Wednesday, 26 July 2017

26th July 1817: Leeds Mercury editorial reacts to accusations of collusion with Oliver

When an enormous evil exists in the State, supported by the strong arm of power, and seconded by a corrupt and servile press, the man that shall dare to expose, with a view to correct, that evil, ought to stand prepared to encounter some risk, much anxiety, and a large share of obloquy. With the truth of this observation we were fully impressed, when we ventured to exhibit to the nation the system of espionage, as prevailing in the manufacturing district of England, but more particularly as manifested in the West-Riding of the county of York. But with these terrors full in view, we could not submit to shrink from a duty prescribed alike by the safety of individuals and the good of the State. The exposure was made, and one of the first fruits of our labours was the liberation of a number of innocent men from prison. The discovery had an effect almost magical; the film dropped from the eyes of the public, and that terrific figure, which, wrapped in the veil of mystery, presented to an alarmed nation the appearance of a colossus of Rebellion, dwindled, when distinctly seen, to the stature of a pigmy. For this offence we have, as we expected, been subject to the censure of the Ministerial press in every part of the empire; and when all the other arts of deception have failed, we are, at length, accused, by an anonymous writer in the Courier Newspaper, with having ourselves been the associates of MR. OLIVER!

THE passage to which we refer, appears in the Courier of the 19th of July, in a letter dated from Leeds, and bearing the signature of Leodiensis; it runs thus:―
“He,” the Editor of the Leeds Mercury, “asserts that he never had the honour of a Call from MR. OLIVER; whereas I have reason to believe that some of the shopmen could prove that OLIVER not only did pay such a visit, but repeated it, and was received with great civility, and pressed to come again.”
SUCH is the charge made in the Courier, and, in answer to which, we thought proper to address a letter to the Editor of that Paper, requiring him to state, “That so far from having received repeated visits from MR. OLIVER, the Editor of the Leeds Mercury never, to the best of his knowledge and belief, saw that man in his life―he never even heard of his name till after the meeting at Thornhill-Lees, where OLIVER was apprehended, and he never held any communication with him, directly or indirectly, either at his own office, or at any other place.”

THE article in the Courier, on which we are animadverting, among a mass of other assertions, all probably as well founded as that we have just refuted, charges us with having suppressed some part of the facts within our knowledge, relative to the examinations taken before the Lord Lieutenant and the Magistrates at Wakefield, on Monday the 16th ultimo. But this charge we also positively deny. We have been guilty of no suppression. Every fact that has come within our knowledge, regarding that investigation, we have communicated with perfect impartiality. It is well known, that we have, week after week, called for the publication of the whole of the evidence, with a degree of perseverance amounting almost to pernacity; and in order to shew on which side the suppression lies, we now pledge ourselves, that if the correspondent of the Courier, who professes to be in possession of the evidence, will furnish us with a perfect copy of it, we will publish the whole document entire, without a single moment’s unnecessary delay. There is nothing that we more wish; and if the proposal be declined, the public will be at no loss to determine whether the suppression proceeds from the enemies or the friends of the Spy system.

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

12th Juy 1817: 'Origin of the Late Conspiracies' in the Leeds Mercury


Several attempts have been made, both in and out of Parliament, to prove that Mr. Oliver was merely a passive agent in the late conspiracies, forming against Government in the North of England; and that he neither excited the popular discontent, nor gave vitality and organization to the conspiracies.—That this representation of the conduct of the "ministerial agent" is false and deceptive, we have already proved by a host of witnesses. But it is said that these witnesses have all acted under the influence of a disposition to traduce the character of Mr. Leigh Keck’s immaculate builder, and that therefore their evidence is not to be relied upon. This conclusion, we think, does not arise by any means out of the premises. There may, however, be those who are of a different opinion, and to such we beg leave to show, out of the mouth of a Government witness, that Mr. Oliver was the "Great Man;"—that under his directions the delegates, so called, were appointed—that he moved and controlled every thing, and that he was, in a word, "the foreman of the concern."

At the examination held at Wakefield on Monday, the 16th of June, before the Lord-Lieutenant, and a full bench of Magistrates, to inquire into the conduct of the ten prisoners apprehended at Thornhill-Lees on Friday, the 6th ult. on a charge of holding a treasonable meeting, a witness, whose name we are not at liberty to mention, was produced for the Crown, and against the prisoners. This witness, who was represented by the accusers to be of unimpeached character, and free from all suspicion, deposed, amongst other matter:—

"That he had seen Oliver twice. That he, Oliver, was considered by all the parties as the great man to communicate and direct things from London. That as he directed so they acted. that the appointment of the delegates was subject to Mr. Oliver's approval, and that on one occasion he objected to a delegates alleging that he was an improper person, because he thought he would tell tales. Mitchell preceded Oliver introduced him. This deponent was a delegate himself, and was appointed by a person who received his instructions from Mr. Oliver. He believes all the delegates were appointed as he was. The deponent stated, that ten men met at Thornhill Lees; Mr. Oliver was in the lane near the house. He knows that the delegates must have been approved by Oliver; he knows it for a certainty, because Oliver did actually reject one of them. The witness considered Oliver to be the foreman of the concern. This witness, who had turned an informer, was taken to Thornhill Lees to identify the delegates, and it was at his suggestion that Oliver was seized, but he, (Oliver), was almost immediately afterwards set at liberty by a person in authority is, who said—"he must be liberated, he is the Government spy, or agent, or words to that effect."

For the accuracy of this portion of the evidence, we appeal to the Magistrates present at the examination, and we beg again to press upon their consideration the propriety of laying the whole of the depositions taken on that occasion before the public. If our frequent calls for the details of the proceedings at Wakefield, on the 16th inst. and for the long-promised statement of Lord Sidmouth in justification of the system of espionage, has the appearance of pertinacity, we have no other apology to offer for our perseverance, than that which arises out of a deep anxiety for the establishment of truth, and a sincere wish to rescue our countrymen from the stigma which has been cast upon their character, in order to find a pretence for suspending their liberties.

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

5th July 1817: 'Oliver The Spy' in the Leeds Mercury


A fact has come to our knowledge connected with the mission of this arch-traitor, which, though it can be communicated in a few words, speaks volumes to the mind of every British subject. On the first arrival of Mr. Oliver in the neighbourhood of Sheffield, where he spread terror among the peaceable and well-disposed part of the inhabitants, and by his flattering representations imparted joy and confidence to the disaffected and evil-minded, the vigilance of the magistrates at that place enabled them to trace out his proceedings, and to discover that he was disseminating the poison of his treasons in every direction. The first use made by the magistrates of this discovery was to apprise the conservators of the public peace in other parts of the riding of the arrival of this incendiary, and their next step was to address a letter to the Secretary of State for the home department, informing him that a London Delegate, a man apparently above the lower ranks, had arrived in the country, and was actively employed in organizing sedition and exciting the people to acts of treason. This letter was written by Hugh Parker, Esq. the senior magistrate of the district, who, by return of post, received an answer from Lord Sidmouth, informing him that the person he described as so dangerous a character was an Agent of Government!!! Indignant at this communication, Mr. Parker's first determination was to withdraw his name from the commission of the peace, but his repugnance to shrink from his duty at a time of public exigency overcame his detestation of the system which ministers had adopted, and he was prevailed upon to continue those services which have reflected so much honour on, his own character, and so much benefit on the country. When Lord Sidmouth’s long-promised statement regarding the employment given by government to a herd of spies and informers makes its appearance, we hope he will indulge the public with the correspondence which passed between his lordship and the Sheffield magistracy. We should be glad too if the Magistrates would publish the examinations taken before the Lord-Lieutenant at Wakefield, on Monday, the 16th ult. If we are rightly informed, those examinations confirm every material point of the statement regarding Mr. Oliver, made in this paper two days before; and it has been stated distinctly in the House of Commons, that the only material evidence called for the crown on that occasion, swore that Mr. Oliver got up, or prepared the whole plot. We beg to direct the attention of our readers to the speech of Mr. Bennett on the third reading of the Habeas Corpus Suspension Act, and we should be glad if some Member of the House would move, in his place, for the production of Bradley's evidence.

On this subject Lord Castlereagh has dauntlessly declared that government do employ spies, and has represented them as necessary to the safety of the state. Under an administration such as that formed by his lordship and his co-adjutors this may be the case, but good ministers, like good princes, require no spies, and the words of Montesquieu, whose skill in the science of politics would not suffer by a comparison with any of the present ministers individually, or with the whole of them collectively, has said:—"Should I be asked whether there is any necessity for spies in monarchies, my answer would be, that the usual practice of good princes is not to employ them. The trade of a spy might perhaps be tolerable were it practiced by honest man, but the necessary infamy of the person is sufficient to make us judge of the infamy of the thing."

It has been insinuated, that in making the exposure we have exhibited to the public, we have been influenced by factious motives, and that our object has been merely to annoy the servants of the Crown, and to advance the interests of a party. Supposing this to be the case, the motives would not disprove the facts. But we claim the merit of higher influence. That we have our party predilections we are free to confess, but we have a much more regard for our country than for our party. It has been stated that we are ultra-reformers, or as the phrase in the Sun Newspaper is, "reformers of the modern school." This assertion we deny, and we appeal to facts for the veracity of our disclaimer. It is known by everyone who has read our sentiments on Parliamentary Reform, as published in this paper, that without presuming to condemn the advocates of universal suffrage and annual parliaments, we have never been the supporters of those measures. It is known too, that at the meeting held in this town for the purpose of voting a Petition to the Legislature on the subject of Parliamentary Reform, we steadfastly and successfully opposed the introduction of a motion for assembling adjourned meetings, maintaining that they had the appearance of holding out a menace to government. It is also known, that when the practice prevailed last year of sending out political missionaries, for the  purpose of inculcating the principles of Parliamentary Reform, we openly and perseveringly condemned the policy, and exposed the impropriety of such a proceeding, and it was probably owing to this cause that we never had the honour of a call from MR. OLIVER. It is further known, that we supported to the best of our power the benevolent views of those who, during the past year of general distress, exerted themselves to relieve the labouring classes by providing them food at a reasonable price; and that we pointedly condemned the censure cast upon institutions established for that purpose; but it is not known, perhaps, though it is nevertheless true, that we never were connected at any time with any political society whatever. In making these statements, we must repeat that we are not to be understood as conveying any censure towards those who have pursued a different course on any or all of the points we have mentioned; we merely state the facts to show that we are neither ultra-reformers nor the slaves of any party. On every subject we act on the decision of our own unbiased opinion, honestly formed, and we claim therefore the credit of having made the exposure of MR. OLIVER, and the spy system, purely on public and patriotic grounds.

We have the satisfaction to conclude this article, by stating a fact, that will be hailed with pleasure by every real friend to social order: Since Mr. Oliver left Yorkshire, perfect tranquillity has been restored. The County was never more peaceable. The 13th light dragoons, who had been brought into the West Riding, under an apprehension of an insurrectionary rising, have returned to their quarters at York, and the nightly military patrole has been discontinued. In a word, we are as tranquil now the spies have disappeared, as we were before they came amongst us. The exciting cause has been withdrawn, and the effect has ceased.

Saturday, 1 July 2017

1st July 1817: George Cruikshank's satirical print - 'Conspirators: or, Delegates in Council'

A larger version of this cartoon can be viewed here
On Tuesday 1st July 187, the caricaturist George Cruikshank published a cartoon about Oliver, among other spies. The description below is from the catalogue entry in the British Museum.

Three Ministers sit at a council table on which is a large green bag, from which docketed papers project; the bag has folds making it resemble a grotesquely sly face. With them are three ruffianly looking agents or spies. On the extreme left sits Sidmouth in profile to the right; thin, elderly, and angular, his hands resting on a tall cane; his queue terminates in a clyster-pipe instead of a bag. Opposite him sits Thomas Reynolds, indicated by a paper beside him: 'Reynolds Ireland'. He shows Sidmouth a paper: 'List of Victims in Ireland'. Beside him is a bag inscribed 'Blood Money'. At the opposite end of the table sits Castlereagh, also very thin but elegant and fashionable; he sits forward his hands on his crossed knees, holding a paper 'To Mr Reynolds', the name scored through but just legible. On his right hand is Canning, who covertly points to two ruffians, one on each side of the table, saying, "Don't you think my Lord that our friends, Castle & Oliver should be sent to Lisbon or somewhere as Consul Generals, or Envoys?" Castlereagh answers: "Can't you negotiate for some boroughs—" The two men, who grin expectantly, are indicated by papers addressed respectively to 'Oliver Leeds' and 'Castle Spafields'; in the latter's hat is a bundle of 'Forged notes'. Papers in the green bag are docketed: 'An Oath to be Proposed to the distressed'; 'Plan for the Attack on the Regents Carraige'; 'Treasonable papers to be sliped into the pockets of some duped artisans'; 'Plans for a General Row'. On the table: 'Toast to be given in the Company of moderate men & then Swear they drank them' [Castle's evidence]; 'Every means to be taken to implicate Sr F. Burdett Ld Cochrane & —'. On the floor beside Sidmouth: 'Instructions for Entrapg the poor & needy', and 'under santion [sic] of Government'. Beside Castlereagh lie flags and favours labelled 'Tricolord Flags &c &c for Spa Fields', with a stuffed stocking labelled: 'A Waggon Load of Ammunition!!! Vide Mr Cannings Speech in ye House of Coms'. Through a window on the extreme right, and just behind Castlereagh, John Bull, registering horror, gazes into the room; he exclaims: "Oh! Oh I have found out the Conspirators at last, poor Starving John is to be enslaved into Criminal acts & then the Projectors & perpetrators are brought forward as principal evidences! This is another Vaughan, Brock & Pelham business, and I suppose they are to be made Consuls too, the high road to Ld Castlereigh's particular favor—Canning travelled it."

Thursday, 29 June 2017

29th June 1817: Back in London again, Oliver is once more debriefed by Sir Nathaniel Conant

Saturday the 24th:—On my arrival at Birmingham I found Mr: Jones was gone to Lancashire, but was expected home that afternoon or next morning.—

Mrs Jones informed me that during his absence she had received a Letter from Yorkshire, wherein my Name was mentioned.

I then called on Mr: Whitworth the School Master at the five ways he accompanied me to Mr. Thomas Clark’s, who seemed very tenacious in saying any thing about Politics, but in way of Conversation he said he saw no good possibly could be done to effect a Reform in Parliament without a Revolution, which he supposed would be the case before long—whit asked Mr. C. what he thought of the Town meeting that was intended to petition against the Continuance of the Suspension of Habeas Corpus Act—he Mr. C. said, if it was for no other purpose, they might as well leave it alone, for that could be useless, for no Petitions would ever be attended to by the present House of Commons.—

In coming away Whit observed it was strange Mr. C. should appear such a staunch Friend to the cause, and yet he was on all public occasions observed to be associating with the other Party meaning the magistrates, but whit supposed it might be a Policy of Mr. C. as well as many others that had accumulated a little Property, and also who and who professed to be Reformers, were now a cringing a little for fear of being taken up under the Suspension of the Habeas Corpus—he mentioned many Names which I did not know, who were under similar Circumstances very much afraid of saying any thing that used before the Suspension to make a great Noise, and were very active for Reform.—

We then went to Mr Wilkes No: 16 St: James’s Square, where we met Hinks, who had brought word of a Delegates having arrived from Nottingham, Leicester &c with some Intelligence.—We then went together to Mr. Moore’s on the Battle Road, where the Delegate was to meet them by Appointment.—By the time we got there Mr. Jones had arrived—and hearing from this Delegate that he was sent over to let them know they were all ready for the ninth in the North, and that  messengers were sent off to various other Places to say the ninth of June was fixed as being much more convenient than the 26th next Monday.—By this time Mr. Jones expressed himself in very severe terms, and said he believed they had been very much deceived by those Delegates,—for he had called at many Places in Lancashire, which had been represented to them in great forwardness—and which he had found to the contrary, and particularly at Manchester, where they declared to him they had given up all Ideas of trying for Reform any more, for they could not depend upon each other two days together—and if any thing was likely to take place at Manchester it must be from some sudden Impulse of the moment, and not from any premeditated Plan.—

I went home with Mr. Jones and the others, when Mrs. Jones admitted receiving a Letter which she thought proper to destroy immediately, and it was considered this man was sent over for fear the Letter which appeared to the same effect had been miscarried. Mrs. Jones said she recollected part of the Letter to say the Goods could not be got ready by the 26th but was now certain of being got ready for the delivery by the morning of the 9th of June without fail. they collected a few Shillings for the messenger and sent him back without any answer—he admitted to be a native of Leicester, who had absconded in consequence of a Warrant being issued against him for hawking some blasphemous Publications.—

Mr. Edmunds and Wilkes seemed very desirous of calling a Meeting of the Town, but Jones, Hinks, and others would not encourage them for they said it would be a Pretext to the magistrates to get some apprehended, and that many of their staunch Friends would not attend a meeting under those Impressions, and the magistrates would be very glad of such an opportunity to have some of them apprehended.—

Whit and Hinks told Jones that the Company they had been in the Night before, had assured them of upwards of two Hundred staunch Friends being already well armed, and fully expected something would be done on Monday or Tuesday, and when the Pitt Club met to celebrate the Anniversary.—they had prepared a number of very scurrilous Hand Bills for the 28th: and some to invite the poor to assemble at the Hotel at a certain Hour to receive the Refuse of the Table after the dinner was over.—Whit produced some of the Bills which he had procured the Night before.—Mr. Jones seemed now to discourage any thing of the Kind, as being he said a cowardly mode of proceeding—Wilks and Whit seemed to rejoice at any thing that would initiate the Peoples minds to any Tumult.—

Sunday Morning the 25th:—

I proceeded to Derby at the Talbot Inn.—I found Mr. James Robertshaw—after some Conversation about Mitchell having been taken, he said he was a very clever Fellow who had done much good towards Reform—he then unsolicited sent for a Mr. Burkin a Silk Stocking Weaver—another acquaintance of Mitchell and the one who had been to London with the Derby Petition—he did not hesitate to say the People in that Neighbourhood were very ready, and was sorry to find the time was referred—he said there was Arms and Accoutrements for a Troop of Cavalry about four miles off and also the Depôt of the Local Militia which they met and could very easy take possession of to arm the People, and also three Pieces of Artillery very easy to be taken.—

Mr. Robertshaw often joined by saying he wished he was a few years younger—he should be active among them but at his time of life he did not much like to be locked up in a Prison at the Will of the magistrates, but he was convinced nothing less than a Revolution would do the Country any Service whatever—his house he admitted was considered the most political House in that Town.—

Monday 26th:—

Burkin called on me early and introducing a young man who worked with him, and several others who seemed very sanguine in the Course, and seemed well aware of what was in agitation through the Country.—one of the rest was John Tate a Bricklayer, who said his Brother was an Armourer at Whedon Barracks who had sent for him several times to come over—the Party present thought it a desirous thing for him to go over and make a Survey of the Place, which he had proposed to do, provided he was accommodated with the means, which they agreed to provide him with by Wednesday Morning following and desired I would give him a few Lines to be introduced to some Friends at Birmingham, which I did to a Mr. Jones, to keep up their Confidence.—They all agreed to the Loss of some valuable Friends who used to encourage them in consequence of the Suspension of the Habeas Corpus, as they did not like to be taken from their Business and Families, for it was to frighten such People as then the Act was Suspended.—

Burkin seemed so desirous to introduce me to the Nottingham Friends, had he the means to go over he would when I agreed to pay his Fare he immediately set off with me.—

On our Arrival at Nottingham we called on Mr. Stevens Needlemaker Snainton Street, where we found a Delegate of the name of Crabtree, a Printer of Bradford, sent by the Leeds Committee, and on the same errand as the Leicester man at Birmingham—Stevens said they had on the so night before a numerous meeting of very sanguine Friends at the Fox—he then set out, and in less than half an hour he assembled about twenty in Number of very determined Characters who seemed well matured in what was going on.—nothing but a Revolution would do for them, and wished it was to be begun that Night, as they were so well prepared, and when the Blow was once struck they knew they should have plenty of staunch Friends who dare not at present be seen to take an active part but would come forward when wanted.—Burkin now proposed the expences of Tate to Wheedon might be jointly defrayed, which they readily agreed to.—

They wished me very much to visit Leicester and Melbourne where I should fight staunch Friends who I could be introduced to by applying at Leicester for Mr. James Mason at the Red Cow Belgrave Street, to whom I was to make use of the Name of Stevens and Palmer of Nottingham. and at Melbourne Mr. Thomas Pass who was well known there, and a particular Friend of Burkin of Derby. —

Tuesday morning the 27th: at Stevens’ Snainton Street I was introduced to Rhodes Shoemaker, Palmer, Simpson, Walker, Crabtree from Bradford, and several others—their general Conversation was principally their Intimacy and Connection with the Soldiers and particularly at the Barracks, Stevens’ Brother in Law having been in the Army, says the Soldiers are very dissatisfied and they after being abroad so long fighting as they supposed for the Peace and Comfort of Europe, they are now brought home to witness the Distress of their Native Country and keep the People under the Subjection of Tyranny and oppression of the most Corrupt Government that ever existed—through which they all seemed very Sanguine in the Support of the Soldiers as being their Friends who repeatedly told them how easy the Barracks could be taken.—

It did appear the Soldiers had very much encouraged them in this part.—

When I compared the Information Mr. H. had received with my own, it very much corresponded, and their own Friends were betraying them by giving early Information of their Proceedings as far as their knowledge goes—but their greatest Privacy as to the mode they mean to pursue is kept in a very few hands.— they calculated a great deal upon the Arms in Store in various Places, and very particular of those at Lord Middleton's.—

/28th:—In visiting the neighbouring Villages from twelve to fourteen miles around Nottingham, I found a general disposition for a Revolution—but they did not seem any way organized or aware of any Systematic Plan, no more that they had learned from different Delegates they were to look up to Nottingham when the time came which they were led to suppose was not far distant.—

Some I found very timid and considerate for their Families and those in midling Circumstances fearful of being taken up under the suspension.—

Crabtree seemed I thought as if he should not mind it—but Burkin and some others dreaded it very much and said they should much rather leave the Country if nothing could be done very soon.—Burkin said he and several Friends from Derby should have left the Country some time back, had it not been for Robertshaw and other staunch Friends who advised to stay and try what could be done to regain them their long lost Freedom, which there was some hopes of if they would be but firm to each other there was no doubt but they should be able to dismantle the whole Fabric and make this a Republican Government yet as well as America, and there was no doubt but they should have the support of France.—

On my Arrival at the Blue Ball Sheffield I met Wolstenholme, Rogers, and several others, who urged me very much to stay with them that Evening, for they were to have a general meeting at some little distance off—and they were to have another meeting at Barnsley on Sunday following—they said how happy they were the time had been put off, as their Numbers were increasing daily, and were very sanguine indeed and a many of their Friends at Sheffield were already well armed, and what they could get at the Barracks and private Depôt they should be able to do very well.—

they said their meeting at Penistone on Sunday last was very numerously attended where it was determined no further delay should take place beyond the Ninth; for it was considered dangerous to delay it any longer, fearful they should be betrayed, as there were many whom they doubted.—

Tuesday 29th: May.

On my arrival at Wakefield Mr. Scholes at the Joiners Arms new Street informed me the People were really mad in consequence of the delay that had taken place; and he did not think it possible they could be kept quiet until the Ninth; and what was to be done he could not tell, for he was very sure before the time arrived one half of the Principals if not all would be taken up—he said Doctor meaning Smalley had been to Leeds, and was that [morning] gone to Barnsley, and from there to Sheffield to see what State the People were in, and to ascertain if the time could possibly be shortened, for he thought before the time came they would all betrayed by some one or other, for it had now become the common Town Talk what was a going forward—but he was glad to find the magistrates considered it nothing more than a Hoax—but the magistrates he thought were watching him very closely, which he was informed of by some Persons in their Confidence, and who had told him his House has lately been very strictly watched, for which reason they had not met there lately.—

On my arrival at Leeds in the Evening at the Golden Cock Kirkgate I met Mitchel Spurr, Mann, Morton, and Several others, all of whom seemed to regret very much the time having been put off, and were told from Sheffield it had been by my Request for which Reasons they wished to know—when I told them the Sheffield Committee’s Reason, and that I had no further hand in it.—then saying I as an Individual could see no objection to it, as they saw the Propriety themselves it could make no odds to me—by such Explanation those men at Leeds seemed satisfied,—and said they were to have another meeting of Delegates on Sunday next, the day should be determined on without any further delay on any account that Delegates had been dispatched to various Places to inform them therewith as they were now so sanguine and well prepared if a further delay did take place they had no hopes of Success for they thought in time they would be betrayed.—I found the delay had already damped their Spirits, for they said that many had arranged their Business for the 26th: and had not been to their work since, nor did they intend it.—they again wished particularly to know from me if it was not possible to get some active men from London to lead them as they would have more Confidence in Strangers than their neighbours.

Friday the 30th: at Bradford I called as I was desired on Bower, Whitiker, a Robshaw, who seemed very indifferent and seemed to know very little about what was going forward I found them very different to the Representation of their Delegate Crabtree.—

At Halifax I saw a man of the day the Hurst, from whom I found the same Account as I had at Bradford, tho’ of a Revolutionist disposition, very far short of the Representations made of them—this man gave me a very different Account of Crabtree and his Associates as being very idle indolent Fellows—and he assured me nothing had been done at that Place since the Suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act, for the Reformers at that Place seemed struck dumb by it’s Operations—and as Business seemed to revive, he thought the Idea of a Reform would die away, for he was Sure if any one there attempted to speak about such a thing, they would be taken up immediately.—

At this Place alike other Places I found Mitchel, Johnson and Knight were thought very much of as Public Speakers in the Cause of Reform—but now they were in custody the Distresses of their Families were not considered by any Body—but he could not do any thing for them or he certainly would, and if he spoke to others on the subject he considered it dangerous, for nobody was to be trusted now a days.—In going through middleton i called on Booth, and Bamford, when I found they were gone to the Races.—

Saturday 31st: May—

At manchester called on Mr: Whitworth and Givens, Grindrod, and Cannavan, from whom I found there were two Delegates there from Nottingham and Leicester, and an attempt were made at the Races to irritate the Minds of the People to tumult, but it had not the desired Effect.—but the said Delegates were not encouraged by many, for their first Application were for money to defray their Expencses, and they were considered by many as Imposters—I soon found old Bacon the original Nottingham Delegate were one of them and they were suposed to be gone to Stockport, Bolton, and various other Places.—All those people that I had on the former occasion been introduced to, very much afraid of being seen to speak to any Reformers they said what a thing it would be if they should be taken from their Business and Families, but still I found Whitworth a taken in some of the Black Dwarfs for himself and Friends in a very private manner—he said to me that he thought the ministers would very soon bring about a Revolution themselves, for things could never last as they were much longer—he said that Bamford and Bradbury were still very active among them, but they were very much doubted by many of their Friends as not being sincere—they say they were cleared  by insisting that they were illegally arrested as they had not at any time taken an active part since the Suspension of the Laws, and in their firmness in that they were liberated, but were very particular desired not to take any active part again which they would not promise to do.—

Sunday 1st: June.

At Liverpool I soon found by Mr Willan that the two Delegates had also been there and a Mr. Davis had so far frightened them when they applied to him for money that they were Suposed to be gone—as they said to Bolton,—but the Reports which were made by them of the prepared State of the Country were not countenanced in the least, I followed them to Bolton and also to Stockport, where I found they had been, and gone back on back to Manchester—myself being a Stranger in those Places I could not get an Introduction among them.—

Monday 2nd: June.—

On my Return to manchester I found they were actively watched by the Magistrates, and Mr. Whitworth said he was sure they had no chance in that Place of ever attempting at Reform any more, for he now considered them all in fetters at present.—

On my way through middleton I saw Booth and several other of Mitchel's old acquaintances who inquired of me if the People in the upper Parts were in so forward a State of Preparation as it had been represented to them by those two Delegates, when I told them i could not tell them in reality their State.—they then seem satisfied they had been imposed on and seemed determined to pay no more Attention to the Reports but admitted Bamford to be very active among them still.—

In the Evening at Leeds I went to the Golden Cock where I saw Mitchel and several others, who informed me they had sent up to Birmingham to request Mr. Whitworth the Schoolmaster to come to their Assistance, and hoped i would not leave them till he did come—Daniel Morton was sent off to Hull to ascertain the State of the People's minds in that Place, and if possible what Arms and Ammunition they could get from their.—and a meeting was appointed for Friday to determine on the Line they were to pursue on the day of the Ninth.—

Tuesday 3rd:—

From Wakefield I visited Horbury, Ossett, Dewsbury, and Huddersfield and found the People apparently mad in consequence of the delay that took place, and I had been blamed for it—they said there were many among them had left their Work, and were determined not to return to it until the Blow were struck. here i found some People were taken up at Sheffield, but it was considered nothing more than a Strike among the Grinders that their Delegates Kept the People in the dark of the real state of the Case.—

In the Evening I went among them at Leeds, where I found them in very great Spirits, and were particularly active.—

Wednesday 4th: June

I Went to Camp mount where I compared Information with Sir John Byng, which very much corresponded as a Proof that a County agent were active among them.—

returned to Wakefield in the Evening, but did not see any of them there, Scholes being from home.—

Thursday 5th: June—

At Leeds I compared Information with Mr. B. which I found very correct as far as it went, but not to the extent of their intended Operations—and I was particularly requested to attend the Meeting of Friday before i returned to London.—

In the Evening I went to the Committee, part of which retired to the Golden Cock—Spurr declined attending them which surprized them very much—when he was sent for a found he was gone to bed—by this time Morton had returned from Hull saying the People there were not taking any Steps whatever, nor did they seem to know what was going forward Elsewhere but there were plenty of Arms that could be very Easily taken by about one Hundred good men.—

Some Person said Dawson of Huddersfield were gone on the same Errand, and was expected back in the morning they now seem to press me more than ever as to what extent I thought London intended to go—which I considered myself not authorized to say, for my Commission went no further than to ascertain for their Information the actual State of the Country, and how far they were prepared to go—they said that nothing less than a Republican Government would do any good, and if the Londoners meant nothing beyond a radical Reform, it would be of no use. Mr: Mann seemed the most pressing for my opinion as to the State of London.—

Friday morning 6t. June.

Mr Mann called me to accompany him and another to the Meeting for help.—on the way much Conversation took place relative to the mode of operations, and they both seemed to differ very widely as to the Confidence they had each others Abilities, and that alone would frustrate their Plans—but Mann seemed so confident of Success as it was, but would be much more to if they could get such as Colonel Wilson and Cochrane to command them.—The recent News from the Brazils seemed to cheer them with greater hopes than ever, and Mann seemed to think it could as easy be done in this Country within a few miles of Dewsbury Mann turned into some Factory as he said to see some old staunch Friends, and we saw no more of him.—

When we got near Thornhill we both were surrounded by the Cavalry and taken to the House, where I found Smalley and several others had been taken in custody—from where I retired through a back window into a meadow, and returned to Leeds, after seeing Sir John Byng.—

I came away by the Mail for Nottingham.—

Saturday morning 7th: June.

At Nottingham I found Stevens were gone to Sheffield to see what was going forward.—I was soon attended by a tall thin meagre looking man whose name I could not learn—he took me to Rhodes the Shoemaker, where I found a Delegate who said he had sent from Manchester to see what was going forward: After I had told them what happened the day before at Thornhill, they immediately sent a Messenger after Stevens to bring him back if possible.—the man from Manchester mentioned to me a many names that I did not know, but he seemed to know all that I mentioned to him, and I told him I thought the Manchester People would not act—he said I was much mistaken, and he conceived I had not seen any of their staunch Friends that were now active.—

Soon after this tall man said Burkin from Derby was in Town if I wished to see him—he then fetched him to me in the Street,—when I first saw him he seemed to tremble, and appeared very much frightened as I supposed from the News I had brought from Thornhill. I told him I was going by the way of Derby, and as he said he was going we might as well go together—he then said was not certain he could go till the morrow, and as there would be a meeting in the Evening he thought I had much better stop, which would give them much greater Confidence.—I told him I had taken my Place in the Coach and could not stop.—

Some time after this I observed Burkin and this tall man walking about in very deep and Sullen Conversation backwards and forwards by the Inn that I were at—I thought they wished to see me—and as soon as Mr. H. and Mr Alsop left me, I went to them, when the tall man and Burkin pressed me very much to stay, and B. said he must go to get some goods to make money of by Monday, when he had a Bill to pay, and perhaps he should be obliged to go to London to sell his Goods for money—and the tall man assure me if I did stop my Fare should be reimbursed in the Evening.—After consulting Mr: Alsop and Mr. H. I agreed to stop, and Burkin set off to Derby, where he said he should see Crabtree the delegate from Leeds, who he said had been to Birmingham, and had met with a very poor Reception by those who were considered staunch Friends of Mitchell.—

In the Evening according to appointment at Nine o'Clock I went to Stevens, where a Person was to meet me, to conduct me to the Meeting and to my Surprize found Stevens had returned, who expressed great Sorrow at returning, for he was sure had he gone on to Sheffield he would be able to rouse them yet.—After a great many Interrogatories respecting London, and who were the active men there which I evaded as much as possible by saying I was not justifiable in disclosing to them the  Particular Secrets in London, for I had been invited as a Friend to Come among them to be convinced of the Strength and the disposition of the Country, that London might ascertain what they had to depend upon, which I was personally requested to Communicate to them—some of them now became very warm and requested if I was a Friend to stop with them and take an active part, as the time was so near—when I told that if I did so I should forfeit all Confidence in not returning with a true Statement the tall man then attacked me by putting very distinct questions to me, as, how my Expences were to be paid, and what line of life I had been in, and who I was connected with in London, and various other questions which I endeavoured to explain the best way I could, which appeared satisfactory to a few of them.—the tall man asked me if I had not represented London to be Seventy thousand strong, which I avoided by saying, that were the Number assembled at Spa Fields, as Mitchell had repeatedly mentioned to them before as to the real effective Strength it could never be ascertained, for the Business in London was kept in so few hands that it was always considered dangerous to be Known to many.—

they expressed their Surprize I did not know Senior, and the rest of their Friends at the John o Groats’ St. George’s Fields.—I told them I had been once with Mitchel when he had some money of them.—

The tall man then said I might be assured they were not so fond of being hung for nothing at Nottingham as they were in Lancashire, and if I did not stop he did not know what to think of me—At this I found a general Approbation when I immediately consented to their Request, provided they would procure a Confidential Person to proceed to London in my stead—this seemed to have the desired effect, and produced me many friends to the mortification of the tall man. the Majority seemed to think it most prudent I should proceed on my mission without delay—as it might be of consequence – – the tall man then proposed if I was not stop with them it was not necessary for me to be made acquainted with the Positions they intended to take up and act upon–which I readily agreed to be very prudent and cautious, and after a few Compliments for his prudence I found still greater Friends by my Indifference in not wish to know the extent of their Intentions.—

After which, Stevens immediately declared his mind was made up to Kill or be Killed, and was joined by several others with the same Expressions.—When I wished to withdraw the tall man said that it was currently reported that no Dependence could be placed in the Nottingham People—and he asked me to tell him candidly if I had not heard the same where I had been—which I candidly admitted to have heard mentioned—then with a most bitter Oath he expressed that they should soon see that Nottingham would yet have to set the example for them, when I found it a most favourable Opportunity to retire, and Stevens accompanied me to the Inn, and assured me he would be with me in the morning and bring me the Coach Fare, which I had forfeited to oblige them, but I saw nothing more of him or any of them in the morning.—

On my arrival at Birmingham Mr. Jones seemed very glad to see me, as he said he fully expected something had befell me—When I inquired of his Reasons he told me Crabtree had been there, and had made some strange Enquiry about me, and if they thought me staunch to the Cause and how they considered my Expences would defrayed, and many other questions which gave them umbrage, so that they doubted him, and most particularly when he told them he had but three pence left to take him back to Yorkshire.—then Jones furnished him with 27 Shillings and requested him to make the best of his way back—that the Birmingham People should take Care of themselves Mr: Hinks then called on Mr. Jones, and joined cordially in his disapprobation of Crabtree and some others which had been sent up to Birmingham at various times—and they had at all times to pay their Expences.—

When I told them what had happened in Yorkshire Jones and Hinks both declared they would never more have any thing to do with any of them, for they had not the least Confidence in each other, or they would not be so betrayed—and the magistrates in that Place were so well aware of what was going forward, that no Person was admitted to their Presence without a Constable to examine their them first. —I then proceeded on to London.—

This Narrative is made from Notes taken daily as it occurred from Place to Place, and from time to time.—

W. Oliver.

Sworn before me—
this 29th day of June 1817
N. Conant.—

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

28th June 1817: 'The Spy System' in the Leeds Mercury


The exposure made in this paper of the arts practiced by the government spies and informers, though it has not arrested the progress of the Bill for placing the liberties of Englishmen in the hands of a Secretary of State, has produced an impression, both in the Senate and the country, that will not soon be effaced. To the timid it has given confidence, and to the truly loyal it has imparted the highest satisfaction. The discovery that the cause of alarm was rather imaginary than real, and that the alleged disloyalty of the people may be traced to the sinister arts of their traducers, could not felt to have a tranquillizing effect upon every class of society, with the exception only of those who wish to see their country torn by civil wars, or shackled by the chains of despotism. Attempts have been made, indeed, to deprive the people of the consolations which this view of the situation of the nation is calculated to inspire; but all the efforts made, both in and out of Parliament, to justify the Plot-mongers at the expense of the great body of the community, have failed.

In confirmation of the veracity of our statements, we appeal to the impression made, by the investigation at Wakefield at the conduct of Oliver, upon the mind of the Lord Lieutenant; and upon this point we have the authority of Lord Milton for saying, that his venerable father, "having made a strict investigation into the situation of the West Riding of Yorkshire, was perfectly satisfied that there was no ground for the renewed Suspension of the Act of Habeas Corpus." With his Lordship’s views before the system of espionage was exposed, the country is well acquainted. Another circumstance strongly confirming our statement, is the fact, that all the persons apprehended at Thornhill Lees, at the pretended meeting of delegates on the 6th of the present month, were liberated by the Magistrates, who, according to Lord Milton's declaration made in the House of Commons on Friday last, "found, from the testimony taken before them, the statement made in the Leeds Mercury established beyond dispute." But we do not rest the veracity of our statements on the authority, high as it is, of the Lord Lieutenant, and the Magistrates of the West Riding of Yorkshire. We appeal to Lord Liverpool, the first Minister of State, and to General Byng, the Commander of the District; by the former of whom it is admitted that Mr. Oliver, the man who, it has been proved, was attempting to seduce his Majesty's from their allegiance, was "an agent of Government;" and the latter of whom we learn, that this government agent was in communication with the Commander of the District.

These important admissions, seconded as they are by the admirable and well-timed DECLARATION of the Clergy, Ministers, Churchwardens, Constables, and principal inhabitants, of the township of Dewsbury, give "confirmation strong as proof of holy writ," to the statements that have been published, and shew, by a species of evidence which cannot be overturned, who were the principal conspirators, and what was the nature and object of the conspiracy. Dewsbury, it will be recollected, is in the immediate neighbourhood of Thornhill Lees, where the meeting of the 6th of June was held, and the following is the language of the best-informed circles in that place:—"To the best of our knowledge and belief, there does not exist, nor ever has existed, any society of people in this our township, who are or ever have been in the habit of meeting or assembling together for any political purposes whatever, save such as the constitution and laws of the country warrant; nor have we any grounds to believe or suspect that there exists any conspiracy of any kind whatsoever in this populous township, inimical to, or subversive of, its peace and good order, and the general tranquillity of the country at large; and moreover, that there have not been found in this township any individuals who have suffered themselves to be seduced to attend the meetings which have been promoted by those political missionaries or spies, who have been recently detected, and who, with intentions the most criminal and diabolical, have endeavoured to inflame the minds of the lower classes to acts of treachery and open rebellion, for the purpose alone of betraying them."

Against this clear and decisive evidence, what have the ministers of the crown or their agents to oppose? Lord Sidmouth, to whose department the system of espionage particularly attaches, says, that "the statement in the Leeds Mercury he believes is incorrect in many material points, and that a counter-statement will shortly be put forth." This promised counter-statement we long to see; we hope it will go to the bottom of the inquiry; we fear however that no statement resting on an impartial investigation the facts will ever see the light, and we are convinced that the material points in the account already published, cannot be shaken. This counter-statement was promised on the 20th, and though it is now the 28th, it has not yet made its appearance.

The Lord Chancellor too, in his speech in the House of Lords, is reported to have said, "that with respect to the person in Yorkshire, (Mr. Oliver) respecting whom so much is said, their Lordships would do well to suspend their judgment till the proper time should come for his noble friend to explain the circumstances of the case, and to remember that the authority of a country newspaper on the subject, was very bad authority indeed; and perhaps their Lordships would not be a little surprised when they were told, that it was by the advice of London Lawyers, that these publications should appear."

The recommendation of the Lord Chancellor to their Lordships to suspend their judgement, would have come with peculiar force had it been accompanied with a recommendation to suspend the further progress on the Bill on which the inquiry hinged; but it partakes too much of an Irish mode of legislation, to press the passing of the Bill first, and afterwards to judge of its propriety. As to the authority of a country newspaper, of which his Lordships speaks so disparagingly, we have only to remark, that its statements, in the material points, are supported by the united testimony of the Lord Lieutenant, the Magistracy of the Riding, the first Minister of State, and the Commander of the District.

The assertion imputed to the Lord Chancellor, we know not how truly, but the publication was made by the advice of "London Lawyers," is destitute of all foundation. No assertion can be more groundless; and, if it would not be thought presuming, we should beg to inquire what authority his Lordship had for promulgating such a statement. In reality, the publication was made without the advice of any individual whatever, either legal or political. From a variety of circumstances, it had been suspected that the people dignified in the name of delegates, who were apprehended at or near Thornhill Lees, on the 6th of June, had been the dupes of the arts, and the victims of the perfidy, of a hired informer: but it was not till four o'clock in the afternoon of Friday the 15th, that  tangible shape was given to the surmises, by letter which the Editor of this paper received from Mr. James Holdforth, of this place, who, on his way through Dewsbury to Manchester, had learned, that a person of the name of Oliver, had attempted to seduce Mr. Willan, a bookseller, in that place, to attend the meeting at Thornhill Lees, and that Oliver had previously been in communication with General Byng, the commander of the district. Struck at once by the importance of this communication, and by the delicacy of the subject it involved, we repaired to Dewsbury without loss of time, to investigate the facts on the spot, and to receive the information from the lips of the persons who could alone speak to the facts with certainty and precision. We have already stated that the testimony was given with that punctilious regard to accuracy which left us no doubt, not the least, of the veracity of our informants. About nine o'clock the investigation closed; before midnight the result of our inquiries was in the hands of the compositors, and on the following morning, being our usual day of publication, the exposure was exhibited in the principal towns of the county of York. Two days afterwards the intelligence reached London in the ordinary way, and the first specific information that any member of either of the two houses of parliament had of the detection of the real conspirators, was through the medium of this journal.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

21st June 1817: 'Exploded Plots' in the Leeds Mercury


The exposition made in our last paper of the plotters against the public tranquillity, has produced a sensation in the Metropolis—the Senate—and the nation at large, that has seldom been exceeded. One of its first effects was to procure the liberation of the principal part of the persons charged with holding a political meeting for treatable purposes, at Thornhill Lees, in this county; and the magistrates of the West Riding, with a proper regard to their own characters and to the public interest, have done themselves lasting honour, by setting at liberty the men, whom a perfidious conspirator, acted acting under a superior agency, had marked out for his victims. By this exposure, the secret springs of a diabolical conspiracy, not of the people, but against the people, have been laid bare. The real conspirators have been exhibited to public view. The nature and the object of the plots have been disclosed, and all the trepidation and alarm with which the public has been seized, have given way to an universally felt indignation against the alarmists and their emissaries. The effect has been almost magical. The blow aimed at the friends to reform, has been made, by a retributive recoil, to fall upon the heads of their adversaries, and every man, with an English heart in his bosom, whatever his party or his political predilections, feels himself insulted and outraged by the attempts made to convert the most populous and important part of the kingdom into a scene of conspiracies, and his countrymen into a nation of traitors.

The account published in the second edition of our last paper, and which will be found in the parliamentary proceedings of the present week, has proved to be in every important particular correct. From that account it appeared—that the Yorkshire plot was got up by a political agent of the name of Oliver, from London—that this man, under the guise of an ardent zeal for the cause of Parliamentary Reform, did not hesitate to suggest to Mr. Willans, a bookseller, at Dewsbury, the propriety and necessity of resorting to force for the purpose of compelling Government to grant that by coercion, which they were disinclined to concede by petitions. That, on the day when the meeting at Thornhill was appointed to be held, he endeavoured, by the most urgent entreaties, to prevail upon Mr. Willans to attend that meeting, and that in the course of conversation, he told Mr. W that "his" Mr. Oliver's "friends in London were almost heart-broken that the people in the country were so quiet." Who Mr. Oliver's friends, or at least his employers are, the Earl of Liverpool has, with great candour, informed the country; but why they should be so much disquieted at the tranquillity of the people, we shall not pretend to conjecture. It further appeared, from the statement above referred to, that Mr. Willans refused to attend the meeting at Thornhill, and that Dewsbury was thereby deprived of a deputy. Whatever might be the disinclination of Mr. Willans to attend the meeting, Mr. Oliver, it seems, was not actuated by the same motives—he attended—was taken into custody along with ten other delegates, and was suffered to escape "because he was a stranger, and had no papers about him." The next appearance of this stranger was at Wakefield, on the day and at the moment when the persons apprehended with him were under examination before the magistrates at that place, and there is was discovered by a singular train of incidents, that a few days before the meeting at Thornhill, Oliver was at the house of General Sir John Byng, the commander of the district, and that he was conveyed in the General’s tandem to meet the coach, which bore him to the scene of his delinquencies. This discovery, so fortunate for the country, will be considered as a special interposition of a Superintending Power, in favour of the country; and we may say with truth, "The finger of Providence was there."

On this part of the exposure a few observations will suffice. Every link in the chain of evidence is perfect. The conduct of Oliver, the informer, admits no further disguise—it is perfectly clear that he instigated persons to attend at Thornhill, on the day in question, and there is reason to suppose that he himself appointed the meeting. What were his instructions we cannot say, but he is completely identified with men in an official situation, by a species of evidence that scarcely stood in need of the admission made by Lord Liverpool, that he was an agent of the Government. But, says his Lordship, the account in the Leeds Mercury is an ex-parte statement, and as such must not be implicitly relied upon. That is true, my Lord, and our anxiety is, that it should no longer be ex-parte. We invite your Lordship to deprive it of this character, by rigorous investigation into all the facts of the case; and this investigation, we beseech your Lordship and your colleagues to institute, before the Suspension Bill, founded upon these alleged conspiracies, is suffered to advance another stage in its progress. Whether the bill to renew to Ministers the power of exercising a despotic controul over the liberties of their countrymen, has produced the plots, or the plots have produced the bill, it is not our present business to inquire; but we feel it our duty to say, as a circumstance coming within our own knowledge, that, in the inquiries which we made at Dewsbury, the day before the facts we have developed were laid before the public, we never recollect to have heard a witness give his evidence, even in a court of justice, and upon oath, with a more scrupulous regard to truth than Mr. Willans. If he erred, as he certainly did, in suffering a traitor like Oliver to come near his house, after he had, by insinuation, communicated his villainous designs, he has made ample reparation to his country for his error, by having first declined to attend a meeting, the object of which he considered to be mischievous, and then, by making those disclosures, even at the risk of the obloquy to which they were sure to subject him, which have tended to put down a system of espionage, contemplating first the seduction of his Majesty's subjects from their allegiance, and then the destruction of the seduced and the extinction of public liberty. Mr. Dickinson's evidence, which was given with the utmost frankness, Lord Liverpool has confirmed, by the acknowledgement that Oliver was an agent of Government, and in that capacity, it seems, was in communication with the commander of the district.

Mr. Oliver, the political incendiary, made his first appearance in Yorkshire about nine or ten weeks ago, accompanied by one Mitchell, a Liverpool delegate, (now in custody) under the assumed character of the zealous Parliamentary Reformer, whose object it was to ascertain the dispositions of the people, and to give to the sluggish current of public feeling a due degree of fervour. On his arrival in Wakefield, by the True Briton Coach, he called upon Mr. Benjamin Scholes, a publican in that place, a person who had taken a leading part in a meeting recently held, for the purpose of petitioning the Legislature, for a Reform in the representation of the people, and as a specimen of the manner in which Mr. Oliver executed his mission, we shall state the substance of a deposition made by Mr Scholes, before J. P. Heywood, Esq. one of the Magistrates of this riding:—


On his first interview with Mr. Scholes, Oliver said, that he was charged to present Sir Francis Burdett's compliments to him, and to inform him that he was delegated by the Baronet, Lord Cochrane, Major Cartwright, Mr. Hunt, and other gentlemen, to examine into the state the country, and to learn whether the country meant to sit down with their petitions being rejected or not. Mr. Scholes said, he could not speak for others, but for himself he must say, that though he believed he was among the most zealous of the Parliamentary Reformers in Wakefield, he would go as far as petitioning went, but no further. Some conversation then took place on the subject of the Wakefield petition, on which Oliver observed, that "it was very good, but it did not go far enough." Mr. Scholes replied that they did not need to interfere any further, and he referred Mr. Oliver, for information as to the views of the reformers, to Mr. Hurst, the printer of the Wakefield Journal, Mr. Dealtry, one of the West Riding Magistrates, Mr. Egremont, a gentleman of independent fortune in the neighbourhood, and other gentlemen, who had signed the petition. Mr. Scholes cannot say whether Oliver applied to these gentleman, but in point of fact we believe he did not. His dupes were to be found among the distressed and the ignorant, and it was to those principally that he addressed himself. Oliver then requested Mr. Scholes to furnish him with the names of such persons, in the neighbouring villages, as were favourable to Reform, which he did, and, amongst others, he mentioned John Smaller, of Horbury. Having thus far felt his way, Oliver next proposed to Mr. Scholes that he should accompany him to Manchester and Liverpool, on his political mission, and promised that he would both pay his expenses, and satisfy him for his trouble. This proposal Mr. Scholes declined.

Some time after Oliver again called at Mr. Scholes’s, and proposed a walk into the country, to examine the newly erected asylum, stating that he had some skill in architecture. During their talk the subject of Parliamentary Reform was resumed, and Oliver observed that Sir Francis Burdett and the other gentlemen by whom he was delegated were astonished that the country was not more alive to the subject of Parliamentary Reform. "I asked him," says Mr. Scholes, "what he meant by being alive," and he replied, "if petitioning will not do, we must use physical force." "Physical force," rejoined Mr. Scholes, indignantly, "the country must not be thrown into a state of insubordination, and I will have nothing to do with plunging the nation into anarchy." Thus repulsed, Mr. Oliver dropped the conversation. The third and last time that Mr. Oliver called upon Mr. Scholes, it was for the purpose of inviting him to attend a meeting, which Oliver said he had appointed, at Penistone, in this Riding, for discussing a plan of Parliamentary Reform. This meeting Mr. Scholes positively refused to attend, telling Oliver, at the same time, that he believed he was a bad man, and that he would not only not attend this meeting himself, but he would also dissuade any other persons, over whom he might have any influence, from attending it. He further asked him his reason for staying so long in this part of the country, as he must be satisfied that this project of resorting to force would not be encouraged. Oliver replied, that he did not dare to return to London till the State Trials were over, and, on being asked the cause of his fears, he said he had assisted young Watson in effecting his escape. In this conversation Oliver expressed himself dissatisfied with the apathy of the country, in proof of which, he said he had appointed two meetings at Huddersfield, and when he got there not a single individual had attended. At parting, Mr. Scholes said to Oliver, "Now, Sir, I beg, that from this time, you will never call upon the again." In the course of the evening, several men, who were drinking in Mr. Scholes’s house, told him that Oliver had appointed a meeting at Penistone the next day, and asked him his opinion of Oliver and his measures; to which he replied, "for God’s sake keep from Oliver and his meetings, for he is a base villain."

From the period of the Penistone meeting, which, we believe, was held on the 1st of June, till the eve of the Thornhill meeting on the 6th of June, we have no specific information respecting the operations of Mr. Oliver, but we understand, that a little before the time of the former meeting, this incendiary made a journey to London, and that, in the interval, he was travelling about in the counties of Nottingham, Derbyshire, Staffordshire, and Lancashire, labouring, no doubt, in his vocation. For the honour of human nature, we hope that the use made by Mr. Oliver of the names of Sir Francis Burdett, Major Cartwright, and others, was not authorized by Ministers; but after such a specimen of the vile arts employed to traduce the friends of Parliamentary Reform, we are not in future to be surprised at any calumnies that may be propagated against them.

We have already stated, from the testimony of Mr. Willans and Mr. Dickinson, how Mr Oliver was engaged in some parts of the day on Friday, the 6th of June, and the greatful feelings of one of the persons discharged by the Magistrates on Monday, has afforded us a clue to his proceedings in the early as well as the more interesting part of the same day. Last Tuesday morning, a person of the name of Thomas Murray, one of the Leeds delegates, so called, waited upon us, to express his acknowledgements, and the thanks of the persons who had been imprisoned with him in Wakefield House of Correction, for the services which they conceived we had rendered to them, in contributing to their liberation, by exposing the real conspirators. After he had explained his business, we inquired how it happened that he had attended the meeting at Thornhill, and what was the nature of his delegation? To this he replied that he would explain the whole matter, as far as he was acquainted with the business, and the following narrative, which was delivered in the most artless manner, he is ready, we understand, to confirm upon oath:—


THOMAS MURRAY is a linen-weaver, in the employment of Messrs. Benyon, Benyon, and Bage, of this place, and says, that on Friday morning, the 6th of June, about half-past seven o'clock, he was standing near his master’s works in Meadow-lane, near the junction of the two roads from Leeds to Dewsbury, along with a young man of the name of Thomas Dovner, when a person with the appearance of a gentleman, answering to description given of Mr. Oliver in the second edition of the Leeds Mercury of last Saturday, walked up to them and inquired the road to Dewsbury. On the road being pointed out to him, he inquired how much further Thornhill was than Dewsbury, and was told two miles. He then asked Murray if he was out of employment? and on being told that he was for that day, owing to the woman who assisted in his business being obliged to remain at home to attend to her family; Oliver observed that he had some business at Thornhill, and being an entire stranger in that part of the country, he should be glad if he would accompany him and show him the way, for which services he would reward him, by paying his expenses, and satisfying him for his day’s work. After some persuasions Murray was prevailed upon to go, and on their way to Dewsbury they regaled themselves at the public-house at Stump-cross with a shilling’s-worth of rum and milk, for which Oliver paid. During the journey the subject of politics was never introduced but once, and then Oliver informed his guide that "Mr. Abbott was elevated to the Peerage, and he was glad of it, for he was an impartial clever little fellow." On their arrival at Dewsbury, Oliver went into a small bookseller’s shop, (Mr. Willans’s) and requested his guide to wait for him at the door. When he came out, he said, the person he wished to see was not in, and they then went into an adjoining public-house, where they again refreshed themselves at Mr. Oliver's expense. While they were in the house a woman came in, which Murray believes was Mr. Willans's wife, and said, that her husband had come in, on which Oliver immediately followed her into the bookseller’s shop, and in the space of about a quarter of an hour returned. Murray and he then proceeded on their way to Thornhill, and when they had arrived in a lane about one hundred yards from the Sportsman's Arms, they saw three gentlemen, one of them being Major-General Sir John Byng, riding up to meet them at full speed. On their approach, Sir John advanced up to Oliver, and pointing with his finger, said, "I think I know you, Sir." Oliver, affecting to be overcome with fright, made no reply. Sir John then said, "I have had an accurate description of you from London! Sir, is not your name Oliver?" Oliver still remained silent, and by the orders of Sir John he was surrounded by a party of cavalry and taken into custody. Sir John then called to another detachment of Yeomanry Cavalry, who were on the road, to stop Murray, which they did, and after driving him into the ditch, they dragged him into the Sportsman's Arms public-house. Here they searched the person the Leeds Delegate, but found not a single scrap of paper upon him. At that time there were about five or six persons in the room all in custody, and he learned that they had all been picked up in different parts of the neighbourhood. When they had been in the public-house about half an hour, several post chaises, which seem to have been previously prepared, drove up to the door, and in them they were conveyed, under an escort of Yeomanry Cavalry, to the Court-house at Wakefield. From the time that Murray was apprehended, up to the period of his discharge, he never saw Oliver but once, and then he was brought into the room at the Sportsman's Arms in custody, but he had not remained there above half a minute, when he was called out of the room by Sir John Byng, and never again appeared. After the examination at Wakefield, Murray and his fellow delegates, not one of whom, to the best of his knowledge, he had ever before seen, were committed to the House of Correction, and were there for eleven days in solitary confinement, and on the prison allowance.

Such are the statements that we have received from the mouths of the persons whose names they bear. That they are all in their leading particulars correct, we have not the slightest doubt. They are published with the honest intention of tranquillizing the public mind, of justifying the innocent, and of exposing the guilty. Had we consulted either our own ease, or our personal safety, we should have shrunk, in times like these, from the responsibility of this exposure, but there is a feeling of the mind paramount to all these considerations—a sense of public duty, and by that principle alone we have been actuated.

The same spirit of candid inquiry and love of truth, which has, we hope, displayed itself in every part of our conduct in these mysterious transactions, induces us to present our readers with the following letter addressed to the Editor of this paper, and received yesterday morning, from Major-General Sir John Byng, the commander of the district.


"St James’s Square, (London) June 18th, 1817.

SIR,—You have introduced my name into your last paper in such a manner as to induce me to desire the insertion, in your next, of the following statement:—

Your have suffered it to be inferred, that a person of the name of Oliver, was employed by me—that he entrapped the persons taken up at Thornhill-Lees, and that he left London with the view of exciting and fomenting discontent and disturbances in different parts of the country. Not one word of this is true:—before Oliver left London, information had been transmitted to be, from Nottingham, of an intended rising in the manufacturing districts in the North of England and Scotland: this information was only a repetition of what I had reason to expect for several weeks, if the motion of Sir Francis Burdett, for a Reform in Parliament, should be rejected. The information from Nottingham was subsequently corroborated so fully to me from various quarters, and the 9th of June being from all fixed upon as the period of rising, I was induced, on Monday the 2d of June, to wait upon Sir Francis Wood, and communicate to him what I knew, who deemed my information of sufficient importance to propose a meeting of the Magistracy at Barnsley, for Friday, the 6th. On Wednesday, the 4th, I, for the first time, saw or heard from Oliver, who gave me some information corroborative of what I had before received, and further told me that there would be a meeting of delegates at Cleckheaton on Friday, the 6th. Mr. Parker communicated, on the 5th, to Sir Francis Wood and myself, that he had at Sheffield information given, upon oath, that a meeting of persons, who were finally to decide upon the plan for the 9th, would be held at the Sportsman's Arms, at Thornhill Lees, at 11, on Friday the 6th, and suggested the propriety of arresting these delegates, to prevent the fatal consequences which might ensue on the 9th:—this suggestion was agreed to at Barnsley, on the morning of the 6th. When the Magistrate (Mr. Chandler) and myself arrived at Thornhill, although some time after the hour of the proposed meeting, Oliver was not come, having been deceived as to the place of meeting, which, as I have before stated, he expected was to be at Cleckheaton, and so far from having entrapped the then arrested, he only knew one of them by name, (which, in fairness to the individual, I will not here insert). He neither knew the real place of meeting, nor the persons assembled, and was consequently not brought before the magistrates to confirm their other evidence.

With respect to the alleged conversation with Mr. Dickinson and Mr. Willan, I cannot speak, as I confine myself to facts; but I have to remark, that what is imputed to Oliver by them, is a direct contradiction to what he stated as his general line of conduct, and is quite contrary to what he considered his instructions, which were confined solely to give to any Magistrate, or myself, information necessary for preserving the peace of the country.

It only remains for me to add, that I am not empowered to hire any person—that I have never, directly or indirectly, paid any thing for the information I have received, which has hitherto been communicated to me from respectable authority, and from a far better motive than any mercenary consideration.

I am, Sir,
Your humble Servant,
JOHN BYNG, Major-General.

To Mr. Edward Baines, at the
Mercury-Office, Leeds.

In justice to ourselves, it is proper to remark, that in our paper of last week, we stated facts rather than drew inferences, and that not one of those facts has been shaken by the above letter. We did not say that "Oliver was employed by General Byng to entrap the persons taken up at Thornhill Lees." On the contrary we said that "from every thing we had heard of the character and conduct of General Byng, we were persuaded that he had been merely the medium for receiving Oliver’s information, and that whoever might have employed him, the General had merely acted in the discharge of his official duty." Nor did we state that Oliver "left London with the view of exciting and fomenting disturbances in different parts of the country." We could not dive into the dark recesses of Oliver's mind, and it was as impossible for us to know, with what views he left London, as it must be for General Byng to speak to the same fact. But with whatever views he left London, or whatever might be the nature of the instructions he received from Ministers on his departure, we think that, after the exposure which it has fallen to our lot to make of his nefarious practices, both General Byng and the country must now be convinced, that this profligate informer has excited and fomented disturbances in different parts of the country, and in the words of the Wakefield Journal, "that had there been no Mr. Oliver there would have been no plot." That there is a great mass of dissatisfaction in the country, and that rumours of the nature alluded to in General Byng’s letters, will continue to prevail as long as the public distress prevails, cannot be doubted; but that there was any concerted plan for a rising of the people, till Mr. Oliver and his co-adjutors came into the country, and injected their treasons into the minds of the people, would, we apprehend, be very difficult to prove. Even with Mr. Oliver's assistance, the meeting at Thornhill, if a meeting it could be called, was a most pitiful assembly, and General Byng, we are convinced, when he saw the materials of which that meeting was composed, must have perceived, that all apprehensions of the West Riding of Yorkshire being three days afterwards thrown into a state of insurrection, were utterly groundless. When the General uses the word delegates, he must, we presume, apply it in the popular and not in the correct acceptation of the term. It is our firm conviction, that not a single individual present, Mr. Oliver alone excepted, was clothed with delegated powers. The narrative of Thomas Murray, given above, proves very clearly what sort of delegation he possessed; and from every thing we can learn, we are persuaded, that the other delegates just as much represented the places where they happened to reside, as Thomas Murray represented the town of Leeds. General Byng’s mode of accounting for Oliver's late attendance at the meeting, is proved by the testimony of Murray to be incorrect, (unintentionally so, no doubt.) We find this man in Leeds, twelve miles only from the place of meeting at half-past seven o'clock in the morning of Friday, the 6th of June, inquiring, not for Cleckheaton, but for Dewsbury and Thornhill; and we find also, from the concurrent testimony of Mr. Willans and Thomas Murray, that the principal cause of his late attendance was, his wish to seduce Mr. Willans to attend that meeting, to which he had, by a different artifice, decoyed Thomas Murray. General Byng’s disavowal of the possession of any powers to hire persons to give him information, we do not call in question, though we do not perceive the propriety of making such a disclaimer, when the conduct of a confessedly hired spy is under discussion. It is a matter perfect indifference to the public, whether Mr. Oliver's remuneration stands under the head of "Secret Service Money," or of "Army Estimates."

The observation of Lord Liverpool, that Mr. Oliver was sent by Government to discover, and not to form plots, may be true, but a first Minister of State ought to know, that when a spy cannot find a plot, he will make one; and when he knows that his employers have a Green Bag to fill, he will not fail to present them with his well-timed contributions. But Lord Liverpool, in some of the reports of his speech, says, that if Oliver has practised the arts alleged against him, and endeavoured to excite the people to treasonable acts, he has exceeded his instructions. In that case, let him be brought to justice. Overt acts of treason have been committed, and Mr. Oliver, an avowed agent of Ministers, has perpetrated the crime. Either the agent or the principals are guilty. If he be not tried, they ought to be impeached. Impartial justice, and the loudly raised voice of the country, demands it; and it is the duty of Parliament to see that so reasonable a demand is satisfied.

Monday, 19 June 2017

19th June 1817: Oliver is discussed again in the House of Commons

Sir F. Burdett was reprobating the employment of spies as allies of government in the maintenance of social order. While such instruments were made use of, it was impossible that any man's property or persons could be safe; and the misdeeds of one of these miscreants, whose conduct bad lately been brought to light, proved, but too plainly, the truth of what he asserted. Under these circumstances, and hearing that the noble lord had attempted to defend the conduct of such a man as Thomas Reynolds, of Welbeck-street, he should be glad to know of ministers whether those spies had their authority for making use of the names of individuals? A transaction of this sort had occurred, in regard to which the state of the times rendered it necessary for him to vindicate his own character, however contemptible and unworthy of notice the individuals might otherwise be. It did appear then, that Oliver, the fellow of Reynolds, had gone about the country introducing himself "with sir F. Burdett's compliments." After what had already come out, it was impossible to say how far this man might be authorized by, or associated with, government. If so, the infamy of such transactions was mutual on the employer and the employed; or rather the government that could employ such agents, the scourge, and pest of society, was even more culpable than the wretched agents themselves; and if "Universal justice ruled the ball," the noble lord would be tried with his creatures, Castle and Oliver, for their conspiracies against the subjects of this kingdom. If the employers of these men had any feeling, or any conscience, they would have shunned the assistance of such unworthy allies; for they might beforehand have been sure that such agents would go beyond their instructions, because it was their obvious interest to do so: if they did not promote treason, their employment was at an end. A jury of able, independent, and honest men, had shown their sense of the infamous purposes for which these spies had been employed.

Lord Castlereagh said, that if any improper use had been made of the hon. baronet's name, it was owing, not as the hon. baronet would insinuate, to any directions on the part of his majesty's government, but, in all probability to causes over which the hon. baronet himself had greater control. At a proper period, he should be perfectly prepared to justify the part taken by government on this subject. If the hon. baronet's name had been mixed up with any of the proceedings of the individuals to whom he had alluded, it was himself that he had to thank for it, and not his majesty's government.

19th June 1817: Oliver is discussed in the House of Lords

Oliver was discussed during the third reading of the Habeas Corpus Suspension Bill on 19th June 1817:

The Duke of Bedford said, he could not reconcile it to his sense of public duty, now that the bill had arrived at its last stage, not to deliver his solemn protest against it. He trusted their lordships would fairly and dispassionately consider the case. The committee of secrecy, acting in the nature of a grand jury, had, from whatever evidence was laid before them, drawn a bill of indictment against the whole people of England, and it was for their lordships (though unfortunately without evidence) to try the case, and pronounce a verdict of condemnation or acquittal. He was afraid he could not anticipate a verdict of acquittal, but he must say there was no evidence to support a verdict of condemnation. Where was the danger? We were now in a period of profound peace, without any foreign enemy to contend with, without any circumstances existing arising in the slightest degree from external danger; what was there then to fear? Was it from a few discontented individuals driven to despair by privation and distress; was it for this, that the liberties of the whole people of England were to be suspended? It was true he was not without fears, but he feared the power of the Crown, and not the liberty of the people; and the more particularly, because of late years measures for increasing the power of the Crown had been agreed to without hesitation, whilst those which tended to increase the privileges of the people had uniformly met with rejection. In looking to that passage of the report of the committee of secrecy, respecting spies and informers, he could not but express his astonishment that the committee should have given so much credit to statements thus supported. When he had the honour of filling the office of chief governor of Ireland, the office of the chief) secretary was beset by spies and informers, who would have persuaded him that Ireland was almost in a state of rebellion; and had he listened to these tales he might have adopted measures which would have deluged half Ireland with blood. But by pursuing a conduct firm, moderate, and temperate, he put down the tendency to outrage, which had displayed itself, and delivered over Ireland to his successor in the government in a perfect state of tranquillity. By listening to spies and informers, the government here would be led on to measures totally destructive of the liberties of the people. It was utterly impossible that the constitution could stand, if the government were to be carried on upon such a system, and it was with the deepest regret and the greatest alarm, that he had heard the employment of spies avowed and justified by his majesty's ministers. If this were to be the system, the noble secretary of state had better go over to Paris and take lessons from M. de Cazes, or some other celebrated superintendent of police. Such a system of espionage (he used the French word, because, and he rejoiced at it, there was no adequate word in the English language to express the same meaning), was utterly inconsistent with the free constitution of Britain. No argument had been urged in favour of this measure (excepting the ground of humanity stated by a noble duke) save that of necessity, which had been in all ages the tyrant's plea. Necessity had invariably been urged by Buonaparté as an excuse for every measure of tyranny he had imposed upon the people. The same argument had been used for the same purpose by the government that preceded him, the Directory, and in the same way by the power immediately preceding that by the tyrant Robespierre, when it was urged at the bar of the convention, that the law ought to be suspended in order to save the country. With regard to one part of the report of the committee, that respecting blasphemous publications, there was no greater enemy than himself to such kind of publications, but he must remind the noble secretary of state, that at all periods of political agitation, there had been parodies circulated of parts of the church service which, though they could not be defended, yet proved that this offence was not now committed for the first time, and, therefore, that they ought not to be designated in the terms in which they were. One circumstance connected with one of these productions he felt it his duty to state, it was a parody upon the creed, which had been sent from Norwich to the secretary of state's office. It was written 24 years ago by a person then a jacobin and a leveller, but who had since become a supporter of the government, and who had this parody, written formerly by himself, reprinted at an obscure ministerial book seller's at Norwich, and then sent it to the secretary of state's office, as a proof of the seditious and blasphemous spirit that prevailed at Norwich. This statement he had from an authority which he believed could not be questioned. Upon the whole view of the question, though yielding to no man in loyalty to his sovereign, or respect for the constitution, he did not think that any ground was laid for the present measure, and therefore he felt it his duty to vote against the bill.

The Earl of Westmoreland said, it was admitted on all hands that there might be circumstances under which it would be proper to resort to this measure; and some of the noble lords opposite who had spoken against the bill, must allow that there had been times when the measure was necessary. Then, the short question was, is this a proper time for the suspension? It had been objected to this proceeding, that the act would be in existence at a time when parliament would be prorogued, or perhaps dissolved: but it appeared to him only the more necessary, that the power should exist at that period, because, in case a particular emergency should arise, government could not immediately apply to parliament for assistance. Then it had been objected that a period of peace was a very improper time for such a measure: but whether the time was a time of war or of peace was not the question. The question was, whether the exigency existed? But he thought that the reason for such a measure might be stronger in time of peace than in time of war, because in time of peace the country was in a great measure disarmed. But the question was, whether the exigency existed? Now, there could be no question that conspiracies and plots against the government had been and were still carried on to an extent sufficient to excite alarm for the public safety in the minds of all, except in the firm and tranquil minds of the noble lords opposite: this was the conclusion come to by two committees of their lordships. It might be asked, why the duration of the suspension had not been at first continued for a longer period? The answer was, that ministers were anxious that these powers should not continue longer than parliament and the country might think them necessary. Then it had been said, that the suspension might be allowed to expire, and that if a particular emergency arose, government migh call the parliament together, and procure a renewal of those powers. But if that were done, then it would be objected, that ministers had not thought proper to apply for the renewal in a full parliament, but had suffered the suspension to expire that they might get it renewed by a few of their own friends. The noble duke had asserted that the employment of spies was unconstitutional. That was rather an extraordinary assertion, when it was considered that the secretary of state was called upon to swear that part of the secret service money would be employed by him in detecting conspiracies at home. But the fact was, that such agents had always been employed by government, and that it was impossible to detect conspiracies of this nature without them.

The Earl of Donoughmore observed, that the noble earl who had just sat down had said he could answer for the majority of parliament, which, perhaps, he might do; but, as to the people, he was not only convinced the majority of them were not with the ministers in the measures they were now pursuing; but he was satisfied the statement to this effect would excite amongst the people a feeling of indignation, he had almost said though he rather believed it would excite a feeling of a very different kind. It seemed, however, from what had been said by the noble earl, that spies and informers were associated with ministers that they were to be treated with respect; that such men as Castles or Oliver (of whom they had heard something on a former night), or a man who had procured several Irishmen for a rebellion in which he had participated, being himself first a rebel, and then an informer, were all to be treated with respect, and considered as gentlemen. No one could hear what had been said by a noble duke without attaching great importance to what had been said. The noble earl who followed him, had endeavoured to pick holes in that speech, but he had shaken no material part of it. The noble duke had given evidence to them, and most material evidence. He had stated what he himself had done in the government of a country which certainly was not one of the least difficult to govern well, as the noble earl well knew. But certainly the noble earl did not find Ireland in a state so disturbed as it was found by the noble duke, nor did he leave it so quiet as the noble duke left it. The noble duke had stated what he had found the best mode of governing the Irish, and which would also be found the best mode of governing British subjects—conciliation. The circumstances under which they were called on to re-enact the law which had given such power to the ministers, were such, that no man who was at all in the habit of addressing the House should give a silent vote. If he had been in the House when the former measure was proposed, he should have said that the ministers had not made out a case. Majorities of the two Houses had, however, been of a different opinion; the liberties of the people of England had been delivered up to the ministers, and were still in their possession. They had the advantage also of a sitting parliament, and there had been no resistance from any quarter. If any plot had been in existence, there had been time for it to be matured and brought to light. Several arrests had taken place, and they had of course selected for trial the strongest and best case they had. They placed their character as wise ministers, on this issue. This one great case which they selected to vindicate their character and conduct, was brought before a public tribunal, in the manner most satisfactory to British feelings, by a regular trial before the great court of criminal justice. There was a patient trial, and he took it for granted an impartial jury. They knew how that had ended; in contempt, and in so complete a failure, that though three persons remained to be tried, round whose necks the ministers thought they had securely fastened the halter, the prosecution against them was abandoned by the Crown lawyers. The ministers had declared by their committee that there was an absolute necessity for the measure. If they had made this as a distinct proposition, and taken on themselves the responsibility, some weight would be attached to their declaration. But they had chosen to make the House a party in the responsibility by stating the grounds and the facts upon which they proceeded. And upon the showing of the ministers themselves—upon their own statement communicated through the report—he had no difficulty in coming to a conclusion directly contrary to theirs. Here the noble earl read nearly the whole of the report, and argued that there was nothing in it which could warrant their lordships in passing the bill now before them.

The Earl of Limerick rose to reply to some allusions which had been made by the noble earl who spoke last to the character of Mr. Reynolds. He would say, without fear of contradiction, that in a time of great danger and alarm, the individual in question had rendered important services to his country. This individual had originally a considerable fortune, and was connected with respectable society; but having wasted his property, and left his former friends, he had fallen into the company of conspirators and traitors. Being a man of family and carrying along with him some of the influence of his former situation in life, be was received with open arms and admitted to high confidence; but he soon found that his new society were intent on dangerous projects, and had formed designs to involve his country in anarchy, massacre, and blood; that they intended to overturn the laws and government, and to effect a separation of the two kingdoms. He, therefore, reflected on the atrocity of these plans, and determined to retrace his steps. The first time he showed his intention to repent was after a dinner where he had been with some of his associates; in going from which he stated to a friend the desperate achievements that were in contemplation. He told them that he knew the persons engaged in them, and would discover their transactions, provided certain individuals were saved from punishment; and this man laid open the whole plan to government without fee or reward, or the prospect of fee or reward, upon the simple stipulation of safety for some of his friends. The bloody conspiracy which he disclosed was thus prevented, by his means, and yet this man was now declared a spy and an informer, and held up to infamy. This, however, was not the only conspiracy that he detected, or the only service he rendered to his country. The noble person who was then secretary for Ireland thought so highly of his services, that he appointed him inspector of packets at Lisbon, where he was serviceable to government. What was now his crime? Was it that, being once wrong, he had amended and made every reparation in his power; or was it that he was returned a juryman in the jury summoned for the late trial, which it was feared might have terminated differently with a different jury? The noble lord concluded by saying, that he would support the motion before the House.

The Earl of Essex said, he knew nothing of the case of Mr. Reynolds, but he apprehended there was a vast difference between men who acted as spies (revolting to the feelings as that occupation was) and such men as Oliver, who incited their victims to commit the crimes for which they informed against them. That horrid monster, for instance, had endeavoured to engage the wife of a man to induce him by her persuasion to go to a meeting, his presence at which would have involved him in destruction. The employment of these men had the effect of encouraging crimes, not of preventing them. It now became the duty of the House to watch over the rights of the people, which were day after day diminished. This new encroachment on them was in his opinion unnecessary, and he thought it the more unnecessary from the nature of the men engaged in the alleged treasons; men of no sort of property, or commanding talents or influence of any kind.

The Marquis Camden stated, that Mr. Reynolds had given important information to the Irish government of a plot in agitation. He had communicated it to a friend, so as to give intelligence enough to frustrate the plot without personally appearing, and it was not till he was arrested that he was induced to give direct evidence. He had then given testimony in a manner which was not to be contradicted, and on that evidence two or three traitors had been convicted, who afterwards acknowledged their crimes. He gave his hearty assent to the measure under discussion.

Lord Sidmouth said, that of the two persons mentioned, Castles and Oliver, as spies and informers, Castles was not a spy. He had never given information to government till five weeks after the 2d of December. Oliver was employed by government to avert imminent danger. The noble earl had founded his remarks on the statement in a news paper. That statement, he believed, was incorrect, in many material points.

Lord St. John said, he must enter his solemn protest against a measure which he considered to be as unnecessary, as it was destructive of the first principles of the constitution. What was the nature of; the alleged conspiracies? They had seen a proof in the trials which had recently occurred; and he really wondered that the law officers of the down were not ashamed to offer such a case, accompanied with so much solemnity, to the attention and good sense of a jury. When he remembered the issue of that prosecution, he should have thought the noble viscount, feeling impressed with a consciousness of his rashness, would have come down clothed in sackcloth and ashes, and humbled himself before the legislature, instead of persisting in his original error. With regard to the present act, as compared with the former one, he would wish to impress one fact upon their lordships attention. It was unlimited in its extent and duration, not being intended to expire till six weeks after the next meeting of parliament. Now, in whose hands was the control exercised over the assembling of parliament? In the hands of the ministers themselves; and who, therefore, could keep the law in operation as long as they thought it expedient. The noble lord here entered into an examination of all the different occasions, when the Habeas Corpus act was suspended since the Revolution, and contended that there was no parity between them and the present. It was impossible to look at the current of events during the last two or three years, without fixing upon the administration of the country, and especially upon the noble viscount, the responsibility of many of the distresses and discontents which prevail. No one thing had been done to conciliate the public mind; no disposition had been manifested to listen to the complaints of the people. Petitions, when presented, had been carelesly thrown aside; and no steps taken towards conceding the objects of their prayer. It was impossible that such a course of proceedings should not increase the general irritation. He would rather advise the adoption of a different course of policy, instead of going on with that system of coercion. On those grounds, he should give his vote against the third reading of the bill.

Lord Somers could not allow, because there was a character of absurdity belonging to the late conspiracies, that therefore their consequences were not to be feared. Had not the result of those plots been an insurrection, only short of rebellion, in consequence of the vigilance of government? There were sufficient grounds, in his judgment, to call for such a measure as the present. There was the report of the first committee, which contained ample reasons for the bill then brought in. They had now the report of another committee, and which report he thought, was highly honourable to that committee. Called upon, as they were, to investigate matters of such consequence and finding adequate evidence to induce, them to recommend the re-adoption of the former measure, they at the same time, candidly admitted that the government had been obliged, as all governments were, to employ persons for the purpose of discovering the machinations of the conspirators. And after all, what was the proposed suspension? Only for a short time. But the noble lord who spoke last, said that the calling of parliament together depended merely upon the will of ministers, and that therefore the duration of the law would be as long as they thought proper. Good God! could such an argument be seriously urged? It might depend upon the will of ministers whether parliament should be called a week or two sooner or later, but beyond that, what power had they? Could ministers do without the parliament for any length of time. He really never heard so weak an argument. How far could a suspension of the Habeas Corpus act be called a suspension of the constitution? He had heard it said, that if the law passed, there would be an end of the constitution, and the liberties of every man in the kingdom would be at the mercy of ministers. Was that the fact? He firmly believed that the suspension was not, in the slightest degree, liable to produce the deprivation of liberty to any subject in this country, which ought to be preserved, or could be preserved, without prejudice to the general liberty of all. The noble lord who preceded him, had talked about conciliating the people. Conciliation, as far as it was just and proper, he should be ready to adopt. But he would not humour the people by granting whatever they might be instigated to ask. Let every thing be done, that could be done, and let the people see, that so much was done; but go no farther. Their lordships ought not to forget the lessons of experience on this subject. From one step they would be led on to another, till they accomplished the final destruction of the established constitution. We had at present a good one, and for the preservation of it he thought it was not going too far, under the existing circumstances, to vote for a few months the suspension of the Habeas Corpus act

The Marquis Wellesley said, he had not the vanity to think that he could by any flattery perplex the understanding, or change the opinion of the noble lord who had last spoken; although, from an early acquaintance with him, he entertained a sincere respect for his talents, and his integrity. But he would not describe the people of England as the noble lord had described them; nor would he believe that it was in the power of any man, however excellent his character or great his talents, to flatter them either into an abandonment of their rights, or a belief that that was a right which was not so substantially. The noble lord had evidently referred to something which had been somewhere said on the subject of parliamentary reform; but he would at least do him the justice to acknowledge, that he had been always adverse to any change in the constitution of the other House of parliament. On the first day of the present session he had described the new principles of reform, and the doctrine of universal suffrage, as a gross delusion, which it had been endeavoured unsuccessfully to practise upon a people for whose understandings he had too high a respect to suppose them capable of yielding to it. Whenever such principles should gain an ascendancy, revolution would not be merely commenced, it would be completed, and an end be put to all the subsisting forms of our mixed government. He repelled, therefore, as well for the noble lords behind him as for himself, the insinuation that they had humoured the people at public meetings with such notions, or had deluded them with these idle theories.—It was in the present stage of this awful question that he desired to state his sentiments respecting it. The House now came to the discussion of it, with some distinct information as to the precise nature and character of the dangers; and it had also, to a certain extent, a clear view of the operation of the suspension bill upon that danger. In discussing this great subject, he should first consider the real nature or character of the danger, or mischief as it was sometimes called, and whether it might or might not be prevented or corrected by the existing laws, including among those laws the recent act regarding seditious assemblies; secondly, he should inquire whether that danger, and that peculiar system of mischief, could be met by any thing so well as the existing laws; thirdly, whether this extraordinary measure had not practically aggravated the danger and mischief it was intended to correct; and lastly, whether this suspension of the Habeas Corpus must not inevitably produce the dangerous and mischievous effects it was intended to correct. In treating of the first point, he felt called upon to set right some misrepresentations of the arguments of his noble friends. It had been stated, that they had argued against the suspension bill, because the situation of the country was not now exactly the same as in 1745, or at any other period when this expedient had been adopted. In fact, the turn of their argument had been directly the reverse: they insisted only that a case should be shown requiring the infringement of the constitution; to which only a sort of general answer had been made, "will you say that whenever the Habeas Corpus act is suspended the constitution is destroyed?" No noble lord who had resisted the bill had so said; but they had followed up their demand for reasons in favour of the measure, by showing that none of those existing at previous times applied to the present circumstances of the country. They had maintained that the known precedents had no bearing upon the question —no reference to the existing state of things; and they insisted, therefore, that some other ground should be laid for conferring these extraordinary powers. Entering a little farther into the point of the real nature and character of the danger, it was admitted on all hands, that the principles applying to cases of internal rebellion, fostered by external enemies, had no reference to this case: it was not even shown that any domestic conspiracy had been levelled at the regal power of the king, or at what the law construed into an attack upon it, or into a purpose of dethroning him. What adverse foreign power now fomented discontent? Or where could ministers point out general or even particular combinations to overthrow the government and destroy the authority of the sovereign? Stripped of all those circumstances, the case was different from any other known in our history. The noble lord opposite had even gone a great deal farther; for he had admitted that, from the conspiracy recently so much the subject of conversation, he had not apprehended any immediate danger to the constitution: but he, and those who supported him, added, that such practices ought not to be allowed to pass without check or punishment; for if they were allowed, they might lead to others of a more serious and fearful description. If, therefore, it were urged to-night that the constitution had been endangered by that conspiracy, it would be said for the first time, and it would be in direct opposition to what had hitherto appeared and been allowed on all sides of the question. He did not mean to deny, on the contrary it was a part of his argument, that these practices were all contrary to law; they were all certainly dangerous, and required the visitation of punishment; but what he contended was, that without this bill they were all within the grasp of the law; and farther, that as far as the designs had appeared in act, as far as any attempt had been made by the ill-disposed, they had been checked and repelled by the ordinary law: where the offence had been moderately interpreted and regularly prosecuted, the parties had indeed suffered the sentence of the law. Far was it from his intention to state, that because the persons engaged in these offences were of mean birth, and generally of low education; because their means were completely inefficient for the end, they were not criminal, and ought not to be watched by government with a vigilant eye; and even be made to feel the consequences of their crime. But here were no circumstances to excite alarm; no foreign enemy to encourage; no secret intriguers to foment: no persons of rank, education, or talents, to lead and to support. Then arose the question, did these conspiracies derive support from any circumstance? Were they aided and abetted by any great mass of the population, or was the plot so constructed and combined as to make what would otherwise be ridiculous and contemptible, serious and formidable? Assuredly not. Had any thing more absurd been heard of in the history of absurdities than the scheme recently disclosed? He protested that, had he not seen the testimony upon oath, he could never have imagined that such a project could have entered into the head of the most frantic Bacchanalian. Let us see how it was compounded and conducted. The plan was to seize on the metropolis at all its great points; to storm the Tower, to take the Bank, to burn the barracks, to conquer the military, to overthrow the old and to establish a new government: and how was all this to be accomplished 2 The exchequer of these rebels, or to speak more accurately, their military chest, contained 31l.; their arsenal was filled with six pistols and one old gun; their magazine consisted of about half a dozen bullets in a blue stocking, with a stock of powder in proportion, and that not put into the waggon by a conspirator, but by an informer; and, as the design was to employ combustibles, care was taken that they should only have a deadly operation by stench. The soldiers in the barracks were not to be burnt or blown up, but to be stifled. They were to make themselves masters of the Bank in a singular manner; by the abuse of an instrument that ought to be applied to better purposes—wine bottles, which they were to plunder from the hospitable citizens; and having employed these bottles in the attack, they were to employ them again in the defence of the Bank. For the assault upon the Tower a notable expedient was hit upon, quite of a piece with all the rest, and certainly not very flattering to the female part of the population; for the forlorn hope was to consist of a number of white robed virgins; but they unluckily found that the metropolis would not furnish them with a number adequate to the enterprise. They succeeded, however, in producing a dreadful riot, and, as white-robed virgins were not very plentiful, they supplied their places with a few drunken old women, who issuing from the tipliog-houses of the Minories, discharged vollies upon the military, which I will rather leave to your lordships imagination than attempt to describe [Hear, and laughter]. Such being the plan, I will not fatigue the House by detailing the absurdities of the execution; the conclusion, however, was, that one grand division of the army of the rebels was routed by a single trooper, and the remainder received a total defeat, with the loss of baggage, artillery, ammunition, and stores, by the valour of a single alderman [Continued cheers]. Do I exaggerate? Why, I say that this was more ludicrous than any project ever invented as a burlesque and a satire upon the most absurd of mankind. I confess, the examinations of the witnesses to substantiate it were to me a source of the highest amusement: the plan, execution, and defeat, are parallel only to each other, all equally laughable; the civil, much less the military power, had nothing to do with this signal discomfiture: it was not only sedente et cunctante, but dormiente consule. Even the ordinary vigour of the law was not required for its suppression.—The noble marquis then went on to inquire how far a vigour beyond the law, as it had been termed, was necessary for the punishment of the offenders in these disturbances; but proceeding a step farther, to other persons charged with conspiracies in other places, he begged to know what there was in the existing law to prevent ministers effecting all they wished? Could they not arrest and confine, and thus avert the apprehended mischief; and when the conspirators were brought to trial, had not the old enactments been found competent to all the purposes of justice? Although the individuals engaged in the late disorders in the metropolis had been acquitted, did not their arrest, imprisonment, and trial, with the publication of the evidence afford a lesson to the people of England of moderation and loyalty, more instructive than, all the inflictions the wisest ministers might be empowered by act of parliament to impose? By the late proceeding the people of England would first observe the glorious triumph of British justice, as well as the manly fortitude with which the prisoners bore up against prejudice and calumny; but, above all, they would learn that which would make the deepest impression, viz. the dreadful arts by which these unfortunate men were led on to their last excesses. Seditiously inclined they certainly had been, in the first instance, if no higher crime could be imputed; and the lower classes, by the perusal of the evidence, would be taught the danger of taking counsel against the peace and safety of their fellow-citizens, and against the legal and constitutional authorities of the realm. It would instruct them to beware how they allowed men with dubious professions to approach them, and to instil into their ears the poison of sedition or rebellion; it would teach them the truth of the maxim of a great orator, "justa causa nunquam esse potest contra patriam arma capere." With these important truths impressed upon the hearts of the people, it might indeed be said, that public order and happiness would be established on a rock which the efforts of a world could never shake, and which the petty fortifications ministers were now erecting could neither strengthen nor defend.—These considerations now brought him to another part of the subject—how far these great and unnecessary powers actually instigated to crime, and aggravated the evil they were designed to remedy. The report of the secret committee admitted this fact: for it was there said, that in some instances the operations of persons who gave information tended to encourage proceedings they were appointed to detect. With regard to the seditious meetings bill, he did not deny that it was a proper and a useful measure: it had produced a salutary effect: but exactly the contrary was the fact with regard to the suspension bill: it had not only augmented the evil, but, as he was prepared to prove, that augmentation had been a necessary consequence. The noble lord opposite had denied any connexion with the informer Castle: but nobody had charged it: all that was asserted was, that the manner in which he had conducted himself showed, demonstratively, that his object, from the beginning was, to be a spy and a betrayer. The remark would more strongly apply to Oliver, who, being an accredited agent of government, actually suggested one of the most violent outrages committed in the course of the disturbances.—With regard to the general question respecting the employment of informers, no person had contended that their evidence as accomplices might not be sometimes necessary; it might become a positive duty on the part of ministers to receive it; but at best it was an odious duty, and such testimony ought always to be received with caution: it was a bad foundation for a proceeding in a court of justice; but as a reason for a legislative enactment, there was no epithet of absurdity that it did not deserve. One noble lord had asked, did not the free states of antiquity resort to informers? but, upon reconsideration, he must be aware that the question was at least put rather carelessly; since every person acquainted with history would admit, that if there were one point more than another in which the institutions of those states merited the terms odious and detestable, it was in the administration of criminal justice, and above all, in state trials. The death of Socrates was surely not to be recommended to this country as a precedent of justice and impartiality, or of the purity of the courts of Athens. The argument of the noble lords who opposed the measure was not against the use of informers, but against the abuse of them; for whether in ethics their encouragement could or could not be justified, it was quite clear that they had always been the most odious instruments of the most odious tyrannies. When once their employment became so rife as at the present moment, it was to be viewed with the utmost jealousy; and, as it had been sometimes said that the people ruled their rulers, it might not long hence be asserted that informers governed the government.—The great argument for the suspension was, that it was a measure of preventive justice; but how could it deserve that character, when, by its authority, persons were dispatched through the country, not to check, but to promote— not to control, but to instigate and inflame —not to diminish the growth of crime, but to cultivate and cherish it; to bring it to its utmost height and perfection, and to afford ministers an abundant crop of justice and punishment? Such a state of things would alter the whole course of our judicial proceedings. Surely it was one of the gravest objections that could be urged against the measure, that the effect of it was to produce a horde of unprincipled informers, who were interested in raising the crime to the law, instead of adapting the law to the crime. No greater calamity than such a state of things could be contemplated. When a man was arrested, imprisoned, and denied the possibility of clearing his character, and liberating his person by the verdict of a jury, and when all his countrymen saw that such might be their fate at no distant period, was it not giving to the people a real motive for discontent, and an excuse for disorder? The only advantage ministers gained was, that they need not bring their prisoners to trial; but in what way could this be beneficial? Did it not, on the contrary, create an unnatural ardour in the public mind, which engendered the reptiles whose purpose was to ensnare the innocent and inflame the guilty? Upon every ground on which he could consider the subject, he felt it his duty to give the present motion his direct negative.

The Earl of Harrowby maintained, that from the result of the late trials, it could only be concluded, that the persons accused were legally acquitted; but it could not be concluded, that ministers would have been justifiable, if they had declined sending their case to trial. The dangers resulting from the combination of uneducated persons, could not be disregarded by any one acquainted with ancient or modern history. The successful revolts of such people in ancient Greece, must be familiar to the minds of their lordships; and it was notorious to all, that the taking of the Bastile, in France, was accomplished by persons of that description. He might also allude to the case of Despard in this country, and he would ask, could there be a plan more absurd than the one he formed, yet, happily, he was baffled. It was useless then to argue of plans being absurd, or of their being conducted by the lowest classes in society. He was persuaded the committee had done no more than its duty in recommending the further continuation of the suspension, for he firmly believed that much quiet had been introduced into the country since the passing of this act, which would not otherwise have taken place. Alluding to the insurrection in Leeds, it had, his lordship observed, been said that Oliver had been the cause of that insurrection. Now, he begged leave most earnestly to protest against such a doctrine, for the fact was, that government knew every fact connected with this conspiracy before Oliver was on the spot. He could not concur in the reproaches thrown out on spies, for he was of opinion that they were more or less necessary in every free country. As to the measure itself, he was persuaded it never would have been brought forward, had not government felt themselves called upon to do so from the most urgent necessity. Ministers had no cause to be charged with extending their powers; on the contrary, they ought, as he conceived, rather to be praised for their forbearance. It had been said that they had done nothing, and that when the people asked for bread they gave them a stone. Now such was not the case, for his majesty's ministers had only done what they conceived to be essential to the good of the country. To go no further than the poor laws, he would ask, did not their conduct on this show they were actuated by no other desire than that of adopting whatever measures should in the wisdom of parliament seem proper. They had done more, for they had made every possible reduction which in consistency with the public safety could be made. He concluded by giving his cordial support to the measure, from a conviction that it was essential to the liberties, and even the salvation of the country.

Lord Holland said, that the present question before their lordships was simply this, what is the nature of the danger you dread, and what is the remedy you propose for such a danger? Much allusion had been made to the French Revolution, and, indeed, that important event seemed to have got such hold of the minds of some, that looking back to what had occurred, or forward to what might happen, they could think of nothing else. All he wanted to know was, whether the proposed remedy would do that good which was expected to flow from it? He would not particularly allude to the year 1791 as a precedent, because then the country was at war, and besides the conspiracy, if a conspiracy then existed, was connected with France, and supported by it. But surely such was not the case now, for in the very report on their lordships table, it was candidly admitted, that the great body of the people were loyal to their sovereign and the constitution. He was glad to see this admission, but it still confirmed the truth of what a noble friend of his had said, that while a few only were indicted, the whole body of the people were punished. To be liable to punishment, was in itself a truly serious evil; and this bill was in itself the greatest violation of the rights and privileges of Englishmen that could possibly take place. He utterly condemned the system of espionage which the noble viscount was bringing in. For the measure now proposed, not a single case had been made out. Allusions had been made to humouring the people; in reply to which he would state, that neither his friends nor himself had ever attempted to humour them, by sanctioning the wild and delusive doctrine of universal suffrage and annual parliaments. The truth was, that he who held out such miserable and impracticable theories to the people was their worst enemy. But certainly it became every friend of mankind to resist this measure, which was in truth an abolition of public liberty totally uncalled for. Plots never would be wanting to furnish a pretext for the suspension of this act, which, as the bulwark of liberty was to British hearts, dearer than life itself. He had never said, there was no danger; but he had contended, that the remedy was by no means suited to the disease, and could not produce the slightest possible good. The privilege of the Habeas Corpus seemed to be considered as a fine figure in a cavalcade on a holiday; but when the state was in the slightest danger, it was carefully locked up in a chest of drawers. The more frequently this privilege was suspended, the weaker our constitution became. He protested, in the strongest manner, against the grounds on which the bill was said to vest. The suspension had never before taken place on such flimsy pretexts, and he was persuaded that it would lead to the worst consequences.

The Lord Chancellor gave every credit to those who opposed the bill for their love of the constitution, although he thought their opposition altogether unfounded. He was not so absurd as to support the suspension of the Habeas Corpus, because there were many individuals who wished for annual parliaments and universal suffrage, and many others who preferred a republic to a monarchy. There were other and very different grounds for the measure. While he allowed to the noble baron who had just spoken, that the constitution recognized the writ of Habeas Corpus, as essential to the complete system of our liberties, it also recognised the principle, that we must be content mow and then to sacrifice the temporary enjoyment of its benefits, in order to enjoy them for a more durable period. The circumstance of the frequent suspension of the act was a proof of the recognition by parliament of the principle; and if he had not made a false estimate of the present dangers of the country, they were much greater than at any of the periods at which the suspension had hitherto taken place. Adverting to the observations which had been made on the late trials, and on spies, accomplices and informers, he observed, that long before he had heard the name of Castles, he had stated to his colleagues, that he considered the transactions which followed the meeting at Spa-fields to be, in point of law, high treason. With respect to spies, he allowed that they were liable to all the epithets which had been bestowed on them; but he maintained that government, when they knew of the existence of a plot in the country, were bound to employ such persons for the purpose of detecting and defeating it. It was quite a different thing to stimulate such an individual to go any farther. With respect to the person in Yorkshire, respecting whom so much had been said, their lordships would do well to suspend their judgment until the proper time should come for his noble friend to explain the circumstances of the case, and to remember that the authority of a country newspaper on the subject was very bad authority indeed.

The House divided:

Contents—present. 73
Proxies. 68

Non-contents—present. 20
Proxies. 17

Majority for the third reading. 104