Tuesday 27 December 2016

27th December 1816: Joseph Allen confesses to frame-breaking in Leicester in 1815

The 3rd January 1817 edition of the Leicester Chronicle carried an article about a Luddite called Joseph Allen who had confessed to breaking frames in Leicester in June 1815 after approaching a constable in Loughborough on Friday 27th December 1816:
Friday last, a young man, of the name of Joseph Allen, a native of Melton Mowbray, and who has for some time past lived in Sheepshead, came to Mr. Edward Bilson, one of the constables of Loughborough, and voluntarily confessed, that he was concerned in the breaking of two wide-glove frames, at Mr. Mason’s, Belgrave-gate, in this town, as far back as the 17th of June, 1815, and that John Ross, a shopmate of his at that time, assisted in the transaction. Mr. Bilson therefore conveyed Allen to this town for examination, when it turned out that the account was correct, so far as to the frames having been then broken—that Allen and Ross worked in Mr. Mason’s shop at the time—that Allen absconded the next day, and although diligent enquiries were immediately made after him he eluded detection—and that his now coming forward and surrendering himself, of his own accord, was with the view of escaping punishment for an offence which he had recently committed at Sheepshead, together with the idea, that transportation itself could not make him more miserable than he had latterly been, from the pressure of the time. He is fully committed to prison for trial, and Ross, who has since been taken up and examined, is out upon bail, the magistrates finding that he was not implicated in the business in the way that Allen had represented.

Saturday 24 December 2016

24th December 1816: 'Song for the Luddites' by Lord Byron

On Tuesday 24th December 1816, Lord Byron was in Venice, Italy. In a long letter to his friend, the Irish poet Thomas Moore (which can be read in full here), he inserted a spontaneously-composed poem, which has been subsequently called "Song for the Luddites". The poem was unpublished during his lifetime.
... Are you not near the Luddites? By the Lord! If there's a row, but I'll be among ye! How go on the weavers—the breakers of frames—the Lutherans of politics—the reformers? 
As the Liberty lads o'er the sea
Bought their freedom, and cheaply, with blood,
So we, boys, we
Will die fighting, or live free,
And down with all kings but King Ludd! 
When the web that we weave is complete,
And the shuttle exchanged for the sword,
We will fling the winding-sheet
O'er the despot at our feet,
And dye it deep in the gore he has pour'd. 
Though black as his heart its hue,
Since his veins are corrupted to mud,
Yet this is the dew
Which the tree shall renew
Of Liberty, planted by Ludd! 
There's an amiable chanson for you—all impromptu. I have written it principally to shock your neighbour * * , who is all clergy and loyalty—mirth and innocence—milk and water...

24th December 1816: An extraordinary letter is sent to the Home Secretary from an Overseer of the Poor in Derbyshire

Melbourne near Derby Decr 24

My Lord

Permit me to lay before you a statement of the deplorable situation to which this ruined Parish is now reduced, I state no more than plain facts—There are upwards of 2000 Inhabitants 600 of whom have been employed in the Hosiery manufacture the whole of whom are now totally destitute of employment

The master manufacturers having mostly become Bankrupt; the few others have been compelled to relinquish Trade from want of means to carry it on

I myself for one have employed upwards of 200 men but through loss of property have been compelled to decline—The Poor Rates are upwards of 20 Shillings in the pound, and are daily increasing—last week The Overseers were obliged to seize the effects of no less than 40 Houskeepers for arrears of the poor rate, these 40 families of course are becoming claimants, the Workhouse cannot contain the people who apply for admittance—it has been enlarged considerably and still much too small, in fact, unless some means of relief be speedily adopted the whole parish will be reduced to a general state of Pauperism and Beggary—the few Farmers who are left are totally unable to bear up any longer—and must relinquish the cultivation of the soil, The Overseers are totally at a loss how to proceed—we ask advice? we claim assistance and it is from a motive of humanity alone I write to your Lordship, for, to see the distresses of my poor starving Workmen, of the poor in general is sufficient to rend a Heart of stone, the people are quiet, they are Loyall, but surely there is a point of suffering beyond which, it is not in human nature to endure as far as regards myself it is not material whether we have relief or not, I have still the means left of abandoning the Country; which I must shortly do if relief is not given. I have been in the habit of Travelling through most parts of the Kingdom and I can assure your Lordship this is pretty generally the case in the Manufacturing Districts—

His Majesty's Ministers delude themselves in supposing the evil only temporary, it is increasing and will increase unless the master manufacturers can replace their lost property, in short whether you believe it or not Bankruptcy and Beggary is like a Deluge rapidly overspreading the whole Land—

By shutting your eyes and ears against the Cries of all suffering people, you dont get rid of the evil, it is not by stifling stifling complaint, that a remedy is applied! although the bad Harvest has aggravated the evil it would have been little better had that not being the case—Something sufficient must be done soon too.

If I might be permitted a remedy, it would be to enable the poor to cultivate the soil, by giving them permanent employ and compelling Land owners to Allot a small portion of Land to each Cottage, where this is the case poor rates are trifling, but where they are driven by Rapacious Land holders & owners from the cultivation of the Soil to engage in manufactures, there the evil is pressing—if a heavy Tax were laid on all occupiers of Land above 100 Acres it would do much towards a remedy, one Family perhaps occupies 500 or 1000 Acres, this if divided would support 20 Families in comfort

Trade is overdone from it nothing can be expected—

I am
my Lord your Obdt Servt
An Overseer

24th December 1816: A Nottingham magistrate informs the Home Office of the attack on George Kerry

My Lord

I am sorry to inform your Lordship, that on Sunday night last the 22d Inst, a little before eight O'Clock, two men, one about five feet ten, the other about five feet Six, in brown Coats, with handkerchiefs tied over their faces, entered the house of George Curry a frameworkknitter at Aspley, in the parish of Basford, about two miles and a half from Nottingham, armed with pistols. Curry was sitting by his fire, with his wife, her mother, & another woman. The taller man immediately without saying anything fired a pistol at Curry, but fortunately missed him, & the Slugs with which it was loaded, went into the fireplace. Curry immediately advanced to close with him, when the smaller man fired his pistol at Curry, & wounded him in the head with shot, & under the eye with powder. The shot has been extracted, & the man is likely to recover. There was a third man at the outside of the door to keep watch. They then immediately went away without either breaking his frames, or robbing the house, & no trace can be made out concerning them. Their faces were so concealed, that neither Curry, nor the women can swear to them. Curry has not the least Idea who they are, or what could be their motive; he says he is not working at a reduced price, nor on a machine obnoxious to the Luddites: that he has not had any disagreement with any one, nor the least suspicion of any Individual. He lives at an odd house, about an hundred yards from Aspley Hall, the seat of Mr Willoughby member for Newark; who very kindly sent of his servant immediately that night, & I immediately sent off three Constables well armed from Nottingham that night to protect the man; & I have now placed a confidential Constable in his house, well armed, to protect him during the night, but I have not the least expectation that they will return. I thought it my duty as a magistrate for the Town & County, to give your Lordship a correct statement of this transaction, that in case Government should think it proper to take any public notice of it, they might be in possession of the particulars. If any discovery is made of the perpetrators of this atrocious Act, your Lordship shall have the earliest information.

I remain my Lord
Your Lordship’s most Obedt Servant
Charles Wylde D.D.
Rector of St Nicholas in Nottingham

[December] 24. 1816

Thursday 22 December 2016

22nd December 1816: Assassination attempt on George Kerry, at Aspley, Nottinghamshire - the final Luddite raid?

On the evening of  Sunday 22nd December 1816, an attempt was made on the life of a framework-knitter called George Kerry, in the village of Aspley, Nottinghamshire. The attack was probably the final Luddite raid, at least that we know about.

The attack drew limited coverage in the press at this point, with both articles getting Kerry's name wrong. The Leicester Chronicle of 27th December 1816 carried a brief Nottingham Review article:
It is with the greatest concern we feel it our duty this week, to record one of the most atrocious attempts at murder, that ever disgraced Nottingham. On Sunday evening last about a quarter before eight, as George Kenney and his family (who reside at a lone house by the road leading from Bobber’s Mill, to Bilborough,) was sitting by the fire-side, at supper, their house was entered by two men in disguise and armed with pistols. Kenney in attempting to seize the foremost man, was shot at by him, but without effect, and during the struggle the other man fired, but fortunately the slugs only grazed his head. The murderers thinking their object attained, instantly departed. The most prompt assistance was rendered by the neighbours, and the Police from Nottingham, but owing to the frost, and extreme darkness of the night, no trace whatever could be made of their retreat. Nottingham Review.
The Morning Post of the 28th December also ran an article:
Accounts have been received of another most atrocious attempt on the part of the Luddites to commit murder. On Sunday night last, as a weaver of the name of CURRY was sitting with his wife and a relation, two men knocked at the door and desired admittance. When they entered, they immediately made up to CURRY, and one of them discharged a pistol at him. The ball did not touch him. CURRY immediately made an effort to close with the villain, when the other man immediately five, and wounded him under the eye, but it is hoped not mortally. The men then retired, and made their escape. Their faces were completely disguised. CURRY does not know in what way he could have made himself obnoxious to the Luddites. He has not been working with machines, which are the objects of their hostility, nor has he been working under price. The magistrates took all possible steps, as soon as the event was known, to discover the assassins. A Constable was placed in CURRY'S house for his protection, but it is not supposed the villains will make a second attempt.

22nd December 1816: The death of John Blackner - a 'General Ludd'?

A mezzotint of John Blackner, after an original by R Bonington.
On Sunday 22nd December the Nottingham Review journalist & historian John Blackner died at his home & business, the Rancliffe Arms in Turn-Calf Alley (latterly Sussex Street) in Nottingham at the early age of about 47.

Originally from Derbyshire, Blackner occupied a unique place in the politics and society of Nottinghamshire during the Luddite period. Born in 1770, a native of Ilkeston in Derbyshire, Blackner’s original profession was an apprentice framework-knitter, before turning to lace-making when he moved to Nottingham in 1792. A heavy drinker throughout his life, Blackner was not averse to illegalism, having frequently turned to poaching to make ends meet when the drinking left his family short of money. Previously illiterate, after his arrival in the Town Blackner set about learning to read and write, and a few years later had become eloquent enough to publish political pamphlets. A political radical, Blackner was a regular contributor to the Nottingham Review newspaper from 1808, but his political engagement went beyond words in print and into industrial organising: in 1810, he was sentenced to a month’s imprisonment for conspiring to resist wage reductions in the lace trade.

Blackner also represented the trade at the highest level, when he took part in making submissions to Parliament as part of the Committee on the Petitions of the Framework-knitters, alongside Gravenor Henson and others. He was interviewed on 15th May 1812. Two months later, he became editor of Daniel Lovell’s London-based newspaper ‘The Statesman’, although this was short-lived due to increasing ill-health. Thereafter, Blackner returned to Nottingham to write for the Review again, and run a public house, the Rancliffe Arms (previously the ‘Bull’s Head’), which he had taken over in 1813.

In the last few years of his life, Blackner was no stranger to controversy. In 1814, the target of an attack by Luddites in Leicestershire, Simon Orgill, all but accused Blackner of orchestrating the raid (though not directly by name). Blackner responded furiously to the accusations in an article for once bearing his name, but Orgill was not satisfied and even took his concerns to the neighbouring authorities in Nottinghamshire, who passed them on to the Home Secretary.

Possibly the most serious affair Blackner was concerned in led to the jailing of his employer, the proprietor of the Nottingham Review, Charles Sutton. Again in 1814, the paper published a satirical  letter from ‘General Ludd’ to the Editor (i.e. Blackner). The letter posited that the General’s son, Ned, had enlisted in the army and has been sent to fight in the colonial wars in North America, and was now being lauded for destroying Washington, ironically by the same people who had decried his lawless efforts in Nottinghamshire but a few years before. The government, at the behest of the Nottingham solicitor Louis Allsopp, decided to prosecute Sutton as the publisher of the letter, and he was eventually jailed for 12 months for ‘seditious libel’. Throughout all of his, Blackner was never identified as the author of the satirical letter, even by biographers, who seem to have overlooked the parallel fact that his eldest son, John, was a soldier who was killed in America whilst taking part in the operation against Washington.

Perhaps Blackner’s longest-lasting legacy is his work as a historian, having published the epic ‘History of Nottingham’ in 1815. In the last 18 months of his life, the years of heavy drinking had finally taken their toll on him and he became particularly unwell before his untimely death.

Blackner’s position in relation to Luddism is uncertain. Whilst the Review (and therefore, arguably, Blackner) had always been critical of the methods of the Luddites, their attempts to illustrate the predicament of the framework-knitters had lead to widespread criticism and perhaps go some way to explain the relentless attempts to prosecute Charles Sutton. It’s likely that he was to a degree involved, and many aspects of his life suggest connections: his advocacy for the trade at the political level, his deep involvement in the Union leading to his prosecution & imprisonment, and his days undertaking illegal activity (i.e. poaching) leave it hard to imagine he didn't move in those circles and knew some of those involved. Then again, other than over the Simon Orgill affair, his name never crops up in the correspondence between the local authority and the Home Office, and the infamous Nottingham spy never mentions him once. However, one of Blackner’s biographers, John Crosby, wrote this fascinating passage:
At the commencement of "Ludding" he assisted the deluded men with his advice and in other ways, thinking that the system of terror they sought to establish was more likely to operate on the minds of the hosiery masters than cool dispassionate reasoning, but he lived to see the folly of the attempt, and was sorry for the part he had acted.
It is likely that Blackner penned the article in the Nottingham Review that gave birth to the ‘Ned Ludd’ mythos, at least outside of the Luddite milieu: the article was published almost 5 years prior to his death and is the earliest example in print of the use of the name Ned Ludd. Seven days prior to this, Blackner had written a leading article introducing ‘General Ludd’ to the world. Perhaps, after all, Blackner was indeed a ‘General Ludd’ of a sort other than the one he gave fictional voice to in 1814? We may never know, but this fascinating character is surely long overdue a more lengthy and serious biography than those that already exist.

Saturday 17 December 2016

17th December 1817: John Wheatley tells the Home Office that frame-breaking is 'falling into disrepute with the Workmen' in Nottingham

Wollaton Park Nr Nottingham
December 17.. 1816


In consequence of an Interview I had with my Lord Sidmouth, in the middle of October I take the the liberty, by his directions of addressing myself to you; on the state of the Public tranquillity in our neighbourhood.

Since I had the honor of speaking to his Lordship on the above subject, we have been sufficiently tranquil, & I [waited] the result of what has been styled the Spa Fields meeting to see if possible, if any commotion should subsist between the disaffected here & in London and as far as my information goes & opinion, I think there was none; & I have conversed with the frameworkknitters, round these parts not only in our County but that of Derbyshire & Leicester in particular; & I am sure no explosion is likely to happen in these parts at present; tho I must confess that a more regular system of meetings is evident, than ever were, for the last twenty five years—(as is termed for Parliamentary Reform) & very strong observations are made upon Public Men & Measures; Which I fear has another meaning. The time of the meeting of Parliament is looking to, with apparent anxiety & if no revival of Trade takes place in two months (which I see no prospect of) I dread the consequence; for there will most assuredly be so many Idle Men loose, that they will defy the Laws & proceed to outrage & their system here is far more regular than what appears to me, the system of the Londoners—besides they have so much local knowledge how to be troublesome to the Peaseable dispos’d and also the Military.

I think I am aware of the plans of the styled Ludites, so as to anticipate them; & to protect the Neighbourhood from disorder, & as I mean to be in London in [about] a week, I shall have the honor to wait on you, & Lord Sidmouth, to state the same & if my services can be useful to assure you of the same for it will be as agreeable to my own Principles, as it is my wish for the tranquillity.—

Should you require any particular information or any definite [point] & will state the same, as early as possible I am only three Miles from Nottm you may rely on my prompt attempting previous to my coming up.—I mention’d a particular Person in the neighbourhood of very violent sentiments against his Majesty's Government, this person is very frequently going to & from here, Birmingham & Manchester & those populous parts is, in my mind for rather mysterious objects.

There will be no more frame breaking here I think, if mischief ensues, it will be of a worse character: that system is falling into disrepute with the Workmen themselves; reasoning to themselves, the objects which I have before stated.—

Wanting the honor of your answer

I am very respectfully
Sir your most obt humble Servt
John Wheatley
Wollaton Park nr Nottingham
17th Decr 1816

Tuesday 13 December 2016

13th December 1816: The Home Office responds to Louis Allsopp's letter

Decr: 13th 1816.


I am much obliged to you for your Letter of 9th: inst, and the two Inclosures. The Purpose of enforcing the Provisions of the Watch and Ward Act at Nottingham appears to be accomplish’d.

Towle’s last Confession is very curious, and interesting, but the Particulars which he stated in it was but it was not likely that to be confirm’d by Corroborating Evidence, could have been procured: which it would have been possible to procure and his own unsupported Testimony, as King’s Evidence would have answer’d little [illegible] Purpose.

I remain therefore perfectly satisfied that the good done by the Execution of this Man is far greater, than any which could reasonably have been hoped for by sparing his Life.

I have directed a Copy to be made of Towle’s Confession, which I receiv’d some weeks since from The High Sheriff, and I hope to send it to you by tomorrow's Post.

It does not appear from any Information, of which I am possessed that there are sufficient Grounds of Suspicion against the Persons, whom it is proposed to apprehend as having been concern’d in the Attacks at Heathcoat’s to justify such a Proceeding: but this is a Point which will be best decided on the Spot.

I have referr’d to Mr: Beckett’s Answer of 26:th of November to Mr: Enfield's Letter of 23:d, and am unable to account for the Impression, which that Answer appears to have made on the Gentlemen of the Committee, whom it has been always my wish to treat with the Attention, and Confidence, to which they are so well entitled.

The good Effects produced and Nottingham by the instantaneous Suppression of the Disturbances in London on Monday se’nnight, gave me great Pleasure, and I am happy to acquaint you that they are not confined to that Place.

I am present much press for Time, Mr: Beckett being out of Town, and my Brother confined to his House by Illness.

I am, Sir,

your most obedient
humble Servt:

[From: J H Addington]

[To] L. Allsopp Esqr.

Friday 9 December 2016

9th December 1816: Louis Allsopp continues to use his back-channel to the Home Office

9 Dec. 1816.—

My Lord—

I only returned last night, & have lost no time in making the necessary applications to obtain for your Lordship Towles Confession, which I have procured from Mr Hooley, who received it of Lockett, thro Enfield, & I send it to your Lordship herewith; as well as a copy of some private Information, which has been obtained, to shew your Lordship the benefits received from the Watch & Ward Act. I could perceive from Mr Hooley, that the Gentleman here thought the Answer received by Mr. Enfield, to the letter he wrote yr Lordship, in consequence of Towles Confession, rather strange & mysterious, however I set it right by informing Mr Hooley, your Lordship had desired me to make communication of the Confession you had received. I took down the names of the parties alluded to by Towle in the Confession sent to your Lordship, but did not make a copy, & it [would] be very satisfactory if yr Lordship would send me down a copy, to communicate to Mr Hooley that he & the Gentlemen, who act with him, may compare it with their Sources of Information; this will please them, & destroy any notion they may have of your Lordships want of Confidence in them & if hereafter yr Lordship [should] wish it, I will obtain an account of the different Characters employed in Luddism.

The Execution of Towle has done great good, & caused much alarm, they say they dont mind Transportation but that Death is awkward—Mr Hooley informed me that the decided measures, taken by your Lordship to put down the Spa field meeting have very much dispirited the disaffected here.

Mr Hooley & his Friends want Heathcoat to apprehend some of the men concerned in the Attack upon his Factory, on Suspicion, with the hope that they will speak out, & that some of the others may be got at; now your Lordship has all the papers before you, you will be good enough to signify your pleasure to me, & I will accomplish it, if in my power—If your Lordship has any private points to instruct me upon, you will probably not think it too much Trouble to state them in a separate Letter, & to write me also such a Letter as I can shew Mr Hooley, that it may communicate to the Secret Committee, this will please them & by shewing the letter satisfy them of yr Lordships Confidence in them; but your Lordship need not write privately unless yr Lordship has any thing to say, not to be communicated to them.

I have [etc]
L: Allsopp

I hear the highest Character of Mr. Mundy as a magistrate

[To] Lord Sidmouth

9th December 1816: Henry Enfield suggests to the Home Office that the Luddites named by James Towle are arrested

Nottingham Decr. 9. 1816


Enclosed I transmit you, for the Information of Lord Sidmouth a copy of our last Secret Report

I thought that Lord Sidmouth had received thro’ Mr. Lockett a copy of the last Declarations of Towle—to-day I have given to my neighbour, Mr Allsopp, a copy of them—& he will I understand forward it to his Lordship—The re-perusal of it confirms the opinion of the great Advantages likely to result from apprehending at one & the same time all the persons there named as parties engaged in the Loughbro’ outrage—with the exception of course, of Slater & Badder

I have [etc]
H Enfield

[To] Rt Hble J. H. Addington

Tuesday 6 December 2016

6th December 1816: Informer's report about Nottinghamshire Luddites

6th December 1816.

I was at Basford on Sunday & when I got home about nine I learnt that Badder & Adam had been to see me—I saw Badder at Scattergoods on Tuesday night & he told me he had been to my house to get me to assist them to do Braley’s Factory because he is paying weekly wages instead of paying by the piece & making them do as much for about 18 [shillings] as they should have 3 or 4 £ for, but he said the time had gone by that the Job was intended to be done—They intended to have done the Job about 6 in the morning of Monday or Tuesday but were prevented from attempting it on finding they were better guarded than was supposed—He said the Watch at the Factory continued on longer than they thought viz. till 6 in the morning & they thought of doing it after the Watch & Ward went off—He said the Rules of the Watch & Ward were to go on at 6 at night & continue till six in the morning but he said they went off at 4—He said they meant to shhot Brayley as he was the cause of hiring for wages he advised me to get rid of the Watch which I had of Young Jas Taylor about 12 months since for he was committed & was telling—He said Brayley’s Job must be done but there would be a Revolution before next Spring or before & then many in the Town would be struck level with—He mentioned the Magistrates & Constables as amongst the proscribed.—There is such strict order kept in Bulwell Basford & Arnold by the Watch & Ward nothing can be done there at present—They go on duty at 6 at night & stay till 6 in the morning & shut up the public houses at 10—Two have been convicted the suffering tipling after 10—Reed of Bulwell one of them about a fortnight ago & Robertson of Bulwell the other last Wednesday—Two were convicted on Wednesday for abusing the Watch & Ward—The Watch go to the public houses about 9 to see who are there & if any stranger be there one of the watch stop till he goes away.—When Badder & Adam were at the 3 Crowns, Gent’s, on Sunday night, they were watched till they went.

6th December 1816: An Exeter man suggests moving woollen manufacturing from the disturbed districts to Devonshire

My Lord

If I am wrong in addressing this letter to your Lordship I hope the intention will be received as my apology; I will not however take up your Lordships time by more introductory matter but proceed at once to the point.—The Woollen Manufacture of Devonshire has ceased to be profitable, and has therefore in a great measure been abandoned.—The manufacturers of Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire cannot find a market for their goods at prices adequate to the cost of manufacturing them by the old machinery.—Messrs Heathcoat & Boden of Loughborough feeling a existing restraints applied to me, a year ago, to purchase a suitable situation for them in Devonshire to erect improved machinery and I obtained for them the five Mills of Heathfield Melford & Co. at Tiverton—The Luddites learned the intention of Heathcoat & Co. to depart from Loughborough and destroyed their Machinery, for which offence Towle lately suffered the penalty of the Law

Application has lately been made to me by upwards of wtenty of the principal manufacturers in Devonshire to sell their Mills for them, and the point upon which I am anxious to receive information is, the policy, in the present state of the country, of advertizing these Mills and offering them directly to the Manufacturers in the disturbed districts—I have a duty to perform to my Employer, but that must give way to considerations of a higher nature, and I cannot but feel that the offering of these Mills may be productive of some alarm but whither that alarm would operate favorably or otherwise I am not competent to decide; It is possible that the dread of losing their employment might quite the Luddites, it is also possible that it might stir them to greater act of desperation—Thus circumstance and before I take any final step I am anxious to receive better information and I know no where to apply for it but to your Lordship as Minister for the Home Department—Your Lordship may rely that any communication which may be made to me shall go no further than I am authorized to communicate it, and tho’ in the midst of Manufacturers from the north of this House I have not communicated to any one the step I have deemed it provident to take

I intend to remain in London one week and to remove to private lodgings No. 1 Southampton Buildings, Chancery Lane in the course of tomorrow—I have the honor to subscribe myself

My Lord
Your Lordships most humble Servt.
James Dean

Of Heavitree near Exeter
Parliamentary agent and
Land Surveyor

Castle and Falcon
Aldergate Street
6 Decr 1816

[To] Lord Viscount Sidmouth

Thursday 1 December 2016

1st December 1816: Jeffrey Lockett writes to Louis Allsop about James Towle's confession

Derby Decr 1st 1816

My Dear Allsopp

In the night before his execution Towle made a full confession to Mr Mundy, who was sent for to Leicester upon his request, of everything [within] his knowledge relative to the Outrage at Loughbro’, & the parties concerned in it.—He acknowledged the justice of this sentence—and lamented most bitterly that he had not availed himself of the opportunity which was afforded him becoming a witness for the Crown—Mr Mundy has [reduced] the confession into writing and I am in possession of a copy of it;—In some matters relative to himself, it does not agree with the evidence on the trial—but as to [Slater] it is a complete confirmation of it—and I have no doubt of its accuracy with respect to the names of Towles other associates—

The High Sheriff was present during the whole of Mr Mundys interview with Towle—you may have heard that after the conviction he would not permit any one to see the prisoner.—But he himself visited the gaol almost daily;—and it now appears that Towle, very soon after the assizes, evinced a disposition to discover whatever he knew relative to the outrage at Loughbro’ and the Luddite conspiracy.—You who know the High Sheriff will not be surprized, tho’ it must appear strange to any one not acquainted with him, that he did not think proper to acquaint Mr Mundy (to whose exertions the detection & conviction of Towle, were principally owing—and who was not well informed in everything relative to the Loughbro’ affair) with what was going on between him & Towle—and request Mr Mundy's cooperation & assistance. However he certainly opened a correspondence with Lord Sidmouth and reported to him from time to time, Towles discoveries—and it appears that the pardon of Towle in order that his information might be made use of against other offenders, was once contemplated by [illegible] his Lordship. The High Sheriff attended a meeting at his Lordships chambers at which the attorney general and I believe Lichfield were present when this point was considered.

Soon after the assizes I addressed a letter to Mr Beckitt in which I suggested a plan of operation which subsequent reflection & events have convinced me would have been completely successful. I received on this, as on all occasions the most kind attention from Mr Beckitt,—but I found that if I asked it must have been on my own responsibility.

The statement which I have received from Mr Mundy and the intelligence which I now possess respecting Towles previous confession to the High Sheriff leave no room whatever for a doubt, but that if Mr Mundy or any other person acquainted with the [business] had known what was going on between the prisoner & the High Sheriff and had been permitted to see the prisoner, the most desperate leaders of the Luddite conspiracy would have been brought to punishment—and the conspiracy itself perhaps broken up.

Enough, I think, some of the gang who were concerned at Loughbro’ might be brought to the Gallows—but there is but little encouragement given to Police Officers—but little discretion used in the [detection] of them—and but few magistrates who are disposed and told enough to exert themselves sufficiently to succeed against these desperados—you do not know Mr Mundy—He has all the energy and fortitude of his father—and with a little more experience will make a most valuable magistrate. He is the only one that I have yet seen who is qualified for this service.

I am likely to be in London about the 9th or 10th inst. I hope I shall find you there, when I can give you more particulars if necessary—I can depend upon your secrecy.

[Final paragraph obscured]

I am Dear Allsopp
Most truly Yrs
W. J. Lockett

Wednesday 30 November 2016

30th November 1816: 'A Letter to the Luddites' by William Cobbett


At this time, when the cause of freedom is making a progress which is as cheering to the hearts of her friends as it is appalling to those of her enemies, and, when it is become evident that nothing can possibly prevent that progress from terminating in the happiness of our country, which has, for so many years, been a scene of human misery and degradation; when it is become evident that so glorious a termination of our struggles can be now prevented only by our giving way to our passions instead of listening to the voice of reason, only by our committing those acts which admit of no justification either in law or in equity; at such a time, can it be otherwise than painful to reflect, that acts of this description are committed in any part of the kingdom, and particularly in the enlightened, the patriotic, the brave town of Nottingham? 

The abuse which has been heaped upon you by those base writers whose object is to inflame one part of the people against the other; the horrid stories which have been retailed about your injustice and cruelty; the murderous punishments which these writers express their wish to see inflicted on you; the delight which they evidently feel when any of you come to an untimely end; all these produce no feeling in my mind other than that of abhorrence of your calumniators. The atrocious wickedness of charging you with the burning BELVOIR CASTLE, in support of which charge there has not been produced the slightest proof, in spite of all the endeavours to do it, and all the anxiety to fix such a crime upon you; this alone ought to satisfy the nation, that it can rely upon nothing which a corrupt press has related relative to your conduct. But, still it is undeniable, that you have committed acts of violence on the property of your neighbours, and have, in some instances, put themselves and their families in bodily fear. This is not to be denied, and it is deeply to be lamented.

However enlarged our views may be; however impartial we may feel towards our countrymen, still there will be some particular part of them whose conduct we view with more than ordinary approbation, and for whom we feel more than ordinary good will. It is impossible for me, as a native of these Islands, not feel proud at beholding the attitude which my countrymen are now taking; at hearing the cause of freedom so ably maintained by men who seem to have sprung up, all at once, out of the earth, from the North of Scotland to the Banks of the Thames. At Glasgow, at Paisley, at Bridgton, throughout the noble counties of York and Lancaster, and in many other parts besides the Metropolis, we now behold that, which to behold almost compensates us for a life of persecution and misery. But, still, amidst this crowd of objects of admiration, Nottingham always attracts my particular attention. I have before me the history of the conduct of Nottingham in the worst of times. I have traced its conduct down to the present hour. It has been foremost in all that is public-spirited and brave; and, I shall be very nearly returned to the earth, when my blood ceases to stir more quickly than usual at the bare sound of the name of Nottingham.

Judge you, then, my good friends, what pain it must have given me to hear you accused of acts, which I was not only unable to justify, but which, in conscience and in honor, I was bound to condemn! I am not one of those, who have the insolence to presume, that men are ignorant because they are poor. If I myself have more knowledge, and talent, than appears to have fallen to the lot of those who have brought us into our present miserable state, it ought to convince me, that there are thousands and thousands, now unknown to the public, possessed of greater talent, my education having been that of the common soldier grafted upon the plough-boy. Therefore, I beg you not to suppose, that I address myself to you as one who pretends any to any superiority in point of rank, or of natural endowments. I address you as a friend who feels most sincerely for your sufferings; who is convinced that you are in error as to the cause of those suffering; who wishes to remove that error; and, I do not recollect any occasion of my whole life, when I have had so ardent a desire to produce conviction.

As the particular ground of quarrel between you and your employees, I do not pretend to understand it very clearly. There must have been faults or follies on their side, at some time or other, and there may be still; but, I think that we shall see, in the sequel, that those circumstances which appear to you to have arisen from their avarice, have, in fact, arisen from their want of the means, more than from their want of inclination, to afford you a competence, in exchange for your labour; and, I think this, because it is their interest that you should be happy and contented.

But, as to the use of machinery in general, I am quite sure, that there cannot be a solid objection. However, as this is a question of very great importance, let us reason it together. Hear me with patience; and, if you still differ with me in opinion, ascribe my opinion to error, for, it is quite impossible for me to have any interest in differing with you. But before we proceed any further, it may not be amis to observe, that the writers on the side of Corruption are very anxious to inculcate notions hostile to machinery as well as notions hostile to Bakers and Butchers. This fact alone ought to put you on your guard. These men first endeavour to set the labouring class on upon their employers; and, then they call aloud for troops to mow them down.

By machines mankind are able to do that which their own bodily powers would never effect to the same extent. Machines are the produce of the mind of man; and their existence distinguishes the civilised man from the savage. The savages has no machines, or, at least nothing that we call machines. But, his life is a very miserable life. He is ignorant; his mind has no powers; and, therefore, he is feeble and contemptible. To shew that machines are not naturally and necessarily an evil, we have only to suppose the existence of a patriarchal race of a hundred men and their families, all living in common, four men of which are employed in making cloth by hand. Now, suppose some one to discover a machine, by which all the cloth wanted can made by one man. The consequence would be, that the great family would (having enough of every thing else) use more cloth; or, if any part of the labour of the three cloth-makers were much wanted in that other department, they would be be employed in that other department. Thus, would the whole be benefited by the means of this invention; the whole would have more clothes amongst them, or more food would be raised, or the same quantity as before would be raised, leaving the community more leisure for study or for recreation.

See ten miserable mariners cast on shore on a desert island with only a bag of wheat and a little flax seed. The soil is prolific; they have fish and fruits; the branches or bark of trees make them houses, and the wild animals afford them meat. Yet, what miserable dogs there are! They can neither sow the wheat, make the flour, nor catch the fish or the animals. But, let another wreck toss on the shore a spade, a hand-mill, a trowel, a hatchet, a saw, a pot, and some fish-hooks and knives, and how soon the scene is changed! Yet they want clothes, and in order to make them shirts, for instance, six or seven out of the ten are constantly employed in making the linen. This throws a monstrous burden of labour upon the other three, who have to provide the food—But, send them a loom, and you release six out of the seven from the shirt-making concern; and ease as well as plenty immediately succeed.

In these simple cases the question is decided at once in favour of machines. With regard to their effects, in a great community like ours, that question is necessarily more complicated; but, at any rate, enough has been said to show that men cannot live in a civilized state without machines; for, every implement used by man is a machine, machine merely meaning thing as contradistinguished from the hand of man. Besides, if we indulge ourselves in a cry against machines, where are we to stop? Some misguided, poor, suffering men in the county of Suffolk, have distroyed threshing machines. Why not ploughs, which are only digging machines? Why not spades, and thus come to our bare hands at once? But, why threshing machines? Is not the flail a machine? The corn could be rubbed out in the hand, and winnowed by the breath; but, then, nine hundred and ninety-nine out of every thousand of us must starve, and the few that remained must become savages.

I will not insult that good sense, of which the men of Nottingham have given so many striking proofs, by pushing further my illustrations of the position, that machinery in general is not an evil. But, the great question to be decided, is, whether machinery, as it is at present exists, does not operate to the disadvantage of journeymen and labourers, and is not one cause of the misery they now experience! This is the great question to be decided. But, before I enter on it, give me leave to shew you, that the corrupt press, by which you are so much abused, is actually engaged in the work of sending us back by degrees into the savate state just described!

There is a paper in London, called the COURIER, which is always praising the acts of the government and always abusing the reformers in the most gross and outrageous manner. The Morning Chronicle asserts that the proprietor this paper has regular communications with the offices of government. I do not know how this may be; but, certain it is, that, through thick and thin, it praises the acts of the government. This paper, on the twenty-first instant, contained the following paragraph:—“Amongst other employments for the poor, it is recommended, that parishes should furnish themselves with hand corn-mills; that parish bake offices should be established; and that the women and girls should be employed in spinning and carding of wool. In Essex many hands have been employed to shell beans in the fields, which has been done so low as 3d. per bushel, a sum under that usually paid for threshing. By this means, the brans are got quick to market, first being dried upon the kiln, with the advantage of not being bruised, as they must otherwise have been, if threshed with a flail."

This is actually a bold step towards the savage state. It is exceedingly foolish, but, as I shall presently show, exceeding mischievous also; or, at least, it would be so, if the people had not too much sense to be misled by it. The mind of man has discovered a mode of preparing corn for making him food, by the use of brooks, streams, rivers, and the wind. His mind has subjected the water and wind to his control, and compelled them to serve him in this essential business.—But, these barbarians would fain render his discoveries of no avail. They would deprive us of the use of the Wind and the Water in this respect, and set us to grind our corn by hand. Still, hand-mills are machines. Come, then, let us resort to Robinson Crusoe's pestle and mortar. No: those are machines. Why, then, let us, like cattle, grind the corn with our teeth.

But, what good are these hand-mills to do the poor? Let us see. There is one mill in Hampshire which is capable of grinding and dressing 200 sacks of wheat in a day. The men employed in and about this mill are, or would be if in full work, about twelve. Now, there are about 200 parishes in Hampshire. Suppose each has a hand-mill, capable of grinding and dressing a sack in a day, and that is full as much as can be done by two able man. Here are four hundred men and two hundred machines employed to do that which would be a great deal better done by twelve men and one stream of water. Aye, but this would find employment for 400 men! Employment! Why not employ them "to fling stones against the wind?" What use would their labour be to any body? May they not as well be doing nothing as doing no good? In short, if the powerful assistance of the Wind and the Water were thrown aside in this important business, we should find ourselves making rapid progress towards the feebleness of savage life.

"Bake-houses:" parish bake-houses, are recommended; and, for what? People now bake at their own houses, if they choose, and yet they find, in general, there is little economy in so doing. Why, then, this new invention? It is a gross folly. Why not recommend us all to make our own shoes, our own hats, and so on throughout all the articles of dress and of furniture? Why is the baker’s trade become more unnecessary now than at any former period? But the folly is here surpassed by the mischievousness; because this recommendation has a tendency to excite popular discontent against the bakers, and to cause such acts of violence as form an excuse for the calling forth of troops. Seeing, that this is a matter of great importance, I will lay before you a statement of the Baker’s profits, by which you will see how unjust are all the attacks which are made upon that description of persons. The best way, however, to satisfy your minds upon this subject, is to suppose the same man to be both Miller and Baker, and to show you how much a Load of Wheat is sold for to the Miller, and how much it brings back from the public when paid for by them in the shape of bread. There is no man in England better able to speak confidently upon this subject than I am, having myself caused corn to be ground into flour by a horse-mill, under my only immediate inspection and superintendence, and having verified all the particulars with the greatest exactness. This very year I have sold wheat at market, and, at the same time, have ground the same sample of wheat into flour for my own use and that of my labourers. Thus I know to a certainty the profits of the Miller and the Baker both put together, and my wonder has been, that they find the means of living upon so small a profit.

I speak of a Load of Wheat, because my experiments have been made upon that quantity. A Load is 40 Winchester Bushels. A load of my wheat weighing 58½ lb a bushel, and, in the whole, 2349lb. yielded me 1487lb. of flour, fine and seconds; but, I take it, 1475lb of fine flour, and 807lb of Bran, Pollard, and what we call Blues. The 1575lb. of flour made 1890lb. of Bread, according to repeated experiments. The distribution of the Load of Wheat stood thus:—

In flour - - - - - - - - - - 1497 lbs.
In offal - - - - - - - - - -   807
Waste   - - - - - - - - - -   55

Weight of wheat - - -  2349 [sic: this should be 2359]

The waste arises partly from what goes off in dust about the mill, but chiefly from the evaporation which takes place when the grain comes to be bruised, because, though apparently quite dry and hard, there is a certain portion of moisture, or else there could be no vegetation in the grain, and, it is the small remnant of this vegetative principle, which causes the flour to swell. If dried upon a kiln, wheat will never produce light bread. Now, as to the money part of the concern. 

The 1475lb. of flour made 1890lb. of bread, or 438 quartern loaves, at 4lb. 5oz. each. The offal was worth, at the market price, a penny a pound weight. The Bakers in the village sold bread at the same time, at 1s. 1d. the quartern loaf.

438 loaves amounted to - - - - £23 14 0
807lb. of offal - - - - - - - - - - - - -  3 17 0
                                            £27 11 0

Market price of the wheat - - -  19  0  0

Balance - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -     8 11 0

Here, then, is £8. 11s. 0d more than the wheat cost. But only think of what is to be done for this sum! The wheat to be put into the mill; beer for the carters; the grinding and dressing of the wheat; the sacks to put the flour and the offal into; the carrying out of the flour and the offal; a delay in the sale; interest of the £19. and of all those other outgoings; trust and bad debts; the taxes on the Miller’s horses, on all he uses and consumes. Then comes the Baker, Fire for his oven; yeast; labour in making the bread; labour in sending great part of it out; rent of his house; all his numerous taxes; trust and bad debts; and payment for his time. Is it not wonderful, that a load of wheat can be manufactured into bread and distributed at so cheap a rate? But, in order to shew you what could be the consequence of destroying the trade of a Baker, let us suppose the flour of this load of wheat bought by 25 good large families, who require about a bushel of flour each a week. Here would be 26 ovens to heat and 26 women employed during the better part of a day. This would be a cost double in amount to the Baker’s profits; and, what then would be the case, if there were 50 or 70 ovens to heat? My good friends, I know it from very careful observation, that no family can afford to bake their own bread, even where they have ovens, unless they have their fuel for nothing; and I know, too, that labourers, who live in cottages of my own, who have nice little ovens and fuel for nothing, who yet purchase their bread of the Bakers in the village, if their wives have any sort of employment in the fields; and, they have convinced me, that, if the wife lose a days work in a week for the sake of baking, they lose by baking their own bread.

What, then, can the more foolish, more unjust, and more dastardly, that to fall with fury upon this useful, this necessary class of men? And what can be more base and wicked than the efforts of the corrupt press is making, to cause you to believe that a part at least, of your suffering arise from what they villainously call the extortions of bakers and butchers? There is no trade which yields so little profit as that of the baker. The butcher comes next; and, must it not be clear to every one, that if these trades make large profits, many more persons would go into these trades? Every man wants to get money, and, if money was to be gotten in so simple a way, would there not be plenty of people to come forward to get it.

The story of women and children shelling beans in the field at threepence a bushel MUST BE FALSE. But, if true, is it possible for any human being to shell in that way a bushel a day, while it is well known that a man with a flail, will thresh more than twenty bushels of beans in a day, and be in the dry, and be clean and warm all the while! But this is such miserable nonsense, that I will not any longer detain you with further notice of it. Satisfied, that you will be convinced, from what has been said and from the operation of your own good sense, that there is no just ground for anger against bakers and butchers, and that the cause of your suffering must be very different from that of any extortions on the part of such tradesmen. I shall now return to the subject of the machines, and beg your patient attention, while I discuss the interesting question before stated: that is to say, Whether machinery as it at present exists, does, or does not, operate to the disadvantage of journeymen and labourers

The notion of our labourers in agriculture is, that Threshing Machines, for instance, injure them, because, they say, if it were not for these machines, we would have more work to do. This is a great error. For, if, in consequence of using a machine to beat out his corn, the farmer does not expend so much money on that sort of labour, he has so much more money to expend on some other sort of labour. If he saves twenty pounds a year in the article of threshing, he has that twenty pounds a year to expend in draining, fencing, or some other kind of work; for, you will observe, that he does not take the twenty pounds and put it into a chest and lock it up, but lays it out in his business; and his business is to improve his land and to add to the quantity and amount of his produce. Thus, in time, he is enabled to feed more mouths in consequence of his machine, to to buy, and cause others to buy, more clothes than were bought before; and, as in the case of the ten sailors, the skill of the mechanic tends to produce ease and power and happiness.

The threshing machines employ women and children in a dry and comfortable barn, while the men can be spared to go to work in the fields. Thus the weekly income of the labourer who has a large family, is, in many cases, greatly augmented, and his life rendered so much the less miserable. But, this is a trifle compared with the great principles, upon which I am arguing, and which is applicable to all manufactories as well as to farming; for, indeed, what is a farmer, other than a manufacturer of Corn and Cattle?

That the use of machinery, generally speaking, can do the journeyman manufacturer no harm, you will be satisfied of in one moment, if you do but reflect, that it is the quantity of the demand for goods that must always regulate the price, and that the price of the goods must regulate the wages for making the goods. I shall show by and by how the demand, or market, may be affected by an alteration in the currency or money of a country.

The quantity of demand for LACE, for instance, must depend upon the quantity of money which the people of the country have to expend. When the means of expending are abundant, then a great quantity of Lace will be bought; but, but those means diminish, so will the purchase of Lace diminish in amount. But, in every state of a country, in this respect, the effect of machinery must be the same. There will always be a quantity of money to spare to expend in Lace. Sometimes, as we have seen, the quantity of this money will be greater, and sometimes it will be less; but, in no case do I see, that machinery can possibly do the journeyman lace-maker any harm. Suppose, for instance, that the sum which the whole nation have to expend in Lace, be £100,000 a year; that the number of yards of Lace be 500,000; and that the making of the Lace, at £40 a family, gives employment to 2,500 families. The Lace by the means of machinery can be made, it is supposed, at 4s. a yard.—But destroy all machinery, and then the Lace cannot be made perhaps under 20s. a yard. What would the effect of this be? No advantage to you; because, as there is only 100,000l. a year to spare to be expended in Lace, there would be a demand for only one hundred thousand yards instead of five hundred thousand yards. There would still be 2,500 families employed in Lace-making, at 40l. a year for each family; but, at any rate, no advantage could possibly arise to you from the change, because the whole quantity of money expended in Lace must remain the same.

Precisely the same must it be with regard to the STOCKING and all other manufactures. But, while the destruction of machinery, would produce NO GOOD to you with regard to the HOME trade, it would produce a great DEAL OF HARM to you with regard to FOREIGN trade; because it would make your goods so in price, that other nations who would very soon have the machinery, would be able to make the same goods at a much lower price.

I think, then, that it is quite clear, that the existence of machinery to its present extent cannot possibly do the journeyman ANY HARM; but, on the contrary, that he must be injured by the destruction of machinery. And it appears to me equally clear, that if machines could be invented so as to make Lace, Stockings, &c. for half or a quarter the present price, such an improvement could not possibly be injurious to you. Because, as the same sum of money would still, if the country continued in the same state, be laid out in Lace, Stockings, &c. there would be a greater quantity of those goods sold and used, and the sum total of your wages would be exactly the same as it is now.

But, if machinery were injurious to you now, it must always have been injurious to you; and there have been times, when you have no great reason to complain of want of employment at any rate. So that it is evident, that your distress must have arisen from some other cause or causes. Indeed, I know that this is the case; and, as it is very material that you should have a clear view of these causes, I shall enter into a full explanation of them; because, until we come at the nature of the disease, it will be impossible for us to form any opinion as to the remedy.

Your distress, that is to say, that which you now more immediately feel, arises from want of employment with wages sufficient for your support. The want of such employment has arisen from the want of a sufficient demand for the good you make. The want of a sufficient demand for the good you make, has arisen from the want of means in the nation at large to purchase your goods. This want of means to purchase your goods, has arisen from the weight of the taxes co-operating with the bubble of paper-money. The enormous burden of taxes and the bubble of paper-money have arisen from the war, the sinecures, the standing army, the loans, and the stoppages of cash-payments at the Bank; and, it appears very clearly to me, and these never would have existed, if the Members of the House of Commons had been chosen annually by the people at large.

Now, in order to shew, that taxes produce poverty and misery generally, let us suppose again the case of a great Patriarchal Family. This family we suppose to consist of many men and their wives and children; we suppose them all to labour in their different branches; and to enjoy each of them the same degree of wealth and comfort and ease. But, all at once, by some means or other, nine or ten of the most artful men make shift to impose a tax upon the rest; and to get from them in this way enough to support themselves and their wives and children without any work at all. Is it not clear that the taxed part of the community must work harder and fare worse in consequence of this change? Suppose this taxing work to go on, and the receivers of taxes to increase, till one half of the whole of the produce of all the labour be taken in taxes. What misery was that payers of taxes begin to endure? It is certain that they must be punished in two ways; first by an addition to the hardness of their work, and next by a reduction of their former food and clothing. They must, under such circumstances, necessarily become skinny, sick, ragged and dirty. For, you will observe, that those who would live upon the taxes, would each of them eat and drink and wear ten times as much as one of the poor mortals who were left to labour and to pay taxes. As these poor creatures would be unable to lay up any thing against a day of sickness or old age, a poor-house must be built to prevent them from actually dying by the road-side, and a part of the taxes must be laid out to support them in some way or other till they expired, or if children, till they should be able to work. 

There can be no doubt, that such would be the effect of heavy taxation in this case; and the same reasoning applies, to millions of families, only the causes and effects are a little more difficult to trace. Now, you will observe, that I do not say, that no taxes ought to be collected. Our vile enemies impute this to me; but, my friends, I HAVE NEVER SAID IT OR THOUGHT IT. In a large community of men, the must be laws to protect the weak against the strong; there must administrators of the laws; there must be persons to hold communications with foreign powers; there must be, in case of necessary wars, a public force to carry on such wars. All these require taxes of some sort; but, when the load of taxes become so heavy as to produce general misery amongst all those who pay and who do not receive taxes, then it is that taxes become an enormous evil.

This is our state at present. It is the sum taken from those who labour to be given to those who do not labour which has produced all our present misery. It has been proved by me, but, which is better for us, it has been expressed acknowledged by Mr. PRESTON, who is a lawyer of great eminence, the owner of a large estate in Devonshire, and a Member of Parliament for a Borough, that the labourer, who earns eighteen pounds a year, pays ten pounds of it in taxes. I have before observed, but I cannot repeat it too often, that you pay a tax on your shoes, soap, candles, salt, sugar, coffee, malt, beer, bricks, tiles, tobacco, drugs, spirits, and indeed, on almost every thing you use in any way whatever. And, it is a monstrous cheat in the corrupt writers to attempt to persuade you, that you pay no taxes, and upon that ground to pretend, that you have no right to vote for Members of Parliament. In the single article of salt, it is very clear to me, that every one of our labourers who has a family, pays more than a pound every year. The salt is sold in London, at 20s. a bushel, wholesale; but, if there was no tax, it would not exceed, perhaps, 3s. a bushel. Every labourer with a family must consume more than a bushel, which does not amount to more than the third part of half a pint a day; and, you will bear in mind, that there is salt in the bacon, the butter, and the bread, besides what is used in the shape of salt.

Now, is it not clear, then, that you do pay taxes? And, is it not also clear, that the sum, which you pay in taxes, is just so much taken from your means of purchasing food and clothes? This brings us back to the cause of your want of employment with sufficient wages. For, while you pay heavy taxes, the Landlord, the Farmer, the Tradesman, the Merchant, are not exempt. They pay taxes upon all the articles which they use and consume, and they pay direct taxes besides, on their houses, lands, horses, servants &c. Now, if they had not to pay these taxes, is it not clear, that they would have more money to expend on labour of various kinds; and, of course, that they would purchase more Stockings and more Lace than they now purchase.—A farmer's wife and daughters, who would lay out ten pounds in these articles, cannot to lay it out, if it be taken away by the tax-gatherer; and so it is in the case of the Landlord and the Tradesmen. I know a country town, where a couple of hundred of pounds used to be expended on a fair-day, in cotton, woollens, gloves, linen, &c. and where, at the last fair, not fifty pounds were expended. The country shopkeeper not wanting the goods to the same amount as before, the London wholesale dealer does not want them to that amount; and as he does not want them from your employers, they do not want your labour to the same amount as before. So that they are compelled to refuse you work, or, to give you work at low wages, or, to give away to you their property and means of supporting themselves and their families, which, in reason and justice cannot be expected.

Then, there is another very injurious effect produced by this load of taxes. The goods made by you cannot be so cheap as if you and your employers had not so heavy taxes to pay. Thus, foreign nations, which are not so much loaded with taxes, can afford to make the goods themselves as cheap or cheaper, than you can make them. Formerly, when our taxes were light, the Americans, for instance, could not afford to make Stockings, Broad Cloth, Cutlery, Cotton Goods, Glass Wares, Linens. They now make them all, and to a vast extent! They have machinery of all sorts, manufactories upon a large scale, and, what is quite astonishing, they, who, before our wars against the French people, did not grow wool sufficient in quantity for their hats and saddle-pads, now grow fine wool sufficient for their own manufactories of cloth, and to export to Europe.

This change has been produced wholly by the late wars, and more especially by our Orders in Council and by our Impressment of Native American Seamen, which last produced the war with America, to carry on which both parties, the INS and OUTS, most cordially joined. That war finished what the Orders in Council had begun. It compelled the Americans to manufacture; and, in order to protect own manuactures, the government of that country has naturally passed laws to check the import of ours. Thus, it is my good friends, that the manufacturers of England, Scotland, and Ireland, have lost a considerable part of the custom of ten millions of farmers and farmers’ wives and children. I foresaw this consequence, in 1811; and I most earnestly, at that time, in a series of Letters to the Prince Regent, besought the government not to enter into that fatal war. It was, however, entered into; my advice was rejected, and the manufacturers and merchants of his kingdom are now tasting the bitter fruit of that disgraceful war, which, after having cost about fifty millions of money, was given up in the teeth of a solemn declaration to the contrary without having effected any one of the objects for which it was professed to have been begun and prosecuted.

Thus, then, my fellow countrymen, it is not machinery; it is not the grinding disposition of your employers; it is not improvements in machinery; it is not extortions on the part of Bakers and Millers and Farmers and Corn Dealers and Cheese and Butter Sellers. It is not to any causes of this sort that you ought to attribute your present great and cruel sufferings; but wholly and solely to the great burden of taxes, co-operating with the bubble of paper-money. And, now, before I proceed any further, let me explain to you how the paper-money, or funding system has worked us all. This is a very important matter, and it is easily understood by any man of plain good sense, who will but attend to it for a moment.

Before the wars against the French people, which wars have ended in replacing our king’s and country’s old enemies, the family of Bourbon, on the thrones of France, Spain, and Naples, and which have restored the Inquisition that Napoleon had put down; before those wars, the chief part of the money in England was gold and silver. But, even the first war against the people of France cost so much money, the bank-paper issued in such great abundance, that in 1797, people became alarmed, and ran to the Bank of England to get real money for the notes which they held. Then was fulfilled the prophecy of Mr. Paine. The Bank could not pay their notes! The Bank Directors went to Pitt and told him their fears. He called a Council, and the Council issued an ORDER to the Bank to REFUSE to pay their promissory notes in specie, though the notes were all payable to the bearer and on demand. The Parliament afterwards passed an Act to protect Pitt, the Council, and the Bank Directors against the law, which had been violated in these transactions!

From this time, there has been little besides paper-money. This became plenty, and, of course, wages and corn and every thing became high in price. But, when the peace came, it was necessary, to reduce the quantity of paper-money; because, when we came to have intercourse with foreign nations, it would never do to sell a pound note at Calais, as was the case, for about thirteen shillings. The Bank and the Government, had it in their power to lessen the quantity of paper. Down came prices in a little while, and if the Debt and Taxes had come down too in the same degree, there would have been no material injury; but they did not. Taxes have continued the same. Hence our ruin; the complete ruin of the great mass of farmers and tradesmen and small landlords; and hence the MISERY OF THE PEOPLE.

But, some of the taxes have been taken off. Yes; about seventeen millions out of seventy, or about a fourth part. But the paper-money has been diminished in a greater degree, and, of course, farm-produce in the same degree as paper-money. Bread and Corn sell pretty high, owing to a bad harvest; but we must take ALL the produce of the farm, and you will soon see how the farmer has been ruined.


A load of Wheat - - - - - - - - - - - 33  0  0
A Cart Colt, two years old - - -  38  0  0
A Cow - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -  22  0  0
A Southdown Ewe - - - - - - - - -   1 18 0
A Steer for fatting - - - - - - - - - -15  0  0
                                           £109 18 0

A load of Wheat - - - - - - - - - - - 19  0  0
A Cart Colt, two years old - - - -  8  0  0
A Cow - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -    7  0  0
A Southdown Ewe - - - - - - - - -   0 18 0
A Steer for fatting - - - - - - - - - -  6  0  0
                                             £40 18 0

Thus, our produce has fallen off £69 out of £109 18s. and our taxes have been reduced only £17 in every £70. This has been the effect of the paper-money bubble. I speak this with a certain knowledge of the facts. I myself have eight beautiful Alderney Heifers, with calf, for which I cannot obtain 4l. each. Four years ago I could have sold just such for £16 each. I have twelve Scotch Steers, for which I cannot obtain £5 each. Just such ones, at Barnet fair, only in 1813, I saw sold for 13l. each. This has been the effect of paper-money; and by this cause have thousands upon thousands of farmers been already wholly ruined, while thousands upon thousands more are upon the threshold of the jail.

Here, then, we have the real causes of your sufferings, of the sufferings of all the labourers, all the farmers, all the tradesmen, and, in short, of every class, except those who live upon taxes

If, as I observed before, the taxes had been lowered in the same degree as the farm produce, the distress would not have been much greater than before; that is to say, if the sum total of the year’s taxes had been reduced from 70 millions to about 26 millions. But this could not be done, while the interest of the DEBT was paid in full at 5 per cent, while an army of 150 thousand men was kept up; and while all the pensions and sinecures and the Civil List were kept up to their former amount; and, besides these, all the pay of the Naval and Military People and all others, living, in any way, upon the taxes.

And why should such an army be kept up? There was a time, when a man would have been looked upon as mad, if he had proposed to keep up any standing soldiery at all in time of peace—But, why not reduce pay and salaries? The JUDGES, for instance, had their salaries doubled during the war, and so had the Police Justices and many others. When the WHIGS (the famous Whigs!) were in office, they augmented the allowances of the Junior branches of the Royal Family from twelve thousand pounds each eighteen thousand pounds each, per year. The allowance to the King, Queen, &c. called the Civil List, was augmented enormously. Now, you will observe, that all these augmentations were made upon the express ground, that the price of Provisions had risen. Well, provisions fall, and down came the wages of the journeymen and labourers; and why, in the name of reason and of justice, should not the salaries of the Judges, and the pay and allowances of all others in public employ come down too? What reason can there be for keeping all these up, while your wages have come down?

Then, as to the DEBT, why should those who have lent their money to the government to carry on the wars; why should they continue to be paid in full at 5 per cent. interest in the present money? It is the bubble of paper-money; it is the bubble which they have helped to make, which has reduced my Alderney Heifers from 16l. value to 4l. and why am I and you and all the rest of us to pay them as much as we used to pay them? The greater part of them lent their money to the government, when the pound note was not worth more than half what it is worth now, if we take all circumstances into view; and, what right, then, have they to be paid in full in the money of the present day? Yet, they are paid in full, and I am compelled to give them as much tax out of the price of a Heifer worth 4l. as I used to give them out of the price of the Heifer worth 16l. You will see, and you will feel most severely, that corn is now dear. But, this is owing to the short crop and bad harvest. This high price is no good to the farmer; but, a most terrible evil. If he should get 15s. a bushel for his wheat instead  of 7 or 8s. he will receive no more money; because he will not have more than half the quantity to sell. If I sell a hog at 15s. a score instead of 8s. I do not gain by the high price; because, I am, from the shortness of my crop of corn and the badness of the corn, not able to fat more than half as many hogs as I should have been able to fat, if the crop had been good and the harvest fine. So that, as you will clearly see, as to the present high price of corn and bread, as it cannot be any benefit at all to the farmer, and cannot at all tend to enable him to pay the enormous taxes that now press him out of existence.

Thus how I laid before you the real causes of your sufferings.—You see, that they are deep-rooted, of steady growth, and that they never can end but in consequence of some very material change in the mode of managing the nation’s concerns. They have arisen from the taxes and loans; those arose out of the wars: the was arose out of a desire to keep down Reform; and a desire to keep down Reform arose out of the Borough System, which excludes almost the whole of the people from voting at elections. It is a maxim of the English Constitution, that no man shall be taxed without his own consent. Nothing can be more reasonable than this. But, as I have shown, we are all taxed; you pay away half your wages in taxes; but, do you all vote for Members of Parliament? If the Members of Parliament, for the last fifty years, had been chosen by the people at large, and chosen annually, agreeably to the old laws of the nation, do you believe, that we should have expended one thousand millions in taxes raised during the wars, and another thousand millions which is now existing in the shape of DEBT? This is not to be believed; no man can believe it. And, therefore, as the want of such a Parliament is the real root of all our sufferings, the only effectual remedy is to obtain such a parliament. A parliament, annually chosen by all the people, seeing that they all pay taxes.

In 1780, the late Duke of Richmond brought a bill into the House of Lords to restore the people to their right of having such a parliament; PITT co-operated in this work with the Duke of Richmond; and PITT expressly declared, in a speech in Parliament, that, until the parliament was reformed, it was "impossible for English Ministers to be honest." Therefore, this is no new scheme; it is a measure long contended for and well digested; it may be carried into effect with perfect safety to every rank in society; and, it is my firm persuasion, that it is the only means of preserving order and peace. Indeed, I am of opinion, that it is the hope of seeing this measure adopted; that it is the expectation that it will be adopted, which now preserves that tranquillity in the country, which is so honorable to the understanding and the hearts of the people. God send that this expectation may not be disappointed!

In order that it may not, the people of every class should assemble and petiton the Parliament for reform. No matter how many or how few, no matter whether in Counties, Cities, Towns, Villages, or Hamlets. We have all a right to petition; to perform that right is a sacred duty; and to obstruct it a heinous crime. But in these petitions, the only essential object should be a Reform; for, though the want of it has produced numerous and great evils, still this is all that need be petitioned for, seeing that a Reform would cure all the evils at once. Trade, commerce, manufactures, agriculture, all would soon revive, and we should again see our country free and happy. But, without a Reform, it is impossible for the nation to revive, and, I believe, it is also possible to prevent utter confusion.

How vain, how stupid, then, are all the schemes of the writers on the side of Corruption for making employment for the poor! And how base all their attempts to persuade the people, that their sufferings can be alleviated by what are called "charitable subscriptions," which are, in fact, only so many act of insolence towards the numerous and unhappy sufferers, who are paying, in the shape of taxes, one half of the little that they earn by their labour!

These corrupt writers, in order still to cajole and deceive the people, (who, thank God! are no longer to be deceived) recommend to the Landlords and Farmers to make employment for the poor by causing commodious roads, foot paths, and causeways to be undertaken; by causing shell-fish to be gathered for manure; by causing lime, chalk, marle, &c. to be gotten and prepared; by causing land to be drained and embankments made! What folly, or what an impudent attempt to deceive! Why, these are some of the very things that the poor would be employed in if the Landlords and Farmers had money to give in wages; and, if they have not money to give in wages, how are they to have money to bestow in these works at all!

As to the “charity subscriptions,” the people seem to understand the object of them perfectly well. LORD COCHRANE sent them forth to the nation, stripped of their mask, for which we are so deeply indebted to him, which debt of gratitude we are not so base as not to pay. The people of GLASGOW led the way in their indignation against the Soup shop and its Kettle. At WIGAN, at OLDHAM and several other places, where Meetings of the Subscription Tribe have been held, the people have told them, that they want not Soup and Old Bones and Bullock’s Liver; but they want their rights. Indeed, these attempts to hold pretended charitable meetings are full of insolence. Those who are unable to work, or to find work, have a legal right to be supported out of taxes raised on the rich and on all Houses and all Lands. Why, then, are they to be held out as beggars; Why are self-erected bodies to insult them with their pretended charity? It is not the poor, who have brought the nation into its present state. It is not they who have ruined so many farmers and tradesmen. The law says that they shall be relieved; and, why are they to look to any other relief than this, until the state of the nation can be amended? 

But, before I conclude, let me beg your attention to a very curious fact or two as to the employment of the taxes which you and all of us to pay. In No. 18 of the Register, which contains an address to the Journeyman and Labourers in general, I noticed, that, in the account, which was laid before Parliament in the year 1815, there was a charge for money paid to suffering French and Dutch Emigrants and also the Poor Clergy of the Church of England. But, I observed, that I did not know, whether any such charges were contained in the accounts laid before Parliament this year, 1816. I have that account before me now, and, what will be your feelings, how will you feel towards the Soup-Kettle Fraternities, when you are told, that there are, even in this list account, a charge of seventy-five thousand pounds for the relief of French and Dutch Emigrants, and of one hundred thousand pounds for the poor Clergy the Church of England! This is, you will observe, quite a new thing. Never till the time of Perceval was any minister bold enough to take money, or, to get the parliament to vote money, out of the taxes, paid by the poor as well as the rich, to be given to the poor Clergy of a Church, whose dignitaries and beneficied people are bursting with wealth, and who receives in various ways, more than five millions a year? What! And have these Subscription gentry the impudence to look you in the face while these things exist? Have they the impudence to talk of their charity towards you, while they say not a word against seeing you taxed to help to make up the immense sums thus given in charity to the French and Dutch Emigrants and to the Clergy of the Church of England? Put these pithy questions to the insolent Societies of the Soup-Kettle, and tell me what they can say in their defence. What! Are you to come crawling, like sneaking curs, to lick up alms to the amount of forty or fifty thousand pounds round the brim of a Soup Kettle, while you are taxed with the rest of us to the amount of one hundred and seventy-five thousand pounds in order to give relief to French and Dutch Emigrants and to the poor Clergy of the Church of England! I do hope, that there are one of my countrymen who will be so base, I trust, that they have yet English blood enough left in their veins, to make them reject such alms with scorn and indignation.

If I had room, I would lay before you an account of some of the other articles of expense, to defray which you are taxed; but, as I intend, within three or four weeks, to shew you how all the taxes are expended, I shall now conclude this long letter by expressing my hope, that it will be proved by your subsequent conduct not to have been written wholly in vain.

For past errors I make all possible allowance. We all fall into errors enough naturally; and, no wonder that you should have adopted erroneous notions, seeing that the corrupt press has, for so many years been at work to deceive and mislead you. This base press, knowing what would be the inevitable consequence of your seeing the real causes of your calamities, has incessantly laboured to blind you, or to direct your eyes towards an imaginary cause. Machines, Bakers, Butchers, Brewers, Millers; any thing but the taxes and the paper-money, in all the acts of violence, to which you have been led by these vile hirelings you have greatly favored the cause of corruption, which is never so much delighted as at the sight of troops acting against the people. Let me therefore, most earnestly beseech you to think seriously of these matters; to stay the hand of vengeance against your townsmen and countrymen, and to harbour that feeling to the latest hour of your lives against all that is corrupt and detestable. I have taken the liberty freely to offer you my advice, because I have full confidence in your good sense and your public spirit. The hirelings have endeavoured to exasperate you by their revilings and menaces; I, knowing that brave men are not to be abused or bullied into compliance, have endeavoured to gain you by an appeal to your sense of honor and justice. The hirelings, call aloud for sending forth penal statute and troops to put you down; I send you the most persuasive arguments my mind can suggest and all the kindest wishes of my heart.

And, with these wishes, I hope I shall always remain,

Your friend,

30th November 1816: Another correspondent writes to the Leeds Mercury in the debate about shearing frames vs hand-cropping

MR PRINTER,—In your paper of the 23d inst. I observed a comparison between the dressing of cloth by manual labour and machinery. Now, though I cannot doubt the veracity of your correspondent, who asserts that more men are employed in the latter mode of dressing it; yet, being an old man, whose ideas perhaps may have been narrowed and contracted by age, I cannot give full credit to this assertion without some explanation, and such an explanation as may be comprehended by other old men, whose intellectual powers may be rendered equally callous and obtuse. I have, for more than forty-five years, had the government of trading concerns, have viewed improvements with pleasure, and have, in some degree, shared in the benefits thereof; and experience has convinced me, that the use of a certain degree of Machinery has benefited the labouring classes; but I am free to knowledge that I am not able to see, to my satisfaction, that dressing cloth by Machinery can produce to the poor shear-men any real advantage, because when in the dressing-mills I have seen that one man can well manage four pair of shears. If your correspondent, who has made the assertion, will be so good as give the A. B. C. thereof, in your paper, he will oblige me with many more of your readers.

It has been hinted to me, that if the croppers would lower their wages, say, be content to earn 20s. a week, instead of 30s.—that then the dressing-mill would not be employed. This may be worthy the consideration of the shear-men; but I admit that it is difficult to persuade men, that 20s. a week constant, is better for them than 30s. though liable to interruptions.

Saturday 26 November 2016

26th November 1816: The Home Office tells Henry Enfield that his plans to detain suspected Luddites is unlawful

W. 26 Nov. 1816


I am [directed] by Lord [Sidmouth] to [acknowledge] the [illegible] of yr [letter] of the 23d. inst with its Inclosure & in reply I am to state, what in practice must occurred to you, & the Magistrates, in the Course of Proceeding to be adopted in similar Cases—viz—that before a [Warrant] can be issued for the purpose of apprehending an Individual & binding Him over to keep the Peace, certain affidavits must be made in order to justify and support such Caption; these affidavits should, of course, set forth the Grounds upon which the Deponent believes that such danger exists; and the Party threatened should be able to make an affidavit that He verily believes His life is in danger, before a [Warrant] can be properly be issued for the apprehension of any Individual in order that Sureties of the Peace may be demanded against Him. You will of course apply these observations to the cases before You

It does not appear from any Communication from Mr. Lockett received at this Office, whether any & what Confessions have lately been made by Towle.

At present there does not seem to be sufficient Grounds for apprehending the Individuals alluded to in Your Letter, as being concerned in the Felony at Loughborough for which Towle was executed.

I have

J. Beckett

[To] H. Enfield Esqr.

Wednesday 23 November 2016

23rd November 1816: Henry Enfield suggests apprehending the men named in James Towle's confession to the Home Office

Nottingham Novr. 23d. 1816.


Herewith I transmit, for the Information of Lord Sidmouth, a Copy of the last Report of our Secret Agent—Its contents, as relating to Lawson & Barnes are very shocking—the name of Barnes here was yesterday chalked up on the Walls of the Streets here, with "Kill him" added—Last Monday night at 10 a person called upon Lawson & in most Secret Confidence told him that there was a determination to kill him & Barnes before Towle’s execution—Lawson & Barnes passed that night at the Police Office—& the next day the magistrates thought it right to send them out of Town—& they will remain away for some days longer. I think of advising the Sureties of the Peace being required from Badder & Slater by Barnes & Lawson, & having warrants out against them—they would not be able to find Sureties & must consequently go to Gaol—This would dispose of them for the winter—If Barnes & Lawson can safely do this upon Information not derived from our Source, it appears to me to be an adviseable Step—I should be greatly obliged by Lord Sidmouth’s Sentiments—

Mr. Lockett has written to me, stating that Towle made full confessions—& I am to meet Mr Lockett to-morrow—The particulars of the Confessions had been laid, I understand from Mr Lockett, before Lord Sidmouth—The Secret Committee wish me to request the immediate Consideration & Opinion of his Lordship, as to the expediency & propriety of apprehending at one time all the persons whom Towle has named mentioned to be implicated in the Loughbro’ outrage, or in any other, in order to [illegible] the Chance or from another of those miscreants impeaching – asking to be admitted Evidence &c—The Information upon which to assure the warrants might be made without difficulty by Heathcote & Boden—& if any would impeach, for instance against Josa. Mitchell, the (for the Loughbro’ affair) the Butcher & Shepherd might identify him at Aram’s Boat—& so, the Accomplice be corroborated—If the measure should not be thus successful, it would, at any Event, be the means of withdrawing during the winter the most notorious of the Set from the field of Action—The Secret Committee suggest this as the thought of the instant—& they submit the subject, without further reserve, to the Judgement of Lord Sidmouth & those whose high opinions his Lordship will probably take—

It has been a great satisfaction to the magistracy that Towles Execution & Funeral passed over without commotion—The strong measures proposed, operated very probably to prevent Tumult—

I have the honour to be
Your most Obt Servt.
H Enfield

[To] Rt Hble JH Addington

I request you to send me a copy of this letter—I should lose the mail—