Saturday, 2 June 2012

2nd June 1812: The Town Clerk of Nottingham, George Coldham, writes to Home Office

(Private and confidential)

2, June, 1812

We have No Intelligence of the Persons who attacked Mr. Trentham nor any hopes of obtaining any.

Dear Sir,

I would have written to you long ere this on the present appearances here but they have been very difficult to understand since the passing of the Bill making it Death to destroy Frames. This has very much closed up our Channels of Information and darkened such of them as are still open. I am very much afraid that it has operated a very mischievous effect upon the mind of the Mass of the People by teaching them that to render their plan of Intimidation complete they must strike at the Life of Man and that they may now as safely Do this as they could before Destroy Frames. I am well aware that this is all circumstances considered a most trying and difficult Business to act wisely about and I am fully aware that it is a most desireable object to conciliate the Publick mind and to reconcile the labouring Classes to their situation. I give the House of Commons and our Members full Credit for the most laudable motives in entertaining the complaints of the Frameknitters nay I am from the bottom of my Heart desirous that they should receive every redress for their Grievances from the Legislature which can be given them consistent with the Security of the Trade. It is lamentable that the peaceably Disposed part of these Artizans should suffer for the acts and proceedings of the more turbulent and violent part of their Body. There is clearly an Interest of the mere Workmen which may be occasionally opposed to the Interest of the Manufacturer although I firmly believe that generally there permanent interest is the same. The mere Workman however is apt to look to the profit derived to him personally from certain kinds of Work to retain which profit he would force the Manufacturer to make that species of Work altho’ it might be superseded by the Demand on the part of the Consumer for a cheaper mode of Manufactory which on the other Hand the Hosier must produce or suffer the orders for both these species of Goods to go where the cheaper sort are manufactured. Parliament have heard the case of the mere Workman and very probably have heard it much overstated and much misrepresented. They have not heard the Case of the Manufacturer and I question whether will ever hear of it if the Bill is proceeded with in this Session The Hosier now is overawed by the circumstances of Terror in which he is environned and I doubt whether so situated anyone will dare to state his Answer to the Complaints of the Workmen his expositions of their Statements, his explanations of their misrepresentations. The Workmen are not satisfied. They are not put down by the Terror of the Law, on the contrary they know that they have brought the Terror of Assassination into lively exercise upon the Head of their Employers and they feel they are now treating with them with all the advantage which this situation gives them. If the Hosiers are silent if they decline to appear to give evidence against the projected legislative Regulation of their Trade, if they do not attend by Counsel or Solicitor to oppose the Bill let Parliament at least proceed with caution let it estimate the nature of their Situation, let it never for a moment proceed to infer their Consent from the Assertions of the Advocates for the Bill or from the Silence of the Manufacturers. I believe that the measures in Parliament have very much interested the Frameknitters and that those who were lately turbulently disposed and some of whom there is too much reason to fear are now willing if necessary to go to more horrid Extremities (if necessary to keep up the system of Terror) are willing to await the Success of the Bill intended to be brought into Parliament and if it should be such as they wish, are ready to await its effects upon the Trade in favour of the Workmen. But if thrown out or rendered unpalitable to the Workmen they would resume effective operations. I believe there will be no more breaking of frames but the combination amongst the Workmen remains in full force. The Bill will be for us a most important measure if it conciliate the Workman without injuring the Manufacturer it will proclaim Peace throughout the District for the present; but as in my humble Judgement it cannot restore the demand for our manufactures and without it in a very short time the Workmen will find that all their fairy scheme of restoring the flourishing state of the Manufacture by abolishing fraudulent Goods will end in Disappointment and they will then be as clamorous for Peace as they have been against their Employers. In the meantime I cannot but applaud the policy of these Frameworknitters, Men affect to impute all their distress to the Conduct of their Masters and the fraudulent Goods which have been manufactured, and under this Banner they come to Parliament to introduce a legislative Protection for the Workman in all his particular Complaints against his Employers. Let the Trade be ever so bad he will be benefitted by the Provisions exclusively framed for his Protection in the questions which occur between him and his Employer. By keeping the War and its consequences out of sight his Confederates at home are kept together consisting of two opposite parties one of whom would impute everything to the war and the other nothing. By imputing all the Events of his situation to his Employer and fraudulent Goods he hopes to keep Parliament in good temper and to enlist them to aid him in every Regulation which he requires in the Hope of convincing the Body of the Artizans that the Evil is not imputable to the War but is such as is capable of a parliamentary Remedy.

Yours [etc.]

Geo. Coldham

This letter can be found at HO 42/123.

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