Friday, January 14, 2011

Plus ça change ...

On the 7th of November, Brandreth, Turner, and Ludlam ascended the scaffold. We feel for Brandreth the less, because it seems he killed a man. But recollect who instigated him to the proceedings which led to murder. On the word of a dying man, Brandreth tells us, that "OLIVER brought him to this"—that, "but for OLIVER, he would not have been there." See, too, Ludlam and Turner, with their sons and brothers, and sisters, how they kneel together in a dreadful agony of prayer. Hell is before their eyes, and they shudder and feel sick with fear, lest some unrepented or some wilful sin should seal their doom in everlasting fire. With that dreadful penalty before their eyes—with that tremendous sanction for the truth of all he spoke, Turner exclaimed loudly and distinctly, while the executioner was putting the rope round his neck, "THIS IS ALL OLIVER AND THE GOVERNMENT."
This extract is from one of the most devastating pieces of 19th Century polemical writing, Shelley's 'An Address to the People on The Death of the Princess Charlotte' (1817), contrasting the public hysteria surrounding the death of the Princess with the execution of the Pentrich Rebels.

Oliver was a government spy and agent provocateur who lured the people of Pentrich, Derbyshire and a smaller group in Holmfirth, Yorkshire into staging a futile and hopeless rising. Oliver's involvement led to the acquittal of those from Holmfirth, but the punishment of the Pentrich Rebels, convicted of High Treason, was savage.

And now, in gentler times, the same tactic of infiltration and provocation has been seen again, though in truth it, and the mindset that produces it, had never gone away.


Laban said...

These small revolts are almost forgotten. The last of all was a religious uprising - the Battle of Bossenden Wood in 1838. The leader persuaded his men that their faith would make them proof from bullets - in the style of the late Pierre Mulele.

John said...

Nice one, Gadge.

There was an article about the Pentrich rebellion is last month's History Today, and if you ever watch The One Show (shudder), Gyles Brandreth visited the area, since he is a direct descendant.