To the Printer of the Leeds Intelligencer.
SIR,—I beg the favour of you to permit your paper to the medium of a few observations on a subject in which, if I mistake not, the credit and the justice of this neighbourhood is considerably interested.
We cannot, I presume, have forgotten the state of the public mind, and the transactions which occurred during the spring months of the last year. We recollect the serious apprehensions which filled the minds of one part of the inhabitants; the disgraceful panic which seized others; the suspense in which a third sort were held, unable to form a judgment whether the disturbers of the public peace, or their opposers would prove to have taken the stronger side, and therefore afraid to commit themselves by venturing to express an opinion concerning transactions, which, by their novelty, their boldness, their ferocity, and general mischievous tendency, were becoming truly serious and alarming;—while, a lamentable proportion of the population of a great many of our towns and villages were in high and ardent expectation of some great change which they (foolishly enough, no doubt, but, which they) actually did imagine was about to take place in the persons should hold the power and property of the country.
At this time the idea of removing by violence such individuals as might seem likely to oppose any effectual obstacle to the system of destruction then in practice, was become perfectly familiar; the most atrocious acts were openly committed; murderous conversation was openly and undisguisedly held in workshops, at the market, in the public streets, and in public houses; while, whatever was offered in disapprobation of the then popular sentiments, and of the destructive practices, was generally spoken in retirement, under all the apparent emotions of apprehension, suspicion, and terror. There was an evident fear left what was said should be overheard and resented by the mischievous destruction of property of the speaker, or by his immediate assassination. Those who are first affected to scorn the expressions of alarm were themselves brought to dismay. Those who ignorantly imagined the business concerned such persons only as were connected with gig-mills and shearing-frames, were made to tremble for the safety of their own property and persons. The merchant, the farmer, the miller, the cottager, were alike assailed, terrified, plundered. The very atmosphere which surrounds us seemed contaminated, and the English character assumed for a season, the dark and baleful aspect of the malicious, relentless assassin.
A favourable change has taken place. The good sense of many of those who were incautiously led off to indulge unjustifiable wishes and expectations, is apparently returned; the momentary warmth of a perverted imagination has subsided, and given place to reflection, and a more just way of thinking. The silent and flow, but efficacious operation of our incomparable system of Laws, executed in that firm, manly, DISCRIMINATING CHRISTIAN spirit, so highly characteristic of our courts of justice, has had a powerful effect upon the public mind. The nature, the tendency, the absurdity, the madness of disorderly practices is more clearly discerned; the well-disposed are confirmed; the thoughtless are brought to some reflection; the guilty, we ardently hope, feel remorse; the vicious and abandoned have taken lessons of caution, and, it is reasonably to be expected, that the salutary pause that has been imposed upon them by the well grounded terror of the magistrate’s awful arm, will be succeeded by some general repentance and reformation of conduct, and of principle.
The extent to which the mischievous combination might have been carried is not to be ascertained. The nature and tendency of it, is pretty well known.
A full year has now passed over us. We have had time for reflection. And it remains for us to determine whether we will suffer the intelligent faithful historian of the times to enter the following record for the information of posterity:
That one of the most villainous, of the MOST DESPERATE; and, for its extent, one of the MOST ALARMING CONSPIRACIES AGAINST the Security of the persons and property of civil society, that ever disgraced a country professing Christianity, was checked and disconcerted by the manly firmness of ONE MAN, at great labour, and at great personal hazard to himself, as well as at great expence:—and, the detection and conviction of the parties to this nefarious scene, was, in a great measure, "owing to the unremitting zeal and persevering courage of ONE MAGISTRATE residing near the town of Huddersfield:" but, such was the cool indifference betrayed by the inhabitants of the neighbourhood more immediately benefited by the judicious intrepidity of these two men, that, finding themselves delivered from their present apprehensions, they were content to refer the remuneration of the expences incurred by the meritorious defence of Rawfolds Mill, to the bounty of Government; to the PRIVATE liberality of individuals; to an "HUMBLE PETITION" to the Quarter Sessions; to chance:—and the worthy Magistrate of Mills-Bridge House was allowed to enjoy the satisfaction arising to an independent mind like his, from his private reflections on his own conduct; or,—whether we will do ourselves the credit, and our country the service, to offer our united public thanks to Mr. Radcliffe for the benefit he has conferred upon society, by his prompt, decisive, and judicious conduct; and testify our approbation of William Cartwright's behaviour, in defence of his person and property, and our sense of the advantages derived to society thereby by an instant public subscription expressly designed as a kind of vote of thanks, and to be offered to him independent of any notice or reward which the wisdom of Government may judge proper to confer upon him.
A Thousand Guineas subscribed by that number of persons, and their names published, would be of greater importance to the public; and of more credit to the subscribers than any additional honour or advantage to the person for whom that sum ought to be so raised.
Healds Hall, April 15, 1813.
This letter appeared in the Leeds Intelligencer of 19th April 1813.