Sunday, 10 May 2015

10th May 1815: George Coldham summarises the report of an informer for the Home Office

Private and Confidential

Dear Sir,

I promised to Write to you soon when I had last the pleasure of seeing you and I determined to wait the next Report of our Informant and to set about acquiring Information as to the Steps taking in the County to prepare a Military Force in Case of Emergency, but I am sorry to be forced to state to you that I very much fear we are upon the Eve of some particular movement.―I am not, I hope, credulous, but I will state to you what Information I have received and I must say, that from two or three other quarters and by my own Eyesight the probability of its being true is rather confirmed that contradicted.—Our informant by a Report delivered this morning says that there were many persons who had seen the curious Proclamation, I read you, and approved of it.—On Sunday night at one of the private and confidential Meetings of the Sett, he was told by one of these Luddites "that there was something else agate that not above one or two in this Town knew of, and it would be plopped out all at once (meaning the Disclosure would be unexpectedly made) – He states that he was with another of these men yesterday (his name he states and residence) and went with him to his Garden, in Sneinton Field and shewed him the Sutton Proclamation. He said he rejoiced very much and was very glad something was going on somewhere else as the Corporation of Nottingham were the damnest set of Rascals in the Country and there was that dammed bull neck Coldham if he got a bit of Information he was off up to the Government with it.—He said he should like to take the lives of some of them—He said what they did was the fear of losing their places,—He stated, when speaking about the Proclamation, there would be something happen in a few weeks they were little aware of as the Soldiers would be then out of the Country—He asserted there had been some men over from Leicester last week and there they were quite ready to join the rest―He said he had seen a man from Birmingham, who told him they were ready there – He said there was somebody, in this Town who knew better than he did what was going on but he did not say who he was — This man is much acquainted with Gravenor Henson, and he thinks it is he is alluded to as knowing better than he did what was going on from his manner of talking – He said they know their friends and they would be all ready to act when called upon".—In stating to you that the substance of this Statement is confirmed by corroborating Accounts and in some degree by my own observation.—I have remarked since my return a more than ordinary knotting and gathering together in small parties of the Common People at night such as always attends and precedes any considerable popular movement.—From three different quarters it has been reported to me from respectable sources of Information that conversations have been overheard which evidently have allusion to some popular commotion.—In opposition to this expectation it is right and proper and consistent with the fact to reflect, that all people whose minds are inflamed, are in the constant habit of overrating their strength and force and the extent of the support which they imagine themselves to possess.—The numbers that will talk and give support by words bear no proportion to the diminished numbers of those who will proceed to Action and these latter must be again increased or diminished in a degree scarcely conceivable by the apparent difficulty or ease of the proposed enterprize.—

From these reflections I been induced to look at our situation as one of no danger or difficulty if we are properly supported not to be trifled with without incurring extreme danger – I believe we are yet safe as we have at present very decent force of Dragoons and a reasonable proportion of Infantry, but Lord Sidmouth taught me to expect we should ere long be compelled to depend upon calling in the County Troops of Yeomanry to our aid.—On this Account I determined to apply myself to learn what steps have been taken on this subject by the County Magistrates, I have accordingly applied to one of these Gentlemen and I learn from him in a manner that leaves not the least doubt of the fact (and I beg of you to state it to Lord Sidmouth for his information confidentially from me relying that neither Lord Sidmouth or yourself will quote me or make me responsible for the accuracy of my intelligence) that the High Sheriff of Nottinghamshire or the Lord Lieutenant had already applied to one or two of these Corps stating that their Services would probably be wanted in the County without having had the pleasure of receiving any assurance that they would be forthcoming for that purpose if requested.—My Informant further stated to me that on a former occasion one or more of these Yeomanry Corps had been called out and that they had presented an Account of their expences to the County Magistrates which had amounted to £100 or £200 I doubt whether not £300 consisting of the Tavern Expences of Officers and privates at what these Gentlemen considered a very extravagant Rate.—That the consequence had been that these expences had been refused to be paid and it was believed they would be again refused to be paid by the Magistrates of the County of Nottingham both as they thought the extent of the charges on this account enormous and as the Magistrates considered it illegal altogether to pay a Military Force out of the County Rate Funds.—If indeed the King’s Troops were employed they should not regard giving them any compliment or remuneration for extra Services or refreshment or Provisions & prefer doing so to incurring the risk of encountering the extravagant demands of the Yeomanry – Let me not be mingled in any way in these questions, I have nothing to do with them but wait their results, which may leave us in absolute distress if not attended to.—We have no force but the Cambridge Militia which has been too long here & any Infantry want Barracks here to be effective for otherwise they are mixed up with the Mob, and cannot be kept in a state of regularity and discipline.—I strongly suspect that the People know well the disposition of these people and regard them as persons totally indisposed to be opposed to them.—The officers are well disposed & the Commanding Officer a personal Friend of mine but without Barracks they are unable to maintain Discipline and the constant state of Association with the Town’s People has had a very pernicious effect upon the spirit of the men if attempted to be brought into Action against the People. I would therefore strongly urge upon his Majesty's Government to judge whether it would not be expedient to provide us with Infantry Barracks here to some extent, but if they should do it I beg it may be done from their own Judgement on the subject arising out of the peculiar circumstances of the Town and Neighbourhood. In addition to the presence of a force, in Infantry which is still less essential than a force in Cavalry I beg to suggest to you whether it might not be practicable to make this a Depot of Cavalry by which there would be a constant force or the appearance of a regular force in Cavalry here available for the public Service.—

There is a most violent Petition signing to the Prince Regent against the War which is likely very much to heighten the present Inflammation of the public mind it is lying for signature at a private house the Mayor having his by his decided conduct respecting the public Meeting forced them to abandon all claim upon the public Rooms belonging to the Corporation for this purpose.—

I have written this letter with the full knowledge and approbation of the small private circle with whom I communicate who are the Mayor, my Brother Mr. Alderman Coldham and the Secret Committee.—I do not feel alarmed for myself but I am satisfied that if we have not at our command at all times a considerable effective Military Force, we ought at least to have such a force as would assume a formidable appearance.

Lord Sidmouth, I believe, thinks I entertain too strong a leaning against the Yeomanry Corps, but I confess I have no opinion they can be made equally effective in any tolerable degree in comparison with the Regulars.—I know that all the Farmers in this immediate Neighbourhood stand in awe of the Mob for fear of their damaging and setting fire to their Corn Stacks &c, and that this Feeling as materially as Mr. Justice Baile’ys Charge operated to the acquitted of Jas Towle.

Pray let me hear from you on the subject of this letter

Your’s very truly
Geo Coldham

10th May 1815

PS. The Report contains some of the Statements relating to the Operations of these Gentleman relating to the Trade & a Relation of some Threats of murdering or of a Desire to murder one Individual on Account of Circumstances connected therewith.

This letter can be found at HO 42/144.

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