Wednesday, 31 December 2014

31st December 1814: John Lee asks the Home Office if they support the prosecution of the former spy, Joseph Taylor

By the end of 1814, time had caught up with the former spy, Joseph Taylor, who had been caught out extorting money from the well-to-do in Lancashire, trading on his usefulness to the government as a spy.

My Lord,

In the Matter of Joseph Taylor.

I have the honour by the directions of the Magistrates here to transmit your Lordship a Statement accompanied by a Copy of the Papers referred to therein, of the Manner in which the above Person obtained divers Sums of Money from several of the Gentleman and Merchants of Rochdale and its Neighbourhood, in order that Government may if thought proper, direct him to be prosecuted at its Expence, conformably to the Wish of the Parties concerned.

I beg to observe to your Lordship that the Quarter Sessions at Manchester commence about the Middle of January next And therefore the Transaction I am now troubling your Lordship with &c demands immediate Attention. As soon as your Lordship shall have obtained the Determination of Government upon this Business I hope to be favoured therewith for the Information and Guidance of the Gentleman here. I trust your Lordship will think with me that Taylor ought not to go unpunished.

I am [etc]
Jno: Lee.
Rochdale Decr 31st 1814.

[To] The Right Honble
Lord Viscount Sidmouth
Secretary of State
&c. &c. &c.

Although the papers are absent from the Home Office files, a cover note from a Home Office clerk to John Beckett of the Home Office written in the New Year follows with a description of the contents of John Lee's letter:

Letter and five Inclosures from Mr. Lee of Rochdale containing an account of Joseph Taylor who was useful during the Disturbances in the north West Districts – This man it appears has been obtaining various Sums of money by making unauthorized use of the name of Sir J Radcliffe &c—That he has imposed upon several reputable Individuals by false Stories & by producing Certificates fraudulently obtained & false lists of Subscriptions & by asserting that he never received any thing from Government for his Services – he has been committed by the magistrates, who wish to know whether Government will prosecute—Will Mr Beckett first send these papers privately to Mr. Hobhouse?

[Home Department] 3d Jany 1815.

John Beckett then forwarded the documents to Henry Hobhouse, the Solicitor to the Treasury, on the same day with the following note:


Mr. Beckett presents his Compliments to Mr Hobhouse & is directed by Lord Sidmouth to transmit for his perusal the several accompanying papers relative to the Conduct of Joseph Taylor, the Person employed during the Disturbances. Mr. Beckett requests that Mr Hobhouse will return them with such remarks as he may see occasion to make.

Home Department
3d January [1815]

These documents can be found at HO 42/141.

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