Wednesday, 25 July 2012

25th July 1812: The Leeds Mercury classifies the Luddites

An editorial of the Saturday 25th July 1812 edition of the Leeds Mercury attempted to place the Luddites into three categories:
The persons called Luddites it is said, may be divided into three classes—Robbers, men who wish to live by plunder, and avail themselves of the disturbed state of the country to carry on their villainous purposes. Anti-Machinists, persons who impute a difficiency of labour to the use of Machinery in shearing cloth, weaving cotton, and weaving hosiery; and Spies, men that have introduced themselves amongst the depredators to worm out information, and whose employment must cease with the disturbances. We should be glad to know to which of these classes the persons at present engaged in stealing arms belong; we have our suspicions; and cannot forget, that a man of the name of Watt, a spy, was executed at Edinburgh, about the year 1794, for an act of High Treason in which he had engaged while labouring in his vocation, in order to draw others into his snares. The history of this man is curious, and we will take an early opportunity of recalling it to public recollection.

It's possible to see how 200 years have not dampened the Liberalism inherent in the Mercury's analysis, which has been shared by many historians and commentators since. The Watt they refer to was James Watt of the 'Pike Plot'.

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