On This Day: February 24, 1812


On February 24, 1812, Isaac Brock issued the following proclamation:

Proclamation. Province of Upper Canada

Isaac Brock, Esquire, President administering the Government of the Province of Upper Canada, and Major. General Commanding His Majesty’s forces with the same.

To all to whom it may concern: Greeting.

Whereas information has been received, that divers persons have recently come into this Province, with a seditious intent to disturb the tranquility of thereof, and to endeavour to alienate the minds of His Majesty’s Subjects from His Person and Government; I hereby require and enjoin the several persons authorized, to carry into effect a certain Statute, passed in the Forty-fourth year of His Majesty’s reign, intituled, “An Act for the better security this Province against all seditions attempts or designs to disturb the tranquillity thereof, to be vigilant in the execution of their duty, and strictly to enquire into the behaviour and conduct of all such persons as may be subject to the provisions of the said Act; I also charge and require all his Majesty’s Good and Loyal Subjects within this Province, to be aiding and assisting the said Persons, in the execution of the powers vested in them by the said Act.

Given under my Hand and Seal at Arms, at York, this Twenty-fourth day of February, in the year of our Lord One thousand Eight hundred and Twelve, and in the Fifty-second of his Majesty’s Reign.

Isaac Brock, President

On This Day: February 23, 1812

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On This Day: February 22, 1812

Colonel Baynes to Major-General Brock

QUEBEC, February 22, 1812.

Sir George is much pleased with the favorable account Captain Gray has given him of your proceedings. Your speech is highly approved of here, and we shall rejoice to find our house following so laudable an example as your commons have shewn them: but I am not sanguine; they have already commenced with great illiberality and violence to vent their spleen and resentment against Sir James (Craig) in votes of censure, and I fancy Sir George, with all his amiable, conciliatory mariners, will hardly succeed in keeping them within bounds.

On This Day: February 21, 1812

On February 21, 1812 George Prévost met the parliament of Lower Canada and delivered a speech reprinted in the Quebec Mercury newspaper:

This day being appointed for the meeting of the Provincial Parliament, His EXCELLENCY THE GOVERNOR IN CHIEF came down in state, and being seated on the throne, with usual solemnities, the gentleman Usher of the Black Rod, was sent to command the attendance of the the Members of the House of Assembly. The Members having come up, His Excellency was pleased to the deliver the following:

From the Toronto Public Library

On This Day: February 20, 1812

Colonel Baynes to Major-General Brock.

QUEBEC, February 20, 1812.

Captain M’Donnell has not clearly understood the purport of his mission to Upper Canada, and the general regrets that he should have proceeded the length he has done without having previously received your advice and instructions, to obtain which was the chief object of his visit to York. It is to be hoped, however, that sufficient patronage still remains open to meet your wishes, as the appointment of three of General Shaw’s sons may be considered, from the sentiments of friendship and regard you have testified for that officer, to be almost equivalent to anticipating your own choice of them. And Sir George has directed me to inform you, that he readily accepts of your proposal to recruit two companies, to be added to the Glengary Fencibles; the nomination of the officers, viz. two captains, two lieutenants, and two ensigns, to rest entirely with you. The general has approved of the following quotas of men for the respective ranks: captains 30, lieutenants 15, and ensigns 20; the commissions to be issued on completing the quota, and such as complete their proportion quickest, or exceed in extra number of recruits, will have priority in regimental rank. I am not aware that Sir George purposes nominating a lieutenant-colonel; but I am sure that you will not feel less disposed to promote the formation of this corps, when I inform you that it is his intention to recommend me to the commander-in-chief for the appointment of colonel.

On This Day: February 19, 1812

On February 19, 1812, Aaron Burr in London wrote the following entry in his private journal:

19. Slept near seven hours last night, and did not rise till 8. My umbrella hung heavy at my heart. Went to hunt for it. Walked back on the track I came from J. H.’s yesterday, and called at the places I had been ; but no umbrella. It is finally lost, and I must submit to the inconvenience of getting wet and of spoiling my clothes. Called at Godwin’s on my way to the city. To friend Allen’s. He was out, but I saw the foreman of the laboratory; he had made the experiment I suggested to take the bad smell out of the acid. It did effectually take out the smell, but at the same time it took out the acid, and the residuum was neither more or less than simple water. So that won’t do. To Graves’s, where finished a letter I began yesterday to S. Swartwout. D. M. R. came in and took charge of the letter, and we walked together. He dined yesterday with his country gentlemen, and thinks they were delighted with his wheel-carriages. D. M. went to the Exchange (where merchants assemble at 4 every day) to get the news, and I went by Lincoln’s Inn 1 to see K., but he was out. Home at 4. D. M. came in at 5, as agreed, and I had for him a Virginia dinner, bacon and greens, with which he was delighted. He sat till 8 ; and now I am deliberating how to dispose of the residue of the evening. Bought for J.H. to-day paper, pen, wax, wafers, &c., 4 shillings and 6 pence. Have paid my weekly bill this evening, 14 shillings, 6 3/4 pence, which includes lodging, milk, fuel, boot and shoe cleaning ; but no washing this week.

On This Day: February 18, 1812

On February 18, 1812, the Frame Breaking Bill again came before the House of Commons. The first reading took place on February 14, 1812. The Second reading was on February 17, 1812. The debate of the House of Commons follows:


HC Deb 18 February 1812 vol 21 cc847-53 847

§ The order of the day being read for going into a committee on this Bill,

§Mr. Lamb rose, and said, he was anxious to state the grounds on which he should give the Bill his support. Those who opposed the measure insisted chiefly on the necessity which they conceived existed for going into a previous enquiry. If that enquiry should tend to ascertain the causes of the violation of the laws, it would certainly be beneficial; but he was against it because it would produce delay. The great cause of the disturbances he considered to be the decay of trade. The measures of the emperor of France were evidently their main causes; and it was nothing less than wilfully deluding the country, to hold out a hope that greater commercial embarrassments, greater severity of distress, than the country had hitherto felt, were not yet to be endured. As to the disputes between the masters and the workmen, he did not think it right to enquire into them, as causes of the riots;—such enquiry only tended to inflame the minds of the working-men, who generally concluded that they had rights which were infringed upon by the masters: and that they were justifiable in retaliating violence on thorn for the infringement of those supposed rights. The terror of death, he conceived, though it would have little effect on men habituated to guilt, would operate powerfully on the general mind. The atrocity of the offence against which the present Bill was intended, was as deep as any offence against property could be; and such, in his opinion, as called for the severest punishment. Another reason for having recourse to the punishment of death was, the difficulty of detection. When crimes became difficult of detection, the necessary and only resource was severity of punishment. As to the objections against the Bill, that it would involve persons who were within the letter, and not the spirit of it, there was little danger, he imagined, to be apprehended from any unfortunate result of that kind arising from it.

§Sir T. Turton contended, that the Bill was not directed against the real danger, which was combination; it only looked to individual offenders. He did not think that ministers had used either the ordinary civil means, or the extraordinary military means which they possessed, to active and proper advantage. The poor deluded people who were the objects of this Bill were greatly to be pitied. They were in want of bread; and any measure of the legislature would not, he was afraid, be 849 able to put down the risings of hunger. The great evil, and the spring of every minor evil, was the continuance of the war.

§General Tarleton said the debates on this subject had disclosed two important facts; in the first place it appeared that the late disturbances were caused by the decay of our trade: in the next, that a large number of the inhabitants of one part of the county had been almost in a state of insurrection. Far from thinking that there was any merit in the conduct of his Majesty’s ministers, to him it appeared that great demerit was there to be seen. He thought the subject was not treated by the honourable House as so grave a subject ought to be treated. It ought to be most carefully looked into, as ministers had brought the country into a situation, to extricate it from which all the wisdom of parliament was required. He was averse to increasing the number of capital punishments. Were the laws of Draco the best the world had ever seen, because they were written in blood? Experience had proved the reverse to be the fact.

§Mr. Ellison defended ministers against the aspersions of the two last speakers. He was afraid that there was something of the spirit of party in the opposition made to the Bill. He did not profess to be the defender of ministers, except as far as truth and justice bound him; but if a charge should be brought against them on the head of supineness, in not using the means which they possessed 10 put down the disturbances, he was ready on that score to meet any hon. gentleman opposite. As to the crying, puling maxims so much insisted upon, and the noise made about humanity, and he knew not what, he asked, were not the sufferers by these outrages sufficient objects for that humanity? He wished not to be considered as agreeing by any means to the new doctrines on criminal law, which tended to cast reproach on the wisdom or humanity of our ancestors. The law proposed, appeared to him to be dictated by humanity; it was not like the laws of Draco to be written in blood. The dread of capital punishment might prevent the repetition of the offence, and if (as had been said would be the case,) no convictions should take place on it, no blood would be shed in. consequence of it. The conduct of ministers he thought had been perfectly correct, as they had done all in their power to put a stop to the evil by the means of the common law of the country.
§Mr. Curwen , notwithstanding what had fallen from the last speaker, was still of opinion, that ministers had mean which were not used promptly or beneficially in quelling the riots. As to the argument deduced from the terror expected to be produced by the punishment of death, he had one curious fact to state to the House, by which they might judge what effect it would have. In the county of Cumberland, it was made a capital offence to steal lead, and what was the consequence? Why, that no conviction ever took place under that law, because witnesses were shocked at the disproportion between the crime and the punishment, and would not come forward. He was sorry to hear hon. gentlemen say, that no hope ought to be held out to the country of escape from the pressure under which it at present laboured. He believed that there existed other causes of these disturbances, besides the measures of the emperor of France; and those were the measures of his Majesty’s ministers. He saw in their mistaken policy grounds enough for the decay of trade; and he was of opinion, that there were measures of moderation and wisdom, by the adoption of which the country might escape from its present embarrassments. Measures of moderation and wisdom were not, however, to be expected from his Majesty’s present ministers. He attributed the decay of trade, and the consequent ruin of the country, to the mistaken policy of ministers. The sufferings of the people were great. They were great in many parts of the county with which he was personally acquainted; but their forbearance was also great. He should vote against the bill, because he did not think it would effect what it pretended to.

§Mr. Courtenay begged leave to adopt the sentiments of the hon. gentleman who spoke first (Mr. Lamb.) He particularly selected that hon. gentleman’s speech, not only for its eloquence, but because all the other speakers for the Bill were opposers of the measures of an hon. and learned gentleman (sir S. Romilly) relative to the Criminal Laws, which measures Mr. C. was inclined to favour. But he thought the present an atrocious crime, worthy of the very highest punishment, and should therefore vote for the Bill.

§ The question that the Speaker do leave the chair was then put and carried; and the House went into a Committee, on the clause enacting capital punishment for 851 maliciously breaking the frames, machinery, &c. used in making lace.

Mr. C. W. Wynn observed, that as the clause stood, it would appear, that a person tossing an old woman’s lace cushion into the fire would constitute a capital offence. He asked whether it was to be so understood?

The Attorney General did not think that such an act as that instanced by his hon. and learned friend could be prosecuted to conviction, because the bench and the jury would both be of opinion that the malicious intent to destroy that trade would not have been sufficiently made out.

Sir S. Romilly said, that if the case supposed by his hon. and learned friend did not come within the meaning of the act, he conceived that it might still operate in a manner in which it was not intended to act. If an individual in a passion should damage or injure one of his master’s tools used in that trade, as the clause at present stood, such conduct would come within the meaning of the act. It might be that in such a case the law would not be executed, but was it for parliament to make laws so cruel in their operations, that persons convicted on them were suffered to escape on that account? He would submit it to the right hon. gentleman, whether it might not be better to alter it, by inserting the words “any three or more combining maliciously to break, &c.”

The Chancellor of the Exchequer thought, if the proposition of his bon. and learned friend were adopted, the mischief would not be put a stop to by this act, as the rioters at Nottingham had acted throughout with so much system and contrivance, that he had no doubt but if that amendment were made, they would evade the law, by sending into the different cottages one man only to destroy the frames. However they might regret that to which the letter of the law might by possibility lead, he thought they ought to proceed on the established principle of comprehending to a certainty, that which the law was intended to meet, at the risk of including what it was not designed to include.

Mr. Abercromby supported the amendment.

Mr. J. Smith objected to the generality of the word “damaged,” which he thought might be given up, as the Bill would be completely efficient without it.

§Mr. Simeon supported the clause as it stood, and was of opinion that the amendment 852 would destroy the effect of the Bill.

§Mr. Bathurst thought that if the object of the Bill was merely to increase the punishment, the former act ought to be fallowed up to the letter in every thing else.

Mr. Leigh Keck supported the clause.

The Attorney-General apprehended that the object of the rioters was to prevent the work from going forward, and therefore maintained it was of the utmost consequence to check them. No inconvenience could follow from leaving a discretion to the judges.

Sir S. Romilly declined pressing the amendment.

Mr. Lockhart proposed a clause for the purpose of allowing the prisoners who should be tried under this act, the benefit of counsel. It was agreed upon all hands that the crime was great; by some it was represented as approaching to high treason, a circumstance which must expose those who were accused of it to the indignation of the community; but it occurred to him, that for that very reason the person to be tried should be afforded the privilege intended by his clause. All he asked was, that they should be placed on the same footing with those charged with misdemeanors. He never could find upon what principle persons tried for their lives were refused this benefit. It was stated by some, that the judge was counsel for the prisoner; but the judge was bound to state what made against him as well as what made for him; and therefore in that sense could not be said to be his counsel. In the case of Patch, it was stated by Mr. Serjeant Best, that the principle upon which counsel was refused was, that the case should be so clear against the prisoner as not to render counsel necessary. A third principle stated, was, that it would occasion the delay of causes. But neither of them appeared to him to establish the necessity of such refusal in all cases: he therefore should propose the clause as he had already stated.

Mr. C. W. Wynn seconded the motion.

Mr. Secretary Ryder said his hon. and learned friend had not stated any thing to shew that this case differed from ordinary cases of felony. With respect to high treason, it was an offence sui generis, and the reason why counsel were allowed was, because it might be made an engine of political oppression. He quoted the 6th of George the 3rd, to shew that for the protection of the woollen and velvet manufactories, enactments had been made 853 similar to that which he had proposed in the present instance, and that no exception was made of the nature of that submitted by his hon. and learned friend.

§ The clause was rejected.

Mr. Secretary Ryder proposed an amendment, for the purpose of altering the preamble of the bill, so as to shew that it was framed to meet a particular occasion; which, after some desultory conversation, was agreed to. The report was then brought up, and ordered to be taken into further consideration tomorrow.

On This Day: February 17, 1812

On February 17, 1812, the Frame Breaking Bill to deal with Luddite disturbances came before the British House of Commons for a second reading. The first reading took place on February 14, 1812. The legislation made machine or frame breaking capital offences. The debate of the House of Commons follows:


HC Deb 17 February 1812 vol 21 cc826-41 826

Mr. Secretary Ryder having moved the second reading of the Bill for the more exemplary punishment of persons destroying or injuring any Stocking or Lace Frames, or other 827 machines or engines used in the Framework knitted manufactory, or any articles or goods in such Frames or Machines.

Mr. Abercromby declared, that in the present alarming situation of the county of Nottingham, he could have wished, instead of opposing, to have supported the measures of administration; but, after the most mature consideration, he felt it altogether impossible to concur in voting for this Bill. Every body felt the danger of a numerous body of men leagued together in active opposition to the laws of the country, and who had hitherto defeated both the civil and the military power. This danger was the more alarming from the connection between the county of Nottingham and other manufacturing districts of the country. But however strongly he, in common with others, felt this danger, he could not concur in the present Bill, without violating a most important principle in penal legislature—a principle which he had already had the good fortune more than once to join with a majority of the House in sanctioning. The mildest character of the present Bill was, that it would be ineffectual. They had been told that the riots had continued many months; that the local police had been aided by the efforts of the London police; that rewards had been offered for conviction; but that all the efforts of the civil power, joined to the allurements of profit, and the assistance of a military force, had been found completely ineffectual; and that with all this powerful array, not a single conviction had taken place under the existing law, which sentenced all framebreakers to transportation for 14 years. Now, if the House had been told that any individuals had been convicted, and punished with transportation, but that from the slightness of the punishment, the motives of the unfortunate persons had been found stronger than the dread of conviction, then he could conceive it might be proper to call upon the House for measures of greater severity. No such information, however, had been communicated to the House, and it was merely the state of impunity which they were called on to redress. The right hon. Secretary of State proposed for this purpose to make the offence capital. But how could this operate on persons in the situation of the unfortunate persons in question, among whom there had already been found to 828 prevail such an uncommon degree of union, concert, and good faith, if he might be allowed the expression, to one another, that not one of them had even yet been detected. If impunity was an evil, the effect of this severe penalty would only be to afford a greater security against any chance of punishment, because it would afford the rioters an additional motive for adhering closely together.—The hon. and learned gentleman then went into some illustrations respecting the different probabilities of conviction under pain of death and transportation, and concluded, that the former merely decreased the chance of it. The members for the county had not expressed any warm approbation of the measure of the right hon. Secretary; but they wished, they said, to agree to any measure which might have a chance of restoring tranquillity. But he would ask those gentlemen, how they could support a measure which would have the direct contrary effect to what they wished? After the body of information possessed by ministers on this subject, he thought the present Bill displayed a great poverty of invention. The distressed state of the country ought to make a deep impression on the House, and induce them to reconsider those measures which had plunged us into this dreadful situation. There were some effects arising from the decay of trade, which it was yet in the power of parliament to controul; and they might be assured, that while the cause of the evil remained in full force, all the remedies which they might apply would be found as unavailing as the prescriptions of a physician, directed merely to remove the outward symptoms of a disease, instead of communicating health and vigour to the whole system.

§Mr. Orde had no hesitation in declaring it to be his opinion, that the combination which existed among these misled people was so strong, that to break it effectually required measures of the utmost severity. He must support the Bill, on the ground that the terror of the punishment of death was indispensible on the present occasion.

§Mr. W. Herbert regretted that the House had been denied all previous enquiry on a measure which would go to affect the lives of so many of our fellow creatures. From all the partial information he had been able to collect, these disturbances owed their origin to two 829 causes,—the decrease of employment, and disputes between the workmen and their employers. There had been no proof, however, that the punishment of transportation was inadequate to prevent the offence; and in fact the only desideratum which the House had to attain, was the best means of discovering the persons engaged in these mischievous practices. To this the attention of parliament ought to be turned, and not to the addition of new capital punishments to the already too numerous list in our statute books. Adverting to the statement made by the right hon. Secretary on Friday last, that many of these frames were let out to workmen at so much per week, and that these workmen, in many instances, either connived at or co-operated with the framebreakers, he proposed that some measure should be adopted for making the tenant responsible in law for the value of the frame, which would necessarily give him an interest in its preservation. Why was not some method of this sort resorted to, which would destroy the joint interest which the tenant too often had at present with the frame-breakers? He should have thought, also, that a Bill amercing the county of Nottingham in the value of the pecuniary damages sustained by individuals, would have had a good effect in repressing disorders, by producing a more general interest in their prevention. Upon the whole, he should oppose this Bill, as thinking that our long list of capital offences was already sufficiently disgraceful, and that many of the late atrocious crimes by which the country had been disgraced and alarmed, had originated in the frequency of such horrid spectacles.

§Mr. John Smith wished to observe, that though the destruction of stocking frames was punishable with transportation, yet there was no such law at present to protect the lace-frames employed in one of the most elegant manufactures of this country. That defect, therefore, ought to be immediately supplied. It was his firm opinion that some measure ought forthwith to be resorted to: the state of the county, to his certain knowledge imperiously required it; and he must support the present Bill till he heard of some preferable measure. He believed that the great cause of all the excesses was the decay of trade; and he hoped, that in due time, that subject would be enquired into. But this was not the precise moment for 830 such enquiry: the disturbance Which at present existed must first be completely put down.

Mr. Lockhart was convinced that the anxiety not to increase the number of capital punishments, was not confined to the hon. gentleman opposite, but that it was generally prevalent in the House. This was a case, however, in which he thought that the enactment of capital punishment would have a beneficial effect, and would particularly operate to deter offenders, through the medium of the impression which the fear of it would make on the minds of their wives and families. The offences in question were, indeed, of the most serious nature, and approached most nearly to constructive levying of war, that was, to high treason. Lord Hale mentioned a case of breaking looms in London, which five out of the twelve judges declared to be actually constructive levying of war, or high treason. All lawyers must be acquainted with the case of Damaree and Purchase, in the reign of Anne, executed for entering into an association to destroy all Presbyterian meeting houses; the judges holding that the offence was constructive levying of war, or high treason. He should support the Bill; but he conceived that the offender ought to have some guards similar to those possessed by any one accused of high treason; and, therefore, when in the committee, he should propose the introduction of a clause giving the prisoner the benefit of one counsel.

§Mr. Herbert (of Kerry) supported the motion. The situation of Nottingham he conceived to be somewhat like that of some counties in Ireland, when those counties were agitated by the White Boys. At that time capital penalties were enacted against those offenders; and the effect was such as might be anticipated from the operation of the present Bill. The law would not be like the laws of the Medes and Persians, irrevocable, but might be, and ought to be, repealed whenever the emergency should cease.

§Mr. Wrottesley was of opinion, that the proposed measure would not have the effect expected from it. The greater the terror inspired by the act, the less he conceived would be the likelihood of detection. The preamble of the present Bill stared, that the 28th of the King had been ineffectual in putting a stop to the outrages complained of; but he would ask, where was the proof of the inefficacy of that 831 act? Not one prosecution had taken place under it. He had the authority of Black-stone for saying that no capital punishment should be resorted to until one of a more lenient kind had been tried and had failed.

Sir S. Romilly said, that there were two points on which the whole House had agreed:—one, that the punishment of death should never be recurred to, except in cases were all other species of punishment had been found ineffectual; the other, that an evil now existed to which a remedy ought to be applied as soon as possible. For his part, he was convinced that the remedy proposed was no remedy whatsoever; the evil would still continue to exist in spite of it. He confessed from whatever cause these disturbances proceeded,—whether from a spirit of malice against the master-manufacturers, or from the idea that the frames diminished human labour, and encroached on human industry,—that the existence of them was a monstrous evil. It was an evil, more over, which had existed in the face of a law; and he could attribute its continuance only to two causes,—either to conspiracy to suppress evidence against offenders, or to supineness in the magistracy. It was folly to talk of the terror which would arise from converting the punishment of transportation for fourteen years, into the punishment of death. The terror of the one would always have an almost equal influence with the other on the human mind; and he would answer for it, that this terror would not tend to diminish the evil. It was evident, if the existence of the evil were to be attributed to a conspiracy to suppress evidence, that the terror of a greater punishment would tend the more to keep witnesses from coming forward. If, on the other hand, the magistrates had not made sufficient exertions under the existing statute, it was plain that the change of punishment would not make them more active. The great evil to be complained of was, that the law had been converted into a mere dead letter, that it had been made only a lifeless scarecrow, from which custom had removed even the terror that might originally have been felt on beholding it. If, indeed, the statute of the 28th of Geo. 3, had been duly enforced, and these iniquitous proceedings had been persevered in, in defiance of it, then there might be some plausible ground for the measure before the House. As the Bill had only been delivered since the 832 meeting of the House, the gentlemen who had spoken on the contrary side, might not have had time to read it, or they would have seen that it was in no way calculated to remedy that which the whole nation so loudly exclaimed against. One hon. and learned gentleman (Mr. Lockhart) had said, that the Nottingham rioters were guilty of a crime little short of constructive treason. It was undoubtedly true, that a general combination to break all the frames might be so construed, and perhaps the late outrageous proceedings deserved a title little less severe; but on examining the Bill itself, it would be found that it was not at all calculated to operate against such conspirators. The four species of crime contemplated by the Bill were, first, entering houses by force, and destroying machines; second, entering houses by force, with intent to destroy them; third, wilfully and maliciously cutting in pieces machines; and the fourth, destroying any utensil, instrument, &c. belonging to the machinery. Would the House believe it, and yet it was true, that not one of those crimes partook of the dreadful nature of the evil complained of; and which evil was, as it was likened to high-treason, a conspiracy to destroy all frames? According to the present Bill, an idle apprentice, who, from a quarrel with his master, or any other cause, should break or destroy the machinery of his master, or the slightest utensil connected with it, might be capitally convicted under it. In fact, the Bill was totally directed against individual depredation, and not against the conspiracy which had given birth to the late disturbances. It required little skill, indeed, to construct an act far better for its purposes than that proposed by the right hon. gentleman. It did not even leave any thing to the humanity of a prosecutor; but in all cases compelled a prosecution.—Gentlemen on the other side no doubt thought that they were supporting a measure to secure the future tranquillity of Nottingham and the surrounding counties from these illegal combinations; but on looking at the wording of the Bill they would find themselves grievously disappointed, for the net, instead of being spread wide enough to secure all, could catch only a very few of the offenders. He, perhaps, would have recommended that offenders should not have been prosecuted, until it were clear that a combination existed, by several frames having been previously broken, or unless 833 three or four men in concert committed the act.—In every respect this measure was totally inadequate: it did little credit to the legislative skill of ministers, and if passed would be a disgrace to the proceedings of the House. It appeared that the right hon. Secretary had brought the Bill ready made in his pocket, before he obtained leave to bring it in; and he (sir S. R.) was confident that in after times it would astonish an English House of Commons to find, upon the inspection of the Journals, that in a case of life and death their predecessors had upon only a few minutes consideration adopted a measure of such extent and importance.—He recommended, before such a hasty step were taken, that some examination of the ground should be made, and that a committee should be appointed to make inquiry into a subject on which the House actually knew little or nothing. What hon. member, let his connections be what they might, could say that he knew the cause of these riots; whether they originated in malice on the part of the workmen against their masters for ill-treatment, or from a determination to destroy machinery, which lessened the proportion of manual labour? Whether any, and what combinations had been entered into, and what subscriptions had been raised to resist the efforts of the legislature? These were questions of great importance, and to proceed without information upon them would be highly unbecoming the dignity and wisdom of the House.

§Mr. Bathurst thought, that after the long continuance of the outrages which had so much disgraced the country,—after they had so long braved the law, and had even been alluded to as a matter of exultation by the common enemy,—it was right that the government should adopt more efficient measures than had been hitherto resorted to. He regretted the mode of opposition which had been pursued against the Bill; and was particularly sorry for what had fallen from the hon. and learned gentleman who spoke last. As to any “reproach on the executive for not being sufficiently active, he had merely to appeal to the testimony borne to their exertions by the hon. gentleman, the member for Nottingham. The real question was, not whether the existing law was adequate or not to the putting down of the disturbances, but whether the terror inspired by a heavier punishment would not more effectually answer 834 that purpose. The measure proposed was founded on that principle of all criminal law, pæna ad paucos, metus ad omnes perveniat.’ The threat or terror would have the effect of deterring the many, and the punishment would fall only on, the few. It was a measure brought forward with a view not to punish, but to prevent the crime to which it referred; it had not for its object, as was supposed, the shedding of human blood, but to render the commission of this sort of offences less frequent. With respect to the preamble of the Bill, it certainly did not comprize the whole of the grounds for the adoption of the measure, nor did the Bill itself, as the hon. and learned gentleman imagined, provide merely for the punishment of idle or mischievous apprentices; it was intended to put a stop to the outrages. But if there were any objectionable passages in it, those passages might be obviated in the committee. The peace of the country would be cheaply purchased by the forfeiture of a few lives, in order to deter future outrages on the property of individuals, and the tranquillity of the state.

Mr. C. W. Wynn said, that the right hon. gentleman who spoke last had set out with a total misconception; for the question was not, as he had stated, whether the existing law was a sufficient remedy for the evil, but, whether the proposed new law was likely to be efficient? This he contended was not the case; for it signified little what punishment wag enacted, if persons could not be found to give information against the offenders. The use of a committee would have been, that an inquiry might have been made into the alleged insufficiency of the existing law—into the fact of any conviction having taken place under it—into the necessity for a severer law—or into the causes why evidence had been held back. Measures might have been devised for the suppression or prevention of those outrages, rewards might have been offered, or severer enactments proposed against persons who deterred witnesses from coming forward; instead of which, the authors of this measure came forward, for fear it should be doubted that the executive had done something, without any assurance that they had reached the root of the evil—which was the only means of preventing or remedying it. On the night when this Bill was introduced, the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exche- 835 quer had asserted, that it had not been brought forward earlier, in the hope that the former statute of the 28th of the King, would be found effectual, without any new enactment, and that finding themselves disappointed, government had suggested, unwillingly, this measure. In this statement the right hon. gentleman was contradicted by the fact, since tranquillity had been restored, according to his own confession, several days before this Bill had been brought into the House.

§Sir Arthur Piggott said, that if the Bill, from its provisions or its object, appeared to him simply to extend the act of the 28th of the King to lace frames as well as stocking frames, he should have thought it desirable; but he knew no way in which the purpose of the measure was to be collected except from the right hon. mover himself, or from the words of the Bill, by which he understood, that it was to be made capital in both instances to destroy frames. Now, if ever a legislature took a wrong step, it was when there existed a degree of indignation against persons who had committed violent aggressions against private property and public peace. On that part of the subject he was far from being convinced by the right hon. gentleman who supported the Bill. Here were offences against which a law existed enforced by no light punishment. Had the punishment been tried, or the law enforced? Before any one asked him to extend the punishment and to make it capital, he ought to prove that the law had been enforced, and had been found ineffectual, and then he might have a right to call for the enactment of capital punishment, but not till then. But that was not the case here, for he did not find that there had been any prosecution upon the 28th of the King, and perhaps there had been no occasion for it; so there was no authority to say that the law was not fully adequate to its purpose, except the necessity of extending it to the breaking of lace frames. But why was not the law enforced? Because the difficulty of detection prevented it. Would capital punishment increase the means of detection? If the difficulty of convicting offenders consisted in the reluctance of witnesses, was there any thing in the nature of capital punishment which would lessen that reluctance? He apprehended not. The only remaining principle on which the right hon. gentleman recommended the measure to the House was, that it 836 would operate to excite terror; but how many instances were there of proofs to the contrary? And had not the House been lately engaged with the reverse of the proposition? He then commented on the precipitation with which the Bill had been hurried through the House; and hoped they would pause before they proceeded further. No one could deny the necessity of some protection being afforded to the property of the persons injured; but he conceived always, that the question for the second reading of a Bill was the proper period to protest against its principle; for, if that was defective, the committee would be useless. Objecting as be did to the principle of the measure, be should oppose it in its present stage.

Mr. Secretary Ryder said, that having already spoken fully on the subject of this Bill, it would be unnecessary for him to do more now, than to make a few observations on what had fallen from hon. members in the course of the debate. The hon. and learned gentleman, who had just sat down, had objected to the punishment of death being enacted by this Bill; and for the reason, that no trial had been made of the efficacy of the penalty of transportation, because not one prosecution had taken place. The hon. and learned gentleman thought, therefore, that making the destruction of lace frames liable to the same punishment as that of stocking frames, namely, transportation, would answer the purpose. How, then, would the matter stand, according to the argument of the hon. and learned gentleman? The preamble of the Bill must run thus, “Where as the punishment of transportation exists against the breaking of stocking frames, and has been found ineffectual; therefore it is thought necessary, that the same punishment should be extended to the breaking of lace frames.” It was, in his opinion, idle and nugatory to enact such a law, as it would be impossible that any good purpose could be answered by it. With regard to the objection of extending the punishment of death, he begged the House to recollect, that this was only intended as a temporary measure, to meet a pressing temporary evil; and that the hope was, that the terror of death might put a speedy end to the present unlawful and alarming proceedings in Nottingham, and the neighbouring counties. If the state of the town and county of Nottingham were considered, no gentleman would contend that the dis- 837 turbances ought to be allowed to exist. He did assure those gentlemen who had done him the opportunity of viewing his conduct in a favourable light, that he highly prized their good opinion. In what he had done towards restoring order, however, there was no merit attached to him or his colleagues. In the execution of their duty, (a melancholy one it was) they had been guided by a wish to preserve the public tranquillity. He would much rather, however, have had the mischief attributed in some degree to his own supineness, than that its ravages should have occasioned unmerited censure upon the local exertions of the authorities with in the immediate scene of action. The conduct of the magistrates was exemplary throughout the county. With respect to the exertions of the town magistrates, these were limited to the district, but were not less laudable. In considering the Bill, the House would recollect that the mischief must be put down in some way or other. The efforts of the magistrates, though meritorious, were still found to be ineffectual. The question was not an insulated one; it was not a question which affected the manufacturing interests of that particular district, but the whole of the manufacturers throughout the kingdom. The outrages endangered the public tranquillity in a very great degree, and if by this Bill men should for the future be deterred from the commission of similar crimes, the House in passing the Bill had done their duty. He did not mean to affirm that the Bill could give facility of detection. That of making the offence capital, would have the effect of deterring men from crimes. When men knew publicly that parliament regarded their offences in a heinous light, and that it was the determination of the executive to send judges specially down, and not wait for the ordinary assizes, to try offenders, it was fair to conclude that the object would be accomplished. At all events, it was unanimously admitted that the evil existed, but no gentleman on the other side of the House had, though he objected to the present measure, come forward with a remedy for that evil. Therefore, under these circumstances the House would, he trusted, adopt the Bill now in progress, as the rejection of it might produce effects which no one could anticipate.

Mr. Bastard said, that after the outrages which had been committed, he would vote for the Bill going to a committee; but 838 when it had passed, he should be glad to know what security there would be for its being enforced: Why was the law already in existence suffered to slumber, without making any trial of its efficacy? Why had ministers suffered those riots to go on for two or three months? No one could persuade him that the right hon. gentleman deserved any praise. He should not have waited for any information, or expected to derive any assistance from the country magistrates. Was not the right hon. gentleman the chief magistrate, and ought he not to have directed the rest? He hoped the House would institute some enquiry into the proceedings of the Secretary of State’s office, and take some measures to invigorate them.

§Mr. Whitbread acquitted the right hon. the Secretary of State for the Home Department of any want of vigour; as it had been allowed on all hands, that he had done every thing that could be done by an early interposition both of the civil and of the military power. He must, however, object to the Bill, because it was a clumsy expedient, and because it extended the long list of our capital punishments. In his opinion, the great defect of the legislature of this country for the last century had been, that when they found the people prone to the commission of crimes, they, in order to put a stop to them, enacted the penalty of death; by which offenders had escaped punishment almost as much as if no law had been enacted at all. He was particularly averse from proceeding with the present Bill without enquiry, because the present was a period of tranquillity in Nottingham; and there was, in consequence, no cause for haste. The statute book teemed with sentences inflicting the penalty of death; and he thought it was a subject the revision of which would well become, the policy as well as the humanity of the House. So long back as 40 years, the penalty of death for offences was considered so lightly of, that the House came to a resolution, That no Bill imposing that penalty should be introduced without a previous committee. For that resolution the public were indebted to sir William Meredith, who, in 1772, being on an enclosure committee, accidentally heard some of the interested parties complain that several of the peasants were refractory and troublesome, and that the only way to get rid of them would be by hanging a few. The hon. baronet was so 839 Struck by the injustice and wickedness of the observation, that he moved, and the House adopted the resolution. Following up the resolution, he (Mr. W.) intended to propose that it should be made a standing order of the House, that no Bill should be introduced having for its object the infliction of penalty of death without a previous committee. If a committee had been granted, as had been proposed by his hon. and learned friend (Mr. Abercromby) they might have traced the origin of the evils, and found out other remedies perhaps; but as the present Bill did not seem calculated to reach those evils, and as its very principle was objectionable, he should certainly vote against its being read a second time.

§Mr. Frankland contended, that when the law was openly violated, it was the duty of the legislature to enact severer laws. If the parent were not obeyed, while mild and indulgent, who would maintain that he ought not to change his countenance, and express his indignation? The law proposed was a law not merely to prevent the breaking of frames, but to protect whatever was most dear to us in life. When gentlemen talked of sporting with the lives of others, he would ask, who sported with the lives of the people? Who neglected the general safety? and on whom must fall the awful responsibility, if a remedy were not promptly applied to those alarming evils which were under their consideration? If the law were openly defied, and force continued to be opposed to force, while they were speaking there, thousands of lives might be swept away, and thousands might fall the victims of a too refined sensibility, and mistaken and puling feeling of humanity. He denied that there were more crimes visited with capital punishment in our code of laws than in any other; and adverting to what had fallen from an hon. gentleman, who had contended that capital punishment should only be inflicted where it was authorised by the Scripture, which it was said only justified it in one instance, where it is written—”Whosoever sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed,” he was surprised how any man could read Leviticus and Deuteronomy, and be of such an opinion. It would be found, in looking into those books, that they contained more capital punishments than any modern code of laws, and Europe had been convinced that it would be improper to adopt a code so sanguinary. In the Scrip- 840 ture it would be found, that by the law of the Israelites, he who “disobeyed his father and would not hearken to his voice,” was sentenced to be led out and stoned till he died.—He then proceeded to show, by analogy, that exemplary punishment ought to be inflicted on those who opposed the parental mandates of the legislature: and concluded by giving it as his opinion, that it was incumbent on the legislature to express its disapprobation of such outrageous proceedings in the strongest manner, by enacting that they should be visited with capital punishment, and those who suffered in consequence of the passing of such a law, were to be regarded as the victims of their own illusions and misconduct.

§ The House divided…

(Vote for the Second Reading of the bill was 94 votes in favour and 17 votes against.)

§ The Bill was then read a second time. On the motion of Mr. Secretary Ryder that the Bill be committed to-morrow.

§Sir Samuel Romilly moved as an amendment, That it should be committed on Wednesday; and observed, that he took this opportunity of rectifying some misrepresentations of his former statements. Remarks had been made, as if he had considered the subject as one of light importance; on the contrary, he thought and had stated the evil to be of enormous magnitude, and one which required a strong remedy. He had merely objected to the proposed method of furnishing a remedy. He observed, that the time allowed before the reference to a committee was so short, that he should not be able, if inclined, to frame a clause for insertion in the Bill; and asked what excuse the right hon. Secretary could give to the House and the public for not supplying some previous notice of the contents of his Bill? The present, he must also observe, was not a subject into which paradoxes and subtlety of reasoning ought to be introduced; nor could there be a time when such observations as an hon. and learned friend of his 841 (Mr. Frankland) had made about “puling humanity” were more entirely misplaced. He agreed—the whole House agreed—that some powerful remedy was demanded under the present circumstances—that blood should be shed to prevent a greater effusion of blood; but he thought the Bill essentially deficient, as it suffered too much to depend upon the humanity of the prosecutor in some instances, and too much on the interpretation of the judge in others. The statute would be a dead letter with respect to the particular case it was framed to meet, while its effects would be deplored where it was not intended to operate.

§Mr. Bathurst disclaimed all idea of imputing to the hon. and learned gentleman any wish to under-rate the importance of the transactions alluded to; but complained that he had manifested some inconsistency in stating, at the same time, that the Bill would be a dead letter, and would also cause too great a sacrifice of lives.

Sir S. Romilly in explanation said, that the right hon. member who spoke last had misrepresented—he would not say had misstated—his positions. His observation had been, that as far as regarded the case of conspiracy, the act would be a dead letter, though this was the case where it was intended to apply; while it would operate severely against individuals, a case not within the meaning of the Bill.

§Mr. Frankland said, that he should wish the time to be enlarged, except the subject was one which frequently had come before the legislative body. Statutes already existed on the woollen, the silk, and cotton manufactures, and none on this branch of craft. It was also important that it should not go out to the public, that the House was not clear and decisive in its intentions on this subject.

§ The House divided,

For the Amendment 15

Against it 80

Majority —65

§ The original motion for going into the committee to-morrow was then put and agreed to.

On This Day: February 16, 1812

Feb 16 1812: Byron to Hodgson

On this day, Lord Byron writes to his friend Francis Hodgson. Byron opens the letter by referring to the fact that he has sent away the women which likely refers to Sarah Vaughan and another servant named Lucy. He writes in a rather morose self pitying away that is he is done with women and that he will be leaving England in the coming year.

8, St. James’s-street, February 16th, 1812.


I send you a proof. Last week I was very ill and confined to bed with stone in the kidney, but I am now quite recovered. If the stone had got into my heart instead of my kidneys, it would have been all the better. The women are gone to their relatives, after many attempts to explain what was already too clear. However, I have quite recovered that also, and only wonder at my folly in excepting my own strumpets from the general corruption,—albeit a two months’ weakness is better than ten years. I have one request to make, which is, never mention a woman again in any letter to me, or even allude to the existence of the sex. I won’t even read a word of the feminine gender;—it must all be ‘propria quæ maribus.’

In the spring of 1813 I shall leave England for ever. Every thing in my affairs tends to this, and my inclinations and health do not discourage it. Neither my habits nor constitution are improved by your customs or your climate. I shall find employment in making myself a good oriental scholar. I shall retain a mansion in one of the fairest islands, and retrace, at intervals, the most interesting portions of the East. In the mean time, I am adjusting my concerns, which will (when arranged) leave me with wealth sufficient even for home, but enough for a principality in Turkey. At present they are involved, but I hope, by taking some necessary but unpleasant steps, to clear every thing. Hobhouse is expected daily in London; we shall be very glad to see him; and, perhaps, you will come up and ‘drink deep ere he depart,’ if not, ‘Mahomet must go to the mountain;’—but Cambridge will bring sad recollections to him, and worse to me, though for very different reasons. I believe the only human being that ever loved me in truth and entirely was of, or belonging to, Cambridge, and, in that, no change can now take place. There is one consolation in death—where he sets his seal, the impression can neither be melted or broken, but endureth for ever.

Yours always,“B.”

On This Day: February 15, 1812

Kapellmeister- (pronounced [kaˈpɛl.ˌmaɪstɐ]) a German word designating a person in charge of music-making.

On February 15 1812, François-Adrien Boieldieu writes to Tsar Alexander of Russia that he must resign his position as Kapellmeister.

Boieldieu (December 16, 1775 – October 8,1834) was a French composer, mainly of operas, that was quite famous in the early part of the nineteenth century. He was known as the French Mozart. In 1804, he had gone to Saint Petersburg to take up the post of court composer to the tsar of Russia. He stayed until 1810. On his return to France he continued composing various operas including La jeune femme en colère (1811) and in 1812 Jean de Paris. Boieldieu’s fame rested on his operas but he also composed other works including the Harp Concerto in C written in 1800-1801