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Gordon and other Riots.

November 24, 2018

 

There were various crosscurrents in this period, a time of change. At the end of the Seven Years’ War in 1763, some French Colonies were ceded to Britain and in the peace treaty assurances were granted that the inhabitants, mainly Catholic, would be able to practice their religion openly as before. This led to the anomaly that Catholics in Britain could not do something that people in parts of the Empire could. Gradually clandestine contacts were being established between the Church and the political authorities, desired by both sides, and sensitive discussions began which led to proposals being brought to Parliament to grant us some freedoms in a Catholic Relief Act. It was passed for England in 1778 but in what may seem a delayed reaction, it was a dominant cause of the Gordon Riots of June 1780 in London which lasted five days and saw extensive damage done to church property. It had to be put down by troops who killed 285 rioters, wounded 200, and arrested 450, of whom about thirty were executed. Similar but less bloody happenings occurred in Scotland. Bishop Hay returned to Edinburgh in early 1779 from a round of negotiations in London to find himself standing on the edge of a crowd watching his new house and chapel being set on fire by protestors. Two priests had to escape over the rooftops. When he enquired what was going on, a woman in the crowd informed him: “We have set the popish bishop’s house on fire and we are looking for him to throw him on the flames!”

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