Wednesday, 15 June 2016

15th June 1816: 'On the Impolicy of Using Thrashing Machines'

To the Printers of the Norfolk Chronicle.

GENTLEMEN,—In the Farmers’ Journal of this week is a letter "ON THE IMPOLICY OF USING THRASHING MACHINES," which I earnestly recommend to your notice, for insertion in the Norfolk Chronicle. As I have, through the whole of the late winter, endeavoured to discourage the use of these machines in this neighbourhood, letter may by some persons be attributed to me. I beg leave to state that I do not know who is the author of it; that I entirely agree with him in the sentiments he has expressed, and thank him having made them public.

I am, Gentlemen, your’s, &c.


Colney, June 12, 1816.

Norfolk, May 17, 1816.

SIR,—On reading a Letter in your Journal for last Monday, from your Correspondent S. requesting a more explicit explanation of the construction of the Cradle Churn, and the portable Thrashing Machine, exhibited at an Agricultural meeting at Otley, Yorkshire, I was so much surprised at the purport of it, I must beg of you to allow me to make a few remarks thereon.

It is not my intention to enter into the merits or demerits of the two implements; I have no doubt but the machinery itself is worthy of notice; my object is to endeavour to point out as far as I am able the glaring impropriety of introducing, at this time, new models of Thrashing Machines, on which implement I mean to confine my remarks. A few years since, Machines, upon the improved construction, might have been of real utility, inasmuch as they supplied the deficiency of labourers, but no further, even at that time; but at the present crisis, I conceive, indeed I am fully convinced, they tend to increase the farmers’ burdens. In this county, and from what I observe in your Journals, it is universal complaint, that the poor rates are considerably increased, and at a time when they are less easily paid. What is the cause of such an increase? The primary cause is, I conceive, want of employment. I have known instances last winter, and even this spring, of strong men who have been set to such work as not to be enabled to earn sufficient, by considerable, to maintain their families; at the end of the week these men were, and I think I do not err if I say still are, authorised by the Magistrates of the Hundred in which I live, to demand of the overseer of their respective parishes, the money they had earned to be made up 2s. for each individual in the family, by which means a desire of maintaining that independent spirit, which it is desirable a poor man should have, by endeavouring to bring up his family without parochial assistance, is entirely lost sight of:—whereas, if the old custom of thrashing corn were universally adopted, work would be more plentiful, the labourer could be better paid, and he would have the heartfelt satisfaction of gaining his livelihood by his own industry and labour. If every expence is fairly estimated, it will be found corn may be thrashed as cheap by hand as by a machine; I am confident it is the most regular and therefore the most desirable plan. All agricultural improvements are at a stand, except what are absolutely necessary; and having a great quantity of men spread in the country more than a few years since, such a change must ultimately take place.

There is another objection, and not a trifling one, to Thrashing Machines, which I cannot omit mentioning: the barn in which one is placed is the nursery of vice, and in that may be considered a national nuisance. Girls of different ages are the persons generally employed; on such an occasion, their morals are degraded, they become unfit for service, they have a dislike to any sort of confinement, and may be considered as useless members of society.

The number of accidents is also a most serious objection, which ought to have great weight in favour of the abolition of Machines: during the past winter, into neighbouring parishes here, two most dreadful accidents have happened—one person killed on the spot, the other a limb literally torn off and otherwise much hurt, and we are repeatedly hearing of something of the kind in different parts of the country.—Such facts as these will surely have some weight with farmers in general.

I am, Sir, your’s respectfully,

This article was printed in the Norfolk Chronicle of 15th June 1816.

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