Selsley Hill August 2nd 2013 and May 21st 1839

Selsley Hill August 2nd 2013 and May 21st 1839

Walking from the Ram to Selsley Hill,
Stroud’s Lord John Russell’s 1839
Electoral Message in my mind –
Lofty admonishment of the poor:
You ‘know not the general laws by which profit and wages are regulated.”
Then Henry Cartwright’s letter to Russell,
The Ham, near Stroud, March 11th, 1839:
“My Lord…On Saturday Evening last
a meeting of the Chartists was held in Stroud …
out of doors … dimly illuminated by two lamps …
the language of the two principal speakers …
was of a most violent and inflammatory description,
very, very little short of seditious and treasonable.
I need hardly express to your Lordship their usual practice …
a long tirade of abuse the most gross and false against your Lordship.”
Henry Vincent, the Chartist leader, who spoke
At that nocturnal meeting on the bowling green
At the Golden Heart Inn, Stroud, said:
“ When I asked the people how it was they sent
such a little pettifogger as Russell to parliament, they exclaimed,
“we did not send him – we had no votes.”
The people are very poor – wages being low, and work not over plentiful.
The women complain bitterly of their sufferings,
and express their determination
of aiding the men in any measures.”
But Henry Burgh wrote to Russell later that month:
“ Today about quarter past two
about 500 marched up Rodborough Hill by my house
with 9 Flags and a strange Band of Musick …
I have stopped the Beer Shops and Publick Houses …
There are several policemen placed…”
Imagine that crowd of 3,000 people
Gathered around a wagon up there on the common,
Listening to Vincent and John Frost of Newport Rising fame,
Then wait a month before Russell receives another epistle:
‘ill feeling amongst the People is greatly increasing,
specially at Wotton, and they are buying up all the guns they can get
and that a sample of a Bomb, sufficient to blow up any House,
has been sent from the North to Dursley’;
‘Your most obedient servant’ Henry Burgh adds:
“ heard they were making hand grenades at Wotton …
they are making Pikes and also at Stroud, Cainscross and King’s Stanley.”
No wonder, then, that a few days later:

“May 14th, 1839”, “ROYAL COAT OF ARMS
WHEREAS a Royal Proclamation has been issued against certain illegal meetings, we the undersigned magistrates…do hereby warn all persons from taking part in or being present at such Meetings. And we call on all well-disposed persons to be aiding and assisting us in our object, as well as by giving us information…And for the discouraging and preventing such unlawful practices, and for the protection of the public peace, we do hereby make known our determination to use our utmost endeavours to prevent, put down, and suppress such Meetings…”
The response?
GRAND DEMONSTRATION
To the Men and Women of Gloucestershire Take Notice! That a county MEETING of the Inhabitants of Gloucestershire, will be holden on SELSLEY HILL In the Borough of Stroud, on Whit Tuesday, May 21st to take into consideration the best means to be adopted in order to secure the passing of the PEOPLE’S CHARTER And to give Effect to the present Agitation A Deputation from the “General Convention” consisting of Messrs. Carpenter, Mealing and Neesom, will attend, also Deputations from various Associations in the County. The Chair will be taken at 12 o’clock. We particularly urge the attendance of all those who value their Political Freedom, and who have at heart the welfare, prosperity and happiness of the Nation, and let them remember “For a Nation to be free, it is sufficient that she wills it.”
In order to remove any misapprehension respecting the legality of the Meeting, we beg to state that we shall be entirely regulated by the Motto
PEACE, LAW and ORDER and sincerely hope that all those who attend will be guided by the same principles.
Unsympathetic newspaper reports tell us:
“The first party which reached the ground was a procession of the Working Men’s Association of Wotton-under-Edge and the Radical Women’s Association of the same place in some numbers and with music, and with Banners bearing inscriptions of “Liberty”, “Equal Rights and equal Laws”,
“For a Nation to be free it is sufficient that she wills it” …
Mr. Beecham, secretary of the Working Men’s Association of Cirencester…spoke…in favour of what he called the People’s Charter…prophesying that a Firebrand would be raised …
A delegate from Bath, a Mr. Meacham spoke thus:
“You have made up your minds that universal suffrage shall be the law of this land – you will have ballot and no surrender, peaceably if you can, but forcibly if you must.” ”
The Gloucester Journal belittled this mass-meeting
(‘The greatest number of people …was from three to four thousand’),
yet expressed admiration for the magistrates,
who ‘procured the aid of a troop of Lancers and some troops
of the Gloucestershire Yeomanry Cavalry…In addition…a great number of special constables were sworn in…on the ground on horseback…’
But let us leave the last word on 1839 to JP Peter Leversage,
In his letter to Lord John Russell about another meeting held at Selsley:
“ A Sermon supposed to be one of the notorious Stephens”
(the nationally famous Chartist preacher)
“was there read by a person named Evans,
a foremen in a pin manufactory at Lightpill near Stroud:
“An infidel Church and an infidel Government –
compared the Bishop of London to Judas Iscariot…
an oppressor…the Poor Law …wives were separated from their husbands …Church must very shortly be put down.” ”
So the next time you go for a walk on Selsley Common,
Give a thought to those brave women and men
Who gathered there in May 1839;
Their baton is up there by the long barrow,
Pick it up if you wish and remember them in stone.

Selsley Hill 1839

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