A protest against the Corn Laws narrowly avoided being turned into a massacre on the 15th. On St. Peter’s Fields in Manchester, a crowd of roughly 60,000 had gathered to protest against the Corn Laws and pick up support for the idea of a Free Vote. The local magistrates, worried by the impact the protestors might have, called for military aid, which they received in the form of various units (Up to 600 infantry and 200 cavalry) from the 42nd Regiment, recently arrived from a tour of duty in North America.
The protest was peaceful enough; it was many made up of one radical speaker speaking to the crowd, being cheered while another would soon take his place. The magistrates however, afraid that the protest would open up to armed rebellion, ordered the Army to disperse the crowd. The Riot Act was read, to little affect and the officer in charge of the Regiment was ordered to arrest the leaders. The officer, having been exposed to more liberal leanings in New England, was sympathetic to the protestors cause.
Nevertheless, the infantry was ordered in to quell the meeting only to be stopped by a mass of people forming a line in front of them. The officer of the Regiment could have opened fire on the crowd there and then to disperse them and would have been supported by the state. He instead ordered his men back, wanting no bloodshed that could have very well turned into a riot. With the Regiment standing back, the protestors jeered and continued on with their rally while the Regiment stood back until the rally eventually dispersed as darkness fell.
The impact from the St Peters Protest was incredible, the state and Army had been humbled by a rabble of protestors! The officer who commanded the 42nd was brought to a tribunal where, although he wasn’t court-martialled, was put into a position where he was never in command of an Army Regiment again. The Liberal cause in Britain itself was hugely encouraged by this event and popular support for election reform and the abolition of the Corn Laws grew. The Whigs in Parliament were encouraged and as a result, clamoured for greater reform than ever before.
The Liverpool Administration was shaken deeply by the event and there were calls for the Prime Minister to resign although he stood fast. The protests also set a precedent as now, all military units were unwilling to fire on civilians, as the St. Peter’s protest now encouraged the officers in the Army with liberal leanings to follow the example from Manchester. And with the opening of the Yorkshire Academy of Warfare in the next year, these officers were to only increase.
Negotiations for the US/Canadian border reached their high point during this month. British North American officials wanted a favourable border to them and with the victorious outcome of the War of 1812, they expected it. But they reckoned without the interference of London. With domestic unrest growing, Earl Liverpool had sent an order, ‘do anything to secure a peaceful border’ and with the Americans feeling boisterous with their increased armed forces, several Canadian officials were inclined to agree.
The three way negotiations between Britain, America and the Shawnee Nation were largely concluded by the 25th, with Britain taking a conciliatory approach to the negotiations, it was finally agreed that the 49th parallel was to be the border between the lands of Britain and America with the Shawnee Nation having their land respected in the east. The agreement was treated with some scorn by the tribes who were disappointed that the British hadn’t supported their wish for greater lands in the west but knew that no more could be done.
In America, the border agreement was greeted with a good sense of pride, the idea that they had outdone Britain had spread and many felt that they had regained some dignity after the disastrous War. In contrast, the border was seen as an embarrassment in Britain and was the straw which finally broke the back of the Liverpool government. After the treacherous income tax vote, the seemingly weak reply to the constant protests against government policy and now with Liverpool responsible for conceding hugely to a recently defeated foe only made him more unpopular.
Within the Tory government, pressure was put on Liverpool to retire from the front bench. Opposed on every turn, Liverpool finally conceded and retired as Prime Minister on the 29th July.
With Liverpool now retired, the role of Prime Minister was up for grabs. The man with the most popular support associated with the Tory government was the Duke of Wellington. Wellington however, was busy with his duties in Ireland and with the Yorkshire Academy and really wanted to avoid party politics for the time being. The man who was eventually chosen was seen as something of a compromise candidate, hated by the radicals but having some liberal leanings himself, Robert Stewart, Viscount Castlereagh was invited by the King to form a government which the Minister accepted, wanting to get to grips with the affairs of state.
In New England, the votes for the election were counted and President DeWitt Clinton was elected for a second term. He had overseen the first four years of the NER with the strengthening of its military, the closer relationships with Britain and the Shawnee Nation, a rising economy which was growing ever more dependent on the manufacturing of rifles. The ‘Maine killers’ as they were known were quickly becoming famous as the most accurate and reliable firearm to date with the biggest customers of the rifles being the Shawnee.
The NER still faced a challenge in the form of a belligerent USA however. Still embittered over the seeming betrayal by the New England states, the two North American countries were constantly at each other’s throats and the border was one of the most unpleasant to cross from one nation to the other. This relationship would continue for the time being as both Monroe and Clinton saw the other’s nation as being the aggressor against their sovereignty.