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PETERLOO

thousand, the vast mass were voteless men and women, whom Parliament had handed over to their employers by the Combination Laws 1), while it had taxed their food for the benefit of the landowners by a most drastic Corn Law. The classes that controlled Parliament and their lives were represented by the magistrates, who were landlords or parsons2), and by the yeomanry8), who were largely manufacturers. Between those classes must be shared the responsibility for the sudden and unprovoked charge on a defenceless and unresisting crowd, for if the magistrates gave the orders, the yeomanry supplied the zeal. Hunt had scarcely begun his speech, when the yeomanry cavalry advanced brandishing their swords. Hunt told the reformers to cheer, which they did; the yeomanry then rode into the crowd, which gave way for them, and arrested Hunt. But this was not enough for the yeomanry, who cried, "Have at their flags," and began striking wildly all round them. The magistrates then gave the order to charge. In ten minutes the field was deserted except for dead and wounded, and banners, hats*), shawls, and bonnets: the strangest débris of any battlefield since the madness of Ajax6). Eleven people died, two of them women, one a child, and over four hundred were wounded,

to send two members to Parliament, and had retained this right, like all other boroughs, even though it had practically disappeared as an inhabited place. The right belonged in reality to the owner of the land. Old Sarum was often cited as the best example of a "rotten borough."

1. By the Combination Laws of Pitt (passed in 1799 and 1800) Trade= Unions were made illegal.

2. Parsons, i.e. clergymen, were often the younger sons of the landlords.

3. yeomanry [joumanri]: voluntary cavalry, especially organized in defenceof the ruling class, because the militia (resemblingour old schutterij)* was not to be trusted.

4. hats: this probably refers to the hats of children and girls, the women wearing bonnets and the men caps.

5. the madness of Ajax: Ajax, one of the heroes before Troy, became

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