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.—

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