Wednesday, 20 April 2011

20th April 1811: Report from the Nottingham Journal

Seven days after the previous reported instance of frame-breaking, the Nottingham Journal published a report1, which we have transcribed below, about the measures being taken by the authorities to quell the disturbances in Nottinghamshire.

What's most interesting about this report is that it admits that Bow Street Runners were active in the area a full ten months prior to the more well-known appearance of the fellow Bow Street magistrates Conant & Baker who were sent to Nottingham amidst the second wave of disturbances. It's certainly the only reference we can find to the presence of the fledgling police force prior to 1812.

The authorities were quite clearly most concerned about the relationship between the proto-Luddites and the crowd, with the latter displaying no intention to intervene in the direct action taking place, and this article serves as a warning, perhaps even hinting at collective punishment for those who "by being spectators, became abettors in the mischief." Given that the uprising had died down following an agreement between the Hosiers and Frame-work Knitters in the previous month, it's also possible to see the vanity of the authorities wishing to attribute the waning of the disturbances to the actions they had taken. There was no question of their admitting that the direct action of the Frame-work Knitters had brought the Hosiers back into line - no chance of admitting that violence and direct action worked.
We congratulate the public upon the vigorous proceedings adopted for putting an end to the shameful system of destroying frames, which has been lately pursued in this neighbourhood. In addition to the liberal rewards offered, some of the most active and intelligent Officers from Bow Street are now employed, and have been in the adjacent villages in the last week. Their known ability gives us every reason to expect, that an effectual stop will be put to the diabolical proceedings of a set of men, who, under the pretence of preventing an evil, have inflicted the most grievous injury upon their most industrious neighbours, by depriving them of the means of obtaining bread for their families, and have brought upon themselves the execration of all good men. The County Magistrates, we learn, have requested the continued services of these vigilant and indefatigable Officers, for an indefinite period. On this subject we cannot refrain from expressing our regret at the cultural apathy exhibited in the late tumultuous proceedings, in cases where the mischief was performed by ten or twelve individuals, in the pretence of, perhaps, two or three hundred, who, by being spectators, became abettors in the mischief, and thus justly rendered themselves liable to punishment. We understand that the County Magistrates have determined to punish with the utmost severity of the law, all persons who may be brought before them, for being present at any riotous and disorderly assemblage, where destruction of property has ensued.

1. This report was actually published on the 19th April in the Derby Mercury, and republished verbatim in the Nottingham Journal of the following day.

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