Friday 11 November 2016

11th November 1816: 'The Secretary' of the 'Black Committee' of Luddites writes to the Editor of the Stamford Mercury

Head Quarters Nottingham Nov 11—1816

You have in several of your latest mercurys laid before the public several diabolical accounts of the luddites & their proceedings, by saying they had changed their proceedings from Frame to House Breaking, that plunder—was their only object that no man or even his habitation was safe within their reach—that we were the terror of the Surrounding Country &c &c &c—I have the satisfaction (my means of your mercury) to inform the public by order of the Black Committee of the independent Luddites of the Nottinghamshire Division that the public by means of your infernal mercury have been led to form a very wrong idea of these men—& the whole of your explanation is entirely false. When our forces in arms where employed in frame breaking the object was not the destroying of those frames in particular, but the giving of employment to men who was willing to work & their obnoxious machines prevented them from securing employment. & by so doing released a number of distressed Wives & starving families from the bitter pains of famine & hunger which surrounded them. When they were ordered to pursue house breaking as you are pleased to term it it is well known by experience that we only practised it upon the property of those who were able to spare it we never distressed any familys by it but we have by so doing frequently given relief to the distressed.

for instance our late glorious fire at Belvoir was attended with our former Success from there it is well known we procured several hundreds in Value of Costly furniture &c made to serve the trade and ambition of a single family but the value of them is now used to provide subsistence for those who have no other means of keeping in the land of the starving

We did therefore by this act taken it from whence it was only ornament & plac’d it where it is essensial use—when it has saved families from utter Want & destruction otherwise they would have shewn the most bitter signs of distress. Husbands ready to follow they Walk’d the streets in vain to seek employment, when he return’d his wife & starving family weeping & hanging around him ready to breath their last for want of necessary support. What can be more distressing to see this heart [illegible] display of slavery daily not only in one house but through a populous country brought to the State of Slavery by carrying out protracting & long & unjust War,

O Slavery thou friend of hells recess—
Profuse of Woes & pregnant with distress
Eternal horrors in thy presence reign
and meagre famine leads thy dolefull train
to each cursed load subjection add more weight
& pain is doubled by the peoples fate—
One nature spryhtly face spreadst a gloom
& to the grave dost every pleasure doom—

What man of heart could see this & not to lead his hand to reduce the mighty Lords who overrule our liberty & relieve the necessitious

If a man of [illegible] will look unto these calamities with an eye of Compassion surely he will speak as the [lines] of our committee does by saying plunder is not our object, the common necessarys of life is what we present aim at. What we may hereafter attempt time is the only thing that can explain perhaps if [armed] with success as our services deserve we may release the key of our immense load of taxation an unprecedented National Debt a Corrupt & Despotic Government a multiplied train of Undeserved Sinecures & unmerited pensions abolish all useless berths within the army navy Civil & Government Departments & that once throw off the Military Yoke under which we are present groan caused by the [cost] of Alliance with our Deceitful [Gold] found for us

Insidious Bane that makes destruction Smooth
the foe to virtue liberty & truth
whose arts the fate of Monarchies decide
Who gildst deceit the darling Child of Pride
How oft allured by thy persuasive charms
have Earths contending powers appeared in [arms]
What nations brib’d have ours thy powerful reign
For the what millions play’d the Stormy main
Travel’d from Pole to Pole with careless [will]
& felt their blood alternate freeze & Boil

thus I have given to the public a short description of Our Plan
experience in a short time will tell you more—&c

I remain for Lud & Co

The Secretary of The Committee

*I advise you to insert these lines or your life will only pay the refusal—
remember Belvoir

*It may appear an hard task for you to insert these lines in your next weeks columns but by so doing you will greatly oblige or by the refusal you will raise the [indignated] & attract the revenge of the injured friend of liberty

This letter can be found at HO 42/155. The first passage of poetry is from 'A journal, of the captivity and sufferings of John Foss...', & the second passage is from John Ogilvie's poem 'The Day of Judgment'.

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