England History. The Luddites and the Combination Acts

Information of a Barnsley Weaver on the Luddites in the West Riding, 1812

Source: University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth;
Fitzwilliam MSS; in A. Aspinall and E. Anthony Smith, eds., English Historical Documents, XI, 1783-1832, New York: Oxford University Press, 1959, pp. 533-35. Earl Fitzwilliam was the Lord Lieutenant of the West Riding during the Luddite troubles of 1812.

... That about the 12th or 13th of June last the informant went to the house of Richard Howell at the old engine near Barnsley, to ask for some money he owed him ... Howell asked the informant if he could like to see a Luddite, because he could shew him one; the informant said he could not then, but he would call the next night. The night after, Howell called upon the informant, and had with him a paper on which the oath was written; Howell and the informant went out together, and the former requested the latter to take the oath; he read it over to him, and the informant repeated it, but said he would not kiss the Book upon it, as he had taken an oath of a contrary nature. Since that time John Eadon of Barnsley, a Weaver, and Craven Cookson of the same place, weaver, applied to and prevailed with the informant to be upon the secret committee, and that a fortnight ago last Sunday the oath was administered to the informant, in a lane leading from Barnsley to Dodworth, by the said Craven Cookson, and John Eadon was also in company: – it was in the forenoon: – the form of the oath is set forth in the annexed paper marked A in the hand writing of the informant and by him signed. That at the time the oath was so administered by Cookson and Eadon to the informant, they explained to him that his duty as a secret committee man, would be to attend all meetings when warned, or called upon, to collect money subscribed by the Luddites to defray the expenses of the delegates and secret committee when required, and to go when sent to collect information and carry on correspondence with other committees. The committee with whom this informant acted were the said Eadon and Cookson and William Thompson and Stephen Ritchinman both of Barnsley weavers, who were appointed to act as a secret committee for Barnsley. The informant further saith that it is also the business of the secret committee to twist in new members. That there are about 200 persons twisted in, in Barnsley, among whom, the informant particularized John Baxter, Commercial Inn, James Brown, publican, George Watson, linen manufacturer, Henry Tyne, hatter, Richard and — Bottom, gardener. That the informant knows a great many other Luddites by sight, but not by name. That the committee at Barnsley, do not admit Irishmen to be twisted in, for fear that they should betray the secret. The delegates (as the informant has been informed by the committee) from Leeds to Sheffield, and from Sheffield to Leeds, pass and repass weekly, but neither of those committees had any intercourse or correspondence with the Barnsly committee till about a week ago, when the informant opened a correspondence with Leeds for Barnsley, through the medium of Mr. Whittle, pattern maker at Leeds. That last Monday morning at Barnsley, he beard a person, whose name he does not know, but whom he understood to come from Sheffield, declare to Joseph Isaacs, that there were 8000 men nearly complete in arms, in and about Sheffield, and would be in a few days, and therefore they did not mind the soldiers – though they once thought the South Devon were good fellows, but now they thought them worse than the Huzzars. That since he has been upon the secret committee, the informant has been told by his fellow committee men, that delegates had been at Barnsley, from Manchester, and Stockport, (but he was not present), whose business it was, to collect numbers, and other information. That one Haigh now in York Castle for administering unlawful oaths, told the informant that there were 450 Luddites twisted in, at Holmfirth; the greater part of the neighbourhood of Huddersfield, and a great number at Halifax, and that they met there as Dissenters under the cloak of religion, and also 7,000 or 8,000 in Leeds. The informant saith that a very great number of Luddites are local militia men. That the Luddites have in view ultimately to overturn the system of government, by revolutionising the country. That certain delegates at Ashton under Lyne, on the 4th of August inst. told the informant that the first measure to be adopted in bringing about a revolution, would be to send parties to the different houses of the members of both Houses of Parliament, and destroy them, and then the people in London belonging to that Society, would seize upon the Government. That the committee at Barnsley, and the informant for himself, thinks, and believes, that in case a revolution should take place, Sir Francis Burdett and Major Cartwright would join them. That James Haigh of Dukinfield, near Ashton, told the informant that there were persons of property concerned in the disturbances who did not actively appear, but who wrote orders and had them put under the doors of delegates. That voluntary contributions are collected from those who are twisted in from 1d. per head, to 1/- a week; and that the informant has received from the committee at Barnsley 10s. 10d. for going journies. That the Luddites at Barnsley have no arms, but believe when a rupture takes place, that they can seize the arms of the military unawares, viz. before they have time to collect them....

[The Luddite Oath]

I A. B. of my own free will and accord do hereby promise, and swear that I will never reveal any of the names of any one of this secret committee, under the penalty of being sent out of this world by the first brother that may meet me, I furthermore do swear, that I will pursue with unceasing vengeance any traitor or traitors, should there any arise should he fly to the verge of —— . I furthermore do swear that I will be sober and faithful in all my dealings with all my brothers, and if ever I declare them, my name to be blotted out from the list of society, and never to be remembered, but with contempt and abhorrence. So help me God to keep this my oath inviolate. Signed Thomas Broughton.

B. Sign.

You must raise your right hand over your right eye if there be another Luddite in company he will raise his left hand over his left eye – then you must raise the forefinger of your right hand to the right side of your mouth – the other will raise the little finger of his left hand to the left side of his mouth and will say What are you? The answer, Determined – he will say, What for? Your answer, Free Liberty – then he will converse with you and tell you anything he knows....