Sunday, 6 November 2016

6th November 1816: Meeting of Trades Deputies in London calls for suppression of machinery or new taxes against it

London, Nov. 12, 1816.


AT a meeting of Deputies from different Trades throughout the Metropolis and its environs, held at Hole-in-the-Wall, Fleet Street, November 6, 1816, convened for the purpose of taking into consideration the distress resulting from Machinery; and to adopt proper measures for the relieving those grievances, by petitioning the Prince Regent for redress,

The following resolutions were unanimously agreed to, viz.

I. THAT during the last 25 years, the introduction of Machinery which dispenses with manual labour, has become so alarmingly extensive, that Mechanics have gradually felt the interest declining, and through the unexampled and unnecessary, increase of the same, are now suffering every deprivation possible for nature to sustain.

II. That were Machinery suppressed the demand for manual labour would consequently be increased, and the country in general feel the immediate benefit thereof.

III. That the present system of working goods by machinery is prejudicial to the interests of Great Britain as a Trading Nation, by injuring the character of British manufacture to Foreign market; as goods worked by machines are inferior in quality, and unequal in durability to those worked by hand labour.

IV. That it is injurious to home consumption. Before the use of machinery, our markets were supplied by manual labour; as, according to the then low prices of provisions, Men were enabled to work for less wages than it is possible at the present time, when every article of consumption is rising to such an exorbitant amount. Commodities were then sold at a lower rate to the public, than even now with the use of Machinery.

V. That it is in a great degree prejudicial to the revenue, as the immense number of individuals thus thrown out of employ, are unable to purchase the different commodities on which the several duties are imposed. The Machine produces every thing while it consumes nothing; and the profits arising from the same, are thrown into the pockets of a few Machine Proprietors, instead of being distributed among thousands.

VI. That the present system is injurious to the nation at large, by the increase of the Poor Rates. That intelligent magistrate, P. COLQUHOUN, Esq, in his evidence before the Honourable the Committee of the Commons House of Parliament, very justly observes, "That from the introduction of Machinery the supply of labour has been for a length of time greater in almost all branches of industry than the demand, and hence the vast number of individuals on parish funds in the middle station of life."

VII. That since the introduction of Machinery, the commission of crime has increased to an alarming and deplorable extent. Individuals by being reduced to extreme distress, are often urged to commit crimes, for which the laws of the country condemn them; who, could they have obtained employ, might have continued industrious and beneficial members of society.

VIII. That the present system is unjust to those men who have been brought up in, and served their apprenticeships, to their several trades; their whole prospects being at once blasted by the introduction of a Machine, which reduces them to beggary and want, and entails upon their offspring every evil.

IX. That it is also unreasonable and unjust to those men who have been fighting the battles and maintaining the honour of their country. Through the introduction of Machinery, they were obliged to leave their families, their homes, and all that were dear to them; and now, when their country no longer requires their services, they return, but it is to find those Machines, which before had usurped their stations, still flourishing is all their destructive influence! while they, as a reward for their valuable services, are left to starve in silence, or die in obscurity.

X. That Machinery is thus altogether injurious to our foreign trade as well as home consumption. It diminishes the revenue and increases the burthen of the people, fills our poor-houses with paupers, and our prisons with malefactors; and to the discarded mechanic and discharged veteran, it is alike unreasonable and unjust.

XI. That the mechanics, artisans, and labourers of this realm, are no longer blind to their own interests, but do here unite to petition His Royal Highness the Prince Regent, for redress and deliverance from these accumulated evils. We are bold in asserting, that we are the principal support of our Government; but at the same time are proud of indulging the hope, that the Government will not turn a deaf ear to our complaints, but will protect us from this cruel and unjust system, by which we are deprived of the only means of continuing honest and industrious subjects.

XII. That a Petition be drawn up embodying these resolutions, to be presented to the Prince Regent, praying His Royal Highness to make known to Parliament when assembled, the distressed state of his suffering but loyal subjects, the mechanics, artisans, and labourers of this realm; recommending them to take into their early consideration, the most advisable measures for the suppression or suspension of all Machinery, which dispenses with, or injures manual labour.

XIII. That this meeting be adjourned till Wednesday, November 20, 1816, to be then and there holden. [6 o clock eveng]

IN pursuance of the powers vested in the Committee to procure the best information the Committee have to request, that you will collect as much information as you possibly can, under the following heads; and transmit the same as early as possible to this Committee.—[By Letter or by Delegates]— as the source to which they may apply, to establish the case when required.

FIRST—To collect cases of the different Machine; the quantity of work done by each Machine within a given period; how many persons are employed to work each Machines, distinguishing adults from children; and what wages they receive.

SECONDLY—How many persons used to be employed to do the same quantity as of the Machine within a given period, distinguishing adults from children; and the wages they receive; thus showing how many persons are thrown out of employ by each Machine, distinguishing adults from children; consequently, proving how many more persons would be now employed if Machinery was not in use.

THIRDLY—The original costs of each Machine; how long each Machine will last in constant use; how many persons are employed in keeping each Machine in repair, and at what expence.

FOURTHLY—What the various articles sold for before Machines were introduced, and what these articles now sell for, thereby, describing what benefit the public derives by the use of such Machines.

FIFTHLY—What Machines are taxed; what articles are taxed that are made by machinery; how long they have been taxed; the amount of the tax; and whether the said articles were taxed before the use of Machinery.

By order of the Committee [Joseph Wright Secy]

P.S. It is requested that all communications to the Committee will be sent post paid, Direct to J.W. Hollingworth’s, Black Swan, Bermondsey Street, Southwark, London.

This document can be found at HO 42/155.

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