This broadside is an account of the riots that happened in London on 2 December 1816, when a group of extremists made an attempt on the Tower of London. On 15 November 1816 a peaceful meeting at Spa Fields at Islington attracted a crowd of about 10,000; Henry Hunt was selected to deliver a petition for electoral reform and relief for the poor. A second meeting was called for 2 December after Hunt was denied access to present the petition, attracting 20,000 people. A group of Spenceans, extremists who followed the ideas of the revolutionary Thomas Spence, broke off from the main crowd to make their way to the Tower of London, but they were met and dispersed by troops at the Royal Exchange. It seems likely that an informer or Government spy prepared the troops, but he may have been acting as an agent provocateur, so that the leaders of the group could be arrested and tried.The Treason Act and the Seditious Meetings Act, the following year, known as ‘Gagging Acts’ set out to prevent any further public disturbances.
The publisher of this account, the radical political pamphleteer William Hone, supported Lord Mayor of London, Matthew Wood, in his exposure of the Government spy network in London.
- Article by:
- Ruth Mather
- Power and politics, Romanticism
In August 1819 dozens of peaceful protestors were killed and hundreds injured at what became known as the Peterloo Massacre. Ruth Mather examines the origins, response and aftermath of this key early 19th century political event.