Handbill declaring allegiance to the King


This short handbill dated from the last years of the 18th century was published in response to the threat of political radicalism in Britain during a time of war with France. After the French Revolution of 1789 many radical societies in Britain began to draw inspiration from the events across the English Channel by campaigning for universal suffrage, the instigation of more regular parliaments and an end to political corruption. Organisations such as the London Corresponding society were able to draw on a widening political awareness among the working class to promote these moderate political reforms, and many popular radical societies were mobilized up and down the country to call for universal voting rights.

These campaigns for reform, however, were countered by a loyalist backlash in certain sectors of society. Counter-revolutionary publications such as that shown here attacked the potentially destructive consequences of reform and defended strongly the traditions of the British aristocracy, legal system and political system. Many radical societies were disbanded during the period as a consequence of government legislation which outlawed mass meetings and the publication of materials deemed to be seditious or libellous against the state or crown.

Full title:
The King, the constitutional rights of the people, no republic, no anarchy or confusion, no violation of the bill of rights, but peace with all the world, and plenty at home, under the safeguard of our ancient, mild, and equitable laws
estimated 1795, probably London
Handbill / Ephemera
Held by:
British Library

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William Blake's radical politics

Article by:
Andrew Lincoln
Power and politics, Poverty and the working classes, Romanticism

The French Revolution inspired London radicals and reformers to increase their demands for change. Others called for moderation and stability, while the government tried to suppress radical activity. Professor Andrew Lincoln describes the political environment in which William Blake was writing.

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