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The Magistrates judiciously made all suitable preparations, by swearing in special constables, and having military in readiness; but they did not interfere with the meeting; and no evil consequence ensued from permitting it to go on unmolested. The next Meeting, of which the Papers make any mention, took place at Paisley; but it should seem that one had been held in the interval at Glasgow; for the Provost, in the last quoted despatch, states his apprehensions of another much more numerous meeting to be held on the 26th of August. From this silence in the documents, we conclude that it passed off as quietly as the former. The Paisley Magistrates appear to have conducted themselves with the same prudence and exemplary moderation which distinguished those of Glasgow, excepting in the single particular of causing the flags to be seized; which unfortunately produced resistance, and this ended in considerable rioting. During the outrageous proceedings of the mob, nothing could exceed the temperate, conciliatory, and even kind demeanour, both of the Magistrates and Military. The Riot Act was read; full warning of this was given; the admirable precaution (which ought to be made a part of the law) was pursued, of posting up handbills among the mob, informing them that the proclamation had been made; and, after all, the military only acted, amidst the insults of the rabble, in such a way as to command general admiration. Several of the rioters were taken, and are now under prosecution; none were killed, nor even severely hurt; and the quiet of Paisley, as well as Glasgow, was restored, after riotous proceedings for two days, resembling, in the nature of the mischief, and in the description of its perpetrators, the riots that not unfrequently take place there without any kind of political design, or any concert whatever. Similar mobbing had disturbed the publick peace a few months before, and led to no serious consequences. In a word, the conduct pursued by those truly worthy Magistrates forms a signal contrast to the ill-judged violence shown by their brethren elsewhere: In the one place the law was administered in mercy, and the sword unsheathed reluctantly, by men who wisely, as well as humanely, felt that they had to deal with misguided children of a larger growth; in the other, an occasion of displaying power in all its harshness, seems to have been eagerly sought for, and even created, when it could not be found. Let the country contemplate the opposite results produced in the two cases.
The more general accounts given in the correspondence of the Duke of Hamilton and Lord Glasgow, also deserve to be considered. His Grace, in describing the irritation of his district, and the effects of the prevailing alarm in preventing persons
from uniting to aid the civil power, evidently ascribes the whole to distress, as its ultimate or producing cause. • This part of the country (says that distinguished and justly respected person) is unfortunately surrounded by idle Irishmen, weavers and colliers, who create a general uneasiness.' (p. 49.) I must repeat to your Lordship (he says in another Letter), that this neighbourhood continues in a state of extreme dis'tress; generally in want of employment, and under a considerable degree of agitation, all of which appear more likely to increase than diminish.' (ibid.) Lord Glasgow's Letter is quite general; enters into various statements of the spirit of discontent prevailing; and complains of the attempts made to pervert the minds of youth, without giving a single fact in support of his assertion. He speaks the technical language of the alarmists, and, like the rest of his sect, avoids all discussion of particulars. He prefers, with Lord Grenville and Mr Plunket, to stake the question upon general notoriety.
We have now minutely gone through the whole evidence laid before Parliament; and we venture to draw from it one inference, without the least fear of contradiction,—that distress is at the bottom of the whole discontent; that no deep-laid design exists to destroy the Constitution, or war against the Law, or invade the property of the country; but that, as always happens in a popular Government, demagogues have availed themselves of the bad times to further their views, whether of political speculation, or of personal vanity; and that these proceedings may have here and there overstepped the bounds which are prescribed by law. The history of these events reminds one forcibly of the insurrections which broke out in Henry VIIIth's reign, upon occasion of the first attempt to introduce an Income Tax into this country. The masters were forced, by the difficulties it imposed on them, to throw men out of employment; and the poor workmen in many places rose up and took arms, not being quite so shortsighted as some of our demagogues, who conceive such a tax to fall wholly on the rich, and hold that the poor are noway concerned in opposing it. The Government took precautions to quell the riots, and enforce the tribute; and the principal scene of operation being in the eastern counties, the Dukes of Suffolk and Norfolk were sent thither with a force to quell the insurgents; with whom, when they began to reason, and asked who was their leader or captain, an aged man, called John Green, stood forth and said, If it please you, Sirs, our captain's name is Poverty, and his brother Necessity;' and opined plainly the causes of their ferment to lie in the impost, and its grinding effects on their
' employers, who could thus pay no wages. And after a while,' adds the Chronicler (Hall), this tribute surceased through the land, and quiet was restored-for well it was seen that the • Commons could none pay.'
If any addition were wanting to the proofs which we have given of the groundlessness of our late alarm, we assuredly have it in the important fact, wholly overlooked by the supporters of the new Bills, that the meetings, so much the object of dread, had in fact ceased all over the country before a single Bill was brought in. Previous to the 16th of August, we have seen how they were dwindling away both in numbers and violence; the events of that memorable day excited a general ferment, and revived the drooping spirit of popular assemblies; and then this was continued and augmented by the constant irritation kept up in the public mind by the unfortunate course of judicial proceedings, both before the Magistrates, the Grand Jury, and the Coroner, apparently amounting to a complete denial of justice; so that for a few weeks more numerous and violent meetings were everywhere held than had at any former time been known. But no fact is more certain than the tendency of all popular spirit to evaporate of itself, if unchecked by persecution; and the difficulty of repeating public meetings frequently within a short period of time, where there is nothing done but debate, is well known to all who have ever engaged in such proceedings. Accordingly, the effects of the Manchester outrage, and of the subsequent course pursued by the Courts in the Country, by degrees subsided; and even to discuss those interesting and fruitful topics, no new meetings were assembled. The leaders of the multitude tried in vain to renew their exploits; the spirit of the capital was found to have evaporated in a great procession; that of Manchester was under the control of a salutary caution, and the indisposition to witness another 16th of August was manifest. The demagogues, both in town and country, began to quarrel among themselves, and to show some sense of justice in copiously reviling one another, both by parole and in writing; vain attempts were made to assemble even the rabble of London; and two Spafields meetings, lately the terror of all men, were held with hardly any auditors, to the laughter and pity and contempt of all the town; till at length the whole having dwindled to nothing, the last account, that lived in the recollection of the publick, was the accusation brought against one rebel chief of embezzling four pounds thirteen and twopence, and the arrest of another for about the same sum, being the tavern bill of a civic entertainment to commemorate the triumph of the popular cause! Strange, that the
Alarmists should have been so little comforted by contemplating these proceedings-these manifest symptoms of innate debility in the cause of the disaffected-these demonstrative proofs that the machinations of such miserable creatures never could hurt the State-and that whatever ferment might have at one moment subsisted, had all yielded to the operation of the ordinary laws of the land. But it was now said that the danger lay not in London. Here was a material change of doctrine; for the whole malignity of its character in 1812 and 1817, had been made to depend upon the influence of the London chiefs, and the universal ramifications into the country of a conspiracy, the root of which was planted in the capital. But, then, all ferment in the country had also ceased; no outrages were committed; not a meeting of any sort had been held, or even announced for weeks before the Bills were brought into Parliament, and for two months before the new measures were in force. How could this be reconciled to the accounts so lavishly circulated, and so greedily devoured, of the imminent dangers of our situation? Surely every man must have been aware that the prospect of restraints upon publick meetings would necessarily have forced on the crisis, had any such risk really existed; for those who really wished to meet, and those whose plan was to avail them'selves of meetings to work their mischievous purposes, must equally have endeavoured to hold meetings while they were yet lawful: Yet not a meeting was called while the new Bills were in progress. Of all this there is but one explanation. The season of tumult, the time for being afraid of such assemblies, had passed by; and there never was any ground for the alarm which they had excited; nor the shadow of a ground for maintaining that the ancient constitutional law of the country, if steadily as well as equally administered, would not prove more than a match for all the machinations of discontent.
We have now seen two months more pass away in equal tranquillity; on which we shall only observe, that a more vile piece of empiricism never was practised than their's who now pretend to ascribe this quiet to their nostrums of last Session. The operation of the act restraining meetings, never could have checked the evil all at once, had its nature and magnitude been such as those men described; for that measure left so many means of holding meetings of the most dangerous description, that it would have been found wholly ineffectual, had real danger existed. For example, all meetings in buildings, however numerously attended; all processions, if without emblems; all district meetings; all meetings of whole towns and counties, provided discussion was not the object, including a meeting and
procession to bury Paine's bones, though attended by 100,000 persons-all these were left as legal as before the new law was passed. But, another most demonstrative proof that this law had no connexion whatever with the peace we have enjoyed since it passed, is the equally profound tranquillity enjoyed for an equal period of time before it was in operation at all. This clear point ought ever to be kept in view, in order to detect and confound the political quacks who would palm their pernicious drugs upon us, as having effected cures which had been completed by the regular practitioners long before their vile medicaments were compounded.
And now we have had a proof, if possible more striking, of the truths which have been inculcated in these pages. Having shown at large, from reason and probability; from analyzing the evidence; from known facts; and from subsequent events, that the danger was imaginary; we have at length, to crown the whole, obtained an ample admission that the authors of the alarm themselves believe it to have been so. They have chosen to dissolve the Parliament at the carliest day, instead of waiting for six months as the law allowed; and have thus flung the country into all the bustle and confusion of a general election, and suspended * the law which they had a few weeks before pretended to think necessary for preserving the country from revolution. Nothing can more clearly show their intiinate persuasion that all the plots and insurrections had no existence but in the heated imaginations of their adherents, or the false mouths of their spies. Let them then make the only reparation the country ought to accept at their hands, by restoring those constitutional rights which in an hour of delusion they were suffered to abrogate.
We conclude with one or two more general observations, The two distinguished persons whose Speeches are before us, and, with them, the great body of Ministerial Alarmists, agree in maintaining, that the present clamour for Reform, and its attendant spirit of discontent and disaffection, have been constantly afoot in this country since the year 1793, or earlier, and have been uniformly gaining strength among us during that eventful period:-and the remedy they propose for this evil, is increased restraint on the liberties of the people, and on the freedom of speaking, writing, and complaining, which they for
*The provisions of the Seditious Meetings Act are suspended from the Teste of the Writ-one of the many mitigations introduced by the Whigs.