The 31st July 1816 edition of the Bury & Norwich Post carried a letter from a pseudonymous writer 'Eliensis' (latin for 'Ely'), which tackled the Courier about their recent editorial about the Ely prisoners.
TO THE EDITOR OF THE COURIER.
Ely, July 27th, 1816.
SIR,—Being one of the Inhabitants of Ely charged by you with a desire to excite a clamour against Government, I think it necessary to notice some of your observations.
You deny that the unfortunate men just removed to the Hulks had any expectation held out to them by the Judges that their punishment would be limited to 12 months’ imprisonment.—Now, Sir, I beg to inform you, that a Calendar of the Prisoners, with their respective sentences, was signed by all the Judges, and left at the Gaol; and that it expressly states that they are reprieved for 12 months’ imprisonment:—the words are, "Reprieved, Goal 12 months." This, Sir, you are aware, is an official document for the Gaoler, and is open to the inspection the Public. For further satisfaction, I will refer you to a short statement of some of the proceedings during the Assizes, published here (as it is understood) by the Magistrates themselves; and which also states that these men were reprieved, on condition of being imprisoned 12 months.
As to publicly having been given to the resolutions, it was done solely with a view to satisfy the lower classes here, and the public, that the suspicions which were entertained of the inhabitants of Ely having been instrumental in obtaining an extension of punishment, were wholly groundless.
Your statement insinuates that these men have misconducted themselves in prison, and that it was necessary to have them removed; this, Sir, I flatly contradict, and I challenge enquiry into the facts.
You ask, whether the Bishop has not a Palace at Ely?—Yes, Sir, he has, and he is sometimes a resident here; but without any disrespect to his Lordship, I may venture to state, that the Inhabitants present at the Meeting possess better information as to the temper and disposition of the lower classes that his Lordship. They are in the habits of employing the poor, and mixing with them; they know their sufferings, and they contribute to their necessities. Mr. Page himself employs upwards of 150 labourers daily in agriculture.
The only Magistrates here (now that the Rev. Mr. Metcalfe has retired) are the Rev. Sir H.B. Dudley, Bart. and the Rev. Mr Jenyns, both of whom being Prebendaries of the Cathedral, are only occasionally resident.
The proceedings of the Meeting, so far from occasioning any irritation, have had the effect of allaying the ferment which had arisen in the public mind in consequence of this unpleasant business.—The poor are now well satisfied that their neighbours take an interest in their welfare; many of them have waited upon the Inhabitants who attended the Meeting, and have expressed their gratitude with tears in their eyes.—There was no intention on the part of the Meeting to excited a clamour against Government.—His Majesty's Ministers were believed to have acted from the purest motives, and with the best intentions.
Your observations lead me to conclude that they were advised this quarter—it was so suspected.