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 47 to 54

Manchester, August 14th, 1819.

My Lord,
INCLOSED I send your Lordship two depositions which have been taken before the Magistrates this morning, and by which your Lordship will find, that the fact of considerable drilling is carrying on in the neighbouring country; we shall have many more depositions to the same effect to-morrow, I fully expect.
To Lord Viscount Sidmouth,
&c. &c. &c.


Lancashire, to wit.
The information and examination of N .O. taken on oath this 14th day of August, 1819, before the under-signed, two of His Majesty's Justices of the Peace in the said County;

Who saith, That he has been at Bury in the said County, since Monday last; that he has seen persons drilling in marching and facing, but not with arms, every night since Monday last, 'till last night: that one of the party whom this examinant had seen drilling, told this examinant that there were about five hundred persons on the books who drilled, and more had joined, but whose names were not yet put down. The said persons drilled on the high road at Heap Bridge. He heard some persons who had been drilling, say, 'they were ready for a fight on Monday next if the soldiers were to stop them; that the soldiers who were there, meaning at Bury, would not be a breakfast for them; that a drill master of the name of Johnson was fetched from near Oldham; that somewhere about three o'clock yesterday, this exarninant was in the King's Head public house, and two soldiers of the 31st regiment were there; that many men were in the house, some of whom asked the soldiers to drink, and particularly one man, whom this examinant should know again, asked the soldiers to drink, who had got up to leave the house; but the soldiers refused, saying, they should be late at parade; that the said man then shut the door after the soldiers who had gone out, and said, damn them, I'd as soon give them a drop of their blood to drink as that, meaning a gill of ale which he held in his hand. This examinant heard some of the persons who had drilled talking of the four men who were taken at Cockey Moor, and say, that none of their men should be taken by Nadin's men, for they would keep a picket out every night.

That the common toasts with the lower class in the public houses, are, the Cap of Liberty, and may the Wings of Liberty never lose a Feather.
Taken before us,
R. Fletcher
Trafford Trafford


Lancashire to wit.
Be it remembered, That on the Fourteenth Day of August, in the Year of our Lord One Thousand Eight Hundred and Nineteen, came before me, James Norris, Esquire, one of His Majesty's Justices of the Peace for the County of Lancashire, O.P. of Manchester, in the said County of Lancaster, Gentleman, and made Oath, that on Sunday morning the Eighth Day of August instant, he went as an inside passenger by the Coach to Rochdale, in the said County; that when the said coach arrived at a place called the Slattocks, and which is about two miles beyond Middleton, and about three from Rochdale, it stopt, and he the said O.P. saw upon a bank, close to the road, about thirty men and several women; that having heard much conversation about the people in that neighbourhood having drilled in large bodies, and more particularly on the Sunday morning, it struck this deponent, that the said men might have been so employed that morning, the more particularly as it was then only a little past seven o'clock; and that he communicated his suspicions to the gentleman who sat opposite to this deponent, and whom this deponent afterwards understood to be a Mr. ___ and who stated to this deponent that it was very probable they had been so employed; that very shortly this deponent heard the word march, and immediately afterwards several companies of unarmed men, and amounting, in the whole, from two to four hundred, marched along the turnpike road, on which the coach then was, towards Middleton, and this deponent's impression then was, and now is, that the men so marching had come some way on the said turnpike road, and had been drilling; and that the men standing on the bank were collected from curiosity, and an expectation, or knowledge, that the said men would march that way; that this deponent thinks the said men who so marched were divided into six companies or divisions; that each company or division marched four a-breast, except at the heads of companies, where there was a fifth person with a small stick or cane in his hand, who appeared to be the leader or captain, and gave orders; that the men marched with great exactness and precision, and appeared to this deponent, who was some years a member of a volunteer corps, to have "been regularly drilled, and acquired a good state of discipline; that the men in one company having got out of step in a trifling degree, one of the leaders of it fell out of the rank, and cried out, "left, right," and restored the company immediately into a good state of marching; that whilst the men were so marching past the coach, one of the leaders looking into the coach, from which they were not distant more than two yards, and apparently addressing the passengers in the coach, used this expression, "We will damn'd soon make these borough-mongering vagrants tremble;" that this expression was used when about half the men had marched past the coach, and when this deponent had recovered from the surprize into which the march of the men past the coach had thrown this deponent, and which surprize at the outset had prevented this deponent from counting the numbers of the men who so marched; that the last Company came past the coach in double quick time, and were ordered by their leader to mark time, in consequence of the quickness of their march getting them too near the company before them; that shortly before the said last company so came past the coach in double quick time, this deponent heard a bugle not far off, and which he has no doubt belonged to the party, though this deponent did not see it; that in the course of the same forenoon this deponent returned from Rochdale by the mail, which stopped at the said place called the Slattocks, and this deponent inquired from the persons about, who the people were he had seen in the morning; that the said people from whom he inquired were unwilling to say any thing; but at length reluctantly said, they supposed they were a part of the men who had been drilling near the Tandle Hills, and that they were the Oldham division.
O. P.
Sworn before me, J. Norris.


Jonathan Andrew, of Manchester, maketh oath, and saith, that on Thursday evening the 12th instant, betwixt the hours of eight and nine o'clock, he saw exercising on the new road to Rochdale, from 20 to 25 men armed with staves, from 4 to 5 feet long, and apparently about 3 to 3 and a half inches round, similar to a brush stail, but chiefly of green wood. He heard the words of command given (by a person separated from the rest,) march, halt, &c.
Sworn before me this 13th day of
August, 1819, W. R. Hay.


Knowsley, August 15, 1819.

My Lord, '
I conceive it to be my duty to inform your Lordship, that in consequence of a representation made to me by the Select Committee of Magistrates assembled at Manchester, (and perfectly agreeing with them in the expediency of the measure,) I issued a precept for a special meeting of Magistrates, to consider of the propriety of a general or partial execution of the Watch and Ward Act, and I have now the honour to inclose to your Lordship a letter from the Clerk of the Peace, by which you will perceive how far the same has been carried into execution. I trust this, and the other measures adopted by the magistracy, will put a stop to the danger to be apprehended from the evil designs of such as wish to disturb the peace of the country; but l am sorry to add, there is still too much cause to believe, that in some parts of this county, there are assemblies of men, who meet in considerable numbers, with the object of training and exercising themselves for illegal and seditious purposes. Of all this, however, your Lordship is I am sure, already informed with more accuracy, and in greater detail, than I am able to give you.

It is with great regret that I am obliged to add, that the raising the armed association (notwithstanding the zealous endeavours of the Boroughreeve and Committee at Manchester, who made the offer to Government) proceeds so slow, that I have not yet been able to obtain a list of gentlemen to be submitted to the Prince Regent as oflicers for the same. I am, however, informed by the Boroughreeve, that the list of field officers and captains for one battalion has been completed, but they consider it premature to send it to me, as the number of men already enrolled is far below the number which should constitute one battalion.I think it right to apprise your Lordship of this circumstance, but without the most distant idea of imputing blame, or want of zeal, to any person concerned in the transaction. The arms, &c. for nearly the whole corps have been forwarded to my order from Chester Castle some time since, and, with the concurrence of Major General Byrng, I have directed them to be lodged at the Cavalry Barracks, under the military custody of the ofiicer commanding there, until the corps becomes sufficiently effective to have them transferred to their hands. (L)

I have the honour to be,
My Lord,
Your Lordship's obedient humble servant,

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

(L) That part of this letter of Lord Derby which refers to the proposed "armed association," recommended by the self-constituted Committee, "to strengthen the civil power," proves, that the opinion of the great body of the respectable Inhabitants of the Town, did not go along with the Magistrates and their friends in their professed apprehensions of danger; for, at the expiration of a month, after resolutions in favour of the formation of an "armed association" had been adopted, his Lordship states, that "the number of men already enrolled, is far below the number which should constitute one battalion." Indeed, after labouring three months without success, the plan was entirely given up, and the arms and accoutrements (the Newspapers have stated) were re-lodged in Chester Castle. It is absolutely incredible that the Inhabitants would hesitated to associate for the protection of their property, if they had considered it exposed to danger.


Preston, 13th August, 1819.

My Lord,
I HAVE the honour to inform your Lordship, that I attended yesterday at Manchester, to put in execution the Watch and Ward Act, when the whole of Salford Hundred, and the Warrington Division of West Derby Hundred, were placed under the provisions of the Act.

I have the honour to be,
Your Lordship's most obedient servant,


Manchester, August 15, 1819.
11 o'clock, PM

My Lord,
THE Magistrates, the military, and civil authorities of Manchester have been occupied nearly the whole of this day in concerting the necessary arrangements for the preservation of the peace tomorrow, and for the safety of the town, in case riot should ensue. We have been much occupied in taking depositions from various parts of the country; and although the Magistrates, as at present advised, do not think of preventing the meeting, yet all the accounts tend to shew, that the worst possible spirit pervades the country; and that considerable numbers have been drilling to-day, at distances of four, six, and ten miles from Manchester; and that considerable numbers are expected to attend the meeting. I hope the peace may be preserved; but under all circumstances, it is scarcely possibte to expect it , and in short, in this respect, we are in a state of painful uncertainty.

I have the honour to be,
My Lord,
Your Lordship's faithful and humble servant,

To Lord Viscount Sidrnouth,
&c. &c. &c.

(M) I particularly call the attention of the public to this short letter from Mr. Norris, dated 11 o'clock, on the night before the meeting. At that time, Mr. Norris states, the magistrates did not think of preventing the meeting; from which I conclude they considered it to be legal. Before their subsequent interference can be justified, it must therefore be shewn, either that some circumstances, not then. anticipated, had occurred, to change the character of the meeting, or it will follow, that the magistrates, with a full knowledge that it would he illegal, determined not to prevent it; a supposition which their notice with respect to the proposed meeting on the 9th, renders inadmissible. The offensive characteristics which have been attributed to the meeting of the 16th, are the Caps of Liberty, the banners, the military array, the music, and the numbers. The conduct of the magistrates on the16th could not be influenced by the Caps of Liberty, or the banners, for Mr. Norris knew of, and alluded to those, in his letter of the 5th of August; in some of the affidavits also, the preparation of colours for the meeting is noticed, as being in progress; nor by the military array, "for numerous affidavits had already declared, that, to march to the Manchester meeting was the object of the training." It could not be the music that gave offence, for that too was anticipated; nor could it be the numbers, as there unquestionably is no law that fixes any limit to the numbers which shall compose a public meeting. If the people meet peaceably, and for an allowable purpose, the law makes no objection on the score of numbers. Mr. Shepherd, indeed, says in the House of Commons, on the authority of Lord Holt, that numbers, in terrorem populi, constitute a riot; but it must be the great body of the people who are terrified, not a few members of Pitt Clubs and Orange Societies; - otherwise our annual races, where there is always a greater concourse of people than were assembled on the 16th of August, are liable to be dispersed on the same pretence of riot, whenever a few individuals may chance to swear they are afraid. Having therefore shewn, that none of what had been represented as the objectionable characteristics of the meeting of the 16th, could be the means of altering that determination of not preventing the meeting, in which, up to the preceding midnight, the magistrates were agreed, since those characteristics were all well known of and anticipated before, it is for the magistrates, or their apologists, to explain the ground of their subsequent proceedings. I am not to be answered by any quibble, as to the difference between "preventing" the meeting, and "dispersing" it. If that be attempted, I shall ask, whether the same trick was practised upon Lord Sidmouth? Indeed, if the previous knowledge of the fact, that the meeting would assemble, with music, and flags, and Caps of Liberty, and numbers marching from all parts of the surrounding neighbourhood, afforded no ground for preventing it, it necessarily follows, that the actual exhibition at the meeting, of these insignia, accompanied by the circumstances enumerated, afforded no reason for dispersing it.


THE Boroughreeve and Constables of Manchester and Salford most earnestly recommend the peaceful and well disposed of those towns, as much as possible, to remain in their own houses during the 'WHOLE OF THIS DAY, Monday, August 16th instant; and to keep their children and servants within doors.

Edward Clayton, Boroughreeve of Manchester.
John Moore, jun., Constable
Jonathan Andrew, Constable
John Greenwood, Boroughreeve of Salford.
James Cooke, Constable
Josiah Collier, Constable

Manchester: Printed by Wheeler and Son.


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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