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and defame him! Sir, it is now instructive to remember the deeds of the Leaguers in those days !-- Since then, the misery has risen, as Mr. Fielden and I said it would — they mocked us then, but now they feel the smart, and would persuade ns, that they grieve for the distresses of the operatives at which they then jeered !
I suppose I shall be thought uncharitable if I allude to motives unfriendlily. I must be content, after all, to think these men honest, and charitable, and kindhearted ? — Must I? — Indeed I cannot, for mere fashion's sake, thus act the hypocrite!
I KNOW THESE LEAGUERS WELL, Sir; they are cruel, rerengeful, covetous-they have proved that, to obtain Gold, they care not what misery they inflict !Crime, even to murder, they blush not at, if Gold be their reward! Lying is the language of their exchange, else Ashworth never could have written that letter to Chadwick, which has stigmatized their names. I speak in sober seriousness, my wonder is, that any one amongst the Leaguers, dare now talk of feeling for the poor ! Wretched men! in their illusion, they perhaps fancy that the people are still with them. They are dreaming of the days of “ Reform,” when they could muster their hundreds of thousands of confiding dupes, and belch out their bloody treason to gaping multitudes.* They forget how soon “they kicked the ladder down on which they ascended to power !” The masses have not forgotten their treachery and cruelty !
The Leaguers may bluster, at their pleasure, now, all harmlessly, “Who CAN WONDER IF THE BOND OF ALLEGIANCE BE Severed?”ť and thus give their coward hints at rebellion !—They may now “call spirits from the vasty dcer," in carnest, no single sprite obeys them.
It is really amusing, to see these men so mighty valiant !-in truer words, so full of defiance of the law—while I remember, that, not many years ago, when these same parties were openly defying the law which required that they should not work their factory children to death, and were boasting “ that its clauses should not bind them," I attacked the whole army of the Leaguers, with a child armed with its grandmother's knitting-needle, and thus forced them to obey the law. Excuse me, if I smile, when I see the blustering cowards in such a humour for revenge.
I KNOW THESE LEAGUERS well, Sir; I fear them not. No, I rejoice that now the gauntlet is thrown by them-I accept it. I am prepared to meet them hilt to hilt. The spirit of Sadler will animate and nerve me for the contest. I can never forget the malignant persecution which the Leaguers waged against that man, my friend, the friend of human kind! No mcanness, no cruelty was spared by them to hunt that best of men to death ; at length their malice overtook their victim-he died a martyr-his memory stands a monument of their woward cruelty! Be it mine to avenge his wrongs on the murderous Leaguers.
I have often met these men, and told them that their plans of unfettered and universal commerce would be their ruin. They answered me by jeers and laughter.
* The Leeds bloody axe," —"craped royal executioner,". ** Billy shall be the head lower if he refuses our demand,". we will pay no more taxes,” and “three groans for the queen," will no longer avail these by pocrites and traitors.-R.O.
+ See Mr. Plint's Speech at the Leeds Anti-Corn Law Meeting, Dec. 13, 1841.
If I spoke of former times, when all were prosperous and happy, and the workman and his employer could meet on friendly terms, they hissed and hooted. When I told of the thriving domestic manufacturers of bygone days, now reduced to beggary and want by the giant strides which have been made towards Free Trade, these Leaguers gnashed their teeth with rage and malice. Spite of all their madness, I was wont to speak truthfully and plainly to them. On the 9th of January, 1831, in the Coloured Cloth Hall Yard, Leeds, I said, when they were present
“ The system, as it is natural it should have done, has destroyed that feeling of reverence and affection amongst workmen towards their employers, which I remember existed when I was young. It has destroyed that profitable system which formerly obtained in this vast district.” " Instead of trying to get living profits, the whole system now is a cut-throat system : and, for the sake of meeting those demands which this system has created, in many instances the children and work people are absolutely worked against lime. Yes, the sinews of the workmen and infants are now compelled, by excessive and destroying labour, to make large quantities of goods by a given time, ia order to mect the engagements which men without capital are liable to; thus making the stock of their trade, the bones and sinews of their labourers ; thus creating an unnecessary 'glut' in the market; for mind you these men do not work to order,' but from “need;' thus they lower the prices by 'forced sales,' and ruin themselves, their work people, and their neighbours.”
Sir, it is nearly eleven years since I told the Leaguers that truth-they are now reaping the harvest which they then sowed. They say that the Corn Laws have ruined them; the truth is, the Leaguers are the victims of their own greediness and covetousness. Instead of having too little Free Trade, they are ruined by having too much. At that very meeting one of the Leaguers was prating about “foreign competition,” (since then, he has drunk too deeply of the intoxicating cup, and is numbered amongst the “slain,") to him I answered :
" A friend has told us something about foreign competition. It seems to me very strange that we should be cutting and carving to starve ourselves, for the purpose of giving the Frenchman, the Dutchman, and the Russian a cheaper piece of cloth than he can make himself; they laugh at us while we do so, and, if you look at their fiscal regulations, you will find that they have a sort of weather-glass which rises and falls, in the shape of duties, whieh they always manage so as to keep us at the FRBEJING POINT; so that, in fact, our children are worked, and laboured, and slaved to death-their bodies, minds and souls, are ruined for the purpose of paying the tares of our competitors !"
How often have I cautioned these OVER-TRADERS (that is the true definition of the Leaguers), and told them of their folly and danger. At the Wakefield, West Riding election, Dec. 20th, 1832, I warned them thus, (but they would not listen, they stamped, and stormed, and yelled like maniacs,)
“If we were the manufaoturers for the whole world, and could bind down every human being to wear nothing but our cottons, woollens, and linens, and thus destroy all foreign competition, even then, I maintain, it does not follow, as a matter of course, that we shall have our population in a state of comfort and prosperity. The great amount of foreign trade is not necessarily a blessing, nor the absence of it unavoidably a curse.
“Our foreign trade, at this moinent, is double what it was a few years ago. When it was not half so extensive as it is at present, we gained something by it, now we lose enormously. Some persons ma be surprised at this assertion, it is, however, loo true. Let the quantity of pur, exported at each period, be relatively compared with the amount of our exports in money, and you will find the only benefit we gain by the great improvements in our foreign trade, is, that our labouring population bave now the extreme felicity of working nearly twice as many hours a day, with empty stomachs' and 'bare backs, as they used to work when they were employed for Joha
Bull hinself, in the home trade; he always allowed them plenty of food, and a comfortable sufliciency of clothing. Depend upon it, all the foreign nabobs in the world, with all their slaves and serfs to boot, will never pay John as well as John used to pay himself.
“ It is the fashion, now-a-days, to run down home-trade and extol the foreign market; to knock on the head a good customer at home, and travel thousands of miles in search of a bad one. It is a narvellous ill-fashion,' and will soon, I hope, be out of date.
“ But, say you, Let us have a 'free trade in corn,' and then you will see our labourers have cheap bread,' and all will be set right. If we had a free trade in corn' and in everything else, and could by any means compel all the nations of the world to buy all the manufactured goods they consume of us, although we should have a great trade, we should have a bad trade; although you say corn would be cheap, I say wages .would be low; and, when you had arrived at the climax of foreign demand, you would have frozen the home demand to death. You would still have long hard labour,' 'low wages,' bare backs, and empty bellies.' [I always speak out in plain homespun language to these Leaguers.] Avarice would induce home-competition, for an avaricious man cannot bear to see his veighbour thrive; [It is well known in Leeds, that Mr. Marshall would formerly contrive, (when a man with small capital embarked more than his all in a flax mill, and the poor fellow was hoping to obtain a fair reward for his outlay and industry,) to lower the prices of yarn, to the certain ruin of the beginner, and afterwards, when the novice was ruined, Mr. M. advanced the prices, thus regaining all that he bad lost, when the man of small capital was gone! There never was a more thorough MONOPOLIST, in this world, than Mr. John Marshall, the flax-spinner of Leeds. To contiove my quotation :) machinery would be increased-labour world be depreciatedproduction would still be greater than the demand—and though the whole would were our customers, we should, 'in making haste to be rich,' fall into our own snare by over stocking the market. [That, Sir, is the malady with which the Leaguers are now afflicted.] The mania for foreign trade may possibly ruin us — - it cannot, by any possibility, benefit the labourer without a restriction on the amount of production."
Now, Sir, this suicidal process, called “trading on enlightened principles," has been going on ever since that period; the consequence is, the Leaguers are very sick, and are not yet aware that they have been their own blood-letters. In 1834, I told the Commons Hand-loom Weavers' Committee the truth, when I said, “ The foreign trade is so cut up, that the exporters are cutting one another's throats." The real cause of hatred on the part of the Leaguers towards myself is, that I cannot flatter them-I always tell them the plain truth. How many respectable small mill-owners would have been saved from ruin, if my words had been heeded, if my advice had been taken!
I have thought it well, now that the Leaguers are assuming an attitude of defiance, and are striving to shake England to its centre, to repeat a few of my old sayings. They will serve to convince you that I understand somewhat of their malady, and that its symptoms do not take me by surprise. Perhaps the repetition of these remarks will prepare them to receive a remedy of my own prescription, for it is an old saying, “ the knowledge of the discase is half its curc."
The Leaguers are wasting by repletion of labour, and the lack of profit, caused by advancing in the road to Free Trade, without respect to the necessary regulations and restrictions which are required in the production and distribution of any and of every commodity. They are, in fact, like drunken men, being already too full of that for which they thirst.
I have left no plan untried to open the cyes of the public, to the certain ruin which awaits us, if we yield to the " enlightened spirit of the age.” I told the truth to the parliament and the people, hoping to save this land from the ruinous
schemes of the Leaguers. I knew that the gilded track on which they marched would lead to misery and ruin: I well knew that the more we produced and exported on the free and unrestricted plan of the Leaguers, the more wretched and destitute would be their condition ; but, the Leaguers would not listen, they stormed with rage.
On the 8th of Oct., 1834, I addressed a letter to the editor of the Agricultural and Industrial Magazine, in which I clearly accounted for the distress which was then so severely felt by the manufacturing operatives in my own neighbourhood. In that letter I find the following paragraphs :
** A free trade in corn would most assuredly sink the manufacturer, and the manufacturing operatives into still deeper distress and difficulty. It would destroy the agriculturists, both landlords, farmers, and labourers. They must then turn their attention to manufacture; they must either starve in heaps, be supported by the manufacturers in idleness, or become the competitors of our manufacturers; and thus the dreadful effects of a most enormously over-stocked market, with our best customer become our pensioner, or our greatest competitor, would enable the Slaughter-house masters,* to buy double the quantity of goods for the same money, and the condition of our manufacturers would be even worse than it is now. "Aye, but,' say the friends of this system,'our foreign trade would then be so much increased, that we should gain more by its extension, than we should lose by the ruin of our home customer, and by the cost of keeping him, or, by his competition with us in manufacture.' These persons should always remember, that the increase in the quantity of our foreign trade is no proof that it is profitable. It is a fact demonstrable by authorized public tables, published and acknowledged by Parliament, that, when our foreign trade was only one-third what it is now, we were, as a nation, great gainers by it, though now, when it is so much increased, we actually lose annually more than the interest of our National Debi by our foreign trade!! This loss is the only national blessing we gain by our so much boasted increASE of foreign trade!
Nothing is more true, than that foreigners will not give us a profit on our goods, if we force more upon them than they need; and this we regularly do. In almost every foreign market, our merebants have a double stock of goods (all forced there by our killing system of long hours of labour, induced by the unrestrained power of the capitalists), and thus our manufactures are forced upon the foreigners, at prices which yield no profit to the nation, though the slaughter-house master inakes a profit. Nationally, there can be no profits in any trade or manufacture, which does not allow erery individual engaged in it, plenty of meat plenty of clothes, and a comfortable home.
* Always let us remember, that when our artisans are starved and pined,' whilst making goods for the foreign market, they are starving and pining' to feed and clothe the foreigners! I have often heard foreigners say, ' Your English manufacturers are the greatest fools in the world l; they force us to buy their goods at a low price.'
Nothing can be more certain, than that the real interest of the agriculturists is the real interest of the manufacturers - nothing more clear, than that the destruction of the former must inevitably be followed by the destruction of the latter. It is equally true, that to buy corn, when we can grow corn, is just as mad policy as to tax corn when we cannot grow it. Our very best customer is at all times our home customer; the more he is nourished and protected, the more useful will he be to us—and the more prosperous will be our manufacturers. IVe shall always have as much foreign trade as will do us good, if we will only take care to keep a good trade at home. Every bushel of corn grown at home, is a creation of so much wealth to the nation; every bushel of corn bought from the foreigner, is an abstraction of so much wealth from the nation."
By the term Slaughter-house masters,' I mean a race of mean, selfish, but rich men, who have usurped the place of our' old English merchants,' who collect every branch of trade into one focus, who have immense wealth, and are ever on the look out, in every market, for cheap goods,' i. e. for poor manufacturers, who are in difficulties. From these men they purchase (or in more proper terms, they rob and steal, by taking advantage of their distress) large quantities of goods at thirty, forty, or fifty per cent. below cost prices. These goods are then re-sold by them, at a profit, but still under the price which they cost the manufacturer. The fair trader is then shown these cheap' articles, by his own customers, who have purchased them of the slaughter-house men, and, though he is not himself a nсedy inan, he is, of course, obliged to lower the price of his own goods, and when he returns home, he is forced to reduce the wages to his work-people, or he must give up manufacturing."-R. O.
It is monstrous to see the monopolists and slaughter-house masters, (of these two classes and their dupes, the League is composed,) after having peopled the manufacturing districts with cripples and paupers, aiming their deadly thrust at the ruin of our agricultural population !
Their present assemblings need cause no alarm. Their influence is departed. Their reasonings prove the negative of their argument. The distress which they have so late discovered, is the effect of their own avarice: it is the result of the system which has been successfully pursued by a few lucky Leaguers. It is only one in a hundred, or perhaps in a thousand, that succeeds. The success of the “lucky monopolist” is built, in every manufacturing district, on the heart-rending misery which the Leaguers, now, not ouly admit, but, in hopes of gaining money by it, emblazon on their froutlets.
It is, however, needful to observe, that many of the most wealthy and respectable mill-owners and manufacturers are the very antipodes of the Leaguers. I could name scores of masters in the manufacturing districts who feel that it is their interest as well as their delight to care for their work-people, and to see them thrive ; they know that sound policy demands that home trade should be the Rule, and foreign trade the EXCEPTION; and are as much opposed to the mad freaks of the Leaguers as I am.
The respectable, honest,“ live and let live "merchants and manufacturers, know full well, and so do the well-informed artisans, that there can be no trade," until the law, by some means or other, makes it penal to buy goods at half their value, of needy or dishonest sellers, and to pay half wages to starving workmen! It is well known, that the trade of the rulers of the League is fraud and theft-none know that better than the honest manufacturers and merchants, who could live and let their workmen live, if these harpies, these wholesale pickpockets, were restrained from theft and fraud by law.
I am glad, once more, to meet these men. They have set their hired bludgeoners at me, before now; here, however, I am safe from their brutal assaults. I never felt more willing or more able to meet these enemies of yours (the aristocracy) and of my poor factory children. I will be on the alert. My quiver is full of barbed arrows; both friends and foes know that I am well skilled in using them. Not an arrow shall be wasted.
I rejoice that this long and weary contest is now about to be decided. “All or none" shall be the motto of the contending parties. Let there be no misapprehension,--they fight for unlimited freedom, I for restrictive, well regulated, and protective measures: they, that foreign trade shall be the rule, and home trade the EXCEPTION; whilst I assert the converse, and maintain that the only way to domestic peace and prosperity, is to acknowledge home trade as the RULE, and foreign trade as the exception.
So much, then, at present, on this subject. Let no man's heart fail him, because the Leaguers are angry!
I am, your Prisoner,
RICHARD OASTLER. P.S.—Want of space forbids the continuation of my “ Rent Roll.”-R.O.
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