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"Above all, the government feared a re-enactment of the French revolution on British soil" - Was this fear Justified?

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Peter Towell "Above all, the government feared a re-enactment of the French revolution on British soil." Was this fear Justified? The French revolution of 1973 caused a lot of unease around Europe. Many governments and monarchs feared that the action of the French revolutionaries would inspire the poor and middle classes in other countries to push for reform. The monarchy and aristocracy feared for their lives after the news of how the French executed their royal family and upper class citizens. The British government was one of those European countries who feared a revolution the most. They were extremely wary of any actions in Britain that could be seen as the beginnings of an uprising by the poor. The government and aristocracy feared for their power and way of life, the royal family feared for their power and divine right of rule. Most of all they feared for their lives. There are many examples of how they used extreme methods to combat simple movements by the poor, which they understood as being revolutionary, these include the march of the Blanketeers and the massacre of Peterloo. At the time the government saw these actions as being very necessary to protect their rule but with the advantage of Hein site it is hard to see whether their fears of a revolution on British soil was justified at all. In the 19th century the British government was very unpopular. They social system in Britain was based very much in favour of the upper classes, As the rich got richer and more powerful the poor got poorer. For years the working classes had wanted social reform simply so they could have a say in how they're country and their lives where run. ...read more.


There aim to arrest Henry Hunt was also unjustified, if they had taken time to actually listen to him then they would have noticed that the was no way that he was going to lead a revolution. Leading up to Peterloo there had been several other movements by the working classes, which the government saw as revolutionary. The most worring of these for the government was the march following the spa fields meetings. These took place in 1816 during November and December. They were organised by radical groups, the first was organised by the Spencean group. They supported the idea of revolution and encouraged the 20,000 strong crowds to march into London. Henry Hunt was speaking at this meeting about land reform. He tried to persuade the crowd to leave peacefully saying that violence would get them no closer to reform. The meeting was then hijacked by Watson and Thistlewood, these two men saw themselves are revolutionary leaders. They were of course only "wanna be's" but still they gathered a group of around 200 who marched through Westminster into London. On the way they pillaged for weapons and alcohol, by the time they actually reached London they were nothing more than a mob of drunken thugs. As they reached the parliament buildings one magistrate and six police officers met them. Most them dispersed and went home at the sight of this resistance. The rest including Watson and Thistlewood were arrested by the seven men. This was the closest any one actually came to marching on parliament, it was a pathetic attempt. The so-called revolutionaries left at the first sign of trouble. It really doesn't say much for their will power when seven unarmed men can scare off a crowd of 200. ...read more.


This is shown clearly by the march of the blanketeer's, the marchers didn't get any further than Stockport before they were all stopped by the authorities. If they had really determined to reach London they would have organised another march or even faced the problems in the first march and continued their journey. The government played a big part in a revolution not being fees able. They had a loyal army that would follow orders to the last word, as shown at Peterloo, the Pentrick uprising and on the march of the blanketeer's. they fulfilled their aims completely and made it very hard for a revolution to take place unless it was very well organised. The spies and informers gave the government all the information they need to combat any form of uprising, including the Blanketeer's march and the staged Petnrich uprising. Finally Government legislation and repression made people think twice about starting any form of uprising. They kept the working and middle classes down and didn't give then any reform. The governments attitude was that if you gave then a small slice of reform then they would want more and more. If you give then none at all then they cant expect any, they didn't encourage reform in the slightest. All in all once the above factors are put together it is clear that the governments fear of an uprising was totally unjustified. They were to power and the revolutionaries to weak for a revolution like that in France o take place on British soil. The revolutionaries didn't have enough factors in their favour to stage a real threat, and the government had plenty in their favour to combat any threat posed. ...read more.

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