Saturday, 14 January 2012

14th January 1812: Town Clerk of Nottingham to Home Office

14th January 1812


Since I had last the Honour of addressing you by Desire of the Committee of the Corporation of Nottingham they have been extremely anxious to acquire every Information in their power as to the System of Framebreaking and other acts of violence which they cannot doubt are upheld by very considerable numbers of the Mechanics for coercing the Hosiers in the Price of their labour and the mode of conducting their Manufactories. I am very sorry to be compelled to say that the Committee cannot flatter his Majesty’s Ministers that the force or extent of the System is at all abated or that it is likely to abate. On the contrary they have reason to fear that it is daily attracting the dishonest and the profligate, and educating them in the habit of supporting themselves in this manner and that therefore it is difficult to say in what direction the mischief may extend itself. The Committee from all the information they can obtain (which is not at all commensurate to their wishes and previous expections) entertains no Doubt that the men actively engaged in breaking Frames are supported by the pecuniary contributions of those of the Frameworknitters who are employed in productive labour. These men must commit acts of violence to be entitled to receive their wages and to be enabled to shew those who pass these wages that thereby the System of Terror is supported and proceeds on its course. The committee has given the usual most diligent and constant attention to it and have been enabled to acquire and are daily obtaining such information as with the assistance of the Magistrates (with whom thro’ the medium of the Town Clerk they have been in daily communication) has been and may be the means of saving the property of their Neighbours from Destruction. The Frameworknitters appear to be as much dissatisfied as ever. Such of them as are out of employment are many in number and are disposed to inflame the Discontent of those who in work in order to exist upon their Contributions in support of the System carrying on. They seem to have succeeded in such an astonishing degree that it is difficult to find out a person engaged in this employment who is not heart and soul embarked in it. If these deluded People keep within the Bounds they have hitherto prescribed to themselves it will be most difficult to stop them in their carreer. They have lately exercised great Judgement and Discretion in the Selection of their Victims in the Town by fixing upon the property of Individuals on some Account Obnoxious to popular resentment. The last frames destroyed in the Town belong to Persons who have been in the Habit of paying the Workman in part or in whole in Goods generally inadequate in Value to the Price of his Labour. The general System adopted for coercing the Hosiers is so closely embraced by the great mass of the Mechanics that they feel a confidence which is hardly ever abused in each other and refuse to trust any person not concerned in the Trade. The Committee have in consequence found such insuperable difficulties in the way of acquiring such information as would be most useful to them as induces them to fear that their real utility will bear no proportion to their desire of serving the Publick. They have however determined to persevere in their labours. The Magistrates are so impressed with the inefficiency of such measures as they have hitherto acted upon for the Protection of the Peace and property of the Town that they have determined to sett on foot a nightly and organized Military Patrole. For this purpose they meet tomorrow at the Guildhall and the Commanding Officer of the Garrison has been requested to attend to arrange with them the manner of carrying this System to Execution. When we see its effects I shall have the pleasure of communicating with you respecting them. I send you a paper which has been lately discovered posted up by the Framebreakers.

I have [etc.]

Geo. Coldham, Town Clerk

The letter can be found at HO 42/119.

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