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 105 to 111

Manchester, October 21, 1819

My Lord,
FROM every quarter the universal information and opinion is, that the people are in a great measure armed, and are continually, and as quickly as possible, and as extensively arming.

It is strongly surmised that pikes have been, and are, sent from Birmingham in boxes, and I have put this matter in a train of investigation.

I fear, also, my Lord, it is but too true that many hundreds of small-priced pistols have been sold in this town within a very short period, and that the lower classes are purchasing them in great members. (P)

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

Lord Viscount Sidmouth,
&c. &c. &c.

(P) Mr. Norris surely can feel no surprise at the facts he enumerates in this letter. Up to this period English men have lived unarmed, (notwithstanding their unquestionable constitutional right to carry arms for self-defence) because they were confident that their lives and liberty were under the protection of the law. But when one class of the population is armed avowedly in opposition to another, - above all, when a part of that armed class have at the point of the sword dispersed a meeting peaceably, and which, at least, supposed itself legally assembled, maiming, cutting, and trampling upon hundreds of the individuals, who composed it; and legal redress has been sought for in vain; that the people should think it necessary to provide themselves with the means of defence, cannot be surprising, however much it may be to be deplored. And let it never be forgotten, that we have no authentic proofs of the providing of arms by the people, until after the 16th of August.


Lancashire to wit }
The Examination of T.U. taken upon Oath before me, the Reverend Thomas Dunham Whitaker, Clerk, Doctor of Laws, one of His Majesty's Justices of the Peace in and for the said county, this eleventh day of October, 1819.

This afternoon about four o'clock, I went into the smithy of Ralph Miller, in Mellor, in the said county, to inquire after my son-in-law, who has run away from his master, who is a blacksmith. I found Ralph Miller and a young man at work at the forge; there were in the smithy about five or six other men, who appeared to be weavers; they were sitting, and seemed to be watching the smith's work. I inquired from Ralph Miller, whether he had seen any person answering the description of my son-in law, whom I described? he said, he had not; one of the weavers said to me, he (meaning my son-in-law) is making pikes like these; at the same time this person took up an unfinished pike from the ground under the bellows, and shewed it to me; (I had before stated that my son-in-Iaw's master was a blacksmith.) Ralph Miller turned his head towards the man who had taken up the pikes, and smiled. I then inquired of Ralph Miller, if he could make me heels to my shoes? he said he could not, he was too busy. One of the weavers said, he (Ralph Miller) was too busy making pikes; another of the weavers asked me, if there were any pikes in our neighbourhood? I said I had not seen any, but I had heard that there were a good many coming to the Bolton meeting next Wednesday from Haslingden; one of the weavers answered, we know that. One of the weavers then asked me, if they would come with their pikes? I said, I had heard so; another of the weavers said, "and we will too." One of the weavers then took up another pike, which was nearly finished; I inquired the price of it; one of the weavers said it was a shilling; a young man dressed like a weaver, who was using the large hammer for the young smith, said it was fourteen pence. I asked the young man who was dressed like a weaver, to sell it to me; but he said, I could not have one then, as they had none finished. I was in the smithy about an hour and a half, during which I had a good deal of conversation with the weavers and the two smiths, in the course of which one of the weavers said, there was no way for them but rising altogether. One of the weavers asked me, if I thought there would be any thing to do at Bolton, at the reform meeting next Wednesday? I said I could not tell, but that people were afraid there would be. Another of the weavers said, there would be bloody work; another said, they would not be, as they were at Manchester, unarmed, that they had a right to go to the meeting armed. The old man, Ralph Miller, was present during the whole of this conversation; he appeared to be rather deaf, and was busy at work during the greater part of the time, but he must have heard the whole, or a part of the conversation.
Taken before me, T.D. Whitaker.


Lancashire to wit}
Examinations of Witnesses taken upon oath to before me, the Reverend Thomas Dunham Whitaker, Clerk, Doctor of Laws, one of His Majesty's Justices of the peace in and for the said county, this twelfth day of October, 1819.
U.V. in the county of Lancaster, deposes as follows :

This forenoon, about half-past ten o'clock, in consequence of a request from *** one of the constables of Blackburn, I went into Mellor, which is about four miles from Blackburn, in company with V.X. to purchase a pike from Ralph Miller, of Mellor aforesaid, blacksmith. In passing Ralph Miller's smithy, we saw a number of persons standing there, and, not knowing how they were disposed, we went forward to a public-house in Mellor, known by the sign of the Millstone, and called for two glasses of ale. I then sent V.X. to the smithy, to request Ralph Miller to come down to me, and to tell him that a person wanted to speak with him. In about a quarter-of-an-hour or twenty minutes, V.X. and Miller came into the public-house together, and sat down in the room in which I was; no other person was in the room. I told Miller I did not like to call at the smithy, as we saw some men about; Miller said, you need not have minded that, for they are come about pikes. After Miller had been seated a few minutes, V.X. informed me, that he had mentioned the business to Miller. I then produced to Miller a small pistol, and asked him, if he could put me a screw in which was wanting? Miller took the pistol into his hand, and examined it, and asked me what a pair of pistols such as that might cost? I told him, perhaps a guinea. I then asked him if he had any of the other articles? (by which I meant the pikes). He said he had some, but they were not ground up yet. I then asked him, how soon he could settle us up two? he said, about two hours; I then asked him the length of them? Miller then took up a tobacco-pipe, and shewed me the length, which appeared to be about fourteen inches. I then asked him the form which they were in? he said, he thought they were straight, and very sharp at the point, and well steeled at the small end, and made with a shank to fit into the staff, and that in that shank there was a hole to put a nail through to make it fast. I then asked him, if there were not pikes made with a hook? he said, he had made one, and the hook screwed in near the lower end, and the hook was flat and sharp, but they were not well liked, as the cavalry horses now had chains in the bridles, to prevent them from being cut, and the pike he had made in the form which he was describing, he had disposed of to a person in Blackburn, who put out pieces in Mellor for some manufacturer in Preston, and he believed that he had sent it to London, it was such a handsome one; that he had given him two shillings and ten pence for it. I then asked Miller what purpose they were to be appropriated to? he said, they were to charge against the cavalry. He said, he had made some hundreds of pikes, and a great many had gone into Harwood, principally to Harwood and Rishton, and all that he had by him made at present were eight, and he thought he should make no more, as he was afraid of being apprehended by the Justices' orders, but he did not see where they could have any hold of him ; I answered, I did not know whether they had or not, but I desired him to take another glass of ale, and get these ground up for us, as we could wish to be off. In consequence of that, Miller went away; I waited near two hours at the public-house, during which I sent V.X, twice to get Miller to make haste with the pikes. At the end of the two hours I went up to the smithy : I saw two lads turning a grindstone at the back of the smithy, and two men holding on two pikes, to polish or sharpen them. V.X. brought one of the pikes into the smithy, and gave it to me into my hand. I asked him if it was finished? the old man said, no, not yet; I gave it to him into his hand; he just rubbed up the edges with a file, and said it wanted whetting upon a stone; I told him never to mind that, we could do that when we wanted to use it. V.X. then went out and fetched the other pike, which he delivered to Miller, who rubbed up the edge of the pike with a file, and then went out of the smithy for a sheet of paper, which he wrapped round each pike separately, and delivered one to me, and the other to V.X. I paid him fourteen pence a-piece for them, and two pence for two hoops. I inquired of Ralph Miller, if it was likely that many persons would go out of that neighbourhood to the Bolton meeting? he said he thought a great many would go off that side. We then came away. The pikes now produced are those which I so purchased from Miller.
U. V.Taken before me, T.D. Whitaker.


V.X. being sworn at the same time, deposeth as follows; I came from Burnley this morning, with T.U. and went with him into Mellor. We called at the Millstone. T.U. sent me up to Ralph Miller's to get him to come down to the public-house. I met Ralph Miller between the smithy and his own house; I asked him to come down; he said, What is your business? I told him that another gentleman at the public-house wanted to speak to him about some pikes; I told him there was a meeting at Bolton, and we meant to go. Ralph Miller then took me into his smithy, and shewed me some pikes; I do not know how many there were; they were under the bellows in the smithy, covered with ashes. I told Miller that the gentleman at the public-house had a pistol which he wanted settling; Miller then went with me to the public-house. He sat about ten minutes in company with T.U. and myself, T.U. produced a pistol to Miller, and asked him if he could put him a screw in it? Miller looked at it a considerable bit, and asked T.U. what would be the value of a pair? to which T.U. said, about a guinea. Then T.U. asked Miller if he had any pikes? Miller said, he had some by him, but they were not finished; T.U. asked him, how soon he could finish two? Miller answered, perhaps in two hours. Miller said, he had made a pike with a hook for a man who put out goods, and it had been, sent to London, for any thing he knew, but that the other pikes were more liked, because the cavalry now had chains to their bridles. T.U. asked Miller what was meant to be done with these pikes? Miller answered, that they were to charge the cavalry with. There was other conversation between Miller and T.U. Miller went away to finish two pikes for us. When he had been gone away a few minutes, T.U. sent me up to the smithy to ask if the pikes were ready. As soon as I went into the smithy, the old man, Ralph Miller, ordered a young man, who appeared to be a smith, to take two pikes, and grind them directly; the young man took two pikes from under the bellows. I and another man went with the young smith to the grindstone behind the smithy; the young blacksmith and another man held each one pike upon the stone, and two men turned the stone ; one of the bystanders asked me who my companion was? I said I did not know. They asked me, if he was a speaker? I told them, I did not know. They then asked me, where we were going to? I said, I did not know whether Bolton or not. They told me, that a person who had been speaking in Yorkshire was missing, and they wished to know if this was he. They then wished me to go to a white house, where money was gathered for the support of speakers; they shewed me the house, which was about three hundred yards off, and told me they paid one penny a week there; I told them I durst not take any money, without acquainting my master. I then went down to T.U. to ask him if I must take any money? he said I must not, and I went back and told them so. I then went into Miller's smithy, and remained there till T.U. came up. T.U. went into the smithy, and I followed him. I then fetched a pike from the young smith, and took it into the smith y, and gave it to T.U. who asked Ralph Miller if it was finished? Miller said it was not, and he took it and filed it, and said it wanted whetting. T.U. said it would do, he could whet it up when he wanted it. I then went and fetched the other; Ralph Miller filed it up. T. U. asked him the price, which Ralph Miller said was fourteen-pence a-piece, and two-pence for the hoops; we paid him that price for them. The old man wrapped up the pikes in paper, and gave one to me, and another to T.U. and we then came away. The two pikes now produced are those which we so received from Ralph Miller.
V. X.
Taken before me, T. D. Whitaker.


Transcribed PAGES from 'Notes & Observations ...'




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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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