Page images

“ You may rely therefore upon sion of our happy constitution." my firm determination to employ

Then the Lord Chancellor, by for this purpose the powers in the Prince Regent's command, trusted to me by the law; and I said ; have no doubt that on your re- “ My Lords and Gentlemen ; turn to your several counties, “ It is the will and pleasure you will use your utmost endea- of his Royal Highness the Prince vours, in co-operation with the Regent, acting in the name and magistracy, to defeat the ma- on the behalf of his Majesty, chinations of those whose pro- that this parliament be prorogued jects, if successful, could only to Tuesday the 24th of August aggravate the evils it is proposed next, to be then here holden, to remedy; and who, under the and this parliament is accordingly pretence of reform, have really prorogued to Tuesday the 24th no other object but the subver. of August next."


Reform Meetings at Manchester and Leeds.-Female Reformers.-Meeting at Glasgow.-Second Meeting at Leeds.-Circular Letter of Lord

Sidmouth.-Meeting for choosing a Representative at Birmingham.Resolutions of the Lancashire and Cheshire Magistrates.- Proclamation against Sedition.-Mr. Hunt at Manchester.-Reform Meeting there. Its Dispersal by the Military.--Thanks of the Prince Regent. -Proceedings against Mr. Hunt and others.-Other Reform Meetings.-Riots at Paisley.-- Subscriptions for Manchester Sufferers.Conduct of the Grand Jury.- Address of the Corporation of London.

- Prince Regent's Answer.-Other Addresses.- Meeting at York.Dismissal of Earl Fitzwilliam.-Loyal Addresses.— Associations for raising Yeomanry.-Inquest on John Lees.

THE principal domestic Commons which, when last assem

events of the present year bled, had “ kicked their prayers are intimately connected with the and petitions out of doors;" and movements of a set of men, who he asked his audience, whether have received the name of Radi- they would “ come forward, as cal Reformers; of which we shall men and Englishmen, and claim lay a detailed account before our their rights ?” A remonstrance readers. Early in the year, ap- to the Prince Regent was then plication was made to the bo- adopted, in lieu of a petition to rough-reeve and constables of parliament ; and after listening to Manchester, to summon a public the speeches of some Manchester meeting in that town for the pur- reformers, the meeting peaceably pose of petitioning parliament for dispersed. the repeal of the corn bill; and În the month of June many on their refusal, an anonymous meetings were held by the disadvertisement fixed the meeting tressed manufacturers, especially for January 18th. Mr. Hunt was at Glasgow, at Leeds, and at invited to preside, and was met Ashton-under-line.

These asby a great multitude, and con- semblages were extremely nuducted into the town in a kind of merous, that on Hunslet-moor, triumph. Several flags were dis- near Leeds, being estimated (but played before him, bearing the probably with great exaggeramottoes—“ Hunt and Liberty ;" tion) at 35,000. Not the slightest “ Rights of Man;" “ Universal breach of the peace cccurred on Suffrage;" “ No Corn Laws.” In any of these occasions, for the his harangue at the meeting, the leaders were strenuous in their orator treated with contempt the exhortations to the people to preidea of petitioning that House of serve an inoffensive demeanor ;


and it was well known, that ac- " a deep-rooted hatred of our tytive measures had been taken by rannical rulers." A deputation the magistrates to resist any ten- from this society attended the dency to riot. The harangues of Blackburn reform meeting, and, the leaders, however, were suffi- mounting the scaffold, presented ciently inflammatory; from state- a cap of liberty and an address to ments of the distresses of the ma- the assembly. The example of nufacturing poor, these speakers these females was successfully reproceeded to an explanation of commended to imitation by the their causes, which were stated orators at other meetings. to be, excessive taxation, places, These political assemblies pensions, and generally the usurp- proved so attractive to the manuations of the rich upon the poor. facturing classes, under the irriThe remedies suggested were, tation produced by low wages and annual parliaments and universal a deficiency of employment, that suffrage, the present representa- the spirit rapidly diffused itself tion being declared a mere mock- through the counties of York, Lanery. At Ashton-under-line an ap- caster, Chester, Nottingham, and proaching meeting at Stockport Leicester; and gaining at length was announced; and it was re- the important town of Birmingsolved, that means should be ham, where a great mass of distaken for establishing a regular tress and consequent discontent communication from one extre- was existing, ready to be operated mity of the kingdom to the other. upon, the leaders of the faction A spirit of hostility to the clergy were emboldened to propose a was manifested in some instances, measure of a more decisive chaand religion itself was treated, by racter than any yet attempted. one of the speakers at Leeds, At a public meeting holden on with a tone of irony and contempt July 12, on an open space adwhich offended many of the au- joining to this town, at which not ditors. The persons who sum- less than 15,000 persons were moned the Stockport meeting, on supposed to be present, the mathe refusal of the magistrate, de- nagers, after reading a letter from clared one object of it to be, to Sir Charles Wolseley, bart. of decide whether or not the people Staffordshire, excusing his nepossess the power of destroying cessary absence on this occasion, the Bank. An entirely novel and proposed that the same Sir Charles truly portentous circumstance should be sent up to parliament as was, the formation of a Female “ legislatorial attorney and repreReform Society at Blackburn, sentative of Birmingham.” The near Manchester, from which cir- movers stated, that the issuing of cular letters were issued, inviting a writ being compulsory, they had the wives and daughters of work- not awaited the form of the manmen in different branches of ma- date, but anticipated the right. nufacture, to form sister societies, The privilege constitutionally befor the purpose of co-operating longed to them, and they were with the men, and of instilling fulfilling the duty of good subinto the minds of their children, jects in proceeding to advise the


soon as an

sovereign by their representatives of the same stamp.

. Circular The baronet was then elected, letters were also forwarded on according to regular form, by an July 7th, by the secretary for the immense show of hands, and home department to the lordamid the thundering acclamations lieutenants of the disturbed counof the concurring multitude. A ties, as they began to be entitled, remonstrance was read, which recommending prompt and effecthe new elected member was to tual means for the preservation present to parliament, and a de- of the public tranquillity; espe. putation was appointed to carry cially vigilance and activity on to him the instructions of his the part of magistrates, and, as a constituents. Sir Charles Wolse- measure of precaution, directions ley in return pledged himself to to be given to the yeomanry of claim his seat in the House of the county to hold themselves in Commons.

readiness. The people of Leeds animated An atrocious attempt on the by the example, or actuated by life of Birch, the police officer, the same councils, resolved, at å by whom both Sir Charles Wolsemeeting holden a few days sub- ley and Harrison had been taken sequently, that as

into custody, was met by a proelegible person could be found clamation with a high reward for to accept their representation an the discovery of the offender, election should take place. About dated July 26th, and on the 30th the same time, Mr. Hunt and his of the same month a proclamation associates announced a meeting was issued against seditious meetin Smithfield, which passed off ings (See Public Papers). Undewithout the least disturbance. terred by these symptoms of The attention of government was activity, on the part of

governnow thoroughly awakened to the ment, the Manchester reformists character of these proceedings, ventured to placard a notice of a and it was determined that a meeting to be holden for the check should in the first instance purpose of choosing a parliamenbe given to the unbounded li- tary representative for that town; cense of speech in which the but being informed that the mapopular orators believed them- gistrates would not permit an selves authorized to indulge. Sir, assemblage of the people for a Charles Wolseley was arrested at purpose clearly illegal, they rehis own residence, carried to linquished this design, but soon Knutsford, and compelled to give after advertised a meeting for an bail for his appearance to answer object, the legality of which was for seditious words spoken by fully acknowledged, that of petihim at a public meeting at Stock. tioning for a reform of parliaport; on a similar charge, one ment. Harrison, was seized on the The adjournment of the prehustings during the meeting at ceding meeting, the considerable Smithfield, and conveyed back interval of preparation which had into Cheshire. True bills for been allowed; a vague feeling sedition were found against others perhaps, that such assemblages would not much longer be per- rapturous greeting, was invited to mitted, -all conspired to render preside ; le signified his assent, the concourse great beyond all and mounting a scaffolding, began former example. A little before to harangue his admirers. He noon on the 16th of August, the had not proceeded far, when the first body of reformers began to appearance of the yeomanry arrive on the scene of action, cavalry advancing towards the which was a piece of ground area in a brisk trot, excited a called St. Peter's field, adjoining panic in the outskirts of the a church of that name in the meeting. They entered the intown of Manchester. These closure, and after pausing a persons bore two banners, sur moment to recover their disormounted with caps of liberty, dered ranks, and breathe their and bearing the inscriptions horses, they drew their swords, “ No Corn Laws,” “ Annual Par- and brandished them fiercely in liaments," “ Universal Suffrage," the air. The multitude, by the “ Vote by Ballot.” Some of direction of their leaders, gave these flags, after being paraded three cheers, to show that they round the field, were planted in were undaunted by this intrusion, the cart on which the speakers and the orator had just resumed stood; but others remained in his speech to assure the people different parts of the crowd. that this was only a trick to Numerous large bodies of re- disturb the meeting, and to exhort formers continued to arrive from them to stand firm, when the the towns in the neighbourhood cavalry dashed into the crowd, of Manchester till about one making for the cart

would others

on which o'clock, all preceded by flags, and the speakers were placed. The many of them in regular marche multitude offered no resistance, ing order, five deep. Two clubs they fell back on all sides. The of female reformers advanced, commanding officer then apone of them numbering more proaching Mr. Hunt, and brandthan 150 members, and bearing a ishing his sword, told him that white silk banner. One body of he was his prisoner. Mr. Hunt, reformers timed their steps to after enjoining the people to the sound of a bugle with much tranquillity, said, that he would of a disciplined air: another had readily surrender to any civil assumed to itself the motto of officer on showing his warrant, the illustrious Wallace, “God and Mr. Nadin, the principal armeth the Patriot.” A band of police officer, received him in special constables assumed a charge. Another person, named position on the field without Johnson, was likewise appreresistance. The congregated hended, and a few of the mob ; multitude now amounted to a some others against whom there number roundly computed at were warrants, escaped in the 80,000, and the arrival of the crowd. A cry now arose among hero of the day was impatiently the military of, “ Have at their expected. At length Mr. Hunt Aags,” and they dashed down not made his appearance, and after a only those in the cart, but the

« PreviousContinue »