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 26

The magistrates had at length come to a decision of some kind. If a few of the inhabitants of the town would put their names to a statement to the effect that they considered that the town was endangered by the meeting, that would justify them in arresting the leaders. Accordingly, Richard Owen and some thirty others, including Mr. Phillips, signed the necessary affidavit, and a warrant in accordance with it was drawn up, stating that "Richard Owen had made oath that Henry Hunt and others had arrived in a car at the area near St. Peter's church, that an immense mob had assembled, and that he considered the town in danger". Referring to this strange mode of procedure afterwards Sir Francis Burdett said: "If arrests are to follow opinions which may find a place in other men`s heads, there is an end to Liberty". However weak their action may appear to us today, it was on this ground that Nadin, the Deputy constable, was instructed by the magistrates to go and interrupt a great peaceful meeting by arresting the leaders. Nadin assured them that even with the hundreds of special constables at his disposal he could not carry out the arrests without the assistance of the military. Hunt had only been speaking for a minute or two, therefore, when riders were dispatched for the troops. It is difficult to understand why a single message was not sent to Lieut. Colonel L'Estrange, who was in command of the whole force. By a strange fatality the magistrates, at the same instant that they sent for Colonel L`Estrange, despatched a horseman to Pickford's yard for the troop of Manchester Yeomanry concealed there, which they had chosen to retain under their own control. The message, which .was produced at the Trial, was as follows: "To the Commanding Officer, Portland Street: Sir: As Chairman of the Select Committee of Magistrates, l request you to proceed immediately to Number 6, Mount Street, where the Magistrates are assembled. They conceive the civil power wholly inadequate to preserve the peace. l have the honour, etc., William Hulton." At the moment that this letter was sent, Mr. Hunt was, in an orderly manner, addressing a perfectly peaceful meeting of some 60,000 men, women, and children.

Judging from what followed, Colonel L`Estrange seems to have made a skilful disposition of the forces at his disposal, closing in the infantry on the square from several points, while he himself led the Hussars and the Cheshire Yeomanry by a rather circuitous route, viz., along Deansgate as far as Fleet Street (a street which then ran parallel


'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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