Tuesday, 21 February 2012

21st February 1812: Peace & Parliamentary Reform meeting at Bolton-le-Moors

On Friday 21st February 1812, a publicly-advertised meeting was held at Bolton-le-Moors (the veritable backyard of Colonel Ralph Fletcher).

The meeting was concerned with Peace & Parliamentary Reform, and following a suggestion from Samuel Whitbread MP that had been sought previously, it moved to prepare petitions to both Parliament and the Prince Regent. The petition to the Prince Regent ran as follows:
To his Royal Highness the Prince Regent of Great Britain and Ireland, the dutiful and loyal address of the inhabitants of the town and neighbourhood of Bolton-le-Moors, assembled pursuant to public advertisement, on Feb. 21, 1812.


We, the undersigned inhabitants of the town of Bolton-le-Moors, beg leave humbly to approach your Royal Highness with assurances of our sincere attachment to your Royal Person, and to those principles which placed your Family upon the Throne of these Realms. The we feel sensibly for the singularly embarrassed situation in which your Royal Highness is placed, and for the great and many difficulties which must attend the fulfilment of the arduous duties you have undertaken at this awful and perilous crisis, we feel it an indispensable duty to solicit the attention of your Royal Highness to the unparalleled and increasing sufferings of the poor manufacturers of this once-flourishing district. From our knowledge of the benevolent, liberal, and constitutional principles which your Royal Highness has always professed, we are encouraged to hope, and you will not turn a deaf ear to the complaints of any class of his Majesty subjects.—The distresses of which we complain, are of so urgent a nature, that we cannot contemplate their continuance without dismay, and the most alarming apprehensions. We do assure your Royal Highness that immense numbers of the industrious and loyal Articifers of this neighbourhood are reduced to the necessity of working for less than one-fourth of what they earned previous to the commencement of the war with France, whilst the necessaries of life are, since that period, nearly doubled in price.—Their pale and ghastly countenances—their squalid and ragged clothing—their houses emptied of furniture—their half-starved and half-clad children crying for bread, or begging with piteous moan from door to door for the dole of charity, which grieves and almost bleeds, that it cannot supply their wants, together with the crowds of wretched poor that fill our Workhouses, or claim parochial relief: scenes of this kind daily present to our eyes would, we doubt not, if brought under the observation of your Royal Highness, excite the most benevolent sympathies, and might possibly beget a doubt in your Royal Breast, whether the most glorious results of war, and victory abroad, would be sufficient to compensate for such a mass of wretchedness at home Unless the channels of commerce can be speedily re-opened, and an end put to the enormous expenditure occasioned by the present ruinous war, many of those who now address your Royal Highness, have no prospect before them but to die of want. Their sufferings have hitherto found some alleviation in the consoling hope, that the period of your Royal Highness’s accession to power would be to them the dawn of better days. It is, therefore, with indiscribable emotions of alarm and dismay, that they have lately heard rumours that it is the intention of your Royal Highness to persevere in that system of policy which has been the cause of all their sufferings,—which has brought this once rich and powerful country to the brink of ruin, and which threatens even to endanger the monarchy. But our knowledge of the truth and sincerity,—of the consistency and honour, of your Royal Highness's character forbids us to believe these mischievous rumours: knowing the benevolent and constitutional sentiments of your Royal Highness, we cannot believe that your Royal Highness will persevere in a system which every year reduces so many thousands of his Majesty subjects to bankruptcy and beggary. We cannot believe that your Royal Highness will lend your countenance to a system which insultingly brings Foreign troops to defend the native soil of Englishmen; and, above all, we cannot believe that your Royal Highness will countenance a system of government by an House of Commons, the seats in which are notoriously marketable, and in which the representatives of the people are liable, at all times, to be out-voted and defeated by the agents of an odious but too powerful Borough Faction, which has of late triumphantly trampled, both on the rights of the crown of the people. Your Royal Highness has more than any other individual been made to feel the detestable power of this selfish Faction, and has for a long time been past the object of its misrepresentations and calumnies. We, therefore, cannot give up the hope that your Royal Highness is convinced, as we are, that a Reform in the Commons House of Parliament is as necessary to the security and dignity of the crown, as to the welfare and liberties of the people; and if ever they, for mutual self-preservation, should cordially unite in the pursuit of this indispensable object, the hateful Borough Faction, powerful and daring, presumptuous and insolent, as it is, must instantly sink into its native and merited insignificance. The urgent necessity of this salutary Reform is become evident to a great majority of the nation; and if its advocates in Parliament might be allowed to hope, that their efforts would be honoured with the known good wishes of your Royal Highness, we should have no doubt of their ultimate success.

We, therefore, must humbly pray your Royal Highness, that you will take into your serious consideration the grievances and distresses of his Majesty's Loyal People; that you will countenance and support, by every constitutional means, the so much wished for Reform in Parliament; and that you will use the powers, vested in you by the constitution, to avert the horrors of war, to restore to this patient and long-suffering country the blessings of Peace, being fully convinced, that by an equal representation of the people in Parliament, and by the restoration of Peace, the minds of the people will be best quieted, his Majesty's throne and dignity most securely established, and the general happiness and prosperity of the nation most effectually promoted.

The petition was printed in the Liverpool Mercury of 24th April 1812.

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