Source 1

A letter sent to authorities in Manchester on behalf of Lord Sidmouth, Home Secretary, 4 August 1819. Catalogue ref: HO 41/4 f.434


This letter advised on steps to be taken before the meeting happened in St Peter’s Fields in August, 1819.


Whitehall August 4th 1819 


J. Norris, Esquire




Lord Sidmouth having further considered the question which was the subject of yesterday’s letter, desires me to say that Reflection convinces him the more strongly of the Inexpediency [not being useful] of attempting forcibly to prevent the meeting on Monday. Every discouragement and obstacle should be thrown in its way, and the Advertisement [public warning] from the magistrates will no doubt have a salutary [good] effect in this respect. But his Lordship thinks that it would be imprudent [unwise] to act up to the Spirit of the Advertisement. 


He has no doubt that you will make arrangements for obtaining evidence of what passes; that if anything illegal is done or said it may be the subject of prosecution. But even if they should utter sedition [threaten to rebel against the government] or proceed to the election of a representative, Lord Sidmouth is of opinion that it will be the wisest course to abstain from any endeavour to disperse the mob, unless they should proceed to Acts of Felony [serious crime] or riot. We have the strongest Reason to believe that Hunt means to preside and to deprecate [disapprove of] disorder. I ought to have mentioned that the opinion, which I have expressed for Lord Sidmouth, is supported by that of the highest law authorities. 


I am ever


H. Hobhouse




4th August 1819


« Return to How did the government respond to a mass protest at ‘Peterloo’ in 1819?
  • What steps should be taken to discourage the meeting in Manchester from happening? 
  • On what grounds would Lord Sidmouth be prepared to use force to ‘disperse the mob’ or break up the meeting? 
  • What does the letter suggest about the government’s attitude to the meeting? 
  • Why do you think the writer chose to use capital letters for some words like: ‘Reflection’; ‘Advertisement’; ‘Inexpediency’; ‘Acts of Felony’?