Richard Oastler: The Factory King (1913) by Arthur Greenwood

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RICHARD OASTLER,

" THE FACTORY KING."

BY

ARIHUR GREENWOOD.

L ms LJ

SECOND EDITION.

1913. Published by the Huddersfield Branch of the Workers'

Educational Association.

Price Twopence.

Printed by Ellis Rrooke, Market Place, Huddersfield.

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Preface to the First Edition.

HIS pamphlet is the outcome of an attempt made in Huddersfield, at the suggestion of the local branch of the Workers' Educational Association, to revive the memory of Richard Oastler's work in the Factory Reform movement. It was written at odd moments when the author was excessively busy with all the detailed arrange- ments of the Celebration. It must naturally bear signs of haste, though it is hoped that it will be found accurate on matters of fact. If it serve to revive, in some degree, the knowledge of Oastler's work on behalf of the factory children, and to remind the reader that the conditions of child life are still not beyond reproach, it will have accom- plished its object. My friends R. H. Tawney, B.A., Robt. Montgomery, B.A. (President of the Huddersfield Branch of the Workers' Educational Association), and the Rev. Dr. E. Phackray, M.A., one of its Vice-Presidents, kindly read the manuscript.

ARTHUR GREENWOOD, June 5th, 1913.

Preface to the Second Edition.

THE opportunity has been taken in publishing a Second Edition of this pamphlet to make several verbal alterations ; no attempt, however, has been made at any

further revision. A.G.

June 17th, 1913.

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Ricuaro OastuEr was born in St. Peter's Square, Leeds, on December 20th, 1789. His father, Robert Oastler, was a native of the North Riding, a follower of John Wesley, and ultimately a reformer in politics. He was a cloth merchant by trade, but afterwards became steward of the Thorohill Estate at Fixby, near Huddersfield. The elder Oastler, it is said, was " the father of the agitation on behalf of the ill-used and neglected chimney boys, in which he spent much time as well as money," * and was also connected with many charitable and philanthropic undertakings. Richard Oastler's mother was the daughter of Joseph Scurr, of Leeds, a member of an old and respected family of the town. At the age of eight Oastler was sent to the famous Moravian School at Fulneck, near Leeds, where he remain- ed for eight years, at the end of which period he desired to become a lawyer, but his father, from " conscientious motives " refused to agree to his course, and instead Richard Oastler was articled to an architect and surveyor in Wake: field. He remained there for four years, being compelled to relinquish his work owing to a weakness in his sight. He thereupon went into business in Leeds, and rapidly be- came one of the principal merchants of the town. During his boyhood he had become acquainted with Michael Thomas Sadler, who, " with his brother, kept a linen draper's shop in the town of beginning a friendship which, wrote Oastler, " gave a direction to my character, and led me afterwards to examine, with so much zeal, into the condition and rights of the poor ; it was impossible that I could have had a wiser, a kinder, and a better master." During Oastler's business life in Leeds, he came into closer contact with Sadler, through their association in philan-

thropic work. In 1816 Oastler married Miss Mary Tatham,

* Sketch of tie life and opinions of Richard Oastler (Leeds 1838) p 4. { "The Home," Vol. I, p 173. { "The Home," Vol. I, pp 173-4.

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of Nottingham, by whom he had two children, both of whom died in infancy. His business in the meantime had not prospered, and in 1820 he became bankrupt, though so great was the confidence he inspired, that he had many offers of financial help, which however, he refused. On July of the same year his father died, and Mr. Thomas Thornhill (who resided in Norfolk) quite unexpectedly offered Richard Oastler his father's place, and in January, 1821, he removed to Fixby Hall, as Steward of the Thornhill Estate, where

he remained until 1838.

As early as 1807, Oastler took up the anti-slavery question, and became a very strong advocate of negro emancipation. His speeches and pamphlets on factory reform contain innumerable references to negro slavery, which he considered to be a far happier state than that of the factory child. In politics he was a Tory-an Ultra-Tory he called himself, and in religion a Churchman. Writing of himself as the Editor of " The Home," he says that in answer to several correspondents, " he is not a Latitudin- arian ; he is not a Puseyite ; he is not of the Low Church ; he is not of the High Church. The Editor of " The Home" is a sincere member of the established, reformed, protestant, national, episcopal church." Oastler was an opponent of Catholic Emancipation, and when he was parliamentary candidate for Huddersfield in 1837, he lost the seat by a narrow majority, because of his attitude on the Roman Catholic Emancipation Act, which he said he would repeal if he could " with both hands." He detested Free Trade, and often times warned the working classes " to keep out of Cobden's trap." The new Poor Law of 1834 received the hottest condemnation at his hands. His hatred of it, it has been said,"" was as strong as that of William Cobbett." There is in existence a pamphlet containing a speech de- livered by him in Huddersfield on January 14th, 1837, wherein he calls the new Poor Law "a damnable Act,

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6 that infernal, anti-christian, unsocial Bill." " It is the Devil's own spawn, begotten by him when in a very bad humour." The Poor Law Commussioners he calls " three stinking commissioned funguses." The strong language he

employed in this connection is easily paralleled by lus wild tirades against the Factory System.

As a matter of fact, Oastler was never a thorough going party man, in spite of his denunciation of his political opponents. As he said at the meeting referred to above (when an address was presented to Feargus O'Connor), though " there is a wide difference in our abstract political principles

between Mr. O'Connor and myself, . . . . our ultimate object is one and the same, . . . . the happiness, the con- tentment and the security of all. I have . . . . long since

sworn to sacrifice caste and party and to unite, hand and heart, with any and with every man who will assist me in establishing the Christian rights of labour, in this wilderness of Mammon."

Richard Oastler's attention was first drawn to the factory conditions of the day in 1830 by a Bradford manu- facturer, Mr. John Wood, with whom he was staying at the time. With his customary energy, he immediately wrote a long letter to the Leeds Mercury headed " Yorkshire Slavery." ""The very streets" he wrote " which receive the droppings of an ' Anti-Slavery Society ' are every morn- ing wet by the tears of innocent victims at the accursed shrine of avarice, who are compelled (not by the cart-whip of the negro slave driver) but by the dread of the equally- appalling thong or strap of the overlooker, to hasten, half- dressed, but not half-fed, to those magazines of British infantile slavery-the worsted mills in the town and neigh- bourhood of Bradford ! " " Thousands of little children " he continued, " both male and female, but principally female, from seven to fourteen years of age, are daily compelled to labour from six o'clock in the morning to seven in the even-

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ing with only-Britons, blush while you read it !-with only thirty minutes allowed for eating and recreation." The Leeds Mercury in a leading article (October 16th, 1830) pointed out that the letter was written " with generous and honest feeling, but we think with undue warmth and violence ; indeed Mr. Oastlee was never the most temperate of writers," as his adversaries often found to their cost. The letter attracted wide-spread attention, and naturally called {forth opposition. The hours of labour were not denied, but objection was taken to Oastler's comparison of the factory children with the negro slaves of the Colonies. A corres- pondent of the Leeds Mercury wrote that these children " are not only content, but cheerful in the sphere which

Providence has allotted to them."* A writer in the Leeds Intelligencer about the same time considered that their labour was " very light and easy "! There is, of course,

ample evidence to show that the life of a factory child was a most unenviable one ; and without entering into an account of the horrible cruelties to which children of eight and up- wards were subjected, it may be said that beating was common. Deprived of sufficient rest, they fell asleep at their work, and though the opinions of the medical men of the time were by no means unanimous, it is certainly true that evil conditions and long hours were often the cause

of disease and even death. Though Oastler's first letter cannot be said to originate

the Ten Hours' Movement, (it had already arisen in Lancashire) it became from 1830 onwards a burning ques- tion, for Oastler threw himself with tremendous energy and enthusiasm into the struggle.

The first Factory Act, brought in by the elder Sir Robert Peel (himself a mill owner), was passed in 1802. In 1819, largely through the efforts of Robert Owen, another factory bill was introduced, though by no means as thorough

* Leeds Mercury, October 231d, 1830.

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going as the draft prepared by Owen. This Act, which applied only to cotton mills, prohibited the employment of children under nine, and forbade any person under sixteen to be employed more than twelve hours a day, exclusive of meal times. This was followed by further legislation in 1825 and 1831 ; and by the latter year, as the law stood, workers in cotton factories under eighteen years of age were not to work more than twelve hours a day, and night work was prohibited to all persons under twenty one. The bill, as drafted at first, was intended to apply to all textile industries, but it was narrowed in scope, and the workers in woollen and worsted mills were excluded. In 1831 Michael Thomas Sadler introduced a Ten Hours' Bill into Parliament, the second reading of which he moved in the following year in a very powerful and brilliant speech. The question was referred to a select committee of the House of Commons with Sadler as chairman, and with great thoroughness he set himself to gather evidence on the question. Unfortunately, on the dissolution of Parlia- ment in 1832 he lost his seat. Lord Ashley now became the Parliamentary leader of the Ten Hours' Movement.

In the meantime, agitation was rapidly proceeding. In a letter to the Leeds Intelligencer on October 20th, 1831, Oastler laid down a policy for the working classes to follow. "* Let no promises of support from any quarter," he wrote, '* Sink you to inactivity. Consider that you must manage this cause yourselves, nor think a single step is taken so long as any constitutional effort is left untried. Establish, in- stantly establish, committees in every manufacturing town and village, to collect information and publish facts. - The public generally, do not know what it is; then tell them how it has gone on destroying the health and morals of the people . . . . Tell the shopkeeper, the butcher, the farmer, and the artisan, how this destructive system curtails the income of his customers, and increases the demand upon

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luis funds. Yes, yes ! bring all these facts before the public, and show the hideous monster in his native glare. . . . . . Let your committees call on every Christian, and particu- larly on every Christian minister, and respectively solicit their aid. . . . . In due time call public meetings, and there plead the cause of the poor infant sufferers, and expose the horrors of the factory system ; then prepare petitions to Parliament, praying it to interfere in the sacred cause of suffering humanity ; and, on every election for members of Parliament, use your influence throughout the empire to prevent any man being returned who will not distinctly and unequivocally pledge himself to support a ' Ten Hours' a day and a Time Book Bill.! . . . . . Let your politics be 'TEN HOURS A DAY, AND A TIME BOOK, . . . . Don't be deceived. You will hear cries of-' No slavery '-' Reform '-' Liberal principles '-' No Monopoly," etc. But let your cries be- ' No Yorkshire Slavery '-' No slavery in any part of the empire '-' No factorymongers' -' No factory monopolists.' " This letter was widely read, and " the advice therein con tained acted upon in a solid and efficient manner ; seed was then sown, destined to bear important fruit."* _ One of the first effects was the Fixby Compact between Oastler and the Huddersfield Short Time Committee, whereby, to use Oastler's own words they " agreed to work together, with the understanding that parties in politics, and sects in religion, should not be allowed to interfere between us. That agreement has never been broken." Thus there came about, for the purpose of factory reform, an alliance be- tween the radical dissenting working men on the one hand, and an ultra-tory and churchman on the other. The factory reform movement contained people of very diverse views, chartists and socialists, tories, whigs and radicals, church- men and dissenters united by a single common bond-a desire to improve labour conditions.

* Alfred's " History of the Factory Movement." Vol. I, p 125.

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Short time committees were established all over the industrial north, and active agitation carried on, with occasional large meetings addressed by the leaders of the movement. At this time the most burning question was parliamentary reform,* and the opponents of factory regula- tion endeavoured to drown the battle cry of 'Ten hours a day' with shouts of 'Reform.' The movement, however, gradually made headway, and highly successful meetings were held in all the industrial towns of Yorkshire, Lanca- shire and Cheshire. New adherents to the Ten hour day were rapidly forthcoming, comprising people of all ranks and stations in life, representing all classes and creeds, and, let it be said, the factory owners themselves-though as a class opposed to legislation at first-were not unrepresented. There were no more fervent supporters of the movement than Wood (of Bradford), and Fielden (of Todmorden), to name but two employers.

At the meetings that were held there was no more frequent speaker than Oastler himself. His tall and com- manding presence, his eloquence and obvious sincerity, made a deep impression. He was a very telling speaker, and drove home his accusations by exhibiting at one time a strap with which hapless factory children were beaten, at another time a lock of hair torn by a cruel overlooker from the head of the factory girl. It is very probable that the violence of his language alienated many who would other- wise have supported the factory reform movement. As a contemporary writer has said, " The exuberant fulness of Mr. Oastler's sympathies, his disregard for personal conse- quences, and his strong hatred of oppression, have sometimes caused him in public controversy to use expressions which to others less moved and more under the control of conven- tional propriety, have appeared extreme. These expressions

* Oastler was an opponent of the 1832 Reform Bill

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Mr. Oastler's opponents have not failed to make the most of ; in council no man is more calm and careful, and in action he is dauntless and brave."* Oastler himself, writing in 1850 referring to the charges of violence made against him said " Those who blame me for having been violent in this cause, should consider the deep, the solemn, the over- whelming conviction, on my mind, of its vast importance. ..... I saw my young and helpless neighbours dying excruciatingly by inches under the lash and toil of the factory monster ; I heard their groans, I watched their tears, I knew they had relied on me.'" And though the picture he drew may have been over-coloured and exaggerated, prevailing conditions were sufficiently bad to lead a man of Oastler's

temperament to fierce and hot denunciation.

One of the most remarkable gatherings was the great meeting at York, on April 24th, 1832, to which trudged factory operatives with banners flying, from Leeds, Brad- ford, Bingley, Keighley, Dewsbury, Heckmondwike, Batley, Honley, Holmfirth, Marsden, Meltham, Elland, Hebden Bridge, Pudsey, Rawden, Otley, and many other towns and villages. There was a special division from Huddersfield, proudly calling itself " The King's Own." These thousands of workers, drenched to the skin in the heavy rain, footsore and weary, went to York because, in the words of Alfred, " the resistless 'King Richard' Oastler has issued his manifesto requiring all his subjects to Edward Baines, the Editor of the Leeds Mercury had contemptuous- ly referred to Oastler as King Richard. The epithet thrown out in derision was eagerly accepted by Oastler and his followers, and ' King Richard ' he became.

Another remarkable demonstration was one held in the same year at Manchester, when Oastler and Sadler were

* Alfred's " History of the Factory Movement," Vol. I, p 233. { " History of the Factory Movement," Vol. I, p 237.

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royally received and conducted through the town accompanied by seventeen bands of music, and a huge procession of factory operatives and children, with several hundred banners flying bearing appropriate incriptions, many bearing legends such as " Sadler and Oastler for ever", "Oastler, our Champion." etc.

These meetings and demonstrations naturally brought the factory question into the public mind, and great services were rendered by "The British Labourers Protector and Factory Child's Friend," a little weekly paper edited by " Parson " Bull and Mr. Charles Walker, of Bradford. Leaflets and pamphlets were written by the score and widely circulated, and Oastler's speeches were often published in this form.

In 1833 the Government introduced a factory bill, and appointed a further of Enquiry on the ground that Sadler's Committee had not been impartial. - This proposal roused the anger of Oastler and the other leaders of the Ten Hours' Movement, and threw the Short Time Committee into a state of hot indignation, expressed in the form of resolutions of protest passed at their meetings. When the appointed reached Leeds a protest from the factory children was handed them, after which three thousand little factory workers sang their factory song " We will have the Ten Hours' Bill." Oastler, at an inter- view with one of the Commissioners on this occasion, said that " the country possessed every evidence it was possible to require and that the proceedings originated out of the minds of the enemies of the bill." On being informed that the only object of the Commissioners was to ascertain the truth, Oastler's characteristic rejoinder was, " Then your object has already been attained, and any old washerwoman could tell you that ten hours a day was too long for any child to labour." At a protest meeting held in Huddersfield prior to the visit of the Commissioners, resolutions were

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passed " that the present factory system can no longer be endured, that the evils it does inflict and has inflicted are unspeakably grievous to the working classes and their chil- dren, and that the enemies of the poor have added treason and insult to injury, by abusing the prerogative of the Crown and appointing a set of worthless Commissioners to perpetrate infant murder," and " that we are at a loss for words to express our disgust and indignation at having been threatened with a visit from an inquisitorial itinerant to enquire whether our children shall be worked more than ten hours a day ; we are at once and for all determined that they shall not."" The protest was delivered to the Commissioners by members of the Short Time Committee accompanied by thousands of factory workers, both adults and children, whilst at the same time Oastler was addressing the factory children in the Market Place. The reception of the Commissioners in other places seems to have been equally hostile, and their work equally difficult for Oastler not only refused his own assistance but encouraged the

opposition of the factory workers.

In the meantime Lord Ashley had introduced a Ten Hours' Bill, which however had to be abandoned owing to the introduction of a Government measure based on the recommendations of the Commissioners. " The most note- worthy features of the Bill were that two sets of children might be employed for a maximum period of eight hours each, and that the Act should be enforced by Government Inspectors. Both these provisions met with violent opposition on the part of the Ten Hours men. It was contend- ed that the system of two sets was simply a device to satisfy the universal demand for the protection of children from overwork, and at the same time enable the manufactur- ers to keep adults employed for sixteen hours a day. The

* Leeds Intelligencer, June 22nd, 18 33

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provision for inspection met with nothing but ridicule. [t was assumed that as the Inspectors were to be appointed by Government, they would neccessarily be mere tools in the hands of the manufacturers."*

The objection of many of the factory reformers to the new factory inspectors is intelligible enough, and at first, the factory operatives were often led, willingly or unwill- ingly, to aid and abet employers in evading the inquiries of the inspectors.

The 1833 Act, which apparently was satisfactory to no body in particular, was distasteful to the bulk of the reformers, though the Bill was undoubtedly passed by the Government owing to the pressure of the popular agitation. In 1834 and 1835 the Act was given a chance by most of the Short Time Committees, and Oastler and the Rev. G. S. Bull " had resolved " they said, " to give the Master's Act fair play," but in the latter year the agitation broke out with renewed strength.

Oastler now made an appeal to a new section of the public. To use his own words, " I have petitioned the two houses of parliament, I have endeavoured to gain the ear of the King of England ; and I firmly believe His Majesty would have listened had there not been a power behind the throne greater than the throne. I have addressed the Church, the aristocracy ; I have not been idle at public meetings, I have attended these from a Yorkshire County meeting with the High Sheriff in the chair ; a city of London meeting, with the Lord Mayor in the chair, down to a country village meeting, with an operative for chairman ; as yet I have not succeeded. I have tried the press, pamphlet after pamphlet have I sent forth, full of ' mourning, lamentation and woe,' but the rulers of the land have turned a deaf ear, the stamped newspapers have been witnesses of my exertions,

* Hutchins & Harrison. " History of Factory Legislation," $. 55.

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yet ' Yorkshire Slavery' still exists! Now I will labour in another field, in it I will sow the seed, and the harvest will come in its season. I want the aid of all parties, and must work on until I 1835 he wrote a series of letters to the most popular unstamped political periodicals of the time, most of which were radical and revolutionary journals, a proceeding on Oastler's part which shocked his more conservative friends. These letters, written with his usual fervour, if they did not bring new adherents, certainly added strength to the movement.

Early in 1836 another Ten Hours' Bill was drafted by Charles Hindley, but a re-actionary opposition measure was introduced by the Government, which was withdrawn though a promise was made that the 1833 Act should be rigorously enforced. From this time onwards a more bitter spirit is noticeable amongst the Ten Hour men. Oastler was invited to speak at Blackburn in September 1836, at which place one of the Magistrates had referred to the 1833 Act, as " Oastler's law " and had told a complainant to take his complaints to Oastler. At the meeting, at which several Magistrates and unsympathetic mill owners were present, the Factory King referred to the incident, asking these gentleman if what he had heard were true. Their nonchalant manner roused Oastler to anger and in impassioned tones he said," You say that the law is mine ; I say it is the law of the land which you have sworn to en- force. . . . . . Now if the law of the land, intended to protect the lives of the factory children, is to be disregarded, and there is to be no power to enforce it, it becomes my duty, as the guarclian of the factory children, to enquire whether, in the eye of the law of England, their lives or your spindles are most entitled to the law's protection. If the King has not the power to enforce the law, I must and I

* Alfred's " History of the Factory Movement" Vol. 2. p 85.

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will strive to force even you to enforce that law." - Turning to his audience, he continued, " If after this, your magistrates should refuse to listen to your complaints under the Factory Act, and again refer you to me, bring with you your children and tell them to ask their grandmothers for a few of their old knitting needles, which I will instruct them how to apply to the spindles in a way that will teach these law defying millowner magis- trates to have respect even to " Oastler's law," as they have wrongly designated the factory law." This " law or the needle " incident caused a great sensation, and is not the only example of Syndicalist methods of which he made mention. - When he was accused of openly advocating the destruction of machinery, he replied, " Ye are a foolish folk. Do you not know that if I were disposed to act so wickedly that I could destroy your machinery for more effectually than by open violence? _ Does not sand lie on the King's road within the reach of all-even the tiniest At one meeting Oastler addressed in Huddersfield, he told how "he once knew an officer who was hated by his men; he one day went whole- skinned into action, and he was carried out of the field with forty bullets in his carcase." - Oastler called the officer ' and concluded-" Power! Hear and tremble!"{ - These speeches created an ugly impression, and intensified the feeling between Oastler and the hostile section of the manufacturers. At this time Oastler was not only addressing meetings, but he was also using his pen, and a quotation from a rare pamphlet he wrote in 1836 will show that his written word was as strong as his speeches. " I never see one of these pious, canting, murder- ing 'liberal," ' saints, riding in his carriage, but I remember that the vehicle is built of infants' bones; that it is lined with their skins; that the tassels are made of their hair; the traces and harness of their sinews; and that the very oil

* Alfred's " History of the Factory Movement." Vol. II, p 109. t Quoted in W. R. Croft's " History of the Factory Movement," p 101. { Holyoake's " Life of J. R. Stephens." p 107.

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with which the wheels are greased, is made of Infants' Blood !"* The occasion of this pamphlet was the refusal of the Mayor of Leeds " to imprison a criminal under the Factories Regulation Act." It is certain that the Act was often broken, and also that punishment did not necessarily follow the discovery of an evasion of the law, though Oastler, in another pamphlet, admits that some millowners were fined. " Certain - millowners, in this Riding, who hate me, as well as the factory children, have lately been fined,-and they are very cross indeed, as every thief is, who is found out and made to disgorge his plunder; these men can lie as well as steal, and they tell everybody that the Factory Act is of my contriving-they know it is no such thing. It is their own. They would have it, in spite of Sadler, Ashley, Bull, and myself, and now they break it !'¢+ _ In spite of the energy which he was devoting to the Factory movement at this time, other things received his atten- tion. For example, in 1836 he published a pamphlet contain- ing " A letter to the Archbishop of York on the original con- stitution, present state, and future prospects of the Church of England," which shows an extensive acquaintance with thec- logical literature, and contains also-for the subject was ever in his thoughts-passages on the factory question. He men tions how " Sadler and Lord Ashley proposed a plain, efficient, practicable Ten Hour Bill: they were opposed by the united Wealth, Ignorance, and Knavery of a Reformed House of Commons," and credits the Vicar of Huddersheld with the statement that " You factory masters do more harm than all us Clergymen can do good."

In 1837, at the earnest request of the Short Time Com- mittee, Oastler stood twice as Parliamentary candidate for Huddersfield, the first election being caused through the death of the borough member; the second being the general election

* " The Unjust Judge, or the Sign of the Judge's Skin," by Richard Oastler (Leeds, 1836).

t " More work for the Leeds New Thief Catchers," by R. O. (Hud- dersfield, probably 1836).

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following the demise of the Crown. In the former he was defeated by Edward Ellice, the Whig candidate, by 340 votes to 290; in the latter he was in a minority of 22, the Whig candidate, W. R. C. Stansfield obtaining 323 votes against Oastler's 301. _ It was on this occasion that, despite the known consequences, Oastler refused to withdraw his statement that he would willingly see the Catholic Emancipation Act repealed. Early in the following year he had a serious illness, brought on through his incessant labours in " addressing crowded meetings under cover, and countless multitudes in the open air, in travelling (always outside), and in maintaining an extensive correspondence, both private and through the press."*

In 1838, the Ten Hours Movement lost one of its chief leaders, the Rev. J. R. Stephens, who was imprisoned " for attending an unlawful meeting, seditiously and tumultuously met together by torch light!"¢{ In that year also Oastler severed his connection with Fixby under circumstances which may now be related. For many years bis employer, Mr. Thos. Thornhill and he had been on the friendliest of terms ; Thornhi'] supported Oastler's factory agitation as his subscription of £23 to the funds of the Operatives' Short Time Committee fully shows, and was the means of introducing his steward to the Duke of Wellington, Earl Grey (then Prime Minister), and other in- fluential people. - On the question of the new Poor Law, however, they differed, though there was no rupture in their relations until 1838, when the Poor Law Commissioners resolved to introduce the new Act in the Huddersfield and Halifax areas. - Oastler, rightly or wrongly, resisted the Commissioners, and one of them asked for the support of Mr. Thornhill. _ In spite of Thommhill's3 appeals, however, Oastler refused to alter his position, and conse- quently he was dismissed from his post as Steward of Fixby Hali, in May, 1838. The episode, unfortunately, did not end here. Richard Oastler's salary had at first been {£300 a year (without

* " Sketch of the life and opinions of Richard Oastler " (Leeds, 1838) p 16. { See Holyoake's " Life of J. R. Stephens," $ 147.

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any perquisites). - He took his place in local society as thc representative of Mr. Thornhill, and extended to local gentry the hospitality he himself often received. - He treated the tenantry and the poor in a generous and almost royal way. Ag a natura. consequence, his income (including legacies and property cf which he became possessed) were insufficient for his needs. - At first he resorted to the expedient of borrowing money, but eventually he put the position to the absentee owner of Fixby Hall, and begged to relinquish a post which involved him in an increasing debt. Mr. Thornhill, however, offered his Steward an additional L200 a year salary, and agreed to take a pro missory note for the debt, which it was understood, Oastler was to reduce annually. - Now, some of Oastler's friends, on his removal, to which reference will presently be made, published a placard (unknown to Oastler), which offended Mr. Thornhill, and to which he replied in somewhat strong terms in the press ; with the result that the relations between Oastler and his former employer became further strained. Mr. Thornhill sued his ex- steward for the debt, and the case was tried in London, in 1840. Judgment was given for the plaintiff, but the Lord Chief Justice observed " that there was no imputation whatever on Mr Oastler's character here."

On his departure from Huddersfield (August 25th, 1838), large numbers of friends and followers gathered at Fixby Hall, and lined the road into Huddersfield, along which he passed, escorted by " a long procession of friends, accompanied by bands of music and banners. _. . _. When the procession reached Huddersfield, it was welcomed by a vast number of factory children who sang their song, ' We will have the Ten Hours Bill.' The streets. . _. were filled with human beings, who made way for the procession, and cheered most lustily. _ The windows of the houses were occupied, and, in most instances, the house tops were covered with anxious spectators. Commodious hustings had been erected. . . .where the business of the day closed with the presentation of addresses to Mr. Oastler, and the delivery of speeches in favour of the Ten Hours Bill, and against

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the new Poor Law. - That was a day of triumph to those prin- ciples of which Mr. Oastler was the exponent. - It was esti- mated that at least one hundred thousand persons had thus openly expressed their attachment to Mr. Oastler's principles and character. Not a few had come from Lancashire to take part in these proceedings. . . The effect in favour of the Ten Hours Bill Movement was widely spread and decisive."*

Oastler was unable to discharge his debt, and he was accordingly, on December oth, 1840, lodged in the Debtors' Prison-" The Fleet." Whilst his controversy with Mr. Thorn- hill had been proceeding, the Factory King had continued his labours for the factory child, and his propaganda against the new Poor Law. - During his imprisonment he edited a weekly journal known as " The Fleet Papers," in which he discussed chiefly the Factory and Poor Law questions In this manner, for the paper became extremely popular, he was able to carry on the dissemination of his views. He also contributed durins this period to the " Northern Star," the organ of the Chartists. Whilst he was in the Fleet he was visited by and entertained peers and members of Parliament, authors, editors, journalists, foreign notabilities, and many of his It is very interesting to note that one of his visitors was Fitzroy Kelly, Thornhill's counsel in the law suit, who made strenuous endeavours to secure Oastler's release, and “pleaded eloquently with Mr. Thornhill, but unsuccessfully. Oastler was not neglected by his other friends, whilst he was " cut of action." In "The Fleet Papers," from time to time, he gives what he calls his " Rent Roll," setting forth the presents he had received. They indicate how widely spread was the admiration for him. Many interesting extracts could be given, but a few, taken quite haphazard, must suffice : :-

" April Torras, Printer, London, gave me five pounds of Spanish Chocolate Two friends from Yorkshire brought me a ham and a Wiltshire cheese, and desired me-If

* Alfred's " History of the Factory Movement," Vol. II, pp 142-143.

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2 I

I should be in want of five or ten pounds, to write to them for it. Essex Clergyman sent me twenty new laid eggs. My lamented friend, Condy, gave me his portrait.

17th.-T'wo unknown Hertfordshire friends adorned my windows with two choice plants. 21st.-A very kind aristocratic friend left a box of cigars in my cell. The wife of a fellow prisoner presented me with an Indian workbox and a plate of shrimps.

25th. -A prisoner gave me a piece of Yorkshire " Parkin." I am very fond of Yorkshire fare! A few kind operatives in Leeds, sent me by John Flockton, Z1 11s."* Scattered over the three volumes of " The Fleet Papers" are numerous © rolls," containing offerings of the most various kinds, fruit, game, hams, wine, eggs, tobacco, Yorkshire parkin (a frequent entry), books, flowers, post office stamps-and miscellaneous articles of

' rent

many sorts. It was inevitable, considering the popularity of the Factory King, that sooner or later efforts should be made to secure his freedom. As a result of the activity of Oastler's great friend, Lawrence Pitkethly, of Huddersfield, an " Oastler Liberation Fund " was opened, with committees in London and the pro- vinces, and with a body of trustees consisting of Lord Feversham, John Walter (of "The Times"), Sir George Sinclair, John Fielden, M.P., and W. B. Ferrand, M.P. Large meetings were held in various parts of the country (the first beinyp at Huddersfield), which served the double purpose cf aiding Oastler's release and of forwarding the Ten Hours' Move- ment. _ Perhaps the most interesting meeting was one held so far away as Dublin early in 1844. Over £3,000 was raised covering the debt, interest, costs, and expenses, and Oastler was free once more. He received a welcome from his friends in London, and on Shrove Tuesday (Feb. 20th), 1844, he made his entry into Huddersfield; to which he drove from Brighouse,

commmmminc«.

* " Fleet Papers," Vol. I, p 408.

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accompanied by bands and waving banners, borne by factory operatives. In the town he addressed in the open air a great meeting of 12,000 to 15,000 people. " Mr. Oastler was a changed man; the energy of former years had been mellowed by experience and reflection, and chastened by imprisonment. The same principles were enunciated, but there was a gravity and weight in the manner, a mildness yet strength in the expres sion, unknown in the earlier stages of the Factory and Anti-New- Poor-Law movement. - The Press (metropolitan and provincial) reported the proceedings, and the event contributed its share of influence to the growing force of public opinion in favour of an efficient Ten Hours Bill."*

In the meantime the Tories had been returned to power at the Election of 1841, at which, in the West Riding and other manufacturing districts, the factory question was the dominant issue. This question was now rapidly becoming a party matter, and " was really a part of the wider struggle between the agricultural landlords and the manufacturers over the repeal of the Corn Laws.'"¢t - As Lord Morley puts it, " The Tories were taunted with the condition of the labourers in the field, and they retorted by tales of the conditions of the operatives in the fac- tories. The manufacturers rejoined by asking, if they were so anxious ta benefit the workman, why did they not, by repealing the Corn Laws, cheapen his bread. - The landlords and the mill- owners each reproached the other with exercising the virtues of humanity at other people's expense."[ In the autumn of 1841 the Short Time Committees were reorganised, and from that time onwards, especially after Oastler again took the ficld, the movement made a strong stand on behalf of an effective Ten Hours Bill. - The Factory Bill introduced in 1843, and passed in the following year, limited the hours of young persons an women to twelve per day. The " Ten Hours' Advocate," a weekly paper, kept the supporters of the movement during

* Alfred's " History of the Factory Movement," Vol. II, p 205.

¢ Hutchins' and Harrison's " History of Factory Legislation," p 62. ] "Life of Cobden," Vol. II, p 300 (Quoted by Hutchins & Harrison, p 62)

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1846-7 well informed of the progress of the agitation. The hopes of the reformers were raised by the introduction of Lord Ashley's Ten Hours Bill in 1846, the second reading of which on his resig- nation was moved by John Fielden. The Bill unfortunately was defeated, but shortly afterwards Parliament was dissolved. Oastler, seizing his opportunity, marshalled his forces ; the Short Time Committees were prepared for the struggle, and keeping clear of all political controversy, they gave their whole-hearted support to those Parliamentary Candidates who pledged them- selves to a Ten Hours Bill. The Bill was again in the hands of Fielden, for Ashley had lost his seat, and was carried at its third reading by a majority of 78, receiving the Royal Assent on June 7th, 1847. The joy of the factory operatives knew no bounds, and great demonstrations were held in the factory towns.

Oastler now considered that his main work was done. He was failing in health, and retired to the South of England, first living at Norwood, and then at Guildford. He was not forgotten in the North. however, for in 1856 the secretary of the Huddersfield Short Time Committee wrote sending him a suit of clothes, " top coat and hat." The letter is headed " To Richard Oastler, King of the Factory Children." The sut was made " by your old tailor, Mr. John Scott," and the epistle ends into a postscript : " In one of the waistcoat you will find two sovereigns which we had collected, but which, in consequence of the kind- ness of John Brook and Sons, was not wanted," the cloth being " A present from John Brooke and Sons, of Armitage Bridge, who wish him health to wear it."* In 1851, at the suggestion (f John Fielden, M.P., Oastler commenced a weekly paper entitlea " The Home," bearing the motto (to be found also on the front page of " The Fleet Papers ") " The Altar, The Throne, and The Cottage." The paper contained letters " To the Working Men," open letters to many public men, a " Children's Corner, and articles of economic interest, many of which were written by " Alfred," the author of " The History of the Factory Movement."

* Alfred's " History of the Factory Movement," VolI. II, pp 300-1, and Hzéersfleld Chronicle, August 19th, 1856,

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24 There are many reminiscences running through these volumes, and reprints of letters Oastler received during the Ten Hour agitation. The New Poor-law-to which Oastler was never reconciled-received its due share of attention. In June, 1855, tha paper ceased, for though it had been widely read, it had never paid its way. " " The Home " has not proved self-support- ing because it has not been amusing-it has not contained " Tales ""-it has not been illustrated-it has (some say) con- tained " too much " of Holy Writ. I aimed to instruct; I have written for the thoughtful."* His last published work-a long pamphlet written at Con- way, N. Wales, made its appearance in 1860. It was entitled " Convocation : The Church and the People," and in it Oastler regrets " the modern notion that Religion has nothing to do with Politics,'"' and reproves the Church for not being " faithful to her mission." Like others of his pamphlets of this character, 11 is discursive; he cannot refrain from dealing a blow at one or another of his political aversions, as when he writes of " that Great Idol Free Trade, moulded in Manchester and electro- plated in Birmingham"! The Ten Hours' Act is, willy-nilly, dragged in, and he tells how " soon after John Fielden was removed by death, that legacy of his was rudely and ruthlessly torn from the Statute Book, and half an hour was by law added to the Factory Day!" Oastler died at Harrogate on the 22nd August, 1861 His body rests in Kirkstall Churchyard, Leeds. It may be of interest to give briefly the estimate of Oastler, f{crmed by a contemporary, Francis Place-the friend of Bentham and Hume, and the great opponent of the Combination Laws. Oastler, he says, " Was a man of great animal powers, active, persevering, a ready writer and fluent speaker, of undoubted courage, and entertaining the very best intentions to serve the

factory workers, and especially the unfortunate and helpless children, employed in the mills Withal, he was somewhat wary, and greatly deficient in judgment. . . . Mr. Oastler called himself a Tory, but was received by the wildest of the

* "The Home." Vol. VIII, p 201.

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Democrats as a friend in common, and his influence over tho working people was very considerable."* Holyoake's pregnant description of the Factory King is well worth reviving. - " Mr. Oastler was an emphatic man, and wrote, spoke, and thought in capitals His ideas, like his letters, were all underlined."f

Richard Oastler, as his commercial career, and indeed, his stewardship at Fixby proved, was not a business man; thougli widely read, he was not a deep thinker, and his mind was not of the constructive order which distinguishes the statesman. His claim to greatness lies in his work as an agitator. - " The perfect agitator," we are told, "is one who popularises ideas and stimulates to action. Without him it is hard to see how progress is to be gained in a modern community."] - Nocrates likened the State to " a great and noble beast who is tardy in his motions owing to his very great size, and requires to be stirred into life. I am that gadfly which God has given the State, and all day long, and in all places am always fastening upon you, arousing and persuading and reproaching." This excellent statement of the action of the agitator applies with great force ta Oastler. _ His name stands alongside those of Shaftesbury, Mrs. Fry, Dickens, Charles Reade, and a host of others, who, stung by some injustice inf modern society, set themselves, accord- ing to their varying capacities, to agitate for its eradication.

It is difficult to overestimate the part Oastler played in the agitation for Factory Reform. - His vehement denunciations of the new Poor-law and Free Trade were merely the tiniest ripples on the surface of our national life, but his work for the factory operatives was of distinctly permanent value. - Without the force of his personality, his indomitable energy, his enthusiasm, and his courage, the Ten Hour Movement could never have loomed so large in the public eye. Oastler was primarily a philanthropist, one of that band of humanitarians, including Sadler, Rev. G. S. Bull, J. Fielden, Shaftesbury, Rev. J. R

* Quoted in Holyoake's " Life of J. R. Stephens," pp 76-7.

T $ 83. ][ B. Kirkman Gray's " Philanthropy and the State." p 302.

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Stephens, and others, who dealt a deadly blow at the inhuman and sterile " laissez policy of the early economists, " the crossbred curs that dog the heels of Ricardo," and other " wise acres," described in a contemporary article as follows :-" They have learned a few words of French, and each parrot from his perch, as he keeps swinging himself to and fro in his glittering cage, ejaculates, " Laissez nous faire."*

The Factory Code, originating in 1802, and developed in successive Acts of Parliament, has now widened its scope, and includes other than textile industries; it covers workshops as well as factories; it extends some measure of protection, not only to women and children, but to men; it has concerned itself with important matters of safety and sanitation, and has Leen broadened out to include supervision over " dangerous trades." This complex code of industrial regulation (including besides the Factory and Workshop Acts, the Mines, and Shop Acts, the Merchant Shipping Acts, and others) has proved an undoubted benefit to the employee, and also to the employer, who is conscious of his responsibilities; acting as a defence of the workpeople and the good employer of labour, against the unscrupulous, bad employer. _ Much, however, still remains to be accomplished _ Van boys are under no kind of regulation or - supervision whatever; the hours of labour of many juveniles are shill excessive; there ig the continued existence of the " half- time'' system, and the pressing problem of street trading and the einployment of school children out of school hours.

There is need of another Oastler, who shall touch the public conscience and thus secure for the youthful population of this country all the essentials of a healthy and sound development,

so that the citizens of tomorrow shall far excel the citizens of

to-day.

*e

* Magazine, April, 1833.

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BIBLIOGRAPHY.

G-==O

There is a very large mass of printed matter dealing with Oastler and the Factory Reform movement generally, most of which, unfortunately, is difficult of access.

Life of Oastler in ' Dictionary of National Biography ' (Vol. 41, PP 293-5-) Spence's ' Eminent Men of Leeds,' pp. 53-59. R. V. Taylor's ' Leeds Worthies' pp. 499-503.

" Sketch of the Life and Opinions of Richard Oastler.' (Leeds, 1838.) (Contains portrait by W. P. Frith.)

W. R. Croft. "The History of the Factory Movement, or Oastler and his times." (1888.) (Contains portrait. )

Alfred's 'History of the Factory 2 vols, (1857). (The author was a barrister, Samuel M. Kydd.)

All the above books, except the first, are out of print.

A slight and somewhat superficial account of Oastler is given in Gibbins' " English Social Reformers" (Methuen) (2s. 6d.),

still obtainable.

The best book dealing with the development of our Factory Code is Hutchins and Harrison's " History of Factory Legisla- tion," 5s. net, which contains a very valuable bibliography.

" The Fleet Papers," and " The Home" are rare, as also are Oastler's pamphlets, speeches, etc.

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Chronological Summary. way

1802. Health and Morals of Apprentices Act. 1816. Report of Peel's Committee on " The state of the children employed in Manufactories." 1825. An Act for the regulation of Cotton Mills and Factories. 1830. (Sept). Oastler's first letter to the " Leeds Mercury," 1831. M. T. Sadler's 'Ten Hours' Bill introduced. 1831. Sadler's Committee. 1831. Report of Sadler's Committee.

1831. An Act to repeal the laws relating to apprentices and other young persons employed in Cotton Factories and to make further provisions in lieu thereof. 1832. London Society formed for the improvement of the condition of Factory Children. 1832. Reform Bill passed. 1833. Ashley's 'Ten Hours' Bill introduced. 1833. An Act to regulate the labour of children and young persons in the Mills and Factories of the United Kingdom. 1834. " The New Poor Law." 1836. Charles Hindley's 'Ten Hours' Bill drafted. 1836. Government Factory Bill introduced and withdrawn. 1838. Oastler left Fixby Hall. 1844. - Oastler released from the Fleet Prison. 1844. An Act to amend the laws relating to labour in Factories. 1845. An Act to regulate the labour of children, young persons, and women in Print Works. 1846. Ashley introduced 'Ten Hours' Bill. 1846. - Repeal of the Corn Laws. 18475. An Act to limit the hours of labour of young persons and females in Factories ('Ten Hours' Act). 1850. Oastler edited " The Home." 1840. 1853. 1856. 1860. and 1861. Factory Acts were passed. 1855. Oastler relinquished " The Home." 1861. Death of Oastler. Since Oastler's death there have been many Factory Acts, the principal Act now being the Factory and Workshop Consolidation Act 1g9o1.


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