Monday, 12 December 2011

12th December 1811: Town Clerk of Nottingham to Home Office

[Undated but written before 12 Dec. 1811]


It was on the 21st of November that I last addressed you by the direction of the Magistrates except my letter of yesterday on the subject of the Committee for Offences relating hereto which have lately taken place in the Town. I now write because I think it my duty for the information of his Majestys Ministers to apprize you of such Circumstances as have taken place in my Observation as may enable you to judge of the real character of the present disturbances. I am sorry to say they have not assumed in my eyes a more favorable aspect from my long attention to them. It has been the duty of the Magistrates to maintain the peace and protect the property of their fellow Townsmen and the Corporate Body and Corporate Magistrates have been active and Zealous in the Execution of this duty but it is necessary that Government should acquire as accurate Ideas as possible of the origin nature and extent of the mischief.

Ever since the 21st of November the Magistrates for the Town have kept up a nightly watch of thirty six Constables and placed Guards of the Military in different parts of the Town. Active peace Officers have been kept Night and Day at a place of which public Notice has been given so as that a Military Guard could be moved at any Moment to any part of their district which was in danger and a report in writing has been required by the Magistrates every morning both from the regular and special constables of the state of the Town for the preceeding night. The good Effects of these precautions have been strongly evinced by their Consequences; for we have not witnessed in the Town any Public Outrage or attempt to raise a Tumult. The whole property destroyed therein has not exceeded ten Frames. For destroying Five of these two of the culprits were apprehended by the Nightly Patrole of Constables immediately after the Fact and part of the Frames were found upon them. With respect to one other of the Frames destroyed, so vigilant were the Police that they arrived at the House before the work of destruction was completed and the Frame Breakers escaped out of a two pair of Stair Window at the Back of the House, one of whom is supposed to be very much hurt in effecting his Escape.

The great body of the present Mischief arises from the endeavours of the labouring Classes by terror to compell their Employers to increase the price of their labour and otherwise conduct the Manufactory in a manner more agreeable to the Interests or prejudice of the Artizan and this System must be kept down by Force before we can expect the restoration of Public Tranquility.

It must not be forgotten that the want of Demand for the Goods manufactured is one of the main springs of the distresses of the People which it is out of power of their employers to remedy Besides this I believe it is the Opinion of the well informed among the Manufacturers that the quantity of Frames and of persons engaged in the Manufactory was even in prosperous times more than commensurate to the demands; and therefore in these times of diminished consumption of Hosiery this circumstance magnifies the distress occasioned by the failure of the Trade But I am very much afraid that this distress has been made to bear with double force upon the Artizan by several of the Hosiers and Lace Manufacturers endeavouring to force a demand for their Goods by diminishing their price in the Market which they have contrived to effect by diminishing the wages paid to the Workman All these Causes have combined to throw numbers of the Labouring class out of Employment or to diminish the produce of their Labours and excited amongst them a deep feeling of discontent and an union amongst those Manufacturers who are spread in every direction thro’ a wide extent of country. This spirit of discontent has so long existed that it has led to a system of co-operation and to systematic plans of forcing upon the Hosiers or the public some decisive measures for relief. These give the present disturbances a most serious aspect the more especially as it is in vain to conceal from ourselves that whilst these efforts of the people are adding additional force and strength and extent to the distresses under which they labour they have been in the Country productive of a sense of terror which has enabled the emissaries of the people who conduct them to collect considerable sums of Money of the Farmers, and of such of the Frameworkknitters and Lace Hands as are in employment we have no doubt voluntarily contribute weekly to support them. This again has a tendency to extend the mischief by suffering numbers to acquire habits of supporting themselves this way without labour and it is difficult to say to what length this conduct and these habits connected with deep discontent may lead them. Already we have seen in the Country numbers of these people armed and acting by signal by Guns fired from village to village. Anonymous threats and incendiary letters have been addressed to Manufacturers in the Town and I am sorry to say that these proceedings of the People have produced considerable alarm among their Employers and daily dispose Individuals amongst them more or less to conform their modes of conducting their Business to the will of the People. This cannot happen without its being the productive parent of further evil. Since the first origin of these disturbances which have now existed more or less Six or Seven Months the great Engine of Terror with the people has been to destroy the Stocking Frames of those Manufacturers who have been most odious to their Eyes and it is supposed that in the whole about Eight hundred Frames have been destroyed of the value of Eight thousand Pounds depreciated as this species of Property is by the dreadful state of the Manufactory — but of more than double that value if the Trade was in a prosperous state.

At present there seems to be a pause in the work of Mischief; but from all the Information I can collect there appears little tendency in the people to be satisfied. On the contrary I think the spirit of discontent is as deeply spread as ever and I am afraid is only making such arrangements as may be necessary to keep up the system of Terror under the difficulties which are created to it by the large Military Force which the Magistrates have called to their aid in the district I most sincerely hope that that aid will be Effectual to the protection of the Public Peace and that it may be able to accomplish what is still more difficult, the entire protection of the property of Individuals, but after what has occurred here it is impossible not to suspect that the great bulk of the Workmen are confederate with the Frame-breakers and that most of them are so desirous of rendering their Employers subservient to their wishes that they would invite the destruction of the Frames of their Masters rather than protect

— Under such Circumstances it is very difficult for the Magistrates to provide for the Security of this property and this had occasioned the removal of large portions of it into the Town of Nottingham for Security which again has a tendency to increase the number of people unable to support themselves by their usual labour.

I am afraid you will think me tedious and am apprehensive that you may have heard the nature of these disturbances detailed to you in a more able manner by other persons, but I could not satisfy myself without a full communication of the view in which they have appeared to me because I am truly apprehensive that they are every day increasing and must if they remain sow the seeds, of more extensive mischief. If the People are once taught that they can accomplish the objects of their wishes by a system of Terror I feel assured that they will proceed further than breaking Frames and it is Difficult to say who may be the next Objects of their Vengeance.

I have [etc.]

Geo. Coldham, Town Clerk

The letter can be found at HO 42/118.

1 comment:

  1. It was just like reading romantic dramas in a pocketbook. I know it's hilarious but the continuation of the story tells you that it's romantic.