Selections from the Papers of the London Corresponding Society 1792-1799
The Papers of the London Corresponding Society 1792-1799, first published in 1983, consists of eighteenth-century documents which trace the history of an early working-class reform society organized by a shoemaker and three of his friends. 'Annual Parliaments and Universal Suffrage' was their slogan and their goal. To achieve this reform they believed they must first educate the people to know what their rights were and how to exercise them. So popular were they that over 10,000 men paid to join the Society and over 100,000 people attended their open air meetings. Such numbers alarmed the government, especially since spies reported talk or arming and revolution, of assassinating Pitt and shooting 'royal game'. Unlike many groups which set out to demand their political or social rights, but which scattered as soon as they encountered opposition, the Corresponding Society met openly for over six years despite harassment by police magistrates, interference from press gangs, vilification in newspapers, denunciations in Parliament, introduction of repressive laws, arrest of members, and expensive trials. The blow from which they could not recover was a 1799 Act of Parliament outlawing the Corresponding Society by name.
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