Friday, 30 November 2012

30th November 1812: 'A Soul is of more value than work or Gold' - George Mellor writes from York Castle

I now take the Liberty of informing you that I am in good health as by the Blessing of God I hope they will find you all Pl. to give my respects to my cousin and tell him to stick fast by what he [swore] the first time before Rattiffe and I hope his wife will do the same, that I left there house before five oClock and I did not leave any thing at their House and if the Boy swore any thing tell my Cousin to contridict him & say he told him a different Storey that there had been a man and left them & he did not know him and as for the Girl she cannot sware any thing I know that will harm me and tell the Boys to stick by what they said the first time if not thy are proved forsworn tell him and his wife I hope they will befrend me and never mind thier work for I if I come home I will do my best for them Remember a Soul is of more value than work or Gould— I have heard your are Potitioning for a Parlimenter Reform and I wish thees names to be given as follows — G.M. Mark Hill James Haigh Josh Thornton Wm Thorp Geo Rigg Saml Booth John Hogdin C. Cockcroft Jas Brook Jno Brook Geo Brook James Brook C.Thornton Jonathan Deane Jno Walker Joshua Schorsfiend Jno [Schersfield] Thomas Smith James Starkey — Anthony Walker Joseph Greewood Thomas Green Benjamin Sigg Geo Ludge Wm Hodgson Geo Brook William Barnard Geo Beamont David Moerhouse William Whitehead Joseph Fisher Jon Batley Jon Lum Jon Shore Benjamin Hinchliff Geo Hanlin Jon Laild Jon Fawset James Whitehouse give my respects to all enquiring Friends and acccept These few Lines from your Friend—

[To] Mr. Thomas Hellice
Wool Stapler
Nr Huddersfield

[Post Mark York 30th November]

This letter from the cropper George Mellor was smuggled out of York Castle and posted from York on 30th November 1812, before being intercepted by the authorities, presumably at Huddersfield since it bore a York postmark. It is one of a very small number of letters known to be written by an identifiable Luddite (another earlier one being from the Nottinghamshire Luddite William Carnell to Judge Bayley).

George Mellor clearly thought his best chance in the trial he was facing lay with his cousin Joseph Mellor and others in his household sticking to the version of events they had given to Joseph Radcliffe previously. Of interest is his comment that the evidence of 'the Girl' (i.e. Mary Dyson) could not harm his case: by this time, Dyson had left the household of Joseph Mellor in mysterious circumstances, but George Mellor clearly did not know about this. Neither Dyson nor her evidence featured at his subsequent trial, which tends to support George's statement that her evidence could not do him any harm, and may have been very important for his defence.

The letter was not used at Mellor's trial, and it's existence was not widely known, although it was mentioned seven years later at a meeting of the York King & Constitution Club in February 1819, presented as proof that reformers had ulterior motives similar to Luddites. Curiously, the Guardian greeted the coming new year of 2012 with an editorial that absurdly posited that the letter demonstrated that Mellor & the Luddites were becoming reconciled to Liberalism through constitutional methods.

Two copies of this letter exist - one in the Home Archive at HO 42/132, transcribed from the original by the Treasury Solicitor Henry Hobhouse (which this version is based on), and another in the Radcliffe MSS at West Yorkshire Archives (ref 126/127a). It is not known what happened to the original, or even if it still exists elsewhere, which is a tragedy, as it is real treasure.

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