In The Master of Ballantrae, in the section “The Master's Wanderings”, Stevenson writes:

and I dare say these plaudits had their effect on Master Teach in the cabin, as we have seen of late days how shouting in the streets may trouble even the minds of legislators.

The book was written between 1887 and 1889, but this section was supposedly narrated by the character the Chevalier de Burke, at some point well after the events in the book (so probably in the late 18th century).

What real-life event, if any, is Stevenson referring to in this sentence?

  • Shouting in the streets in the late 18th C? Could be the French or American revolution?
    – verbose
    Commented May 5, 2023 at 3:26

1 Answer 1


In all probability; this is a reference to The Gordon Riots of 1780. The protest led to widespread rioting and looting, including attacks on Newgate Prison and the Bank of England and was the most destructive in the history of London.

From Wikipedia

On 2 June 1780 a huge crowd, estimated at 40,000 to 60,000 strong, assembled and marched on the Houses of Parliament. Many carried flags and banners proclaiming "No Popery", and most wore blue cockades which had become the symbol of their movement. As they marched, their numbers swelled. They attempted to force their way into the House of Commons, but without success. Gordon, petition in hand, and wearing in his hat the blue cockade of the Protestant Association, entered the Commons and presented the petition. Outside, the situation quickly got out of hand and a riot erupted. Members of the House of Lords were attacked as they arrived, and a number of carriages were vandalised and destroyed.

  • Some evidence in favor of this answer. The main narrative was written by Mackellar "some twenty years" after 1764, and the Chevalier de Burke's memoirs must predate this. So it couldn't be later than 1785 or so. Accepted!
    – Peter Shor
    Commented May 30, 2023 at 12:59

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