Friday, 4 May 2012

4th May 1812: Lieutenant-General Thomas Maitland arrives in Manchester

At the head of the military forces now pouring into the North of England was Lieutenant-General Thomas Maitland. Upon his arrival in Manchester, he wasted no time in providing a report for government about the situation he found there:

4th May 1812


I have to signify to you my Arrival here this morning. I cannot of course as yet form any thing but an incorrect and loose judgement relative to the situation of this place & its Vicinity, as however I have already seen several persons, who have been in correspondence with Government and gained every information in my power, it may be satisfactory for you to be made acquainted with the general impression that rests upon my Mind—I own I am inclined to believe upon the whole, that to a certain extent, the present situation arises from causes totally separate either, from the natural pressure which the length of the present War must infallibly generate, or from the momentary effect of the increased Price of the first necessaries of Life; Both these certainly have contributed in a certain extent to give additional effect to other causes, and I cannot help believing on the whole, that the existence of a combination to overcome all Legal Authority is the real Groundwork of the present existing State of things: At the same time, however I say this, I am far from believing this combination either to have gone the length, or take in the state of organization supposed by many.

The Gentlemen here evidently are some what alarmed, and seem to me to be in a situation very natural under these circumstances to have rather over thought the whole of the subject―

The variety of Reports coming from various channels differ so widely in themselves in details, that it is very clear to me, the whole has been either extremely exaggerated or that they are not acting with understanding among themselves although I believe them; It is perfectly certain they have been swearing in Men under the various Oaths that have been transmitted to you; though in some instances they have so little established Signals amongst themselves by Rockets &c;—and though they undoubtedly have Private Meetings; still I doubt extremely it having gone the length generally credited. You may however rely upon it that no pains or trouble shall be spared by me, to come at the bottom of it, and I have already adopted some measures and shall immediately move, to get information and in this pursuit I shall certainly not hesitate in making a liberal use of money where I am convinced it can be of real Utility.

I wish too, upon this subject to learn from you, how far in the event of Persons that have implicated themselves, I may promise their Pardons in giving information.

Mr. Hay of this place Mr. Loyd both in their ways appear to be intelligent Men. It may be satisfactory too for you to know the general line I mean to adopt, with regard to this part of the Country.―

Major General Dirom entertained a View of this important subject some what different from mine. He intended to have divided his Force, with the exception of two Regiments at Manchester, into minute Detachments through various Towns and Villages of this most populous District. That this was one mode of protecting them, there can be no doubt, but it by no means appears to me to be the most eligible.

The Prince Regent indeed has made a great exertion to give Security and Confidence in this Quarter, but I should hold it equally unwise, and impudent to give the various parties interested the smallest reason to suppose, such of Force can remain here, but for a limited Period. To me then it appears that the great object we ought to keep in View, in every instance, is to inculcate the necessity of Higher Orders of the Community themselves adopting Measures for the protection of their own Property under any contingency that may occur.—

I therefore acknowledge I feel extremely disposed to keep the Troops in central situations, ready to give due Aid when called for, to the Police and Volunteer establishments of different Places; but not to throw into every Village such a Force as would immediately give that degree of Security as to induce the Inhabitants themselves to relax in their exertions to form themselves into Bodies capable of protecting their own Property. In another point of View too, the measure of making a multiplicity of small Detachments is extremely to be avoided—It places the Soldier in a Situation where under the circumstances of the immense Population of these Villages, he is more liable to be tampered with, than in any other, a measure, which has already been tried, by the disaffected, but I have reason to believe without success―

I therefore shall encourage calling out the Local Militia Corps, extending as far as may be; the Watch and Ward Bill; and Cavalry Associations: These seem to me to be natural Defenders of the Property of the Well disposed, and if duly encouraged I have no doubt would prove effective towards their object.

There are some awkward circumstances in detail about the Volunteer Corps and some inconvenience attending the Mode of calling them out, upon which I shall be obliged to trouble you tomorrow. There has too, in one or two instances, apprehensions be entertained of their Fidelity to their Officers, but I own I give no weight to these assertions; at all events I am certain of this; we never can call them out, at a more favorable opportunity than the present, amid so large a Body of other Troops in the Neighbourhood.

I shall have the honor of again writing to you tomorrow.—

And Am
With high respect
T Maitland

[To - Richard Ryder]

This letter can be found at HO 40/1/1.

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