For this defeat of the Rump they have solely to thank me. I made them a second time feel the power of courage, honesty and truth, when opposed to fraud, trickery, and pretended patriotism; and this great lesson was read to Sir Francis Burdett, that he was nothing without the support of the people; that all his immense wealth, that all his great and profound talent, and all his influence, were nothing in the scale of political power without the people. The Baronet is, I believe, truly sensible that my exertions have taught him this useful lesson, and, like a truly great and good man, he bears me no malice for performing this painful duty—for I have no hesitation in saying, that it was the most painful, the most trying public duty that I ever performed in the whole course of my life.
The numbers polled at this election were, for Lamb 4465, for Hobhouse 3861, for Major Cartwright 38:—so that Mr. Lamb polled 604 more electors than Mr. Hobhouse. As for Major Cartwright, he had not the slightest chance from the beginning. No real Reformer, no friend of Universal Suffrage, can have the slightest chance to be returned for Westminster, while that rotten borough continues in the hands of a particular family, or while any considerable portion of the electors suffer themselves to be led by the nose by a gang of the most contemptible, as well as most corrupt, men under the face of the sun. As a body of men, the electors of Westminster are, perhaps, as enlightened and intelligent as any body of men in the universe; but the little faction called the Rump, are as contemptible and as corrupt as their brother electors are free and impartial. The great mass of the electors do not take any trouble to inquire about these matters; they are industrious tradesmen, every one of them having business of importance of his own to attend to, and consequently when an election comes they suffer themselves to be led by the nose by a little junto, who have no more pretensions to patriotism than they have to talent and integrity, of which it is plain that they are totally destitute. When I stood the contest for Westminster, at the general election, and only obtained eighty-four votes, it was urged against me how few friends and supporters I had amongst the real electors of Westminster; it was said that I had disgusted and displeased all parties; and Counsellor Scarlett, one of the licenced libellers of the Court of King's Bench, had the impudence to state this fact in the Court, as a proof in what little estimation my character was held; and he added this unblushing, bare-faced falsehood, that "wherever Sir Samuel Romilly offered himself, there I went to oppose him, merely because he was a good man;" while, on the contrary, he well knew that, had not Sir Francis Burdett and his nominee been opposed by me, Sir Samuel Romilly, far from being elected for Westminster, would never have been even nominated for that city. But what answer will these trading politicians give to the fact, that Major Cartwright obtained only thirty-eight votes during a contested election of fifteen days? I had made thousands of personal enemies, yet I obtained eighty-four votes; while the Major, who never in his life made a personal enemy, could only obtain thirty-eight votes, not half the number that polled for me, although he was amongst all his friends, where he had resided for many years, and where he was universally and justly respected, both for his private and his public virtues. The fact is, that of the Major's politics, as of mine, the honesty and sincerity are hated and dreaded by the whole of the Rump faction, who would soon be reduced to their native nothingness, if once a really independent man were to be chosen for Westminster; I mean a man independent, as well of Sir Francis Burdett, as of the Ministry and the Whigs. Till that time arrives, the representation of Westminster will be upon a level with the rottenest of rotten boroughs. We know Sir F. Burdett to be a profound politician, a real and steady friend of Liberty, and a truly great man, yet in the House of Commons he carries no more weight from his being the Representative of the great city of Westminster, than he would do if he were only the Representative of Old Sarum, or any other rotten borough. Such is the abject state to which, by their dirty intrigues, the Rump have reduced this once great and high-minded city, by the exertions of which the whole kingdom was wont to be agitated! Mr. Hobhouse is an active member of the Honourable House, but he dares not quit the leading-strings of the worthy Baronet; and let me ask the honest part of mankind to point out any one great political question which he has brought before the House? What has he done for the people, or for the cause of Liberty, since he has been elected? I am not speaking personally; for I personally feel that Mr. Hobhouse did his best to serve me, when I was in bondage in Ilchester gaol, for which I shall always feel personally grateful; but still, looking at the question on public grounds, I must ask what has he ever done in the House, such as we might and should have formerly expected from one of the independent Members of the city of Westminster? We know that he always votes with the Whigs against the Ministers; but how is it, if he is in earnest, that he has never created any great sensation throughout the country, by some grand exposure of those Ministers, and of that system of which his father, Sir Benjamin, forms so prominent a part? It has often been asked, what can one man do in the House? I think I can give a silencing answer to such a time-serving question: What could not one man do in the way of exposure, if he were honestly disposed to do it? I think, after the exposure that I made while I was locked up in a gaol, I am entitled most triumphantly to make this answer.
In consequence of the death of the Princess Charlotte of Wales, the Dukes of Clarence, Kent, Cumberland, and Cambridge disposed of their mistresses, and got married, in order, as it would seem, to secure a heir from the precious stock of the Guelps, to fill the British throne; to accomplish which desirable purpose there appears to have been a hard race, for on the 26th of March, in this year, 1819, the Duchess of Cambridge brought forth a son—on the 27th the Duchess of Clarence was delivered of a daughter—on the 24th of May the Duchess of Kent was delivered of a daughter—and on the 5th of June the Duchess of Cumberland was delivered of a son. So that this worthy family presented John Gull with an increase to their burdens in one year of four great pauper babes, to be rocked in the national cradle, and to be bred up at the national expense. Oh, rare John! what a wonderfully happy fellow thou must be! On the 29th of March, the conscientious guardians of our rights and liberties, the faithful stewards of public property, the worthy Members of the Honourable House of Commons, voted an allowance of TEN THOUSAND POUNDS A YEAR to the Duke of York—for taking care of his poor old mad father's person; and it is a very extraordinary fact that, on the 12th of April, on one of his early visits to Windsor, to enable him to earn this large sum of money from John Gull, his Royal Highness fell in one of the rooms of Windsor Palace, and BROKE HIS ARM. All the old women in the nation, and many of the young ones also, swore that this was a judgment upon him, for extorting such a sum from John Gull's pocket, for such a purpose! On the 17th, Johnston, Bagguley, and Drummond were tried, and, as a matter of course, found guilty of sedition at the Chester assizes. On the 26th of May the House of Commons passed a vote of thanks to Marquis Camden, for giving up the profits of his sinecure place of Teller of the Exchequer. This was another precious hoax upon John Gull; the fellow having been actually frightened out of it in 1817, in consequence of the resolutions which were passed at the great public meeting where I had the honour to preside; which meeting was held in the city of Bath, where the Noble Marquis was recorder. On the 1st of June there was a serious riot at Carlisle, by the weavers out of employment. On the 19th there was a very numerous public meeting held at Huntslet Moor, near Leeds; and about the same time, and in the following weeks, very numerous meetings were held at Glasgow, in Scotland, and other places all over the North of England, petitioning for Annual Parliaments, Universal Suffrage, and Vote by Ballot. On the 12th of July a great meeting was held at Newhall Hill, near Birmingham, for Parliamentary Reform, at which Major Cartwright and Mr. Wooler were present. It was said upwards of sixty thousand persons attended, and unanimously elected Sir Charles Wolseley their legislatorial attorney, and representative for Birmingham, with directions that he should apply to the Speaker to take his seat. On the 13th twenty thousand Spanish troops at Cadiz, destined by Ferdinand to fight against the cause of Liberty in South America, mutinied and deserted. On the 15th Bills of Indictment were found, at Chester, against Sir Charles Wolseley and the Rev. Joseph Harrison, for political speeches made at a great public meeting for Reform, at Stockport; and on the 31st the Gazette contained a proclamation against seditious meetings, particularly denouncing the election of representatives or legislatorial attorneys as illegal.
On the 21st a Reform meeting was held in Smithfield. This meeting was called by some of the inhabitants of the Metropolis, and I was invited to attend and take the chair. Dr. Watson and his friends were particularly active in procuring this meeting, and when the committee invited me to take the chair, I did not hesitate a moment to accept it, though, at the same time, I made up my mind to be particularly careful as to what resolutions were passed, &c. and by no means to be led into the scheme of electing any legislatorial attorney, as they had done at Birmingham, especially as this scheme had been denounced as illegal by the proclamation in the Gazette the week before. When I came to London, the night before the meeting, I was met by Dr. Watson and the committee, and I desired to see what resolutions they had prepared to be submitted to the meeting the next day. I found, however, that they had only a few very vague and imperfect resolutions drawn up; but the Doctor produced a letter from Joseph Johnson, the brush-maker, at Manchester, saying, that it was the wish of the people of Manchester, that I should, at the Smithfield Meeting, be elected the representative and legislatorial attorney for the unrepresented people of the Metropolis, &c. He also alluded to the great public meeting, which was to be held at Manchester in the beginning of August, and stated, that it was the intention of the people on that day to follow the example of the people of Birmingham and the Metropolis. It was very easy to discover that the motive of Mr. Johnson for advising the people of the Metropolis to elect me their legislatorial attorney, was, that he might be elected for Manchester at the ensuing meeting. On this proposition I at once put a negative, by referring to the Gazette, and to the proclamation, adding, that it would be worse than folly to run our heads against such a post; and I further declared, that I saw no good that was to be derived from such a measure. In this the committee at once concurred, and it was agreed, that every intention of that sort should be abandoned, that other resolutions should be drawn up, and that the same DECLARATION which had been passed at the Meeting held in Palace-Yard, and at the Manchester Meeting, at which I presided in the early part of that year, should be proposed to the Smithfield Meeting. It was also decided, that certain conciliatory resolutions, and an address to the Catholics of Ireland, should be submitted to the meeting. Of these resolutions I highly approved.
The next morning, just before the time fixed for the meeting, Mr. James Mills, late of Bristol, called at my lodgings with a string of resolutions, which he wished to be submitted to the meeting. Dr. Watson, I think, was present. These resolutions were read over in a hasty manner, and as hastily adopted, to be made part of the proceedings of the day. I own that this was acting very differently from my usual cautious manner; but, as Mills gave us to understand that they had been laid before Major Cartwright, and I believe he said had been approved of by him, and as he led us also to believe that he would attend at the meeting to move them, they were accordingly sent off to the Observer office, to get slips set up, that they might be given to the different reporters who attended the meeting.
Great military preparations were on this occasion made, under the pretence of quelling some tremendous riot, or some apprehended insurrection. The then Lord Mayor, John Atkins, was a corrupt and devoted tool of the Government, and he made himself particularly officious in this affair. Six thousand constables were sworn in the day before, and in the city all was hurry and bustle; and all this was done in order to work upon the fears of the timid and foolish part of the community, to create a prejudice in their minds against the Radicals. When the hour of meeting arrived, an immense multitude was collected, which was computed to consist of not less than seventy or eighty thousand persons. The Rev. Joseph Harrison, from Stockport, attended, and either moved or seconded some of the resolutions; but Mr. Mills, the author of them, never came near the place; or at any rate he never showed himself upon the hustings. A warrant had been issued against Harrison, by the Magistrates of Cheshire, with which the officers had followed him up to town, and, having got it backed by the Lord Mayor, he was apprehended upon the hustings by the city officers. This was evidently done with the view to work upon the feelings of the multitude, and to create an appearance of tumult, that the military might be called in and let loose upon the people, with some apparent show of necessity. Had not care been taken to frustrate it, this plot of the worthy John Atkins would have succeeded; for some one cried out a rescue, and the multitude was spontaneously pressing towards the officers for that purpose; but here my natural presence of mind in emergencies was exercised promptly and with full success. I came forward, and stated to the people what had occurred, and I cautioned them not to be led away by any such plot, to excite them to a breach of the peace; and I demanded of them, in case of a warrant having been issued against me, that they would let me go with the peace-officers quietly, for nothing would delight our enemies so much as to work up the people to tumult and disorder, that they might have a pretence for bloodshed. This had the desired effect. Harrison was taken away peaceably, and the business of the meeting proceeded with the greatest regularity, as if nothing had occurred of a nature to disturb it. This was certainly one of the most cold-blooded attempts to excite a riot that was ever made in this or in any other country. But fortunately I had influence enough over the people to frustrate this plot. The resolutions were passed, and the declaration was carried unanimously, as well as the address to the Catholics; the meeting was dissolved, and the people retired to their homes in the most peaceable manner, after having conducted me, their chairman, to my lodgings.
The slips, which had been printed at the Observer office, had been sent to me while I was on the hustings, and I delivered them to the different reporters, who applied for them. Mr. Fitzpatrick, the reporter of the New Times. was the only one who had the baseness treacherously to betray this confidence, by voluntarily coming forward in the Court, at York, to swear to the fact of my having furnished him with them upon the hustings. Thus ended the great Smithfield Meeting, held on the 21st of July, 1819.
On the 26th of the same month, at a Common Hall, the Livery of the City of London passed a strong vote of censure upon their Lord Mayor, John Atkins, "for his officious and intemperate conduct on the day of the Smithfield Meeting."
I forgot to mention, in the proper place, that I had been invited to attend and preside at a great public meeting, held at Manchester, in the early part of this year; if I recollect right it was in January. This meeting had been convened by public advertisement. I slept at Stockport the night before, and was accompanied from that town to the place of meeting by thousands of the people. When I arrived there, none of the parties who had invited me to Manchester, Messrs. Johnson, Whitworth, and Co. accompanied me upon the hustings; but they attended a public dinner, which, in the evening, after the meeting, was provided at the Spread Eagle Inn, Hanging Ditch, at which upwards of two hundred persons sat down. I found a number of good men at Manchester, and amongst that number I esteem my worthy friend Mr. Thomas Chapman, of Fannel-street, one of the very best men and most honest advocates of Liberty in the kingdom. I have ever found him the same man in principle, sincere and bold in public, and kind, generous, and open-hearted in private. To know during one's political life, and to possess the friendship of, two or three such men as Mr. Chapman, is more than sufficient recompence for the treachery, cowardice, and baseness of hundreds that one must as a matter of course become acquainted with. Here I first saw Johnson, the brush-maker; he had not the courage to accompany me upon the hustings, although he was one of the most officious to invite me to preside at the meeting. John Knight and Saxton were the men who attended me upon the hustings, and addressed the people, &c. &c. I had never seen either of them before. Mr. Wroe and Mr. Fitton, of Royton, also were upon the hustings. I had seen the latter, as a delegate from Royton, at the meeting of delegates called by Major Cartwright and the Hampden Club, in the name of Sir Francis Burdett, in the year 1817.
As this meeting passed off without any difficulty or danger, Johnson the brush-maker, who was very young in the ranks of Reform, professed a determination to take a more active part at a future opportunity. In conformity with this resolution, he wrote to invite me to attend a public meeting, to be held at Manchester on the 9th of August, which invitation I accepted. The intended meeting being publicly announced in all the London papers, excited a very considerable sensation throughout the country, and particularly through the North of England. As I strongly suspected that my letters to Manchester, about this time, were opened at the post-office, I sent them by other conveyances than by the post. My family appeared to dread my second visit to Manchester, and to forebode some fatal accident, and they endeavoured to persuade me not to attend; but, although I did not anticipate a very pleasant journey, yet I had given my word, and that was quite enough to insure my attendance.
On my road, I stopped to bait my horse at Wolseley Bridge. As soon as I arrived, the landlord of the inn addressed me, and begged to know if my name was Hunt. I answered in the affirmative; upon which he delivered an invitation from Sir Charles Wolseley, requesting me to call on him. He lived only about a hundred yards from the inn. The fact was, I had slept at Coventry the night before, where I met Messrs. Goodman, Lewis, and Flavel, and one of them had written to Sir Charles Wolseley, to say that I should pass Wolseley Bridge in the morning, and this induced him to leave the message which I have mentioned. I accepted his invitation, and this was the first time that I ever met the worthy Baronet in private. I spent a few hours very pleasantly with Sir Charles, who had also, I understood, been invited to attend the meeting at Manchester; but some family reasons prevented him from complying. When I arrived at Bullock Smithey, near Stockport, I heard that the meeting was put off, and that another meeting was advertised to be held on the 16th of August, the following Monday. The cause of this was, that Mr. Johnson and those concerned in calling the meeting had, in their advertisements, stated one of the objects to be, that of electing a representative or legislatorial attorney for Manchester. This foolish proposition, directly in the face of the late proclamation, was seized on by the Magistrates of Manchester, and they issued hand-bills, and had placards posted all over the town, denouncing the intended meeting as illegal, and cautioning all persons "to abstain at their peril from attending it." Upon this, Mr. Saxton had taken a journey to Liverpool, to obtain the advice of some barrister, of the name of Raincock, who gave it as his opinion that the meeting was advertised for an illegal purpose, and that the Magistrates would be justified in preventing it, or dispersing the people when they were assembled. The parties concerned immediately, therefore, advertised, and placarded the town, to say that the meeting would not take place on the 9th of August; but that another meeting would be convened on Monday the 16th of August, "to take into consideration the best and most legal means of obtaining a Reform in the Commons' House of Parliament." A requisition in these words was immediately drawn up, signed by upwards of seven hundred of the inhabitants, and addressed to the Boroughreeve of Manchester, requesting him to call the meeting. It was presented to the Boroughreeve, who haughtily refused to call the meeting, whereupon it was immediately called in the name of those who signed the requisition, and was appointed by them to be held on the sixteenth. All this had taken place; the original meeting of the ninth, to which I had been invited, had been abandoned, the new requisition had been signed, and the meeting of the 16th had been appointed, without my having in any way received the slightest intimation of what had been going on. I had arrived on the eighth at Bullock Smithey, which is within ten miles of Manchester, and within three miles of Stockport, where I had appointed to sleep on Sunday, the day previous to the intended meeting, and I had not yet heard one word of its being put off. I had travelled two hundred miles in my gig for the purpose of presiding, and when I learned that I had been made such a fool of, I expressed considerable indignation, and declared my intention of returning into Hampshire immediately. I was, however, at length prevailed upon to proceed to Stockport to sleep that night, as I understood that Mr. Moorhouse had provided a bed for me, and a stall for my horse. On my road to Stockport I was met by Johnson, the brush-maker, and Mr. Saxton, who explained to me the whole of the circumstances, and at the same time expressed a great desire that I should remain in Manchester, to be present at the 16th, as they had, without my knowledge, advertised my name as chairman of the intended meeting. At first I positively refused to comply with their wish, and I assigned more reasons than one for my refusal. At length, it was agreed that I should proceed through Manchester the next day, Monday the 9th, to dine with Mr. Johnson at Smedley Cottage, to meet some friends whom he had invited to join me there.
I slept at the house of Mr. Moorhouse that night, and received from him every polite and kind attention. When I arose in the morning, I was agreeably surprised by a note being brought to me from Sir Charles Wolseley, to say that, soon after I had left Wolseley Park, he had followed me; that he was at the inn, and would accompany me to Manchester, if I would let him know the time at which I meant to start for that place. I immediately waited upon him at the inn, and, after breakfast, we proceeded together in my gig to Manchester, attended by many thousands of the Stockport people. Johnson, the brush-maker, and others, from Manchester, had come to meet us, and they followed in a chaise, and Mr. Moorhouse followed, with a party, in his coach. We were greeted with the utmost enthusiasm by the people of Manchester. In one of the open spaces I addressed them briefly, and explained to them the reason of my then appearing amongst them. I told them that I had travelled two hundred miles to keep my appointment, and that it was not till the day before, when I had arrived within a few miles of their town, that information was given to me of the meeting having been postponed.
We dined at Smedley Cottage; and, after having, for a length of time, resisted the most urgent intreaties, I was at last, though still very much against my inclination, and quite in opposition to my own judgment, prevailed upon to yield to the pleadings of Mr. Johnson and his friends, to remain with him till the following Monday, in order that I might take the chair at the intended meeting. Had Johnson's life depended upon the result, he could not have been more anxious to detain me. He begged, he prayed, he implored me to stay; urging that without my presence the people would not be satisfied; and, in fact, foreboding the most fatal consequences if I departed before the meeting took place. I solemnly declare that I never before consented with so much reluctance to any measure of the sort. I had important engagements of my own to attend to, which I had put off to enable me to take the chair on the 9th, and to remain from home another week would cause me the greatest personal and private inconvenience. I was, nevertheless, ultimately prevailed upon to stay, from a conviction that my presence would promote tranquillity and good order, and under the assurance that, if I did quit the place, confusion and bloodshed would, in all probability, be the inevitable consequence. The manner in which those in authority had treated them, had irritated to the highest degree the people in and near Manchester, and they had also been excited to acts of desperation and violence, by some of those who professed to be their leaders. As for Johnson, the brush-maker, he was a composition of vanity, emptiness, and conceit, such as I never before saw concentrated in one person. It was the most ridiculous thing in the world to see him assuming the most pompous and lofty tone, while every one about him did not fail openly to express contempt for his insignificance and folly. In truth, even amidst all his pomposity, of which he had so enormous a share, this poor creature could not conceal the fact from any one, that he had not the slightest confidence in himself; he expressed the greatest terror at the idea of my leaving to him the management of the intended meeting, and swore that he would run away from it altogether if I did not stay. In this he involuntarily did himself justice; for, in reality, every one appeared to dread the thoughts of the thing being left in his hands. Every thing, therefore, conspired to impress on my mind the conviction that I alone had the power of conducting this great meeting in a peaceable, quiet, and Constitutional manner. I knew and felt, indeed, that it would be a task of great difficulty, danger, and responsibility. Yet as I had never turned my back upon the people because difficulties and dangers presented themselves, so I made up my mind not to desert them upon this trying occasion, when I knew they were surrounded by the most base and blood-thirsty opponents, who were laying in ambush, and only waiting for a pretext to take every unmanly and cowardly advantage of any accidental disturbance or disorder that might occur. I repeat again, that I consented most reluctantly to accept Johnson's pressing invitation to remain at his house during the intervening week prior to the 16th of August; and I can, with great truth, affirm that this was one of the most disagreeable seven days that I ever passed in my life, not excepting the period of my solitary imprisonment in the Manchester New Bailey and Ilchester Bastile. However, most fortunately for me, Johnson was from home a considerable portion of this time, attending to his brush-making and other business; this alone rendered the visit to Smedley tolerable: he frequently invited me to visit, with him, the surrounding neighbourhood, from the inhabitants of which places I had received pressing invitations; but all these I declined from prudential motives, and it was fortunate I did so, or my prosecutors would have found some pretence for the charge of conspiracy, of which, as it was, they could never bring the slightest shadow of proof.
During this week I was waited upon by many very respectable inhabitants of Manchester and the surrounding country, and on the Friday Mr. Edward Grundy and a friend from Bury called, and informed me that there was a report in circulation in Manchester, that it was the intention of the Magistrates to have me apprehended, under the plea of having committed some political offence, in order to interrupt the proceedings of the meeting; but these gentlemen assured me that they would become my bail to any amount, if it should be so. However, this did not satisfy me, and on Saturday, morning I drove down to the New Bailey, where the Magistrates were sitting, and applied to know if there was any charge against me?—if there was, I begged to know what was the nature of it, as I was then ready to surrender myself and to meet it. Mr. Wright, who was present, appeared surprised at my application, and said he had not heard of any such thing, and he called Nadin, and asked him, if he had heard of any charge having been made against Mr. Hunt? Nadin, who appeared to be surprised at the question, replied, "none whatever." I then informed them that I understood the report to come from the police office, which induced me to attend for the purpose of ascertaining the fact. I was, I told them, then ready, and should at all times be ready, to meet any charge that had been or might be preferred against me; and, consequently, there could be no necessity to issue any warrant or summons whatever, as the slightest intimation of my conduct being called in question would always insure my attendance. Mr. Wright, as well as Nadin, professed they were perfectly satisfied of this, and appeared to shew to me all the polite attention that they were capable of showing. I left the Court House with the full assurance from them that there was no charge against me, nor, as far as they knew of, any person who designed to bring a charge against me. Although I was fully impressed with the treacherous and blood-thirsty characters of those with whom I had to deal; and, of course, was not wholly satisfied of the sincerity of their language, yet I was conscious of having in this instance performed an important duty to the public, by depriving the authorities of every fair pretence for interfering with the proceedings of the intended meeting. I therefore returned to Smedley Cottage, with the conviction upon my mind that I had done all that a man could do, or ought to do, upon such an occasion.
On Sunday morning intimation was brought to me that one Murry, a sort of spy of the police, had, early in the morning, been very much beaten and ill-used, for interrupting some persons, who had assembled on a neighbouring Moor, to practice the method in which they should come into Manchester, to join the meeting on the following day; their wish being to enter the town with that sort of regularity which should give the least possible room for complaint to the authorities. I was sorry to hear of this breach of the peace, as I foresaw that an advantage would be taken of the circumstance, to inflame the minds of those who were perhaps as yet only half bent upon the diabolical plot against the liberties of the people, and that it would be used as a plausible pretext to alarm the more timid part of those who are called the respectables of Manchester. I, therefore, passed the Sunday with that degree of anxiety which every person not wholly devoid of sensibility must have naturally felt for the result of the coming day.
Monday arrived, and a beautiful morning it was. From my bed-room I beheld the people, men, women, and children, accompanied by flags and bands of music, cheerfully passing along towards the place of meeting. Their appearance and manner altogether indicated that they were going to perform an important, a sacred duty to themselves and their country, by offering up a joint and sincere prayer to the Legislature to relieve the poor and needy, by rescuing them from the hands of the agents of the rich and powerful, who had oppressed and persecuted them. In fact, the conduct of the people, in every instance, was such, that none but devils in human form could ever have premeditated to do them any injury.
About twelve o'clock an open barouche was drawn up to the door of Smedley Cottage, to convey to the meeting myself and those who were assembled at Mr. Johnson's. It was settled that I should take the chair, that Johnson should move the Resolutions and the Remonstrance, and that John Knight should second them. It was not anticipated that any other person would address the Meeting. We entered the barouche soon after twelve o'clock on the morning of the 16th of August 1819, and proceeded immediately towards St. Peter's Plain, on which spot the Meeting was to be held. We were attended by an immense multitude, preceeded by a band of music, and we very soon met the Manchester Committee of Female Reformers, headed by Mrs. Fildes, who bore in her hand a small white silk flag. These females were all handsomely dressed in white, and they proposed to lead the procession to the field, walking two and two, but as, in consequence of the crowd, this was found to be impossible, they fell into the rear of the barouche, which position they maintained, with some difficulty, during the whole way till we arrived at the Hustings. Mrs. Fildes, who carried the flag, was taken up at my suggestion, and rode by the side of the coachman, bearing her colours in a most gallant stile. As, though rather small, she was a remarkably good figure, and well dressed, it was very justly considered that she added much to the beauty of the scene; and, as she was a married woman of good character, her appearance in such a situation by no means diminished the respectability of the procession, the whole of which was conducted with the greatest regularity and good order.
When I entered the field or plain, where the people were assembled, I saw such a sight as I had never before beheld. A space containing, as I am informed, nearly five acres of ground, was literally covered with people, a great portion of whom were crammed together as thick as they could stand. Great bodies of people had assembled and marched to the spot in regular order, each striving with the other which should contribute most to the respectability of the meeting by peaceable conduct; every one appeared to be animated with the greatest enthusiasm and devotion to the cause for which they had come together; that cause being solely either to petition, to address, or to remonstrate with, the throne, for a redress of insupportable grievances. Every one appeared to me to be actuated by a similar feeling to that by which I felt that I was prompted in attending the meeting—namely, the performance of an important, a sacred, and a solemn duty to ourselves and our country. Let the reader who was not present picture to his imagination an assemblage of from 180 to 200 thousand English men and women, congregated together to exercise the great constitutional right of laying their complaints and grievances before the throne, and when he has done this, he may form an idea of the scene which met my view.
The moment that I entered the field, ten or twelve bands struck up the same tune, "See the conquering hero comes;" eighteen or twenty flags, most of them surmounted by a Cap of Liberty, were unfurled, and from the multitude burst forth such a shout of welcome as never before hailed the ears of an individual, possessed of no other power, no other influence over the minds of the people, except that which he had gained by an honest, straight-forward discharge of public duty. With some difficulty, and by slow degrees, the carriage was drawn up within a few yards of the Hustings, where the crowd was so dense as to forbid the approach of the carriage any nearer. We alighted, and, an avenue being made for us, we ascended the Hustings. The ladies composing the Committee of Female Reformers had followed close to the carriage up to this point, and therefore it was absolutely necessary to dispose of them in some place of safety, to prevent their being trampled under foot. Some part of them were placed in the carriage, which we had left, and the remainder were assisted upon the Hustings.
Another shout now filled the air, as a compliment to me, and I took off my hat, to endeavour to address this immense multitude, with a full conviction that the very orderly conduct of the people would deprive their enemies of all pretence whatever to interrupt their proceedings. I had scarcely uttered two sentences, urging them to persevere in the same line of conduct, when the Manchester Troop of Yeomanry came galloping into the field, and formed in front of a house occupied by a Mr. Buxton, where it was said the Magistrates had assembled for the purpose of keeping the peace. As soon as the military appeared, the people, (as is always the case under such circumstance) began to disperse and fly from the outskirts. To prevent the confusion likely to arise from such a circumstance, I caused three cheers to be given, which had the desired effect of restoring the confidence of the people, who did not, indeed, suspect it to be possible that the devil himself would have authorised the Yeomanry to commit any violence upon them, as there was not the slightest symptom amongst them that could have created any real fear in the mind of the most timid. Before, however, the cheering was sufficiently ended to enable me to raise my voice again, the word was given, and from the left flank of the troop, the trumpeter leading the way, they charged amongst the people, sabring right and left, in all directions, sparing neither age, sex, nor rank. In this manner they cut their way up to the Hustings, riding over and sabring all that could not get out of their way. In this magnanimous exploit several fell dead, and hundreds were wounded; and this was done in cold blood, with the most savage ferocity, without the slightest provocation having been given by the people, and without one act of resistance, without ONE STONE, ONE STICK, or ONE FINGER having been raised even to resist, much less to provoke, such a bloodthirsty, such a cowardly, wanton, cruel, and murderous act. At length it turned out that these diabolical deeds were committed in order, as it was pretended, to execute a warrant, to apprehend myself and others who were upon the Hustings with me. Now I most solemnly declare, that this warrant could have been executed with the greatest possible ease, by any single constable, without the aid of the military, or any breach of the peace whatever; and I have not the slightest doubt in my own mind, that the magistrates were fully sensible of this fact at the time when they ordered the ferocious Yeomanry to charge and cut down the people. The object was to strike terror into the minds of the assembled multitude, and to pull down reform by the sword, regardless of the blood that would be spilt in the enterprise. That my life was meant to be a sacrifice no reflecting man can for a moment entertain a doubt. We were now seized and taken, by Nadin and his runners, to the house where the worthy projectors of the plot were sitting in solemn conclave. While we were passing to the house, amidst the screams of the flying, and the piercing cries and groans of the dying people, two ruffian Yeoman made several efforts to cut me down, but each time I guarded myself, by placing Nadin between myself and them as they renewed their charge upon me. Nadin endeavoured to escape, and to leave me to their mercy, but, with the aid of providence, I held him fast, and used him as a shield to ward off the deadly blows of these blood-thirsty cowards. Nadin was so alarmed that he at length yielded like a child to the direction of my arm, and quietly suffered himself to be placed before me as they came up, hallowing lustily for them to desist, and using his staff for his protection. They, however, charged, and cut at me several times, and I received three cuts from them, a slight one on the back of my hand, and two others in my head, which cuts penetrated through my hat. As I entered into Buxton's house, pinioned between two constables, Nadin and another, a ruffian came behind me and levelled a blow at my head with a heavy bludgeon, which would have felled me to the earth, had I not been supported by the constables, who had hold of my arms. One fellow very deliberately took off my hat, that the other coward might have a fairer blow at me, which he instantly repeated, and had I not at the moment fortunately slipped my head on one side, my scull must have been fractured. Nadin cried shame at this, and replaced the hat upon my head, saying it was too bad! By this means Nadin saved my life, as it was evidently the intention of the ruffian to have taken it. The fellow who acted such a cowardly and diabolical part, was a general in the English army, of the name of C—-y, who was then on half-pay, and living at Pendleton. The following extract from a letter, written to Mr. Sheriff Parkins by his brother, who was an eye-witness of the transaction, speaks for itself; it was given to me by Mr. Parkins to make what use of it I pleased, and I shall therefore insert it verbatim:
"79, Water-Street, Manchester,
"I take up my pen to relate to you one of the most daring, cruel outrages that ever was committed on a defenceless people. I was within ten yards of the Hustings, when the cavalry surrounded the stage on which Mr. Hunt, Mr. Johnson, Mr. Knight, and many other gentlemen, whom I personally knew, were standing, with several ladies. At this time the main body of the Cavalry made a charge on the people who were assembled, and cut down all before them; and if I had had a pistol, I would have levelled that villain C——y, who used Mr. Hunt in such an outrageous manner, that if I had gone into eternity that moment, I would have shot him; but I had nothing but a small walking-stick in my hand, with which I parried off several blows that were aimed at me, and thank God I received no material injury. I never saw a man behave with more fortitude than Mr. Hunt did on that most trying occasion.
"Instead of reading the Riot-Act, and ordering the people to disperse, the military came on without any notice whatever. Mr. Hunt was committed to the New Bailey Prison, and what will be the result of all this the Almighty only knows. If you will do a praiseworthy action, come down and back Mr. Hunt, and your name will then be handed down to posterity with the blessing of thousands of your suffering countrymen."
When I came before the worthy Magistrates, I saw that they were dreadfully alarmed at their own deeds. Hulton and Hay took the lead, and we were marched off to the New Bailey, to which we were committed upon a charge of High Treason; it being necessary to make some highly sounding charge, in order to take off the attention of the public as much as possible from the foul deeds that had been perpetrated by the drunken infuriate Yeomanry. I think there were twelve in all committed, and amongst the number was Mr. John Tyas, who attended as a reporter for the Times Newspaper. This circumstance I shall ever consider as a most fortunate. Mr. Tyas is a gentleman of a most respectable family and connections, and it is unnecessary to expatiate on his character and talents, it being, as far as regards these, quite enough to say, that he has long occupied the station of a reporter to the Times Newspaper, a lucrative and responsible situation, which none but a man of character and talent could fill for any length of time. Mr. Tyas was not only present during the procession from Smedley to the Hustings, but he was upon the Hustings, he was apprehended there, taken before the worthy Magistrates, and sent to the New Bailey, where he had the honour to pass twenty-four hours in a solitary cell. He was an eye-witness of the whole affair, and, as he was totally unconnected with any of those who called the meeting, he was capable of giving, and he did give, the most unprejudiced evidence upon the subject, and I hope he will yet live to give his evidence upon an inquiry into this atrocious affair, either at the Bar or before a Committee of the House of Commons; for if ever I get into that House, I pledge myself never to cease my exertions to procure an investigation, a national investigation, into the whole affair. If I should become a member of the House of Commons, I will leave no stone unturned, at whatever hazard to myself, to cause such investigation to take place. We were detained in separate cells, in solitary confinement, for eleven days. I was once brought privately before the worthies, and questioned, but as it would not do, as they could make nothing of me, they gave it up, and we were at last brought up in open Court, and ordered to be held to bail, for a CONSPIRACY to overturn the Government, by frightening out of their seven senses all the old women in breeches who resided at Manchester. It was not so with Johnson. I believe the worthy Magistrates tried us all round, and found us all too staunch to be tampered with; all but Johnson; he, it appears by his own confession, was brought before them, and had several PRIVATE examinations, during which, he offered to give up all the letters which I had written to him, and he at length wrote a letter to his wife, with an order for her to deliver them to the messenger. Fortunately they had been placed by Mrs. Johnson in the hands of his attorney, who had too much honour to obey such disgraceful, such unprincipled instructions from his client. Not that I was afraid of any thing that I had written to any one. But as I had written in the greatest confidence to him, and had sent my letters by coach, via Oxford and Birmingham, because they should not be opened at the Post Office, it would have been a breach of every principle of honesty, honour, and fair dealing, to have given them up to the Magistrates, while I was in their custody under a charge of High Treason. In my political connexions, I have met with some very base and unprincipled fellows, but amongst them all, I do not believe that I ever knew any one, except Johnson, the Brush-maker, who would have voluntarily become such a shameless pander, such a thorough-paced time server, as to have given up my private letters to save his own worthless carcase from the chance of a Trial for High Treason. I repeat that, amongst all the political apostates I have ever known, and they are many, and some of them very vile indeed, I never knew one that I believe would have been so poor and mean a creature as this Johnson.
When we were brought up for final examination, the charge was shifted from that of High Treason to a Seditions Conspiracy to overturn the Government. I was to give bail in L1000 myself, and two sureties in L500 each, which Sir Charles Wolseley and Mr. Chapman were ready to enter into for me; but, as I was very hot and fatigued with the examination, I returned to my apartment to change my shirt before bail was given. I had not been in my room more than ten minutes before the goaler came to inform me that I must prepare to set off for Lancaster Castle in five minutes, as the magistrates had left the Court, and had ordered that we should be conveyed there immediately, for want of bail. I replied that Sir Charles Wolseley and Mr. Chapman were prepared to give bail for me, and that they were gone, or going, with Mr. C. Pearson, my attorney, to Mr. Norris's house to do so. The gaoler, a very civil little personage, lamented that he had no discretion, that his orders were peremptory, that a stage-coach, which had been hired for the purpose, was ready, and we must depart in less than five minutes, as a Military Dragoon Guard was in attendance, ready to conduct us thither. I answered that I would be ready in half the time, and I began to change my shirt and pack up my trunk before he left the room. The fact was, that the parties had made up their minds, (as is generally the case), before they came into Court; they had resolved upon a committal on the charge of High Treason, and they had given previous orders to prepare a coach and the Military Guard. A messenger had also been dispatched to Bolton, Blackburn, and Preston, to order the troops stationed in those towns to be ready to relieve the guards as they arrived, and to proceed forward. These relays were to have been ready as early as two o'clock in the day, the worthy Magistrates not having calculated upon the turn the question took in the Court, in consequence of my cross-examination of the witnesses produced to substantiate the charge. This cross-examination, which lasted several hours, during which I caused all the witnesses to be removed out of Court except the one under examination, by which means I contrived to make them, not only equivocate and contradict each other, but actually contradict themselves on every material point. This unexpected circumstance caused the worthy Bench of Magistrates to pause a little; they retired to consult, and held a private conferrence with Mr. Maule, the solicitor to the Crown, who was sent down to conduct the prosecution for the Attorney General. The result of this conferrence was, that the charge of High Treason was abandoned, and we were to be held to bail for a misdemeanor only.
After I had retired, Johnson and Moorhouse procured bail in Court, and they were liberated immediately. Johnson, I understood, was carried to his home on the shoulders of the populace, but he was totally regardless of what became of his friend, who was a stranger in the town. I stepped into the coach, and was followed by John Knight and Dr. Healy; Saxton, Bamford, and three others, wholly unknown to me, were placed on the top of the coach, each attended by one of the police, and with pistols and blunderbusses, &c. Mr. Nadin did us the honour to ride in the coach with us, whilst his runners took their stations aloft; a troop of horse, with swords drawn, surrounded the coach, and off we went for Lancaster, a distance of fifty miles, without my having had an opportunity of seeing or writing to my attorney or friends to apprise them of our departure. As I sat in the coach I wrote three lines with a pencil to Sir Charles Wolseley, merely stating the fact; and I handed it out open, requesting that it might be conveyed to him; but I saw that it was instantly seized by one of our amiable attendants, who took care that it should never reach its destination. We were paraded in this way to Bolton, from which place a fresh troop conducted us to Blackburn; another troop forwarded us to Preston, and a third attended us to Lancaster. At Preston we halted and took some refreshment, for which I offered to pay. Mr. Nadin, however, insisted upon it that I should not do so, as he had already given an order upon the treasurer of the county to pay all expenses. Thus, for the first and only time in my life, I was compelled to take a meal at the public expense.
Previous to our arrival at Preston we were nearly overturned, and the pole of the coach was broken short off. We were consequently obliged to dismount and walk to the next village, to get it repaired. Nadin, who had hitherto conducted himself with great moderation, now burst out into such a strain as would have made a Lethbridgeite's hair stand on end upon his head; he poured forth a volley of oaths, which for atrocity and vulgarity exceeded all I had ever heard before or since, except in the instance of Bridle, the Ilchester Gaoler; he swore that he should lose all his prisoners, &c. &c. and that he would blow out the brains of the coachman and all his runners. I sat perfectly quiet during this disgusting scene, and heard with horror his beastly epithets and dreadful imprecations. At length, having exhausted his rage, he appealed to me in the utmost confusion to know what should be done. I told him we would walk to the next village, where he could get the pole mended; and, as I found that he was preparing to handcuff them together, I assured him that I would be answerable for the safety of all the prisoners. With this assurance he was satisfied, and we proceeded to a small inn upon the road. The news soon spread, the house was very quickly surrounded, and a rescue was boldly and openly offered. This kindness I of course declined, and Mr. Nadin's fears were soon dispelled.
During our stay at Preston, almost all the gentlemen of the town came to see us, as we were at supper. Amongst the number were some sincere friends, although total strangers, who shook me cordially by the hand, in token of their sincerity. We arrived at Lancaster Castle about three o'clock on the Saturday morning, where we found the gaoler, young Higgins, ready to receive us; he having, of course, been previously apprised of the intention of the worthy Magistrates to send us thither, right or wrong. At the door I thanked the officer of the Dragoons for his polite attention, lamenting sarcastically, as I had done to each of the others, that he should have had so much trouble on my account. We then entered the walls of Lancaster Gaol, and were conducted into a spacious dirty room, from which some other prisoners had been removed to make way for us. In an adjoining close room we were all to sleep, and beds were ordered for us. I expostulated against this arrangement, of our all sleeping in the same room; upon which Mr. Higgins replied, that I should be accommodated with a cell. Soon after this we were all removed into a much better and cleaner apartment, adjoining to one of the new round towers, where we spent the day, Saturday, in procuring materials for cooking, &c. &c. At Lancaster Castle nothing was provided for political prisoners, not even a trough to wash their hands in. My companions, not having anticipated such a journey when they attended the meeting on the 16th of August, could only muster a few shillings amongst them, but as I had a few pounds in my pocket, every thing necessary was soon provided, such as it was.
The fools, the mad-headed fools, who sent us to make a parade through their county, little dreamt of the feeling which it would create; I own I felt very indignant at the selfish conduct of Johnson, who had invited me to Manchester, although I never expressed this to my fellow prisoners. I was, however, quite sure that the moment Sir Charles Wolseley, Mr. Chapman, and Mr. Pearson were made acquainted with the dirty trick of the Magistrates, that they would lose no time in procuring bail, and forwarding it for my release.
When seven o'clock came, we were ordered into our cells in the Round Tower, and most infamously close they were. I thought that I should have been suffocated for some time after I entered it. I, however, laid myself down, and soon fell into a sound sleep, from which I was roused about nine o'clock, by the turnkey, who came to inform me that a gentleman was arrived with bail for me and John Knight. I soon dressed myself, and having taken leave of Saxton and Bamford in the adjoining cells, we proceeded to the Lodge, where I found my worthy friend Chapman, who had come over from Manchester, as soon as he could get Mr. Norris to take the bail of himself and Sir Charles Wolseley, which the Magistrate had contrived to avoid on Friday night, under a pretence that he was engaged. Mr. Chapman had procured two Magistrates of the town of Lancaster, one of them of the name of Salusbury, who came down to the Gaol to take our recognizance, notwithstanding it was an excessively wet night, and which might have afforded them something like an excuse to have kept us in the Castle till Monday morning. But they proved themselves the very reverse of the Manchester Magistrates, at whose conduct they appeared to feel ashamed and disgusted, and they did all that honourable men and gentlemen could do to wipe their hands of all connection with them.
We bid adieu to the Castle, and slept at the inn in Lancaster that night. In the morning we proceeded on our return to Manchester, where Sir Charles Wolseley and Mr. Pearson were waiting to receive me. We stopped and took some refreshment at Preston, where some of the worthy Electors of that town introduced themselves to us, and there and then it was that I received and accepted an invitation to become a Candidate for the Representation of that Borough, at the approaching general election. In the evening we reached Bolton, at which town we slept, and there I became acquainted with some of the very best men in the kingdom. In fact, to have been introduced to the worthy men of Preston and of Bolton was worth more than all the inconvenience I suffered from being dragged through the county under a military escort. The enthusiasm manifested by the people of Bolton, of all ranks and degrees, surpassed every thing I had ever before witnessed, and it impressed my mind with a respect and attachment for that town, which will never be eradicated from my breast till the heart which it contains ceases to beat.
My reception in Manchester, the next day, which place we entered about three o'clock, surpassed all description. Sir Charles Wolseley and Mr. Pearson came to meet us about a mile beyond Pendleton, and the spontaneous expressions of the whole population, which appeared to have turned out to receive and welcome me, it is utterly impossible for my pen to describe. From my worthy friend Chapman, during our journey from Lancaster, I learnt the history of the bloody proceedings of the 16th of August, and my soul was struck with horror and indignation by the recital.
I returned to Johnson's house at Smedley, although Mr. Chapman had informed me of the report of his cowardly and base conduct, while he was confined in the New Bailey, of his having offered and actually written to his wife to give up all my confidential correspondence to the Magistrates, to enable them to make out a charge of High Treason against me, upon condition that he should be admitted what is called KING'S EVIDENCE. Notwithstanding Mr. Chapman assured me that he believed this report to be true, and produced to me almost incontrovertible proof of the fact, still I could not possibly bring my mind to believe that any one could be guilty of such incomparable baseness, and much less that Mr. Johnson, with all his devotion, with all his professions of friendship and regard, could be such a mean, dirty, cowardly dog; and I never should have credited it to its full extent if the wretched slave had not confessed it with his own lips.
While I was confined in the New Bailey, not a soul was allowed to have any access to me but the officers of the Gaol, and latterly my servant, in the presence of the gaoler. I had written to Mr. Charles Pearson, to request his professional assistance, which of course was the greatest proof I could give of the high estimation I entertained of his honour, talent, and political integrity. It is true that I was only slightly acquainted with him at the time, but the result proved that I was perfectly justified in the choice which I made, and the confidence which I placed in him. To have been cursed with either a fool or a knave, under such circumstances, would have been worse than death itself; but I found him to be, what I expected, a man of brilliant talent, and of inflexible political honesty, yet possessed, at the same time, of an intimate knowledge of all the quirks, quibbles, tricks, and shuffles of both the bar and the bench, as well as of all the intermediate ranks between the lowest catchpoll and the highest elevated judge upon the bench. Though he has since been unfortunate in his pursuits, and though he was sometimes inattentive and careless, and though I have heard others complain of him, yet, in the midst of all his foibles and follies, for follies and foibles he has as well as other men, I can safely say that up to this hour, when put to the test, in all his dealings, relations and connections with me, I have found him actuated by the strictest notions of honour, honesty, and conscientious integrity. In a matter of importance, in a case of life and death, such a case as I was then concerned in, I would rather have the professional assistance of Mr. Pearson, even under his present circumstances, if he would devote himself to it, than that of any other man I ever met with in his profession.
While I was imprisoned in Manchester, Mr. Wooler called a Public Meeting, at the Crown and Anchor, and some spirited resolutions were entered into; and a subscription was set on foot for the relief of those who had suffered at Manchester, and to bring to justice the perpetrators of the horrid murders and cruelties committed on the 16th of August. Major Cartwright was appointed the Treasurer. Sir Francis Burdett likewise addressed an excellent letter to his Constituents, to call a meeting upon the subject. This letter was calculated to rouse into action every man in the kingdom who had a heart in his body, and I verily believe that in any country in the world, except England, such a letter, written to the people by a man of Sir Francis's rank, would have caused the whole people to rise in arms to avenge the horrid murders which had been committed upon their helpless, unoffending countrymen. Meetings were, however, called all over the kingdom, to petition the King and the Parliament to investigate the affair, and to bring to justice the authors of such a dreadful outrage upon the lives and liberties of the people.
In the mean time the subscription set on foot by Mr. Wooler began to fill apace—-a circumstance which was calculated to have the very best effect. It, nevertheless, excited the envy and jealousy of the worthies who composed the Westminster, the Borough, and the City of London Rump Committees, and they lost no time in devising the means of getting the management out of the honest hands of those who had taken up the measure. These gentry, who understand how to manage their matters so well, soon wormed themselves and their agents into the Committee, in sufficient numbers to form a majority; and this being accomplished, the next step was to propose to elect four of the Westminster or Burdettite Rump; four of the City, or Waithmanite Rump; and four of the Borough, or Wilson Rump, and these twelve worthies were to form what they themselves were pleased to denominate the Metropolitan Committee, to manage the Subscriptions, and the affairs of the Manchester Sufferers. Major Cartwright and Mr. Wooler were disgusted with the proceedings, and the Major immediately resigned his office of Treasurer, upon which they appointed their own Treasurer, and, in the most unblushing manner, proposed to send Mr. Harmer, a relation of one of the leaders of the party, down to Lancaster, to prefer Bills of Indictment against the Yeomanry, and to assist in defending myself and others who had been prosecuted by the Government. It was, however, suggested by some one of them, that it was too bare-faced a job to send Mr. Harmer down, who had written for, and had already got Mr. Pearson down to assist us, and therefore it was agreed upon, to appoint Mr. Harmer and Mr. Pearson to act jointly in this affair. Mr. Harmer was consequently sent off post to Manchester, to do that which Mr. Pearson, who was on the spot, was so fully competent to have done.
The moment that I heard of these proceedings, I foretold, to Mr. Pearson and Sir Charles Wolseley, every thing that would happen, and how the subscriptions would be misapplied; all of which predictions have been verified to the very letter. Mr. Harmer did not arrive till after we had undergone the final hearing before the Magistrates, till they had abandoned the charge of High Treason, till we had been sentenced to Lancaster Castle, after having undergone an imprisonment of eleven days' solitary confinement; he did not arrive till all this had taken place, and we had been bailed and returned from Lancaster; all this had occurred, and we might have all been committed to Lancaster Castle for High Treason, several days before Mr. Harmer, the Attorney of the Trinitarian Rump Committee, reached Manchester, if it had not been for the assistance of Mr. Pearson and my own personal exertions.
Bills of Indictment were preferred before the Grand Jury at Lancaster, against Owen, Platt, and Derbyshire, for perjury. The first was found a true bill, although bills against the two others were ignored upon the very same evidence. Bills were also preferred against several of the Yeomanry Cavalry, for cutting and maiming men, women, and children, in the most wanton, cruel, and murderous way, on the 16th of August, not only at the meeting on St. Peter's Plain, but likewise in various parts of Manchester; and, in one or two instances, for cutting and maiming those who had never been at the meeting at all, and who were merely standing at their own doors, looking at the military, who were hunting, driving, cutting and slaying in all directions, regardless of age or sex. All the bills, notwithstanding they were supported by the most unquestionable testimony, and all the parties were identified, ALL, ALL of them were ignored and thrown out by a Lancashire Grand Jury, the foreman of which was Lord Stanley, the great Whig Member for that County. Lord Stanley is the eldest son of Lord Derby, who is a regular supporter of the Whigs in the House of Lords, and Lord Stanley is a regular supporter of all Whig measures in the House of Commons. This Whig, Lord Stanley, was also one of the most violent against a parliamentary inquiry into the transaction, when the question was brought before the House of Commons.—The Lord deliver us from the tender mercies of the Whigs, I say!
The bill that was preferred by the Crown, against myself and others, for attending the Manchester meeting, was found immediately, and bail to a heavy amount was required for the appearance of all the parties at the Assizes; which bail could never have been obtained for many of the party, who were very poor men, had it not been for the magnanimous and truly generous conduct of Sir Charles Wolseley. He not only, in the first instance, came to Manchester to bail me, but he remained at Manchester, assisting in causing the bloody Yeomanry to be indicted, and he went to Lancaster, and attended the whole time, and at length became the voluntary bail for every one that could not procure it otherwise. This was really acting a true, noble, manly, and patriotic part! Sir Charles actually saved several of those who were indicted with me from remaining in prison from September to the following March. By his magnanimous behaviour he proved himself to be in reality, an independent, upright Radical, a real friend to justice and humanity. In this affair, Sir Charles Wolseley did more to serve the cause of Liberty and the People, than was done by all the Aristocracy and all the Country Gentlemen in England put together.
Sixteen persons had been murdered, and upwards of Six Hundred had been badly wounded, on the Sixteenth of August. Coroners' Inquests had been held, without effect, upon several of the bodies! "They all died a Natural Death!" till, at last, an Inquest was held at Oldham, on the body of John Lees. This Inquest was attended by Mr. Harmer, and, at the end of the third or fourth day, the evidence was so conclusive, that the Jury were prepared to have returned their verdict of Wilful Murder! but, by some extraordinary fatality, by some unaccountable cause, Mr. Harmer kept calling fresh witnesses, and the Inquest was adjourned from day to day, and from place to place, for a month, and after the last adjournment, they never met again. As the Petition of Robert Lees, the father of the murdered man, speaks fully for itself, and will explain this very curious circumstance better than any thing that I can say, I shall conclude the subject by inserting it at full length, as follows:—
"TO TO THE HONOURABLE THE COMMONS OF THE UNITED KINGDOM OF GREAT BRITAIN AND IRELAND, IN PARLIAMENT ASSEMBLED.
The HUMBLE PETITION of ROBERT LEES, Of OLDHAM, in the County Palatine of LANCASTER, Cotton-spinner,
SHEWETH, That your Petitioner's son, John Lees, a youth twenty-two years of age, having attended the meeting held at Manchester on the 16th of August last, was, as your Petitioner is led to believe, without any just cause or provocation, most inhumanly attacked and cut by Yeomanry Cavalry, and afterwards most unmercifully beaten with the clubs or batons of Police and Special Constables, and also trampled upon by the horses of the Cavalry, whereby he was so much injured, that he was, from that time, incapable of attending to his ordinary employment, and lingered in pain and debility until the night of the 6th of September following, when he died.
That the Surgeon who attended your Petitioner's son having certified that his death was occasioned by violence, several householders in Oldham and the neighbouring townships were served, late in the evening of the 7th of September, with summonses from the Coroner of the district, to attend the next morning at half-past ten o'clock, to serve as Jurors on an inquest to be held on the body of your said Petitioner's son. At the time appointed the said Jurors assembled, and were met by a person named BATTYE, who attended as Deputy for the said Coroner, for the purpose of inquiring into the cause of the death of your Petitioner's son; and, having sworn the Jury, he went with them to take a view of the body. But, finding that several witnesses had arrived from Manchester, to give evidence upon the said inquiry, he refused to proceed in the inquest; and having adjourned the same for three hours, he, at the expiration of that time, further adjourned until the 10th day of the same month, when the said BATTYE promised, that either Mr. FERRAND, his employer, or Mr. MILNE, a neighbouring Coroner, should certainly attend and proceed in the investigation.
"That, on the next day, a Surgeon attended, by the direction of the said Mr. BATTYE, to open and examine the body of your Petitioner's son; and he was then allowed to be interred.
"That, on the 10th day of September, the Jury again assembled; but, although Mr. MILNE attended, he refused to interfere in the business, as he said it did not belong to his district; and the inquest was further adjourned until the 25th day of the same month. And, during this interval, some of the Manchester newspapers inserted the vilest falsehoods, to depreciate the reputation of the deceased, with a view, as your Petitioner believes, to extinguish every feeling of sympathy for his fate.
"That, on the said 25th day of September, Mr. FERRAND attended; and, after swearing the Jury, and ascertaining from them that they had all seen the body, he proceeded to examine witnesses; but, in the course of the investigation, he adjourned several times for days together, without any reasonable or probable cause, and merely, as your Petitioner believes, to harass and tire out the witnesses, who came day after day a considerable distance to give testimony.
"That, in detailing his complaint to your Honourable House, your Petitioner exceedingly regrets he should be Please note
All known copies of volume 3 are "imperfect" and are "wanting after page 640".
It is possible that these pages were suppressed as they were "written by himself in H'.M's Jail at Ilchester".