Tuesday, 9 February 2016

9th February 1816: Charles Sutton is sentenced to 12 months in prison for political libel

On Friday 9th February 1816, Charles Sutton returned to the Court of King's Bench to receive sentence, after losing his appeal 8 days earlier. The Times of 10th February 1816 covered the hearing in its Law Report section:

The ATTORNEY-GENERAL moved for the sentence of the Court upon the defendant: we noticed the principal facts of the case in the argument on the motion for arresting the judgment: the information was for a libel inserted in the defendant's newspaper, entitled "The Nottingham Review," in which, under the form of a letter to the editor, a comparison was made between the conduct of the British forces at Washington, who had been rewarded, and the riots of the Luddites, at Nottingham, who had been executed. 
The defendant having taken his place on the floor, several affidavits were put in on his behalf from members of the corporation of Nottingham, who gave him a good character as a peaceable and well-disposed subject, and stated an opinion that the libel had been published from an error in judgment. The defendant’s affidavit set forth the age of his mother, who in her 74th year was dependent upon him, the sickness of his wife; and the heavy pecuniary charges he had sustained in consequence of this information. 
Mr. DENMAN then addressed the Court in extenuation of the offence. He was, of course, not nowat liberty to argue that the publication was not libellous; but he had contended that the trial, and begged leave now to repeat, that the conduct of the British troops at Washington, and of the Ministers who ordered that enterprise, was a fair subject of public discussion; and if it were restrained, the boasted liberty of the press, which professed to give this privilege as one of the main supports of our constitution, would be converted into a snare to entrap the unwary: the conduct of all the functionaries of the state had hitherto been deemed free to the canvass of the people; and it courts of justice were too rigid in punishment every time the bound was a little overstepped, the injury would be much greater the benefit. Such topics and others he had urged at the Assizes, and had quoted the words of Lord Ellenborough, in the King v. Perry, in which it had been once more laid down, that the administration of the King’s ministers was open to a fair and free scrutiny; the Sovereign himself was not free from errors to which God has subjected his creatures, and from which he alone was exempt. It had appeared to him, that to no defendant could that doctrine be more fitly applied than to the present; for at the period he published this libel, while the ill-gotten treasures of the Louvre had been spared, the public edifices and private dwellings of an unoffending capital had been razed to the ground. He would not enter before their Lordships upon points he had pressed upon the jury. In the court he now addressed, the language of the great Roman orator was verified:—"In hoc loco falsa invidia imbecilla esse debet, dominetur in concionibus, jaceat in judiciis—ab ingeniis prudentium repudietur.” ["in this place unpopularity arising on false grounds ought to be powerless, let it have sway in assemblies, but let it be overthrown in courts of justicebut let it be rejected by the dispositions of the wise" - paraphrased from the speech of Cicero in defence of Aulus Cluentius Avitus]. He was instructed to express the deep regret of the defendant that a Jury of his countrymen had found him guilty of a libel, not printed in the years 1811 and 1812, when the spirit of disturbance prevailed, but two years after it had subsided: which libel it was stated in the information, was intended to re-animate that spirit. It was some consolation, however, to the defendant to find that such calamitous effect had been produced. 
Mr. JUSTICE BAYLEY.—You do not swear that there have been no disturbances since 1812, and the fact is known to be otherwise. 
Mr. DENMAN was confident that no general resistance to constituted authorities have been shown since that period, though partial and temporary disturbances might have been committed. However it might be charged in the information, that truth was more especially with regard to the riots of the Luddites, that newspapers and pamphlets had had little or no influence, and that the true operating causes were "malesuada fames et turpis egestas." ["hunger and vile want are bad counsellors"]—The manner of treating it might be ill advised, but the subject which the libel dwelt might by some be considered as affording a fair ground from which to assail the government that had directed an enterprise, more like the lawless effort of an enraged multitude, that the regular attack of a disciplined army. He concluded by pressing upon the Court the facts stated in the affidavits. 
Mr. PHILLIPS, on the same side, declined making any additional observations. 
The ATTORNEY-GENERAL was not disposed to call for any undue degree of severity, or to ask the Court to break through the barrier that defended the liberty of the press; but it was not so trite as true that the licentiousness of the press was the greatest enemy to its liberty. If public measures were discussed, misrepresentation ought to be avoided, and, above all, no attempts should be made to excite discontents among the people. The influence of newspapers and pamphlets was greater than was generally believed, and for this reason it behoved those who preserved the public peace to be especially watchful that there nothing appeared that was likely to disturb it: distress and hunger might do much, but they alone would never have occasioned the dreadful scenes of 1811 and 1812. With respect to the effect of the libel in question, although it was contended that tranquillity had been perfectly restored long before its appearance, it was not a little singular that a person had been shot in his own house on the very day this publication appeared. 
Mr. DENMAN submitted that no such fact appearing upon the affidavits, the Attorney General could not refer to it: at the trial, the defendant was prepared with evidence to show that the libel before the court could have had no influence on that event, as it had been contemplated and plotted before its appearance. 
The ATTORNEY-GENERAL admitted the correctness of Mr. Denman’s remark: he had only mentioned the circumstance to show that the general spirit of insubordination was still alive at the time the libel was thrown among the discontented at Nottingham. 
Mr. JUSTICE LE BLANC passed the sentence of the Court:—that the defendant should be imprisoned in Northampton gaol for one year, and at the end of that time should give securities for his good behaviour, himself in 500l. and two sureties in 250l. each.

Monday, 8 February 2016

8th February 1816: Temperature of minus 12 Fahrenheit recorded in Leeds

On Saturday 10th February 1816, the Leeds Mercury carried this brief article about the extent of the severity of the winter weather recorded 2 days before:
A Correspondent observes, that last Thursday night, at 8 o'clock, the Thermometer, in Leeds, stood at twelve below the freezing point, being eight degrees lower than at any time during the present winter.

Monday, 1 February 2016

1st February 1816: Charles Sutton's final hearing at the Court of King's Bench

On Thursday 1st February 1816 & three months after Charles Sutton's application to have the guilty verdict against him set aside had been considered, his appeal had now reached the final decisive hearing at the Court of King's Bench in London:

The King against Sutton 
AN information filed by the Attorney-General against the defendant for publishing a malicious and seditious libel, to which the defendant pleaded not guilty, was tried before Graham B. at the last Nottinghamshire assizes. The information alleged, that at divers and very many times before the publication of the scandalous, malicious, and seditious libel, &c. (to wit) in 1811 and 1812, divers and very many acts of outrage had been committed by divers disorderly and ill-disposed persons, in and in the neighbourhood of Nottingham, against the property of divers of his majesty's subjects, and particularly against the frame-work knitted stocking, and frame-work lace manufactory, whereby the property of many of the subjects had in several instances been wholly destroyed, and that divers of the persons engaged and suspected to be engaged, in the perpetration of such outrages, had been reputed to act under the direction of some supposed and unknown person, called General Ludd, and had been commonly called Luddites, &c., and that there was war between this country and the United States of America, and that the defendant, unlawfully and maliciously intending to excite discontent and disaffection in the minds of the subjects of the king, against the king and his government, and to bring the government of the king into public hatred and contempt, and to excite persons to break the peace, and to commit acts of violence and outrage, unlawfully, maliciously, and seditiously printed and published the scandalous and seditious libel, which it set forth, and which was in the form of a letter from General Ludd to the editor of the Nottingham Review, contrasting the conduct of his son Ned, then serving (as the letter stated) in his majesty's forces under a commission to exercise his prowess against the Americans, with the conduct of himself and his family in their united efforts in breaking frames, that while these were commented on with severity, the scales were turned, and their enemies converted into friends, and sung a new tune to an old song, and the deeds of his son were trumpeted forth in every loyal paper, and his son was not now confined to the breaking a few frames, having the sanction of government, &c., and it concluded,—"though by the bye I am of opinion that all which I and my son have done in Nottingham and the neighbourhood, is not half so bad as what my son has done in America, but then you know he has supreme orders from indisputable authority for his operations in America, and that makes all the difference." Signed Gen. Ludd,

And in order to prove the introductory allegation as to the acts of outrage, the king's proclamation, dated 18th Dec. 1811, and the preambles to two acts of parliament, were offered in evidence. The proclamation recited that it had been represented to the Prince Regent that a considerable number of persons, chiefly composed of persons employed in the stocking manufactories, had for some time past assembled together in a riotous and tumultuous manner, in the town and county of the town of Nottingham, and likewise in several parts of the counties of Nottingham, Derby, and Leicester, for the purpose of compelling their employers to comply with certain regulations prescribed by themselves with respect to work and the wages to be paid for the same, and had had recourse to measures of force and violence, and had actually committed various acts of outrage in different parts of the counties above mentioned, whereby the property of many of the subjects had in several instances been wholly destroyed, and their lives and properties were still greatly endangered; and the proclamation went on to offer a reward for the discovery and apprehension of persons concerned in such proceedings. The preamble to the first act, 52 G. 3. c. 16. recited, "that the provisions of the 28 G. 3. for the better protecting stocking frames, &c., and for the punishment of persons destroying or injuring such stocking frames, &c. had been found ineffectual, and that such outrages had for some time past been carried on to an alarming extent." The preamble to the second act, 52 G. 3. c. 17. recited, "that considerable numbers of disorderly persons had for some time past assembled themselves together on different occasions in a riotous and tumultuous manner, in several parts of the county of Nottingham, and in the town and county of the town of Nottingham, and in the adjoining counties, and had had recourse to measures of force and violence, and had actually committed various acts of outrage in different parts of the said counties, whereby the property of many of his majesty's subjects had in several instances been wholly destroyed, and their lives and properties were still endangered." 
And it was objected that these documents were inadmissible for the purpose for which they were offered in evidence; for non constat that the acts of outrage recited in them did really exist, and if they did they were capable of other proof. The learned Judge admitted the first as being an act of the state founded upon the existence of outrages recited in it, and the others as tending to shew the notoriety of their existence. Evidence was also given by several witnesses, one of whom deposed to the existence of outrages in breaking frames in 1811 and 1812, and to his having seen the name of General Ludd chalked on the walls of Nottingham, and having seen songs respecting him; and that he was present at and assisted in the apprehension of some of the rioters at Sutton Ashfield, which is about fourteen or fifteen miles from Nottingham, who were running away from a place near to which he afterwards saw many frames broken, and that he heard them call themselves Luddites, and speak of General Ludd. Another witness spoke of having in 1811 seen riots at Sutton Ashfield, and frames broken there; and a third witness deposed to a transaction on the 12th of February 1812, at Nottingham, when about a dozen persons armed and disguised came into his father's house, and broke the frames, and that one called the other Ned, but he did not hear them call themselves Luddites, nor that they mentioned the name of General Ludd. Another witness also proved that he had heard General Ludd much talked of, and that he considered him to be a fictitious person, set up by the persons who committed the outrages in this neighbourhood, as their supposed leader. Upon this evidence, and proof of the publication of the libel, and the innuendos, it was found against the defendant. 
And in the last term it was moved by Denman that there should be a new trial; first, because of the improper admission of the evidence objected to at the trial. For the proclamation does not even state as a fact that outrages did exist, but only that it was represented that they did; but if it had stated the fact, it would make no difference, because it could not be proof of the truth of the fact . Even the certificate of the king under his sign manual of a matter of fact (except in one old case in Chancery, Hob. 213.) has been always refused, (a) And it appears by that old case that it passed without exception. Also the preambles ought not to have been received, because recitals in acts of parliament are not evidence of facts, but only of the opinion of the legislature. For instance, if one of these acts had recited that any particular house in Nottingham had been tumultuously destroyed, would this be evidence that the thing was so? As well might it be said that the insulting and arresting the person of the Russian ambassador, recited in 7 Ann. c. 12., or the stabbing of Harley by Anthony de Guiscard, recited in 9 Ann. c. 16., with the circumstances attending each of those transactions, might have been proved by the preambles to those acts of parliament, as evidence of the facts against the persons who were charged with having committed them; for if these recitals be evidence for one purpose, they must be so for all. Next, it was objected that the allegation, that acts of outrage were committed in the neighbourhood of Nottingham, was not proved, for the place to which the proof applies is fourteen or fifteen miles from thence, and therefore cannot be fairly said to be in the neighbourhood. Lastly, it was objected, that the Judge had misdirected the jury, because in the course of his summing up, he had stated to them that they were at liberty to refer to their own personal knowledge, if they saw any of those acts committed. Which doctrine, however it may have prevailed in ancient times, has been long exploded, and is incompatible with modern practice. (b)  
The Attorney-General, Clarke, Vaughan Serjt., Reader, and Reynolds now shewed cause, when it appearing by the Judge's report, that he did not refer the jury to their own personal knowledge, as matter of proof, for he stated that he conceived there was proof enough without it, but only as illustrating that which had been given in evidence, they contended that here was no misdirection. For is it meant to be said that a juryman is bound to reject all he knows, and is not at liberty, like other men, to use his own experience, in judging whether any particular facts which have been proved, are true? As if a fact which is perfectly notorious be proved by witnesses, is not the very notoriety one step towards the conclusion that the witnesses speak true? And even if the jury have received improper evidence, as where one of them, after the withdrawing of the jury, offered evidence to the others, yet if the Judge reports that the verdict is according to the evidence, a new trial shall not be granted, (c) And as to the admissibility of the evidence, the king's proclamation is an act of state, of which all ought to take notice (d); for it is a principle that every thing which relates to 'the king, as king of this country, is in its nature public, and therefore a gazette which contains any thing done by the king, in his character of king, or which has passed through the king's hands, is admissible evidence in a court of law to prove such thing, (e) Thus the journals of the House of Lords were admitted to prove the address to the king, and the king's answer to the House, in order to make out an averment in the indictment that divers controversies existed between his late majesty and his allies, and the king of Spain, (f) In like manner, as every man in England is, in judgment of law, party to the making of an act of parliament (g), and the preamble is a part of the act itself, surely these preambles were evidence to shew that the enactments were founded upon the mischiefs recited in them. And that such mischiefs did exist was proved by the testimony of eye-witnesses: as it said indeed, not in the neighbourhood of Nottingham, because they were fourteen or fifteen miles off; but this is, in a popular sense, the neighbourhood, agreeing with one definition of that word, viz. "Those that live within reach of communication." (h
Denman and Phillipps, contra, argued that it was plain, that both the proclamation and preambles must have been offered in proof of the averments in the information, because the averments are laid in the very same words: and though these documents might be evidence that the executive government and the legislature acted upon certain representations made to them, this by no means proves what the information alleges, that the facts represented were true, but only that the government and legislature gave credit to them; for if they could be carried farther, they would have greater weight than judgments, which are not evidence of any collateral matter. And as to their proving that the facts were notorious, if by that is meant a notoriety such as exists in general rumour, then the jury ought not to have taken that into their consideration; if it be meant that all the world knew them, then à fortiori they might and ought to have been proved. For to assume that the recital in every act of parliament is even primá facie evidence of the facts recited in it, would lead to very extensive consequences, and might sometimes perhaps bring the truth into hazard; as if the statute which passed at the dissolution of monasteries, should be taken as evidence of the fact that the abbots and priors, &c. of their own free and voluntary minds, and without constraint, &c. surrendered to the king, because the statute so recites. (i) So the preamble to a modern statute (j) recites, that Malta is now in the possession of his majesty, when it might have happened that at that time it was in the enemy's possession. And it is singular that one of the preambles now in question should have recited that these disorders pervaded the county of Nottingham and the adjoining counties, so that if this were evidence it might be adduced as proof that they existed in Lincolnshire, when it is perfectly well known that that county has been entirely free from them. But it may be asked, what peculiar force is there in the preamble of an act of parliament, that it should attract to it verity in every particular? It is but matter of inducement, and cannot be founded upon oath, for neither branch of the legislature can for this purpose administer an oath; whereas all evidence ought to be upon oath; and no instance is stated to warrant the admission of a recital either in an act of parliament or proclamation to prove a fact in issue. If indeed a mere act of state is to be proved, as that addresses were presented to his majesty (k); or a matter of diplomacy, as that the country stood in any particular situation with regard to its foreign relations (l); which are the cases cited contra; these from their nature can only be proved by state documents; but how does this apply to facts like the present? And as to the argument that there is evidence enough without these documents to sustain the verdict, whatever may be the rule as to that in civil actions, there is no such rule in criminal cases; on the contrary, the rule here is, that if amidst evidence which was proper to be given, evidence which was inadmissible was received, inasmuch as the Court cannot know upon what part of it the verdict was founded, nor even that the jury may not have disbelieved so much of it as was lawful, and acted upon that which ought to have been rejected, a new trial shall go. Also, in addition to the objection that there is no proof to sustain the allegation that outrages were committed in the neighbourhood of Nottingham, there is this defect in the proof of the allegation concerning those which were committed in Nottingham, that they are not proved to have been committed by persons called Luddites, or that they were acting under a supposed and unknown person called General Ludd; for all that is proved upon that subject is, that General Ludd was chalked on the walls; but the evidence negatives that any such name was mentioned at the time, or that any one of the party was called a Luddite. There is nothing therefore to connect these persons with this name, or as acting under General Ludd. So the allegation concerning the person called General Ludd is disproved; for the alleging that he was a supposed and unknown person, imports that he was an existing person; whereas it was proved that such a person was altogether fictitious. 
Lord ELLENBOROUGH C. J. If in this case I had been able to detect any particle of proof that ought not to have been offered to the consideration of the jury, I should have thought such vicious proof would have corrupted the verdict and avoided it. But after the utmost attention, I am unable to discover that there is any vice in any particle of this evidence. The material objection upon which the rule was obtained, was founded upon a supposed misdirection of the learned Judge at the trial, viz. that he had referred, in aid of some defect of evidence, to the personal knowledge which the jurors might possess, for proof of the fact that outrages had been committed in Nottingham; for as to their having been also committed in the neighbourhood of Nottingham, I do not think that it is material to prove both. It now appears however from the report, that the Judge did not lay any stress on the personal knowledge which the jury might be supposed to possess in order to aid any defect of evidence. On the contrary, it appears that he considered the evidence as fully sufficient to establish a verdict in favour of the crown; only he made the observation with reference to what they knew, as a matter of illustration, that it formed a part of the history of the county, that such outrages had been committed; as if he had said, every one must be aware of what has passed before their own eyes, and at their own doors; but he did not advise them to rely on that as a source of information on which they were to found their verdict, but only that it might make the proof more satisfactory to their minds, if they knew what had passed, because no one can have any reason to doubt what he knows and sees. It is conclusive, I think, upon the report, that the Judge did not leave this to the jury as forming a branch of evidence of itself. Next it is objected, that the acts of parliament were not evidence. For what purpose, then, are the Judges bound to take judicial notice of public acts of parliament, but in order that they may have a knowledge of them themselves, and communicate it to others? The Judge is bound not only to take judicial notice of their contents himself, but also to state the same to the jury; for if he is not to state them, for what purpose is he to take notice of them? According to the argument for the defendant, the Judge would be bound to take notice of them, yet would be precluded from stating them. I do not say how far this evidence was conclusive; I only say that it was admissible. Public acts of parliament are binding upon every subject, because every subject is, in judgment of law, privy to the making of them, and therefore supposed to know them, and formerly the usage was for the sheriff to proclaim them at his county court; and yet what every subject is supposed to know, and what the Judge is bound judicially to take notice of, it is said the jury cannot advert to; for if this evidence was inadmissible, it must be because the jury could not be charged with it. Next, as to the proclamation, I consider it as an act of state. The proclamation recites, that it had been represented to the Prince Regent, that a number of persons had committed various acts of outrage in the town, and in different parts of the county of Nottingham, &c.; and that the Prince Regent has thought it necessary to propound certain rewards for the discovery and conviction of the persons concerned in such proceedings. The propounding of these rewards necessarily implies that such acts of outrage have actually been committed, for otherwise it would have been nugatory to propound them. I do not say that it was conclusive evidence of the fact that these outrages were committed; but surely it was admissible, and like other acts of state to be laid before the jury. Next, as to the proof of the allegation that the persons committing these outrages were denominated Luddites; this was proved by eye-witnesses, and the very name of General Ludd on the walls confirms the common reputation that he was the supposed head of the persons acting under the denomination of Luddites. It is said, the information alleges that this was some supposed unknown person, and that it was not proved that there was any such person, but on the contrary, that he was altogether fictitious; but yet he was supposed to have existence for the purpose of carrying on these outrages, and whether he existed as a real or a fictitious person can make no difference. We read of the fancied existence of gnomes and sylphs, who are imaginary beings created and existing for the purpose of the plot they are to carry on, and who for this purpose at least must be treated as realities. In like manner this person had an existence, though it was created, and existing only in fiction for a particular purpose. Mr. Hobhouse said that he did not believe that there was actually such a person, but that he was set up as a person for the purpose of carrying on these outrages. It seems to me, therefore, that all the allegations and descriptions are made out in proof, and that there is not any part of this evidence to which it can fairly be excepted that it was inadmissible. And if this be so, I do not think that on account of an observation made to the jury by the learned Judge ex abundanti cautelá, this verdict ought to be disturbed. The report has cleared the case of the objection upon which the Court was principally induced to grant the rule. As it now stands, I am satisfied that the verdict was founded upon sufficient evidence, and that there has been no misdirection. 
LE BLANC J. This is an application for a new trial after conviction upon an information charging the defendant with having published a seditious libel. The application is grounded upon three objections; first, on account of the admission of evidence which ought not to have been admitted; secondly, because of the want of proof of certain allegations in the information; and thirdly, because the jury were referred to certain knowledge of their own as matter of evidence. This rule was granted upon a ground which I think cannot be disputed as a rule of law, namely, that if a verdict in a criminal proceeding like the present passes upon evidence, some parts of which are inadmissible and other parts admissible, the Court has not the means of referring the verdict to those parts only which were admissible, and it is their habit in such a case to grant a new trial. Therefore it becomes very material in this case to examine whether any evidence was received which ought not to have been received; and in considering this it is in the first place material to advert to the nature of the libel. It is a libel in the form of a letter from General Ludd to the editor of the Nottingham Review, reflecting on the conduct of his majesty's government, by comparing the conduct of the military serving in America, with the conduct of certain persons acting in Nottingham and the neighbourhood under the description of Luddites, representing that the son of the supposed writer who was serving in his majesty's forces in America, was now applauded for acts done by him in that country, similar to those for which the persons called Luddites were condemned in this country. Such is the nature of this libel. The first introductory allegation is, that before the publishing of the libel, many acts of outrage had been committed by divers disorderly persons in, and in the neighbourhood of Nottingham, by the destruction of frames. Now as to the objection that so much of this allegation as respects the committing of outrages in the neighbourhood was not proved, a satisfactory answer has already been given to it, namely, that it is not necessary. But as to its not being proved, there was one witness who proved the forcible attack by an armed party upon a dwelling-house in the town of Nottingham, and their breaking the frames there, and two other witnesses proved outrages of the same sort to have been committed in the county of Nottingham, at about fifteen miles distant from Nottingham. Therefore, if it were necessary to prove both parts of this allegation, I should think the evidence was sufficient. The next allegation is, that divers persons engaged in these outrages had been reputed to act under some supposed and unknown person called General Ludd, and had been commonly called Luddites. As to which the parol evidence proved that in two instances the persons committing these outrages called themselves Luddites, and spoke of General Ludd, and that that name was also chalked on the walls of Nottingham. Now this seems to me sufficient to substantiate the allegation, that persons who committed the outrages called themselves Luddites: and the name of General Ludd being chalked on the -walls of Nottingham was also evidence of the other part of the allegation, that they were reputed to act under a supposed leader of that name. As to his being an unknown person, Mr. Hobhouse proved that some persons might suppose there was a real person of that name, but that he considered him only as a fictitious person. This was certainly evidence in support of the introductory allegation, unless encountered by evidence on the other side. And that brings me to another objection, viz. that here evidence was received which ought not to have been received. This evidence consists of the king's proclamation, reciting that it had been represented that certain disturbances caused by persons employed in the stocking manufactories had taken place in Nottingham and several parts of the county, and offering a reward for the discovery and apprehension of offenders. There are likewise two acts of parliament reciting in their preambles the existence of these outrages, and making provision in the body of them, the first, for the more exemplary punishment of persons committing these outrages, the second,' for the better preserving the peace, by enforcing the duties of watching and warding. When the nature of these documents is considered, is it possible to say that they were not admissible, particularly as the libel refers to the conduct of the persons called Luddites, in destroying frames in Nottingham and the neighbourhood, and compares that conduct with the conduct of the military in America? Are not the documents material to shew that these disturbances existed in Nottingham, and existed to such a degree as to call for the interference of the executive government, and the legislature, to offer reward for their discovery, and to inflict a more exemplary punishment upon them, and to protect the peaceable inhabitants by compelling the observance of watch and ward? Surely they were evidence for this purpose, when the inquiry respected a libel of the description laid in the information, tending, as it is charged, to alienate the minds of the subjects from the king and government, and to make them think that what had been condemned at Nottingham by the government, was held laudable in America; when, according to the language of the libel, they were singing a new tune to an old song. I cannot see therefore any ground on which these public instruments could be objected to as inadmissible. They seem to me to go clearly to prove the facts which are alleged, because they shew in what way the executive government and the legislature acted upon them. The last objection is, that the Judge at the trial of this information left it to the jury upon their own personal knowledge, as evidence of the fact, to determine that these outrages had been committed. The Judge's report is an answer to this objection, for it states that he never left it to the jury to determine on their own personal knowledge that acts of outrage had been committed, but that he left that question to them upon the evidence. But in order perhaps to obviate tome observations that might have been made to the jury, to induce them to disbelieve the witnesses who spoke to these transactions as having been eyewitnesses, the Judge might advert to facts which were notorious to them as doing away the weight of any such observations. It seems to me therefore that we ought not to grant a new trial in this case, and that in refusing it we are doing nothing but what is perfectly consistent with the rule, which I admit to be a fundamental one, that where improper evidence has been received at the trial, the Court cannot sift it in order to see whether there be not enough which was admissible to sustain the verdict; because they cannot say on what part of the evidence the verdict was founded. 
BAYLEY J. Although I have not been free from doubt at times, yet on the best consideration that I am able to give to this case, I think that no evidence was received that was not admissible. And if the evidence had been confined to one branch of the allegation, either to outrages in Nottingham, or in the neighbourhood of Nottingham, I should have thought it a divisible allegation, and that such evidence would have been sufficient. The fact of outrages having been committed was proved not only by eye-witnesses, but the libel itself furnished strong evidence, upon its own admission, that such outrages had been committed; because the libel adverts to the breaking of frames as existing acts; and then the supposed writer speaks of what he and his son have done in Nottingham, there being no other acts mentioned as done by him but the breaking of frames: so that the libel itself goes to shew that outrages of this sort had been committed. The question then is reduced to this, whether the verdict is ill on account of the admission ,of the king's proclamation, and the two acts of parliament, in evidence. The proclamation sets forth, that it had been represented to the Prince Regent that a number of persons, chiefly of those employed in the stocking manufactories, had actually committed various acts of outrage; it is therefore an assertion on the part of His Royal Highness, that such a representation had been made to him, and he proceeds to act upon it, by offering a reward for the discovery of such offenders. This I think was evidence to this extent, and no farther, that a representation was made to, the executive government that such outrages existed, and that the executive government thought fit to act upon it; for they so far acted as to promulgate an act of state upon it. Therefore I cannot say that it was to be rejected, where there was other evidence. The preambles to the two acts of parliament I think are still more free from objection than the proclamation, and they assume as facts that outrages did exist. When we consider in what manner an act of parliament is passed, and that it is a public proceeding in all its stages, and challenges public enquiry, and when passed, is in contemplation of law the act of the whole body, it seems to me that its recital must be taken as admissible evidence (m), and in this case was confirmatory evidence. There is one point upon which for some time I entertained a doubt, namely, as to the allegation that these persons were reputed to act under some supposed and unknown person, whether this did not imply an existing person; but what has fallen from my Lord and my brother Le Blanc, has in a great measure removed that doubt; and I am not so convinced that it does import. an existing person as to differ in any respect from the rest of the Court.
Rule discharged.

Having lost his appeal, the guilty verdict given against Sutton at the Nottinghamshire Summer Assizes of 1815 was upheld, and Sutton would be sentenced in 8 days time.

(a) Per Willes C.J., Willes, 556.
(b) 3 BI. Com. 374.
(c) Kitchen v. Manwaring, cited Andr. 321. But as to whether a juryman's offering evidence to his companions without being sworn, will avoid the verdict, see 2 Hale P. C. 306. Sid. 235, Goodman v. Cotherington. Styles, 233, Bennet v. Hundred of Hertford. Tri. per Pais, 209, Duke v. Ventris. Salk. 405, Anon. Bull. N. P. 313.
(d) Wells v. Williams, Ld. Raym, 283 per Treby C. J.
(e) Rex v. Holt, 5 T.R. 445. Per Buller J
(f) Rex v. Franklin, 9 St. Tr. 259.
(g) 1 Bl. Com. 185.
(h) Johnson's Dict.
(i) 31 H. 8. c.13.
(j) 41 G. 3. c.103.
(k) Rex v. Holt, 5 T.R. 442.
(l) Rex v. Franklin, 9 St. Tr. 255.
(m) Sec Co. Lit. 19. b. as to the rehearsal of a statute.

Friday, 29 January 2016

29th January 1816: Tipton Colliers win concessions after holding mass assemblies

On Monday 29th January 1816, and following riots in nearby Dudley three days earlier, the mere assembly of Colliers in Tipton led to concessions. The Derby Mercury of 1st February 1816 carried a report:
The neighbourhood of Tipton was on Monday morning alarmed by the collecting together several hundreds of Colliers. About two o'clock the military quartered in Wolverhampton were sent for, and a troop of the 9th Light Dragoons, and a detachment of Berkshire Militia, accompanied by the Rev. A. B. Haden, immediately proceeded to the spot, where they were met by the Rev. D. Lewis, another Magistrate, with a military force from Birmingham. The Colliers have not committed any acts of violence, and they all not only professed, but evinced a disposition to act in the most orderly manner, by dispersing, after being reasoned with and desired to do so. The motive for their collecting, they said, was to resist a further drop of sixpence per day in their wages, by their chaster masters. A satisfactory arrangement was made with them, and they have returned to their employment.

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

26th January 1816: Colliers riot in Dudley, West Midlands

On Friday 26th January 1816, major disturbances took place in the town of Dudley, in the West Midlands. The Derby Mercury of 1st February 1816 carried a report:
We regret to add, that the vicinity of Dudley has also, during the last week, been disturbed by illegal and riotous assemblages of colliers, who have in several instances proceeded to acts of atrocious and unprovoked violence.—It appears from an advertisement in Aris’s Birmingham Gazette, that an assault of the most outrageous nature was on Friday made, by a party of these misguided men, upon the person of a respectable gentleman in the neighbourhood of that town. We are happy to find that a liberal reward has been offered for the apprehension of the offenders, and we trust they will be speedily given up to justice. A large party of colliers, armed with sticks and bludgeons, passed through Dudley on Friday evening, on their way towards Tipton. They halted opposite the town hall, where having given several shouts of defiance, accompanied by signs of resistance should they be interrupted, they proceeded forward. Military aid reached on the following morning (Saturday) from Coventry; and we hope, under the able guidance of the magistracy, they will effectually intimidate them from further acts of excess.
The Lancaster Gazette of 10th February 1816 went into more detail about the 'outrageous assault' on the 'respectable gentleman':
A few days since a mob of colliers assembled in the vicinity of Dudley, and seizing a Mr. Parker, put a rope round his neck, and threatened to hang him, unless he acceded to their demands. 
The Leeds Mercury of the same date related the same incident, albeit with slightly differing detail:
...a party attacked Mr. Zephaniah Parkes, near Holly Hall, put a rope round his neck and threatened to hang him, unless he acceded to their illegal demands

Friday, 22 January 2016

22nd January 1816: The Chief Secretary to the Treasury replies again to Francis Raynes

Treasury-Chambers, 22d January, 1816.


I have received your letter of the 5th inst. and I am induced to trouble you with this in reply to it, rather to satisfy your fears of your letter being thrown aside, than because I have any information to communicate. When you wrote to me in November, I was absent from this country, which was the cause of my not writing to you. Since my return, I was at first very unwell, and since then, I have been so much occupied by my official duties, that I have not had one moment of leisure to give to applications such as yours: but I can now assure you, that I will take an early opportunity of speaking to Lord Sidmouth about you, and that, when I have any intelligence that may be agreeable to communicate, you may depend upon hearing from me.

I am, Sir,

Your faithful humble Servant,


Wednesday, 20 January 2016

20th January 1816: Fire at a Scribbling Mill in Leeds, 'cause not yet ascertained'

The Leeds Mercury of Saturday 27th January 1816 reported a fire that had taken place in Leeds the week previously:
Saturday morning, about half-past 3 o'clock, an alarming fire broke out in the manufactory of Messrs. Glovers, in Park-Lane, in this town, from some cause not yet ascertained, The flames spread with such destructive rapidity, that in less than an hour, the scribbling-mill in which the fire originated, with all the machinery, was totally destroyed, and for some time the most serious apprehensions were entertained for the adjoining buildings, but at 6 o'clock the fire was happily got under, and the dwelling-house, and warehouse, with the engine-house, all adjoining, were preserved. It affords us pleasure to add that the stock, machinery, and buildings were insured in the Royal-Exchange office. Providentially the morning was extremely calm, and to this circumstance, combined with the most active exertions of the inhabitants; the preservation of  any part of this extensive property is to be attributed.

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

19th January 1816: 19 men imprisoned for machine-breaking in Suffolk in 1815

On Friday 19th January 1816, the Cambridge Chronicle carried reports from two recent Quarter Sessions in the county, where cases of machine breaking that had taken place in Suffolk in 1815 were dealt with.

At the Ipswich Quarter Sessions 12 men (4 more than were initially charged) were tried for destroying a threshing machine at Holbrook, Suffolk the previous August:
At Ipswich sessions, Daniel Grimwood, Thomas Seager, Joseph Cook, Martin Gosling, ____ Sells, John Driver, Jerry Lucas, ____ Bayley, Robert Payne, Samuel Page, Robert Page, and S. Turner, were indicted for appearing in a riotous manner in the parish of Holbrook, on the 3d of August last, and there breaking and destroying a threshing machine, the property of John Roper, of Wilby.—Mr. Stocks, for the prosecutions, insisted upon the urgent necessity of supporting the laws, and after the evidence, which was full and conclusive, had been gone through, the prisoners were called upon for their defence, but they had little to urge except the difficulty of gaining employment, which they attributed to the use of machines.—Several persons were called, who gave them excellent characters. The Jury brought in the whole Guilty, and the sentence of the Court was,  that Grimwood, Seager, Cook, and Gosling should be imprisoned for twelve calendar months; Sells and two others, for nine months, and the remainder of the prisoners for six months.
At Woodbridge Quarter Sessions, a total of 7 men were tried for destroying 3 threshing machines in disturbances that had involved a total of 100 people the previous November:
At the quarter sessions at Woodbridge, Edmund Prime, Wm. Garnham, Wm. Bannister, John Abbott, Wm. Barker, and Thos, Stevens, charged with breaking machines in the parishes of Kenton and [Monk]-soham, and also for subsequent riot and misdemeanour, were found Guilty, and ordered to be imprisoned twelve months in the county gaol.—John Brunwin, for the like offence, was sentenced to be imprisoned six months in the same gaol.—It is much to be hoped that these necessary examples will have the effect of preventing such excesses for the future—excesses not only disastrous to the objects of them, but ruinous to the perpetrators.

Sunday, 17 January 2016

17th January 1816: Cloth belonging to Wormald, Gott & Wormald damaged in Leeds

Some time in the evening of Wednesday 17th January 1816, some cloth upon the tenters at the Park Lane factory of Wormald, Gott & Wormald was cut and damaged. The subsequent reward notice gave more detail:

One Hundred Guineas.
Tenters Cut. 
WHEREAS, late last Night, or early this Morning, some Person or Persons, did wilfully and maliciously CUT TWO PIECES of COARSE MIXTURE CLOTH, in various Directions, on the Tenters in the Front of Mr. Gott's House, in Park-Lane, Leeds, the Property of Messrs. Wormald, Gott and Wormald, of Leeds, Merchants. 
F Whoever will give Information of the Offender or Offenders shall, upon Conviction, receive a Reward of NINETY GUINEAS from the said Messrs. Wormald, Gott and Wormald; and a further Reward of TEN GUINEAS, at Mr. Smith's Office, Trinity-Lane, Leeds. 
Leeds, 17th January, 1816.

Saturday, 16 January 2016

16th January 1816: The Leeds Cloth Dressers Union case comes to court

On Tuesday 16th January 1816, the case of the Union Officers arrested and charged with aiding and abetting an illegal combination (i.e. Trade Union) by Leeds Magistrates in December was heard at Leeds Borough Quarter Sessions. The Leeds Mercury of 20th January 1816 gave a good summary of the proceedings:

TILLOTSON, SUNDERLAND, & OTHERS, Appellants, REX, Respondent
The Appellants, who are cloth-dressers, were convicted on Tuesday, the 19th of December last, by Whittell York, Esq. Mayor, and Thomas Ikin, Esq. on a charge of combining to hinder Messrs. Oates and Hardisty, cloth-merchants, of this town, from employing Thomas Marshall, as a cloth-dresser. Mr. Williams, who came from Preston for the purpose of sustaining the appeal, had been especially retained by the Appellants at a very considerable expence. His assistance, however, turned out to be unnecessary, as Mr. Maud, who was Counsel in support of the Conviction, stated to the bench that it was impossible the conviction could be legally sustained, as the Magistrates before whom the the conviction had taken place had no jurisdiction in the case, the act having especially provided, "that no Justice, being a master in any trade or manufacture, concerning which any offence is charged to have been committed should act in execution thereof." On this ground Mr. Maud said, the conviction must necessarily be quashed, for if that Court should affirm it, the Court of King's Bench would, would, under the circumstances of the case set such conviction aside. He concluded with moving that the conviction be quashed, to which the Court of course assented.—Conviction quashed.

Sunday, 10 January 2016

10th January 1816: The Duke of Montrose continues to stall Francis Raynes' hopes

Windsor, 10th Jan. 1816.


I have received your letter of the 5th January. I informed you I was acquainted with the existing difficulty to your remuneration being obtained, namely—the difficulty of the Secretary of State to find a situation for you. This you do not seem to give credit to; but this I believe, and was convinced from the beginning, that to reward was the intention of Lord Sidmouth or he would not have said so. I shall again mention your name to his Lordship, and should have sent your letter to him, but that I thought the last part of it looked so like a threat, that I conceived it might do you an injury.

I remain, with esteem, Sir,

Your obedient Servant,


Capt. Raynes.

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

5th January 1816: Francis Raynes makes more desperate enquiries about his case

Having now heard nothing from the government about the possibility of a job or remuneration for his services during the Luddite disturbances for over 4 months, Francis Raynes wrote again to both the government and his former commanding officer on the same day:
Three months after [receiving the letter from Lord Sidmouth], hearing of the vacancy of a situation in the customs, and not willing to let my age become an additional difficulty in the way of remuneration, I immediately made application to the Secretary of the Treasury, and then, after waiting a considerable time longer, I once more addressed myself to the Duke of Montrose, and, likewise, to Mr. Arbuthnot. 
Fenton, 5th of January, 1816. 
I had the honor to address you a letter, dated 10th November, on the subject of a remuneration for my past services. I should not have taken such a liberty, had I not considered myself as having been referred to you by His Majesty’s Government. Not being honoured by a reply, I am led to infer that what I have suggested is unsuitable. 
I would not be thought troublesome or obtrusive, but, at the expiration of three years, it is natural I should wish the suspense I have been kept in terminated. 
It would, Sir, be a great relief to me, to be informed what my prospects from the Government are, and when, if ever, I may expect a realisation of them; for is, after such a lapse of time, a remuneration for acknowledged services, rendered, to use my Lord Sidmouth’s own expression, “at a very important period,” cannot be found in a country like this, all reasonable, all rational hope ought to cease. I have been compelled to throw up my commission, from feelings every one must understand, who knows the derision unfulfilled expectations ever excite; and very many other inconveniences I have been subjected to, which might have been avoided, had I not been led to expect, from Sir Thomas Maitland himself, an immediate acknowledgement. 
I am aware, Sir, that letter from individuals to men in exalted situations, are frequently thrown aside, as being too trivial to merit a reply: this I never found to be the case, when my services were required: and I trust my letters will not be classed with this description only when the reward of those services is the subject of them.  I have the honor to be, Sir, 
Your most obedient humble Servant, 
The Right Hon. Charles Arbuthnot, &c. &c. 
Fenton, 5th January, 1816. 
I regret I am again compelled to renew a subject which cannot be as unpleasant to your Grace, as it is painful to me; and I did flatter myself such circumstances might have arisen, as would have precluded me every again troubling your Grace on so worn out a theme. You have, my Lord, informed me, that you are acquainted with the existing difficulty of my remuneration being obtained. My knowledge of it, so far as to enable me to form some idea of its probable duration, would materially conduce to my interest; domestic reasons making it necessary I should not let pass an opportunity of forming a permanent establishment, unless I have a certainty very shortly of obtaining the reward for my services, but which, a much longer delay in the accomplishment, will render it of little importance to me. 
I do not, my Lord, means to fatigue you with a recapitulations of what I have so often urged. Your Grace is well acquainted with all the leading features of my case, as well as with the neglect I have experienced. Neglect I must call it, for, at the end of three years, I find myself but where Sir Thomas Maitland left me, save that I have in my possession many expression of favorable wishes. Can credulity go so far as to believe a country like this, after such a lapse of time, has nothing to bestow on acknowledged services, but favorable intentions? My services, at the time were thought of no ordinary nature, or I should not have been honoured by the marked attention I received from your Grace, in the camp at Manchester, at a period which Lord Sidmouth himself acknowledges was an important one, and which will long be remembered as critical by every inhabitant of that part of the country. 
I cannot, my Lord, help owning that may mind is sore and irritated by the treatment I have received. I do not wish to give up expectations; but the folly of much longer entertaining them, can only be equalled by resigning them, without justifying myself to the world for every having formed them. 
I have the honor to be, 
With the utmost respect, 
Your Grace’s most obedient and humble Serv. 
His Grace the Duke of Montrose, K. G. &c.

Sunday, 3 January 2016

3rd January 1816: The remaining Halifax 'Twisters' are given Free Pardons

On Wednesday 3rd January 1816, the prisoners William Blakeborough, George Duckworth & Charles Milnes were all given a Free Pardon & set free from the Prison Hulks at Portsmouth.

The three men had all been convicted of administering an illegal oath to an undercover agent in Halifax during the height of the Luddite disturbances in West Yorkshire in 1812. At their trial in early 1813, they and two others had been found guilty and sentenced to transportation, but the sentences were not carried out, and they had remained aboard the prison hulks. During that time, two of the prisoners - John Baines the elder and John Baines the junior - had died in captivity.

Little is known about the circumstances surrounding the Pardons, as any relevant paperwork does not appear in the Home Office documents for this period, other than a note recording the date of the pardon applied to all three men in the Prison Hulk Register.

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

30th December 1815: Leeds Cloth Dressers' Union Secretary writes a corrective letter to the Leeds Mercury

Following the report of his arrest in the 23rd December 1815 edition of the Leeds Mercury, John Sunderland - the Secretary of the Cloth Dressers' Union (or 'Brief Institution') - wrote to the paper, who published the letter on Saturday 30th December 1815:

SIR,— I beg that you will correct a Paragraph in your last Paper, by the Insertion the following Statement:—On Monday Night, the Eighteenth Inst. John Sunderland, Clerk to the Cloth Workers’ Brief Institution, was apprehended in the Act of reading a Letter, paying the Sick, &c. and himself and Twenty-Four other Persons searched, along with Five Women, who were applying for Relief for their Sick Husbands. At the same Time the Books and Papers were seized, and all taken away. John Sunderland and others were immediately conveyed to the Black Lion, Mill-Hill, at Nine o'Clock, and there remained till Two the next Day in the Afternoon, without being examined by any Magistrate. The said John Sunderland, Joseph Tillotson, William Anderson, William Hampshire, and Samuel Wheatley, after being examined, were held to Bail, for persuading Thomas Marshall, (the Informant,) to leave his Employers, Messrs. Oates and Hardisty, contrary to the Statute in that Case made and provided.
I am, Yours, &c. 

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

29th December 1815: Manchester Magistrates request troops due to worries about Calico weavers

My Lord,

In the efforts recently made by the master calico printers in this neighbourhood to resist the unlawful combinations which have so long and so injuriously prevailed amongst the journeymen, we find, from respectable representations, some reason to apprehend the latter may resort to plans of intimidation, either by destroying machinery where it is employed, or by other outrages of a similar tendency. The printing establishments are chiefly in the immediate vicinity of Manchester, Bury, Burnley, Blackburne, Clitheroe, Chorley and Stockport―

It is naturally the wish of the masters to be enabled to repel with effect, any attempts of the above description, and as their works are all within the range of thirty miles from Manchester it is conceived a sufficient force (about four troops) of cavalry stationed at the barracks there, for a few weeks, would fully answer the end.

Circumstances may render it expedient due to dispatch a portion of the proposed military aid to situations where, no violent proceeding has actually taken place, but where it appears to be threatened or meditated, and we beg leave to submit the propriety of directions to the officer in command at the barracks that he may not hesitate in attending to the request of the magistrate in cases of this nature. When we are honored with your Lordship’s sentiments we can if necessary communicate the same to acting magistrates near the several establishments we have mentioned. We are informed that only one troop of horse is now left at the Manchester Barracks.

we have the honor to be, My Lord,
Your Lordship’s most faithful obdt Servts

Ralph Wright
W Evans

New Bayley Court House
Manchr 29th Decr

To the Rt Honble Lord Sidmouth

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

23rd December 1815: 'The Thrashing Machine: A Tale'


Many ages ago, the inhabitants of a large, populous, and opulent island were divided into sects or castes, distinguished from each other by the kind of corn which they grew and consumed. The principal of these were the Wheatites. There were the Oatites, the Barleyites, the Ryeites, and a great many ites, most of them composed of different mixtures of some of the above-mentioned kinds of grain. In these enlightened and liberal-minded times, it will be almost difficult to comprehend and believe, how much animosity subsisted between these different classes of the same community, for no other reason in the world, but because they each chose to grow, and live upon that food, which they believed would the most contribute to health and long life. My intention is not at present to enter into either the cause, the nature, of the effects of these animosities, otherwise the subject might be rendered both instructive and interesting. I shall therefore proceed to the relation and description of what is my more immediate object.

A distinguished and opulent Farmer from amongst the Wheatites, sailed to a far distant country where these islanders had long had a settlement. When there, he could not but notice and be pleased with a very simple machine, which had long been used in country for thrashing corn. The most unskilful person could manage it. It was certainly very rude in its construction, and did not rid much work,—but the Farmer saw at a glance of his "eagle eye," that it was capable of much improvement. With distinguished benevolence, he not only set himself to construct one on an improved plan but, without fear or reward undertook to instruct the natives in the use of it, and for several years continued to assist them in working it. Such was his success that every body who saw it, at once perceived and admired its beauty and utility.

A length he transmitted to his own country a full, clear and correct description of the apparatus, and the effects which it had produced. Strange as it may seem, little notice was taken of his invention by any of his countrymen at home. Not a Wheatite offered to profit by the valuable discovery. When the benevolent Farmer returned to his native island, he had the mystification of learning, that his suggestion had been by his caste totally unnoticed. Having himself for the business which fully engaged his time and attention, he suffered his own discovery to lie totally dormant, and so to this day, in all human probability, would it have lain, for any thing that the Wheatites cared about it. It happened, however, that before the return the Benevolent Farmer, a poor labourer, of the name of Joseph who had all this life been a thasher of corn, happened to see the statement which the Farmer had transmitted home, and being both a shrewd and industrious man, he at once recognized the value of the discovery, and determined to avail himself of it; at the same time he perceived, that it was capable of great extension and improvement.

Joseph was a kind of [illegible] [illegible], not so much inclined to [illegible] as many others; he therefore was not so narrow minded as to stand entirely aloof from those who ate different bread from himself, when he thought, that by joining together, they might benefit each other. He saw that machine might be constructed, and worked at little expence, capable of thrashing much more corn than could be thrashed by the poor, (for he intended it for their use,) of any one caste in any one neighbourhood. The only chance, therefore, which he had of proving the capability of the invention was, to induce the rich of all castes to contribute towards erecting the machine, and the poor of all castes to send their corn to be thrashed by it. This, in these times of christian charity, may be thought not only to be an easy task, but one which would meet with universal approbation and support. Poor Joseph, however, had the prejudices of other times to contend with. At first, notwithstanding these, such was the novelty of the plan, and such its evident utility, that it banished for a time all animosity, and rich and poor, of all castes, joined so heartily in the undertaking, that Joseph had soon more work for his machine than it could do. This, instead of disheartening him, served only to stimulate him to greater exertions; he enlarged his machine, he published an account of its success; the whole island rang with its praises; almost every town in the kingdom were at strife which should erect the first and the best, and they called them by the name of Joseph. The great and the noble of the land patronized him, and even ROYALTY itself visited, [advocated] and encouraged the use of the machine, [illegible] poor Joseph too much for weak human nature to bear without being the worse for it. Joseph’s heart not being devoid of the seeds of vanity,—and this rich manure so abundantly appeared, caused them to grow, and bear leaves, flowers, fruit so abundantly, that the appearance of the meek and humble man was in a great measure hid under their luxuriance. At this good may sigh, the gay may smile, but none but the bad will rejoice. Let him, who could have better withstood such temptations, throw the first stone at poor Joseph, yet the man who could have withstood such flattery, will be among the last to do it.

Now it came to pass, that when the rich Wheatites, and more particularly the great farmers among them, perceived that Joseph’s Thrashing Machines were then spreading through the whole land, that the rich of all castes supported them, and that the poor of all castes sent their corn to be thrashed [illegible], they began to look about and bestir themselves in good earnest, meeting together and saying "if this man be thus suffered to thrash the corn of our poor, we shall have half of them poisoned by their wheat being contaminated with pernicious mixtures,—some scattered grains of oats, or barley, or rye, cannot fail to get in amongst it, and let the other castes say what they will and thrive even better than they do, which is not necessary, we are well assured that no kind of grain is wholesome but pure wheat. If they will thrash for their own poor, we will take care that they do not thrash for ours. Besides, what business have they to use these Trashing Machines at all; much less to call them after the name of a man, who has no more claim to the invention than a thief to his stolen property? Did not our caste invent it, and shall we suffer another to claim the merit, and reap the advantage without asserting in supporting our title to whatever may have arisen from it? So saying they sent, and called the Benevolent Farmer from that useful retirement in which he had almost forgotten that such a machine existed. They told him of the mighty works which he had done. He stared a little at first, but he was soon persuaded,—(for who could not in such a case be soon persuaded)—that he had been the author of all these wonderful things.—They determined to erect Trashing Machines for the thrashing of wheat only, in all parts of the Island, to be called NATIONAL MACHINES; they appointed the Farmer Superintendent of them, and they raised him to great honour and riches.

Now, notwithstanding that Trashing Machines of both kinds were thus very numerous, the island was so fruitful in corn of every kind, that there was more than work sufficient supplied by the poor, for them all. The competition, therefore, was of the greatest advantage—since almost all the poor, of whatever caste, might now have their corn thrashed in an expeditious way for nothing, instead of knocking it on as well as they could themselves, or having it done for them by the old, slow, and expensive method. Thus far, therefore, the effect at least was good, and all might have thrashed away as hard as they could, in peace and harmony with each other, without any fear of wanting employment.

It, however, unfortunately happened, that some of the more opulent farmers amongst the Wheatites were not content to enjoy the advantages which their caste reaped from the greatly improved Machines, unless the whole world would confess that they and they only, had any claim to merit in the discovery and perfecting of the machine. They abused poor Joseph most dreadfully, called him very hard names, and probably, if they had had him fully in their power, might have employed their machines in thrashing something else besides wheat. Nay, they went so far as to affirm that all the alterations which he had made in the machine, were calculated to spoil it; wherefore they did all in their power to turn the whole into ridicule; and they determined, that not a nail, a screw, or a wheel in theirs, should resemble Joseph’s machine. They asserted, that the latter were without exception coarsely and clumsily put together; that the power was ill applied, and that many parts were introduced for no other purpose than to attract attention and produce surprise. They affirmed, that the oil used was not only injudiciously administered, but that it was in itself bad and unfit for the purpose.—They asserted, that these machines did not perform their work well, but that in spite of all the care they could take, each kind of flour would contract and retain a flavour of some of the others. The corn, they said, was too much agitated in passing through the machine, jumping about from side to side, kicking up a very great and unnecessary dust, in short, they affirmed that poor Joseph was more fitted for exhibiting dancing automata at a country fair, than for being the manager and conductor of a machine, which required the greatest solidity of judgment, with the most unwearying perseverance.

How much of this was true the account from which I have drawn this statement does not proceed to state; it however does affirm, that the Wheatites were not, in this instance, altogether actuated by those pure and disinterested motives which in our happier times prevail. Neither does the accounts go on to state the final result of this conduct in the Wheatites; perhaps it was written during the contest, and before the issue could be known. We, however, in these latter days, who have had more experience, and have, moreover, the happiness and the privilege to live in an age, when brotherly love so much more abundantly prevails amongst all sects, parties and classes, shall feel no hesitation in condemning and stating our conviction of the mischievous consequences of such unchristian conduct. We, supposing ourselves the place of the Wheatites, should no doubt have felt and acted very differently. We should have seen and acknowledged that each of the rival candidates had his respective share of merit.—We should have rejoiced in the success of our rivals in the good cause, as well as in our own.—We should have strenuously supported our own machine, without derogating from the advantages of theirs:—nay we should have been happy, whenever they had hit upon any improvement, to adopt it, as well as to have furnished them with any useful idea which had suggested itself to us. Thus should we have gone on in love and charity together, mutually encouraging and assisting each other in the good work. Let us not, however, too severely condemn the errors of men who have prejudices of time country, station and self  interest to combat, which, probably, under all the same circumstances, we might not have been able to overcome. Let us, therefore, be thankful but not censorious.


Tuesday, 22 December 2015

22nd December 1815: The Nottingham Review exposes the Mary Stainsby 'Luddism' hoax to the public

Hoax extraordinary.—It is known to our readers, that an advertisement appeared in our last, offering a reward of two hundred pounds to any one that should be instrumental in convicting one or both of the persons who shot at, severely wounded, and thus attempted to murder Mary, the wife of Thomas Stainsby, of Mansfield, in a street called Blind-lane, in the evening the 12th Instant. The conclusion was, that Ned Ludd had re-commenced his depredations; and fear, for a moment, induced the most unpleasant expectations; but why a woman should be the object, or what the cause of the vengeance, no one could conjecture. In confirmation of the daring outrage, one celebrated character, who wishes to the King’s letters patent for permission to assume that name of Fielding, who is very great in his own eyes, and in other people's when known, declared that he had picked a quantity of shot out of a wall near to whence the woman was said to have been wounded, which probably might have been exhibited in a court of justice as confirmatory evidence, if any one had been found to impeach a suspicious character. Thus the thing appeared conclusive; when behold, the following Hand-bill made its appearance on Saturday, and a number of them were immediately sent to Nottingham.


The Public are informed it is most clearly ascertained, that Mrs. Stainsby was NOT SHOT AT MALICIOUSLY, or from motives connected with LUDDISM.

By Order of the Magistrates,

Mansfield, Dec. 16, 1815.  W.M. LANG.

We, with great pleasure, offer our tribute of thanks to the Magistrates concerned in this business, for their prompt exertions in setting the public opinion at rest on so foul and false a charge; the truth of which is, as we have been informed, that the woman had retired, for conveniency’s sake, with an enamoured captive, into the fields during the shade of evening, at least a mile from Blind-lane, where they were seen by two persons returning from a shooting excursion, when, for the sake of a little fun, though very improperly and censurably, one of them drew his charging of shot, and discharged the powder at the loving pair; but it appears that a few shot-corns remained in the piece, which severely wounded the lady. And for reasons which we need not explain, a conspiracy was formed, which, if not detected, might have been attended with very unpleasant consequences to Mansfield and its neighbourhood.

Friday, 18 December 2015

18th December 1815: Cloth Dressers' Union Secretary arrested in Leeds

In the evening of Monday 18th December 1815 John Sunderland, the secretary of the Cloth Dressers' Union (or 'Brief Institution') was arrested in Leeds. The two local newspapers carried reports of the arrest.

From the Leeds Mercury of Saturday 23rd December:
On Monday night last, John Sunderland, Secretary of United Cloth-Dressers’ Society, was apprehended at a public-house in this town and committed to prison, on a charge of aiding and abetting an illegal combination for preventing the use of Machinery in the dressing of woollen cloth, and at the same time the papers of the Society were seized and inspected by the Magistrates. On the following day Sunderland and three other persons were held to bail to appear at the Quarter Sessions to answer to the said charge.
From the Leeds Intelligencer of Monday 25th December:
Monday last, five men, members of a Committee of Cloth-dressers, were convicted at our Rotation Office of having entered into an illegal combination for preventing or their fellow-workmen from following his trade, unless he paid the sum of five pounds, which this Committee thought itself entitled to demand of him. They have appealed to the Quarter Sessions. It might have been hoped that the awful example at York, would have been a sufficient warning to workmen of every description, of the danger of entering into illegal combinations. Though any Class of workmen may set out with a resolution not to give way to such daring acts of outrage, as drew down that terrible infliction of the law, they ought to be aware that, having once entered upon an unlawful career, it is impossible for them to foresee where the evil may terminate, and that, however guarded they may be in their proceedings, detection, must, sooner or later, overtake every deviation from that course which the laws of the land, as well as every principle of policy, of necessity, and of justice, have marked out. The object of dislike to the present combination, is that species of machinery, employed for the dressing woollen cloth, called Gig Mills. By this machinery, some are of opinion that the manufacture can be finished, at the same expence, in a style much superior, to that which the Cloth-Workers are either able or willing to affect by manual labour. Several manufacturers, therefore, exercising that opinion, (which is their undoubted right) have determined on employing such machinery. Against this system, it appears, the Cloth-Workers have combined; and having demanded, as we have above stated, five pounds from an individual who had worked with machinery in Ireland, before they would allow him to earn his subsistence here by his wonted avocation, he gave information of the system, and the Committee, with their books and papers, were taken into custody. An extensive correspondence and combination have in consequence been discovered. As the next sessions must determine the business, it would be improper here to dwell further on the subject.

Thursday, 17 December 2015

17th December 1815: James Stevens explains to the Home Secretary the reality of the attack on Mary Stainsby

Mansfield 17th Decr 1815.

My Lord,

Since I had the honor of addressing your Lordship on the subject of a female having been shot at in this place & wounded on a supposition that the Spirit of Luddism was reviving, the Hand Bill circulated (of which a Copy was transmitted to your Lordship) has had the Effect of bringing to light the Circumstances occasioning the Accident―It appears from the Confession of such female (who is a married Woman) that at the time she received the Shot she was in Company with a respectable Tradesmen in a private Lane near the Town of Mansfield, and that a young Man who was returning from shooting in Company with another person had imprudently fired off his Gun and the Contents struck the female, she being a married Woman and desirous that her Husband should not get to know the knowledge of her Infidelity, had represented the Case in a deep laid plot to give Colour to the Accident having arisen from a Spirit of Luddism, but in Consequence of certain circumstantial Evidence collected and being closely interrogated as to the Truth of the Circumstances she made the Confession.—

I inclose your Lordship one of the Hand Bills which has been issued by direction of the Magistrates in pursuance of such Confession.

I have the Honor to be
My Lord
Your Lordship’s humble Servt
James Stevens

The Right Honble
Lord Sidmouth

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

16th December 1815: Mansfield Magistrates issue handbills saying attack on Mary Stainsby is unconnected with Luddism


Mrs. Stainsby.

The Public are informed it is most clearly ascertained, that Mrs. Stainsby was NOT SHOT AT MALICIOUSLY, or from any motives connected with LUDDISM.

By Order of the Magistrates,
Wm. Lang.

MANSFIELD, Dec. 16, 1815.