The Massacre of Peterloo, Manchester, 16th August 1819

The Peterloo Massacre - Manchester 16th August 1819

'The Story of Peterloo' by F.A. Bruton, Pub. 1919

Page 10

fresh disturbances, which continued, more or less, up to the date of Peterloo the chief causes being unemployment, the scarcity of food, and the terrible social and economic conditions under which the operatives and their families lived. We many form some faint conception of these conditions by reading such a Report as that issued by Dr. Kay (afterwards Sir James Kay Shuttleworth) years after the date of Peterloo. The details he gives as to the sanitary conditions in Manchester are such that we could hardly quote them here. Between 1750 and 1820, it must be remembered, the population of Manchester increased sevenfold; yet the town was still under the old manorial system, with no local government whatever; and the great mass of its inhabitants - it is this that makes the situation so cruel - were, in a public sense, inarticulate, for Manchester had no parliamentary representative. "The overworked population," writes Dr. Kay, "had scarcely any means of education, except Sunday schools, dame schools, and adventure schools. They were ignorant, harassed with toil, inflamed with drink, and often goaded with want, owing to sudden depressions of trade." In a memorial sent up to Lord Sidmouth, the Home Secretary, only a few weeks before the catastrophe of Peterloo, the magistrates sitting at the New Bailey Courthouse in Salford make pointed reference to " the deep distresses of the manufacturing classes of this extensive population," and go so far as to say: "when the people are oppressed with hunger we do not wonder at their giving ear to any doctrines which they are told will redress their grievances.

ln the years 1815 and 1816 the masses were already feeling their way towards a solution of their difficulties. The writings of Cobbett were eagerly read; Hampden clubs were formed in the distressed districts; and Universal Suffrage, Annual Parliaments, and a Reform of the Currency were held up as the sovereign cure for the ills of the workers. Hence the agitators earned for themselves the name of "Reformers". ln addition to Cobbett, the workers looked up to five or six public men as their leaders and champions, and one of these became the hero of the Peterloo massacre. They were, Sir Francis Burdett, Lord Cochrane, Major Cartwright, Sir Charles Wolseley, Mr. Henry Hunt, and - at one part of his career - Lord Brougham.

ln attempting to understand the situation, it is advisable to keep , two facts in mind: first, that there was, without doubt, secret plotting


'The Story of Peterloo' by F.A. Bruton, Pub. 1919
Written for the Centenary, August 16th, 1919'.by F.A. Bruton, M.A.(of the Manchester Grammar School.
Download .pdf copy from the Internet Archive HERE

Transcribed here by Sheila Goodyear 2019

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