript on the question of revolution and organization, especially among the working classes, it is worth noting Place's comment in 1842, written one suspects with a feeling of sorrow, on the failure of Chartism,
All these person thought as most of the politically associated working men still do, that—noise and clamour, threats, menaces and denunciations will operate upon the government, so as to produce fear in sufficient quantity to insure the adoption of the Charter—they have yet to learn that these notions and proceedings contain no one element of power—that the Government as mere matter of course will, as every Government must, hold people very cheap who mistake such matters, as have been mentioned, for power . . . they have not a glimpse of their own, much less of the actual condition or relation of the several portions of society, who must concur, before any great organic change can be even put in progress. . . . (fn. 66)

This comment is surely a more accurate conception of British politics and society in the period than is the one of nearness-to-revolution. It is a comment which may accurately be applied to 1831-2, for without the Whigs, who were the powerful element in reform, the Bill would have been doomed to failure. Despite the important role which Place arrogates to the political unions, the popular out-of-doors agitation provided only the chorus and filled none of the principal acting parts.


There remain a few minor points of detail with regard to the documents and their presentation. An approximate chronological order has been maintained throughout, except where one topic has been followed through to its conclusion, in the hope that this will make for greater ease of reading. In documents where Place has transcribed reports from newspapers there may well be errors involved in his transcriptions. No attempt has been made to check these against the originals; they have been included since they bring together diverse opinions and add to the chronological sequence of the documents. In the Place manuscripts there are frequent instances of inaccurate spelling and poor punctuation and they contain much incorrect grammar and faulty and confused construction. To some extent, no doubt, this resulted from the fact that they were hurried drafts of what was later intended to be a published history of reform movements in the period. In these respects the documents here printed have followed the original, except where punctuation has been added in order to clarify ambiguous or otherwise difficult sentences. Sic has been used sparingly to denote spelling mistakes and other casual errors in the manuscripts, although it has been omitted if the same mistake is repeated regularly. Beyond the comment provided in this introduction, the documents have been presented as in the original with no annotation beyond the dating and placing of otherwise unrecognizable material.

Finally I should like to express my thanks to the staff of the Photographic, Manuscript and Printed Books departments of the British Museum; to the staff research fund of the University of Newcastle upon Tyne for a grant which enabled me to have photocopies made of all the relevant documents, and therefore saved me the tedious task of transcription; to Dr. N. McCord, who has kindly read this introduction and corrected many of the errors which it contained in its original form (those that remain are, of course, my responsibility), and also made many useful suggestions which have been incorporated in it; and to Miss E. Clark for her painstaking efforts in producing the typescript.


  • 1. See below, Document no. 114.
  • 2. The general material on Place and his life is taken from G. Wallas, The Life of Francis Place (rev. edn. 1918) and Wallas' account of Place in D.N.B. In their turn these are based largely on Place's autobiographical material, British Museum, Add. Mss. 35142-54. For Place, see also W.E.S. Thomas, 'Francis Place and working class history', Historical Journal, v (1962), 61–70.
  • 3. Add. Ms. 35142, f. 20.
  • 4. Although Place remained largely in the background of the political affairs of Westminster he was still much noticed and the members of Parliament he supported had to accept many jibes as being the nominees of the 'radical tailor'. There were also laudatory notices of Place's work and power such as that in the European Magazine, new series, ii. no. 7 (March 1826), 227-33, where the saying of Archimedes 'Give me place for my fulcrum and I'll move the world' was first applied in this context.
  • 5. See 94. Place obtained an agreement from the London Working Men's Association not to criticize the New Poor Law if he drew up the 'Charter', Add. Ms. 27835, f. 160.
  • 6. Wallas, Life, 181.
  • 7. 92.
  • 8. The importance of the anti-combination laws of 1799-1800 has been grossly exaggerated. They were little used and although their psychological effect was perhaps considerable, there were many strikes during the period 1800-24 when they remained unused—on Tyneside for instance there were strikes of the keelmen in 1809, 1819 and 1822 and of the seamen in 1815.
  • 9. Wallas, Life, 186.
  • 10. Ibid., 329-30.
  • 11. Ibid., 330-50.
  • 12. This was even true as late as 1840 as a letter to S. B. Harrison shows, 120.
  • 13. 8.
  • 14. Quoted in Wallas, Life, 192.
  • 15. 50.
  • 16. L. S. Sutherland, The City of London and the Opposition to Government, 1768-74, Creighton Lecture, 1958 (1959).
  • 17. For a wide-ranging coverage of radicalism at this time see E. P. Thompson's stimulating account in The Making of the English Working Class (1963), 102-85.
  • 18. Ibid., 155-6.
  • 19. For evidence on this subject for the borough of St. Marylebone see F. H. W. Sheppard, Local Government in St. Marylebone, 1688-1835 (1958).
  • 20. See for instance M. Hovell, The Chartist Movement (Manchester, 1918), 47-8.
  • 21. See Public Record Office, Home Office Papers 40/44, report of meeting in Portland Town, 25 March 1839.
  • 22. To some extent this is side-stepping the definitions of class. I have used the terms working and middle class as a shorthand form—meaning working men, from artisans to labourers—and white-collar workers, from clerks to employing manufacturers. These terms have been used for more than a century and are far from precise. According to temperament and other circumstances a man from the working class will often act in the way one expects from someone of the middle class. If, however, one attempts to define classes more accurately the difficulties with which one gets involved outweigh the benefits of the exercise for historical analysis. See for example R. S. Neale, 'Class and class-consciousness in early nineteenth-century England: three classes or five?', Victorian Studies, xii (1968-9), 4-32. It seems more sensible to use the shorthand but to realize its limitations.
  • 23. Place made, or had made for him, copies of much of his outward correspondence.
  • 24. For further information on this topic see B. Harrison, 'Two Roads to Social Reform: Francis Place and the Drunken Committee of 1834', Historical Journal, xi (1968), 272-300.
  • 25. Wallas, Life (1898).
  • 26. M. Hovell, The Chartist Movement (Manchester, 1918).
  • 27. J. West, A History of the Chartist Movement (1920).
  • 28. For instance the volume of essays, Chartist Studies, ed. Asa Briggs (1959), contains no section on London.
  • 29. See my article 'The Failure of London Chartism', Historical Journal, xi (1968), 472-87, and I. Prothero, 'Chartism in London', Past and Present, no. 44 (Aug. 1969), 76-105.
  • 30. See D.N.B.
  • 31. B.M. Add. Ms. 27791, ff. 116-17 and 29.
  • 32. 25.
  • 33. Handbill 3.
  • 34. 29.
  • 35. 53.
  • 36. 54.
  • 37. 22.
  • 38. 45.
  • 39. 30.
  • 40. 46 and 47.
  • 41. 3.
  • 42. Penny Papers for the People, 12 March 1831.
  • 43. 50.
  • 44. 50.
  • 45. 120.
  • 46. Add. Ms. 27791, vol. ii.
  • 47. 28.
  • 48. 22.
  • 49. 43.
  • 50. See my article 'Class and Political Radicalism in London, 1831-32', to be published in Historical Journal.
  • 51. 43.
  • 52. G. Thurston, The Clerkenwell Riot (1967).
  • 53. Life and struggles of William Lovett (1876, reprinted 1967).
  • 54. 23.
  • 55. 103.
  • 56. 'Failure of London Chartism', Historical Journal, xi, 472-87.
  • 57. E. J. Hobsbawm, Industry and Empire: an Economic History of Britain since 1750 (1968), 55.
  • 58. Thompson, The Making of the English Working Class, 808 and 817.
  • 59. G. Rudé, in a review of Thurston, The Clerkenwell Riot, in Victorian Studies, xii (1968), 117-19.
  • 60. 3.
  • 61. Add. Ms. 27792, f. 153 (April 1832).
  • 62. 50. See also generally Add. Ms. 27795, ff. 141-8.
  • 63. It should, perhaps, be made quite clear that the revolution of which Place is writing is one to be initiated by the middle classes and backed by the numerical support of the working classes in order to destroy the power of the aristocracy, etc.
  • 64. 27. The italics are mine.
  • 65. 48.
  • 66. 120.