Department of History
University of California, Irvine
 Instructor:    Dr. Barbara J. Becker

Week 8.  Anticipating Consequences

excerpts from
Luddite Documents

[A letter from "A Souldier Returned to his Wife and weeping Orphans" to a Member of Parliament from Wiltshire (1802)]:

We know that it have been mentioned to our great men and Ministers in Parliament by them that have Factorys how many poor they employ, forgetting at the same time how many more they would employ were they to have it done by hand as they used to do.  The Poor house we find full of great lurking Boys....  I am informed by many that there will be a Revolution and that there is in Yorkshire about 30 thousand in a Correspondent Society....  The burning of Factorys or setting fire to the property of People we know is not right, but Starvation forces Nature to do that which he would not....

[An anonymous letter to a Gloucestershire clothier (1802)]:

Wee Hear in Formed that you got Shear in mee sheens and if you Dont Pull them Down in a Forght Nights Time Wee will pull them Down for you Wee will you Damd infernold Dog.  And Bee four Almighty God we will pull down all the Mills that heave Heany Shearing me Shens in We will cut out Hall your Damd Hearts as Do Keep them and We will meock the rest Heat them or else We will Searve them the Seam.

Nottingham Review
6 December 1811

The machines, or frames ... are not broken for being upon any new construction ... but in consequence of goods being wrought upon them which are of little worth, are deceptive to the eye, or disreputable to the trade, and therefore pregnant with the seeds of its destruction.

[16 December 1811]

Ned Lud Gives Notic, to the Coperation,

if the Coperation does not take means to Call A Meeting with the Hoseiars about the prices Being--Droped Ned will asemble 20000 Menn together in a few Days and will Destroy the town in Spite of the Soldiers....

[23 December 1811]

By the Frameworck Knitters

Whereas by the Charter, granted by our late Sovereign Lord Charles the Seacond by the Grace of God of Great Brittain France and Ireland the Frame Worck Knitters are Impowre'd to breake and Distroy all Frames or Engines that fabricate Articles in a fraudilent and Deceitfull manner and to distroy all Frameworck Knitters Goods Whatsoever that are so made--And Whereas a number of Deceitfull Unprinciped and Interguing Persons did Attain An Act to be passed in the twenty Eight Year of our preasent Sovereign Lord George the third Whereby it was enacted that Persons, Entring by Force into any house Shop or Place to Breake or Distroy frames should be Adjudged Guilty of Feloney, and as we are fully Convinced that such Act was Obtain'd in the most Fraudilent Manner Interesting and Electionering manner and that the Honourable Parliment of Great Brittain was deceived the Motives and Intentions of the Persons Obtained such Act we therefore the frame worck knitters do hereby declare the aforesaid Act to be null and void to all Intents and Purposses, Whatsoever as by the passing of this Act Vilinous and Impassing persons Are Enable to make Fraudilent and Deceitfull Manifactory's to the discreadit and utter ruin of Our Trade.  And Wheareas wee declare that the afore Mentioned charter is as much in force as tho no such Act had been passed and we do hereby declare to all Hosiers lace Manufactirou's and properieters of frames that we will break and distroy all manner of frames Whatsoever that make the Following spurious Articles and all Frames Whatsoever that do not pay the regular prises heretofore Agree'd to by the Masters and Worckman all point nett frames making single press and frames not working by the rack and rent and not paying the price regulated in 1810 Warp frames working single yarn or to cource all, Not working by the rack not paying the rent And prises regulated in 1809 Wereas all plain Silk frames not making worck according to the Gage, Frames not making the work according to Quallity whereas all frames of whatsoever discription the worckmen of which Are not paid in the current Coin of the realm will Invarioably be distroy'd Whearas it as been represented to Frame worck Knitters that Gangs of Bandittys have Infested various parts of the Country under pretence of Being Complyed of Breaking of frames and hath Committed divers Robbereys uppon any friends and Neighbours I Do hereby offer a reward of 1000 pound to any Pirson that will give any Information at my Office I have I have Got two Thousand pounds as Seacret money any Person that will Give any Information of the Villiannary and False Rumers of the Frame brakers, any one that will come forward may depend upon the Greatest secresey and the same reward.

By order of King Ludd, Nottingham

Given under my hand this first day of January in one
thousand Eight Hundred an Twelve


God protect the Trade.  Sherwood Forrest

Nottingham Review
7 February 1812

A message accompanying the return of stolen goods addressed to "Unknown Stranger":

...it is with extream Regrat that I inform yow hau thay Came into my hans when I came out with my men their weir sum joind us that I Never had ad with me before and it wear these Villinds that plundred but ass we wear going out of Clifton one of my Men came and told me that he Believd that those Men ad got some thinck that they had no Buisiness with I theirfore gave horders that they should be searchd....

...we were gust agoen to have hang'd one of the Villends when we weir informed that Solders weir at hand we thot it Right to Retreat. 

N.B.  The Men that had the things weir entire strangers to my horders or they Never dworst not have tuch'd one thinck, but they have been punished for their vileny for one of them have been hang'd for 3 Menet and then Let down aagane I ham a friend to the pore and Distrest and a enemy to the oppressors thron.


[A letter to Mr. George Smith, a resident of Huddersfield and prominent user of the new frames (Feb/Mar 1812)]:


Information has just been given in that you are a holder of those detestable Shearing Frames, and I was desired by my men to write to you and give you fair warning to pull them down, and for that purpose I desire that you wil understand I am now writing to you.  You will take notice that if they are not taken down by the end of next week I shall attach one of my Lieutenants with at least 300 men to destroy them, and furthermore take notice that if you give us the trouble of coming so far we will increase your misfortunes by burning your Buildings down to ashes, and if you have the impudence to fire at any of my Men they have orders to Murder you and burn all your Housing....

By the General of the Army of Redressers, 
Ned Ludd, Clerk

[To] all Croppers, Weavers &c & Public at large:

Generous Countrymen.  You are rquested to come forward with Arms and help the Redressers to redress their Wrongs and shake off the hateful Yoke of a Silly Old Man and his Son even more silly and their Rogueish Ministers, all Nobles and Tyrants must be brought down.  Come let us follow the Noble Example of the brave Citizens of Paris who in sight of 30,000 Tyrant Redcoats brought A Tyrant to the Ground.  By so doing you will be best aiming at your own Interest.  Above 40,000 Heroes are ready to break out, to crush the old Goverment and establish a new one.

Apply to General Ludd Commander of the Army of Redressers.

[Deposition by William Hinchcliffe, cloth dresser of Golcar (Feb 29, 1812)]:

That about the hour of One in the Morning of the 27th. of February Instant himself and family were alarmed by a Gun being fired through his window, when he saw a large number of people about his house--that soon afterwards the Door of his Shop was broken open and he heard a number of People rush in, and a great Noise of Hammers striking the frames and Shears there--some People broke open his House and came in; a voice said "Where is he--bring him out"....  "Lets kill him".  A man attempted to break open the parlour door, but another prevented him and said "Let him alone for this time."  Another voice said, "If you cause us to come again upon this Subject, We'll take your life."  Someone called of them to come out and bid them fall in--that this Examinant saw upwards of fifty people abouthis house and heard a grat many more, that their faces were disguised being marked black and white--That as soon as they were gone, this Examinant went out to see what they had done and found Five Dressing or Shearing frames and about Thirty pairs of Shears broke to pieces.

Nottingham Review
20 March 1812


The Stockinger lately so blest,
His household so comely and gay,
Contentment each night gave him rest,
How cheerful he work'd through the day;
His earnings commanded respect,
To church and to market he went;
The landlord's accounts made correct,
He bow'd on receiving his rent.

But now we are dwelling with woe,
O, could I my fears but surmount;
The consequence who can foreknow?
Or suffering who can recount?
The warehouses still want demand,
The frames lie to rust on each floor;
The workman has "nothing in hand,"
The traddle he cannot tread more.

Ye Powers, who govern events,
Your Orders in Council we feel;
Humanity surely laments,
Who call'd for the hemp or the steel?
When industry fails of support,
From home takes the poor-house in view,
And drove to the dernier resort,
Disorders may doubtless ensue.

Ye sages our living to save,
Your joint mediation afford;
The thanks of the Public you'll have,
Whil'st conscience presides at your board;
Consent, your arrangement may meet,
Success may the soldiers withdraw,
Whil'st angels your kindness shall greet,
For "order was heaven's first law."

Ye authorities, grant us your care,
O, exercise gently your rod;
Distress on distresses to spare,
Is worthy a King or a God:
Ye Britons at large through the land,
REPENT, and your war-whoop give o'er;
That rapine no more may withstand
The peace and content of the poor.

Monopoly upheld by war,
The breath of sweet Peace will destroy;
The Plenty shall soon re-appear,
And Commerce give labour employ:?
Brittania still Peace can command,
In arts or in arms?great are we:
Can make all the world understand
That Britons are born to be free.

Nottingham, March 11, 1812.


Mr. Byrnny
late foreman of a jury held at Nottingham 16 March --12 [which convicted several men for complicity in Luddite attacks]

by genaral Ludds Express Express Commands I am come to Worksop to enquire of your Character towards our cause and I am sorry to say I find it correspond with your conduct you latly shewed towards us.  Remember, the time is fast approaching When men of your stamp Will be brought to Repentance, you may be called upon soon.  Remember--your a marked man,
Yours for General Ludd,
a true Man.

[17 March 1812]: 

Mr lud,

I Ham going to inform you that there is Six Thousand man Coming to you in Apral and then We Will go and Blow Parlement house up and Blow up all afour hus labrin Peple Cant Stand it No longer, dam all Such Roges as England governs but Never mind Nead lud When generel nody and is harmy Comes We Will Soon bring about the greate Revelution then all these greate mans heads gose of

Hear all Confution menchester and Derby and yourk and Chesterfield Shefild Nottingham mansfield local is going to fling Doon there harmes

The Nation Will Never Sattel No more till these great heads is Cut of We Will Nock doon the Presions and the Judge We Will murde whan he is aslepe.

[20 March 1812; a letter to Joseph Radcliffe, a wealthy landowner and Huddersfield magistrate who actively pursued the frame-breakers]:

Take notice that a Declaration was this Day filed against you in Ludd's Court at Nottingham, and unless you remain* neutral judgment will immediately be signed against you for Default, I shall thence summon a jury for an Enquiry of Damages take out Execuution against Both your Body and House, and then you may expect General Ludd, and his well Organised Army to Levy it with all Destruction possible.

And I am Sir your--
Solicitor to General Ludd.

*PS you have Sir rather taken an active part against the General But you are quiet and may Remain so if you Chuse (And your Brother Justices also) for him, but if you Either Convict one, or Countenance the other side as you have Done (or any of you), you may Expect your House in Flames and, your-Self in Ashes in a few days from your next move.

[19 April 1812]:

In justice to humanity We think it our Bounin Duty to give you this Notice that is if you do Not Cause those Dressing Machines to be Remov'd Within the Bounds of Seven Days ... your factory and all that it Contains Will and shall Surely Be Set on fire ... it is Not our Desire to Do you the Least Injury But We are fully Determin'd to Destroy Both Dressing Machines and Steam Looms Let Who Will be the Owners....

General Justice.

The Luddite Oath
I of my own free will and A Coard declare and solemly sware that I will never reveal to aney ... Person or Persons aney thing that may lead to discovery of the same Either in or by word sign or action as may lead to aney Discovery under the Penelty of being sent out of this World by the first Brother that May Meet me further more I do sware that I will Punish by death aney trater or trators should there aney arise up amongst us I will persue with unseaceing vengeance, should he fly to the verge of Statude.*  I will be gust true sober and faithful in all my deailings with all my Brothers So help GOD to keep this my Oath Invoilated Amen.

[*"Statude" may be a corruption of "Nature" which appeared in one written version of the original oath.  The Luddite Rebellion by Brian Bailey, p. 83.]


The murder of William Horsfall
27 April 1812

George Mellor,
William Thorpe,
and Thomas Smith

Wednesday, 6th January 1813.

THE JURY were charged with the Prisoners in the usual form, upon an Indictment, which alleged that the Prisoner Mellor, on the 28th of April last, fired a pistol loaded with bullets, &c. at William Horsfall, by which firing he received a mortal wound on the left side of the belly, of which wound he languished till the 30th of April and then died; and that the Prisoners Thorpe and Smith, were present aiding and abetting Mellor to commit the said Felony; and that so the three Prisoners wilfully murdered the said William Horsfall....

The Jury retired at half past seven, and returned at five minutes before eight, finding
    George Mellor
William Thorpe
Thomas Smith
- - - -
- - - -
- - - -

The prisoners being severally asked in the usual manner, by the Clerk of Arraigns, if they had any thing to say, why sentence of Death should not be pronounced upon them? answered,

Mellor--I have nothing to say, only I am not guilty.
Thorpe--I am not guilty, Sir; evidence has been given false against me; that I declare.
Smith--Not guilty, Sir.
Mr. Justice LE BLANC immediately passed sentence of Death upon them, in the following words:

"You, the several prisoners at the bar, have been tried and convicted of wilful and deliberate Murder; under all circumstances an offence of the deepest malignity, but under the circumstances which have appeared in this case in particular, as far as one crime of the same denomination can be distinguished from another, this may be pronounced a crime of the blackest dye.  In other cases, the Court has been able to discover something which might work upon the passions of mankind, and might induce them to commit an act, at which, in their cooler moments, their minds would have revolted.  But, in the present case, the crime was committed against a man, who appears to have given no offence to any one of you, expect that he was suspected of having expressed himself with a manly feeling against those who had set up a right to violate all property, and to take away the life of any man who had been supposed to encourage others to do, (what I trust there are still men sufficient in this country to do) to stand manfully forward in defence of their property.  For that reason, he was marked out by you as an object of the most cowardly revenge.  You, attempting to associate with yourselves such men as you could prevail upon to join in your wicked purposes, way-lay him at the moment when he is returning home, almost in mid-day, with a boldness which one has scarcely ever witnessed in trying offences of this description.  But in the course of your trial, proceedings have become before the Court, at which human nature shudders.  That the national character should be so debased; that men, who ought to boast of their character as Britons, should have dared to hold forth, in the language in which you have held forth, and with so little discretion, that assassination and destruction of property were instruments in your hands, to be exercised at your pleasure, and against any person who had happened to offend you--independently of this, that you should have dared to take into your hands the Holy Scriptures, and to administer an impious oath to those who were cognizant of your offence, calling the Almighty as a witness (that Being whom you were conscious you had offended in the highest degree,) calling upon Him for vengeance upon the heads of those who should discover your crimes--these are circumstances which have appeared in the course of this trial and which have scarcely ever appeared in the course of any trial which has been brought before a court of justice.

"It is not upon the testimony of one, or of two, or of three witnesses, that your guilt depends; and let me advise you not to lay that balm to your souls, that you have been deprived by false accusation, and by false oaths, of your lives.  A chain of circumstances has been discovered in the course of this trial, which does not depend upon the oath of any one, or two or three men, whom you may denominate even as bad as yourselves.  But even from the testimony of those, who, if they had not been honest to a certain degree, would have given a different evidence, it is clear that two at least of you were guilty; and as little doubt remains, from other evidence upon the guilt of the third of you.

"In the shop where you have worked, some of you appear to have gained such an ascendance over the minds and over the consciences of the workmen, who were in some degree under your control, that you could mould and fashion them to any wicked purpose you yourselves might imagine.  Their eyes, I hope, will be opened by the fate which awaits you; they will see, that though for a short time the career of the wicked may continue, yet the law is sure at length to overtake them.

"To you, the unfortunate persons who stand at the bar, (for every man who has disgraced his character as you have, must be deemed unfortunate) to you the only kindness I can offer, is in the advice to prepare, as speedily as you can, for that execution of this sentence, which must shortly await you; to make the best use you can of the period still allotted to you in this world--longer far than was allowed to the unfortunate person who was the object of your revenge; that you will take the opportunity of making your peace with that Almighty Being whom you have offended; that by the sincerity of your repentance, the fulness of your confession, and the acknowledgment of your offences, you may endeavour to obtain that forgiveness in the world to come, which I cannot hold out to you any hopes of obtaining in this world.

"It remains only for me to pass upon you the sentence of the law.  That sentence is, That you, the three prisoners at the bar, be taken from hence to the place from whence you came, and from thence, on Friday next, to the place of execution; that you be there severally hanged by the neck until you are dead, and your bodies afterwards delivered to the surgeons to be dissected and anatomized, according to the directions of the statue.  And may God have mercy upon your souls."

"The Reward of Cruelty" (1751) by William Hogarth shows the public dissection of a fictional criminal, Tom Nero.


The execution of George Mellor, William Thorpe, and Thomas Smith on 8 January 1813.

The Leeds Mercury

The Execution of these unhappy men took place yesterday, at nine o'clock, at the usual place behind the Castle wall, every precaution had been taken to make a rescue impracticable.  Two troops of Cavalry were drawn up at the front of the drop and the entrances to the Castle were guarded by Infantry.  At five minutes before nine o'clock, the prisoners were upon the fatal platform.  After the ordinary had read the accustomed forms of prayer on these occasions, George Mellor prayed for about ten minutes; he spoke with great apparent fervency and devotion, confessing in general. the greatness of his sins, but without any admission to the crime for which he suffered.  He prayed earnestly for mercy, and with a pathos that was affecting.  The surrounding multitude were evidently affected.  William Thorpe also prayed, but his voice was not so well heard.  Smith said little, but seemed to join in the devotion with great seriousness.  The prisoners were then moved to the front of the platform, and Mellor said:  "Some of my enemies may be here, if there be, I freely forgive them, and all the world, and I hope the world will forgive me."  William Thorpe said, "I hope none of those who are now before me, will ever come to this place."  The executioner then proceeded to perform his fatal office, and the drop fell.  Some alteration had been made to the drop, so that all the whole body was visible when they were suspended; in former executions only the feet and head could be seen by the spectators.  They were executed in their irons.  They appeared slightly convulsed for a few moments.



and many other

Oppressors and Oppressions.





In Reference to the
Destruction of Machinery,
&c. &c.
[George Beaumont]

"Nature and time destroy the vain opinions of the day,
But sooner or later confirm the dictates of wisdom."  CICERO.


Printed for the Author by J. Crome,


IT will, no doubt, be gratifying to some Readers, to be made acquainted with the origin of Luddism.  From the enquiries I made in Nottinghamshire, where Luddism originated, I learnt the following particulars, namely, That a good many years ago, there lived a poor man at Longborough, in Leicestershire, about fifteen miles from Nottingham, whose name was Edward Ludd:  this man was not one of the brightest cast, in regard to his intellects; and, as is commonly the case with such characters, was of an irritable temper.  This Edward Ludd, called by his neighbours Ned Ludd, was by trade a Frame Work Knitter:  or in plainer language, and which is all the same, a Stocking Weaver.  This man, being irritated, either by his Employer, or his work, or both, took the desperate resolution of avenging himself, by breaking his Stocking Frame.  As the value of a common Stocking Frame is considerable, being not much less than Forty Pounds, Ned's exploit was much more admired for its temerity than its utility.

However, the consequence of this affair was, a Bon Mot:  for, whenever any Stocking Weaver was out of patience with his Employer or his Employment, he would say, speaking of his Frame, "I have a good mind to Ned Ludd it:" meaning, I have a good mind to break it, &c.

About the latter end of the year 1811, the Stocking and Lace Weavers of Nottingham, having been for a long time harrassed by abridged wages, and want of employment, in whole or in part, and consequently with want of bread, entered into a combination, (as report says, upon oath) to break certain proscribed Frames.  But it should here be observed, that the interdicted Frames were not all of a new-invented kind, there being many destined to destruction for the sake of their owner; the owner having rendered himself notorious by abridging the workmen's wages, and underselling other manufacturers:  therefore many Frames of an ordinary construction were broken.

These Frame-Breakers assumed the name of their proto-type Ned Ludd.  Hence when they entered a house in order to break Frames, they would say Ned Ludd or General Ludd, commands us to break these Frames, &c.  These men, collectively, were therefore called Luddites, and their system was, and is, called Luddism.

This system has been communicated to thousands; and as rumour says, to hundreds of thousands, and is still in existence.  But it does not always exist where report places it; for every thief and highwayman now takes the name of Ned Ludd in his mouth when he is about to commit his depredations; and News Printers seem very willing to have it so; most of them caring very little about the difference betwixt truth and falsehood; their drift too commonly is, to enhance the value of their Papers, by saying something that will surprise and astonish their readers.  The old and stale names of thief, highwayman, and robber, will not now adorn the great news columns of those Papers which are ever seeking to treat their Readers with a mess of Wonderment!  Therefore Ned Ludd being a new character, is made to bear the heat and burden of the day; for whatever enormities are committed in the counties where Ned lives, they are, for the most part, very carefully ascribed to him.

Of the fourteen unfortunate men who were executed at York, on the 15th Jan. 1813, not one-half of them, as I am informed, were in reality Luddites.  Either five or six of them were Luddites, who were convicted of entering houses and demanding fire-arms, or breaking, or attempting to break machinery' part of them upon one charge, and part of them upon the other.  As to the rest of the fourteen, they were, as I am informed, utter strangers to the system of Luddism:  but knowing something of Luddism by popular rumour, they had designated themselves Luddites.  Wherefore on entering a house they would preface their demand of money, by telling the people General Ludd was come:  or that Ned Ludd had sent them to make such and such a demand.  Information of the transaction soon reached the ears of a News Printer:  who, glad enough of something fresh to tell his Readers, soon laid it before the public:  his fellow Newsmen would copy his statement, and thus this wonderful news which was half true and half false, ran, in the compass of a week, all over the three kingdoms.

With regard to the conduct of the Luddites in breaking Machinery, I wholly disapprove of it:  it is altogether condemnable:  for in my opinion, Machinery ought to be encouraged to any extent whatever.  It is also my opinion, that every man that invents any thing that will lessen human labour, is a benefactor to mankind, and ought to be rewarded, not by a patent, as is commonly the case, but out of the national purse, in order that he an others may be encouraged to new exertions, and the public benefitted by the free use of such inventions!

I pity the poor, and should hardly think myself innocent if any man felt more for them than I do; but the remedy for their grievances, lies not in the destruction of machinery.  They are oppressed exceedingly, but not by Machinery.  Those who accuse Machinery of causing any part of the distresses of the poor, have very contracted views and narrow minds, and see but a little way.  They do not seem to consider that almost every thing was new Machinery once.  There was a time when corn was ground by the hand; and when Corn Mills and Wind Mills were first invented they were New Machinery; and therefore why not break and burn these as soon as any other kind of Machinery; for if they were all stopped, and corn again ground by the hand, there would be plenty of employment for many hands!  Much the same observations might be made respecting every other kind of Machinery, and I have asked this question in order to shew the silliness of the practice....

With regard to labourers and mechanics, and poor men in general, their case is evidently very deplorable; but I think it is much worse in reality than in appearance....

About two years ago, the Cotton Weavers of Manchester, and its vicinity, having long had their wages abridged in an extreme degree, were reduced by excessive labour, and half maintainance, nearly to skeletons.  They were also become ragged and forlorn:  and those who had wives and children, as many of them had, had the mortification to see these natural dependents as ghastly and wretched as themselves.  Even single men, in general, found it impossible by all their exertions, to procure for themselves a sufficiency of the necessaries of life.  The patience of the Weavers under these severe privations, was worthy of admiration.  Disinclination to turbulence, and expectation of better times, induced many to hold their patience until they lost their lives, and when they had done, but few rich people cared a straw for them....

Here then, reader, a brief recapitulation will give thee a distinct view of this grievous business:--In the first place, the Weavers were long impoverished by abridged Wages, even until their existence became a burthen--they then took the prudent measure of sending Delegates to represent their condition to Government, and to implore redress; and this they did more than once:  but this mode was ineffectual, as the Masters failed not to counteract their efforts, either openly or secretly.  They then called upon the Masters to meet them and enter into fair discussion on the subject; they also called upon the Magistrates to join both parties, and act as Mediators in the business:  but the Masters would never enter honestly and unanimously into conditions with those whom habit and commercial policy had taught them to keep at a distance; and the Magistrates, being more nearly allied to the Masters by rank and fortune, and also more familiar with them by convivial interview, dealt in the business with but a slack hand.  It may be added, likewise, that some of the Magistrates had been Masters themselves:  and to all the rest it must be super-added, that there is no existing law against the practice of abridging Wages!

The Weavers seeing no prospect of any help from others, began now to think of helping themselves.  They accordingly began to assemble in large bodies in the open air, and in the day time.  They adopted strong measures;  one of which was to work no more at all until their Wages should be augmented.  They also spoiled the Work of those Weavers who entered not into their combination.  They were then seized by Dragoons and Constables, and sent in groups to prison; besides being loaded with foul epithets, and disgraceful names, such as litigious fellows, movers of sedition, mischief makers, disturbers of the public peace, &c. for it is not the way of wealth and power in modern times, to redress grievances and remove oppressions; but rather to stifle complaints, and suppress remonstrances by Dragoons, Prisons, Gibbets, and and [sic] Foul Names!  And to complete the miseries of the miserable, the News Printers generally echo the language of authority, seldom or never having the manly fortitude to state to the public what they really believe respecting the actual condition of the poor....

The poor Mechanics of Nottinghamshire, Lancashire, Cheshire, Derbyshire, Yorkshire, and else where, finding themselves hemmed in by multiplied oppressions of long duration, such as, War with all its attendant evils; Provisions high; Taxes high; Wages low; frequently work scarce; Law and Power nearly all on the side of the oppressors; no Public Writers to state the case of the Poor, in a just and impartial manner; News Printers, for the most part, either Knaves or Cowards, who had courage enough to libel and defame the Oppressed, but not virtue sufficient to defend them.

What then reader, was the consequence of all this?  Why, LUDDISM!  Here then, is as plain a statement of the origin of Luddism, as I am capable, with my present information, of drawing.  I am not able to say from certain information that I have a personal acquaintance with any Luddite in the world.  My knowledge of the business has been picked up in an indirect way, and partly from the Newspapers.

When the Luddites began first to break Machinery, the News Printers, and especially those of London, abused them in the most unqualified language, calling them infatuated men; deluded men; wicked men; and ill-designing men.  But I did not observe that any of these "infatuated" Printers had the candour to call the Poor Luddites empty-bellied men--ragged men--or worn-out, emaciated, half-starved, dying men!  A few words of this kind might have been slipped in without any injury to the truth:  though indeed it might have been greatly detrimental to the interest of those who derive a considerable revenue from the sale of truth and conscience, and who make their fortunes by deceiving and poisoning the public mind, and who are principals in bringing on national ruin; and who, strange to tell, are paid for their villainy out of the hard earnings of those whom they ruin!!!

I wholly disapprove of the conduct of the Luddites, as I have already stated, in their breaking Machinery:  they ought in no wise to injure either persons or property, but then their real grievances are not to be denied and disregarded, because they are poor and imprudent.  For if they be mad it is oppression that has made them mad....

General Ludd's Triumph

[To the tune "Poor Jack"]

Chant no more your old rhymes about bold Robin Hood,
His feats I but little admire
I will sing the Atchievements of General Ludd
Now the Hero of Nottinghamshire
Brave Ludd was to measures of violence unused
Till his sufferings became so severe
That at last to defend his own Interest he rous'd
And for the great work did prepare

Now by force unsubdued, and by threats undismay'd
Death itself can't his ardour repress
The presence of Armies can't make him afraid
Nor impede his career of success
Whilst the news of his conquests is spread far and near
How his Enemies take the alarm
His courage, his fortitude, strikes them with fear
For they dread his Omnipotent Arm!

The guilty may fear, but no vengeance he aims
At [the] honest man's life or Estate
His wrath is entirely confined to wide frames
And to those that old prices abate
These Engines of mischief were sentenced to die
By unanimous vote of the Trade
And Ludd who can all opposition defy
Was the grand Executioner made

And when in the work of destruction employed
He himself to no method confines
By fire and by water he gets them destroyed
For the Elements aid his designs
Whether guarded by Soldiers along the Highway
Or closely secured in the room
He shivers them up both by night and by day
And nothing can soften their doom

He may censure great Ludd's disrespect for the Laws
Who ne'er for a moment reflects
That foul Imposition alone was the cause
Which produced these unhappy effects
Let the haughty no longer the humble oppress
Then shall Ludd sheath his conquering Sword
His grievances instantly meet with redress
Then peace will be quickly restored

Let the wise and the great lend their aid and advice
Nor e'er their assistance withdraw
Till full fashioned work at the old fashioned price
Is established by Custom and Law
Then the Trade when this ardorous contest is o'er
Shall raise in full splendor its head
And colting and cutting and squaring no more
Shall deprive honest workmen of bread.

"The Hand-loom Weavers' Lament"

You gentlemen and tradesmen, that ride about at will,
Look down on these poor people; it's enough to make you crill;
Look down on these poor people, as you ride up and down,
I think there is a God above will bring your pride quite down.

You tyrants of England, your race may soon be run,
You may be brought unto account for what you've sorely done.

You pull down our wages, shamefully to tell;
You go into the markets, and say you cannot sell;
And when that we do ask you when these bad times will mend,
You quickly give an answer, "When the wars are at an end."

When we look on our poor children, it grieves our hearts full sore,
Their clothing it is worn to rags, while we can get no more,
With little in their bellies, they to work must go,
Whilst yours do dress as manky as monkeys in a show.

You go to church on Sundays, I'm sure it's nought but pride,
There can be no religion where humanity's thrown aside;
If there be a place in heaven, as there is in the Exchange,
Our poor souls must not come near there; like lost sheep they must range.

With the choicest of strong dainties your tables overspread,
With good ale and strong brandy, to make your faces red;
You call'd a set of visitors--it is your whole delight--
And you lay your heads together to make our faces white.

You say that Bonyparty he's been the spoil of all,
And that we have got reason to pray for his downfall;
Now Bonyparty's dead and gone, and it is plainly shown
That we have bigger tyrants in Boneys of our own.

And now, my lads, for to conclude, it's time to make an end;
Let's see if we can form a plan that these bad times may mend;
Then give us our old prices, as we have had before,
And we can live in happiness, and rub off the old score.

"The Cropper's Song"
Come, cropper lads of high renown,
Who love to drink good ale that's brown,
And strike each haughty tyrant down,
With hatchet, pike, and gun!

Oh, the cropper lads for me,
The gallant lads for me,
Who with lusty stroke,
The shear frames broke,
The cropper lads for me!

What though the specials still advance,
And soldiers nightly round us prance;
The croppers lads still lead the dance,
With hatchet, pike, and gun!

And night by night when all is still
And the moon is hid behind the hill,
We forward march to do our will
With hatchet, pike, and gun!

Great Enoch still shall lead the van.
Stop him who dare! stop him who can!
Press forward every gallant man
With hatchet, pike, and gun!

"Welcome, Ned Ludd"
This paper was posted up in Nottingham on Saturday Morning
May 9th 1812

Welcome Ned Ludd, your case is good,
Make Perceval your aim;
For by this Bill, 'tis understood
Its death to break a Frame--

With dexterous skill, the Hosier's kill
For they are quite as bad;
And die you must, by the late Bill--
Upon my bonny lad!--

You might as well be hung for death
As breaking a machine--
So now my Lad, your sword unsheath
And make it sharp and keen--

We are ready now your cause to join
Whenever you may call;
So make foul blood run clear & fine
Of Tyrants great and small!--

PS.--Deface this who dare
They shall have Tyrants fare
For Ned is every where
And can see and hear

Go to:
  • Shirley (1848), by Charlotte Brontë (1816-1855)
  • Hard Times (1854), by Charles Dickens (1812-1870)
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