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 90 to 96


My Lord,
I AM just returned from the meeting, with Sir Francis Wood, Mr. Scott, and Mr. John Maude, amounting to about 2000, a great part were spectators.

Mr. Willan in the chair. The speakers were Messrs. Mitchell, Mason, Jackson, and another; all of whom, Sir Francis desires me to inform your Lordship, talked a great deal of nonsense, but not Treason; and the resolutions passed were similar to those at Manchester and other places. Supposing your Lordship would be anxious to hear the result, I send this by a special messenger. All went off peaceably. Nothing was required by the Act passed 31st March 1817, as it expired on the 24th July1818; but I thought it proper to send to your Lordship a copy of the notice left at this office by these deluded people, who, providentially, are not aware of that circumstance.

I have the honour to remain,
Your Lordship's most humble servant,

Monday evening, 9 o'clock


Edinburgh, September 15, 1819.

My Lord,
THE proceedings of the reformers at Manchester have been imitated at Paisley. Though allowed, without molestation, to meet and to talk sedition, they afterwards proceeded to violence, and continued their operations during the following day, although it was Sunday. Riots have also taken place in Glasgow. I have thought it right to communicate to your Lordship the whole information on the subject, of which I am possessed, and this you will find inclosed.

On the perusal of these documents, I think your Lordship will agree with me in opinion, that the Magistrates have acted with great prudence and moderation, and it now only remains for them to act with vigour if these proceedings are continued. - In haste,

I have the honour to be
Your faithful servant,

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


Paisley, Tuesday, 14th Sept. 11 o'clock.

My Lord,
ON my return here yesterday, I found the town in great ferment. In the course of Sunday evening, the windows of a number of houses in all quarters of the town had been broken, particularly those of the clergy. The same thing was renewed on Monday, but with more system and deliberation. The plan chiefly adopted was to disperse on the appearance of constables, and to lurk in closes till an opportunity was found of sallying forth and throwing stones. As the cavalry could not pursue the rioters down the closes, We sent for infantry from Glasgow to guard the principal stations, and the cavalry dispersed any crowds which collected at the ends of streets; but with instructions only to strike with the flat of the sabre. Military posts were stationed during the night at the chief outlets of streets, and preserved tranquility. The charges of the cavalry were executed with great moderation; and not till after printed notices that the Riot Act had been read were fixed on potes, and carried through the crowd. (n) It is satisfactory that no person has been killed; nor, as far as I have heard, any one severely hurt. But if the scenes of yesterday be renewed to-day, I fear the moderation which has hitherto been observed cannot be continued.

Proposals were made to the Magistrates, by the ringleaders of the mob, offering to restore tranquility, provided they gave up the flags, and liberated the prisoners, which I mention as indicative of the spirit by which the rioters are actuated.'

Paisley, 5 o'clock.
Every thing is quiet up to this hour, at least apparently so; but the streets are still more crowded than usual. I have been engaged chiefly this forenoon in taking the declarations of those we have apprehended. Our prisoners are very numerous, and our gaol here was nearly full before the riots. The Greenock gaol has received five, but will not hold more: and I beg leave to request, that the proper authority be immediately obtained by your Lordship, authorising the transmission of prisoners to Glasgow gaol, under the present emergency, and requiring the Magistrates of Glasgow to receive and detain them.

I am, my Lord,
Your obedient and humble servant,

(n) It is remarkable, that in these documents there is no account whatever of the commencement of the Riots at Paisley, on the 11th September. Is it because the Magistrates there were so obviously the aggressors, that the narrative is suppressed? I wish to ask those who have dared to assert, that all means were taken to inform the crowd on the 16th of August, that the Riot Act had been read, whether "printed notices" of that fact, "were fixed on poles and carried through the crowd." This is so obvious an expedient, that its not having been done, cannot be attributed to oversight.


Glasgow, 14th September, 1819.

My dear Lord,
FOR a very brief account of the proceedings here last night, I refer your Lordship to our Proclamation of this day, of which I send a copy by this night's post. The assemblage took place rather unexpectedly. After lamps and windows had been broken we read the Riot Act; and then authorized the dragoons to clear the streets with their sabres, having previously been assailed with vollies of stones from a house at present rebuilding in an adjoining street. The soldiers, as usual, behaved with great moderation. About a hundred prisoners were made; but we discharged upwards of fifty of them before two o'clock, A.M.; and I fear we shall only be able to procure evidence against a few of those we have still in custody, amounting to about thirty. This check has not been sufficient. They are rather elated, it seems, than otherwise, by the success of their diversion in favour of Paisley; and, if we may rely upon the accounts we have received from different quarters, we shall have the same scene again to-night, for which we have made the necessary preparations.

I am, my dear Lord,
Respectfully and faithfully yours,

The Lord Advocate of Scotland.


Wentworth, 25th September, 1819.
My Lord,
I must apologize to your Lordship for an apparent tardiness in forwarding the report made to me by the Mayor of Leeds, respecting the occurrences of Monday last, within his jurisdiction; but when it reached this place I was absent.

I have now the honour of transmitting a copy of his letter. I am confident your Lordship will learn with the greatest satisfaction, that it passed of without the slightest interruption of the public peace: notwithstanding the occasion had drawn together, in Leeds, such an immense assemblage of people, as had never before been seen in Leeds, who marched in solemn procession to Hunslet Moor; the inflammatory speeches of the orators had not attraction to retain them together; they dropped off by degrees, and at the conclusion of the business, not more than had been usually seen at ordinary meetings continued to attend.

I am no less confident that your Lordship will applaud the judicious conduct pursued by the Mayor, and likewise the precautionary arrangements which he had made, in case of necessity.

I have the honour to be,
My Lord,
Your Lordship's most obedient,
&c. &c. &c.

Viscount Sidmouth,
&c. &c.


Leeds, 20th Sept. 1819.

My Lord,
IT may be satisfactory to your Lordship, to receive from me some account, though short and imperfect, of this day's meeting on Hunslet Moor.

About eleven o'clock there was an evident movement in the streets, and numerous arrivals in small parties of people from the country; these continued increasing very much till about one o'clock, when the large detachments from the adjoining townships, and also a very numerous one from Dewsbury, headed by Willan, having arrived, the procession moved on to Hunslet Moor, where it arrived about three o'clock, accompanied by a band of music, and a great variety of flags, with various mottos; the particulars of which I am not yet acquainted with.

A man of the name of Chapman took the chair; some violent speeches were delivered: a number of resolutions past, such I understand as we have witnessed in Lancashire, and a collection made on the spot, under the pretence of applying the produce to enable Hunt to sustain the prosecutions in process against him.

The crowd which first appeared on Hunslet Moor, must have infinitely surpassed any thing of the kind which was ever before known in this place; but, being composed of the idle and curious, as well as the mischievous, the former not finding attractions for them, they began, together with the women and children, early to retire; and before the business of the meeting was dispatched, the numbers were reduced so low, as at the last meeting, not exceeding 4 or 5,000; although I cannot doubt, there must have been at one period, perhaps about four 0'clock, little short of 20,000 souls present; - the whote affair has terminated peaceably.

The only measures of precaution I adopted, with the approbation of my brother Magistrates, were these. I ordered the regular constables of the town, under their chief, to assemble at the Court House; as also the watch and patrole, under their captain, at five o'clock, where I attended, with the Recorder, and a few other Magistrates, until a little after eight, by which time the whole affair was over, and all the parties appeared to have quietly dispersed.

With regard to the military, I desired the commandant of the squadron of dragoons to give strict orders to all his men to keep close in their quarters, holding themselves and their horses in perfect readiness, in a moment's notice; and as my object was to avoid display, I did not give out any orders till the assemblage had quitted the town.

After leaving the Court House, I had an engagement with the Committee at the \Vorkhouse, which has detained me so late, that I fear my letter will scarcely be in time for the post.

l have the honour to be,
My Lord,
Your Lordship's most obedient
And most humble servant,

To Earl Fitzwilliam,
&c. &c. &c.


Halifax, October 5, 1819.

I AM glad to say there was no further disturbance here yesterday, after the meeting had dispersed, except that three or four of the alehouses were full of persons drinking late in the evening: whereas they had been ordered to close them at eight o'clock; and the constables had great difficulty in clearing them, which could only be done by force; the people shewing the worst possible spirit. The heavy rain fell most fortunately, as it drove home those who came from the country; otherwise I have little doubt the constables would have been overpowered.
Every report l receive justifies me in declaring, that more than fifty thousand persons were assembled, and that most of them had something on which they relied more than their sticks, some of which were actually shouldered, being rather clubs than sticks.
There could not be more than a few thousands on the Moor from the town itself; crowds came in every direction, and this place seems to have been well selected, being destitute of defence.

I have the honour to be,
Your most obedient humble servant,

To H. Hobhouse, Esq.
&c. &c.


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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