The British Democrats

Selected Documents

Support for the French Revolution led to the formation of local societies for constitutional reform and universal suffrage throughout Britain. In England the London Corresponding Society emerged as a co-ordinating body for these local societies. Similar roles were played in Scotland by the Friends of the People, and in Ireland, by the United Irishmen. These three groups began to work together towards the formation of a national convention, culminating in the British Convention (held in Edinburgh) in 1793. The British Convention was forcibly closed by the government and leading members arrested and transported. The surviving associations were driven underground, and the successor organizations (the United Scotsmen and United Englishmen, which later fed into the Luddite movement) were necessarily secretive and now known mainly through reports from spies and informers. The defeat of the uprising by the United Scotsmen in 1797 and the defeat and harsh repression of the larger revolt by the United Irishmen from 1797 to 1798 combined with the defeat of the naval mutinies marked the effective end of this phase of the movement.