Tuesday, 1 November 2011

November 1811: "Declaration; Extraordinary''

Declaration; Extraordinary.
Death, or Revenge.

To our well-beloved Brother, and Captain-in-Chief, Edward Ludd.

Whereas, it hath been represented to us: the General Agitators, for the Northern Counties, assembled to redress the Grievances of the Operative Mechanics, That Charles Lacy, of the Town of Nottingham, British Lace Manufacturer, has been guilty of divers fraudulent, and oppresiv, Acts―whereby he has reduced to poverty and Misery Seven Hundred of our beloved Brethren; moeover, it hath been represented to us that the said Charles Lacy, by making fraudulent Cotton Point Nett, of One Thread Stuff, has obtain'd the Sum of Fifteen Thousand Pounds, whereby he has ruine'd the Cotton-Lace Trade, and consequently our worthy and wellbelov'd Brethren; whose support and comfort depended on the continuance of that manufacture.

It appeareth to us that the said Charles Lacy was actuated by the most diabolical motives, namely to get rich gain riches by the misery of his Fellow Creatures, we therefore willing to make an example of the said Charles Lacy, do adjudge the said Fifteen Thousand Pounds to be forfeited, and we do hereby authorise, impower, and enjoin you, to command Charles Lacy to disburse the said sum, in equal shares among the Workmen, who made Cotten Nett in the Year 1807, within ten Days from the Date hereof.

In default whereof, we do command that you inflict the Punishment of Death on the said Charles Lacy, and we do authorise you to distribute among [the party] you may employ for that purpose the Sum of Fifty Pounds, we enjoin you to cause this our Order to be presented to the said Charles Lacy without Delay,

November 1811--By Order Thos Death

There's no precise date for this document (most likely a posted proclamation, since more than one copy exists), which is in the Home Office archive (HO 42/119) and has been reproduced in publications by E.P. Thompson and, more recently, Kevin Binfield, other than the vague date of November 1811. It's aimed at one Charles Lacy, most famous for his business partnership with John Heathcoat who was an inventor in the weaving trade and later MP for Tiverton; one of their ventures was a spectacular target of Luddism in its final days of 1816. Another 'Charles Lacey' was also Clerk to Leicester Magistrates at the time, although I'm not clear if this is the same individual.

This is one of the first-known uses of the later familiar avatar Edward Ludd, and Kevin Binfield notes the legalistic style, suggesting that a subculture had grown up in the lull in the activity of frame-breaking between March and November 1811.

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