The Massacre of Peterloo, Manchester, 16th August 1819

The Peterloo Massacre - Manchester 16th August 1819

Transcribed Extracts from the 1819 Publication,
"The Peterloo Massacre Containing a Faithful Narrative
of the events which
Preceded, Accompanied, and Followed the Sixteenth of August, 1819"
Edited by an Observer

Introductory Preface -
pages iii to vii (below)

from the Introductory Preface (Manchester, 6th December 1816):
pages iii to vii
When we first projected the publication of the 'Peterloo Massacre'* we were far from contemplating that its limits would have so considerably extended as to reach fourteen sheets of Letterpress. This extension however, became unavoidable, from the uncommon circumstances which kept daily developing themselves to our research and observation. To have given a simple and affecting narrative of the melancholy scene which presented itselt at St. Peter's Field on the fatal 16th of August, would have been a task of easy accomplishment. A mind unhardened by the contemplation of deeds of blood, would easily have found words to express its unsophisticated feelings; and the atrocities of that deplorable day, might have been anathematised even by 'babes and sucklings.' But the editor has attempted a more difficult enterprise; though not aiming at the high character of historians ourselves, we wished to render our work a basis upon which the historian might rear a superstructure worthy of conveying to posterity the sanguinary picture of men, women and children being put to death and torture without the allegement of crime, much less of having crime proved against them. We were consequently led to endeavour to trace effects to their causes, and causes to their effects. We have inserted everything which we conceived could enable mankind to form a right judgement upon points of infinite importance, and we have been guided in our selections by a strict adherence to those broad principles of integrity by which everyone who writes for the public should be actuated. - That we have succeeded to the extent of our wishes, would be too much for us to assert; but that we are not very remote from having attained our end will we think be readily acceded to us. In the 'Peterloo Massacre,' we have interspersed the various placards, and the documents, which from time to time made their appearance; and we presume that we have established as incontrovertible, the peacable and legal nature of the meeting which ended in bloodshed, and probably may be the ground-work of yet greater inroads on our liberties and lives. We have given documents, and made deductions, which fully disprove the bare-faced fallacies of those whose interest it is to vilify and debase the 'lower orders,' because without doing so, they could not carry on the system of taxation, peculation and plunder, on which themselves and their retainers have fattened to surfeit. Our report of the Oldham Inquest [on John Lees] will be found truly interesting to those who wish to exercise their opinion upon matters which it is the policy of one party to render complex and obscure. Scarcely a question from the Coroner, but what betrayed a wish to suppress truth, not an answer which was given, but what shed a ray of intelligence to the Jury. The quirks and quibbles of the Manchester lawyers; - the manly character displayed by the adverse party
[the lawyer from London representing the Lees family] in the pursuit of truth and justice - all call for serious attention and investigation.

That part of our labours which gives a list of those who suffered in their lives or limbs, in consequence of the wounds received in the fray, will be eagerly perused; we believe it to be the most correct account which can ever be obtained. - Not an individual case is inserted but what has been examined into by the Committee, and found correct. One person, who was injured at Peterloo, John Rhodes, died last week and was interred in Middleton church-yard, attended by a concourse of upwards of six hundred persons; and we fear that many more of the sufferers are doomed to linger out a miserable and protracted existence, from the dreadful effects of that unhappy day.

When we contrast the facts which have been proved by corroborative evidence upon oath, with the vague and contradictory testimony which has been laid before Parliament, as a reason for extending the powers of his Majesty's Ministers (already too great for the safety of the people) and when we see the Borough-monger faction so predominant, as to be able to carry those additional powers as part of the statute law of the land, we are no longer proud of being Britons, but justly tremble for the fate of our country. - We are evidently fast approximating to the spirit and practice of the continental despots, and fear that a short time will witness our Government forming a part of that Holy Alliance, which was expressly established to repress the rising spirit of freedom rapidly spreading tjhrough the world ...

* This title was given to the work from a wish to fall in with the common feeling which the proceedings of the 16th August elicited, and not on account of its classical elegance. Its quaintness is its only recommendation.

Transcribed by Sheila Goodyear 2019

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