Radical Reformers 1790-1819

Aims and Tactics of extra-parliamentary protest

THE LONDON CORRESPONDING SOCIETY, 1792-93

  • Founded by Thomas Hardy and modelled on french revolution political clubs 
  • they campaigned for democratic reform (annual elections and universal male suffrage)
  • at its peak it has 3,000 members who distrbuted printed handbills to the public 
  • 1793 - 6,000 citizens signed a petion saying they supported the society
  • there were many of these societies across the country 
  • began to decline from 1797 but the tactic continued with the Hampden clubs 

THE SPA FIELDS MEETING, 1816 

  • Henry Hunt was invited to speak to show support for a petition about parliamentary reform 
  • around 10,000 people attended 
  • Hunt asked them to sign a petition which stood for universal male suffrage. annual elections and secret ballots - this was not accepted 
  • a 2nd meeting was held at spa fields - turned into a march to the Tower of London 
  • military troops were sent to break the meeting up 
  • Spy, John Castle, 4 leaders were tried with treason although later acquited = convinced the government a revolution was possible
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Aims and Tactics of extra-parliamentary protest

THE PENTRIDGE RISING, 1817 

  • An armed march began in Pentridge and headed towards Nottingham with the intention to then march to London
  • 300 workers (iron and quarry workers) armed with pikes and a few guns 
  • aim was to demand reforms 
  • A spy, William Oliver, informed the government and so it was crushed by soldiers 
  • the government made an example of them with 45 tried for treason and 30 were transported 

PETERLOO MASSACRE, 1819 

  • Protest movement declined until 1819 where it resurged
  • 50-60,000 people attended at st peter's field and henry hunt was a speaker 
  • local magistrates panicked and the local yeomany was sent in with over 1,500 soldiers 
  • they then panicked and attacked peaceful protestors and so interpreted it as a riot 
  • 18 were killed and 700 injured 
  • people protested loadly against the actions of the magistraites 
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Government's response

SUSPENSION OF HABEAS CORPUS, 1794-95

  • Prevented arrests without trial - allowed the government to round up potential threats about the popular protests 

TREASON ACT AND SEDITIOUS MEETINGS ACT, 1795 

  • Treason Act = assaults against the king were high treason (response to king george having rubbish thrown at him) - used to outlaw the works of thomas paine and publication of protest pamphlets - contempt of crown, court or parliament to be transported for 7 years 
  • Seditious Meetings = banned public meetings over 50 people and made it illegal to rent a hall for debating policy - justices of peace to disperse any crowd 

TRIAL OF THE LEADERS OF THE LONDON CORRESSPONDING SOCIETY, 1794 

  • Trial of 30 radical reformers and 13 were tried for treason YET  all were acquited 
  • booksellers were fined or imprisoned and so by 1797 they had lost a lot of influence and it was made illegal by the 1799 Combination Act - banned the existance of trade unions or politcal society 
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Government's response

CONTROL OF THE MEDIA 

  • 1797 - stamp tax meant that making newspapers was more expensive and harder - limiting expansion of critical articles

THE GAGGING ACTS, 1817

  • The 1795 acts were made into permanent law with even more restrictions - meetings held within 1 mile of parliament square and banned during parliamentary session and the re-suspension of habeas corpus 

THE SIX ACTS, 1819

  • The training prevention act - stop them learning how to use weapons; seizure of arms act - magistrates to seize weapons; seditious meetings act - extended the 1817 act to give notice; blasphemous and seditious libels act - penalties for libel at 17 years; misdemeanours act - sped up the process of charging people; newspaper and stamp duties act - rasied stamp duty 

USE OF AGENT PROVOCATEURS - spies to infiltrate protestors and report to the government

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Extent of success by 1819

EVIDENCE OF FAILURE 

  • Lack of progress with objectives = they had not meet any objectives, no greater representation or parliamentary reforms 
  • Inability to overcome opposition = all acts passed severly weakened the strength and ability of them with the governments willingness to use soldiers and trials 
  • Lack of co-ordination within the movement = there was no unified leadership despite key thinkers like cobbett, hunt and cartwright - often disagreements between philosphies - no real opposition making the government's job easier

EVIDENCE OF SUCCESS

  • Creating awareness = created awareness among the general public ans showed the level of disatisfaction and made it impossible for government ignorance 
  • setting the scene for future progression = laid the groundwork for the reform crisis of 1830-32 due to the poor harvest of 1929 

OVERALL SUCCESS = created politcal debate and acted as the root for potential later reform 

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Influences on the extra-parliamentary protests

INTERNATIONAL EVENTS = 

  • American war for independance (1775-83) = government could be challenged raised the ideas of independance and revolution
  • French Revolution (1789-99) = disputed why aristocracy had to keep their pwer and promoted the idea of fundamental rights and equality 
  • End of the Napoleonic War in 1815 = 300,000 men trying to find work which drove down wages, combined with bad harvests and the bread rise which created popular discontent 

GOVERNMENT POLICIES

  • The Corn Laws (1815) = kept corn prices high to protect farmers but it drove bread prices up for the poor
  • The Poor Employment Act (1817) = inadequate for the scale of problems because it ignored requests for financial relief 
  • Wartime income tax = was abolished for the middle class but as the government lacked money it remained for the poor 
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Influences on the extra-parliamentary protests

THOMAS PAINE AND THE RIGHTS OF MAN 

  • He emigrated to the US there during and after the War for Independence 
  • 1791 - Rights of Man 
  • became a criticism of governments which failed to protect basic human freedoms such as freedom speech and liberty to have political ideas 
  • the government took action against him and so he fled to France in 1972 

JOHN CARTWRIGHT AND THE HAMPDEN CLUBS 

  • Major John Cartwright was an advocate of universal suffrage and political reform 
  • He formed the hampden clubs - unite middle class and working class radicals 
  • He was arrested in 1813 because of his radical views 
  • his club in machester organised the st peter's field protest 
  • YET, divisions remained mainly over the expansion of suffrage 

WILLIAM COBBET AND THE POLITICAL REGISTER 

  • He was a journalist that wanted reform but was not a radical - he wanted harmony 
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Influences on the extra-parliamentary protests

  • He saw the politcal system as repressive and state's instiitutions full of corruption 
  • He fled to America in 1800 
  • he began publishing in a protest newspaper - the politcal register 
  • due to the raising of stamp taxes Cobbet made it a pamphlet instead of a 2d
  • with a circulation of 40,000 working class readers 

HENRY HUNT AS A RADICAL ORATOR 

  • He was a renowned public speaker - campaigned for universal suffrage and annual elections 
  • He was the speaker at St Peter's field 
  • Important in spreading public awareness of the movement 
  • 1820 - imprisoned for 2 and half years 
  • inspired the working class people to seek universal suffrage 
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