Monday, 14 May 2012

14th May 1812: The Town Clerk of Nottingham informs the Home Office of crowds celebrating the death of Spencer Perceval

Sir,

I am sure that you will give me Credit for most sincerely deploring the Death of Mr Percival as an Event which may forever tarnish the Character of the English People. We are yet to learn the Source from where this diabolical attack upon the Prime Minister of England originated & I will devoutly hope that it will be probed to the gutters; that if it arose from an organized Conspiracy against the Government the secret Agents may be brought to light & visited with exemplary punishment, & that if it should have sprung out of the disordered mind or devilish spirit of revenge of any isolated Individual the facts may be fairly & fully discovered & understood both by the English Nation & the rest of Europe.

I am sorry to be compelled to Detail to you the effects produced by this Intelligence at Nottingham which was received with the greatest Joy by the Populace here & before the Magistrates were aware of their Intention attempted to be celebrated by many noisy testimonies of their exultation such as shouting making Bonfires & in one Instance carrying a Flag & a Drum. It was indeed pretended that this was merely the assembling of some Journeymen Woolcombers to celebrate their Masters Birthday but however this might have been the original Cause of their meeting it was too apparent that they seized the opportunity of exciting others to join them in expressing their Joy at the horrid Event which had occurred. as they Declared they were no Percivals—No Symptoms of tumult or Disorder were observable until about 7 or 12 past 7 oClock when the [Nots] in the Market Place & the expressions of the People excited such alarm that the Magistrates assembled at the Police Office & sent for General Hawker who immediately called out the Somerset Militia & Directed a Body of Cavalry to parade in the Market Place. The Magistrates went with myself amongst the People & requested & insisted upon their dispersing & upon their wavering & not taking their Departure so readily as we could wish I proceeded in the presence of the Mayor & Magistrates to read the Riot Act where the People were the thickest assembled. After a moderate time they dispersed from the Market Place but they afterwards made Bonfires in several parts of the Town which the Magistrates Directed & enforced to be extinguished & it was not until 12 oClock that the Magistrates retired from the Superintendance of the Peace & Security of the Town. One or two men were taken into Custody but in fact altho to a liberal & well constituted mind nothing could be more truly offensive & disgusting than the disgraceful Conduct of the People no open Riot or Tumult occurred after the Interference of the Magistracy & the assembling of the Military.

You will excuse the Haste in which I have written this to save the post anxious that you should know what has occurred painful as is the relation of it.

I am [etc]
Geo Coldham Town Clerk

Nottm
14th May 1812

P.S.
The Magistrates intend to take immediate Steps for resuming the System of nightly military Patroles & have already conferred with General Hawker on the subject. I regularly have written without the Direction of the Magistrates because there were no time to [illegible] them previous to the Departure of the Post

This letter can be found at HO 42/123.

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