Tuesday, 29 April 2014

29th April 1814: The Nottingham Review Editor, John Blackner, responds to Simon Orgill


SIR―As you have thought well, by "hypothetical inuendos," to couple my character with the outrage lately committed upon your property, in an advertisement in the Nottingham Journal of last week, without committing the same to the Nottingham Review, for which you was an agent; and the columns of which you knew were open to your "hypothetical inuendos," without the expense of an advertisement, as far as is consistent with the conducting newspapers. I will, before commenting upon your intemperate letter, re-insert the article, of which you so complain, which appeared in the Review of the 15th instant; and then insert your advertisement, which appeared in the Journal; that the readers of the Review may have a fair opportunity of forming a proper estimate of your honor, and candor as a man.


"On Sunday night last, about twelve o'clock, Mr. Orgill’s patent lace manufactory, at Castle Donington, Leicestershire was forcibly entered by a band of desperadoes, supposed ten or twelve, and the entire machinery, consisting of twelve warp lace frames, converted into heaps of ruins, with the exception of one, which received only a partial injury. The writer of this article being at Castle Donington at the time, was called from his bed, at two in the morning, to witness the outrageous scene. The factory joins Mr. Orgill’s house; and the door into it, which leads into a back yard, was split, in the act of being forced open with a rail. The depredators then forced their way through an inner door, and, not content with committing havoc on the machinery, they cut or burnt all the valuable cotton yarn, and lace pieces within the premises, except one of the latter which they chanced to miss, and two others which they carried away. The dry timber materials they attempted to fire; and had their scheme succeeded, the whole building might have presented one vast mass of flame. But the worst part of the business is to come―Mr. and Mrs. Orgill being around from their sleep, and hearing a noise, the import of which they knew not, the latter threw up a sash, and put her head out at the window to learn what the matter was; but, before a word was exchanged, one of the depredators that stood sentry, discharged a pistol or musket at her head, the contents of which she distinctly felt pass by her; but from which she received no personal injury, except the affright. And, after the work of destruction was over, during which the damage was done to a very considerable amount, one of the wretches exclaimed: "Old Simon, before we leave you, I will have another peg at you," when two pieces were immediately discharged, the heavy shot from which perforated the glass of the bed room window, in more than twenty places; but Mr. Orgill, though in the room, received no personal injury. Several persons who worked with him some time ago, and who left him in consequence of a dispute about prices, have been seized; but whether any circumstances come out which is likely to lead to a discovery, we are entirely unacquainted. We are since informed, that all of them, except one, are liberated.

"It now becomes our duty to state our marked disapprobation of this atrocious crime; a crime which carries with it the seeds of ruin, as well to the perpetrators as to the trade at large. The supposed reason for the commission of this outrage is, Mr. Orgill’s giving considerably less for the making of his net, than is given in Nottingham; and that in consequence thereof he undersells the other manufacturers. This may be the case; but the fault lies with the workmen who continue with him; for at the present time there is plenty of employment elsewhere. Mr. Orgill justifies himself on the ground of the superior expedition of his machinery; which again is denied by those who pretend to understand the whole of the business. How this may be we know not, nor have we any concern with the matter; suffice it to say on our part, THAT THESE CRIMES MUST BE SUPPRESSED."


[Simon Orgill’s letter/advert to the Nottingham Journal was inserted]

NOW, Sir, I should have ended here, were it not that my duty to the public demands of me an exposition of your sophistical Inenbrations, for my character stands too well with my neighbours to be injured by your "hypothetical inuendos"—those numerous and respectable characters, that have been our joint friends during the last twelve years, now pity or despise you; while my political enemies, or rather opponents, laugh you to scorn. You admit my having given a tolerably accurate account of the outrage committed on your property; saying, at the same time, "he tells his readers, that he was at Donington when this violent outrage was committed; he was, but why he was there is best known to himself; about this I make no enquiry." Now, Sir, in thus divulging your splenetic slander in "hypothetical inuendos," you have murdered friendship, as the monster Macbeth murdered sleep—you have commenced the warfare; and if you should receive a few mental wounds in the conflict, I will recommend you to the celebrated Dr. Delahoyde. You insinuate, that you know not why I was at Donington; but what will your friends say (if your follies and tyrannical conduct have left you any) when they have read the following narrative:—I was solicited by Mr. Wm Page, my worthy neighbour, to accompany him, and a respectable young man of the name of Allen, to Donington, as a journey of pleasure; his business being to visit a dying friend; and as my holidays been very few since I commenced the business of a victualler, I consented, though with some reluctance. We arrived at the Bell and Crown, in Donington, a little before two in the afternoon, where we dined; and, as you had frequently invited me to your house, if ever I went that way; and as our friendship had been long and uninterrupted, I immediately wrote you the following billet:—

"Castle Donington, two o'clock, P.M. April 10,

[Obscured by crease]

a pipe with Mr. Orgill, at the above house, this afternoon, where they are now waiting."

This billet you immediately answered by appearing in person; when, after mutual congratulations, you were told by Mr. Page, the occassion of our visit―at your suggestion we went to the Turk’s Head, to read the news of the day; and when I found its importance, it being nothing less than the abdication of Napoleon, my anxiety for returning home immediately, became very great, from rightly concluding, that a great press of company would attend my house that night. But, Sir, you prevailed on me to stop till morning; and also to take tea, along with Mr. Allen, at your house, while Mr. Page went to visit his sick friend. We all returned to the Turk’s Head, where we engaged beds for myself and friends; you distinctly saying afterwards, that had there been only two of us, we should have slept at your house; but that you had only one spare bed. You never quitted our company till eleven o'clock; and Mr. John Carr, who professedly came to spend the evening with me, staid half an hour longer; when I pay the landlady our reckoning, and then we immediately retired to rest, Mr. Page and myself in one bed, and our friend, Mr. Allen, in another, all in the same room.—At two o'clock you came in and aroused us from our beds, exclaiming, "Blackner! come and see what your townsmen have done!" at the same time pouring out the bitterest curses upon Nottingham indiscriminately. The landlord, myself, and two companions were with you to your house; and, by attentively surveying the devastation which had been committed, and hearing what yourself, family, and neighbours had to say, I was enabled to give a statement in the Review, which you call "tolerably accurate". At half-past five in the morning we left your house for Nottingham, with mutual expression of friendship between you and myself; and yet after all this; after being well acquainted with every circumstance I have related; and after hearing me declare, if I had been your house when the outrage was committed, that I should have risk my life in defence of your property—after all this, you are base enough to implicate my character in the outrage! But this is not all. During the morning, you frequently charged me, as the price of our friendship if I failed, to give every circumstance, relating to this outrage, full publicity in the Review; and expressed yourself well pleased that chance had brought me there. Now, after this exposure, the reader will wonder what can have brought your malignity upon me; or rather upon the Review itself, whose credit is too invulnerable to be injured by your ire; and therefore you cast your rancorous darts at me. The reader will find the reason in the few following lines. When I presented the manuscript article to Mr. Sutton, which related the outrage committed on your property, he informed me, to my great astonishment, that you had sent a letter desiring him not to mention the circumstance in his paper. I immediately declared it as my opinion, that private friendship should not stand in the way of public duty―that hundreds already knew that I was there—that the public expected a narrative of the outrage at his hands—that the credit of his paper stood pledged on the subject, and would be injured if he failed in his duty—and that, if the paper were mine, nothing should induce me to withhold the article. "Has Mr. Orgill assigned any reason why he wishes the circumstance to be kept out of the paper?" I inquired. "None at all," was the reply. Neither, Sir, did you drop the smallest insinuation against my character in that letter. I also informed Mr. Sutton, that I had already sent the account to the Statesman, in which I knew it would appear that day, and from which you would find its way into most of the papers in the kingdom; and, therefore, the withholding it from the Review could not be attended with any good to Mr. Orgill; and would only tend to show that Mr. Sutton was guided more by private favor than public good. In this, he hesitated not, his views agreed with my own—the article was inserted; and the consequence has been your casting up the agency of the paper, and commencing assassin upon my character. I might ask you, Sir, why you did not write to Mr. Sretton, desiring him to withhold from his paper, the news of your misfortune? Do you think his Journal beneath your notice? and, if so, how came you to send him your article the following week, without sending it to the Review; a paper which you had patronised from its commencement, professedly on account of its principles?—Your mandate was not obeyed―Mr. Sutton consulted his duty to the public, rather than a submission to you―your pride became wounded; and here is the source of your new series of follies and inconsistencies.

You accuse me with wishing to entice your workmen from your employment, because I said there was plenty of work elsewhere. Than this, a more silly or [kenyish] conclusion was never drawn, from words, whose meaning is directly conveyed to their construction. After saying, that the mischief might have been occasioned by your giving a less price of your net than is given in Nottingham, a conclusion which you yourself admit, when you appeal to the workmen on the score of their ingratitude, I stated, "this may be the case; but the fact lies with the workmen who continue with him; for at the present there is plenty of employment elsewhere." Weak and silly man! art thou no better acquainted with thy mother-tongue, than to draw conclusions directly opposite to what the words import? Or is thy mind become so jaundiced as to cause thee to see, as through an inverting glass? The meaning of the words was neither more nor less than this—if workmen find themselves aggrieved, by any treatment they meet with from their employers, the remedy is in their own hands, without having recourse to lawless violence, by seeking employment elsewhere. But, you seem extremely sore at my having attempted to assign a probable cause for your having been visited with mischief; while you yourself admit the conclusion to be just, as observed before, when you appeal to the workmen on the score of ingratitude. But, to the generally understood charge of paying less for making your net than is paid in Nottingham, you plead not guilty—you have put yourself upon your trial, and the jury must decide. You say, "This is false; I assert, without fear of refutation, but for one kind of work I pay more by ten per cent, then they do." By they I conclude you to mean the lace manufacturers of Nottingham. How happens it, after this sweeping plea of "not guilty" to the general charge, that you mention only one kind of work which you are not paying less for than is given in Nottingham? Pray, Mr. Orgill, be kind enough to let us into this little secret! I have, however, taken a little trouble myself on the subject this week: I have had five of your late workmen together, one or two of whom had not even been suspected by you, and to the rest, not a shadow of guilt could be attached. I have examined them before other reputable characters who understood the business, and the [illegible] testimony of your old workmen is, that you did pay three shillings and nine-pence less for a rack yard, than is paid in Nottingham for Mecklin net, comparing widths and gauges; and thirteen-pence a yard less for two course hole net; and this when all the advantages are cast in your favor, of your charging no frame-rent, finding coal in winter, and allowing a certain sum for mending. Now, Sir, there require something more than your mere ipse dixit, your round manner of pleading "not guilty," before you will be acquitted of the charge. You ask, who accuses you of paying less for your net than others pay? I will tell you! you are accused by public opinion; and further, if I may be allowed this expression, you have accused yourself. You used to make it your common public-house boast, the truth of which I can bring many witnesses to prove, that you went to Donington for the express purpose of giving your net made cheaper; for there, you said, you would get men from the plough-tail, who, when out of the atmosphere of Nottingham, would be contented with moderate earnings. And further, the last time you was at my house you stated, that you had had some disagreement with your workmen, on account of their wanting the Nottingham prices, which, (as you was pleased to say,) had been put into your their heads by that ********* John Richards, who was then residing in Donington.

There is one sentiment in your advertisement which is perfectly consistent with yourself; and if you had confined yourself to it, you would have saved me much trouble, and have prevented the greater part of this exposure. You say you will not be accountable to any man, or set of men, for the manner in which you conduct your own affairs, while you steer clear of the laws. This might do in Turkey; but in England another system is pursued. Now, know you not, that there is such a thing as custom in England, to which, under certain circumstances, however great you may think yourself, a magistrate would compel you to submit. I have it from the testimony of five of your old workmen, given, as said before, in the presence of respectable witnesses, that part of the conditions which you propose for their government in your service were, that they should not name Nottingham in the shop―that only two should warm themselves at the stove at one time; and not more than two should walk together in the fields!! William Pitt, in the heat of his political phrenzy, permitted five persons to convene together; but Sultan Orgill, less tolerant than the Tory apostle, thought, if more than two were permitted to assemble together, that they would plot mischief against his government.

There is one subject in your advertisement of a delicate nature; and my doubts are, that you have been pirating fame, at the expense of the dead. You say, that you discovered the mode of applying wheels to the common horizontal warp frame. Now, Sir, you know that these wheels were the invention of the late ingenious and much-lamented William Dawson, whose servant you was at the same time; and the question is, did he not apply them himself? At all events, you have not acted like the man of Ross, who, "Did good by stealth, and blush’d to find it fame."


Nottingham, April 29.

P.S. It may not be improper here to state, that I never knew either person, name, or character, of any of Mr. Orgill’s workmen, till after his frames were broken, except Benjamin Clarke, a very respectable character, and Joseph Briggs, who now works with Mr. Orgill.

This is from the Nottingham Review, 29th April 1814.

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