Tuesday, 15 March 2011

15th March 1811: 'Statement of several Hosiers of Nottingham'

The following statement appears to have been issued by the same four hosiers that had earlier in January asked the stockingers not to accept work from hosiers paying low prices. You'll also remember that one of the firms, Brocksopp & Parker, were identified by the owner of their frames, a Mr Bolton, as renting his frames to them, and that the Nottingham Journal reported that his frames had been broken in the initial attack at Arnold on 11th March: the statement has the four firms complaining about the "destruction of our property."

The statement was presumably issued as a broadsheet or public notice, because it doesn't appear in the Nottingham Journal, but it does appear in the appendix of a Parliamentary Select Committee Report issued in May 1812.1 William Felkin also alludes to some of the negotiations that are implied in the statement in his 1867 book.2
STATEMENT of several Hosiers of Nottingham, to the Framework Knitters of that Town; respecting the reduction of their Wages, &.c. 
IT appears, from the violent proceedings that have taken place within these few days past' in the destruction of our property, that you are led to suppose that we are the cause or the reduction of your Wages.—It is well known to you, that a great number of Hosiers had reduced their workmen, by direct and indirect methods, a long time before we gave notice of our intention of reducing the prices. Some have been making slender Womens Hose, in size, at the price of Maids, and other sizes in the same manner; others have been taking off 5s. and 6s. per dozen for work left out, which, to the workman, was not worth more than 3s. per dozen; others have been making 38 gauge Hose on 40 gauge Frames, and so on downwards till they have actually made Maids Hose on a 30 gauge Frame, at 10d. and 101/4 d. per pair; at the same time asserting their disapprobation of any reduction in the price of workmanship. 
It is a notorious fact, that the workmen of Arnold have been working for a person there considerably under the stated and regular prices, which enabled him to sell his goods, to the Hosiers for less money than we could make them for. 
These things made it absolutely necessary, for the preservation of our trade, that something should be done to counteract this system, which was destroying us. We had the choice of the following methods—either to reduce the full-fashioned work more to a level with the low-priced work, or to make the same work at the same price it was made at by our neighbours, or to let our frames stand still. 
We have given our workmen their choice, and they have taken the full-fashioned work at reduced prices; they acknowledged it was still the best work, and they preferred it. This has been invariably confirmed to us by the numerous workmen we have since conversed with on the subject, but more particularly by your Committee, who we always supposed were properly appointed by yourselves to settle this business. 
When the reduction of the price of full-fashioned work had taken place in January, we were called upon by the Hosiers to sign their advertisement of the 26th of that month, stating their disapprobation of a reduction. We declined, because we there saw the names, of those who had, for a length of time, taken every method in their power to get their work made at less price than their neighbours, by craftily undermining their workmen wherever they could. We were then told by them, that we should have pursued the same system, and then no notice would have been taken of it. Our answer was, "that we despised the system, and never would adopt it;" because, we were certain that, if that system were to be generally adopted, the most dreadful consequences would ensue to the workmen; and those Hosiers who had the hardest hearts and the least conscience, would get their work made at the lowest prices. We therefore determined to make our reduction, accompanied with such restrictions and regulations as we hoped would protect the workmen effectually from any imposition. Had those gentlemen been really anxious to prevent the reduction taking place, which they attributed to us, why did not they come forward and agree to pay the Standard price for standard sizes, and to pay a proper and fair price for the low-priced work? [We had promised to raise our price to the full standard, and return every farthing we had deducted from the work people.] 
This has never been explained, but instead of so doing, they gave notice of their intention to reduce their Wages; thus by their conduct openly contradicting their own assertions in the public papers, (viz.) that they disapproved of the reduction of the price of workmanship. Several reasons might be given for their conduct; but their main object was to oblige us to raise our prices, that they might still continue to possess the advantages they had obtained over us, and be enabled to send their Goods to market on better terms than their neighbours, who were giving standard prices for standard sizes. 
Your Committee afterwards waited upon us, and at their request we signed an Agreement, stating, that we would give the old standard price for full-fashioned work, provided the rest of the trade would agree not to continue the practice of making sham Hose on 30 Gauge Frames, and fine work on super Frames, &c.; nor to make Slender Womens Hose for Maids price; nor to deduct for fashion left out, more than that fashion was really worth. 
Your Committee then expressed themselves perfectly satisfied with us, and went away filled with the most sanguine expectations that those gentlemen who had voluntarily come forward to express their decided disapprobation of the reduction, would have signed that Agreement without hesitation. But after the most urgent solicitation, they found themselves unable to procure even a single Signature to it. 
We have thought proper thus to state to you publicly the motives for the reduction, and the steps taken to prevent it. We do not wish to possess any unfair advantage over our neighbours, in manufacturing our Goods on better terms than they; and on the other hand, we can by no means allow any exclusive advantage to them, of manufacturing their Goods at a lower price, by substituting one size or one gauge for another—as, in so doing, we are not capable of entering the market on equal terms with them. 
Having thus given you a fair statement of Facts, we leave you to determine who are the real cause of the Reduction. 
Nottingham, March 15, 1811.


1. Report from the Committee on the Framework-Knitters Petitions. pp.57-58; 1812 (247) 2
2. Felkin (1867, p.240)

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