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 130 to 135

Lancashire to wit }
The Examination of ****, taken upon oath, before Laurence Halstead, Esquire, one of His Majesty's Justices of the Peace in and for the County of Lancaster, the 15th November, 1819.

ON my arrival in Burnley this morning, I found Colonel Hargreaves on horseback, and all the military in readiness. The reformers were coming with their flags, caps of liberty, and bands of music. They had with them large staffs and sticks. I went to the Bull public house, and shortly after the Colonel came with one of the staffs in his hand, which he had taken from one of the reformers. It was the shaft of a pike. The man broke from him, and escaped in the crowd. The Colonel was desirous not to call the military out to action on this circumstance alone, for he said to me, that if the reformers were quiet, the Magistrates would suffer them to meet. I saw the reformers pass by the Sun, orderly and quietly, and I followed them to the place where the hustings were erected; and then my friend and I found all those who had staffs and sticks with them, employed cleaning out the hole at the end, to admit the pike, for they were all of them shafts for pikes; they cleaned out the gravel; they had used the sticks and staffs to walk with, and they were full of dirt and gravel, which they picked out with the shaft end of the pike. They generally had the pikes in the sleeve of the coat, and some had them concealed in their breasts. I saw a great many pikes on the ground. They were not very cautious in concealing them; a many shewed them without fear. The pikemen were nearest to the hustings; and behind them there were a many who had pistols; I saw a great number of pistols on the field. I saw one person who was wounded by one of the pikes being accidentally thrust against his leg. Whilst writing this, a person came into the room, and said, that he had seen a man who was cut in the breast by his own pike. The shafts of the pikes were hooked with iron hoops, like that which the Colonel had taken. On the hustings there were about thirty persons, all of them strangers to me except Knight, who wore the red cap of liberty on the hustings, and was chairman, the sailor boy (or Walker) from Manchester, and George Dewhurst of Blackburn. They had eighteen flags and three caps of liberty: on one of the flags was wrote, FitzWilliam and the Yorkshire Reformers; and on one of the caps, Liberty or Death; which, in particular parts of the orators' speeches, was hoisted aloft on its pole, and then dropped again, and taken off. The speeches of the orators were such as are generally made at the meetings of the reformers, holding up the Ministers and Magistrates, and oflicers of Justice, to contempt and ridicule.

The number of reformers was very great; I measured the circle they occupied round the hustings; it was one hundred and fifty yards; and I judge, that if all who were on the outside circle had been in it, they would have been as close as it is possible for men to stand. The most striking of their resolutions is, that which called upon them to oppose the measures of Parliament, if they would attempt to pass any Bills which should control their liberty of meeting; it called upon them to rise and oppose such things, and all those who were for them; and the passing of such bills should be the signal for universal rising. This resolution made a particular impression on the minds of the reformers; they all evinced a determination to oppose all such things. On the breaking up of the meeting, they separated into two bodies; one came to Burnley, and the other a different way. They remained a long time in the road and fields adjoining where they separated, and then they began to discharge their pistols, swearing they should like a dust with the soldiers before they parted. They fired scores of pistols in the road, whilst they were there. l left them before they separated, for l was afraid they would do something that would bring out the soldiers; and all the way to Burnley, (for the meeting was about half a mile from the town) as I walked on, I heard hundreds of pistols discharged in all directions. It resembled Manchester and its neighbourhood, on the night of the 5th November, for firing in all directions as they went away. Mr. Knight did not stop in the lane, but went on to Burnley with the other of his friends; and the firing did not commence till he had left them in the road. They appeared anxious for the soldiers to come; happily they did not: for if they had, the mischief would have been serious on both sides. On coming into Burnley again, I saw the military posted in various parts of the town, and Col. Hargreaves in attendance at the Bull public house. My friend and I, when we had seen the pikes and pistols round tlhe hustings, we went in search of Colonel Hargreaves; we did not find him, but left a note for him, that if they wished to make a seizure of pikes and pistols they might take a great number, for all who had sticks or staffs, had pikes in the sleeve of the coat, or in the breast, for we had seen a great many, and they were all like that which the Colonel took, hooped at the hole end with a strong iron hoop. As soon as night came on, the town was thrown into alarm by the fire bell. I immediately heard the bugle sounding for the military. A cotton factory had got accidentally on fire; but was soon put out, without doing much damage. Whilst I was on the field, I heard a great many say, that if the Colonel, that Devil, came, they would give him enough; and intimating, at the same time, that they would put him to death. If he had brought up the soldiers, they could not have acted, from the particular situation of the ground. The field is a three-cornered one, with high hedges and walls near it.

Sworn before me, one of His Majesty's Justices of the Peace, in and for the said county, 15th November, 1819.
Laurence Halstead.


Pontefract, November 18, 1819.

My Lord,
I HAVE the honour to report to your Lordship, the result of such information as I have received in the several journies I have made since I left town, and from credible authority in other places.

It appears certain, that simultaneous meetings had been agreed upon, to assemble on the 1st of this month, at Newcastle upon Tyne, at Carlisle, at Leeds, Halifax, Huddersfield, and Barnsly, in the \Vest Riding of Yorkshire; at Manchester, Bolton, Wigan, Blackburne, and Burnley, in Lancashire; at Newcastle under Lyme, at Nottingham, at Leicester, and at Coventry, I have heard other places named, but not from such authority that I can name them in this report; nor do I mention the meetings in London, in Scotland, and in places not in the counties composing the districts in which I hold the military command.

As meetings had very lately been held in almost all the above named towns, those agreed upon for the 1st instant, must have had some particular object in view.
Although a schism among the leaders has prevented these meetings, yet in Lancashire and some few towns where disatfection has long prevailed, no difference appears, and the numbers of discontented remain undiminished; but in places where it is of less mature existence, a most desirable check, from various causes, has been effected; but it would be fatal to its annihilation in them, if there was yet any relaxation of our attention, and of means to suppress it entirely: a similar false security at times within the last three years, has brought disaffection to its present height in Lancashire, the vigilance of the civil authorities in it having ceased upon every short period of quiet.

A plan has been adopted, to circulate more generally seditious and blasphemous tracts, which is to send gratis such publications weekly, directed to the servants in large families, which I think worthy of mention, not merely to shew how indefatigable the authors and leaders of sedition are, in effecting their purpose, but that it may be thought expedient to put the heads of families upon their guard.

Six different attempts have come to my knowledge, to seduce the soldiers, but without the least effect; some of them are under legal investigation.
I have only further to add, that whatever disunion may prevail among the leaders of sedition and radical reform, they still unite in the endeavour (though l hope with less success) to excite irritation and discontent among their followers, and to intimidate the loyal and well affected.
With a firm belief in the accuracy of the foregoing statement, I consider it my duty to make this report.

I have the honour to be, with respect,
Your Lordship's
Very obedient humble servant,
M. General.


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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