Sunday, 4 November 2012

4th November 1812: General Maitland tells the Home Secretary 'the whole of our Situation has improved'

4th November

My dear Lord

I wrote to you [shortly] yesterday, on the Subject of the State of the Country, and it gives me very great satisfaction to be able now to state my complete conviction that the whole of our Situation has improved up to my most sanguine expectation.—

I have seen and conversed with all the Agents whether Civil or Military, employed in the worst Parts of the Country, and they are perfectly unanimous in their Sentiments that confidence is reestablished on the part of the Loyal and that despondency is the prevailing principle among the Disaffected.

The whole language of the Country is totally changed, and the Seditious have now the same dread of speaking to one another, that the Loyal formerly had of giving any Information.

The great Principle that has operated this change, independent of the Military Force in the Country is, the conviction now entertained that the administration of Illegal Oaths though may for a time screen Offenders from Public Justice, will not in the lang run protect them against the offended Laws of their Country.—

It appears to me if I am correct in my present View of the Subject that this is the time when it would be exactly most fitting to consider whether Government might not by some Act give considerable efficacy and consistency to the present feelings of the People, and whether this would not be a most fortunate moment to renew for the time by Proclamation a Pardon to those who had taken Illegal Oaths.

Judging from what happened in Cheshire and the Borders of Lancashire and looking at the similar Spirit that now prevails here, as did prevail there when they came in and took the Oath of Allegiance, I cannot help thinking that this might be a measure highly expedient to be adopted, and that it would most probably be attended with very favorable results if adopted without delay.—

The occurrences that have taken place here, and the general View I have the whole of this Subject, leads me strongly to suspect, that I was not mistaken in my original supposition that there is no real bottom in all this Luddite System, as it is now breaking up here exactly as it broke up in Cheshire and Lancashire, when ever the Loyal found they were safe, and the Disaffected found they were in danger.—

Had we been more fortunate in our Harvest, or had the American Ports been now open to us, I should not entertain a doubt that the whole of this unpleasant Scene was near a close, but undoubtedly so long as the Price of Manufacturing Labour is so low, and that of Provisions so high, we must still contemplate with a considerable degree of anxiety, to the result of the present Winter, and that I apprehend any thing serious but the natural effect of such pressure must in prudence demand to be looked at with a cautious and jealous Eye.—

Your Lordship will perceive that Lord Fitzwilliam in the letter I sent to you yesterday states they are still robbing in organized Gangs in some Parts of the Country.

This is particularly the Case in the neighbourhood of Halifax, but I do not conceive this to be at all connected with any general System, and however unpleasant, I cannot look at it in a very serious point of View.

On the whole if we make good our Cases at the ensuing York Assizes and do not attempt too much I think the Spirit of the late combinations will be completely broken.

It will be necessary to be on our Guard all the Winter, but I am sure I do not go too far in stating distinctly to your Lordship that the whole of our Situation here is infinitely ameliorated.

I am
My dear Lord.
Your’s truly
T Maitland

[To] Lord Visct. Sidmouth
&c &c &c

This letter can be found at HO 42/129.

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