Friday, 11 January 2013

11th January 1813: Henry Hobhouse suggests the publication of anti-Luddite propaganda to the Home Office

Private

York
Jan. 11. 1813

Dear Sir,

I do not know whether I have ever mentioned to you the Subject, to which I am now about to draw your Attention, & which has been floating in mind ever since I was at Nottingham last Spring. I allude to the Expediency of levelling to the Capacity of the meanest Artizan the absolute Necessity of our Manufacturers availing themselves of every new Species of Machinery for the purpose of preventing their being undersold in the Market & the consequent decay & total Loss of their Trade. When I was at Chester I strongly recommended that a little Tract on this Subject should be compiled & copiously circulated in a cheap manner among the Manufacturers in that Country, but I can not learn that any step of this Kind has been taken. In dining with the Grand Jury at this place I started the same Topic which was generally approved but Mr Lacselles expressed an Opinion that the Argument would proceed with greater Effect from Government. I confess it had not before struck me in this Light, & indeed I even yet doubt whether it may not be viewed with suspicion & distrust, when it assumes this Shape; but as Mr. Lascelles continued of the same opinion in a private Conversation which I subsequently held with him, I have deemed it might not to withhold the Suggestion from Lord Sidmouth’s Consideration, with a View to the Proclamation which it is in Contemplation to issue.

Mr. Lascelles further suggested in this Conversation, that it would be highly salutary to advert in the intended Proclamation to the Fact that all the Offences connected with Luddism either spring out of, or are facilitated by the blind Confidence placed by the minor Criminals in certain Leaders, whose ultimate Designs are wholly unknown, & who induce their Followers to proceed by Degrees to the Commission of Crimes which they would at first have shuddered; & therefore to caution all persons against entering into, or contributing Money towards, any Association unauthorized by the Laws or clandestinely existing, however innocent or even laudable may be it’s professed Object.

One other Topic occurs to me as highly necessary to be enforced, & that is the necessity of the master manufacturer undoubtedly persevering in the use of his improved Machinery, & guarding it as much as possible against either Fraud or Force; a Degree of Firmness, of which I have seen too many Instances to lament the Absence, & without which it is impossible for any Government to afford adequate Protection.

I am Dear Sir
Yrs very faithfully
H. Hobhouse

[To] J Beckett Esq

This letter can be found at HO 42/132.

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