Henry “Orator” Hunt is one of the prime movers of the radical movement during the early 19th century in Britain. Hunt’s excellence in public speaking earned him fame, respect, and trust from his radical supporters and the people of Preston . After the tragic Peterloo Massacre which caught the attention of the whole country as the authorities tried to suppress the large mass of demonstrators that resulted in injuries of over 500 people and deaths of 11 individuals, Hunt continued to push for radical reforms in the parliament. Many supporters believed on what he is fighting for.
This was manifested by him, representing Preston in the parliament. This paper believes that the Peterloo Massacre is the turning point of the radical reform in politics of the United Kingdom. That event pushed Hunt and others for greater political reform. This paper tackles the contributions as well as his radical ideals of Henry Hunt in liberal politics in United Kingdom. This paper also cites the events that transpired in the Peterloo Massacre which served as a motivation for Hunt to continue his radical reforms. Background of Henry Hunt
Henry Hunt is a British radical political reformer who became famous because of his ability to speak ubiquitously in front of large crowds during meetings across England. This earned him the nickname, “Orator” Hunt and regarded to be the best public speaker in the country during his time. He established himself to be the most popular radical reformers in Lancashire and a great leader of working-class radicals. (Encyclopedia Britannica) Early Life Hunt became involved in radical politics when he had a dispute with Lord Bruce, who is a colonel of Wiltshire Yeomanry over the issue of peasant killings.
At trial, Hunt was found guilty and was sentenced to 6 weeks imprisonment. Because of the incident, he met Henry Clifford, a radical lawyer who is an avid supporter of adult suffrage. From there Hunt joined the radical movement. (Spartacus Educational) His skills in oration made him the speaker of every public meeting held in their area. By 1816, Hunt had spoken on huge reform meetings at Birmingham (80,000 people), Blackburn (40,000 people), Nottingham (20,000 people), Stockport (20,000 people), and Macclesfield (10,000 people).
(Spartacus Educational) In 1818 he became a candidate to represent Westminster in the parliament with a platform of promoting annual parliaments, secret balloting, universal suffrage, and the repeal of Corn Laws. However, the votes did not reflect the support of the working people as only 84 Westminster people voted him. (Cotton Times) Peterloo Massacre Hunt’s success as an orator continued when he took in charge of 60,000 demonstrators pushing for parliamentary reform at St. Peter’s Fields, Manchester on 16 August 1819.
He was invited together with Richard Carlile, John Knight, Joseph Johnson, and Mary Fildes. However the magistrates were bothered by the growing number of the crowd in St. Peter’s Fields. At first, they sent a huge number of soldiers in the event. Later, their worries of a riot to emerge made them to order an arrest of the leaders and speakers of the event including Hunt. As the yeomanry , headed towards the leaders, people from the crowd try to block their path in order to prevent the soldiers from arresting Hunt and company.
The yeomanry retaliated by conducting a forced entry and clearing operations using its horses and sabers to remove the crowd. Hunt and his co-leaders were arrested but blood was everywhere from the hundreds of people wounded and killed along St. Peter’s Fields. (Spartacus Educational) Imprisonment and Political Involvement The Peterloo incident resulted to an arrest of Hunt and nine others who led the movement. He was imprisoned for two years on grounds of having radical views. His imprisonment did not hinder him from pursuing his main purpose of pushing for popular radicalism or soon to be Liberalism.
He wrote a book entitled Memoirs which tackled his justifications for being a radical reformer. (Spartacus Educational) He also wrote A Peep into Prison where he exposed the conditions of Ilchester jail. (Encyclopedia Britannica) Upon his release from jail in October 1822 he returned campaigning for adult suffrage. He co-founded the Radical Reform Association. In 1830, he was selected as a candidate to represent the town of Preston in the parliament. During his campaign he touched the issue of child labor and ten hour day labor.
He defeated Edward Stanley by a narrow margin (3,750 to 3,392) to gain a seat in the House of Commons. (Spartacus Educational) Retirement and Death In his term, he centered most of his speeches on radical reform. He contradicted the Reform Act of 1832 because it does not allow working class males to exercise suffrage. As an alternative, he proposed a Preston-way of universal suffrage which excluded criminals and poor but observed equal rights to vote for all tax payers. However, Preston radicals were disappointed with Hunt’s decision of not supporting the reform bill.
This led to his lost in the 1833 General Elections and his retirement from politics. He said this speech to his supporters: “I have done everything in my power to maintain, uphold, and secure your rights, but I have failed upon this occasion. I shall retire into private life with the reflection, that I have never, upon any occasion, flinched from performing my duty to you, and the whole of the working classes of the United Kingdom. ” He died two years later because of stroke in his hometown in Whitchurch, Hampshire. (Spartacus Educational) Assessment
Implication of the Peterloo Massacre The incident in St Peter’s Fields will be forever remembered by those who advocate radical reforms in the British system. Although this reform has been achieved at present, the credit should go to Henry Hunt and his co-leaders of the radical reform movement. Without them, reforms like the universal suffrage will not be attained until today. This paper sees the impact of the incident on Henry Hunt himself because his supporters sacrificed their lives for what they believed in. This was manifested in Henry Hunt’s books that he wrote during imprisonment.
He showed that he should achieve what he and the people who died and got wounded are fighting for. Another issue that can be lifted from the incident is the way the authorities particularly the magistrates, treated the crowd of demonstrators. This event has a similarity with the Tiananmen Square massacre in China in 1989 wherein demonstrators where suppressed by the military using battle tanks. The good thing is that the Peterloo Massacre served as a turning point to push for equal rights for the lower class. And this is what Henry Hunt has been successful for. Other Issues
Henry Hunt’s defeat during the 1833 General Elections pushed him to retire and end his political career. This showed his failure to recover from a setback and instead he chose to accept it and leave the world of politics. No one can blame him for his decision because he has been in a battle for many years, been imprisoned, and been served the parliament on advocating radical reforms. He still may have chose to continue but him, being a great radical reformer, it is already done. On the positive note, he has contributed far enough to reform the parliament and its other aspects and features.
His speech during his retirement signifies his untiring efforts of fighting for the rights of the working class. For him he saw his defeat as the end of the journey and expected someone to continue what he had started. On the other hand, he treated his defeat as if there is no other way of addressing his radical reforms that he decided to retire and leave politics. Conclusion This paper revolves around the Peterloo Massacre and how it motivated Henry Hunt and others to fight for radical change in the parliament concerning the welfare of the working class.
The incident ignited him and the people to continue fighting for the rights of the lower class particularly the workers. He may have ended his career on the height of the reform but based from what United Kingdom has evolved into, Henry Hunt has already succeeded in his mission. References: “Henry Hunt. ” Encyclopedia Britannica. 2009. Encyclopedia Britannica Online. 21 Apr. 2009 <http://www. britannica. com/EBchecked/topic/276941/Henry-Hunt>. “Henry ‘Orator’ Hunt”. Spartacus Educational. 2009. Spartacus Educational.
20 Apr. 2009 <http://www. spartacus. schoolnet. co. uk/PRhunt. htm> “Henry ‘Orator’ Hunt”. Cotton Times, understanding the industrial revolution. 2009. Cotton Times. 20 Apr 2009 <http://www. cottontimes. co. uk/hunto. htm> “Peterloo Massacre”. Spartacus Educational. 2009. Spartacus Educational. 20 Apr. 2009 <http://www. spartacus. schoolnet. co. uk/PRpeterloo. htm> “Peterloo massacre. ” The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2008. Encyclopedia. com. 22 Apr. 2009 <http://www. encyclopedia. com>