Who was to Blame for the Peterloo Massacre?

Essay by pp186 June 2005

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The Peterloo massacre occurred after the war with France ended in 1815. Though the war may have been finished, the worst was yet to come. Life became difficult as unemployment was elevating and bread was very expensive. Child and women slavery was at its peak and in the summer of 1819, there was bloodshed.

On August 16 1819, 60,000 men, women, and children assembled in St. Peter's Fields in Manchester to hear the famous speaker Henry 'Orator' Hunt criticise the government. The day began peacefully as bands played and groups marched carrying banners with slogans similar to 'Votes for All'. Unfortunately this day ended in torment, and became known as the Peterloo Massacre because Britain, who had previously been proud of her victory against France at the battle of Waterloo, now had caused such havoc again only this time it was due to her tyrannical leaders. The critics of the government showed their disgust at what had taken place by delegating this name.

From the six sources given to us in class, two blame the crowd, three blame the soldiers, and one blames Henry Hunt. Source B; an extract from the statement of an unknown witness at John Lees' Inquest points out the crowds fault: 'When I got to the end of Watson Street, I saw ten or twelve of the cavalry cutting at the people. An officer rode up to his own men and shouted, "For shame gentlemen, what are you doing? The people cannot get away." They stopped for a time, but as soon as the officer rode off they began again.' And Lieutenant Joliffe states in source C that although nine out of ten sword wounds were cause by the cavalry, it was due to the patience of the troops that more were not received. He also...