Wednesday, 18 July 2012

18th July 1812: General Maitland updates the Home Office about the use of spies

Buxton 18th July 1812

My dear Sir

I have been prevented by an Attack of the Rheumatism, from answering your letter relative to the Man taken up in Dublin, about whom due enquiry is making, and the one you sent relative to Major Seale.

On this last, I shall write more fully to Lord Sidmouth, and enclose to you, the letter I sent to that Gentleman in answer to his Communication.—

I this morning too, received Yours of the 16th, and am glad a Man like Playfair is not sent down. The whole of the Subject of intelligence is one of great Embarrassment, and I have found it much more so, than I expected.—

Those who are willing to undertake mixing with the Disaffected, are generally of a Character, whose information must be received with extreme Caution, and certainly in the instance of those in whom we could rely, they very much to their Credit feel extreme difficulty in going the lengths they must necessarily do, to be of any real Utility.—

The only person who came from Wiltshire was totally disinclined when he learnt the State of the case here, from a feeling of personal Danger to undertake any thing, and he of course was completely useless.

My first Attempt to get up Men from Scotland also failed, I however am now trying it through another Channel, and you shall know the result.—

The great Vice of Local Information is, that it is never kept quiet, and when kept quiet, and not communicated, which has but rarely happened, it immediately occasions a feeling of Jealousy among the Magistrates, if they get the smallest knowledge of it.

In this last respect however “To Wit” Local Information, I think I am now pretty well off, but it never extends beyond those broad facts of which we are all aware, and does not advance one Inch whatever it may do hereafter, to gain us any ultimate Information

I have now however better hopes upon this Head, from two Men I have employed, than any I antecedently looked to.

The tenor of the Information I have lately received is strong in regard to the concealed Activity of the Disaffected. It is stated that Boxes of Pikes are frequently imported from Birmingham into Yorkshire and there concealed: It is further, stated they are completely prepared with quantities of Crow feet to impede the Action of Cavalry, and that is generally stated that their numbers are extremely great, and that they have communication with Scotland: A number of Delegates too, are represented to have gone into Yorkshire to meet a Congress, these are expected back to Night or tomorrow, when I shall state to you the result, Much expectation too is held out, of the Military joining them.

This is the general tone of the Information, which from the Character of the Men, from whom it comes, I believe to be so far true, that it has been stated to them by some of the Disaffected, but I hold it to be extremely exaggerated, and I believe it to be but at the outside a most sanguine and delusive Statement of their own View, of their own Situation

In regard to Barrowclough, he was sent as Mr. Hay states to you, to Mr. Radcliffe, who upon his Information apprehended Eight Persons as disaffected, I doubt however extremely how far any thing will be made out against them, and I understand it to be Mr. Hay’s Opinion that from the whole appearance and Character of that Person, his information is not much to be relied on.

I can in no Way account of Mr. Radcliffe's not writing, he being in the habits of so doing, as I never have been in regular correspondence with him, but I understand he is a very Active Magistrate, and by no means alarmed to Act.—

I am [etc]
T Maitland
[To] John Beckett Esqr.
&c &c &c

This letter can be found at HO 42/125.

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