Monday 27 May 2024

Palmerston and the publican: a tale of betrayal

Plans for an armed rising in London during the summer of 1848 were compromised from the start. Infiltrated by police informers and hopelessly ill-prepared, the Chartists and Irish Confederates who planned to seize the capital and spark a revolution never stood the slightest chance of success.

A slim folder of Home Office correspondence now in the National Archives reveals just how a capable and experienced police officer was able to keep tabs on the conspirators by entrapping a Seven Dials publican into betraying his comrades for small financial reward.

The information provided by James P. Nagle appears to have been crucial to the police operation that broke the Orange Tree Conspiracy and saw many of those involved imprisoned or transported half way round the world. But curiously, his name never appeared in the court records, and I have found no other mention of him in later histories.

Based on a letter Nagle sent to Home Secretary Viscount Palmerston appealing for what he saw as his just reward, and reports written by Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Richard Mayne and Superintendent Nicholas Pearce, I now have an account of the duplicitous publican’s part in all of this on the Chartist Ancestors website.

I must admit, however, that even now I am still unsure whether Nagle acted out of avarice or was simply caught in a trap sprung by the wily Superintendent Pearce from which he could find no way out.

Palmerston and the publican: a tale of treachery and betrayal known at the top of government.

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