1800

Accident at a Review—The King shot at, at Drury Lane Theatre—Behaviour of the Royal Family—Biography of Hadfield—His trial and acquittal—Grand Review of Volunteers on the King's birthday—The bad weather, and behaviour of the crowd.

ON THE 15th of May, the King, who, while his health was good, was always most active in fulfilling the onerous duties which devolved upon him, attended the field exercises of the Grenadier battalion of the Guards, in Hyde Park, when a gentleman named Ongley, a clerk in the Navy Office, was shot by a musket ball, during the volley firing, whilst standing but twenty-three feet from the King. The wound was not dangerous—through the fleshy part of the thigh—and it was immediately dressed; and it might have passed off as an accident, but for an event which occurred later in the day. The cartouch-boxes of the soldiers were examined, but none but blank cartridges were found. So little indeed was thought of it, that the King, who said it was an accident, stopped on the ground for half an hour afterwards, and four more volleys were fired by the same company before he left.

The King was a great patron of the Drama, and on that evening he visited Drury Lane Theatre, where, “by command of their Majesties,” were to be performed “She would, and she would not,”[4] and “The Humourist;”[5] but scarcely had he entered the box, before he had taken his seat, and whilst he was bowing to the audience, than a man, who had previously taken up a position in the pit close to the royal box, took a good and steady aim with a horse-pistol, with which he was armed, at His Majesty, and fired: luckily missing the King, who with the utmost calmness, and without betraying any emotion, turned round to one of his attendants, and after saying a few words to him, took his seat in apparent tranquillity, and sat out the whole entertainment. He had, however, a narrow escape, for one of the two slugs with which the pistol was loaded, was found but a foot to the left of the royal chair.

Needless to say, the would-be assassin was seized at once—as is so graphically depicted in the illustration—and, by the combined exertions of both pit and orchestra, was pulled over the spikes and hurried across the stage, where he was at once secured and carried before Sir William Addington, who examined him in an adjoining apartment. The audience was furious, and with difficulty could be calmed by the assurance that the villain was in safe custody. Then, to avert attention, the curtain drew up, and the stage was crowded by the whole strength of the house—scene-shifters, carpenters, and all; and “God save the King” was given with all the heartiness the occasion warranted.

Then, when that was done, and the royal party was seated, came the reaction. The Princesses Augusta, Sophia, and Mary fainted away, the latter twice. The Princess Elizabeth alone was brave, and administered smelling salts and cold water to her less courageous sisters. The Queen bore it well—she was very pale, but collected—and during the performance kept nodding to the princesses, as if to tell them to keep up their spirits.

The name of the man who fired the shot was James Hadfield. He was originally a working silversmith; afterwards he enlisted in the 15th Light Dragoons, and his commanding officer gave him the highest character as a soldier. He deposed that Hadfield, “while in the regiment, was distinguished for his loyalty, courage, and irreproachable conduct. On all occasions of danger he was first to volunteer. On the memorable affair at Villers en Couche, on the 24th of April, 1794, which procured the 15th Regiment so much honour, and the officers the Order of Merit from his Imperial Majesty, Hadfield behaved with the most heroic bravery. On the 18th of May following, when the Duke of York retreated in consequence of the attack of Pichegru on his rear, Hadfield, in the action at Roubaix, fought with desperation. He volunteered on a skirmishing party, withstood the shock of numbers alone, was often surrounded by the enemy, and called off by his officers, but would not come. At last he fell, having his skull fractured, his cheek separated from his face, his arm broken, and he was otherwise so shockingly mangled, that the British troops, after seeing him, concluded he was dead: and he was returned among the killed in the Gazette. The French having obtained possession of the field, Hadfield fell into their hands, and recovered. He remained upwards of a year a prisoner, his regiment all the time supposing him dead; but in August, 1795, he joined it at Croydon, to the great astonishment and joy of his comrades, who esteemed him much. It soon became manifest, however, that his wounds had deranged his intellect. Whenever he drank strong liquors he became insane; and this illness increased so much that it was found necessary to confine him in a straight-waistcoat. In April, 1796, he was discharged for being a lunatic.” His officers gave him the highest character, particularly for his loyalty; adding that they would have expected him to lose his life in defending, rather than attacking, his King, for whom he had always expressed great attachment.

JAMES HADFIELD'S ATTEMPT TO KILL GEORGE III., MAY 15, 1800.

After his discharge he worked at his old trade; but even his shopmates gave testimony before the Privy Council as to his insanity. He was tried on June 26th by Lord Kenyon, in the Court of King's Bench, and the evidences of his insanity were so overwhelming, that the Judge stopped the case, and the verdict of acquittal, on the ground that he was mad, was recorded. He was then removed to Newgate. He seems to have escaped from confinement more than once—for the Annual Register  of August 1, 1802, mentions his having escaped from his keepers, and been retaken at Deal; whilst the Morning Herald  of August 31st of the same year chronicles his escape from Bedlam, and also on the 4th of October, 1802, details his removal to Newgate again.[6]

To pass to a pleasanter subject. The next event in the year of social importance is the Grand Review of Volunteers in Hyde Park, on the occasion of the King's 63rd birthday.

The Volunteer movement was not a novelty. The Yeomanry were enrolled in 1761, and volunteers had mustered strongly in 1778, on account of the American War. But the fear of France caused the patriotic breast to beat high, and the volunteer rising of 1793 and 1794 may be taken as the first grand gathering of a civic army.

On this day the largest number ever brigaded together, some 12,000 men, were to be reviewed by the King in Hyde Park. The whole city was roused to enthusiasm, and the Morning Post  of the 5th of June speaks of it thus: “A finer body of men, or of more martial appearance, no country could produce. While they rivalled, in discipline, troops of the line; by the fineness of their clothing, and the great variety of uniform and the richness of appointments, they far exceeded them in splendour. The great number of beautiful standards and colours—the patriotic gifts of the most exalted and distinguished females—and the numerous music, also contributed much to the brilliancy and diversity of the scene. It was with mixed emotions of pride and gratitude that every mind contemplated the martial scene. Viewing such a body of citizen soldiers, forsaking their business and their pleasures, ready and capable to meet all danger in defence of their country—considering, too, that the same spirit pervades it from end to end, the most timid heart is filled with confidence. We look back with contempt on the denunciations of the enemy, ‘which, sown in serpents' teeth, have arisen for us in armed men,' and we look with gratitude to our new-created host, which retorted the insult, and changed the invader into the invaded.”

But, alack and well-a-day! to think that all this beautiful writing should be turned in bathos by the context; and that this review should be for ever memorable to those who witnessed it, not on account of the martial ardour which prompted it, but for the pouring rain which accompanied it! No language but that of an eye-witness could properly portray the scene and give us a graphic social picture of the event.

“So early as four o'clock the drums beat to arms in every quarter, and various other music summoned the reviewers and the reviewed to the field. Even then the clouds were surcharged with rain, which soon began to fall; but no unfavourableness of weather could damp the ardour of even the most delicate of the fair. So early as six o'clock, all the avenues were crowded with elegantly dressed women escorted by their beaux; and the assemblage was so great, that when the King entered the Park, it was thought advisable to shut several of the gates to avoid too much pressure. The circumstance of the weather, which, from the personal inconvenience it produced, might be considered the most inauspicious of the day, proved in fact the most favourable for a display of beauty, for a variety of scene, and number of incidents. From the constant rain and the constant motion, the whole Park could be compared only to a newly ploughed field. The gates being locked, there was no possibility of retreating, and there was no shelter but an old tree or an umbrella. In this situation you might behold an elegant woman with a neat yellow slipper, delicate ankle, and white silk stocking, stepping up to her garter in the mire with as little dissatisfaction as she would into her coach—there another making the first faux pas  perhaps she ever did and seated reluctantly on the moistened clay.

THE LOYAL DUCKING; OR, RETURNING FROM THE REVIEW ON THE FOURTH OF JUNE, 1800.

“Here is a whole group assembled under the hospitable roof of an umbrella, whilst the exterior circle, for the advantage of having one shoulder dry, is content to receive its dripping contents on the other. The antiquated virgin laments the hour in which, more fearful of a speckle than a wetting, she preferred the dwarfish parasol to the capacious umbrella. The lover regrets there is no shady bower to which he might lead his mistress, ‘nothing loath.' Happy she who, following fast, finds in the crowd a pretence for closer pressure. Alas! were there but a few grottos, a few caverns, how many Didos—how many Æneas'? Such was the state of the spectators. That of the troops was still worse—to lay exposed to a pelting rain; their arms had changed their mirror-like brilliancy [7] to a dirty brown; their new clothes lost all their gloss, the smoke of a whole campaign could not have more discoloured them. Where the ground was hard they slipped; where soft, they sunk up to the knee. The water ran out at their cuffs as from a spout, and, filling their half-boots, a squash at every step proclaimed that the Austrian buckets could contain no more.”


[4]By Colley Cibber.

[5]By James Cobb.

[6]Silver medals in commemoration of the King's escape were struck by order of Sheridan. The Obverse represents Providence protecting the King from the attempt upon his life, figuratively displayed by a shield and shivered arrows, portraying the Sovereign's safety; and encircled are the words “GOD SAVE THE KING.” On the Reverse is the British Crown in the centre of a wreath of laurel, the radiant beams of glory spreading their influence over it, with the words, “Preserved from Assassination, May 15, 1800 ;” and on the knot of the wreath, “Give God Praise.” Hadfield died in Bedlam.

[7]The barrels and locks of the muskets of that date were bright and burnished. Browning the gun-barrels for the army was not introduced till 1808.

1799-1800.

Retrospect of Eighteenth Century—Napoleon's letter to George III.—Lord Grenville's reply—French prisoners of war in England—Scarcity of provisions—Gloomy financial outlook—Loan from the Bank of England—Settlement of the Union with Ireland.

THE old Eighteenth Century lay a-dying, after a comparatively calm and prosperous life.

In its infancy, William of Orange brought peace to the land, besides delivering it from popery, brass money, and wooden shoes; and, under the Georges, civil war was annihilated, and the prosperity, which we have afterwards enjoyed, was laid down on a broad, and solid basis.

But in its last years, it fell upon comparatively evil days, and, although it was saved from the flood of revolution which swept over France, yet, out of that revolution came a war which embittered its closing days, and was left as a legacy to the young Nineteenth Century, which, as we know, has grappled with and overcome all difficulties, and has shone pre-eminent over all its predecessors.

The poor old century had lost us America, whose chief son, General George Washington, died in 1799. In 1799 we were at war with France truly, but England itself had not been menaced—the war was being fought in Egypt. Napoleon had suddenly deserted his army there, and had returned to France post-haste, for affairs were happening in Paris which needed his presence, if his ambitious schemes were ever to ripen and bear fruit. He arrived, dissolved the Council of Five Hundred, and the Triumvirate consisting of himself, Cambacérès, and Le Brun was formed. Then, whether in sober earnest, or as a bit of political by-play, he wrote on Christmas day, 1799, the following message of goodwill and peace:

Bonaparte, First Consul of the Republic, to His Majesty the King of Great Britain and Ireland.

“Paris, 5 Nivôse, year VIII. of the Republic.

“Called by the wishes of the French nation to occupy the first magistracy of the French Republic, I deem it desirable, in entering on its functions, to make a direct communication to your Majesty.

“Must the war, which for four years has ravaged every part of the world, be eternal? Are there no means of coming to an understanding?

“How can the two most enlightened nations of Europe, more powerful and stronger than is necessary for their safety and independence, sacrifice to the idea of a vain grandeur, the benefits of commerce, of internal prosperity, and domestic happiness? How is it they do not feel that peace is as glorious as necessary?

“These sentiments cannot be strangers to the heart of your Majesty, who rules over a free nation, with no other view than to render them happy.

“Your Majesty will only see in this overture, my sincere desire to effectually contribute to a general pacification, by a prompt step, free and untrammelled by those forms which, necessary perhaps to disguise the apprehensions of feeble states, only prove, in the case of strong ones, the mutual desire to deceive.

“France and England, by abusing their strength, may, for a long time yet, to the misery of all other nations, defer the moment of their absolute exhaustion; but I will venture to say, that the fate of all civilized nations depends on the end of a war which envelopes the whole world.

“(Signed Bonaparte.”

Fair as this looks to the eye, British statesmen could not even then, in those early days, implicitly trust Napoleon, without some material guarantee. True, all was not couleur de rose  with the French army and navy. The battle of the Nile, and Acre, still were in sore remembrance. Italy had emancipated itself, and Suwarrow had materially crippled the French army. There were 140,000 Austrians hovering on the Rhine border, and the national purse was somewhat flaccid. No doubt it would have been convenient to Napoleon to have patched up a temporary peace in order to recruit—but that would not suit England.

On Jan. 4, 1800, Lord Grenville replied to Talleyrand, then Minister for Foreign Affairs, in a long letter, in which he pointed out that England had not been the aggressor, and would always be glad of peace if it could be secured on a sure and solid basis. He showed how France had behaved on the Continent, cited the United Provinces, the Swiss Cantons, and the Netherlands; how Germany had been ravaged, and how Italy, though then free, “had been made the scene of unbounded anarchy and rapine;” and he wound up thus:

“His Majesty looks only to the security of his own dominions and those of his Allies, and to the general safety of Europe. Whenever he shall judge that such security can in any manner be attained, as resulting either from the internal situation of that country from whose internal situation the danger has arisen, or from such other circumstances of whatever nature as may produce the same end, His Majesty will eagerly embrace the opportunity to concert with his Allies the means of immediate and general pacification.

“Unhappily no such security hitherto exists: no sufficient evidence of the principle by which the new Government will be directed; no reasonable ground by which to judge of its stability. In this situation it can for the present only remain for His Majesty to pursue, in conjunction with other Powers, those exertions of just and defensive war, which his regard to the happiness of his subjects will never permit him either to continue beyond the necessity in which they originated, or to terminate on any other grounds than such as may best contribute to the secure enjoyment of their tranquillity, their constitution, and their independence.”[1]

So the war was to go on, that ever memorable struggle which cost both nations so much in treasure, and in men. France has never recovered the loss of those hecatombs driven to slaughter. Nor were they always killed. We kept a few of them in durance. On Dec. 21, 1799, the French Government refused to provide any longer for their compatriots, prisoners in our hands, and, from a report then taken, we had in keeping, in different places, as follows, some 25,000 men.[2]

Plymouth 7,477
Portsmouth 10,128
Liverpool 2,298
Stapleton 693
Chatham 1,754
Yarmouth 50
Edinburgh 208
Norman Cross 3,038
———
25,646
———

There is no doubt but these poor fellows fared hard, yet their ingenuity enabled them to supplement their short commons, and I have seen some very pretty baskets made in coloured straw, and little implements carved out of the bones of the meat which was served out to them as rations.

Their captors, however, were in somewhat evil case for food, and gaunt famine began to stare them in the face. There never was a famine, but there was a decided scarcity of provisions, which got worse as time went on. The Government recognized it, and faced the difficulty. In February, 1800, a Bill passed into law which enacted “That it shall not be lawful for any baker, or other person or persons, residing within the cities of London and Westminster, and the Bills of Mortality, and within ten miles of the Royal Exchange, after the 26th day of February, 1800, or residing in any part of Great Britain, after the 4th day of March, 1800, to sell, or offer to expose for sale, any bread, until the same shall have been baked twenty-four hours at the least; and every baker, or other person or persons, who shall act contrary hereto, or offend herein, shall, for every offence, forfeit and pay the sum of £5 for every loaf of bread so sold, offered, or exposed to sale.” By a previous Bill, however, new bread might be lawfully sold to soldiers on the march. Hunger, however, although staring the people in the face, had not yet absolutely touched them, as it did later in the year.

The year, too, at its opening, was gloomy financially. The Civil List was five quarters in arrear; and the King's servants were in such straits for money, that the grooms and helpers in the mews were obliged to present a petition to the King, praying the payment of their wages. Some portion, undoubtedly, was paid them, but, for several years afterwards, the Civil List was always three or six months in arrears.

The Bank of England came forward, and on the 9th of January agreed to lend the Government three millions without interest, but liable to be called in if the Three per Cent. Consols should get up to eighty, on condition that the Bank Charter be renewed for a further term of twenty-one years, to be computed from the 1st of August, 1812.

The question of the Union between Great Britain and Ireland had been discussed for some time, and on the 11th of February it was carried by a great majority in the Irish House of Lords. On the 2nd of April the King sent the following message to Parliament:

George R.—It is with most sincere satisfaction that his Majesty finds himself enabled to communicate to this House the joint Address of his Lords and Commons of Ireland, laying before his Majesty certain resolutions, which contain the terms proposed by them for an entire union between the two kingdoms. His Majesty is persuaded that this House will participate in the pleasure with which his Majesty observes the conformity of sentiment manifested in the proceedings of his two parliaments, after long and careful deliberation on this most important subject; and he earnestly recommends to this House, to take all such further steps as may best tend to the speedy and complete execution of a work so happily begun, and so interesting to the security and happiness of his Majesty's subjects, and to the general strength and prosperity of the British Empire.

“G. R.”[3]

Lord Grenville presented this message in the Lords, and Mr. Pitt in the Commons. The resolutions mentioned are “Resolutions of the two Houses of Parliament of Ireland, respecting a Union of the Kingdoms of Great Britain and Ireland; and their Address thereon to His Majesty. Die Mercurii, 26 Martii, 1800.” They are somewhat voluminous, and settled the basis on which the Union was to take place.

On the 21st of April, both Lords and Commons began to debate on the Union. The Commons continued it on the 22nd, 25th, 28th, 29th, and 30th of April, and May 1st and 2nd—on which date, the question being put “That the said Resolutions be now read a second time,” the House divided. Yeas, 208; Noes, 26. An address was afterwards drawn up, and communicated to the Lords at a Conference.

The Lords began their deliberations also on the 21st of April, and continued them on the 25th, 28th, and 30th, May 7th and 8th, when the House divided. Contents, 55; Proxies, 20; Not Contents, 7. The dissentients were the Earls of Hillsborough, Fitzwilliam, Carnarvon, and Buckinghamshire, and Lords Dundas, Holland, and King—the two latter entering a formal written protest.

The Lords and Commons agreed to an address which they presented to the King on the 12th of May, and, on the 2nd of July, the King went in state to the House of Lords, and gave his Royal Assent to the Bill, which thus became law, and was to take effect on the 1st of January, 1801. The Royal Assent was a very commonplace affair—there were but about thirty Peers present, and it was shuffled in with two other Bills—the Pigott Diamond Bill and the Duke of Richmond Bill. There was no enthusiasm in England, at all events, over the Union, no rejoicings, no illuminations, hardly even a caricature. How it has worked, we of these later days of the century know full well.

[1]Morning Post, Jan. 7, 1800.

[2]Annual Register, Jan. 25, 1800.

[3]“Parliamentary History,” vol. xxxv. pp. 25, 26

High price of gold—Scarcity of food—Difference in cost of living 1773-1800—Forestalling and Regrating—Food riots in the country—Riot in London at the Corn Market—Forestalling in meat.

THE PEOPLE were uneasy. Gold was scarce—so scarce, indeed, that instead of being the normal £3 17s. 6d. per oz., it had risen to £4 5s., at which price it was a temptation, almost overpowering, to melt guineas. Food, too, was scarce and dear; and, as very few people starve in silence, riots were the natural consequence. The Acts against “Forestalling and Regrating”—or, in other words, anticipating the market, or purchasing before others, in order to raise the price—were put in force. Acts were also passed giving bounties on the importation of oats and rye, and also permitting beer to be made from sugar. The House of Commons had a Committee on the subject of bread, corn, &c., and they reported on the scarcity of corn, but of course could not point out any practical method of remedying the grievance. The cost of living, too, had much increased, as will appear from the following table of expenses of house-keeping between 1773 and 1800, by an inhabitant of Bury St. Edmunds:[8]

1773.1793.1799.1800.
£s.d.£s.d.£s.d.£s.d.
Comb of Malt [9]0 12 0 1 3 0 1 3 0 2 0 0
Chaldron of Coals 1 11 6 2 0 6 2 6 0 2 11 0
Comb of Oats 0 5 0 0 13 0 0 16 0 1 1 0
Load of Hay 2 2 0 4 10 0 5 5 0 7 0 0
Meat 0 0 4 0 0 5 0 0 7 0 0 9
Butter 0 0 6 0 0 11 0 0 11 0 1 4
Sugar (loaf)0 0 8 0 1 0 0 0 3 0 1 4
Soap 0 0 6 0 0 8 0 0 0 0 10
Window lights, 30 windows 3 10 0 7 10 0 12 12 0 12 12 0
Candles 0 0 6 0 0 8 0 0 0 0 10½
Poor's Rates, per quarter 0 1 0 0 2 6 0 3 0 0 5 0
Income Tax on £200 ······20 0 0 20 0 0
8 4 0 16 2 8 42 9 4 45 14

With everything advancing at this amazing rate of progression, it is not to be wondered at that the price of the staff of life was watched very narrowly, and that if there were any law by which any one who enhanced it, artificially, could be punished, he would get full benefit of it, both from judge and jury. Of this there is an instance given in the Annual Register, July 4, 1800:

“This day one Mr. Rusby was tried, in the Court of King's Bench, on an indictment against him, as an eminent cornfactor, for having purchased, by sample, on the 8th of November last, in the Corn Market, Mark Lane, ninety quarters of oats at 41s. per quarter, and sold thirty of them again in the same market, on the same day, at 44s. The most material testimony on the part of the Crown was given by Thomas Smith, a partner of the defendant's. After the evidence had been gone through, Lord Kenyon made an address to the jury, who, almost instantly, found the defendant guilty. Lord Kenyon—‘You have conferred, by your verdict, almost the greatest benefit on your country that was ever conferred by any jury.' Another indictment against the defendant, for engrossing, stands over.

“Several other indictments for the same alleged crimes were tried during this year, which we fear tended to aggravate the evils of scarcity they were meant to obviate, and no doubt contributed to excite popular tumults, by rendering a very useful body of men odious in the eyes of the mob.”

HINTS TO FORESTALLERS; OR, A SURE WAY TO REDUCE THE PRICE OF GRAIN.

As will be seen by the accompanying illustration by Isaac Cruikshank, the mob did occasionally take the punishment of forestallers into their own hands. (A case at Bishop's Clyst, Devon, August, 1800.)

A forestaller is being dragged along by the willing arms of a crowd of country people; the surrounding mob cheer, and an old woman follows, kicking him, and beating him with the tongs. Some sacks of corn are marked 25s. The mob inquire, “How much now, farmer?” “How much now, you rogue in grain?” The poor wretch, half-strangled, calls out piteously, “Oh, pray let me go, and I'll let you have it at a guinea. Oh, eighteen shillings! Oh, I'll let you have it at fourteen shillings!”

In August and September several riots, on account of the scarcity of corn, and the high price of provisions, took place in Birmingham, Oxford, Nottingham, Coventry, Norwich, Stamford, Portsmouth, Sheffield, Worcester, and many other places. The markets were interrupted, and the populace compelled the farmers, &c., to sell their provisions, &c., at a low price.

At last these riots extended to London, beginning in a small way. Late at night on Saturday, September 13th, or early on Sunday, September 14th, two large written placards were pasted on the Monument, the text of which was:

“Bread will be sixpence the Quartern if the People will
assemble at the Corn Market on Monday.
Fellow Countrymen ,

How long will ye quietly and cowardly suffer yourselves to be imposed upon, and half starved by a set of mercenary slaves and Government hirelings? Can you still suffer them to proceed in their extensive monopolies, while your children are crying for bread? No! let them exist not a day longer. We are the sovereignty; rise then from your lethargy. Be at the Corn Market on Monday.”

Small printed handbills to the same effect were stuck about poor neighbourhoods, and the chance of a cheap loaf, or the love of mischief, caused a mob of over a thousand to assemble in Mark Lane by nine in the morning. An hour later, and their number was doubled, and then they began hissing the mealmen, and cornfactors, who were going into the market. This, however, was too tame, and so they fell to hustling, and pelting them with mud. Whenever a Quaker appeared, he was specially selected for outrage, and rolled in the mud; and, filling up the time with window breaking, the riot became somewhat serious—so much so, that the Lord Mayor went to Mark Lane about 11 a.m. with some of his suite. In vain he assured the maddened crowd that their behaviour could in no way affect the market. They only yelled at him, “Cheap bread! Birmingham and Nottingham for ever! Three loaves for eighteenpence,” &c. They even hissed the Lord Mayor, and smashed the windows close by him. This proved more than his lordship could bear, so he ordered the Riot Act to be read. The constables charged the mob, who of course fled, and the Lord Mayor returned to the Mansion House.

No sooner had he gone, than the riots began again, and he had to return; but, during the daytime, the mob was fairly quiet. It was when the evening fell, that these unruly spirits again broke out; they routed the constables, broke the windows of several bakers' shops, and, from one of them, procured a quantity of faggots. Here the civic authorities considered that the riot ought to stop, for, if once the fire fiend was awoke, there was no telling where the mischief might end.

So the Lord Mayor invoked the aid of the Tower Ward Volunteers—who had been in readiness all day long, lying perdu  in Fishmongers' Hall—the East India House Volunteers, and part of the London Militia. The volunteers then blocked both ends of Mark Lane, Fenchurch Street, and Billiter Lane (as it was then called). In vain did the mob hoot and yell at them; they stood firm until orders were given them, and then the mob were charged and dispersed—part down Lombard Street, part down Fish Street Hill, over London Bridge, into the Borough. Then peace was once more restored, and the volunteers went unto their own homes.

True, the City was quiet; but the mob, driven into the Borough, had not yet slaked their thirst for mischief. They broke the windows, not only of a cheesemonger's in the Borough, but of a warehouse near the church. They then went to the house of Mr. Rusby (6, Temple Place, Blackfriars Road)—a gentleman of whom we have heard before, as having been tried, and convicted, for forestalling and regrating—clamouring for him, but he had prudently escaped by the back way into a neighbour's house. However, they burst into his house and entered the room where Mrs. Rusby was. She begged they would spare her children, and do as they pleased with the house and furniture. They assured her they would not hurt the children, but they searched the house from cellar to garret in hopes of getting the speculative Mr. Rusby, with the kindly intention of hanging him in case he was found. They then broke open some drawers, took out, and tore some papers, and took away some money, but did not injure the furniture much. In vain they tried to find out the address of Mrs. Rusby's partner, and then, having no raison d'être  for more mischief, they dispersed; after which a party of Light Horse, and some of the London Militia, came up, only to find a profound quiet. The next day the riotous population were in a ferment, but were kept in check by the militia and volunteers.

Whether by reason of fear of the rioters, or from the fact that the grain markets were really easier, wheat did fall on that eventful Monday ten and fifteen shillings a quarter; and, if the following resolutions of the Court of Aldermen are worth anything, it ought to have fallen still lower:

Combe, Mayor.

“A Court of Lord Mayor and Aldermen held at the Guildhall of the City of London, on Tuesday, the 16th of September, 1800.

“Resolved unanimously—That it is the opinion of this Court, from the best information it has been able to procure, that, had not the access to the Corn Market been, yesterday, impeded, and the transactions therein interrupted, a fall in the price of Wheat and Flour, much more considerable than that which actually took place, would have ensued; and this Court is further of opinion, that no means can so effectually lead to reduce the present excessive prices of the principal articles of food, as the holding out full security and indemnification to such lawful Dealers as shall bring their Corn or other commodities to market. And this Court does therefore express a determination to suppress, at once, and by force, if it shall unhappily be necessary, every attempt to impede, by acts of violence, the regular business of the markets of the Metropolis.

Rix.

A butcher was tried and convicted at the Clerkenwell Sessions, September 16th, for “forestalling the market of Smithfield on the 6th of March last, by purchasing of Mr. Eldsworth, a salesman, two cows and an ox, on their way to the market.” His brother was also similarly convicted. The chairman postponed passing sentence, and stated that “he believed there were many persons who did not consider, that, by such a practice, they were offending against the law; but, on the contrary, imagined that, when an alteration in the law was made, by the repeal of the old statutes against forestalling, there was an end of the offence altogether. It had required the authority of a very high legal character, to declare to the public that the law was not repealed, though the statutes were.” He also intimated that whenever sentence was passed, it would be the lightest possible. Still the populace would insist on pressing these antiquated prosecutions, and an association was formed to supply funds for that purpose.


[8]Annual Register, vol. xlii. p. 94.

[9]A comb is four bushels, or half a quarter.

Continuation of food riots in London—Inefficiency of Police—Riots still continue—Attempts to negotiate a Peace—A political meeting on Kennington Common—Scarcity of corn—Proclamation to restrict its consumption—Census of the people.

THE Lord Mayor in vain promulgated a pacific Proclamation; the Riots still went on.

Combe, Mayor.

Mansion House, Sept. 17, 1800.

“Whereas the peace of this City has been, within these few days, very much disturbed by numerous and tumultuous assemblies of riotous and disorderly people, the magistrates, determined to preserve the King's peace, and the persons and property of their fellow-citizens, by every means which the law has intrusted to their hands, particularly request the peaceable and well-disposed inhabitants of this City, upon the appearance of the military, to keep themselves away from the windows; to keep all the individuals of their families, and servants, within doors; and, where such opportunities can be taken, to remain in the back rooms of their houses.

“By order of his Lordship.

W. J. Newman Clerk.”

In reading of these Riots we must not forget that the civil authorities for keeping the peace were, and had been, for more than a century previous, utterly inefficient for their purpose, and the laughing-stock of every one; added to which, there was a spirit of lawlessness abroad, among the populace, which could hardly exist nowadays. The male portion of the Royal Family were fearlessly lampooned and caricatured, and good-natured jokes were made even on such august personages as the King and Queen—the plain, homely manner of the one, and the avaricious, and somewhat shrewish temper of the other, were good-humouredly made fun of. The people gave of their lives, and their substance, to save their country from the foot of the invader; but they also showed a sturdy independence of character, undeniably good in itself, but which was sometimes apt to overpass the bounds of discretion, and degenerate into license.

So was it with these food riots. The mob had got an idea in their heads that there was a class who bought food cheap, and held it until they could sell it dear; and nothing could disabuse their minds of this, as the following will show.

On the morning of the 18th of September, not having the fear of the Lord Mayor before their eyes, the mob assembled in Chiswell Street, opposite the house of a Mr. Jones, whose windows they had demolished the previous night, and directed their attentions to a house opposite, at the corner of Grub Street, which was occupied by a Mr. Pizey, a shoemaker, a friend of the said Jones, to accommodate whom, he had allowed his cellars to be filled with barrels of salt pork. These casks were seen by the mob, and they were immediately magnified into an immense magazine of butter and cheese, forestalled from the market, locked up from use, and putrefying in the hands of unfeeling avarice. Groaning and cursing, the mob began to mutter that “it would be a d—d good thing to throw some stuff in and blow up the place.” Poor Pizey, alarmed, sent messengers to the Mansion House, and Worship Street office: a force of constables was sent, and the mob retired.

At night, however, the same riot began afresh. Meeting in Bishopsgate Street, they went on their victorious career up Sun Street, through Finsbury Square, overthrowing the constables opposed to them, down Barbican into Smithfield, Saffron Hill, Holborn, and Snow Hills, at the latter of which they broke two cheesemongers' windows. Then they visited Fleet Market, breaking and tossing about everything moveable, smashed the windows of another cheesemonger, and then turned up Ludgate Hill, when they began breaking every lamp; thence into Cheapside, back into Newgate Street, St. Martin's-le-Grand, and Barbican to Old Street, where they dispersed for the night. From Ludgate Hill to Barbican, only one lamp was left burning, and of that the glass was broken. Somehow, in this night's escapade the military were ever on their track, but never near them.

On the 18th of September the King arose in his Majesty, and issued a proclamation, with a very long preamble, “strictly commanding and requiring all the Lieutenants of our Counties, and all our Justices of the Peace, Sheriffs, and Under-Sheriffs, and all civil officers whatsoever, that they do take the most effectual means for suppressing all riots and tumults, and to that end do effectually put in execution an Act of Parliament made in the first year of the reign of our late royal ancestor, of glorious memory, King George the First, entituled ‘An Act for preventing tumults and riotous assemblies, and for the more speedy and effectual punishing the rioters,'” &c.

Still, in spite of this terrible fulmination, the rioters again “made night hideous” on the 19th of September; but they were not so formidable, nor did they do as much mischief, as on former occasions. On the 20th they made Clare Market their rendezvous, marched about somewhat, had one or two brushes with the St. Clement Danes Association, and, finally, retired on the advent of the Horse Guards. Another mob met in Monmouth Street, the famous old-clothes repository in St. Giles's, but the Westminster Volunteers, and cavalry, dispersed them; and, the shops shutting very early—much to the discomfiture of the respectable poor, as regarded their Saturday night's marketings—peace once more reigned. London was once more quiet, and only the rioters who had been captured, were left to be dealt with by the law. But the people in the country were not so quickly satisfied; their wages were smaller than those of their London brethren, and they proportionately felt the pinch more acutely. In some instances they were put down by force, in others the price of bread was lowered; but it is impossible at this time to take up a newspaper, and not find some notice of, or allusion to, a food riot.

The century would die at peace with all men if it could, and there was a means of communication open with France, in the person of a M. Otto, resident in this country as a kind of unofficial agent. The first glimpse we get of these negotiations, from the papers which were published on the subject, is in August, 1800; and between that time, and when the pourparlers  came to an end, on the 9th of November, many were the letters which passed between Lord Grenville and M. Otto. Peace, however, was not to be as yet. Napoleon was personally distrusted, and the French Revolution had been so recent, that the stability of the French Government was more than doubted.

A demonstration (it never attained the dimensions of a riot)—this time political and not born of an empty stomach—took place at Kennington on Sunday, the 9th of November. So-called “inflammatory” handbills had been very generally distributed about town a day or two beforehand, calling a meeting of mechanics, on Kennington Common, to petition His Majesty on a redress of grievances.

This actually caused a meeting of the Privy Council, and orders were sent to all the police offices, and the different volunteer corps, to hold themselves in readiness in case of emergency. The precautions taken, show that the Government evidently over-estimated the magnitude of the demonstration. First of all the Bow Street patrol were sent, early in the morning, to take up a position at “The Horns,” Kennington, there to wait until the mob began to assemble, when they were directed to give immediate notice to the military in the environs of London, who were under arms at nine o'clock. Parties of Bow Street officers were stationed at different public-houses, all within easy call.

By and by, about 9 a.m., the conspirators began to make their appearance on the Common, in scattered groups of six or seven each, until their number reached a hundred. Then the police sent round their fiery-cross to summon aid; and before that could reach them, they actually tried the venturesome expedient of dispersing the meeting themselves—with success. But later—or lazier—politicians continued to arrive, and the valiant Bow Street officers, thinking discretion the better part of valour, retired. When, however, they were reinforced by the Surrey Yeomanry, they plucked up heart of grace, and again set out upon their mission of dispersing the meeting—and again were they successful. In another hour, by 10 a.m., these gallant fellows could breathe again, for there arrived to their aid the Southwark Volunteers, and the whole police force from seven offices, together with the river police.

Then appeared on the scene, ministerial authority in the shape of one Mr. Ford, from the Treasury, who came modestly in a hackney coach; and when he arrived, the constables felt the time was come for them to distinguish themselves, and two persons, “one much intoxicated,” were taken into custody, and duly lodged in gaol—and this glorious intelligence was at once forwarded to the Duke of Portland, who then filled the post of Secretary to the Home Department.

The greatest number of people present at any time was about five hundred; and the troops, after having a good dinner at “The Horns,” left for their homes—except a party of horse which paraded the streets of Lambeth. A terrible storm of rain terminated this political campaign, in a manner satisfactory to all; and for this ridiculus mus  the Guards, the Horse Guards, and all the military, regulars or volunteers, were under arms or in readiness all the forenoon!

I have here given what, perhaps, some may consider undue prominence to a trifling episode; but it is in these things that the contrast lies as to the feeling of the people, and government, in the dawn of the nineteenth century, and in these latter days of ours. The meeting of a few, to discuss grievances, and to petition for redress, in the one case is met with stern, vigorous repression: in our times a blatant mob is allowed, nay encouraged, to perambulate the streets, yelling, they know not what, against the House of Lords, and the railings of the park are removed, by authority, to facilitate the progress of these Her Majesty's lieges, and firm supporters of constitutional liberty.

The scarcity of corn still continued down to the end of the year. It had been a bad harvest generally throughout the Continent, and, in spite of the bounty held out for its importation, but little arrived. The markets of the world had not then been opened—and among the marvels of our times, is the large quantity of wheat we import from India, and Australia. So great was this scarcity, that the King, in his paternal wisdom, issued a proclamation (December 3rd) exhorting all persons who had the means of procuring other food than corn, to use the strictest economy in the use of every kind of grain, abstaining from pastry, reducing the consumption of bread in their respective families at least one-third, and upon no account to allow it “to exceed one quartern loaf for each person in each week;” and also all persons keeping horses, especially those for pleasure, to restrict their consumption of grain, as far as circumstances would admit.

If this proclamation had been honestly acted up to, doubtless it would have effected some relief; which was sorely needed, when we see that the average prices of corn and bread throughout the country were—

Wheat per qr.Barley per qr.Oats per qr.Quartern loaf.
113s.60s.41s.1s. 9d.

And, looking at the difference in value of money then, and now, we must add at least 50 per cent., which would make the average price of the quartern loaf 2s. 7½d.!—and, really, at the end of the year, wheat was 133s. per quarter, bread 1s. 10½d. per quartern.

Three per Cent. Consols were quoted, on January 1, 1800, at 60; on January 1, 1801, they stood at 54.

A fitting close to the century was found in a Census of the people. On the 19th of November Mr. Abbot brought a Bill into Parliament “to ascertain the population of Great Britain.” He pointed out the extreme ignorance which prevailed on this subject, and stated “that the best opinions of modern times, and each of them highly respectable, estimate our present numbers, according to one statement, at 8,000,000; and according to other statements—formed on more extensive investigation and, as it appears to me, a more correct train of reasoning, showing an increase of one-third in the last forty years—the total number cannot be less than 11,000,000.”

This, the first real census ever taken of the United Kingdom, was not, of course, as exhaustive and trustworthy, as those decennial visitations we now experience. Mr. Abbot's plan was crude, and the results must of necessity have been merely approximate. He said, “All that will be necessary will be to pass a short Act, requiring the resident clergy and parish officers, in every parish and township, to answer some few plain questions, perhaps four or five, easy to be understood, and easy to be executed, which should be specified in a schedule to the Act, and to return their answers to the clerk of the Parliament, for the inspection of both Houses of Parliament. From such materials it will be easy (following the precedent of 1787) to form an abstract exhibiting the result of the whole.”

When the numbers, crudely gathered as they were, were published, they showed how fallacious was the prediction as to figures.

England and Wales 8,892,536
Scotland 1,608,420
Ireland 5,216,331
—————
Total 15,717,287 [10]
—————

One thing more was necessary before the dying giant expired, and that was to rectify the chronology of the century.[11] “From the 1st day of March last there has been a difference of twelve days between the old and new style, instead of eleven as formerly, in consequence of the regulations of the Act passed in 1752, according to which the year 1800 was only to be accounted a common year, and not a leap year; therefore old Lady-day was the 6th of April, old May-day 13th May, old Midsummer-day 6th July, old Lammas 13th August, old Michaelmas-day 11th October, &c., and so to continue for one hundred years.”


[10]G. Fr. Kolb, “The Condition of Nations,” &c.

[11]W. Toone, “The Chronological Historian.”—[When the Julian Calendar was introduced, the Vernal Equinox fell on the 25th of March. At the time of the Council of Nice, A.D. 325, it had retrograded to the 21st of March; and when the reformation was made in 1582, to the 11th of March. Pope Gregory XIII., to restore it to its place, directed ten days to be suppressed in the calendar; and as the use of the Julian intercalation was found to be three days in 400 years, he ordered the intercalation to be omitted in all the centenary years except those which were multiples of 400. According to Gregorian rule, therefore, every year of which the number is divisible by four, without a remainder, is a leap year, excepting the centenary years, which are only leap years when divisible by four, on suppressing the units and tens. Thus—

16(00) is a leap year.
17(00), 18(00), 19(00), are not leap years.
20(00) is a leap year.

The shifting of days caused great disturbance in festivals dependent on Easter. Pope Gregory, in 1582, ordered the 5th of October to be called 15th of October; the Low Countries made 15th of December 25th of December. Spain, Portugal, and part of Italy, accepted the Gregorian change, but the Protestant countries and communities resisted up to 1700. In England the ten days' difference had increased to eleven days, and the Act of 24 Geo. II. was passed to equalize the style in Great Britain and Ireland to the method now in use in all Christian countries, except Russia. In England, Wednesday, September 2, 1752, was followed by Thursday the 14th of September, and the New Style date of Easter-day came into use in 1753.—Note by John Westby Gibson, Esq., LL.D.]