In the wake of the French Revolution, demands for political reform in Britain remained moderate. Reform organisations, such as the London Corresponding Society, focussed on questions of voting and parliamentary reform, avoiding more profound economic and social questions such as wealth inequality and working-class poverty. Parliamentary reform, they believed, would result in a fairer system of taxation and lead to the end of burdensome wars and crippling political corruption. The handbill shown here details a peaceful meeting held by the London Corresponding Society in November 1795 to protest against the war with France and high food prices.
The British government nevertheless remained deeply worried about radical societies, and implemented an increasing array of repressive measures designed to curb their activities. These included the notorious ‘Gagging Acts’, first established in the mid 1790s, which banned political meetings of more than 50 people without prior permission and severely limited the levels of permissible criticism of the government or Crown.