On 16 August 1819, thousands of peaceful protestors for parliamentary reform gathered at St. Peter’s Square, Manchester. Ten to 20 were killed and hundreds injured as the meeting was violently broken up by volunteer soldiers. Shocked and appalled by the events of the Peterloo Massacre, John Cam Hobhouse, politician and friend of Lord Byron, joined efforts with other Radicals in 1820 to establish the Metropolitan and Central Committee.This pamphlet sets out the Committee’s vision for justice.
The Committee supplement their appeal with a list, shown here, of those killed and injured on 16 August. It accounts for 430 people; other sources state different figures, both greater and fewer. The simple record of the victims’ full names, ages and occupations humanises an otherwise abstract figure. The list includes women, men and children. The Committee’s plain, matter-of-fact descriptions of the victims’ injuries sustained by sword blows, crushing and beating are often shocking.
In spite of its formal name, the Committee was independent from the state. Hobhouse set up the Committee from prison while serving a sentence concerning a previous controversial publication. Its main objective was to provide financial relief, or compensation, for the victims and their families. Due to the severity of their injuries, many were unable to return to their work immediately. Through financial subscriptions, the Committee pooled money from individuals and other similar, but smaller, charitable appeals. The Appendix records the amount of relief distributed to each ‘sufferer’.
Through their appeal, the Committee helped to raise and sustain public awareness of Peterloo. It is a remarkable and moving demonstration of the horror felt within the Manchester region and nationwide.