Friday, 21 October 2016

21st October 1816: Henry Enfield writes to the Home Secretary about criticism of Nottingham magistrates in the press

Nottingham October 21st 1816

My Lord

I am directed by the Magistrates of this Town to give Notice to your Lordship (according to the Requisition of the Act of parliament) that at the Special General Session of the peace held at the Guildhall this morning (pursuant to Adjournment in the Nottingham newspaper of last week) it was adjudged expedient to put in Execution the Act of Parliament passed in the 52d Year of his present Majesty, & revived in the last Sessions, for enforcing the Duties of Watching & Warding.—

The magistrates were occupied to-day by an appearance of Riot in the lower parts of the Town relative to Bread & Flour—but prompt Exertions Suppressed the Disturbance—I am desired to enclose for your Lordship’s perusal a Copy of a Placard posted this morning upon that part of the Town where the Tumult took place

The Magistrates beg to avail themselves of this opportunity of addressing your Lordship, to state their Regret at the Slanders which are just now passing upon the magistracy of Nottingham thro’ the medium of the public press—They have endeavoured to ascertain the grounds upon which these unwarranted Charges have been made—but they cannot obtain any precise Information upon which to found legal proceedings found legal proceedings, should such proceedings be deemed worth instituing—A prejudice appears to exist, in the minds of some persons, against the magistrates, both of the Town & the County, because they do not apprehend susspected Framebreakers, enter houses to seize the Books of Committees, take up persons said to be collecting Contributions &c &c.

The magistrates are aware of persons reputed to be Framebreakers, & they have their Eye constantly upon those persons to detect them in such Acts—& they are also aware that parties meet at public houses under Suspicious Circumstances, & also of their being Collecting made by persons under Suspicious Circumstances—circumstances connected, in all probability, with the Framebreakers—but all this is [reputation] & Conjecture—It is represented that there are now in this Town, & in the County, various Subscriptions from the Frameworkknitters—some, perhaps, for the immediate support of Framebreakers, others for the Defence and Support of persons apprehended & on Trial for Framebreaking, &, again, others, for defraying the Expences of prosecutions (just now very numerous) against some of the Trade, for paying their Workmen's Wages otherwise than in money—

The magistrates of Nottingham have occasionally exercised extreme Authority in apprehending reputed Framebreakers, & they did upon one occasion venture to break into a Committee room, & to seize the Books & papers—But the exercise of this power requires the material Discretion—its Exercise upon every Application, or Suggestion, would, the magistrates apprehend, be highly dangerous—They have every wish to adopt the most Strenuous measures—& they would actively direct their power against the persons & objects alluded to, if they could feel warranted in Law & found Discretion in so doing.—

Should your Lordship be pleased to favor the magistrates with some sentiments upon these important points, they will receive them with the most respectable Attention, & will feel themselves highly obliged—

I have [etc]
H Enfield
Town Clerk

[To] The Rt Honble Lord Sidmouth
Secretary of State for the Home Department

This letter can be found at HO 42/154.

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