Wednesday, 23 April 2014

23rd April 1814: The solicitor Louis Allsop tells the Reverend Becher about his plans to employ a spy among framework-knitters

22 April 1814.
Friday Evening

My Dr Sir

I could not possibly reply to your Letter received Yesterday Afternoon by the return of the post. I shall have great pleasure in rendering to You personally any Assistance in my power respecting the Frame-breakers.

The persons who have established the Society we conversed about, when last I saw You; They whom You allude to, as invested with the power & actuated by the Will to preserve the peace of this County will do me the Credit to believe that they can command my Services at any time. But I am apprehensive, you estimate my Services too highly; unconnected as I am officially with the Magistrates, & those persons who have been actively employed in the Investigation of the proceedings before referred to, I am not in the Way of meeting with proper people to be employed in the Discovery of the Mischief, & before I could form the opinion which a discreet man ought to do, it would be necessary for me to know more of those I should employ, than I can possibly do; my Maxim is not to engage to do more than I can perform, and with all then upon a first Communication I am anxious to come to a full Explanation; with this understanding I am quite at your Service. There are certain Individuals in this place, who possess both the means & Inclination to get at the bottom of the proceedings. I have been in the habit of advising with them most confidentially for a considerable time & I have occupied the whole of this morning in a Communication with them & in directing their attention the Investigation of the Society, We spoke about; They have now allowed me the Liberty to mention their names. They are fully alive to the Extent & Danger of the Mischief; we much wanted a Set of the printed Resolutions of the Club, you had when in Nottingham, and if I am not successful in getting a Set (which I have reason to expect) I must beg of You to procure a Copy, & forward to me here. I explained to these gentleman the Substance of the Resolutions, as far as I cd. remember from the hasty perusal I had of them, and my impression thereof—We all agreed as to three of the parties, the same three I named to You, and the probability of the fourth, one only doubt respecting him being that the rest would not trust him—the men agree too, in my Suggestion that the Constitution of this Club is founded upon the Methodist System of Wesley, & this particularly struck one of my Friends as a convincing proof that Latham who is a Methodist was one; many Circumstances came out on comparing our Sentiments, to corroborate each other, not worth while troubling You or myself with—It appears to us quite evident that the principal Actors are in Nottingham and that a person, if possible, shod. be immediately procured to go amongst them, one was thought of, his name not mentioned, but some Circumstances about him came out, which induced me to think he is the same from whom you obtained the Information you stated to me at Nottingham; it was settled that We should obtain Information from Hodgson the printer, by those who could approach him in all of the Meetings & the names of the parties who usually attended at a public house in Glasshouse Lane. The parties suspected and most difficult to watch, as their time appears to be occupied very much in observing the Actions of those whose Intents or Duty they fancy, are in opposition to them. There is a regular communication with these people in Sheffield, where the Workmen have struck & it would be desirable to obtain Information therefrom. Lord Sidmouths attention should be directed to this, & to the propriety of examining at the post office here & that the different places where Committees of this Society are established, the Letters, as some may by chance be sent in that Way, tho’ they doubtless communicate by the Coaches & by private hands. a great difficulty is, what can afterwards be done; Lord S must consider whether the Magistrates have sufft power to seize these people & their papers, if not, such power ought to be given by Parliament, as well as the punishment made greater than the Law deems now to inflict upon persons guilty of unlawful Combinations—The most desirable thing would be to get at the main Springs, because while these Fellows remain untouched, altho’ the minor agents may be punished, the Hydra will always spring up again & particularly as these men are living entirely at the expense of the Society—an opportunity presented itself to me this Evening of making an Enquiry of Hodgson the printer, he printed 5000 of the papers, for which he was paid about 25£ he was employed by a Man of the name of Simpson, Kings place Woolpack Lane—it is my Intention in the Morning, if I can get time, to enquire who this Simpson is; tho’ I understand Hodgson has communicated these matters to some of the County Magistrates—I have this day heard that Latham has been travelling about the Country lately, and has been at Daventry.

Saturday evening

I have not had an Opportunity to obtain Information this day, Hodgson has been twice at Simpsons who is from home, but says he can see on Monday Morning however You had better send me a Copy of the Rules, in Case Simpson shod. refuse to let Hodgson have them—I hear that Latham has been at Tewkesbury.

I am
Mr D Sir
Most sincly Yrs

L. Allsopp

[To] Revd J T Becher

This letter can be found at HO 42/138.

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