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 44

quashed appeal - the subsequent proceedings in the Court of King's Bench, when sentence was pronounced, Hunt afterwards serving two and a half years in Ilminster jail, Bamford, Johnson, and Healey one year at Lincoln - the test trial at Lancaster three years after Peterloo, when Thomas Redford sued the Manchester Yeomanry for "unlawful cutting and wounding," and the jury found for the defendants in six minutes - and finally, the periodical discussion of all these things in the press - into the details of these matters we do not enter here.

St. Peter's fields have long ago become part of the great city, the chief centre of its entertainments, strangely enough, and the site of the Battle for Free Trade; the Friends' meeting-house has been rebuilt, and the oak trees have disappeared; the site of Cooper's cottage and garden is now covered by "one of the finest hotels in Europe"; the exigencies of modern traffic have swept away the dark pile of St. Peter's church, whose grimy clock was once such a familiar object; but as we stand in front of the Central Station to-day, the Halls of Pleasure disappear, and the picture that haunts us is that of a stricken field, the victims lying in heaps - "some still groaning, others with staring eyes, gasping for breath, others will never breathe more; all silent, save for those low sounds, and the occasional snorting and pawing of steeds." It all seems so unfair. They were They were inarticulate. They had come, with all the hilarity of a general holiday, to ask that they might have a Voice. They were met by the bungling of incompetent authorities, behind whom loomed the great, strong, repressive Govemment, saying: "l am God, and King, and Law," backed by a House of Commons that was hopelessly unrepresentative.

Yet their blood, as has been well said, proved in the end to be the seed of some of our most cherished liberties. "The Manchester massacre," wrote Harriet Martineau, speaking, of course, as a Radical herself, "was at once felt on all hands to have made an epoch in the history of the contest with Radicalism". Parliamentary Representation came, and Local Government based on the Suffrage soon followed, the antiquated manorial Court giving place eventually to the Manchester Corporation. In his famous pamphlet entitled "Incorporate your Borough," issued to the people of Manchester less than twenty years later, in 1838, Richard Cobden wrote: "Peterloo could never have happened if the Borough had been incorporated. Why? Because


'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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