Wednesday 31 December 2014

31st December 1814: John Lee asks the Home Office if they support the prosecution of the former spy, Joseph Taylor

By the end of 1814, time had caught up with the former spy, Joseph Taylor, who had been caught out extorting money from the well-to-do in Lancashire, trading on his usefulness to the government as a spy.

My Lord,

In the Matter of Joseph Taylor.

I have the honour by the directions of the Magistrates here to transmit your Lordship a Statement accompanied by a Copy of the Papers referred to therein, of the Manner in which the above Person obtained divers Sums of Money from several of the Gentleman and Merchants of Rochdale and its Neighbourhood, in order that Government may if thought proper, direct him to be prosecuted at its Expence, conformably to the Wish of the Parties concerned.

I beg to observe to your Lordship that the Quarter Sessions at Manchester commence about the Middle of January next And therefore the Transaction I am now troubling your Lordship with &c demands immediate Attention. As soon as your Lordship shall have obtained the Determination of Government upon this Business I hope to be favoured therewith for the Information and Guidance of the Gentleman here. I trust your Lordship will think with me that Taylor ought not to go unpunished.

I am [etc]
Jno: Lee.
Rochdale Decr 31st 1814.

[To] The Right Honble
Lord Viscount Sidmouth
Secretary of State
&c. &c. &c.

Although the papers are absent from the Home Office files, a cover note from a Home Office clerk to John Beckett of the Home Office written in the New Year follows with a description of the contents of John Lee's letter:

Letter and five Inclosures from Mr. Lee of Rochdale containing an account of Joseph Taylor who was useful during the Disturbances in the north West Districts – This man it appears has been obtaining various Sums of money by making unauthorized use of the name of Sir J Radcliffe &c—That he has imposed upon several reputable Individuals by false Stories & by producing Certificates fraudulently obtained & false lists of Subscriptions & by asserting that he never received any thing from Government for his Services – he has been committed by the magistrates, who wish to know whether Government will prosecute—Will Mr Beckett first send these papers privately to Mr. Hobhouse?

[Home Department] 3d Jany 1815.

John Beckett then forwarded the documents to Henry Hobhouse, the Solicitor to the Treasury, on the same day with the following note:


Mr. Beckett presents his Compliments to Mr Hobhouse & is directed by Lord Sidmouth to transmit for his perusal the several accompanying papers relative to the Conduct of Joseph Taylor, the Person employed during the Disturbances. Mr. Beckett requests that Mr Hobhouse will return them with such remarks as he may see occasion to make.

Home Department
3d January [1815]

31st December 1814: The dissection of Joanna Southcott

Dr. Richard Reece, though not a believer that Joanna Southcott was any kind of prophet, had medically attended upon her for several weeks prior to her death. He quickly published a pamphlet about his whole encounter very soon after her death, and extracts from it were published in many newspapers. This extract was published in the Manchester Mercury of 17th January 1815:

"The following day, a quarter of an hour before the time appointed, I arrived at Mrs. S.’s in order to prepare the body for the operation, but I was not permitted to touch it till the expiration of the hour, hanging as it were with a fond and eager hope to the last moment, in the cherished expectation of her rising again. At the appointed hour of two, the medical gentlemen were punctual in their attendance, viz. Dr. Adams, Dr. Sims; Messrs Taunton, Clarke, Want, Caton, Mathias, Cooke, and several others, whose names I not acquainted with. I then went with some of the disciples to the apartment where the body was lying, and I was surprised to find her exactly in the same situation as when she died, lying in bed, and covered with flannel, with her wearing apparel, rings, and every thing in the same unaltered state. The body was now in such a high degree of putrefaction, that we could not trust to the limbs to convey it, and it was accordingly moved to the table on a sheet. On every thing being in readiness, the attendance of the medical men was requested, who all placed themselves round the table, and behind them stood the disciples smoking tobacco; a proof that they did not consider the prophetess to possess the most savoury odour!

"The disappointment of her disciples on opening of the body, may be better conceived than described. It was strongly depicted in every countenance. Mr. Sharpe was the only one that held out to the rest the balm of consolation. Life, he observed, was involved in mystery. His mind had been so often turned to the investigation of the works of the Deity, to discover evidence for the existence of the soul, that, he was satisfied of the existence of a God and of a soul: that he was in hopes, by this woman, something would be revealed; but now he felt greatly disappointed, and all the he could say was, that he was in the same state with respect to his knowledge of God, as before he saw this woman. The two female attendants, Mrs. Townly and Mrs. Underwood, were inconsolable. They had all pictured to themselves many happy days, the enjoyment of heaven on earth. This sad event, this unexpected change, to suddenly coming upon them, was too much to bear. One of the disciples declared he should turn Unitarian. None condemned her as an impostor—one declared he would ever revere her memory, and once a month visit the spot where she was laid with pious and reverential awe!!!

The Morning Post of the 2nd January published (among others) a declaration by the medical men present about the outcome of the dissection:


We, the undersigned, present at the dissection of Mrs. JOANNA SOUTHCOTT, do certify, that no unnatural appearances were visible, and no part exhibiting any visible appearance of disease sufficient to have occasioned her death; that a number of gall stones were found in the gall bladder, and the intestines were unusually distended with flatus, and no appearance of her ever having been pregnant. The uterus was not distended, enlarged, or diseased, but on the contrary rather smaller than the usual size.

Dr. Reece.
Dr. Sims.
Dr. Adams.
Mr. Clarke.
Mr. Want.
Mr. Cooke.
Mr. Stanhope.
Mr. Caton.
Mr. Phillips.
Mr. Darling.
Mr. Foster.
Mr. Wetherall.
Mr. Santon.
Mr. Wagstaffe.
Mr. Wilkinson.

Tuesday 30 December 2014

30th December 1814: Joanna Southcott's followers remain convinced she will rise from the dead

Dr. Richard Reece, though not a believer that Joanna Southcott was any kind of prophet, had medically attended upon her for several weeks prior to her death. He quickly published a pamphlet about his whole encounter very soon after her death, and extracts from it were published in many newspapers. This extract was published in the Manchester Mercury of 17th January 1815: 

In the course of [Friday] I called again, for the purpose of informing the attendants I would decline opening the body if they would not consent to it on the following day. I saw on this occasion Mr. Sharpe and Col. Harwood, who considered the time would not be expired till the following morning at four o'clock, according to her dying injunctions, making four days from her death: after that time I was at liberty, they said, to open the body. On this I appointed two o'clock next day, when the Colonel informed me he would himself acquaint the Medical Gentleman who were appointed to attend by Mrs. Southcott. He requested to know the names of the Medical Gentleman I intended to introduce, when I gave the names of Messrs. Clarke, Want, Caton, and Maccloud. The disciples in attendance were equally sanguine in the idea of her rising again. She is not dead but sleepeth, seemed to be the opinion of the whole. In performing the dissection, it was requested by Mr. Tozer, that I would conduct it in the same manner as the Cesarian operation, that all hopes of resuscitation might not be destroyed!! To this request I replied, that certainly the same power that could raise a putrid body, could raise one that had been opened. His next request was, that I would take care of the child, for he and all the disciples were fully confident, if Joanna was not raised before opening the body, the child would be found on dissection.

Monday 29 December 2014

29th December 1814: Dr. Richard Recce is concerned about the remains of Joanna Southcott

Dr. Richard Reece, though not a believer that Joanna Southcott was any kind of prophet, had medically attended upon her for several weeks prior to her death. He quickly published a pamphlet about his whole encounter very soon after her death, and extracts from it were published in many newspapers. This extract was published in the Manchester Mercury of 17th January 1815:

On Thursday I paid another visit to the remains of Joanna. The body was beginning to be offensive, her lips and fingers had assumed a black appearance, but even this change did not shake the faithful of her followers, and I was obliged seriously to address Mr. Sharpe, stating that putrefaction had actually begun to take place, that the warmth employed would accelerate the process, and, if continued, it would be to no purpose to open the body. To this he replied, rather sharply, "do not be uneasy, you will not suffer by it, for depend upon it she will return to the body. My answer was, that if they thought so, they should endeavour to keep it sweet for her reception; for should the ceremony for her marriage in Heaven continue two days longer, the tenement would not be habitable on her return. Well then, said he, the greater will be the miracle. The God that raised up Lazarus will raise her up, and that he would do so, he had not the smallest doubt. The evil, I replied, will in this case find its own remedy, for in two or three days she will stink you all out of the house. Colonel Harwood informed me, that several medical men had called and inspected the body, who agreed in opinion of her being dead, except Dr. Sims, who would not speak decisively, from her warmth, so that even on the question of death we could not agree.

Sunday 28 December 2014

28th December 1814: Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin visits Garnerin's 'Phantasmagoria' in London

By Wednesday 28th December 1814, Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin was back in London, after returning from her elopement to the continent with Percy Shelley in September. Aged 17, she was 5 months pregnant and, at that point, estranged from her father, and lived with Shelley, as yet unmarried.

Her journals for the 28th December record an outing that night that seems likely to have later have played a part in influencing her first novel, which she would begin 18 months later:
[Shelley & I]—go to Garnerin's lecture—on Electricity—the gasses—& the Phantasmagoria
'Phantasmagoria' was the name given to an exhibition of optical illusions via a magic lantern, a relatively new but very popular form of entertainment. It had also already come to mean a series of real or imaginary images experienced in a dream, or fever-like state. It was also the name of a French collection of German ghost stories, translated by Jean-Baptiste Benoît Eyriès, which Byron would read to Mary, Shelley and others 18 months later at the villa Diodati.

Garnerin was André-Jacques Garnerin, a pioneering French balloonist & parachutist, with a now lesser-know sideline in this kind of show. A front-page advert in the classified section of The Times of the preceding day announced his show:
THEATRE of GRAND PHILOSOPHICAL RECREATIONS.—The Professor GARNERIN has the honour to inform the Nobility and Gentry, that in consequence of his engagements at Covent-garden, his Theatre will be open this week, Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday, and he hopes to merit the approbation of his numerous visitors, by his new experiments on the Electricity, Gas, Aerostation, Fantasmagoria, &c. The performance begins at 7 o'clock. Spring-gardens room.
An advert for the show in the 19th January 1815 edition of the Times promised, in addition to the above, that Garnerin would "make the experiment of Johanna Southcott's Resurrection." Southcott was still featuring in April 1815, with an advert in the Morning Post of 17th April mentioning her and detailing 'Experiments of Electricity' featuring "the Electric Dance, Delineation of a Thunderbolt, Fire produced from Water, and Imitations of the Aurora Borealis."

Saturday 27 December 2014

27th December 1814: The death of Joanna Southcott

Joanna Southcott, as depicted by William Sharp in a print of an engraving from 1812. Sharp was a former radical turned millenarian convert & disciple of Southcott, one or her 'elect' or inner circle.

The death of Joanna Southcott was publicly announced in several newspapers, one of the earliest being the Morning Chronicle of Wednesday 28th December 1814. Their article was picked up by the Leeds Mercury of 31st December, and that version is published below:


"SIR—As you desired to be present at Mrs. Southcott’s accouchment, had it taken place, as was then expected; the friends consider it as their duty to inform you and all the medical gentlemen who had that intention, that to all appearance she died this morning exactly as the clock struck four.

"Care is taken to preserve warmth in the body as she directed; and it is the wish of the friends that you will see her in her present state.


"38, Manchester-street, Tuesday, Dec. 27, 1814.

"To Dr. R. Reece."


"SIR—Agreeably to your request, I send a messenger to acquaint you that Joanna Southcott died this morning, precisely at four o'clock. The believers in her mission, supposing that the vital functions are only suspended for a few days, will not permit me to open the body until some symptom appears which may destroy all hopes of resuscitation.―I am, Sir, your obedient servant,


"Piccadilly, Dec. 27, 1814."

As Mrs. Southcott’s believers are of opinion she has only gone into a trance (which she predicted twenty years ago), and that she will be delivered of Shiloh in four days, we shall (says The Sunday Monitor) on Sunday next be able to communicate further particulars.

Messrs. Wetherall, Adams, and Kent, were present when she breathed her last, as were Miss Townley, Ann Underwood, the housekeeper and Mr. Smith, one of those she determined her seven elect. The last words she was heard distinctly to utter were, "Oh England! England!"

The faith of the believers is now stretched to its utmost capacity. To imagine that a living virgin at sixty five would produce a son was pretty well! but to believe, firmly and steadfastly, that a dead virgin, beyond the grand climacteric, will return to life to become the mother of a living Shiloh, implies a stretch of credulity that stands unparalleled in the annals of fanatical delusion!

Number 38 Manchester Street, Marylebone in June 2014 (from Google Street View). The address at which Southcott lived up until her death.

Friday 26 December 2014

26th December 1814: A report about the ailing Joanna Southcott

The Leeds Intelligencer of Monday 26 December 1814 published an update on the ailing Joanna Southcott:


The extravagant and degrading folly of Joanna Southcott’s tribe is likely to be soon at an end, so far as such fools can be cured of their absurdity. The Priestess herself is about, as we understand, to drop her trade. Shiloh has not come, and no period could be chosen more suitable than the present one of disappointment for a general closing of the Firm. The report is, that the miserable old Woman herself is dying. We are yet unacquainted whether this be true, or whether it is not a new trick to smooth over the deception in a way, which leaving the imposture sufficiently undecided, for at least the vulgar roguery of her followers, may give room for new visions, and new practices on the public credulity. The whole business has been eminently disgusting, and we think, serious blame attaches to those in whose province the protection of public order naturally falls, for suffering this indecency and crime to go so far. We live in a Christian country; the spirit of the Religion is deeply mingled with the whole frame of our Civil Society; the law is made strong as well for the protection of feebleness and ignorance against low delusion, as against the more palpable violences that may derange the general system. We have a provision of Law expressly directed against impostures on our Religion. Why were they not put in force while such vagrants as Mr. Towzer and his coadjutors were holding forth in the face of the Police. It is a mere evasion to say, that the delusion would come to an end. It was not the less culpable and those who permitted it to take a single step towards the diffusion which it obtained. Why is the law put in force against the impostor who tricks a silly chambermaid out of sixpence for selling her fortune? And yet a delusion, so palpably gross and revolting as not to allow a moment’s doubt in any rational mind of its being a legitimate object of prevention and punishment, was suffered to spread to its full extent, and is now likely to be restrained only by the death of the wretched creature who lent herself to its vileness. Joanna Southcott's whole system was one continued course of grievous blasphemy, scarcely less guilty in those who allowed, than in those to whom it was made a source of profit. The profit was however immense, and the Magistracy would not do unwisely to clear their name of the possible imputation.

The above we have extracted from a respectable London print. The Believers here, however, are all on the alert. Mr. George Turner, (who is, we fancy, the High Priest, at Leeds,) received the following letter on Friday, from the Secretary of Joanna Southcott:

"I have the satisfaction to inform you, that our dear Joanna began to revive on Monday: Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, she appeared dying; her pulse at 8, and Dr. Reece said she could not live over Monday, therefore he was very much surprised to find on that day her pulse rose, and otherways better. Yesterday she said, "What will the Doctor say now?" Mr. Westerhill said she had pains that indicated approaching labour, but he could draw no judgement how soon. The life of the child is strong. I have no time to add more, than kind love to yourself, Mr Hurst, sen. and all friends, and remain your’s faithfully in the work of the Lord;


Dec. 21, 1814.
Numerous Christmas presents too, were sent by the Union Coach, from this place, on Thursday, so as to arrive in town for Joanna's Christmas-Day Dinner.

Sunday 21 December 2014

21st December 1814: The death of the prisoner John Baines the elder

'Hulks in Portsmouth Harbour' by Thomas Christopher Hofland, c.1830. The Halifax prisoners were held in ships similar to these at the adjoining harbour at Langstone, immediately to the east of Portsmouth
On Wednesday 21st December 1814, John Baines the elder, one of the 5 men from from Halifax found guilty at the York Special Commission of administering illegal oaths, died on board a prison hulk in Langstone harbour, Portsmouth.

Baines was the third prisoner of the 7 who were sentenced to transportation at York to die since arriving on the south coast. John Lumb had died in an accident within 6 weeks of arrival, and Baines' own son, also called John, had died earlier in the year, in March 1814.

Like with his son, the prison hulk register is the only source of information about Baines' fate, and the cause of death is not recorded there. He would have been aged around 67-68 at the time. Given his age, Baines had done well to survive for almost 2 years - his son was aged only about 35 when he died, and the prison hulks were notorious for their poor conditions.

At this time point, none of the prisoners sentenced to transportation at the York Special Commission had actually been deported.

It is not known where Baines' remains are buried.

Saturday 20 December 2014

20th December 1814: Lancashire Calico Masters call for the disbanding of the Journeymen's Union

Dog-Tavern, Manchester, 20th Dec. 1814.


AN ADDRESS from the MASTER CALICO PRINTERS in Lancashire and the Counties adjacent, approved of at a General Meeting held here this day.

THE Masters sincerely regret, that the conciliatory sentiments which they earnestly submitted to the Journeymen, by the printed Resolutions of the 22d March last, were not embraced; and, that the recent proceedings of the latter evince a determination to carry their unnatural system of controul to every possible extent.

If the blind selfishness of this spirit were not checked, the ruin of those who act upon it, as well as of their employers, must be the certain result — The trade itself would be forced into those countries where combinations do not exist, and where it will be left to the natural and genial influence of freedom.

It is notorious, that foreign competition is daily gaining ground; and if the English Printers remain inactive, or are not permitted the free exercise of their own discretion, they and the articifers they employ, with their numerous families, depending upon this branch of business, will inevitably become martyrs to the unlawful and extravagant claims and restrictions of the Journeyman, whilst others are enjoying the fruits of that ingenuity, and of those exertions, to which the establishment and improvement of the trade are so essentially indebted.

Under the increased and increasing pressure of these evils, the Masters were impelled to associate. They know that the interests of themselves and their servants are completely identified. They seek no reduction in the established rate of wages, and they are perfectly disposed to give employment to such of the Journeymen as are desirous of conducting themselves faithfully, and of submitting to the conditions which are indispensable to the well-being and prosperity of all trade. If any individuals yet obstinately refuse, their object will be decided, and they must sustain the consequence. The services of such men cannot be of any value, and they will not afterwards be accepted.

The CONDITIONS alluded to are these, viz.

They are to withdraw themselves entirely from all combinations to controul or restrict their employers, and engage not to be concerned in them for the future. They are to do all such work as may be offered to them in their several capacities, without attempting to interfere as to the kind or number of hands employed, or the machines used; they are to conform to the rules prescribed for the preservation of order and regularity in the works of their masters. They are to be subject to abatements for spoiled or imperfect work, not exceeding in any case the wages paid for the work done upon goods so damaged, except only in evident instances of malicious or wanton injury. And they are also, before they can be received, to sign a declaration in the form subjoined:
"I, A.B. do hereby declare, that I do not, nor will hereafter, belong to any combination, which has for its object the controul or restriction, in any way whatever, of my employers, in the free exercise or management of their business, nor will I, individually, attempt any such controul or restriction, but will, to the best of my ability, do such work as may be offered to me, in my capacity of <blank> during my service with <blank> and in all other respects conduct myself faithfully therein."

Wednesday 3 December 2014

3rd December 1814: Joanna Southcott's health deteriorates


Official Bulletin.—A material alteration has taken place within the last three days, in Mrs. Southcott’s situation.

On Thursday night, she complained of a great oppression insomuch that she could not lay down in her bed, nor be in one posture, but a very short time together during the night.

On Friday morning, she got some sleep, but waked frequently with the oppression and pain. Towards the evening she became restless again, had a very bad night, and this day, (Saturday) is so much exhausted, that she cannot keep her head off the pillow. She complains of a giddiness in her head, and extreme faintness all over her. She declares that she feels the animation within much stronger during these last three days than usual; sickness and pain continue, but not those pains that tend to any effectual good; only general pains all over her.

This is the state she is in at present; some change must soon take place, according to all human understanding, as she still continues without taking nourishment, except the wine, which does not remain long on her stomach. The sleep she has during the day, seems to be her only support.

Tuesday 2 December 2014

2nd December 1814: The government charges Charles Sutton with a 'criminal information' for libel

Around Friday 2nd December 1814, the proprietor of the Nottingham Review, Charles Sutton, was charged by the Attorney General with a 'criminal information' for libel for the satirical letter from 'General Ludd' published in the paper in October. The government had clearly decided that it had enough suitable evidence to try Sutton and he would face trial at the next Nottingham Assizes.