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dispersed by the military, acting under the orders of the magistrates, and the principal leaders were apprehended, under warrants from the secretary of state, a considerable number actually marched off on their way to London; many were intercepted before they reached Stockport, but several found their way as far as Ashbourne.
The act for enabling his majesty to detain suspected persons had now passed; most of those, who had rendered themselves most conspicuous in exciting disaffection in this part of the country, had either been apprehended, or had secreted themselves; and all hopes were precluded of any immediate result from the assemblage which had been so long concerted; yet it appears to your committee, from a variety of concurrent testimony, on which they rely, that the previous organization had been extended so widely, and the expectation of ultimate success had been so confidently entertained, that these circumstances produced no other effect on the great body of the discontented, than to delay the explosion, which had so long been meditated; to occasion the discontinuance of the more open meetings of the association; and to call forth the exertions of new leaders, who were determined (in their own phrase) to "re-organize the party." Meetings were accordingly held in several of the townships in the neighbourhood of Manchester, between the 10th and 25th of March, with more privacy, but under the established system of delegation, at which only the deputies from the disaf
fected places were present; and at which it was resolved to promote a general rising at Manchester, on Sunday the 30th of March, or the following day. A meeting was appointed for the leaders at Ardwick bridge, close to Manchester, on the Friday before that day; where they expected to receive information from Birmingham, Sheffield, and other places, with which they were in communication; having previously learnt from an emissary, who had visited Huddersfield and Leeds, that the disaffected in that part of the country were all ready to begin at any time, and were preparing arms for the purpose. The design was, to assemble as many as could be collected, in the night, at Manchester; to attack the barracks, the police office, the prison, the houses of magistrates and constables, and the banks, in separate parties; and to set fire to the factories in the town. was even declared by one of the conspirators, that this last atrocity was intended for the purpose of increasing the prevalent distress, in the hope of thereby adding to the numbers of the discontented, by throwing the workmen out of employment. It was calculated that two or three thousand men would be enough to commence these operations, as they reckoned upon being joined by 50,000 at the dawn of day. A proclamation was said to be prepared, in order to be produced on this occasion, justifying the revolt, and absolving the insurgents from their allegiance. Expectations were held out, that a general insurrection would take place, at the same time, in different parts of
the counties of Lancaster, York, Warwick, Leicester, Nottingham, Chester and Stafford; and though some of these, particularly the two latter counties, may have been included without any sufficient ground, your committee see just reason to apprehend, that a successful insurrection at Manchester would have been followed by partial risings, to an alarming amount, in each of the other counties. Some preparations were made for providing ammunition, with a view to the arms, which it was intended to seize. The execution of this plan was defeated by the vigilance of the magistrates, who being apprized of what was in agitation, made a communication to the secretary of state, by whom warrants were immediately issued, and the ringleaders, assembled at Hardwick bridge, were consequently seized on the 28th. The magistrates of Manchester thereupon published an address to the inhabitants, announcing the danger, and calling upon the householders to be sworn as special constables, and to assist in preserving the peace of the town. This plan of the disaffected being thus discovered, and deranged, they became Icore wary and secret in their proceedings; but in the moment of disappointment, declarations were made, that it would be impossible to prevent the rising for a month longer. The assassination of persons most obnoxious to their resentment was suggested by some of the most desperate of the conspirators; an attack was made upon the house of one of the magistrates; the life of another was threatened; and a pistol was fired into the house
of a gentleman, who was acting as a special constable. Shortly after this period, it appears to have been discussed, whether it would not be more prudent to discontinue the appointment of delegates, and to rely only upon one man in each town, who might call the disaffected together a short time before the intended insurrection, and seize on horses, preparatory to the attack on Manchester. But notwithstanding this proposition, the same system of connected operation by means of delegates was indefatigably persevered in.
Delegates from Manchester, Birmingham, Nottingham, Derby, Leeds, Sheffield, Wakefield, Huddersfield, and other places in the disturbed part of the country, either constantly or occasionally attended these meetings. The numbers assembled were not large, but the activity was unceasing; emissaries were continually passing from one of those places to another, to compare their accounts of the state of the public mind; to foment the irritation among the disaffected; and to combine some general plan of simultaneous, or connected insurrection; the object of which was, after consolidating a sufficient force, to march upon London, and there to overturn the existing government, and to establish a republic. The same designs were continued of attacking the barracks, and depôts, in different parts of the country (one of which was particularly reconnoitered with that view); of plundering the houses of noblemen and gentlemen, where arms were supposed to be lodged; of seizing the magistrates, and keeping them as hostages, and as authorities for
levying contributions on the country; of disarming the soldiers by night, in their quarters, or se ducing them from their duty; and of providing arms for themselves, partly by these seizures, and partly by an easy method of forming pike heads out of common tools and utensils.
It appears to your committee, that the utmost confidence prevailed among the delegates, as to the ultimate attainment of their object; that the successive arrests of several of the principal leaders, though they occasioned momentary disappointment, did not extinguish the spirit of insurrection, or the hopes of success, in the parts of the country above mentioned; and the utmost impatience was manifested at the delays which had taken place in fixing the day for the general rising. This, after several postponements, was appointed for the Monday in Whitsun week, and was afterwards again postponed to the 9th of June, which was thought more favourable for a midnight insurrection, as the moon would then be in the wane. Notice of this last appointment had been so widely circulated, that it became almost of public notoriety; which, while it awakened the attention of those whose duty it was to preserve the public peace, did not appear to derange the preparations of those who were disposed to disturb it. Even where the planners of the insurrection suggested a farther delay, they found it impossible to restrain the impatience which they had excited among their followers, who had forsaken their ordinary habits of industry, and who must either proceed to
the immediate attainment of their object, or for the present relinquish it, and return to their accustomed occupations. On the 28th of May a meeting of delegates in the neighbourhood of Sheffield was dispersed, and some of the parties were apprehended; and on the 6th of June, several persons described to be delegates, (and believed by your committee to be such), who were assembled at another place in the same neighbourhood, were apprehended by the magistrates of the riding, assisted by the military; and the final arrangement of the plan, which was there to be settled, was thus happily frustrated. It was confidently expected, that these arrests would disconcert whatever measures were in preparation, and they appear to have had that effect in the immediate vicinity of Sheffield; but the spirit which had been excited could not be wholly suppressed. In the neighbourhood of Huddersfield, in the night of the 8th instant, several houses were forcibly entered and plundered of arms. A considerable body of armed men were approaching the town, when a small patrol of yeomanry cavalry, attended by a peace officer, fell in with them, and was received with the discharge of several shot, by which one of their troop horses was wounded. The patrol having ascertained, that they were too few to oppose such numbers, thought it prudent to retreat, when several shots were fired after them without effect. On returning with an additional force to the spot, they found that the whole of the insurgents had disappeared; but guns fired as signals, in differ
ent directions, and lights shown on the heights throughout the country, sufficiently proved the extent of the confederacy, and the concert with which it was organized. In some populous villages of Derbyshire, a more open insurrection took place on the 9th of June. A delegate from this part of the country had attended a previous meeting at Nottingham, and an active emissary from thence had joined them in the course of the night. The insurrection began, according to the general plan proposed, with attacks upon houses, for the purpose of procuring arms; in one of which, a servant was wantonly shot; about 200 insurgents were soon assembled, mostly armed either with pikes or with fire-arms, and began their march towards Nottingham, in expectation of increasing their mumbers as they went, and of finding that place in full insurrection, and prepared to support them. They were however intercepted by detachments of cavalry (under the orders of active and intelligent magistrates), which came up with them in different directions, and totally dispersed them. Between 50 and 60 were taken and lodged in the different gaols; many fire-arms and pikes were taken at the same time, and a quantity of ammunition was found upon the persons of the prisoners. Your committee have thus stated the prominent points of the information, which has been laid before them, particularly as affecting the manufacturing districts in the Northern and Midland counties, and which has been substantiated, in almost every particular, by depositions on oath, taken be
fore magistrates. The character of the danger remains the same as was described in the former report. It arises from the indefatigable exertions of persons in the lower ranks of life, or but little above them, of some popular talents, inflaming and aggravating the actual distress of a numerous manufacturing population, by exciting hopes of an immediate remedy to all their sufferings from a reform in parliament, and preparing them (in despair of attaining that object) to attempt by force the total subversion of the established constitution of govern
Your committee stated, in their former report, that the mode of organization, practised with such mischievous success in the populous districts, had been in very many instances conducted under the cover of associations, called Hampden Clubs, formed for the ostensible purpose of procuring a reform in parliament; and they now find that in many instances, where the open meetings of those societies have been discontinued, several of the members of them have assembled more privately, and been the principal leaders in the projected combinations.
In their former report they did not think it necessary to advert to that atrocious system of combination, outrage, and hired assassination, which has prevailed in some of the midland counties, under the name of Luddism; both because the trials of persons, charged with those crimes, were then known to be depending; and because the system itself did not then distinctly appear to your committee to have any immediate appli
cation to political purposes. But they have since found reason to believe, that those who are concerned in instigating the people to insurrection, have availed themselves of this powerful engine for the more extended purposes of political innovation.
Upon the whole, your committee have been anxious neither to exaggerate, nor extenuate, the nature and extent of the danger. They have not been insensible to the jealousy, with which the testimony of persons, originally implicated in the designs of the conspirators, or even of persons who never having engaged in those designs, have attended their meetings, in order to discover and report their proceedings, ought to be received; but the facts stated by your committee, rest not only upon confirmatory evidence, but on distinct, substantive, and satisfactory testimony; and although your committee have seen reason to apprehend, that the language and conduct of some persons from whom information has been derived, may in some instances, have had the effect of encouraging those designs, which it was intended they should only be the instruments of detecting; yet it is perfectly clear to your committee, that before any such encouragement could have been given, the plan of a simultaneous insurrection, in different parts of the country, had been actually concerted, and its execution fully determined on.
Your committee have the satisfaction to continue to believe, as they have before stated, that the danger, which they have described, is to be found only among the
lower order of the manufacturing population, in particular parts of the country, many of whom are labouring under considerable privations, from the low rate of wages, and the increasing price of the necessaries of life; though your committee cannot but remark that the most active and determined insurgents are in many instances to be found amongst those, whose earnings, even in the present state of the manufactures, would enable them to support their families in comfort. They find that of the promoters of these commotions, many have either left the country, or are prevented from prosecuting their designs. The disaffected appear to want leaders to conduct such enterprises as they have conceived are frequently disconcerted by jealousy and distrust of each other, and by the consciousness that their plans are watched; and by the arrests of the ringleaders. Great as the numbers probably are, among whom disaffection, to an alarming extent, has made considerable progress, fomented at first by popular harangues, and still by the more powerful and general excitement of seditious publications, your committee are fully aware, that the number of those, who are now prepared to take the lead in any project of open insurrection, is not to be estimated by the exaggerated repors of their delegates. Though they have been all along taught to look to London for countenance and support, though some of their own immediate emissaries have, from time to time, affected to bring them hopes of encouragement from that quarter, in case