The gulf of ruin, or a quick reform. Which will you chuse?
Published in London, 1795. Printed for the author, but no author supplied.
This pamphlet, newly bought as part of our Voting for Change project, argues for a reform of the House of Commons according to the recommendations of the Duke of Richmond (Charles Lennox) who advocated universal (manhood) suffrage excluding the insane and criminals, plus Annual Parliaments. 1795 is a little before the official start of our project (which runs from 1819 to 1969) but it was too good an item to miss out on, clearly having many links with the campaigns for political reform which followed during the 19th century...
The author speaks positively about the accomplishments of the French Revolution while at the same time attacking both Edmund Burke for decrying the revolt as being the work of a ‘swinish multitude’, and the enormous power of the crown and aristocratic parties.
Such ideas are consistent with the pamphlet having an association with the London Corresponding Society, and its major proponents, Thomas Hardy, John Thelwall et al. The Society, whose members shared the radical goal of reforming the British political system, was closed down by the Government in the year the pamphlet was published.
The Duke of Richmond’s plan is praised as follows:
There are also attacks upon foreign wars, the resulting national debt, the repealing of the Bill of Rights, and the suspension of Habeas Corpus. Thomas Paine is cited. ‘If a government can do this, there can be no Constitution – the very name is a joke or, more properly, an insult’.
The pamphlet ends by arguing that if we do not have the reform of Parliament then ‘There is no hope but from the people’s legal exertion, except in the event of a civil war, if they should be driven to it, which is too dreadful to think on. Reform or revolution’.