3364. Robert Southey to William Lowther, 1st Earl of Lonsdale, [15 October 1819]

3364. Robert Southey to William Lowther, 1st Earl of Lonsdale, [15 October 1819]⁠* 

Friday evening.

My Lord

I return a copy of the Address, amended according to your Lordships suggestions. [1]  And as it is not necessary that the signatures should be in the handwriting of those who desire to have their names affixed, I will send off copies tomorrow to Lord Wm Gordon, [2]  & General Peachy, & to my friend & fellow traveller Senhouse, for their sanction [3] 

From the course which Carliles trial is taking, it seems plain that he will shock the jury, & be found guilty. [4]  I have long wished that transportation were made the punishment for such offences, & for seditious libels & seditious practises. It would remove the offenders out of the way of pity, & of mischief; whereas in prison they contrive to excite both. Cobbett & Leigh Hunt were as mischievous in confinement as out of it. [5] 

A law to this effect, & the repeal of Mr Fox’s law of libel, [6]  would strike at the root of the evil. And it is as easy to take whole measures as half ones; they will not excite more opposition from the enemies of Government, & they will give confidence to its friends.

Believe me my Lord

with great respect

your Lordships obliged & obedient servant

Robert Southey.


* MS: Cumbria Record Office, Carlisle, DLons/L1/2/60. ALS; 2p.
Dating note: Dating from content; the letter belongs to 15 October 1819, when Southey also sent a copy of the amended Address to the Prince Regent to Peachy, see Letter 3365. BACK

[1] Following the ‘Peterloo’ Massacre of 16 August 1819, in which local magistrates ordered the dispersal of a public meeting in Manchester, resulting in at least eleven deaths, Whigs in Cumberland started to organise a County Meeting, held on 13 October 1819, to protest at the magistrates’ actions and send an Address to the Prince Regent. The conservative response drawn up by Southey – an Address to the Prince Regent denouncing the radicals and calling for curbs on the press – was included with this letter. It was not proceeded with, and the government’s supporters in Cumberland produced instead a more moderate document. BACK

[2] Lord William Gordon (1744–1823), son of Cosmo George Gordon, 3rd Duke of Gordon (1720–1752). He owned the Waterend estate on the west side of Derwentwater and was married to Frances Ingram-Shepherd (1761–1841), sister of Isabella Anne Ingram-Shepherd (1760–1834), second wife of the Marquess of Hertford, the Lord Chamberlain. BACK

[3] Southey to Humphrey Senhouse, [15 October 1819], Letter 3366, and Southey to William Peachy, 15 October 1819, Letter 3365. BACK

[4] The trial of the radical publisher and writer Richard Carlile (1790–1843; DNB) for blasphemy and seditious libel had commenced on 12 October 1819. His rambling 30-hour speech in his own defence did not augur well for his prospects. He was found guilty on 16 October and sentenced to three years imprisonment in Dorchester jail. BACK

[5] Cobbett had been imprisoned in Newgate (1810–1812) for criticising the flogging of some militiamen at Ely; and Hunt confined in Horsemonger Lane jail (1813–1815) for libelling the Prince Regent. Both continued to conduct their newspapers from prison. BACK

[6] The Libel Act (1792), promoted by Fox, had made the jury, rather than the judge, mainly responsible for determining whether a publication was libellous. BACK