In consequence of your query, respecting Benefit Societies, I have procured from Adjt Warr the inclosed Report relating to the Application of the Friends of such Societies in this immediate Neighbourhood.
The members composing the Societies, of which he speaks, are principally Cotton Weavers, who, forming, by much, the largest Class of persons in this manufacturing part of the County of Lancaster, have never been all for any considerable length of time, and in any considerable Numbers, to turn out (or strike) from their Employ, so as materially thereby to affect the Interest of their masters. That period (alluded to by Mr Warr (1808) was their greatest Effort, when a Colonel Hanson later of Manchester, deluded many of them into a Tumultuous assembly – for which offence he was indicted and sentenced by the Court of King's bench, (I think) to Six months Imprisonment.
The Classes of persons in the manufacturers of this County, that have been most formidable to their Employers, by their Combination, are the Calico Printers and Cotton Spinners who labouring in large numbers together in [illegible] works or Cotton Factories under the same masters respectively – have for many years past been, almost every year in some Plan or other in a State of Combination against their respective Employers, and, in regard to the Calico Printers, will appear from the [Press] or of the correspondence [seized] lately in this Town, and which I doubt not you will have perused. How far Benefit Societies (I mean such as one sanctioned by the Act of the 35th yr of his Majesty) have increased the [facilities] of forming such Combinations, I am not fully informed so as to give a decided opinion; but although I frequently heard of Combinations amongst the Calico Printers, before the Enactment of the said Statute, yet as Sick Clubs or Friendly Societies prevailed in many parts of the Country before any Law gave them a Sanction, so it is probable that such Societies, before the said Law, might have been the Germ from which sprang originally such illicit Associations.
I intend to make some further Enquiries and should I draw any material Information, you shall be immediately furnished therewith.
I observe, from the public papers, that great pains are taken to raise a Cry against the Property Tax; but, excepting in Liverpool, I have not heard of any meeting being called in any part of the County
It is hoped, here, that Government will not be deterred by any Clamour against it, the object of which is to drive his majesty's ministers to the Imposition of new Taxes, which will have a Tendency to diminish the popularity of their measures.
I have the Honor to remain
Yours most sincerely
To John Beckett Esq
This letter can be found at HO 42/149.