Monday, 18 September 2017

18th September 1817: A Leicester Hosier writes to the Home Office about strikes in the trade

Leicest. 18th Sept 1817

My Lord

I hope your Lordship will pardon the liberty I am taking in presuming to address you, but feeling as I do the importance of the system which is at present pursuing in this neighbourhood, and and being fully convinced that if it is allwd to grow to maturity it will require all the strength of the law to allay it, I cannot resists what I conceive to be my duty―making your Lordship acquainted with the proceedings without wasting more of your Lordship’s valuable time I would state to you that about 2 months ago there was an attempt made here to raise the price of labour, and meetings were calld for the formation of that object, and it was finally determin’d to raise the price of making Stockings very considerably, in some instances 50 [illegible] in addition to this there was a rule prescribed by which every article was to be regulated, and no workmen was to make any goods but what was specified in this Statement of course several of the principal Houses objected to this regulation, having to make goods for every climate in the known world, they were obligd to change & alter their good according to the customs & wants of the markets they were intended for, this rais’d a violent Opposition, and our Warehouses were besitt with Stockingmakers for 2 or 3 weeks, at length the magistrates issued a Hand Bill which had the effects of bringing the men a little to their senses, but meetings of Committees were held weekly for the purpose of enforcing the original object, a Central Committee was found and district committees in every Street of the town which communicated with the Central Committee, a regular register was obtaind of every Stocking frame, and who employed it, and if any kind of work was attempted to be made which the Stockingmakers thought improper, a meeting was instantly calld and handbills circulated to prevent such work being made, in this Stage of the Business we thought it right again to request the interference of the Magistrates, and we causd the Chairman & good part of the Central Committee to be brought before them when they were told their conduct was illegal and must be discontinued. They are now pursuing their object in a different way, and are extending all over the Country, a man of the name of Snow, has been sent to Nottingham, to promote the same object, and after a great deal of discussion between the masters & men, they have this week―Struck. The same man has been to Belper, Derby, Sheepshead, Hathern, Loughbro, Shilton & Hinckley for the same purpose, and even as far as Tewksbury in Gloucestershire, your Lordship will naturally enquire how the men are maintain’d without work; there is a subscription amongst the hands in work, and the men unemployed are allowd a certain sum weekly provided they will not [word obscured] agreeable to the prescribed rule, your Lordship will  immediately see the effect of these proceedings it will of necessity be the means of very much cramping the trade and allowing no scope for genius, for if no goods are to be made, but by a given rule, if those goods suit a warm climate, they must necessarily be very improper for a cold one, it is making the hands completely masters of their employers, and if every regulation is attempted to be made, they do not approve, by means of this system, the persons hands are all stoppd, I would be sorry taking any charge against our Magistracy for having fostered & encouraged this kind of conduct, but really such is their predilection for the Stockingers (and the men are all aware of this) that it is next to impossible to maintain any kind of subordination, I hope the late terrible examples has had the effect of subduing the spirit of Luddism, but indeed my Lord we shall have something full as bad―if this organized system is not effectually stopd, I have therefore thought it right the submit to your Lordship this plain statement of facts, in order that you may if you think it necessary direct some steps to be taken which may counteract the effect, I shall be happy to give your Lordship any information in my power, and hoping you will pardon this liberty

I am―My Lord

Your Lordship’s most hble Servant

Jno Rawson

[To Lord Sidmouth]

This letter can be found at HO 42/170.

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