The Massacre of Peterloo, Manchester, 16th August 1819

The Peterloo Massacre - Manchester 16th August 1819


'NOTES & OBSERVATIONS, Critical & Explanatory, on the Papers Relative to
the Internal State of the Country, Recently Presented to Parliament
to which is appended,
a REPLY to Mr. Francis Philips's
'Exposure of the Calumnies circulated by the Enemies of Social Order ...
PAGE LIST (below) with LINKS

&c. &c.

Pages 1 to 6

New Bailey Court House,
Salford, lst July, 1819.

My Lord,
AS Magistrates of this district we feel ourselves called upon to communicate to your Lordship our impressions upon the present state of affairs within the reach of our observation. We are far from wishing to yield to unnecessary alarm: but when we entertain serious apprehensions, we cannot refrain from making them known to your Lordship.

We feel a difficulty in stating to your Lordship any specific facts upon which legal responsibility will attach to any particular individuals at present, but upon the general view of the subject we cannot have a doubt that some alarming insurrection is in contemplation. (A)

Of the deep distresses of the manufacturing classes of this extensive population, your Lordship is fully apprized; and the disaffected and ill-disposed, lose no opportunity of instilling the worst principles into the unhappy sufferers in these times, attributing their calamities, not to any event which cannot be controuled, but to the general measures of Government and Parliament; and 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.

Although we cannot but applaud the hitherto peaceable demeanour of many of the labouring classes, yet we do not calculate upon their remaining unmoved. Urged on by the harangues of a few desperate demagogues, we anticipate at no distant period a GENERAL RISING; (B) and possessing no power to prevent the meetings which are weekly held, we, as Magistrates, are at a loss how to stem the influence of the dangerous and seditious doctrines which are continually disseminated. To these meetings, and the unbounded liberty of the press, we refer the principal weight of the evil which we apprehend.

We believe, on Monday next, a meeting will be held at Blackburn, and on the following Monday at Manchester, at both of which Sir Charles Wolseley is to preside. As THE LAW Now STANDS, WE CANNOT INTERFERE WITH THESE MEETINGS, notwithstanding our decided conviction of their mischief and danger. We are most anxious to do every thing in our power to preserve the peace of the Country, but upon this most important point we are UNARMED. (c)

We have the honour to be,
Your Lordship's most faithful
and obedient Servants,

Lord Viscount Sidmouth.

A) The magistrates, in the conclusion of this paragraph, most completely lose sight of their premises. No "alarming insurrection" could be in contemplation without "legal responsibility," and that of the highest character, attaching to many individuals. Nor is it possible that the magistrates could be in possession of any evidence, to justify them in assuming the probability of "an alarming lnsurrection," without their being fully able to denounce and to convict those who were engaged in forwarding it.
(B) Why is it that the magistrates, who are compelled to admit and "applaud the hitherto peaceable demeanour" of the people - why is it, that they will fret themselves with fears ol` future disturbance? Without saying any thing in approval of the "harangues" of those whom they stile "desperate demagogues," I am quite incredulous as to their having ever recommended "a general rising ;" but, if it be true they did so, and that the magistrates "anticipate" that such an unhappy event would take place, is not the fact, that no communication upon the subject was made to Parliament, a decisive proof`, that ministers did not credit the information of the country magistrates; Parliament having sat until the 13th of July?
(C) The admission here, is most important: neither the law nor the character of the meetings was changed between the 1st July and the 16th August; and if, at the former period, the magistrates were, as they state, "unarmed," where do they look for - whence do they derive - the legal justification of their proceedings at the latter? This paragraph proves, also, that the intention of holding a meeting at Manchester, was known several days before the order for sharpening the swords was given, even according to the statement of the yeomanry.


Birmingham, July 5, 1819.

My Lord,
I HAVE the honour to inclose, for your Lordship's information, the copy of an advertisement circulated throughout the town of Birmingham, calling for a public meeting on Monday next. Your Lordship will not fail to, observe the day and the hour fixed for this meeting, both of which are well calculated for the collection of a crowd of persons, many of whom will be FAST APPROACHING TO A STATE OF INTOXICATION, and therefore more easily inflamed to acts of violence by the speeches which will no doubt be addressed to them.

I am informed that applications have been made to Sir Charles Wolseley to preside, and to Wooler, Johnson, and others, to attend.

I have the honour to be,
Your Lordship's very obedient Servant,

The Viscount Sidmouth,
&c. &c. &c.

(D) Thus, by these official gentlemen, everything is presumed against the people. They do not suspend their opinions until they have the evidence of facts before them, but calculate on the probability of crime, with the eagerness of wistful anticipation.



On Monday July 12, a meeting of the Inhabitants of Birmingham will take place at three o'clock in the Afternoon, at the New Hall Hill, for the purpose of considering of the best means of obtaining the representation of the people of Birmingham in Parliament, and also the representation of all the unrepresented inhabitants of the empire.

Signed on behalf of the requisitionists
July 3, 1819


AT the General Quarter Sessions of the Peace of our Lord the King, held at Nether Knutsford, in and for the County of Chester; on Tuesday the 13th day of July, in the Year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and nineteen.

The Earl of Stamford and Warrington, His Majesty's Lieutenant.
Sir John Thomas Stanley, Bart.
Sir Henry Mainwaring Mainwaring, Bart.
Trafford Trafford, Esq.
Edwin Corbett, Esq.
Thomas William Tatton, Esq.
John Ford, Esq.
John Glegg, Esq.
Wilbraham Egerton, Esq.
Thomas Bayley Hall, Esq.
Egerton Leigh, Esq.
Edward Venables Townsend, Esq.
Peter Marsland, Esq.
Nathaniel Makey Pattison, Esq.
Ralph Wright, Esq.
Edward Tomkinson, Esq.
John Hoskin Harper, Esq.
The Reverend Charles Prescott, Clerk.
The Reverend John Browne, Clerk.
The Reverend John H. Mallory, Clerk.
The Reverend James Thomas Law, Clerk.

A Letter from Lord Sidmouth, His Majesty's Principal Secretary of State for the Home Department, to the Lord Lieutenant of this County, as to the preservation of the public tranquility, having been laid before this Court;
It is Resolved,
That we, the acting Magistrates for the County of Chester, will, both in our public and private capacities, do our utmost to further the views of His Majesty's Government, in preserving the peace and good order of the Country.

That it appears, that various public meetings have lately been held in this and the neighbouring counties, at which evil disposed and designing persons, taking advantage of the depression of trade and the consequent distress, have wickedly disseminated inflammatory doctrines; and, under the false pretext of Parliamentary Reform, have vilified the constituted authorities, inciting thereby the ignorant and unwary to insurrection and the commission of crimes, which may endanger their personal liberty and lives.

That we therefore conceive it to be our duty, as it is also our deterrnination, to counteract to the utmost of our power all such designs; and we do most earnestly recommend to all the friends of our King and Constitution, as by Law established, to rally round the standard of legal authority, and by the manifestation of their principles, destroy the baneful effects of blasphemous and seditious doctrines, reclaim the deluded, give confidence to the loyal, and maintain inviolate our rights, our liberty, and our laws.

And we further recommend, that all well disposed individuals be invited to declare their willingness to come forward in support of the civil power ; and, if necessary, to form voluntary Associations for the preservation of the public tranquility.

And we further recommend the Magistrates at their several Petty Sessions, in cases of emergency, to appoint such number of the well disposed Inhabitants in their districts to be special Constables, as to them shall seem necessary for the preservation of the peace.

That the Magistrates acting for the hundred of Macclesfield, be requested to obtain all the information in their power as to the proceedings of the disaffected in that district; and that this Court do adjourn to an early day, for the purpose of receiving their reports, and adopting such further measures as circumstances may require.

That it be recommended to the Magistrates in the hundreds of Bucklow and Macclesfield to act on the present occasion as far as possible in concert with the Magistrates of the county of Lancaster.

That these Resolutions be inserted in all the public papers published within this county.
That these resolutions be signed by the Lord Lieutenant on behalf of the meeting.



Transcribed PAGES from 'Notes & Observations ...'




(inc. footnotes)

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'NOTES & OBSERVATIONS, Critical & Explanatory, on the Papers Relative to the Internal State of the Country, Recently Presented to Parliament; to which is appended, a REPLY to Mr. Francis Philips's 'Exposure of the Calumnies circulated by the Enemies of Social Order ...'
by a 'Member of the Manchester Committee for Relieving the Sufferers of the 16th August 1819 (Ascribed to John Edward Taylor)
Pub. Dec1919

Transcribed by Sheila Goodyear 2019

LINK to full .pdf document of 'Notes & Observations ...' on the Internet Archive website to read or download.
LINK to .pdf file of 'Exposure of the Calumnies...' on the Internet Archive website to read or download.

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