Sunday, 26 February 2012

26th February 1812: Town Clerk of Nottingham to Home Office

Private

Nottingham
26 February, l812

Dear Sir,

I cannot help thinking altho I am fully aware of the Difficulty of framing legislative Enactments of this Subject and be liable to just objections on that Account that much might be still Done in the way of Prevention of the dreadful effects of Framebreaking. You know how anxious I have been to discover the source of the Funds which support the Men who are out of Employment and who are engaged herein. What Funds supported your Informant Mr. Elrick in his Trip to London! and I learn that he has been thro’ Leicestershire and Northamptonshire. We have concluded that the Funds are raised here by the Contributions of those who work, and by the Subscriptions raised here under various pretences and raised by the Sale of Almanacks and various Articles sold in order to avoid the Charge of Begging or of Subscription. Now in most of these instances the Menaces are really started by Terror which could not easily be accomplished if a single person only were permitted to sell or collect Subscriptions and if more than one engaged in those Acts could be Deemed Vagrants. When Frames are broken it is always done in the night from, 6 o’clock in the evening to 6 o’clock in the morning and the Party assemble in some private house for the whole night watching their Hour to make the Attack as they can judge of the probability or possibility of reaching the point of Attack and effecting their purpose in the absence of the Patrole. These Men are armed with Pistols and other offensive Weapons. Would it not be perfectly competent and consistent with every principle of Justice and Liberty under these Circumstances to deem any assembly or Meeting of Persons — more than 2 after 6 o’clock in the Evening and 6 in the morning any two or more of whom should be armed Persons aiding and aiding in the general System of Framebreakers and to punish them upon Conviction by Imprisonment for a first offence and Transportation for a second — or in such manner as the Law Officers of the Crown might advise and those whether they were found in the House deliberating or the Street or open Air. It is said that these Men are afraid of being attacked at these nightly Meetings in the House with Arms and they have always a private place of concealment for their Arms near the place of their operations. I suggest these things the more anxiously because I am sure that its future and judging from their last practical operations these Men can never afford to throw away any effort upon single Frames and will proceed to attack the larger Masters of Frames where they may expect resistance and where they must be prepared to overcome it by pretty strong parties and those well armed. If we could cut off the support from the Luddites they would return to work if we take up any Number of them assembled and punish them by Imprisonment we should cutt off their Leaders from active Exertions and terrify the less daring and enterprizing of them.

Yours [etc.]

Geo. Coldham

This letter can be found at HO 42/120.

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