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 73 to 79

[As this is a long letter, with a great number of footnotes, and to make things more easy to read, there are links backwards and forwards between the letter and the relevant footnotes]

Manchester Police Office,
September 16, 1819

My Lord,
WE have avoided troubling your Lordship with frequent communications, knowing that our highly esteemed friend Mr. Norris was in constant correspondence with the Home Department.

We deem it however our duty to state some of the difficulties with which we have had to contend, and which, as they are rapidly increasing, will press heavily on the gentlemen who are shortly to succeed us in oflice.

Before Mr. Hunt made his appearance here, his followers had given us much trouble ; they have now acquired so powerful an ascendency in the neighbourhood, that he is able at any time to agitate this town most seriously; and by a very short notice to move an overwhelming population in any direction, and for almost any purpose.
Your Lordship has, we believe, already been made acquainted with the decease of Campbell, one of our supernumeraries, who was literally stoned to death, publicly, in the forenoon of the I7 ult. MERELY because he was connected with this office. (b)

Another special constable now lies in the infirmary dangerously wounded under similar circumstances. More than a week before the meeting of the 16th ult. two of our beadles, who were protecting a man whilst posting the Prince Regent's Proclamation, were shamefully abused as well as the man, and held prisoners, at the New Cross, by a mob of more than five hundred persons.

The Boroughreeve and ourselves, with our deputy and four assistants, having proceeded to the spot, were also violently attacked and beaten away with stones, previously taken up from the pavement for the purpose.

For some time previously to the 16th ult. Well dressed persons were sure to be insulted if they shewed themselves in the neighbourhood of New Cross, Newton-lane, Ancoats, &c. &c. and were it not for the certainty, that the military could soon be at hand, no decent person would now venture near those places. (c)

Since Mr. Hunt's arrival here, the respectable householders have been kept in almost constant alarm, and the noise and uproar which uniformly attends his movements have produced the most dangerous consequences to many families.

Amongst persons unconnected with business, a general disposition prevails to leave the neighbourhood; and of those who are able to retire from trade, a considerable proportion seems determined to do so.

The difficulty in collecting rents from those of the lower orders who are able to pay, increases daily, and serious depression in the value of property is consequently taking place. (d)

We have also much reason to fear that numbers, whom we had looked upon as neutral with respect to Mr. Hunt, are becoming partisans; and we ought not to disguise the fact, that a degree of intimidation very generally prevails, which deprives us of the usually efficient support and cordial assistance of some of our principal inhabitants. (e)

The Special Constables, as a body, were all that we could wish, and have given us abundant proofs of their loyalty and spirit; but of those who are shopkeepers or publicans, many have so much lost their custom, that they must either cease acting or be ruined.

The sacrifice of wealth and comforts which the Magistrates have willingly made, can only be duly appreciated by ourselves, and we are bound to declare our belief, that nothing but the purest patriotism could have influenced or supported them. (f)

An anxious desire to serve the public faithfully, has completely exhausted our worthy colleagile, the Boroughreeve, and his life is still in danger; and, indeed, we are ourselves so much worn out, that we should shortly become unequal to our duty, were it not for the prospect of our year being soon ended.

If we are asked, what has occasioned this state of society here? we must reply, the licentiousness of the press chiefly, aided by the inflammatory speeches of itinerant demagogues, and the establishment of schools for instructing adults, as well as children, to revile and despise the civil and RELIGIOUS institutions of the country. (g)
Whatever constitutional health or strength our successors in office may fortunately possess, or however zealous they may be in the discharge of their duty, we are firmly persuaded, my Lord, things cannot long go on in this way, (h) and we hope this conviction will be our apology for writing so much at length on this occasion.

We have the honour to be,
My Lord,
Your Lordship's
Most obedient humble servants,

To the Right Hon.
Lord Viscount Sidmouth,
&c. &c. &c.

(b) In the Morning Chronicle, of the 18th September, will be found a report of the Inquest held on this person. This report is much less minute and formal than might have been expected, because the Coroner (perhaps, with a view to prevent the discovery of the deception here attempted to be practised on Lord Sidmouth, and ultimately on the public,) refused to permit the reporter to take notes. Five or six witnesses proved that Campbell had been firing pistols loaded with ball, hours before he received the ill-treatment which caused his death. Three of the Jury stated.that he was in the habit of firing pistols. It is astonishing that the Constables of Manchester should have lent themselves to the propagation of such a mischievous misrepresentation; particularly as the date of this letter (the day after the Inquest) precludes the possibility of a supposition, that they could have forgotten the nature of the evidence. Return to letter

(c) Though candour obliges me to admit that there is some foundation for these complaints, yet, it is beyond doubt that in many cases, where persons have been insulted, their own conduct has provoked it. With respect to the Beadles, no treatment that they can have received, exhibits more brutality than they have often displayed. This is not meant to justify any abuse they may have received, but it naturally enough accounts for it.Return to letter

(d) This assertion would have been more likely to obtain credit, if the Constables had acquainted us upon what authority they make it. How can they form an off-hand judgement, as to who amongst the " ower orders" are able to pay their rents? Besides, as poverty is daily increasing amongst the labourers, the difficulty of obtaining payment of rents will necessarily be enhanced.Return to letter

(e) The whole of this paragraph proves, as was the fact, notwithstanding the complexion which the Constables attempt to give to their statement, that there was strong and general disapprobation of their public conduct. Those to whom they allude as becoming "partizans" of Mr. Hunt, were the enemies of military execution and magisterial oppression.Return to letter

(f) I am at a loss to conceive what sacrifices of "wealth," our Magistrates can have made. When such a claim to public approbation is put forwards on their behalf, it ceases to be invidious to remark with respect to some of them, that, if they have sacrificed "wealth," it was none of their own. They may have supposed themselves to be influenced by the "purest patriotism," but it was once said to persons whose conduct was much less questionable; "ye know not what spirit ye are of"Return to letter

(g) I invite these gentlemen to point out one school, either in Manchester or elsewhere, answering to the description they have drawn. An "accurate investigation of the "union schools," in this and the surrounding towns, was undertaken by an intimate friend of mine, at the request of a most respectable member of parliament; the result of which enables me positively to aver, that there is not a particle of truth in the statement here made. In all the schools so designated, the Bible is the principal book used, religious services are regularly performed, and politics are sedulously and invariably avoided. They have however, it must be confessed, the demerit of also avoiding those anti-British and Tory principles, so diligently inculcated at some other Sunday schools.Return to letter

(h) If Lord Sidmouth can attach any definite idea to the phrase, "things cannot long go on in this way," I must say he has a clearer comprehension than myself. I hope however the Constables, if they refer to the state of things since the 16th August, will prove to be true prophets. It is high time that the dominion of law should be re-established, and that those who have broken it, whether Magistrates,Yeomen, Constables, or reformers, should be brought to punishment. At an earlier period of their office, a little more moderation would have saved both the Country and the Constables a world of trouble and uneasiness. Return to letter


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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