Monday, 27 August 2012

27th August 1812: General Maitland reflects on the success of his tactics in Cheshire

Wakefield
27th August
1812

My dear Sir

I did not write to you yesterday, from having been occupied the whole day.

My information corroborates daily, the letter I have transmitted Lord Sidmouth, and I do not believe there is less than at least 800, who have applied, and to whom the Oath of Allegiance, has been either administered, or who have tendered themselves, and to whom it will be administered, as soon as possible.—

At the same time, as you may easily conceive, this new Event has been attended with some, not material, but still contravailing circumstances, of no serious moment, but necessary to be got rid of.

When it first happened, I was consulted, about, how far a Magistrate should go into the Country to facilitate it, and doubting both the Extent, and as doubting the Extent, and general feeling; the result of such a Measure, I give it as an Opinion, that going for a day might do no harm, but that I would not make it a Measure, of that Importance, to give 3 days notice, to the People, which was proposed; This was at the time, I was only aware of the Spirit having extended to a few Individuals; but when I found the real extent to which he went the Day after, and that there was no longer a doubt, that the general Feeling in that peculiar part of the Country, was favorable to the renunciation of their past Errors, I immediately wrote a letter to General Acland, directing him to forward it, stating, that I not only advised a Magistrate going in, but enclosing them a form of a Placard, I thought might do some good, Stating generally their anxious Wish, and the pleasure they would have, in giving every facility, by attending such and such Days, to the inclination that manifested itself to return to their Allegiance.—

This however I understand, is considered by one of them in particular, as an indulgence unmerited by the Luddites, an Absurdity I cannot understand, for after all I am sure Lord Sidmouth will agree with me, that whatever indulgence it may be to the disaffected to have their return to their Allegiance made as easy as possible; it is in truth a much greater Indulgence to the Magistrates when they come to reflect that by the return of such Disaffected they are not only relieved from their present Fears, but any probable chance of any of those Men being again drawn into the unfortunate Situation, in which they have hitherto some Period stored.

About this [demur] however I have no doubt, I am sure their good Sense will get better of it.—

[Another difficulty however of a very different Nature has started up, and proceeding from an extreme, exactly of an opposite Nature, “To Wit”, the Twisted in, and Twisters in, have all flocked to the same Standard.

Upon this myself I have no doubt, The Clause of the Act appears to be perfectly clear and explicite, and to exclude all those who administered, and to comprehend those only who have taken illegal Oaths.—

Many however I have reason to believe have been admitted to take the Oath of Allegiance who have administered the Oath to numbers, and as the speediest Mode of getting rid of it (possibly too it will be the most expeditious mode of explaining my Wish to Lord Sidmouth through you) I sent an Express yesterday to which I shall get an Answer tomorrow Morning, to the Attorney General at Lancaster (Parke) of which a Copy is enclosed. Pray send down as soon as you can the Opinion of the Attorney & Solicitor Generals upon the Subject.]

In the Part of the Country to which I allude, they are completely beat, which I think shews itself from the Numbers that have come in, but it must appear singular, not a Man has stirred at Stockport, or any of the Adjacent Towns, and that it is limited exactly where the System I have mentioned to Lord Sidmouth was carried into effect.

Another very singular thing, and from which every one can deduce his own consequences, is the Number of Men that have come in, in such a limited District of Country.—

Judging of the rest of the Disaffected Parts of the Country by this Criterion what Number, may not be supposed to be involved in this dangerous System.

I am now trying to organize five or Six Parties in the same Principle of the Party that produced these effects, but it is not easy to get Officers who understand it, and it is still more difficult to get Special Constables to act with those Officers, I do not however dispair of either, and having this practical lesson before us, I am not without hopes of being able, but not within less than 3 or 4 Weeks of producing a similar feeling in this Part of the Country.

I hope you got my letter about Lawson, which I have never heard from you upon, and which leads me to fear it may have miscarried.

I am [etc]
T Maitland
[To] John Becket Esqr.
&c &c &c

This letter can be found at HO 42/126.

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