Friday, 20 July 2012

20th July 1812: 'Observer' writes to the Leeds Intelligencer about the recent arms raids in Clifton

To the Editor of the Leeds Intelligencer.

SIR—Notwithstanding the very gentle manner in which the Editor of a certain provincial publication treats of the conduct of the Luddites, in his last number, we will venture to assure the Public, that there has not been an instance, during the whole of their infamous proceedings, in which they have acted with greater regularity and precision, or with more determined violence, and terrifying threats, and in their outrage upon the Inhabitants of Clifton, four miles North of Huddersfield, in the night between last Monday, the 13th, on Tuesday the 14th inst.

When we consider the number of the Assailants, their mode of attacking the dwellings of the Inhabitants; the time of night at which the assault was made; the persons, character and number of those who were terrified to yield to their felonious demands; the style of their triumphant return—we hesitate not to say, that the transactions of these arms stealers at Clifton, at the time above mention, afford the most unqualified contradiction to all those declarations and assertions, which go to represent the outrages committed against the public peace and security, as the mere ebullitions of a mob, arising from want of employment, the pressure of distress, or any mere temporary inconvenience.

We put it to the incredulous Member for Bedford, to the inaccurate Mr. B______m, to Ned Ludd himself, or that other Ned, his advocate and apologist, whether there be any thing in the features of this felonious nocturnal outrage, which bears any resemblance to the accidental assemblage of thoughtless riotous men.—Whether it does not exhibit the strongest marks of being a part of an organized digested system of wide-extending, serious mischief. View it in connection with other acts of violence in the West Riding:—with the conflagration at the mill of Messrs. Oates and Co.—The attack upon Mr. Vickerman's property—upon the mill Rawfolds—with the murder of Mr. Horsfall—and you observe the same precision, the same address, the same skill, the same deliberate, cool-blooded, persevering, determined villainy.

In the silent hour of midnight darkness, a band alarmed villains steal into the populous village of Clifton. They watch the dwellings of the inhabitants, and mark them as they retire to rest.—The moment when they are first sunk down to sleep, the villains commence their operations: having lost the hammer they had previously provided, they furnish themselves with another, which they had burst open a Smith’s shop to procure. They assault the door of Mr. Ab. Fairburn, near one end of the village—demand his gun—Mr. F. denies the possession of such an article (it belong to his son)—they persist in their demand, repeatedly assuring him, that they certainly know he has a gun. Mr. F. continues steady—they call for enoch (the great hammer.) The door is assaulted by two violent strokes, (the marks of which are visible enough) Mr. F. opens the door; a number of men present themselves before him, apparently armed with guns, in the military attitude of “making ready.” Mr. F. still declines to deliver up his son’s piece; invites the robbers to search his house for a gun themselves.

They become impatient, one of them presents a piece to his head protesting that if he, Mr F did not instantly produces gun, his brains blown out. — Mr F retires, they charge him to bring no light. He resigns the gun. They load it, bidding good night, and, having fired a piece as in triumph, offer a single, retire.

It was about one o'clock. A light was seen in one of the windows of the Black Bull, an inn in the same village. They imperiously commanded that the light be put out, and because the order was not instantly obeyed, they fire three or four bullets into the window.—They demand and receive the landlords gun—A similar demand was made at EVERY house in Clifton where there was a gun. Their number might be 30: they got nine or ten guns.

On their attacking the house of Mr. Joshua Goldthorpe, Mr. G. looked out at his window, demanded their business; they ordered him to withdraw his head, and on his delaying to do so, they threatened to blow his brains out, and murder every soul in the house, and fired.

Mr. G. called up his young men, one or two of whom despising their threats, boldly went out, and bid them blow away. They presented their guns and threatened instant death to young Goldthorpe if he did not directly proceed with them to the workshop, at about a quarter of a mile distance, and get them the guns which they knew were in the shop. They guarded him to the shop, received two guns, returned with him to the house, ordered him to bolt the door and keep within, and wished him good night.

The whole of their movements were conducted with the strictest military address and precision—They receive directions from a leader. Such a division was ordered to guard such a pass—Such a number of such a division was commanded to fire. An Enoch (great hammer) of such a division was named, and the great hammer was instantly applied to force the door. Their intelligence also was surprisingly correct. Not a house was assaulted where there was not a gun—not a house passed by where there was a gun. So the houses were not of ready access, yet no blunder was made. The proper doors, and the several rooms were accurately known, or distinctly pointed out to the leader. The body of the assailants might be strangers, but they had well-informed guides.

The Editor of the Leeds Mercury tells his readers that he has seen an official account of these transactions (see Leeds Mercury, 18th July, page 3.) In the same page he professes that to him it is most clear that the views of the deluded violators of the public peace “to the present moment,” have been “confined simply to the destruction of machinery:” at the same time, he has the unblushing impudence to condemn Mr. Wilberforce for attributing the outrageous conduct of the mob, to political causes, to disaffection to Government; and, in what may be called the same breath, he directs his deluded friends to attribute all their distresses—not to machinery, or to the employers of machinery; but, to GOVERNMENT. Mr. Wilberforce, it should seem, is altogether mistaken in attributing the ebullitions of discontent to any disapprobation of Government, excited and promoted by mischievous publications.—Ipse dixit—and Ludd and Co. must gape and gulp it down.

However bro’ Ned may fret and fume at the assertion, Mr. W. is not singular in his opinion of the lamentable effect produced upon the minds of the ignorant and unwary by certain mischievous publications. Many of his constituents, once humble admirers of a certain popular provincial print, now, at length, begin to think for themselves, and are so thoroughly convinced of its mischievous tendency, that in spite of the spies and informers which the Editor of that print has dispersed here and there to catch any chance word that may fall at a public table, in a public company, in a moment of convivial conversation, or in the confidence of friendship; in spite of the threats of prosecution, which he may denounce for the expressing an opinion of the mischievous tendency of such publications the Freeholders of the most disturbed parts of Yorkshire will not cease to declare, to repeat, and to maintain it, that there are certain “mischievous publications” circulated, read, and admired by the mob, which have done more to produce, foment, spread, countenance, and encourage the outrageous conduct of the deluded disturbers of the public peace than either the want of employment, or the dearness of provision, or the distresses of the poor, or the Orders in Council, or than all of these put together.

18th July, 1812.


No comments:

Post a Comment