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clearly foiled; for Wilkes remained in prison till 1770, and after he became Lord Mayor, and was allowed to take his seat, he discarded the profession of a demagogue. On this occasion the mob, though not without aristocratic support, does not seem to have reflected any great body of opinion in the country at large, where Wilkes was commonly regarded as a combination of atheist, profligate, and republican. The Wilkes mob, in fact, was a London mob, and nothing else. It had little or no connection with the “people" in its best senso, as the Excise mob undoubtedly had, and as several other mobs had afterwards, in a greater or less degree. Its worst effect was that it rekindled the spirit of riot in the London populace, which had slumbered for a whole generation, but which now again became for many years a source of great annoyance to Government, and of serious . alarm to all well-disposed persons.
The next serious riot by which the peace of London was disturbed occurred only three years afterwards. It arose out of the attempt of the House of Commons to exclude parliamentary reporters. All the complicated details of this dispute would be wearisome to our readers. It may be sufficient to say that the name of parliamentary "privilege " had come to stink in the nostrils of the people, and that the opponents of the Government on this question enjoyed all the advantages which the active support of Seven Dials might be considered to confer. The printers of the reports took refuge in the City. The House of Commons sent its officer to arrest them. The Lord Mayor and other City magistrates, of whom Alderman Oliver was, like his lordship, a Member of the House of Commons, refused to recognize the Speaker's Warrant; or, in other words, set up the privileges of the City against the privilege of Parliament. They were eventually committed to the Tower, where they remained for some time. But the end of the dispute was that the right of publication was conceded, though it is perhaps too much to assert that the mob had any hand in this result.
Be that as it may, however, they showed their teeth on this occasion to some purpose. Lord North and Charles Fox, then a young man of twenty-two, and a hot Tory, were dragged out of their carriages, and rolled in the gutters. But this was hardly a question in which the nation was much interested. And no doubt, if Government had felt that it was really for the publion good that this privilege should be enforced, it would have been enforced. We merely quote the acts of this mob to show to what a pitch popular licence had then risen. Imagine Lord Derby being rolled in the mud ! Yet Lord North’s Government was a stronger Government than Lord Derby's. And Lord Derby's Government has given, we are told, greater offence to the “people” than ever Lord North's did.
But we are now approaching the locus classicus of English riots, to which every one, after the lapse of near a century, still appeals as a terrible illustration of what it is possible for a mob to do even when apparently actuated by the best motives and obedient to regular discipline : we mean the “ Gordon Riots" Nothing, said Lord Eldon, many years
afterwards, could have been more orderly than was the multitude in the morning, yet in the evening London was in flames. This is not a strictly accurate account of what did occur, for on the evening of the day on which the Protestant petition was presented, the proceedings of the mob were comparatively moderate. However, the old lord was speaking thirty-seven years after the event he was describing, and his words were near enough the truth for all practical purposes. In the session of Parliament of 1779 an Act had been passed-commonly known as Sir George Savile's Act-repealing some of the Roman Catholie disabilities imposed by the 11th and 12th of William III., which, unnecessary, perhaps, even when first enacted, had, eighty years afterwards, beci ne intolerably oppressive and absurd. But the orthodoxy of the English lower orders remained up to the end of the eighteenth century anquenchable; and readily roused against Dissenters, it was still more easily, ard still more fiercely inflammable, against Popery. The excitement against Sir George Savile's Act first began in Scotland, whence it rapidly spread into England, and resulted in the formation of Protestant associations to procure the repeal of the obnoxious statute. The movement was headed by Lord George Gordon, a son of the Duke of Gordon, and member for Ludgershall, in Wiltshire. His lordship was one of those mixtures of fool and fanatic which unhappily are not extinct in our own day, though their powers for mischief are diminished. What he expected to gain by the part he played it is impossible to conjecture. But it is difficult to believe that he was actuated by pure religious zeal. However that might be, bis name and his rank made him a welcome leader to the Protestant Associá. tion of London, which seems to have numbered in its ranks a certain small minority of honest and respectable men, though the large majority were, of course, intemperate bigots. It was on Friday, the 2nd of June, 1780, that Lord George convened a grand Protestant meeting at St. George's-in-the-Fields, for the purpose of marching down to Westminster, and presenting the Protestant petition. If less than twenty thousand attended, he said, he should decline to present it. A great show of order and discipline was visible in his proceedings. He issued a string of resolutions regulating the line of march, and inviting the magistrates of London, Westminster, and Southwark to lend the aid of their presence towards overawing any riotous and evil-disposed persons who might be willing to disturb the peace. His arrangements were so far successful that he collected about a hundred thousand men at the place of muster, and, marching them in three columns across the different bridges, got them in to their places outside the Houses of Parliament by two o'clock in the afternoon. Their distinguishing badge was a blue cockade. But it soon appeared that many had mounted the cockade who cared rery little for the cause. In point of fact that became evident at once which any but a fool must have foreseen at first, that of the whole number which had reached Westminster Hall the greater part was the lowest rabble, who could not be relied upon for an hour together to abstain from riolence,
and whose Protestant zeal was about on a par with Dugald Dalgetty's when he served under the Lion of the North and the Bulwark of the Protestant Faith. Love of excitement, with good prospects of liquor and plunder, had drawn together most part of them, and they set about gratifying these respective passions in regular order. They amused themselves for several hours with pulling a number of old men out of their carriages, hustling them roughly, and tearing their lawn sleeves if they were bishops, or their coats and cravats if they were laymen. From insult they had almost gone to bloodshed; for it seems that Lord Boston, at all events, narrowly escaped with his life, and that only by the ingenious device of getting up a discussion among one or two of the more fanatical of the ringleaders, as to whether the Pope was Antichrist, during the beat of which he slipped away. The Bishop of Rochester took refuge in a private house, and escaped over the leads in woman's clothes. The Duke of Northumberland happened to be driving down to the House with a gentleman in black by his side. The mob at once declared that this must certainly be a Jesuit, so they forthwith robbed the Duke of his purse and gold watch. Inside Westminster Hall the scene must have beggared all description. The lobby was crowded with the mob, who pressed so close up to the doors that Members could not get out to divide. Lord George himself was constantly in and out, encouraging his friends, and bidding them persevere. The question before the House was whether they should at once take into consideration the petition which his lordship had presented. They were almost unanimous against it. But nothing could be done while the mob continued in the lobby. And it was not till a party of the Foot Guards were at length got up by Lord North that the business of the House could go on. The lobbies were then cleared. The House decided to consider the petition on the sixth. The mob retired from the neighbourhood, and tranquillity seemed to be restored. The Duke of Richmond had that very afternoon, while his fellow Peers were being mobbed outside, introduced to the House of Lords a Bill for universal suffrage. It had naturally provoked much sarcasm ; but nobody imagined at eight o'clock that evening, when the Peers broke up, what a dreadful confutation was in store for it.
On leaving Westminster Hall the mob divided into two parties, evidentit bent on further mischief. But at first they were, as we have said, comparatively moderate. They did no more than burn down one Roman Catholic chapel in Duke Street, Lincoln's Inn, belonging to the Sardinian ambassador, and another in Warwick Street, belonging to the Bavarian ambassador. They then, partly owing to the appearance of the military, went home. It was thought afterwards that these attacks upon places of worship were intended as a blind to divert men's minds from any apprehension of the wider schemo of plunder and devastation which followed. The authorities, indeed, made very light of the riots up to this point ; even Lord Mansfield spoke of it as quite a slight irregularity. He was soon to find out with what serious exeesses it was pregnant.
On Saturday the mob did little ; but what little they did was quite unhindered by the law. They trifled with a few Popish chapels ard dwelling-houses, but apparently in expectation that the magistrates must do something soon, refrained from any larger enterprises. Discovering at last, however, that they were really masters of the town, they proceeded to exercise their power on a more extended scale. On Sunday they burnt the chapel in Moor Fields. On Monday they destroyed the house of Sir George Savile; and on the following Tuesday and Wednesday all that havoc was committed which has made the Gordon riots historical. Bet all this is now an old story. The burning of Lord Mansfield's house in Bloomsbury Square, with his valuable library and MSS. ; of Newgate, the King's Bench, the Fleet, and other prisons whose inmates hastened to swell the tide of rufianism which everywhere flooded the metropolis : the destruction of Mr. Langdale's distillery in Holborn, and the spectacle of miserable half-burnt wretches gulping down spirits out of pails, or even sucking them up out of the gutters ; the attack on the Bank, which was repelled by no less a personage than John Wilkes; the prominent figure of the mob leader mounted on a huge dray-horse, who has been turned to such good account by Mr. Dickens; and finally,
6 last scene of all," the heavy, sullen roar of sustained musketry which announced that the troops had at last begun to act: all these things have been described too often by more skilful pens than ours to warrant our dwelling on them now. The Government seemed paralysed; but the truth is, that Ministers remembered what had occurred in 1768, when Lord Barington had provoked such a storm of indignation by the encouragement he had given to the military; and the Secretary of State was actually in such a frenzy of alarm that he caused his servants to wear blue cockades. The officers likewise remembered the coroners' inquests of 1768, and positively refused to interfere, even when pillage and inceddiarism was going on before their eyes, unless the Riot Act was first read by a civil magistrate. A company of the Guards stood idly by during the destruction of Lord Mansfield's house; and when a magistrate was at length found to read the Riot Act, only a few women and children remained to be fired on. The Lord Mayor behaved with culpable remissness, and a rather warm correspondence ensued between his lordship and the Home Office. It was not until the Wednesday night that, fiuding all other means fail, the King at length took the law into his own hands; and, after consulting the Attorney-General, caused it to be notified to the troops, that “in obedience to an order from the King in council, the military were to act without waiting for directions from the civil magistrate." This decisive step put a stop to the rioters at once. On Thursday all was tranquil; and on Friday Lord George Gordon was arrested. For nearly one entire week the mob had been in possession of London, and it is wonderful, when we come to reflect upon it, that the outrages committed were no worse. Above all, it is remarkable that no offences are recorded against women. Lord Eldon, indeed, tells us that his wife
stripped of her hat and neckerchief as he was taking her to the Temple for safety. And one man was hanged for cutting his wife's head off with a saw, because she came home in liquor, with a blue riband in her bonnet, hiccupping “No Popery." But then this was on the side of order. Nearly three hundred persons lost their lives in the streets, and the slaughter would probably have been much greater had not Government prohibited private persons from carrying fire-arms. The students in the Temple prepared to join the soldiers who were quartered there, but the commanding officer, as they were going out in the morning, shut the door in their faces, and ordered it to be instantly locked, saying that he did not want to have his own men shot. For participation in the riot, 135 prisoners were tried, 59 were convicted, and 21 were hanged. The leader, who was brought to trial in the following February, was acquitted on a technical point ; but he died after all in Newgate, imprisoned on a charge of libel, in the year 1793.
The Gordon riots were in one respect an exception to the rule we have laid down with regard to eighteenth-century mobs. Though headed by an aristocrat, they were not fomented by either of the two rival parties of the aristocracy. Had the Government acted with becoming vigour at the outset, the Gordon riots would have formed no part of English history. All ranks and parties alike united in condemning, not only the excesses of the mob, but the principle on which they acted. Thus we see that neither the general good sense of the nation, nor even the moderation and discipline which mobs may exhibit in the beginning, are any guarantee against the most fearful disorders if the agitation is permitted to continue. In other words, a mob is by its nature always gravitating towards a riot; and if not checked in time, must as certainly come to that end, as unlimited drinking to drunkenness, or unlimited drunkenness to madness.
The Gordon riots were the last of those which had the effect of fairly paralysing Government. The remembrance of them was still fresh in men's minds when the French Revolution broke out, pointing the moral as it seemed of all popular disturbances, and consolidating the reminiscences of the last twenty years into a permanent principle. Henceforth, although a very small section of the Whig party did continue to lend a kind of moral sanction to the seditious agitations of the period, the great bulk of the nation repudiated the employment of mobs as edge-tools dangerous to play with ; and it was not till nearly forty years had elapsed that the English mob regained anything of its pristine glory. An attempt was made in 1795 to resuscitate the reign of mob-law which half a century sooner might have been attended with serious consequences. The “ Corresponding Society,” as it was called, convened a great meeting in Copenhagen Fields, where 150,000 persons assembled, and an address to the King was voted praying for reform in Parliament, the dismissal of Ministers, and peace with France. A few days after this meeting the King went in state to open Parliament. Ilis carriage was surrounded by a mob and one of the windows was broken by a small bullet. On his