Friday, 14 March 2014

14th March 1814: John Spencer of Makeney calls on the government to strenghten anti-union laws

nr Derby March 14, 1814

My Lord

From the encreased demand for the labour of our Mechanics of late, it is to be expected that some inconveniences, if not tumult, will occur, but I presume to call the attention of your Lordship to a subject which if not timely checked with the future period render all your efforts to do so fruitless, and will eventually destroy our superiority over other countries in manufacture.

What I allude to is the combination of workmen to demand an encreased price for labour; or what the manufacturers term "striking", this is now taking place to a considerable extent in our principal Towns, & will spread to all, if not prevented; & certainly nothing will be more fatal to the real interests of our Country than this misfortune: your Lordship may think this matter only necessary to attend to, when solicited to it by a real necessity of the case, & when called for by a number of Manufacturers. I presume to say that buyer waiting untill that period will produce innumerable misfortunes and vital injury to the Country, which by meeting the danger thus early may be prevented; the remedy is now easy, but hereafter scarcely any power can stop the torrent. At present I will not trouble your Lordship with such detail of what perhaps you may have some knowledge of; but only request to press upon your attention the importance of the subject.

In Sheffield where I was the 8th Inst, I found that three Bodies of workmen had struck, and their employers have complied with the terms they demanded; another Body called the File Makers have demanded an encrease of wages, to take place 2d May next, and they have sent out to the Masters the terms they will work for in future after that period; a printed paper of which I beg to enclose, & which these workmen have sent out to their employers; these File makers get at present in six short days 25 to 35 Shillings for work; the enclosed paper is 15 PCent above that price. Other workmen in Sheffield are preparing to follow this example; they are also doing the same at Nottingham.

The act of Parliament to prevent unlawful combinations of 22. Geo. 2. and others, are not of sufficient strength to meet this Evil, & besides there are several reasons why Masters of Manufactories will not prosecute, particularly since the late treatment in Yorkshire & Mr Trentham being shot at Nottingham.

If your lordship sees in this subject the great fortune importance it is of I will do myself the pleasure of sending you many more particulars.

I have [etc]
John Spencer

This letter can be found at HO 42/138.

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