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guished senator and patriot having had the honour BOOK to be the first mover of the bill.
On Tuesday, the day appointed for taking the petition into consideration, the mob again sur. rounded the parliament house, and renewed their outrages and insults. The house, after passing some resolutions adapted to the occasion, and ex pressive of their just indignation, immediately adjourned. In the evening the populace, now grown more daring than ever, attacked the prison of Newgate, where their comrades were confined, with astonishing resolution, and, setting the building in flames, liberated more than three hundred felons and debtors resident within its walls. Encouraged by the impunity with which they had hitherto acted, they now proceeded to lord Mansfield's house, in Bloomsbury-square, which they totally demolished, his lordship escaping not without difficulty. The prisons of Clerkenwell were also forced, many private houses plundered or destroyed, and scarcely did the night afford any cessation of the riots.
On the succeeding day, the mob, rendered more desperate by the mischiefs and villanies they had already perpetrated, attacked with incredible fury the houses of various individuals, chiefly Catholics, which they had previously marked for destruction. In the evening the King's Bench, the Fleet Prison, and the New Compter, were set on fire; and, with a prodigious number of private dwellings in different
BOOK parts of the town burning at the same time, formed
a tremendous scene of conflagration, to which London, since the great fire of 1666, had seen nothing parallel or similar.
The same day attempts were made by the rioters on the Bank and Pay-Office; but these, being strongly guarded, happily escaped that destruction which must have involved the whole nation in irre. parable distress and ruin. What appeared most to excite the public indignation was the criminal supineness of the magistracy of London * during these horrible commotions, apparently threatening to lay the metropolis of the empire level with the ground, and which actually presented in many parts the image of a city stormed and sacked.
At length a privy council being convened, at the king. which divers members of the opposition attended,
the king himself declared, with laudable resolution, “ that, although the magistrates had not done their duty, he would not be deficient in his ;” and general orders were immediately transmitted to the mili
Laudable conduct of
* It most assuredly was not forgotten that Mr. Gillam, an excellent magistrate of the county of Surry, was tried at the Old Bailey for his life, in consequence of the 'order given by him at the riots in St. George's Fields, A. D. 1768, for the military to fire, after long and patiently enduring the severest provocations from the rioters, and twice reading the Riot Act. Such a precedent could not but tend, in similar emergencies, most dangerously to enfeeble the power of the executive government.
tary to fire upon the rioters, without waiting for di- BOOK rections from the civil magistrate; in consequence of which the slaughter was terrible : but in a short time the commotions were effectually suppressed, and by Thursday noon crder and tranquillity were perfectly restored.
On that day lord George Gordon was taken into custody, and, after a strict examination before the privy council, committed close prisoner to the Tower on a charge of HIGH TREASON, for which there does not appear to have been sufficient ground, and on his trial he was subsequently acquitted. An impeachment by the house of commons for high crimes and misdemeanors would have been a mode of
procedure far more eligible and efficacious, and would indubitably have insured that punishment which his rash and insolent conduct so justly merited.
A special commission was issued for the trial of the rioters, of whom a very great number, consisting of men very opposite in description and character, were apprehended. Lord chief-justice De Grey, whose mild and benignant disposition, as well as his infirm health, was ill-suited to this painful task, willingly resigning his office, the attorney-general Wedderburne was advanced to the chief justiceship, under the title of lord Loughborough. Consider- Sanguinary ing the great number of lives necessarily sacrificed jord Lough in the course of the riots, after the military began to borough. act, it might have been hoped that a very few vic
BOOK tims would have sufficed to satisfy the vengeance of
the law. But the new chief justice proceeded against the delinquents with great severity: no less than fifty-nine of the prisoners being capitally convicted; and the memory of these transactions was impressed upon the public mind in characters of blood.
It is a remarkable circumstance, that upon the proposition very day on which the riots commenced, the duke parliaments. of Richmond gave notice of his design to bring in
a bill for annual parliaments, and a more equal re. presentation of the people in the house of commons. In his introductory speech this nobleman declared the national representation to be flagrantly and grossly corrupt. The constitution, he said, had been impaired, and was impairing daily by the accumulation of abuses : parliament, he affirmed, was becoming more and more servile: and the tendency of the prevailing system was to make the will of the sovereign the rule and measure of the government. He even went the violent and indecent length of asserting, that the present parliament was in reality no parliament at all, because it was not founded on țhat principle which could alone constitute them the legitimate representatives of the people. He thought the most effectual remedy for the existing evils would be to shorten the duration of parliaments, rendering them annual ; and to cause every man in the kingdom, of full age and not disqualified by law, to be represented in the house of commons. The noble
inover proposed, that his bill should be read once BOOK only during the present session, and then to leave it upon the table, in order that it might be fully considered by their lordships in the months of the
It happened very unfortunately for the credit of this famous project of democratic reform, that even whilst the duke of Richmond was speaking loudly and strenuously in its favor, the house was prevented from listening by the clamors and outrages of the lawless multitude without, who, according to the principles of this dangerous bill, were henceforth to be invested with the power of returning representatives to parliament; and the populace were at this moment on the point of rushing into the house, opposed only by the activity and resolution of the door-keepers and attendants. Divers peers were grossly insulted, and on entering exhibited proofs of the indignities they had sustained ; and the house at length broke up in the utmost confusion. It
may well be supposed that this crude and indigested measure was never again revived in either house of parliament: but the bold and plausible, though erroneous and pernicious, principles on which it was founded, were for a series of years publicly avowed by this nobleman, and under his sanction they acquired great credit and currency.
On the 19th of June the parliament met pur. suant to their adjournment, and the king, going in