Tuesday, 5 March 2013

5th March 1813: Thomas Shillitoe meets the Luddite turned informer, Benjamin Walker

On Friday 5th March 1813, the Quaker missionary, Thomas Shillitoe, met with the former Luddite turned informer, Benjamin Walker. His journal recorded what happened:
Fifth-day, agreeable to our request, Benjamin [Walker] met us. On his entering the room, he appeared to us raw and ignorant; with such apparent self-condemnation in his countenance, we thought we had not before witnessed; as if he felt himself an outcast, and thought a mark of infamy was set upon him; newly-clad, as we supposed, from the money he had recently received, as the reward of his having discovered his accomplices in the murder, for which they had suffered. We could not but anticipate the deplorable situation he would find himself in, when the means of keeping up his spirits were all exhausted. On taking his seat, his mind appeared much agitated, and, during the opportunity, he was unable to sit with ease to himself on his seat. After a time spent with him in quiet, a door of utterance opened, whereby we were enabled faithfully to relieve our minds towards him, although he did not manifest any thing like a disposition to resent what we offered to him; but little, if any, appearance of tenderness was manifested. The opportunity to us was the most distressing we had experienced; feeling, as we were enabled to do, deeply on his account, lest his mind was getting into quite a hardened state, and that his case would become a hopeless one; yet not without some reason for believing, that in the opportunity we had with him, things had been so closely brought home to him, that he would not soon be able wholly to cast them away again. When he went away, those who were in the room through which he passed, observed to us, his countenance was pale and ghastly, and his joints, as it were, so unloosened, as if they were scarcely able to support his body. We advised him not to go into company, but to return directly home, which, we afterwards heard, he attended to. The feelings of suffering we were introduced into on his account, will not, I believe, soon be forgotten.

This is from Shillitoe (1839, pp.189-190).

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