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Manchester; an amountcomprising men, women, and children. It was surely impossible for the house to listen to this recital, and resist an inquiry into the particulars of an occurrence so unprecedented and so fatal. The courts of law had been referred to, but those who referred to them knew that the subject was of too vast a size for the courts of law. The courts of law, if, instead of being closed upon this occasion, were even open, they could not conduct such an inquiry; all they could do would be to redress individual wrongs. They might inquire into the scale of redress or quantum of injury applicable to the cases of A. B. or C. D. but they could not adequately inquire into the fatal injury inflicted upon the British constitution. He had gone thus far, and almost forgotten a document which, though short, was most precious. He alluded to lord Sidmouth's letter, dated Whitehall, August 21, addressed to the Manchester magistrates, and which expressed, by command of his majesty, “the great satisfaction" the king derived, “from their prompt, decisive, and efficient measures for the preservation of the public tranquillity.” It was monstrous to declare that the king of England could have derived “great satisfaction" from the perpetration of these horrid crimes. The king had no connexion with that letter: it conveyed ao feeling in which a king of England could ever participate, nor any words which such a king could use in the expression of his sentiments on such an occasion. “Great satisfaction," indeed, at the slaying of his subjects He (sir Francis Burdett) would venture to say, that had the noble
lord (Sidmouth) ransacked the whole English language, he could not have picked out one which would have risen before his eyes like a rock that he ought to have altogether avoided, like the term “great satisfaction,” to put into the mouth of his sovereign. What! the king to be made to feel and express great satisfaction on hearing of the instantaneous massacre of a large number of his subjects without distinction of age or sex, and to communicate to the perpetrators of such atrocious deeds, his “high approbation of their support and assistance!" — the thing was impossible; it never could have happened.—It was the act of the minister; the king stood free from such an imputation. For the outrage of Manchester, he could find no parallel in the history of the world. Perhaps there was something like a parallel with it to be found in the conduct of the Romans, who decreed in their senate the destruction of the Goths, in their Asiatic provinces. This inhuman decree was carried into effect by Julius, the master-general of the Roman troops, who carefully collected together on the appointed day the Gothic youth in the square or forum; the streets and avenues were occupied and blocked up by the Roman troops, and at a signal given, the unprepared and unexpecting victims were surrendered to indiscriminate slaughter. He would do the king of England the justice to believe that he had not expressed “great satisfaction” at the communication of the slaughter at Manchester. Nothing had been ever acted in the name of a king which could have been so inimical to the real feeling of that king, as the expression of such a sentiment as was on this occasion put into his Majesty's mouth by his minister. It was not the least remarkable part of this unparalleled outrage, that the minister should have selected nearly such expressions for transmission to the authors of the crime as had been used in describing the massacre of the Goths in the Asiatic provinces of the RoInans :“His diebus Julii Magistri militia enituit efficia, velox et salutaris.” Whether the noble lord when he transmitted thanks in the name of his king to the authors of the crime, for “their prompt, decisive, and efficient” conduct, had had, in his classical recollection, the words used by Ammianus, or whether it was that the same devil which prompts men to do the same evil acts, had suggested the same words for conveying their description, he could not tell; but it was strikingly remarkable, that the only two acts which in history bore any thing like a resemblance to each other, should, at such a distance of time from their respective occurrence, be expressed in words nearly of the same import. The courts of justice were, he repeated, shut against inquiry; and the attempts of the sufferers to obtain redress were defeated out of doors by every species of chicanery. This was the first time since England was England, that a coroner had taken upon himself the responsibility of refusing to perform his duty. Such an act must be received with detestation and horror. He first neglected to perform his duty, and then made that neglect the ground of his ultimately abandoning it:
. pursuing its even course.
when he had instituted an inquisition, his unwarrantable adjournment of that inquest was an obstruction to the stream of justice How was it that a judge had acutely discovered that the defect in the mode of conducting the inquest was fatal to its continuance after the defect was remedied ? First, the coroner being necessarily absent upon other business, suffered his clerk to swear in the jury, as was customary upon similar occasions; but the court of King's Bench at length discovered that what never had been the practice ought to have in this case occurred, and that the coroner (not his deputy) and the jury, before they were sworn, should have together seen the body of the deceased. There probably never was a legal inquisition conducted in this country with all the nice legal technicalities which it seemed should have been observed in this particular case. Here the honourable baronet took a review of the manner in which all the attempts made by the sufferers to obtain legal redress had been repelled. The magistrate refused informations, because a grand jury had thrown out some of the bills. The people finding that to be the case at Lancaster, went to Warrington to tender their complaints. There again Mr. Bonham refused the pro-offered information; and in this manner by one evasion or another, justice was obstructed, delayed, or denied. He must again say that this was not an inquiry into individual wrongs, but into a flagrant violation of the constitution. Unless that house had lost all respect for, itself,
unless it had thrown aside all regard for public liberty; unless gentlemen had not only dismissed all reverence for justice, but also all feeling for their own character and estimation in the world; they would, on this occasion, go into that inquiry, which he now demanded on the part of the people of England; they would now make good those professions, which some of them had expressed, when they stated that they wished a full inquiry to take place. The noble lord opposite—whose statements in that house, with reference to the subject under consideration, had had more weight than the observations of any other person— would, he trusted, for that reason concur with him, on this occasion, in the propriety of the motion he was about to submit—namely, “ that a committee be appointed, by this house, to inquire into the transactions of the magistrates and yeomanry at Manchester, on the 16th of August, 1819.” Mr. Hobhouse.—I beg leave to second the motion. Mr. B. Wilbraham did not think the honourable baronet had dealt justly either to the parties accused or to those persons whose cause he professed to support; and he would briefly state his reasons for thinking so. The circumstance took place two years ago. The events at Manchester occurred before the session of 1819, and in the month of April following, the honourable baronet gave notice of a motion which he afterwards put off, on grounds that did not appear to him (Mr. Wilbraham) to have adequately justified the postponement of a question of so much importance. Now, having suffered the subject to sleep for
upwards of a twelve-month, he did not think the honourable baronet had acted fairly either to those who were accused, or those who complained, in bringing it forward now. In considering the question now submitted to the house, he was freed from one considerable difficulty. It was not necessary for him to enter into any argument to show the illegaHity of the meeting. It was deckared on the trial at York to have been illegal; and that decision had since been confirmed by all the judges of the court of King's Bench, on a motion for a new trial. The trial at York was conducted with the greatest impartiality. The house would recollect what was the state of the country in the beginning of the year, and particularly in the early part of the summer of 1819. The disposition of the people in the northern manufacturing districts was so well known that, at the Chester quarter session, the magistrates entered into resolutions, binding themselves to exert their best endeavours to preserve the peace. The Southam grand jury followed their example; and on the 3rd of July the king's proclamation, respecting the disturbed state of the country, was issued. About this time the meetings, which had not before been very numerous, increased considerably. They increased in proportion to the impunity which they met with. They were all conducted by the same itinerant orators, who went from one meeting to another, and moved a series of resolutions, amongst large bodies of the people, where it was impossible that any discussion could take place. From January to June
- only only one or two meetings were held; but, from the lst of June, to the 16th of August, no less than a dozen were held. These meetings followed the celebrated letter of Mr. Hunt to lord Sidmouth, reclaiming a petition which he left with him to be presented to the prince regent. In that letter he declared “ that he would find some other means to make the sentiments of the people known to the prince regent.” At the meeting at Oldham, on the 14th of June, there were deputies from 28 places, and their object was to adopt some mode of harmonizing their proceedings. They declared that a government emanating from the free choice of the people could alone give security to the country; and they voted thanks to Wooler, Cobbett, Carlile, and others, who were all invited to attend the meeting of the 9th of August. The meeting of the 9th was called for the purpose of electing a member to represent them in parliament. But a learned counsel having stated his opinion that such a meeting would be illegal, the idea was given up. There was, however, a large procession through the town of Manchester. At this time a number of the magistrates for Cheshire, who were also magistrates for that part of the county of Laneaster, together with some of the Lancashire magistrates, formed a committee, which met frequently at Manchester to devise means for preserving the public peace. That committee called Mr. Hulton to the chair. He was a leading man in the county of Lancaster, and he never knew an individual who possessed a greater portion of humanity and courage. After the
12th of August, a meeting of the people was fixed for the 16th. Their object was to consider a fair and avowed proposition; but, at the same time, strong indications of a desire to riot were observed. The magistrates, therefore, gave directions, that all persons who were willing to undertake the duty, should be sworn in as special constables. . Many persons were so sworn in ; but a person of the name of Bamford, who was now suffering for his infraction of the law, published a proclamation, threatening those who obeyed the call of the magistrates. , This proclamation had
the intended effect; and, in the
populous place where Bamford resided, only two or three persons could be found who would act as special constables. The loyal part of the population became intimidated, .." the training and drilling at night srruck terror into the minds of the well disposed. Before the 16th of August the night drills had greatly increased. They were kept extremely secret. The parties had their private signal; they went out to remote places at 12 or 1 o'clock at night, and they returned home before morning: so that it was morally impossible for the Manchester magistrates to interfere. Two men, named Shawcross and Murray, who watched one of these midnight parties. were discovered by their scouts and beaten most severely. At this period a circular letter was written by Mr. Hunt, in which he stated that he considered the meeting of the 16th to be an adjournment of the meeting of the 9th–the latter, be it remembered, having been called for an illegal purpose, namely, to electamember
to serve in parliament. He would now proceed to read the depositions of various individuals, to show the impression which those proceedings had made on their minds. Much stress, the house was aware, had been laid upon the asserted fact of the riot act's not having been read for a full hour; but then it must be considered what the nature of this meeting was. It was not dispersed because it was professedly a riotous meeting, but because it was a decidedly illegal meeting. He admitted that professedly it was not illegal; but it was so in fact and in law. Then the military array in which those who assembled at it proceeded to the spot, and many other circumstances, combined to make it of a very peculiar as well as very formidable mature. It could not, therefore, be considered as a meeting of any known or ordinary character, such as those were which were contemplated by the riot act, at the time of its enactment. The honourable gentleman read the affidavit of an individual who declared that he saw a great many stones thrown during the transactions of that day; although from personal observation he could allege, that before the meeting there were on the field neither stones, sticks, nor bludgeons, nor any other implements that could be used offensively. After the dispersion of the meeting, however, he found both sticks and stones; the former appearing to be some of them hedge-stakes, the others walking sticks. R. Brookes declared in his deposition, that being desired by the boroughreeve, shortly after the 1821.
meeting was dispersed, to go over the ground, he had found many stones, several of them having all the appearance of having been brought thither, and of having been used for the purpose of throwing at people. J. Barlow deposed to having met on the morning of the 16th several parties armed with sticks and bludgeons. He saw the men standing, twelve feet deep, before the hustings, linked arm in arm. He saw stones and brickbats thrown at the yeomanry cavalry; and one man near him (the deponent) struck at a yeoman with a bludgeon or short stick which he carried. The honourable gentleman then read parts of the depositions of George Brown, Samuel Johnson, and another person, who spoke to having seen sticks and stones upon the ground—some of the former being four feet long. It was stated in the deposition of a constable that the military aid being called in, two companies of yeomanry advanced, preceded by the boroughreeve and two constables. They marched by files, very slowly, and six abreast. Now, by marching in this manner, it was quite impossible that the yeomanry could then mean any thing hostile; because the two outside men only, of each file, could use their sabres against the people. The depositions asserted that not a blow was struck by the yeomanry till they were themselves assailed by the bludgeons of the
populace. The honourable member, adverting to the day of the meeting at Manchester on the 16th, stated that the magistrates had taken all precautions to guard the town against danger; and he produced L a