Monday, 11 June 2012

11th June 1812: Francis Lindley Wood informs Earl Fitzwilliam of arms raids in the West Riding of Yorkshire

Wakefield June 11th 1812

My Lord,

I transmit you the Resolutions of a very numerous & unanimous Meeting of the Depy Lieutents & Magistrates of the West riding formed after a serious Deliberation of the whole Morning, & after the Receipt of your Lordship's Letter of the 9th inst:—In reply to the Opinions which you state the Rt Honble the Secretary of State to have given on my Letter of the 7th inst: (& in which your Lordship impresses your general Concurrence) I beg Leave to mention briefly the Observations which occurred to & were impressed by the Meeting of this Morning.—We are perfectly impressed with the Truth & force of the Opinions you mention to me of the Hazard of a general Search under a general Warrant, but amidst some Hundreds of Cases of the Seizure of Arms there has been only one Instance of Information being given as to the Person of the Depredator. We have should have a Hundred Depositions as to the fact of the Robberies – We have but a single one as to who was the Perpetrator, & this solitary Individual alone is in York Castle. It is obvious that the more extensive the System grows the more difficult, for it will be the more dangerous, will become the gaining any authentic Information as to the Persons of the Depredators.—Already a considerable Number of well-affected People have declined giving up their Arms to the civil or military Power under the Terror that the lawless not finding Arms will commit Violence, as they threaten, against their Houses or their Persons.—Your Lordship is aware that on the 14th of May I have the Honor to recommend associations, but that they have not been formed & are not likely to be formed those who were favourable to the Resolution & those who doubted of it’s Practicability are alike agreed.—It is obviously impossible to station Troops in every Village of two very large Districts & indeed Genl Stevenson has this very Day found it impossible to send Detachments to those Places which have applied for them, which have been partly swept by the Robbers, & where a Repetition of their Depredations is expected.—No Information can be gained by the Magistrates either by Promises of Secrecy or Reward.—Your Lordship will observe that the blank Depositions I had the Honor to send on [the] 7th were Depositions as to the facts, not as to the Persons.—I have in the Course of today examined & crossexamined several People who have had their Fire-arms taken away by Force.—Of these I believe none could swear to the Persons, but in many Instances no doubt they dare not & therefore will not. As to the Publicans, the Danger of losing their Licences appears to them Nothing in Comparison to the Loss of their Lives which they assert would be Consequence of their giving the least Hint, or Particle of Information.—It is believed that Individuals either keep in their Houses (or bury) the Arms they have stolen not in any Depot.

I ought to say in Conclusion that the Magistrates & Depy Lieutts will not cease to make every Exertion which the Law, as it stands at present will warrant, but they are hopeless of Success.—It was unanimously determined that the Resolutions herewith sent shd be kept perfectly secret of the Expediency whereof there can be no Doubt—I have the Honor to express to your Lordship the earnest Request of the Meeting that you would be pleased to lay its Resolutions before the Secretary of State & request his immediate answer thereupon

& remain [etc]
F L WoodVice Lieutt of the
West riding &c

To the Rt Honble
The Earl Fitzwilliam
Lord Lieutt & Custos
Rotulorum of the West riding
of the County of York

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

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