Red Clydeside: A history of the labour movement in Glasgow 1910-1932


Warrant for arrest of James Maxton and James MacDougall on charges of sedition, 29 Mar 1916

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On 26 March 1916 a large demonstration to oppose the Munitions Act was held at Glasgow Green. Feelings were already running high in the city as two days previously seven CWC shop stewards had been deported to Edinburgh by government authorities. This was interpreted by the Labour movement in Glasgow as a blatant attempt by the government to smash the CWC and with it workers resistance to the Munitions Act.

The demonstration was, as expected, a fiery affair in which James Maxton, James McDougall and Jack Smith, an anarchist shop steward from Weirs munitions factory, all gave speeches advocating strike action by Glasgow's workers to ensure the non-implementation of the Munitions Act. Four days later on the 29th March 1916 Maxton along with McDougall and Smith were arrested and charged with sedition. All three men were ordered to be held in Duke Street prison in Glasgow without bail until a date for their trial could be fixed.

At the subsequent trial of the three men in Edinburgh on 25th April 1916, all three plead guilty. It was suggested at the time that the three men changed their pleas at the last minute because of the heavy sentences passed at the previous trials of Maclean, Gallacher and Muir. In spite of there plea changes Maxton and MacDougall were sentenced to 12 months imprisonment each and Jack Smith was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment. Smith was given an extra six months sentence for being in possession of revolutionary literature when arrested. All of the men served their sentences at Calton prison in Edinburgh where they were joined by other convicted Glasgow socialists and trade unionists like Willie Gallacher, John Muir and for a brief while John Maclean.