Friday, 17 November 2017

English Honour and the Captivity of Napoleon


An English Gentleman

England in the Regency period was a highly ordered society. Gentlemanly conduct was the ideal to which all in power aspired. Half a century earlier Dr Johnson had defined being a gentleman in terms of "nobility of soul, magnanimity, and a scorn of meanness." Gentlemanly conduct also encompassed ideas of never taking unfair advantage and of conducting oneself towards your enemy as if he might one day become your friend. (1)

The treatment of Napoleon after his surrender was clearly an infringement of this gentlemanly code: detaining a defeated ruler after the end of hostilities was neither customary nor honourable. Napoleon in his letter to the Prince Regent had claimed " the protection of the laws", and had thrown himself on "the most powerful, the most constant, and the most generous" of his enemies. Whilst Captain Maitland gave no assurances as to the outcome of his surrender, Napoleon certainly got the impression that he would be treated with the respect normally afforded a defeated enemy. Lord Holland made exactly this criticism when opposing the bill to legalise Napoleon's detention:

To consign to distant exile and imprisonment a foreign and captive Chief, who, after the abdication of his authority, relying on British generosity, had surrendered himself to us, in preference to his other enemies, is unworthy the magnanimity of a great country;


Napoleon Preparing to Board the Bellerophon

The question of “honour” was important in governing circles, and impugnment of a man's honour fairly regularly led to duels.(2) Hudson Lowe mentioned it in one of his long letters to Bathurst early in the captivity.(3) Lord Castlereagh sought to dispel the concern by a rather tortuous logic: Napoleon and his fellow exiles had held a council of war in France prior to surrender and had decided there was no chance of escape; if Napoleon had had a chance of escape and had surrendered then the Government action would have been dishonourable, but since he had had no choice then Britain acted honourably.

The fact that Lord Bathurst and many members of the Government derived amusement from Napoleon's plight was also unworthy of an English gentleman. In a debate in the House of Lords in 1817 Lord Holland wondered how Bathurst could “allow himself to laugh and sneer at a man because he was in his power.“ Commenting on the affair, the Examiner criticized Bathurst for taking advantage of a man’s adversity by cracking jokes about him, and concluded that “it is the object of Ministers to humiliate their fallen Superior” hence their insistence on the title “General.

Samuel Bamford, the simple weaver who could not aspire to gentlemanly status, clearly judged his country by that moral code, and condemned Napoleon's exile on St. Helena: "Of England's honour 'tis the grave."

It is no wonder that a later gentlemanly Prime Minister would write that an Englishman

"must regret that his Government ever undertook the custody of Napoleon, and he must regret still more that the duty should have been discharged in a spirit so ignoble and through agents so unfortunate."
Rosebery was presumably referring to two knights of the realm, Sir Hudson Lowe and Sir Thomas Reade, neither of whom he considered gentlemen.(4) For Loyalists such as Lowe and Reade of course, and for Bathurst also, Napoleon was an illegitimate ruler, a rebel and a usurper, which undoutedly affected the way he was treated.

It might be fair to point out that for the French at this time and later there was a certain hypocrisy about an Englishman's invocation of "honour", L'Angleterre, ah, la perfide Angleterre .
--------------------------------------------------------------------
1.See "In a Gewntleman-Like-Manner"
1. Canning and Castlereagh duelled in 1809; the Duke of Wellington fought a duel in 1829 when he was Prime Minister.
3. See also Gorrequer's comment, June 10, 1818.
4.Lord Rosebery, Napoleon The Last Phase London 1900, p 57.

Saturday, 28 October 2017

Stockport 1819: Sandy Brow will be More Famous than Waterloo


Cartoon depicting a chained Rev. Harrison of Stockport holding the red Cap of Liberty

In the years leading up to Peterloo, Stockport became a major centre of radicalism. The main area of of popular protest was Sandy Brow, a large open space in the centre of Stockport of which there is now no trace on the map. The best known leader was Rev. Joseph Harrison a dissenting minister whose Sunday School was at one point reportedly attended by some 2000 pupils.

On September 1st 1818 a meeting at Sandy Brow led to the arrest of three of the speakers, John Bagguley, Samuel Drummond and John Johnston. It was pointed out at their trial in 1819 that one of them had eulogised Tom Paine and Napoleon Bonaparte and had reprobated those who abused Napoleon. (1)

In February 1819 at another mass meeting at Sandy Brow the Cap of Liberty was hoisted along with a flag inscribed "Paine & the Rights of Man." Outraged local Loyalists tried to seize the cap and the ensuing struggle was recorded in poems by Samuel Bamford and Henry Ross O'Bryan. (2)

Bamford's poem, in Lancashire dialogue, was redolent of his poem "Touch Him" with its suggestions of the cowardice of the Loyalist yeomanry "dandies".

Ha! Ha'en they taken our cap and flag;
 Wo han the Dandies taken 'em?
  ...
O! Wot could stan afore the might
 O' yeomanry so Loyal?
Who came to drive the 'herd aright,
 An would ha' no denial;
Until the stones began to fly,
 An heads began o' crackin',
An' then our Gallant Yeomanry 
 Were fain to find a backin'.
...
Then amblin' up the 'gemmen' came,
 Towards the front o' th' Hustin;
But soon their folly did they blame
 The rabblement for trustin';
For sticks were up, and stones they flew,
 Their gentle bodies bruisin',
An in a hurry they withdrew
 Fro' such unmannered usin'.

Then proudly let our banner wave,
 Wi' freedom's emblem o'er it,
And toasted be the Stockport lads
 The lads who bravely bore it,
An let the 'war torn' Yeomanry
  Go curse their sad disasters,
An count in rueful agony,
  Their bruises and their plasters.

O'Bryan's poem, subtitled "We fought and conquered," was dedicated to Harrison.


Those who raised the Cap of Liberty on Sandy Brow, "The stage where Britons play'd a Briton's part" were true patriots. "Dire oppression" had "usurp'd" Britain, and the poem harked back to a time "ere tyrant's reign began, When ev'ry Briton lived a free born man ." It questioned the purposes of the "manly Britons" who had fought overseas,"When bleeding thousands fell at Waterloo.", and were now "Curs'd by the despots they themselves preserved." There was then no ambiguity about the author's view of Waterloo:


We're mine Herculean strength, my arm should hew
Those scarlet dogs that bark'd at Waterloo;
Or, Sampson like, I would such asses slay,
And all their guilty fame in ruins lay.
.......
And teach them, England is not Waterloo.
.......
On SANDY BROW we yet shall meet to praise
The God of freedom, just in all his ways.
........
Then truth shall triumph, while the tyrants fell,
Shall fly for refuge to their native hell;
Th' astonish'd world with joy the change shall scan,
And all creation shout, the RIGHTS OF MAN.

A few months later, in June 1819, a few weeks before Smithfield and Peterloo, another meeting at Sandy Brow passed a resolution affirming that Lord Sidmouth was guilty of high treason, and three hisses were given for the prosecutors of Bagguley, Drummond and Johnston. The meeting was addressed by Sir Charles Wolseley the head of an old Staffordshire family who hoped that "Sandy Brow would be more famed in history than the field of Waterloo." He told the crowd that his political career had begun at the storming of the bastille in France, and he would never hesitate in doing the same in England.

Sir Charles and the Rev. Harrison were in July 1819 indicted for sedition, conspiracy and high treason. At their trial in Chester in 1820 each was sentenced to one and a half years' imprisonment. At later trials Harrison got an additional two years for a speech and a sermon delivered after the June meeting.

A Note on Sir Charles Wolseley

Wolseley was the only aristocrat among the radical leaders in the years around Peterloo. Relatively little is known about him, and no major biography has ever been written. (3)

As well as being in France during the storming of the Bastille he apparently returned to live there for a time after 1801. Along with his father, Sir William, he became involved in reform politics in London in 1811, and he was present at the founding of both the Hampden Club and the Union for Parliamentary Reform in 1812.(4) There is tentative evidence that he offered some kind of service to Napoleon during the 100 days.(5)

Sir Charles Wolseley (1769-1846)

Wolseley met Hunt for the first time in 1818, and from that time appears to have severed ties with the more cautious reformers such as Sir Francis Burdett. In August 1819, on his way to the fateful meeting at St Peter's Field, Hunt was invited to Wolseley Hall, and the two then proceeded to Manchester together, although Wolseley did not stay to attend the meeting which was postponed for seven days.(6) Nevertheless as soon as he heard the news he rushed back to Manchester to provide bail for Hunt and the others. He attended Bamford's trial at York, and supplied Bamford and his wife with money, and he intended to erect a memorial for the victims of Peterloo at Wolseley Hall.

Ancestral home of the Wolseley family in Staffordshire, destroyed in 1966

For a time in the 1820's he lived in Brussels, but he remained in contact with Hunt until they fell out when Hunt was elected to Parliament in 1830. Sir Charles supported the anti poor law radicals in the 1830's and unsuccessfully stood for Parliament in Stafford and Manchester in 1835.

In 1837 he was accepted into the Roman Catholic faith, and wrote a pamphlet "Catholic Clergymen versus Protestant Parsons " which was very critical of Anglican clergy, too frequently a "titled blockhead " and the "booby of the family", sentiments which would have undoubtedly resonated with many nonconformists. He reminded his readers that it was Catholics who built British Cathedrals, founded the Universities and "framed our envied Constitution."

Sir Charles seems to have been a generous and thoroughly decent man, he remained a philanthropist to the end, but he departed from his radical past in the last year of his life by speaking against repeal of the Corn Laws.
----------------------------------------------
1. John Bagguley, Samuel Drummond and John Johnston had tried to escape to America but were captured before they could embark from Liverpool. At the Stockport meeting Napoleon was described by one of them as "that suffering magnanimous character", a view of Napoleon as a victim of the boroughmongers that seems to have been widely held among radicals by this time, and certainly by Henry Hunt.
2. The events at Sandy Brow were eclipsed by the Peterloo Massacre, but for that Sandy Brow would have had a bigger part in radical folklore. Robert Walmsley Peterloo The Case Reopened (Manchester University Press, 1969)p. 58
3. Anne Bayliss, Sir Charles Wolseley (1769-1846) The radical baronet (Staffordshire County Library 1983) provides a short fragmentary account of his life.
4. Bayliss p. 3
5. Bayliss says in her introduction that in the Staffordshire Record office there was a list of letters, one of which dated in 1819 indicated that Sir charles had offered to "do an important service for Napoleon during the 100 days". The letter itself apparently could not be found!
6. Dr Robert Poole has informed me that Wolseley toured Manchester in Hunt’s carriage amid vast crowds. In his view Wolseley would probably have spoken at the St Peter's Field meeting had it not been postponed. The Times of August 10th 1819 in an article dated 7th August listed Wolseley as among those who had been expected to attend the postponed meeting. On August 11 it carried a long report of Hunt and the "crazy Staffordshire Baronet" processing through Manchester and being greeted by very large crowds.

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Samuel Bamford: Lancashire Radical and Poet


Samuel Bamford (1788-1872)

Samuel Bamford was one of the leading Manchester radicals who was arrested and gaoled after Peterloo. After his release Bamford retreated from radical politics, and in 1848 at the height of the Chartist movement he even enrolled as a special constable, as did many establishment figures including William Gladstone and Prince Louis Napoleon, the future Napoleon III.

Bamford's highly regarded Passages in the Life of a Radical, provides an important source for study of the post-Waterloo radical movement, but inevitably it lacks immediacy and provides a carefully constructed view of Bamford's part in the struggles. Bamford had been inside eight prisons, and in the years of the Chartist movement to some extent disavowed his more militant past. (1)

Anthony Burgess's claim of Manchester working class support for Napoleon might be disputed by modern loyalist historians. Nevertheless, amongst all the loyalist displays, including the burnings of Thomas Paine in effigy, very few radicals could be labeled as 'patriots' during the latter years of the Napoleonic Wars.(2) Samuel Bamford, despite, to the horror of his aunt, joining the milita as a young man during the invasion scare, was certainly not among them. At the heart of loyalism was Anglicanism, which was very weak in Manchester, and Bamford came from a dissenting family.

A Collection of Bamford's early poems, published in 1821

The best insight into the world view and the passion of the younger Bamford is to be found in his Miscellaneous Poetry published in 1821. The most political of the poems, "Waterloo", "St Helena", "Touch Him", "The Arrest", "God Save the Queen", "The Queen's Triumph", "The Patriot's Hymn" and "The Union Hymn" were all omitted from the 1843 edition of his poems.(3)

The victory at Waterloo was the cornerstone of Loyalist propaganda. For radicals it was an unnecessary and unjust war fought to impose an unpopular King on the French people, and represented the triumph of tyranny at home as well as on the continent (4) On hearing the news of Waterloo Bamford wrote the ironic Patriot's Hymn, sung by radicals to the tune of God Save the King. This poem reflected beliefs widely held by the radical opponents of the war.


Emperors, and lords, and kings,
Gaudy and glittering things,
Unlov'd by thee.
If they but nod the head,
Armies are mustered,
Thousands to slaughter led,
For tyranny.

Gory is Europe's plain,
Whelmed beneath her slain,
Dreadful to see.
Bleeding promiscuously,
Victors and vanquish'd lie,
Mingled in butchery,
Let man be free.

In 1817 Bamford wrote about Napoleon's exile. St Helena was "the prison of the brave" and "Of England's honour 'tis the grave."

There Napoleon truly great,
High above the stormy wave,
Stands sublime in silent state;
Like a comet's blaze unfurl'd,
Hanging o'er a wondering world." (5)

Bamford's poem about Waterloo echoed the well worn radical themes of "butchery" and of "shame" that "freedom fell by Englishmen". Nowhere was to be found any reference to the Tory hero Wellington nor to the divine intervention sometimes invoked by the Loyalist press. For Bamford and the radicals it had been an unequal fight, of Britain and the tyrants of the continent ganging up against freedom and the "brave" Napoleon.


Nobly strives the gallant Gaul
  Th' unequal combat to maintain;
For country, honour, Emperor, all,
  He freely bleeds, but bleeds in vain.
Oh! arm of strength, and heart so brave,
From rout, from ruin, could not save!"

O, my country, that my tears
  Could wash this foul reproach away;
Could purchase from succeeding years
  Oblivion for that direful day;
Could whelm in Lethe's darksome tide
  Thy lasting shame, thy greatest pride!"

In January 1819 Orator Hunt made his first visit to Manchester. In the course of that visit he went to the theatre and in a pre-planned assault was ejected from his box by a group of red-coated officers. This inspired Bamford to write "Touch Him", perhaps the most explicitly combative of his poems, with the almost obligatory reference to Waterloo. In Miscellaneous Poetry the incident was described as an

"Outrage, committed upon Mr. Hunt, and his Friends, at the Theatre .. by Lord Uxbridge, Captain Frazer, George Torr, and twenty or thirty other "gemmen' of the same stamp."

Touch him, aye! touch him, if you dare;
Pluck from his head one single hair -
        Ye sneaking, coward crew:

Touch him - and blasted be the hand
That graspeth not a vengeful brand,
To rid our long oppressed land
    Of reptiles such as you.

The poem also evokes a sense of class hatred and class warfare and mocks the officers for their cowardice in not standing and fighting

Our purse-proud tyrants vanity
    Shall to the earth be cast"
 
A tougher game they'll have to play
    Than that of WATERLOO.

Why did the sparks, on Monday night,
With fallen crests decline the fight,
    And silent sneak away?


But, true to Dandy stile and trim,
They risked neither life nor limb;
      O! it had cheered me,
To see our gallant gang so stout,
At clog and cudgel have a bout;
So fast so firm, amid the rout,
    For HUNT AND LIBERTY.

But come, my lads, some other day
We'll pin them, ere they sneak away,
And they shall either play or pay
  When Hunt returns again." (6)

Ten days after Peterloo Samuel and his wife were awoken about 2 o'clock in the morning by the hated deputy-constable of Manchester, Mr Nadin, accompanied by police, a company of foot and a troop of Hussars. Nadin told Bamford that he was being arrested for high treason, and on the way to gaol said that he expected him to be hung. Bamford later wrote "The Arrest" which mocked the large presence of soldiers to arrest an unarmed man in the middle of the night. One of the verses refers with irony to the redcoats, and again to Waterloo.

But in they came - a mighty rout
   Of thief-catchers and soldiers brave,
(Our British red-coats ever ought
  A gallant character to have -
  You know they did the country save,
And our religion, and our right;)
  The very dogs of war, who gave
The troops of France so keen a bite,
When they at Waterloo did fight."

Bamford was an avid reader of "Cobbett's Register" which was widely circulated amongst radicals, and his world view does not appear to have been significantly different to that of the London dominated radical leadership: the long war against France was unjust, unnecessary and against the interests of working people; it was the product of a corrupt and unrepresentative Parliament. In the radical constellation Queen Caroline and the Emperor Napoleon were the brave victims, the anti-heroes were the Prince Regent, Sidmouth, Castlereagh, and for Lancastrians, Parson Hay.

In 1820 in London before his imprisonment Bamford visited the Waterloo Museum in Pall Mall, and "doffed my hat before that of Napoleon, and I reverently touched the sword of Ney and the truncheon of Murat." (7) In his cottage in Moston where he spent his declining years "amongst many shining brasses of various kinds there hung a plaster-cast from the death-mask of Napoleon. A possession on which the owner laid great store." (8)

-----------------------------------------------------------------------
1.John Gardner, "The Suppression of Samuel Bamford’s Peterloo Poems" http://www.euppublishing.com/doi/pdfplus/10.3366/rom.2007.13.2.145
2. Frank O'Gorman, "Manchester Loyalism in the 1790's", Katrina Navickas, "Lancashire Britishness:Patriotism in the Manchester Region during the Napoleonic Wars" in Robert Poole ed., Return to Peterloo (Manchester Centre for Regional History, 2014). Navickas describes Walker and Cowdroy as "among few radical 'patriots' during the Napoleonic Wars."
3. Most were published in the quieter times of the 1864 edition, but not those on Waterloo, St Helena, nor "Touch Him" on the attack on Henry Hunt at the theatre.
4.The term "Peterloo" was an ironic reference to the "killing fields" of Waterloo. It acquired the name within days of the event: The Hussars were wearing their Waterloo medals, and apparently a special constable had entered the house of someone helping the wounded, and shouted ‘This is Waterloo for you – this is Waterloo!’
5. "St Helena" and "Waterloo" were published in the Black Dwarf as a single poem, "Napoleon" on December 7, 1817. It was dated Middleton, Nov 9, 1817, under the pseudonym "Jefferey ". The last stanza was different to that published in 1821. It ended with "Thy chief, thy pride, away is torn, O! hapless gallic ever mourn ". The 1821 version ended with references to the victor "proud and vain", and "I envy not the gaudy thing, The friendship of a priest or king." The same edition of Black Dwarf in 1817 carried a paragraph linking the Government spies, "the ruthless persecutors of Napoleon" and the "Careless spectators of the murders of Ney and Lzabedoyere." "There is at least a consistency that does them honour. All their actions are alike."
6. Two stanzas of this poem were read by Rev Harrison at a reform Meeting in Ashton under Lyne in June 1819. 7.Samuel Bamford, Passages in the Life of a Radical and Early Days, Vol II (London MCMV) p 299.
8. BEN A. REDFERN. Some Personal Recollections http://www.newmillshistory.org.uk/sbook/sbook5.html

Monday, 9 October 2017

Henry Hunt and Napoleon: "the first of men, the most wonderful man that ever existed!".


Henry Hunt, radical leader (1773-1835)

Henry Hunt, or "Orator" Hunt as he was known, was the most famous and the most feared of the radical campaigners for universal suffrage in the years after Waterloo. A gentleman farmer from the South of England, he was an unlikely leader of the unrepresented working class. Hunt had been a Loyalist in the early years of the revolutionary wars, and had joined the local yeomanry, but like his fellow reformer William Corbett had become radicalised by the long war, which he saw as being exploited by a corrupt class of placemen, contractors, sycophants and stock-jobbers. (1)

In 1812 Hunt campaigned for Parliament in Bristol with the slogan "Hunt and peace", and asserted that "we have been at War against liberty for the last 20 years." (2) Troops were called in to restore order, which Hunt saw as a sign that the country was nearing military despotism. Hunt's campaign was supported by Cobbett who argued in a letter to the electors that the Government should accept the offers of peace proposed by the Emperor of France. (3)

Like Hazlitt and a number of Whigs and Radicals, Hunt welcomed the return of Napoleon from Elba in 1815 and was totally opposed to the resumption of war : "the most unjust repression." (4) Hunt believed that the power of choosing a sovereign in France as in England ultimately lay with the people, and that it was totally wrong for foreign powers to try to restore the unpopular Bourbons.

Seeing it as a war against liberty, Hunt was like many radicals and some Whigs, not disposed to celebrate Waterloo as a great British victory.

The mind quite sickens at the recital of such a horrid slaughter of human beings, for the sole purpose of gratifying the malignant passions of a few tyrants, who had sworn to annihilate the very spirit as well as the substance of liberty. (5)

In his memoirs he emphasised that Napoleon's forces were greatly outnumbered, and that his defeat was due solely to the late arrival of Prussian troops under Bulow and Blucher.

Not surprisingly Hunt was among the many critics of the decision to exile Napoleon on St. Helena, and was scathing about the failure of the more reform-minded Whigs to speak out against this. He later described the bill legalising Napoleon's imprisonment as "a hateful and foul blot upon the statute book of England".(6)

Hunt's pre-eminent position among the radical leaders after the war was cemented by his acceptance of the invitation to chair mass meetings organised by the Spencereans at Spa Fields in November and again in December 1816. The Spencereans had revolutionary roots and aspirations far removed from those of Hunt, and like Thomas Paine had hoped that Napoleon would invade and promote a revolution in England.

In January 1819 Hunt was invited by radical leaders to Manchester. In the course of his stay he attended the theatre, and a number of red coated officers temporarily ejected him from his box during the singing of the national anthem, amidst a cacophony of "Hunt and Liberty" from the gallery, and patriotic calls from the more expensive seats. (7) This visit marked the beginning of a long association with the radicals in the north of England which lasted until his death.

The Spencereans also invited Hunt to chair the meeting at Smithfield in July 1819, originally planned to be on the anniversary of the French Revolution. At this meeting the resolutions were seconded by a northern radical leader, Rev Harrison, a dissenting minister from Stockport.(8)

The following month Hunt was in Manchester again for the meeting at St Peter's Fields, almost immediately known as the Peterloo Massacre. Accused of participating in a conspiracy to overthrow the Government, Hunt and four others were in 1820 convicted on a lesser charge of "seditious intent", for which he was imprisoned for 30 months, a year longer than any of the others convicted with him. This harsh sentence and the abnormally severe conditions under which he was held in Ilchester gaol was a reflection of the fear he instilled in the ruling classes.

Hunt was in prison when he heard of the death of Napoleon, to which he responded forcefully in a letter to his supporters.



Memorial to Henry Hunt that used to stand in Ancoats, Manchester

In later years Hunt served as the M.P. for Preston (1830-33), and opposed the 1832 Reform Bill, which fell far short of the universal suffrage for which he and the post-war radicals had campaigned. After his death a memorial was erected in the grounds of Rev. Scholefield's chapel in Ancoats. The Chartist leader Fergus O'Connor was present at the laying of the foundation stone, which significantly took place on August 16th 1842, the anniversary of Peterloo. (9) The monument fell into disrepair and was demolished in 1888, but in 1908 a bronze portrait medallion of him was unveiled in Manchester's Reform Club, the home of the Liberal elite in the city. On the demise of this club in the 1980's the plaque was apparently moved to the local Museum of Science and Industry, where it is no longer on display.


________________________________________
1. Belchem 'Orator'Hunt, Henry Hunt and English Working Class Radicalism, Oxford 1985. p. 3
2. Belchem p. 42
3. "The terms offered by the Emperor of France are fair; they are, indeed, such as I never expected to see obtained at the close of a negociation; they would, if accepted of, leave us in possession of all our conquests, of all the Islands in the West Indies; of the exclusive fishery of Newfoundland; of the Cape of Good Hope and the French Settlements in Senegal; of the French and Dutch Settlements in the East Indies; of the Isles of France and Bourbon; in short, they would leave us in possession of about 40 millions of conquered people, while France herself would not possess above 17 or 18 millions of conquered people. And, which is never to be forgotten, they would leave in our hands, the island of Malta itself, which, as you well know, was the avowed object of the war. - Cobbett 3rd Letter to the Independent Electors of Bristol, 11 August 1812 , reproduced in Hunt vol 3.
4. Belchem p. 46
5. Hunt Memoirs Vol 3.
6. Belchem p. 47
7. Belchem p. 109.
8. There were 19 resolutions in all. The final resolution condemned the British Government's treatment of Napoleon, another resolution supported the removal of disabilities on Roman Catholics. The Rev. Harrison said he thought that the resolutions should be adopted by every county, town, village and hamlet in the country. Each resolution was apparently greeted with great applause, although there were a few dissents to the resolution on removing disabilities on Roman Catholics. The Rev. Harrison was arrested at the end of the meeting for remarks he had made at a previous meeting in Stockport, for which he was later convicted and imprisoned, along with another radical leader Sir Charles Wolseley. Manchester Observer , July 31, 1819.
9. Katrina Navickas Protest and the Politics of Space and Place, 1789-1848 , (Manchester University Press, 2016), p.192

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Manchester 1821: a toast to the Immortal Memory of Napoleon Bonaparte



The Plaque Commemorating Peterloo


The Smithfield meeting in July 1819 passed a resolution opposing the British Government's imprisonment of Napoleon on St. Helena. Although Henry Hunt was the main speaker at both meetings it is perhaps unlikely that the Manchester meeting, held a few weeks later, would have passed the same resolution had it been allowed to proceed peacefully. The meeting at St. Peter's Fields took place under very threatening circumstances, and had been postponed a week because it was declared illegal. So those who organised it were determined to show that it was an orderly, peaceful meeting, solely concerned with a legal campaign to reform the House of Commons.

Within a week though it was given the name "Peterloo," an ironic reference to the "killing fields" of Waterloo which had toppled Napoleon and put the hated Bourbons back on the throne of France.

Two years later, on Thursday August 16th 1821, with Hunt still serving a thirty month prison sentence for his part in the meeting, "Peterloo" was commemorated in Manchester with a march to St Peter's Fields, and then to a chapel in Hulme where 9 children were christened with the name "Henry Hunt"!(1)

The following Monday, the day on which the meeting had been held, some 300 people attended a dinner in the Union Rooms at George Leigh Street. As well as toasts to Hunt and a number of radical leaders including Sir Charles Wolseley, Major Cartwright and William Cobbett, there was one to Thomas Paine, one to the late Queen, "Caroline of Brunswick, the injured Queen of England", and one to the "immortal memory of Napoleon Buonaparte." (2)

From prison, Hunt addressed a letter to his supporters, noting with satisfaction this commemoration of the bloody, never-to-be-forgotten, never-to-be-forgiven, SIXTEENTH OF AUGUST 1819.

A Contemporary account of Peterloo, with a portrait of Henry Hunt

Hunt began his account by linking Napoleon and Queen Caroline, whose attempted marriage annulment by the Government and then exclusion from her husband's coronation made her a very popular symbol of resistance to the Government of Lord Liverpool in 1820-1821.

"It is scarcely two months since, in the Seventeenth Number of My Memoirs, I had to record the death of one of the bravest men that ever lived - Napoleon Buonaparte, late Emperor of France. I have now the melancholy task of recording the death of one of the bravest women that ever breathed, "CAROLINE OF BRUNSWICK, THE INJURED QUEEN OF ENGLAND." Napoleon's remorseless gaolers were Caroline's implacable persecutors, even to death! His gaolers and her persecutors are our never-ceasing deadly enemies; the enemies of rational Liberty; the enemies of all that is praiseworthy, amiable and noble in human nature!"

____________________________________________
1. The chapel they attended was Christ Church in Hulme, one of a small local sect known as the Bible Christian Church, which was founded in Salford by William Cowherd. Out of this church began the vegetarian movement in the UK and later the US. Church members also had to abstain from alcoholic drink. The pastor at Hulme was Dr Scholefield, who on this occasion spoke to the large congregation on the 94th Psalm: The Lord is a God who avenges. O God who avenges, shine forth. Rise up, Judge of the earth; pay back to the proud what they deserve. How long, Lord, will the wicked, how long will the wicked be jubilant?
2. Apparently only water was drunk at this dinner Hunt, who seems to have been rather egotistical, assumed it was a result of his advice not to drink highly taxed liquors. Letter to the Radical Reformers, Male and Female, of England, Ireland and Scotland; August 24th 1821.