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of Walpole, caricatures had occasionally portrayed ministers in grotesque forms and with comic incidents; but during this period, caricaturists had begun to exercise no little influence upon popular feeling. The broad humor and bold pencil of Gillray had contributed to foment the excitement against Mr. Fox and Lord North; and this skilful limner elevated caricature to the rank of a new art. The people were familiarized with the persons and characters of public men: crowds gathered round the printsellers' windows; and as they passed on, laughing good-humoredly, felt little awe or reverence for rulers whom the caricaturist had made ridiculous. The press had found a powerful ally, which, first used in the interests of party, became a further element of popular force. Meanwhile, other means had been devised, more power
ful than the press, - for directing public opinion Public meetings and as- and exercising influence over the government and
the legislature. Public meetings had been assembled, political associations organized, and " agitation," — as it has since been termed, - reduced to a system. In all ages and countries, and under every form of government, the people have been accustomed, in periods of excitement, to exercise a direct influence over their rulers. Sometimes by tumults and rebellions, sometimes by clamors and discontent, they have made known their grievances, and struggled for redress. In England, popular feelings bad too often exploded in civil wars and revolutions ; and, in more settled times, the people had successfully overborne the government and the legislature. No minister, however powerful, could be wholly deaf to their clamors. In 1733 Sir Robert Walpole had been forced to withdraw his excise scheme. In 1754
1 Wright's England under the House of Hanover, i. 136, 403; ii. 7483, &c.; Twiss's Life of Eldon, i. 162; Lord Stanhope's Life of Pitt, i. 239.
2 “Pour la populace, ce n'est jamais par envie d'attaquer qu'elle se soulève, mais par impatience de souffrir."— Mem. de Sully, i. 133.
8 Parl. Hist., viii. 1306; ix. 7; Coxe's Walpole, i. 372; Lord Ilervey's blem., i. 185, et seq.
Parliament had been compelled to repeal a recent act of just toleration, in deference to popular prejudices.
In the beginning of this reign, the populace had combined with the press in hooting Lord Bute out of the king's service; and for many years afterwards popular excitement was kept alive by the ill-advised measures of the Court and Parliament. It was a period of discontent and turbulence.
In 1765, the Spitalfields' silk-weavers, exasperated by the rejection of a bill for the protection of their trade by the House of Lords, paraded in front of St. weavers
riots, 1765. James' Palace with black flags, surrounded the Houses of Parliament at Westminster, and questioned the peers as they came out, concerning their votes. May 15th. They assailed the Duke of Bedford, at whose instance the bill had been thrown out; and having been dispersed by cavalry in Palace Yard, they proceeded to attack May 17th. Bedford House, whence they were repulsed by the guards." It was an irregular and riotous attempt to overawe the deliberations of Parliament. It was tumult of the old type, opposed alike to law and rational liberty; but it was not the less successful. Encouraged by the master-manufacturers, and exerted in a cause then in high favor with statesmen, it was allowed to prevail. Lord Halifax promised to satisfy the wearers; 8 and in the next year, to their great joy, a bill was passed restraining the importation of foreign silks.
But the general discontents of the time shortly developed other popular demonstrations far more formidable,
Popular ex. which were destined to form a new era in consti- citement, tutional government. In 1768, the excitement of 1768. the populace in the cause of Wilkes led to riots and a conflict
1 Naturalization of Jews, 1754.
2 Ann. Reg., 1765, p. 41; Grenrille Papers, iii. 168-172; Walp. Mem., ii. 155, et seq.; Rockingham Mem., i. 200, 207; Adolphus' Hist., i. 177; Lord Mahon's Hist., v. 152.
8 He wrote to Lord Hillsborough to assure the master-weavers that the bill should pass both Houses. — Ruckingham Mem., i. 200-207.
46 Geo. III. c. 28.
with the military. But the tumultuous violence of mobs was
The throne was 1768-70.
approached by addresses and remonstrances. Junius thundered forth his fearful invectives. Political agitation was rife in various forms; but its most memorable feature was that of public meetings, which at this period began to take their place among the institutions of the country. No less than seventeen counties held meetings to support the electors of Middlesex. Never had so general a demonstration of public sentiment been made, in such a form. It was a new phase in the development of public opinion. This movement was succeeded by the formation of a “society for supporting the bill of rights." Ten years later, public meetings assumed more importance
and a wider organization. The freeholders of ings, 1779–80. Yorkshire and twenty-three other counties, and the inhabitants of many cities, were assembled by their sheriffs and chief magistrates to discuss economical and parliamentary reform. These meetings were attended by the leading men of each neighborhood; and speeches were made, and resolutions and petitions agreed to, with a view to influence Parliament, and attract public support to the cause.
1 Supra, Vol. I. 374-383.
2 Ann. Reg., 1770, p. 58, 60. On the 31st October, 1770, a large meeting of the electors of Westminster was held in Westminster Hall, when Mr. Wilkes counselled them to instruct their members to impeach Lord North. — Adolphus' Hist., i. 451; Ann. Reg., 1770, p. 159; Chiron., 206; Lord Rockingham's Mem., ii. 93; Cooke's Hist. of Party, iii. 187.
8 Ann. Reg., 1970, p. 58.
A great meeting was held in Westminster Hall, with Mr. Fox in the chair, which was attended by the Duke of Portland, and many of the most eminent members of the Opposi tion. Nor were these meetings spontaneous in each locality. They were encouraged by active correspondence, association, and concerted movements throughout the country." Committees of correspondence and association were Political asappointed by the several counties, who kept alive
sociations. the agitation ; and delegates were sent to London to give it concentration. This practice of delegation was severely criticised in Parliament. Its representative principle was condemned as a derogation from the rights of the legislature : no county delegates could be recognized, but knights of the shire returned by the sheriff. Mainly on this ground, the Commons refused to consider a petition of thirty-two delegates who signed themselves as freeholders only. The future influence of such an organization over the deliberations of Parliament was foreseen; but it could not be prevented. Delegates were a natural incident to association. Far from arrogating to themselves the power of the Commons, they approached that body as humble petitioners for redress. They represented a cause, - not the people. So long as it was lawful for men to associate, to meet, to discuss, to correspond, and to act in concert for political objects, they could select delegates to represent their opinions. If their aims were lawful and their conduct orderly, no means which they deemed necessary for giving effect to free discussion were unconstitutional; and this system. — subject, however, to certain restraints,' — has generally found a place in later political organizations. Other political societies and clubs were now established;" and the principle of association was brought
1 Supra, Vol. I. 412; Ann. Reg., 1780, p. 85; Parl. Hist., xx. 1378; Wyvill's Political Papers, i. 1, et seq.; Wraxall's Mem., iii. 2:2, &c.; Rockingham Mem., ii. 391-403; Lord J. Russell's Life of Fox, i. 222.
2 13th Nov., 1780; 2d April and 8th May, 1781; Parl. Hist., xxi. 844; xxii. 95. 138.
8 Infra, pp. 174, 185.
into active operation, with all its agencies. At this time Mr. Pitt, the future enemy of political combinations, encouraged associations to forward the cause of parliamentary reform, took counsel with their delegates, and enrolled himself a member of the society for constitutional information. Here were further agencies for working upon the public
mind, and bringing the popular will to bear upon Political 88
affairs of state. Association for political purposes,
and large assemblages of men, henceforth became the most powerful and impressive form of agitation. Marked by reality and vital power, they were demonstrations at once of moral conviction and numerical force. They combined discussion with action. However forcibly the press might persuade and convince, it moved men singly in their homes and business; but here were men assembled to bear witness to their earnestness: the scattered forces of public opinion were collected and made known: a cause was popularized by the sympathies and acclamations of the multitude.
The people confronted their rulers bodily, as at the hustinga."
Again, association invested a cause with permanent interest. Political excitement may subside in a day: but a cause adopted by a body of earnest and active men is not suffered to languish. It is kept alive by meetings, deputations, correspondence, resolutions, petitions, tracts, advertisements. It is never suffered to be forgotten : until it has triumphed, the world has no peace.
Public meetings and associations were now destined to exercise a momentous influence on the state. Their force was great and perilous. In a good cause, and directed by wise
1 See resolutions agreed to at a meeting of members and delegates at the Thatched House Tavern, May 18th, 1782, in Mr. Pitt's own writing. State Tr., xxii. 492; also Mr. Pitt's evidence on the Trial of Horne Tooke. - Ibid., xxv. 381.
2 " L'association possède plus de puissance que la presse" ..“ Leg moyens d'exécution se combinent, les opinions se déploient avec cette force, et cette chaleur, que ne peut jamais attendre la pensée écrite." - De Tocqueville, Democr. en Amerique, i. 277.