The chartist movement
Wednesday 23 December 2009
William Benbow (1784-?)
Grand National Holiday,
and Congress of the Productive Classes
Source: William Benbow, GRAND NATIONAL HOLIDAY, AND CONGRESS OF THE PRODUCTIVE CLASSES (1832), published by The Journeyman Press, London, 1977.
Transcribed: by Rob Lucas
Grand National Holiday, and Congress of the Productive Classes is a classic pamphlet of the British left. It was self-published by William Benbow - a publicist and pamphleteer who worked in a coffee house at 205 Fleet Street, London, after apparently having an early career as an unconventional preacher in Manchester. Benbow was an advocate of armed revolutionary insurrection as a means of accomplishing his “national holiday”, and was eventually arrested on 4th August 1839, to be jailed for sixteen months on charges of sedition. Maximilien Rubel, in his “Autopraxis historique du prolétariat”, sees a brilliant but naive prefiguration of various Marxist themes in Benbow’s pamphlet, largely in his emphasis upon the working class as an active social subject. Benbow also writes of a necessary “unity of thought and action”, but here the emphasis is on the unity of the working class in theory and practice, rather than a unity of theory and practice as such.
GRAND NATIONAL HOLIDAY, AND CONGRESS OF THE PRODUCTIVE CLASSES.
“Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl...
Behold, the hire of the labourers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth; and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth. Ye have condemned and killed the just; and they do not resist you.” JAMES,c.v.
BY WILLIAM BENBOW.
PRINTED AND PUBLISHED BY THE AUTHOR, 205, FLEET STREET. SOLD BY WATSON, 33, WINDMILL STREET, AND ALL BOOKSELLERS.
DEDICATION TO THE PRODUCTIVE CLASSES.
I lay before you a plan of freedom - adopt it, and you rid the world of inequality, misery, and crime. A martyr in your cause, I am become the prophet of your salvation.
A plan of happiness is pointed out and dedicated to you. With it I devote to you my life and body, my soul and blood.
Commercial Coffee House, 205, Fleet-street.
Her princes in the midst thereof are like wolves ravening the prey, to shed blood, and to destroy souls, to get dishonest gain.
The possessors of the land have used oppression, and exercised robbery and have vexed the poor and needy.
LIFE, when good for any thing, consists of ease, gaiety, pleasure, and consequently of happiness. All men enjoy life but do not enjoy it equally. The enjoyment of some is so very limited, that it does not deserve the name of enjoyment; that of others is without bounds, for they have the means of procuring fully ease, gaiety, and pleasure. Thus happiness is circumscribed, and is becoming every day more and more so, that is, the numbers who are deprived of it are hourly increasing. Now, who are they who do enjoy; does their enjoyment proceed from their own merits; are they laborious,-do they work for the happiness they possess? We shall see. Let nothing but truth, glaring stark-naked truth, be stated.
The only class of persons in society, as it is now constituted, who enjoy any considerable portion of ease, pleasure, and happiness, are those who do the least towards producing any thing good or necessary for the community at large. They are few in number, a fraction, as it were, of society, and yet they have become possessed of a most monstrous power, namely, the power of turning to their own advantage all the good things of life, without creating themselves the smallest particle of any one of those good things. How, in the name of wonder, have they obtained this monstrous power! It must have been either by an involuntary and unnatural consent, or by what seems nearest to the truth by the most stupid ignorance on the part of the people. Of course this monstrous power held by the few is exercised with an iron hand, and necessarily begets indescribable wretchedness and misery among the great mass of society in every part of the kingdom. And this fraction of society, to which has been foolishly conceded, or which has impudently and unnaturally usurped, the preposterous right to exercise a monstrous power over almost every man, is as one to five hundred when compared to the people who produce all the good things seen in the world. Notwithstanding the one, the unit, the mere cypher, has all the wealth, all the power in the state, and consequently prescribes the way and details the manner, after which he pleases the 499 should live in the world. The 499 who create the state, who are its instruments upon all occasions, without whom it can not go on for a single second, who dig deep, rise early, and watch late, by whose sweat and toil the whole face of nature is beautified – rendered pleasant to the sight, and useful to existence; – the 499 who do all this are reduced to less than nothing in the estimation of the unit who does no one thing, unless consuming may be called doing something. The one – the unit or cypher – consumes, luxuriates, revels, wastes: in the winter fur and down warm him: in the summer he cools himself in the marble bath or in the shady bower: the seasons are his – their flowers, fruits, and living creatures are his – the 499 are his purveyors, they procure him every thing; and more to be pitied and worse treated than the jackal, they are not left even the offals. Not content with every thing – marrow and bone – if the bone be of any use: not content with their own peculiar titles, this consuming portion of society call themselves the people
They are the people of substance, the people of character, the people of condition the people of honor! so they say; but perhaps another definition of what they are would make them more easily recognised. They are the jugglers of society, the pick-pockets, the plunderers, the pitiless Burkers – in fine they are all Bishops! They exist on disease and blood: crime and infamy are the breath of their nostrils. The 499 bleed for them, die of disease for them; by hard and cruel treatment they are hurried into crime and infamy, if crime and infamy can justly be imputed to beings who make an occasional effort to obtain a portion of the heaps they produce.
The people are formed out of our proportion of 499: they are in number as 499 is to 1. By saying what the people do, we explain what they are. By saying what they can and ought to do, we explain what they can and ought to be.
For many years the people have done nothing for themselves. They have not even existed, for they have not enjoyed life. Their existence has been enjoyed by others; they have been, as far as regards themselves, non-entities. They have had neither ease, gaiety, nor pleasure; they have not lived ; for a state of continual toil, privation, and sickness can never be called life. What working man can say he lives? Unless he says he lives when he is pining away piecemeal producing with an empty stomach and weary limbs what goes to make others live. The existence of the working man is a negative. He is alive to production, misery, and slavery- dead to enjoyment and happiness. He produces and is miserable: others enjoy and are happy. The people then, since we call the mass the people, are the drudges of society ; they do every thing and enjoy nothing. The people are nothing for themselves, and everything for the few.
If they are the source of all wealth- that wealth is not for them: if they are all-powerful, their power is used for the benefit of others: – they protect and support those who grow fat on the sweat of their brow! They fight too yea, they fight – but for what? for religion, for honour, for the caprice of kings and ministers!
When they fight for themselves, then will they be a people, then will they live, then will they have ease, gaiety, pleasure and happiness; but never, until they do light for themselves! When the people fight their own battle – when they are active in resistance to the greater part of existing institutions – when they have a proper opinion of themselves; that is, when they are convinced of their own power and worth, they will then enjoy the advantages a people ought to enjoy. They will be every thing they were not before: they will be no longer abused, maltreated, and lessened in their own estimation. they will be no longer robbed of the fruits of their toil: no longer oppressed and goaded to despair, their lives will be no longer a burden too heavy to he borne. The few- the grasping, the blood-sucking few – will be no longer able to do all this. The few- the idle, dronish few – will be forced to work as well as others, and every man’s share of the good things of life will be in proportion to his production of them. When the people are resolved and prepared upon all points to fight their own battle, the rapacity of the landlord, the inhumanity of the king’s tax gatherer and of the bishop’s tithe proctor will disappear. And if there should happen to be any poor and infirm persons to be provided for, they will not be entrusted to hospital-governors and poor-house keepers, who live in splendour on the parish allowances or charitable donations made solely for the exclusive advantage the poor and infirm, who may justly be considered, and ought to be treated as the martyrs of labour.
How is it that the people have never existed- that is, have not enjoyed ease, gaiety, pleasure, or happiness? How is it that they have been the instruments of the few, procuring them a superabundance of ease, gaiety, pleasure, and happiness? How is it that they have always been the productive party, and never the consuming party? The lion makes the jackall hunt and provide for him, because the lion is stronger; but, in the case of the people, the position is reversed, for the weaker party have hitherto forced the stronger party to hunt and provide for them. How has this most monstrous state of things been established and kept up? Simply thus: by keeping the people in ignorance- by hoodwinking them with the bonds of superstition and prejudice.
Ignorance is the source of all the misery of the many. On account of their ignorance they have been oppressed,- plundered,- ground down to the earth, and degraded like beasts of burden. It is ignorance that makes us incessantly toil, not for ourselves, but for others: it is ignorance that makes us fight, and lavish our blood and lives to secure to the few the power of still keeping us their tools; it is ignorance that prevents us from knowing ourselves and without a clear knowledge of ourselves we must ever remain the tools of others- the slaves of the consuming party. In every age of the world the people, for want of knowledge of their own worth and power have been the unpaid, unrecompensed tools of kings, nobles, and priests. Yet at no time, in no country, among no people has there existed so much degradation, oppression, and misery, as exists at this moment in this wretched country. Ignorance has reduced England to distraction, and unfortunate Ireland to phrenzied madness.
There is no greater folly than to expect that people will do that which they are ignorant of. To fulfil a duty or to obey a law, we must understand it. Our lawgivers have kept us in ignorance, for if we had knowledge we would not obey laws framed for our own destruction. Our lords and masters are doing every thing that our ignorance may continue, in order that they may continue, like the lawyers of old, “to load us with burdens too grievous to be borne, which they will not, touch with one of their fingers.” Since our lords and masters have very good reasons for keeping us in ignorance, we have still stronger ones for getting knowledge. By keeping us in ignorance they enjoy: by getting ourselves knowledge we shall enjoy, and cease to suffer. The knowledge we want is very easily acquired: it is not that taught in schools or books, or at least in very few books. The knowledge we want is a knowledge of ourselves: a knowledge of our own power, of our immense might, and of the right we have to employ in action that immense power. We cannot have this knowledge without having an opposite kind of knowledge:- namely, the knowledge of the numerical and real weakness of our enemies, though they have been so long enabled to oppress us and drain us to the last drop of our heart’s blood. The people of Paris had this knowledge when they revolted against tyranny, and trampled it for a moment under their feet: the people of Paris will give a still stronger example of the sort of knowledge we want, when they declare that kingship and privilege are incompatible with popular liberty: in fine, when they shall strike for a republic- and this example way be expected shortly. The men of Grenoble the other day gave a proof of this knowledge when they refused to pay unjust taxes, burned the tax-gatherers’ houses and books, and forced the government to come to a compromise. In short, the knowledge we want is to be fully convinced of the weakness and villainy of our enemies, and to be resolved to use the means we have of destroying them.
The interest of the people has been the same in every age of the world; and yet, extraordinary as it may appear, they have never understood it. If the people had understood their true interests, could any power or accident reduce them to the state they are now in? What that state is we all, alas, know: it is, beyond all contradiction, a state of privation, bordering on starvation, – a state of misery and degradation. Inattention, and the most culpable and dishonourable indifference on their part, have produced their own ruin, and consequently that of the countries they inhabit. Look to the people of this kingdom – look to this country: are they far off from ruin? If you, O people, do not rouse yourselves, you will leave to posterity a nation of the most miserable slaves.
The remedy? the remedy? you all exclaim. You have it within your own reach; but since it seems you cannot see it, you shall have it named to you, and pointed out to you so palpably, that if you do not make use of it, the brand and curse of slavery will stick to you during your wretched lives, and your children and children’s children will curse you as traitors, who have sold yourselves, and them, whom you had no right to sell. Now the remedy that is to better your condition, and to snatch you from final and everlasting ruin, is placed within yourselves. It is simply – UNITY OF THOUGHT AND ACTION. – Think together, act together, and you will remove mountains- mountains of injustice, oppression, misery and want. How do you suppose you were brought to your present condition? By never thinking or acting- by being ignorant of yourselves. The bulls in the fable, whilst united, defied the strength of the lion; he sowed jealousy and disunion among them, and they became his prey. Our enemies, by their unity of thought and action- numerically and physically weak as they are- have succeeded in making us their prey. A small portion of mankind, by adopting plan and method, by putting their heads together, have been able to do as they pleased with the greater portion. The smaller portion, by their unanimity, have made the greater portion toil for them: by unity of thought and action, the smaller party have become lords and masters, the greater party slaves.
Lords and masters! They are united; and therefore they may be whatever else they please; they have become, by their unity, lords and masters; and they are, without impunity, the possessors of all power, pomp, greatness, wealth, vanity, lewdness, beastiality, cruelty:- they are a living catalogue of all the vices and crimes that human nature has been forced to be the source of. A want of unity of thought and action on our parts has been the cause of this unnatural state of things. Our indifference and disunion have enabled our horrid enemies to cover the earth with thousands of Sodoms and Gomorrahs.
Of all the follies human nature can be guilty of, there is no one greater than to expect that others will do for us what we ought to do for ourselves. If others do not feel as we do – if they have no cause to feel as we do – if they are not oppressed, robbed, plundered, degraded – how can they enter into our feelings who are so! To expect aid from Tories, Whigs, Liberals – to expect aid from the middling classes, or from any other class than those who suffer, (from the working classes), is sheer madness!
Are liberty and equal rights worth enjoying: are ease, gaiety, pleasure, and happiness worth possessing? Is the satisfaction of seeing ourselves on the same footing with all men – of beholding no longer such a distinction as that between peer and peasant – of no longer seeing ourselves trampled on by the horses and carriages of persons of a different order- of seeing every man either on horseback or on foot, – is such satisfaction worth nothing? What more glorious, more consolatory, more honourable to man than equality! Equality, O people and friends, is grand and beautiful: we may have it; but let us he united!
Virtue- where is it to be found? Among the people! Who have died- who have been martyrs for their principles- the people! Who have been hanged, who have suffered at the stake for their country, and for the good of humanity – the people! From Wat Tyler down to Emmet and Thistlewood, the martyrs of truth have always been found among the people. Their martyrdom would not have been in vain, had we supported them: they relied upon us- they gave us an example- they held forth a torch-light they sounded a tocsin- their heartstrings wrung it; but we, O shame, have been deaf to it! We have had hearts of steel- we have been worse than the deaf adder for we have heard the music of liberty, and have not listened to it!
It is almost superfluous to say, that the horrid and merciless tyrants, whom we have allowed to lord it over us, have no feeling in common with us. The whole study of their lives is to keep us in a state of ignorance, that we may not be sensible of our own degradation and of their weakness. To expect good at their hands, to hope that they will break one link of the chain with which they bind us, to dream that they will ever look with pity upon us, is the vainest of all dreams. But enough; they have fattened upon the sweat of our body; they are determined to continue to do so; it is our business to prevent it, to put a stop to it. We are the people, our business is with the people, and to transact it properly, we must take it into our own hands. The people are called upon to work for themselves! We lay down the plan of operation; we despair of all safety, we despair of liberty, we despair of equality, we despair of seeing ease, gaiety, pleasure, and happiness becoming the possessions of the people, unless they co-operate with us. We chalk down to them a plan; woe to them if they do not follow in its traces!
A holiday signifies a holy day, and ours is to be of holy days the most holy. It is to be most holy, most sacred, for it is to be consecrated to promote- to create rather- the happiness and liberty of mankind. Our holy day is established to establish plenty, to abolish want, to render all men equal! In our holy day we shall legislate for all mankind; the constitution drawn up during our holiday, shall place every human being on the same footing. Equal rights, equal liberties, equal enjoyments, equal toil, equal respect, equal share of production: this is the object of our holy day – of our sacred day, – of our festival!
When a grand national holiday, festival, or feast is proposed, let none of our readers imagine that the proposal is new. It was an established custom among the Hebrews, the most ancient of people, to have holidays or festivals, not only religious feasts, but political ones. Their feasts were generally held to perpetuate the memory of God’s mighty works; to allow the people frequent seasons for instruction in the laws,- to grant them time of rest, pleasure, and renovation of acquaintance with their brethren. The Sabbath was a weekly festival, not because they supposed that God reposed from his labour on that day, – but inmemorial of their deliverance from Egypt;- out of the house of bondage, and of their feeding on manna in the wilderness. The true meaning of feeding on manna is, that the productions of the soil were equally divided among the people. They fed upon manna- that is they were fed in abundance. During the various festivals, no servile work was done, and servants and masters knew no distinction. Every seventh year, which was called the year of Release, a continued festival was held among the Hebrews. Mark, a holiday for a whole year! How happy a people must be, how rich in provisions, to be able to cease from manual labour, and to cultivate their minds during the space of a whole year! We English must be in a pretty state, if in the midst of civilization and abundance, we cannot enjoy a month’s holiday, and cease from labour during the short space of four weeks! But to return, – the year of release was a continued- unceasing festival; it was a season of instruction; it was a relief to poor debtors. The land lay untilled; the spontaneous produce was the property of the poor, the fatherless, and the widow; every debt was forgiven, and every bond-servant dismissed free, if he pleased, loaded with a variety of presents from his master. There was another holiday or feast deserving of mention;- it was called the jubilee. No servile work was done on it: the land lay untilled what grew of itself belonged to the poor and needy; whatever debts the Hebrews owed to one another, were wholly remitted; hired, as well as bond servants, obtained their liberty; the holding of lands was changed, so that as the jubilee approached, the Hebrew lands bore the less price. By this means landed possession was not confined to particular families, and the sinful hastening to be rich was discouraged.
We have now shewn that the holding of festivals is consecrated by divine authority; it only remains for us to show the necessity that there is for the people of this country holding one; and then to proceed to its details and object.
The grounds and necessity of our having a month’s Holiday, arise from the circumstances in which we are placed. We are oppressed, in the fullest sense of the word; we have been deprived of every thing; we have no property, no wealth, and our labour is of no use to us, since what it produces goes into the hands of others. We have tried every thing but our own efforts; we have told our governors, over and over again, of our wants and misery; we thought them good and wise, and generous; we have for ages trusted to their promises, and we find ourselves, at this present day, after so many centuries of forbearance, instead of having our condition bettered, convinced that our total ruin is at hand. Our Lords and Masters have proposed no plan that we can adopt; they contradict themselves, even upon what they name the source of our misery. One says one thing, another says another thing. One scoundrel, one sacrilegious blasphemous scoundrel, says “that over-production is the cause of our wretchedness.” Over production, indeed! when we half-starving producers cannot, with all our toil, obtain any thing like a sufficiency of produce. It is the first time, that in any age or country, save our own, abundance was adduced as a cause of want. Good God! where is this abundance? Abundance of food! ask the labourer and mechanic where they find it. Their emaciated frame is the best answer. Abundance of clothing! the nakedness, the shivering, the asthmas, the colds, and rheumatisms of the people, are proofs of the abundance of clothing! Our Lords and Masters tell us, we produce too much; very well then, we shall cease from producing for one month, and thus put into practice the theory of our Lords and Masters.
Over-population, our Lords and Masters say, is another cause of our misery. They mean by this, that the resources of the country are inadequate to its population. We must prove the contrary, and during a holiday take a census of the people, and a measurement of the land, and see upon calculation, whether it be not an unequal distribution, and a bad management of the land, that make our Lords and Masters say, that there are too many of us. Here are two strong grounds for our Holiday; for a CONGRESS of the working classes.
The greatest Captain of the age has acknowledged, that there was partial distress; Londonderry has said, that ‘ignorant impatience’ was the cause of our misery; the sapient Robert Peel has asserted, that ‘our wants proceeded from our not knowing what we wanted.’ Very good during our festival, we shall endeavour to put an end to partial distress; to get rid of our ignorant impatience, and to learn what it is we do want. And these are three other motives for holding a Congress of the working classes.
When Governments disagree; when they have a national right or interest to settle; a boundary to establish; to put an end to a war, or to prevent it; or when they combine to enslave, in order to be able to plunder the whole world, they hold a Congress. They send their wise men, their cunning men, to discuss, plan, and concoct what they call a treaty, and so, at least for a time, settle their differences. In this mode of proceeding there is something that we must imitate. In our National Holiday, which is to be held during one calendar month, throughout the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, we must all unite in discovering the source of our misery, and the best way of destroying it. Afterwards we choose, appoint, and send to the place of Congress, a certain number of wise and cunning men, whom we shall have made fully acquainted with our circumstances; and they, before the Holiday be expired, shall discuss and concert a plan, whereby, if it is possible, the privation, wretchedness and slavery, of the great mass of us, may be diminished, if not completely annihilated.
We affirm that the state of society in this country is such, that as long as it continues, heart-rending inequality must continue, producing wretchedness, crime and slavery;- plunging not a few, but the immense majority of the people into those abject circumstances. Our respect and love towards the human race in general, and more especially towards the working classes to whom we belong body and soul, has induced us to reflect and consider, and thus to discover what we think will bring about the object we aim at; namely, the happiness of the many. Our lords and masters, by their unity of thought and action, by their consultations, deliberations, discussions, holidays, and congresses, have up to this time succeeded in bringing about the happiness of the few. Can this be denied? We shall then by our consultations, deliberation-, discussions, holiday and congress, endeavour to establish the happiness of the immense majority of the human race, of that far largest portion called the working classes. What the few have done for themselves cannot the many do for themselves? unquestionably. Behold, O people and fellow labourers the way!
Before a month’s holiday can take place, universal preparations must be made for it. lt should not take place neither in seed-time nor in harvest-time. Every man must prepare for it, and assist his neighbour in preparing for it. The preparations must begin long before the time which shall be hereafter appointed, in order that every one may be ready, and that the festival be not partial but universal.
Committees of management of the working classes must be forthwith formed in every city, town, village, and parish throughout the united kingdom. These committees must make themselves fully acquainted with the plan, and be determined to use the extremest activity and perseverance to put it into execution as speedily and effectually as possible. They must call frequent meetings, and shew the necessity and object of the holiday. They must use every effort to prevent intemperance of every sort and recommend the strictest sobriety and economy. The working classes cannot lay in provisions for a month; this is not wanted, but every man must do his best to be provided with food for the first week of the holiday. Provisions for the remaining three weeks can be easily procured. As for wearing apparel, since the holiday will take place in the summer, there can be no great difficulty in being provided with sufficient covering for one month. If the committees do their duty, and earnestly explain the nature and necessity of the holiday, they will induce all lovers of equal rights, to make every sacrifice of momentary inconvenience in order to obtain permanent convenience and comfort.
We suppose that the people are able to provide provisions and funds for one week; during this week they will be enabled to enquire into the funds of their respective cities, towns, villages and parishes, and to adopt means of having those funds, originally destined for their benefit, now applied to that purpose. The committee of management shall be required to direct the people in adopting the best measures that shall be deemed necessary. The people must be made aware of their own folly, in having allowed themselves to have been deceived by the Parish parsons, and Select Vestries, and they must cease permitting others to vote away their own money. The people, so soon as they shall see themselves in want of provisions or funds, must have immediate recourse to vestry meetings, which have power to grant, in despite of Overseers and Justices, such relief as may be wanted. There is nothing to prevent any six or ten persons from calling a vestry meeting as often as may be deemed requisite, and the registers, books, and other parish documents must be consulted, and will give sufficient evidence, that there is wherewithal to support the people during the holiday. Let it be constantly borne in mind, that the united voice of the people will be duly attended to, and that an equal division of funds and provisions will be allowed them by the parish authorities, when their object is known. The committee, which may also be looked upon as the commissary department, must likewise watch over the good order of its district, establish regularity, and punish all attempts at disorder. The people having a grand object in view, the slightest points in their character must be grand. About to renovate Europe, the people must appear renovated.
In the earlier periods of our history, monarchs, princes, and rulers of minor titles, had recourse to voluntary loans. At first the people raised these loans voluntarily, for they thought by so doing, they would enable their chiefs to protect them. It was soon seen, however, that the voluntary loans were converted to the sole advantage of the chiefs, and their more immediate partisans, consequently the people began to grow slack in contributing them. By means of the voluntary loans, the chiefs or governors became powerful enough to exact involuntary loans, and the method of raising them was taxation, and other sorts of exaction. Hence, though sovereignty was at first supported by voluntary loans, as soon as it was discovered to be a self-interested institution, it was obliged to levy involuntary loans, that is, taxes. Now there is a species of sovereignty- we mean the sovereignty of the people- that has not as yet been supported, and it is for its support that we claim at this moment, during the festival that is to establish it, voluntary loans. When we talk of establishing the sovereignty of the people, we talk of establishing the grandeur, the happiness and liberty of the people. Nothing can be more deserving of praise and support. We have hitherto contributed to the sovereignty of particular families, that is to their grandeur, happiness and liberty; and their liberty must be called uncontrolled licence- tyranny.
Now, since we have so long tried the sovereignty of particular families, let us try the sovereignty of the grand family- the human race. That species of sovereignty can never become tyranny. We call then upon every man to add his mite to this voluntary loan, and particularly the rich, who are always so generous in keeping up the splendour of ancient race. The antiquity of the human race they will not allow to be sullied by modern degradation. If they show pity and support towards the descendants of a Stuart, a Bourbon, or a Guelf, they will surely show more towards the descendants of Adam.
“The cattle upon a thousand hills are the Lord’s.” When the people’s voice, which Lord Brougham proclaims to be the voice of God, and surely we need no higher legal authority, calls for its own, demands the cattle of the thousand hills, who dares withold the cattle of the thousand hills? During our holiday the people may have need of this cattle: let them order it to the slaughter-house, and their herdsmen and drovers will obey them. There may be some persons, who having been so long a time the keepers of the Lord’s cattle, will be inclined to keep it still longer. However, we are of opinion, that when solicited they will render “unto the Lord that which is the Lord’s.” But there are other keepers of the people’s cattle, whose unbounded liberality and strict probity are known to the whole world. These keepers may be classed under the denominations of Dukes, Marquesses, Earls, Lords, Barons, Baronets, Esquires, Justices, and Parsons, and they will all freely contribute to our glorious holiday. Some of them, according to the extent of the Lord’s flocks, will send us a hundred sheep, others twenty oxen; loads of corn, vegetables and fruit will be sent to each committee appointed by the Lord’s voice, which, when distributed among the people, will enable them during the CONGRESS to legislate at their case, without any fear of want tormenting any part of them.
Should there, however, be a few who may refuse to render up the Lord’s cattle, the number of the greatly generous will infinitly counter-balance them. To the NEWCASTLES, who think every thing their own, we will oppose the BURDETTS, who think all they possess, the Lord’s or people’s. What a faithful keeper of the Lord’s cattle we shall find in Sir FRANCIS! The relief we shall obtain from him when we wait upon him at Belper, Burton, and in Leicestershire, will be a proof of his generosity and probity. The following is the way Sir FRANCIS and all such honest keepers are to be waited on, and our wants and wishes made known to them. Although we name Sir FRANCIS, we do not give him any real preference over the Westminsters, the Russells, the Lansdowries, the Althorpes, &c. Let him, however, be supposed the keeper, that for form sake we are to wait upon. The Committee will depute 20 persons to wait upon Sir FRANCIS, and state to him respectfully, but energetically, their business. Suppose, but it is the most improbable of all suppositions, that Sir FRANCIS should not be inclined to pay full attention to the application. Then the Committee will send 100 persons, with the same request, urging it still more respectfully and energetically; and should there still be indifference on the part of Sir FRANCIS, the Committee shall send 1000 persons and so on, increasing in proportion, until the Lord’s cattle be forthcoming. The persons sent by the Committee, shall allow no one to disturb the peace of the people. Upon all visits from the committee, the person visited must be seen in person by the Committee: not being at home is no excuse. Sir FRANCIS may be at Belper, Burton, or in Leicestershire; the Committee of those districts will find him at one or either of them, and solicit ‘England’s glory’ for support, which be will freely grant, as he is very rich, and very willing to establish the sovereignty, happiness, and liberty of the people.
Here be it observed, that the above mode of proceeding is not limited to any part of the country, or to any one Sir FRANCIS. All the Sir FRANCISES, all the reformers are to be applied to, and the people will have no longer any reason to suspect reformers’ consistency. The reformers of the united kingdom will hold out an open hand to support us during our festival. O’Connell will abandon the collection made for him; indeed that collection is virtually destined for our Irish brethren during the holiday. Until they are tried no one can imagine the number of great men ready to promote equal rights, equal justice, and equal laws all throughout the kingdom.
When all the details of the above plan are put into execution, the committee of each parish and district, shall select its wise men to be sent to the NATIONAL CONGRESS. A parish or district having a population of 8,000, shall send two wise and cunning men to Congress, a population of 15,000 four, a population of 25,000 eight, and London fifty wise and cunning men. The advice of the different committees is to be taken as to the most convenient place for conference. It should be a central position, and the mansion of some great liberal lord, with its out houses and appurtenances. The only difficulty of choice will be to fix upon a central one, for they are all sufficiently vast to afford lodging to the members of the Congress, their lands will afford nourishment, and their parks a beautiful place for meeting.
It may be relied upon, that the possessor of the mansion honoured by the people’s choice, will make those splendid preparations for the representatives of the sovereignty of the people, that are usually made for the reception of a common soveregn.
The object of the Congress; that is what it will have to do. To reform society, for “from the crown of our head to the sole of our foot there is no soundness in us.” We must cut out the rottenness in order to become sound. Let us see what is rotten. Every man that does not work is rotten; he must be made work in order to cure his unsoundness. Not only is society rotten; but the land, property, and capital is rotting. There is not only something, but a great deal rotten in the state of England. Every thing, men, property, and money, must be put into a state of circulation. As the blood by stagnation putrifies, as it is impoverished by too much agitation, so society by too much idleness on the one hand, and too much toil on the other has become rotten. Every portion must be made work, and then the work will become so light, that it will not be considered work, but wholesome exercise. Can any thing be more humane than the main object of our glorious holiday, namely, to obtain for all at the least expense to all, the largest sum of happiness for all.
We think that the necessity of a GRAND NATIONAL HOLIDAY has been fully impressed upon the mind of every man who may have read us. We have etched out the plan; not detailed and matured it, for it will take a longer time and deeper reflection before we can pronounce our plan complete. We expect the assistance of others, and we invite them, without putting us to unnecessary expence, to communicate to us their hints. We have explained in a few words our object; it will be seen that never was there an object, an aim so sublime, so full of humanity. We will not revert, now that we are forced to a conclusion, to the necessity of a holiday, but we must repeat ourselves respecting the plan.
We are sure that there is no one who will not be ready to join heart and hand in our festival, provided he can be persuaded of the possibility of holding it. If we had not been convinced of the possibility of holding it, we should never have mentioned it. All we require is that our holiday folk should be prepared for one week; we engage ourselves to provide for all their wants during the last three weeks of the festival. We have shown in what way the people should have recourse to vestry meetings, and what power they had over all parish authorities. We have shown that the parish authorities are entirely dependent on the people, and that without the consent of the people they can raise no rate, nor dispose of any fund already accumulated. We have shewn that the people had a right to examine the parish accounts, and become cognizant of the funds held by the parish authorities, and that the people could dispose of those funds as they thought proper. If, then, there are funds in hand, the people will apply them to their own support during the holiday; if it should happen that there are not funds, the people must vote a supply, for the people must be convinced of one thing, namely, that it is they alone who have a right of levying parish contributions. Some few persons may not like the idea of having recourse to parish allowance for their support even during the short period of three weeks, but these over-delicate individuals must reflect that they are becoming a momentary burden to their parish, in order to rid it of increasing and everlasting burdens. We think we have said enough to prove, that by vestry meetings alone the people would be fully able to support themselves during the holiday. Let the people only reflect on the sums that the parish authorities have from time immemorial levied upon the people, without the concurrence of the people, and then they will have no longer any scruples, but will, if the occasion require it, have recourse to the same method for raising funds for the benefit of the many, that the few have always had for the benefit of the few. We are too honest, too conscientious, too delicate, consequently the few who are neither honest, conscientious nor delicate dupe us. We must avoid all squeamishness; we are not only working for ourselves but for the human race and its posterity. We beg of the people to throw off all false delicacy. They must boldly lay hands upon that which is their own.
We call our reader’s attention to what we have said about “the cattle upon the thousand hills.” They are the Lord’s, that is the people’s; and when the people want them, the guardians who have kept them so long, will deliver them unto the people. We repeat, and we do so expressly that the people may be the more convinced of what we assert, that Sir FRANCIS BURDETT, and all such liberal men, will come forward in shoals to support us. There is nothing enthusiastic or ideal in this assertion. Let us reflect upon it. MR. COKE, of Norfolk, is a very rich man, and a very liberal man. Now we ask, what does a liberal man amass wealth for, if not in order to be able to support liberal principles. MR. COKE’S heart will beat with joy when he finds such an occasion for his liberality, as we are going to give him. We see him already ringing for his check-book, and ordering droves of his oxen, and waggon-loads of his wheat to be sent to us holiday folks. We hear him I wearing at his servants, damning their laziness, when the demands of the people are to be satisfied. And in every county a COKE is to be found; in Middlesex you will find a BYNG, in Bedfordshire a WHITBREAD. It would be too long to mention names, but you have only to look over the list of the majority in the House of Commons on the Reform Bill, and the list of the minority in the House of Lords on the same Bill, and then you will see, at a glance, the number of liberal men who are keeping their riches for your advantage. Only think of the immense sums that these liberal men spend at elections, in order to legislate for you, and consequently do you good! Now can you be persuaded, that they will not liberally resist you when you are fighting your own battle. Be assured they will; not only will they send you funds and provisions, but you will find them simple volunteers in your ranks. HENRY BROUGHAM, Lord Chancellor, will, if you accept of him, volunteer his services as one of your Deputies to CONGRESS. These great men, O people, are waiting for you; as soon as they can rely upon you, you may rely upon them. All they want to declare themselves for you, is your support. Let them have it.
We intended to give a list of the principal subjects to be discussed and settled during our CONGRESS. The Public shall have this list in a Periodical, advertised on the last page.
Printed by W. Benbow, 205, Fleet Street.
THE TRIBUNE OF THE PEOPLE
The Barnsley Manifesto
Source: The Peel Web.
Radicalism was part of the lives of working men in Barnsley, a town in south Yorkshire. Chartism was popular in this area of England. This manifesto was published in an attempt to encourage people to press for the Charter.
To the Working People of Barnsley:
The Committee appointed to carry into effect the resolutions which were unanimously and triumphantly passed at a very large public meeting held in Barnsley on the 10th of June, 1838, have thought it advisable to address the following observations to the labouring people of Barnsley and its neighbourhood, for the information of those who were not at the meeting:
Fellow workmen, - We need not tell you that your condition in life has gradually deteriorated or grown worse, year by year, as sure as time has passed on, almost ever since the memory of the present generation: we need not tell you that, with all your labour, frugality, and industry, you are unable to procure even the necessaries of life, much less those comforts which every industrious man and his family ought to enjoy. These things you know by sad experience; and you know also, that while you, with all your toil, cannot procure the necessaries of life, one portion of society are enjoying all the good things that this world can produce, and that portion of society which are enjoying all the good things are they who produce nothing and, if left to themselves, they would be the most pitiable objects that ever existed; and this state of things will continue, and the condition of the working people will grow worse and worse, as sure as cause produces effect, until labour has no other reward than a bare animal subsistence (and in many cases not that}, unless the working people themselves remove the cause. To prove to you that this must and will be the case, so long as the present state of things continue, we invite your special attention to the following simple comparison between the reward of labour and the reckless and wanton extravagance of those who never work, but who live upon our labour. We will mention one case out of many hundreds: it is that of a poor widow [Queen Adelaide, widow of William IV] who could not keep herself, and on whom our law-makers have settled a pension of one hundred thousand pounds a year. It is said that we can only conceive the largeness or smallness of anything by comparing it to some other thing which is larger or smaller; and as this woman’s pension has to be paid by the working-people, let us just see how long an able-bodied man would have to work to earn as much money as would pay her one year’s salary. A weaver would have to weave twelve yards of good substantial linen a day for six thousand five hundred and seventy- five years to earn as much money as she receives in one year; and an agricultural labourer would have had to commence working when the world began, and worked to the present time, at the wages that many of them are receiving to have earned as much money as would pay her one year’s pension: or, in other words, it would take four thousand men, and those four thousand men, with the assistance of animal power, must cultivate two hundred thousand acres of land, or two thousand farms of one hundred acres each, to earn as much money as our law-makers give annually to this one woman, who is a foreigner, and who never did a penny’s worth of good for England in her life. But this is not all that preys upon the people’s mind; they cannot efface from their recollection that it was the husband of this woman who signed that inhuman Bill, the design of which is, if the widow of a poor man cannot provide for herself and children, she must be sent to a prison, separated from her children and all that is dear to her in life, and kept on prison’s fare! and these are the tender mercies which the working people will ever receive from their rulers, until they have a voice in sending Members to Parliament. We are happy to inform you that the people of Birmingham, who were the main instruments in carrying the Reform Bill, are fully satisfied that the miscalled Reform Bill will never end the condition of the working people, but that their condition has been made a great deal worse since it passed, and they are quite convinced that nothing short of universal suffrage will ever secure to the people those wages for their labour which will support their families in comfort and respectability. Therefore, they have set about in right good earnest to prosecute those plans, which will, if they are assisted by the people, most assuredly obtain a great Charter, namely, the right to vote for Members of Parliament; then will the working man enjoy the fruits of his own industry and become a respectable member of Society, and never till then. It has long been our opinion that whenever the rival strength of the whole working people should be brought to bear on this one point, they must and would gain their object and to do this is the design of the people of Birmingham. They have drawn up a petition demanding universal suffrage, annual parliaments and vote by ballot; and in order to induce Parliament to concede the demands of the petition they desire that it may be a national one, signed, if possible, by every working man in the nation; and for this purpose the people of Birmingham have sent a deputation through England and Scotland to see if the people will assist them to obtain our natural rights; and upwards of one million men have declared that they will, to the utmost of their power, assist them in their patriotic enterprise, and that they will never cease their demands until they have obtained their rights. Now, will the people of Barnsley and its neighbourhood refuse to come forward and lend a helping hand to raise themselves from their present degraded situation? No we hope not. We believe they have had enough of poverty and suffering, and we also think that experience has taught them, that if they were to produce ten times as much by their labour as they now produce, it would be no better for them, but worse, for more wealth the people produce, the more oppressors they create. It is quite erroneous for the people to think that by their increased labour and toil, they can maintain that respectability in society which it is the ambition of every honest and industrious person to maintain, while things remain in their present state; for it is the design of our law-makers that the working men shall only have a bare subsistence for his labour, let him produce ever so much. The present system of government works precisely as explained in the following simple exposition: Suppose twenty men produce wealth to the extent of twenty pounds a week, and suppose four other men had been imposed on them to persuaded, that they (the four men) had a right to make laws by which the twenty men should be governed. Well, the four men proceed to make laws, and the first law that they make is that the twenty pounds’ worth of wealth which the twenty men produce shall be divided and the twenty men shall have one-half for producing the whole and the other half must be given to the four for making laws and governing the twenty men. Well, things go on pretty smoothly under this law for a while, but by-and-by the extravagance of the four law-makers is so great that their income will not meet their expenditure; so they call their legislative abilities into exercise and devise plans to increase their incomes; they know well where to begin, for they know that there is no wealth but what the working class create. So in order to make a successful attack upon that share of wealth which their own law allowed to the twenty men, one of them makes a great banquet, and invites his brother-law-makers to it.
Fellow workmen, - We wish to impress it deeply on your minds, that attacks on our liberty and industry are never first made in open Parliament, but at the sumptuous revellings of the law-makers when their appetites are satiated with all the luxuries, that can be produced by earth and air and sea. and their hearts cheered with wine; then do they cowardly devise schemes to deprive labour of the comforts of his humble fare. Just give us your attention, while we expose the deliberations of those four law-makers at the above banquet, whose conduct is a true simile of the conduct of our present law-makers at their great entertainments. We will do it in as few words as possible, and endeavour to be so plain that the humblest reader will see into the workings of the machinery of government. When the four law-makers had eaten to their full, the first rose to propound his scheme to extricate themselves from those embarrassments into which their extravagance had brought them; he said, ’Gentlemen - I need not tell you that there is no wealth or riches but what is produced by the working classes; you know that well and that there is no source which we can have recourse to, to obtain supplies to meet our increased demands, and maintain our dignity, but the production of the working classes; therefore, I suggest that we pass a law that the labourers shall only have one third of their produce, instead of one half, which they have hitherto had, and that we have two thirds, and I think it will be as much as it wise to take from them at one time, but I only submit this to you as my opinion; perhaps some of my worthy and learned friends may hit upon a better scheme.’ He then sat down and the second rose and said, ’My Lords, and Gentlemen; I quite agree with the law suggested by my right honourable friend, but I must acknowledge that I have great apprehension of the consequence, that may probably result from taking so large a portion of the comforts of the people from them at one time, and in so direct a manner; I would, therefore, suggest that instead of taking one third of what they now enjoy we should take one sixth, and make them produce one sixth more, and by adding one sixth more to their labour, they will not have so much time to look after what we are doing, for we must keep the people from thinking as much as possible; having made these remarks I will sit down and give my other friends an opportunity of stating their view, for in the multitude of councellors there is wisdom’. The third then rose and said, ’I was very much delighted with the ideas of the preceding speaker, but I think his plan may be carried further out, and made more imperceptible to the people. I will illustrate my meaning in this simple way. I conceive that to take one sixth of the food which the men have allowed them at present, in one lump, would be like taking one dinner, from them, out of six, and leaving them without dinner on the sixth day; and when we take into consideration, that they have one sixth more labour to perform, and if it should so happen that they had a double share of work to do on the sixth day, and no dinner, it might lead them to serious reflections; now I would propose that we take one sixth from every dinner, and let them have six dinners, that is a dinner every day, but one sixth less food to it than usual, and by doing so they will scarcely know their loss.’ He then sat down, and the fourth rose and said, ’Gentlemen, I am quite enamoured with the result of this night’s deliberation; the deep thought and fine calculations which the different speakers have displayed this night fully prove, if proof were wanting, that we are master-hands at legislation, and fully competent to grapple with any difficulty that may arise in governing this great nation; only observe, how every succeeding speaker has enlarged and improved on the ideas of the preceding speaker, and I am persuaded that when I have explained to you my ideas, which are only an improvement of the ideas that you have suggested, we shall have nothing to do but congratulate each other in having accomplished our object, in such an imperceptible way that will prevent us from ever being detected. I would remind you, gentlemen, that the labourers have breakfasts and drinkings and suppers, and clothing, as well as dinners, and I propose that there be taken from them a part of every article of food and every article of clothing which they consume, and by taking a little from everything, they will never perceive that they have any less; and in order to convince you that this will be the case, I have only to remind you that the people are ignorant, that they cannot calculate so fine as we can; my plan is like taking one-sixth from a penny, which is a fraction, and I am sure the people are so ignorant they cannot reckon to fractions.’ Here all the four rose from their seats, clapped their hands, and shouted as if they had gained a great victory; and after shouting and congratulating each other for their profound wisdom in having so nicely imposed on the people, they sat down, saturated their stomachs with wine, and then retired to rest. Fellow workmen, the above simple report of the supposed four law-makers is no vain imagination, but it is a true picture of the purport of all the counsels of our present law-makers; they watch over your powers of production with an eagle’s eye, and if they observe you can possibly earn one penny more than will barely keep you alive, they never cease scheming till they have gotten it from you; therefore, if God were by a miraculous exercise of His almighty power, to create another island, equal in size and fertility to England, and join it to England, His benevolence would not benefit the people, for our law-makers would instantly seize it, divide it among themselves, make the people cultivate it, and give them (the lawmakers) the produce.
At this present time, while the people are starving for food, the granaries are filled with corn, and the Government will not let the famishing poor have a morsel of it; the owners of the corn have petitioned Parliament to let them grind it into flour, and send it into foreign countries to feed foreigners. The starving poor of this country have begged and prayed time after time that the law-makers would allow them to have the food which is over and above what they (the law-makers) can possibly consume, and which may be very properly designated the crumbs that fall from their tables; but the law-makers have invariably declared by their treatment of the prayers of the people, that, before they who produce all the food or corn, shall have what there is to spare after they and their children, and cattle, and hunting dogs, and wild beasts, and fancy birds. and every other animal that they keep for their profit or pleasure, have been well fed, the surplus food shall rot in their granaries, and be thrown on the dunghill for muck. Oh! ye poor degraded, despised, and insulted people, have you never enquired, and will you never enquire, who gave your callous-hearted law-makers the power thus to oppress you? Their power lies in your sufferance; you allow them to do so; and this is all the power they have; and will you continue to allow them to do so? Have you no love or feeling for yourselves? If you have none for yourselves, let me place before you your pined, naked, ignorant, and despised children. Can you think on the degradation that awaits them without being cut to the very heart?
Oh! fellow workmen, have you ever felt those glowing pleasures that rise in a parent’s mind at seeing his little child neatly attired, with its basket in its hand, and with a cheerful gait, repairing to a place of instruction, where its little mind would be expanded and stored with profitable learning? Did you ever feel that holy pride, that parental tenderness, that inward adoring of God for having made you a father, which arises in a father’s breast at hearing his little boy read the Scriptures, or any other pleasing book to his listening little brothers and sisters? We ask, have you ever felt the pleasure that such a scene, and such soul-inspiring accents are calculated to raise in a parent’s mind? If you have, can you ever after allow the idea to enter your minds that others of your children and those of your friends and kindred are doomed through poverty to be brought up like the wild ass’s colt, and as ignorant as the Indian’s brood, and to become the dupes and slaves and victims of their oppressors, who go prowling about like a wolf after its prey to rob your daughters of their virtue and chastity? And to do this they impose on your ignorance, and tempt their poverty by bribes; and when they have gratified their lusts, which are as insatiable as their selfishness, they leave their victims to their fate with all the indifference of an infernal spirit. Oh! our feelings recoil at these ideas; they are like the assassin’s dagger entering our hearts. and before we would submit to this fate, and have every principle of our nature outraged by the insatiable selfishness of a few mortal men, if we had the power, and we speak it with the greatest reverence to our God, we would raze the earth to its foundations, and scatter the huge fabric into its original chaos.
What avails the picturesque landscape, the pleasant scenery, the melodious grove, the yellow crops, the teeming harvest, the general shout when the fruits of the earth are safety gathered; I ask, what avail all these to the people, when prison walls and prison’s fare are all that greedy wealth can spare for them? Need we, fellow workmen, say anything more to induce you spontaneously, with one heart and one soul, with the shouts of ten thousand times ten thousand voices, to determine that these things shall continue no longer. If these be your feelings, come and sign the national petition, and join your fellow sufferers in demanding that all who have to obey the laws shall have a voice in making the laws through their representatives. Do not think that you are too poor, too despised and too destitute of influence to be of any service to this great cause, you are the very people that can do this great work. There are gentlemen of great wealth, great knowledge, and great influence, who will lead the van, and venture their lives to gain this great victory; but they can never do it, except the people generally assist them. Will you, men of Barnsley and its neighbourhood, assist them? He who is not for us is against us; and he who remains neutral in this crisis does no more to jeopardise this great cause, than the people’s worst enemy can do. We could go up at once, and wrest our liberties out of the hands of our oppressors, if they must stand on their own ground; but. O! this fatal, this fatal, this fatal neutral ground! - We cannot, we cannot, we cannot conquer on this accursed neutral ground, namely, the supineness of the people. That man who will not assist to remove that incalculable weight of human misery, which distracts this unfortunate nation, except it is through the grossest ignorance, is a coward to himself, a murderer to his children, a traitor to his country, and a despiser to his God.
We ground our claims on the laws of God, the laws of nature, the dictates of conscience, of reason, of justice, of charity, of benevolence, and brotherly love; we ask nothing for ourselves which we would not concede to others; our desire is to diffuse peace on earth and good will towards man, and this can never be done until that injunction of our Lord’s is inculcated, enforced, and generally practised, ’do ye unto others as ye would others should do unto you’. We think we see the timid apprehensions of the poor pious and sincere Christians, tanned into a flame by the insinuations of his mistaken or wicked Spiritual Adviser, that the Radicals are laying the axe to the root of all his Christian privileges, and consequently to all the comforts that flow from those privileges. The poles are not more opposite than our desires are, to those insinuations. We maintain that religious toleration should be as free as the air we breathe; and that, that beautiful picture of liberty contained in the scriptures, be enforced to the very letter, that every man should be allowed to worship his God under his own vine and fig tree, none daring to make him afraid; that the state should render ample protection to every man in his conscientious devotions to his God, whether he be Protestant, Catholic, Jew or Gentile; and that that man who dares to be so impiously wicked, as to assault or oppress another for his religious opinions, should be branded as one of the worst characters in society, and brought to condign punishment.
But dost thou think, O Christian! that it requires the great, the noble, and the learned, with all the eloquence of oratory and wisdom of words; dost thou think that it requires all the pomp, parade, and pageantry of state, and din of war to make the universal love of God acceptable to man; look in thy Bible and see if it is so. No they are like ten thousand anchors, holding the majestic ark of God’s eternal benevolence. Sever the anchor and let it float on the sea of its own intrinsic worth, and it will shine like the lamp that burneth, and go forth in all the majesty of conquering love, and spread and never cease until the kingdoms of this world become the kingdoms of God end his Christ. Amen, and Amen.
These are the Radical principles and Radical opinions; do not hastily condemn them; read your Bibles, and ponder them in your minds before you come to your decisions.
5 October 1839
The People’s Charter
Source: The Peel Web.
Taken from Norman Gash, The Age of Peel (London, Edward Arnold, 1973), © Professor Gash.
This document was the first Charter produced in 1839 by the Chartists. They made a variety of demands for further reform of parliament. It was presented to the House of Commons by Thomas Attwood and was reprinted in the Chartist Circular, 5 October 1839. Benjamin Disraeli supported the hearing of the Charter in parliament.
Being an Outline of an Act to provide for the just Representation of the People of Great Britain and Ireland in the Commons’ House of Parliament: embracing the Principles of Universal Suffrage, no Property Qualification, Annual Parliaments, Equal Representation, Payment of Members, and Vote by Ballot.
Prepared by a Committee of twelve persons, six members of Parliament and six members of the London Working Men’s Association, and addressed to the People of the United Kingdom.
An Act to provide for the just Representation of the People of Great Britain and Ireland, in the Commons’ House of Parliament.
Whereas to insure, in as far as it is best possible by human forethought and wisdom, the just government of the people, it is necessary to subject those who have the power of making the laws, to a wholesome and strict responsibility to those whose duty it is to obey them when made:
And, whereas, this responsibility is best enforced through the instrumentality of a body which emanates directly from, and is itself immediately subject to, the whole people, and which completely represents their feelings and their interests:
And, whereas, as the Common’s House of Parliament now exercises in the name and on the supposed behalf of the people, the power of making the laws, it ought, in order to fulfil with wisdom and with honesty the great duties imposed in it, to be made the faithful and accurate representation of the people’s wishes, feelings and interests.
Be it therefore Enacted,
1. That from and after the passing of this Act, every male inhabitant of these realms be entitled to vote for the election of a Member of Parliament, subject however to the following conditions.
2. That he be a native of these realms, or a foreigner who has lived in this country upwards of two years, and been naturalised.
3. That he be twenty-one years of age.
4. That he be not proved insane when the list of voters are revised.
5. That he be not convicted of felony within six months from and after the passing of this Act.
6. That his electoral rights be not suspended for bribery at elections, or for personation, or for forgery of election certificates, according to the penalties of this Act...
1. Be it enacted, that for the purpose of obtaining an equal representation of the people in the Commons’ House of Parliament, the United Kingdom be divided into 300 electoral districts.
2. That each such district contain, as nearly as may be, an equal number of inhabitants.
3. That the number of inhabitants be taken from the last census, and as soon as possible after the next ensuing decennial census shall have been taken, the electoral districts be made to conform thereto.
4. That each electoral district be named after the principal city or borough within its limits.
5. That each electoral district return one representative to sit in the Commons’ House of Parliament, and no more. ...
Returning Officer and his Duties
I-III [Returning officers to be elected for each electoral district every three years.]
Arrangement for Nominations
1. Be it enacted, that for the purpose of guarding against too great a number of candidates, who might otherwise be heedlessly proposed, as well as for giving time for the electors to enquire into the merits of the persons who may be nominated for Members of Parliament, as well as for returning officers, that all nominations be taken as herinafter directed.
2. That for all general elections of Members of Parliament, a requisition of the following form, signed by at least one hundred qualified electors of the district, be delivered to the returning officer of the district between the 1st and 10th day of May in each year; and that such requisition constitute the nomination of such person as a candidate for the district. ...
11. that no other qualification shall be required for members to serve in the Commons’ House of Parliament, than the choice of the electors. ...
Arrangement of Elections
I-VI [Election of MPs to take place annually in June; electors to vote only in the district in which they are registered’ voting to be by secret ballot.]
Duration of Parliament
1. Be it enacted, that Members of the House of Commons chosen as aforesaid, shall meet on the first Monday in June in each year, and continue their sittings from time to time as they may deem it convenient, till the first Monday in June the following, when the next new Parliament is to be chosen: they shall be eligible to be re-elected.
2. That during an adjournment, they be liable to be called together by the executive, in cases of emergency.
3. That a register be kept of the daily attendance of each member, which at the close of the session shall be printed as a sessional paper, showing how the members have attended. ...
Payment of Members
1. Be it enacted, that every Member of the House of Commons by entitles, at the close of the session, to a writ of expenses on the Treasury, for his legislative duties in the public service, and shall be paid £500 per annum.
The ‘Plug Plot’ agitation of 1842
Source: University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth, http://www.umassd.edu/ir/;
During the summer of 1842 during a deep trade depression, a wave of strikes broke out in Northern Industrial areas. When textile manufacturers sought to reduce wages, mobs took the plugs out of the boilers of the factory steam engines. The Chartist seized the moment and attempted to use the strike weapon as a means to have the Charter accepted. Thomas Cooper (1805-92), a Leicester journalist and Chartist leader, describes the situation in Manchester during August of 1842 that became known as the “Plug Plot.” Thomas Cooper. The Life of Thomas Cooper written by Himself, 2nd edn, 1872, pp. 109-1, 195, 206, 207-8; in J. T. Ward, ed., The Factory System, Vol..II, Birth and Growth (New York: Barnes & Noble, 1970), pp. 170-71.)
“The Plug-Plot,” of 1842, as it is still called in Lancashire, began in reductions of wages by the Anti-Corn-Law manufacturers, who did not conceal their purpose of driving the people to desperation, in order to paralyse the Government. The people advanced, at last, to a wild general strike, and pulled up the plugs so as to stop the works at the mills, and thus render labour impossible. Some wanted the men who spoke at the meetings held at the beginning of the strike to propose resolutions in favour of Corn Law Repeal; but they refused. The first meeting where the resolution was passed, “that all labour should cease until the People’s Charter became the law of the land,” was held on the 7th of August, on Mottram Moor. In the course of a week, the resolution had been passed in nearly all the great towns of Lancashire, and tens of thousands had held up their hands in favour of it ...
Samuel Bevinton was the strongest-minded man among the Chartists of the Potteries; and he said to me, “You had better get off to Manchester. You can do no more good here.” I agreed that he was right ...
When I entered the railway carriage at Crewe, some who were going to the Convention recognised me,-and, among the rest, Campbell, secretary of the “National Charter Association” ...So soon as the City of Long Chimneys came in sight, and every chimney was beheld smokeless, Campbell’s face changed, and with an oath he said, “Not a single mill at work! something must come out of this and something serious too!”
In the streets there were unmistakable signs of alarm on the part of the authorities. Troops of cavalry were going up and down the principal thoroughfares, accompanied by pieces of artillery, drawn by horses. In the evening, we held a meeting in the Reverend Mr. Schofield’s Chapel, where O’Connor, the Executive, and a considerable number of delegates were present; and it was agreed to open the Conference, or Convention, in form, the next morning, at nine o’clock. We met at that hour, the next morning, Wednesday, the 17th of August, when James Arthur of Carlisle was elected President. There were nearly sixty delegates present; and as they rose, in quick succession, to describe the state of their districts, it was evident they were, each and all, filled with the desire of keeping the people from returning to their labour. They believed the time had come for trying, successfully, to paralyse the Government ...
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It must be admitted, even if I had not proved it so often in detail, that the English workers cannot feel happy in this condition; that theirs is not a state in which a man or a whole class of men can think, feel, and live as human beings. The workers must therefore strive to escape from this brutalising condition, to secure for themselves a better, more human position; and this they cannot do without attacking the interest of the bourgeoisie which consists in exploiting them. But the bourgeoisie defends its interests with all the power placed at its disposal by wealth and the might of the State. In proportion as the working-man determines to alter the present state of things, the bourgeois becomes his avowed enemy.
Moreover, the working-man is made to feel at every moment that the bourgeoisie treats him as a chattel, as its property, and for this reason, if for no other, he must come forward as its enemy. I have shown in a hundred ways in the foregoing pages, and could have shown in a hundred others, that, in our present society, he can save his manhood only in hatred and rebellion against the bourgeoisie. And he can protest with most violent passion against the tyranny of the propertied class, thanks to his education, or rather want of education, and to the abundance of hot Irish blood that flows in the veins of the English working-class. The English working-man is no Englishman nowadays; no calculating money-grubber like his wealthy neighbour. He possesses more fully developed feelings, his native northern coldness is overborne by the unrestrained development of his passions and their control over him. The cultivation of the understanding which so greatly strengthens the selfish tendency of the English bourgeois, which has made selfishness his predominant trait and concentrated all his emotional power upon the single point of money-greed, is wanting in the working-man, whose passions are therefore strong and mighty as those of the foreigner. English nationality is annihilated in the working-man.
Since, as we have seen, no single field for the exercise of his manhood is left him, save his opposition to the whole conditions of his life, it is natural that exactly in this opposition he should be most manly, noblest, most worthy of sympathy. We shall see that all the energy, all the activity of the working-men is directed to this point, and that even their attempts to attain general education all stand in direct connection with this. True, we shall have single acts of violence and even of brutality to report, but it must always be kept in mind that the social war is avowedly raging in England; and that, whereas it is in the interest of the bourgeoisie to conduct this war hypocritically, under the disguise of peace and even of philanthropy, the only help for the working-men consists in laying bare the true state of things and destroying this hypocrisy; that the most violent attacks of the workers upon the bourgeoisie and its servants are only the open, undisguised expression of that which the bourgeoisie perpetrates secretly, treacherously against the workers.
The revolt of the workers began soon after the first industrial development, and has passed through several phases. The investigation of their importance in the history of the English people I must reserve for separate treatment, limiting myself meanwhile to such bare facts as serve to characterise the condition of the English proletariat.
The earliest, crudest, and least fruitful form of this rebellion was that of crime. The working-man lived in poverty and want, and saw that others were better off than he. It was not clear to his mind why he, who did more for society than the rich idler, should be the one to suffer under these conditions. Want conquered his inherited respect for the sacredness of property, and he stole. We have seen how crime increased with the extension of manufacture; how the yearly number of arrests bore a constant relation to the number of bales of cotton annually consumed.
The workers soon realised that crime did not help matters. The criminal could protest against the existing order of society only singly, as one individual; the whole might of society was brought to bear upon each criminal, and crushed him with its immense superiority. Besides, theft was the most primitive form of protest, and for this reason, if for no other, it never became the universal expression of the public opinion of the working-men, however much they might approve of it in silence. As a class, they first manifested opposition to the bourgeoisie when they resisted the introduction of machinery at the very beginning of the industrial .period. The first inventors, Arkwright and others, were persecuted in this way and their machines destroyed. Later, there took place a number of revolts against machinery, in which the occurrences were almost precisely the same as those of the printers’ disturbances in Bohemia in 1844; factories were demolished and machinery destroyed.
This form of opposition also was isolated, restricted to certain localities, and directed against one feature only of our present social arrangements. When the momentary end was attained, the whole weight of social power fell upon the unprotected evil-doers and punished them to its heart’s content, while the machinery was introduced none the less. A new form of opposition had to be found.
At this point help came in the shape of a law enacted by the old, unreformed, oligarchic-Tory Parliament, a law which never could have passed the House of Commons later, when the Reform Bill had legally sanctioned the distinction between bourgeoisie and proletariat, and made the bourgeoisie the ruling class. This was enacted in 1824, and repealed all laws by which coalitions between working-men for labour purposes had hitherto been forbidden. The working-men obtained a right previously restricted to the aristocracy and bourgeoisie, the right of free association. Secret coalitions had, it is true, previously existed, but could never achieve great results. In Glasgow as Symons relates, a general strike of weavers had taken place in 1812, which was brought about by a secret association. It was repeated in 1822, and on this occasion vitriol was thrown into the faces of the two working-men who would not join the association, and were therefore regarded by the members as traitors to their class. Both the assaulted lost the use of their eyes in consequence of the injury. So, too, in 1818, the association of Scottish miners was powerful enough to carry on a general strike. These associations required their members to take an oath of fidelity and secrecy, had regular lists, treasurers, book-keepers, and local branches. But the secrecy with which everything was conducted crippled their growth. When, on the other hand, the working-men received in 1824 the right of free association, these combinations were very soon spread over all England and attained great power. In all branches of industry Trades Unions were formed with the outspoken intention of protecting the single working-man against the tyranny and neglect of the bourgeoisie. Their objects were to deal, en masse, as a power, with the employers; to regulate the rate of wages according to the profit of the latter, to raise it when opportunity offered, and to keep it uniform in each trade throughout the country. Hence they tried to settle with the capitalists a scale of wages to be universally adhered to, and ordered out on strike the employees of such individuals as refused to accept the scale. They aimed further to keep up the demand for labour by limiting the number of apprentices, and so to keep wages high; to counteract, as far as possible, the indirect wages reductions which the manufacturers brought about by means of new tools and machinery; and finally, to assist unemployed working-men financially. This they do either directly or by means of a card to legitimate the bearer as a “society man,” and with which the working-man wanders from place to place, supported by his fellow-workers, and instructed as to the best opportunity for finding employment. This is tramping, and the wanderer a tramp. To attain these ends, a President and Secretary are engaged at a salary (since it is to be expected that no manufacturer will employ such persons), and a committee collects the weekly contributions and watches over their expenditure for the purposes of the association. When it proved possible and advantageous, the various trades of single districts united in a federation and held delegate conventions at set times. The attempt has been made in single cases to unite the workers of one branch over all England in one great Union; and several times (in 1830 for the first time) to form one universal trades association for the whole United Kingdom, with a separate organisation for each trade. These associations, however, never held together long, and were seldom realised even for the moment, since an exceptionally universal excitement is necessary to make such a federation possible and effective.
The means usually employed by these Unions for attaining their ends are the following: If one or more employers refuse to pay the wage specified by the Union, a deputation is sent or a petition forwarded (the working-men, you see, know how to recognise the absolute power of the lord of the factory in his little State); if this proves unavailing, the Union commands the employees to stop work, and all hands go home. This strike is either partial when one or several, or general when all employers in the trade refuse to regulate wages according to the proposals of the Union. So far go the lawful means of the Union, assuming the strike to take effect after the expiration of the legal notice, which is not always the case. But these lawful means are very weak when there are workers outside the Union, or when members separate from it for the sake of the momentary advantage offered by the bourgeoisie. Especially in the case of partial strikes can the manufacturer readily secure recruits from these black sheep (who are known as knobsticks), and render fruitless the efforts of the united workers. Knobsticks are usually threatened, insulted, beaten, or otherwise maltreated by the members of the Union; intimidated, in short, in every way. Prosecution follows, and as the law-abiding bourgeoisie has the power in its own hands, the force of the Union is broken almost every time by the first unlawful act, the first judicial procedure against its members.
The history of these Unions is a long series of defeats of the working-men, interrupted by a few isolated victories. All these efforts naturally cannot alter the economic law according to which wages are determined by the relation between supply and demand in the labour market. Hence the Unions remain powerless against all great forces which influence this relation. In a commercial crisis the Union itself must reduce wages or dissolve wholly; and in a time of considerable increase in the demand for labour, it cannot fix the rate of wages higher than would be reached spontaneously by the competition of the capitalists among themselves. But in dealing with minor, single influences they are powerful. If the employer had no concentrated, collective opposition to expect, he would in his own interest gradually reduce wages to a lower and lower point; indeed, the battle of competition which he has to wage against his fellow-manufacturers would force him to do so, and wages would soon reach the minimum. But this competition of the manufacturers among themselves is, under average conditions, somewhat restricted by the opposition of the working-men.
Every manufacturer knows that the consequence of a reduction not justified by conditions to which his competitors also are subjected, would be a strike, which would most certainly injure him, because his capital would be idle as long as the strike lasted, and his machinery would be rusting, whereas it is very doubtful whether he could, in such a case, enforce his reduction. Then he has the certainty that if he should succeed, his competitors would follow him, reducing the price of the goods so produced, and thus depriving him of the benefit of his policy. Then, too, the Unions often bring about a more rapid increase of wages after a crisis than would otherwise follow. For the manufacturer’s interest is to delay raising wages until forced by competition, but now the working-men demand an increased wage as soon as the market improves, and they can carry their point by reason of the smaller supply of workers at his command under such circumstances. But, for resistance to more considerable forces which influence the labour market, the Unions are powerless. In such cases hunger gradually drives the strikers to resume work on any terms, and when once a few have begun, the force of the Union is broken, because these few knobsticks, with the reserve supplies of goods in the market, enable the bourgeoisie to overcome the worst effects of the interruption of business. The funds of the Union are soon exhausted by the great numbers requiring relief, the credit which the shopkeepers give at high interest is withdrawn after a time, and want compels the working-man to place himself once more under the yoke of the bourgeoisie. But strikes end disastrously for the workers mostly, because the manufacturers, in their own interest (which has, be it said, become their interest only through the resistance of the workers), are obliged to avoid all useless reductions, while the workers feel in every reduction imposed by the state of trade a deterioration of their condition, against which they must defend themselves as far as in them lies.
It will be asked, “Why, then, do the workers strike in such cases, when the uselessness of such measures is so evident?” Simply because they must protest against every reduction, even if dictated by necessity; because they feel bound to proclaim that they, as human beings, shall not be made to bow to social circumstances, but social conditions ought to yield to them as human beings; because silence on their part would be a recognition of these social conditions, an admission of the right of the bourgeoisie to exploit the workers in good times and let them starve in bad ones. Against this the working-men must rebel so long as they have not lost all human feeling, and that they protest in this way and no other, comes of their ’being practical English people, who express themselves in action, and do not, like German theorists, go to sleep as soon as their protest is properly registered and placed ad acta, there to sleep as quietly as the protesters themselves. The active resistance of the English working-men has its effect in holding the money-greed of the bourgeoisie within certain limits, and keeping alive the opposition of the workers to the social and political omnipotence of the bourgeoisie, while it compels the admission that something more is needed than Trades Unions and strikes to break the power of the ruling class. But what gives these Unions and the strikes arising from them their real importance is this, that they are the first attempt of the workers to abolish competition. They imply the recognition of the fact that the supremacy of the bourgeoisie is based wholly upon the competition of the workers among themselves; i.e., upon their want of cohesion. And precisely because the Unions direct themselves against the vital nerve of the present social order, however one-sidedly, in however narrow a way, are they so dangerous to this social order. The working- men cannot attack the bourgeoisie, and with it the whole existing order of society, at any sorer point than this. If the competition of the workers among themselves is destroyed, if all determine not to be further exploited by the bourgeoisie, the rule of property is at an end. Wages depend upon the relation of demand to supply, upon the accidental state of the labour market, simply because the workers have hitherto been content to be treated as chattels, to be bought and sold. The moment the workers resolve to be bought and sold no longer, when, in the determination of the value of labour, they take the part of men possessed of a will as well as of working-power, at that moment the whole Political Economy of today is at an end.
The laws determining the rate of wages would, indeed, come into force again in the long run, if the working-men did not go beyond this step of abolishing competition among themselves. But they must go beyond that unless they are prepared to recede again and to allow competition among themselves to reappear. Thus once advanced so far, necessity compels them to go farther; to abolish not only one kind of competition, but competition itself altogether, and that they will do.
The workers are coming to perceive more clearly with every day how competition affects them; they see far more clearly than the bourgeois that competition of the capitalists among themselves presses upon the workers too, by bringing on commercial crises, and that this kind of competition, too, must be abolished. They will soon learn how they have to go about it.
That these Unions contribute greatly to nourish the bitter hatred of the workers against the property-holding class need hardly be said. From them proceed, therefore, with or without the connivance of the leading members, in times of unusual excitement, individual actions which can be explained only by hatred wrought to the pitch of despair, by a wild passion overwhelming all restraints. Of this sort are the attacks with vitriol mentioned in the foregoing pages, and a series of others, of which I shall cite several. In 1831, during a violent labour movement, young Ashton, a manufacturer in Hyde, near Manchester, was shot one evening when crossing a field, and no trace of the assassin discovered. There is no doubt that this was a deed of vengeance of the working-men. Incendiarisms and attempted explosions are very common. On Friday, September 29th, 1845, an attempt was made to blow up the saw-works of Padgin, in Howard Street, Sheffield. A closed iron tube filled with powder was the means employed, and the damage was considerable. On the following day, a similar attempt was made in Ibbetson’s knife and file works at Shales Moor, near Sheffield. Mr. Ibbetson had made himself obnoxious by an active participation in bourgeois movements, by low wages, the exclusive employment of knobsticks, and the exploitation of the Poor Law for his own benefit. He had reported, during the crisis of 1842, such operatives as refused to accept reduced wages, as persons who could find work but would not take it, and were, therefore, not deserving of relief, so compelling the acceptance of a reduction. Considerable damage was inflicted by the explosion, and all the working-men who came to view it regretted only “that the whole concern was not blown into the air.” On Friday, October 6th, 1843, an attempt to set fire to the factory of Ainsworth and Crompton, at Bolton, did no damage; it was the third or fourth attempt in the same factory within a very short time. In the meeting of the Town Council of Sheffield, on Wednesday, January 10th, 1844, the Commissioner of Police exhibited a cast-iron machine, made for the express purpose of producing an explosion, and found filled with four pounds of powder, and a fuse which had been lighted but had not taken effect, in the works of Mr. Kitchen, Earl Street, Sheffield. On Sunday, January 21st, 1844, an explosion caused by a package of powder took place in the sawmill of Bentley & White, at Bury, in Lancashire, and produced considerable damage. On Thursday, February 1st, 1844, the Soho Wheel Works, in Sheffield, were set on fire and burnt up.
Here are six such cases in four months, all of which have their sole origin in the embitterment of the working-men against the employers. What sort of a social state it must be in which such things are possible I need hardly say. These facts are proof enough that in England, even in good business years, such as 1843, the social war is avowed and openly carried on, and still the English bourgeoisie does not stop to reflect! But the case which speaks most loudly is that of the Glasgow Thugs, which came up before the Assizes from the 3rd to the 11th of January, 1838. It appears from the proceedings that the Cotton-Spinners’ Union, which existed here from the year 1816, possessed rare organisation and power. The members were bound by an oath to adhere to the decision of the majority, and had during every turnout a secret committee which was unknown to the mass of the members, and controlled the funds of the Union absolutely. This committee fixed a price upon the heads of knobsticks and obnoxious manufacturers and upon incendiarisms in mills. A mill was thus set on fire in which female knobsticks were employed in spinning in the place of men; a Mrs. M’Pherson, mother of one of these girls, was murdered, and both murderers sent to America at the expense of the association. As early as 1820, a knobstick named M’Quarry was shot at and wounded, for which deed the doer received twenty pounds from the Union, but was discovered and transported for life. Finally, in 1837, in May, disturbances occurred in consequence of a turnout in the Oatbank and Mile End factories, in which perhaps a dozen knobsticks were maltreated. In July, of the same year, the disturbances still continued, and a certain Smith, a knobstick, was so maltreated that he died. The committee was now arrested, an investigation begun, and the leading members found guilty of participation in conspiracies, maltreatment of knobsticks, and incendiarism in the mill of James and Francis Wood, and they were transported for seven years. What do our good Germans say to this story? 
The property-holding class, and especially the manufacturing portion of it which comes into direct contact with the working-men, declaims with the greatest violence against these Unions, and is constantly trying to prove their uselessness to the working-men upon grounds which are economically perfectly correct, but for that very reason partially mistaken, and for the working-man’s understanding totally without effect. The very zeal of the bourgeoisie shows that it is not disinterested in the matter; and apart from the direct loss involved in a turnout, the state of the case is such that whatever goes into the pockets of the manufacturers comes of necessity out of those of the worker. So that even if the working-men did not know that the Unions hold the emulation of their masters in the reduction of wages, at least in a measure, in check, they would still stand by the Unions, simply to the injury of their enemies, the manufacturers. In war the injury of one party is the benefit of the other, and since the working- men are on a war footing towards their employers, they do merely what the great potentates do when they get into a quarrel. Beyond all other bourgeois is our friend Dr. Ure, the most furious enemy of the Unions. He foams with indignation at the “secret tribunals” of the cotton-spinners, the most powerful section of the workers, tribunals which boast their ability to paralyse every disobedient manufacturer, “and so bring ruin on the man who had given them profitable employment for many a year.” He speaks of a time “when the inventive head and the sustaining heart of trade were held in bondage by the unruly lower members.” A pity that the English working-men will not let themselves be pacified so easily with thy fable as the Roman Plebs, thou modern Menenius Agrippa! Finally, he relates the following: At one time the coarse mule-spinners had misused their power beyond all endurance. High wages, instead of awakening thankfulness towards the manufacturers and leading to intellectual improvement (in harmless study of sciences useful to the bourgeoisie, of course), in many cases produced. pride and supplied funds for supporting rebellious spirits in strikes, with which a number of manufacturers were visited one after the other in a purely arbitrary manner. During an unhappy disturbance of this sort in Hyde, Dukinfield, and the surrounding neighbourhood, the manufacturers of the district, anxious lest they should be driven from the market by the French, Belgians, and Americans, addressed themselves to the machine-works of Sharp, Roberts & Co., and requested Mr. Sharp to turn his inventive mind to the construction of an automatic mule in order “to emancipate the trade from galling slavery and impending ruin.”
“He produced in the course of a few months, a machine apparently instinct with the thought, feeling, and tact of the experienced workman – which even in its infancy displayed a new principle of regulation, ready in its mature state to fulfil the functions of a finished spinner. Thus, the Iron Man, as the operatives fitly call it, sprang out of the hands of our modern Prometheus at the bidding of Minerva – a creation destined to restore order among the industrious classes, and to confirm to Great Britain the empire of art. The news of this Herculean prodigy spread dismay through the Union, and even long before it left its cradle, so to speak, it strangled the Hydra of misrule.”
Ure proves further that the invention of the machine, with which four and five colours are printed at once, was a result of the disturbances among the calico printers; that the refractoriness of the yarn-dressers in the power-loom weaving mills gave rise to a new and perfected machine for warp-dressing, and mentions several other such cases. A few pages earlier this same Ure gives himself a great deal of trouble to prove in detail that machinery is beneficial to the workers! But Ure is not the only one; in the Factory Report, Mr. Ashworth, the manufacturer, and many another, lose no opportunity to express their wrath against the Unions. These wise bourgeois, like certain governments, trace every movement which they do not understand to the influence of ill-intentioned agitators, demagogues, traitors, spouting idiots, and ill-balanced youth. They declare that the paid agents of the Unions are interested in the agitation because they live upon it, as though the necessity for this payment were not forced upon them by the bourgeois, who will give such men no employment!
The incredible frequency of these strikes proves best of all to what extent the social war has broken out all over England. No week passes, scarcely a day, indeed, in which there is not a strike in some direction, now against a reduction, then against a refusal to raise the rate of wages, again by reason of the employment of knobsticks or the continuance of abuses, sometimes against new machinery, or for a hundred other reasons. These strikes, at first skirmishes, sometimes result in weighty struggles; they decide nothing, it is true, but they are the strongest proof that the decisive battle between bourgeoisie and proletariat is approaching. They are the military school of the working-men in which they prepare themselves for the great struggle which cannot be avoided; they are the pronunciamentos of single branches of industry that these too have joined the labour movement. And when one examines a year’s file of the Northern Star, the only sheet which reports all the movements of the proletariat, one finds that all the proletarians of the towns and of country manufacture have united in associations, and have protested from time to time, by means of a general strike, against the supremacy of the bourgeoisie. And as schools of war, the Unions are unexcelled. In them is developed the peculiar courage of the English. It is said on the Continent that the English, and especially the working-men, are cowardly, that they cannot carry out a revolution because, unlike the French, they do not riot at intervals, because they apparently accept the bourgeois regime so quietly. This is a complete mistake. The English working-men are second to none in courage; they are quite as restless as the French, but they fight differently. The French, who are by nature political, struggle against social evils with political weapons; the English, for whom politics exist only as a matter of interest, solely in the interest of bourgeois society, fight, not against the Government, but directly against the bourgeoisie; and for the time, this can be done only in a peaceful manner. Stagnation in business, and the want consequent upon it, engendered the revolt at Lyons, in 1834, in favour of the Republic: in 1842, at Manchester, a similar cause gave rise to a universal turnout for the Charter and higher wages. That courage is required for a turnout, often indeed much loftier courage, much bolder, firmer determination than for an insurrection, is self-evident. It is, in truth, no trifle for a working-man who knows want from experience, to face it with wife and children, to endure hunger and wretchedness for months together, and stand firm and unshaken through it all. What is death, what the galleys which await the French revolutionist, in comparison with gradual starvation, with the daily sight of a starving family, with the certainty of future revenge on the part of the bourgeoisie, all of which the English working-man chooses in preference to subjection under the yoke of the property-holding class? We shall meet later an example of this obstinate, unconquerable courage of men who surrender to force only when all resistance would be aimless and unmeaning. And precisely in this quiet perseverance, in this lasting determination which undergoes a hundred tests every day, the English working-man develops that side of his character which commands most respect. People who endure so much to bend one single bourgeois will be able to break the power of the whole bourgeoisie.
But apart from that, the English working-man has proved his courage often enough. That the turnout of 1842 had no further results came from the fact that the men were in part forced into it by the bourgeoisie, in part neither clear nor united as to its object. But aside from this, they have shown their courage often enough when the matter in question was a specific social one. Not to mention the Welsh insurrection of 1839, a complete battle was waged in Manchester in May, 1843, during my residence there. Pauling & Henfrey, a brick firm, had increased the size of the bricks without raising wages, and sold the bricks, of course, at a higher price. The workers, to whom higher wages were refused, struck work, and the Brickmakers’ Union declared war upon the firm. The firm, meanwhile, succeeded with great difficulty in securing hands from the neighbourhood, and among the knobsticks, against whom in the beginning intimidation was used; the proprietors set twelve men to guard the yard, all ex-soldiers and policemen, armed with guns. When intimidation proved unavailing, the brick-yard, which lay scarcely four hundred paces from an infantry barracks, was stormed at ten o’clock one night by a crowd of brickmakers, who advanced in military order, the first ranks armed with guns. They forced their way in, fired upon the watchmen as soon as they saw them, stamped out the wet bricks spread out to dry, tore down the piled-up rows of those already dry, demolished everything which came in their way, pressed into a building, where they destroyed the furniture and maltreated the wife of the overlooker who was living there. The watchmen, meanwhile, had placed themselves behind a hedge, whence they could fire safely and without interruption. The assailants stood before a burning brick-kiln, which threw a bright light upon them, so that every ball of their enemies struck home, while every one of their own shots missed its mark. Nevertheless, the firing lasted half-an-hour, until the ammunition was exhausted, and the object of the visit – the demolition of all the destructible objects in the yard – was attained. Then the military approached, and the brickmakers withdrew to Eccles, three miles from Manchester. A short time before reaching Eccles they held roll-call, and each man was called according to his number in the section when they separated, only to fall the more certainly into the hands of the police, who were approaching from all sides. The number of the wounded must have been very considerable, but those only could be counted who were arrested. One of these had received three bullets (in the thigh, the calf, and the shoulder), and had travelled in spite of them more than four miles on foot. These people have proved that they, too, possess revolutionary courage, and do not shun a rain of bullets. And when an unarmed multitude, without a precise aim common to them all, are held in check in a shut-off market-place, whose outlets are guarded by a couple of policemen and dragoons, as happened in 1842, this by no means proves a want of courage. On the contrary, the multitude would have stirred quite as little if the servants of public (i.e., of the bourgeois) order had not been present. Where the working-people have a specific end in view, they show courage enough; as, for instance, in the attack upon Birley’s mill, which had later to be protected by artillery.
In this connection, a word or two as to the respect for the law in England. True, the law is sacred to the bourgeois, for it is his own composition, enacted with his consent, and for his benefit and protection. He knows that, even if an individual law should injure him, the whole fabric protects his interests; and more than all, the sanctity of the law, the sacredness of order as established by the active will of one part of society, and the passive acceptance of the other, is the strongest support of his social position. Because the English bourgeois finds himself reproduced in his law, as he does in his God, the policeman’s truncheon which, in a certain measure, is his own club, has for him a wonderfully soothing power. But for the working-man quite otherwise! The working-man knows too well, has learned from too oft-repeated experience, that the law is a rod which the bourgeois has prepared for him; and when he is not compelled to do so, he never appeals to the law. It is ridiculous to assert that the English working-man fears the police, when every week in Manchester policemen are beaten, and last year an attempt was made to storm a station-house secured by iron doors and shutters. The power of the police in the turnout of 1842 lay, as I have already said, in the want of a clearly defined object on the part of the working-men themselves.
Since the working-men do not respect the law, but simply submit to its power when they cannot change it, it is most natural that they should at least propose alterations in it, that they should wish to put a proletarian law in the place of the legal fabric of the bourgeoisie. This proposed law is the People’s Charter, which in form is purely political, and demands a democratic basis for the House of Commons. Chartism is the compact form of their opposition to the bourgeoisie. In the Unions and turnouts opposition always remained isolated: it was single working-men or sections who fought a single bourgeois. If the fight became general, this was scarcely by the intention of the working-men; or, when it did happen intentionally, Chartism was at the bottom of it. But in Chartism it is the whole working-class which arises against the bourgeoisie, and attacks, first of all, the political power, the legislative rampart with which the bourgeoisie has surrounded itself. Chartism has proceeded from the Democratic party which arose between 1780 and 1790 with and in the proletariat, gained strength during the French Revolution, and came forth after the peace as the Radical party. It had its headquarters then in Birmingham and Manchester, and later in London; extorted the Reform Bill from the Oligarchs of the old Parliament by a union with the Liberal bourgeoisie, and has steadily consolidated itself, since then, as a more and more pronounced working-men’s party in opposition to the bourgeoisie. In 1858 a committee of the General Working-men’s Association of London, with William Lovett at its head, drew up the People’s Charter, whose six points are as follows: (1) Universal suffrage for every man who is of age, sane and unconvicted of crime; (2) Annual Parliaments; (3) Payment of members of Parliament, to enable poor men to stand for election; (4) Voting by ballot to prevent bribery and intimidation by the bourgeoisie; (5) Equal electoral districts to secure equal representation; and (6) Abolition of the even now merely nominal property qualification of £300 in land for candidates in order to make every voter eligible. These six points, which are all limited to the reconstitution of the House of Commons, harmless as they seem, are sufficient to overthrow the whole English Constitution, Queen and Lords included. The so-called monarchical and aristocratic elements of the Constitution can maintain themselves only because the bourgeoisie has an interest in the continuance of their sham existence; and more than a sham existence neither possesses today. But as soon as real public opinion in its totality backs the House of Commons, as soon as the House of Commons incorporates the will, not of the bourgeoisie alone, but of the whole nation, it will absorb the whole power so completely that the last halo must fall from the head of the monarch and the aristocracy. The English working-man respects neither Lords nor Queen. The bourgeois, while in reality allowing them but little influence, yet offers to them personally a sham worship. The English Chartist is politically a republican, though he rarely or never mentions the word, while be sympathises with the republican parties of all countries, and calls himself in preference a democrat. But he is more than a mere republican, his democracy is not simply political.
Chartism was from the beginning of 1835 chiefly a movement among the working-men, though not yet sharply separated from the bourgeoisie. The Radicalism of the workers went hand in hand with the Radicalism of the bourgeoisie; the Charter was the shibboleth of both. They held their National Convention every year in common, seeming to be one party. The lower middle-class was just then in a very bellicose and violent state of mind in consequence of the disappointment over the Reform Bill and of the bad business years of 1837-1839, and viewed the boisterous Chartist agitation with a very favourable eye. Of the vehemence of this agitation no one in Germany has any idea. The people were called upon to arm themselves, were frequently urged to revolt; pikes were got ready, as in the French Revolution, and in 1838, one Stephens, a Methodist parson, said to the assembled working- people of Manchester:
“You have no need to fear the power of Government, the soldiers, bayonets, and cannon that are at the disposal of your oppressors; you have a weapon that is far mightier than all these, a weapon against which bayonets and cannon are powerless, and a child of ten years can wield it. You have only to take a couple of matches and a bundle of straw dipped in pitch, and I will see what the Government and its hundreds of thousands of soldiers will do against this one weapon if it is used boldly.”
As early as that year the peculiarly social character of the working-men’s Chartism manifested itself. The same Stephens said, in a meeting of 200,000 men on Kersall Moor, the Mons Sacer of Manchester:
“Chartism, my friends, is no political movement, where the main point is your getting the ballot. Chartism is a knife and fork question: the Charter means a good house, good food and drink, prosperity, and short working-hours.”
The movements against the New Poor Law and for the Ten Hours’ Bill were already in the closest relation to Chartism. In all the meetings of that time the Tory Oastler was active, and hundreds of petitions for improvements of the social conditions of the workers were circulated along with the national petition for the People’s Charter adopted in Birmingham. In 1839 the agitation continued as vigorously as ever, and when it began to relax somewhat at the end of the year, Bussey, Taylor, and Frost hastened to call forth uprisings simultaneously in the North of England, in Yorkshire, and Wales. Frost’s plan being betrayed, he was obliged to open hostilities prematurely. Those in the North heard of the failure of his attempt in time to withdraw. Two months later, in January, 1840, several so-called spy outbreaks took place in Sheffield and Bradford, in Yorkshire, and the excitement gradually subsided. Meanwhile the bourgeoisie turned its attention to more practical projects, more profitable for itself, namely the Corn Laws. The Anti-Corn-Law Association was formed in Manchester, and the consequence was a relaxation of the tie between the Radical bourgeoisie and the proletariat. The working-men soon perceived that for them the abolition of the Corn Laws could be of little use, while very advantageous to the bourgeoisie; and they could therefore not be won for the project.
The crisis of 1842 came on. Agitation was once more as vigorous as in 1839. But this time the rich manufacturing bourgeoisie, which was suffering severely under this particular crisis, took part in it. The Anti-Corn Law League, as it was now called, assumed a decidedly revolutionary tone. Its journals and agitators used undisguisedly revolutionary language, one very good reason for which was the fact that the Conservative party had been in power since 1841. As the Chartists had previously done, these bourgeois leaders called upon the people to rebel; and the working-men who had most to suffer from the crisis were not inactive, as the year’s national petition for the Charter with its three and a half million signatures proves. In short, if the two Radical parties had been somewhat estranged, they allied themselves once more. At a meeting of Liberals and Chartists held in Manchester, February 14th, 1842, a petition urging the repeal of the Corn Laws and the adoption of the Charter was drawn up. The next day it was adopted by both parties. The spring and summer passed amidst violent agitation and increasing distress. The bourgeoisie was determined to carry the repeal of the Corn Laws with the help of the crisis, the want which it entailed, and the general excitement. At this time, the Conservatives being in power, the Liberal bourgeoisie half abandoned their law-abiding habits; they wished to bring about a revolution with the help of the workers. The working-men were to take the chestnuts from the fire to save the bourgeoisie from burning their own fingers. The old idea of a “holy month,” a general strike, broached in 1839 by the Chartists, was revived. This time, however, it was not the working-men who wished to quit work, but the manufacturers who wished to close their mills and send the operatives into the country parishes upon the property of the aristocracy, thus forcing the Tory Parliament and the Tory Ministry to repeal the Corn Laws. A revolt would naturally have followed, but the bourgeoisie stood safely in the background and could await the result without compromising itself if the worst came to the worst. At the end of July business began to improve; it was high time. In order not to lose the opportunity, three firms in Staleybridge reduced wages in spite of the improvement. Whether they did so of their own motion or in agreement with other manufacturers, especially those of the League, I do not know. Two withdrew after a time, but the third, William Bailey & Brothers, stood firm, and told the objecting operatives that “if this did not please them, they had better go and play a bit.” This contemptuous answer the hands received with jeers. They left the mill, paraded through the town, and called upon all their fellows to quit work. In a few hours every mill stood idle, and the operatives marched to Mottram Moor to hold a meeting. This was on August 5th. August 8th they proceeded to Ashton and Hyde five thousand strong, closed all the mills and coal-pits, and held meetings, in which, however, the question discussed was not, as the bourgeoisie had hoped, the repeal of the Corn Laws, but, “a fair day’s wages for a fair day’s work.” August 9th they proceeded to Manchester, unresisted by the authorities (all Liberals), and closed the mills; on the 11th they were in Stockport, where they met with the first resistance as they were storming the workhouse, the favourite child of the bourgeoisie. On the same day there was a general strike and disturbance in Bolton, to which the authorities here, too, made no resistance. Soon the uprising spread throughout the whole manufacturing district, and all employments, except harvesting and the production of food, came to a standstill. But the rebellious operatives were quiet. They were driven into this revolt without wishing it. The manufacturers, with the single exception of the Tory Birley, in Manchester, had, contrary to their custom, not opposed it. The thing had begun without the working-men’s having any distinct end in view, for which reason they were all united in the determination not to be shot at for the benefit of the Corn Law repealing bourgeoisie. For the rest, some wanted to carry the Charter, others who thought this premature wished merely to secure the wages rate of 1840. On this point the whole insurrection was wrecked. If it had been from the beginning an intentional, determined working-men’s insurrection, it would surely have carried its point; but these crowds who had been driven into the streets by their masters, against their own will, and with no definite purpose, could do nothing. Meanwhile the bourgeoisie, which had not moved a finger to carry the alliance of February 15th into effect, soon perceived that the working-men did not propose to become its tools, and that the illogical manner in which it had abandoned its law-abiding standpoint threatened danger. It therefore resumed its law-abiding attitude, and placed itself upon the side of Government as against the working-men.
It swore in trusty retainers as special constables (the German merchants in Manchester took part in this ceremony, and marched in an entirely superfluous manner through the city with their cigars in their mouths and thick truncheons in their hands). It gave the command to fire upon the crowd in Preston, so that the unintentional revolt of the people stood all at once face to face, not only with the whole military power of the Government, but with the whole property-holding class as well. The working-men, who had no especial aim, separated gradually, and the insurrection came to an end without evil results. Later, the bourgeoisie was guilty of one shameful act after another, tried to whitewash itself by expressing a horror of popular violence by no means consistent with its own revolutionary language of the spring; laid the blame of insurrection upon Chartist instigators, whereas it had itself done more than all of them together to bring about the uprising; and resumed its old attitude of sanctifying the name of the law with a shamelessness perfectly unequalled. The Chartists, who were all but innocent of bringing about this uprising, who simply did what the bourgeoisie meant to do when they made the most of their opportunity, were prosecuted and convicted, while the bourgeoisie escaped without loss, and had, besides, sold off its old stock of goods with advantage during the pause in work.
The fruit of the uprising was the decisive separation of the proletariat from the bourgeoisie. The Chartists had not hitherto concealed their determination to carry the Charter at all costs, even that of a revolution; the bourgeoisie, which now perceived, all at once, the danger with which any violent change threatened its position, refused to hear anything further of physical force, and proposed to attain its end by moral force, as though this were anything else than the direct or indirect threat of physical force. ’I’his was one point of dissension, though even this was removed later by the assertion of the Chartists (who are at least as worthy of being believed as the bourgeoisie) that they, too, refrained from appealing to physical force. The second point of dissension and the main one, which brought Chartism to light in its purity, was the repeal of the Corn Laws. In this the bourgeoisie was directly interested, the proletariat not. The Chartists therefore divided into two parties whose political programmes agreed literally, but which were nevertheless thoroughly different and incapable of union. At the Birmingham National Convention, in January, 1843, Sturge, the representative of the Radical bourgeoisie, proposed that the name of the Charter be omitted from the rules of the Chartist Association, nominally because this name had become connected with recollections of violence during the insurrection, a connection, by the way, which had existed for years, and against which Mr. Sturge had hitherto advanced no objection. The working-men refused to drop the name, and when Mr. Sturge was outvoted, that worthy Quaker suddenly became loyal, betook himself out of the hall, and founded a “Complete Suffrage Association” within the Radical bourgeoisie. So repugnant had these recollections become to the Jacobinical bourgeoisie, that he altered even the name Universal Suffrage into the ridiculous title, Complete Suffrage. The working-men laughed at him and quietly went their way.
From this moment Chartism was purely a working-men’s cause freed from all bourgeois elements. The “Complete” journals, the Weekly Dispatch, Weekly Chronicle, Examiner, etc., fell gradually into the sleepy tone of the other Liberal sheets, espoused the cause of Free Trade, attacked the Ten Hours’ Bill and all exclusively working-men’s demands, and let their Radicalism as a whole fall rather into the background. The Radical bourgeoisie joined hands with the Liberals against the working-men in every collision, and in general made the Corn Law question, which for the English is the Free Trade question, their main business. They thereby fell under the dominion of the Liberal bourgeoisie, and now play a most pitiful role.
The Chartist working-men, on the contrary, espoused with redoubled zeal all the struggles of the proletariat against the bourgeoisie. Free competition has caused the workers suffering enough to be hated by them; its apostles, the bourgeoisie, are their declared enemies. The working-man has only disadvantages to await from the complete freedom of competition. The demands hitherto made by him, the Ten Hours’ Bill, protection of the workers against the capitalist, good wages, a guaranteed position, repeal of the New Poor Law, all of the things which belong to Chartism quite as essentially as the “Six Points,” are directly opposed to free competition and Free Trade. No wonder, then, that the working-men will not hear of Free Trade and the repeal of the Corn Laws (a fact incomprehensible to the whole English bourgeoisie), and while at least wholly indifferent to the Corn Law question, are most deeply embittered against its advocates. This question is precisely the point at which the proletariat separates from the bourgeoisie, Chartism from Radicalism; and the bourgeois understanding cannot comprehend this, because it cannot comprehend the proletariat.
Therein lies the difference between Chartist democracy and all previous political bourgeois democracy. Chartism is of an essentially social nature, a class movement. The “Six Points” which for the Radical bourgeois are the beginning and end of the matter, which are meant, at the utmost, to call forth certain further reforms of the Constitution, are for the proletarian a mere means to further ends. “Political power our means, social happiness our end,” is now the clearly formulated war-cry of the Chartists. The “knife and fork question” of the preacher Stephens was a truth for a part of the Chartists only, in 1858; it is a truth for all of them in 1845. There is no longer a mere politician among the Chartists, and even though their Socialism is very little developed, though their chief remedy for poverty has hitherto consisted in the land-allotment system, which was superseded by the introduction of manufacture, though their chief practical propositions are apparently of a reactionary nature, yet these very measures involve the alternative that they must either succumb to the power of competition once more and restore the old state of things, or they must themselves entirely overcome competition and abolish it. On the other hand, the present indefinite state of Chartism, the separation from the purely political party, involves that precisely the characteristic feature, its social aspect, will have to be further developed. The approach to Socialism cannot fail, especially when the next crisis directs the working-men by force of sheer want to social instead of political remedies. And a crisis must follow the present active state of industry and commerce in 1847 at the latest, and probably in 1846; one, too, which will far exceed in extent and violence all former crises. The working-men will carry their Charter, naturally; but meanwhile they will learn to see clearly with regard to many points which they can make by means of it and of which they now know very little.
Meanwhile the Socialist agitation also goes forward. English Socialism comes under our consideration so far only as it affects the working-class. The English Socialists demand the gradual introduction of possession in common in home colonies embracing two to three thousand persons who shall carry on both agriculture and manufacture and enjoy equal rights and equal education. They demand greater facility of obtaining divorce, the establishment of a rational government, with complete freedom of conscience and the abolition of punishment, the same to be replaced by a rational treatment of the offender. These are their practical measures, their theoretical principles do not concern us here. English Socialism arose with Owen, a manufacturer, and proceeds therefore with great consideration toward the bourgeoisie and great injustice toward the proletariat in its methods, although it culminates in demanding the abolition of the class antagonism between bourgeoisie and proletariat.
The Socialists are thoroughly tame and peaceable, accept our existing order, bad as it is, so far as to reject all other methods but that of winning public opinion. Yet they are so dogmatic that success by this method is for them, and for their principles as at present formulated, utterly hopeless. While bemoaning the demoralisation of the lower classes, they are blind to the element of progress in this dissolution of the old social order, and refuse to acknowledge that the corruption wrought by private interests and hypocrisy in the property-holding class is much greater. They acknowledge no historic development, and wish to place the nation in a state of Communism at once, overnight, not by the unavoidable march of its political development up to the point at which this transition becomes both possible and necessary. They understand, it is true, why the working-man is resentful against the bourgeois, but regard as unfruitful this class hatred, which is, after all, the only moral incentive by which the worker can be brought nearer the goal. They preach instead, a philanthropy and universal love far more unfruitful for the present state of England. They acknowledge only a psychological development, a development of man in the abstract, out of all relation to the Past, whereas the whole world rests upon that Past, the individual man included. Hence they are too abstract, too metaphysical, and accomplish little. They are recruited in part from the working-class, of which they have enlisted but a very small fraction representing, however, its most educated and solid elements. In its present form, Socialism can never become the common creed of the working- class; it must condescend to return for a moment to the Chartist standpoint. But the true proletarian Socialism having passed through Chartism, purified of its bourgeois elements, assuming the form which it has already reached in the minds of many Socialists and Chartist leaders (who are nearly all Socialists), must, within a short time, play a weighty part in the history of the development of the English people. English Socialism, the basis of which is much more ample than that of the French, is behind it in theoretical development, will have to recede for a moment to the French standpoint in order to proceed beyond it later. Meanwhile the French, too, will develop farther. English Socialism affords the most pronounced expression of the prevailing absence of religion among the working-men, an expression so pronounced indeed that the mass of the working-men, being unconsciously and merely practically irreligious, often draw back before it. But here, too, necessity will force the working-men to abandon the remnants of a belief which, as they will more and more clearly perceive, serves only to make them weak and resigned to their fate, obedient and faithful to the vampire property-holding class.
Hence it is evident that the working-men’s movement is divided into two sections, the Chartists and the Socialists. The Chartists are theoretically the more backward, the less developed, but they are genuine proletarians all over, the representatives of their class. The Socialists are more far-seeing, propose practical remedies against distress, but, proceeding originally from the bourgeoisie, are for this reason unable to amalgamate completely with the working-class. The union of Socialism with Chartism, the reproduction of French Communism in an English manner, will be the next step, and has already begun. Then only, when this has been achieved, will the working-class be the true intellectual leader of England. Meanwhile, political and social development will proceed, and will foster this new party, this new departure of Chartism.
These different sections of working-men, often united, often separated, Trades Unionists, Chartists, and Socialists, have founded on their own hook numbers of schools and reading-rooms for the advancement of education. Every Socialist, and almost every Chartist institution, has such a place, and so too have many trades. Here the children receive a purely proletarian education, free from all the influences of the bourgeoisie; and, in the reading-rooms, proletarian journals and books alone, or almost alone, are to be found. These arrangements are very dangerous for the bourgeoisie, which has succeeded in withdrawing several such institutes, “Mechanics’ Institutes,” from proletarian influences, and making them organs for the dissemination of the sciences useful to the bourgeoisie. Here the natural sciences are now taught, which may draw the working-men away from the opposition to the bourgeoisie, and perhaps place in their hands the means of making inventions which bring in money for the bourgeoisie; while for the working-man the acquaintance with the natural sciences is utterly useless now when it too often happens that he never gets the slightest glimpse of Nature in his large town with his long working-hours. Here Political Economy is preached, whose idol is free competition, and whose sum and substance for the working-man is this, that he cannot do anything more rational than resign himself to starvation. Here all education is tame, flabby, subservient to the ruling politics and religion, so that for the working-man it is merely a constant sermon upon quiet obedience, passivity, and resignation to his fate.
The mass of working-men naturally have nothing to do with these institutes, and betake themselves to the proletarian reading-rooms and to the discussion of matters which directly concern their own interests, whereupon the self-sufficient bourgeoisie says its Dixi et salvavi, and turns with contempt from a class which “prefers the angry ranting of ill-meaning demagogues to the advantages of solid education.” That, however, the working-men appreciate solid education when they can get it unmixed with the interested cant of the bourgeoisie, the frequent lectures upon scientific, aesthetic, and economic subjects prove which are delivered especially in the Socialist institutes, and very well attended. I have often heard working-men, whose fustian jackets scarcely held together, speak upon geological, astronomical, and other subjects, with more knowledge than most “cultivated” bourgeois in Germany possess. And in how great a measure the English proletariat has succeeded in attaining independent education is shown especially by the fact that the epoch-making products of modern philosophical, political, and poetical literature are read by working-men almost exclusively. The bourgeois, enslaved by social conditions and the prejudices involved in them, trembles, blesses, and crosses himself before everything which really paves the way for progress; the proletarian has open eyes for it, and studies it with pleasure and success. In this respect the Socialists, especially, have done wonders for the education of the proletariat. They have translated the French materialists, Helvetius, Holbach, Diderot, etc., and disseminated them, with the best English works, in cheap editions. Strauss’ Life of Jesus and Proudhon’s Property also circulate among the working-men only. Shelley, the genius, the prophet, Shelley, and Byron, with his glowing sensuality and his bitter satire upon our existing society, find most of their readers in the proletariat; the bourgeoisie owns only castrated editions, family editions, cut down in accordance with the hypocritical morality of today. The two great practical philosophers of latest date, Bentham and Godwin, are, especially the latter, almost exclusively the property of the proletariat; for though Bentham has a school within the Radical bourgeoisie, it is only the proletariat and the Socialists who have succeeded in developing his teachings a step forward. The proletariat has formed upon this basis a literature, which consists chiefly of journals and pamphlets, and is far in advance of the whole bourgeois literature in intrinsic worth. On this point more later.
One more point remains to be noticed. The factory operatives, and especially those of the cotton district, form the nucleus of the labour movement. Lancashire, and especially Manchester, is the seat of the most powerful Unions, the central point of Chartism, the place which numbers most Socialists. The more the factory system has taken possession of a branch of industry, the more the working-men employed in it participate in the labour movement; the sharper the opposition between working-men and capitalists, the clearer the proletarian consciousness in the working-men. The small masters of Birmingham, though they suffer from the crises, still stand upon an unhappy middle ground between proletarian Chartism and shopkeepers’ Radicalism. But, in general, all the workers employed in manufacture are won for one form or the other of resistance to capital and bourgeoisie; and all are united upon this point, that they, as working-men, a title of which they are proud, and which is the usual form of address in Chartist meetings, form a separate class, with separate interests and principles, with a separate way of looking at things in contrast with that of all property-owners; and that in this class reposes the strength and the capacity of development of the nation.
1. “What kind of wild justice must it be in the hearts of these men that prompts them, with cold deliberation, in conclave assembled, to doom their brother workman, as the deserter of his order and his order’s cause. to die as a traitor and deserter; and have him executed, since not by any public judge and hangman, then by a private one; – like your old Chivalry Femgericht, and Secret-Tribunal, suddenly in this strange guise become new; suddenly rising once more on the astonished eye, dressed now not in mail-shirts, but in fustian jackets, meeting not in Westphalian forests but in the paved Gallowgate of Glasgow!... Such temper must be widespread, virulent among the many, when even in its worst acme, it can take such a form in a few.” – Carlyle, Chartism, p. 40.– Note by Engels. 
An English Turnout
In my book on the above subject I was unable to give factual proof of individual points. In order not to make the book too thick and indigestible, I had to consider my statements sufficiently proven when I had confirmed them by quotations from official documents, impartial writers or the writings of the parties whose interests I was attacking. This sufficed to guard me against contradiction in those cases where I was unable to speak from personal observation when describing particular living conditions. But it was not sufficient to produce in the reader the incontestable certainty which can only be given by striking, irrefutable facts, and which, especially in an age in which we are obliged by the infinite "wisdom of the fathers" to be sceptical, can never be generated by mere reasoning, no matter how good the authorities. Above all when it is a question of important consequences, of facts coalescing into principles, when it is not the condition of separate, small sections of the people that has to be described, but the position of whole classes in relation to each other, then facts are absolutely essential. For the reasons just mentioned, I was unable to provide these in all cases in my book. I will now make good this unavoidable deficiency and, from time to time, will present facts as I find them in the sources available to me. In order, at the same time, to demonstrate that my account is still correct today, I will only use facts which have taken place since I left England last year, and have become known to me only since my book was published.
Readers of my book will remember that I was chiefly concerned to describe the position of the bourgeoisie and the proletariat in relation to each other and the necessity of struggle between these two classes; and that I attached especial importance to proving how completely justified the proletariat was in waging this struggle, and to rebutting the English bourgeoisie’s fine phrases by means of their ugly deeds. From the first page to the last, I was writing a bill of indictment against the English bourgeoisie. I will now provide a few more choice pieces of evidence. However, since I have already displayed enough passion over these English bourgeois it is not my intention to work myself up over them once again and, so far as I can, I will keep my temper.
The first good citizen and worthy paterfamilias we are going to meet is an old friend, or rather there are two of them. By 1843 Messrs. Pauling & Henfrey had already had Lord knows how many conflicts with their workers, who, refusing to be dissuaded even by the best of arguments from their demand that they should receive increased wages for increased work, stopped work. Pauling & Henfrey, who are important building contractors and employ many brickmakers, carpenters, and so on, took on other workers; this led to a conflict and in the end to a bloody battle with guns and cudgels in Pauling & Henfrey’s brickyard, which resulted in the transportation of half a dozen workers to Van Diemen’s Land, all of which is dealt with at length in my book. But Messrs. Pauling & Henfrey have to try something on with their workers every year, otherwise they are not happy; so they began baiting them again in October 1844. This time it was the carpenters whose well-being the philanthropic building contractors were anxious to promote. From time immemorial the custom had prevailed among the carpenters of Manchester and the surrounding area of not "striking a light" from Candlemas to November 17, i.e., of working from six in the morning till six in the evening during the long days, and of starting as soon as it was light and finishing as soon as it began to get dark during the short days. Then from November 17 onwards the lights were lit and work carried on for the full time. Pauling & Henfrey, who had long had enough of this "barbaric" custom, decided to put an end to this relic of the "Dark Ages" with the help of gas lighting, and when one evening before six o’clock the carpenters could not see any longer and put away their tools and went for their coats, the foreman lit the gas and said that they had to work till six o’clock. The carpenters, whom this did not suit, called a general meeting of the workers in their trade. Mr. Pauling, much astonished, asked his workers if they were dissatisfied about something since they had called a meeting. Some of the workers said that it was not they who were directly responsible for calling the meeting, but the committee of the craft union, to which Mr. Pauling replied that he didn’t care a fig for the craft union, but he would like to put a proposition to them: if they would agree to the lights being lit he would be prepared in return to give them three hours off on Saturdays, and — generous fellow — also to allow them to work an extra quarter of an hour every day for which they would get extra pay! They on their part should work half an hour longer when all other workshops began to put on their lights. The workers considered this proposal and calculated that as a result Messrs. Pauling & Henfrey would gain a whole working hour every day during the short days, that each worker would have to work altogether 92 hours, i.e., 9 1/4 days extra without getting a farthing in return, and that taking into account all the workers employed by the firm, the above-named gentlemen would save £400 (2,100 taler) in wages during the winter months. So the workers held their meeting and explained to their fellow-workers that if one firm succeeded in putting this through, all the other firms would follow suit and, as a result, there would be a general indirect reduction in wages which would rob the carpenters in the district of about £4,000 a year. It was decided that on the following Monday all the carpenters employed by Pauling & Henfrey should hand in their 3-months’ notice and if their employers did not change their minds, should stop work when this notice expired. The union on its part promised to support them by a general levy in the event of a stoppage of work.
On Monday, October 14, the workers went and gave in their notice, whereupon they were told that they could leave right away, which of course they did. The same evening another meeting of all the building workers took place, at which all categories of building workers pledged their support to the strikers. On the Wednesday and Thursday following, all the carpenters in the vicinity employed by Pauling & Henfrey also stopped work and the strike was thus in full swing.
The building employers, left so suddenly high and dry, immediately sent people out in all directions, even as far as Scotland, to recruit workers since in the whole vicinity there was not a soul willing to work for them. In a few days thirteen men did arrive from Staffordshire. But as soon as the strikers found an opportunity of talking to them and explaining the dispute and the reasons why they had stopped work, several of the new arrivals refused to continue working. But the masters had an effective way of dealing with this: they had the recalcitrants, along with those who led them astray, brought before Daniel Maude, Esquire, Justice of the Peace. But before we follow them there, we must first put the virtues of Daniel Maude, Esq., in their proper light.
Daniel Maude, Esq., is the "stipendiary magistrate"’ or paid Justice of the Peace in Manchester. The English magistrates are usually rich bourgeois or landowners, occasionally also clergymen, who are appointed by the Ministry. But since these Dogberries understand nothing about the law, they make the most flagrant blunders, bring the bourgeoisie into ridicule and do it harm, since, even when faced with a worker, they are frequently reduced to a state of confusion if he is defended by a skilful lawyer, and either neglect some legal form when sentencing him, which results in a successful appeal, or let themselves be misled into acquitting him. Besides, the rich manufacturers in the big towns and industrial areas have no time to spare for passing days of boredom in a court of law and prefer to install a replacement. As a result in these towns, on the initiative of the towns themselves, paid magistrates are usually appointed, men versed in law, who are able to take advantage of all the twists and subtle distinctions of English law, and when necessary to supplement and improve it for the benefit of the bourgeoisie. Their efforts in this respect are illustrated by the following example.
Daniel Maude, Esq., is one of those liberal justices of the peace who were appointed in large numbers under the Whig Government. Among his heroic exploits, inside and outside the arena of the Manchester Borough Court, we will mention two. When in 1842 the manufacturers succeeded in forcing the workers of South Lancashire into an insurrection, which broke out in Stalybridge and Ashton at the beginning of August, some 10,000 workers, with Richard Pilling, the Chartist, at their head, marched on August 9 from there to Manchester
"to meet their masters on the Exchange and to see how the Manchester market was."
When they reached the outskirts of the town, they were met by Daniel Maude, Esq., with the whole estimable police force, a detachment of cavalry and a company of riflemen. But this was all only for the sake of appearances since it was in the interest of the manufacturers and liberals that the insurrection should spread and force the repeal of the Corn Laws. In this Daniel Maude, Esq., was in complete agreement with his worthy colleagues, and he began to come to terms with the workers and allowed them to enter the town on their promise to "keep the peace" and follow a prescribed route. He knew very well that the insurgents would not do this nor did he in the least wish them to — he could have nipped the whole contrived insurrection in the bud with a little energy but, had he done so, he would not have been acting in the interest of his Anti-Corn Law friends but in the interest of Sir Robert Peel. So he withdrew the soldiers and allowed the workers to enter the town, where they immediately brought all the factories to a standstill. But as soon as the insurrection proved to be definitely directed against the liberal bourgeoisie and completely ignored the "hellish Corn Laws", Daniel Maude, Esq., once more assumed his judicial office and had workers arrested by the dozen and marched off to prison without mercy for "breach of the peace" — so that he first caused the breaches and then punished them. Another characteristic feature in the career of this Manchester Solomon is revealed by the following. Since the Anti-Corn Law League was several times beaten up in public in Manchester, it holds private meetings, admission to which is by ticket only — but the decisions and petitions of which are presented to the public as those of public meetings, and as manifestations of Manchester "public opinion". In order to put a stop to this fraudulent boasting by the liberal manufacturers, three or four Chartists, among them my good friend James Leach, secured tickets for themselves and went to one of these meetings. When Mr. Cobden rose to speak, James Leach asked the Chairman whether this was a public meeting. Instead of answering, the Chairman called the police and had Leach arrested without more ado. A second Chartist asked the question again, then a third, and a fourth, all were set upon one after the other by the "bluebottles" (police) who stood massed at the door, and packed off to the Town Hall. They appeared the next morning before Daniel Maude, Esq., who was already fully informed about everything. They were charged with having caused a disturbance at a meeting, were hardly allowed to say a word, and then had to listen to a solemn speech by Daniel Maude, Esq., who told them that he knew them, that they were political vagabonds who did nothing, but cause uproar at meetings and disturb decent, law-abiding, citizens and a stop must be put to this kind of thing. Therefore — and Daniel Maude, Esq., knew very well that he could not impose any real punishment on them — therefore, he would sentence them to pay the costs this time.
It was before this same Daniel Maude, Esq., whose bourgeois virtues we have just described, that the recalcitrant workers from Pauling & Henfrey’s were hauled. But they had brought a lawyer with them as a precaution. First to be heard was the worker newly arrived from Staffordshire who had refused to continue working at a place where others had stopped work in self-defence. Messrs. Pauling & Henfrey had a written contract signed by the workers from Staffordshire, and this was submitted to the magistrate.  The defending lawyer interjected that this agreement had been signed on a Sunday and was therefore invalid. With much dignity Daniel Maude, Esq., admitted that "business transactions" concluded on a Sunday were not valid, but said that he could not believe that Messrs. Pauling & Henfrey regarded this as a "business transaction"! So without spending very much time asking the worker whether he "regarded" the document as a "business transaction", he told the poor devil that he must either continue working or amuse himself on the treadmill for three months.— 0 Solomon of Manchester! — After this case had been dealt with, Messrs. Pauling & Henfrey brought forward the second accused. His name was Salmon, and he was one of the firm’s old workers who had stopped work. He was accused of having intimidated the new workers into taking part in the strike. The witness — one of these latter — stated that Salmon had taken him by the arm and spoken to him. Daniel Maude, Esq., asked whether the accused had perhaps used threats or beaten him? — No, said the witness. Daniel Maude, Esq., delighted at having found an opportunity to demonstrate his impartiality — after having just fulfilled his duty to the bourgeoisie — declared that there was nothing in the case incriminating the accused. He had every right to take a walk on the public highway and to talk to other people as long as he did not indulge in intimidating words or actions — he was therefore acquitting him. But Messrs. Pauling & Henfrey had at least had the satisfaction, by paying the costs of the case, of having the said Salmon sent to the lock-up for a night — and that was something after all. Nor did Salmon’s happiness last long. For after having been discharged on Thursday, October 31, he was up again before Daniel Maude, Esq., on Tuesday, November 5th, charged with having assaulted Messrs. Pauling & Henfrey in the street. On that same Thursday on which Salmon had been acquitted, a number of Scotsmen arrived in Manchester, decoyed by false statements that the disputes were over and that Pauling & Henfrey could not find enough workers in their district to cope with their extensive contracts. On the Friday a number of Scottish joiners who had been working for some time in Manchester, came to explain the cause of the stoppage to their countrymen. A large number of their fellow-workers — some 400 — gathered around the inn where the Scots were quartered. But these Scotsmen were kept there like prisoners with a foreman on guard at the door. After some time, Messrs. Pauling & Henfrey arrived in order to escort in person their new workers to their place of work. When the group came out, those gathered outside called to the Scots not to take work against the Manchester rules of the trade and not to disgrace their fellow-countrymen. Two of the Scots did in fact lag behind a little and Mr. Pauling himself ran back to drag them forward. The crowd remained quiet, only prevented the group from moving too quickly and called to the Scots not to interfere in other people’s business, to go back home, etc. Mr. Henfrey finally lost his temper; he saw several of his old workers in the crowd, .among them Salmon, and in order to put an end to the affair, he gripped the latter by the arm. Mr. Pauling seized him by the other arm and both shouted for the police with all their might. The police inspector came up and asked what charge was being made against the man, at which both partners were greatly embarrassed! But they said, "We know the man." "Oh," said the inspector, "that’s enough then, we can let him go for the time being." Messrs. Pauling & Henfrey, needing to bring some kind of charge against Salmon, considered the matter for several days until finally, on the advice of their lawyer, they lodged the above charge. After all the witnesses against Salmon had been heard, W. P. Roberts, the "Miners’ Attorney General", the terror of all magistrates, suddenly rose up on behalf of the accused and asked whether he should still call his witnesses, since nothing had been brought against Salmon. Daniel Maude, Esq., let him question his witnesses, who testified that Salmon had behaved calmly until Mr. Henfrey took hold of him. When the proceedings for and against had been concluded, Daniel Maude, Esq., said that he would pass sentence on Saturday. Clearly, the presence of "Attorney General" Roberts led him to think twice before he spoke once.
On Saturday, Messrs. Pauling & Henfrey brought an additional criminal charge of conspiracy and intimidation against three of their old workers — Salmon, Scott and Mellor. By this they hoped to deliver a mortal blow to the craft union and, in order to be secure against the dreaded Roberts, they called in a distinguished barrister from London, Mr. Monk. As his first witness, Mr. Monk produced Gibson, one of the newly engaged Scotsmen, who had also acted as witness against Salmon the previous Tuesday. He declared that on Friday, November 1, as he and his companions came out of the inn, they were surrounded by a crowd of people who pushed and pulled them and that the three accused were among the crowd. Roberts now began to cross-question this witness, confronted him with another worker, and asked whether he, Gibson, had not told this worker the previous night that he had not known he was under oath when he was giving his evidence the previous Tuesday and that he had not really understood what he was supposed to do and say in court. Gibson replied that he did not know the man, he had been with two men the previous evening but could not say whether this man was one of them as it had been dark. It was possible that he said something of the sort since the form of oath in Scotland was different from that in England; he couldn’t quite remember. Mr. Monk then rose and declared that Mr. Roberts had no right to put questions like that, to which Mr. Roberts replied that objections of that kind were quite in place when one was representing a bad cause, but that he had the right to ask what he wanted, not only where the witness was born but also where he had stayed every day since that time, and what he had had to eat every day. Daniel Maude, Esq., confirmed that Mr. Roberts had this right but gave him the fatherly advice to keep to the point as much as possible. Then, after Mr. Roberts had obtained from the witness a statement that he only really began working for Pauling & Henfrey on the day after the incident on which the charge was based, that is, on November 2, he dismissed him. Then Mr. Henfrey himself appeared as a witness and repeated what Gibson had said about the incident. At this, Mr. Roberts asked him: Are you not looking for an unfair advantage over your competitors? Mr. Monk again objected to this question.
Very well, said Mr. Roberts, I will put it more clearly. Mr. Henfrey, do you know that the working hours of the carpenters in Manchester are fixed by certain rules?
Mr. Henfrey: I have nothing to do with those rules, I have the right to make my own rules.
Mr. Roberts: Quite so. On oath, Mr. Henfrey, do you not demand longer working hours from your workers than other building contractors and master carpenters?
Mr. Henfrey: Yes.
Mr. Roberts: How many hours, approximately?
Mr. Henfrey did not know exactly and took out his notebook in order to calculate.
Daniel Maude, Esq.: You need not spend a long time working it out, just tell us roughly how many.
Mr. Henfrey: Well, about an hour in the mornings and an hour in the evenings for six weeks before the time when the lights are usually turned on, and the same for six weeks after the day when it is usual to stop putting on the lights.
Daniel Maude, Esq.: So every one of your workers has to work an extra 72 hours before the lights are turned on and 72 hours after, that is, 144 hours in 12 weeks?
Mr. Henfrey: Yes.
This statement was received with signs of great indignation by the public. Mr. Monk looked angrily at Mr. Henfrey and Mr. Henfrey looked at his barrister in confusion and Mr. Pauling tugged at Mr. Henfrey’s coat-tails — but it was too late; Daniel Maude, Esq., who obviously saw that he would have to play at being impartial again that day, had heard the admission and made it public.
After two unimportant witnesses had been heard, Mr. Monk said that his evidence against the accused was now concluded.
Daniel Maude, Esq., then said that the plaintiff had not made out any case for a criminal investigation against the accused, not having shown that the threatened Scots had been taken on by Pauling & Henfrey before November 1, since there was no proof of a hire contract or employment of the men concerned before November 2, while charge had been lodged on November 1st. Thus on this date the men were not yet employed by Pauling & Henfrey and the accused had every right to try and deter them by every legal means from going to work for Pauling & Henfrey. In reply to this, Mr. Monk said that the defendants had been engaged from the moment they left Scotland and boarded the steamer. Daniel Maude, Esq., remarked that it had indeed been stated that such hire contract had been made out but this document had not been produced. Mr. Monk replied that the document was in Scotland and he asked Mr. Maude to adjourn the case until it could be laid before the court. Mr. Roberts intervened here to say: this was something new to him. Evidence for the plaintiff had been declared concluded and now the plaintiff was demanding that the case be adjourned in order to introduce new evidence. He insisted that the case proceed. Daniel Maude, Esq., decided that both pleas were superfluous since no substantiated charge was before the court — upon which the accused were dismissed.
Meanwhile the workers had likewise not been inactive. Week after week they held meetings in the Carpenters’ Hall or the Socialist Hall, called for aid from the different craft unions, which was given in plenty, never ceased to make known everywhere the behaviour of Pauling & Henfrey and finally sent delegates in all directions in order to inform their fellow craftsmen in all the areas where Pauling & Henfrey were recruiting workers, of the reasons for this recruitment and to prevent them taking work with this firm. Only a few weeks after the strike began there were seven delegates on their way and posters on the street corners in all the big towns in the country warned unemployed carpenters about Pauling & Henfrey. On November 9 some of the delegates who had returned reported on their mission. One of these, named Johnson, who had been in Scotland, described how Pauling & Henfrey’s representative had recruited thirty workers in Edinburgh but as soon as they heard from him the real facts of the case they decided they would sooner starve than go to Manchester in such circumstances. A second delegate had been in Liverpool keeping watch on the arriving steamers, but not a single man had arrived and so he found that he had nothing to do. A third man had been in Cheshire but wherever he went he found he had nothing more to do, for the Northern Star, the workers’ paper, had broadcast the real state of affairs far and wide and had put an end to any desire people had of going to Manchester. Indeed in one town, Macclesfield, the carpenters had already taken a collection in support of the strikers and promised to contribute a further shilling per man should the necessity arise. In other places he was able to stimulate the local craftsmen to initiate such contributions.
In order to provide Messrs. Pauling & Henfrey with another opportunity of coming to an agreement with the workers, all the craftsmen employed in the building trade gathered at the Carpenters’ Hall on Monday, November 18th, elected a deputation to present an address to these gentlemen and marched in procession with flags and emblems to the premises of Pauling & Henfrey. First came the deputation followed by the strike committee, then the carpenters, the brick-moulders and kiln-workers, the day labourers, bricklayers, sawyers, glaziers, plasterers, painters, a band, stonemasons, cabinetmakers. They passed the hotel where their "Attorney General", Roberts, was staying and greeted him with loud hurrahs as they marched by. Arrived at the premises, the deputation fell out while the crowd marched on to Stevenson Square where they were to hold a public meeting. The deputation was received by the police who demanded their names and addresses before allowing them to proceed any further. When they had entered the office, the partners Sharps & Pauling told them that they would accept no written address from a crowd of workers brought together merely for the purpose of intimidation. The deputation denied that this was their aim, since the procession had not even stopped, but had at once gone on its way. While this procession of 5,000 workers continued its march, the deputation was finally received and taken into a room in which were present the Chief Constable, an officer and three newspaper reporters. Mr. Sharps, a partner in Pauling & Henfrey, usurped the Chairman’s seat, remarking that the deputation should be careful what it said as everything would be duly recorded and, in certain circumstances, would be used against them in court.— They now began to ask the deputation what they were complaining about, etc., and said that they wanted to give the men work according to the rules customary in Manchester. The deputation asked if the men picked up in Staffordshire and Scotland were working according to the regulations for craftsmen prevailing in Manchester.
No, was the answer, we have a special arrangement with these men. Then your people are to be given work again, and on the usual conditions? Oh, we are not going to negotiate with any deputation but just let the men come and they will find out on what conditions we are willing to give them work.
Mr. Sharps added that all firms with which he was connected had always treated their workers well and paid them the highest wages. The deputation replied that if, as they had heard, he was associated with the firm of Pauling & Henfrey, this firm had fiercely opposed the best interests of the workers.— A brickmaker, a member of the deputation, was asked what the members of his craft had to complain about.—
Oh, nothing just now, but we’ve had enough.
Oh, you’ve had enough, have you? answered Mr. Pauling with a sneer, and then took the opportunity of delivering them a long lecture about craft unions, strikes, etc., and the misery to which they brought the workers — whereupon one of the deputation remarked they were not by any means disposed to allow their rights to be taken away from them bit by bit, and, for example, to work 144 hours a year for nothing, as was now being demanded.— Mr. Sharps remarked that they ought also to take into account the loss incurred by those taking part in the procession because they were not working that day, as well as the cost of the strike, the loss of wages suffered by the strikers, etc. One of the deputation said:
That’s nobody’s business but ours and we won’t ask you to contribute a farthing from your pocket.
With that the deputation left and reported to the assembled workers in the Carpenters’ Hall, where it was revealed that not only had all those in the area working for Pauling & Henfrey (those who were not carpenters and were therefore not on strike) come to take part in the procession, but that many of the newly imported Scotsmen had also struck that very morning. A painter also declared that Pauling & Henfrey had made the same unjust demands on the painters as they had on the joiners but that they too intended to resist. In order to simplify the whole business and shorten the struggle it was decided that all building workers employed by Pauling & Henfrey should stop work. This they did. The painters stopped work on the following Saturday and the glaziers on the Monday, and on the new theatre for which Pauling & Henfrey had received the contract only two bricklayers and four day labourers were working after a few days instead of 200 men. Some of the new arrivals also stopped work.
Pauling & Henfrey foamed with rage. When three more of the new arrivals stopped work they were hauled before Daniel Maude, Esq., on Friday, November 22. The previous reverses had had no effect. A worker called Reed was the first to be dealt with, charged with breach of contract; a contract which the accused had signed in Derby was laid before the court. Roberts, who was again defending, stated at once that there was not the slightest connection between the contract and the charge, they were two quite different things. Daniel Maude, Esq., saw the point right away once the formidable Roberts had made it, but it took him a long, harassing time to make it clear to the Counsel for the other side. Finally, the latter asked permission to alter the charge and after a while he came back with one that was much worse than the first. When he saw that this would not do either, he asked for a further adjournment of the case and Daniel Maude, Esq., gave him until Friday, November 29, that is, a whole week, to consider the matter. I have not been able to find out whether or not he succeeded because the one issue of the paper which must have contained a report of the verdict is missing from my files. Meanwhile, Roberts went over to the offensive and had several of the recruited workers and one of Pauling & Henfrey’s foremen brought before the court for forcing their way into the house of one of the strikers and assaulting his wife; in two other cases some of the workers on strike had been attacked. To his great regret, Daniel Maude, Esq., had to find all the accused guilty but he dealt with them as leniently as he possibly could and only bound them over to keep the peace themselves in future.
Finally, at the end of December, Messrs. Pauling & Henfrey succeeded in getting sentence against two of their opponents, likewise on charges of assault against one of their workers. But this time the court was not so lenient. Without more ado, it sentenced them to a month’s imprisonment and bound them over to keep the peace after their release.
From here on news about the strike becomes meagre. It was still in full swing on January 18. I have found no later reports. It has probably come to an end like most others; in the course of time Pauling & Henfrey will have secured a sufficient number of workers from distant parts and from a few turncoats from the workers’ side; after a longer or shorter strike and its accompanying misery, for which the strikers will have been consoled by the consciousness that they have nothing to reproach themselves with and that they have helped to maintain the level of wages of their fellow workers, the majority of them will have found jobs elsewhere. And as for the points in dispute, Messrs. Pauling & Henfrey will have learnt that they cannot impose their will so rigorously, since for them also the strike involved considerable loss, and the other employers, after such a fierce struggle, will not think of changing the old rules of the craftsmen carpenters so soon.
Written in the summer and autumn 1845
First published in Das Westphälische Dampfboot,Bielefeld, 1846. I and II
Signed: F. Engels
1. This contract contained the following: the worker pledged himself to work for Pauling & Henfrey for six months and to be satisfied with the wages which they would give him; but Pauling & Henfrey were not bound to keep him for six months and could dismiss him at any moment with a week’s notice, and although Pauling & Henfrey would pay his travelling expenses from Staffordshire to Mancbester, they were to recover them by a weekly deduction of 2 shillings (20 silver groschen) from his wages. How do you like that really marvellous contract? — Note by Engels.