Tuesday, 10 January 2012

10th January 1812: The spy 'B' reports on travelling delegates in the North East and from Nottingham

Colonel Fletcher's spy 'B' filed another report on the 10th January.

Starting on the 6th, he has some complaints on the collection of Income Tax which was due to take place on 11th January. B's concern may have reflected personal considerations, but he presented it as yet more hardship in a time of great austerity, with the 'old Jacks' (i.e. Jacobins) eyeing it as an opportunity to take advantage of discontent.

B reported on the travels of the Mottram delegate, who had now reached the North East. On the 2nd January, he had been in Tynemouth and had evidently visited Sunderland and both North and South Shields as well. He had visited well-attended delegate meetings there who had promised to correspond.

On the 10th January, B had met a delegate from Nottinghamshire called Whittaker. The picture he painted of Nottinghamshire was that the actions of the Luddites had been premature, as they had apparently expected Yorkshire, Derbyshire, Cheshire and Leicestershire to rise simultaneously. This not having happened, at least to the same degree of ferocity in all but 2 of the Counties, meant Whittaker felt that an opportunity to wrest control from the government had been missed. He described the Luddites being bound by oaths and also the scale of machine-breaking - he estimated that 1000 'looms' (i.e. stocking frames) had been destroyed. Whittaker said that B's real name was well-known in Nottinghamshire, as well as that of others involved in the 'business'.

B had also met the delegate called Taylor, from Royton on the 4th January. He described the desperation of people in Royton, saying the were ready to fight, and that 'nothing Ealse will do', but that they looked to Manchester to give a lead.

The report can be read at HO 42/119.

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