Sunday, 17 June 2012

17th June 1812: Francis Wood writes to Earl Fitzwilliam with fresh concerns about Luddite arms raids

Hemsworth nr Pontefract
June 17th 1812

My Lord,

I have the Honor to acknowledge your Letter of the 15th inst: communicating to me the Answer which Lord Sidmouth, after consulting his Colleagues, is pleased to give to the Resolutions of the Meeting of the Deputy Lieutenants & Magistrates of the Westriding held on ye 11th inst:—This Answer I will state to another Meeting which I have convened for the 22d inst: & will then take the Liberty of laying before the Secretary of State the Sentiments of the Magistrates & their further Reports on the daily increasing dangers of the manufacturing Districts on the Neighbourhood of Wakefield—In the meanwhile, deeply impressed with the Conviction that the Rt. Honble Secretary is by no means aware of the full Extent of the Outrages committed in the Country, particularly in the Wapentakes of Agbrigg & Morley, of the total Insecurity of the Persons & Property of the well-affected Inhabitants therein, & of the rapid & extending Organization & drilling of the rebellious, I beg Leave to mention some of the Circumstances whereon the Resolutions of the 11th inst: were grounded & some few Occurrences which have taken Place in the short Period of the following 3 days.

It was stated on the 11th that in the whole Neighbourhood of Huddersfield & Birstall the Arms of the peaceable Inhabitants had been swept away within the last Month by Bands of armed Robbers – that the Watch & Ward Act could not, except in two Places in the District, possibly be carried into Effect, the disaffected outnumbering by every Degree the peaceable Inhabitants; that the well-disposed could not & would not join in any armed or civil association but lay entirely at the Mercy of a Banditti with Arms in their Hands; that, except the very Spots which were occupied by Soldiers, the Country was virtually in Possession of a lawless.—On the Friday subsequent to our Meeting og the 11th, a partial Robbery of Arms took Place near Netherton, on the 12th strong Patroles of the 15th Hussars were sent out both on the North & South Banks of the Calder—they report that in the ill-affected Villages they found the People up at Midnight, that they heard the firing of small Arms at short Distances from them throughout the whole Night to a very great Extent & had no Doubt but that it proceeded from Parties at Drills—& this Part of the Report is entirely confirmed by the Farmers & Men of Property throughout the Country.

Under all the foregoing Circumstances I beg to state my entire Conviction that the Arms & Ammunition now collected by the Depredators will first be employed in enforcing their alarming System of Terror & Robbery, [next] in ye Assassination of the Magistracy & others whom they may chuze to mark out for Destruction, & lastly, will end, as the same Course of Outrage ended in Ireland, in open Rebellion against the Government of the Country.—The similarity of our present State to that of Ireland strikes everyone who witnessed the [transactions] of 1797 & 1798 in that Country, & in this close Similarity we are unfortunately distinguished from the more open, riotous & unorganized Proceedings in Lancashire & in Cheshire.—We fear greatly that there will be a further Resemblance in the Circumstance of the Magistrates speedily feeling themselves unable to render any Service to their Country, & on that account declining to act as they did in Ireland, or to expose themselves to Danger without a Prospect of any commensurate Advantage from their Exertions.

I must beg Leave to repeat that the Magistrates are still totally unable to gain any legal Information as to the Persons of the Depredations, & that under the existing Laws, all the Efforts they have made to detect or surprzse these Midnight Robbers have tended only to harass the military & to give Confidence to the disaffected who well know to what Extent they are safe under the Law of the Land, & whose Meetings & Drills are rendered unapproachable by their intelligent numerous & active Sentinels.

I intreat in Conclusion that Lord Sidmouth will be obliging enough to enquire of Major General Stevenson now quartered at Wakefield what he sees Reasons to think of the Country, or to make any other such Enquiries has he thinks fit from Residents in the agitated Districts—

I remain [etc]
Francis L Wood Vice Lieut

To the Rt. Honble
Earl Fitzwilliam &c &c

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

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