The Peterloo Massacre - Manchester 16th August 1819

The Peterloo Massacre - Manchester 16th August 1819

Rowbottom's Comments on Trade and Politics - 1800 to 1819
As Recorded in the Diary of William Rowbottom
Comments and additional information (in italics) are from the transcription by Samuel Andrew,
serialised in the 'Oldham Standard' between 1887 & 1889
Cost of Provisions HERE


The year one thousand eight hundred and fifteen commenced on a Sunday, wich was a very fine day and exceedingly warm, but rather foggy. Trade of all kinds very brisk, but especially hatting, wich was never brisker at any former period, nor wages higher. The weaving branch: work plenty, but wages low, wich is chiefly atributed to the very high price of cotton. Meal, flour, and pottatoes being reasonable, the poor are provided with decent Christmas cheer.

These “piping times of peace” though but of short duration, had their effect on our local trade. The average price of cotton such as was used in Oldham was in 1814 29 1/2d. a pound according to Ellison. How this should effect wages is not very clear, but perhaps as it would require increased capital to work cotton concerns increased credit would cripple the trade, as ready money was still very scarce. The “gentlemen hatters” were again in clover,

January 10th -
Hatting, very brisk, and wages high; weaving plenty, but wages low; for weaving 24 hanks in velveteens or cords, from 2s. to 2s. 2d. a pond. Light goods, wages low but work plenty.

Cotton was slightly on the decline. The presence of steam looms, if there were any in Oldham, had not yet had any appreciable effect on weaving prices.

March 2nd -
A meeting took place at the Angel Inn, Oldham, in order to petition Parliamentt take off the duty on the importation of cotton, and on the 6th a meeting took place at the Angel Inn, aforesaid in order to petition Parliament against the Corn Bill, now pending in Parliament. Both petitions where signed by great numbers.

Duty was first imposed on cotton in the year 1798, when West Indian cotton paid 8s. 9d., Boweds 6s. 6d., and Pernams 12s. 6d. per 100 lbs. East Indian paid 4 per cent, ad valorem. These were altered in 1802, 1803, 1805, and 1809, in which year all kinds of cotton paid 16s. 11d. per 100 lbs.. The petition alluded to in this annal for Government to reduce or abolish the duty on cotton resulted in a reduction of the duty to 8s. 7d. per 100 lbs. On all kinds, or say a little over 1d. per lb. Cotton duties underwent many changes, till in the year 1845, on the 19th March, they were finally abolished.

This month (March) concludes with cold, wet weather, and as been so for nearly two months. Trade – any weaving – is very bad, say good velveteens are now wove for 2s. a pound or under. The Corn Bill has been sighned by the Prince Regent. A general despondency hangs over the country.

Evidently the steam loom was now making itself felt, the price of hand weaving being reduced, though the cotton trade was brisk. This year was a great landmark in the commercial history of this country, as it marks the imposition of the Corn Laws. The prosperity of the nation was factitious, resting, as green puts it, on the high price of corn produced by the war. This high price being protected by an Act passed, as we see, in this year, which prohibited the importation of foreign corn, except home wheat, had reached 80s. a quarter, which was practically a famine price, considering the low wages of the poor. The landlords carried these Corn Laws out of pure self interest. Of course their passing led to serious riots, but what of that, the Military could easily suppress them. Perhaps the imposition of these Corn Laws was the unwisest thing ever done by any Ministry, the Tory party, as represented by the landord’s interest, being chiefly responsible for their enactment.

April 29th -
Weaving of all denomination is extreem low. The price now paid for weaving 24 hanks is 1s. 9d. to 1s. 11d. per pond. Trade of all denominations is growing very slack.

June 5th -
The spiners at most of the factorys are now out of employ, having refused to work at a reduced price. The present price is 2 3/4d. per score of 24 hanks, and 3d. per score for finer sorts. The masters insist on a reduction of 1¼. per score, and the spiners refuse to comply. And about the middle of July they mostly returned to there employ having subdued there masters by compelling them to give the usual wages.

December 7th -
It appears that the expences of prosecuting the war against France from 1793 to 1815, both years inclusive, as cost Great Britain above twelf thousand millions.

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