Bury May 27.
I had the honour of acquainting your Lordship by the Post of last night from this place, that I had found such parts of this County as I had passed thro’ perfectly undisturbed, in consequence of the judicious measures of the magistracy, and the appearance of a small detachment of regular Cavalry, chiefly stationed at Bury & at Brandon. I had not then time to inform yr Ldship that I yesterday visited the Gaol, and examined various prisoners committed to it, as promoters, or abettors, of the late Disturbances, and tho’ there are artful individuals amongst them, particularly a writer of several inflammatory letters, & hand bills, I am not disposed to think, from any information which I have been able to obtain, that the disturbances, or fires which have taken place, are to be ascribed to any organized system of persons above the rank of the labouring Classes
The shock experienced by the whole of the agriculturalists, from the depression of the produce of all landed property since the last harvest, has fallen, with peculiar severity, upon all those whose subsistence depends upon their dayly labour, from the impossibility of their finding regular employment, men at reduced wages, and the difficulty of collecting poor Rates, at a period of general distress, in order to supply the wants, & increas'd privations of the poor. Under these circumstances, a spirit of discontent has prevailed during the winter, & have since been excited to shew itself by inflammatory writings, in tumultuous meetings for the purpose of destroying machinery calculated to diminish manual labour, or with threatening to induce the employers, & the overseers to increase the rates of Labour, & parochial allowances.
A well attended meeting of the magistrates was held this morning, in which all the topics touching the present situation of affairs in the County as connected with the late disturbances, were discussed; the result of which has been a perfect understanding amongst the magistracy of the principles, upon which the poor are to be maintained, but, if possible, employed. Also a clear communication between magistrates & Commandants of Yeomanry Cavalry as to the times & places, at which a greater or smaller detachment could be got together & the fullest Confidence established on the one hand, in the prompt co-operation of this Corps, if necessary, & on the other, of their not being called from their usual, and now, more than ever necessary domestic or agricultural Avocations, unless the Security of any part of the County itself was considered to be in danger.
In aid, & co-operation with this Corps & mounted special constables have been considered as likely to give & to receive confidence by joining the ranks of Yeomanry Cavalry, & I have no doubt but that if Swords could be allowed for such number of men of this description as it may be found useful to employ on the present occasion, it would give additional confidence to the men themselves as such as have a tendency to prevent tumultuous meetings.—
With regard to the measures taken by Lieut: Gen: Sir John Byng, with whom I have personally communicated this morning on the regular force required in certain points within the County, & of the Stations most convenient for Cavalry, with a view to the general object of throwing in detachments in whatever part of Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire, or Essex they may be required, he will have better Explained to your Lordship, than I can, these arrangements.
There undoubtedly are some places in this County which require a small military force such as is stationed in them, to give Confidence to those who act under the direction of the magistrates, & I trust I may assure your Lordship, such is my sense & that of the magistrates of the possible demand for troops at the moment, that a stronger military force, than appears indispensably necessary, will not be required by the civil authorities this County.
I take the liberty odds of all observing your Lordship that the wording of the royal proclamation does not appear sufficiently defined to meet an uniform construction from the magistrates who may have to act under it, or from the parties, who may be interested in pursuing offenders to Conviction—The reward is offered to each and every person who shall be convicted of any of the aforesaid felonies—Now the mere breaking or destroying a threshing machine or other instrument of husbandry, unless a riot be actually existing at the time, I am given to understand, amounts only to a misdemeanor in law; and I have therefore to request the favor of information from your Lordship whether the reward is intended to extend to convictions not of a Capital nature as well as to those, which are Capital.—
I have the honor to be,
most obedient humble Servt
This letter can be found at HO 42/150.