Document Eight - MH12/6039

An extract from a transcription of a newspaper report from Manchester of an “anti-poor law convention” involving various speakers including famous names in the anti-poor law movement such as Richard Oastler and Feargus O’Connor (the Chartist leader).

Archive reference: MH12/6039
Date of Letter: February 1839
Poor Law Union: Keighley Poor Law Union

Mr. OASTLER was received with enthusiastic cheering. When the applause had subsided, in a most solemn and emphatic tone he spoke as follows: – Mr Chairman and fellow-countrymen, – In appearing before you on this occasion, I beg that you will consider that you are listening to a man who may not, perhaps, very often have again to address his fellow-subjects at public meetings on any occasion. I beg, therefore, that you will be attentive to what I say, because I do know that the government of this country is now thirsting for my blood, and I do know that I will not run out of the cause. – (Hear, hear.) The expressions which I have made use of with reference to the new poor-law, and with reference to the factory question, have alarmed men in high places; and they thought that I have been the organ of incendiarism – that I have been the promoter of assassination. They have thought it to be their duty, in accordance with the oaths which they have sworn to her majesty the queen – they have thought it to be their duty, in season and out of season, to put down such a turbulent wretch as myself…… The people ought to tell her majesty, that they no longer had any confidence in her ministers friendly to the new poor-bill. I know, said he, in conclusion, that the oppression of this accursed law is handed over to us on the bayonets and sabres of the soldiery. I know that this horrible oppression is now sinking deep into the heart of Britain; and though the lion may have been sleeping under the laudanum of reform, they know that he now begins to feel his limbs quivering – they see him, in imagination, rising from his lethargy; and I know that when the men of wealth,- I know that when the ministers of her majesty look at him – for he is their master – they will feel that if he does rise in the majesty of his strength, they will be as burned tow in his paws, – ay, “will be as chaff before the wind.” – (Great cheering.)

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