Sunday, 26 June 2016

26th June 1816: Former Bolton spies appeal to the Home Secretary for financial aid

Bolton-le-Moors 26 June 1816

My Lord

It is with extreme reluctance that the following lines are offered to your Lordship’s notice, unaided as they are by any recommendations of persons of wealth or fulfilling the Offices of civil authority; the peculiarity of our situations however we trust will insure to us your Lordship’s pardon for the intrusion and obtain for us a due consideration of the contents of this letter—

We are three of those, we may say unfortunate persons, though very fortunate for this part of the country that some such men were to be found in it, who are the great hazard of our lives and to the detriment of our bodily health were mainly instrumental by the assistance of some others, in discovering and disclosing to the Magistracy of this Division all the horrible plots and designs of a set of disaffected men, calling themselves Luddites and illegally assembling at various hours in the nights and at various places in the vicinity of his town in the early part of the year 1812, with a view to promote in the end, nothing less than anarchy and confusion in the country and if possible, by their ill advice and example to excite in this kingdom open rebellion and overthrow of His Majesty's Government; we say such were their designs, however inefficient might be their means—With the sole view of obtaining information we attended numerous of the said meetings and disclosed immediately the proceedings thereof to the civil authorities as above stated and by means of an active magistracy and our exertions in the manner described, much rioting and disturbance in this neighbourhood, to say the least, was surely prevented—We afterwards attended at the Special and August assizes for this county in the said year 1812 to give evidence against several of ringleaders and abettors of the horrible plans we had used our endeavours to check most of whom were found guilty and sentenced to such punishments as the offended laws of their country warranted or prescribed—

We were fairly remunerated for the time we spent in these services by the Civil Authorities and we should never have appealed to your Lordship for any farther remuneration if all had ended with the destruction of the Ludding system; but as we from attending at the assizes necessarily became known pretty generally, as well as the services we are performed in the spirit of disaffection at that time running very high in this neighbourhood, popular opinion and prejudice became very strong against us and the losses we have since sustained in consequence had been very great and we are reduced to extreme necessity—

Your Lordship will easily conceive that we must have suffered grievously on being assured that owing to public prejudice, we sometimes have been unable to obtain any employment at all, and that at other periods we have been obliged to turn to such employment as has not suited our abilities or capacities, because it was not of that kind which we had been accustomed to or brought up in—One of us (Wm Orrell) through his wife became possessed of a moderate sum of money early in the year 1813, and at that time with the money he was possessed of, entered into the business of Public Victualler or Innkeeper, with a view as he thought of obtaining frizz numerous offspring a comfortable subsistence, but public prejudice was so strong against him, that with all proper exertion on his part, he has been obliged to retire from this situation, with his little capital lost and in great distress—Besides these disabilities which we have laboured under the insults offered us and the dangers to which we have been exposed have been serious and alarming, nay our lives have been plotted against and by chance alone have been prevented proving fatal to us.

We have often seen advertised in the public prints His Majesty's governments offering rewards to persons who should discover the authors or abettors of various felonious acts &c as was lately the case with respect to Norfolk, Suffolk &c & though we do not conceive that such voluntary offers of Govt. entitle us any more to claims beyond the just merits of our services and the awful predicament in which those services have thrown us, yet here we may remark that in consequence of our information and the evidence we bore against them at Lancaster, several were found guilty of felonious acts, and were accordingly transported, imprisoned &c—

Under all these circumstances we have determined to make an humble appeal through your Lordship as Secretary of State to the liberality of His Majesty's Government for some compensation for the losses we have sustained in consequence of, we trust meritorious, services in the cause of our country in the year 1812—We have long ago, finding ourselves so much injured meditated a memorial to your Lordship, whom we believe Julie appreciate our services and have a considerable time since applied to the magistracy to support it for us, but it never got done, they not seeming willing to encourage it Col Fletcher however one of the most active magistrates at the critical period alluded to best knows our services & circumstances and we have no doubt he would give every information in his power which your Lordship might wish & if your Lordship could wish any further particulars of our individual cases we should very willingly furnish them—

Humbly begging your Lordship will excuse the liberty we have taken and the favor of a reply addressed to Wm. Orrell on behalf of us all we beg to subscribe ourselves

My Lord

Your Lordships very
humble & Obed. Servants

Wm. Orrell
Ellis Schofield
William Hardman

[To] The Rt. Honble Viscount Sidmouth
Secretary of State for the
Home Department

Direct Willm. Orrell
Late Inn Keeper Greate Bolton..le..Moors—

All of these men were former spies under the orders of Colonel Ralph Fletcher to infiltrate workers organisations in Bolton, and were active in 1812. This letter can be found at HO 42/151.

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