Saturday, 27 October 2007

Bank Run

The following is taken from George Jacob Holyoake's autobiography entitled, 'Sixty Years of an Agitator's life' and gives some background to the 'Go for Gold' story. Holyoake's account throws doubt on whether John Brooks was the original printer. It is surprising in either case that he added his name to the reverse but this shows his willingness to be associated in these politic circles.

Two years later the Duke of Wellington was driven from power a second time. One morning when the citizens of London appeared in the streets they found placards on the walls in large letters bearing two lines only—"Stop the Duke—Go for Gold."

How came these placards there? What printer had the temerity to print them? What stickers could be trusted with the dangerous task of setting them up, who might have been seized and imprisoned until they disclosed their employers, if indeed they escaped on those terms? Who devised that expedient of disturbing the Government of the duke? In those days of spies and militaryism the scheme was dangerous alike in conception and execution. The duke never knew that the blow came from one of the deputation whom he admonished "to keep their heads upon their shoulders." It was Francis Place who devised the scheme—which certainly he carried out.

He knew a printer in a court in Holborn who could be trusted. One Saturday afternoon when the men had left he went in to the master, examined his stock of paper, and finding it sufficient, he went out and brought in beer and food sufficient for two days, flour, a billstickers' flat can and a brush. They then locked the doors, and he and Place worked all night and the greater part of the Sunday, Place and he pulling alternately at the hand press. They made paste, and a bag which would hold the placards concealed under a loose overcoat, and on midnight of Sunday, Place went out and put up the placards himself, sticking them up in the most convenient places he came to. At certain points, he passed his friend, the printer, who had a supply of placards, which he put quickly into Place's bag, who then went on with his bill-sticking until daylight—when they went back and distributed the type. So, when the men returned to work on Monday morning, no one but Place and the printer knew how London had been placarded.

In the excitement in which London was, this suggestive warning produced an immense impression. The public knew not whence the mysterious announcement came, and, knowing nothing, every one imagined everything. No one doubted that the warning came from influential quarters. The Bank of England was besieged, and the duke who would not have retreated before an army—retreated before Place's placards.

Debate has arisen as to whether the words of the placard were "Run for Gold" or "Go for Gold." The evidence is in favour of "Go." The competent testimony of Mr. Collet admits that Place devised the placard. On hearing Joseph Parkes read a copy of a proposed wall-bill, Place stopped him and wrote instead a placard of one line "To stop the Duke—Go for Gold." It was like Place's directness and impatience of verbiage. Mr. Collet saw one of these bills at Saville House, Leicester Square, on Saturday, May 12, 1832, which may have been one Place had procured. Mr. J. G. Harney relates that he saw a placard at St. Hiliers which bore the words, "J. Brooks, Printer, Oxford Street, London," probably a reproduction of Place's placard, as £80 was subscribed to multiply them. Mr. Brooks claimed to have been the originator of the bill. Doubleday, in his "Life of Sir Robert Peel," says, "The placard was the device of four gentlemen who each put down £20 that thousands might be printed of the terrible missives. The effect was hardly to be described. It was electric." Miss Helena Cobbett, the last surviving child of William Cobbett, writes to Mr. Harney that "Her Father in the Register, vol. lxxvi. p. 392, mentioned the placard at the time of its appearance, and that her brother James had added to it a note, saying, 'The placard was suggested by Mr. John Fielden to Mr. T. Attwood, Mr. J. Parkes, and others.'" Mr. Samuel Kydd sends an extract from Alison's "History of Europe," which supplies a name for the placard which explains its efficiency. "Then were seen the infernal placards in the streets of London. ‘To Stop the Duke—Go for Gold!' and with such success was the suggestion adopted, that in three days no less than £1,800,000 was drawn out of the Bank of England in specie" (vol. iv. p. 373). The Duke resigned his first Premiership November 16, 1830, and returned to office May 9, 1832, and resigned on the 18th. The public agitations of which the placard was but a symbol, limited the Duke's second reign to nine days.


Holyoake, George Jacob (1892) Sixty Years of an Agitator's Life. London, T. Fisher Unwin. Chapter XXXI: Six Months' Imprisonment for Answering a Question in Debate.

reproduced online by Gerald Massey

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