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Thursday, 10 December 2015

The Spies

'Presentation of colours' to the militia. 
 Lord Liverpool once commented: ‘Spies and informers had been at all times employed by all governments, and ever must be’. The Home Office’s espionage or ‘missionary’ system was a significant expense for government. 

It spent thousands of pounds annually paying its own spies, and reimbursing local magistrates for their spies.

What kind of person was recruited as a spy? In London, the famous Bow Street Runners often undertook intelligence-gathering. In the provinces, lawyers were sometimes pressed into service (some notorious spies like Leonard McNally in Ireland, which rebelled in 1798, were legal professionals). 
Thomas Reynolds - a United Irish spy.

Army and navy officers and militia-men were also asked, or volunteered to, infiltrate the meetings of Radicals, workers’ societies and revolutionary groups, and root out potential traitors on the home front.
In the industrial districts, some impoverished workers were only too happy to earn good money informing on their neighbours. 
This period was very profitable for the Regency spies, but their lives were at risk if people realized they were being betrayed. On Saturday 9 May 1812, a Lancashire militia-man and his sweetheart died in sinister circumstances. Sergeant John Moore of the 1st Manchester Local Militia and his cousin Margaret were thrown into the Rochdale Canal, near Manchester, where they drowned. A Manchester spy, John Bent, later confirmed to the authorities that the locals had discovered that Moore ‘was an informer’.  

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