The Chartist Movement (1)
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CHAPTER I

THE CHARTER AND ITS ORIGIN


THE Chartist Movement, which occupied so large a space in English public affairs during the ten years 1838 to 1848, was a movement whose immediate object was political reform and whose ultimate purpose was social regeneration.  Its programme of political reform was laid down in the document known as the "People's Charter," issued in the spring of 1838.  Its social aims were never defined, but they were sufficiently, though variously, described by leading men in the movement.  It was a purely working-class movement, originating exclusively and drawing its whole following from the industrialised and unpropertied working class which had but recently come into existence.  For the most part it was a revolt of this body against intolerable conditions of existence.  That is why its programme of social amelioration was vague and negative.  It was an attempt on the part of the less educated portion of the community to legislate for a new and astounding condition of society whose evils the more enlightened portion had been either helpless or unwilling to remedy.  The decisive character of the political aims of the Chartists bespeaks the strength of political tradition in England.

    The "People's Charter" is a draft of an Act of Parliament, a Bill to be presented to the House of Commons.[1]  It is drawn up in a clear and formal but not too technical style, with preamble, clauses, and penalties, all duly set forth.  It is a lengthy document, occupying some nineteen octavo pages, but brevity itself in comparison with a fully-drawn Bill for the same purpose from the hands of a Parliamentary draughtsman.  The preamble is as follows:


    Whereas to insure, in as far as it is 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 immediately subject to, the whole people, and which completely represents their feelings and interests,

    And whereas the Commons' 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 on it, to be made the faithful and accurate representation of the people's wishes, feelings, and interests.


    The definite provisions fall under six heads — the famous "Six Points" of the Charter.  First, every male adult is entitled to the franchise in his district after a residence of three months.[2]  Second, voting is by ballot.  Third, there will be three hundred constituencies divided as equally as possible on the basis of the last census, and rearranged after each census.  Fourth, Parliament is to be summoned and elected annually.  Fifth, there is to be no other qualification for election to Parliament beyond the approval of the electors — that is, no property qualification.  Sixth, members of Parliament are to be paid for their services.

    Besides these fundamentals of a democratic Parliamentary system, there are minor but highly important provisions.  The Returning Officers are to be elected simultaneously with the members of Parliament, and they are to be paid officials.  All elections are to be held on one and the same day, and plural voting is prohibited under severe penalties.  There is no pauper disqualification.[3] All the expenses of elections are to be defrayed out of an equitable district-rate.  Canvassing is illegal, and there are to be no public meetings on the day of election.  A register of attendance of the members of Parliament is to be kept — a logical outcome of payment.  For the infringement of the purity of elections, for plural voting, canvassing, and corrupt practices, imprisonment is the only penalty; for neglect, fines.[4]

    As an arrangement for securing the purity of elections and the adequate representation of public opinion in the House of Commons, the "People's Charter" is as nearly perfect as could be desired, and if a sound democratic government could be achieved by the perfection of political machinery, the Chartist programme would accomplish this desirable end.  The Chartists, like the men of 1789 in France, placed far too great a faith in the beneficent effects of logically devised democratic machinery.  This is the inevitable symptom of political inexperience.  We shall nevertheless see that there were Chartists, and those the best minds in the movement, who realised that there were other forces working against democracy which could not be removed by mechanical improvements, but must be combated by a patient education of the mind and a building up of the material welfare of the common people — the forces of ignorance, vice, feudal and aristocratic tradition.

    The political Chartist programme is now largely incorporated into the British Constitution, though we have wisely rejected that multiplication of elections which would either exhaust public interest or put an end to the stability and continuity of administration and policy.  In itself the Chartist Movement on its political side represents a phase of an agitation for Parliamentary Reform which dates in a manner from the reign of Elizabeth.[5]  The agitation began therefore when Parliament itself began to play a decisive part in public affairs, and increased in vehemence and scope according as the importance of Parliament waxed.

    The abuses of the representative system were already recognised and turned to advantage by politicians, royal and popular, during the latter half of the sixteenth and the first half of the seventeenth century; but beyond a single timid attempt at reform by James I. nothing was attempted until the great politico-religious struggle between 1640 and 1660.  It is here that we must look for the origins of modern radical and democratic ideas.  The fundamentals of the representative system came up for discussion, and in the Instrument of Government, the written constitution which established the Protectorate in 1653, a drastic scheme of reform, including the normalisation of the franchise and a sweeping redistribution of seats, was made.  In the preliminaries to this the question whether true representation was of persons or of property, which goes to the root of the matter, was debated long and earnestly by the Army in 1647.  In the debate on the Agreement of the People, the Radical and Whig standpoints are clearly exhibited.[6]


Mr. Pettus—Wee judge that all inhabitants that have nott lost their birthright should have an equall voice in Elections.

Rainborough—I think its cleare that every man that is to live under a Government, ought first by his owne consent to putt himself under that Government.

Ireton—. . . You must fly for refuge to an absolute naturall right. . . . For my parte I think itt is noe Right att all.  I think that noe person hath a right to an interest or share in the disposing or determining of the affaires of the kingdome and in chusing those that shall determine what lawes wee shall bee ruled by heere, noe person hath a right to this, that hath nott a permanent fixed interest in this kingdome.


    Here obviously the question of manhood or property suffrage is the issue.  Colonel Rich declared that manhood suffrage would be the end of property.


    Those that have node interest in the kingdom will make itt their interest to choose those that have noe interest.  Itt may happen that the majority may by law, nott in a confusion, destroy propertie: there may bee a law enacted that there shall bee an equality of goods and estate.[7]


    There was at the same time a demand for short and regular Parliaments, and that elections should be made "according to some rule of equality or proportion" based upon "the respective rates they (the counties and boroughs) bear in the common charges and burdens of the kingdome . . . to render the House of Commons as neere as may bee an equall representative of the whole body of the People that are to elect."  Parliament was to be elected biennially and to sit not more than eight months or less than four.[8]

    Here, therefore, is the nucleus of a Radical Programme: Manhood Suffrage, Short Parliaments, and Equal Representation.  We have even a hint at the doctrine of "absolute naturall right," which lies at the base of modern democratic theory since the French Revolution, and which found an echo in the minds of all Chartists two hundred years after the famous debates at Putney.  With the downfall of the Commonwealth such conceptions of abstract political justice were snowed under by the Whig-Tory reaction.  Henceforth both parties stoutly upheld the "stake in the kingdom" idea of representation.  The height of this reaction came in the High Tory days of Queen Anne, when the legal foundations of the aristocratic regime were laid. The imposition of a property qualification upon would-be members of Parliament dates from 1710, when it was enacted that the candidate for a county must possess £600 a year and for a borough £300 a year, in both cases derived from landed property.[9]  This act was passed in the face of some Whig opposition, as the Whigs would have made exceptions in favour of the wealthy merchants of their party.  Two years later followed the first of the enactments throwing election expenses upon the candidate.[10]  A further diminution of popular control resulted from the Septennial Act, though this was a Whig measure.

    The Radical tradition, however, was not dead but sleeping.  It lived on amongst the dissenting and nonconformist sections, whose ancestors had fought and debated in the days of Cromwell and had been evicted in 1662.  The revival of Nonconformity under the stimulus of Methodism, the growth of political and historical criticism during the eighteenth century, and the growing estrangement between the House of Commons and the people at large, brought about a resurrection of Radicalism.  In the second half of the century the Radical Programme appeared in full vigour.

    The first plank of the Radical platform to be brought into public view was the shortening of the duration of Parliaments.  In 1744 leave to bring in a Bill establishing Annual Parliaments was refused only by a small majority.  In 1758 another Bill was refused leave by a much more decisive vote.  In 1771 Alderman Drawbridge failed to obtain leave to introduce a similar measure, although he had the moral support of no less important persons than Chatham and Junius.[11]  In the same year a Wilkite society recommended that Parliamentary candidates should pledge themselves to support a Bill to "shorten the duration of Parliaments and to reduce the number of Placemen and Pensioners in the House of Commons, and also to obtain a more fair and equal representation of the people."[12]

    By this time the flood of controversy aroused by the Wilkes cases was in full flow, and the tide of Radical opinion was swelled by the revolt of the American Colonies.  In 1774 Lord Stanhope, and in 1776 the famous Major John Cartwright, published more sweeping plans of Parliamentary Reform.  Cartwright's scheme is set forth in the pamphlet, Take your Choice.  Annual Parliaments and the payment of members are defended and advocated on the ground that they were "the antient practice of the Constitution," an argument which was a mainstay of the Chartist leaders.  Payment of members was in force down to the seventeenth century, the oft-cited Andrew Marvell receiving wages from his Hull constituents as late as 1678.  In claiming Annual Parliaments as a return to ancient ways Cartwright had the authority, such as it was, of Swift.[13]  Universal suffrage, vote by ballot, and the abolition of plural voting also found a place in Cartwright's scheme, but he maintained the property qualification for members of Parliament.[14]  Thus four of the six "points" of the Charter were already admitted into the Radical programme.  It only required a few years to add equal electoral districts and the abolition of the property qualification.

    These were added by a committee of reformers under the guidance of Fox in 1780.  The whole programme figured in the interrupted speech of the Duke of Richmond in the House of Lords in the same year and in the programme of the Society of the Friends of the People (1792-95).  The Chartists were not unaware of the long ancestry of their principles.[15]  There was a prophetic succession of Radicals between 1791, when the first working men's Radical society—the London Corresponding Society—was founded, and 1838, when the Charter was published.  Down to the outbreak of the French Revolution the Radical faith in England, as in France, was mainly confessed in middle-class and some aristocratic circles.  Wilkes, Fox, Sawbridge, and the Duke of Richmond are types of these early Radicals.  With the opening of the States-General and the rapid increase of terrorism in France the respectable English Radicals began to shelve their beliefs.  On the other hand, the lower classes rallied strongly to the cause of Radical reform, and the Radical programme fell into their keeping, remaining their exclusive property for the next forty years.  When the middle class in the days after Waterloo returned to the pursuit of Parliamentary Reform, it was reform of a much less ambitious character.  The working classes still held to the six points.  During these forty years Radicalism became a living faith amongst the working class.  It had had its heroes and its prophets and its martyrs, and when the salvation promised by the Whig reform of 1832 had proved illusory, it was perfectly natural to raise once more, in the shape of the "People's Charter," the ancient standard of popular reform.

    By this time, however, the six points had acquired a wholly different significance.  In the minds of the early Radicals they had represented the practical realisation of the vague notions of natural right.  The programme was a purely political one, and was scarcely connected either with any specific projects of social or other reforms, or with any particular social theory.  It represented an end in itself, the realisation of democratic theory.  By 1838 the Radical programme was recognised no longer as an end in itself, but as the means to an end, and the end was the social and economic regeneration of society.

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CHAPTER II

THE INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION AND ITS CONSEQUENCES


THE years 1815-1840 represent the critical years of the Industrial Revolution.  The inventions and discoveries of the previous century had provided the framework of a new industrial society, but the real social development, with the ideas, political and economic, and the new social relationships which grew out of it, appeared in full force only in the generation which followed the battle of Waterloo.  It was then that the victory of machine production became an acknowledged fact, and with it the supremacy of large-scale production and large-scale organisation over domestic production and organisation.  The rapid growth of production for the foreign market gave to industry a more speculative and competitive character, whilst the lack of real knowledge and experience gave rise to rash and ill-considered ventures which helped to give so alarming a character to the crises of 1816, 1826, and 1836.  Though fluctuation in trade was not the creation of the Industrial Revolution, it seems clear that the increase of large-scale production for distant markets, with a demand which was seldom gauged with any exactitude, caused these fluctuations to be enormously emphasised, so that the crises above mentioned (with the last of which the Chartist Movement is closely connected) were proportionately far more destructive than depressions in trade now are.  The rapid accumulation of capital and the development of credit facilities aided in the rise of a class of employers who were not the owners of the capital which they controlled.  Thus the social distance which separated employers and employed was widened as capital seemed to become more and more impersonal.  Under the old domestic system the employer resided as a rule in the neighbourhood of his work-people, but the new captains of industry, whose fathers had perhaps been content to follow the example of the domestic master by living next to their workshops and factories, built themselves country houses farther away from the town, whilst their employees festered amidst the appallingly insanitary streets and alleys which had grown up around the factories.  This separation was emphasised when, with the rise of joint-stock companies, the employer became practically the agent for a number of persons who had no other connection with or interest in industry than those arising out of the due payment of dividends.  Such conditions arouse no particular feelings of discontent at the present day, but at a time when organisations for mutual protection against oppression were very infrequent and seldom very effective, it was felt that the personal and social contact of the employer and his workmen was the only guarantee of sympathetic treatment.[16]  This divorce of classes in industrial society was making headway everywhere, even in those industries which were still under domestic arrangements, as the industry fell more and more into the hands of large wholesale houses.  Crude ideas of class war were making their presence felt amongst the working people, whilst employers, who were influenced by the equally one-sided political economy of the period, tended to regard the interests of their class as paramount and essential to the development of national prosperity.  The bane of the industrial system was the encouragement it gave to the rise of a brood of small capitalists but little removed in culture and education from the working people themselves, slender of resources, precarious in position, and therefore unable to abate one jot of the advantage which their position gave them over their workmen, often unscrupulous and fraudulent, and generally hated by those who came under their sway.  There was as yet no healthy public opinion such as at present reacts with some effect upon industrial relationships, though such an opinion was growing up by the year 1840.  Ignorance allowed many abuses to flourish, such as the hideous exploitation of women and children in mines and collieries as well as in other non-regulated industries.  Working men might with reason feel that they were isolated, neglected, and exposed to the oppression of a social system which was not of their own making or choosing, but which, as they thought, was not beyond the control of their united power.

    The transformation of industrial organisation from the domestic to the large-scale system of production was by no means completed in the year 1840.  It is even doubtful whether the large-scale system was as yet the predominant one.  The weaving trade, the hosiery trade, and the hardware industry as a whole were carried on under systems which were either domestics or at least occupied a transitional position between the old and the new systems.  Even in the mining industry the influence of large capitalists was by no means universal, as an examination of the Reports of the inquiries into the Truck System and into the employment of children in 1842 and 1843 will show.[17]  It was in these as yet unrevolutionised or only partially revolutionised industries that the worst abuses and the most oppressive conditions prevailed — abuses which are erroneously supposed to be the outcome of the developed "capitalistic" system.

    By the eighteenth century domestic industry was in general under capitalistic control.  Whilst maintaining outwardly the organisation as it flourished in the heyday of the gilds, the system had really undergone a radical change.  The small, independent, but associated producers of the Middle Ages had been able to maintain themselves because they had only to satisfy the demands of a fairly well known and only slowly developing market.  Custom was strong and regulated largely the relations between producer and consumer, and between master, journeymen, and apprentices.  Rates of pay, prices, hours of labour, qualities, and kinds of output were all fixed by custom and tradition which often received the sanction of the law of the land.  Gradually the market grew and demand became less easy to gauge.  This caused a new factor to enter the organisation — the merchant manufacturer, whose function it was to attend to the marketing of goods produced in each one particular industry.  The wider the distance in point of time and place between producers and consumers, the more important did the functions of the merchant manufacturer become, until he, in fact, controlled the industry by virtue of his possession of capital.  Without capital the gap between producer and consumer could not be bridged.  Goods might now be produced many months before they were consumed, and sold long before the purchase money was handed over.  Furthermore, the exhaustion of local supplies of raw material in some industries and the introduction of industries dependent upon foreign supplies — such as silk and cotton — rendered the co-operation of accumulated capital essential.  Thus the master manufacturers lost their independence and became mere links between the merchant capitalist and a hierarchy of employees.  The journeymen and apprentices sank one step lower in consequence.  So far the influence of the capitalist merchant left the organisation of labour untouched.  Gradually, however, the desire to extend operations, the growth of capital, and the natural development of the markets for goods induced a desire to cheapen production.  Forthwith came a greater specialisation and division of labour.  Apprenticeship ceased to be essential to good workmanship, because an all-round knowledge of the processes of production was no longer requisite, but only special skill in one branch.  The Act of Apprentices of 1562 fell into oblivion in many trades, and there grew up a generation of mere journeymen who would remain journeymen to the end of the chapter.  The master workman became a mere agent, often for a distant, seldom seen, employer.  Where apprenticeship still lingered, it was often a means of exploiting the labour of children.  The customary relationships which had governed wages and regulated disputes lost all meaning, and competitive notions were substituted for them.

    In some industries this development went on faster and farther than in others.  In the spinning trade specialisation had early on caused a series of mechanical inventions which by 1790 culminated in the application of steam-power and brought into being the factory system of production.  In this the lot of the worker, though bad, was better than that of the domestic industrialist of the succeeding generation.  In the weaving trade technical difficulties delayed the introduction of efficient machinery till after the battle of Waterloo, whilst in some cases where machinery was available prejudice and conservatism delayed its introduction.  Whilst therefore in the spinning trade the transformation was quick and merciful, in the weaving trades it was slow and terribly destructive.  The Government Reports of the time give a very vivid picture of the forces of disintegration and reorganisation at work, and show how efficient an engine of oppression the domestic system could be when the domestic spirit and atmosphere had gone out of it, and an eager, competitive, and commercial spirit had come into it.

    In the Coventry silk trade, of which we have an admirable account,[18] control of the industry was at the beginning of the nineteenth century in the hands of merchant manufacturers of the type above described.  Labour was organised under the master weaver who owned looms at which he employed journeymen and apprentices, although apprenticeship was already going out of fashion.  When, however, the boom in trade, which was caused by the temporary disappearance of foreign competition during the war, came to an end in 1815, it brought about great changes in the trade.  Control had passed to the large wholesale houses of London and Manchester.[19]  The large profits had caused many master weavers to become independent traders, backed by the credit of the London houses.  When the crash came they were unable to hold out and became either agents for the London houses to which they supplied goods on contract, or they fell back into the ranks of journeymen.  In any case the London houses came to be the direct employers of labour and the master weavers were mere middlemen.  Regular apprenticeship ceased altogether in many branches during the trade boom, and a new system of apprenticeship was introduced which was in fact a means of obtaining cheap child labour.  Prices and wages fell, owing to the competition of machine-made goods from Manchester and Macclesfield, owing to the substitution of cotton for silk goods, and owing to the easier access to the trade.  Competitive rates of wages were substituted for the customary rates which had obtained under the old system.  Collective bargaining and attempts to get Parliamentary sanction for fixed wage-rates were from time to time resorted to.  The latter course was uniformly unsuccessful, but the success of the attempts at collective bargaining depended upon the facilities which the weavers had for combined action.  In the town of Coventry, where the labour was concentrated and the old traditions still survived,[20] the recognition of the weavers' standard of life was still effective, but in the country villages the weavers were dispersed, ignorant, and wholly at the mercy of unscrupulous employers.[21]  In these districts where the worst-paid work was done, and wages were incredibly low — four or five shillings a week — there seems to have been a total absence of any civilising medium.  Education was almost unknown, and the parishes were served by clergy who were non-resident and scarcely ever visited them.  In Coventry itself wages stood in 1838 much where they had been in the latter years of the eighteenth century, but the extraordinary complexity of the organisation in 1838 [22] makes it impossible to say more than the Government Commissioner — that the Coventry weavers were relatively worse off, compared with other classes,[23] than they had formerly been.  Others had prospered; they had stood still.  Besides, a weaver, who was middle-aged in 1838, could easily remember the time when he earned twice as much for the same work.[24]  Such memories, in the absence of real knowledge as to the causes of such changes, were likely to be anything but soothing, and to cause men to give a ready belief to the easy explanations of the socialistic orators and pamphleteers of the time.[25]  In fact the only persons who thought at all upon political questions were frankly socialist.

    The Coventry trade suffered, as did all others to a greater or less degree, from enormous fluctuations.  In December 1831 two thirds of all the looms in the town were idle,[26] whilst in November 1838 scarcely any were unemployed.  It was calculated that on the whole there were four persons doing work which could be accomplished by three working full time.  This state of affairs was encouraged previous to 1834 by the abuses of poor relief, which, as the Commissioner remarks, merely subsidised labour for the distant London houses and helped to keep down wages by creating a swollen reserve of labour.[27]  In 1830 the poor rates were used to bribe electors (as all weavers who had served a regular apprenticeship were enfranchised), and were more than trebled in consequence.

    In spite of these drawbacks the Coventry weavers were perhaps the most fortunate survivors of the old state of affairs.  Their neighbours of the immediate vicinity were far worse off.  They pursued, as the Commissioner thought, almost an animal existence.  There were perhaps twenty thousand individuals in a state of extreme destitution, filth, and degradation, in the town of Nuneaton and its neighbourhood.  It is pleasing to read that things had once been worse.[28]

    The silk-weavers were, of all those engaged in the trade of handloom-weaving, much the best situated.  The worst off were the cotton-weavers.  It is not easy to say exactly how many handloom cotton-weavers there were in 1835 or 1838.  It was estimated that there were in the Glasgow area in 1838 36,000 handlooms devoted mainly to cotton,[29] but in a small percentage of cases to a mixed silk and cotton fabric.  In Carlisle there were nearly 2000; in the Manchester district from 8000 to 10,000.  In Bolton there were 3000.  Looms were very numerous also in the Blackburn-Colne area, and in the Accrington-Todmorden district.[30]  Perhaps there were more than 25,000 handlooms in Lancashire, which number, added to the figures above given, will give over 60,000 handlooms in all devoted to cotton-weaving, inclusive of the number in which mixed fabrics were woven.  An estimate made at Carlisle gave an average of two persons to each loom; in Manchester of two and one-third,[31] which suggests that between 120,000 and 150,000 individuals were in 1838 still dependent upon the precarious trade of handloom cotton-weaving.  As the Committee of 1834-35 estimated the total number of handloom weavers in all four branches (cotton, linen, wool, silk) as 840,000, this estimate is perhaps not exaggerated.  The cotton-weavers did not form any very considerable proportion of the population of Lancashire — perhaps 60,000 or 70,000 out of a million and a quarter in 1838; but as they were concentrated in a comparatively small area, and as there were amongst them old men, who in the halcyon days of handloom-weaving had acquired knowledge and culture and could make their influence felt by other people, they attracted considerable attention.

    The comparative slowness with which machinery was applied to weaving was due to several causes.  There was the technical difficulty; there was the very heavy cost of the machines, and there was the period of abnormally high prices at the beginning of the nineteenth century which encouraged manufacturers to produce on the old lines so as to reap the immediate profits with as little capital outlay as possible.  A great boom in handloom-weaving marked the years 1795-1805.  Wages were high owing to the abnormal demand for weavers as compared with spinners.  The industry was swamped by an influx of unskilled hands who quickly learned sufficient to enable them to earn vastly more than they had earned elsewhere.  Irish labourers poured into Lancashire and Glasgow.  A flood of small masters appeared and for a while prospered.  The end of the war brought on a terrible collapse, as the figures given will show.  A cambric weaver, who earned from twenty to twenty-four shillings a week in the years 1798-1803, was earning from twelve to sixteen shillings during the years 1804-1816, after which he could earn no more than six or seven shillings.  Prices for weaving in some cases fell as much as 80 per cent during the same period.[32]  This collapse was rendered more destructive by the more rapid introduction of power-looms after the period of abnormal trade was over.  Thus in 1803 there were but 2400 such looms; in 1820, 12,150; in 1829 there were 45,000; in 1835 nearly 100,000, of which 90,000 were used in the cotton trade alone.[33]  The lot of the weavers was not improved by the subterfuges of the small employers, who cut and abated wages without mercy in their efforts to avoid bankruptcy.  Though the number of handloom-weavers constantly decreased, the process was delayed by the influx of still poorer labourers from Ireland, and by the practice of the weavers, in many cases compelled by poverty, of bringing up their children to the loom, a practice which was encouraged by the evil state of the conditions of labour in the factories, which were often the only alternative.

    By 1835 the handloom cotton-weavers were mostly employed by large manufacturers, who in many cases had power-loom factories as well.  Thus the handloom-weavers fell into two classes — those who competed with power and those who did not.  The former were the worse off.  They formed a kind of fringe around the factory, a reserve of labour to be utilised when the factory was overworked.  Thus they were employed only casually, but helped, with the aid of doles out of the poor rates, to keep down the general level of wages for weaving in and out of the factory.  Terrible are the descriptions of the privations of these men.  The weavers of Manchester made a return in 1838 of 856 families of 4563 individuals whose average earnings amounted to two shillings and a penny per head per week.  Of this amount one-half was devoted to food and clothing.  Exactly half of these poor souls lived on only one-half of these amounts — or one penny per day for food and clothing.[34]  Such reports are confirmed from other towns such as Carlisle, where the average earnings were somewhat, but little, larger.[35]  A much smaller average was reported by the weavers of Ashton-under-Lyne.[35]  Without relying wholly on these ex parte statements, it is clear from the general consensus of reports that wages of one penny an hour for a seventy hours' week were frequent, and even general.  The Commissioner said that it was unwise to tell the whole truth on this point, as it was either discredited or gave the impression that such evils were beyond remedy.[36]

    It is not to be supposed that the case of the handloom weavers was a case of exploitation of industrious and honest men by unscrupulous employers.  The reports make it abundantly clear that the trade had become the refuge for cast-offs from other trades.  There were, however, cases of real hardship, especially where old weavers were concerned.  Their lot was exceedingly hard, as they could remember days of prosperity, and often possessed knowledge and education which only served to embitter those memories.  The case of some of the Irish immigrants was also hard, because they had been enticed into England by manufacturers for the purpose of reducing wages and breaking strikes.[37]

    Against bad masters these poor men had little protection.  Combined action was impossible; there were no funds to support a strike; and the least threat of such proceedings brought into use more power-looms.  In the distressful days of 1836-42 labour was a drug in the market, and to transfer to another industry was therefore possible to very few.  The reformed Parliament was not unsympathetic;[38] it inquired twice, in 1834 and 1838-40, but could not devise a remedy, though it could and did understand the nature of the evil.  To relieve such a body of men out of poor rates in such a way as to raise them in the scale of citizenship was impossible in a generation which applauded the deterrent poor law of 1834.  To men who had for years besought Parliament to remedy their ills, the Poor Law Amendment Act must have come as a piece of cruel and calculated tyranny, and have completed the alienation of the weavers and similarly situated classes from the established order of things.

    The system under which wages were paid in the weaving trade was a source of immense irritation and oppression.  Wages were always subject to deductions.  Some of these abatements were payments for the preparation of the beam ready for weaving, which was an operation which no weaver could perform for himself.  These were sanctioned by custom, but others were not.  Wholesale deductions were made for faults in weaving.  The weaver had legal aid against unjust abatements of this sort, but as he received no pay till the question had been submitted to arbitration, poverty usually compelled him to submit at once to the extortion.[39]  By this means nominal wages could be largely reduced by tyrannical masters.  In one case arbitration was precluded by withdrawing a percentage of the market price beforehand, and in another no wages were stated at all when work was given to weavers.[40]  No wonder the experience of the weavers seemed to give point to the teachings of writers like Hall and Thompson, to whom wealth represented a power given to the rich to oppress the poor, and capital a means whereby the employer might extract from the labour of his men so much surplus value as would leave them no more than enough to support a precarious and miserable existence.

    The situation of those weavers who were employed in the wool trade was much better than that of the unfortunate cotton-weavers.  Some of the old conservatism of the trade still remained, and machinery had not yet made any great headway in it.[41]  It was still, both in the West Riding and in Gloucestershire, a domestic industry largely in the hands of small masters, but these were themselves in the control of large wholesale houses.[42]  The trade of master weaver was in the southern district annihilated by a strike in 1825 which induced the large employers to set up handloom factories and employ the journeymen direct.[43]  The master weavers were compelled to accept work in the factories on the same terms as their own journeymen — a situation which was hardly likely to produce amiable feelings amongst them.[44]  The manufacturers, being in the power of the London houses, for which they really worked on contract, seem to have sweated their employees.  They were men of little capital and eager to acquire profits.  They were unable to do this otherwise than by cutting wages.  Strikes were frequent, but it was quite impossible for the weavers to compel the masters to stick to the agreed lists.  They practised truck on occasion also.[45]  The introduction of the hated factory system, [46] combined with the other grievances, gave rise to a feeling of intense bitterness between masters and men.  Wages were low, but not so low as in the cotton trade.  Factory weavers earned in 1838 nearly twelve shillings a week; outdoor master weavers eight, and outdoor journeymen six.[47]  These wages were much lower than those of 1825 [48] and of 1808, and the Assistant Commissioner estimated that seven weavers out of ten had to seek occasional relief from the poor rates.[49]

    The hosiery trade affords another example of the abuses to which the domestic organisation of production may lead when the domestic, semi-paternal motive has gone out of it and given place to a purely commercial and competitive spirit.  This change seems to have begun in the hosiery trade about the middle of the eighteenth century when the old Chartered Company lost its privileges.  The trade then fell largely into the hands of large hosiers of Derby, Nottingham, and Leicester.  The two former localities produced both silk and cotton hosiery, but Leicester specialised in worsted goods.  The raw material, that is spun yarn, was of course purchased from Lancashire, Yorkshire, and Derbyshire.  At the time of the Government inquiry in 1844-45 [50] these large houses were both merchants, purchasing goods from outside makers, and manufacturers on their own account, employing knitters in their own factories.  But the bulk of the labour was still performed in domestic workshops, scattered all over the three counties.  The knitting was done by a frame which was a complicated piece of machinery, costly to purchase when new, and costly also to maintain in repair.  Thus it was rarer than in the handloom-weaving trade for the knitter to own a frame, and the custom had obtained throughout a century for frames to be hired by the worker at a fixed rent which was deducted from wages.[51]

    In 1844, therefore, employment in the hosiery trade could be obtained from two sources.  The first was the hosier himself, either in his factory or as direct employer at home.  The hosier supplied frame and yarn, and the price of labour was usually stated on a "ticket."  In the second case, which was the more common, the work was obtained from a middleman or "bagman" who received yarn from the wholesale dealer, distributed it to knitters, and deducted from the market price of labour certain expenses which represented the wages of his own labour and responsibility.  Obviously the wages of the knitter were less when employed by a bagman than when employed directly by the hosier.[52]  It was upon the bagman system that attention was concentrated in the inquiry of 1844 45.

    The bagman was, as a rule, a man of small capital who had induced hosiers to entrust their yarn to his keeping.  He was the sole intermediary between the hosier and many scattered knitters.  He alone knew the price of goods and the margin between prices and wages.  He could not make profit on raw material, nor increase the margin by extending his sphere of operations as a large capitalist employer might.  He depended entirely upon his deductions from wages and upon the rent he obtained from frames.  The Report of 1845 is a chorus of denunciation of his doings in these two respects.

    The rent of frames was a fixed one and bore no relation to the amount or value of work done, nor to the capital value of the frame itself.  It was an old customary payment sanctioned by a century of usage.  It was open to any one to make frames and hire them to the various workers in the industry.[53]  A class of people was thus called into existence whose sole connection with the industry was the income from rents,[54] which were paid week by week without abatement for slack time, so that the rent became a first charge upon the produce of the industry.  Frames could be hired to hosiers, bagmen, or knitters themselves.  In practice the last never happened, because the knitters were too poor to guarantee the rent.  The bagmen paid higher rents than the hosiers, as there too there was an element of risk.  Consequently the bagman had to recoup himself from the wages of the knitters, as he had no margin for economies on the side of the hosier.

    Thus force of circumstances drove the bagman to exploit the knitters.  Framework-knitting had largely ceased to be a skilled trade since the introduction of an inferior make of stockings about 1819.[55]  Access to the trade was therefore easy, apprenticeship being a thing of naught.  Trade was always fluctuating owing to the changes of fashion.  New goods were continually being introduced.  Thereupon a new influx of hands, attracted by the good pay in the special branch, took place.  Very soon the fashion changed, and the new hands went to swell the ranks of those employed upon the staple products.[56]  All this was bad for the poor "stockinger," but the Report of 1844-45 makes it clear that his weakness was ruthlessly exploited by unscrupulous and grasping "bagmen."  Not content with deducting the 30 or 40 per cent from wages, allowed by custom for his normal labour and trouble of fetching and carrying yarn and goods, the bagman resorted to underhand tricks.  He understated the warehouse prices and pocketed the margin; he exacted rent for frames when the price of the goods was scarcely sufficient to pay it.  In slack times he would give one week's work for one knitter to two or even three and draw full rents for two or three frames instead of one.[57]  Finally he resorted to truck.

    The Report of 1845 is full of bitter and violent denunciations of the bagmen.  None of them is so eloquent as that quoted by Mr. Podmore,[58] but a few are worth quotation: Samuel Jennings was employed by T. P. of Hinckley, who paid all his wages in truck and even charged him rent upon his (Jennings') own frame.[59]  One knitter sued his employer in court.  "On Saturday the 23rd of December I settled with C. (defendant), and then had one pound of candles on credit, and he also lent me sixpence in money.  On the 6th of January I reckoned with him for five dozen stocking feet which I had made during the week.  I was in his warehouse and his son was present.  My work came to 3s. 6½d.  He deducted for frame rent 2s. 0½d., candles 5½d., money borrowed 6d., leaving 6½d. to be paid to me."[60]  Thomas Revil declares "our middlemen walk the streets like gentlemen, and we are slaves to them."  This latter was literally true, as the knitter was always in debt to truck masters, and was consequently unable to quit his employment for fear of imprisonment.  The fortunes made by hosiers and bagmen were another source of indignation.  Bagmen were often ignorant people of obscure origin, and the rapid rise to fortune of exceptional bagmen, who were more able or more unscrupulous than their fellows, was a source of extreme bitterness.  One case was quoted where a shop-boy had in a few years acquired sixty or seventy frames and never paid a penny in coin as wages.

    It is to be expected that wages were low.  Indeed with hosiers, bagmen, and frame-owners to satisfy out of the produce of the industry, and considering the bad situation of the knitters as regards collective action, the wonder is that wages were not lower.  Wages had been artificially reduced by the action of the old poor-law administration in paying out-relief as subsidies to wages.  That had of course ceased when the inquiry was made, but a prolonged depression during 1839-42 had reduced thousands of stockingers to destitution.[61]  The whole industry was stagnating, so that there seemed little prospect of improvement in the condition of the poor knitters.  At the time of the inquiry thousands of them were earning for sixty or seventy hours' labour five or six shillings a week.  At the same time it must be remarked that extreme lowness of wages was apparently chronic in the trade, and it is probable that the distress of the 'forties was not exceptional.  It was, however, unaccompanied by the extended out-relief of former days since the introduction of the New Poor Law, and the operatives who had formerly borne privation with some resignation were now, through the agency of Chartist and Syndicalist orators, furnished with explanations of their evil situation.  The district had been a hotbed of Owenism in 1833-31 and of Chartism ever since 1839, facts which show that the spirit of resignation had given way to a spirit of revolution.

    It is necessary to dwell at some length upon the situation of the handloom-weavers and the "stockingers."  These two classes of workers were the most ardent of Chartist recruits.  They graduated for the most part through the school of Anti-Poor Law Agitation, and furnished many "physical force" men.  Furthermore it is clear from the Chartist speeches that the weavers and stockingers were regarded as the martyrs of the economic system and as an indication of the inevitable tendency of the system — an awful example to the workers as a whole.

    A modern reader may ask why these workers persisted in an occupation so ill requited.  Apart from the natural inertia which makes man of all baggage the least easy to move, there were special causes operating at the time under survey.  One was that occupation in other trades was not easy to get owing to trade depression.  This was especially the case with the one occupation for which stockingers and weavers were suitable — factory labour.  There were sufficient and good reasons too, as every one knows, for avoiding factories in those days.  Further, men brought up to the frame and loom were as a rule totally unfitted for other occupations when they reached middle age.  Poverty prevented them from apprenticing their children in better-paid trades, and compelled them to employ their families at the earliest possible age, long before they reached their teens.  To be sure, the coal and iron mines and the railways took more and more of the young men and, sad to say, young women and children.  Thus these industries were recruited largely from the families of those actually employed in them, but a natural elimination, especially in the weaving trade, caused those who were young, hardy, and enterprising to leave it, whilst the old, worn-out, the shiftless, and the young children remained.  These, either from discontent engendered by memories of more prosperous days, or by reason of their ignorance, or through hopelessness of improvement, were a ready prey for the revolutionary literature which was freely circulated amongst them.

    The case of these industries is not the only one which gave support to those Klassenkampf theories which form so conspicuous a part of the Chartist philosophy.  Amongst all classes of society the evils of the factory system were held in abhorrence.  That those evils were great is sufficiently clear from any impartial account of the early factories.  That they attracted universal attention is testified by the immense literature upon the subject.  The popularity of the agitation which was led by Sadler and Oastler during the 'thirties is a sign of a developing public conscience.  Amongst the working people, however, the agitation was also a part of the general campaign against Capitalism.  In other industries, indeed, the exploitation of child-labour was the work not of the capitalist employer, but of the workers themselves.  It was done even where there was no excuse on the score of poverty.[62]  There employment by the master was a welcome reform.  One of the leaders of the Lancashire operatives in the ten hours' campaign was John Doherty, a Trade Union leader of renown and a prominent Chartist.  In fact, factory agitation was the one form of Trade Union action which was both safe from legal attack and popular amongst other classes than the operatives themselves.  The factory masters were denounced not merely because they did on a large scale what many small employers were doing on a small scale, but also because they represented that developed Capitalism which the working classes were being taught by many writers — of whom in this respect James O'Brien was not the least virulent — to hate with their whole souls.



    Turning now to other industries, the same transitional state of organisation is to be found in such industries as mining and quarrying, which are at the present day almost exclusively under the control of large capitalists.  The Reports of 1812-44[63] dealing with these industries reveal a variety of industrial structure.  In the Portland stone quarries, gangs of quarrymen prospected on their own account.  In colliery districts custom varied considerably.  In Staffordshire the men were employed by sub-contractors called by the euphonious name of "butties."  In Northumberland and Durham the work was controlled by large owners, as is generally the case nowadays.  The gang system seems to have prevailed in Leicestershire, parts of the West Riding, the Lothians district and North Wales; the "butty" system in Stafford, Shropshire, Warwick, and Derby; the proprietor system in the two great northern fields, Lancashire, South Wales and Monmouth, and in Lanarkshire.[64]  Where the gang system prevailed the miners contracted, through the agency of their own elected or selected heads, with the owners of the minerals, to procure the coal or iron at specified prices.  The owner furnished machinery and sank the shaft; the miners did the rest.  The butty system was the same except that the contract or charter was procured by one or two small capitalists who owned the tools and hired the miners.[65]  Under the third system the whole personnel, machinery, and tools were controlled by the proprietors.[66]

    Where the workmen were largely independent contractors under the gang system, they could hardly complain of the conditions of their labour, but under the other systems complaint was loud and continuous.  The butties occupied much the same position in the mining industry as the bagmen in the framework-knitting.  They were bound to supply coal or iron ore at a fixed price.  They hoped to recoup themselves out of the profits of labour.  Being men of small capital, they were always in a precarious situation, as each coal-getting venture entailed a large element of risk.  If the price fixed by the "charter" proved unremunerative, they were compelled to grind profits or avoid losses out of wages.  They resorted to all sorts of practices: compelled miners to work at certain jobs without pay;[67] increased their daily tasks surreptitiously; abused the labour of children, especially pauper apprentices, in a perfectly inhuman fashion;[68] and finally and inevitably, paid in "truck."[69] [Ed. ― "truck" being payment by masters of their men's wages wholly or in part with goods a system open to various abuse when workmen were forced to take goods at their master's valuation. See also 'debt bondage' and 'bond slaves'].  When butties existed, accidents were frightfully frequent.  Lack of capital induced slipshod and wasteful systems of propping.[70]  Naked lights were used.  Dangerous places were worked as a common thing.  One thing, however, butties did not do: they did not employ girls and women down the shafts.  That appalling iniquity was perpetrated by the miners themselves, but never where butties had control.[71]  Wages were not low, as wages went in 1840.  In Staffordshire daily wages were 4s. previous to the strike of 1842, when a reduction to 3s. 6d. was attempted.  In the iron mines wages were rather lower ― 2s. 6d. to 3s. a day.  These wages were of course far from princely, and they were materially reduced by the system of paying in truck or "tommy." [72]  In some, perhaps many cases, the system of paying wages in goods was at first productive of much advantage, especially where the collieries were remotely situated, and the purchase of goods from the nearest market-town was inconvenient.  But it was so easy to abuse the practice that few who adopted it avoided the temptation.  The practice was all but universal in the mining industry, whatever the organisation.  It was widespread in other trades too; and this in spite of the act of 1831 against it.[73]  As that act, however, required the workman's evidence, actual or anticipated intimidation was sufficient to make it a dead letter.

    These abuses were not the only ones connected with the mining industry.  The revelations made in 1842-43 by Government inquiries show that the industry was being carried on everywhere with as complete a disregard for humanity and decency as could be found in the society of heathen savages.  Children were being employed at an incredibly early age.[74]  Five, six, and seven years was a frequent age for commencing work in the mines; exceptional cases of four, and even three years were found.  Monotonous beyond measure was the labour of these mites who sat in the dark for a dozen hours a day to open and shut doors.  A boy of seven smoked his pipe to keep him awake.[75]  The children employed were of both sexes, and girls of tender age were condemned to labour like beasts of burden, harnessed to trucks of coal.[76]  Pauper apprentices were practically sold into slavery, and treated occasionally with the utmost ferocity.[77]  The employment of adolescent girls and women was not unknown, especially in Lancashire and Yorkshire, where, one may suspect, they were driven from the handloom-weaving, the decay of which was no doubt responsible also for the exceptionally early employment of children in those districts.[78]  At the same time it must be noted that the employment of girls and women, where it prevailed, was not a recent introduction.  Lancashire witnesses declared that it had existed since 1811.[79]

    The consequences of this employment of workers of both sexes underground, considering the extreme ignorance and semi-barbarism of the colliery population, is better imagined than described.[80]  In fact the reports reveal a state of filth, barbarism, and demoralisation which both beggars description and defies belief.  Clearly Lancashire, Yorkshire, South Wales and Monmouthshire, and the Lothians of Scotland were the worst districts, but all were bad enough.  The prevalence of so appalling a state of affairs is to be explained only by considering the general isolation of the mining districts.  Some, as in Monmouth, Durham, the Pennine districts, were situated amongst remote moorlands.  In every case the opening of mines had gathered together a promiscuous population into districts hitherto unpopulated.  Houses were built for the accommodation of the employees by the colliery masters themselves.  Beyond that little care seems to have been exercised over the population so concentrated.  Churches were seldom built.  The want of religious ministrations was occasionally supplied by Chartist preachers.[81]  The only source of social life was the demoralising atmosphere of the pit or the equally insidious delights of the public-house, usually the property of the butty or the colliery masters.  The Newport rising of November 1839 was engineered wholly in such public-houses in the remote hill districts.[82]

    Respectable people in the neighbourhood seem to have considered the collier population as utterly hopeless and irredeemable and took little steps to ameliorate or improve their lot.  The masters, we are assured, never entered the pits to see what was going on, and abuses went unchecked.[83]  Parents were allowed to bring their children into the pit almost at any age.  Women were even allowed to become hewers of coal.[84]  The dress of both sexes was so alike as to be practically indistinguishable, even in the light of day.[85]  Thus the blame for the horrific condition of the mining population seems to be distributed amongst all the classes concerned — masters, butties, parents, and the public generally.  There was a fearful awakening of the public conscience when the Report of 1842 was published, and the exclusion of women and children from the mines was voted in Parliament without a murmur.

    The task of those who had previously sought to make an impression upon this population was hard but not hopeless.  They met with no great sympathy from those who had the means to help.  The Rural Dean of Birmingham [86] was quite unable to persuade a landowner to give a quarter of an acre of land to build a church, although his land was annually increasing enormously in value.  Another wealthy owner, who drew £7000 a year without ever seeing one of his employees, openly boasted of the fact.[87]  The vicar of Wolverhampton applied to a man who was supposed to have £50,000 a year from mines for funds to build a church, but the man of wealth said his mines would be worked out in seventy years and the church would then be of no use.[88]  But though the task of reformers was hard, it was occasionally successful, as at Oldham where, owing apparently to the development of education, mainly in Sunday schools, a public opinion had grown up which made the mining population there an honourable exception to the general state of semi-savagery.[89]  On the whole it is the isolation, geographical and social, of the mining population which forces itself most upon one's attention in reading the dismal reports.  The colliers had occasionally a dialect which was totally unintelligible to educated ears.  They were almost a foreign people.  In fact, the inhabitants of Monmouthshire spoke of the colliery districts, where the outbreak of 1839 was brewing, in the language of people who lived on the frontiers of a hostile territory.

    The total mining population in 1840 was about three-quarters of a million, the actual number of persons employed being about one-third that number.  The census return of 1831 enumerates trades and handicrafts, but omits this large industry entirely.

    It will not be necessary to enter into detailed descriptions of other branches of industry.  It will be sufficient to say that other industries, such as the pottery and metal trades of the Midlands, were being carried on under conditions which, if not so flagrantly bad as those above described, were yet sufficiently demoralising.[90]  Wolverhampton, Bilston, and Willenhall seem to have been the home of the most appalling degradation — a perfect inferno where children were brutalised by severe labour and savage treatment, and grew up into stunted, stupid, and brutal men and women.[91]  Hard by was the nail-making district of Dudley where the population is said to have been more degraded even than the miners.[92]

    It is necessary to keep clearly in mind this social and economic background of the Chartist Movement. A politico-social movement which was engineered amongst such men (and it is clear that the more prosperous and intelligent organised workers kept aloof from it) could scarcely be compared with the working-class movements of the present day, organised as the latter are by men of clear and shrewd, though perhaps limited outlook, of uncommon ability, backed by three generations of experience and a solid organisation.

――――♦――――

 
CHAPTER III

THE RISE OF ANTI-CAPITALISTIC ECONOMICS AND SOCIAL
REVOLUTIONARY THEORY


DURING the first three decades of the nineteenth century English political and social ideas underwent a profound change.  This mental revolution may be attributed to two main causes, the French Revolution and the Industrial Revolution.  Both of these produced different effects upon the different classes of the community.  The French Revolution commenced by arousing the traditional political radicalism of the English middle class, but the violence of the Revolution itself, together with the teachings of the Economists, who apparently demonstrated the incompatibility of the interests of the employing and employed classes, drove the middle class to resist even moderate measures of political change.  At the same time the theories and presuppositions of the Revolution, based as they were on the doctrine of the Rights of Man, took a great hold upon the imagination of the working classes and produced levelling theories whose justice seemed all the stronger, as the actual course of events seemed to demonstrate the evils which flowed from social and economic inequality.

    The Industrial Revolution, especially during the years 1800-1840, was largely on the social side an instrument of social dislocation.  Down to the middle of the eighteenth century English agricultural society was still largely feudal in spirit.  The internationalism of feudalism, which had given Western Europe a superficially homogeneous society, was gone, but otherwise feudal conceptions still held sway.  The landowner was still the head of a local social system — Mr. Wells's "Blades-over" — which comprised household, farm tenants, labourers, officials.  Social relationships consisted largely, on the part of the lower orders, of feelings of more or less contented dependence upon the great man at the top — feelings which were religiously inculcated on the basis of "the station of life in which it has pleased God to place you."  On the other hand the landowner repaid such sentiments with some real degree of personal interest in the welfare of his subjects, and maintained a certain amount of security and stability, which enabled them to live with some expectation that their lot would never be worse, though it might not be better.  Stability, security, and dependence were the essentials of this social system.  In industry relations were otherwise but not essentially different.  The merchant manufacturer played the part of the landowner.  He was often in personal touch with those he employed, living usually in the neighbourhood.  The family system of manufacture kept alive feelings of associated enterprise and mutual dependence.  The market was known; prices were fixed by custom and not merely by competition.  Steady trade rather than speculative enterprise was the rule and the ideal.

    Under the influence of that commercial and speculative spirit which prepared the way for the great changes both in agriculture and industry, these social relationships broke down.  They were unsuited to a period when movement and enterprise replaced solid security as the basis of economic life.  The unlimited unknown of commerce was preferred to the limited known, and Captain Cook's voyages into the distant Pacific were paralleled by many a commercial speculator in the realms of economic enterprise.  Acquisition of wealth, which opened up to many the prospects of social advancement, destroyed the old feeling of contented acceptance of that station of life in which they were born.  Hence came the increasing specialisation in agriculture and industry, the enclosures which alone made possible the improvement of agricultural methods, and the machinery which superseded men.  Employers employed no longer men but hands, no longer human beings but labour, and the relation between the two gradually developed into the payment of cash which was held to cover all the obligations of the one to the other.  Payment for labour, conditions of housing, help in bad times, education, all these were now commuted in the payment of a weekly wage.  In industry this process was encouraged by the rapid rise to fortune of poor men who had never been influenced by the ancient semi-feudal traditions or by the surviving gild spirit.

    The consequence was the formation of a large class of wage-earners who were thrown back upon the earnings of their own hands, and had little claim, besides their labour, to the consideration of society.  The natural tendency to association, which under not dissimilar circumstances had appeared so strongly in the early days of the French Revolution, i.e. the Fédérés, and was the most significant manifestation of national as distinguished from feudal ideas, was in England checked, if not suppressed, by the ferocious Combination Laws.  It was not until 1833, with the passing of the first important Factory Act, that public opinion admitted the industrial employees to a claim upon society and public attention.  The Factory Acts and cognate legislation substituted a public guarantee, based on the authority of the State, for that private and traditional guarantee of the conditions of life which semi-feudal society had maintained.  But between the disappearance of the one and the establishment of the other lies a full generation, during which the working classes, often ignorant, unled, ill-advised, sought refuge in their isolation and helplessness against economic and governmental oppression.

    In a world of injustice and inequality, the working men found hope and a call to action in those theories of natural rights and justice which the French Revolution had popularised.  The rights of man were contrasted with the wrongs inflicted by the new state of society, and out of the conflict were developed political and social theories of a social-democratic character.  It is not maintained that English Socialism developed out of the ideas of the Revolution.  It was, on the other hand, largely a native growth, deriving its strength from its criticism of the developing English industrial society, and its economics from the writings of Ricardo.  At the same time its constructive side, which of course was its weakest, was based upon theories of abstract justice, and these notions had received a great impetus from the French Revolution.  Through Paine and Godwin they had been introduced in a complete form to the English public.  Yet, as has been pointed out previously, such ideas were prevalent within a limited circle during the Puritan Revolution, and may even be traced in the famous Utopia of More and the equally famous couplet of John Ball.  The pre-revolutionary ferment in France did produce its socialistic writers ― Morelly, Mably, and to a degree Rousseau himself.  Though the teaching of Morelly as to the beneficent influence of suitable environment upon human character is in many cases akin to that of Robert Owen, there is little doubt that the latter founded his theory largely upon his own experience at New Lanark.  In any case the socialistic theory of the Revolution was of little practical importance in the events of that stormy period.  The futile conspiracy of Babeuf was the only serious attempt to give the Revolution a socialist character.  It was, however, recalled to the minds of the English Chartists by James O'Brien, who translated Buonarotti's account of it.

    Early English Socialist teaching falls into three classes.  The first and least thoroughgoing, and the one which appeared first in order, was mainly a revolt against the enclosures.  It was predominantly agrarian in character.  It is represented by William Ogilvie, Thomas Spence, and Thomas Paine.  These are mainly advocates of land reform of some sort or other, but similar ideas form part of the schemes of the more thoroughgoing writers.  The second class is mainly a criticism of the classical economists, and is rather anti-capitalist than constructively socialist.  It is represented by Charles Hall, Thomas Hodgkin, Charles Gray, Percy Ravenstone, and William Godwin.  Finally there is a large and important body of communist doctrine associated with the great names of Robert Owen, Thompson, and J. F. Bray.  These writers were mainly concerned with the problem of distribution, but Bray and Thompson preface their constructive schemes by a masterly criticism of the dominant "bourgeois" economics, which, taken with the ideas of Hall and his fellows, in all essentials anticipates that of Marx.

    There is one quality which is common to nearly all this body of socialistic and kindred doctrines.  That is the reaction towards agriculture and the land, the tendency to regard the growth of large-scale industry as abnormal, unnatural, and dangerous.  This is not to be wondered at.  The process of enclosure was far from complete even as late as 1800, and it did not seem too late to put a stop to it.  In any case agriculture was still considered the natural avocation of the majority of the nation.  The growing abuses of the early factory system recalled to many, by way of contrast, the fresh air and green fields of their youth.  It is significant that Hall, one of the most conspicuous opponents of manufactures, was a medical man.  Apart from these considerations it was held, with some degree of justice, that only by applying his labour to land could a man attain the ideal of socialist theory — the full produce of his labour.  It was supposed that a nation working exclusively upon the land might thus solve the problem of distribution.

    This is not the place for a detailed analysis of this mass of socialistic literature, which is to be found in the excellent works of Beer, Menger, and Podmore.[93]  But as these socialistic notions formed a large part of the mental equipment of Chartists, a general sketch of their tendency is essential to a proper understanding of the Chartist Movement.  The relation of the Chartist Movement to the evolution of socialist ideas is somewhat complex.  The Chartist Movement was not a homogeneous thing.  It was a general protest against industrial and political oppression, and as the protest swelled the movement swallowed up a variety of agitations of a special and local character, some of which bore little relation to socialist propagandism.  It is true that some of the leaders of Chartism were downright Socialists — as we should call them to-day.  James O'Brien (commonly known as Bronterre O'Brien) was the unremitting advocate of land nationalisation and collective control of the means of exchange.[94William Lovett, the noblest of them all, was persuaded that individual ownership of industrial capital was the prime evil of society.  Hetherington was a disciple of Owen and Thompson.  In spite of this, however, the Chartist Movement was carefully distinguished by its more prominent adherents from the Socialist Movement of the period, which was a communist movement guided by Robert Owen, Lloyd Jones, and William Pare.  Feargus O'Connor's Land Scheme was the very antithesis of Socialism, but it was also not a real Chartist scheme.

    The Land Reformers, Spence, Ogilvie, and Paine (the ex-member of the Revolutionary Convention and the author of the Rights of Man), are one and all under the influence of Natural Rights.  They belong to the period which preceded the birth of economic analysis, and therefore detailed criticism of the existing social and industrial system plays little part in their discussions.  They proceed by the deductive method, commencing with a statement of the natural and inherent rights of mankind.  Clearly the right to subsist upon the land of his birth is the most obvious of these rights.  Hence the deduction that the land is the common possession of mankind, a proposition to which Locke gave the seal of his authority, but which is probably as old as mankind itself.  Spence declares indignantly that "Men may not live in any part of this world, not even where they were born, but as strangers and by the permission of the pretender to the property thereof."  Paine suggests that God had not set up an Estate Office in Heaven where title-deeds to perpetual rights over land could be acquired.  Ogilvie, a much soberer and more scientific writer, contents himself with the statement that land in its uncultivated state was the common property of mankind.

    Naturally the particular conclusions to be drawn from these very wide premises vary immensely.  Spence arrives at the absolute prohibition of private property in land; Ogilvie allows a system of private property with taxation of unearned increment and the parcelling of large estates — a remarkable foreshadowing of the modern policy, and based, like it, upon a more scientific consideration of the question; Paine aims at paying, out of heavy succession duties upon landed property, an old-age pension to every person as compensation for the loss of his rights in land.  Thomas Spence (1750-1814) was the most outspoken and extreme of the three writers.  He probably did as much as any other reforming zealot to popularise that fanatical and unreasoning hatred of the landed aristocracy which characterised English radical and revolutionary opinion during the early part of the nineteenth century, and which formed so large a part of the oratorical stock-in-trade of Vincent, O'Connor, O'Brien, and the like, in the Chartist Movement.  A sturdy, stiff-necked, fluent Radical, with much of the rebel in his nature, Spence made many zealous disciples and a powerful enemy — the "panic-stricken Toryism" of the Government.  He passed a stormy forty years of political agitation, between 1775 and 1814, and died in poverty, as many other good men did at that time.  A sample of Spence ought to be given.  One of his pamphlets, the Rights of Infants (1797), is in the form of a dialogue between a mother and a member of the aristocracy.  The mother asks who receives the rents:


    Aristocrat ― We, to be sure.

    Woman ― You, to be sure!  Who the Devil are you?  Who gave you a right to receive the rent of our common?

    Aristocrat ― Woman, our ancestors either fought for or purchased our estates.

    Woman ― Well confessed, villains!  Now out of your own mouths will I condemn you, you wicked Molochs.  And so you have the impudence to own yourselves the cursed brood of ruffians who by slaughter and oppression usurped the lordship and dominion of the earth to the exclusion and starvation of weeping infants and their poor mothers?  Or at the best the purchasers of those ill-got domains?  O worse than Molochs, now let the blood of millions of innocent babes who have perished by your vile usurpations be upon your murderous heads. . . . Yes, villains! you have treasured up the tears and groans of dumb, helpless, perishing, dying infants.  O you bloody landed interest! you band of robbers!  Why do you call yourselves ladies and gentlemen?  Why do you assume soft names, you beasts of prey?  Too well do your emblazoned arms and escutcheons witness the ferocity of your bloody and barbarous origin!  But soon shall those audacious Gothic emblems of rapine cease to offend the eyes of an enlightened people, and no more make an odious distinction between the spoilers and the spoiled.  But, ladies and gentlemen, is it necessary, in order that we eat bread and mutton, that the rents should be received by you?  Might not the farmers as well pay their rents to us, who are the natural and rightful proprietors? . . .

    Hear me, ye oppressors, ye who live sumptuously every day, ye for whom the sun seems to shine and the seasons change, ye for whom alone all human and brute creatures toil, sighing, but in vain, for the crumbs which fall from your overcharged tables. . . . Your horrid tyranny, your infanticide is at an end!

    And did you really think, my good gentlefolk, that you were the pillars that upheld the universe?  Did you think that we should never have the wit to do without you? . . .


Then comes Spence's panacea:


    We women (as our men are not to be depended on) will appoint in every parish a committee of our own sex (which we presume our gallant lock-jawed spouses will at least for their own interests not oppose) to receive the rents of the houses and lands already tenanted, and also let to the best bidders, on seven years' leases, such farms and tenements as may from time to time become vacant.


    Out of the funds so obtained the expenses of the parish and the taxes will be paid, an allowance be given for each child born and each person buried, and the surplus divided equally amongst the inhabitants of the parish.  The famous Newcastle Lecture of 1775, Spence's first utterance upon the question of the land, contains substantially similar proposals, but also suggests certain political reforms — the abolition of the standing army and the formation of a militia, universal manhood suffrage and vote by ballot.  Spence left many disciples who were not without influence during the succeeding decades.

    William Ogilvie (1736-1819) comes chronologically next after Spence.  His work, An Essay on the Right of Property in Land, was published in 1782.  He stands, however, far above Spence both in depth of thought and in his influence upon later generations.  He was a Professor of Humanity at Aberdeen, an excellent scholar and a man of intellectual eminence.  He was also a Scottish laird and well versed in agriculture and estate management.  Ogilvie conceived agriculture to be the most suitable and profitable occupation for mankind.  The higher virtues would inevitably fail amongst a people who lived wholly by manufacture and industry.  Ogilvie was thus the earliest foe of the modern industrial society.

    Starting, like Spence, with a declaration of the common right of mankind to the land, Ogilvie plunges into an analysis of the greatest importance.  Land, he declares, has three values, the original value, the improved value, and the improvable value, corresponding to the value of the land in its natural uncultivated state, the value of the improvement due to cultivation, and the value of the possible improvement of which it is capable.  This statement at once puts the discussion upon a higher plane than Spence's dogmatic assertion of natural rights to land, and the analysis is worthy of a countryman of Adam Smith and David Hume.  Probably Ogilvie was stimulated by the reading of Smith's great work.  In an estate worth £1500 a year Ogilvie suggests £200, £800, and £500 as the original, improved, and improvable value.  The first and third cannot belong to the landowner, but the second is undoubtedly private property, as it arises from the labour already applied to it.  Ogilvie would recover the original value by a tax upon land, and the improvable or accessory value by a tax upon unearned increment or "the augmentation of rents."  Apart from this he is the enemy of large estates, which he desires to break up.  He calculates that there is sufficient land in Great Britain to give 10 acres to every citizen.  Every landowner who has more than that quantity of land must surrender the surplus.  Of the 10 acres remaining the landowner will have a right to all the three values.  From the surplus fund of land a parcel of 40 acres will be granted to every adult male who applies.  He will cultivate it for his lifetime and be subject to quasi-feudal obligations.  Failing such measures Ogilvie advocates a Board of Land Purchase to multiply small holdings.  Measures ought to be taken to discourage the growth of manufactures until agriculture is developed to the highest possible degree.

    Ogilvie's scheme is not so much a scheme for the recovery of the lost rights to land as the purely utilitarian one of maintaining the ascendancy of agriculture.  The agricultural society of the later Middle Ages is his ideal, a society of small landholders held in the bonds of mutual dependence and mutual obligations.

    The veteran Thomas Paine (1737-1809) has an equally utilitarian purpose.  The title of his work, published in 1797, is a résumé of its contents: "Agrarian Justice, opposed to Agrarian Law and Agrarian Monopoly, being a plan for Meliorating the Condition of Man by creating in every Nation a National Fund, to pay to every Person, when arrived at the Age of 21 Years, the Sum of £15 Sterling, to enable him or her to begin the World; and also £10 Sterling per annum during life to every Person now living of the Age of 50 years and to all others when they shall attain that Age."

    The gist of Paine's argument was that the majority of mankind had lost its rights in the land.  It was impolitic to try to recover the land itself, but the owners of land could be compelled to compensate the dispossessed out of their revenues.  This compensation fund would be raised out of a succession duty of 10 per cent upon inheritances passing in the direct line, and of twice as much upon those passing to collateral heirs.  A fund of 5¾ millions would thus be raised annually, which would be sufficient for the purposes indicated.  Similar proposals had already found a place in Paine's Rights of Man.  Paine's underlying idea — that the landowners ought to compensate the common folk for the loss of their rights in the land — was seized upon by Cobbett as the basis of his opposition to the Poor Law of 1834.  Cobbett regarded the Poor Rate as the compensation fund, and taught that the receipt of relief was a right and not charity.

    Closely allied with these three agrarian reformers, and standing, too, under the influence of Rousseau and the Rights of Man, is Charles Hall. Hall's book, however, by its greater economic insight, as well as the incisive attack upon the developing industrial system, forms a transition between the criticism of the agrarian system and the anti-capitalistic teachings which followed the publication of Ricardo's work in 1819. It was published in 1805 under the title Effects of Civilisation on the People in European States.[95]  Hall was a doctor of medicine of considerable attainments who, soon after he gave to the world his famous book, was consigned to the Fleet Prison for debt, and died there about 1820 at the age of eighty.  It was natural that a man so circumstanced should take the pessimistic view of civilisation made current by Rousseau's famous Discourse.  Hall's work is a terrific denunciation of the oppression of the poor which seems to be the inevitable consequence of the existing state of society.  As a doctor of medicine Hall was acquainted to the full with the terrible effects of extreme poverty and overwork undertaken in pestilential factories.  These evils are the result of two great faults in the organism of society — Private Property and Manufactures.  The latter is even worse in its consequences than the former.  By their means Civilisation divides mankind into Rich and Poor, and gives the former power to oppress the latter.  Riches is a power directed to oppression.  No despotism is worse than that of Capital.  Capital is the means whereby the Rich rob the Poor of the larger part of their produce.  It is not Nature, as Malthus declares, who condemns the Poor to poverty, starvation, and death, but Capital.  Capital is given in the form of wages and material to the labourer that he may produce more goods, but even the goods given as capital were originally taken from the labourer.  The latter is powerless to keep more than a very small share of his produce because he is at the mercy of the Rich, and the law will not allow him to combine with his fellows for better protection.  The development of manufactures has not, as Adam Smith declared, freed the workers from dependence, but has plunged them into a worse slavery than ever.  It is a slavery which propagates disease, vice, ignorance, and revolution.  Manufactures are withdrawing labour from agriculture and so increasing the cost of food.  Hunger is added to other evils.  The more manufactures develop, the greater the gulf between rich and poor.  Such a tendency will end in social anarchy and revolt, out of which, as in France, a military despotism will assuredly arise.  But the rich may prevent this by declaring a war.  The war against France is a case in point.

    Hall's furious analysis ought logically to lead to sweeping proposals of remedy, but these are of the most modest description, amounting to no more than the abolition of primogeniture and the restriction of manufacture of articles of luxury.  This logical anti-climax is a feature of nearly all the earlier writings of this school.  It results partly from a want of sound economic teaching — a want which the yet indeterminate state of the science could not supply.  It is due partly no doubt to a typically English unwillingness to push the arguments based upon natural rights to a logical conclusion.  Later Socialist writers worked with better materials than Hall.  They used the theoretical groundwork furnished by David Ricardo (1772-1823) and the practical experiments of Robert Owen (1771-1858).

    The second decade of the nineteenth century saw an important advance in socialistic theory.  The violent fluctuations in trade, the advance of factory production, the dismal conditions which followed the end of the great war, the panic-stricken measures of the Government to repress popular movement, and the increasing unrest of the manufacturing population, all seemed to attest the truth of Hall's most pessimistic prophecies.  On the other hand, socialist thought received important reinforcements.  In 1813 appeared Robert Owen's New View of Society, which came as a gospel of hope and happiness to many who desired the welfare of their fellows.  It held out a promise of infallible success in the improvement of the lot of the poor and the oppressed.  In 1817 appeared Ricardo's Principles of Political Economy and Taxation, the indirect source of nearly all socialist economics.

    Owen, it is true, remained almost untouched by the development of economic theory.  He was an empiric from first to last.  His first work, the New View, contained the essence of all his teaching — that any character, from the best to the worst, may be given to any community by the application of the proper means, which means are generally under the control of those who have influence in human affairs.  In itself this doctrine, that human character was the creation of environment, was by no means new.  It had been almost a commonplace in pre-revolutionary France.  But backed as it was by the evidence of the marvellous work accomplished at New Lanark by Owen himself, "by the application of suitable means," Owen's teaching at once acquired commanding authority.  It at once became the theoretical and practical stand-by of the Factory Reformers.  It taught others to see in a properly constituted government the means of social regeneration.  It was therefore a chief source of Chartist theory.  Many leading Chartists, Lovett, O'Brien, Hetherington, Watson, Dr. Wade, and others, began their public career under Owen's auspices.  Owen himself was hostile to extensive political action and distrustful of popular control, so that he and his special followers, who took the name Socialists, kept steadfastly apart from all political movements and propagated their teachings in the form of Communism.  Owen was neither a politician nor a demagogue.  He appeared only once as a popular leader.  That was during 1829 to 1834, when he inspired the Co-operative Labour Exchange and Syndicalist movements, which will be dealt with later.

    It was Ricardo's fate, whilst writing what was intended to be at once an explanation and a defence of the capitalistic system of production, to furnish the enemies of capitalism with their most deadly weapons.  Modern economists have felt it incumbent upon them to modify or reject the Ricardian premises which led to such astounding and subversive conclusions.[96]  The discussion as to what Ricardo actually did mean, or what he took for granted, may safely be left to experts.  It is sufficient to indicate those points upon which anti-capitalistic theory seized.  These relate of course to the claims of Labour.  Ricardo says, for instance, that "the comparative quantity of labour" is "the foundation of the exchangeable value of all things," and that this doctrine is "of the utmost importance in political economy."[97]  Further, he speaks of the "relative quantity of labour as almost exclusively determining the relative values of commodities."[98]  Though he introduces reservations allowing that labour applied to making of tools, implements, and buildings, that the elements of time, risk, rate of profits, and quality of labour also influence value, he keeps these reservations in water-tight compartments and permits the superficial reader to assume that they are of no importance in comparison with the great fact of Labour.  The rough-and-ready conclusion was drawn — Labour is the source and measure of Value.[99]  In the hands of an ingenious writer like Hodgskin the reservations are indeed noted, but only to be swept away.  As tools, implements, and buildings are created by labour, their value too depends upon the labour expended upon them, and the claim of the capitalist to a reward for their use is without foundation.  The quality of labour is of no account, as all labour is equally necessary.

    The "natural price of labour is that price which is necessary to enable the labourers one with another to subsist and to perpetuate their race without either increase or diminution."  "The market price for labour is the price which is really paid for it. . . . However much the market price may deviate from its natural price it has, like commodities, a tendency to conform to it."  It is pretty clear that Ricardo did not mean the absolute and indispensable minimum of necessaries of life when he referred to "subsisting," but spoke of the "comforts which custom renders absolute necessaries."  That is, not mere subsistence level, but the customary standard of life was the basis on which the natural price of labour was to be calculated.  But such qualifications could hardly hold their own against such language as, "It is only after their privations have reduced their number, or the demand for labour has increased, that the market price of labour will rise to its natural price."[100]

    The question naturally suggested itself, What proportion did the reward of labour bear to the value created by labour?  This question was solved to the great satisfaction of Socialists by a reference to the statistics of Patrick Colquhoun.  Colquhoun demonstrated, apparently on insufficient evidence, that the national income in 1812-13 was 430 millions.  Of this the working classes, including the army, navy, and paupers, received somewhere about one quarter.[101]  Clearly, therefore, the labourer, so far from receiving the value his labour created, received only one quarter, the remainder being distributed amongst capitalists, landlords, and Government in the shape of profits, rents, and taxes.  This statement of the case was improved upon by later writers who assumed that the proportion received by the labourer was decreasing.  Hodgskin speaks of the labourer's having to make six loaves before he can eat one.

    Here, then, was capitalistic economy convicted out of the mouth of its greatest champion, and a host of writers seized upon the damning evidence and hammered it at white heat into a terrific indictment of the greed and rapacity of capitalists, landlords, and "tax-eaters."  Socialists, like James O'Brien, and Radicals, like Cobbett, argued themselves into tempestuous incoherence, whilst lesser men, like certain of the Chartist leaders, decorated their speeches with phrases culled from the writings of their betters, and perorated in pæans of praise upon the virtues of the producers of all wealth, and in torrents of vituperation upon the robbers who stole it from them.

    Thomas Hodgskin was the first of the popular writers to take advantage of Ricardo's work.  Ricardian economics had been the stand-by of the employers in the Trade Union controversy of 1824-25.  Their argument, put briefly, was: high wages, low profits; low profits, slow accumulation of capital; slower accumulation, less capital; less capital, diminished demand for labour; diminished demand for labour, collapse of wages; hence poverty, distress, privation at work to redress the balance upset by high wages and large families.  Therefore all depended upon keeping up rate of profits.  This constituted the claim of capital to a share of the produce of industry.  It was this claim which Hodgskin proceeded to refute in his famous little pamphlet, called Labour Defended against the Claims of Capital, or the Unproductiveness of Capital Proved (1825).

    The argument commences with a statement of Ricardo's definitions.  Commodities are produced by the united application of Labour, Capital, and Land, and are divided between the owners of these.  The share of the landlord is rent, but as rent is merely a surplus of the fertile over the less fertile land, it cannot keep the labourer poor.  The share of the labourer is that quantity necessary to enable the labourers one with another to subsist and perpetuate their race without either increase or diminution.  The share of capital is all that remains after the landlord's surplus and this bare subsistence of the labourer have been deducted.  On what grounds does Capital claim this large share?  M'Culloch replies that Capital enables us to execute work that could not otherwise be performed: it saves labour and it enables us to produce things better and more expeditiously.  Mill says that Capital supplies the labourer with tools and raw materials.  For this the owner expects a reward.  Capital is also an agent combining with labour to produce commodities.  Further, the capitalist saves and accumulates more capital upon which Labour depends.  For all this Capital deserves reward.  Hodgskin proceeds to examine these ideas.

    The goods which are given to the labourer to maintain him until his wares are brought to market are not the result of accumulation or saving but of concurrent production by other labourers.  The labourer has indeed no stock of food and clothing, but neither has the capitalist.  The capitalists do not possess one week's stock of food and clothing for the labourers they employ.  These goods are being concurrently produced by other groups of labourers.  Food at least cannot be stored up.  In fact, the only thing which can safely be said to be stored up is the skill of the labourer.  If this were not so, the various commodities could never be produced at all.  Each set of labourers relies upon the due performance by the other sets of their stipulated social tasks.  This is clearly true where industrial operations are not completed within the year and there can be no exchange of products.  It is not capital which stores up this skilled labour, but wages and parental care.  In fact the reason why capital is able to support and employ labour is that capital implies already the command of some labour and not the accumulation of goods.

    It is true that Fixed Capital does increase the productivity of labour to an immense degree.  But obviously these instruments of production are themselves the produce of labour.  The economists say that they are stored up labour and as such entitled to payment.  But they are not stored up but used.  They derive their utility from present labour and not because they are the result of past labour.  Everything depends upon the use made of these machines, and peculiar skill is required of the labourer in using them.  In the creation of fixed capital three things are required: knowledge and inventive genius; manual dexterity to make the machines; skill to use them.  The great services of fixed capital are due to these qualities and not to the dead machines.  And when did an inventor receive the due reward of his genius?

    Circulating capital does not, like fixed capital, add to the productivity of labour, but the capitalist claims the same rate of profit on both.  In either case the profit is derived from the power capital gives over labour.  This power is of old standing, and is derived in the first instance from the monopoly of land and the state of slavery which consequently ensued.

    The position of the capitalist is as follows.  One set of labourers is making food; another is making clothing.  Between them steps in the capitalist and appropriates in the process of exchange the larger part of the produce of both.  He separates the two groups so that both believe that they depend upon him for their subsistence.  The result is that the labourer must give at least six times as much labour to acquire a particular commodity as that commodity would require to make.  For one loaf the labourer must give the labour of six.  The capitalist therefore imposes an infinitely worse tax upon labour than the Corn Laws, but he is sufficiently influential to make it appear that the latter alone are the cause of all the evils under which the labourer suffers.

    Under the present system Mr. Ricardo is perfectly correct in stating that the labourer will only obtain from the capitalist as much as will enable him to maintain his kind without increase or decrease.  The exactions of capital are the cause of poverty.

    In the concluding part of his argument Hodgkin displays the characteristic moderation of the earlier writers.  Capital being unproductive, it follows that the labourer ought to receive the whole produce of his labour.  But how is this to be determined, seeing that no labourer produces any commodity independently?  It can only be determined by the judgment of the labourers themselves as to the value of their labour.  Hence the labourers ought to be free to bargain and, if necessary, to combine for the purpose.

    Hodgskin allows that the capitalist who directs labour deserves a reward as a working man; but the idle capitalist has no claim at all upon the produce of labour.  Trade union action will be good so far as it deprives the idle capitalist of his profits, and bad if it puts the industrious employer out of action.

    Thus the whole of the elaborate argument ends in a justification of Trade Unionism.  It has an atmosphere of artificiality and sophistry which would rob it of all value for a modern reader.  It depends too much for its effect upon the exploitation of the false and verbal distinctions which marred contemporary economic theory.  It is clever rather than convincing.  It is weak at the one point where it ought to have been strong, namely, the explanation of capital as power over labour.  He takes refuge in remote historical theory.  Whilst he acknowledges the services which management of industry confers, he justifies a refusal to pay higher wages to the master than to the labourer on the ground that all labour is equally necessary in society — a manifestly false conception.

    From the "wrong twist," which Ricardo unconsciously and Hodgskin consciously had given to economic theory, developed several divergent lines of radical and socialist doctrine.  On the one hand there was the revolutionary pessimistic school, represented by James O'Brien, who pushed the apparent admissions of Ricardo (with whose views Malthus was associated) to a terrifying conclusion, and prophesied a revolutionary termination to the oppression of capital.  The present system condemned the poor to eternal and undiminished poverty, whilst the rich throve on the surplus value extracted from the labour of the poor.  The right of the labourer to the whole produce of his labour became an axiom.  But the gulf between the practical wrongs of labour and its theoretical rights would grow until it was filled with the debris of the shattered capitalistic system.  Then would militant labour march across and take possession of its true and undiminished heritage.

    The other school, represented by William Thompson and J. F. Bray,[102] was more scientific in its methods, more positive in its conclusions, and less militant in its language.  Thompson and Bray devoted themselves to further analysis of the conception of surplus value — the five loaves which Hodgskin's labourer produces but does not receive; they also examined the mechanism of exchange, through which, as Hodgskin suggests, the extraction of surplus value is accomplished.  In both respects they left very little for later thinkers to add to the results of their inquiry.  Both writers were much under the influence of Robert Owen, and saw in Owen's co-operative communities the solution of the problem.  The labourer could only obtain the full produce of his labour in communities in which co-operative production, voluntary exchange, and co-operative distribution were the basis of industrial organisation.  They were therefore enthusiastic advocates of the Owenite schemes.  They were not popular writers in the sense that Hodgskin was.  Their works were excellently written, but they were without popular appeal.  They wrote with the serene tranquillity of men who awaited with sure and certain hope the accomplishment of their highest desires.  They wrote for a small circle, and their task was to give a scientific foundation to the purely empiric notions of Owen.  But the mass of working people whom the teachings of Owen reached interpreted them in the light of bitter experience, and had little patience with the ideal schemes of Thompson and his friends.

    Manifold was the influence of this body of doctrine upon the mind of the working class.  Various truths had been established.  The industrial system was flagrantly unjust.  The power of capital was founded upon robbery perpetrated generations ago.  It was exercised to rob the labourer of three-quarters, nay, five-sixths, of the wealth he created, and to keep him, his fellows, and his posterity, down to the uttermost minimum of subsistence, leaving him a prey to the competing demons of high wages with over-population, and low wages with privations.  The monopoly of capital was the great social evil; the destruction of it was the basis of future happiness.  The source of all the ills under which the labouring class suffered was revealed.  Low wages, fluctuations, insecurity, bad houses, disease, poverty, pauperism, ignorance, and vice all this was the work of the twin monopolies of land and capital.

    The decade 1825-1835 was a very critical period in the history of the working classes of this country.  A multitude of hopes and fears, of excitements both internal and external in origin, played upon the minds of the industrious masses.  The Industrial Revolution was extending its sway; the improved power-loom of 1825 and the locomotives of 1830 represented its latest triumphs.  The commercial crisis of 1826 was a threatening omen, whilst the emancipation acts of 1828 and 1829 inspired hopes of political freedom which rose sky-high with the death of George IV., the return of a reform ministry, and the news of the July Revolution in France.  The agitation of 1830-32 for the Reform Bill was mainly political in character, and suspended temporarily agitations of a very different nature.  Among these was the Trade Union movement which had taken a new lease of life since 1825, when it had been relieved from the worst of its legal restrictions.

    The new Unionism derived its economics from Hodgskin, and its inspiration from Robert Owen.  Owen's chief merit was that he filled the working classes with renewed hope at a time when the pessimism, both of orthodox economists and of their unorthodox opponents, had condemned labour to be an appendage of machinery, a mere commodity whose value, like that of all commodities, was determined by the bare cost of keeping up the necessary supply.  Owen laid Stress upon the human side of economics.  The object of industry was to produce happier and more contented men and women.  It had not done so hitherto because of the bad system of distribution and exchange.  To cure this, Owen made two proposals.  The first was a co-operative system of production and distribution which took form in the co-operative communities set up under his auspices.  The other was the restoration of the natural standard of exchange, namely, the labour standard, which had been superseded by the introduction of money.  Owen had that incomparable and serene self-confidence which made his Utopian proposals ring like a revelation in the minds of those who listened.  They were led to believe that there was an infallible short-cut out of the Slough of Despond to the Celestial City.  There was consequently a tremendous outburst of Owenite literature and a rapid growth of Owenite societies between 1825 and 1830.  It was during this period that Hodgskin, Gray, and Thompson added their quota to the mass of criticism directed against existing society and its economic theory.  Co-operative trading societies, societies for the spread of co-operative (that is, Owenite) education, exchange bazaars based upon labour value, and attempts to set up co-operative or communistic colonies, all flowed from the inspiration of Owen.  But the greatest Owenite triumph of these years was the capture of the Trade Union movement in 1832-34.

    Since the revival of 1825 Trade Unionism had developed in the direction of action upon a large scale.  The constant defeat of local unions produced the belief that successful action was only possible when the whole of the workers in an industry were brought into line.  This belief was applied first in Lancashire, which county, by reason of the greater concentration of workers and factories, offered the most favourable theatre for industrial warfare.  A great general union or federation, in which all parts of the United Kingdom were represented, was attempted in the cotton industry in 1830.  It was followed by a still larger union including other trades and calling itself "National."  In 1832 this was followed by the Builders' Union, which in its turn was superseded by the largest scheme of all in 1834 — the Grand National Consolidated Trades Union.  This last was a purely Owenite scheme.  It included a vast variety of trades — agricultural workers, both skilled and unskilled, bonnet-makers, tailors, hosiers and framework knitters, gas-workers, builders, textile workers of all sorts, engineers, and cabinet-makers.

    Owen's idea was that of a glorified Exchange Bazaar, with which he had been experimenting in London in 1832.  The producers in each branch of industry were to be organised into National Companies.  Production would be regulated by a central organisation, and exchange would be carried out on the basis, presumably, of labour value, or perhaps exchange would be dispensed with and the distribution of goods be performed by the central body on some equitable plan.  To organise such a scheme would have taxed the resources of a modern state to the uttermost, and to control hundreds of thousands of harassed and oppressed workers, brimming with renewed hopes, burning with zeal and fired with indignation against their old enemy, Capital, was a task from which the boldest modern Labour leader would shrink.  But the serene optimism of Owen saw only the promised land, the perils of the way being ignored.  The members of the Union pressed recklessly on.  The first step was to acquire the means of production, and to achieve this a series of strikes on a hitherto unheard-of scale was instituted.  Weapons of terrorism were not eschewed.  But the assault failed: the organisation was too weak, Government came to the aid of capital, the law was invoked, and the movement smashed.

    There were clearly many aspects of the activity of Owen, and each was represented by a different group of disciples.  There was first the little group which drank the pure water of Communism — Gray, Thompson, Bray, Pare, Lloyd Jones, and their followers, who took the name of Socialists.  This was a select body and came comparatively little into the light of publicity.  There were also groups of factory reformers, such as those who formed the Society for Social Regeneration — a typically Owenite designation.  This was led by Fielden of Todmorden, and was connected with local societies throughout the North of England.  Educationalists in plenty derived inspiration from Owen.  They, however, concern us little.  There were also the half-converted Trade Unionists whose movement collapsed in 1834.  Not the least important of the Owenite converts, however, was the little group of London artisans whose story is related by William Lovett the Chartist, and to whose activities the Chartist Movement owes its origin.

    Socially and politically London differed considerably from the manufacturing towns of the North and Midlands in 1830, and this difference was then greater than it is now, when the more general diffusion of wealth and learning has considerably lessened the supremacy of London in these respects.  London was then probably the only English city in which there was a considerable body of highly skilled artisans, for there alone was there a large wealthy and leisured class whose wants could find employment for skilled handicraft.  The manufacturers of the north, even when wealthy, did not always adopt a style of living commensurate with their earnings, for they often lacked the tastes which accompany hereditary riches.  But London was alike the centre of society, fashion, politics, affairs, law, medicine and letters.  It was the home, for part of the year at least, of an enormous proportion of the wealthy and leisured class.  To meet their needs arose vast numbers of superior craftsmen, employed upon the better-class wares which found their best market in Westminster and the City.  The political and commercial life of the metropolis furnished the most important of these artisans, from the political point of view.  These were the compositors, employed upon the various newspapers and in the printing and publishing houses.  These were necessarily men of fair education, keen intelligence, and of some acquaintance with the affairs of the world.

    Apart from their superior rates of pay, these artisans of the capital had various other advantages over the mass of working people elsewhere. They had strong trade societies in which they were able to maintain apprenticeship regulations and high rates of wages, and as experts in trade union methods they were well acquainted with the problems of agitation and Organisation.[103]  Living as they did in the centre of affairs, these men enjoyed opportunities of education and of intercourse which were far beyond what the "provincial" centres could provide.  The districts of London were not then so specialised nor the different social classes so segregated as they have since become, under the influence of improved communications.  The central districts, Charing Cross, Soho, Seven Dials, Holborn, Fleet Street and the City, contained a very mixed population in which Francis Place the tailor kept shop a few doors away from the Duke of Northumberland's town house.  Seven Dials and Spitalfields, and parts of Holborn contained festering rookeries in which pauperised silk-weavers, labourers, and criminals found a refuge.  The excellent little group of men who founded the London Working Men's Association lived in the district between Tottenham Court Road, Gray's Inn Lane, Charing Cross, and Fleet Street.  Here during the late 'twenties and the early 'thirties flourished political and social discussion of every description.  Dr. Birkbeck had started the London Mechanics' Institution, which still exists as the Birkbeck College, where in 1827 Thomas Hodgskin was appointed lecturer in political economy.  Place's shop at Charing Cross was the focus of middle-class radicalism.  Richard Carlisle's shop in Fleet Street, his sometime shopman James Watson's shop in Bunhill Fields, disseminated radical and anti-Christian literature and kept alive the radical traditions of 1816-1822, associated with the names of Wade, Wooler, Carlile himself, Henry Hunt, and William Benbow.  Carlile ran the Rotunda, a building not far from the southern end of Blackfriars Bridge, in which working men radicals met frequently in eager and heated debate.  John Gale Jones, a hero of the London Corresponding Society, was a favourite speaker there.  Various coffee-houses, such as Lovett's, were equally well known centres of radical intercourse.  The debates in the House of Commons, the latest scandal which threw light upon the degenerate character of the aristocracy, the astounding events in France, the latest Owenite idea, Cobbett's speeches, the vices of the Established Church, and the evil consequences of priestcraft, Hodgskin's economics, the reputation of Malthus and Ricardo, all these in their infinite variety were subjects of general discussion in these rendezvous of the London artisans.  Ever since the days of Pitt and Fox, Westminster had been the scene of exciting political life.  It was one of the largest constituencies, with ten thousand electors, and its franchise was wide.  Westminster was, needless to say, therefore a radical constituency, and its radical vote had been organised on a system which anticipated Chamberlain's Birmingham caucus, by Francis Place, amongst whose followers many of the better-class artisans must be reckoned.

    Amongst these London artisans the radical tradition had always been strong.  The London Corresponding Society had risen from amongst London artisans, and two of its greatest members, Gale Jones and Francis Place, were still active in political affair down to 1838, by which time the radical tide had mingled with the socialist torrent.  The struggles of Carlile, Wade, and Wooler for freedom of press and conscience had preserved the radical idea in those days after 1819, when organised agitation was an offence punishable by transportation.  After 1825, however, the younger generation of working men in London began to drift over to the new doctrines of social rights promulgated by Hall, Thompson, Hodgkin, Gray, and above all Robert Owen.  Hodgskin lectured at the London Mechanics' Institution on political economy from, 1827.  Whilst Hodgkin provided the weapons for the attack upon the existing system, it was Owen who provided the ideal of the Dew.

    Owen, however, never commanded the entire allegiance of the mass of London working men, owing to his dislike of political methods, and his condemnation of the radical reformers.  They therefore took up his ideas in a form which, though acceptable to themselves, cut them away from the thoroughgoing disciples who believed in the communistic idea.  Thus they formed in the spring of 1829, whilst Owen was away in America, the First London Co-operative Trading Association and a sister society, the British Association for Promoting Co-operative Knowledge.  The first was an experiment in retail trading, which, it was hoped, would lead to the accumulation of capital in the hands of associations of working men, and ultimately to the capture of all national trade and industry by such associations.  This was perhaps the first working-class experiment in Owenism, and illustrates the sanguine optimism which the Owenite teachings produced.  The second was a propagandist body and was instrumental in setting up a number of other societies throughout London, which led to the conversion of very many working men to socialistic ideas.  Although Owen, on his return, laughed in a benevolent fashion at these puny efforts, be did not hesitate to use the material thus provided to set up his Labour Exchange scheme in 1832.  Its failure no doubt confirmed the leaders of the working men in their view that the regeneration of society could not be accomplished without the aid of political power, and that democracy was the necessary preliminary to social justice.

    These views were specially represented by the National Union of the Working Classes and Others which grew out of the British Association for the Promotion of Co-operative Knowledge on the latter's decease early in 1831.[104]  The hopes of political radicals ran high in these days, and the National Union took a great part in fomenting the general excitement.  The members were bitterly opposed to the Reform Bill of 1832, which was in truth but a very small instalment of democracy, and their conduct and language increased in violence as the prospects of a middle-class victory in the reform campaign became brighter.  With the passing of the Bill the combination of political disappointment with anti-capitalist notions caused vague ideas of class war to take clearer shape and become as unquestioned truths in the minds of the working men.  These views are already prevalent in the debates of the National Union as reported in the Poor Man's Guardian.


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NOTES.

Chapter I


1.    The Charter is divided into thirteen sections:
 

I. Preamble.

VIII. Arrangement for
         Registration.

II. Franchise.

IX. Arrangement for
         Nominations

III. Equal Electoral Districts.

 

IV. Registration Officer.

X. Arrangement for Elections.

V. Returning Officer.

XI. Annual Parliaments.

VI. Deputy Returning Officer.

XIII. Payment of Members.

VII. Registration Clerk.

III. Penalties.

 
 2.    Residence of three months is only mentioned casually, in connection with registration.

3.    Added in 1842.

4.    For full text see Lovett, Life and Struggles, pp. 449 et seq. This is the revised edition of 1842, but is substantially the same as that of 1838.

5.    Porritt, Unreformed House of Commons, Cambridge, 1903, i. 1.

6.    Clarke Papers, ed. Firth, i. 299-307.

7.    Ibid. p. 315.

8.    Ibid. pp. 363 et seq., "Agreement of the People."  Gardiner, Select Documents of the Puritan Revolution, "Heads of the Proposals."

9.    Porritt, i. 166.

10.   Ibid. i. 185-195.

11.   Veitch, The Genesis of Parliamentary Reform, P. 34.

12.   Ibid. p. 32.

13.   Life of Major John Cartwright, by his niece F. D. Cartwright, London, 1826, i. 82.

14.    Veitch, p. 48.

15.    Lovett, Life and Struggles, p. 168.  The preface to the first (1838) edition of the "People's Charter" contains a brief history of the "Six Points" from 1776 onwards.


Chapter II


16.   See the very interesting remarks in the report on the silk industry of Coventry. Parliamentary Papers, 1840, xxiv. pp. 188 et seq.

17.    Parliamentary Papers, 1842, ix., xv.; 1843, xiii.

18.   Parliamentary Papers, 1840, xxiv.

19.   Ibid. pp. 33-34.

20.   There was a complicated industrial hierarchy at Coventry which hindered the growth of a true class feeling.

21.   P. 35.

22.   There were five different systems of production and organisation at work (ibid. p. 36).

23.   P. 327.

24.   Pp. 288-9; cf. also pp. 4, 77-78.

25.   P. 187.

26.   P. 12.

27.   Pp. 304-7.

28.   Pp. 302, 322.

29.   Parliamentary Papers, 1840, xxiv. p. 6.

30.   Parliamentary Papers, 1839, xlii. pp. 584, 578, 602.

31.   Pp. 584, 578.

32.   Steffen, Gesch. der englischen Lohnarbelt (Stuttgart, 1900-5), ii. pp. 19-20.

33.   Parliamentary Papers, 1839, xlii. p. 591.

34.   Pp. 578 et seq.

35.   P. 584.

36.    Parliamentary Papers, 1840, xxiv. p. 7.

37.   Parliamentary Papers, 1836, xxxiv. p. xxxvii.

38.   See, e.g., the instructions issued to Assistant Commissioners who inquired in 1838-40. Parliamentary Papers, 1837-38, xlv.

39.   Parliamentary Papers, 1839, x1ii. pp. 592-4.

40.   P. 598.

41.   Power-looms introduced 1836, pp. 377 et seq.

42.   Parliamentary Papers, 1840, xxiv. pp. 358, 529, 401.

43.   Regular apprenticeship had of course died out.

44.   Pp. 436-9.

45.   Pp. 457-8.

46.   Pp. 437-8.

47.   Pp. 404-5.

48.   Pp. 374-5.

49.   P. 415.

50.   Parliamentary Papers, 1845, xv.

51.   Report, P. 45.

52.   Report, pp. 59-67.

53.   P. 46 of Report.

54.   Some frame-owners, however, had been knitters who had saved their money and invested in frames against old age (p. 52 of Report).

55.   Report, p. 12.

56.   Report, p. 97.

57.   Report, p. 67.

58.   Life of R. Owen, ii. p. 448.

59.   Parliamentary Papers, 1845, xv. p. 76 of Evidence.

60.   P. 73 of Evidence.

61.   See Life of Thomas Cooper, 1872, pp. 123-43; also Report, pp. 95 et seq.

62.   E.g. Staffordshire potteries, Birmingham metal trades. Parliamentary Papers, 1843, xiii. passim.

63.   Parliamentary Papers, 1842, ix. (Truck); 1843, xiii. (Special Report on Staffordshire), P. 1; 1843, xiii. p. 307 (Employment of Children in Manufactures); 1842, xv. (Employment of Children in Mines and Collieries); 1844, xvi. (Inspector of Mines).

64.   Parliamentary Papers, 1842, xv. p. 39.

65.   Parliamentary Papers, 1843, xiii. (Staffs), pp. xxxiii-xxxiv, lxii.

66.   P. ciii.

67.   Vol. xiii. (Staffs), pp. xxxv-xxxvii.

68.   Parliamentary Papers, 1842, xv. p. 40.

69.   Parliamentary Papers, 1843, xiii. (Staffs), pp. lxxxix et seq.

70.   P. xxxvii

71.   Parliamentary Papers, 1842, xv. p. 35.

72.   A vivid description of the truck system of the Midlands, derived largely from official sources, is to be found in Disraeli's Sybil, published in 1845.  See also Parliamentary Papers, 1843, xiii. (Staffs), pp. lxxxix et seq.

73.   1 and 2 Will. IV. c. 37.

74.   Parliamentary Papers, 1842, xv. pp. 9-18.

75.   P. 18.

76.   Pp. 24-36.

77.   Pp. 40-43.

78.   Oldham is pointed out as a curious and mysterious exception.

79.   P. 27.

80.   See especially Lancashire case on p. 132.

81.   Parliamentary Papers, 1843, xiii. (Staffs), P. cxxxvii.

82.   Additional MSS. 34,245.

83.   Parliamentary Papers, 1842, xv. pp. 12, 126.

84.   In West Riding (p. 24).

85.    Vol. xv. passim.

86.   Parliamentary Papers, 1843, xiii. (Staffs), p. 2.

87.   P. 4.

88.   P. 73.

89.   Parliamentary Papers, 1842, xvii. App. p. 833.

90.   Parliamentary Papers, 1843, xiii.

91.   Pp. 27, 33.

92.   (Staffs), pp. v, vi.


Chapter III
 

93.   Max Beer, Geschichte des Sozialismus in England (1913); A. Monger, Das Recht auf dcn vollen Arbeitsertrag (1891), translated as The Right to the whole Produce of Labour, by M. E. Tanner and H. S. Foxwell (1899); F. Podmore, Life of Robert Owen (1906).

94.   For O'Brien's plans for the nationalisation of the land see Niehuus, Englische Bodenreformtheorien, Leipzig (1910), pp. 99-108.

95.   Niehuus, as above, pp. 67-75, analyses Hall's work.

96.   E.g. Marshall, Principles, p. 561.

97.   Principles of Political Economy and Taxation, 3rd ed. 1821, ch. i. sect. 1.

98.   Ibid. sect. 2.

99.   William Thompson, On the Distribution of Wealth (edition or 1850),  sect. 1: "Wealth is produced by Labour: no other ingredient but Labour makes any object of desire an object of wealth.  Labour is the sole universal measure as well as the characteristic distinction of wealth."  "Wealth is any object of desire produced by labour."  "Labour is the sole parent of wealth."

100.  Ricardo, Principles of Political Economy and Taxation, chap. v.

101.   Beer, p. 162. Colquhoun's book, published in 1814, was a Treatise on the Population, Wealth, Power, and Resources of the British Empire in every Quarter of the World.

102.   Labour's Wrongs and Labour's Remedy, or the Age of Might and the Age of Right, Leeds, 1839.

103.  E.g. Lovett's difficulty with the Cabinetmakers' Union.

104.  There is apparently some confusion in the narrative given by Place and followed by Beer, p. 239 (Wallas, pp. 269, etc.) as to the origin of the National Union of the Working Classes.  There are, in fact, two stories, which are probably duplicates.  There is an account in Lovett's handwriting in Additional MSS. 27,822, pp. 17 et seq., in which the National Union, etc., is derived from the British Association for Promoting Co-operative Knowledge.  On the close anticipation of the Chartist programme by this society see E. Dolléans, Le Chartisme, i. 26-29.  Lovett, Watson, Hetherington and Cleave were its leading spirits.



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