Thursday 20 February 2014

20th February 1814: The Town Clerk of Nottingham advocates the use of the spies in Nottinghamshire


Nottingham 20th February 1814.


I have the honour of your letter of a highly confidential Nature dated the 18th Instant written to me by direction of Lord Sidmouth in regard to some information communicated to his Lordship as to some Societies which are stated to have been formed in Nottingham professedly to obtain Parliamentary relief without avowing the nature of the Grievance for which relief is sought.—Without being in possession more precisely than I now am of the nature and extent of Lord Sidmouth’s Information I can not form any Judgement how far these Societies by their constitution violate the existing laws of the Land, but I can have no reason to doubt the accuracy of the opinion which Lord Sidmouth entertains upon this part of the subject. I am decidedly of Opinion that there can be no more proper or adviseable mode adopted than that of employing a confidential person to become a member of one or more of these Societies with a view to obtain a thorough insight into their Constitution, organization and object and the means they use to carry their objects into execution.—In my Official situation some time ago I received some imperfect hints which very much appear to bespeak the existence of Societies of a similar Character with those of which Lord Sidmouth has received Information, but I have never been enabled to come at any distinct Account upon which it could be inferred that there was a probability of establishing such facts as would form a ground of legal Proceedings. Altho’ I judge it proper that some person should be, if possible, procured, to enter into these Societies with a view to obtain a correct and certain detail of their interior and thereupon to decide as to the propriety of instituting a Prosecution against them. I am by no means prepared without much further consideration, if Lord Sidmouth intends to consult me on the subject to suggest any person as proper to be employed on my business.—The person retained on this business, may enter into these Societies either with a view merely to obtain precise information on the subject with a distinct understanding that he is not be called upon as a Witness against the Society, or he may be employed, in the same manner and for the same purpose with a previous settled determination to call upon him as a Witness to prove on oath the facts he may be enabled to ascertain in relation to these Societies. If the person employed is to give evidence against the Societies I should find it difficult to find such a Person, I should therefore most strongly advise that the first employment of a Person to gain any information should be confined to that object, and that he should be retained upon a most distinct understanding with him that he was not to be employed as a Witness: we shall thus [what] over maybe our future difficulties, in obtaining evidence to convict, have the source of our information pure and uncontaminated. The Information wanted I think it will not even in this manner be very easy to obtain.—I imagine that these Societies have a main relation to and connection with the Frameworkknitters, and are the remnant of the System of Luddism and the body of men who applied last year to Parliament. I have kept my eyes steadily upon them, and no one will more chearfully assist in opposing their Attempts to control their masters in the conduct of their Business. In the mean time the Trade of the Town is reviving to an extent which is truly wonderful.—The Increase of work and of wages will I should hope take from the Workmen all cause of discontent and all occasion for combining to increase their wages. I have answered your letter without any communication with any one but I will apply myself to get more information, and if Lord Sidmouth should wish it I will endeavour to fix upon and procure some person to obtain Information on the Condition.

I am, Sir,
with the utmost respect,
your most faithful & obdt. Servt.

Geo Coldham

Wednesday 19 February 2014

The curious case of Marsden Haddock's 'Androides, or Animated Mechanism'

Leeds Mercury, 24/12/1813
On this day 200 years ago, an interesting exhibition finally departed Leeds after a stay that had been extended due to heavy snow over the winter months. The Christmas Eve 1813 edition of the Leeds Mercury had carried an intriguing advertisement for the exhibition featuring one word in particular that leaps out at the modern reader: ‘Androides’.

The ‘Androides’ were a number of mechanical automata that an impresario called Marsden Haddock had been exhibiting in England and Scotland over the past 12 months. Haddock was a self described ‘organ builder’ (and in other earlier adverts a ‘machinist’) originally from Cork, who had exhibited much the same exhibition in London over 16 years earlier. Curiously, evidence of the exhibition being present in Britain in the intervening period seems to be thin on the ground until December 1812, when Haddock began displaying the automata in Edinburgh. We can only speculate why Haddock had chosen the moment that West Yorkshire Luddism was snuffed out to begin to display his exhibition again, reaching York by August 1813. At the very end of 1813, he had made his way to the heart of the cloth districts, and had set up his show at the ‘Mechanic Theatre’ (as he christened all of the venues he used), a concert room on Albion Street in Leeds.

Whilst it's possible that Haddock’s arrival in the West Riding, on almost the first anniversary of the York Special Commission, was a coincidence, on another level his visit was almost a natural consequence of the outcome of the trials. The suppression of Luddism in the West Riding had arguably cleared a large ideological space, leaving plenty of room for Haddock’s seemingly frivolous curiosities that actually masked a far more serious intent.

Many of us would be surprised to learn that mechanical automata are far from a recent invention, and have a history going back over 300 years. Automata had a history of being playthings for the rich, being conceptually driven by their view of an idealised utopia of obedient and automated subjects. With entrance prices of starting at 1 shilling, Haddock’s show was certainly not aimed at working people, although the automata on display had at one point no doubt been created by highly skilled but poorly paid artisan workers.

It was of little coincidence then that the ideology that lay behind automata could find a natural home in the West Riding – perhaps more than any other place in England at the time – in an environment where the croppers had been well and truly beaten by a capital given the full backing of the state, and where a manufacturing class and bourgeoisie had felt bold enough to publicly declare ‘may the Manufacturers and the Machinery of Yorkshire ever be uninterrupted’ in a toast to William Cartwright & Joseph Radcliffe some 5 months previously. In the same place whose ruling class had established that an intact machine was more valuable than a human life by a rough ratio of 2:1.

What is less well-known is that automata had directly influenced one of the leading figures amongst the manufacturers promoting automation in the cloth industries. Wolfgang von Kempelen’s ‘Turk’ chess player had inspired Edmund Cartwright (the brother of the reformer, Major John Cartwright) to create the power loom, an ‘innovation’ that had spelt misery for workers in Lancashire and Cheshire, and had met fierce resistance there during the Luddite disturbances of mid 1812. Ironically, the ‘Turk’ was a hoax – a confidence trick which was operated by a concealed human being – it could not have been built and also could not have worked without the direct application of human skill. On the contrary, Cartwright’s invention could only serve to displace human labour and make life more miserable for workers.

But while Edmund Cartwright had been influenced to create his power loom after an encounter with an automata – hoax or otherwise – others had earlier made more explicit links between the displacement of human labour and the use of automata. The eighteenth century French inventor & artist Jacques de Vaucanson had started his career as a builder of astonishingly complex automata, after schooling in anatomy. Vaucanson even tried to replicate biological functions in automata, being convinced there was little essential difference between his creations and human beings. He later turned his attentions to the textile industry, creating the first completely automated loom in 1745 which pioneered the use of punch cards to automate pattern control, an invention that would be refined much later by Jacquard and developed later still to input dates into early computers.

Haddock’s show had also previously contained an automata that was very much ahead of its time and squarely facing the future. His ‘writing automaton’ was ‘the size of a boy of five years old’ and could ‘write any word, words, or figures, in a round legible hand’. This description, from a flier of Haddock’s shows in London in the late eighteenth century, sounds exactly like Jaquet-Droz’s ‘The Writer’ (see video below). Droz’s automata had 6000 parts and utilised a wheel which controlled cams, enabling any word or sentence to be composed – according to Simon Schaffer, ‘The Writer’ was another ancestor of the programmable computer. But by the time Haddock had started touring his exhibition again, this particular automata was strangely absent from the show.

Marsden Haddock seems to be an elusive figure, about whom little is known. Indeed, the flier for his London show has been the only evidence cited in one or two books that mention his exhibition, and in those works, he remains firmly rooted in the late eighteenth century rather than the time of the Luddites and their resistance to automation. The automata themselves must have been expensive items to purchase, never mind display and tour. But then Irish trade directories from the late eighteenth century reveal that Haddock was a versatile capitalist, involved in the glassware trade, and owning a shop on Castle Street in Cork. Yet there was much more to Haddock than this and the automata meant for display. And although it’s possible he had consciously pulled the automata out of storage to exhibit them in an environment where the capitalist class were keen to see the products of automation – because he knew that the ideological struggles of the last two years could make them a sure fire hit with the victors – his commitment to automation much ran deeper than that. In 1820, we find Haddock and his son Edward bound for New York. Later still in 1828, Haddock registered a patent in New York for a sheet paper manufacturing machine – utilising  a mode of dipping ‘faster than by the old hand process’.

It’s entirely likely that Haddock had found the West Riding of Yorkshire an ideal place to display his current machines and to find inspiration for his future ones.

Monday 17 February 2014

17th February 1814: The Deputy Constable of Manchester writes to the Home Office about remuneration


I hope you will pardon the Liberty I have taken in addressing you Respecting the Money I have paid in taking the Rioters in this neighbourhood, and the witnesses going to Lancaster &c Mr. Haye has wrote to the Solicitor of the Treasury several Times and I have sent up Two Accounts and have never Received any Answer. The Reason I cannot tell but if you will peruse the annexed Account you will see if there has been any Business done and in Addition I went over to New Mills in Derbyshire and apprehended Ten took them to Derby, next Time I went I took up six and sent them to Derby, and I went to Middlewich in Cheshire two different Times and apprehended two, they were all of them tried before Sir Vickery Gibbs last Spring Assizes at Derby five out of the number were capitally convicted and three were hanged two transported for Life, I heard that this Gang had gone together to Rob John Drinkwater's House of Bugsworth in the County of Derby, no one in that neighbourhood durst take them, I took the Greys one of the Times and the Bays the other, I did get bare Expences but in that Case not one penny for Loss of Time or extra Duty, when the Riots existed peace Officers were scarce. I must either take the Dragoons or go myself, I have been a Servant to the public 25 years, and I do think myself very coolly treated. I again have to apologize for my troubling you and I do trust if in your power you will assist me in getting my Expences

I am
your Humble Servant
Joseph Nadin

police Office
Feby 17th 1814

17th February 1814: Scribbling Mill in Ossett destroyed by fire

On Thursday morning, 17th February 1814, a Scribbling Mill belonging to Messrs Hallas of Ossett was destroyed by fire, causing £10,000 of damage. The cause of the fire was not reported.

Saturday 15 February 2014

15th February 1814: Government legal advice on workers organisations in Nottinghamshire

Further Case 

Since the inclosed Opinion of the Attorney and Solr General was given on the 22nd of December last one of the Tickets or Diplomas alluded to in the 12th Article has been obtained It bears a Coat of Arms which are stated to represent an Union of Ireland Scotland Nottinghamshire Derbyshire Leicestershire & Yorkshire with a Loom and by way of Crest & Arm holding a Hammer (which was the Implement principally used last year by the Nottinghamshire Framebreakers) and the Motto says Taisez vous. Another Copy of the printed Articles has also been obtained from Mansfield in Nottinghamshire.—

As it appears by the Articles that a General Meeting was to be held in May last Enquiry has been made relative to it and also for further General Information respecting the Societies and the following is the result of those Enquiries—

"There are at Nottingham about 20 Societies many of them consist of more than an hundred Members each some of a smaller number—The Business transacted before the General Members professes to have for its object the ensuring to them Employment at what they call fair prices The Societies hire all the unemployed Frames and engage all the Work they can which they let out to their Members but to no other person If a member has Employment elsewhere with which he is dissatisfied the Society make him a weekly allowance until he finds better Employment either from the Society or other persons. When the Funds of the Society exceed a certain sum the surplus is sent to what my Informant calls the Head Committee which he believes to be in London. The Officers of the Society sometimes retire into a Room apart from the General Meeting Room to transact Business. My Informants Society have paid out of their Funds the expences of defending Criminal Prosecutions against its Members but he understands this has been objected to by other of the Societies—New Tickets have been issued to the Members in the stead of those which I gave you [the one above alluded to] one—In the new ones the material alteration is the omission of the Arms which it was understood had caused some suspicion—These Societies consist (as you may suppose) principally of desperate Characters who express themselves very freely—The General Conference was held in May last at Nottingham but my Informant does not know the Business of it—"

Lord Viscount Sidmouth has directed the Opinion of the Attorneys and Solicitor General to be taken.— 
How far they consider these Societies to be a fit subject of Criminal Prosecution. And what directions they think necessary to be given with the view of procuring additional Information as to the real object to which the Articles relate?—
We think the Constitution of these Societies, each of which has a president and other officers; as connected together, first, by the central Committee, and then again by a superior head or executive Committee are illegal by the 39th. Geo 3rd: C.79; for the whole Class of Societies taken together thro’ the medium of these connecting links form one Society of which the minor Societies are branches, or divisions, or parts, "which in a manner act separately from each other; and have each a separate and distinct President and Secretary. This Constitution is one prohibited, and enacted to be an unlawful combination and confederacy, whatever may be the professed or real object of such Society." 

But tho’ this illegality in the constitution of the Societies may be fairly inferred from the Article stated, and the account given by the Informant; yet it would not be right to institute any prosecution against any of the members as being guilty of an unlawful Combination and Confederacy, unless we were assured of some regular chain of Evidence proving positive facts of the actual conduct of the Societies in their connection each with the other, and of their acting together in pursuance of the Articles so as to form one whole body, composed of various parts, constituted by the different Societies. The Statement is at present vague and great part of it from the Information of others, and not from the actual knowledge of the person communicating his Information. 

It would be very desirable, if any persons could be found who becoming members of one or two of these minor Societies, could ascertain that the articles are read and adopted by them, that they do depute Members or each a Member to the Central Committee, that the head or Executive Committee takes upon itself the ordering the funds of the minor Societies, or in other words that the regulations pointed out by the articles are acted upon in each of those Societies one of which the party to be charged is a Member. It would indeed be necessary to ascertain what facts could be positively proved before we could advise a prosecution, which if successful would be beneficial, but which if defeated might increase the mischief intended to be obviated

W Garrow
S: Shepherd
Linc. Inn Feb. 15. 1814.

Friday 14 February 2014

14th February 1814: A Horbury Constable is rewarded for suppressing Luddism

On 14th February 1814, the Leeds Intelligencer reported that a Constable from Horbury, John Race, had been rewarded by 'the inhabitants of Horbury' (i.e. the bourgeoisie of Horbury) with an inscribed silver bowl for his role in suppressing Luddism. The inscription read:

"a tribute of gratitude for his distinguished services as Constable of that place, during the disturbances of 1811 and 1812"

Friday 7 February 2014

7th February 1814: Foster Roach, the last prisoner from the 1812 trials, arrives in Australia

'View of Sydney Cove from Dawes Point' by Joseph Lycett, c.1817/1818
On Monday 7th February 1814, the transport ship General Hewitt arrived at Port Jackson, Sydney, Australia carrying 266 male convicts.

Among them was Foster (or Forster) Roach, a young weaver from Ireland, aged 18 at the time of his trial in May/June 1812. Roach had originally been sentenced to death for unlawful assembly and theft in Etchells, Stockport on 15th April 1812, but the trial jury had recommended mercy and the sentence was respited, meaning Roach was transported for life. Roach was the last of the prisoners convicted at the 1812 Special Commissions to be transported, more than 20 months after he was sentenced.

Roach and his fellow convicts had left England on board the General Hewitt on 26th August 1813, and had arrived at Rio de Janeiro on 17th November before continuing to Australia. Conditions on board were so appalling, that by the time the ship arrived at Sydney, 34 of the convicts who had originally boarded the ship had died.

Also aboard the ship was Joseph Lycett, an artist who had been convicted of forging a bank note in 1811 and is well-known for his pictures of Australia, one of which is above.

Wednesday 5 February 2014

5th February 1814: The Treasury Solicitor forwards Benjamin Walker's letter to the Home Office


Lincolns Inn
Feb. 5. 1814.

Dear Sir,

The inclosed is I think a very impudent Application from one of Horsfall’s murderers, who ought to be very well contented with saving his Neck. Our Answer to it is easy, as you will see by referring to the Gazette for 1812 page 805, viz. that the Crown did not promise the Reward. But I do not see, what Defence Mr. Peace of Huddersfield, by whom it was promised, would have to an Action at the suit of this worthless Scoundrel. For this reason I think the Answer to be given to this Application should not encourage a Demand on Peace.

I am Dr. Sr
Yrs. faithfully
H. Hobhouse

J Beckett Esq