Monday, 26 September 2016

26th September 1816: The Duke of Rutland tells the Home Secretary that James Towle has confessed and implicated others

Cheveley Park 26th September 1816

Private & Confidential

My Dear Lord

I am sure that no apology will be required by your Lordship, when I mention that the Subject on which I [take] permission to address you, is one, actually of great Local, but possibly of considerable National Importance—Your Lordship is aware of the conviction of Towle, the Frame breaker, at the last Leicester Assizes, and of the objection taken to the Indictment, the validity of which remains to be decided by the opinion of the Twelve Judges—Since the Trial, Towle has, on several visits made to him by the Sheriff of the County, disclosed to the latter, some very important Confessions; having detailed the whole of the transaction of Loughbro’, and the mode by which the plot was prepared and brought to maturity; specifying seventeen persons who came from Nottingham & its neighbourhood, as Leaders in the affair; & making several other Statements concerning it, which correspond so exactly with the accounts which the Magistrates near Loughbro’ had previously collected, that there can be very little doubt of the possibility of making him a most effectual and important Evidence against the remainder of the Gang.—The Point which your Lordship will care to determine, is the policy of sparing this Man's life, provided it should appear that the Information which he can give, and may be disposed to give, is sufficiently interesting, to render it is a measure of greater public benefit, than merely inflicting the Vengeance of the Law, upon an Individual, who, though a distinguished Luddite, & conspicuous from having stood a former Trial for Framebreaking, is not, we have reason to think, held in very high Estimation among his Associates.—

I beg to apprize your Lordship, that Towle has not made the Confessions to which I have alluded, under the most remote Expectation of Pardon, nor has he I believe expressed as yet any willingness to give Evidence against his late Associates, but there is good reason to presume that he would be glad to do it, if there was a Prospect of his being enabled to live, out of the reach of the future vengeance of their Friends—It will also be evident to Your Lordship, that if you think is adviseable to act upon this Information, it cannot be too soon done; since Towle, who is now perhaps in the mood for confession, might materially alter in his disposition, if the Objection to the Indictment, should be held by the Judges, to be fatal, and his life should be safe from that cause—

Possessing a Knowledge of the Circumstances I should have thought myself, mainly deficient in my public Duty, if I had not hastened to communicate them to Your Lordship; who I am well convinced, will afford them, the consideration, to which their Importance justly entitled them. I am quite convinced, that a well organised league, and an extensive system of union, still exists among the Luddites & Frame Breakers, and it is the opinion of well Informed Magistrates in the County of Leicester (residing in the suspicious District) that further Mischief is intended, when the long nights of winter commence. It really appears to me, subject to the superior Judgement of Your Lordship, that the present occasion affords a chance, of giving a decided check, perhaps of putting a total end, to the disgraceful practice of Framebreaking, and to the dangerous Combination, under which that practice has been so long, and so successfully carried on—Should you think the subject deserving of further Investigation, I would suggest the Propriety of an Interview with Mr Pochin, the Sheriff for Leicestershire, to whom Towle has made the confessions, to which I have alluded, and I would in the event of your coincidence with this idea, request Mr Pochin to attend you, at your Office.—At all Events I am confident that Your Lordship will have the goodness to pardon the length of which I have been obliged to trouble you, and that you will allow me the honour of subscribing myself, with sincere Regard

My Dear lord
Your Most Faithful
& Obedient Servant


[To] Viscount Sidmouth
&c &c &c

This letter can be found at HO 42/153.

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