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cal numbers, not their intellectual strength, that they Chap.
hope to gain their object. As such, they tend to uproot —
the very foundations of government, which must always m9' be laid in the loyalty and submission of the great body of the people. They are always on the edge of violence, if they do not actually commence it; and if they are not actually treasonable, they may be rendered such at no distant period. In all considerable towns in the empire, where such meetings are in use to be held, there are rooms capable of holding at least as many as can possibly hear the speakers; the press will next morning convey their sentiments to the whole nation; and if the display of numbers is desired, the petition or resolutions agreed to may be presented to Parliament, supported by a million of signatures.
The conduct of the magistrates on this unhappy occasion, though not illegal, appears to have been more open Aad on the to exception in point of prudence; and though properly the magisand courageously approved of by the Government at the trates° time, it should by no means be followed on similar occasions. They had not issued any proclamation before, warning the meeting that its object was illegal, and that it would be dispersed by force; nor, indeed, could such a proclamation have been issued, as the avowed object of the meeting to petition for a reform in Parliament was legal. The banners carried, though in some instances inflammatory and dangerous, could hardly be called, upon the whole, seditious. "God save the King," and "Rule Britannia," had been played by the bands without any signs of disapprobation from the meeting; and though they had in part marched in military array, they had no arms except a few pikes, had numbers of women and children among them, and had attempted no outrage or act of violence. They had not commenced the proceedings when the dispersion began, so that nothing had been said on the spot to justify it. The Riot Act had been read from the window where the magistrates
Chap. were, but the hour required to justify the dispersion of
a peaceable assembly had not elapsed. The highest
1819- authorities have taught us that the meeting was illegal, from its menacing and dangerous character; but the point is, was it expedient at the moment, when no warning had been given of its illegality, to disperse it by force ? * True, the warrant to arrest Hunt and his friends could not be executed but by military force; but where was the necessity of executing it at all in the presence of the multitude \ Could they not have been observed by the police, and arrested in the evening, or at night, after they had dispersed, when no tumult or disorder was to be apprehended? Had the crowd proceeded to acts of violence or depredation, they could not have been too quickly or vigorously charged by the military; but while yet pacific and orderly, and when no seditious resolutions had been proposed, they&t\c&st were innocent, whatever their leaders may have been. In a word, the conduct of the magistrates, though legal, seems to have been ill-judged, and their measures inexpedient. But great allowance must be made for unprofessional men suddenly placed in such trying circumstances; and as their error, if error there
iTa365Dob'was' was one of judgment only, there can be but one 69. ' opinion on the noble and intrepid course which Government pursued on the occasion.11
* Lord Eldon appears, at first at least, to have been of this opinion, for ho wrote to his brother, Sir William Scott, soon after hearing of it: "Without all doubt the Manchester magistrates must be supported; but they are very generally blamed here. For my part, I think if the assembly was only an unlawful assembly, that task will be difficult encugh in sound reasoning. If the meeting was an overt act of high treason, their justification was complete." He then goes on to say ho thought it wat an overt act of treason.—Lord Eldon to Sir W. Scott ; Eldon's Life, ii. 338.
+ In truth, in all such cases, what the magistrate has chiefly to consider is, not what is, strictly speaking, legal merely, but what will bear the efforts of misrepresentation and the ordeal of public opinion. Many things are legal which must often not be attempted by those intrusted with authority; many things illegal, in those subjected to it, which must yet be sometimes tolerated. The following rules to guide the magistrate in such difficult circumstances may perhaps be of use to those who are liable to be called on to act under them, and have been the result of some experience and much reflection on the part of the author: 1st. If a meeting, evidently treasonable or seditious, or obviously tendIt soon appeared how little effect the violent suppres- Chap.
sion of the Manchester meeting had in preventing assem- .—
blages of a similar or still more alarming description 1^9,
ham and Leeds, in Westminster, York, Liverpool, Bris- other quartol, and Nottingham, attended by great multitudes, attcr*' which flags representing a yeoman cutting at a woman were displayed, with the word "Vengeance" inscribed in large letters, and resolutions vehemently condemning the Manchester proceedings were adopted. A meeting of the Common Council of London was held on 9th September, when a petition was voted to the Prince-Regent, condemning the conduct of the magistrates and yeomanry, and praying for inquiry; and at Paisley a meeting of the most violent and seditious character was held, which led to still more serious results. The magistrates of the burgh and sheriff of the county had there very properly issued a proclamation, denouncing the pro
ing toa breach of the peace—as to choose a provisional government, or to levy war on the Government, or to train without proper authority, or to have an Orange procession among Kibbonmcn—is announced, to meet it by a counter-proclamation denouncing it as illegal; but not to do this unless the illegality or danger is manifest, and the magistrate is prepared, and has the force to act decidedly if hia admonition is disregarded. 2d. If, in defiance of the proclamation, the meeting is held or the procession attempted, to stop it as gently as possible by force, the magistrate being always himself at the head of the civil or military force which may be employed. 3d. If a meeting, not called for treasonable or seditious purposes, takes place, but threatening to the public pence, to assemble in the vicinity as large a civil and military force as he has at his disposal, but placo them out of sight, and never let them be exposed passively either to the insults or the seductions of the people. 4th. If acts of violence, as breaking into houses, setting fire to them, or assaulting or robbing individuals, are attempted, to charge the mob instantly, the magistrate taking his place beside the commanding officer, and taking on himself the entire responsibility; but not to give orders to act till the felonious acts are so clear and decided as to leavo no doubt of the impending danger, and to be capable of being proved, in defiance of misrepresentation, by numerous witnesses. 5th. If the leaders arc to be arrested, but nothing illegal has yet been done by the multitude, to have the warrant ready, but not to attempt to execute it till they have dispersed, taking the precaution, however, to have the speeches listened to, or taken down by persons who can bo relied on. 6th. If acts of decided felony havo been commenced, to act at once, without waiting for the hour required to elapse by the Riot Act, and though it has not been read, the object of that Act being to render illegal a legal and peaceable, not to justify the dispersion of a violent and illegal assembly.
throughout the country.
Chap. posed meeting as illegal, and warning the public that
it would be dispersed by force; but notwithstanding
1819- this, the people met on a common near the town, and entered it in great force, with colours, bearing seditious devices, flying, and music sounding. They were met by the sheriff and magistrates, who seized the colours, and warned the people to disperse. This led to a violent tumult, in the course of which several shops were broken into and pillaged, and order was not restored till the military had been brought from Glasgow, and twenty of the ringleaders seized. In Yorkshire a meeting was held, on a requisition to the high sheriff, signed by Lord Fitzwilliam, the lord-lieutenant of the West Riding of the county, and many other noblemen and gentlemen, where resolutions strongly condemnatory of the Manchester proceedings were adopted. For his share in that proceeding, Lord Fitzwilliam was immediately removed i Ann Reg from his high office by order of Government, to the great iii-'sid'' reErc^ of tue friends of that highly-respected nobleman; Memthir bit ^ne divergence of opinions between him and the 208, 304. Administration had become such that it was impossible they could longer act together.1
Great inconvenience had been experienced throughout Augmenu- all these disturbances, occurring simultaneously in so cheise* many different and distant quarters, from the want of any adequate military force to overawe the disaffected and preserve the public peace. A serious riot occurred at Ely, in the course of which the rioters got possession of, and kept for some time, the little town of Littleport, and the only force to oppose to them was eighteen dragoons. The like force was all that could be collected to oppose an insurrection at Derby. When the disturbance broke out at Paisley in the end of September, and the most pressing request for more troops was sent by Sir Thomas Bradford, the Commander-in-Chief in Scotland, the only mode of answering it was by sending a regiment from Portsmouth, and supplying its place by one from
Guernsey. The Commander-in-Chief, with the exception Chap.
of the Guards, who could not with safety be moved from .—
Loudon, had not a single regiment at his disposal, when 1819applications for protection were coming in from all quarters, and yet Parliament was ringing with declamations about the undue increase of the military force of the country. In this extremity Government adopted the wisest course which could have been followed, by calling out the most efficient of the pensioners, and arranging them in veteran battalions—a measure which, at a cost of only £300,000 a-year, added nearly 11,000 men to the military force of the kingdom. Lord Sidmouth was indefatigable Oct. 29. in pursuing this object, as well as in augmenting the number and strength of the yeomanry force throughout the country; and so ceaseless and energetic were his efforts in both respects, that the Prince-Regent observed, with equal truth and justice, "He is the Duke of Wellington on home service." At the same time that illustrious commander, who now, on his return from the Continent, commenced that career of administrative reform and amelioration which, not less than his military career, entitle him to the gratitude and admiration of his coun- j^S'i^** try, addressed a letter to Lord Sidmouth, of lasting value sidmouth-a to all magistrates and officers placed in similar circum- zaolwi. stances.1*
* "I strongly recommend to you to order the magistrates to carry into execution, without loss of time, the law against training, and to furnish them with the means of doing so. Do not let us be again reproached with having omitted to carry the laws into execution. By sending to Carlisle and Newcastle 700 or 800 men, cavalry and infantry, and two pieces of cannon, or, in other words, two of this movable column, the four would be more than sufficient to do all that may be required. Rely upon it, that, in the circumstances in which we are placed, imprettion on either tide it everything. If, upon the passing of the training law, you prevent training, cither by the use of force or the appearance of forco, in the two places above mentioned, you will put a stop at onco to all the proceedings of the insurgents. They are like conquerort; they mutt go forward; the moment they ttop they are lotU Their adherents will lose all confidence, and by degrees every individual will relapse into their old habits of loyalty or indifference. On the other hand, the moment the loyal seo there is a law which can prevent these practices, and means and inclination and determination to carry it into execution, they will regain courage, and will do everything which you can desire. In my opinion, if you send tho troops, and