Saturday, 18 August 2012

18th August 1812: John Knight of the 'Manchester 38' writes to his wife from Lancaster Castle

Unbeknown to them, the letters of the 'Manchester 38' - imprisoned and awaiting trial at Lancaster Castle - were being intercepted, copied and sent to the Home Office. This is John Knight's letter to his wife, written on  Tuesday 18th August 1812:
“Soon after our arrival here we had the audacity to petition to be indulged with a Newspaper at our own Expence—on which occasion our Governor told us the Bible would suit us better and be more useful to us and with which our Day room was furnished—Accordingly I have sometimes spent an Hour in looking therein, and I there often find the Rich accused with oppressing the poor—the author of the Book of Proverbs condemns the oppressor, so does the writer of Job, Psalms, Ecclesiates, and the Prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel, but these writers always represent the Rich as oppressing the poor, nor have I been able to find one Instance where the poor are accused of oppressing the Rich—but now things seem to be changed, the poor are now considered as being a burden to the rich, how can this change have come to pass think you, is it not done by a System of Legislation which instantaniously converts the produce of the Labour of the poor into the property of the Rich, and this to such a Degree that in some cases the Industrious Poor are dependent upon the Bounty of the Rich for a maintenance the Produce of their Labor being insufficient for the purpose—We read also of those who add House to House and Field to Field by taking the poor man's Labor for nought, and is not this attempted to be affected three Ways, ie, First by advancing the Rent of Land (though we read the Earth is the Lords and the people the Sheep of his Pasture—Second by increasing the System of Taxation. Third by the rapid Improvements in machinery by which they render manual Labor less necessary therefore redundant and then reduce the Wages thereof. We also read “thou shalt not muzzle the Ox that treadeth out the Corn,” from which Saint Paul infers, that if the Law secured to the laboring Ox a maintenance there could be no doubt of the laboring man being entitled to a maintenance see 1 Cor IX Chapter.”

This letter can be found at HO 42/129.

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