Tuesday, 1 May 2012

1st May 1812: William Hay informs the Home Office about recent threatening letters & the Luddite oath

Police Office Manchester 1 May 1812


I have the honor to enclose a letter received I believe this morning by Mr. Simpson a young gentleman of property, who is the proprietor of considerable Cotton Works, & who has much to his honor taken an active part is a Special Constable in patroling &c that letter is marked A – upon recollection it appeared to be written in the same hand is one received yesterday the day before by Mr. Milne. Mr Milne is a Coroner for part of the Hundred of Salford – is Clerk to some of the Magistrates of Manchester, & of course has much business both at the Assizes & Sessions - that may explain some of the allusions in the letter marked B - but the writer has made a mistake for the Coroner's inquest that met on the men who fell at Middleton was not in the district of Mr. Milne, but of the other Coroner. The Magistrates at Bolton with the Local Militia have been very active and sent many criminals to Lancaster. I think none have been sent from hence since my last; but I have reason to believe that very many will come forward with Information as soon as they feel their houses protected by the Military, which are fast becoming in Detachments of the Buckinghamshire & Berkshire have already arrived.

I last night met a young man here who was brought by his Uncle - I beg to be understood as writing of him when I mention MI – the young man has been wild, but seems disposed to do what is right; & certainly if he acquit himself well in this instance will be entitled to consideration. He states that on the 20th instant a person of the name of Whittingham told him that if he were willing he cd get him twisted in; to which our Informant acceded — in this he, and 5 others (of whom Whittingham was one) went into a field near St. Georges Church — He was there told that it was customary to blindfold the person receiving the Oath, so that he might not be able to swear to the actual person who administered it. He submitted to be blindfolded – the following Oath was then administered to him – he took it standing, and kissed what he understood to be the Bible - after he had been twisted in they unfolded the blind – the next night he asked Whittingham for a copy of the Oath – Whittingham dictated, & informant copied – as follows

I AB do of my own free will and accord declare an solemnly swear that I will not reveal to any person or persons the name or names of the persons who comprise the secret committee, the place of abode, dress, features connections or anything else that may lead to a discovery of the same, under penalty of being sent out of the world by the first brother that may meet me, my name and character blotted out of existence, never more to be remembered but with contempt & abhorrence — I furthermore do swear, that I will do my endeavour to punish by death any traitor or traitors, let them be who they will & what they will, without favor or affection to friend or relation — should any rise up amongst us & attempt to fly even to the verge of nature I will pursue with unceasing vengeance — so help me God to keep my oath inviolable”— as sworn as MI had taken the Oath he was made acquainted with the sign & countersign

The right thumb in the right waistcoat armhole – the Right heel in the Centre of the left foot with the toe turned square — the countersign is the reverse of this — i.e. the left thumb in the left armhole &c.

There is another – the right-hand little finger in the mouth with the thumb pointed out, the fingers doubled. The answer is a left-hand rubbing the chin between the from & two first fingers.

When he was blindfolded he was told there were some gentleman in London, who were at the head of this - but no one was to be trusted with the name but the secret committee that was sitting.

MI understood that the Committee would not trust their letters by the post but sent delegates from place to place as business might call them.

He understood that Manchester was a centre for this part of the country – that regular delegates forwarded from other towns thro this place to London – that none but the secret Committee know who these people are in London – and the secret Committee will not let any person know who they are till the time for breaking out comes nearer.

Such is nearly verbatim what he stated — his uncle a respectable man was with him in the room. The Object of the young man is to get pointed of a secret committee for the purpose of knowing their plans - he has volunteered himself for this with his Uncles approbation & of course has been encouraged to do so.

Variety of informations are given as respecting Arms for which we should wish to order a search - some searches have been made at the risque of the parties making them - there is no clause empowering such a step under the watch & ward Act.

We frequently lament from the number of idle strangers resorting here, and infesting the country that some such powers as those contained in Sect. 5. 6. 7 of 35. Geo.3 ch 34 – are not at present in force – we could have disposed, we think, to good purpose of many who are about the town & neighbourhood.

We have the satisfaction to say that we have unreserved communication with and support from Genl Dirom and Col. Clay - An arrangement for the troops has been formed in the South North-West District, which appears to be fully adequate to any purpose we can calculate upon, or be provided against.

This letter having been seen by Mr. Wright, I venture to subscribe his name, because it is dispatched under particular circumstances by a Friday nights Mail – I have the honor to be, Sir

with sincere respect
Your faithful & obed. humble Servant
WR Hay
approved by Mr. Wright

To The Rt. Honble Richd Ryder
One of H. Mjs. principal Secret. of State &c

This letter can be found at HO 40/1/1.

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