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The death of the King had been only a short time preceded by that of his fourth son, the Duke of Kent. This event was the subject of very deep regret. The Prince had redeemed some youthful faults, and acquired universal esteem, by the most extraordinary and unremitting exertions in support of all those beneficent plans and institutions with which the age teems. To those, latterly, almost his whole time appears to have been devoted. The general correctness of his domestic life, and the virtues and connexions of his august spouse, heightened the public esteem and regret.
Plot by Thistlewood and others to Assassinate Ministers.-The Detection.Disturbances in Yorkshire.-Rising at Glasgow.-Action at Bonnymuir.— Tranquillity restored.
THE emotion caused by the death of George III., and the commencement of a new reign, had scarcely subsided, when other, and very different events, forced themselves on public attention. The discontent, which had so long been deeply and secretly fermenting, exploded with such violence, as to diffuse for some time a very serious alarm. The general distress of the labouring classes presented, as usual, a state of things highly favourable to the designs of the disaffected; while the disappointed and the sufferers in former abortive attempts, becoming always more fierce and embittered, threw aside at last that remnant of moderation to which they considered their former failures as imputable, and determined to proceed at once to the most violent extremities.
London, which contains always a population ready for every criminal and desperate enterprize, afforded the first theatre of action. Thistlewood, who, by legal distinctions, rather than by any proof of innocence, had escaped the effects of a former tumult, emboldened by impunity, and at the
VOL. XII. PART I.
same time rendered desperate by the state of his private affairs, formed a scheme the most daring and atrocious which had been witnessed by England since the era of the Gunpowder Plot. From amid the obscure recesses of the metropolis he collected a small band of individuals, not of the very lowest rank, but whose ruined circumstances caused them to "regard the world as not their friend, nor the world's law," and rendered them fit instruments for such a deed of darkness. To them he disclosed this new scheme-more daring than had ever entered the mind of the most infuriate enemies of social order. It was founded on the following circumstances:—
The Ministers of the Crown are accustomed, from time to time, to ce ment their union by that grand English rallying point-a dinner; to which the members of that high confidential body, entitled the Cabinet, are alone admitted. It was proposed to seize one of these occasions. An armed band might be organized, which, though unfit to cope with any regular or duly assembled force, could surprise a few unarmed and
unsuspecting individuals, collected on an occasion which tended to lull asleep every caution. Buoyed up by these fatal hopes, he anxiously waited the moment when the newspapers, according to their usage, should announce a Cabinet dinner. The affair had already been opened in secret conclave; and about twenty-five had been found, who declared themselves ready for every extremity. A garret or loft was hired in Cato-street, a sequestered situation at the west end of the town, in which the instruments of death were deposited; and a rendezvous appointed on the afternoon of the 23d February to muster for the fatal onset.
Such were the means by which it was expected to overthrow the British Constitution, and erect a new government on its ruins. Yet contemptible as these appeared, it would have been rash to estimate, accordding to them, the extent of the evil which might have ensued. The assassination, could the design of it have escaped detection, had certainly the chances of success in its favour. As soon as this should be announced, instruments were ready to raise in the city the standard of insurrection, which would probably have been joined by many; while, in the North of England, and the West of Scotland, a store of combustible materials was collected, ready to blaze at the first spark. Although, therefore, the solid elements which compose the British Constitution could never have yielded to such an attack, yet an interval of anarchy and bloodshed could not have failed to ensue, sufficient, for a long time, to derange the state machine, and to aggravate, in a fearful degree, all the evils under which the nation already groaned.
Edwards, one of their own number; whom they afterwards loudly denounced as having acted the part not only of a spy, but of an instigator. This charge was never investigated. There certainly appears some ground to suspect that Edwards had some concern, not in originally devising the affair, but in maturing and bringing it into shape; a course certainly highly unjustifiable, though it was a case in which the services of an informer, or even of a simple spy, could by no means be rejected. Besides him, however, another, (Hyden) who had for a moment been seduced, but whose better sentiments prevailed, followed Lord Harrowby into the Park, and made a full communication of the criminal designs which were to be put in execution that very day. This information being communicated to the Cabinet, and confirmed from other quarters, it was still determined to delay any apprehension of the conspirators, till they should be in a situation which might render the proof of their guilt complete.
The state was never in actual danger of such an issue. The conspirators were, from the first, betrayed by
The preparations for the dinner went on ostensibly as before; and the police officers contented themselves with watching the premises, into which materials for the dark purpose intended were seen conveying in the course of the day. In the afternoon, a a body of twenty-five conspirators were mustered, and were taking some refreshment previous to issuing forth to fulfil heir fatal purpose. Meantime, Mr Birnie of the police had collected twelve officers, who were supported by a company of the Coldstream Guards, under Captain Fitzclarence. The loft was accessible only by a ladder, at the foot of which a sentinel was posted. The officers, however, secured the sentinel, and rushed up the ladder; but by this time the conspirators had taken the alarm, armed themselves, and, at the
call of Thistlewood, were hastily putting out the lights. Thus prepared for the mortal combat, they rushed to meet the officers; and Thistlewood thrust his sword into the body of one, (Smithers) who instantly expired. The troops now rushed in, and a desperate conflict ensued in the dark; during which, Captain F. had nearly received the pistol-shot of one of the assassins. Thistlewood made his way down the stair, and escaped; but nine were seized; among whom were Ings, Tidd, and Davidson, three ringleaders; the rest leaped out of the window behind, and escaped over walls, and through obscure passages. The most active exertions of the police were now directed to the apprehension of Thistlewood; and on the following morning he was traced by Lavender and Bishop to an obscure house in White-street, Little Moorfields. There, having lulled himself into a belief of his own safety, he was found lying securely in bed, and was obliged to surrender without resistance.
On the same morning, Brunt, another of the most active agents, was arrested at his own house. It was satisfactory to observe, that as the conspirators were carried along the streets, sympathy in their favour seemed scarcely in any instance excited; and, in general, unequivocal horror was expressed of the crime which they had meditated.
The leading conspirators being thus secured, no time was lost in bringing them to trial. The great technical difficulties, which by the legitimate jealousy of the English law attend the proof of treason, obliged the lawofficers to secure conviction, by calling in the murder of Smithers; and even to avail themselves of the act against cutting and maiming. Notwithstanding, however, the ingenious
defences of their counsel, the Jury, in a case of such manifest and atrocious guilt, made no hesitation in finding a verdict against them to the full extent of the charge.
What connexion, or whether any, this daring attempt had with the discontents fermenting in the provinces, does not seem very well ascertained. Certain it is, that at this time, the malcontents entered very extensively into the determination to throw off all appearances, and to raise the standard of open insurrection. For some months, preparations for this issue had been almost publicly making— midnight drillings took place throughout all the disturbed districts-popular meetings were entered and quitted in the military step-pikes were manufactured-and supplies of fire-arms procured from every quarter.
The centre of disturbance, as to England, lay among the woollen manufacturers in the Western Riding of Yorkshire; particularly about Leeds, Wakefield, and Huddersfield. From the 31st March to the 3d April, the inhabitants were disturbed by small armed detachments traversing the country, and even approaching the towns, though they did not venture to face the military. At length, it became generally understood, that on the night of Tuesday the 3d, a general union was to take place, and a desperate attempt made to possess themselves of Huddersfield. A meeting was held of the principal inhabitants of that town-the armed association was called out-the entrances barricaded-and Huddersfield exhibited all the appearances of a besieged place. During the night, patroles employed to scour the country brought intelligence that armed parties were moving from all points in the direction of Grangemoor, a large plain about six miles from Hudders
months it had been understood, that union societies, connected with those in England, had been very activethat secret drillings were carried on
and threats of actual insurrection had been repeatedly thrown out. Arrests of suspected persons had taken place at different times, but without being able to strike at the root of the evil. A general rising, it appears, was now determined on, in concert, doubtless, with their brethren in England; but the means taken to effect their purpose displayed an excess of audacity, which the latter could in no degree match. On the night of Saturday the 1st April, there was posted up in the streets of Glasgow, an " Address to the Inhabitants of Great Britain and Ireland." It was composed in name of the provisional government, and might be considered as an open declaration of war against the existing government. It enjoined, that all labourers, of every description, should desist from work, and should not resume it, till they had obtained equality of rights; it denounced, as traitors to their King, all who should resist the measures about to be taken to attain that object; finally, it warned all who should neglect to comply with these injunctions, that the provisional government would not indemnify them for any loss which they might sustain during the approaching conflict. The same placard was posted up in Paisley, and in all the towns and villages for twenty miles round. The power of those from whom this mandate had emanated, was fully displayed next week by the multitudes who quitted their employments, and wandered through the streets in a state of portentous idleness. Emissaries were then sent to all the works that were still carried on; and by the joint influence of persuasion and threats, most of them
field, and half way on the road to Wakefield. Thither, accordingly, was dispatched a small body of troops, consisting partly of Irish dragoon guards, and partly of yeomanry. Meantime, the insurgents, to the number of two or three hundred, had actually collected in Grangemoor, with arms and standards. This force, however, was so much smaller than they had been taught to expect, as plainly to prove the delusion practised upon them. Their situation besides, when, inflamed by the harangues of their popular orators, they formed a tumultuary resolution to hazard all in the cause of liberty, was very different from the present, when they found themselves standing on the battle field, to abide the issues of life and death. Under the influence of these feelings, long before the appearance of the cavalry, the whole party threw down their arms, and fled in every direction which appeared to afford the best promise of safety. The soldiers, on arriving, saw nothing but the field bestrewn with a hundred pikes and a green standard, which they collected. No further attempts were made in this quarter to disturb the public tranquillity.
In the course of these transactions, twenty-two persons were arrested; and in September following, the Jury found true bills against them for High Treason. On their consenting, however, to plead Guilty, the lives of all were spared, and milder punishments allotted, according to the degrees of their guilt.
It was in Scotland, after all, that rebellion stalked with the most open front. No part of that division of that country contains such a concentrated mass of population as Glasgow and its vicinity, including Paisley, and numerous large villages, all employed in the cotton manufacture. For several