[1816] - Spa Fields riots in London

The Spa Fields Riots refer to a series of popular political meetings that took place at Spa Fields in Islington in November and early December 1816. The meetings had been organized by the Spenceans, a radical group founded by Thomas Spence (1750–1814), an English radical who advocated common ownership of land. While the meetings were ostensibly designed to create a platform from which popular discontent could be mobilized to petition the Prince Regent for parliamentary reform and an extension of the franchise, their principal organizers, Arthur Thistlewood and Dr James Watson, nevertheless hoped to foment unrest that could lead to a popular uprising.

The radical orator Henry Hunt (1773–1835) was invited to address the meeting on 2 December and he agreed to do so, despite initial reservations. Although the majority of Hunt’s audience remained peaceable, a mob rioted for several hours in the City of London. In addition, a small group led by Thistlewood marched on the Tower of London demanding its surrender. After several hours of violence, however, order was restored.
Thistlewood and other leading Spenceans were arrested and charged with high treason in the summer of 1817, but they were subsequently acquitted. The government responded to the disorder by suspending habeas corpus on 4 March.

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