Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

32.

It soon appeared how little effect the violent suppres- CHAP.

X. sion of the Manchester meeting had in preventing assemblages of a similar or still more alarming description

rintion 1819. throughout the country. Meetings took place at Birming- Seditious

meetings in ham and Leeds, in Westminster, York, Liverpool, Bris- other quartol, and Nottingham, attended by great multitudes, at which flags representing a yeoman cutting at a woman were displayed, with the word “ Vengeance” inscribed in large letters, and resolutions vehemently condemning the Manchester proceedings were adopted. A meeting of the Common Council of London was held on 9th September, when a petition was voted to the Prince-Regent, condemning the conduct of the magistrates and geomanry, and praying for inquiry ; and at Paisley a meeting of the most violent and seditious character was held, which led to still more serious results. The magistrates of the burgh and sheriff of the county had there very properly issued a proclamation, denouncing the pro

ters.

ing to a breach of the peace—as to choose a provisional government, or to levy war on the Government, or to train without proper authority, or to have an Orange procession among Ribbonmen-is announced, to meet it by a counter-proclamation denouncing it as illegal; but not to do this unless the illegality or danger is manifest, and the magistrate is prepared, and has the force to act decidedly if his admonition is disregarded. 20. If, in defiance of the proclamation, the meeting is held or the procession attempted, to stop it as gently as possible by force, the magistrate being always himself at the head of the civil or military force which may be employed. 3d. If a meeting, not called for treasonable or seditious purposes, takes place, but threatening to the public peace, to assemble in the vicinity as large a civil and military force as he has at his disposal, but place them out of sight, and never let them be exposed passively either to the insults or the seductions of the people. 4th. If acts of violence, as breaking into houses, setting fire to them, or assaulting or robbing individuals, are attempted, to charge the mob instantly, the magistrate taking his place beside the commanding officer, and taking on himself the entire responsibility; but not to give orders to act till the felonious acts are so clear and decided as to leave no doubt of the impending danger, and to be capable of being proved, in defiance of misrepresentation, by numerous witnesses. 5th. If the leaders are to be arrested, but nothing illegal has yet been done by the multitude, to have the warrant ready, but not to attempt to execute it till they have dispersed, taking the precaution, however, to have the speeches listened to, or taken down by persons who can be relied on. 6th. If acts of decided felony have been commenced, to act at once, without waiting for the hour required to elapse by the Riot Act, and though it has not been read, the object of that Act being to render illegal a legal and peaceable, not to justify the dispersion of a violent and illegal assembly.

X.

1819.

CHAP. posed meeting as illegal, and warning the public that

it would be dispersed by force ; but notwithstanding this, the people met on a common near the town, and entered it in great force, with colours, bearing seditious devices, flying, and music sounding. They were met by the sheriff and magistrates, who seized the colours, and warned the people to disperse. This led to a violent tumult, in the course of which several shops were broken into and pillaged, and order was not restored till the military had been brought from Glasgow, and twenty of the ringleaders seized. In Yorkshire a meeting was held, on a requisition to the high sheriff, signed by Lord Fitzwilliam, the lord-lieutenant of the West Riding of the county, and many other noblemen and gentlemen, where resolutions strongly condemnatory of the Manchester proceedings were adopted. For his share in that

proceeding, Lord Fitzwilliam was immediately removed 1 Ann. Reg. om eq. from his high office by order of Government, to the great

om 0.9 regret of the friends of that highly-respected nobleman; 111; Sid. 10 mouth's but the divergence of opinions between him and the Mem. iii. 208, 304. Administration had become such that it was impossible

they could longer act together. 1

Great inconvenience had been experienced throughout Augmenta- all these disturbances, occurring simultaneously in so tion of the Chelsea many different and distant quarters, from the want of pensioners.

any adequate military force to overawe the disaffected and preserve the public peace. A serious riot occurred at Ely, in the course of which the rioters got possession of, and kept for some time, the little town of Littleport, and the only force to oppose to them was eighteen dragoons. The like force was all that could be collected to oppose an insurrection at Derby. When the disturbance broke out at Paisley in the end of September, and the most pressing request for more troops was sent by Sir Thomas Bradford, the Commander-in-Chief in Scotland, the only mode of answering it was by sending a regiment from Portsmouth, and supplying its place by one from

181

33.

X.

1819.

Guernsey. The Commander-in-Chief, with the exception CHAP. of the Guards, who could not with safety be moved from – London, had not a single regiment at his disposal, when 1 applications for protection were coming in from all quarters, and yet Parliament was ringing with declamations about the undue increase of the military force of the country. In this extremity Government adopted the wisest course which could have been followed, by calling out the most efficient of the pensioners, and arranging them in veteran battalions—a measure which, at a cost of only £300,000 a-year, added nearly 11,000 men to the military force of the kingdom. Lord Sidmouth was indefatigable Oct. 29. in pursuing this object, as well as in augmenting the number and strength of the yeomanry force throughout the country; and so ceaseless and energetic were his efforts in both respects, that the Prince-Regent observed, with equal truth and justice, “ He is the Duke of Wellington on home service.” At the same time that illustrious commander, who now, on his return from the Continent, commenced that career of administrative reform and amelioration which, not less than his military career, entitle him to the gratitude and admiration of his coun- ? Ann, Reg.

1819, 114; try, addressed a letter to Lord Sidmouth, of lasting value Sidmouth's

Life, iii. to all magistrates and officers placed in similar circum- 290, 294. stances. 1*

* “I strongly recommend to you to order the magistrates to carry into execution, without loss of time, the law against training, and to furnish them with the means of doing so. Do not let us be again reproached with having omitted to carry the laws into execution. By sending to Carlisle and Newcastle 700 or 800 men, cavalry and infantry, and two pieces of cannon, or, in other words, two of this movable column, the four would be more than sufficient to do all that may be required. Rely upon it, that, in the circumstances in which we are placed, impression on either side is everything. If, upon the passing of the training law, you prevent training, either by the use of force or the appearance of force, in the two places above mentioned, you will put a stop at once to all the proceedings of the insurgents. They are like conquerors ; they must go forward ; the moment they stop they are lost. Their adherents will lose all confidence, and by degrees every individual will relapse into their old habits of loyalty or indifference. On the other hand, the moment the loyal see there is a law which can prevent these practices, and means and inclination and determination to carry it into execution, they will regain courage, and will do everything which you can desire. In my opinion, if you send the troops, and

X

Parlia

sures of Government.

CHAP. Parliament met on the 23d November, and of course

- there was special allusion in the Speech from the Throne 1819, tt

to the seditious practices which had unfortunately become 34. Meeting of so prevalent in the country. There were no congratulaand mea- tions on the prosperity of the country, or the general

a wellbeing of the working classes. On the contrary, the Nov. 23. speech contained an emphatic admission of deep distress

in several branches of industry.* It is not surprising that Ministers alluded to the distress which pervaded several branches of manufacturing industry, for from the papers laid before Parliament, to justify the measures of repression which were proposed, it appeared that wages in the cotton manufacture had sunk a half within the last eight months, and in most other trades in the same proportion,-a fact speaking volumes both as to the real cause which at this particular period had rendered the efforts of the demagogues so successful in disturbing the

population, and the futility of the ideas of those who 2 Parl. Deb. ascribe the distress which prevailed to the excess of 422; Ann. importations, which could have had no other effect Reg. 1819, 132. 'but a beneficial one on the manufactures for the export

sale,1 by diminishing the price at which the raw mate

xli, 1, 5,

order that the law shall be carried into execution, you will not be under the necessity of using them ; and the good effect of this will be felt not only in these towns, but over all England. Observe also, that if training is continued after the passing of the law, which it will be unless you send a force to prevent it, the insurgents will gain a very important victory."—WELLINGTON to Lord SIDMOUTH, Dec. 11, 1819; Sidmouth's Life, iii. 293.

*“The seditious practices so long prevalent in several parts of the manufacturing districts of the country, have been continued with increased activity since you were last assembled. They have led to proceedings incompatible with the public tranquillity, and with the peaceful habits of the industrious classes of the community; and a spirit is now fully manifested utterly hostile to the constitution of this kingdom, and aiming not only at the change of those political institutions which have hitherto constituted the pride and security of the country, but at the subversion of the rights of property, and of all order in society. .... Some depression still continues to exist in certain branches of our manufactures, and I deeply lament the distress felt by those who more immediately depend upon them; but this depression is in a great measure to be ascribed to the embarrassed situation of other countries, and I earnestly hope it will be found to be of a temporary nature." - PRINCE-REGENT'S Specch, 230 Nov, 1819; Ann. Reg. for 1819, 116, 117.

X.

ere

1819. 35.

mouth's

Parlia

rial and the subsistence for the workmen would be pur- CHAP. chased. *

As soon as the debates on the Address, which were 1819. unusually long and stormy, but which terminated in large Lord Sidministerial majorities in both houses, were over, Lord Sid- Acts of mouth in the House of Lords, and Lord Castlereagh in the the Commons, introduced the new measures which the Cabinet had deemed essential to meet the exigencies of the times. They were four in number, and, with the addition of two others not immediately connected with the public disturbances, were long famous in England under the name of the Six Acts. By the first, all training or practising Nov. 29. military exercises, by persons not authorised by Government, was prohibited, and persons engaged in it were declared liable to punishment by fine, or imprisonment not exceeding two years. By the second, justices of the peace were authorised to issue warrants in certain counties of England and Scotland, to search for arms or other weapons dangerous to the public peace, on a sworn information. By the third, the court was authorised, in the event of the accused allowing judgment to go by default, to order the seizure of all copies of a seditious or blasphemous libel, to be restored if the person accused was afterwards acquitted ; and for the second offence banishment might be inflicted. By the fourth, no more than fifty persons were to be allowed to assemble, except in borough or county meetings called by the magistrate ; and the carrying of flags or attending such meetings armed was prohibited, and extensive powers given to justices of peace or magistrates for dispersing them. In addition to this, a bill was introduced by the Lord-Chancellor, to prevent traversing or postponing of the trial, in cases of misdemeanour, to subsequent assizes ; and another in the

* "In all the great stations of the cotton manufacture, as Manchester, Glasgow, Paisley, the rate of wages had fallen on an average more than one half. This depression might be traced through the last twenty years to measures of political economy.”—Lord LANSDOWNE's Speech, Dec. 1, 1819; Parl. Deb. xiii. 422.

WC

« ForrigeFortsett »