In January 1792 a group of four men, including Thomas Hardy, a London shoemaker, began meeting to discuss the possibility of forming a group of working men in order to campaign for the vote. On the 25th January 1792 they held a public meeting on parliamentary reform. Only eight people attended but the men decided to form a group called the London Corresponding Society. Early members included John Thelwall, John Horne Tooke, Joseph Gerrald, Olaudah Equiano and Maurice Margarot.
As well as campaigning for the vote, the strategy was to create links with other reforming groups in Britain. Thomas Hardy was appointed as treasurer and secretary of the organisation. The society passed a series of resolutions and after being printed on handbills, they were distributed to the public. These resolutions also included statements attacking the government's foreign policy. A petition was started and by May 1793, 6,000 members of the public had signed saying they supported the resolutions of the London Corresponding Society.
By the summer of 1793 the London Corresponding Society had made contact with parliamentary reform groups in Manchester, Sheffield, Nottingham, Derby, Stockport and Tewksbury. They also had meetings with the Society for Constitutional Information, an organisation formed by Major John Cartwright. At the end of 1793 Thomas Muir and the supporters of parliamentary reform in Scotland began to organise a convention in Edinburgh. The Society sent two delegates Joseph Gerrald and Maurice Maragot, but the men and other leaders of the convention were arrested and tried for sedition. Several of the men, including Gerrald and Maragot, were sentenced to fourteen years transportation.
The reformers were determined not to be beaten and Thomas Hardy, John Horne Tooke and John Thelwall began to organise another convention. When the authorities heard what was happening, Hardy and the other two men were arrested and committed to the Tower of London and charged with high treason. The men's trial began at the Old Bailey on 28th October, 1794. The prosecution, led by Lord Eldon, argued that the leaders of the London Corresponding Society were guilty of treason as they organised meetings where people were encouraged to disobey King and Parliament. However, the prosecution was unable to provide any evidence that Hardy and his co-defendants had attempted to do this and the jury returned a verdict of "Not Guilty".
The government continued to persecute supporters of parliamentary reform. Habeas Corpus was suspended in 1794, enabling the government to detain prisoners without trial. In 1797 Samuel Romilly successfully defended John Binns, against a charge of seditious words.
The Seditious Meetings Act made the organisation of parliamentary reform gatherings extremely difficult. Finally, in 1799, the government persuaded Parliament to pass a Corresponding Societies Act. It was now illegal for the London Corresponding Society to meet and the organisation came to an end.