Wednesday, 9 May 2012

9th May 1812: Lieutenant-General Maitland gives the Home Office his opinion on the use of spies

9th May 1812


I have the honor to receive your Letter of the 7th this morning, and I have at present not the smallest apprehension of any disturbance of any kind in this Quarter. Certainly the most untoward symptoms which characterises the present state of the country is the appearance of the disposition in some instances to Asassination, but in more to Plunder & Murder.

An unfortunate Case of this kind happened the night before last in this Neighbourhood. The number of anonymous Letters too, some threatening & others forewarning Individuals of their danger tend considerably to keep alive the Fears of the People, which though subsided, still exist in a much greater degree than is desirable.—Indeed one of the greatest Engines of the disaffected from whatever cause seems to be Fear. By which in the one hand they Alarm the well disposed, & on the other, that draws over to them many who bought for the operation of timidity would never have thought of joining so desperate a Cause.

The arrival of so large a Body of Troops in the Neighbourhood has however, completely done away the General Panic that heretofore existed; But it certainly has not, nor it cannot be supposed ever to counteract the effect of Individual timidity, which exists as yet but too generally. It was this to which I alluded in the first letter I had the honor to address to you, and certainly not to the propriety of giving Military Aid to those Villages and Townships where either general danger was entertained, or where tumult and actually shewn itself; But if we were to give way to individual feeling, every Manufacturer in this part of the Country, would have wished to have his own Property defended by the Military, & have made the Military probably the means of livening the labour of His Workmen even below their present level.—

I hold it to be, one of the most difficult points connected with my Situation, what line to draw with regard to giving Militia relief for the time, I have certainly given it largely, and as it may be satisfactory to you I inclose you a distribution of the Troops under my orders together with a Copy of the Instructions touching that point to the Commanding Officers of each of the Regiments.―

Upon this head however the Truth is, The Military Force here is more than necessary, from the improvident circumstance of the Lieutenancy having called out, half of the whole Local Militia and quartered them in every part of the County.—

Where the Magistrates have called it out, the emergency of the case fully warranted the measure; But I do not apprehend it is the intention of the Act, that the Lieutenancy upon a particular part of the County being in a tumultuous State, should come to sweeping Resolutions not only affecting the Parts where tumult exists, but also those Parts that are perfectly quiet.^ It is therefore my intention to write a letter to the Lieutenancy recommending the dismissing the Local Militia forthwith, except in Cases were they may be really usefull. As independent of the Expence, they are in truth crippling themselves of the best means of future local protection. They ought to be quietly going on, attending their Arrival Drill as directed, and Arrangements ought to be made to enable them should these tumults exist for any length of time, to draw out a constant detail from the Local Militia, without extending beyond the Eight & Twenty days, which would give security and protection.—

I did not like as I stated to you two days ago, to enter into any general discussion by letter relative to Local organization till I heard from you, but as I found they wished it, I yesterday transmitted to the Magistrates a letter of which I inclose you a Copy; It is short what I could wish, but still will have some effect and may be a beginning. There is one point upon which I am extremely anxious, and upon which I shall now beg leave to say a few words.—

There must be, and very naturally, a great Variety of Opinions on the Subject of what is the real bottom of all this Scene. Possibly the wisest mode of considering it is that all the apparent causes contribute in some degree to the present State of the Country, and if this must be the Case, the only real difficulty in our Way, is to ascertain completely how far, the designs of these disaffected against Government, In toto, or in other words, who are at War with Property, proceed from a Head of more or less consequence, and what is the real State of the Strength of this Body whatever it may be.—

That it exists I have no doubt, but I do not believe either to the extent or combination credited by many. To find out its true nature and Character must be the first object of Government and this I fear will be extremely difficult, we know that such a thing is, but we do not know what it is; On this head I am sorry to say I see but little hopes of coming at it, in this Quarter.—The Magistrates and Persons who have been writing to Government, seem to me, to stop generally exactly where they ought to begin, and where they try any thing of the kind, their zeal leads them to think they have done a most meritorious Act, if they can prove the existence of these Committees; Without waiting patiently and by degree to learn the gradual secrets, that might develop themselves at these Committees.

In the instance of Mr Loyd who is up, if it be true that the Men he employed got into those Committees, they had surely be much better employed constantly attending them, than going up to London, for it is but poor comparative satisfaction to know that this Man that Man is conspiring against Government, when by remaining quiet, we might have got, into the nature of the whole conspiracy.—

I am trying to introduce Men among them, but it is attended with many difficulties; And in turning it over in my Mind, I am persuaded the best mode of doing it, would be to select in London through the means of some confidential Police Officer, ten, or twelve, Men of the lower orders of the Community who are thoroughly to be relied on, and to send them down, unknown to each other to this Neighbourhood for the direct purpose of getting into their Committees. And with instructions to come near nobody till they have got introduced, and have something serious to communicate.

If in Manchester they might in that went be instructed to apply to the Commanding Officers of the Dragoons or Artillery at the Barracks here, to see me, and I will settle with those Officers how I can see them without suspicion.

If they are in any of the surrounding Towns the safest Mode will be to follow the same course by coming here. It is extremely necessary to be cautious on this Head, as the number of People constantly watching round me, and indeed every body is quite incredible.

I am sorry to say that having sent over yesterday an intelligent Officer to Huddersfield and that the Report I had is by no means comfortable. I hear they have refused to have recourse, either to calling out the Local Militia or carrying into effect the Watch & Ward Bill, and that some of the Local Militia called out, have been behaving very ill.

I shall myself go over on Monday or Tuesday whenever I know where I can meet General Grey, to concert with him on the whole arrangements relative to the borders of Yorkshire in this Vicinity, and shall have the honor to report you fully on the subject.—

I have [etc]
G Maitland

^without any reference to the state of general Military Protection afforded by Government.

[To] Right Honble
Richard Ryder
Secretary of State
&c &c &c

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

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