Page:VCH Surrey 1.djvu/510

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page needs to be proofread.

A HISTORY OF SURREY infantry and marines from Portsmouth had been marched into the dis- turbed districts. The gunpowder mills at Chilworth were guarded by soldiers. The more threatening signs subsided, though such disturb- ances did not entirely cease for some years. 1 It is a striking instance of the political sense of the ordinary Englishman in the worst conditions of life that the comparative cessation of violence followed closely in time upon a change of ministers. On November 16 the resignation of Wellington's ministry had been announced, and it had quickly become known that Lord Grey had been called upon to form a new Administra- tion. For a little while it had looked as if the days of 1381 had come again. The year 1830 seems nearer in some respects to 1381 than it is to 1901. Political reform, the new Poor Law, the advent of railways, the presence of the new owners so unpopular in 1830, with their in- creased employment of labour, the improved conceptions of the duty of man to man, the spread of education, and the revived activity of all religious organizations in the country have between them brought about more changes in the last seventy years than took place in the 500 years before. Once again a serious political disturbance seemed to have come to a head in Surrey, though it had no particular local origin nor connexions. The Chartists originated among those who had found that the political changes of 1832 had not immediately cured all social suffering, and who illogically concluded that more political changes would be certain to do so. In 1 848 they decided to hold the great meeting which should overawe Parliament and the ministry, and induce them to grant their demands for fear of revolution. The Chartist leaders, who fixed upon Kennington Common as the rendezvous whence the petition was to be carried to the House of Commons, had not studied local history. The overwhelming display of the forces of order among all classes sworn in as special constables, and the undisplayed military preparations of the Duke of Wellington, made any success impossible. But the deliberate choice of the Surrey side, whence access to Westminster was only pos- sible across the bridges which could be occupied and defended, gave away the last chance of the agitators. No violence occurred. A small force of police attended on the ground, and Mr. Mayne, as he then was, the commissioner, sent for Mr. O'Connor the reputed Chartist leader, and told him that the procession to Westminster would not be allowed. O'Connor, who was relieved to find that he was not sent for to be arrested, promised to do his best to stop it, and having had his pocket picked in the crowd went to the Home Office and disclaimed any responsibility for the affair. 2 His followers were broken up in straggling lines across the different bridges. A worse repetition of the Surrey petition of 1648 was thus happily averted. The political rearrangements of the nineteenth century went far to 1 I am indebted for this account of the Swing Riots to notes made by the late Rev. T. R. O'Fflahertie, vicar of Capel, from contemporary newspapers and from the accounts of eye-witnesses.

  • Grcville Memoirs, xxvi. 1 69-70.