Tuesday, 31 January 2012

31st January 1812: Bolton Committee of Trades monitored by spies

On Friday 31st January, a Committee of Trades in Bolton held a meeting to discuss peace & parliamentary reform. They had been in communication with the MP Samuel Whitbread over the best course of action to take, and he had written a letter to the committee suggesting that they should draw up a petition that could be presented to Parliament and the Prince Regent in due course.

What they didn't know was that their meetings were being monitored by a spy working for the Bolton Magistrate and Militia commander Colonel Ralph Fletcher. He even had a copy of the letter sent to the committee by Whitbread. Being a particularly rabid Tory Orangeman, Fletcher was in the habit of seeing the darkest conspiracies in even the most docile expressions of dissent, and at this stage had little time for the complaints of weavers in Bolton, whose "privations ... seemed to have been much exaggerated."

Fletcher would fully indulge himself in his mounting fears and concerns over the coming weeks and months.

This information, and the quotation, is contained in a letter from Fletcher to the Home Office of 6th February 1812. It can be found at HO 42/120.

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