Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index

London Corresponding Society

The London Corresponding Society (LCS) was a corresponding society founded on January 25, 1792. The creator of the group was Thomas Hardy, a shoemaker and metropolitan radical. The aim of the society was parliamentary reform, especially the expansion of the representation of working class people. In common with the other corresponding societies its membership was predominantly drawn from artisans and working men: early members included Joseph Gerrald, Francis Place and Maurice Margarot.

The society aggravated the establishment with its opposition to the wars with France and was deeply infiltrated by spies. A meeting of reform group leaders in Edinburgh in December 1793 was broken up and a number of men were arrested and tried for sedition, the LCS representatives - Gerrald and Maragot were sentenced to fourteen years transportation. Undaunted, the remaining LCS leaders met with other reformist groups, including the Society for Constitutional Information, in 1794 to discuss a further national convention as well as producing a large number of pamphlets and periodicals.

In May 1794 the government took more action: certain of the society leaders were arrested and Hardy, John Thelwall and John Horne Tooke were tried for treason in October, but were acquitted. The society was not quietened by these efforts and into 1795 there were a number of large meetings, including one near Copenhagen House attended by around 100,000 people. Also the king's carriage was stoned as he went to open parliament. The government responded with the so-called Two Acts - an extension of the treason laws with the Treasonable Practices Act and also the repressive Seditious Meetings Act; detention without trial had already been in force since 1794 when habeas corpus was suspended.

In March 1796 leading LCS men John Binns and John Gale Jones were arrested. Into 1798 the society became increasingly split and in 1799 it and several other radical groups were declared illegal. The LCS effectively ended then, although it maintained a vague, informal existence for a little time after.