Friday, 24 August 2012

24th August 1812: General Maitland writes to the Home Office about the success of his 'experiment' in Cheshire

24th August

My dear Lord

You will of course have seen the Communications I have had with Becket.

I have now the satisfaction of being able to report to Your Lordship, on a Subject I think of the very greatest Importance as connected with the Disturbed Parts of this Country in as much as if I am correct in my Opinion and Judgement, it affords us the best practical Proof we have hitherto had of the only real means of putting an End to this Illegal combination, and Administration of Illegal Oaths.

Your Lordship will naturally recollect that I have stated to you particularly in my Dispatch of the 27th of June, that I had determined to make an Experiment of the effect of keeping a small Body of Troops moving about the Disturbed part of the Country. I have had occasion too, to state my Opinion of the good Effects that resulted from that Measure, in quieting exactly the most disturbed Part of the Country, “To Wit”, The District round Mottram in Londondale. Upon this Service the number of Men I employed did not exceed Fifty, under a Captain, accompanyed by two Special Constables, selected for the occasion and whom indeed I paid.

They have kept that District by constantly marching in the Night and never being fixed in one Place above 24 hours, in a continued Series of Alarm, have picked up a great deal of Intelligence, and as I wished on my coming here to employ the same Officer in this Quarter, I directed to seize, and send in to the Magistrates all those against whom any Criminal Charge could be proved; he accordingly began and succeeded in laying hold of several of the Parties, which spread immediately universal Consternation, and the effect of which has been, feeling themselves perfectly insecure and liable to be laid hold of, they either absconded, or are running in to take the Oath of Allegiance, and the benefit of the 3rd Clause of the Act, Your Lordship sent down to me, 21 went in a Body two days ago to one Magistrate at Stockport, and I have no doubt many others are following.—

I have been particular in making this Detail to your Lordship because if I am founded in my Opinion and I own individually have no doubts of its correctness, we may I think within a short time by pursuing similar Measures not only keep the Thing under but totally eradicate it, and I shall certainly make use of every endeavour in my power forthwith to employ small Parties all along the Borders, in a similar Way, and on similar Principles, for if I am convinced we can by this means terrify them into a Sense of their own Weakness, and by so doing induce them to take the advantage of the Pardon, I am equally persuaded no other Measure will ever have any effect of the kind.—

It is through Fear I sincerely believe many were induced to take these Oaths, and it is by Fear, we will alone get them to come back.—

I really cannot understand the State of this County, as it is made out: We are told on the one hand that every thing is now quiet, when on the other, if the Military are but moved for a day we have nothing but applications stating the necessity of these Military.

I have ever been inclined to suppose that where the presence of the Military is necessary to keep the King’s Peace, that part of the Country cannot be held to be quiet State, and least of all can I suppose any part of the Country to be in a quiet State, where the pressure of the Military is necessary, not for the suppression of Riots in consequence of the momentary high Price of Grain, but to prevent Robbery, Assassination, and destruction of every kind.

In respect to the Associations they are certainly highly to be approved of, but with regard to their Competency as an efficient Protection, I hold it to be totally out of the Question, and in the instances where they profess not to want Military Aid, I am by no means prepared to say that such declaration proceeds from a Sense of Security, and not from a Wish just to let the Thing go on, and from the strongest principles of Fear lest the Disaffected should think the principle Persons in the District had advised calling in the Military.

Every thing that I see however leads me to believe, that the numbers are even smaller than I have heretofore imagined, it is impossible to state it, but I am apt to believe, that if 7, or 8 Parties, were sent forth, with the same Success, that has attended the Measure in the Corner of Cheshire, the whole Thing would be put a Stop to.—

I have only plagued your Lordship with all this, because I am most anxious, we should take advantage of the short space of Time left us, to try to get at the bottom of it, before the long Nights, if we do not, and America, should unfortunately be closed, most undoubtedly the Winter will be a Scene of Want of Comfort, and Alarm to the Inhabitants.—

I do not apprehend, though I have stated this, and though I hope for Your Lordship's support in it, that there will be any occasion for me, to apply to you, for any interference.

As far as I have seen, the Gentleman here, I have no doubt they will willingly give in to the Measures I propose, and I feel particularly secure in the strongest Support, from Lord Fitzwilliam and Sir Francis Wood, with whom I had this Morning a long conversation on the Subject.—

I am [etc]
T Maitland
Lord Visct. Sidmouth
&c &c &c

This letter can be found at HO 42/126.

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