A Survivor of Peterloo (1819).
On the 16th August. 1819, 60,000 men, women, and ohildron assembled on Peterfield, Manchester, to publicly give voice to their discontent and misery, and to petition the Crown for universal suffrage and the abolition of the Corn Laws. The popular leaders— Henry Hunt, Dr Healey, Samuel Bamford, and others—had taken the most stringent precautions to avoid the slightest appearance of menace. The people had been advised even to leave their sticks at home, and too processions which streamed iuto Manchester from the adjacent towns on the morning of the 16th weie as defenceless as they were peaceable. \\ hen, however, tho chairman "Orator" Hunt commenced tho proceedings by enjoining the people to maintain order, the Manchester yeomanry, acter , under the direction of certain magistrates gathered in a neighboring house, dashed into the crowd and sabred men, women, and children indiscriminately. IThe huaaara soon followed, aiding iu the work of butchery. Eleven persons were killed upon tho Bpot, many were trampled upon and crushed, while more than GOO were carried to the infirmary mangled and bleeding. There is now living one who stood upon the iield of Peterloo on that awful day, and witnessed the ever-memor-able scene. A representative of the ' Pall Mall Gazette ' recently sought out Mr E. T. Craig, who has spent an exceptionally long and active life in promoting the social welfare of the people, notably in the direction of co-operative production and distribution. Mr Croig at eighty-five years of age is still active in his good work, although some of bis physical faculties are beginning to fail. On the subject of Peterloo the following is a resum6 of the conversation : " Have you a distinct recollection of the incident, Mr Craig ?"—" My memory is perfectly clear upon the subject, and I may say that nothing ever made so profound an impression on my mind as the events of thut day; I was at that time a lad of fifteen, and, attracted partly by curiosity, I went to Peterfield about noon on August 16, ISI9. The police and special constables formed a double line up to the platform, apparently with a view to the protection of the speaker*. Hunt said a few preliminary words when the yeomanry were seen to be advancing into the dense crowd. The people turned round in surprise, and began to cheer; but when it was seen that the troopers were slashing right and left with their sabres tho unarmed multitude fled for their lives, accumulating in dire confusion at the end of the field near Deansgate. It was a horrible sight. I saw the bodies of dead and wounded men and women carried from the field to the infirmary, bleeding profusely. The soldiers pursued tho flying crowd into the side street*, and even attacked the people at their own doors. I saw some fugitives who, in their fright, had leaped into the cellars in Windmill street, and were thero crushed by others seeking to escape from the drunken yeomanry. Yes," added Mr Craig, in answer to an inquiry on this point, "there is no doubt they were drunk. In their mad fury they attacked the police; and it was known in Manchester at the time that the soldiers had been 'treated' to large quantities of brandy in Pickford's while they were awaitiDg their orderß. After the massacre I saw Bome of the yeomanry in Mosely street, carrying a flag and a Phrygian cap which they had seized. The men were as pale as death." " What was the effect of Peterloo on the people of Manchester?"—" Well, I may say that it converted the town from Toryism to Liberalism, Up to that time Manchester had been remarkable for the petty and bigoted Toryism that prevailed ; men were persecuted and annoyed if they ventured to express Liberal views. After Peterloo, however, inqairiea into the state of the people Were set on foot by a local committee ; many of the operatives were found to be in a starving condition, and efforts were made to alleviate their misery. The numerous educational institutions which were founded subsequently wero admittedly the results of the reaction from the brutal and repressive Toryism which wrought its work at Peterloo."
" Did the outraged people make any reprisals ?"—" Yes ; I saw with my own eyes a cotton factory set on fire. A lighted candle was thrown into a basket of cotton. Just before the flames broko out a detachment of the Scots Greys galloped up, and the people fled to Tinker's Fields. For some years the anniversary of Peterloo was commemorated on the spot by public meetings, at which appropriate songs were sung ; but after a time the practice was abandoned. Upon me, however, as I told you before, the events of that day made a lasting impression, and all through my life I have constantly endeavored to impress upon my fellow-countrymen the lessons of the Peterloo massacre."
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A Survivor of Peterloo (1819)., Evening Star, Issue 8038, 15 October 1889