Thursday, 7 June 2012

7th June 1812: The Manchester spy 'B' meets a Liverpool delegate and hears of soldiers taking the Luddite oath in Mottram

Colonel Fletcher's spy in Manchester, 'B' aka John Bent, submitted another report ending on Sunday 7th June 1812.

On 2nd June, Bent had been present at a meeting of committee of trades at the Elephant public house on Tib Street. The resolutions that had been published in a handbill were to be published in the Statesman newspaper, and the group had sent money to facilitate this. The next meeting would be due the following Thursday at 8 p.m.

On 4th June, Bent had met a delegate from Liverpool and they spent 2 hours discussing activity in Manchester. The Liverpool delegate thought that petitioning for peace and parliamentary reform was not bold enough. He revealed that the Liverpool committee had links with Ireland and could call on 4,000 men in the area should they be needed. The delegate was called John Bates and worked at the Salthouse Dock - Bent invited him to the next committee meeting, his intention being to become involved with the Liverpool Committee.

Although the Manchester Committee met that night, little business was conducted as they were still awaiting the resolutions being printed in the Statesman. The following day, Committee members tried to get a local printer to put them into a handbill - both Cowdroy & Wheeler refused, but a printer called Plant agreed to print 1000 copies.

At 1.00 p.m. on Sunday 7th, Bent attended a meeting at the Gate pub on Ashton Road, which was attended by 37 other delegates from towns and villages around Manchester. There was talk of a general strike by weavers for the 10th, but Bent played his part of a true reactionary in denying any plans existed and called for sticking to the program of petitioning and peaceable behaviour. Bent's call was met with some resistance - some delegates pointed out the people could not bear the oppression that existed and would not do so whilst they were able to take action. A delegate from Mottram said that they had gone as far as succeeding to twist-in members of the Scotch Greys, with one delegate going to their barracks for this purpose, and that members of the local Watch & Ward Committee had openly chastised the Greys for drinking with local people.

Bent related that the general feeling was that local committees would continue to meet and further their own plans whatever was resolved in Manchester.

The next meeting of the Committee of trades was scheduled for 8.00 p.m. on Thursday 11th June at the Elephant on Tib Street.

Bent's report can be found at HO 42/124. This is the last report from Bent that appears in the Home Office files covering the Luddite period in the North West.

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