Thursday, 7 June 2012

7th June 1812: The Vice Lieutenant of the West Riding writes to the Home Office with his concerns about Luddite arms raids

Wakefield June 7th 1812

My Lord,

I inclose to you two most material Depositions which are in the originals signed by most respectable Individuals, but who state that they would be murdered immediately if their Names became known. Mr Woods the Magistrates & Mr Foljambe the Deputy Clerk of the Peace know the Men & their Handwriting.—In consequence of a Letter I rec’d from Mr Bolland this Morning I have appointed a Genl Meeting of Lieutenancy & have fixed it for so early a Day as Thursday next in Consequence of the alarming State of this Neighbourhood, the further Seizures of Arms are expected every Night in the adjacent Villages.—Under these Circumstances I should be happy if your Lordship could possibly communicate to me at Wakefield on Thursday Morning your opinion what general Steps can & ought to be taken to put a Stop to these Outrages which are taking the direct Road to an open Insurrection & if you think it expedient to see the Secretary of State on these Matters on Tuesday I shd be very glad to be prepared on Thursday with the Result of your Deliberation thereupon—

I am concerned that unless some preventative Measures are taken in this Meeting the Disturbances will take a much more serious Character than lately in Nottinghamshire. Every successful Seizure of Arms, (& they are all successful) gives fresh force to the System & increase the Confidence of the ill-affected.—Should the Harvest be only moderately good & no outlet be offered to the Manufacturers of the West riding there is no Doubt but that every Species of outrage will increase on the Approach of Winter when a long Nights & bad Weather will render their Prevention impossible & the Detection more difficult.—All the Magistrates, with whom I converse, concur that if a Police were established by Government & placed in a central Situation under the Protection of the armed forces it wd be able to do more to break into the Plans of the disaffected & introduce Distrust among them than any Measure that can be adopted or pursued by the Magistracy Lieutenancy or Military Powers—

Magistrates serving their Country independently will not act as Police officers (however advantageous in these times it might really be) in general & no one wishes to distinguish himself beyond the Rest in the present dangerous & disturbed State of the Country—

Major Genl Stevenson has already on the Request of Magistrates & Deputy Lieutts collected the Arms of such Persons as were afraid to [help] & unwilling or unable to defend them, but desirous they might be placed in Safety, in two or three of the neighbouring Villages. We have had today more Applications of the same Nature & have complied with two of them.—

The next question is, whether or no it would be a preventative Measure, or whether it wd be sanctioned by his Majesty's Government – if the Magistrates were to issue Search Warrants to search for Arms in the Houses of Persons suspected of these Outrages – & make the Search by the Aid of the Military.—There can be no Doubt of [obscured] I conceive, in Case [illegible] swore that he suspected [obscured] had stolen arms in his Possession, but this Case unfortunately will seldom arise, since the actual Suspicion will be that in a Number of 40 Luddites some 8, 10 or more have such Arms in their Houses or Premises.—

I write in Haste at this Place in order to have the Advantage of your Answer, if possible, on Thursday Morning at Wakefield – & remain

Your Lordship's obliged & faithful Servt
Francis L Wood


June 7th 1812


In fact the Magistrates at Wakefield are in a State of complete Division as to the Means to be adopted, & will concur in nothing.—They all however wish the Lieutenancy to take a Share of their Hazards & Duties, which cannot legally be done except in general Measures—But I will write to your Lordship if any is resolved on next Thursday.—Majr Genl Stevenson is perfectly willing to take a execute any Measures resolved upon by the Magistrates or Lieutenancy – of Course he will do no more.—I proposed to him to lay a Troop of Soldiers for the Collectors of Arms. He is unwilling to do it without having a Magistrate present & of Course Magistrates do not think themselves bound to such Services – Police officers – [illegible] in [illegible] – & sent & paid by Government can alone prevent our being in a worse Situation [illegible] long than any of the neighbouring Counties for our Rioters &c will be armed

FL Wood

No comments:

Post a Comment