A scrap of paper giving account of events at St. Peter’s Fields in Manchester shows that few expected the Yeoman Cavalry to be used to break up the crowd. This brief, vivid, immediate account is said to be our earliest report of ‘Peterloo’, 16 August 1819. This information was received in London the following day and sent to the office of Lord Sidmouth. Catalogue ref: HO 42/192 f207
The Liberty cap has been a symbol of freedom since at least Roman times. It was worn during the American Revolution and was adopted during the French Revolution. In Britain in 1819, the ‘Cap of Liberty’ was also the name of a radical weekly newsletter.
August 16, 1819
The meeting took place at 1 o’clock. Hunt in the chair with 16 flags and 7 caps of Liberty hoisted up amongst upwards of 60,000 people, the cavalry has just broke in upon them, the flags are taken, Hunt and his party secured, several lives are lost and a number wounded. The cavalry are now securing the streets in all directions, ½ past 2 o’clock,
« Return to How did the government respond to a mass protest at ‘Peterloo’ in 1819?
- This note was written on the day. Can you think of any advantages or disadvantages this might mean for historians?
- What was the size of the crowd mentioned here?
- What do you think was the purpose of the flags and liberty caps seen at the meeting?
- How and why were ‘lives lost and a number wounded’ at the meeting?
- Does the writer justify the use of the cavalry against the crowd?
- Does the writer reveal his attitude to these events? Explain your views.
- Compare this source to Source 2 showing events at St. Peter’s Fields. Can you spot any similarities and differences with this version of events?