Picture of Henry Vincent

Henry Vincent

places mentioned

Feb. 26 to 27: Bath and Frome

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On the morning of the 26th of February, 1839, I left Bath in company with two friends, of the name of Roberts and Young, together with a little brother, in an open carriage, for Frome, a town containing a population of about 13,000 persons. The scenery between Bath and Frome is exceedingly beautiful, consisting of hill and valley, and a delightful profusion of trees and shrubs. The day was very fine — the sun shining warmly, and numbers of sheep and little lambs were grazing and skipping about the grass. The road to Frome is very uneven, so much so that we were compelled to get out of our carriage at the foot of every hill and walk gently up them. We walked about four miles out of thirteen. We arrived in Frome about one o'clock. Frome is a manufacturing town, and the principal manufacturers are the family of the Shepherds. We found a fair going on, but few persons appeared to be present. Mr.Styles, the Secretary of the Working Men's Association, with a few other Radicals, met us and conducted us to the Sun inn, where we partook of an excellent dinner of beef steak and onions, and washed it down with a few glasses of fine spring water. We soon learned that a meeting of the people was to take place in favour of the CHARTER. Being of a curious disposition, I determined to attend and witness the proceedings. Accordingly, I sallied forth in the company of several friends, and arrived at the place of meeting about two o'clock. The numbers present were about 4,000, 400 of whom were females — the majority of them very neatly clad. I could not help observing the squalid appearance of many of the men and women: their care-worn faces bore sad evidence of toil and starvation. Surely, thought I, there must be something wrong in government and society, to make hard-working people so destitute and wretched. A comfortable hustings was erected, surmounted by a flag, above which was a cap of liberty . I got upon the hustings, and heard Mr. Styles proposed and carried as chairman of the meeting. Styles is a shrewd fellow — an excellent specimen of the working classes — a tolerable speaker — and thoroughly acquainted with the science of government. His chief recommendation is his sober character . Would to God the whole of the people were like him! I heard my friend, Roberts, move a resolution. He did it in capital style. Roberts is a splendid fellow; and when I come to consider the sacrifices he makes daily to advance the Radical cause, I know of no man more worthy the esteem and confidence of his fellow countrymen. His remarks on the degradation of the working classes were beautifully pathetic. A warm-hearted friend of humanity, named William Young, seconded the resolution in a speech full of religion and high moral principle, and was very deservedly applauded. To my astonishment the Chairman announced that Mr. Vincent would address them. Well, thinks I, this is strange; for a mere unknown rambler like myself to be called on to speak, when merely on a tour of general information. After a little hesitation, up I jumped, covered with blushes like a bashful young maiden of sixteen. I talked for an hour and a half, apparently much to the satisfaction of the people. The people all said they would have the Charter — cheered, and then cheered again. I was shocked to hear of the misery of the people — some of them earning no more than four or five shillings per week. How they exist I cannot conceive. If a speedy stop be not put to the present system, a dreadful commotion must take place. The ladies of Frome are excellent Radicals, and intend shortly to form an association. When the meeting concluded, Roberts, Young, and my brother, jumped into the carriage and immediately drove off to Bath, leaving me behind. After promising to address them again at night, I walked quietly down to the Sun and took tea.

In the evening I walked out. The moon shone brightly. On arriving at the place of meeting I found upwards of 4,000 persons assembled, amongst whom was a great number of ladies. A friend of mine, William Carrier of Trowbridge, was at the meeting. Carrier is a young man of considerable talent. His powers of oratory are above the common order; and his knowledge upon general subjects is exceedingly good. His speech made a very great impression upon the meeting. I addressed the people at some length, and was attended to with the most marked attention, Several influential individuals expressed themselves converted to the principles of Radicalism. The people separated about ten o'clock, in a very orderly manner, expressing themselves highly delighted with the proceedings of the evening. On returning from the meeting I walked through the fair to my inn. There were a few fat pigs, giants, and pigmies to be seen, but I elbowed my way through the crowd. I at down with some excellent Radicals until twelve o'clock, and then retired to bed.

WEDNESDAY, 27th Feb. — Rose at six o'clock. Rode to Bath. Dined with Mr. Roberts, and had a little conversation with him upon the determination of the people to obtain Universal Suffrage. About four o'clock left Bath in friend Roberts's carriage, having first been joined by Thomas Bolwell, an excellent Bath Radical. Our place of destination was Holt, a small but neat village, situate about ten miles from Bath. The National Petition was signed a few weeks ago by nearly every person in the village. Our ride to Holt was exceedingly pleasant. The moon shone brightly, but was occasionally obscured by passing clouds. On arriving within a mile of Holt, we heard the sound of music, and soon found that the people (having heard of our determination to visit them) intended to welcome us by a public procession. Several hundred persons were assembled. A few neat banners, with appropriate inscriptions, floated in the air. The hustings were erected under the spreading branches of a fine old oak tree. Mr. Roberts made one of his best speeches. He appealed to people to be prepared for the worst . Mr. Bolwell made a short impressive speech, which was loudly responded to by the meeting. I then addressed the meeting for about an hour, in the course of which I asked what they would do in the event of the government attempting to stay the present movement by force, — when they loudly shouted, "WE ARE ARMED — WE WILL RESIST THEM BY FORCE!" After the meeting was over we partook of an excellent repast in the company of about fifty sturdy Radicals. We set out for Bath at twelve o'clock, and reached the city about two o'clock on Thursday morning.

Henry Vincent, 'Life and Rambles', in the Western Vindicator , no.3 (9th March 1839), p.3

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