Friday, 8 September 2017

8th September 1817: A Nottingham Hosier has fears about FWK Union activity

Nottingham Septem 8th 1817

Sir

The very unpleasant circumstance, under which I have lately placd in the conducting my manufactory being solely the result of the unfounded although public representation made by certain parties calling themselves committees of Frameworkknitters―which said publications have, and are intended to have the effect of rendering the workman dissatisfied in every transaction with his employer I feel myself entitled to request your attention to this subject as one which threatens a much more serious wit than that of incommoding the individual―

Presuming that you are well acquainted that the nature of our manufactory is that of considerable permanence in the engagement between master & workman―you will be able to judge how very painful the situation of the employer in being incessantly calld upon to refuse gratifications which the workman is most industriously informd is really his due―

The Magistrate I am well aware is entitled to answer me, that his concern is only with acts which constitute a breach of the Peace―but when I have [stated] the publications to which I request your attentions―I can scarcely permit myself to doubt that you will be satisfied they have a manifest tendency to provoke a renewal of those disorders which have disgraced the whole range of the manufactory & occasioned the destruction of private property and of Life

Doubtless the intentions of many of those parties who so loudly anticipate the enlargement of our commerce, are innocent but it is time that even they should in some way be apprised that every instance where they raise expectations they are morally bound to fulfil them and are not entitled to throw the burthen upon that other party in commercial transactions, whose sacred interests their precipitate exultation has occasioned them to overlook―This remark would be misplaced were it merely sentimental―but its foundation is in fact of notorious publicity―the expected advancement of the wages of Labor―without adverting to any distinctions, being the almost daily theme of many public prints―the avow’d object of the conduct of several public bodies & public men (see advert from Ilkeston in the Nottm Review of 15 Augt last)―Conduct which renders them in my mind parties to a conspiracy for advancing wages and whose alliance & prompting forbids the thought of prosecuting the prominent, but the excited & perhaps misled conspirator

The first publication is dated July 11 & purports to be an intimation that the demand for goods had so encreased at Leicester that, with the exception of two or three houses, an advance of prices had been agreed to―the information had been previously, or was at some time, aroused in the Leicester and Nottingham papers apparently as News by the editor―but more probably by the parties themselves―Now, Sir my information is, that the application of the workman for an advance was suggested to them―nay even urgd upon them by the conduct of the answers of the Parish or Parishes of Leicester―& the FWKrs undertook their committees―(which it was hopd had become dormant at least, if not extinct) that Prices should have a correspondent Rise in Nottingham throughout the County―a point in which upon their failing, the Leciester and Hinckley houses finding themselves imposd upon recalled their advance

The application made to Nottingham is dated July 21st―imprudently alledging the advance at Leicester to be occasiond by extraordinary demand―& asserting the same demand to exist in Notts

The next publication―(is annexed as a supplement &) is dated July 25 in which the Committee announce their failure in terms which evince the bitterness of their disappointment & a determination to communicate resentful feelings to the body of the FWKrs―

Another publication dated 13th August is in the form of a letter to the Hosiers who manufacture Silk Gloves, couched in terms to excite no slight resentment towards the masters who do not comply―asserting a demand for their article which my own concern in this branch enabled me to know did not exist―or but partially as some demand always will―

The advertisements in the Nottm Review of 15th Augt―standing alone might leave it doubtful whether the FWKrs excite the vestry―or the vestry excite the FWKrs

Again under date 21st Augt, and after the Leicester houses recalled their advance―the Cotton workmen of Notts are required to exert themselves to secure the objects of the Committee

All these efforts failing―a Bill of advanced Rates of the Committees own forming―was delivered on the 29 Augt―with the usual breadth of assertion as to the consent of the masters except a few, who are hereby stigmatisd as oppressive & unjust

An advertisement in the Nottm Papers of Septem 6―shows clearly that these men have been generally repulsd by their employers―against whom they hope the getting of the harvest―the countenance of the Nobility Gentry Clergy & Overseers throughout the County―will support them in a general strike for advance of Wages & enable them to enforce their Bill of Rates

These circumstances exhibit such compleat evidence that the organisation of these Committees, from which individuals & the country at large have sufferd such serious injury & alarm―& in which principles destructive of all harmony between master & workman are inculcated―exist in full activity―that I cannot but persuade myself you will concur with me in opinion that the powers of the magistracy would be well employd in destroying such mischievous combinations

Whether the trade do or do not adopt the Bill of Rates thus impudently tendered―& violently enforcd―the reluctance of the employers has been sufficiently evinced―& for the committees to succeed in this mode can only tend to encrease their personal audacity & their mischievous influence over an extended population―

Other offensive matters, which have not appeared in print, are through the vigilance of your police, perhaps, better known to you than to me―I shall therefore leave them to such weight as you may judge them worthy of―& I am Sire your most obedt Servt

John Parker

[To: L Morley Esqr]

This letter can be found at HO 42/170.

No comments:

Post a comment