The Manchester Female Reformers’ Address, 1819
The Manchester Female Reformers’ Address
To the Wives, Mothers, Sisters, and Daughters
of the Higher and Middling Classes of Society
Dear Sisters of the Earth,
It is with a spirit of peaceful consideration and due respect that we are induced to address you, upon the causes that have compelled us to associate together in aid of our suffering children, our dying parents, and the miserable partners of our woes. Bereft, not only of that support, the calls of nature require for existence; but the balm of sweet repose hath long been a stranger to us. Our minds are filled with horror and despair, fearful, on each returning morn, the light of heaven should present to us the corpse of some of our famished offspring, or nearest kindred, which the more kind hand of death had released from the grasp of the oppressor. The Sabbath, which is set apart by the all-wise Creator for a day of rest, we are compelled to employ in repairing the tattered garments, to cover the nakedness of our forlorn and destitute families. Every succeeding night brings with it new terrors, so that we are sick of life, and weary of a world where poverty, wretchedness, tyranny, and injustice, have so long been permitted to reign amongst men.
Dear Sisters, we feel justified in stating, that under the oppressive system of Government that we now live, the same fate that hath overtaken us, must speedily be the lot of many of you; for it is said in the word of God, ‘Where the carcase is, there will the eagles be also’; and this we have proved to demonstration, that the lazy Borough mongering Eagles of destruction have nearly picked bare the bones of those who labour. You may then fairly anticipate, that when we are mixed with the silent dust, you will become the next victims of the voracious Borough Tyrants, who will chase you, in your turn, to misery and death, till at length, the middle and useful class of society, is swept, by their relentless hands, from the face of the creation.
From very mature and deliberate consideration, we are thoroughly convinced, that under the present system, the day is near at hand, when nothing will be found in our unhappy country but luxury, idleness, dissipation, and tyranny, on the one hand; and abject poverty, slavery, wretchedness, misery, and death, on the other. To avert these dreaded evils, it is your duty therefore to unite with us as speedily as possible; and to exert your influence with your fathers, your husbands, your sons, your relatives, and your friends, to join the Male Union for constitutionally demanding a Reform in their own House, viz. The Commons’ House of Parliament; for we are now thoroughly convinced that for want of such timely Reform, the useful class of society has been reduced to its present degraded state – and that with such a reform, the English nation would not have been stamped with the indelible disgrace, of having been engaged in the late unjust, unnecessary, and destructive war, against the liberties of France, that closed its dreadful career on the crimson plains of Waterloo; where the blood of our fellow-creatures flowed in such mighty profusion, that the fertile earth seemed to blush at the outrage offered to the choicest works of heaven; and for a space of time was glutted with the polluted draught, till the Almighty, with a frown upon the aggressors, drew a veil over the dismal scene!
Let us now ask the cause of this dreadful carnage? Was it to gain immortal happiness for all mankind? Or, if possible, ‘was it for a nobler purpose?’ Alas, no! The simple story is this, that all this dreadful slaughter was, in cold blood, committed for the purpose of placing upon the Throne of France, contrary to the people’s interest and inclination, the present contemptible Louis, a man who had been living for years in this country in idleness, and wandering from one corner of the island to the other in cowardly and vagabond slothfulness and contempt. Let it be remembered at the same time, that this war, to reinstate this man, has tended to raise landed property threefold above its value, and to load our beloved country with such an insurmountable burden of Taxation, that is too intolerable to endure longer; it has nearly annihilated our once flourishing trade and commerce, and is now driving our merchants and manufacturers to poverty and degradation.
We call upon you therefore to join us with heart and hand, to exterminate tyranny and foul oppression from the face of our native country. It affords us pleasure to inform you, that numbers of your ranks have voluntarily mixed with us, who are fully determined, in defiance of the threats of the Borough mongers, to aid us in our just and constitutional career. Our enemies are resolved upon destroying the last vestige of the natural Rights of Man, and we are determined to establish it; for as well might they attempt to arrest the sun in the region of space, or stop the diurnal motion of the earth, as to impede the rapid progress of the enlightened friends to Liberty and Truth. The beam of angelic light that hath gone forth through the globe hath at length reached unto Man, and we are proud to say that the Female Reformers of Manchester have also caught its benign and heavenly influence; it is not possible therefore for us to submit to bear the ponderous weight of our chains any longer, but to use our endeavour to tear them asunder, and dash them in the face of our remorseless oppressors.
We can no longer bear to see numbers of our parents immured in workshops – our fathers separated from our mothers, in direct contradiction to the laws of God and the laws of man; our sons degraded below human nature, our husbands and little ones clothed in rags, and pining on the face of the earth! Dear Sisters, how could you bear to see the infant at the breast, drawing from you the remnant of your last blood, instead of the nourishment which nature requires; the only subsistence for yourselves being a draught of cold water? It would be criminal in us to disguise any longer the dreadful truth; for, in the midst of all these privations, if we were to hold our peace, the very trees of the forest, and stones of the valley, would justly cry out!
These are a few of the consequences resulting from the mad career of the Borough mongers’ war, to say nothing of the thousands and tens of thousands that have been slain! The widows and orphans that have been left destitute and unprotected. The hyprocrital [sic] hireling will blasphemously tell you that these things are of divine ordinance; but in vain does he publish this to reason and common sense – the great Author of nature makes no distinction of persons – the rich and the poor are all alike to him; and surely the forked lightning, the awful thunder, the terrible earthquakes, and the howling and flaming volcanoes, are sufficient to chastise the most obdurate, without man becoming the oppressor of man. We close the disgusting scene; for language would infinitely fall short in painting the portrait of our woes in all their horrible deformities.
In conclusion, we earnestly entreat you to come forward – posterity will bless the names they see enrolled under the banners of Reform. Remember, that all good men were reformers in every age of the world. Noah was a reformer; he warned the people of their danger, but they paid no attention to him; Lot did in like manner, but the deluded people laughed him to scorn; the consequence was they were destroyed; all the Prophets were Reformers, and also the Apostles; so was the great Founder Christianity, he was the greatest reformer of all; and if Jesus Christ himself were to come upon the earth again, and to preach against the Church and the State in the same manner he did against the Jewish and heathen nations, his life would assuredly be sacrificed by the relentless hand of the Borough-Judases; for corruption, tyranny, and injustice, have reached their summit; and the bitter cup of oppression is now full to the brim.
By Order of the Committee
Susanna Saxton, Secretary.
Union Rooms, Manchester, July 20, 1819
N.B. The Committee will sit every Tuesday Evening, from six to nine o’clock, for the purpose of enrolling the Names of such Members, and transacting other Business relative to the Establishment.