"The weakness of the radical movement was the most important reason why Pitt survived the revolutionary threat to his government in the period 1789-1801 - how far do you agree with this statement?
It could be argued that the radical movement was sparked off by the differences in opinion of Edmund Burke and Thomas Paine. Their differences in opinion caused a debate, which was to create a hoard of revolutionary movements and organisations. Paine's book led to the creation of the London Corresponding Society, a large radical movement that threatened Pitt's authority, in his mind. Soon, a whole host of movements were holding meetings and publishing leaflets about reform up and down the country. Needless to say the government was worried about this sudden demand for reform, but how much of a threat were these radical movements?
The radicals certainly seemed a threat to the government, with the war disturbing trade and increasing taxes for the middle and working classes. Poor harvests and increased taxes caused food prices to be higher, coupled with lower wages, things were difficult for the working and middle classes. This helped the radical movements spread the word as they had an audience that was ready to listen to them because of the circumstances of the time. But what seemed the biggest threat were the corresponding societies. Shoemaker Thomas Hardy founded the largest one, the London Corresponding Society. They were a threat to the government because they called for radical changes within the government, but also because their popularity was growing within the working class, which could put pressure on the government. Their conventions in Edinburgh were seen as a threat as they seemed to have their own alternative government.
Corresponding societies were springing up everywhere. The society in Sheffield brought 5000 people onto the streets to celebrate the French victory at Valmy. They also brought a si... Continue Reading