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The Reign of George III. - (Concluded.) page 15

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There ended Mr. Ponsonby's disclosures; but Oliver was attending a meeting of delegates at Thornhill-lees, near Dewsbury, in Yorkshire, on the 6th of June. He was arrested, with nine others, but he was at large the same evening in Wakefield. It then came out, from a servant of Sir John Byng, commander of the forces in that district, that Oliver had previously been in communication with Sir John, and no doubt obtained his immediate liberation from him on the safe netting of his nine victims. In fact, in a letter from this Sir John Byng (then lord Strafford), in 1846, to the dean of Norwich, he candidly admits that he had received orders from lord Sidmouth to assist the operations of Oliver, who was, his lordship said, going down into that part of the country where meetings were being frequently held, and that Oliver, who carried a letter to Sir John, was to give him all the information that he could, so that he mi«ht, prevent such meetings. Here, as well as from other sources, we are assured that Oliver only received authority to collect information of the proceedings of the conspirators, and by no means to incite them to illegal acts. We have also the assurance of Mr. Louis Allsop, a distinguished solicitor of Nottingham, that Oliver was in communication with him on the 7th of June, immediately on his return from Yorkshire, and informed him that a meeting was the same evening to take place in Nottingham, and that he and another gentleman strongly urged him to attend it, which Oliver did. Mr. Allsop says that Oliver had no instructions to incite, but only to collect information. All this has been industriously put forward to excuse ministers. But what are the facts? We find Oliver not only - according to evidence which came out on the trials of the unfortunate dupes at Derby - directly stimulating the simple people to insurrection, but joining in deluding them into the persuasion that all London was ready to rise, and that one hundred and fifty thousand from the east and west of the capital only waited for them. We find him not only disseminating these ideas throughout these districts from the 17th of April to the 27th of May, but also to have concerted a simultaneous rising in Yorkshire, at Nottingham, and in Derbyshire, on the 6th of June. Thornhill-lees, in Yorkshire, was on the verge of action, and ten delegates, including Oliver himself, were arrested. In Derbyshire the insurrection actually took place. Yet what did these gentlemen, who bear testimony to the innocent instructions of ministers, to Oliver? They knew that he had incited the people to rise, and they none of them, except the magistrates at Dewsbury, attempted to prevent the rising, by making use of Oliver's information and arresting the ringleaders. And then for the ministers, and especially lord Sidmouth, from whom this incendiary directly proceeded: when they came fully to know to what lengths he had gone - when a great number of most simple, ignorant men had been led into outbreak, and many were transported and several were executed for following his suggestions - did they renounce and denounce him? On the contrary, there is every reason to believe that he was richly rewarded, and sent into the colonies, out of the reach of the vengeance and the odium which awaited him in England. These facts are sufficient to lay the burden of the guilt of these dark doings on the true shoulders.

What immediately follows shows that Oliver had planned and brought to a crisis, by his personal exertions, this unhappy rising. On Sunday, the 8th of June, Jeremiah Brandreth, a framework-knitter of Nottingham, appeared, with some others, at a public-house, called the White Horse, in the village of Pentrich, in Derbyshire. This village is about fourteen miles from Nottingham, and about a mile from the small market town of Ripley. It is in a district of coal and iron mines, and is near the large iron foundry of Butterley. The working people of the village, and of the neighbouring village of South Wingfield, are chiefly colliers, workers in the iron mines or iron foundry, or agricultural labourers - a race little informed at that day, and therefore capable of being readily imposed on. This Brandreth had been known for years as a fiery agitator. He was a little, dark-haired man, of perhaps thirty years of age. He had been much with Oliver, and was one of his most thorough dupes, ready for the commission of any desperate deed. He had acquired the cognomen of the " Nottingham captain," and now appeared in an old brown great-coat, with a gun in his hand, and a pistol thrust into an apron, which was rolled round his waist as a belt.

Two of the workmen from Butterley Foundry entered the White Horse, which was kept by a widow Wightman, whose son George was deep in the foolish conspiracy into which Oliver and this his blind, savage tool, the Nottingham captain, were leading him. They found Brandreth with a map before him, and telling them there was no good to be done, they must march up to London and overthrow the government. He said all the country was rising; that at Nottingham the people had already taken the Castle and seized the soldiers in their barracks, and were waiting for them. This shows that he had come straight from Oliver, who, on the 7th, was at Nottingham, attending the meeting there, and who knew that the meeting in Yorkshire had been prevented. Yet he had allowed the people of Nottingham to believe that the Yorkshire men were Coming, according to agreement, in thousands; and he allowed Brandreth to go and arouse Derbyshire, under the belief that Nottingham that night would be in the hands of the insurgents. So Brandreth was telling these simple villagers that " all the country was to rise at one time - that England, France, and Ireland would rise that night at ten o'clock, and the men of Yorkshire were already Coming down in clouds, and would carry all before them." Such was the mad absurdity with which Oliver had filled the ears and the minds of his ignorant victims. Brandreth told these poor fellows that at Nottingham every man would receive a hundred guineas, and then - such was his know- ledge of geography, though he had a map in his hand - " they would go down the Trent in boats; and it would be only a journey of pleasure to London."

He then ordered a barrel of gunpowder in, and proceeded to show those present how to make cartridges, repeating some doggerel verses which had been widely circulated, beginning -

" Every man his luck must try;
He must turn out, and not deny;
No bloody soldier must he dread;
He must turn out, and fight for bread."

They then separated, agreeing to meet again on the morrow after dark. The two men from Butterley Foundry, though special constables, were too much intimidated to mention the matter to their employers. On Monday night, the 9th of June, Brandreth and a knot of his colleagues proceeded to muster their troop of insurgents for the march to Nottingham. They roused up the men in their cottages, and, if they refused to go, they broke in the doors with a crowbar, and compelled them to join them. Most of these unwilling levies slipped away in the dark on the first opportunity. At South Wingfield he assembled his forces in an old barn, and then they proceeded through the neighbourhood demanding men and guns. An old woman had the courage to tap the " captain " on the Shoulder, and say - " My lad, the have a magistrate here; " and many of the men thought Brandreth must be mad or drunk. At the farm of widow Hetherinton he demanded her men and arms, and when she stoutly refused him, he put the gun through the window and shot one of her men dead.

As the day dawned, Brandreth and his infatuated troop appeared before the gates of Butterley Foundry, and demanded the men; but Mr. Goodwin, the manager, had been apprised of their approach, and had closed the gates. Brandreth had planned to take Butterley Foundry, and carry away not only the men but a small cannon kept there; but Mr. Goodwin went out and told Brandreth he should not have a man for any such insane purpose, and seeing an old man that he well knew, Isaac Ludlam, who bore a good character, and had been a local preacher amongst the Methodists, he seized him by the collar, and pushed him into the foundry court, telling him not to be a fool, but stay at home. Ludlam, however, replied, " he was as bad as he could be," rushed out, and went on - to his death; for he was one of those executed.

All this time it was raining heavily, and Brandreth, daunted by the weather, or by the courageous conduct of the manager, gave the word to march. The manager calculated that there were only about a hundred of them at this point; but they were soon after joined by another troop from Ripley, and they took two roads, which united about three miles farther on, collecting fresh men by the most direful threats. When they reached Eastwood, a village three or four miles farther on the road to Nottingham, they were said to amount to three hundred, but ragged, famished, drenched with the rain, and not half of them armed, even with rude pikes. Such was the army intended to overturn the government of England! Near Eastwood they were met by a troop of horse from Nottingham, which had been summoned by Mr. Rolleston, a magistrate, and at the sight they fled in confusion. About forty guns and a number of pikes were picked up, and a considerable number of prisoners were made, amongst them Brandreth. These prisoners were afterwards tried at a special assize at Derby. They were defended by Thomas, afterwards Lord Denman, whose eloquence on the occasion raised him at once into notice, and whose generous, gratuitous, and indefatigable exertions on behalf of these simple, ignorant victims of government instigation, showed him to be a man of the noblest nature. Notwithstanding his efforts, twenty of these unhappy dupes were transported for différent terms, and three - Brandreth, Ludlam, and Turner - were hanged and then beheaded as traitors.

Bamford - who had himself been, in the meantime, arrested at Middleton, in Lancashire, and conveyed to London with a number of others, where he was five times examined by the privy council, and by lord Sidmouth himself, but, no charge being proved against him, was discharged on the 30th of April - gives us, in his " Life of a Radical," a curious proof of the extensive operations of Oliver. Scarcely had he returned home when he found the tempter busy in that quarter. Joseph Mitchell, an old acquaintance, and a stranger were going about planning meetings, and one day an old man, who had been a delegate from Derby to London, where he had himself gone up in that character from Middleton, came to him with a young man looking like a weaver, and informed him that a meeting was about to take place in Yorkshire, which would give a finishing blow to the borough-mongers. Bamford gave them a very cold reception, and advised the old man to let those things alone, but "he huffed at the advice." this old man was Thomas Bacon, one of the very men engaged with Brandreth at Pent- rich, and who was transported for life; the young man with him was William Turner, one of the three executed at Derby; "and," adds Bamford, emphatically, "the stranger whom Joseph Mitchell had so industriously introduced amongst the discontented classes of Lancashire, Yorkshire, and Derbyshire, who first inveigled them into treasonable associations, then to armed insurrections, and then betrayed them - that stranger, that betrayer, reader, was Oliver, the spy! "

Such were the means employed by the British government in 1817 to quieten the country under its distress - a distress the inevitable result of the long and stupendous war carried on for the restoration of foreign despotic monarchs. No feeling of commiseration seems to have existed in the bosoms of ministers for the miseries of the millions thus plunged into destitution by the reckless expenditure for these un - English wars. The only idea was to tighten the reins of government - to stimulate the sufferers into overt acts, and then crush them. Fortunately - with the exception of the Derby juries, who were chiefly farmers out of the Peak, who came from the sowing of their turnips ignorant of politics as the cattle on their hills, and were alarmed into severity by the florid harangues of the attorney-general on plots, and seditions, and traitors - the juries in general saw through the miserable farce of rebellion, and discharged the greater part of Oliver's and lord Sidmouth's victims. Watson was acquitted of high treason in London on the 16th of June, less than a week after the Derbyshire insurrection. His son had eluded the pursuit of the police. Seventeen prisoners on the like charges were liberated in July in Glasgow and Edinburgh, and were paid seven shillings each to carry them home. On the 22nd of August, of the twenty-four persons that Oliver had entrapped in Yorkshire, twenty-two were discharged - against eleven of them no bills being found by the grand jury - and the two left in prison were detained there because, under the suppression of the habeas corpus act, they were not brought up for trial. The Manchester Blanketeers were, in like manner, all discharged, though the duke of Northumberland did his utmost to stimulate lord Sidmouth to get them punished; his grace seeing in their miserable march a resemblance to the march of the armed and desperate Marsellois to Paris, in the early days of the French revolution. On the country at large, the impression was that the government had propagated a most needless alarm, and that those who had fallen on the scaffold had been exalted by them from poor, ignorant labourers into burlesque traitors, through the execrable agency of their incendiaries, Oliver, Castles, Mitchell, and others.

But the government had to receive another lesson this year on the folly of endeavouring, in the nineteenth Century, to crush the liberties of Englishmen. There was an organ called the Press, which, neither partaking the governmental fears of a necessary complaint by the public of the evils which preyed upon it, nor the governmental hopes of silencing the sufferers without any attempt to mitigate their calamities, reported freely the mingled folly and cruelty of ministers, and called for the only remedy of the country's misfortunes - reform. The government and its supporters then turned on this troublesome engine. It was a foolish act, for that iron-man represented by Spenser in his " Fairy Queen " by the name of Talus, had broken the heads and prostrated the efforts of much abler men on many a former occasion. On moving the second reading of the bill for the suspension of the habeas corpus act, lord Sidmouth observed that some noble lords had complained that the authors and publishers of infamous libels on the government were not prosecuted. He assured them that the government were quite as anxious as these noble lords to punish the offenders, but that the law officers of the crown were greatly puzzled in their attempts to deal with them; that authors had now become so skilful from experience, that the difficulties of convicting them exceeded those of any former time.

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