Scared stiff by the prospect of a nationwide insurrection that would put their own necks on the block, the British Government reacted savagely against any sign of working-class insubordination or disaffection.
Ever mindful of what had happened to their own kind in France during the worst excesses of the French Revolution, they flooded the manufacturing regions with troops and snoopers.
Those Government agents reported on any hint of trouble - and if they failed to find it, they weren't averse to inventing scare stories to feed back to the Home Office to justify their own existence. And the soldiery could be ruthless in stamping it out.
It was a recipe for confrontation, and confrontation there was in plenty during the first half of the nineteenth century, from the bloody massacre of Peterloo in Manchester in 1819 to what almost turned into a Chartist insurrection twenty years later.
Midnight meetings on the moors. Men - and women - armed with pitchforks and staves, drilling in secret. Arms on open sale among the cabbages and potatoes in the cotton-town markets.
Pitched battles in village streets. Riots and tumult in the cities. There was never a dull moment in 19th-century Britain.