Tuesday, 3 January 2012

3rd January 1812: The Nottingham Review responds to accusations of encouraging rioters

We are not in the habit of abtruding ourselves on the notice of our readers, nor would this be proper, excepting on extraordinary occasions. An extraordinary one now presents itself; and we feel ourselves called upon, imperiously called upon, by a most unwarranted attack upon the REVIEW, and consequently upon its proprietor; and this from an individual, from whom we had been led to expect better treatment.

On Friday last, the REVIEW was voted out of the News Room of this place.* The motion of this extraordinary act, was made by a Magistrate, whose name, from motives of delicacy, for the present at least, we will conceal. The ostensible reason given for the expulsion of the REVIEW, is, “That in its report of the late outrages, it has given a colouring to the depredations of the rioters, which has tended to encourage rather than suppress them.” We think the present moment not the most proper season to discuss this point. While the parties are at strife, and during the ferment which these tumultuous proceedings have occasioned, it is not the time for dispassionate reflection. Manufacturers and workmen, magistrates and people, have all their different feelings, according to the circumstances in which they stand; nor ought the opinion of any one of these to be taken as the standard of truth. When the ferment shall have subsided, will be the time to re-consider these disputes; and then, we presume, our statements will be deemed more impartial, than some people at the present imagine; and in general they will be found to have been essentially correct. We say, essentially correct; for where is the Journalist that is not subject to occasional errors. We here beg leave to introduce a quotation from our REVIEW, of November 15, 1811, in proof of our determined opposition to violence and outrage.

“We would beg leave to state, as an axion founded on the everlasting standard of universal justice, and which ought to govern every man in his political reasonings, that when the barrier which protects individual property is broken down and disregarded, the reign of anarchy begins; which, of all the tyrannies that can afflict mankind, is the most horrible, and of course all to be the most shunned. Here then this ought to be taken as our manifesto against the practice in question.”

It will be necessary, however, to notice two or three particulars, in our report of the proceedings at the funeral of Wesley, (see REVIEW, as above) which have been the subject of censure, and severe and illiberal animadversion. When the paper of the above date was published, Mr. Sutton was more than 120 miles from home; he returned, however, on the day after its publication, and had not been arrived more than half an hour, when he was requested to attend upon two gentlemen, but for what purpose he was at a loss to guess. At this interview, he was charged with having grossly misrepresented the conduct of a gentleman in high office, and the magistrates who attended at the funeral. The passages pointed out, as being obnoxious, are the following.

“The High Sheriff, the Under Sheriff, and about half a dozen magistrates were on the spot, attended by a posse of constables and about 30 mounted Dragoons, who all proceeded with the funeral to the church yard;”

“About the time that the corpse was lowering into the grave, the High Sheriff proclaimed that an hour had elapsed since the reading of the Riot Act, and informed the multitude, that those that did not instantly disperse, should be taken into custody as rioters;”

Mr. S. not having had an opportunity of perusing the account, which had been written by a person who occasionally collects the home news, he could not then judge of the accuracy of the charge, but observed he was sorry if any mis-statements had been given, and assured them it must have been done inadvertently, and without any design but that of giving correct information; and that he would most certainly correct any errors that might, in his absence, have been thus committed. With these acknowledgements, the gentleman seems satisfied; only it was observed, this ought to be done immediately by a hand-bill, expressive of his sorrow for the supposed errors. His feelings, on this proposal, rose up in formidable opposition; but he merely remarked, whatever on enquiry and investigation may be deemed right to be done, should be done. After this, Mr. S. had an interview with one of the gentleman, and several notes passed between the parties, which are present are not important to the public. The last by Mr. S. was to the following effect:

“I have made it my business to enquire concerning those parts of our statement of the transactions which took place at the interment of Wesley, and which you pointed out as being incorrect, and have conversed with three persons+, who were on the spot, and who were eye and ear witnesses to the whole transaction, and they all confirm the statement given in the REVIEW, on which account I cannot, at present, consent to retract any part of them; but if you, Sir, or any of your friends still think we have made any mis-statements, and will give what you deem correct, the same shall have a place in the columns of the NOTTINGHAM REVIEW.”

The statement was declined, and here the correspondence ended.

We have entered the more largely into this, because the foregoing quotations are what have been principally objected to; we say principally, for objections have been made to other parts, by different parties, according to their various interests and feelings. Our invariable rule, however, has been, and we still need to adhere to the same line of conduct, viz. to pay no attention to partizans or cavaliers, whose minds are never at rest, but are “like the troubled sea, whose waters cast up mire and dirt.” Nothing can be done to please these gentleman; and were we to hearken to their complaints, we should be circumstanced as the old man was with his ass. The independent manner in which we have conducted our paper, refusing to lend our aid to any particular party, any further than they have had truth on their side, has raised it in the estimation of candid and reflecting men, and given it such an extensive circulation, and share of public patronage, as to render it invulnerable to all the attacks of those whose minds are what with prejudice, or who are actuated by interested motives.

We wish to observe here, that we always keep our ear open at least, to the monitions of friends. We are always obliged when they call upon us, and give us their advice; and we have of this sort, whose friendship we highly esteem, and beg leave to thank them for their favours.

*It is right the reader should be informed that not more than 40 persons present at this meeting, though the subscribers amount to 120, consequently the expulsion of the REVIEW cannot be considered as the act of the Subscribers. We beg leave here to introduce an extract from a letter written by a gentleman of the first respectability, to Mr. SUTTON, whose a subscriber to the News Room:—

“It is impossible to hear, without indignation, the decision of the ——— Faction, on a recent occasion; however it is consolatory to know, that the interest and principles of the REVIEW were advocated by those of the first character among us.”

+ It is been said that these three persons are framework-knitters; this, however, is not true–for one is a hair-dresser, another is a tailor, and the third a hosier.

This article was published in the Nottingham review of 3rd January 1812. Mr Sutton was the proprietor of the newspaper.

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