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It seems, indeed, to be a part of the system adopted by these societies, to prepare the minds of the people for the destruction of the present frame of society, by undermining not only their habits of decent and regular subordination, but all the principles of morality and religion. Your Committee find, that there is scarcely any very numerous society, in the parts above referred to, of whose proceedings they have obtained an account, in which some of the leading speakers do not openly avow the most seditious opinions, and do not excite their hearers to be prepared for actual insurrection. Topics for discussion are selected with this view: amongst others, the question, whether the jacobin or the loyalist was the best friend to his country? Even where petitioning is recommended, it is proposed to be conducted in such a manner, by an immense number of delegates attending in London at the same time, in several parties, attached to each petition, as might induce an effort to obtain by force whatever they demanded. A general idea seems prevalent among those who compose these societies, that some fixed day, at no very great distance, is to be appointed for a general rising. They have been taught to look to the meetings in London as the signal for their operations, and have been in the habit of adjourning their own assemblies simultaneously to the same day; and it is a lamentable instance of the comVOL. LIX.
mon interest which they feel, if not of the connexion which is formed with the most implicated in the outrages committed in the metropolis, that about Manchester and some other places, the greatest exultation was manifested previous to the meeting in Spa-Fields on the 2nd of December; and the taking of the Tower, and the ruin of the Bank, were publicly and confidently predicted. The news of the result was impatiently expected, the roads were crowded during the night with a number of persons, many of them delegates from the different societies in the country, waiting for the arrival of the mail coach, and the disappointment was not concealed, when it was ascertained that the riot had been quelled without much serious or extensive mischief.
It appears, that the confidence of the disaffected is such, that they represent the numbers enrolled as amounting to several hundred thousand, and that their societies are daily increasing; that in their lists they distinguish by particular marks those among their subscribers who are able bodied men, and ready to act when required; and that they also keep a list of those who refuse to join them in what they call a "black book," and threaten vengeance against these persons when the general insurrection shall take place. In some parts of one populous country, where nearly every village has already its Hampden club, the members make it no secret that they consider themselves as of no other use than as being ready to act whenever they are called upon; on their admission they are said [C]
to be listed, and receive a secret card with the words "Be Ready, Be Steady."
The habits and manners of these persons seem entirely changed they already calculate upon the share of land which each is to possess, and point out the destruction of the churches, as the necessary consequence of their It appears that preparations are in progress, in several places, for providing arms; the demand upon gunsmiths, for every species of fire-arms, has been beyond all former example; the intention is professed, of having recourse for a still larger supply to those towns where arms are manufactured, and where they are to be obtained at a very low rate, from the general cheapness of labour at this time; or in case of necessity they are to be seized by force. The facility of converting implements of husbandry into offensive weapons, has been suggested; and persons have been sent to observe the state of particular places, where depots of arms for the public service were supposed to have been formed.
Your committee find that a system of secret association has been extended to the manufacturing population of Glasgow, and some other populous towns of Scotland; and although these societies have availed themselves of the same pretext, of parliamentary reform on the broadest basis, your committee are firmly persuaded, from the information which has been laid before them, that their ultimate object is the overthrow by force of the existing form of government; that the time for attempting this enterprise was to
depend on the simultaneous rising of the disaffected in England, with some emissaries from whoni occasional intercourse appears to have taken place; and that some provision of weapons has been made by this association.
Your committee have now submitted to the House, what they conceive to be a fair, and not exaggerated statement of the result of their investigation. They have thought themselves precluded from inserting, in an Appendix, the information from which it is drawn, by the consideration, that unless it were extremely partial and incomplete, they could not make it public without hazarding the personal safety of many useful and many respectable individuals, and in some instances without prejudicing the due administration of public justice.
On a review of the whole, it is a great satisfaction to your committee to observe, that, notwithstanding the alarming progress which has been made in the system of extending disaffection and secret societies, its success has been confined to the principal manufacturing districts, where the distress is more prevalent, and numbers more easily collected; and that even in many of these districts, privations have been borne with exemplary patience and resignation, and the attempts of the disaffected have been disappointed; that few if any of the higher orders or even of the middle class of society, and scarcely any of the agricultural population, have lent themselves to the more violent of these projects. Great allowance must be made for those who, under the pressure of ur
gent distress, have been led to listen to plausible and confident demagogues, in the expectation of immediate relief. It is to be hoped, that many of those who have engaged, to a certain extent, in the projects of the disaffected, but in whom the principles of moral and religious duty have not been extinguished or perverted by the most profane and miserable sophistry, would withdraw themselves before those projects were pushed to actual insurrection.
But, with all these allowances, your committee cannot contemplate the activity and arts of the leaders in this conspiracy, and the numbers whom they have already
seduced, and may seduce; the oaths by which many of them are bound together; the means suggested and prepared for the forcible attainment of their objects; the nature of the objects themselves, which are not only the overthrow of all the political institutions of the kingdom, but also such a subversion of the rights and principles of property, as must necessarily lead to general confusion, plunder, and bloodshed ; without submitting, to the most serious attention of the House, the dangers which exist, and which the utmost vigilance of government, under the existing laws, has been found inadequate to prevent.
Singular Circumstance respecting the Committee of the Lords-Bill for the Suspension of the Habeas Corpus, moved by Lord Sidmouth in the House of Lords-Debates.-Protest.-Lord Castlereagh in the House of Commons moves for Bills, for the more effectually preventing Seditious Meetings and Assemblies; for the better prevention and punishment of attempts to seduce persons in his Majesty's forces by Sea and Land from their allegiance; and for making perpetual parts of an act, for the safety and preservation of his Majesty's person and government, including those of the Prince Regent.-Debates.-Different Clauses of the Seditious Meetings Act gone through.—The same bill in the House of Lords.-Protest.
SINGULAR CIRCUMSTANCE IN
REMARKABLE circumstance occurred, respecting the report of the Secret Committee drawn up by the House of Lords. Mr. Cleary, secretary to the London Union Society, having seen in a report laid before their Lordships, a clause relative to the above society, which appeared to connect it with the societies of Spencean Philanthropists, was induced to present a petition to the House, in which he gave a corrected statement of the society and its proceedings. This petition was put into the hands of Earl Grosvenor, who, on February 21st, read it to the House, as follows:
"To the Right Hon. the Lords Spiritual and Temporal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland in Parliament assembled.
"The Petition of Thomas Cleary, Secretary to the London Union Society,
"Humbly showeth, That it is with great reluctance, as well as
humility, that your petitioner of fers himself to the notice of, and prays for a hearing from your right honourable House; but that your petitioner, though a very humble individual, feels himself impelled by a sense of imperious duty, to beseech your right honourable House to pause, and to hear further evidence, before your right honourable House proceed to adopt legislative measures upon the report, now on the table of your right honourable House, from your late secret committee.
"Your petitioner begs permission humbly to state to your right honourable House, that he has read in the aforementioned report of the secret committee of your lordships, the following passage, to wit:
"Others of these societies are called Union Clubs, professing the same object of parliamentary reform, but under these words understanding universal suffrage and annual parliaments-projects which evidently involve not any qualified or partial change, but a total sub
version of the British constitution.
"Your petitioner presumes not to oppose his opinions against those of a committee of your right honourable House; but he hopes, that he may be humbly permitted to state, that when a bill was brought before your right honour able House by the late duke of Richmond, laying it down as a matter of principle, that annual parliaments and universal suffrage were the inherent and unalienable rights of Englishmen, the noble duke was not accused of a desire to produce" a total subversion of the British constitution."
"It is not, however, on matters of opinion, but on matters of most important fact, that your petitioner humbly appeals to the candour, the wisdom, and the justice of your right honourable House, and on matters of fact, too, with regard to which your petitioner is able to submit to your right honourable House the clearest and most indubitable testimony.
"Your petitioner's entire ignorance of the views of the secret committee of your right honourable House, as well as his profound respect and extre e deference for every thing done within the walls of your right honourable House, are more than sufficient to restrain your petitioner from attempting even to guess at the reasons for your committee's having
so closely connected the London Union Society' with the societies of Spencean Philanthropists;' but your petitioner humbly begs leave to assure your lordships, that he is ready and able to prove at the bar of your lordships, that there never has existed, between these societies, the smallest connexion of any sort, either in person or design, the object of the former being to obtain “a parliamentary reform, according to the constitution," while that of the latter, as appears from the report of your lordships committee, has been to obtain a common partnership in the land; and that, therefore, any evidence which may have been laid before the secret committee of your lordships to establish this connexion, is, as your petitioner is ready to prove at the bar of your lordships, wholly destitute of truth.
"But the facts to which your petitioner is most anxious humbly to endeavour to obtain the patient attention of your right honourable House, relate to that affiliation and correspondence, which your lordships secret committee have been pleased to impute to the London Union Society, by observing that it appears that there is a London Union Society, and Branch Unions, corresponding with it, and affiliated to it;" a description which seems, in the humble conception of your petitioner, to resemble that which was given of the London Corresponding Society, in 1795, and which, as your petitioner humbly conceives, point to measures of a
nature similar to those which were
then adopted; and your petitioner, though with all humility, ventures to express his confidence, that the