Monday, 11 June 2012

11th June 1812: Colonel Ralph Fletcher writes to the Home Office about supporters of the Luddites

Bolton le moors - 11 June 1812

Dear Sir/

Since my return from the Special Assizes at Lancaster—the Training of such of the Companies of the Bolton Local under my Command as had not completed their Duty before in consequence of the Call of the Magistrates & Deputy Lieutenantcy – hath so much occupied my Time & attention in addition to magistrates Duties—as to have hitherto prevented me from writing.

The results of the Trials Government will have received from other Hands—it appeared to me and to all those I conversed with at Lancaster that the Evidence as given in Court – both in the Capital Charges & those not Capital would have fully justified a Jury in finding many others guilty, even in relation to those committed from this place—but in relation to those men committed from Manchester charged with setting fire to Mr Burtons House at Middleton – then acquitted excited almost universal Indignation and the Foreman (Mr Ewart a Merchant of Liverpool and Roscowite) who persuaded the other eleven of the Jury to join him in such acquittal – was himself (as I am credibly informed,) so stung with regret at the Verdict – that he decamped from Lancaster the Morning after without asking Leave—The Consequences of this Verdict might have been of the most fatal Kind – had not the Grand Jury found another Bill for a misdemeanor for the same offence which will have the Effect to detain them unless they find Sureties to buy the Traverse.

Four for Capital offences & Ten for simple Felony committed from Bolton received the appropriate Sentences – Several that we had strong Evidence against were never taken — and a person of the Name of Lyon against whom a Bill of Indictment had been found for attending an unlawful meeting on the 8 April – & who had found Bail, traversed and will be tried at some future assizes—He, it is, who spoke to General Lud, in relation to finding mercy “that on application to him by 3 of the Committee he would take them to an independent Gentleman who would furnish money for so noble a Cause.”—I observed that there is a considerable anxiety in some of the disaffected respecting this Lyon—& I suspect that they entertain Fears of his Babbling. It is of Importance in my opinion that his Prosecution should be carried on at the proper time—The Witnesses for the Crown–both these employed by us previously and those who only came forwards after being apprehended – exceeded my Expectations—and one Hulme (a Partner in the Bleaching House of Cooke & Hume) seems strongly implicated in the Guilt of formenting these seditious movements—He has discharged from his Employ all that have given Evidence for the Crown—and this will I trust lead to further discoveries of his Transactions—He once (as formerly commented) sat as Chairman of a seditious meeting at Manchester—and about 2 years ago on occasion of some discontent amongst the Working Bleachers employed by him – he told them that he would raise their Wages 3 [pence] a week if they would stand by him and they would together could put an end to all Taxation

On the subject of General Lud – which was much talked of by his Workmen in his presence – he told them they might go to Arthur Holden who would take them to him (General Lud) – and several went accordingly to Holden who took them to nocturnal meeting at which several were sworn – or twisted.

I enclose you Bs last report—I believe he is now at Liverpool on a Visit to the Liverpool delegate—probably something important may be learnt from that Quarter

I also inclose an address to Cotton Weavers delivered to Stones by one Beckett (a person who has escaped) previous to his administering to him the oath. I am not quite certain that I may not have transmitted a Copy before.

I also enclose you Adjutant James Warrs Account of Expenses incurred by him, which although they may appear considerable, I trust you will think well laid out.

I return, as you requested, Mr Chippendales Letter. We have corresponded on the occasion, and I apprehend the person he alludes to should he come forward, may carry useful Information; at present he is on a journey and nothing decisive can be arranged untill his return and then I will communicate what may seem deserving of Notice

In respect to the effect of which the late Prosecutions may have on the minds of the disaffected, I apprehend they will be to a very considerable degree salutary, if followed up in the adjoining West Riding of Yorkshire. All accounts concur in stating the dangerous Nature of the Proceedings in & about Huddersfield—Mr Radcliffe, a magistrate residing in the Neighbourhood, and who was Foreman of the Lancaster Grand Jury, informs me that the Seditious have succeeded to that Degree to intimidate the Loyal Part of that Neighbourhood - that no Witness chose to come forward with Testimony

This is a dreadful State of Society and whose remedy to apply does not appear easy to discover; but should the Seizure of Arms by the Rebels proceed I fear that nothing short of martial Law will avail in that neighbourhood to put a stop to such daring Outrages.

In this Town of Bolton the Jacobins mutter Revenge against the Witnesses and some anonymous Papers and been placarded to the same Effect, but I trust they will be prevented from putting their Threats in Execution; and if we discover the authors of them we shall certainly require good Bail or otherwise commit them.

I have taken the Liberty to draw for the Balance of the [illegible] account—in a Bill at Seven days Sight payable to Mr Abraham Winterbottom. And I have the Honor to be

[etc]Ra: Fletcher

To John Beckett Esqr

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