William Godwin's Diary


The House of Commons debated the trial for sedition, and the sentence to fourteen years' transportation to Australia, of Thomas Muir (1765–1799), founder of the first Society of the Friends of the People in Edinburgh. The judge in the case, the notorious Lord Braxfield (1722–1799), took the view that agitation for reform in such dangerous times was the very definition of sedition. There were grounds for concern as to the extent to which Muir’s trial was fairly conducted and over the draconian nature of the sentence, with some arguing that transportation should be used only as a moderation of a sentence on a capital charge.

See The Times, 11 March 1794 and Albert Goodwin, The friends of liberty: the English democratic movement in the age of the French Revolution (London: Hutchinson, 1979).