« PreviousContinue »
Joaxson's Account Or THE RIOTS OF LONDON-LORD GEORGE GORDON COMMITTED TO
THE TOWER—Joux WILKES-CONDUCT OF MR. AKERMAN, GOVERNOR OF NEWGATECORRESPONDENCE - BOSWELL'S BROTHER DAVID- DR. BEATTIE-DAVIES' MEMOIRS OP GARRICK-DR. DUNBAR—ADVICE TO DIVINES-JOHNSON'S INSTRUCTIONS ON THE COMPOSITION OF SERMONS-CIVILISATION OF A PARISH-DR. WHEELER-BOSWELL'S PRESSING INVITATIONS TO JOHNSON-SOUTHWARK ELECTION-LADY SOUTHWELL AND MAURITIUS LOWE – MR. MACBEAN-LORD THURLOW-MR. THRALE'S ELECTION DEFEAT - MRS. DESMOULINS A CANDIDATE FOR THE OFFICE OF MATRON OF THE CHARTREUX.
WHILE Johnson was thus engaged in preparing a delightful literary
entertainment for the world, the tranquillity of the metropolis of Great Britain was unexpectedly disturbed, by the most horrid series of outrage that ever disgraced a civilised country. A relaxation of some of the severe penal provisions against our fellow-subjects of the Catholic communion had been granted by the legislature, with an opposition so
inconsiderable that the genuine mildness of Christianity, united with liberal policy, seemed to have become general in this island. But a dark and malignant spirit of persecution soon showed itself, in an unworthy petition for the repeal of the wise and humane statute. That petition was brought forward by a mob, with the evident purpose of intimidation, and was justly rejected. But the attempt was accompanied and followed by such daring violence as is unexampled in history. Of this extraordinary tumult, Dr. Johnson has given the following concise, lively, and just account in his “Letters to Mrs. Thrale :" }
“On Friday, the good Protestants met in Saint George's-Fields, at the summons of Lord George Gordon, and marching to Westminster, insulted the Lords and Commons, who all bore it with great tameness. At night the outrages began by the demolition of the mass-house by Lincoln's-inn.
“An exact journal of a week's defiance of government I cannot give you. On Monday Mr. Strahan, who had been insulted, spoke to Lord Mansfield, 4 (who had, I think, been insulted too,) of the licentiousness of the populace; and his lordship treated it as a very which they pulled down; and as for his goods, they totally burnt them. They have since gone to Caen-wood, but a guard was there before them They plundered some Papists, I think, and burnt a mass-house in Moorfields the same nignt.
slight irregularity. On Tuesday night they pulled down Fielding's house, and burnt his goods in the street. They had gutted, on Monday, Sir George Savilo's house, but the building was saved. On Tuesday evening, leaving Fielding's ruins, they went to Newgate to demand their companions who had been seized demolishing the chapel. The keeper could not release them but by the Mayor's permission, which he went to ask ; at his return he found all the prisoners released, and Newgate in a blaze. They then went to Bloomsbury, and fastened upon Lord Mansfield's house,
1 Vol. ii. I have selected passages from several letters, without mentioning dates.LOSWELL.
2 June 2.- BOSWELL.
3 The son of Cosmo George, Duke of Gordon, one of the most turbulent politicians of the time. He sat in Parliament for Luggershall, and became conspicuous by his opposition to ministers, especially on the Roman Catholic question. Being the principal cause of the No Popery riots, he was arrested and tried for high treason; but no evidence being add::ced of such a design, he was acquitted. Being then convicted of having libelled the French Ambassador, the Queen of France, and the criminal justice of his country, be fled to Holland; but he was subsequently arrested, sent home, and committed to Newgate, where he died in 1793.-ED.
4 Then Lord Chief Justice of the King's Bench. His Lordship was a high Tory; hence the hostility of the mob was strongly directed against him.
3 This is not quite correct. Sir John Fielding was, I think, then dead. It was Justice Hyde's house in St. Martin's-street, Leicester Fields, that was gutted and his goods burnt in the street.-BOSWELL.
“On Wednesday I walked with Dr. Scot to look at Newgate, and found it in ruins, with the fire yet glowing. As I went by, the Protestants were plundering the Sessions House at the Old Bailey. There were not, I believe, a hundred; but they did their work at leisure, in full security, without sentinels, without trepidation, as men lawfully employed in full day. Such is the cowardice of a commercial place.On Wednesday they broke open the Fleet, and the King's Bench, and the Marshalsea, and Wood-street Compter, and Clerkenwell Bridewell, and released all the prisoners.
“At night they set fire to the Fleet, and to the King's Bench, and I know not how many other places ; and one might see the glare of conflagration fill the sky from many parts. The sight was dreadful. Some people were threatened;
Mr. Strahan advised me to take care of myself. Such a time of terror you have been happy in not seeing.
“The King said in council, “That the magistrates had not done their duty, but that lie would do his own :' and a proclamation was published directing us
to kcep our servants within doors, as the peace was now to be preserved by force. The soldiers were sent out to different parts, and the town is now (June 9) at quiet.
“ The soldiers are stationed so as to be everywhere within call : there is no songer any body of rioters, and the individuals are hunted to their holes, and led to prison ; Lord George was last night sent to the Tower. Mr. John Wilkes was this day in my neighbourhood. to seize the publisher of a seditious paper.
“Several chapels have been destroyed, and several inoffensive Papists have been plundered, but the high sport was to burn the gaols. This was a good rabble trick. The debtors and the criminals were all set at liberty; but of the
criminals, as has always happened, many are already retaken; and two pirates have surrendered themselves, and it is expected that they will be pardoned.
“Government now acts again with its proper force; and we are all under the protection of the King and the law. I thought that it would be agreeable to you and my master to have my testimony to the public security; and that you would sleep more quietly when I told you that you were safe.
There has, indeed, been an universal panic, from which the King was the first that recovered. Without the concurrence of his ministers, or the assistance of the civil magistrates, he put the soldiers in motion, and saved the town from calamities, such as a rabble's government must naturally produce.
“The public has escaped a very heavy calamity. The rioters attempted the Bank on Wednesday night, but in no great number; and, like other thieves, with no great resolution. Jack Wilkes headed the party that drove them away. It is agreed that if they had seized the Bank on Tuesday, at the height of the panic, when no resistance had been prepared, they might have carried irrecoverably away whatever they had found. Jack, who was always zealous for order and decency, declares that if he be trusted with power, he will not leave a rioter alive. There is, however, now no longer any need of heroism or bloodshed; no blue riband1 is any longer worn."
Such was the end of this miserable sedition, from which London was delivered by the magnanimity of the Sovereign himself. Whatever some may maintain, I am satisfied that there was no combination or plan, either domestic or foreign ; but that the mischief spread by a gradual contagion of frenzy, augmented by the quantities of fermented liquors, of which the deluded populace possessed themselves in the course of their depredations.
I should think myself very much to blame, did I here neglect to do justice to my esteemed friend Mr. Akerman, the keeper of Newgate, who long discharged a very important trust with an uniform intrepid firmness, and at the same time a tenderness and a liberal charity, which entitle him to be recorded with distinguished honour.
Upon this occasion, from the timidity and negligence of the magistracy on the one hand, and the almost incredible exertions of the mob on the other, the first prison of this great country was laid open,
| Lord George Gordon and his followers, during these outrages, wore blue ribands in their hats.-MALONE. VOL. UL