Tuesday, 10 April 2012

10th April 1812: 'Constitution of the United Britons' found near to Foster's Mill at Horbury

On 14th May 1812, the Reverend William Robert Hay, Chairman of the Salford Quarter Session and a rector at Pontefract, came into the possession of some items supposedly recovered from the roadside alongside the wrecked Mill belonging to Joseph Foster at Horbury. They were a booklet and card containing the constitution of the United Britons.

Hay wrote to the Home Office 2 days later, enclosing the items without any comment other than how he came by them.

The United Britons, or United Englishmen, were a secret organisation of Jacobins. The recovery of their paperwork from near to the site of what is arguably the West Riding Luddites' greatest triumph has been commented on by several historians, and used as evidence to illustrate the complex composition of the Luddite movement, which contained some whose motives were not limited to industrial matters. And yet it seems rather convenient that un-named individuals should pass on documents they happen to find at the roadside - it's equally possible that this could be the work of scaremongerers with motives. Hay was right-wing Tory Loyalist, one of the magistrates on duty 7 years later at the Peterloo Massacre in Manchester. Like Ralph Fletcher's use of the reports of spies and informers, there could have been ulterior motives at work to achieve different ends.

Huddersfield radical historian Alan Brooke has written a guest blog about English Jacobinism leading up to this period, which can be read here.

Hay's letter is at HO 40/1/4, whilst the documents can be found at HO 40/124.

No comments:

Post a Comment