Description

The success of the French Revolution, culminating in the execution of Louis XVI in 1793 described here, caused increasing consternation among the British Whig government. With the achievements of the working people of Paris on show to the world, many politicians feared that similar revolutionary movements would be stirred at home. Such concerns were well-founded. Several radical movements such as the London Corresponding Society emerged during the 1790s calling for parliamentary reform and petitioning for greater rights for the working population. Despite their rising popularity, these movements were gradually driven underground by a raft of increasingly repressive legislation implemented by the government of Prime Minister William Pitt. With France declaring war on Great Britain in 1793 and food riots breaking out across the country, stricter measures were imposed to safeguard the political order. The issuing of seditious words and holding of reform meetings were outlawed (part of the so-called ‘gagging acts’) and political radicals were imprisoned for treason following the suspension of habeas corpus.

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