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Place's letter to Hobhouse: May 18, 1832, 9 a.m.

Taken from N. Gash, The Age of Peel (Edward Arnold, London, 1968), pp. 44-5, with the kind permission of Professor Gash. Copyright of this document, of course, remains with him. Source: G. Wallas, Life of Francis Place (1918).

Between 15 and 18 May the future of the Reform Bill was still in doubt. Discussions between the whig cabinet and the king were inconclusive; an expected declaration from leading Tory peers that they would desist from opposing the bill had not materialised; there was still a genuine reluctance on the part of the prime minister and some of his colleagues to proceed to a mass creation of new peers; and statements by ministerial and opposition spokesmen in parliament gave the public no clear picture of what was happening. Since 11 May there had been regular consultations in London between members of the Political Union and deputations from the Birmingham and other provincial political unions on the best means of organising a national civil resistance in the event of a Wellington ministry. There was to be a meeting of the cabinet on 18 May and J.C. Hobhouse, secretary at war and a radical Whig, asked Francis Place, the leading spirit in the political unions, to write him a letter which could be placed before his colleagues. The document reproduced below was in response to that request and was clearly designed to stiffen the determination of the cabinet to stay in office by a graphic description of the consequences if they did not. At the cabinet meeting it was decided to insist on a pledge from the king to make peers as the only security for the success of the bill. Armed with a cabinet minute to that effect Lord Grey and the Chancellor, Lord Brougham, finally secured the king's promise to make sufficient peers to carry the bill. This was announced in both Houses the same evening.

Dear Sir John,

The moment it was known that Earl Grey had been sent for, the demand for gold ceased. No more placards were posted, and all seemed to be going on well at once. Proof positive this of the cool courage and admirable discipline of the people. We cannot, however, go on thus beyond to-day. If doubt remain until tomorrow, alarm will commence again, and panic will follow. No effort to stop the Duke by going for gold was made beyond a mere demonstration, and you saw the consequences. What can be done in this way has now been clearly ascertained, and if new efforts must be made, they will not be made in vain.

Lists containing the names, addresses, etc., of all persons in every part of the country likely to be useful have been made, the name of every man who has at any public meeting shown himself friendly to reform has been registered. Addresses and proclamations to the people have been sketched, and printed copies will, if need be, be sent to every such person all over the kingdom. Means have been devised to placard towns and villages, to circulate hand-bills, and to assemble the people. So many men of known character, civil and military, have entered heartily into the scheme, that their names when published will produce great effect in every desirable way. If the Duke comes into power now, we shall be unable longer to 'hold to the laws'; break them we must, be the consequences whatever they may; and we know that all must join with us to save their property, no matter what may be their private opinions. Towns will be barricaded, new municipal arrangements will be made by the inhabitants, and the first town which is barricaded shuts up all the banks. 'Go for Gold', it is said, will produce dreadful evils. We know it will, but it will prevent other evils being added to them. It will stop the Duke. Let the Duke take office as Premier, and we shall have a commotion in the nature of a civil war with money at our command. If we obtain the money, he cannot get it. If it be but once dispersed, he cannot collect it. If we have money we shall have the power to feed and lead the people, and in less than five days we shall have the soldiers with us.

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