Picture of Henry Vincent

Henry Vincent

places mentioned

Apr. 1 to 7: Aftermath of the "fracas"

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When nearly the whole of the Chartists had left Devizes, the drunken and blood-thirsty mob surrounded the Curriers' Arms in large numbers. The High Sheriff, as I before mentioned, addressed the mob from the window. He made use of the following words:— "Gentlemen, you must go home; I cannot allow this mob to remain here. (cries of 'we want to kill those b——y b- —s of Reformers') Well, if you do not go, I will not be answerable for your lives." He then shut down the window; and turning towards myself, Roberts, and Carrier, he said "If you are desirous of leaving the town to-night, I will protect you". We replied, we wished to go. Several Devizes gentlemen said "Don't go, Vincent, you'll be murdered." I replied, "the Sheriff has given his honour that I shall be protected, and I believe him to be a man of honour, whatever his politics may be." The Sheriff then walked down stairs, and ordered the special constables to surround the house. The then requested us to walk down. Carrier said he would stay all night. The High Sheriff took Mr. Roberts's arm on one side, and another gentleman on the other. I left the house between Mr. T.North, and another gentleman, both Tories. We had not proceeded many yards, when a most determined attack was made upon us, with cries of "kill the b——y wretches", and the most awful oaths and yells. Our conductors did their best to keep off the mob; but their authority, among desperadoes and murderers, appeared but weak. We had now reached a cross road, one street of which led the way out of the town, when the attack commenced with renewed vigour. Several blows were levelled at Roberts, and I received tow heavy ones on my head, and a dreadful kick on the stomach. We were beaten a few yards down a street, the contrary road to which we wished to go. A scene occurred, at which I could not help laughing at the time, although suffering under pain and exhaustion. When the mob was pushing down the street, a drunken body of men intervened between myself and Roberts; one of them, who was so drunk as not to be able to speak distinctly, said to me with a comically-drunken stammer, "You wants to take moi wife from me, and put her in a b——y workhouse". I smiled, and said "My good fellow, I don't know your wife; and if you knew those who made you drunk as well as I do, you would not talk thus." I was struck several blows at once, when Mr. Morris sternly said to the foremost man, "if you do not retire, I'll have you taken up". The High Constable turned round and said, "don't be foolish, Morris — why do you talk that way to him — tell him he shall have beer". Whereupon, Morris said, "order, order amongst the blues! — you shall have beer". This had a talismanic effect; for the foremost drunkard staggered back, muttering to himself, "he says we shall have b-e-e-r (hiccup), h-e s-a-e-s w-e sh-a-ll ha-v-e b-e-e-r!". We then walked quietly through the drunken part of the mob; but we had not gone far before we were again assailed by a mob of about 300, led on by the parties exposed by me in the Vindicator of the preceding week. A blow struck me on the stomach, which caused me to lose all recollection for several minutes. I was entirely speechless. As I recovered, one of the well-dressed ruffians said, "Are you the Editor of the Vindicator ?" "I am", was my reply. "I insist upon knowing who wrote that article in last week's paper", he said. My answer was, "I neither can, nor will, tell you". I had hardly uttered the words, before I was stunned by a blow under the ear, from a stick. It was with extreme difficulty I walked — my head was hanging down, and my limbs almost refused to perform their office. I was then asked, if I would promise not to come to Devizes again. I replied — No, I WILL PLEDGE MYSELF TO NO SUCH THING. Whereupon several persons around me said, "Mr. Vincent has promised that, upon his honour". I thought they said it with the idea of appeasing the mob. I saw several Bradford and Trowbridge people near me, who pretended to be Tories, with the view of rendering me every assistance possible. I was again hit in the stomach. The cowardly ruffians hit me in those places which were most certain to exhaust me, and put my life in peril. My head was swimming, and I gave up all hopes of having my life preserved; though, to their credit be it spoken, Messrs. North and Morris did all they could to preserve me, by crying shame upon the dastards who were aiming their merciless blows at me. Faint and sick, I reached the bridge, when cries were raised of "Murder him!" "Throw him over". This aroused me; and grasping firmly the hands of my conductors, I walked safely over the bridge, no one laying hands on me, or ever attempting to do so. I had just crossed the bridge, when another blow struck my head. I was now standing opposite the Fox and Hounds, the place where our gig was put up. I asked for Roberts, and was told he intended sleeping in Devizes. A stone struck me upon the temple, which caused me to faint. A friend brought me a glass of brandy and water, which I immediately drank off, and felt much revived. While the gig was preparing, an esteemed Trowbridge friend of mine went behind me, as he observed a knot of "respectables" talking together; one of them partly drew a pistol, and said "Shall I give him a shot!" Another Tory said "Do". Each whispered to the other, and they kept jogging one another's elbow, saying — "You do it — you do it". My Trowbridge friend put his head close between them, and one of them said to him, "Who the h—l are you? You are a d—d green." When he answered, "It's no matter who I am; I intend to stand here". And he has since assured me that he firmly believes, had he not have stationed himself amongst them, I should have been shot dead! The gig was now brought out; and a whisper arose of "destroy the gig — now smash him". I observed a few Chartists gathering silently round it, and place their hands on the back, amongst whom was an excellent young man, named Duck, of Bath (whose name I misprinted last week) and to whom I tender my hearty thanks. I then got into, or rather was lifter into the gig, for I could neither speak nor walk; I had just seated myself, when a heavy blow from a stick knocked me down on the right side of the gig. I was deprived of recollection for a few minutes. Mr. T.North got into the gig to drive me off, when a rush was made at me, but my friends suddenly all sprung forward, raising a hearty cry of "Vincent for ever!" drove the Tories from the gig, and we rode off in safety. After driving about fifty yards, we halted, having overtaken a great number of Chartists. Mr. North left me, first receiving my thanks; and in a few moments I found myself surrounded by about 300 friends. I rested a few moments and then got up; I forgot my knocks; and the first thing I did was to laugh, and the meeting seeing me laugh joined in a hearty laugh also; I then briefly addressed them, and asked their advice in the case of Roberts — I offered to go back with them to Devizes and try, if in a body, we could get him off. A Devizes gentleman said, Roberts intended sleeping there all night, and he begged of me not to go back, upon any consideration. I then offered to pay any four men who would go quietly into Devizes, inquire for Roberts, see him, and tell him I should ride on to Swift's of Bradford, and remain there until he joined me in the morning — there was an immediate cry of "no money", and several volunteered to go. However, a Devizes gentleman undertook to see Roberts and give him my message. On going along the road, walking gently with my friends, some of our party were thrashing a labourer who had been engaged in the attack upon myself; I immediately jumped out of the gig, running between my friends and the man, and insisted upon their letting him alone; I took him up into the gig with me, and protected him from injury. Young Duck, of Bath, was in the gig at the time. On reaching the corner of a lane, where our Trowbridge friends had to leave us, I again stood up and addressed them for several minutes. I told them "to go home orderly — not even to attack a foe — and to bear in mind that we Chartists had kept the peace throughout the day, and that the Conservatives had been its breakers". We had three hearty cheers for ourselves, and bade each other "good night". I then walked gently on with our Bradford and Holt friends to the Coach and Horses on the Bath road. I had tasted no food since seven in the morning, and it was now nearly nine at night. We rested awhile, and had not been sitting above ten minutes, when in walked Roberts. We were thunderstruck at seeing each other; we shook each others hands, and cheered, and cheered again, for more than five minutes. Roberts had very narrowly escaped;— but there he was, and that was enough for me. If ever there was a purely disinterested patriot, and an honest advocate of the injured and oppressed Working Classes, my good friend Roberts is that man. Long may he live in the esteem of those whose cause he so perseveringly advocates! We then bade "good night" to our friends and rode off, much exhausted, to Bradford. On riding through the villages, the people were assembled in bodies, in the greatest state of excitement, the news having arrived that myself and Roberts were killed. They were breathing vengeance, and swearing destruction to Tory property and lives. On seeing us, all seemed joy — the women cried "God bless you", with tears in their eyes, and the men cheered us most enthusiastically. On reaching Bradford, the streets were filled with an immense assemblage of people. The news of our death had reached the town, and an awful excitement prevailed. A sight of us soon changed the scene; several of our female friends crying for joy, and the men cheering us vociferously. We supped in Swift's cottage, and then rode on to Bath, reaching the city in safety, at twelve o'clock. The most intense excitement prevailed in Bath; the news of our deaths having reached the city, large numbers threatened to march to Devizes that night. The news of our arrival soon spread, and we retired to rest, much fatigued, about eleven o'clock. Thus ended a day which the Chartists must never forget. They must remember that the aristocracy have convinced us of their determination to spill blood rather than yield to the people their just rights. I have provided myself with arms, and I hope every sound radical will do the same; for it is very evident, reason is of no avail with the murderers of Devizes and its vicinity. I hear that the old scoundrel, Burdett, subscribed largely towards the pay of the murderers! I am more than glad the visit occurred; it has taught us a good lesson — THAT THE ARISTOCRACY WILL COMMIT MURDER RATHER THAN GIVE THE PEOPLE FOOD; AND THE RIOT TELLS US, IN LANGUAGE WE CANNOT MISTAKE, TO PROVIDE ARMS FOR OUR SELF-DEFENCE. CHARTISTS! TAKE, FOR ONCE, A LESSON FROM YOUR FOES!'

TUESDAY, April 2nd. — Received congratulations from numerous friends. Resolved to stay in Bath a few days, and recruit my strength. At 7 o'clock an immense concourse of people assembled in the Abbey Green, to congratulate myself and Roberts on our escape. We went to the meeting, and were received with tremendous cheering. Roberts delivered a soul- stirring speech, and was received with every demonstration of enthusiastic delight. He told the people the Devizes affair would do more towards aiding the Chartists than any other event which had occurred during our whole progress. I then addressed them, and was received with reiterated bursts of cheering. I briefly recapitulated the Devizes affair, and called upon the people to be more united and determined than ever. Friend Young said a few words, and the meeting concluded with three times three hearty cheers for Vincent and Roberts. I then announced that our highly talented friend, Lowry, would address them on Thursday night. We then gave three more cheers for "our sweethearts, our wives, and ourselves", and the people separated very orderly.

WEDNESDAY, April 3rd. — Rested myself. Read books, &.

THURSDAY, April 4th. — Remained in the house of my much esteemed friend, Mr. Day. Robert Lowry arrived in the evening. A meeting was called in Corn Street. There were about 4,000 people assembled. I went with friend Lowry to the meeting. I made a few remarks, and introduced him to the people. Lowry delivered a really splendid, argumentative, and eloquent speech. He delighted and thrilled his audience with his nervous and powerful hits at the aristocracy. He is truly a noble specimen of the working classes, and would make a better legislator than the whole of the combined aristocracy. I briefly addressed the meeting; and after giving cheers for Lowry, Vincent, the Convention, &., the meeting separated.

FRIDAY, 5th, SATURDAY, 6th, SUNDAY, 7th. — Rested myself. Read and wrote for the Vindicator .

Henry Vincent, 'Life and Rambles', in the Western Vindicator , no.8 (13th April 1839), p.4

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