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 15

about a month before the event the Commander of the Cheshire Yeomanry received orders to hold his regiment in readiness at a moment's notice to aid the civil power.

"Meanwhile the magistrates complained to the Home Secretary that as the law stood they were "unable to interfere with the meetings of the Reformers, notwithstanding their decided conviction of their mischief and danger," and that "upon this most important point they were unarmed These are the very words which Mr. L. C. Hobhouse took as his text in the able letter to Lord Castlereagh mentioned above.


We come, lastly, to another phase of the agitation, which was strongly developed not long before Peterloo, and - being undoubtedly misunderstood - gave the authorities some anxiety: the Reformers began to hold meetings on the moors and elsewhere for drill in squads. Bamford has left a very graphic account of these "drilling parties," as he calls them. He emphasises the fact that there were "no armed meetings," "no concealed meetings," or anything of the sort. His explanation of the object of the drills - and there seems to be no reason why the explanation should not be accepted - is as follows: "lt was deemed expedient that the meeting on the 16th of August should be as morally effective as possible, and that it should exhibit a spectacle such as had never before been witnessed in England. We had frequently been taunted in the public press with our ragged, dirty appearance at these assemblages; with the confusion of our proceedings, and the moblike crowds in which our numbers were mustered; and we determined that for once, - at least, these reflections should not be deserved - that we would disarm the bitterness of our political opponents by a display of cleanliness, sobriety, and decorum such as we never before had exhibited ... We obtained by these drilling parties all we sought or thought of - an expertness and order while moving in bodies."

It is certainly true that this was the effect of the drilling; the order with which the various contingents approached the rendezvous on the fateful day was commended alike by friend and foe; in fact one of the magistrates afterwards stated on oath that it was not until he saw
"the party come on the field in beautiful order that he became


'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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