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own words, which were written from Turton, near Bolton, on June 9th, 1834. (Mark the place and the date, they will turn out to be exceedingly important.) Mr. Edmund Ashworth then said to Mr. Edwin Chadwick:
"Full employment in every department was never more easy to be found than now, consequently, wages have advanced in most operative employments, particularly so in the least skilful." "Hand-loom weavers have been much wanted, and their wages advanced, on an average, 10 per This bespeaks a scarcity of labourers here; at the same time, great complaints are made of the surplus population of the agricultural counties.” “The suggestion which I particularly wish to make, is, that in the New [Poor Law Amendment] Bill the greatest possible facility should be afforded to families of this description [agricultural labourers], who should be willing or desirous* of removing from the agricultural counties, where work is scarce, to the manufacturing districts, where it is abundant.” “I am most anxious that every facility be given to the removal of labourers from one county to another, according to the demand for labour; this would have a tendency to equalize wages, as well as prevent in a degree some of the turn-outs which have been of late so prevalent. "
It was upon that letter that the dreadful and murderous system of Migration was founded!- a system which has produced more misery, and caused more deaths, than any scheme which had been before adopted-the effects of which, as the landlords will soon find, are not yet ended.
One would have thought, that no person, after that letter was published, could have had the effrontery to insult the House of Commons, by taunting the landlords "with having applied to the mill-owners to relieve them of their 'surplus' labourers." It was thought that something would be gained by that lie, so, upon the principles of the Leaguers, their representative uttered it.
On the Migration system, and on that letter from Mr. Edmund Ashworth to Mr. Edwin Chadwick, I shall have much to say in future numbers; at present, I wish you to concentrate your thoughts on these two points; the place from whence Mr. Edmund Ashworth made his application to Mr. Edwin Chadwick for your "surplus" population, viz. Turton, near Bolton; and the time when he made it, namely, June 9th, 1834.
* The poor labourers were made "willing and desirous," by the false representations of the Poor Law Assistant Commissioners and their minions, who represented the Leaguers to be the most liberal, humane people alive, and the mills to be the most delightful places on earth! The wretched people were told of "nice easy work, in comfortable places-and such fine clothes, good houses, rare living," &c. By such deceptions, they were induced to leave your fields for the mills of your foes, the Leaguers; where they have been taught to hate you, and to think of you only as tormentors and oppressors.-R.O.
+ I must know, before I have done with Mr. E. Ashworth, why the whole of his correspondence with Mr. Edwin Chadwick was not published. I am told, that there was a special, but secret reason, for keeping back certain parts of the letters. I perceive in the published copies, at certain places, asterisks, thus * * *; and I am assured, that when a verbatim copy was moved for, in the House of Commons, by a friend of mine, there was a good deal of whispering amongst the Whig ministers, but no satisfactory reason was given for rejecting the motion.
When the Parliament meets again, some plan must be adopted to obtain the whole of "Friend" Ashworth's letters, and also those of his friend Greg. I never think of Mr. Edmund Ashworth, while he was inditing that letter, snugly seated in the village of Turton, near Bolton, with his eye directed towards the agricultural labourers in the centre of the county of Essex," but I am reminded of the Psalmist's description of "The wicked sitting in the lurking places of the villages; his eyes being privily set against the poor, lying in wait secretly, as a lion in his den lying in wait to catch the poor."-R.O.
You cannot have forgotten, that there was, at that time, great talk about "manufacturing prosperity," nor, that I assured you, all the reports which you heard about that "prosperity" were, delusive, inasmuch as hundreds of manufacturing operatives were then wandering about, unable to find employment, and those who were employed, were working for excessively low wages.
The object of the inventors and promoters of that ignis fatuus," prosperity" delusion, appears to have been, to coax your poor labourers from their native fields, and induce them to migrate into the mills, for the purpose of enabling the Leaguers to reduce still further their rate of wages, that they might the more easily be able to compete with foreigners, and with those respectable manufacturers who were opposed to the New Poor Law system altogether.
I will not test Mr. Edmund Ashworth's statements by any doubtful evidence. I am enabled to refer to authentic documents, as to the state of the hand-loom weavers in BOLTON at the very time when he represented them to be so well off, and made his request for your labourers to be sent THERE" to equalize [reduce] wages," which, as far as the hand-loom weavers were concerned, he said, had just been "advanced, on an average, ten per cent."
You will, from the evidence which I am about to lay before you, be enabled to form some conception of the condition to which, in the estimation of the Leaguers, (for Mr. Edmund Ashworth is one of the best of them,) the manufacturing operatives ought to be reduced, or, in plain terms, you will comprehend their intended result of Free Trade to the operatives, who must, after that experiment, be entirely left to the mercy and the management of the Leaguers.
It is a singular fact, but it is true, that while Mr. Edmund Ashworth was contemplating a reduction of the hand-loom weavers' wages, they, (the hand-loom weavers,) feeling the almost unbearable state of destitution in which they were at that very time existing, were urging Parliament to adopt measures to raise their wages! as were also many of the clergy, magistrates, gentry, and manufacturers of BOLTON! and a select committee of the House of Commons was appointed "to examine the petitions presented to the House from the Hand-loom Weavers, and to report their observations thereon." That select committee commenced its sittings on the 16th June, 1834, (just one week after Mr. Edmund Ashworth had written his never-to-be-forgotten letter to Mr. Edwin Chadwick,) they continued sitting until the 4th August of the same year, when they made their Report, which the House of Commons immediately ordered to be printed. It is from that "Report" that I shall test Mr. Edmund Ashworth's humanity, when, at that very time, he recommended your "surplus" labourers to be sent into the neighbourhood of Bolton.
Mr. Thomas Myerscough, a manufacturer at BOLTON (Mr. Edmund Ashworth's town), being examined on the 15th July, 1834 (after the 10 per cent. advance of wages, alleged by Mr. Edmund Ashworth, had been obtained), said:
I admit generally there is a good deal of distress in the country, and that the weaving body do look for some measure which will better their condition, by raising their wages, or at least prevent their being still more depressed than they are now, which depression is said to be to such a point that these men are in the greatest state of poverty, unhappiness, and discontent."
From the examination of Mr. John Makin (July 16, 1834), a manufacturer, again, of BOLTON, I extract the following question and answer :—
"4891. Can you state the reasons for these Petitions that have come from Bolton, signed by the clergy, and gentry, and manufacturers, and weavers, complaining that there is a great deal of distress, and that they think there might be some relief granted, by having a system adopted by which the masters and workmen might have the power of fixing the price of weaving from time to time?
"The reason of that is this, that ever since the introduction of muslin manufactures at Bolton, wages have been declining almost every year, and with that reduction of wages there has been an increase in the facility of the production of the cloth; and in consequence of that state of things, the condition of the hand-loom weavers has deteriorated so much, that it is in great danger of either extinguishing the trade altogether, OR OF PRODUCING A RUPTURE IN SOCIETY; and I believe that it is from a feeling of that sort, as well as from a feeling of philanthropy, that the magistrates, and clergy, and gentry, and others signed these petitions."
Now, Sir, you should know, that the object of those petitioners was, to obtain the establishment of Boards of Trade to fix the minimum of wages, so as to prevent the selfish, avaricious manufacturers, the Leaguers, having the power to lower the wages of the weavers to a starvation price. The honourable manufacturers also wished thereby to protect themselves from the greedy and desperate competition of the covetous. Mr. John Makin was again examined on the 17th of July, 1834; from that examination I quote the following:
แ "4974. Can you tell the Committee what description of food the weavers are generally obliged to put up with?
The description of food is chiefly oatmeal, porridge, and potatoes, with occasionally a smal quantity of butchers' meat, which they may obtain once in the course of a week.
4975. Are there any of them that are not able to procure a sufficient quantity of that coarse food, with the wages they now earn?
I have made a calculation, by which I estimate, that if a man has to support himself and wife and five children, with the assistance of two children and his wife labouring with him, they will not be able to earn, for food and clothing, more than 2 d. per day. I was not aware of the state of things, although I was familiarly acquainted with the trade, until I sat down and made a caleulation for myself, and I must confess that I was startled with the fact.
"4976. Then the distress of the weavers far exceeded what you had any conception of, till you made the inquiry from your own books, and from pursuing the inquiry to other sources, that enabled you to come to those conclusions ?
66 It did.
"4977. If they are so distressed for food, how are they off for clothing?
"I cannot recollect an instance but one, where any weaver of mine has bought a new jacket for
"4978. Then they are literally clothed in rags ?
"Yes. I am only sorry I did not bring one or two jackets, to let the committee see the average state in which they are clothed."
"4979. Is their bedding and their furniture of the same inadequate description with their food and their clothing?
"I have not been in many of the weavers' bed-rooms, but I have been in some, and they appear to be very bare of clothing; I have known some who have not had a blanket at all, merely a coarse coverlid, of the value perhaps of half-a-crown when new.
"4980. What is the nature of their furniture?
"I have observed both on BOLTON MOOR and at Torkholes, where I go to manufacture, that they are generally without chairs; I have seen many houses with only two or three three-legged stools, and some I have seen without a stool or chair, with only a tea-chest to put their clothes in, and to sit upon."
Richard Needham, who had been a weaver at BOLTON (Mr. Edmund Ashworth's town again) forty-nine years, was examined by the committee, 18th July, 1834. From his examination, I make the following short extract:—
** 5583. You have given in a statement showing the amount of money wages paid to 458 plain and fancy cotton-weavers, men, women, and young persons, for one month, April, 1834, taken from the books of one of the most respectable manufacturers in the borough of BOLTON, Mr. Jonathan Hitchen; this shows that the earnings of those 458 amounts [for each] to only 5s. 10d. a-week, the necessary reductions that have to be made from the 5s. 10d., reduce that sum to 4s. 4 d. for food, clothing, and other incidental expenses?
"5584. Those 458 persons would have dependents upon them for subsistence as well? Yes.
“5585. Do you estimate the number dependent for support upon this 4s. 41d. to be three persons? "Yes." [Ten farthings a day each!]
Other witnesses described the distress of the hand-loom weavers in different places as most heart-rending. One witness said, respecting them, that their condition was (6 Misery that it is difficult to describe, and difficult to believe if described!" I have, however, confined myself, in these extracts, to the state of the weavers in BOLTON, where Mr. Edmund Ashworth told Mr. Edwin Chadwick, as a reason for suggesting the importation of your "surplus" population, that "hand-loom weavers have been much wanted, and their wages advanced, on an average, 10 per cent."
This ONE FACT will surely suffice to explain the nature of the principles of Free Trade, which are the creed of the Leaguers. Truly, "The tender mercies of the wicked are cruel!" I conclude, as I began this appalling statement, by the only explanation which can be given for Mr. Edmund Ashworth's conduct,"The love of money is the root of all evil!"
I earnestly entreat that you, and every person who reads thus far, will shut up the Fleet Papers, immediately open the BIBLE, and read aloud the 10th Psalm.
You cannot think how I rejoice, when I remember, that, at that time, I endeavoured to convince you of all these truths, albeit, I incurred your displeasure thereby.
The Leaguers have occupied so much space, that I have none for the letter of William Dodd, their Cripple. Next week, however, you shall have his letter.
I am, your Prisoner,
P.S. It is pleasing, after tracing the slimy track of the covetous, to mark the brilliant path of benevolence. I fill the remaining space with extracts from my "Rent Roll."
May 22-Mr. Coulson, Kingsland, (a stranger to me,) left me half-a-crown. 24-My very kind friend, Mr. W. Thurnall, near Cambridge, gave me 57. 25-Mr. Allsop, London, brought me a cream cheese.
Mr. Warren, Bolton, presented me with three volumes.
26-Mr. James Brooke, Kirkburton, 1s. Bless the man-he forced me to take it.
When shall I find room for all? I am not yet arrived at June last! What a "Rent Roll" is this one of mine !-R.O.
Printed by Vincent Torras & Co., 7, Palace Row, New Road, London.
Being Letters to
THOMAS THORNHILL, Esq.,
His Prisoner in the Fleet.
WITH OCCASIONAL COMMUNICATIONS FROM FRIENDS.
“The Altar, the Throne, and the Cottage."-"Property has its duties, as well as its rights.” The Husbandman that laboureth, must be first partaker of the fruits." "He shall judge the poor of the people, He shall save the children of the needy, and shall breas in pieces the Oppressor."
VOL. II.-No. 5.
LONDON, SATURDAY, JANUARY 29, 1842.
THOMAS THORNHILL, Esq.
The Fleet Prison.
SIR, I am in a solemn mood! The grim messenger whe in turn, fails not to wait on all, is now calling for one who is very dear to me. Death demands the aged sire of my wife,-imprisonment forbids that I should be present with his family to surrender him! My wife is torn from me to watch her father dying, and catch his admonitions, as in faint accents they drop from his lips, while life is ebbing! I may not be there, to listen and to soothe! "Tis well you knew it! Maybe, the thought that you have the power, at such a time, to separate us, will, just now, gratify you,-the day is coming when you will repent! In that hour, which waits on you, as on us all, when you will require what comfort your children and your friends can yield, may you be forgiven. Then, may your children, and their partners too, be present, to render you all the solace which fondness can inspire. May you also be ready, as my father is, to meet Death's messenger, nor lack a single friend!
Thomas Tatham, the good old man of God, would gladly have seen me in his chamber of death, there to have given me his blessing. I may not receive it from his lips-by my wife he sent it me, in these refreshing words: "Oh! I do love Oastler-God Almighty bless Oastler-He has blessed him-He does bless him and He will bless him. He sent him to prison for that purpose, and for His own Glory. Do, when you write, give my affectionate, my dying love to him!" Thus spake the departing saint. Those words are treasured by me more than riches. The blessing of such a soldier of Jesus Christ, just as he is bidding farewell to all on earth, and entering on his eternal reward, will rest on me, until we meet where angry finite man no more can separate!
Peace is in the chamber of the dying Christian! He has surveyed the passage. He is well aquainted with the Guide, and, after spending sixty years in service of his Divine Master, he fears not, with Him, to enter the dark valley of the shadow of Death. He is dying, or, to speak more properly, he is entering on Life, in his 8 1st year.
Thank God! I have administered to him all the comfort which I can-his daughter's cheering presence! I am thankful that prison and distance have not robbed me of the good old man's blessing!