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10

PETERLOO

force. The Lancashire reformers decided to hold a great meeting in St. Peter's Fields, on the outskirts of Manchester. The magistratesx) were uneasy about the meeting, for popular discontent, inflamed by the recent Corn Law2), was acute: meetings had been held in various northern towns: an attempt had been made to organise a boycott of exciseable3) goods, drilling had been going on, and several persons had found their way into prison, where it was hoped that they would learn that in the circumstances of contemporary *) society to speak the truth or anything like it was sedition. But though the magistrates disliked the meeting, they decided only a few hours before it began that it could not be regarded as illegal. When the vast throng assembled, there was nothing in its appearance to shake the opinion of the magistrates. The meeting was in its Sunday clothes, bands8) were playing "God Save the King," and one out of every three persons was a woman. The chief orator of the day, Henry Hunt, a brave, vain, and sincere man, had a taste for language that sounded violent and dangerous to the authorities, but even he could scarcely lead a revolution with so decorous6) an army. Bamford, the leader of the three

t, magistrale: justice of the peace. Before the reorganization of local government (by the Municipal Corporation Act of 1835 for the towns, and the Local Government Act of 1888 for the rest of the country) the justices of the peace were not only judges of first instance in criminal cases (like our kantonrechters) but they were also charged with the administration of the town or county.

2. The first act levying a tax on corn was passed in 1815.

3. exciseable goods: goods on which a tax must be paid before they Jeave the place where they are manufactured.

4. contemporary society: the society in which they lived.

5. band: company of men organized to play on musical instruments.

6. decorous [dïloras]: decent, behaving with propriety.

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