Wednesday, 5 July 2017

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


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

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

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

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

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