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Royal Proclamation for the Suppression of the Gordon Riots

The first Roman Catholic Relief Act of 1778 abolished the persecution of Roman Catholic priests, and gave to all Roman Catholics certain rights of purchasing and inheriting landed property.  A Protestant Association was immediately formed for the repeal of the Act, and, led by Lord George Gordon, conducted agitations resulting in the riots of 1780.  Gordon was tried and acquitted for treason in 1781, but he was later imprisoned for libelling the government and died in Newgate in 1793.

Charles Stanhope, then a relatively new Member of Parliament, gained a reputation as a supporter of Catholic emancipation by opposing repeal. During the Gordon riots, a large crowd tried to force its way into Parliament. Stanhope, it is said, “laboured to pacify the tempest” and convinced at least one group of rioters to return home. Stanhope paid a crucial role in “an incident which looms large in the history of English Catholicism”.