Monday, 24 October 2016

24th October 1816: Major General Fane reports from Nottingham

Nottingham 24th October 1816

My Lord

In conformity to your instructions of the 24th of September, I do myself the honour to state, that since my return to my command I have personally visited Northampton, Leicester, Loughborough, and Nottingham; and have held communication with the Civil authorities of each of those places.

I have stated, as directed, my readiness to cooperate with them in any measures they may deem requisite for maintaining the peace of their respective districts: and I have endeavoured to learn from them their opinions as to the temper and disposition of the people within reach of their observation.

At Northampton, a number of Shoemakers are stated to be out of employ; chiefly owing to the stoppage of Government contracts: but they form but an inconsiderable portion of the inhabitants; and no disturbance appears to be apprehended.

At Leicester and Loughborough, altho a considerable number of people are in distress, employment is more plenty than it has been: and it does not appear that any good grounds exist for expecting any disorder.—Of the Society coming calling themselves the "Hampden Club", and their proceedings, Your Lordship has already been informed by the magistrates of Leicester: and I do not imagine it is necessary for me to say any thing on the subject.

In respect to Nottingham, and its vicinity, I have made all the enquiry I can: and especially relative to the recent outrages committed upon the Frames of manufacturers.

It appears that certain combinations exist, professing to have the object of regulating Trade, and the dealings between the master manufacturers and the Workmen.—That the persons so combining, have agreed upon a minimum of wages to be paid to certain descriptions of work: and that when a master manufacturer employs workmen at a less rate than this fixed minimum, his Frames immediately become in danger from the machinations of the aforesaid combinations. It is not a war against any particular description of Loom; but against all Looms, let for work below certain fixed rate of wages.—Therefore, It is to the power of dictation in respect to wages, to which these outrages are directed: and they are upon the same principle as those which have recently been detected in the Hat trade.

In respect to the temper and disposition of the people, I need not remind your Lordship that there are in this, and all large manufacturing Towns, abundance of Agitators and Demagogues always ready to lead the people astray: and that it is in times of distress, like the present, that they are most successful. That they are now actively employed in spreading as much as possible those lessons which are taught by certain assemblies in the Capital, I have no doubt: but that there is any particular feeling, amongst the great body of the people, hostile to the Government, beyond what severe distress is calculated to produce, I can see no symptom. To what extent this distress may in any particular case drive the unthinking, it is of course impossible to say.

I have not been called upon for aid from the military, in any part of the district under my command, since last I had the honour to address your Lordship.

I have [etc]
H. Fane
Maj General

[To] Rt Honble
Lord Sidmouth
&c &c

This letter can be found at HO 42/154.

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