Ch 12 The Triumph of Industrial Capitalism Pt

CH.12-THE TRIUMPH OF INDUSTRIAL CAPITALISM-SECT.1-ENGLAND AFTER WATERLOO

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CHAPTER XII: THE TRIUMPH OF INDUSTRIAL CAPITALISM

SECTION 1: ENGLAND AFTER WATERLOO

 

THE TREATY OF AMIENS WAS RECEIVED WITH MISTAKEN OPTIMISM BY THE BOURGEOISIE.

MANUFACTURERS ASSUMED THE GOOD TIMES WOULD LAST AND PILED UP STOCKS. INSTEAD, THERE WAS A REAL FALL IN DEMAND.

ALTHOUGH THE EUROPEAN MARKETS HAD BEEN CLOSED BY NAPOLOEON  AND AMERICAN MARKETS REOPENED, WAR CONTRACTS DRIED UP IN 1815. OTHER WORLD MARKETS COULD NOT ABSORB MORE THAN A LIMITED QUANTITY OF SPECIALISED GOODS.

AS A RESULT, IMPORTS AND EXPORTS FELL, AND THERE WAS A HEAVY SLUMP IN WHOLESALE PRICES, RESULTING IN WIDESPREAD UNEMPLOYMENT.

AS 300,000 SOLDIERS AND SAILORS WERE DEMOBILISED, THIS HELPED INTENSIFY AND PROLONG THE CRISIS. IRON FELL FROM £20 to £8 A TON, AND 24 OUT OF 34 BLAST FURNACES IN SHROPSHIRE CLOSED, THROWING THOUSANDS OUT OF WORK.

WAGES FELL, BUT PRICES REMAINED HIGH, AS DID TAXATION.  PITT HAD HUGE DEBT CHARGES: £30MILLION OUT OF A REVENUE OF £53MILLION. RECKLESS BORROWING LEFT AN UNNECESSARILY HEAVY BURDEN ON SUCCEEDING GENERATIONS.


COBBETT AND OTHER RADICALS RECOGNISED THE INFLATIONARY MISERY BEING CAUSED, WHICH PREVENTED A RAPID RECOVERY OF INDUSTRY.

AN OUTBURST OF CLASS CONFLICT FOLLOWED, WITH THE INTRODUCTION OF THE CORN BILL OF 1815-16. RIOTS DEVELOPED ACROSS THE COUNTRY, PROTESTING AT THE PRICE OF BREAD. GRAIN FOR EXPORT WAS SEIZED, AND THE UNEMPLOYED DAMAGED AND DESTOYED MACHINERY.

COLLIERS, WEAVERS AND LUDDITES ATTACKED WEAVING FRAMES IN FACTORIES AND OTHER MACHINERY ACROSS ENGLAND AND SCOTLAND. SHOPS WERE PLUNDERED. RIOTING ON THIS SCALE WAS NEW.

THE LUDDITES GAINED COMMON SUPPORT THROUGH MARCHES IN THE NOTTINGHAM AREA AND WEST RIDING. STRIKES FOLLOWED, AND WORKERS BEGAN TO REALISE THEIR POWER AND  THE CLASS LEGISLATION THAT FOLLOWED. COUNTLESS PETITIONS WERE IGNORED.

THE CORN LAWS OF 1815 HAD KEPT GRAIN PRICES ARTIFICIALLY HIGH. THEY HAD BEEN DEVISED BY LANDOWNERS AND LANDLORDS IN SUPPORT OF THEIR INTERESTS.

EARLY IN 1817, THE GOVERNMENT ‘DISCOVERED’ THAT A "TREASONABLE CONSPIRACY" EXISTED AGAINST THE CONSTITUTION AND PROPERTY. HABEAS CORPUS WAS SUSPENDED AND A ‘GAGGING BILL’ INTRODUCED, PREVENTING THE HOLDING OF PUBLIC MEETINGS, RADICAL CLUBS AND LEAFLET PUBLICATION AND DISTRIBUTION.

IN MARCH, THE ‘BLANKETEERS’ SET OUT ON A HUNGER MARCH FROM MANCHESTER TO LONDON WITH A PETITION AGAINST THE SUSPENSION OF HABEAS CORPUS. 56,000 SET OUT BUT WERE ATTACKED. EVERY METHOD OF REPRESSION WAS USED, INCLUDING MILITARY VIOLENCE. PROVOCATEURS (SPIES) WERE ALSO USED BY THE GOVERNMENT, WHICH, FOR A WHILE, SEEMED SUCCESSFUL IN DEALING WITH THE SITUATION BY THE FORTUNE OF A TEMPORARY TRADE REVIVAL IN 1818.

BUT, BY 1819, HUGE RADICAL MEETINGS WERE HELD IN THE MIDLANDS AND NORTH DEMANDING REPEAL OF THE CORN LAWS AND OTHER REFORMS.

AT ST. PETERFIELD IN MANCHESTER ON AUGUST 16th, 80,000 ASSEMBLED TO HEAR ‘ORATOR’ HUNT, BUT, WHEN HE STARTED TO SPEAK, HE WAS ARRESTED AND IMPRISONED. THE CROWD WAS ATTACKED WITH SABRES AND 11 LAY DEAD. 400 WERE WOUNDED, INCLUDING 100 WOMEN.

THIS BRUTALITY CARRIED OUT ON A PEACEFUL CROWD AND THE CALLOUSNESS WITH WHICH IT WAS DEFENDED BY THE GOVERNMENT MADE THE NECESSITY OF REFORMS CLEARER THAN EVER TO THE INDUSTRIAL WORKER. IT CONVINCED MANY IN THE MIDDLE CLASSES THAT REFORM WAS THE ONLY ALTERNATIVE.

PARLIAMENTARY REFORM BECAME ‘RESPECTABLE’, AND THE WHIGS TOOK ADVANTAGE AFTER THEY HAD DONE LITTLE PREVIOUSLY.

THE RESULT OF THE ‘PETERLOO’ MASSACRE WAS A TIGHTENING OF REPRESSION. RADICALS WERE ARRESTED AND IMPRISONED. OTHERS, INCLUDING COBBETT, FLED.

‘SIX ACTS’ WAS HURRIED THROUGH BY A FRIGHTENED PARLIAMENT.

IN 1820, THE CATO STREET PLOT TO ASSASSINATE THE CABINET WAS BETRAYED, AND ITS LEADERS SEIZED AND EXECUTED.

ON APRIL 1ST, 60,000 WORKERS IN THE GLASGOW AREA TURNED OUT IN A POLITICAL GENERAL STRIKE. AN ARMED UPRISING WAS ALSO PLANNED BUT WAS NOT CARRIED THROUGH.

THE BOOM YEARS FROM 1820 TO 1826 QUELLED DISSENT. BRITISH INDUSTRY FLOURISED BECAUSE IT HAD A WORLD MONOPOLY AT THAT TIME.

EXPORTS AND IMPORTS INCREASED, BUT THIS WAS ONLY ONE SIDE OF THE EXPANSION. THE HOME MARKET RECOVERED, WITH THE DECLINE OF SMALL INDUSTRY IN FAVOUR OF FACTORIES. BY 1840, THIS PROCESS WAS COMPLETE, BUT NOT BEFORE WIDESPREAD AND PROLONGED SUFFERING HAD TAKEN PLACE, WHICH IN TURN HAD SECTIONALISED THE WORKING CLASS AND FORCED THOSE WHO HAD SUFFERED THE MOST INTO FUTILE AND REACTIONARY FORMS OF PROTEST.

WITH THE CONSOLIDATION OF INTERNAL AND EXTERNAL MONOPOLY OF BRITISH INDUSTRIAL CAPITALISM, A NEW PERIOD BEGAN.

NEW POLITICAL TACTICS AND CLASS GROUPINGS WERE INTRODUCED.

IN 1822 IN CASTLEREAGH, A TORY, WIDELY BELIEVED TO BE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE GOVERNMENT’S SOCIAL POLICY, CUT HIS OWN THROAT.

GREAT CROWDS LINED HIS COFFIN ROUTE THROUGH THE STREETS OF LONDON TO WESTMINSTER AND CHEERED, AS THEY WITNESSED THE PASSING OF THE ‘AGE OF PETERLOO’.

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