Sunday, 29 May 2016

29th May 1816: General Byng sends an update about East Anglia to the Home Secretary

Milden Hall. May 29th 1816—

My Lord—

I have the Honor to inform Your Lordship, that it was reported to me from Downham last night, that the Magistrates had, immediately upon the arrival of the Troops I ordered there on the 27th, commenced apprehending the principal persons in the late disturbances there, and that the Military arrived there in time to send in some Cavalry to Wisbech, upon a representation from the Magistrates of their services being required—I expect a report from thence tonight, but too late I am afraid for this Post—

I am just returned from a ride thro several places in Cambridgeshire which were considered as disposed to riot, but every where I have been, I found them perfectly quiet, and at work—the Arrival of the Artillery, which I have placed at Newmarket, will spread some alarm amongst the ill disposed—

It may perhaps be considered too presuming in me in giving any opinion on the amount of Force it may be expedient to retain in these Parts, as your Lordship is probably much better informed of the state of the Country, than I can pretend to be—but at least I should be considered remiss in neglecting to do. I must trust that you will have the goodness to receive what I say on the subject is respectfully submitted to your consideration

As I am aware that the greatest part of the Cavalry placed under my orders are intended for other destinations, as soon as their services in these parts can be dispensed with. I am unwilling to retain them longer than is absolutely necessary—I hear not of any serious disturbance, and I think the measures your Lordship has adopted will be likely to deter any repetition of the outrages which were last week committed, I therefore hope that by the beginning of next week you might begin gradually to withdraw the Force—at the same time I venture to suggest the propriety of keeping at least a Troop of Cavalry and two Companies of Infantry in the Isle of Ely, until the special Commission have closed their proceedings and the sentence of the law (if required) has been carried into effect—I should have recommend also Cavalry to be stationed at Bury, and Norwich, particularly at the former place, as besides a crowded Prison there, and a large Depot of Arms and ammunition, they are well placed to move if wanted towards the places where disturbances have existed—I am perfectly aware that the magistrates in general, will be unwilling, yet a while to part with the Troops which they now have, as they are still naturally under some alarm, which will however I trust by degrees subside, much must depend on the call there is for the troops in other parts—I am fearful the same disposition may be appearing else where, the disturbances have been in general in all parts of this extensive district, that I am afraid it is not alone confined to the Eastern part of the Country—with respect to myself I have not a wish, but to remain here, or go elsewhere, wherever my services can be most usefully employed—it is my intention to go towards Downham in Norfolk tomorrow, and then I shall have completed a tour of the part of the Country, within my power to make during a days excursion

I have [etc]
John Byng
Major General

PS. I must request Your Lordship to excuse the haste in which I write to save the Post, having returned home late—JB

Rt. Honble
The Secretary of State
Home Department—

This letter can be found at HO 42/150.

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