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Such a state of things cannot be suffered to continue without hazarding the most imminent and dreadful evils; and although the committee do not presume to anticipate the decision of parliament as to the particular measures to be adopted in the present emergency, they feel it to be their duty to express their decided opinion that further provisions are necessary for the preservation of the public peace, and for the protection of interests in which the happiness of every class of the community is deeply and equally involved.
House of Commons.
The Committee of Secrecy, to whom the several Papers, which were presented (sealed up) to the House, by Lord Viscount Castlereagh, on the 4th day of February, by command of his Royal Highness the Prince Regent, were referred, and who were directed to examine the matters thereof, and report the same, as they should appear to them, to the House ;-have unanimously agreed to the following Report:
It appears to your Committee, from the most attentive consideration of the several documents referred to them, that attempts have been made, in various parts of the country, as well as in the metropolis, to take advantage of the distress in which the labouring and manufacturing classes of the community are at present involved, to induce them to look for immediate relief, not only in a reform of parliament on the plan of universal suffrage and annual election, but in a total overthrow of all
existing establishments, and in a division of the landed, and extinction of the funded property of the country.
This hope and prospect of spoliation have been actively and industriously propagated by several societies, openly existing in the metropolis, distinguished by the name of Spenceans; a title which they have assumed in consequence of having revived the principles, with some variation, of a visionary writer of the name of Spence, which first appeared in a publication of his near twenty years ago.
It appears that at some of these societies, held during the last month, the question was discussed, whether the meetings for parliamentary reform are calculated to mislead or enlighten the public. In the course of the debates upon which question, it was strongly urged "that parliamentary reform was only a half measure, that they must look to the land, for nothing short of that would ever avail them that we had no constitution, there being no book in which it could be found, nor any man that could tell what it was." In another discussion upon the question, "whether the practical establishment of Spence's plan be an effectual remedy for the present distresses," one of the doctrines maintained was, that "the landholder was a monster to be hunted down; but that they should not suffer themselves to be amused; that there was a greater evil, namely, the fundholder; that these were the rapacious wretches, that took fifteen-pence out of every quartern loaf."
It further appears, that in these meetings the most blasphemous expressions
expressions and doctrines are openly and repeatedly advanced: that as the meetings are professed to be of a convivial nature, the political debates and readings are usually followed by songs, in many of which the most inflammatory topics are introduced, some of a seditious and treasonable nature, and others under the form of profane and indecent parodies of the liturgy and of the holy scriptures.
These societies appear to have extended themselves; and there are traces of the existence of a committee called conservative, directing the operations of the whole. The doctrines above-mentioned have been systematically and industriously disseminated amongst mechanics and manufacturers, discharged soldiers and sailors, and labourers of all descriptions; they have been inculcated at frequent appointed meetings, and at various places, by speakers, who have made the distresses of the times topics of excitement and inflammation; and they have been circulated, with incredible activity and perseverance,in cheap and often gratuitous publications. It has been proved, to the entire satisfaction of your committee, that some members of these societies, acting by delegated or assumed authority, as an executive committee of the whole, conceived the project, and endeavoured to prepare the means of raising an insurrection, so formidable from numbers, as by dint of physical strength to overpower all resist
The first step towards the accomplishment of this object was,
by the individual exertion of the members of the committee, to discover and foment the prevalent distresses and discontents in the metropolis and its vicinity. Returns were made of those who they thought were to be relied upon for daring and hazardous enterprises.
The design was by a sudden rising in the dead of the night, to surprise and overpower the soldiers in their different barracks, which were to be set on fire; at the same time (plans having been arranged, and some steps taken with a view to the accomplishment of that object) to possess themselves of the artillery, to seize or destroy the bridges, and to take possession of the Tower and the Bank. In furtherance of this design, a machine was projected for clearing the streets of cavalry. A drawing of this machine, fully authenticated, and also a manuscript, sketch or plan of various important parts of the Tower, found with the drawing of the machine, have been laid before your committee.
This design was however relinquished a short time before its intended execution. It was thought more prudent previously to ascertain what force the conspirators could actually call together, and this it was agreed could best be done by convening a public meeting for the ostensible purpose of obtaining a redress of grievances in a legal way. The map of London was inspected, and Spa-Fields were selected as the most eligible spot, from their vicinity to the Bank and the Tower. Advertisements were accordingly prepared, and written placards circulated, of
the most dangerous and inflammatory nature; of one of which the following is a copy:
"Britons to Arms!
"The whole country waits the signal from London to fly to arms! haste, break open gunsmiths and other likely places to find arms! run all constables who touch a man of us; no rise of bread; no Regent; no Castlereagh, off with their heads; no placemen, tythes, or enclosures; no taxes; bishops, only useless lumber! stand true, or be slaves for ever."
"N. B. Five thousand of these bills are up in the town, and printed ones, with further particulars, will appear in due time."
At this time, if not before, the intended insurrection assumed the symbols of the French revolution; a committee of public safety, consisting of 24, was agreed upon, including the names of several persons, extremely unlikely to lend themselves to such a cause. A tricolor flag and cockades were actually prepared; the flag was openly carried and displayed at the first meeting which took place in Spa-Fields, on the 15th of November. No acts of violence were however encouraged on that day, though some few instances of plunder occurred after the assembly dispersed, but care was taken to adjourn the meeting to the 2d of December, by which time it was hoped that the preparations for insurrection would be fully matured. Not a moment was lost in advertising the next meeting, and great assiduity was employed in circulating the intelligence through all the great manufacturing towns in the country, by means
of placards and hand-bills: endeavours were used to raise subscriptions; the expense hitherto incurred in forwarding the object of the conspiracy, and in supporting such inferior members of it as had relinquished their trades and occupations in order to devote their whole time to the furtherance of the cause, having been hitherto principally defrayed by one individual of the committee. Plans for the seduction of the soldiers were now adopted and pursued with unremitting activity; appeals were inade to excite their sympathy, and induce them not to act against the insurgents; attempts were made to inflame their hopes by promises of rank and reward, and to alarm their jealousy by the absurd fiction of the actual landing of a considerable foreign army, for the purpose of controlling them.
The barracks were again reconnoitred with a view to attack. The manufacture of tricolor-ribbon was encouraged, with a view of rendering it familiar to the eyes of the public.
Visits were repeated to those quarters of the town, where the distress was considered as the most prevalent; and warehouses along the river, as well as shops in other places, which were known to contain arms, combustibles, clothing, were examined and noted down, with the view of seizing those articles on the proper occasion. Plans were also formed for seducing the sailors on the river, by offers of advancement to high rank under the government, and for seizing and equipping such ships as were accessible.
Your Committee have further received undoubted information that a large quantity of pike heads had been ordered of one individual, and 250 actually made by him, and delivered and paid for. It was also undoubtedly intended to liberate the prisoners in the principal gaols in or about the metropolis, in the hope of their concurrence and assistance in the intended insurrection. Addresses ? were introduced into some those prisons, and recommended to be communicated to others, in which the persons confined were invited, in the name of the tricolored committee, to rally round the tricolored standard, which would be erected on Monday, De*cember the 2d, and to wear tricolored cockades themselves. It was promised that the prisoners should be liberated by force, and arms were stated to be provided for them, and they were directed to be ready to assist in overpowering the turnkeys. A waggon was hired for the business of the day, in which the flags and banner or standard, which had been previously prepared, together with some ammunition, were secretly conveyed to the place of meeting. From this waggon, before the
ostensible business of the day commenced in the other part of the field, the most inflammatory speeches were delivered, tending directly to excite insurrection, and concluded by an appeal to the multitude assembled, whether they were prepared to redress their own grievances. A tricolor cockade was then exhibited, and the tricolor flag was displayed, and a number of persons followed it out of the field.
The direction which they took was towards that part of the town previously designed; gunsmiths shops were broken open, addresses and offers were made to the soldiers at the Tower to induce them to open the gates; but from the failure of the numbers expected to join the insurgents, no attempt was made to force the gates. An attack was however made upon the city magistrates assembled in the Royal Exchange, a shot fired, and a tricolor flag and cockade openly displayed and seized on the offender.
In reviewing the whole of the transactions of the 2d of December, your committee are firmly persuaded, that, however improbable the success of such a plan may appear, it yet was deliberately premeditated by desperate men, who calculated without reasonable ground upon defection in their opposers, and upon active support from those multitudes, whose distress they had witnessed, and whom they had vainly instigated to revolt. That consequently it was not merely the sudden ebullition of the moment, or the unauthorized attempt of any unconnected individual.
Your Committee are further convinced,
convinced, that notwithstanding the failure on the 2d of December, the same designs still continue to be prosecuted with sanguine hopes of success.
Your Committee having thus stated the general result of the evidence which has been laid before them, respecting the state of the metropolis, have now the no less painful duty of calling the attention of the House to what has been passing during the same period in different parts of the country; a subject of equally momentous consideration. The first thing which has here forced itself upon their observation, is the widely diffused ramification of a system of clubs, associated professedly for the purpose of parliamentary reform, upon the most extended principle of universal suffrage and annual parliaments. These clubs in general designate themselves by the same name of Hampden clubs. On the professed object of their institution, they appear to be in communication and connexion with the club of that name in London.
It appears to be part of the system of these clubs, to promote an extension of clubs of the same name and nature, so widely as, if possible, to include every village in the kingdom. The leading members are active in the circulation of publications likely to promote their object. Petitions, ready prepared, have been sent down from the metropolis to all societies in the country disposed to receive them. The communication between these clubs takes place by the mission of delegates; delegates from these clubs in the country, have assembled in Lon
don, and are expected to assemble again early in March. Whatever may be the real object of these clubs in general, your Committee have no hesitation in stating, from information on which they place full reliance, that in far the greater number of them, and particularly in those which are established in the great manufacturing districts of Lancashire, Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire, and Derbyshire, and which are composed of the lower order of artizans, nothing short of a revolution is the object expected and avowed.
Your Committee find, from equally undoubted information, that the doctrines of the Spencean clubs have been widely diffused through the country, either by the extension of similar societies, or more frequently by the intervention of missionaries or delegates, whose business it is to propagate those doctrines throughout every society to which they have access: it is the universal practice of these societies, to require from the members a small weekly subscription, which provides a fund for the expenses of these missionaries, and also for the purchase of seditious tracts, which are read and commented on at their meetings. Some of these tracts, now before your committee, inculcate in the most artful manner, the necessity of overturning what they call "the privileged class," as distinguished from the people, who are described as consisting of labourers, artizans, tradesmen, and every profession useful to society. A new order is declared to be the will of the people; rebellion is justified by the assertion that a nation cannot be a rebel; and all