Rogues, Thieves, and the Rule of Law: The Problem of Law Enforcement in North-East England, 1718-1800

By Gwenda Morgan; Peter Rushton | Go to book overview

CHAPTER NINE

Law and disorder

The purpose of upholding the law and maintaining order provided one of the key links between the regions and central government. The central government was intimately concerned in the affairs of the North-East throughout the eighteenth century, for two very good reasons. Firstly, as it was contiguous with the Scottish border, the region controlled the eastern approaches to England, and, secondly, as the site of England's first industrial revolution the region supplied the capital with its domestic fuel. The significance of this geographically peripheral area to the centre thus ensured that its representatives would be heard by the administration of the day but it also made them liable to pressure from the centre. 1


The “protocol of riot”

When a great concourse of workers from the collieries of the Wear proceeded from Gateshead Fell towards Newcastle in May 1795 “on account of the high price of corn and other articles”, they found their way barred by a party of dragoons headed by several justices of the peace who “with great propriety, expostulated with them on the nature of their illegal proceedings”. After the Reverend Mr Nesfield “had harrangued the multitude”, General Balfour

rode up to the front of the rioters, and in a calm, mild and dispassionate manner, exhorted the mob to return to their honest employments, at the same time assuring them, that he had

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