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step into power. Neither should it be dissembled, that there are others, who, having nothing to lose, would gladly disorganize the state, in the hope of securing something in the general wreck. Another tribe, instinctively turbulent, make commotion their element, and delight in anarchy. Such wretches “ live in the whirlwind, and enjoy the storm."
These two general classes, who may be denominated Reformers and Anti-Reformers, watch each other with eyes of jealous circumspection; and imputing the actions of their opponents to the most abandoned motives, they awaken into fury the unhallowed passions of our common nature, and display their talents in acts of mutual recrimination. Under circumstances so inauspicious, it is not easy for a real lover of his country, on many occasions, to distinguish unvarnished truth from the impositions of plausibility, even though he should attempt to “ catch the manners living as they rise.”
Among the numerous events to which the hope of obtaining a reform in Parliament has given birth, there is not one more interesting to the public, than that which has recently occurred at Manchester. The circumstances connected with a public meeting lately held in this populous town, though local in the immediate sphere of their operation, involve some questions of national importance; and as they have been attended with disastrous consequences, no doubt can remain, that they will be legally investigated. The issues of this investigation we presume not to anticipate. But it may be of some moment to posterity, to have as faithful a narrative of facts, as can be obtained from information collected on the spot, and gathered from the public prints, transmitted to them at an inconsiderable price.
It is well known that during many years past, public meetings have been held in various districts and counties, for the express purpose of taking into consideration the representative state of the kingdom, to devise and adopt measures for the remedying of existing abuses, and to present to Parliament such petitions, resolutions, or remonstrances, as the exigencies of times and seasons seemed to dictate. The right of convening such meetings, under certain restrictions and qualifications, has been so uniformly admitted, that Englishmen have been taught to connect it with their birthright; and generation succeeding to generation, has carefully transmitted the unbought blessing to posterity.
By the BILL OF RIGHTS, which all men hail as the foundation of English liberty, the Right of Petitioning is distinctly asserted. The authority of this document has never been controverted. In all subsequent laws, relative to English freedom, its influence has been felt: and even in the modifications and restrictions, which, in seasons of faction and alarm, the Legislature have found it prudent to introduce, the sanctions of this important article have always been admitted to be interwoven with the Constitution of our Country
JUDGE BLACKSTONE, when speaking of English liberties, expresses his views of this momentous subject, in the following . language:
** The absolute rights of every Englishman, (which, taken in a political and extensive sense, are usually called their Liberties,) as they are founded on nature and reason, so they are coëval with our form of government; though subject at times to fluctuate and change; their establishment (excellent as it is) being still human. At some times we have seen them depressed by overbearing and tyrannical princes; at others, so luxuriant as even to tend to anarchy, a worse state than tyranny itself, as any government is better than none at all. But the vigour of our free constitution has always delivered the nation from these embarrassments: and, as soon as the convulsions consequent on the struggle have been over, the balance of our rights and liberties has settled to its proper level; and their fundamental articles have been from time to time asserted in Parliament, as often as they were thought to be in danger.
“ First, by the great charter of liberties, which was obtained, sword in hand, from King John, and afterwards, with some alterations, confirmed in Parliament by King Henry the Third, his son. Which charter contained very few new grants; but, a's Sir Edward Coke observes, was for the most part declaratory of the principal grounds of the fundamental laws of England. Afterwards, by the statute called Confirmatio Cartarum, whereby the great charter is directed to be allowed as the common law; all judgments contrary to it are declared void ; copies of it are ordered to be sent to all cathedral churches, and read twice a year to the people; and sentence of excommunication is directed to be as constantly dénounced against all those that by word, deed, or counsel, act contrary thereto, or in any degree infringe it. Next, by a multitude of subsequent corroborating statutes, (Sir Edward Coke, I think, reckons thirty-two,) from the first Edward to Henry the Fourth. Then, after a long interval, by the Petition of Right; which was a parliamentary declaration of the liberties of the people, assented to by king Charles the First in the beginning of his reign.' Which was closely followed by the still more ampie concessions made by that unhappy prince to his parliament, before the fatal rupture between them; and by the many salutary laws, particularly the Habeas Corpus Act, passed under Charles the Second. To these succeeded the Bill of Rights, or Declaration delivered by the Lords and Commons to the Prince and Princess of Orange, 13th February, 1688; and afterwards enacted in Parliament when they became King and Queen: which Declaration concludes in these remarkable words; “ And they do claim, de-' * mand, and insist upon, all and singular the premises, as their “ undoubted rights and liberties.” And the Act of Parliament itself recognises “ all and singular the rights and liberties as“ serted and claimed in the said Declaration to be the true,
“ antient, and indubitable rights of the people of this kingdom.” Lastly, these liberties were again asserted at the commencement of the present century, in the Act. of Settlement, whereby the Crown was limited to his present Majesty's illustrious House; and some new provisions added, at the same fortunate æra, for better securing our religion, laws, and liberties; which the statute declares to be " the birthright of the people of England,” according to the antient doctrine of the common law."
Blackstone's Commentaries, vol. i. p. 127, 15th edit.
In the Bill of Rights which passed in 1689, among other important articles, it is asserted as follows:
“1. That the pretended power of suspending laws, or execution of laws, by regal authority, without consent of Parliament, is illegal. 2. That the pretended power of dispensing with laws, or the execution of laws, by regal authority, as it hath been assumed and exercised of late, is illegal. 3. That the Commission for erecting the late Court of Commissioners for Ecclesiastical Causes, and all other Commissions and Courts of the like nature, are illegal and pernicious. 4. That levying of Money for or to the use of the Crown, by pretence of prerogative, without grant of Parliament, for longer time, or in any other manner, than the same is or shall be granted, is illegal. 5. That it is the Right of the Subjects to Petition the King, and all Commitments and Prosecutions for such petitioning are illegal. 6. That the raising or keeping a Standing Army within the kingdom in time of peace, unless it be with consent of Parliament, is against law. 7. That the Subjects which are Protestants, may have Arms for their Defence suitable to their condition, and as allowed by law. 8. That Elections of Members of Parliament ought to be free. 9. That the freedom of Speech, and Debates or Proceedings in Parliament, ought not to be impeached or questioned in any Court or Place out of Parliament. 10. That excessive Bail ought not to be required, nor excessive Fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual Punishments inflicted. 11. That Jurors ought to be duly impannelled and returned, and Jurors which pass upon men in trials of High-treason, ought to be Freeholders. 12. That all grants and promises of Fines and Forfeitures of particular Persons, before conviction, are illegal and void. 13. And that for redress of all Grievances, and for the amending, strengthening, and preserving of the Laws, Parliaments ought to be held frequently.
“ And they do claim, demand, and insist upon all and singular the premises, as their undoubted Rights and Liberties : and no declarations, judgments, doings, or proceedings, to the prejudice of the People in any of the said premises, ought in any wise to be drawn hereafter into consequence or example. To which demand of their rights they are particularly encouraged by the Declaration of his Highness the Prince of Orange, as being the only means for obtaining a full redress and remedy therein."
Great, however, as the blessings of liberty are, nothing is more evident than that they may be abused. It may not therefore be improper on the present occasion to add to the authority of Blackstone, and that of the extract given from the Bill of Rights, the first sentence that occurs in Hooker's Ecclesiastical Polity. “ He that goeth about to persuade a multitude, that they are not so well governed as they ought to be, shall never want attentive and favourable hearers.”
Sanctioned, it was presumed, by the Bill of Rights, and the various other authorities to which Blackstone has referred, some friends to the system of Reform, announced their intention to call a public meeting for purposes which are expressed in the following Advertisement, which appeared in the Manchester Observer · for July 31st, 1819.
“ MANCHESTER PUBLIC MEETING. “The Public are respectfully informed, that a MEETING will be held here on MONDAY the 9th of AUGUST, 1819, on the Area near ST. PETER'S CHURCH, to take into consideration, the most speedy and effectual mode of obtaining Radical Reform in the Commons' House of Parliament; being fully convinced, that nothing less can remove the intolerable evils under which the People of this Conntry have so long groaned, and do still groan :-and also to consider the propriety of the “ Unrepresented Inhabitants of Manchester" electing a Person to represent them in Parliament; and the adopting Major Cartwright's Bill.
“H. HUNT, Esq. in the Chair. “ Major Cartwright, Sir Charles Wolseley, Mr. Charles Pearson, Mr. Wooler, and Godfrey Higgins, Esq. have been solicited, and are expected to attend.
“ WILLIAM OGDEN, 26, Wood-street.
JAMES BROADSHAW, 32, Newton-street.
NATH. MASSEY, 2, School-street.
" CHAIR to be taken at 12 o'clock, “ Manchester, July 23, 1819.
“*** The Boroughreeve, Magistrates, and Constables, are requested to attend.
« On the same day, after the Meeting, there will be a PUBLIC DINNER, at the Union School Rooms, George Leigh-street. Dinner on the Table at 5 o'clock.
i Tickets, 10s. 6d. each, including all expences, may be had at Mr. WROE'S, Bookseller, Market-street."
Prior to the publication of the preceding advertisement, the peculiar deadness of trade, which had for some time prevailed in the manufacturing districts, particularly in Manchester and its vicinity, had involved numerous families in the deepest distress. The pressure of these severities was felt with the most acute sensibility; and as all can feel, though few only are capable of tracing existing evils to their legitimate source, the opinion became general, that nearly the whole might be ascribed to the defective representation of the country; and consequently, that if a radical reform in this branch of the legislature could be effected, the suffering people would find, in the accomplishment of this object, a mitigation of their woes, if not a complete redress of all their grievances.
Actuated by this principle, and animated with these hopes, numerous women of Manchester formed themselves into a society of FEMALE REFORMERS, to aid the common cause in which the men were engaged. Pleased with the prospects of success which awaited their united endeavours, they appointed a committee to transact their business; and as their complicated sufferings were calculated to make a forcible appeal to the feelings of humanity, and to awaken a powerful sympathy in the bosoms of others, on July the 20th, 1819, they wrote the following address, which was also published in the MANCHESTER OBSERVER for July 31st, 1819. THE MANCHESTER FEMALE RÉFORMERS' ADDRESS
TO THE Wives, Mothers, Sisters, and Daughters of the higher and middling
i Classes of Society. “DEAR SISTERS OF THE EARTH, “IT is with a spirit of peaceful consideration and due respect that we are induced to address you, upon the causes that have compelled us to associate together in aid of our suffering children, our dying parents, and the miserable partners of our woes. Bereft, not only of that support, the calls of nature require for existence; but the balm of sweet repose hath long been a stranger to us. Our minds are filled with horror and despair, fearful, on each returning morn, the light of heaven should present to us the corpse of some of our famished offspring, or nearest kindred, which the more kind hand of death 'had released from the grasp of the oppressor. The Sabbath, which is set apart by the all-wise Creator for a day of rest, we are compelled to employ in repairing the tattered garments, to cover the nakedness of our forlorn and destitute families. Every succeeding night brings with it new