Tuesday, 6 March 2012

6th March 1812: Letter from Thomas Latham at Nottingham to the Mayor of Tewkesbury

Nottingham 6th March '12


The Committee of the United Branches of Framework-knitters at Nottm with great surprise recd a letter of the 2d from a person in the Town over which you hold jurisdiction stating that you had prohibited the framework-knitters in your Town from meeting to discuss the nature of their Grievances and to prepare a petition to Parliament thereon. You no doubt had you reasons for so doing; but whether they were sane, or otherwise, is not material because they were both unconstitutional and unjust, as well as extremely dangerous to the liberties of the subject.

Know you not, Sir, that the Act, commonly called the Gagging Act, is long since dead of its own natural Death; Therefore your opinion as a Magistrate is of no avail respecting the holding of a popular meeting. But even were that not the case, is it an act of policy on the part of a Magistrate to prohibit men from meeting in a peacable manner, to state their grievances; when, by preventing them from venting their plaints in a constitutional way, they may be driven to the commission of crimes for the purpose of exercising their vengeance, when they cannot exercise their rights  How different were your conduct on the occasion alluded to, to that shewn by the Magistrates of Hatton Garden, London, on a similar occasion—they, when informed of the desire of the London stocking makers to hold a meeting, immediately afforded the men every facility in their power for the accomplishment of the design—They sent an officer to attend the meeting, and presented the resolutions agreed upon at such meeting to the Secretary of State, along with a copy of the propositions sent from the Nottingham Committee. This was a measure consistent with the wishes of every honest man. Then compare this conduct with your own; and, if you are an Englishman, your punishment will be sentimentally complete.

Sir, you may perhaps conceal this letter from all eyes but your own; but that will avail you nothing; for other means, which you to your own confusion, will hereafter be made accquainted with, will be resorted to, to make its contents public. The men of Nottingham are accquainted with the laws of their Country; and, in common with every honest man, condemn the outrageous conduct of a few misguided individuals in their neighbourhood; and they know, that the proper means to prevent those outrages are for those in authority to act directly contrary to the manner in which you have acted.

Sir, the Nottingham Committee will again call upon their Tewkesbury friends to have a meeting; the postmaster may again open the letter directed to them; and you may again exert an unconstitutional authority; but if you do, legal means will be resorted to, to exhibit your conduct in proper colours to the public.

by order of the Committee,

Thos. Latham secty

Mayor of Tewkesbury
Committee Rooms
Newton’s head
Glass house Lane

This letter & petition can be found in the Records of the Borough of Nottingham, vol.8, 1800-1835 (pp.139-140).

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