Wednesday, 18 July 2012

18th July 1812: The Vice Lieutenant of the West Riding urges the Home Office to take steps to confiscate arms

Nr. Pontefract
July 18th 1812

My Lord,

I have the honour to send herewith 8 depositions as to the stealing of Firearms which took place at Clifton near Sir George Armitages’s House, and about 6 miles north of Huddersfield, on Monday night the 13’ instant—I am sorry to add the magistrates of that Neighbourhood report several single instances of the continuance of the same system occurring since the 23d ult.

The Magistracy and Lieutenancy of the West Riding, assembled yesterday at Wakefield, have requested me to ask your Lordship's answer to the following points—

— If his Majesty's Ministers think that a general search for arms should speedily be made under the Provisions of the Act now before Parliament will they order on a day unlooked for the Magistrates and Military to make such search throughout a considerable district in Yorkshire & the immediate adjoining parts of Lancashire and Cheshire, or will they leave it to the discretion of the Lord Lieutenant & the Magistrates on what day or days to what extent and how, the searches for arms are to be made?—Were the Meeting to express an opinion upon the Subject it would be expressive of its conviction that it would be advisable and much more likely to effectuate the object in view, if the direction for such searches were given by his Majesty's Government

— The magistrates would be of an entirely different opinion if they had any expectation of gaining Intelligence where the arms are concealed, but grown hopeless from their past experience of gaining such information they think that a search directed by Government, would be more unexpected simultaneous & effectual than a search grounded on their own previous deliberation & arrangement—

— I have also my Lord to request on their behalf that 30 or 40 Copies of the new act may be forwarded to W Jno: Foljambe Deputy Clerk of the Peace with the smallest possible delay, that they may immediately become acquainted with its Provisions.

— Several other Suggestions were made which I have the honor of subjoining tho’ I fear the act will be past before you receive them, and probably several of them will be met by the enactments of the Bill in question.

1st That Constables & Special Constables should have with or without the military the same power of dispersing unlawful assemblies as is understood at present to be given to the Magistrates only.—

2dly That Magistrates & all the Peace Officers may arrest & apprehend, as well as disperse, Persons attending such meetings.

3dly That men of notorious bad character be prohibited from selling Gunpowder, whether they be shopkeepers or otherwise

4thly That all arms & ammunition left in the hands of Individuals be registered, and account given if they be missing at a future time.

5h That the offering of money for undefined purposes, as “to obey future orders”, to become a member of an undescribed association to be made a misdemeanour and the party subject to immediate commitment—

Sir George Armitage will be obliged to your Lordship to return him the inclosed depositions to Kirklees Hall near Leeds and we shall be glad of your Lordships reply to the above requests and of your Instructions in general so as to reach us previously if possible to Friday next.—

I have &c

(Signed) F.L. Wood.
Vice Lt. West riding

[To] Rt. Hon.
Lord Sidmouth
&c &c &c

This letter can be found at HO 42/125.

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