May 31 1812: Whig Political Maneuverings

On May 31, 1812, Lord Moira is trying to form a government having been given some indication that he should try to do so by the Prince Regent. Moira is an Irish-British politician and a Whig. He favours Catholic Emancipation but may, at this time, be willing to compromise on that point. He writes to Lord Grey, another prominent Whig, to confirm exactly what he said in the House of Lords. Grey receives the letter while having dinner at Holland House but responds immediately. He writes that he cannot remember the exact words he used but confirms that in substance certain pledges on Catholic Emancipation had been made. He does not say who made the pledges but implies it was the Prince Regent. Grey writes that as a consequence if the Prince Regent feels "a strong personal objection" to him then he is prepared to "stand out of the way." He would still support a Whig government. The maneuverings are of interest in that they indicate that the Crown still  had a determinative role as to who would form the government. A Whig government may have had a different American policy but by now it is too late to stop an American declaration of war. Madison is putting the final touches on the secret message that he will be sent tomorrow, June 1, to Congress proposing war with Great Britain. Moira's letter is reproduced below followed by Grey's response:  

May 31 1812: Wordsworth Expatiates

On May 31 1812, Henry Crabb Robinson meets with William Wordsworth and other friends. Wordsworth is discussing his theory of poetry and his fears of a "social war between the poor and rich". In this fear he echoes Southey who on May 14 1812 had also warned of such a war: 
This country is upon the brink of the most dreadful of all conceivable states—an insurrection of the poor against the rich; and if by some providential infatuation, the Burdettites had not continued to insult the soldiers, the existing government would not be worth a week’s purchase, nor any throat which could be supposed to be worth cutting, safe for a month longer.
...Things are in that state at this time that nothing but the army preserves us: it is the single plank between us and the red sea of an English Jacquerie,—a Bellum Servile; not provoked, as both those convulsions were, by grievous oppression, but prepared by the inevitable tendency of the manufacturing system, and hastened on by the folly of a besotted faction, and the wickedness of a few individuals.
They both tie such a conflict to the "manufacturing system." In some ways, both are Marxists before Karl Marx had been born.

May 30 1812: War as a Thunderstorm for the Common Good

On May 30, 1812 the Niles Weekly Register published an editorial in support of war with Great Britain. Weekly Register was published by Hezekiah Niles, and was one of the  most widely-circulated papers in the United States. The editorial begins by writing of "war" by using the metaphor of a thunderstorm which is needed to clear the atmosphere. Niles writes: "The thunderstorm, black and tremendous, disturbs the calm serenity of the summer evening, and sometimes rives the mighty oak to tatters — it comes unwished for, excites general apprehension and frequently does partial damage — but it purges the atmosphere, gives a new tone, as it were, to listless nature, and promotes the common good".  The editorial is reproduced below.  

May 30 1812: Jefferson to Madison

On May 30, 1812, Thomas Jefferson writes again to President James Madison. Jefferson appears to be agitated at the idea that Madison is even considering a "triangular war" or a war against Great Britain and France. Madison had mentioned this as a possibility in his letter of  May 25 1812 to Jefferson. The flow of artful rhetoric that flows against such a position ends with the disingenuous, note "these are the hasty views of one who rarely thinks on these subjects. Your own will be better."  Jefferson's letter is reproduced below.

May 29, 1812: Coleridge's Fourth Lecture

On May 29,1812, Coleridge gives his fourth lecture on the nature of comedy. Henry Crabb Robinson again notes that the "mode of treating the subject very German." He adds sadly  that the audience was "thin" and those present found the lecture "too abstract".  Later, he joins Wordsworth and Coleridge at the Morgans where they engage in a discussion of poetry. Henry Crabb Robinson's diary entry for May 29 reads: 
May 29th. — Coleridge's fourth lecture. It was on the nature of comedy — about Aristophanes, &c. The mode of treating the subject very German, and of course much too abstract for his audience, which was thin. Scarcely any ladies there. With such powers of original thought and real genius, both philosophical and poetical, as few men in any age have possessed, Coleridge wants certain minor qualities, which would greatly add to his efficiency and influence with the public. Spent the evening at Morgan's. Both Coleridge and Wordsworth there. Coleridge very metaphysical. He adheres to Kant, notwithstanding all Schelling has written, and maintains that from the latter he has gained no new ideas. All Schelling has said, Coleridge has either thought himself, or found in Jacob Boehme.* Wordsworth talked very finely on poetry. He praised Burns for his introduction to "Tarn O'Shanter." Burns had given an apology for drunkenness, by bringing together all the circumstances which can serve to render excusable what is in itself disgusting; thus interesting our feelings, and making us tolerant of what would otherwise be not endurable.

May 29 1812: Napoleon Leaves Dresden

On May 29, 1812, after thirteen days in Dresden, Napoleon with a tear in his eye says goodbye to Marie Louise, climbs into his travelling carriage or dormeuse, and leaves Dresden to take command of the Grande Armée [1]. Napoleon's carriage is  a yellow coupe drawn by six horses. It has every convenience and means to wage war and rule an empire. It can serve as a bed, office, and kitchen. It also travels with great speed, travelling on average more than ten kilometres an hour. Napoleon travels for twenty hours the first day. Elsbeth Kwant, in her very good article [2] on Napoleon's travelling arrangements, provides further details which are reproduced below:  

May 28 1812: Prince's State of Perturbation

On  May 28 1812, Thomas Creevey writes to his wife Eleanor Creevey about the political maneuverings taking place to form the next government in Great Britain. Creevey is a Whig member of parliament. In his letter, Creevey passes on rumours and information on the negotiations taking pace with the Prince Regent.  He is told that the Prince Regent is in a "state of perturbation of mind as beyond anything" anyone has ever seen. Prinney, as Creevey calls him, seems in a better mood when he meets Elizabeth, the Duchess of Devonshire. She writes to her son, Augustus Foster  on May 28, that Prinney is in "pretty good spirits." Creevey's letter of May 28 1812 is reproduced below and can be found here.

May 28 1812: Duchess, Her son and Annabella

On May 28 1812, Elizabeth, the Duchess of Devonshire, writes to her son Augustus Foster, the British Minister Plenipotentiary to the United States. Again, Miss Annabella Milbanke is discussed. 
Elizabeth, Duchess of Devonshire,

To Augustus Foster.

May 28, 181 2

. . . The Prince Regent was there, and in pretty good spirits, the crowd and heat enormous; — but now your eyes have wandered over this for a name more interesting. Well, Annabella was there; Annabella looked well; Annabella and I got more acquainted than I have done yet. Caroline called her to sit by her. I made room, and we all three sat on a couch. I liked her countenance and manners. Old twaddle Ralph [Sir Ralph Milbanke, Bart.] and I are all cordiality, and Lady Milbanke called her daughter to speak to me, who said, "I had the honor of talking to the Duchess " — which we had in the further room. She did not ask me about you, which I was glad of; indifference would have made her inquire out of civility; the father did.

May 27 1812: Prevost to Brock

On May 27 1812,  Sir George Prevost, in Lower Canada, writes to Major General Isaac Brock, in Upper  Canada. Prevost is answering Brock's letter of May 22. Prevost writes that he is pleased that Brock is taking "precautions to prevent any act occurring within your control that should afford the government of the United States a legitimate pretext to add to the clamour artfully raised by it against England." He also urges the "most rigid economy." Prevost's letter is reproduced below.

May 27 1812: Henry Clay

On May 27 1812, Henry Clay, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, writes to a person identified only as a gentleman of Kentucky. Clay believes that war is imminent. He is satisfied that the French have repealed the Berlin and Milan decrees so that only the Orders in Council of Great Britain remain in place. Excerpts from Henry Clay's letter is reproduced below. 
That we shall have war, I still believe. The dispatches brought by the Hornet were yesterday laid before congress. Although not as favorable as we had a right to expect, or could have wished, they are more so than they had been rumoured to be. They shew the practical observance of the repeal of the Berlin and Milan decrees, as to us. The Rambouillet spoliations, it is true, are not yet indemnified, but they are subject of discussion and negotiation and with regard to the recent burnings (which by the bye however execrable, they do not fall within those decrees) Mr. Barlow had presented a strong note, but had received no reply. Thoughtout the whole of Mr. Barlow's intercourse with that government, they appear to have treated him with prompt attention and good manners at least. In short after the dispatches were read yesterday, there was general disappointment manifested at their being much be better than they had been rumoured to be, and the universal sentiment was "we will go on in our intended course as to England, and wait a little longer with France." I think it therefore highly probable that about the time this letter will be with you, War will be declared in due form against England.

May 26 1812: A Pillory and a Very German Lecture

On May 26, 1812, Henry Crabb Robinson goes to the Old Bailey to see Daniel Isaac Eaton in the pillory. Eaton had been convicted for publishing the third part of Thomas Paine's Age of Reason. On 15 May 1812, Lord Ellenborough had sentenced him to eighteen months in Newgate Prison and a monthly pillorying for the entire period of his sentence. From the pillory, Crabb Robinson next describes hearing Coleridge's third lecture. He seems rather bored though he writes the "lecture itself excellent and very German". His diary entry for May 26 includes the following:
May 26th. — Walked to the Old Bailey to see D. I. Eaton in the pillory, As I expected, his punishment of shame was his glory. The mob was not numerous, but decidedly friendly to him. His having published Paine's " Age of Reason " was not an intelligible offence to them. I heard such exclamations as the following: " Pillory a man for publishing a book — shame ! " — " I wish old Sir Wicary was there, my pockets should not be empty." — "Religious liberty!" — "Liberty of conscience !" Some avowed their willingness to stand in the pillory for a dollar. " This a punishment .- this is no disgrace ! " As his position changed, and fresh partisans were blessed by a sight of his round, grinning face, shouts of "bravo !" arose from a new quarter. His trial was sold on the spot. The whole affair was an additional proof of the folly of the Ministers, who ought to have known that such an exhibition would be a triumph to the cause they meant to render infamous.

Heard Coleridge's third lecture. It was wholly on the Greek drama, though he had promised that he would to-day proceed to the modern drama. The lecture itself excellent and very German.

May 26 1812: Foster on Annabella

On May 26 1812,  Augustus Foster, the British Minister Plenipotentiary to the United States, again writes to his mother, Elizabeth, the Duchess of Devonshire.  She wrote to him on May 4 sending him copies of Lord Byron's poem Childe Harold.  She had also broken the news that Miss Annabella Milbanke was not interested in him. Foster's response of May 26 confirms that he had strong feelings for Annabella. Part of his letter is reproduced below.  
To Elizabeth, Duchess of Devonshire.
Washington, May 26, 18 12.

I see you don't like Annabella much. She is certainly rather too cold in her manners, and gives to reason too much empire over her mind, but she has good eyes, is fair, has right ideas, and sense, and mildness. I don't think she will ever be able to love very warmly; but yet I believe she thinks she ought to wait till the spirit moves her, and the spirit perhaps may never come, as I fancy happens to many of her temperament. I long most anxiously to get back to settle that point, good or bad. No Minister ever had such temptations to break up a negotiation. I would give the world to go back for six months, and am miserable that I can't do so, but I can't leave these members to themselves two days together...

May 25 1812: Jefferson's Perfect Calmness

On May 25 1812, Thomas Jefferson is also writing to James Madison.  He is passing along letters from a number of persons who want positions in government. Jefferson also provides information on various products as as result of the embargo. He notes that the price of flour is rising but that the cultivation of tobacco is being abandoned. As for war, Jefferson writes: "Your declaration of war is expected with perfect calmness; and if those in the North mean systematically to govern the majority it is as good a time for trying them as we can expect."

Dear Sir Monticello May 25. 1812

The difference between a communication & sollicitation is too obvious to need suggestion. While the latter adds to embarrassments, the former only enlarges the field of choice. The inclosed letters are merely communications. Of Stewart I know nothing. Price who recommends him is I believe a good man, not otherwise known to me than as a partner of B. Morgan of N. O. and as having several times communicated to me useful information, while I was in the government. Timothy Matlack I have known well since the first Congress to which he was an assistant secretary. He has been always a good whig, & being an active one has been abused by his opponents, but I have ever thought him an honest man. I think he must be known to yourself.

Flour, depressed under the first panic of the embargo has been rising by degrees to 8½ D. This enables the upper country to get theirs to a good market. Tobacco (except of favorite qualities) is nothing. It’s culture is very much abandoned. In this county what little ground had been destined for it is mostly put into corn. Crops of wheat are become very promising, altho’ deluged with rain, of which 10. Inches fell in 10. days, and closed with a very destructive hail. I am just returned from Bedford. I believe every county South of James river, from Buckingham to the Blue ridge (the limits of my information) furnished it’s quota of volunteers. Your declaration of war is expected with perfect calmness; and if those in the North mean systematically to govern the majority it is as good a time for trying them as we can expect. Affectionately Adieu


Cite as: The Papers of James Madison Digital Edition, J. C. A. Stagg, editor. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, Rotunda, 2010.
Canonic URL: [accessed 30 Dec 2011]
Original source: Presidential Series, Volume 4 (5 November 1811–9 July 1812 and supplement 5 March 1809–19 October 1811)

May 25 1812: Russell writes to Monroe

On May 25, 1812, as President Madison prepares his War Message to Congress, Jonathan Russell in London writes to Secretary of State James Monroe to update him on the political situation in Great Britain. Russell writes that new government of Earl of Liverpool has resigned as a result of losing a vote on the motion brought by Stuart Wortley, a Tory backbencher. Liverpool is negotiating with other members to try to form a new government. Also vying for the position of Prime Minister is Lord Wellesley, Wellington's brother, but he has alienated most of the party.  George Canning is also in the game. In fact, Russell suspects that Wortley's motion was made at his instigation. Canning is unlikely to be chosen because he favours Catholic Emancipation, which the Prince Regent opposes. He will also be opposed by Lord Castlereagh, on the account of the duel that both men fought in 1809 on Putney Heath. Canning fired first but missed his mark, being a poor shot, while Castlereagh, a very good shot, returned fire and wounded Canning in the thigh. (As an aside, it makes one nostalgic for the parliamentary traditions of the past, unlike the dishonourable parliaments of today, where a slight on  a member's honour is not met with a discharge of a pistol, but rather by shouted inane quips and indignant scrums.) In any event, as Russell writes everything is up in the air as to who will form the government, though he hopes that the Orders in Council will be repealed. They will but too late to avert war. Russell's letter is reproduced below.

May 25 1812: Madison's Puzzling Business

On May 25, 1812, President Madison writes to Thomas Jefferson enclosing copies of the letters that he has received from Jonathan Russell in London and Joel Barlow in Paris [1]. These letters were brought on the Hornet, which had arrived after a 21 day journey across the Atlantic. Madison writes "Our calculations differ widely. In the mean time, the business is become more than ever puzzling." Madison's letter lays out the question of war as a logic problem with two options: war with Great Britain or war with Great Britain and France. Missing is the third option of peace which appears to have been ruled out. There is something unsatisfactory in Madison's analysis even if the letter is only meant to be a brief report to Jefferson. The analysis is threadbare. Considerations of the likelihood of success or readiness for war are absent. The consequences of war are examined primarily through a limited political calculus of whether it will be useful for party politics. Madison's letter does suggest strongly that war with Great Britain is his only option since he writes that war with both Great Britain and France "presents a thousand difficulties." Madison's letter is reproduced below. 

May 24 1812: A Walk with Wordsworth

On May 24, 1812, Henry Crabb Robinson describes "a very interesting day" where, at half-past ten, he meets William Wordsworth on Oxford Road and they walk into the fields in Hampstead Heath. They talk of Lord Byron. Wordsworth allows him power, but denies his style to be English. Of his moral qualities Robinson and Wordsworth "thought the same" which was not favourable. Wordsworth comments that he believes that insanity runs in Lord Byron's family, and that he believes that Lord Byron is "somewhat cracked". 

Robinson next reads to Wordsworth some of William Blake's poems. Wordsworth is "pleased" with some of them, and regards "Blake as having in him the elements of poetry a thousand times more than either Byron or Scott."  No mention is made of Blake's paintings and prints. In 1812, Blake is one of fourteen members of the Water Colour Society. He has some paintings showing in the society's rooms on Bond Street. The pictures included some temperas and some pages of Jerusalem.

The walking companions then meet Miss Joanna Baillie, a well known poet and playwright, and accompany her home. Robinson and Wordsworth both admire her. They praise her in lofty if in a somewhat condescending manner. Robinson writes: "She has none of the unpleasant airs too common to literary ladies. Her conversation is sensible. She possesses apparently considerable information, is prompt without being forward, and has a fixed judgment of her own, without any disposition to force it on others". Wordsworth says of her with warmth, " If I had to present any one to a foreigner as a model of an English gentlewoman, it would be Joanna Baillie." 

Wordsworth may also have talked of Robert Southey that day. Robinson writes:

Wordsworth when alone, speaking of Southey, said, "he is one of the cleverest men that is now living." At the same time he justly denied him ideality in his works." He never enquires," says Wordsworth, "On what idea his poem is to be wrought; what feeling or passion is to be excited; but he determines on a subject and then reads a great deal, and combines and connects industriously, but he does not give anything which impresses the mind strongly and is recollected in solitude." 
The excerpt from Robinson's diary is reproduced below.

May 24 1812: Jefferson writes to Richest American

On May 24 1812, Thomas Jefferson writes to John Jacob Astor, a German-American businessman, and the first multimillionaire in the United States. Astor was to have a business empire that extended from fur trading in the Great Lakes to the Pacific; involve some opium smuggling and investments in New York City real estate. On his death, in 1848, Astor was the wealthiest person in the United States. His total estate was valued at about about $20 million. In 2006, Forbes ranked him as the fourth richest person in American history with an equivalent wealth in 2006 U.S. dollars of $110.1 billion. Only John D. Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie and Cornelius Vanderbilt were richer. In 1811, Astor established Fort Astoria on the Columbia River in what is now Oregon. This was the first American settlement west of the Rocky Mountains. Jefferson had supported the establishment of the settlement. The settlers in Fort Astoria were to find themselves in competition with the British Canadian North West Fur Company. Astor was concerned that the settlement would thus be exposed to attack in the event of war. He wrote to Jefferson to obtain military protection for his settlement. Jefferson in May 24 responds by advising Astor that he is now retired and cannot offer much help. When war came, the settlers in Astoria, without telling Astor, sold their settlement to the North West Fur Company. They were probably influenced by the threat of an attack by the British navy. Jefferson's letter is reproduced below.

May 23 1812: Napoleon in Dresden

On May 23, 1812, the Emperor Napoleon gives further instructions to Général Henri Jacques Guillaume Clarke, his Minister of War, to raise more troops for the invasion of Russia. In particular, he asks him to raise troops from Naples and units stationed in Italy. He also orders Clarke to obtain at least 500 horses and 10 batteries from the Neapolitans together with additional horses and foot cannon [1].  

Napoleon is in Dresden where it seems half of the ruling princes of Europe have come to pay homage to him. Napoleon is residing in the Royal Palace,  its owner Frederick Augustus, King of Saxony, having prudently decided to find other accommodation. Napoleon is playing host, among others, to Emperor Francis of Austria, King Frederick William of Prussia, Queen of Westpahalia, Grand Duke of Wurzburg, princes of Saxe-Weimar, Saxe-Coburg and Dessau. The elaborate court life instituted by Napoleon in Dresden is designed to be a visual display of his power with the princes of ancient thrones shown in their subservient roles to him. Adam Zamoyoski [2] describes a day in Dresden in this way:

May 22 1812: Caroline and Milbanke

On May 22, 1812, Lady Caroline Lamb writes to Annabella Milbanke, who in turn writes on it "a letter of Lady Caroline Lamb to me—1812—very remarkable." Part of Lady Caroline's letter reads:
[M]y beautiful Rhapsodies like every thing else I do—burst forth on every event to perish with it—witness all the Elegies I have written since five years old for every dog cat monkey & squirrel that left this goodly world & where is the young Lady who has not addrest Cynthia bright Goddess—Hygea—innocent Doves—Lambs playing on the Green—the return of Spring—the Fall of the Leaf—a cow ruminating after its dinner & all the other Images that awaken sympathetic emotions in the youthful heart.”
The extract above is found in the article of Paul Douglass "Lord Byron’s Feminist Canon: Notes toward Its Constructionwhich can be found here. It has following notation: Lady Caroline Lamb to Annabella Milbanke, 22 May 1812. Bodleian, Dep. Lovelace Byron 359.

May 21 1812: Gallatin on the Vice Presidency

On May 21, 1812, Albert Gallatin, the Secretary of the Treasury, writes to Joseph Nicholson, a Maryland politician. The main topic is John Langdon who may decline the nomination for Vice President on the ticket with James Madison for President. Both had been nominated on May 18 1812 by the Democratic Republican Congressional Caucus. This will leave the party with Elbridge Gerry as the likely candidate. This is the Gerry, who recently lost the governorship in Massachusetts, and of gerrymandering fame. Gallatin does not like Gerry who is not popular and may give the President trouble. Gerry does have supporters. One supporter is John Adams, who on May 21, 1812 is writing to Thomas Jefferson about Gerry. He writes:  "Though Mr. Gerry is not too old for the most arduous Service, he is one of the earliest and oldest Legislators in the Revolution and has devoted himself, his fortune and his family in the Service of his Country." Gallatin's letter is reproduced below.

May 21 1812: Baynes to Brock

On May 21, 1812 Colonel Edward Baynes, on the staff of Sir George Prévost in Lower Canada, writes to Major General Brock in Upper Canada. Baynes copies extracts from the dispatch of Augustus Foster, the British Minister Plenipotentiary to the United States who describes the political situation in the United States. Foster says the war party in Congress comes from the Western and Southern states while the northern and eastern states are opposed. Foster has a shrewd observation that the Democratic-Republican party, now the rulling party, is divided between "the old revolutionists" and the "jealous of younger men" who are now taking the lead in the call for war. Baynes' letter is reproduced below.

May 20 1812: Bryon, Bellingham and Caroline

On May 20, 1812, Lord Byron writes to Thomas Moore a letter with an opening sentence that joins John Bellingham, the Prime Minister's assassin, with his lover, Lady Caroline Lamb. For Byron there probably was no argument as to who was the more dangerous. "On Monday, after sitting up all night," Byron writes, "I saw Bellingham launched into eternity, and at three the same day I saw [Caroline], launched into the country." The relationship with Caroline was beginning to spiral out of control. Byron, somewhat passively, was being pulled into the Caroline maelstrom. The day before, on May 19,  he had written to Caroline in a pleading way to try to break off their affair. Byron's biographer, Benita Eisler [1], explains:
...By the middle of May the open scandal of his affair with Caroline Lamb left all other gossip forgotten; no one could remember lovers among the “first rate” who so openly flouted all the rules governing social order. Suspecting that Byron was in retreat, Caroline now resorted to stalking him. Disguised as one of her own pages, she managed to gain entry to his rooms, where Fletcher found her rifling his master’s papers. Soon afterward she burst in on Byron when, in a predictable effort to assert his sexual independence, he was entertaining another lady.
He felt trapped in the role of pariah. Between the nightmare of notoriety and the knowledge that he was still under Caro’s spell, he was reduced to desperate pleading, writing to her on May 19: “M[oore] is in great distress about us, & indeed people talk as if there were no other pair of absurdities in London. It is hard to bear all this without cause, but worse to give cause for it.—Our folly has had the effect of a fault.—I conformed & could conform, if you would lend your aid, but I can’t bear to see you look unhappy, & am always on the watch to observe if you are trying to make me so.—We must make an effort, this dream, this delirium of two months must pass away, we in fact do not know one another, a month’s absence would make us rational, you do not think so, I know it.”
He tried to strip Caro—and himself—of the illusion cherished by lovers who also happen to be survivors of other liaisons: This affair is “different.” “We have both had 1000 previous fancies of the same kind & shall get the better of this & be as ashamed of it according to the maxim of Rochefoucault: Few are unashamed of having loved, whey they lover no longer."  
Byron's letter of May 20, 1812 is reproduced below.

May 20 1812: Russell to Castlereagh

On May 20, 1812, Jonathan Russell presents to Lord Castlereagh the French Decree that the American Representative in Paris, Joel Barlow, had obtained from the Duke of Bassano. The Decreewas dated April 18, 1812, and was more than likely a forgery or, at least, was post dated. Nevertheless, Russell uses it to try to get the British to repeal the Orders in Council. Russell writes a letter to Castlereagh enclosing the Decree.

May 19 1812: Coleridge's Lectures

On May 19, 1812, Samuel Taylor Coleridge commenced his lecture series that he had to delay because of the assassination of Spencer Perceval. These lectures were not as successful as his first series  that had ended at the beginning of the year. Wordsworth was to be proven correct when the day before he had written to Mary: "I do not think they will bring him much profit. He has a world of bitter enemies, and is deplorably unpopular. Besides people of rank are very shabby for the most part, and will never pay down their five shillings when they can avoid it." Wordsworth had attended the lecture to support his friend though his comments betray a lingering estrangement. Wordsworth did praise the lectures but he thought that that Coleridge had misjudged his audience. He thought that the subject matter was "far too metaphysical and abstract. Nor was was it all generally well liked, on this account, it was not understood" Wordsworth adding "The audience was chiefly ladies; and the gentlemen there understood as little as They."[1] Richard Holmes, Coleridge's very fine biographer, explains[2]: 

May 18 1812: Bellingham's Execution Byron Mocked

On May 18, 1812, at about 3 o’clock in the morning,  Lord Byron,  accompanied by two of his school friends, is making his way to a house that he has rented and where he hopes to see the execution of John Bellingham. Byron has come early because he anticipates that there will be a large riotous crowd to watch the spectacle. Executions of famous criminals drew crowds of great size; dangerous crowds where people could be crushed or trampled. The authorities,  for Bellingham's execution, have placed large placards at all the avenues of the Old Bailey with the following warning: "Beware of entering the crowd! Remember thirty poor creatures pressed to death by the crowd when Haggerty and Holloway were executed.”

William Wordsworth thought the execution was going to take place at the Palace Yard so he made arrangements to be a spectator on a stand on top of Westminster Abbey. When he found out that the execution was to take place in front of Newgate Prison, he decides not to go since he had not made arrangements to watch in safety. On May 18 he would write to his wife Mary that "I did not think myself justified for the sake of curiosity of running any risk." 

Byron had made arrangements to watch the execution in safety. The house he rented had a window opposite Newgate Prison. That is why at about 3 o'clock in morning, he and his two friends, "Long" Bailly and John Maddocks, are walking the streets of London toward Newgate Prison. They  find the house is not open. Maddocks goes to see if could find someone to open it, while Byron and Bailey, arm and arm, walk down the street. Byron spots a woman on the street lying on the steps of a door. He stops to offer her a few shillings; but, instead of accepting the money, she pushes away his hand, and laughing shrilly starts to mimic the lameness of his walk. Bryon says nothing, but Bailly will recall “I could feel his arm trembling within mine, as we left her.”

Three hours later John Bellingham awakes at six o'clock in his cell at Newgate Prison. He dresses himself and reads from the Prayer Book. Dr Ford, a minister, joins him and takes him to another room, where he receives the sacrament and his chains are removed. He is told that the sheriffs are ready to take him to which he answers 'I am perfectly ready also.'

The executioner then fasten his wrists together, with Bellingham turning up the sleeves of his coat, and clasping his hands together, presenting them to the man who holds the ropes, saying “So.”  Bellingham asks that his sleeves be pulled down to cover the ropes. His arms are secured behind him. Bellingham moves his hand upwards, as if to see if he can reach his neck, and asks whether they think his arms are sufficiently fastened. He says that he might struggle, and that he wishes to be so secured as to prevent any inconvenience. He is told that the ropes are quite secure, but Bellingham requests that they might be tightened a little more, which is done. As Bellingham leaves the room to the place of execution, he bends his head and appears to wipe away a tear.

Bellingham is then led by Dr. Ford, the Lord Mayor, sheriffs, under-sheriffs and officers, through the press yard and time prison to the place before the Debtors' door at Newgate to the scaffold. He calmly climbs the scaffold. Dr. Ford asks if he has anything to say. Bellingham begins to talk of Russia and his family, when Dr. Ford stops him and reminds him that now is not the time and that he has to pay attention to the "eternity into which he is entering." The executioner begins to put the cap over Bellingham’s face, but he objects, and asks to if it is possible not to have it. He is told no. As the cap and ropes are being put over his head, some  of the crowd shout: “God bless you!' 'God save you!”  "Farewell poor man, you owe satisfaction to the offended laws of your country, but God bless you! you have rendered an important service to your country, you have taught ministers that they should do justice, and grant audience when it is asked of them."

The cap in place, the executioner leaves him. The crowd grows silent but one could still hear their echoing murmur, like the beating of waves on the ocean, mingling with the whispers of  Dr. Ford at prayer. The executioner descends the scaffold, and prepares to strike away the supporters to the trap door. The clock strikes eight, and while it is striking the seventh time, Bellingham praying, the main supporters are struck away, the trap door opens, and Bellingham drops down as far as his knees, his body in full view, and dies. 

Byron returns to Melbourne House for breakfast. He is now strangely calm telling Caroline "I have seen him suffer and he made no confession."

May 17 1812: Bellingham, Byron and the Execution

On May 17, 1812, John Bellingham is waiting to be executed on the following day. The execution is to take place one week after he assassinated Spencer Perceval and less than three days since his trial and conviction. Preparations are being made throughout London for the event. Executions drew crowds to relish in a grand spectacle literally of life and death. Wordsworth is trying to arrange to see the execution from a stand in Westminster Abbey. Lord Byron has rented a room with a window view opposite the erected gallows of Newgate Prison. He plans to see the execution with two of his friends. On May 17, Byron is at Melbourne House to see Lady Caroline Lamb, who will describe him as being "pale and exceedingly agitated." Byron will speak of Bellingham, leaving her early that night, saying that "he must see him die".    

Meanwhile, Bellingham has been on a diet of bread and water since his sentence was passed. Any instruments that can be used to commit suicide have been removed from his prison cell. Bellingham is not allowed to shave which causes him some concern as he fears that he may not appear as a gentleman on the scaffold on execution day. May 17 is a Sunday and Bellingham is visited by some ministers. Throughout, Bellingham retains an unshakable conviction of the justness of what he has done. He writes a note that day blaming his lawyers for his conviction: "I lost my suit solely through the improper conduct of my attorney and counsel, Mr Alley, in not bringing my witnesses forward (of whom there were more an twenty): in consequence, the judge took advantage of the circumstance, and I went on the defence without having brought forward a single friend -- otherwise I must inevitably have been acquitted." He ignores the fact that his lawyers had only been retained the evening before his trial.

Bellingham is comforted by the fact that a public subscription has raised a large amount of money to support his wife and his children. In death he will be able to provide a greater degree of comfort for them than he had been able to do while alive. The night before his death he will also write to his wife: "With the purest intentions, it has always been my misfortune to be thwarted, misrepresented and ill-used in life; but however, we feel a happy prospect of compensation in a speedy translation to life eternal. It's not possible to be more calm or placid than I feel, and nine hours more will waft me to those happy shores where bliss is without alloy."
The fact that the subscription was so successful shows how many supported or at least sympathized with Bellingham. There was an element of nobility that some ascribed to him as some sort of modern Brutus who had the courage to assassinate a tyrant. Even those who disapproved were fascinated by what he had done. On the one hand, Bellingham showed every sign of being insane in terms of his obsessiveness with had happened to him and his plan to have his wrongs remedied by murdering the Prime Minister. On the other hand, the methodical calculation and his calm disposition throughout seems to have been admired. Even Southey who was very upset by the murder of Perceval wrote on May 11: "As for Bellingham, I do not class him with those wretches who applauded him: the man had that in him which would have been greatness if he had not been insane. It was an insanity, however, which ought not to have exempted him from punishment." The editorial of the Bell’s Weekly Messenger grapples with the same mixture of insanity and calculation in its editorial of May 17 arguing:  
The ultimate result, therefore, might possibly have the character of madness, in the same manner as the act of a drunken man might be immediately imputed to his intoxication, but as the madness and the intoxication were the works of a preceding will, they are therefore fully imputable, and objects of human punishment.

May 16 1812: Southey to Bedford

On May 16 1812, Robert Southey again writes to his friend Grosvenor Charles Bedford about the assassination of  Spencer Perceval. He is still weeping. The letter demonstrates the centrality of the idea of the established church in Southey's thinking. For him, it is the necessary institution for society. He firmly believes that concessions to Catholics will weaken the established church and lead to societal chaos. Southey's support for the established church is not based on religious belief. He candidly admits that he cannot subscribe to the articles of faith of the church. Coleridge, a far more sophisticated thinker, will develop the same preoccupations and fears of Southey, in a more nuanced way, with his idea of the clerisy. Coleridge envisioned the  clerisy as a national class or order that will maintain "culture" and learning of the nation. The idea has its origins in a conception of the established church. Both writers are grappling with ways to organize society to allow for order, security but also for the advance of "civilization" which is being mutated into a concept of "culture".  As professional men of letters, they both have vested interests in such a "culture." In fairness, they are also more finely attuned -- sometimes overly so -- to the ideological fissures created abroad by the French Revolution.  In addition, Southey is also preoccupied by the "convulsions" caused by the "inevitable tendency of the manufacturing system" which many fear is giving birth to a world of Luddite extremism and violence not much removed from the chaos and violence that Southey associates with the French Revolution. Southey's letter is reproduced below. 

May 16 1812: Brock to Prevost

On May 16 1812, Major General Isaac Brock writes to Sir George Prevost, in Lower Canada.  Brock is answering Prevost's letter of April 30 1812, where Prevost urged Brock to use every effort to ensure that there were no confrontations with American forces that could provoke a war. Brock writes in response: "It will be my study to guard against every event that can give them any just cause of complaint." Brock`s letter is reproduced below.

May 15 1812: Speedy Trial of John Bellingham

On May 15, 1812, less than four days after the the Right Honourable Spencer Perceval had been assassinated,  John Bellingham was tried and convicted. 

The judges took their seats at ten o'clock in court room at the Old Bailey. The trial was presided over by Sir James Mansfield, the Lord Chief Justice of the Common Pleas. On the bench were also the Lord Mayor; the Duke of Clarence, the Marquis Wellesley and almost all the aldermen of the City of London. The court room was packed with Members of the House of Commons being forced to mingle with the curious members of the public of all classes. The Times reported that there were a "great number of ladies present, all led by the most intense curiosity to behold the assassin, and to hear what he might urge in defence or in palliation of his atrocious act".

Bellingham appeared next. He bowed respectfully to the Court. He was dressed in a light brown surtout coat and striped yellow waistcoat which on May 12  he asked his landlady to deliver to him in jail.  He had no powder on his hair.  

Peter Alley, one of Bellingham's lawyers, spoke and made an application to adjourn the trial. He advised the Court that he needed more time to answer the case against this client. He had only been given the case the day before and that he had only met Bellingham the day of  trial. He wanted time to consult medical experts in Liverpool to prove that Bellingham was insane. He held two affidavits in hid hand as evidence.  

The Court interrupted him as the accused had not pleaded. The indictment was then read, and the usual question, 'Guilty, or not guilty?' was put to Bellingham, who did not answer. Rather, he addressed the court: 
'My lords - Before I can plead to this indictment, I must state, in justice to myself, that by hurrying on my trial I am placed in a most remarkable situation. It so happens that my prosecutors are actually the witnesses against me. All the documents on which alone I could rest my defence have been taken from me and are now in possession of the Crown. It is only two days since I was told to prepare for my defence, and when I asked for my papers, I was told they could not be given up. It is therefore, my lords, rendered utterly impossible for me to go into my justification, and under the circumstances in which I find myself, a trial is absolutely useless. The papers are to be given to me after the trial, but how can that avail me for my defence? I am, therefore, not ready for my trial.'
The Attorney-General, Sir Vicary Gibbegan, was proceeding to explain to the Court what had been done with the  prisoner's papers. Again, the Justice Mansfield interrupted, saying  that it was necessary for the prisoner to first plead.

'Not guilty,' was Bellingham's plea to both counts of the indictment. 

The Attorney-General  then answered the Court about Bellingham's papers: 
'I will now answer what has fallen from the prisoner. He says that he has been denied access to his papers. It is true that Government, for the purposes of justice, has retained them -- but it is also true that he has been informed that if he asked for them at the time of his trial they should be ready, and any of them, which he might think useful to his defence, should be given to him: and in the meantime, if he considered it necessary, he might have copies of them. This we are ready to verify on oath.'
Court considered and summarily dismissed the request for an adjournment. The jury was selected and charged. The Attorney General then addressed the jury and began to call his witnesses, starting with William Smith.  Bellingham spoke on his own defence but argued that what had happened in Russia was the result of the British Government's failure to assist him.  His lawyers were not allowed to speak on his behalf. Bellingham did add that he was grateful to the Attorney General in not accepting the claims of his own lawyers that he was insane. Bellingham argued: 
Gentlemen, as to the lamentable catastrophe for which I am now on my trial before this court, if I am the man that I am supposed to be, to go and deliberately shoot Mr. Perceval without malice, I should consider myself a monster, and not fit to live in this world or the next. The learned Attorney General has candidly stated to you, that till this fatal time of this catastrophe, which I heartily regret, no man more so, not even one of the family of Mr. Perceval, I had no personal or premeditated malice towards that gentleman; the unfortunate lot had fallen upon him as the leading member of that administration which had repeatedly refused me any reparation for the unparalleled injuries I had sustained in Russia for eight years with the cognizance and sanction of the minister of the country at the court of St. Petersburg.
A refusal of justice was the sole cause of this fatal catastrophe; his Majesty’s ministers have now to reflect upon their conduct for what has happened. . . . Mr. Perceval has unfortunately fallen the victim of my desperate resolution. No man, I am sure, laments the calamitous event more than I do.
Once all the evidence had been led, the  Lord Chief Justice gave his charge to the jury. At one point, the Lord Chief Justice began to cry:
Gentlemen of the jury, you are now to try an indictment which charges the prisoner at the bar with the wilful murder . . . of Mr. Spencer Perceval, . . . who was murdered with a pistol loaded with a bullet; . . . a man so dear, and so revered as that of Mr. Spencer Perceval, I find it difficult to suppress my feelings.
.... was no proof adduced to show that his understanding was so deranged, as not to enable him to know that murder was a crime. On the contrary, the testimony adduced in his defence, has most distinctly proved, from a description of his general demeanour, that he was in every respect a full and competent judge of all his actions.
The jury retired and took fourteen minutes to reach a verdict of guilty. The sentence was passed the same day as follows:
That you be taken from hence to the place from whence you came, and from thence to a place of execution, where you shall be hanged by the neck until you be dead; your body to be dissected and anatomized .
The full report of the trial can be found here and here and here. The latter is from the very good website on the Luddites which can be found here. A few excerpts combing the three reports are reproduced below: 

May 14 1812: Col Baynes to Brock

On May 14 1812, Colonel Baynes, aide to Sir George Prevost, writes to Major-General Brock, in Upper Canada. Baynes is happy to report that the subscription for the Glengary Light infantry has been successful with  400 men signing  up. As a consequence, Prevost has ordered new quotas doubling the number of men to be raised for the militia. Prevost has also authorized the recruitment of Acadians from Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. The men will be offered lands in the Scotch settlements of Upper Canada as an inducement to join. Baynes' letter is reproduced below.
Colonel Baynes to Major-General Brock.

QUEBEC, May 14, 1812.

I have great satisfaction in telling you that I have reported the Glengary light infantry more than complete to the establishment of 400 rank and file, and have received Sir George Prevost's commands to recruit for a higher establishment; indeed, the quotas the officers have engaged to fulfil will nearly amount to double that number; and from the very great success that has attended our exertions, I have no doubt of succeeding by the end of this year. Two officers have divided Nova Scotia and New Brunswick for their hunting ground, and are permitted to recruit Acadians; and Lieutenant Ronald M'Donnell, of the Canadians, proceeds in a few days to Pictou and the highland settlements on the coast and gulf: he is an officer that appears to be eminently qualified for that service, and he is sanguine that the proffer of lands in the Scotch settlements of Upper Canada will induce great numbers to enter. I am assured from various channels that the men I have got are generally young, rather too much so, and of a good description, there being very few Yankees amongst them.

May 14 1812: Weeping Southey

On May 14 1812, Robert Southey writes to his friend Grosvenor Charles Bedford. Southey was always excitable but he seems to have become somewhat unhinged with the murder of Spencer Perceval. He begins his letter by writing that he has been weeping. Southey also recounts, based on information from Coleridge, how the murder was applauded among the lower classes. Southey fears that Britain is falling into revolution. The example of the French Revolution is the dominating reference point from the past that he fears will be the British future. Southey's letter is reproduced below

May 12 1812: Wordsworth

On May 13, 1812, Wordsworth engages in a heated discussion with William Stanley Roscoe. Wordsworth was shocked by the murder of Spencer Perceval and the reaction of some who tried to justify it. Wordsworth blamed the radical oppositionists in Parliament, such as Sir Francis Burdett, for stirring up passions. Henry Crabb Robinson writes in his diary:
May 13. — Wordsworth accompanied me to Charles Aikin's. Mrs. Barbauld, the Aikins, Miss Jane Porter, Montgomery the poet, Roscoe,T son of the Liverpool Roscoe, &c. The most agreeable circumstance of the evening was the homage involuntarily paid to the poet. Everybody was anxious to get near him. One lady was ludicrously fidgetty till she was within hearing. A political dispute rather disturbed us for a time. Political Wordsworth, speaking of the late assassination, and of Sir Francis Burdett's speech ten days ago, said that probably the murderer heard that speech, and that this, operating on his mind in its diseased and inflamed state, might be the determining motive to his act. This was taken up as a reflection on Sir Francis Burdett, and resented warmly by young Roscoe, who maintained that the speech was a constitutional one, and asked what the starving were to do? "Not murder people," said Wordsworth, " unless they mean to eat their hearts."