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him as undoubted axioms not to be questioned by any faithful son of the Church of England. The Lord Mayor desired the sermon to be printed : but the Government of the day took a very different view of the transaction, and eventually ordered it to be burned. However, in the meantime Sacheverel had been impeached, and at once became a popular idol. It would have been får wiser to punish him, if it were necessary to punish him at all, with as little ostentation as possible. But a parliamentary impeachment, with a trial at Westminster Hall, was the very thing which Sacheverel's friends might have prayed for. The consequences were foreseen by Lord Somers and Sir Joseph Jekyl; but the more violent counsels of the Duke of Wharton prevailed against them; and the trial was begun. Sacheverel at this time was living in the Temple; and he was escorted to and fro every day by immense crowds of people, who cheered him and tried to kiss his hand. As the trial lasted three weeks we can imagine the state to which the streets of London were reduced. Occasionally the mob burst out in acts of open violence, and would turn aside to burn a conventicle or beat a Whig, and then resume their ordinary avocations. In these outrages they were, according to Bishop Burnett, openly encouraged by men of rank, who accompanied the crowd in hackney-coaches, and throw money to the rioters. Their watchword was the Church and Sacheverel, and every man who refused to join in the shout was liable to abuse or blows. Burnett says he saw before his own door a man's skull cleft open with a spade because he refused this pious test. The mob, it seems, were debating the propriety of burning the Bishop's own house, when they heard of the approach of the Guards, and immediately dispersed. As the Bishop's residence at this time was in St. John's Court, Clerkenwell, we see how wide-spread the disturbance must have been, and that it was by no means confined to the line of march between the Temple and Westminster. No systematic efforts seem to have been made to put the mob down. The work of burning and beating went on, not indeed without interruption, but without any effectual check. Some lives were lost in Lincoln's Inn Fields, where the mob made a large bonfire out of the pews and wainscoting of a dissenting chapel, which stood, it seems, somewhere in the Temple, and belonged to a Mr. Burgess. But nothing like a regular patrol was established until the mob bad pretty well worked its will upon the adverse party. The subject, of course, was continually discussed in Parliament, and the House of Commons presented an address to the Queen, begging her to issue a proclamation, to offer rewards, and to take other measures for suppressing these gross disorders. Anne returned a gracious answer, complying with the prayer of the House. But there was no great zeal at Court in favour of strong measures ; and though several persons were apprehended, of whom two were convicted of high treason and sentenced to death, neither were allowed to die. But the effect produced upon the public mind by these formidable riots was seen most conspicuously in the debates which followed the conviction of Sacheverel,
when the degree of punishment to be inflicted on him was under discussion. It seems certain that the House of Lords took a milder view of his offence than they would have taken, but for fear of the vengeance of the mob. Nor were the consequences of these riots confined to the fortunes of the single individual who was the source of them. It was thought at the time that they had seriously injured the prospects of the Whig party and the Hanover succession. And certain it is that, encouraged by its success and its impunity in this particular instance, the London mob grew more troublesome and more turbulent for some few years than it had been for many generations ; so much so that in the year 1717 even the mild and placable Addison felt moved to write a paper in the Freeholder, in which he told the “rabble” that if they didn't learn how to behave themselves, they must be taught that Government could crush them. It is pretty clear, however, that in this case, as in many others, the mob would not have produced such an impression as to modify the sentence passed on a great public offender, had it not to a great extent reflected the passions and prejudices of the country. Though very likely the believers in divine right and passive obedience were a minority, a conviction that the Whigs were intent on some nefarious designs against the Church was much more generally diffused ; and people, who cared perhaps little for Sacheverel and his doctrines, were furious against his enemies, who were supposed to be " Presbyterians” in disguise.
The next great English mob which has acquired historical celebrity distinguished itself in 1733 against the famous Excise Bill of Sir Robert Walpole. This is an almost perfect instance of the submission of the majority of the House of Commons to a demonstration of physical force openly abetted by the minority. On the merits of the excise scheme itself we can hardly be expected to enter. It is sufficient to say that it was supported by a substantial majority, and would undoubtedly have become law, but for the audacious attitude of the London populace, who assembled in vast numbers in Palace Yard, and even penetrated to the lobbies of the House of Commons. It is amusing to read the different accounts given of this assemblage by the different parties in the House. Walpole called them sturdy beggars. Barnard, Tory Member for the City, thought it hard that “merchants of figure and character might not come down to the lobbies to consult with their friends on questions which affected their own interests.” It seems, in fact, that the mixture of ruffianism and respectability in the mob of 1733 was much about the same as we have witnessed at a later period. rough ” element asserted itself in attempts to mob the Prime Minister and other obnoxious Members of Parliament. The men “ of figure and character” seem to have been absent when they were most wanted, and to have made no effort to restrain the excesses of their allies. The following extract from Sir Robert Walpole's speech will, perhaps, be found interesting at this moment :“ As to those clamours which have been raised without doors, and which
are now so much insisted on, it is very well known by whom and by what VOL. XV.-10. 90.
“ methods they were raised, and it is no difficult matter to guess with what “ views; but I am very far from taking them to be the sense of the nation, " or believing that the sentiments of the majority of the people were thereby “expressed. The most part of the people concerned in those clamours dil “not speak their own sentiments ; they were played by others like so many “puppets ; it was not the puppets that spoke, it was those behind the cartsin " that played them, and made them speak whatever they had uttered. “ There is now a most extraordinary concourse of people at our doors. " Gentlemen may say what they please of the multitudes now at our “ door, and in all the avenues leading to this House; they may call them a “modest multitude if they will ; but whatever temper they were in when “they came hither, it may be very much altered now, after having waited “so long at our door. It may be a very easy matter for some designing, "seditious person to raise a tumult and disorder among them ; and when “ tumults are once begun, no man knows where they may end: he is a “greater man than any I know in the nation that could, with the same case,
appease them. For this reason, I must think that it was neither prudent
nor regular to use any methods to bringing such multitudes to this place, " under any pretence whatever. Gentlemen may give them what name " they think fit. It may be said that they came hither as humble supplicants ;
but I know whom the law calls sturdy beggars ; and those who “ brought them hither could not be certain but that they might have « behaved in the same manner.
On this night (March 14), after carrying his resolution by a majority of sixty-one, the Minister was advised to make his exit by a back way, and so give his enemies the slip. In spite, however, of the threats of the populace encouraged by the Opposition orators, he continned to press his measure forward, and obtained decisive though diminishing majorities upon each division. But the mob became so violent at last that Sir Robert's resolution wavered. The grounds on which his ultimate decision was taken are, at this distance of time, not very clear. It is certain, however, that the conduct of the mob had not only strengthened the regular Opposition, but had encou
ouraged some of the Minister's party, who wanted only sn excuse for defection, to declare that they could no longer support him. It is probable that both the King and Queen, who equally sympathised with "a brave fellow," which the monarch pronounced Walpole to be, would have stood by him to the last. And no doubt, if the Court liad been resolute, the Bill could have been carried through the House of Commons. But in the case of a serious riot, some doubt, it seems, existed as to what extent the troops could be relied upon. The soldiers believed that the Bill would raise the price of their tobacco, and were almost as ripe for mutiny as the nation for rebellion.t A serious defection was threatened in the House of Lords; and Lord Bolingbroke's party at St. James's was said to be more numerous than at Dawley. On
* Parliamentary History, vol. vii. p. 351.
the night of the 10th of April, after a petition from the City had been rejected by only seventeen votes, Walpole Lad his friends to supper, when he said, with a smile, “ this dance it will no further go," and that tomorrow he meant to sound a retreat. Whether it was before or after this supper that he held a meeting of his party, and declared that as the Act could not be carried into execution without an armed force, ho would never be the Minister to enforce taxes by bloodshed, does not very clearly appear; and after what has been said of the supposed disposition of the troops, our readers may suspect that, in using this language, the Minister was taking credit to himself for a rather cheap kind of magnanimity. His resolution, however, was not received without considerable dissatisfaction. It was especially urged by his friends that there would be an end of all supplies if mobs were to control the legislature. But they did not shake his determination, and on the 11th of April the Bill was virtually abandoned, by a motion, introduced by Walpole in person, that the second reading should be postponed for two months. This humiliating concession, which was the cause of much wailing and gnashing of teeth in St. James's Palace, did not have the effect of disarming the resentment of the mob against the authors of the obnoxious scheme. On the night of its withdrawal a larger mob than usual filled all the precincts of the House of Commons; and, though they must have been informed of what had occurred inside, they seemed more ferocious than ever. When the House was rising, some of Walpole's friends, who had been outside, came back and told him what he must expect if he went out by the public passage. But Sir Robert gallantly resolved to face the worst, saying there was no end of flying from such menaces, and so, with ten or a dozen friends close round him, and a couple of servants, he marched boldly out upon the rioters. Fifty constables had been stationed outside the House, to secure a freo passage for Members ; and they strove to keep a lane for Walpole and his friends to pass through. But this was impossible. A general mélée ensued, in which the constables' staves seem to have hurt as many friends as foes. One account says that a ruffian got hold of Walpole's cloak behind his neck, and nearly strangled him. Several of his protectors were badly hurt. Swords were drawn at last. And by that means, and by that only, was the Minister enabled to reach his carriage, and get safely to his own house. Where “ the merchants of figure and character” were on this occasion, we are not informed.
The withdrawal of the Bill was of course regarded as a great popular triumph, and was celebrated with bonfires and illuminations not only in London but throughout the whole country. Sir Robert Walpole and a fat woman, intended for the Queen, were burned in efigy together. But on the whole these latest excesses of the mob rather tended to discredit their cause than to improve it; and the bulk of the people, satisfied with the end gained, soon perhaps grew ashamed of the means by which it was accomplished. That the riots of 1733 represented the public feeling of their day quite
as fully as the riots of 1709 the public opinion of that day, and derivel, indeed, their whole influence from the consciousness of this fact which pervaded both the Court and Parliament, is indisputable. Sir Robert Walpole, as we see, thought, or affected to think, differently; but it is almost beyond a question at the present day that a very great proportion of the English people, down perhaps to the accession of George III., were anti-Hanoverian in their sympathies, and loved an excuse for bothering a Whig Government. A rebellion, indeed, was another matter. Rebellion was a harsh term,
,-a very harsh term, indeed, as the lawyers say; but for a little rioting, and cudgelling, and burning of conventicles, somebody was always good. And though the opposition to the Ercise Bill was of course, to a great extent, raised on the merits of the measure, it was due in a still greater degree to the general unpopularity of the reigning family and the existing Government; and without the countenance of the aristocratic part of the community who shared in these sentiments, the mob could have done nothing.
To whomsoever we assign the credit, the victory in this instance was complete ; and it is curious that after such a triumph more than thirty years should have elapsed before the mob again tried a fall with the constituted authorities.* When Wilkes, who had been expelled the House of Commons, and outlawed in 1763, returned to England in 1768, and was returned for the county of Middlesex, he was not only declared incapable of sitting, but was arrested and imprisoned in the King's Bench. The whole rabble of London were up in arms to protect their favourite. They rescued him once from the officers ; but Wilkes had the good sense to surrender himself again, and remained in prison two years. The day of his incarceration was the 29th of April ; and from that to the 10th of May, the day fixed for the meeting of Parliament, the neighbourhood of the prison was occupied by a determined mob, who made more than one attempt to deliver their champion by force. The reigning dynasty now, however, was firmer in its saddle than it had been in 1733, and there was much less reluctance to use troops against the mob. On the morning of the 10th of May, when there seemed reason to apprehend a renewed attack on the prison, more formidable than any which had preceded it, the magistrates appeared upon the spot with a regiment of infantry, which it was insinuated at the time had been chosen because it was.a Scotch regiment, and indifferent to the liberties of the English. The Riot Act was read; it 57 answered by stones and brickbats. The troops fired, and killed sis and wounded fifteen of the rioters. One man was shot by a soldier before the orders to fire had been given. He was found guilty of murder by a coroner's inquest, but was acquitted when brought to trial, and publicly presented with a purse of money by his colonel. Mr. Gillam, the magistrate, was likewise tried and acquitted. In this instance the mob was
* The Porteus mob is designedly omitted from our list, as being neither English nor political.