Thursday, 20 February 2014

20th February 1814: The Town Clerk of Nottingham advocates the use of the spies in Nottinghamshire


Nottingham 20th February 1814.


I have the honour of your letter of a highly confidential Nature dated the 18th Instant written to me by direction of Lord Sidmouth in regard to some information communicated to his Lordship as to some Societies which are stated to have been formed in Nottingham professedly to obtain Parliamentary relief without avowing the nature of the Grievance for which relief is sought.—Without being in possession more precisely than I now am of the nature and extent of Lord Sidmouth’s Information I can not form any Judgement how far these Societies by their constitution violate the existing laws of the Land, but I can have no reason to doubt the accuracy of the opinion which Lord Sidmouth entertains upon this part of the subject. I am decidedly of Opinion that there can be no more proper or adviseable mode adopted than that of employing a confidential person to become a member of one or more of these Societies with a view to obtain a thorough insight into their Constitution, organization and object and the means they use to carry their objects into execution.—In my Official situation some time ago I received some imperfect hints which very much appear to bespeak the existence of Societies of a similar Character with those of which Lord Sidmouth has received Information, but I have never been enabled to come at any distinct Account upon which it could be inferred that there was a probability of establishing such facts as would form a ground of legal Proceedings. Altho’ I judge it proper that some person should be, if possible, procured, to enter into these Societies with a view to obtain a correct and certain detail of their interior and thereupon to decide as to the propriety of instituting a Prosecution against them. I am by no means prepared without much further consideration, if Lord Sidmouth intends to consult me on the subject to suggest any person as proper to be employed on my business.—The person retained on this business, may enter into these Societies either with a view merely to obtain precise information on the subject with a distinct understanding that he is not be called upon as a Witness against the Society, or he may be employed, in the same manner and for the same purpose with a previous settled determination to call upon him as a Witness to prove on oath the facts he may be enabled to ascertain in relation to these Societies. If the person employed is to give evidence against the Societies I should find it difficult to find such a Person, I should therefore most strongly advise that the first employment of a Person to gain any information should be confined to that object, and that he should be retained upon a most distinct understanding with him that he was not to be employed as a Witness: we shall thus [what] over maybe our future difficulties, in obtaining evidence to convict, have the source of our information pure and uncontaminated. The Information wanted I think it will not even in this manner be very easy to obtain.—I imagine that these Societies have a main relation to and connection with the Frameworkknitters, and are the remnant of the System of Luddism and the body of men who applied last year to Parliament. I have kept my eyes steadily upon them, and no one will more chearfully assist in opposing their Attempts to control their masters in the conduct of their Business. In the mean time the Trade of the Town is reviving to an extent which is truly wonderful.—The Increase of work and of wages will I should hope take from the Workmen all cause of discontent and all occasion for combining to increase their wages. I have answered your letter without any communication with any one but I will apply myself to get more information, and if Lord Sidmouth should wish it I will endeavour to fix upon and procure some person to obtain Information on the Condition.

I am, Sir,
with the utmost respect,
your most faithful & obdt. Servt.

Geo Coldham

This letter can be found at HO 42/137.

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