Friday, 23 March 2012

23rd March 1812: Colonel Ralph Fletcher writes to the Home Office about the findings of his spy, and encloses an oath

Lancaster 23d March 1812


On my return from Town (where I had the Honor of a Conversation with the Right Honorable Secretary and yourself) I found that disaffection had made further progress than I had expected, and had assumed a more alarming aspect.

Delegates from the Neighbourhood of Nottingham have been in Bolton and succeeded to make some Converts to whom they have administered Oaths (Copy of which I enclose). The Adjutant of the Local. under my Command has procured a confidential Person to join, apparently, in the Schemes of these People, and from him has been derived the Information contained in the Letter herewith inclosed, which has been sent to me at this Place where I am attending the Assizes.

What will be the best mode of checking the dangerous spirit, will be for the consideration of Government. If I were even to apprehend all the Persons that may be assembled at some future nocturnal meeting, will it be proper in order to bring them to Justice to prove the administering of illegal Oaths – and thereby discover & consequently cut off the Sources of future information?!—Will it not be better to watch a while, in Silence, their further proceedings, until we can discover the yet concealed first movers of this machine breaking System?—Our Confidant will, I trust, get at still more important Information, but there may be Danger from a sudden commencement of the Execution of their Plots.

We have a Troop of the Scotch Greys—and a small Yeomanry Troop of Volunteer Horse—together with from 60 to 70 of the Local—part of which last Force are now and most of them have formally been in the Permanent Establishment & may be depended upon and have had arms delivered to them up their several Residences and the Pretence of Practicing previously to the Assembly of the Regiment.—By means of this Force, I [trust] we can defeat the Intentions of the Incendiaries, should they attempt to carry them into Execution, as far as regards Bolton and its Neighbourhood—and that without discovering the Persons who give us secret Information.

The Instructions of Government are requested on these matters – and in the meantime we shall endeavour to find out the concealed moves, of the Incendiary Plot.—Please to address to me at Bolton as I expect to leave this Place in 3 Days.

I have the Honor to be
Very respectfully
Your most Obedt Servant
Ra: Fletcher

N.B. The non delivery of the Letter to me at this Place for 2 Posts has so long delayed the Information

[To] John Beckett Esq

I A B — on my own voluntary Will and accord, do declare an solemnly swear, that I will never reveal to any Person or Persons, in any Place or Places, under the Canopy of Heaven, the Name or Names of any Persons who compose this secret Committee, their Secret Proceedings, Meeting Place, Abode, Dress, Features, Connections, or any thing else, that may lead to a discovery of the same, either by Word Deed or Sign, under the Penalty of being sent out of the World, by the first Brother who shall meet me, my Name & Character blotted out of Existence, and never to be remembered but with Contempt and Abhorrence. And I furthermore do swear, that I will use my best Endeavours to punish by Death, any Traitor or Traitors should any rise up amongst us, wherever I can find him or them, and though he should fly to the Verge of Nature, I will pursue him with unceasing Vengeance, — So help me God, — and assist me to keep this my Oath, inviolable
amen, So be it.

The letter and oath can be found at HO 42/121.

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