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‘The Bitter Cup of Oppression’: The Female Reformers of Manchester

An address from the Female Reformers of Manchester, printed in the Manchester Observer on 31 July 1819.

Performed by Sarah Whitehouse.

Archives Alive: Peterloo

The Archives Alive: Peterloo project is a collaboration between Royal Holloway, University of London, and The National Archives. This series of short films forms part of a wide programme of activity marking the 200th anniversary of the massacre – an important milestone in the history of the struggle for rights and representation – and its aftermath. Find out more on The National Archives’ blog.

Transcription

Article printed in the Manchester Observer, 31 July 1819

The Manchester Female Reformers’ Address

To the Wives, Mothers, Sisters, and Daughters of the Higher and Middling 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.

We are sick of life, and weary of a world where poverty, wretchedness, tyranny, and injustice, have so long been permitted to reign amongst men.

We are thoroughly convinced, that under the present system, the day is near at hand, when nothing will be found in our unhappy country but luxury, idleness, dissipation, and tyranny, on the one hand; and abject poverty, slavery, wretchedness, misery, and death, on the other. To avert these dreaded evils, it is your duty therefore to unite with us as speedily as possible; and to exert your influence with your fathers, your husbands, your sons, your relatives, and your friends, to join the Male Union for constitutionally demanding a Reform in their own House, viz. The Commons’ House of Parliament

With such a reform, the English nation would not have been stamped with the indelible disgrace, of having been engaged in the late unjust, unnecessary, and destructive war, against the liberties of France, that closed its dreadful career on the crimson plains of Waterloo; where the blood of our fellow-creatures flowed in such mighty profusion, that the fertile earth seemed to blush at the outrage offered to the choicest works of heaven;

Let us now ask the cause of this dreadful carnage? The simple story is this, that all this dreadful slaughter was, in cold blood, committed for the purpose of placing upon the Throne of France, contrary to the people’s interest and inclination, the present contemptible Louis, a man who had been living for years in this country in idleness.

Let it be remembered at the same time, that this war, to reinstate this man, has tended to raise landed property threefold above its value, and to load our beloved country with such an insurmountable burden of Taxation, that is too intolerable to endure longer; it has nearly annihilated our once flourishing trade and commerce, and is now driving our merchants and manufacturers to poverty and degradation.

We call upon you therefore to join us with heart and hand, to exterminate tyranny and foul oppression from the face of our native country. Our enemies are resolved upon destroying the last vestige of the natural Rights of Man, and we are determined to establish it; for as well might they attempt to arrest the sun in the region of space, or stop the diurnal motion of the earth, as to impede the rapid progress of the enlightened friends to Liberty and Truth. The beam of angelic light that hath gone forth through the globe hath at length reached unto Man, and we are proud to say that the Female Reformers of Manchester have also caught its benign and heavenly influence; it is not possible therefore for us to submit to bear the ponderous weight of our chains any longer, but to use our endeavour to tear them asunder, and dash them in the face of our remorseless oppressors.

In conclusion, we earnestly entreat you to come forward – posterity will bless the names they see enrolled under the banners of Reform. Remember, that all good men were reformers in every age of the world. All the Prophets were Reformers, and also the Apostles; so was the great Founder Christianity, he was the greatest reformer of all; and if Jesus Christ himself were to come upon the earth again, his life would assuredly be sacrificed by the relentless hand of the Borough-Judases; for corruption, tyranny, and injustice, have reached their summit; and the bitter cup of oppression is now full to the brim.

Catalogue reference: HO 42/190, folio 11

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