Birmingham riots, 1791

What Led to the Riots of 1791

Catherine Hutton, admits. ‘A circumstance,’ she says, ‘which particularly rendered Birmingham a likely theatre for mischief was the zeal of Dr. Priestley - fervent, though not intemperate. Having fully assured himself of the truth in religion, he conceived it his duty to go abroad into the world and endeavour to persuade all mortals to embrace it, an idea which has done more mischief than any which ever entered the erring mind of man. He sometimes, too, in his sermons, glanced at politics - a subject that should never be mingled with religion - and this treasured up wrath for him against the day of wrath. I look upon Dr. Priestley as a good man, attached to his King and country, and meaning well to every creature; but, though unintentionally, and himself the first sufferer, he was, I think, one of the primary causes of the riots in Birmingham, by rousing the spirit of bigotry and all uncharitableness in others. He was himself so unconscious of having done wrong, nay, he was so certain of having done only right, that his friends took him almost by force from his house, and saved him from the vengeance of a mob who would have torn him to pieces.

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