Black History Month: Cato Street – The Attempted Socialist Revolution Led by William Davidson (1820) 

“It is an ancient custom to resist tyranny… And our history goes on further to say, that when another of their Majesties the Kings of England tried to infringe upon those rights, the people armed, and told him that if he did not give them the privileges of Englishmen, they would compel him by the point of the sword… Would you not rather govern a country of spirited men, than cowards? I can die but once in this world, and the only regret left is, that I have a large family of small children, and when I think of that, it unmans me.” William Davidson – Speech Made at his Trial (1820)

Many people in the UK remain completely unaware of the ‘Black’ contribution to British culture in all its spheres of endeavour and manifestation. ‘Willian Davidson’ (1781-1820) was a ‘Black’ man publicly murdered by the British State on Monday May 1st, 1820, on special gallows raised outside the walls of Newgate Prison. The British State had gone full-out to turn this event of the execution of four ‘White’ and one ‘Black’ Revolutionary man into a ‘carnival’ atmosphere with the print-media present and government propagandists moving amongst the crowd listening for any signs of sedition whilst giving-out leaflets containing false historical and biographical details concerning the condemned men and the movement they represented. Whilst having the sanctity, dignity and privacy of their bodies violated in the most heinous manner by the British State – government propagandists ensured that they would not be remembered in any positive manner! Ironically, Davidson was the illegitimate son of (‘White’) Robert Sewell (1751 -1828) the Attorney General of Jamaica and a local black woman. This is typical behaviour by White imperialists who used to use the non-White women of the populations they oppressed for their own personal satisfaction and aggrandisement. At the age of 14-years-old, Davidson travelled to Glasgow to study law In Scotland. It is in Scotland that he became frequented with the Revolutionary thinking of Thomas Spence and the radical movement. Although apprenticed to a Liverpool lawyer (and possibly due to issues surrounding ‘racism’), but ran away to sea. Later, he was press-ganged into the Royal Navy.  

After discharge, he returned to Scotland. His father arranged for him to study mathematics in Aberdeen but Davidson abandoned this study and moved to Birmingham. Here, he started a cabinet-making business. He became romantically involved with a daughter of a prosperous (White) merchant. Her father suspected that Davidson was after her £7000 dowry – and had Davidson arrested on a false charge (again yet another example of ‘racism’ in the UK). When Davidson discovered she had married someone else he attempted suicide by taking poison – and his cabinet-making business failed. This in when he moved to London. Here. Married (White) Sarah Lane, a working-class widow with four children. They had two children of their own. Davidson became a Wesleyan Methodist, and taught at the Sunday School. However, he left after he was accused of attempting to seduce a female student (more ‘racism’). However, as he matured, he became a very persuasive orator and was able to organise and influence working-class men and women. These outstanding abilities and attributes led to William Davidson taking-up the Socialist cause and to support an attempted overthrow of the Bourgeoise State! This is how this brave ‘Black’ man came to be standing on the same execution scaffold as the four ‘White’ men – James Ings, Richard Tidd, Arthur Thistlewood, and John Brunt – all of whom were hanged by the neck for one hour until their bodies were taken down and their heads were removed from their necks by a trained (hooded) surgeon! Davidson was the only prisoner out of the five ‘Socialists’ who did not reject religious consolation. It is said that the boys of the exclusive ‘Westminster School’ were given the day-off to go and ‘witness’ these executions – as Cato Street is situated in the Westminster area of London.

The Tyranny and Terrorism of the British State! (1820)

The British defeat of Napolean in 1815 was in reality the stopping of the spread of ‘Socialism’ by the French military forces across Europe, the Americas, North Africa and Asia, etc. In its place was instigated counter-Revolution and the securing bourgeois predatory capitalism, constitutional monarchies and far-flung imperialist ventures premised upon securing profit for the European governments and converts for the Church! Meanwhile, with the collapse of the stabilising force of Napolean’s rule – European societies fell apart as free market economics tore into the fabric of all those institutions designed to slow-down or prevent sudden or damaging change! The working-class men who had fought for the British government in France were now demobilised in their tens of thousands. There was no pensions, medical care or housing for these men, and no jobs for them to come back to. Mass unemployment was rife throughout Britain with wounded and disabled ex-soldiers forced to sit on street-corners begging for food! This is how the capitalist system rewarded the working-class men who risked life and limb for their (bourgeois) causes.  

In 1800, in Scotland, the UK began its experiment with a ‘Polis’ or ‘State-supporting’ law enforcement agency. This would spread throughout the England, Ireland and Wales, but was treated with much suspicion (even by the middle-class). ‘Polis’ is a Greek terming meaning ‘State’ or ‘City’, but also ‘Law’, ‘body-politique’ or the dominant ‘body of citizens’ whose ‘will’ directs society, etc. This has come down to us within modern English as ‘Police’, with the ‘Police’ being founded by the middle-class to ‘protect’ the Bourgeois State and ensure its survival. Therefore, a little reported function of this type of ‘law enforcement’ agency is that is actively supports and protects the ‘Bourgeois Revolution’ and works to unmask, oppose, confront and negate any ‘threat’ to the bourgeois control of society. This is why the bourgeois ‘Police’ acts as a barrier between the bourgeoisie who employ and empower the police officers – and the working-class who are interpreted as ‘opposing’ bourgeois hegemony.  

Following Britain’s ‘victory’ over the French at Waterloo in 1815, living and employment conditions for the working-class in the UK had deteriorated rapidly. The UK Tory government – being thoroughly ‘bourgeois’ in both construct and intent – had no intention of alleviating the abject poverty of the workers, but instead believed that a certain amount of suffering should be ‘normal’ to keep the working population under control. This is the background for the mass unionisation of the British workforce at this time, and the outbreak of direct ‘peaceful’ protest. One such protest (in St Peter’s Field in Manchester) attracted thousands upon thousands of working-class men, women and children who collectively ‘marched’ hundreds of miles to hear the great left-wing agitators of the day speak about reform and social justice! The bourgeoisie in Manchester responded by ordering the local ‘Yeomen’ Cavalry to ‘charge’ the unarmed-crowd and disperse the peaceful gathering! This brutal response became known as the ‘Peterloo’ Massacre! 

These socio-economic conditions led to the forming of a working-class conspiracy designed to overthrow (and execute as ‘enemies of the people’) the entire British (Tory) government led by Lord Liverpool. The conspirators planned to assassinate the cabinet whilst it was engaged in the usual bourgeois habit of ‘dining’ to excess whilst the ordinary people died of starvation! These Revolutionaries would then seize key buildings, overthrow the government and establish a ‘Committee of Public Safety’ to oversee a Socialist Revolution. The Headquarters of this new ‘Workers’ Government was to have been established Mansion House. The bourgeois authorities have carried-out their own ‘purge’ of the details of this ‘multicultural’ workers’ uprising in the UK as it shook the Establishment to its very foundations! It was prevalent not only in London but is believed to have been supported throughout the vast working-class networks of the Midlands and North UK! The true extent is hard to gauge due to the ‘cover-up’ of its popularity that followed the arrest, trial and brutal execution of its leaders. 

The Bow Street Runners was one of the first ‘private’ police forces in the UK. One of its operatives – Richard Smithers – performed his task admirably of protecting the interests of the ruling bourgeoisie and infiltrated the top echelons of the working-class conspiracy. For his efforts he was run-through by a sword wielded the Revolutionary leader – Arthur Thistlewood! This was only after Smithers had managed to call reinforcements from the Coldstream Guards Regiment of the British Army (usually tasked with guarding Buckingham Palace and the ruling monarch). This battle happened in an upper-room of a house in Cato Street, situated in Westminster, London – hence the name. Many of the Revolutionary leaders were inspired by the Socialist thinking of Thomas Spence – who demanded the abolition of private property, ‘equality’ between men and women (in all areas of society), universal suffrage, and ‘rights’ for children (so that they did not have to go to work at five-years-old, and face the continuous physical, psychological, emotional and sexual abuse that was the ‘norm’ in the bourgeois society of the day! The abolition of the aristocracy and landlords; all land should be publicly owned, the forming of a Welfare State and the sharing of ‘rent’ among the community members, etc.  

Thirteen of the main conspirators were charged with treason, and following a ‘show-trial’ by the Bourgeois State – five were sentenced to ‘Transportation’ to Australia – whilst five others were sentenced to be ‘Hanged’ and then ‘beheaded’ so as to set an example to the working-class of what will happen if any decide to rebel against the bourgeois control of society. This is a clear use of ‘terrorism’ by the bourgeoisie in an attempt to keep it corrupt control of society! Arthur Thistlewood and James Ings were two of the main ringleaders and as their executions were held in public outside Newgate Gaol – they put on a good and brave show – nonchalantly sucking on oranges as they were brought to the gallows with the other three condemned (including William Davidson)! Out of the five – James Brunt James Ings refused to ‘die’ quickly and so the executioners had to resort to ‘pulling their legs’ to speed-up the process! The next stage in this bizarre and macabre demonstration of bourgeois power was the spectacle of a ‘hooded’ surgeon on the scaffold tasked with ‘surgically’ removing the heads of all five now ‘dead’ men with a scalpel! This individual then held up each head and announced the name of its own declaring ‘This is the Head of a Traitor!’ Before throwing the head into a pile of nearby sawdust! This is what the bourgeois does to the working-class when it dares to seize control of the means of production and change society for the better! 

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