Saturday, 14 January 2012

14th January 1812: An unpublished letter to the Times is sent to the Home Office

To the Editor of The Times


Conceiving it a matter of some importance that the Public should be better acquainted with the nature of the “Riots at Nottingham” as they are usually tho’ very erroneously called — I beg leave to transmit a few observations on the subject. Both the Town & Country are perfectly tranquil — save during the momentary space of time occupied by the Destruction of Frames which is the work of a few Minutes — consequently the term “Riot” is misapplied. Such nevertheless is the System of Terror under which this Mischief is perpetrated that it not only requires activity on the part of the Magistracy but also the most undocumented courage and Public Virtue — for, whatever might be the ostensible or original motives which led to these outrages there is every reason to fear that their real extent was to be proportioned to the success which should attend their first enterprises. What follows will prove beyond a doubt that no concession on the part of the Hosiers, short of actual connivance at these Atrocities, can shield them from the effects of unprincipled vengeance. On Friday evening last nine Frames belonging to a Gentleman who had always given the full price and whose Frames were then on with Full Fashioned work were destroyed. Two reasons were assigned – First because one of his Family (in the discharge his Duty as a Constable) had brought two (of Ned Lud’s) men before the Magistrates who would give no account of themselves and who were consequently committed to prison. Secondly because the man who had the Frames was Honest, Sober, Industrious, and was living comfortably. Thus a plea has been found to Destroy the Property of a Hosier with whom they themselves declared at first they were perfectly satisfied! Four more Frames have been subsequently destroyed and the whole of their Lives and Property threatened, because Two if not Three of the Conspirators have been caught and imprisoned. It is the assurance that these threats will be executed if a favourable opportunity should occur which prevents any individual from impeaching — for strange as it may appear the parties are generally well known. The Poor Man & his Wife took refuge in Nottm but are still loudly threatened to the great terror of their Neighbours. Should the County Magistrates exert themselves it becomes obvious that it must be at the evident hazard of their property. Cutting up Plantations, Burning Hay & Corn Stacks Houghing Cattle & Horses, &c. would be the prelude to more serious depredations. If a Carrier should presume to assist in removing frames a note is dispatched to warn him that his next offence will be Death

Daring robberies are now very frequent and from the universal terror that prevails – I must observe, that the evil will soon become of serious magnitude. Perhaps one mode of checking it might be by a power vested in active Resolute men who have no local interest … this is a consideration for government. Military are in the present state of things useless — unless Martial Law was proclaimed — They dare any Judge to condemn them to Death and I truly believe would find means to intimidate any common Jury

This letter was intended for the Times newspaper, and was sent to Thomas Boosey (an original proprietor of the firm that became Boosey & Hawkes) by a friend in Nottingham. It refers to the frame-breaking incident at Basford on 3rd January which led to the committal of William Carnell and Joseph Maples. Boosey forwarded it to the Home Office, fearing its publication could lead to consequences for the Braithwaites. The letter and the covering letter from Boosey can be found at HO 42/119.

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