Friday, 25 January 2013

25th January 1813: The Leeds Intelligencer suggests liberal newspapers are to blame for Luddism

It requires no extraordinary acuteness of penetration nor clearness of judgement to perceive, that, from the first appearance of open violence in Nottinghamshire, down through the whole of the successive stages of disorders, mischiefs and outrages in the more Northern counties, to the late awful executions at York, the labouring part of the community, who really are in distress, as well as those who imagine themselves deprived of those comforts, or of that affluence which they suppose themselves entitled to possess, have been uniformly taught, by certain Newspapers, that the evils they suffer, or imagine they suffer, are to be attributed to the fault of their Governors. The same Newspapers have led these people to think it their duty to unite in opposition to the measures which are represented to them as the oppressive needless acts of their own unwise or unfeeling Government. They are told, that if they will but persevere they must ultimately succeed, and after they have been induced to desire and expect from Government such things as it would be unwise, dangerous or impossible to grant, still they are taught to consider themselves as injured, and oppressed, and encouraged to persevere. What then can they suppose themselves urged to do, but to proceed to actual violence, in such ways as to themselves may seem most likely to accomplish their absurd wicked withes. It is an insult to common sense and common observation, for those who encouraged them to any thing, which, in their own misguided estimation, was right or necessary, but the accomplishment of which is likely to lead on to acts of violence—to say that we never intended them to destroy property or life. If they are to unite of persevere till their object be obtained, they must bind themselves to each other—when bound they must proceed. Hence illegal oaths, illegal practices, and every mischief.

There is much reason to hope that the proceedings of the late Commission in this country, under which such just firmness, severity, and well-directed clemency have been mingled with so much wisdom and discernment, that fresh lustre has been added to the brightness of our unrivalled code of Laws, and to the firm, discreet and temperate manner in which they are executed in our courts of justice, will have the effect so ardently desired by every friend to society and humanity, unless that desirable effect be prevented and set aside by the same injurious and cruel means by which the late lamented disgraceful events were originally fomented and encouraged.

But to what purpose, we ask, is it again insinuated that the perpetrators of the late atrocious crimes were men who have been urged to commit them by the privations, the want of employment, and consequent difficulties and distresses which have been wilfully brought upon the country in general, and upon these offenders in particular, by what are represented as to the impolitic, unnecessary measures of Government. To what purpose, we ask, are these misrepresentations renewed, if it be not to re-foment and keep alive in the minds of the populace the same false unjust prejudices, which have led to the outrages we have witnessed.

Shall we implicitly credit the representation that all is perfectly free from any Political bearing, when we remark the extreme caution in all the parties concerned, as to the extent of the information given by the witnesses who know most, and the confessions of those who suffered?


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