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Old April 11th, 2013, 10:53 AM   #41
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Squirrelfang, I am very much aware of the ideas you speak about but I think that French 'effeminacy', etc., were far from the mind of Lord George Gordon and the London mob when they went on the rampage. I understand that you are not defending that mob but you are stretching it a bit to say that, as they pillaged, burned and assaulted Catholics in London's Moorfield area they may have had some sense of themselves as Protestant Englishmen exercising a 'freedom' that the French Catholic peasantry lacked under their absolute monarchy. They acted no differently from the Paris mob. But I acknowledge there is some truth in what you say about Englishmen generally of the period, although, as you say, to what degree is debateable.
This is a bastardization of what he actually posted.
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Old April 11th, 2013, 10:54 AM   #42

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Ulster Patriot, it was Consantine above who made oblique references to the oaths of allegiance, alleging that Catholics refused to swear allegiance to the monarch and preferred instead to declare their loyalty to a foreign prince. The oaths in question are discussed at the following link. Although a 'Catholic' website I hope you will read it for the sake of historical balance and without suffering an apoplectic fit. All I can say by way of mitigation is that I think the content is factually correct.

CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA: English Post-Reformation Oaths

I hope you celebrated your Easter enjoyably.

Well the Queen is the head of the Church of England so can't be too careful, especially when facing a protracted war against Catholic France. Fancy swearing allegiance to a foreigner instead of the crown
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Old April 11th, 2013, 03:26 PM   #43
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Gary_Owen: I wasn't implying that that the English rioters perceived themselves as acting out their 'English liberties' or trying to differentiate them from other mobs of the Eighteenth Century. To be honest, I wasn't trying to directly address the riots themselves, but rather, towards the larger prevalence of anti-papism within English political culture across the eighteenth century. As far as it applies to the Gordon riots, I had no intention to go much further than to suggest that there was more at play than just Catholic prejudice and hatred. The relaxation of the papist acts, in this context, would have been seen by a great many as an attack on essential English liberties, and a potential threat to the English body politic.

To expand on this position, and apply it more directly to the demonstrations under question, I would suggest that this analysis is only valid for the demonstration's opening act: when Gordon and his followers attempted to petition Parliament. Let's keep in mind, the initial objective for which George Gordon gathered his followers was not to abuse and dispossess Catholics, but to pressure Parliament into repealing 1778's legislation. It was only after Parliament refused to acquiesce to the mob's demand that the demonstration began to take on a more blatantly destructive appearance. It was primarily in this initial phase of political protest, in which Gordon was able to gather a following and spur tens of thousands to converge with him on Parliament, that the larger rhetoric of English liberties, and the varying antitheses upon which it was founded, may well have made its mark. Once the riots began to spiral into an intensifying orgy of violence and destruction, however, I am inclined to agree with you: such ideological conceptions would probably be overwhelmed by the development of a mob mentality.

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Old April 12th, 2013, 07:50 AM   #44

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Originally Posted by Squirrelfang View Post
Gary_Owen: I wasn't implying that that the English rioters perceived themselves as acting out their 'English liberties' or trying to differentiate them from other mobs of the Eighteenth Century. To be honest, I wasn't trying to directly address the riots themselves, but rather, towards the larger prevalence of anti-papism within English political culture across the eighteenth century. As far as it applies to the Gordon riots, I had no intention to go much further than to suggest that there was more at play than just Catholic prejudice and hatred. The relaxation of the papist acts, in this context, would have been seen by a great many as an attack on essential English liberties, and a potential threat to the English body politic.

To expand on this position, and apply it more directly to the demonstrations under question, I would suggest that this analysis is only valid for the demonstration's opening act: when Gordon and his followers attempted to petition Parliament. Let's keep in mind, the initial objective for which George Gordon gathered his followers was not to abuse and dispossess Catholics, but to pressure Parliament into repealing 1778's legislation. It was only after Parliament refused to acquiesce to the mob's demand that the demonstration began to take on a more blatantly destructive appearance. It was primarily in this initial phase of political protest, in which Gordon was able to gather a following and spur tens of thousands to converge with him on Parliament, that the larger rhetoric of English liberties, and the varying antitheses upon which it was founded, may well have made its mark. Once the riots began to spiral into an intensifying orgy of violence and destruction, however, I am inclined to agree with you: such ideological conceptions would probably be overwhelmed by the development of a mob mentality.
Squirrelfang, I appreciate perfectly all that you say but this thread is about the riots. You have been arguing for the wider geopolitical context but in this, the above post, you are at pains to draw a distinction between that wider context and the riot themselves.

My point is that the rioters were not motivated by any sense of themselves as English Protestants defending English 'liberties'. They were mainly drawn from the lower orders of society. Many were simply criminal. Three were negroes and some were supposedly even Catholics! They were disrespecting those liberties by repudiating Parliament and attacking all those institutions that were emblematic of the 'Englishness' to which you refer, the Houses of Parliament, the Bank of England, Bow Street Magistrates, MPs, Bishops and Lords. They invaded and disrupted Parliament a couple of times. The attack on property alone, and of itself, was 'unEnglish' and it is argued that more destruction of property occurred in that week of rioting in London than occurred in Paris during the French Revolution. Far from defending some idea of Englishness and English liberty, the very establishment of England itself was under attack from the moment those protesters besieged Westminster. The mob was infiltrated and directed by criminal elements and virtually all London's prisons were assaulted and many broken open. Newgate was fired. The whole business and commercial life of the city was stopped and hundreds of shops pillaged. A distillery was ransacked and destroyed and the product of its activity imbibed to fortify further rampaging. Most rioters had no other motivation than personal gain, even in their anti-Catholic attacks.

All my comments in previous posts have been mainly about the rioters themselves. Like you, I alluded in my initial comments to the historical context when I said in my first post that the Gordon Riots must be seen against the wider backdrop of international politics and tensions. However, whatever about that wider political context, their motives and behaviour against Catholics were entirely in keeping with the general anti-Catholic animus that existed in English/British society. In truth, though, the real engine for the sectarian aspect of the London riots was the recent success of the more extreme Scottish sectarianism. Success in Scotland had been driven by a vociferous, determined minority of Prorestant bigots, 'with neither Rank, Learning nor Authority', who propagandised and bullied their way to cow a more tolerantly disposed and enlightened Scottish legislature into acquiescence and continued discrimination against Catholics. There was always a rich vein of anti-Catholic sectarianism in Scotland. Organised by the Protestant Association whose raison d'etre was 'to preserve their religious freedom', these agitators attacked Catholics with the connivance of the authorities in what can only be described as a pogrom while the silent majority stood by and watched. The religious liberties of Scottish Protestants were never under threat, whereas Scottish Catholics were living under considerable disablities.

The Protestant Association was not subscribed to by the establishment who were generally more enlightened. The tragedy is that a minority of malcontents, both in Scotland and London, playing on the bigotry and fears of others, could initiate such a vicious series of attacks. It was recorded at the time that the riots in London were a mere pretence for destroying the liberties and laws, the constitution and the monarchy. The truth is that the ambitious Gordon had pitched upon an issue that no other political figure of integrity was disposed to run with, and relying on public prejudice, gullibility and an ever willing, self-serving mob, came close to destabilising the British establishment in its capital.

The London rioters were a mob, acting like a mob, driven by personal motives that had little or nothing to do with wider geopolitical concerns. They acted out of prejudice, self-interest and a sense of grievance. Those who marched on Parliament and did not subsequently indulge in rioting. at the very least, are still guilty of sectarian anti-Catholicism. Their religious and civil liberties were never threatened by the relaxation of Penal Laws against Catholics.

PS - If the 1778 act to repeal the Penal Laws against Catholics represented a real threat to 'English liberties' I would genuinely like to hear the case for it.

Last edited by Garry_Owen; April 12th, 2013 at 08:48 AM.
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Old April 12th, 2013, 06:16 PM   #45
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Garry_Owen: Personally, I think we agree more than we disagree, and that the main area of contention lies in more abstract questions of emphasis than anything else. Your focus has been primarily upon the rioters, their actions and and their behavior in the period between June 2nd and June 8th, whereas mine has been more along the lines of the collective ideological backdrop against which these events played out. Personally, I do think my perspective is valid as far as this thread goes: the initial question posed by tjadams was "what was the story behind" the 1780 riots. In answering this question, one could focus specifically on the actions and behavior of the crowd but, alongside this perspective, I can see no reason why we cannot also discuss these deeper ideological contexts: the sorts of discourse and sociopolitical visions which were being expressed, not only among elites but also amongst much broader subsets of society. Taking into account the larger ways in which religion, politics and national consciousness had become intermingled and embedded within one another, how might these considerations inform our perspective of what unfolded in 1780?

You suggested, in addition, that, despite holding this position, I then tried to disassociate these larger contexts from my discussion on the Gordon Riots themselves. In this, I think there may have been a failure in communication at play. Personally, I perceived within the June 2nd drama a fundamental transformation take place: the moment that Gordon's attempt to bully Parliament was stymied. This is not to say that the first part wholly lacked in violence and unpleasantries (they did try to invade Parliament by force), but, at the same time, this was the watershed moment, in which the powder keg exploded and events spiraled beyond any semblance of control. As I said before, during the rioting which followed this moment, I perceive as much as anything else the development of a mob mentality, where, ultimately, violence and criminality became ends in themselves (this element I especially perceive to be in play by June 7th, when the riots had by then spread throughout London). With this in mind, I strove to be careful not to confute these two phases: the lead up to the demonstration before Parliament and the street violence which followed its failure, because they are of two essentially different characters. At the same time, however, I view them as both parts of a continuing and evolving drama, with the march to Whitehall as the first act. It was this, after all, which ultimately enabled all the violence which followed, and it was this first phase, more than anything else, which, I was trying to discuss and contextualize. From this perspective, I was not in fact trying to differentiate the drama from its context, but rather, between two very different phases within that drama.

In addition, I don't disagree with you on the prevalence of Catholic discrimination, suspicion and prejudice, nor do I disagree with you that the predominance of anti-Papism was an injustice to the Catholics who suffered from it. What I am suggesting, however, is that even this rabid anti-Catholism you speak to may well have been influenced and exacerbated by the ways in which popular religious conceptions of Protestantism and Catholicism interacted with, and were embedded within, this larger political discourse which lasted throughout the century, rendering anti-Papism itself perhaps something more multi-textured and mufti-faceted than straightforward religious hatred alone.

Personally, I see no reason why we should not discuss these sorts of issues in a thread concerning the Gordon Riots, as they illuminate issues, elements and areas of consideration which might otherwise by overlooked. The very richness of debate and conversation that we've had on this very topic I think in itself expresses the viability of this opinion.

As to your second question about the 1778 Papist Act, I'll address it in a later post. I've already written enough for one post, and I think that question will require some more time to properly formulate a response.

Last edited by Squirrelfang; April 12th, 2013 at 08:16 PM.
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Old April 14th, 2013, 02:36 AM   #46
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Squirrelfang is largely right on this. But the mob was in no way inspired by the small Scottish Riots. The concession to the Scots over the extension to Scotland of the Papist Relief Act, while appearing hurried and in response to two incidents, was because the number of petitions to the London Parliament became overwhelming. A book of the final tally has been published.

Garry Owen has much research to do. The Protestant Associations, in England were entirely separate from the mob, and George Gordon carried out decisions of the Association made when he had not even been present, at the May 2nd meeting. Only because the decision had been ruled out of order was Gordon pressured to call another meeting as president.

Gordon did not become associated with the Scottish associations until after the concession was made to them, and with the London Protestant Association some eleven months after it was set up.

Leadership of the mob is obscure, but Gordon had already been warned the petition would cause riots - by a leading catholic. Catholics were arrested and indicted, but *no member* of the Protestant Association, nor even one who signed the petition. There were other, political reasons, for discrediting the petition and its sponsors, and leaving the Relief Act in place. This was despite the fact the original purpose - to get Scottish Catholics into the army and navy to fight the America rebels - was already a dead duck.

There were other reasons for discrediting Gordon, which led to the usual dirty tricks behaviour of government over the following years and explains the totally incorrect current view of Gordon.
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Old April 24th, 2013, 12:31 AM   #47

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While doing my research into why black Londoners did not embrace the Sierra Leone Resettlement Scheme the way Black Pioneers from the US and Canada did, I discovered quite a lot of articles in newspapers back in the 1780s which led me to the conclusion that the main deciding factor in black Londoners turning their back on this Scheme was the advice of Lord George Gordon himself....

A lot of black men in London at the time were sailors, and this profession strongly supported Gordon during the Gordon riots. So, when black men were being persuaded to leave the streets of London to start a new African colony, a lot of them sought the advice of Gordon, according to these newspapers, and Gordon strongly advised against it, because of his strong anti-colonial and anti-slavery stance. As a result, even though bout 700 black Londoners had registered for the Scheme, that number dramatically fell to little more than 400.
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Old April 24th, 2013, 12:45 AM   #48
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Sailors and the riots


I'm not clear, Shivfan, what you mean when you say the sailors supported Gordon "during the riots". Gordon neither led nor supported the riots, which had nothing to do with the petition against the Papist Relief Act - except, of course, the petition was used as the excuse for the riots.

So far as I know sailors did not take part in the riots either. In fact their main contribution was to secure ropes to hinder the rioters when they were attacking the Bank of England.

Gordon had served in the Royal Navy on the anti-pirate actions along the east coast of America. He was a popular junior officer and could speak the salty language of the seamen. They did support and like him generally, and in 1793 proposed to Gordon that 3,000 of them would break him out of prison and get him abroad.
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Old April 24th, 2013, 06:21 AM   #49

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.... Gordon neither led nor supported the riots ....
Gordon led the Protestant Association members to parliament that day to 'dump' a petition on the floor of the House and he liased with them before, during and after Parliament had adjourned. He addressed them in the lobby of the House. When the mob got out of hand and progressed from attacking Catholics and their property he quickly disassociated himself from it. By the time the Bank of England was under siege he was volunteering his services to defend it against the rabble. However, it cannot be gainsaid that it was he who had incited the mob and initially 'harangued' it outside Parliament with anti-Catholic invective.
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.... the riots, ..... had nothing to do with the petition against the Papist Relief Act - except, of course, the petition was used as the excuse for the riots....
There is no doubt that once rioting took hold criminal and/or otherwise politically disaffected elements took a hand in proceedings. However, the crowd of Protestant Association activists that formed the main body of the people that Gordon addressed outside Parliament on the 2nd June quickly turned into a rioting anti-Catholic mob. This is indisputable. The evidence is irrefutable and shows that the initial rioting was targetted exclusively at Catholics, Catholic churches, Catholic owned property and Catholic sympathisers. The mob that perpetrated the early rioting was anti-Catholic in character and intent, and selected only Catholic targets. That is an historical fact.

Last edited by Garry_Owen; April 24th, 2013 at 06:25 AM.
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Old April 24th, 2013, 06:33 AM   #50

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To All those Who Have Posted Threads: Thanks! I've learned a lot from reading
your comments.
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