Monday, 19 December 2011

19th December 1811: The Rector of Loughborough asks the Home Office for advice, as female workers organise

Loughbro’ Decr. 19. 1811


I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of 100 Copies of a Proclamation by Government offering Reward for Persons offending against the Laws, & applicable to the recent disturbances in this & the neighbouring Counties. As the Constables of the different Parishes in this Hundred were attending the Magistrates at the time your Letter arrived, to report the state of their respective Parishes, & to receive necessary directions for their future Conduct: these Proclamations have been already circulated to the extent of the Hundred for which we usually act.

We still remain tranquil, & I hope that every day’s exertion will tend to restore good Order. We have been several days employed in examining two Persons apprehending upon charges of collecting Money by threats for the support of the Rioters.–but we find the class of men to whom we are obliged to look for information in general very unwilling to give it. The loss of their time, & the dread they have of the vengeance of the ill-disposed among their own class, operate together against their speaking the Truth, & it is not without summonses, & great pressing, from the magistrates that any truth can be extracted.

We have however this day committed the two Men for a felony, in extorting small sums from brother Stockingers by threats – I trust we are justified in doing so, though it would be satisfactory to us to know from some high Legal Authority that we are so. Probably a Copy of the Depositions would be requisite to obtain such information, which my Clerk will of course furnish: And there is still another point upon which the Magistrates would be glad to be instructed. In committing the Persons above mentioned we have been obliged to consider the Witnesses from whom money had been extorted as the Prosecutors & have bound them to prefer bills of Indictment at the next General Gaol delivery: but as these are unwilling Prosecutors, & of the poorest Class of Manufacturers, it is not likely that Prosecutions in their Hands can be properly conducted—It would be desirable therefore to know how far Government can or will interfere in bringing to Justice the Persons we came to be apprehended; & whom we commit for Trial?

A spirit of Combination to dictate to their Employers & to raise the price of their Wages has within these few days shewn itself among the Women, who are employed in what we call running Lace. Meetings have been called, & emissaries sent into all the neighbouring Towns & Villages to unite, & to collect Money for this Purpose: I have thought proper to issue a hand Bill to warn Persons against such illegal Meetings. I have reason to hope that the impression I've made upon this Town, will soon spread abroad so as to us to put a stop to their proceedings in this way in places adjoining. The numbers employed in this branch of manufacturing may amount to several thousands in this County.

I have the honor to be Sir

your most obedt Servt

Ric Hardy

Right Honble Secretary of State for the Home Department &c. &c. &c.

The letter can be found at HO 42/118. The concerns Hardy expresses about female textile workers organising are the first I have read about such occurrences.

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