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English Apprenticeship and Child 
Labour : A History. 

" An excellent example of one of those elaborate 
stu(^es, from the historical standpoint, of certain clearly 
defined aspects of the economic problem. . . . The 
book represents a large amount of patient investigation 
into a complex problem concerning which detailed infor- 
mation is not readily accessible. ... It can be heartily 
recommended to students of the problem of child labour. 
As an historical investigation of the question it stands 
alone." — The Daily News. 

*' The introduction and the first three chapters taken 
together form an admirable essay on the apprenticeship 
system in general. As in the rest of the work, its pro- 
gress and decline are told in detail sufficiently full to 
attest the labour and research bestowed upon it." — The 

" Miss Dunlop has succeeded in making her array of 
facts readable as well as instructive." — The Athenaum. 










First Published in 1913 

{All Rights Beservtd.) 

H. C. D, 






III. REMEDIES FROM 1814 TO 1834 .... 65 

' IV. FROM 1834 TO 1870 91 






INDEX 261 




(i) Introduction. 

"An' I mean as the King 'uU put a stop to 't, 
for them say it as knows it, as there's to be a 
Rinform." So said Dagley, a tiller of the soil in 
the early half of the last century. He knew that 
all was not well with himself and his fellows, but 
was as incapable of laying his finger on the cause 
of their wretchedness and discontent as he was 
of prescribing the remedy. But " there's them 
i' Middlemarch knows what the Rinform is," he 
added. This was hopeful indeed, for a remedy for 
the labourer's case had been a crjdng need for a 
hundred years. But Dagley had drunk his pot 
of beer, and was unduly optimistic. Far from 
there being a reform, the evils from which he and 
his kind suffered were allowed to drag on down to 
our own day. 

F.L. B 


They had come into being about 1760. . It was 
then that economic changes set in which, with the 
assistance of an ignorant ruUng class, transformed 
a prosperous and vigorous peasantry into a mere 
proletariat, ever on the verge of pauperism. 
Before that date, the labourer had possessed a 
fair measure of independence, and had lived in 
considerable comfort, owing to the opportunities 
of farming on his own account. It is true that 
his independent husbandry was on a small scale, 
but it had at least supplied him with an abundance 
of cheap food, and had prevented him from being 
wholly dependent on wages and a master. Above 
all, the possibility of working for himself gave a 
zest to life, and the career thus open even to the 
poorest fostered a thrifty, hard-working and 
self-respecting class. The subsequent depression, 
though induced by various causes, was due 
primarily to the agricultural revolution. The loss 
of the commons by enclosure and the absorption 
of small holdings and farms into the large units 
necessary to the now profitable corn-growing 
spelt ruin for the small man. Changes in the 
industrial economy of the nation, together with 
bad legislation, aggravated his difficulties. Even 
by the close of the eighteenth century, or but 
thirty or forty years after the depression set 
in, the land problem, the housing problem. 


and the wages problem, with which we are 
grappling to-day, were in being ; while the 
rural exodus, which in itself reveals the unsatis- 
factory conditions of rural Ufe and work, was 
becoming a cause of anxiety to many social 

From the first, philanthropists exerted them- 
selves on the labourer's behalf, and reformers 
within the House of Commons impelled the Legis- 
lature to take action. But they were much in 
the position of Dagley. They knew that the 
economic condition of the labourer was unsound 
and that his social condition was far from satis- 
factory, and they wanted " Rinform." But lack 
of experience in social legislation led more than 
once to the remedies they adopted being anything 
but reforms. And they were handicapped in 
other ways. Economic tendencies were against 
them. The condition of the market required 
the extensive cultivation of com, which neces- 
sarily involves large farming. Consequently, 
though philanthropists of the early nineteenth 
century desired to see the revival of peasant 
proprietorship, which in itself would have solved 
many of the labourer's difficulties, their socially 
good intentions were powerless against economic 
considerations of land owners. Further, pohtical 
power lay with landed capitalists who were sus- 



picious of changes which might affect their 
interests, and with industrial capitalists who were 
indifferent to agricultural questions. It was not 
until the last quarter of the nineteenth century 
^that these two obstacles were removed, by a 
change in the market conditions on the one hand, 
and on the other by the extension of the franchise. 
i This change coincided with an acceleration in 
\ rural migration, which the labourer had adopted 
V on his own account as a means of improving his 
condition. The effect upon the town population 
of this influx of country workmen brought it 
home to the industrial classes that rural difficulties 
were not a matter of indifference to themselves. 
The opinion grew that rural problems had an 
industrial and, in the depletion of the countryside, 
even a national significance. Thus, at one and 
the same time, the power and the incentive to 
take action were increased. With general interests 
threatened, the public realised that palliatives for 
the labourer's problem must be laid aside. 
Attempts to find a radical remedy now began. 
What that remedy should be is hardly to be found 
in the history of the previous search for it, but 
that story of blunders and hesitation must be 
the starting point for future action. It shows 
at least in what directions experiments have been 
made ; it reveals what are the real difficulties 


connected with agricultural labour, and what are 
merely the difficulties artificially created by 
misguided efforts at reform ; and it is suggestive 
as to the obstacles that may lie in the way of 
even the best advised method of settHng the 

The story of the labourer in these pages is a 
dark one, but it is not so dark as the story told in 
Parliamentary reports and by contemporary ob- 
servers upon which this account is based. For it 
must be remembered, and it has been remembered 
here, that much of human happiness lies in personal 
relationships, and even in the worst times the 
labourer had that source of happiness open to 
him. In the words of an old Suffolk woman, who 
married in the Corn Law days, and eked out her 
husband's earnings of seven to eight shillings a 
week by her own labour, in the midst of bearing 
and rearing a family of ten : " Yes, I was happy ; 
I had a good father and a good husband." To us 
the tragedy of her life reaches its culminating 
point in the pauper allowance which for so long 
was the outward reward of her hard-working life. 
But to her its tragedies he in the failure of a Sunday 
visit from a daughter sixty years old, living three 
or four miles away, and in the neglect of grand- 
children scattered over the world. 


(2) Before the Problems.^ 

Farmers and labourers had undoubtedly had 
their difficulties long before the eighteenth cen- 
tury, when the modern problems of agricultural 
labour came into being. Yet in the early half of 
that century the English peasant was, speaking 
generally, prosperous and contented. Then about 
the year 1760, agricultural and industrial changes 
/set in which led to the economic degradation of 
-«4 I the labourer. His moral degradation inevitably 
V followed. Although neither the agricultural nor 
the industrial changes were completed throughout 
England at one and the same time, and were not 
felt in every locality to the same extent, by 1790 
their ill-effects upon the labourer were obvious 
enough to call for Government action, while in 
the early nineteenth century the problems of 
agricultural labour were widespread and acute. 
The fifty years prior to 1760 then appeared as a 
halcyon period. Its chief feature from our point 
of view was the existence of a vigorous pea- 
santry, ill-housed certainly according to modern 
standards, and living a strenuous, hard-working 
hfe; but for all that prosperous and well-to-do, 
and possessed of ample means of bettering their 

• Hasbach, " History of the English Agricultural Labourer " ; 
Levy, H., " Large and Small Holdings " ; Prothero, " British 
Farming, Past and Present " ; Curtler, " English Agriculture." 


condition. Even the poorest of their number had 
a career before them, and meanwhile were well fed, 
well clad, and well warmed. Conditions such as 
these, so unhke anjTthing known in the memory of 
living man, are worth a little attention, more 
especially as both of late years and in the days of the 
deepest degradation of the labourer in the nine- 
teenth century, efforts have been made to restore 
him to an approximation to his old position by 
reviving one or more of the earlier features of 
agricultural hfe. 

There were three primary elements in the 
prosperity of the labourer at that date. First, 
there was the existence of wide areas of common 
pasture land ; secondly, he possessed various 
openings for his labour, and consequently various 
sources of income ; and thirdly, there was a great 
multiplicity in the sizes of agricultural holdings, 
which involved an equally great variety in social 
grades, and gave the labourer his opportunity of 
rising in life. It is impossible to place one before 
the other in importance to the peasant ; each was 
a vital factor in his well-being. 

The common pasturage consisted partly of land 
termed " wastes," though it was often as good 
land as the cultivated fields. On the wastes, 
one and all cut their firing and grazed their 
stock — geese, goats, cows, horses, and sheep. 


In addition, there were rights of pasturage upon 
the common fields. For agriculture was still 
carried on by the old medieval method of the 
three field system. The three large unenclosed 
fields were divided into some dozens of strips, 
separated from each other by balks of grass, 
these strips being apportioned amongst cottagers 
and farmers large and small in such number as 
they had a right to.^ But after the crops were 
cut, the stock of large and small cultivators alike 
was turned on to the land, where they grazed 
at their own sweet will, regardless of " strips " 
and their ownership. Rights to this common 
pasturage, whether on wastes or on the common 
fields, were the basis of the cottager's independent 
husbandry. For the possession of these privileges 
gave him the opportunity of carr5dng on stock- 
farming, which paid well, even when conducted 
upon a small scale.^ The garden or land attached 
to his cottage or, when he possessed it even, his 
strip in the common fields, formed too small an 
area for profitable arable farming. He might grow 
enough wheat to provide bread for his family for 
the year or for part of it, but the smallest men 
would never have a surplus for the market, and 

1 For a full account of the various rights of cottagers, see 
Hasbach, op. cit., pp. 89 — 96. 

2 Levy, op. cit., pp. 4 f. 


the larger peasant proprietors would have very 
Uttle, and that probably only in good years. But 
both the largest and the least of the small holders 
would have an appreciable surplus of eggs, butter 
and milk, fruit and vegetables, poultry, bacon, and 
possibly mutton ; and even the landless cottagers, 
who had to depend entirely on commons and wastes 
for the support of their stock, would have lesser 
supplies of pigs, milk and eggs to dispose of. 
Corn-growing was, therefore, only a secondary 
feature of their husbandry, but in live-stock one 
and all sank their capital, the farm-servant his 
savings, and the day labourer his wages. Their 
success in these lesser branches of agriculture was 
due to the open field system and the existence of 
waste lands. Had they been dependent for their 
grazing upon land of which they were sole pro- 
prietors, not one in a hundred of them could 
have made stock-keeping pay. As things were, 
it was the most advantageous branch of agriculture 
that they could have adopted. At that date 
industries and manufactures were scattered 
throughout the whole country, and districts which 
are to-day purely rural then possessed a consider- 
able industrial population.^ Thus the small holder 
had a good market at his door for the surplus 

• See Prothero, " English Farming," pp. 308 — 312, for the 
distribution and nature of local industries. 


produce of his live-stock and fruit trees. Meat, 
fruit, vegetables and dairy produce found a steady 
demand/ From this point of view alone, the 
common pastures were of vital importance to the 
labourer, and they had a value as great, if not 
greater, in suppljdng him with cheap food. Thanks 
to the commons, even men who could raise nothing 
for the market could produce some food for home 

As important a factor in the peasant's prosperity 
were the various openings for his labour, one of 
which has already been considered in connection 
with his rights of pasturage. The sale of his 
surplus produce was one of three main sources of 
income upon which the peasant had power to 
draw. A second and perhaps more important 
source was wages for labour rendered to others. 
The essential labour on the large farm, which was 
to be found in most parishes, and on farms which, 
though comparatively small, required paid labour, 
was performed by farm servants, who were boarded 
and lodged in the farm houses, receiving in addition 
a small money wage. It was they who were the 
shepherds, carters, ploughmen, ploughboys and 
dairymaids. But extra labour for seasonal work 
was employed in varying amounts, and seasonal 
work then was more regular than it is now, for 

' Levy, op. cit., p. 4. 


even when harvest was over, threshing and work 
in the woods offered employment in the winter. 
The farm servants were recruited from the sons 
and daughters of the peasantry. But the wages 
for seasonal work were drawn by the cottagers 
themselves. According to the size of a man's 
holding and its power to support him, he would 
work less or more for wages. The majority of 
cottagers did so work either regularly or occasion- 
ally. Their wives and children also worked at 
times upon the farms, but their employment was 
sHght except in harvest. Their time was generally 
fuUy occupied in looking after the hve-stock and 
in the pxirsuit of by-industries at home. 

The prevalence of home crafts was a great 
asset to the labourer, and the earnings gained from 
such work constituted his third main source of 
income. In those days there was hardly a district 
which had not several flourishing industrial centres, 
the existence of which gave the peasant's family 
the opportunity for practising home industries. 
Work was given out from these centres, and in 
them the goods manufactured in the cottages 
found a market. The lesser branches of the 
woollen trade were the most widely practised of 
the domestic crafts. Throughout England spin- 
ning and some weaving were universal by-employ- 
ments for women and girls. But there was 


domestic work in other trades also, Cowper, 
writing in 1739, declared that in most open field 
parishes the inhabitants " besides their employ- 
ment in husbandry " carried on large branches of 
the linen as well as the woollen manufacture.^ 
Lace-making was practised in the cottage homes 
of certain districts of Devonshire, Bedfordshire 
and Buckinghamshire. Straw work, chiefly plait- 
ing, was common in Bedfordshire and extended 
into Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire and Bucking- 
hamshire. The glove trade of Worcester was 
carried on not only in the city itself, but gloves were 
also given out to cottagers to be sewn at home. So, 
too, with the stocking trade in Nottinghamshire.^ 
We have lastly to consider the prospects which 
agricultural work offered to the peasant. Those 
prospects were pecuUarly bright. At that date 
the work of farming rested in the hands of small 
men, for though the large farm, whether pasture 
or arable, was to be found in every district, the 
small farm, tenant or proprietory as the case 
might be, and the small holding, were still the 
dominant agricultiural units.* Small holdings 
varied in size from a mere plot to several alcres. 
The squatters on the wastes generally had some 

1 John Cowper. Inclosing commons and common field lands 
is contrary to the interest of the nation. 
^ Prothero, op. cit., pp. 308 f. 
' Hasbach, " English Agricultural Labourer," p. 82. 


scrap of land which they had unlawfully enclosed 
as a garden patch, while cottages in the village 
had almost without exception some land attached 
or adjacent. An Act of Elizabeth's reign had 
made compulsory the provision of four acres of 
land with every cottage, and though it is unlikely 
that this Act was universally observed,^ it yet is 
clear from contemporary writers that cottagers 
quite commonly rented two, three, and as much as 
five acres of land. This multiplicity in the sizes 
and grades of holdings provided a " practicable 
ladder " up which a man could cUmb from the 
smaU plot to the small farm, and from the small 
farm possibly to the large. Even the ploughboy 
had prospects. For his small money wage could 
be saved against the day when he should marry 
and set up for himself, leasing a cottage with but 
a scrap of land perhaps, and keeping a goat on 
the common if he could not purchase a cow, but 
with the surety of rising in Ufe through steady 
work and thrifty management. 

Thus the economic and material conditions of 
the peasant were sound. He and his family 
possessed various sources of income ; and since 
they were not dependent on agricultural wages, 
slackness in employment could be met with 
equanimity. The produce of their own holdings 

» Hasbach, op. cit,, p. 75. 


and earnings from home work tided them over 
bad times. 

A few words axe necessary as to their moral 
condition. Bad housing is, of course, one of the 
chief factors in moral degradation. And their 
housing imdoubtedly was bad. The cottages 
were frequently ill-built, and were often little 
but hovels. Many were constructed of mud and 
straw, and sanitation and a good water supply 
were unknown luxuries. Overcrowding was not 
uncommon. In Northumberland the cottages 
contained often but one long low room, which had 
to accommodate its inhabitants for all purposes 
in hfe. In short, although there was little 
crowding together of dwellings at this date, and 
the air and space around the worst hovel mitigated 
to some extent the evils of bad accommodation 
within, the labourer's housing was such as to 
suggest the worst possible results. But as a 
matter of fact compensation was made for bad 
housing by other conditions of his life. Bad food 
was not added to an uncomfortable dwelhng to 
drive him to drink. Even the smallest cottager 
had a sufficient supply of milk, eggs and bacon ; 
the better-to-do produced their own meat and a 
part of their bread corn, and one and all had their 
own vegetables and fruit. Although they sold 
their surplus produce in the local towns, they had 


no need to stint their own tables in order to raise 
money for rent and for goods they could not make 
themselves. For, as we have seen, they had other 
sources of money earnings. And they had not 
to pay middleman's prices for the food they were 
unable to produce at home. Corn, which was their 
chief article of purchase, not only was cheap in 
this period, but could be bought direct from the 
small farmer. Meat, too, he was very ready to 
retail locally to those who did not rear and kill 
their own beasts. 

Yet another factor in maintaining the character 
of the peasantry was that village government for 
matters agricultural which the common-fields 
system of cultivation made necessary. The 
peasant proprietor, and the day labourer whose 
cottage entitled him to some share in the land, had 
a voice with the large farmer in deciding the 
rotation of crops and other matters. In most 
villages, annual meetings were held of farmers 
and common-right owners to consider such ques- 
tions and settle disputes, while there were officers 
appointed by themselves to supervise the alloca- 
tion of strips.^ Another minor but important 
influence in the labourer's life was the common 
practice of carrying on the regular work of a 

* Slater, " Enclosure of Common Fields," p. 87 ; Hammond, 
B. and J., " The Village Labourer," p. 103. 


farm by means of indoor farm-servants. The 
prevalence of work under good conditions for 
single men and women set a premium upon later 
marriages, and encouraged prudence and thrift. 
But, above all, the certainty of rising in life by 
hard work and economy fostered an industrious, 
thrifty, independent, and wide-awake labouring 
class, whose virtues were loudly acclaimed and 
fully appreciated at the close of the century when 
the change in the labourer's condition had led 
to their loss. 

(3) The Creation of the Problems. 

This change set in about 1760. First, the 
labourer lost the commons which had been a 
mainstay of his existence ; then he lost his home 
manufactures. He became a member of a mere 
proletariat, dependent upon wages which, as we 
shall see, did not rise sufficiently to compensate 
him for the loss of his other sources of income, 

{a) The Agricultural Revolution. Enclosures. 

The radical cause of the labourer's troubles was 
the rise in the price of corn in the middle of the 
century, due in the first place to bad harvests, 
and secondly, to the increase of population just 
when the bad years were reducing the amount 
of wheat which could be put upon the market. 


The nineties saw a yet further rise. The outbreak 
of the French war in 1793 would in itself have 
kept prices high ; but the scarcity was aggravated 
and prices were driven yet higher by continued 
bad harvests, by Napoleon's Continental System, 
which checked the import of corn, and by a yet 
more rapid increase in population.'^ The new 
prices gave a great impetus to corn-growing. But 
extensive corn-growing was hampered by the 
methods upon which land was cultivated. In 
almost every parish, although there might be one 
large compact farm, most of the land, as we have 
seen, was farmed in strips, which had to be culti- 
vated by a rotation of crops agreed upon by the 
majority of owners. Such a system was extrava- 
gant in time and labour, since a man's strips might 
be scattered throughout the length and breadth 
of the parish. Moreover, it prevented the adop- 
tion by better farmers of new and improved 
methods of cultivation, and it prevented the 
extensive growth of corn which could be profitably 
produced only in wider areas. Thus with the 
rise in corn prices there were many farmers ready 

• Levy, " Large and Small Holdings," p. ii : " The population 
increased by 3,000,000 persons in the twenty years from 1790 to 
181 1." lb., p. 10 : " The average price of qorn was 345. ixd. m 
the period 1715 to 1765 ; 455. ji. during 1760 to 1790 ; and 
55s. ixd. in the next decade. From 1805 to 1813 the annual 
average price was never below 73s. and often over loos. In 1812 
it reached 122s. M." 

F.L. C 


and eager to sink capital in the land. But 
although landlords had already thrown small 
farms into one wherever they had the power to do 
so in order to meet the needs of large pasture 
farmers, there were still not large farms enough 
to meet the new demand of corn-growers. Spurred 
on now by the inducement of increasing their 
rents, they therefore resorted to stronger measures. 
The engrossing of farms had injured small farmers, 
for many tenant farmers were driven out of their 
business when the holdings they had cultivated 
were consolidated ; and others, whether tenant 
or proprietary, were crushed out of existence by 
the competition of larger rivals and by higher 
rents. But the peasantry was as yet little affected 
by the agricultural changes. Their turn came 
now. For it was the wastes and unenclosed fields 
which landowners sought to acquire for corn- 
growing. The unenclosed fields, extravagantly 
cut up in strips, and the waste lands or commons, 
large areas of which were excellent farming land, 
obviously would become much more productive 
if enclosed. While the desire to increase their 
incomes was the motive force with landlords, it 
could be urged, and was so urged by the chief 
agricultural writers of the day, that enclosure was 
economically advantageous for the country. Only 
by enclosure, it was stated, could the best methods 


of husbandry be adopted, and the best use be 
made of the land. The farmer's prosperity would 
be reflected in the greater prosperity of the 
labouring classes, there would be more employ- 
ment, and the population would increase. The 
waste lands were worse than valueless to the 
peasant ; they merely encouraged him in idleness 
and vice, and prevented his putting forth his best 
labour by rendering him independent of wages. 
Though landlords might reap the greater profits 
of enclosure, it was pointed out by Arthur Young 
that the higher rents rose, the better it would be 
for the farmer, since it would compel him to adopt 
improved methods of cultivation.^ The rising 
price of corn made it possible to regard enclosure, 
which was the necessary preliminary to arable 
farming, as a national duty. Landlords, then, 
had the bulk of educated public opinion behind 
them in their work of transformation. And they 
had the power to achieve their ends, " since they 
were almost always the chief owners of land and 
chief holders of common rights in any given parish, 
or at any rate by purchasing land, they could 
become so."^ The work went on apace. Between 
1702 and 1760 the enclosure of about 400,000 
acres had been effected by 246 Acts of Parliament ; 

' Hasbach, op. cit., pp. 65 and 147 f. 
2 Levy, op. cit., p. 24. 

C 2 


while in George III.'s reign, 3,554 Acts were passed > 
and 5,686,400 acres were enclosed.^ Before the 
century was out enclosure had taken place to a 
greater or less extent in every part of the country, 
though there was less enclosing in the hilly north 
than in the eastern counties and those districts 
where both the soil and the formation of the land 
were more favourable to corn-growing. Enclosures 
varied in their nature, but as a rule they involved 
both the disappearance of the common fields 
through the consolidation of strips, and the division 
of the waste lands. Sometimes, however, only 
the consolidation of strips took place, or the waste 
lands were enclosed where the strips had been 
already consolidated. In a few cases, as in the 
Isle of Axholme, while the wastes were enclosed, 
the strip system of the old arable fields was pre- 
served ; but this was rare. 

Much has been written upon the rights and 
wrongs of enclosure, but there can be no doubt that 
the strip system of cultivation was completely 
out of date, and was a barrier to the introduction 
of better methods of farming which the growth 
of scientific knowledge now made possible. It 
may also be urged that the extensive growth of 
corn was the right course to adopt not only 
from the farmer's but from the national point 

' Hasbach, op. cit., p. 58. 


of view, for only by enclosure and the extension of 
corn-growing could the nation be fed during the 
great war. On the other hand, it is clear that 
landlords pressed forward enclosures in order to 
increase their rents, and that this desire blinded 
them to the elements of justice in the small 
man's opposition. They set it all down as 
stupidity and blindness, which, if it could not be 
removed by fair means, should, in the common 
interest, be beaten down by more effective means. 
That the small man was so beaten down and 
disregarded cannot be denied. " A landlord pro- 
posing to make an enclosure," says Dr. Hasbach, 
" wordd, in the first place, buy up as much land 
as possible in those parishes which were possessed 
of common pastures, and get all the manors, 
supposing more than one was concerned, into 
his own hands. Next he would have a Bill 
drafted, of course providing for his own interests, 
and nominate surveyors and commissioners. So 
far he would proceed quietly. After that, such 
landowners as were by reason of class or sex more 
or less ignorant people would be prevailed on to 
put their names to a petition in favour of the BUI, 
the hearts of the more obdurate being softened 
by a good dinner, with significant threats to 
follow if that failed. Then a circular would 
inform the remaining persons concerned that the 


more important owners of property had agreed 
to join the great man in laying a Petition before 
Parliament. Here again the pill would be sugared 
to begin with, but in the last resort the landlord 
threatened the refractory with all the evils in his 
power ' as a magistrate, as a lord of the manor, 
as an appropriator of tythes.' Few would have 
the courage to stand in opposition, and to claim 
that the majority, though their names might be 
subscribed to the petition, were, in fact, against 
the proposal. Even if some one were found with 
the requisite spirit, how were the very considerable 
expenses of the Bill to be provided ? And the 
whole matter was regarded as one of private 
concern only. No member of Parliament not 
directly interested would take any notice of the 
Bill in its passage through the Houses. The 
Crown, now become the servant of the governing 
classes, had no longer even the wish to interfere. 
So the Commissioners of Enclosure would get to 
work, and their decision would be practically 
final. If appeal were made to Quarter Sessions, 
the prime mover, against whom the appeal was 
directed, would be on the bench, and even if he 
did not vote on this particular question the 
complainant's chance of an impartial decision 
would be remote. The Commissioners were, as a 
rule, attorneys, nominated by the man or men 


most interested in the measure. They had to 
take an oath, but it was too general in its terms 
to withhold them from prejudicing the weaker 
parties in face of the interests they had in obliging 
their patron. The appointment was a profitable 
one, and if they gave satisfaction they might 
hope to be recommended for similar employment 
in the future. And the Bill would go through 
its stages practically unregarded." ^ 

Yet another German writer on English agricul- 
ture states : " There was an actual persecution 
of small owners, whose land was often practi- 
cally stolen from them. The Commissioners of 
Enclosure well understood how to manage matters 
in the interests of the great landlords so, for 
instance, that the land allotted to the small 
proprietors should lie as far as possible from 
their houses and farm buildings. The consequent 
increased expenses of cultivation did away with 
their small margin of profit. The little yeomen 
knew very well what enclosure meant to them. 
But all their efforts to oppose it were frustrated 
by the power of the great landlord or the large 
farmers, who only saw in the abolition of the small 
proprietors an opportunity for increasing the 
land in their own hands." ^ 

• Hasbach, " English Agricultural Labourer," p. 6i. 
'' Levy, " Large and Small Holdings," p. 27. 


Few indeed would be able to preserve their 
interests against this combination of forces. 
" Coaxing, bribing, threatening, together with 
many other arts, which superiors make use of," 
says a contemporary writer, " will very often 
induce the inferiors to consent to things which 
they are convinced will be to their future disad- 
vantage." ^ In the district known as the Isle of 
Axholme, near Doncaster, the small men were 
numerous enough and sturdy enough to withstand 
both bribes and threats. An attempt to enclose 
was made by " educated and influential people " 
in 1795, but the cottagers opposed it so success- 
fully that the " strip " lands of the open fields were 
untouched, and only waste lands were enclosed 
which it was to the advantage of the whole 
community to have drained.^ The Annual 
Register of 1767 testifies to like sturdiness in a 
Middlesex parish, the small farmers of which 
came up to London and withstood a Bill for 
enclosing the common, " which, if carried into 
execution, might have been the ruin of a great 
number of families."^ But as a rule opposition 
was broken down in the early stages of the Bill and 
none was offered to its passage through the House. 

' " A Political Enquiry into the Consequences of Enclosing 
Waste Lands," 1785, p. 108. 
^ Slater, " Enclosure of Common Fields," p. 57. 
' Hammond, " Village Labourer," p. 55. 


The effects of enclosure, good and bad alike, 
were instantaneous. The landlords and the large 
farmers rolled money into their pockets and corn 
into their granaries ; the small holders were 
degraded to the status of labourers, and the 
labourer's status now was but little removed from 
that of the pauper. Contemporary writers in the 
later eighteenth century, and the General Report 
on Enclosures in 1808, bear evidence to the 
degradation of the less substantial classes of the 
agricultural community, evidence which is the 
more impressive because in many cases the writers 
gave it despite their bias in favour of the new 
methods of farming. 

An enclosure might in more than one way deal 
a heavy blow at the small men of the village. 
First, the expenses of the Bill itself, and the 
subsequent charges of the Commissioners for their 
work of division, were heavy. Secondly, the 
cost of fencing was considerable. Both lawyers' 
charges and the fencing expenses fell upon all 
who established their rights to any plot, however 
small, or to any right of pasturage, within the 
area enclosed ; and in many cases a man's share 
exceeded the value of the plot assigned to him, 
and he was obliged to sell, sometimes even before 
he had taken possession. The General Report 
on Enclosures admits that " in many cases the 


poor had unquestionably been injured . . . the 
cottagers could not pay the expenses of the 
measure, and were forced to sell their allotments." 
Even the better off among the small men suffered 
in this way. " When their fields are enclosed, 
not a few of these small proprietors are obliged 
to sell their land, because they have no money to 
enclose it." ^ Arthur Young, who was an ardent 
supporter of enclosures, gives evidence to the 
same effect.^ Even of those who for the moment 
survived these expenses, many did so only by 
borrowing money or mortgaging, and in the bad 
times for small holders could not, thus crippled, 
carry on the struggle for any length of time. 
They, too, were forced to sell.^ 

In the third place, enclosure injured the small 
holders and landed cottagers quite apart from 
the expenses in which it involved them. In 
exchange for their rights of tillage strips on the 
arable fields and of pasturage on the meadow and 
stubble land, they received a few poles of land, 
an acre, or two or three acres, according as they 
were smaller or less small men, over which they 
now had complete proprietorship. But even 
where the awards were not definitely unjust, such 

' Report, 1808, pp. 12 f. 

2 Young, " Annals of Agriculture," XXXVI. 566. 

* Levy, op. cit., p. 26. 


allotments were not an equivalent to their old 
rights. The privilege of keeping two cows and 
three sheep on common land was not compensated 
by the sole possession of one acre which would 
not support them.^ The General Report admitted 
the hardship involved in the exchange of wide 
general rights for sole proprietorship over a 
narrow area. " Many, indeed most, who have 
allotments have not more than one acre, which, 
being insufficient for the man's cow, both cow and 
land are usually sold to the opulent farmers." 

Fourthly, the enclosure of the common wastes 
cut at the root of village prosperity. The entire 
class of small agriculturists was injured ; the 
peasant proprietor or small yeoman who had 
possessed rights in the common fields, the tenant 
cottager whose cottage gave him rights on the 
common, and the squatter who assumed such 
rights, had all alike depended largely on their live- 
stock as a source of income and of home supply. 
Pasturage and cow-run were now lost to them; 
so, too, was their right to cut firing. The im- 
possibility of carrying on their stock-farming in 
the face of this loss of pasturage drove many of the 
medium-sized men out of the ranks of farmers. 
The small tenant farmer sold his stock and gave 
up his farm ; yeomen, who before the enclosures 

» Young, op. cit., XXXVI. 513. 


had been in a fairly substantial position, sold their 
holdings. For those who could raise sufficient 
money, trade or emigration offered new openings. 
" Many of the small farmers who have been 
deprived of their livelihood have sold their stock 
in trade and have raised from ^^50 to £100, with 
which they have procured themselves, their 
families, and money, a passage to America." 
Some of those who could not raise sufficient money 
" actually sold themselves for three years to supply 
that deficiency." ^ Others who had been indepen- 
dent men, though in a smaller way of life, now 
were reduced to the level of day labourers. 
" Thousands of families," says Da vies, " which 
formerly gained an independent livelihood on 
those separate farms, have been gradually reduced 
to the class of day labourers."** One writer 
estimates the number of farmers or small holders 
so reduced at 250,000, a figure which " though not 
statistically accurate, shows the impression made 
upon a capable judge." ^ 

If the men who had been more or less indepen- 
dent thus suffered, it is not to be wondered at if 
the circumstances of their inferiors were corre- 
spondingly reduced. Davies declared that " an 

' " Cursory Remarks on Inclosure by a Country Farmer," 1786, 

P- 5- 

' Davies, " The Case of Labourers in Husbandry," 1795, p. 55. 
' Hasbach, op. cit., p. 108, n. 2. 


amazing number of people have been reduced from 
a comfortable state of independence to the 
precarious condition of mere hirelings, who when 
out of work immediately came on the parish." 
There was a general complaint of the increase of 
pauperism. Lord Winchelsea wrote in 1746 : 
" Whoever travels through the midland counties, 
and will take the trouble of inquiring, will generally 
receive for answer, that formerly there were a 
great many cottagers who kept cows, but the land 
is now thrown to the farmers ; and if he inquires 
still further, he will find that in those parishes the 
poor rates have increased in an amazing degree 
more than according to the average rise throughout 
England." ^ The squatters in many cases were 
not only injured, but ruined by the enclosures, 
and had little choice but to come on the parish. 
Those who could not prove their claim to be left 
undisturbed were evicted and their cottages were 
pulled down, and the land they had cleared was 
included in the area to be divided. The greater 
number of them were thus driven off the commons.^ 
The eviction of the squatter from his dwelling 
must have made housing something of a problem 
in the enclosed districts. The housing of the 
agricultural labourers as a whole was in fact 

' Young, " Annals of Agriculture," XXVI. 243. 
' Hasbach, op. cit., p. no. 


deteriorating at this date, not so much in the 
quality of the buildings, for squatter dwellings 
and those of peasant proprietors were often ill- 
built, but in accommodation. Greed for land and 
eagerness to consolidate on the part of the ruling 
classes led to the repeal, in 1775, of the Eliza- 
bethan Act, requiring a cottage to be provided 
with four acres of land. This opened the door to 
overcrowding, while the engrossing of small tenant 
farms into large, and the sales of small holdings 
brought about by the expenses of enclosure, led 
to the destruction of many cottage homes. The 
policy now adopted was to crowd two or more 
famiHes together in the old farm houses or better 
cottages, the gardens of which were often absorbed 
by the large farms. The ample space for out- 
buildings and rubbish heaps around his dwelling, 
and the comparative roominess within which had 
compensated the peasant for poor construction 
and even poorer sanitation, were now too often 
lost to him. 

Although enclosures did not take place in every 
part of the country at the same date, wherever a 
parish was enclosed the effects were immediate, 
and only thirty years after the acceleration in 
the movement set in, the impoverishment and 
wretchedness of the rural labouring classes was 
sufficiently marked and general as to excite the 


attention of writers, philanthropists and poU- 

(&) The Industrial Revolution. 

Unfortunately for the labourer at the very 
time he was passing through his agricultural 
crisis, the industrial revolution was depriving 
him of the support he had hitherto drawn from 
local industries. The development of machinery 
drew manufactures away from the country towns, 
and concentrated them around water power and 
in the coal and iron area of the North. Thus 
the labourer lost his local centres of industry. 
And stiU worse, hand-work now had to compete 
against machine-work. Consequently, earnings 
for home-work fell to the level of factory rates, 
and industry ceased to be a substantial source of 
income for the peasant. Eden gives an interesting 
description of the change that took place in the 
Wiltshire villages. " Unfortunately, since the 
introduction of machinery, which lately took place, 
hand-spinning has fallen into disuse, and for these 
two reasons ; the clothier no longer depends on 
the poor for the yam which they formerly spun 
for him at their own homes, as he finds that 
50 persons, (to speak within comparison), with 
the help of machines, wUl do as much work as 
500 without them ; and the poor, from the great 


reduction in the price of spinning, scarcely have 
the heart to earn the Uttle that is obtained by it. 
For what they used to receive is. and is. 2d. the 
pound for spinning before the appUcation of 
machinery, they now are allowed only ^d., so 
that a woman in a g6od state of health, and not 
encumbered with a family can only earn 2s. 6d. 
a week, which is at the rate of one pound of 
spinning-work the day, and is the utmost that 
can be done : but if she has a family, she cannot 
earn more than 2d. a day or Is. a week, or spin 
more than two pounds and a half a week : the 
consequence is that their maintenance must 
chiefly depend on the exertions of the man, (whose 
wages have not increased in proportion to this 
defalcation from the woman's earnings)."^ The 
introduction of machinery into other trades 
brought about similar results in the other cottage 
industries. Where wife and children still engaged 
in home crafts it was at sweated rates, in 
competition with machinery, to eke out the 
husband's wage, upon which, as Eden says, the 
labourer and his family now must depend. 

(c) Inadequacy of Wages. 

In itself the labourer's dependence on wages, 
or, in other words, the loss of opportunities of 

' Eden, " State of the Poor," III. 796. 


working and earning as his own master, was a 
change for the worse. But his troubles were 
aggravated. The fact that he had formerly 
possessed a choice of occupations affected him 
injuriously now. The agricultural wages system 
had been constructed to suit an age in which the 
labourer divided his time between various employ- 
ments. With some exceptions, engagements were 
for short terms, daily hirings for a daily wage being 
most general. This had been to the interest both 
of farmer and labourer, for the one could offer 
employment and the other accept it, just as it 
suited them. But when the labourer became 
dependent upon wages, the advantages of the 
system were no longer equal. The peasant 
suffered from a system which left him unemployed 
and wageless on wet days or in seasonal slackness. 
Labourers hired for the year or half-year and 
regular farm servants escaped this evil, but the 
long hirings were usual only in certain districts 
in the North, and the custom of taking indoor 
servants, which had been universal, was rapidly 
dying out. Even the chief servants on the farm 
were now in increasing numbers engaged for short 
terms. This short hire system in itself would 
not have been injurious if wages had risen suffi- 
ciently to allow of saving against unemployment, 
which now could not be tided over by private 

F.L. D 


work. A slight rise there was, but not enough 
to meet all the new demands which now were made 
upon wages. Whereas the rate of daily wages had 
been about lod. to is. up to 1767, it was only about 
IS. to i/[d. from 1767 to 1792.^ This can be fairly 
taken as an estimate of the general movement.^ 

This was not a rise sufficient to compensate the 
labourer in full employment for the loss of his 
former home supply of a large portion of his food. 
It certainly could not cover periodical unemploy- 
ment. Lack of work, even for a few days, through 
illness or bad weather, must have meant a serious 

' Hasbach, op. cit., p. 120. 

' Young's tours, the Agricultural Surveys, and the writings of 
Eden, Davies and other contemporary investigators, give a large 
amount of information as to wages. A detailed comparison and 
consideration of wages is, however, outside the scope of the 
present work, for the information is almost sufficient to form a 
book of itself, and to deal briefly with the figures opens the way to 
misconception. For rates of wages in themselves afford only a 
rough indication of comparative wages. Rates vary according to 
seasons and to grades of labour, but there is often no indication 
in the eighteenth- century figures upon what data they are based. 
Moreover, the value of allowances given in kind, the steadiness of 
emplo5rment, and the prices of provisions, vary in different dis- 
tricts, and at different dates, and these must all be considered in 
any estimate of real wages. Following Arthur Young, and bear- 
ing in mind the figures of other writers. Dr. Hasbach concludes 
that the " average wage between 1767 and 1770, leaving out of 
account the neighbourhood of London and the extreme east and 
west of the country, was about fourteen pence a day. In the 
neighbourhood of the capital it was sometimes considerably 
higher ; and in the more distant parts of the country it fell to one 
shilling and even less. Further, Young seems to be right when he 
says in another place that there was no change in the price of 
agricultural labour between 1767 and 1793 " (ib., p. 119). 


depression in the standard of living, while a more 
prolonged period of unemployment involved 
recourse to the poor rates.^ The advocates of 
enclosure had prophesied that the labourer would 
be better off, he would work less hard, for better 
wages, and have more employment.^ The pro- 
phecy was not fulfilled. The better farming 
which followed the engrossing of farms and 
enclosure of wastes encourages the supposition 
that more labour would be employed. But, 
actually, farming on a large scale, just as businesses 
on a large scale, allowed of economy in labour.' 
The amount of unemployment, especially winter 
unemployment, increased.* As early as 1788 a 
Bill was proposed for the relief of agricultural 
labourers in the winter. This, and the high poor 
rates throughout the country, bear witness to the 
gravity of the problem. Wages, then, were not 
sufficient to cover periodical unemployment. And 
they were now required to do more than this. 
The labourer had to face a serious rise in prices. 
They rose gradually from about 1760, but from 

' Davies, " Case of the Labourers," p. 55. 

' Arbuthnot, " An Enquiry into the Connection between the 
Present Price of Provisions and the Size of Farms," 1772, p. 128. 

3 This is urged in a pamphlet of 1772 on "Advantages and 
Disadvantages of Enclosure," and in a tract of 1786, " Thoughts 
on Enclosures by a Country Farmer. " See also Slater, ' ' Enclosure 
of Common Fields," pp. 97 — 100. 

* Hasbach, op. cit., p. 135, deals with some of the minor causes 
which differed in different districts. 

D 2 


1793 the rate of increase became rapid. Com 
rose in the nineties from an average of 45s. 7^. 
the quarter to an average of 55s. iid. The rise 
continued in the early nineteenth century, and 
from 1805 to 1812 it was never less than 73s., 
and in some years it rose to over loos.^ The 
enormous growth of the population combined 
with a period of war, heavy indirect taxes,^ and 
inadequate imports to drive up prices of pro- 
visions generally. Wages perforce rose, but not 
proportionately. While the prices of provisions 
rose between 1760 and 1805 " by from 50 to 100 
per cent., and in the more distant parts of the 
country even by several hundreds per cent.," 
wages in the same period rose only 60 per cent.^ 

Taking England as a whole, the labourer had to 
purchase provisions the price of which had trebled 
out of wages which had only doubled. A more 
adequate rise was prevented by that sufficiency, 
and more than sufficiency, of workmen, due in part 
to economy of labour on the large farms, and 
partly to the influx into the wage-earning class of 

* Levy, op. cit., p. lo. 

^ Howlett, writing in 1783, puts the increased cost of articles 
affected by indirect taxes, soap, salt, leather, candles, spirits, at 
one-fifth their former price. {" The insufficiency of the causes to 
which the increase of our poor and of the poor's rates have been 
commonly ascribed," p. 53.) See also Hasbach, op. cit., pp. 117 

' Hasbach, op. cit., p. 175. 


small farmers and small holders who had been 
ruined by the enclosures. Contemporary writers 
are unanimous as to the inequality in the rise of 
wages and of prices, and are agreed as to the 
hardship inflicted thereby on the labouring classes. 
They recognised that the shortage had to be met 
by a reduction in the standard of living. This was 
inevitable when not only goods which had always 
been bought became more expensive, but when 
enclosures forced the labourer to buy also the 
bulk of his food at the new enhanced prices. It is 
in this period that the standard diet of the labourer 
became bread, cheese, tea and kettlebroth. It is 
now, too, that the costliness of firing brought about 
dependence on the bake-house oven, and a decline 
in household craft. And now also begins that 
dependence for supplies on the village shopkeeper 
which increased the difficulty of stretching wages 
to meet prices. Hitherto, the peasant had pur- 
chased much of what he could not supply himself 
at cost price or a low price from the local farmers. 
But at this date farmers were adopting wholesale 
methods of disposing of their produce. Davies, 
writing in 1795, describes the disadvantages in 
which the new wholesale system involved the 
labourer,^ and similar evidence comes from other 
quarters. Kent, in discussing this point in 1775, 

• " Case of the Labourer," pp. 34 f. 


said : " Formerly they could buy milk, butter, 
and many other small articles in every parish, in 
whatever quantity they wanted. But since small 
farms have decreased in number, no such articles 
are to be had : for the great farmers have no idea 
of retailing such small commodities, and those who 
do retail them carry them all to towns. A farmer 
is even unwilling to sell the labourer who works 
for him a bushel of wheat which he might get 
ground for three or four pence a bushel. For 
want of this advantage, he has to go to the meal- 
man, or baker, who, in the ordinary course of their 
profit, get at least lo per cent, of them on this 
principal article of their consumption."^ Milk 
was unprocurable : the cottagers had lost their 
cows, and the farmers, who had contracts with 
middlemen and retailers in the towns, would not 
sell it. Meat was too expensive for the general 
run of labourers, and pigs were no longer generally 
kept : the cottagers had not sufficient garden 
room, and could not procure the bran and other 
feeding stuffs upon which to fatten them. Eden 
says that meat once a week was considered a sign 
of unusual comfort. This fall in the stand'ard of 
living was common to the country as a whole 

' " Hints to Gentlemen of Landed Property." The question of 
food supplies and prices is dealt with by Hasbach, op. cit., pp. 120 
— 131, with full references to contemporary authorities, which 
cannot be given here. 


south of the coal fields, though there were excep- 
tions. In Kent, for instance, many cottagers had 
good gardens and some kept cows.^ In other 
districts where, as at Soham, the commons had 
been preserved, the labourers were better off. In 
the North the standard of Uving was kept up by 
the competition of factories and mines for labour. 
Payment in kind continued to be usual, and cow- 
runs were common, so that the North Country 
labourer was not greatly affected by the rise in 
prices, and was preserved from physical and moral 
deterioration due to bad food. The reports of 
the middle of the nineteenth century speak of him 
as though he was of a different breed from the 
labourer in the South, whereas in the eighteenth 
century, before the inequality in conditions of 
life and labour had worked their effect, there 
was no such adulation of the North countryman.^ 
Marshall, a Yorkshireman, had praised the Norfolk 
labourer of the seventies, hereafter to be amongst 
the most depressed and degraded, as the best of 
their class.^ 

(4) The New Labourer. 
The land problem, the wages problem, and the 
housing problem were now in being. The rural 

' Hasbach, op. cit., p. 147, quoting Boys' " Agriculture of 
Kent," 1813, Board of Agriculture Survey. 
^ Hasbach, op. cit., p. 145. 
» " Rural Economy of Norfolk," 1787, I, 41. 


exodus had begun, though as yet in a very slight 
way, as a result of the loss of prospects and hope 
in agricultural work. And the moral degradation 
of the labourer, consequent upon the change in 
his conditions, was already affecting the farmer 
and causing concern amongst social observers. 

The new class of farmers had desired to have at 
their command labour which was wholly depen- 
dent on wages, and available, therefore, in greater 
or less supplies whenever required. Lord Win- 
chelsea observed that the generality of farmers 
had a dislike to seeing labourers rent any land, in 
part because they desired the land for themselves, 
and partly because " they rather wish to have the 
labourers more dependent upon them ; for which 
reasons they are always desirous of hiring the. land 
and house occupied by a labourer, under pretence 
that by that means the landlord will be secure of 
his rent, and that they will keep the house in 
repair." ^ Marshall, in 1810, wrote of the farmers, 

' Letter in Young's " Annals of Agriculture," XXVI. 242. 
See also Hasbach, op. cit., pp. 69, 100, 132, 136 ; and Levy, 
" Large and Small Holdings," p. 36 : " The reasons why the large 
farmers and their friendly landlords objected to labourers holding 
any land are not difi&cult to discover. The old-fashioned small 
farmers had found it convenient to have the labour of the cotters 
at their disposal during harvest and on other like occasions, as by 
this arrangement they were free from any necessity of keeping 
labourers all the year through. The large farmer's interest was to 
the exact contrary. He was simply the manager of the farm, and 
he needed a supply of labour permanently at his disposal. He 
needed besides labourers who would not be hampered in their 


" they, like manufacturers, require constant 
labourers, men who have no other means of 
support than their daily labour, men whom they 
can depend upon." 

The combination of agricultural or industrial 
changes had certainly now created an agricultural 
class which had no other means of self-support 
than wages. The value of the change, however, 
was not so great as the farmer had expected. For 
the quaHty of labour was reduced. The incidental 
results of enclosure were, as we have seen, the 
labourer's loss of prospects, overcrowding, and a 
deterioration in the quahty and abundance of his 
food. Only in the North, where wages, whether 
in money or kind, were sufficiently high to make 
good feeding, thrift, and a future possible, did 
labour maintain its character. It is difficult to 
gauge the physical deterioration elsewhere, but 
the moral degradation was both great and im- 
mediate. Complaints were universal of the vice, 
idleness, drunkenness and thriftlessness of the 
labouring class. Some observers saw no further 
than this : all blame rested with the poor them- 
selves; let there be moral regeneration amongst 
them, and they would once more be happy and 

work for Mm by consideration of the needs of their own holdings, 
and he wanted his men to be as dependent as possible upon their 
employer, and consequently to depend for their UveUhood on 
their wages." 


prosperous. Others saw further. Amongst them 
was Arthur Young, who had been a champion of 
enclosure, but now was quite open as to the evils 
it had brought upon the labouring class. He and 
others realised that the radical cause of the 
peasant's degradation lay in his material condi- 
tions. " Whatever their vice and immorality," 
wrote Howlett as early as 1787, " I must again 
maintain it has not originally been the cause of 
their extreme indigence, but the consequence, and 
therefore should only be an additional motive to 
an eager concurrence in any wise and judicious 
plan for bettering and improving their condition. 
This accomplished, everything else will follow." ^ 
The labourer's degradation was, in fact, inevitable. 
Driven to depend on a wage which could not 
support him when in health and work, it was 
impossible for him to save against sickness and old 
age, and he lost all sense of moral obligation to do 
so. His independence and self-esteem were broken 
by unavoidable appeals to the parish ; poor feed- 
ing, which undermined his physique, led him to 
rejoice when he could scamp his work. Deprived 
of all means of rising in life, he lost the 
ambition to rise. There were only the ale-houses 
to dispel the grejmess of life, to soothe the cravings 
of his underfed body, and to blot out the sight of 

* Cf. Hasbach, op. cit. pp. 147 — 170. 


the workhouse whither he was tending. " Go," 
wrote the champion of enclosure in a well-known 
passage in the " Annals of Agriculture," "Go to 
an ale-house kitchen of an old enclosed country, 
and there you will see the origin of poverty and 
the poor rates. For whom are they to be sober ? 
For whom are they to save ? (Such are their 
questions.) For the parish ? If I am diligent, 
shall I have leave to build a cottage ? If I am 
sober, shall I have land for a cow ? If I am frugal, 
shall I have half an acre of potatoes ? You offer 
no motives ; you have nothing but a parish officer 
and a workhouse. Bring me another pot." ^ 

1 " Annals of Agriculture," XXXVI. 508. 



The problems of agricultural labour were now 
in being, and were firmly established in the very 
bedrock of rural and agricultural economy. From 
this time onwards, the history of the labourer is 
little more than an account of the efforts made to 
undo evUs created in the eighteenth century 
and aggravated subsequently by many of those 
efforts themselves. 

So rapid and so general was the decline in the 
labourer's prosperity, that he himself as well as 
the ruling classes were forced to seek for remedies, 
even before the agricultural and industrial changes 
of the eighteenth century were completed. 

(i) The Labourer's Remedies. Migration. 

The labourer's contributions to the solution of 
his problem at this time were drunkenness and 
migration. So far as immediate results were con- 
cerned, it is doubtful whether drink were not the 
better solution of the two : there was at least 
oblivion and some measure of happiness in the pot, 


whereas migration at this date appears to have 
been too sUght to effect much improvement in the 
condition of those who remained on the land. 
Still, this early migration marks the beginning of 
an important policy and deserves consideration. 

It would appear that the fall of the standard in 
comfort and the loss of hopes and possibilities of 
rising in life had the immediate effect of driving 
the labourer from the land. At any rate, the 
labourer's loss of his cow and common rights 
coincides with a considerable rural migration. 
It is, however, difficult to estimate the exact part 
played by dissatisfaction with the new conditions, 
for then, as now, the causes of the rural exodus were 
mixed. Certainly discontent was one factor, but 
not the only one. To a certain extent migration 
was forced upon the rural population. Many 
small farmers, as we know, were driven off the land 
by enclosures, and betook themselves to the towns 
or to America. Labourers, too, were driven away, 
whether they would or no. In spite of the better 
farming on large farms, less labour was required 
for the cultivation of the land after engrossing 
than had profitably been put into it before. The 
large farms allowed of economy of labour through 
better organisation, and though more corn was 
grown, much of the land was still kept in pasture, 


and remained in pasture until the much higher 


prices of the war period set in, so that from 1760 
to 1790 or later, the possible economy in labour 
was not neutraUsed by a greater demand for work 
upon the corn land. That there was not employ- 
ment enough at sufficient wages to support a rural 
population bereft of its former independent em- 
ployments is clear from the complaints of winter 
slackness and the rise in poor rates. Deficiency in 
house accommodation was added to lack of em- 
ployment to compel migration. The large farmer, 
who threw perhaps half a dozen farms together, 
pulled down many of the cottages, or allowed them 
to fall into ruin, maintaining only sufficient house 
room for his own labourers, whom he frequently 
crowded into the old farm houses. Such a policy 
enabled him to throw the land attached to cottages 
into his farm, reduced the expenses of repairs, and 
saved him in poor rates. The rise in poor rates, 
consequent upon the loss of the labourer's stock 
and common rights, played a very important part 
in the new deficiency of housing. So heavy were 
they, that the opportunity of saving expense in 
rates by decreasing the number of possible paupers 
was a real inducement upon landlords to pull down 
or shut up cottages.^ The first result was over- 
crowding, a striking example of which is given 
in the " Annals of Agriculture," where forty-five 

' Hasbach, op. cit., pp. 112, n., 129. 


persons are spoken of as having been crowded into 
three small farm houses which formerly had been 
occupied by fifteen.^ The second result was 
migration, owing, of course, partly to discomfort, 
but also in part to the needs of young people who 
upon marriage could find no dwelling locally. 

On the other hand, it has to be remembered that 
a part at any rate of the rural migration may have 
been purely voluntary. The first half of the 
eighteenth century saw a great expansion in trade 
and commerce, so that even before the industrial 
revolution set in, manufactures were offering 
increasingly good employment. The numerous 
manufacturing centres to be found throughout 
the length and breadth of England in the little 
country towns made it comparatively easy for the 
enterprising of the agricultural classes to transfer 
themselves to industrial work ; they could more 
easUy acquire knowledge as to its conditions and 
the available openings now than they could when 
manufactures were localised mainly in the great 
industrial areas of the North, and the migration 
in itself was not so great an undertaking. More- 
over, the eighteenth century saw an improvement 
in the means of transport. By this date, too, the 
Ehzabethan law making a seven years' apprentice- 
ship compulsory upon all who engaged in a trade 

» " Annals of Agriculture," XXXVI. 115. 


or handicraft was not strictly observed, and in 
the more rural districts was probably no great 
deterrent to the influx of adults into industrial 
occupations.^ That there was some immigration 
of labour from the country to the towns at this 
time is clear from the complaints of the legally 
apprenticed craftsmen, who considered that com- 
petition of the newcomers was injurious to them- 
selves.^ But it is not possible to estimate the 
extent to which it occurred, nor how far the 
labourer was attracted to the towns by the 
increasing lucrativeness of trade, or was being 
driven into industrial work by the wretched- 
ness of his agricultural life. All that can be 
said is that it is unfair to assume that every 
desertion of the field for the workshop was due to 
bad conditions in the former. There were other 
motives for the change. 

Migration may, too, have been willingly entered 
upon owing to a preference for town rather than 
country life. Arthur Young attacked the increas- 
ing migration as being due to mere pleasure- 
loving. " Young men and women in the country 
fix their eye on London, as the last stage of their 
hope ; they enter into service in the country for 
little else but to raise money enough to go to 

' Dunlop, " English Apprenticeship," pp. 223 f. 
" lb., pp. 233 f. 


London, which was no such easy matter, when a 
stage coach was four or five days creeping an 
hundred mUes ; the fare and the expenses ran 
high. But now ! a country fellow, one hundred 
miles from London, jumps on to a coachbox in 
the morning and for eight or ten shilUngs gets to 
town by night ; which makes a material difference, 
besides rendering the going up and down so easy 
that the numbers who have seen London are 
increased tenfold, and, of course, ten times the 
boasts are sounded in the ears of country fools, 
to induce them to quit their healthy, clean fields for 
a region of dirt, stink and noise." ^ No doubt 
mere idle ambition and a love of excitement 
played its part in this movement of the young 
people to the towns, but this eagerness for the 
new life reveals the unsatisfactoriness of the old. 
As to the number who for one reason or other 
now left the countryside, we have unfortunately 
no trustworthy figures. In a pamphlet of 1786 
it is said that of several hundred villages which 
forty years before contained between four and 
five hundred inhabitants, very few now had half 
that number.^ The instance is given of a typical 
parish with eighty-two houses, twenty of which 

' Young, " Farmers' Letters," pp. 353 f. See also Levy, op. 
cit., pp. 37, 38, and notes. 

" " Cursory Remarks on Enclosures by a Country Farmer," 

F.L. E 


were small farms, and forty-two were cottages. 
The twenty farms were now consolidated, into 
four ; sixty cottages had been pulled down or 
allowed to fall into ruins ; and the work of the 
whole area, hitherto performed by eighty-two 
persons and their families, was now said to be 
done by four herds and eight maidservants.^ 
It is possible that there is some exaggeration in 
these figures. Another writer, in 1776,^ speaks 
of the thousands that were emigrating yearly. 
Yet another observer, writing in 1772, declares 
that " In the counties of Leicester and Northamp- 
ton, where inclosing has lately prevailed, the 
decrease of inhabitants in almost all the inclosed 
villages . . . cannot but give every true friend of 
the country a most sensible concern. The ruins of 
former dwelling-houses, barns, stables, etc., show 
everyone who passes through them that they were 
once much more extensive and better inhabited." ' 
These and similar observations by contemporary 
writers are too vague to allow of any estimate of 
the numbers of migrants, but the movement 
evidently had obtained considerable dimensions, 
and this even in the seventies, only ten years 
after the acceleration in enclosure had set in. 

' See Slater, op. cit., p. loo. 
" Peters, " Agriculture," 1776, p. 171. 

' Addington, " An Enquiry into the Reasons for and against 
Inclosing Common Fields," 1772, p. 43. 


The rate of migration appears to have been 
maintained even after 1793, when the vast exten- 
sion of arable farming led to an increased demand 
for labour. At any rate it could be said at the 
turn of the century, " the agricultural system has 
depopulated, and is depopulating the shires 
wherein it prevails." ^ The truth is that the rise 
in wages, which did at last take place in the 
nineties, was not commensurate with the rise in 
prices, and still less, therefore, was it sufficient 
to make up the shortage in the labourer's budget 
caused by the loss of common lands. Conse- 
quently, industrial work, although its wage was 
not so high relatively to agricultural wages as it 
had been,^ continued to draw the peasant from 
the land. The substitution of the shuttle for the 
spade was said to have led to an actual scarcity 
of labour in the North.* The development of the 
new industrial centres in the coal and iron area, 
of course, gave pecuUar facilities for migration to 

' Chalmers, " An Estimate of the Comparative Strength of 
Great Britain," 1802, p. 318. 

' See Hasbach, op. cit., p. 137. At the end of the seventeenth 
century the pay of the industrial worker was supposed to be twice 
as much as that of the agricultural labourer ; at the close of the 
eighteenth, industrial wages were still ahead of agriculture, but 
not by so much. Dr. Hasbach attributes this to the influx of 
labourers from the country, and the competition of child labour 
on the new machines, both of which tended to keep wages down. 

» Marshall, " Review of the Reports to the Board of Agriculture 
from the Northern Department of England," 1808, p. 257. 

E 2 


the surrounding rural districts. But migration 
everywhere was favoured by a cessation in the 
efforts of boroughs and the old handicraft com- 
panies to enforce their monopolies/ and by the 
relaxation in 1795 of the law of settlement. The 
Settlement Act had probably not been very greatly 
observed for some years past ; certainly it was 
not strictly enforced. Still, a potential barrier 
against migration was demolished by the new 
policy which allowed the poor man to travel 
without a certificate and delayed the removal of 
strangers to their own parishes until they were 
actually on the rates. Enlistment during the war 
aided in the depopulation of the countryside, for 
recruiting for the army and navy was enormous 
during the twenty years of the struggle. 

Yet when all is said and done, the results 
achieved by the rural migration were not great 
from the labourer's point of view. In the North 
it was sufficiently extensive to compel the main- 
tenance of good conditions of employment, but 
in the country as a whole the supply of labour 
was still large enough to meet the requirements 
of the new farming, and the rise in wages was 
too small to effect any real improvement in the 
labourer's condition. Individuals may have bene- 
fited by their change in occupation, but those 

' Dunlop, op. cit., p. 238. 


who were left behind were Httle affected, and 
helped to negative such improvement as the 
exodus brought about by rearing large families 
with the recklessness ever bred of wretched 
conditions. It is not in its results, but in certain 
attendant circumstances, that the interest of the 
eighteenth-century migration lies. Immediately 
upon the deterioration in the conditions of 
agricultural life, the labourer began to forsake 
the countryside ; he preferred industrial work, 
despite its laboriousness and accompanying " dirt, 
stink and noise," to labour without prospects 
in clean fields. At once, too, we find that an 
exodus, for which agricultural conditions were 
at any rate largely to blame, is charged to the 
account of the pleasure - loving, idle-minded, 
younger generation. Lastly, the peculiar difficulty 
in the agricultural world of effecting improvements 
in conditions of labour by a shortage in its supply 
at once appears. The farmer is a manufacturer 
who perhaps more than any other can change his 
line of business, and we find the Northern farmers, 
threatened by a scarcity of labour, escaping from 
the perils of higher wages by acting as graziers 
instead of corn producers.^ 

' Marshall, " Review of the Reports to the Board of Agriculture 
from the Northern Department of England," 1808, p. 257 ; 
Hasbach, op. cit., p. 135, n. 


(2) Public Effort. 
(a) Diet ; Benefit Societies ; Allotments ; Poor Law. 

Meanwhile, the upper classes had been awakened 
to the dangers of wretchedness and discontent in 
the masses, and were discussing the remedies 
which could be applied. From 1787 onwards, 
various schemes were suggested. It is interesting 
to find amongst them, even though it came to 
nothing, a scheme for compulsory insurance. 
According to this scheme, which was devised by 
Haweis, a clergyman, friendly societies were to 
be estabUshed throughout the country, and every 
man or woman who laboured for hire and earned 
three shillings or more a week was to contribute 
each week from a twenty-fourth to a twenty-sixth 
of their earnings. Every occupier of lands and 
tenements was to pay in place of poor rates one- 
twentieth of the rent of such lands or tenements 
into the insurance fund.^ 

A more popular subject of discussion was reform 
in the labourer's diet. His condition would be 
vastly improved, so it was said, if he would 
abandon his extravagant habit of eating wheaten 
bread ; potatoes he could use more largely if he 
were not too stubborn ; while milk would form no 
bad substitute for other animal foods, if only he 

> Eden, " State of the Poor," I. 398. 


could be prevailed upon to drink it instead of 
the tea which obviously must have a bad effect 
upon his physique. As Davies pointed out, the 
labourers would be ready enough to drink milk 
if they could get it, but it was not to be obtained ; 
they would gladly grow potatoes if they had the 
land ; while wheaten bread was the only substitute 
they had for their former staple foods.^ But his 
common-sense arguments were not accepted as 
final, and the discussion continued.^ The same 
idea that the labourer could effect his own salvation 
led to the promotion of benefit societies and 
savings banks. But the labourer had too little 
to save for the banks to be of any use to him,^ 
while the benefit societies were for the most part 
so ill-managed and unsound that they were a 
curse rather than a blessing. 

The movement to supply allotments showed a 
greater understanding of the labourer's case. 
This early movement, though it attained no great 
results, is important as laying the foundation of 
a policy which was to play a big part in the future. 

' " Case of the Labourer," pp. 31 f. 

2 Hammond, J. L. and B., "Village Labourer," pp. 123 f., on 
contemporary opinion on diet. 

3 " Report on Labourers' Wages," 1824, p. 40 : " There are 
scarcely any agricultural labourers who deposit in the savings 
banks ; deposits seem to be confined, in general, to domestic 
servants, to journeymen and to Uttle annuitants." Hasbach, 
op. cit., p. 171 : " The savings banks were too thinly scattered 
over the country to be of much service to the labourer." 


Kent, in 1775, had urged upon landlords the 
importance of suppl57ing cottages with half an 
acre of garden land, and of allowing " a small 
portion of pasture land, of about three acres " to 
the better-class labourers, " to enable them to 
support a cow." ^ His suggestion was taken up 
by Davies in 1795, and by Lord Winchilsea in 
1796, whose scheme appeared in the " Annals of 
Agriculture." ^ That same year saw the founda- 
tion by Wilberforce and Thomas Barnard of the 
Society for Bettering the Conditions and Increas- 
ing the Comforts of the Poor, which included in 
its policy the increase of allotments. The 
combined efforts of the Society and of Young, 
Davies and others who had made the labourer's 
condition their concern, had some effect in 
inducing landlords to institute allotments upon 
their estates. Lord Winchelsea himself, of course, 
was one, and Lord Carrington and others philan- 
thropically minded adopted the suggestion. They 
were rewarded with at least some measure of 
success. The " General Report on Enclosures " 
of 1808 bears witness to the superior condition 
of cottagers in parishes where, upon enclosure, 
cow plots had been reserved for them,^ while in 
villages where the allotment system was adopted 

' " Hints to Gentlemen," p. 231, 

2 XXVI. 235 f. 

° " General Report," p. 156. 


by philanthropic landlords the labourer preserved 
his character.^ But the evidence tendered by 
such localities and by those districts in the North, 
where it was still customary for farmers to provide 
their labourers with cow plots and potato ground, 
did not avail to carry the new movement far. 
There was no compulsion behind it ; the majority 
of landlords were indifferent, and the labourers 
affected were but the favoured few. 

The years 1795 and 1796 also saw a reform in 
the poor law. The Act of 1795, which modified 
the law of settlement, was a measure of labour 
organisation rather than of poor relief, its object 
being to increase the mobility of labour. The Act 
of 1796, on the contrary, was definitely a poor law, 
and does not strictly come into any consideration 
of the remedies proposed for the agricultural 
labour problem. But the policy it inaugurated 
had so much influence on the wages question and 
upon labour generally, that it must be briefly 
noticed. This Act made it obligatory upon 
parishes to relieve the able-bodied outside the 
workhouse. Most parishes naturally sought to 
lighten this obligation by finding work for their 
unemployed. As a rule they were sent round the 
parish to solicit work, and only what they could 

' Hammond, op. cit., p. 158 ; Slater, " Enclosure of Common 
Fields," pp. 52 i. 


not earn in wages was made up out of the rates. 
Sometimes they were employed upon parish work, 
and sometimes again they were put up to auction 
and were sent to work for the farmer who offered 
the highest price. These last two methods were 
probably only exceptionally used in the period to 
1815, but the first-mentioned form of the rounds- 
man system was common. For, as we have seen, 
although the great extension of corn-growing from 
1795 to 1815 meant more and steadier employ- 
ment, most parishes suffered from unemployment, 
especially in the winter. The roundsman system, 
combined with aids out of the rates in relief of 
wages, was thus firmly established. It was ready 
to hand when the farmer, in the days of his 
adversity, sought to reduce working expenses by 
employing only rate-aided labour ; and it was 
there as a well-established system upon which 
could be engrafted all too easily a minimum wage 
scheme of the worst type, the origin of which has 
now to be considered. 

(&) Minimum Wage Scheme. 

The chief interest of the movement for improve- 
ment in the nineties centres in the efforts to 
increase wages. Kent had pressed for a rise of 
wages in 1775. Taking the average wage as 
IS. 2d. a day, he declared for an increase of ^d. 


A daily wage of is. 6d., he urged, would enable 
labourers to meet the rise in prices, clothe them- 
selves decently, and enjoy perhaps eight or ten 
pounds of meat to which they were surely entitled 
by " the laws of Nature and the ties of humanity." ^ 
This, however, was merely an appeal to the sense 
of true economy in farmers. It bore no fruit. 
But the accentuation of the agricultural problem 
in the eighties led to the institution of a national 
policy in respect to wages. Gilbert, in 1782, 
succeeded in passing an Act to allow parishes to 
maintain the able-bodied unemployed outside the 
workhouse. Parish officers were to find them 
work and were to receive their wages. If a living 
wage were not paid, it might be supplemented out 
of the poor rates. The wages clauses were, how- 
ever, optional. Sir William Young sought to 
introduce a wider scheme on the same lines in 
1788 ; according to his Bill, vestries were to be 
empowered to settle a rate of winter wages, and to 
distribute the unemployed amongst parishioners 
in proportion to the rates the latter paid. Two- 
thirds of the wages were to be paid by the em- 
ployer, and one-third was to come from the rates. ^ 
This Bill, had it been adopted, might have brought 
fewer evils in its train, bad though its principles 

' Kent, " Hints to Gentlemen," pp. 273 f. 
* Eden, " State of the Poor," I. 397. 


were, than did Gilbert's scheme, since it fixed th^ 
minimum which employers might pay. But it 
was not passed into law. 

These Bills were avowedly limited in their 
intentions. They sought to relieve the unem- 
ployed but did not attempt to touch low wages, 
which were largely the cause of the labourer's 
instantaneous recourse to the parish in periods of 
slackness. In 1795, the more drastic remedy was 
attempted. At the close of the year, Mr. Whit- 
bread, junior, brought in a Bill the purpose of 
which was to establish a minimum wage for 
agricultural labourers.^ The Bill was read a 
second time on February 12th, 1796. Whitbread 
urged upon the House the necessity of a public 
regulation of wages for agricultural labour ; volun- 
tary adjustment was a failure, for though wages 
had been raised, they had not been increased pro- 
portionately to the rise in the price of bread and 
other articles. The result was that the labouring 
classes were in a condition truly deplorable, and 
their misery was increasing while the poor rates 
had risen by an enormous amount. According to 
his scheme, the daily wage of the labourer was to 

•"House of Commons Journals," LI. iii, 205. Novem- 
ber 25th, leave given to bring in a Bill to explain and amend so 
much of the Act of Elizabeth, c. 4, as empowers justices of the 
peace to regulate the wages of labourers. December gth, first 


be regulated, the justices of the peace in every 
district acting as a wages board. Pitt himself 
replied. He was not prepared to support the Bill, 
and side-tracked it by a lengthy speech on poor 
law reform. Such reform would do more for the 
poor, he urged, than the adoption of a minimum 
wage which, devised to meet the requirements of 
a man with an average family, would prove no 
assistance to those whose families were above the 
average. He spoke, too, on an extension of the 
schools of industry and the advantages of early 
employment of children ; their more general 
instruction and employment would increase family 
wages and the comfort of the working class.^ 
The lack of statesmanship which, according to 
modem ideas, underlies this suggestion needs no 
comment ; but the proposal was in accordance 
with ideas of the day, and Whitbread, repljTing to 
Pitt's speech as a whole, remarked merely that 
poor law reform and the increased labour of 
children lay in the future and supplied no remedy 
for present suffering. But the Bill was rejected. 
Howlett, who was in favour of the minimum wage, 
attacked Pitt for his lack of support.^ But the 
Bill had really no chance of success, even if it had 
been taken up and improved by the Government. 

' " Parliamentary History of England," XXXII. cols. 705 f. 
^ " Examination of Mr. Pitt's Speech in the House of Commons 
. . . Relative to the Condition of the Poor." 


It is impossible to estimate how far opposition to 
its principles was due to hostility of employers of 
labour within the House. ^ Certainly the landlord 
and farmer interest was strongly represented. 
But apart from all private interests, the House 
was totally opposed to the regulation of wages and 
the interference of the Legislature with labour. 
The doctrines of Laissez Faire had a firm hold. 
In itself, too, the working of a minimum wage 
would have been difficult. The magistrates of 
the county of Chester^ in their petition against 
the Bill, urged that it would tend to the oppression 
of labourers and prevent their being employed by 
the day, while it would be extremely difficult, if not 
impossible, to carry it into effect, owing especially 
to the difficulty " in determining as to the extent 
of the abilities of old and infirm persons to work as 
labourers in husbandry." They declared that the 
Bill would in many instances be the means of 
depriving such labourers of employment.^ This 
is an objection which can be urged against almost 
any legislation that has for its object improve- 
ment in the condition of labour. It is not insur- 
mountable, but the temper of the times did not 
allow of any effort to surmount it. 

' It was on this account that others who spoke against the 
Bill opposed it : " Parliamentary History of England." XXXII. 
cols. 710 f. 

^ " House of Commons Journal," LI. 383. 


Having failed in their efforts to oblige employers 
to pay a minimum wage, those who desired to 
effect improvement by higher wages in the 
condition of the poor now fell back upon devices 
for achieving the same end out of public monies. 
In 1795, Davies wrote in favour of a minimum 
wage, which was to be regulated in accordance 
either with the needs of a married man with a 
family or with the price of bread. " The properest 
way of making up the deficiency of their earnings," 
he wrote, "is by an allowance out of the poor 
rate."^ This suggestion was put into practice 
in Berkshire that same year. Acting under the 
powers given them by Gilbert's Act, magistrates 
met at Speenhamland, by the name of which 
place the system was afterwards known, and drew 
up a wages scale based upon the size of a man's 
family and the price of bread. If the wage paid 
by the employers fell short of the wage set out 
in the scale, the deficiency was to be made up 
by an allowance from the rates. Thus the 
principle of a minimum wage was actually brought 
into practice, but, as time was to show, the 
scheme adopted was the worst possible. For the 
time, however, the Speenhamland system was 
limited to the place of its origin and a few districts 
which copied the Berkshire model. 

• " Case of the Labourer," p. 119. 


In judging the remedies attempted in the 
nineties, allowance must be made for the lack of 
experience in social legislation and the strain of 
a Continental war under which the ruling classes 
laboured. Yet it cannot but be recognised that 
their monopoly of political power and the security 
of their position deadened capitalists and landlords 
to the national needs. The wretched condition of 
the poor was not sufficient spur to action. All 
that the ruhng class contributed towards the 
solution of the social problem was tolerance for 
such schemes of the humanitarians as they 
believed to be innocuous to themselves. The 
full strength of British statesmanship was not 
applied to the problem, and Gilbert's experimental 
Act was allowed to become the chief contribution 
of the House of Commons to the labourer's relief. 
This remedy created evils almost greater than it 
sought to remove, and the chief result of the 
eighteenth-century reform movement was to 
plunge the labourer, whose degradation might 
seem to have been complete in the nineties, into 
even deeper depths. 



The story of the English agricultural labourer 
from 1814 to 1834 is a pauper's story. For the 
chief feature of these years is the payment of 
doles out of the poor rates to supplement his 
inadequate wages. Such a policy had a depressing 
effect upon wages, and they became so inadequate 
that labourers throughout the country were forced 
to become recipients of parish allowances. But 
though the prevalence of the allowance system is 
the outstanding and distinguishing feature of this 
period, it saw on the one hand a continuance of 
the movement for allotments and benefit societies 
which began in former years, and the continuance, 
too, in the problems of housing and rural migra- 
tion. And on the other hand, in this period 
begins an emigration poUcy in which the year 
1834 forms no special landmark, whilst the 
labourer instituted certain methods of self- 
assistance, chiefly along the Unes of crime. 

(i) The Allowance System. 

The year 1814 saw the beginning of an agricul- 
tural depression which plunged the farmer into 
F.L. F 


heavy losses and the labourer into unemplo5mient. 
Both were compelled to utilise to its fullest the 
contrivance of rate-aided wages, until the power 
to do so ended with the reform of the Poor Law 
in 1834. Although the system of parish allowances 
had been devised in the nineties, its use had not 
been general before 18 14. For until that year 
farmers prospered, and the labourer, though his 
condition was that of a sweated worker, managed 
to struggle along, thanks to the enormous extension 
of arable farming which brought both more and 
steadier employment. But with the close of 
the war the farmer entered upon bad times, and 
the labourer was, of course, the first to suffer 
from the agricultural depression. 

It was the prosperous days of farming up to 
1814 which dug about the feet of the farmer the 
pit into which he was to fall. There were few 
good harvests from 1795 ; 1804 and 181 1 were 
particularly bad years, and this, combined with 
the war, rendered the price of corn very high. 
Landlords and farmers, however, failed to take 
into account the special causes of the high prices, 
and based their calculations upon the permanency 
of factors that were purely temporary. Farmers 
readily took farms, the rents of which were 
increased as much as fivefold upon the rents of 
1790. Landlords shortsightedly allowed the 

REMEDIES FROM 1814 TO 1834 67 

ploughing up of pasture land which had been 
perfected only in the course of centuries. Huge 
sums were sunk in the land and in improvements. 
Land speculation and jobbing were rife, the land 
being sold sometimes for as much as forty years' 
purchase, and many estates were mortgaged at 
high rates of interest which in the good days 
seemed no burden. 

In 1814, with the close of the war, came the 
collapse. Not even the high duties on imported 
corn availed the farmer. He required still higher 
prices than they created to protect him from the 
evils inherent in the one-sided development of 
arable farming. As early as 1816, the clamour of 
distress was so great that the Board of Agri- 
culture instituted an inquiry into the state of 
agriculttue. It was found that already there had 
been an average fall in rent of 25 per cent., while 
farmers who had their farms on long leases and 
could not obtain a reduction in rent had in many 
cases failed completely. Indeed, many farmers 
had become parish paupers ; others threw up their 
tenancies ; and landlords, who were already finan- 
cially embarrassed by the agricultural collapse, 
were often quite unable to carry on the work of 
fanning themselves. Thousands of acres were 
allowed to fall out of cultivation, and became a 
mass of thistles, weeds, and coarse grass, which 

F 2 


was too poor to support stock — even had the 
farmers possessed the capital to substitute pasture 
farming for corn growing. In 1815, 3,000 acres in 
one small district in Huntingdonshire were left 
uncultivated, and in the Isle of Ely, nineteen farms 
were left vacant.^ Pasture farmers suffered with 
arable farmers, for the commercial and industrial 
depression, consequent upon the revival of Conti- 
nental manufactures after the war, led to a 
decreased demand for their produce by the town 
population. The figures of bankruptcies, seizures 
and arrests rise with a leap in 1815. The return 
to cash payments in 1819 led to a great rise in the 
value of gold ; and the consequent decline in the 
price of goods generally, including agricultural 
produce, combined with the good harvests and the 
wet season of 1822 to prevent a recovery. Petitions 
and complaints continued to pour into the House 
of Commons. The House responded by keeping 
up the Corn Duties, which really only aggravated 
the evils, and by appointing Select Committees in 
1820, 1821, 1822, 1833 and 1836, to consider 
matters agricultural. Meanwhile, in the country, 
thistles took the place of corn, sheriffs' officers the 
place of hve stock. At the best the farmer 
struggled through by exhausting his capital, 
reducing his wages bill, and gathering in what he 

• " Prothero, " English Fanning," p. 322. 

REMEDIES FROM 1814 TO 1834 69 

could from land which was exhausted from 
excessive croppings, and was under-cultivated, 
both in respect to labour and to manure.^ 

As would be expected, the labourer suffered. 
Wages were reduced either directly or indirectly 
through inconstant employment : while the reduc- 
tion in the staff of those farmers who could keep 
their heads above water, and the diminution in the 
area under cultivation, increased the number of 
the unemployed. The general fall in prices in 
1819 was of Uttle assistance to a labourer who had 
no money with which to purchase. There was, 
however, one remedy available, the system of 
parish allowances devised in the nineties. This 
was now generally applied. Men, women and 
children were sent upon the rounds, were put up 
to auction, or were billeted upon farmers in 
proportion to the rates at which the latter were 
assessed, and their insufficient wages were supple- 
mented by the parish. This was the usual method 
of meeting distress, although sometimes the un- 
employed were set to work upon parish work. 
But whatever the system, allowances out of the 
rates was the common feature. Until 1817 or 
181 8, few parishes appear to have had a definite 
standard for allowances, but after that date the 

' Prothero, op. cit., pp. 322 f. Cf. Curtler, " History of English 
Agriculture," Hasbach and Levy, op. cit. 


Speenhamland system of fixing allowances accord- 
ing to the size of the family and the price of bread 
was commonly adopted. The results of this 
" remedy " were disastrous, morally and economi- 
cally. The labourer's independence was finally 
and completely undermined; however hard he 
might be willing to work in order to keep himself 
and his family off the rates, upon the rates he must 
go or work he would not have. For farmers, 
driven by the bad times to reduce all possible 
expenses, practically refused to employ any 
but rate-aided labour. The Report of 1824 on 
labourers' wages states that " Men have been 
discharged as supernumerary or superfluous, and 
have been ordered to receive a certain sum 
(perhaps loc^. or is. a day) from the Poor Book. 
Some of the farmers have then taken them into 
employ and given them plenty of work." ^ Farmers 
thus effected great reductions in their wages bills 
at the expense of their neighbours, landlords, 
small farmers and tradesmen, who employed no 
labour, but had to contribute to the poor rates. 
Moreover, high poor rates could be used by farmers 
as a lever to effect reductions in their rents.^ As to 
the labourers, those who had a little property of 

' " Report from the Select Committee on the Rate of Agricul- 
tural Wages ; and on the Condition and Morals of Labourers in 
that Employment, 1824," p. 36. 

» lb., p. 57- 

REMEDIES FROM 1814 TO 1834 71 

their own, a cottage or a bit of land, and were the 
aristocracy of labour in the parish, had nothing 
for it but to stand unemployed until they were 
ruined. When they had lost the last relic of their 
independence they could get employment as rate- 
aided workmen, but until then " they could not be 
employed because persons having property could 
not be put on the Poor Book." ^ All inducements 
to thrift and to hard work were lost, for a man 
was sure of support, however lazy or however 

" Under the operation of the scale system 
idleness, improvidence or extravagance occasion 
no loss and consequently diligence and economy 
can afford no gain." So runs the Report of 1834. 
" In many places the income derived from the 
parish for easy or nominal work actually exceeds 
that of the independent labourer ... In such 
places, a man who does not possess either some 
property or an amount of skill which will ensure 
to him more than the average rate of wages, is 
of course a loser by preserving his independence." 
But as the Report points out, " the severest 
sufferers are those that have become callous to 
their own degradation," who claimed rehef as a 
right, and gave the least amount possible of work 
in return for wages which they squandered 

* lb., p. 24. 


because they had not to be earned.^ Degraded 
and pauperised, the labourer was prepared to 
adopt any method of ameliorating his wretched- 
ness. And he found the method ready to hand 
in reckless and prolific marriage.^ With an almost 
incredible blindness the scale of allowances was so 
drawn up that it set a premium on early marriage 
and on unwedded motherhood. The unmar- 
ried man received less from the rates than the 
married man, and the latter's allowance increased 
with the size of his family. In addition, as the 
burden of the rates increased, the married men 
were usually given such work as was available in 
order that their wages might keep their famihes 
to some extent off the rates, and the unmarried 
man was left to support himself on the 3s. allowed 
by the parish. Thus, a man's one chance of 
bettering his position was by marriage and the 
production of a family, while the mother of 
illegitimate children was offered a better income 
than the worker in the fields. Such is the picture 
drawn by the Reports of 1824, 1828, 1831, and 

There were, of course, districts where conditions 
were not so bad. In the Report of 1831 it was 

' " Report of the Royal Commission on the Poor Laws, 1834," 
pp. 77 f. 
" " Report on Wages, 1824," pp. 34, 42, 48 f. 

REMEDIES FROM 1814 TO 1834 73 

said no allowances were given in the parish of 
Alford in Lincolnshire, but the fathers of large 
families were reheved by having their children 
put out to cottagers and farmers.^ And in the 
Report of 1824, Northumberland, Cumberland, 
Lincolnshire, most of Yorkshire, some districts 
in Lancashire and Staffordshire, were said to be 
free of the worst evils.^ But in the Report of 
1834 only Northumberland and Durham are 
described as having completely escaped, though, 
in the North generally rate-aided labour was not 
so universal as in the South. The system, it was 
said in 1831, had been adopted during the high 
prices of the war period, but it was used only as a 
transitory measure, and did not become permanent 
as it did in the South.* 

The moral degradation of the rural population, 
as to which the Reports are unanimous, was the 
direct result of the Poor Law solution of the 
agricultural labour problem. Its indirect results 
were only less serious. First of these was the 
yet further aggravation of the housing difficulty. 
The increasing heaviness of the poor rates led 
to a yet further demohtion of cottages in order 
to reduce the number of potential paupers, at a 

• " Report of Lords' Committee on the Poor Laws, 1831," 
p. 196. 

' " Report on Wages," p. 4. 

* " Report of Lords' Committee on the Poor Laws," p. 147. 


time when every encouragement was being given 
to early marriages and large families. The conse- 
quent overcrowding contributed yet more to the 
moral degeneration which was already in full 
swing. This overcrowding took two forms : on 
the one hand there was overcrowding within the 
cottages, now that an increasing population was 
forced to accommodate itself in a decreasing 
number of dwellings. On the other hand, the 
cottages themselves were crowded together without 
gardens or proper space for outbuildings, and 
in undue proximity to each other. For the 
demolition of cottages by large landlords who 
owned all the property in the parishes, " close " 
parishes as they were afterwards called, drove the 
population into " open " parishes, where property 
was owned by many small men. There the 
demand for houses was so great that tradesmen, 
jobbing builders and mere speculators not only 
saw a safe investment in the acquisition of existing 
cottages, but built others on such spaces as were 
available, spaces which had meant gardens, air 
and health for the original inhabitants of the 
village. This in itself was bad enough, but the 
increased rents now demanded complicated the 
housing problem. The speculators, of course, 
invested in cottage property for the purpose of 
making an income, which the large landlords had 

REMEDIES FROM 1814 TO 1834 75 

never looked for in labourers' dwellings. They 
charged high rents even for wretched cottages 
without gardens. In these rents the labourer 
acquiesced, sometimes because he had no power 
to resist, but often because he had no inducement 
to do so. For allowances were often given in 
kind, in the form of tickets to shops, and also in 
house room; thus the rent came not out of his 
pocket but out of the ratepayers'.^ A customary 
rent was thus established above the value of the 
property and above the price a labourer could 
pay if unassisted by the parish. 

Lastly, the allowance system had an injurious 
effect upon wages, and this not only while it 
was in vogue, but even after it was abolished. 
Farmers paid as little as three and five shiUings 
a week to an adult labourer partially supported 
by the parish, and though a rise in wages neces- 
sarily took place when aid from the rates was 
no longer given, it took time to bring them up 
to anything approaching sufficiency. 

Had the allowance system maintained the 
material comfort of the labourer through a period 
of agricultural distress, its promoters might have 
pleaded that it was justifiable. But it did not 
even succeed in doing this. In the early years of 
its existence sufficiently large allowances were 

' " Report on Labourers' Wages, 1824," p. 47. 


given to secure the labourer a certain standard of 
comfort. But as the system developed, and whole 
villages were brought upon the rates, and as many 
small farmers and tradesmen became impoverished 
under their heavy assessments, the money required 
to keep up the standard was not forthcoming.* 
The standard of maintenance accepted by the 
parish in 1816 was below that thought necessary 
in 1795,^ and by 1830 it was so inadequate that 
rioting, bred of wretchedness and discontent, was 
rife in many districts. Reports refer to a lower 
standard of diet in many localities : * bread was 
often the chief food, some families being unable to 
supply themselves even with cheese or potatoes, 
while tea was drunk " when they could get it," 
Though some witnesses before the Lords' Com- 
mittee of 1831 declared there was no change in 
diet in their districts, so far as they knew, others 
spoke of a deterioration in the last ten years or so. 
Moreover the allowances, even where apparently 
high, were often paid partly in kind and partly in 
tickets to shops, and the small tradesman knew 

' " Report on the Depressed State of Agriculture, 1821," p. 95. 
Difi&culty in collecting rates owing to poverty of the farmers at 
Battle, Sussex. 

" Hammond, " Village Labourer," p. 184. 

» " Report on Depressed State of Agriculture, 1821," p. 65 ; 
" Report of Lords' Committee on the Poor, 1831," pp. 34, 37, 113 : 
Sussex (cf. p. 44); Northants, where meat is eaten (p. 11); 
Beds ; etc. 


well how to make a profit and repay himself with 
interest for his high rates by supplying poor goods 
at high prices to the parish paupers. High prices 
for necessary provisions and high rents ate up the 
labourer's allowance and small wage, often before 
he could supply himself and his family with suffi- 
cient food. The general result of the allowance 
system upon rent has been already noted : in some 
cases rents were so enhanced that they were said 
to be " one of the chief causes of the agricultural 
labourers being in a worse state than they ever 
were." This same witness declared, " I have 
known many instances where the amount paid by a 
labourer for a cottage was greater than the amount 
of relief which he received from the overseer." ^ 

Such then were the results of the chief remedy 
adopted for the agricultural labour problem. The 
evils it brought in its train were too apparent to 
escape notice : the Committee of 1824 had urged 
the ill-consequences of the system of supplementing 
wages from the rates, and the Committee of 1828 
had emphatically declared that it must be 
abolished. But it was not until 1834, that the 
allowance system came to an end with the 
Reform of the Poor Law and the Repeal of the 
Act of 1796, which had made it compulsory upon 
parishes to give outdoor relief. 

' " Report on Labourers' Wages," p. 47. 


(2) The Labourer's Remedy. Crime. 

The failure from its very outset of the one 
general remedy that was contrived, prompted the 
philanthropic to continued efforts on the labourer's 
behalf, and drove the labourer himself to attempt 
remedies of his own. 

The remedies adopted by the labourer, ignorant 
and isolated as he was, and blinded by wretched- 
ness, were not, as may be supposed, of a nature 
really to improve his condition. The local benefit 
societies which he formed and joined, under the 
patronage of the village publican, rested too often 
upon an unsound financial basis, and collapsed 
when several members came upon the funds in 
illness or old age, just when a club might have been 
of service. The attempt to improve his position 
by early and prolific marriage has been already 
noticed. His third method of self-help was equally 
deplorable. Driven by want, fearful that the 
allowances would be still further reduced, and 
beUeving that the adoption of machinery by their 
employers would work their yet greater ruin, the 
agricultural labourers of many districts sought to 
protect themselves by rioting and incendiarism.^ 
Machinery was broken up, higher wages were de- 
manded, and those farmers who opposed the new 

' Hammond, B. and J. L., " Village Labourer," XI., XII. 

REMEDIES FROM 1814 TO 1834 79 

demands had their ricks fired and received menacing 
letters from " Captain Swing," containing threats of 
worse to follow. The rioting began in 1830 and 
continued for eighteen months, and there was 
hardly a district east of Dorsetshire and south of 
Lincoln in which the " Captain " had not his 
followers. The riots were finally suppressed only 
by the aid of the military, and by methods which 
reveal that terror blinded the Govermnent both to 
its own dignity and to the British reputation for 
just administration of the law. The most per- 
manent results of the disturbances were a diminu- 
tion in such good feeling as still remained between 
employer and employed, and the creation of 
suspicion towards any movement of agricultural 
labourers. The immediate result was a rise in 
wages. Thus, regarding the matter from this 
point of view only, the labourer may claim a 
greater measure of success than his rulers. The 
rise, however, was granted only under pressure, 
and farmers dropped back to the old rates wherever 
they felt their position strong enough. A witness 
before the Committee of the Lords in 1831, while 
acknowledging that the disturbances had raised 
wages of 4s. to 9s. in his district to a general level 
of 12s., prophesied that they would not be kept up.^ 

*" Reportof Lords' Committee on the Poor," p. 109. (Weston, 


Equally opposed to the interests of the ruling 
classes, but much more effective than rioting from 
the labourer's point of view, was another method 
he adopted for the improvement of his condition. 
He turned to crime to fill his pot and keep a fire 
on his hearth. " The weekly allowances cannot 
supply more than food ; how then are clothing, 
firing and rent to be provided ? " demanded a 
clergyman who gave evidence before the Com- 
mittee on wages. " By robbery and plunder," 
was his reply. The allowance system " has 
most rapidly effected the demoralisation of the 
lower orders ; and while the pittance allowed to 
sustain hfe has driven those to despair who still 
cherish the feelings of honesty, it has made those 
who are more void of principle poachers, thieves 
and robbers. Were I to detail the melancholy, 
degrading and ruinous system which has been 
pursued, with few exceptions, throughout the 
country, in regard to the unemployed poor, and 
in the payment of wages of idleness, I should 
scarcely be credited beyond its confine." ^ 

Wood-stealing and poaching were rife in all 
districts where, as was all too general, no com- 
mons and common rights had been preserved to 
the labourer. Almost every unemployed or casual 
labourer was a poacher, and in many villages there 

' " Report on Wages, 1824," p. 57. Cf. p. 35, etc; 

REMEDIES FROM 1814 TO 1834 81 

were regularly organised gangs who poached and 
thieved. Not the most brutal Game Laws and the 
creation of numerous new capital offences, nor 
the common use of man traps and spring guns/ 
could check the labourer from employing this 
mode of self-help. How prevalent it was is 
revealed by the figures of criminal conviction, 
one in every seven of which in England during 
the years 1827 to 1830 were convictions under 
the Game Laws.^ Thieving was, of course, but 
one step removed from poaching. One man 
who gave evidence before the Committee of 1824 
said that in many parishes five to forty persons 
made a Uving by robbing on the highways and 
by stealing the corn of the small farmers.* The 
moral results do not need to be pointed out. 
Yet from the material point of view poaching 
and crime were as successful as any other method 
adopted, publicly or privately, for the amelioration 
of the labourer's lot. 

(3) Allotments and Emigration. 

The efforts of philanthropists and of the 
Government in ways other than dole-giving were 
too sUght to effect any general improvement. 

1 Especially from 1817 to 1827, in which year their use was 
forbidden by statute. 
** Hammond, op. cit., p. 188. 
* " Report on Agricultural Labourers' Wages," p. 57. 

F.L. G 


The allotment system was extended, and emigra- 
tion schemes were instituted, but it was only 
favoured localities that benefited by them. In 
1819 the Government gave official recognition to 
the value of allotments by a Bill empowering 
poor law authorities to acquire land up to 
twenty acres, either by purchase or on lease, for 
the employment of the poor or for allotments. 
Twelve years later the area was extended to fifty 
acres, which might be leased, purchased, or, if 
Crown or uncultivated land, enclosed by consent 
of the Crown or the lord of the manor. In 1832 
another Act was passed to allow a certain propor- 
tion of land to be reserved and let out as allot- 
ments in any district where enclosure might be 
undertaken. The result of this Act was practi- 
cally nil, and the two earlier Acts were of equally 
little value. For comparatively few parishes 
took action under the laws of 1819 and 1821. 
Thd' governing body in the parish was the vestry, 
then in the hands of farmers, tradesmen and 
landlords. Farmers were opposed to the allot- 
ment system, as they feared it would make the 
labourer too independent, idle and neglectful of 
their interests, and they urged that they wanted 
the land themselves and that the labourer would 
not pay his rent. Tradesmen had no wish to see 
the labourer producing food for himself, and voted 

REMEDIES FROM 1814 TO 1834 85 

with the farmer. And the majority of landlords 
were ignorant as to the rights and wrongs of the 
question, and were naturally inclined to accept 
the views of their best tenants. Moreover their 
absorption of the economic doctrines of Malthus 
made them fear that if the labourer's position 
were improved the opportunity would be given 
for the reckless multipUcation of the population.^ 
Though proof lay all the other way, this fact was 
not yet recognised. Consequently, the promotion 
of allotments depended on private rather than on 
pubUc efforts. The interest in the subject was 
more general now than in the nineties, the benefits 
of allotments were frequently discussed in periodi- 
cals, some of the most interesting contributions to 
which came from the pen of Denson, a small 
peasant cultivator of Waterbeach, near Cam- 
bridge. Papers such as the Labourer's Friend, 
which was in circulation in the twenties, philan- 
thropists, and societies, as, for example, the 
Society for the Encouragement of Industry and 
Reduction of Poor's Ra,tes, nursed the movement. 
They were rewarded by seeing opinion put into 
practice by well-disposed landlords, who, though 
they took action without any ulterior motives, 
found that their good deeds were not without 
material reward. Allotments paid, both in rent 

• H,asbach, op. cit., pp. 213 f. 



and because the amount of spade labour and 
intensive culture put into them, wrought great 
improvement in the land. The rector of Broad 
Somerford, in Wiltshire, gives a naive account of 
the adoption of allotments in his district. In 
1820 a neighbouring parish was enclosed by the 
lord of the manor. " He had some very inferior 
land, bearing gorse or furze, and brambles ; he 
threw out eight acres for the purpose of benefiting 
the poor." The following year he enclosed a 
large common of " very wet, poor land," which 
was allotted wholly to the poor. It was land of 
the worst description, " boggy and clayey, and 
nobody could cross it with a horse." In 1831, 
thanks to the toil and care of the poor, it was 
bearing fine crops.^ 

Though the chief obstacle to the extension of 
allotments lay in the preliminary difficulty of 
finding the land, there were other hindrances to 
their establishment, and they did not always prove 
advantageous to the poor. In the parish of 
Byfield, Northamptonshire, allotments of quarter 
and half acres were instituted, but farmers some- 
times refused work to men who had allotments.^ 
And at Alford, Lincolnshire, where allotments were 
let under rules and conditions, the labourer hired 

• " Report of Lords on Poor, 1831," p. 38. 
lb., p. 43. 

REMEDIES FROM 1814 TO 1834 85 

land only " under great disadvantages." ^ Still, 
speaking generally, allotments were successful, 
and improvement in the labourer's condition took 
place in those localities where they were adopted. 
The Poor Law Report of 1834 is quite definite as 
to this, provided the allotment was of not more 
than half an acre. More than this, the Commission 
stated, could not be cultivated by a wage-earning 
labourer ; he had neither the time nor the capital 
to work more. Besides standardising the area of 
allotments, as to which there had hitherto been 
discussion and dispute, the Report set the system 
on a fair way to becoming more popular by 
emphasising the fact that the labourer did not 
become idle or over-independent, and that to the 
landlord there was economic profit in letting land 
for allotments.^ 

Towards the close of this period a new remedy 
was adopted in the form of systematic emigration. 
A Committee of the House of Commons reported 
on the subject in 1826 — 7. The Committee was 
of opinion that emigration would afford rehef both 
to the agricultural and the industrial population, 
but it was not prepared to adopt any State-aided 
scheme. It laid down three rules which it urged 

' "Report of Lords on Poor, 1831," p. 196. 
' " Report of the Poor Law Commissioners," 1834, pp. 15, 116, 
170a, 223, 225, 234, 378, 406, 410, 670. 


should be followed : ^ emigration must be volun- 
tary ; money should be advanced only as a loan ; 
and only that part of the population which, though 
healthy, was in a state of permanent pauperism 
should be pressed to emigrate. Emigration, how- 
ever, advanced at no great rate. The Committee 
had expressed its opinion that the poor man 
would " accept this opportunity of bettering his 
condition, by laying the foundation for future 
independence, with eagerness and gratitude, when 
sufficient time has elapsed, and proper pains been 
taken to make him understand the true nature 
and character of the change that is proposed for 
him." But time it did of course take, and even 
in districts where distress was great, the people 
were often unwilling to emigrate ; ^ also it required 
money. Hodges, a member of Parhament for 
Kent, was instrumental in emigrating a consider- 
able number of persons to America,* a policy which 
effected great reductions in the local rates ; and 
both in his district and in parishes generally, the 
poor law authorities were alive to the advantages of 
emigration, even if they should have to contribute 
to the expenses.* But from the Poor Law Report 

• " Report on Emigration, 1826," p. 5. 

' As the Rector of Weston, Sussex, told the Lords' Committee, 
1831, pp. 106 f. 

» " Report of Lords on Poor, 1831," p. 17. One hundred and 
forty-nine persons emigrated in two years. 

* " Report on Emigration, 1826," p. 5. 

REMEDIES FROM 1814 TO 1834 87 

of 1834 it is evident that emigration was still on a 
very small scale ; its beneficial effects were 
checked for want of legal authority to appropriate 

(4) The Northern Farmer's Solution of the 
Labourer's Problem. 

From the preceding pages it will be seen that the 
extreme North of England escaped from the 
agricultural labour problems in their acutest form. 
It was in the English counties of the Midlands, the 
South, the South-West and South-East that 
wages were lowest, that poor living and drunken- 
ness were most prevalent, and that there was the 
greatest distress from unemployment. And it was 
there, too, that the unsuccessful attempts to solve 
the problem described in this and the previous 
chapter chiefly took place. Allowances were 
commonest there ; rioting and rick-burning were 
confined to the southern counties, and the move- 
ment for allotments travelled little further North 
than Lincolnshire. The North, it would appear, 
had already contrived some solution for the labour 
problem. The question is, what ? 

The superiority of conditions of labour in the 
North over those in the South dates back to the 
enclosure period. Northumberland, it will be 

• " Report of Poor Law Commission," Appendix, p. 170. 


remembered, had possessed a peculiar system of 
labour before the acceleration in enclosing set in. 
In the first place, the chief farm-servants, such as 
shepherds, stockmen, carters and ploughmen, 
though hired for a definite term like the indoor 
farm-servants of the South, did not live in the 
farm house, but in cottages adjacent to the farm, 
supplied by their employers. In the second place, 
the greater part of their wages was paid in kind, 
in free housing and cow-runs, and in wheat, barley, 
oats, peas, wool and other farm produce. Thirdly, 
there was very much less casual labour than in the 
South. The southern farmer made great use of 
occasional labour supplied by the numerous class 
of land-cultivating cottagers. The Northumber- 
land farmer took occasional work into account 
when organising his regular staff ; extra labour 
might be required in harvest, and some semi- 
casual labour was supplied by women, whom the 
regular farm-servants were bound by their con- 
tracts to supply when required. But the bulk of 
all work, regular and casual, was performed by 
labourers in permanent employment. Much the 
same system obtained in Westmorland, while in 
Cumberland, Durham and Wales, payment in 
kind was prevalent, though the chief labourers 
were generally indoor farm-servants, as in the 

REMEDIES FROM 1814 TO 1834 89 

In the nineteenth century we find these charac- 
teristics were still preserved. This was due partly 
to sociological differences. But economic reasons 
also played their part. There was less upheaval 
from enclosure and corn-growing in the North 
and Wales than in the rest of England, but 
enclosing and engrossing did take place there too. 
What maintained the better conditions of work 
in these areas was the competition for labour 
which accompanied the industrial revolution, 
rather than freedom from the effects of the agricul- 
tural revolution. The mines in Wales, and the 
mines and rapidly expanding industries of the 
North of England, drew upon the farmers' labour 
supply, which was already less abundant than in 
the South. Wages, whether in money or kind, 
necessarily rose, and rose sufficiently to recompense 
the labourer for anything he lost by enclosures or 
by the rise in prices. Higher rates of wages were 
paid in the North, and higher real wages, for the 
labourer was not bade to stand off wageless in 
bad weather or in seasonal slackness. Conse- 
quently, though the roundsman system was 
adopted in the North during the acute distress 
of the war period, it was never carried to the 
excesses from which the South suffered. And the 
labourer was spared, too, the physical and moral 
evils of unemployment and under-feeding. The 


indoor service system of Wales and Cumberland, 
the long hirings in Northumberland, Westmorland, 
and parts of Durham and Yorkshire, which were 
forced upon the farmer by scarcity of labour, 
preserved the peasant from the privations from 
which his fellow in the South sought to escape 
by proHfic marriages, poaching, drunkenness and 
rioting. In short, the Northern farmer in solving 
the employer's labour problem — scarcity in supply 
— showed how the labourer's problem also might 
be solved. Higher wages was the solution for 
both. With higher wages agricultural work 
remained a profitable and dignified employment. 
It was immaterial to the labourer if he were 
without a holding of his own, " divorced from the 
land," for he had another basis of independence, 
other channels for his hopes, other sources of 
comforts and of sufficient food for himself and his 
family. Though he might own no plot of soil, 
he did not need the bribe of " re-union with the 
land " by means of an allotment to keep him in 
agricultural work. The problem of a landless 
labourer was solved by higher wages, while still 
in the South every solution but higher wages was 
being desperately tried. 


FROM 1834 TO 1870 

The outstanding feature of the period 1834 until 
the opening of the seventies is the exploitation of 
the labour of women and children. The allowance 
system, bad though it was, had ensured the 
labourer starvation wages, but now this small 
measure of security was lost. With wages terribly 
low, with unemployment prevalent, and in the 
absence of all other aid, he was compelled to adopt 
any available means of increasing his income. 
The wage-earning power of his wife and children 
had to be exploited. The youngest children, who 
had hitherto brought in is. 6d. a week by their 
mere existence, were driven by their parents' 
necessity into the fields to earn what they could 
by the sweat of their brows. Even had the 
labourer been less ignorant he was too hard pressed 
to count the cost of the remedy he now adopted. 
To tide over the present hour was a struggle ; 
the morrow must look after itself. And on the 
morrow he found that the competition of his 
children's labour was keeping his own wages down, 
and that the total family income tended to be 


no higher than that which he had brought in 
alone in none too prosperous days. Yet again 
the labourer's attempt to help himself had 
increased his difficulties. For his insufficient 
income now was won only by a greater expenditure 
of labour, food and clothing. Thus the dismal 
story of wretchedness and privations and of 
ineffective remedies drags on. Still, there are 
indications in this period of better things. The 
tendencies towards combination on the part of 
labourers grew stronger : co-operative societies 
may not have been wholly spontaneous, benefit 
societies may have been often unsound, and the 
agitations for higher wages may have been small 
and local ; yet these were the seeds which were 
to bear fruit later. Moreover, at the close of the 
period the movement for education set in, with 
all its important effects upon migration and unions. 

(i) Exploitation of the Labour of Women 
AND Children. 

The utilisation of the wage-earning powers of 
women and children began almost immediately 
upon the abolition of the allowance system. 
During the preceding period the labourer's family 
had not engaged in agriculture to any extent 
except in the eastern counties, where the gang 

FROM 1834 TO 1870 93 

system was in use. These gangs ^ developed early 
in the century in districts where land hitherto 
often uncultivated was broken up for arable 
farming, and where wide areas in the fen country 
were drained and put down to corn. Both the 
weeding required on the recently drained land 
and the regular work on the new isolated farms 
caused a sudden and large demand for labour. 
The lack of cottage accommodation on the new 
farms and the system of close parishes rendered 
the local supply insufficient and fostered the 
employment of gangs, composed of men, women 
and children, who lived in the open parishes and 
went out to work upon farms where their services 
were required. Sometimes the farmer himself 
engaged the gang, but more often he contracted 
with a public gang-master for the completion of 
definite pieces of work. 

The system suited the farmer, since he paid for 
his labour only when he required it. And it was 
not without its advantages to the labourer.^ 
The gang-master served as an intermediary 
between him and farmers at considerable distance 
from his home, and the labourer found that his 
employment tended to be more constant, since 

' " Report on Employment of Women and Children in Agricul- 
ture, 1843"; "Sixth Report of the Children's Employment 
Commission, 1867" ; Hasbach, op. cit., pp. 193 f. 

^ "Report, 1843," p. 223. 


his gang would go the round of farms in a wide 
district. This system was firmly established in 
the parish of Castleacre, in Norfolk, as early as 
1826, and it spread into other districts in the 

Although it was known that the labourer there 
supplemented his income by the earnings of his 
family, it was not foreseen in 1834 that this 
method would be generally adopted. The allow- 
ance system was regarded as the radical cause of 
all the labourer's miseries, including inadequate 
wages, and a rise in wages was expected upon its 
abolition. The rise, however, did not take place. 
For two factors which played a primary part in 
regulating wages were inevitably left untouched 
by the reform of the poor laws. The excessive 
surplus population remained, for it needed time 
before any adjustment between supply and demand 
could take place. And the agricultural depression 
continued, and with it the farmer's constant 
efforts to save expenses and preserve profits by 
reduction in his wages bill. 

It was the Corn Laws which were largely to 
blame for this continued depression.^ They 
propped up belief in high com prices ; these high 
prices did not actually occur, but with infinite 
faith agriculturists continued to expect them, 

• Levy, " Large and Small Holdings," p. 49. 

FROM 1834 TO 1870 95 

and farmed by methods which could only pay if 
they had been in existence. The cultivation of 
com to the detriment of other branches of agricul- 
ture, large farming, and enclosing, which had 
promoted the prosperity of the farmer up to 18 14, 
were still carried on from 1814 to 1846. But now 
these old methods led to bankruptcies rather than 
to fortunes. We have seen how distressed farmers 
effected economies in the twenties by employing 
only rate-aided labour. With the reform of the 
poor law this opportunity for making others pay 
his working expenses was lost to the farmer, and 
though his rates now fell, he was threatened with 
a disproportionate rise in his wages bill. Some 
rise he could not avoid, for not infrequently he 
had paid absolutely nil in direct wages. But the 
surplus population gave him the opportunity of 
checking the rise at starvation level. 

Such were the causes of the labourer's desperate 
phght in 1834. Married men especially suffered, 
but, even where a man had not a family to main- 
tain, wages were too low to provide against 
unemployment, which was now a regular feature 
of the winter. Fortunately, it was a time of 
industrial expansion and of railway construction, 
and many men were able to find employment in 
the towns or on the new railroads.^ In other 

' " Report on Agriculture, 1836," Part I., pp. 441, 455, 


districts rioting and rick-burning were resorted 
to in order to raise wages. But neither the one 
nor the other device afforded any general reUef. 
In the bad winters of 1837 and 1838 the people 
were eating nettles and rotten apples, and in 
1838 the workhouses were so overcrowded that 
the guardians were compelled to allow outdoor 
relief.^ Then the labourer adopted the scheme 
of increasing the family income by the earnings 
of his wife and children. In the Report of 1836 
their employment is mentioned as being general 
only in certain districts ; , by 1843 it was the 
exception to find a district where they were not 
employed. The tremendous increase in the 
employment of women and children amazed and 
astonished contemporary observers. And it may 
well be asked to-day how employment was found 
for them by the farmer. 

The answer is to be found in the Reports of the 
preceding period. It had been said by witnesses 
before the Committees of 1821 and 1831 that a 
great deal more labour could profitably be put 
into the land, but that farmers could not afford 
to pay for it/ the result being that in many parts 
of the country farms were grossly under-cultivated. 

'■ Hasbach, op, cit., p. 223. 

" "Report on Depressed State of Agriculture, 1821," pp. 45, 
80, 95, etc. ; " Report from the Lords on the Poor Laws, 1831," 
pp. 72, 106, etc. 

FROM 1834 TO 1870 97 

This was still true, and farmers everywhere readily 
made full use of the cheap labour now put into 
the market. • There was a quantity of work which 
was well within the powers of children. Stone 
picking, bird scaring, potato setting and weeding, 
were especially suited to their size and strength, 
and in the fruit and hop districts they could be 
employed to gather in these crops. In harvest, 
their work would be more general. • Women were 
employed usually in weeding and hoeing, and in 
the hop gardens and upon fruit farms. Their 
labour, however, was extremely varied, and in 
one district they would be engaged in work which 
in another was confined to men. Thus, in the 
South- West women prepared and loaded manure, 
and in parts of Devon and Somerset they acted 
as carters. There were, in fact, few branches of 
agricultural work in which, in one locality or 
another, women were not employed.^ Only in 
one or two districts was there actually no work 
for women and children. This was so in the dales 
of the north-west of Yorkshire, where pasture 
farming and grazing prevailed. Here only a few 
men were employed in draining, and the rest of 
the work was done by farm servants. Women and 
children occupied themselves in knitting stockings, 

' Report on Employment of Women and Children in Agricul- 
ture, 1843, pp. 133, 147, 166, etc. 

F.L. H 


jackets and sailor caps, the work being given out 
by a local manufactory.^ And in parts of Devon 
and Dorset there was apparently no demand for 
their services, for they were engaged in various 
forms of home industries, such as button and 
lace making.^ But though these were districts 
where peculiar conditions limited the demand for 
agricultural work, the labourer as a rule found 
a voracious market for the labour of his family. 
Even young children were in demand, boys of 
nine, ten, or even seven, finding constant employ- 
ment, while girls became regular day labourers 
at the age of twelve to sixteen, or in the gang 
districts at an earlier age.^ 

Yet the relief gained by the family from their 
combined output of labour was but slight. And 
the price paid for it was high. The Commissioners 
spoke of the moral deterioration of girls through 
their labour in the fields. The moral effects of 
field work for women and girls were particularly 
bad in the gang districts. Men and women 
worked together, tramped long distances together 
to their place of work, and when this was so far 
from their homes that the daily journey was im- 
possible, they were lodged together in bams upon 

• Report on Employment of Women and Children in Agricul- 
ture, 1843, pp. 286, 295. 
^ lb., p. 16. 
' lb., pp. 40, 150, 217, etc. 

FROM 1834 TO 1870 99 

the farm.^ It was not until 1867 that the public 
gangs were regulated ; then, after forty years or 
more of their existence, the Gangs Act was passed, 
forbidding the employment of children under 
eight years old, making compulsory the separation 
of the sexes into their own gangs, and obliging a 
gang-master to obtain a licence. The physical 
evils of agricultural work generally were con- 
sidered less serious by the Commissioners than the 
moral/ though in the gang districts the children 
suffered through the long distances they had often 
to walk in addition to their work. But both boys 
and girls lost their opportunities for education by 
the need of contributing very early to the family 

That income, even when the whole family was 
in work, remained very low. Women earned 
from 8^. to is., according to occupation and 
locality, for an eight to ten hours' day ; more was 
paid in harvest as a rule, but longer hours were 
worked. Girls earned from 2d. a day in Suffolk, 
where they were employed very young, to 6d. a 
day at the age of sixteen. Boys earned at the 
lowest from id. a day below the age of twelve, 
to 4s. a week at sixteen years old.^ Thus it is 

1 Report on Employment of Women and Children in Agricul- 
tnie, 1843, p. 224. 
3 lb., pp. 133, 215, etc. 
' lb., pp. ly, 166, 282, etc. 

H 2 


quite true to say that the family earnings played 
a very important part in the labourer's budget. 
But the net gain was reduced by the necessarily 
greater expenditure on clothing.^ And the com- 
petition of his family kept the father's wages low." 
When Caird made his tour in 1850 the average 
rate of men's wages in the South was 8s. ^d., in the 
East, 9s. id., and in the West, ids. In 1853 an 
agricultural revival set in, due partly to the 
Crimean war, which checked foreign importation, 
and partly to improved methods of farming 
induced by the abolition of the Corn Duties ; but 
as landlords instantly claimed their share by 
raising rents, the labourer gained little from this 
period of prosperity.^ The rise in the price of 
com and other articles during the Crimean and 
American wars forced on a slight rise in wages. 
But the employment of women and children was 
now firmly established, and the farmer, having this 
supply of cheap labour to hand, had no need to raise 
wages in proportion to prices. Such were the results 
of the labourer's attempt to improve his circum- 
stances by calling to his aid the labour of wife and 
children, admittedly the only aid he then had, 

' Report on Employment of Women and Children in Agricul- 
ture, 1843, p. 129. 

» lb., p. 138. 

' Hasbach, op. cit., p. 251. For tables of wages, see Caird, 
" English Agriculture," p. 512 ; Hasbach, op. cit., pp. 224, 226, 

FROM 1834 TO 1870 101 

(2) Conditions of the Labourer's Life. 
The information as to his mode of Ufe, contained 
in the Reports of 1843 and the sixties, and in 
Caird's narrative of his tour, gives a better idea 
than do mere wages rates of the peasant's lot 
during the period of family labour. The Com 
missioners of 1843 gave evidence of considerable 
underfeeding. Maladies from under-nourishment 
were common in Wiltshire and Somersetshire.^ 
It was the opinion of medical men that the quality 
of food was not too low so long as the labourer was 
in good health and the quantity was not deficient.^ 
But as there was almost constant unemployment 
at this date, the quantity could seldom have been 
sufficient. The Vicar of Cohie declared that 
though much was done by charitable persons to 
relieve the poor, he " never could make out how 
they can live with their present earnings." * Only 
from the extreme North came evidence of a 
sufficiency of wholesome food.* Caird had a 
similar story to tell. Bread, potatoes, cheese 
occasionally, and hot water poured upon burnt 
crusts, formed the staple food of the districts 
where wages were lowest. Still, the fall in the 

» Report, 1843, pp. 17, 58. 
2 lb., pp. 18, 58. 
s 76., p. 57. 

' lb., pp. 284 f., 296, 300. Cf. Unwin, J. Cobden, "Hungry 
Forties," labourers' own accounts qf their condition. 
" Caird, " English Agriculture," pp. 84, etc. 


prices of provisions consequent upon Free Trade 
was already, Caird thought, making a change for 
the better. Flour had fallen almost to half the 
price it had been in 1840 ; tea was less than half, 
and sugar almost half.^ But in 1867, Stanhope, 
the Commissioner for Dorset, Kent, Chester, 
Salop, Staffordshire and Rutlandshire, said that in 
all six counties the greater number of agricultural 
labourers were sadly underfed ; their diet was 
bread and potatoes, with cheese perhaps in good 
times ; only the really better off had bacon.^ In the 
country generally, there was found to be a great 
difference between the diet of the North and that 
of the rest of England, the inferiority being all 
with the latter.^ Of course both now and in 1843 
it was the married man with a young family who 
suffered most. The noxious system of increasing 
the family income by the earnings of wife and 
children rendered his unaided wages totally in- 
adequate for their support. Caird pointed out 
that the labourer's position improved so soon as 
the family could go out to work.* " We never see 
such a thing as butcher's meat," said a Somerset- 
shire woman, whose sole source of income was her 

1 Caird, op. cit., p. 518. 

^ Second Report on Children's, Young Persons', and Women's 
Employment in Agriculture, 1868-9, P- 102. 

' Report on Employment of Women and Children in Agricul- 
ture, 1867, p. 116, etc. 

* Op. cit., p. 84. 

From 1834 TO i8/d 105 

husband's earnings. " Our food is principally 
potatoes with bread . . . Sometimes when cheap 
we buy half a pound of butter a week, but most 
frequently fat which we use with the potatoes to 
give them a flavour. . . . We lay out about z^d. 
a week in tea, chiefly to let my husband have 
a comfortable breakfast on Sunday. . . . Our 
common drink is burnt crust tea. We also buy 
about half a pound of sugar a week. We never 
know what it is to get enough to eat, at the end 
of the meal the children would always eat more." 
Their clergyman gave them a little milk a week.^ 
What added now as hitherto to the evils of poor 
quality of food was the impossibility of serving 
warm meals. The labourer's meagre income 
obliged him to economise in fuel, and often he had 
great difficulties in obtaining it, even when he 
could pay the price, since there was no market for 
fuel within his reach.^ Here again the advantage 
lay with the North where cheap fuel allowed of 
" such fires " as were " unknown in the South of 
England." This enabled the labourer to partake 
of hot meals and preserved the house craft of his 
wife. And more than this. Cheap fuel meant 
dry clothing,^ whereas, in the rest of England, the 
labourer and his family were obliged to put on in 

' Report, 1843, p. 68. 

2 Jb., p. 75 ; Second Report, 1868-9, p. 102. 

« Report, 1868-9, P- "7- 


the morning the wet clothes they had taken 
off at night. The Commissioners of 1867 were 
agreed that though there was little physical 
injury to women and children from agricultural 
work in itself, their inability to provide them- 
selves with dry clothing constituted a serious 

There were other conditions of the labourer's 
work and life which render the mere rate of wages 
no true indication of his actual circumstances. 
In the South-west of England part of his wages 
were, as in the North, often paid in kind. But 
the Northern labourer as a rule received fair 
va:lue, though in bad years the potatoes and corn 
supplied him would be the worst of the crop ; 
in the South the allowances generally consisted 
of such produce as was unmarketable and were 
estimated by the farmer at the market price of 
his better crops. Secondly, the wages actually 
earned in the week were frequently less than the 
weekly rate. For even where there was not 
actual unemployment, the ordinary labourers on 
a farm were compelled to stand off in wet weather. 
In 1867 it was said that about half the men on 
the farm thus lost time.^ Lastly, the labourer 

' Report, 1843, p. 22. 

2 Second Report, 1868-9, p. 10. In Dorset, as in the North, 
men were hired by the year. But, unhke in the North, there was 
a supply of surplus labour, and farmers employed the long-hire 

FROM 1834 TO 1870 105 

suffered through having to make his purchases 
from a shopkeeper who was free from competition. 
" All which they buy, therefore, is burdened with 
the intermediate profits of a petty trader, accumu- 
lated upon the town price. Even where there is 
a disposition to deal fairly with them, general 
ignorance of prices and an absence of competition 
to adjust the price offers some temptation to 
sell at rates inordinately high."^ The village 
shops generally charged high prices for inferior 
goods. Yet the labourer had little choice but 
to deal with them, for his wife had not the time 
to undertake marketing at a distance in addition 
to her agricultural or other work. Not infre- 
quently, moreover, he was under compulsion to 
give his custom in the village. In some villages 
in Kent wages were paid partly in cheques on the 
village shop,^ and sometimes wherr small tradesmen 
were also landlords, their tenants were expected 
to deal at their shops. ^ Where the labourer had 
a good garden or an allotment,^ he could, of course, 
produce certain articles for himself, and this 
opportunity of escaping from the extortions of 
shopkeepers was recognised as one of the advan- 

system against the labourers' interests. Wages were as low as 
8s., and a man lost time in wet weather or illness, which was 
not the case in the North. 

' Report, 1843, p. 140. 

2 lb., p. 141. 

» Report, 1867-8, p. 191. 


tages of the allotment system. In a few villages 
the drawbacks of the local shop were so clearly 
recognised that landlords and better class 
labourers had promoted co-operative stores. These 
were of real value to the labourer where they 
existed, but their existence was all too rare. 

Cottage accommodation struck the Commis- 
sioners of 1867 as almost the worst feature of 
agricultural life. The housing question was 
unanimously declared by all the investigators to 
be very serious, and this although considerable 
sums had been spent by many landlords in recent 
years. ^ Cottages, as we know, had been destroyed 
by landlords in order to decrease their poor rates. 
The Unions Chargeability Act of 1865 equaUsed 
rates throughout the Poor Law Union, thus 
bringing to an end the inducement to limit the 
number of inhabitants in the close parishes. 
But the evil had been done. Shortage of house- 
room had created overcrowding, had sent up 
rents, and had led to the rise of a new class of 
small landlords. Speaking generally, the cottages 
owned by such men were infinitely the worst. ^ 
They grudged repairs and charged high rents for 
dwellings which most landowners would not have 
tolerated upon their estates. And numbers of 

1 Second Report, 1868-9, p. 33. 
Report, 1867-8, p. 99. 

FROM 1834 TO 1870 107 

cottages were owned by this class. Less than 
half the cottages in Norfolk were held by large 
owners,^ and a similar condition obtained in 
Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire.^ Of the rest, 
the majority belonged to small speculators, though 
some were owned by their labourer occupiers. 
Such cottages also were very bad.' But even on 
the estates of large landowners there was con- 
siderable cause for complaint. Fraser, afterwards 
Bishop of Manchester, said that in his district 
" the majority of the cottages that exist in rural 
parishes are deficient in almost every requisite 
that should constitute a home for a Christian 
family in a civilised community. " * It is impossible 
here to follow the Commissioners in detail through 
their reports of dilapidated cottages, frequently 
below the level of the ground, and with no proper 
sanitary arrangements. One or two bedrooms 
had to accommodate families often consisting of 
five to ten persons ; and where the house was of 
a better size high rents led the labourer to take in 
lodgers, so that the overcrowding frequently was 
as great as in the worst hovels. Even in the North, 
where the conditions of labour generally were 
much better than elsewhere, though many of the 

» Report, 1867-8, pp. 99, 165. 
2 lb., pp. 184, 191. 
= Second Report, 1868-9, P- i43' 
* Report, 1867-8, p. 95. 


cottages were good, others were said to be " some 
of the worst." ^ And the overcrowding was very 
bad, one long, low room often being the only 
accommodation for an entire family, in which 
they must live, cook and sleep. One witness said 
of conditions in Cambridgeshire that " labourers 
as a rule are worse lodged than cattle and worse 
cared for."^ And the evidence of the Commis- 
sioners generally reveals that this, excepting in a 
few fortunate districts, was true of the country 
as a whole. It was acknowledged that immo- 
rality and the frequenting of beer shops were the 
inevitable results of overcrowding and discomfort 
in the home. 

The Commissioners recognised that the housing 
problem was an intricate one. The worst landlords 
were the small owners of property ; there were no 
two opinions about that. Yet they alone let their 
cottages upon business lines, and could make 
building pay. If their methods were to be ruled 
out, as clearly they must be, upon what lines were 
large landowners to build ? And how were their 
cottages to be let ? The stand could be taken 
that cottages " ought to be considered as a neces- 
sary part of landed property, the adjunct of a 
farm leased to a tenant for occupation. Viewed 

' Keport, 1867-8, p. 125. 
» lb., p. 163. 

FROM 1834 TO 1870 109 

in this light the building of cottages, if built by 
the landlord, will return a fair interest for his 
money." ^ The labourer, therefore, would not be 
expected to pay a fair rent. But if labourers' 
cottages were to be regarded as part of the farm, 
it almost necessarily followed that they must be 
reserved for labourers employed on the farm. 
In other words, the farmer and not the landlord 
must have the letting of them. But such sub- 
letting was opposed to the interests of the labourer. 
It opened the way to his oppression by the farmer, 
for he and his family would be bundled out into 
the street if he ventured to change his employment, 
or in any way gave offence. On the other hand, 
what both the labourer and his friends, and the 
Unionists of a later date, failed to consider was 
that if the farmer had not control he might be 
deprived of the power of procuring the labour 
necessary to carry on his work.^ Fraser, one of 
the Assistant Commissioners of 1867, held that 
property ought to be put upon an economic 
basis. He hoped to see it become remunerative, 
" partly by the adoption of a more economical 
plan of building and partly by an improvement 
in the circumstances of the labourer enabling 
him to pay a higher rent." ^ He thought that a 

' Report, 1867-8, p. 98. 
» lb., pp. 97. 99- 
' lb., p. 98. 


rise in wages combined with a rise in rent would 
materially improve the relations of all parties. 
CuUey, another Assistant Commissioner, thought, 
on the contrary, that even if the labourer had 
higher wages he would not be willing to spend 
more on rent.^ 

However that might be, there were practical dififi- 
culties in the way of landlords' effecting building 
improvements even had they dared to risk putting 
a better class of dwelling into the market. Where 
estates were encumbered or entailed, it was hard 
to raise the necessary money, for a small portion 
of the estate could not be sold in order to benefit 
the rest. It was said that " entail is one of the 
chief causes of bad housing." ^ Again, over much 
accommodation, as well as too little, brought evils 
in its train. " The lowest type of rural civilisa- 
tion," said Fraser, "is to be found in those large 
over-peopled open parishes in which at the slack 
season of the year there is always a considerable 
number out of employment." ' It was, in fact, 
no kindness to supply accommodation for more 
labourers than could find profitable employment 
in the district, yet as large landlords in many 
parishes owned only half, or less than half the 
cottages, it was beyond their power to regulate 

' Second Report, 1869, p. 168. 

= lb., p. 169 ; Report, 1867-8, p. 165. 

' Report, 1867-8, p. 97. 

FROM 1834 TO 1870 iir 

the supply. The Duke of Bedford's agent pointed 
out this difficulty to the Assistant Commissioner 
for that district. " The landowner, if he erected 
all his land requires, has no power of pulling down 
or of restraining others in building, hence the 
fostering of over-populated districts by inducing 
young persons to stay in their native place instead 
of looking for work in the more thinly populated 
districts, consequently, when the least slackness 
of work sets in, there is an immediate outcry of 
over-population." ^ In short, the housing pro- 
blem was not merely a landowners' question, and 
though they were largely to blame for the dis- 
graceftd condition of rural housing, in fairness to 
them it has to be said that where building im- 
provements had taken place, it was chiefly on 
their initiative. 

(3) Development of the Old " Remedies." 

Whilst the labourer was seeking to stave off 
starvation and the workhouse by utilising the 
earning powers of his family, other attempts to 
improve his condition were being simultaneously 
carried on. The old remedies for alleviation of 
his wretchedness, allotments, benefit societies and 
migration, were still applied. The allotment 
movement made distinct progress during this 

* Second Report, i868-g, p. 172. 


period. The Labourers' Friend Society, founded 
in 1843, and similar Associations, pressed the 
matter before the notice of ParUament and of 
landowners ; in 1843, a Select Committee was 
appointed to consider the question, and the Com- 
missions of that year and of 1867 included allot- 
ments in their subjects for inquiry. So far as the 
House of Commons was concerned, the only 
results were that it threw out three allotment 
Bills during the forties, and made a feeble attempt 
to promote the system by recommending in the 
Enclosure Act of 1845 that a certain amount of 
land thereafter enclosed should be reserved for 
the poor. Owing, however, to private efforts, the 
allotment movement made some progress.^ It 
was most extensive in 1843 in Kent, where the 
farmers were more favourably inchned, but allot- 
ments were to be found in most districts in Surrey 
and Sussex, in many parts of Wiltshire, Dorset 
and Devonshire, and in Lincolnshire, Norfolk and 
Suffolk. In 1867 the Assistant Commissioner for 
Northamptonshire stated that there were few 
parishes in that county which were without 
allotments, though the supply was by no means 
equal to the demand.^ The system was widely 

> Report on Employment of Women and Children, 1843 ; 
Report from the Select Committee on the Labouring Poor 
(Allotments of Land), 1843. 

' Report, 1867-8, p. 179. 

FROM 1834 TO 1870 113 

extended, too, in Dorsetshire and Rutlandshire, 
but we hear that it prevailed now only on some 
estates in Kent. This was the case in Stafford- 
shire also.^ In Shropshire allotments were very 
rare, but potato ground was supplied instead. In 
Cheshire allotments were Uttle known.^ As in 
1843, there were scarcely any allotments in the 
extreme North. There they were not in demand, 
since most labourers either had good gardens, cow- 
runs or potato plots, were paid largely in kind, or 
lived in the farmhouse. Under these conditions 
they were not required. The labourer in the 
South welcomed allotments in spite of the extra 
hours of labour they entailed, because low wages 
compelled him to. increase his income in any 
way possible. But in the North, where wages 
whether in money or kind were relatively high, 
the labourer was " seldom disposed for further 
work." ^ 

The extension of allotments was still blocked by 
the opposition of many farmers, although others 
now regarded the scheme with favour. The 
unreconciled urged as before, that the labourers 
would shirk their employers' work and steal their 
corn : that they were put to inconvenience by 
labourers asking for leave to work on their own 

1 Second Report, 1868-9, p. 100. 

2 lb., p. 228. 

F.L. I 


land ; ^ and that they could not get cheap manure, 
since the men wanted it for themselves.^ The 
underlying cause of their objections was, however, 
the fear that they would be deprived of cheap 

Both the Reports of 1843 and those of 1867 — 9 
dealt with the size, rents, and moral advantages 
oi allotments. The Committee of 1843 pointed 
out that as " the profits of the allotments should 
be viewed by the holder of it in the light of an aid, 
and not of a substitute for his ordinary income 
accruing from wages, and that they should not 
become an inducement to neglect his usual paid 
labour, the allotments should be of no greater 
extent than can be cultivated during the leisure 
moments of the family." The exact size must 
therefore depend upon the size of the family and 
the nature of the soil, but as a rule not more than 
a quarter of an acre was advisable.* Although 
many allotments were larger than this, and 
labourers both in 1843 and in 1867 would have 
been glad to have more land,* it was held that in 
general the labourer had not the time nor the 
capital to work more ; he became a pseudo small- 
holder, with no security of income, and was liable 

» Report, 1867-8, p. 180. 

" Report of Select Committee, 1843, Evidence, qu. 29 f. 

* lb., p. iv. 

* Report, 1867-8, p. 180. 

FROM 1834 TO 1870 115 

to most pressing want in bad years. In Dorset- 
shire, even the half-acre allotments, on which 
ploughing was permitted, led to irregular work on 
the part of the labourers, and increased the 
employment of young children and the tendency 
of the labourer to depend on his potato 
crop.^ Spade culture, and an area small enough 
for spade culture, were the general recommen- 

Intensive culture by hand labour increased 
enormously the productivity of the soil. This led 
to difficulties as to rent. Although the new value 
of the land was entirely due to the labourers' 
exertions, farmers sought to get a share of the 
profits by charging high rents. The Committee 
enunciated the principle that, " though the land 
will yield larger profits under this mode of cultiva- 
tion, than under the usual method of tillage, the 
proprietor who wishes to benefit the poor man 
should not exact more rent than he should expect 
to receive if he let it out to be farmed in the 
ordinary way." ^ Unfortunately, allotment ground 
was often land sub-let by farmers, and they 
ignored the justice of this axiom. Exorbitant 
rents for allotments and potato plots were com- 
plained of in Dorsetshire and Shropshire in 1867 ; ' 

» Second Report, 1868-9, P- loo- 

2 Report of Select Committee, 1843, p. iv. 

» Second Report, 1868-9, p. 100. 

I 2 


and except where allotments were entirely in the 
hands of philanthropic landlords, rents every- 
where were higher than were required by the 
ordinary rental value of the land, the charges on 
it, and the cost of fencing. 

The material value of allotments was pointed 
out by the Committee. It was estimated that an 
allotment was worth about 2s. a week to its 
cultivator,^ and the average net profit was reckoned 
at £4 a year ; ^ the produce of a quarter of an acre 
being sufficient to feed a man with a large family 
for thirteen weeks.^ The moral value was equally 
emphasized. Allotments encouraged thrift and 
kept men from the public houses ; it was said 
after thirty-seven years' experience of allot 
ments at Kingwell, near Bath, that convictions 
for crime were almost nil amongst allotment- 

A few words only are required as to the progress 
of the movement for benefit clubs and societies. 
It had originated at the same date as the allot- 
ment movement, but had not met with the same 
measure of success. There were charitable coal 
and clothing clubs in several of the villages, 
supported partly by labourers' subscriptions, and 

• Report from Select Committee, 1843, Evidence, qu. 344. 
^ lb., qu. 18, 19, 20. 

« lb., qu. 1657, 16591 

* Second Report, 1868-9, PP- I99 — 206. 

FROM 1834 TO 1870 117 

partly by the philanthropic.^ They were never 
popular. There was probably in their manage- 
ment too much of that demand for respect to 
superiors and for regular Church attendance, 
which we hear of at a later date in connection with 
such clubs. The benefit societies were generally 
unassisted, and were free from these drawbacks. 
Yet it was said that when uncontrolled by superiors 
they were apt to degenerate into opportunities for 
convivial meetings, yearly banks or a kind of 
lottery ; which was " little wonder considering the 
lack of education, temptations, and little inter- 
course and no convivialities in daily life." ^ Such 
clubs varied in their nature and methods. Usually 
they gave benefits in sickness or at death. They 
so frequently failed through ill-management that 
they were of doubtful value to their supporters, 
and whereas in their early years they had been 
extremely popular, they later were regarded with a 
considerable measure of distrust. In 1843 it was 
said that though in parts of the country many 
clubs were in a flourishing condition the number 
had been reduced by half within the last five or 
six years.^ Stanhope, in 1867, spoke of the rotten- 
ness of most friendly societies in his district. 

> Report on Employment of Women and Children, 1843, 
p. 22. 

' lb., p. 144. 
» lb., p. 144- 


Sometimes the treasurer absconded ; sometimes 
through ill-management the money was spent on 
the annual feast ; or the monthly payment was 
not, and never could be, sufficient to provide the 
promised benefits, so that owing to miscalcula- 
tions the labourer's sacrifice had been useless from 
the first. " In hundreds of cases after years of 
patient self-denial and saving against the day of 
trouble, the poor labourer has been sent on the 
parish, because there is nothing ' in the box of his 
club,' or because as he and others were getting old 
and were likely to come upon its funds the younger 
members of his club have dissolved it and reconsti- 
tuted it without him." ^ Naturally, " the con- 
fidence of the poor has been to a great extent 
shaken by the failure of the club on which they or 
their fathers have relied." ^ The young men, if 
they joined a club at all, tended to join the large 
societies, such as the Oddfellows, and the old local 
clubs, which in some districts had existed to the 
number of two to the parish, died out.^ 

The policy of migration and emigration con- 
tinued through this period. Migration was the 
most effective weapon the labourer possessed 
against the farmer, but he required intelligence 
and courage to use it. He was often so completely 

' Second Report, 1868-9, p. 105. 

» lb., ib. 

' Report, 1867-8, pp. 194 — 209. 

FROM 1834 TO 1870 119 

Ignorant of conditions elsewhere that he hesitated 
to quit the way of life he knew, miserable though 
it might be. A considerable migration took 
place, however, immediately upon the abolition 
of allowances. The towns of the Midlands and 
the North drew labour from the land in those hard 
times, and the railways were of the very greatest 
assistance to the agricultural labourer, since they 
passed through the rural districts and offered him 
work not far remote from his old home. And 
from the Census Reports of 1861 and 1871 it is 
clear that the rural exodus was increasing, due 
partly to the continuance of wretched conditions, 
and in part to the adoption of machinery in farm 
work which tended to displace labour, though the 
displacement was not so great as is sometimes 
imagined. In 1861 the total number of labourers, 
farm servants and shepherds in England and 
Wales was 1,188,786. In 1871 it was 980,178,' 
a decrease of 208,608. The emigration figures 
are also suggestive during this period. The 
number of English emigrants only from 1853 to 
i860 was 454,422, and rose to 605,165 or, at a 
re-estimate, 649,742, between the years 1861 and 
1870. The rural districts must have contributed 
their quota, though emigration was ever more 
difficult to the labourer than migration. 

' Or 962,348, if 2 per cent, are subtracted as incapable of work. 


The most striking feature of the migration 
movement in this period is the work of Canon 
Girdlestone, an account of which was written in 
1874 by Mr. Francis Heath, who visited North 
Devon and met and knew the Canon personally. 
From Lancashire, where the conditions of the 
working classes were good, Girdlestone went, in 
1866, to North Devon as vicar of the parish of 
Halberton. He could not but be struck by the 
wretched state of the peasantry there. Wages 
were as low as ys. and seldom more than 8s. 
a week for the ordinary day labourer, with an 
allowance of three pints to two quarts of inferior 
cider. For this poor wage the men gave nine 
hours of work, exclusive of meals, and were 
often kept overtime, while in harvest they 
worked imtil nine or ten at night, generally 
receiving their supper but no extra wages. The 
women were paid yd. or 8i. a day. There 
was a good deal of oppression, peasants often 
being forbidden to keep pigs or hens in case 
they stole food ; potato land was let only at 
high rents, which were sometimes four or five 
times the value of the land. Bread, burnt crust 
tea, skim milk and cheese formed the staple 
diet. The labourers were " crippled up " by 
forty-five or fifty through rheumatism, due to the 
damp clothing which the insufficiency of their 

FROM 1834 TO 1870 121 

fuel rendered inevitable. And the lack of nourish- 
ing food made them at all times feeble and prone 
to disease. Such were the conditions which 
Girdlestone met with, not only in his own parish 
but in North Devon generally. In March of 1866, 
Girdlestone sounded the trumpet of revolt, and 
set the whole parish by the ears. The district 
was suffering from a cattle plague, and Girdlestone, 
giving out as his text, " Behold the hand of the 
Lord is upon thy cattle," demanded of the farmers 
in the presence of their labourers whether they did 
not think that God had sent the plague as a judg- 
ment upon them for the manner in which they 
treated their men. A storm of abuse broke round 
him, and he and his church and his family were 
ostracised by the local gentry and farmers. But 
he found at least some measure of pubhc support. 
He sent a letter to the Times, giving an account 
of local conditions, and received replies from all 
parts of England and Ireland, and letters from 
farmers offering good wages and comfortable 
homes for such men in his district as would accept 
them. Some remitted the money to pay expenses, 
and subscriptions from philanthropic persons were 
sent to the vicar for the assistance of his 
parishioners. He now organised a regular system 
of migration, faced always with two difficulties, 
the opposition of local farmers and the " home 


sickness " of the labourers. From October 1866 
until June 1872, the work was systematically 
carried on; four to five hundred men, many of 
them with families, were removed to Lancashire, 
Yorkshire, Durham, Kent, Sussex and other 
counties. A number were sent to the Manchester 
and the West Riding Police Forces. All met with 
a rise of from 5s. to 14s. on their old pittance of 
8s. Those who prospered in their new homes 
found situations for friends and relations, and thus 
the Canon's work became the centre of a great 
system, while the movement in Devonshire stirred 
the stagnation of the neighbouring counties of 
Dorset, Wiltshire and Somersetshire.^ 

(4) New Influences. 

Two new factors in the amelioration of the 
labourer's lot appear during this period. One was 
the furtherance of education ; the other, and the 
most hopeful feature of the times, was the com- 
bination of labourers over wider areas than 
hitherto, and for more ambitious objects than the 
supply of coal and clothing. Their entrance into 
societies such as the Oddfellows is one indication 
of the new spirit, and this period saw, too, the 
beginning of movements for co-operation and for 
raising wages. It must be said at the outset, that 

' Heath, F., " English Peasantry," pp. 138 — 156. 

FROM 1834 TO 1870 123 

no one of these three developments effected any 
general improvement in the labourer's position 
during this period ; that he was indebted to the 
industrial population of the towns for example and 
inspiration ; and that such improvements as were 
locally achieved were due to the help he received 
from those who were socially and intellectually 
above him. The larger societies, which he was 
now beginning to join, were either managed and 
largely supported by the industrial classes, or were 
based upon principles which their leaders had laid 
down. The repeal of the Combination Laws in 
1824 had stimulated the recognition of the common 
cause and common needs of the working classes, 
and not merely had allowed the growth of Trade 
Unions, but had fostered united action generally. 
The isolation of the agricultural labourer delayed 
a similar awakening in rural districts, but some 
labourers at least shared in the benefits created by 
the new spirit in the towns. The rural co-opera- 
tive movement was also prompted from above, 
and was as yet narrowly locaUsed. A co-operative 
store at Assington in Suffolk, promoted by a 
landowner there, is spoken of warmly by Fraser in 
1867 ; ^ there was another at Tortworth ; and in 
Northamptonshire there were successful stores in 
many parts of the county, the most prosperous 

' Report, 1867-8, p. 108. 


being the Self-Assistance Industrial Society of 
Long Buckley.^ Assington had, too, a co-opera- 
tive farm, started by the same landowner in 1830. 
The success of this experiment led to his establish- 
ment of a second in 1854.^ But these rural co- 
operation societies were but pioneers in a move- 
ment the very existence of which was as yet hardly 
known in other parts of the country. Combined 
attempts to raise wages were equally localised and 
isolated. The first orderly attempt, rick burning 
and rioting being not here considered, was made 
in 1831, in the village of Tolpuddle in Dorsetshire. 
There some labourers requested a rise in wages ; 
they were perfectly orderly and well-behaved, and 
were given to understand their request would be 
granted. But the only change in wages was a 
reduction from gs. to 7s. a week. Loveless, one of 
the labourers concerned, gives the account of 
what followed. " The labouring men consulted 
together what had better be done, as they knew 
it was impossible to live honestly on such scanty 
means. I had seen at different times accounts of 
Trade Societies ; I told them of this, and they 
willingly consented to form a friendly society 
among the labourers, having sufficiently learnt 
that it would be vain to seek redress either of 

1 Report, 1867-8, p. 181. 
Ib^ p. 107. 

FROM 1834 TO 1870 125 

employers, magistrates or parsons. I inquired of a 
brother to get information how to proceed, and 
shortly after two delegates from a Trade Society 
paid us a visit, formed a Friendly Society among 
the labourers, and gave us directions how to 
proceed. This was about the latter end of October, 
1833. Nothing particular occurred from this 
time to February 21st, 1834, when placards were 
posted up at the most conspicuous places, pur- 
porting to be cautions from the magistrates, 
threatening to punish with seven years' trans- 
portation any man who should join the Union." 
Shortly after. Loveless and his companions were 
arrested and taken to prison to await trial. There 
they were visited by their parson, who told them 
that the labourer was better off than his master, 
which Loveless replied he found hard to believe 
considering the number of horses kept for no other 
purpose than to chase the hare and the fox. The 
Combination Acts had been repealed ten years 
before, so that the men had a right to form a 
society or union, and there was no evidence of ill- 
conduct forthcoming against the men. But 
" when nothing whatever could be raked together, 
the unjust and cruel judge, Williams, ordered us 
to be tried for mutiny and conspiracy, under an 
Act 37 Geo. IIL, c. 123, for the suppression of 
mutiny amongst the marines and seamen, a 


number of years ago, at the Nore." The trial 
appears to have been unfairly conducted. A 
charge was trumped up against the men for having 
administered illegal oaths, and the judge passed 
sentence, saying, " that not for any thing that we 
had done, or, as he could prove, we intended to do, 
but for an example to others, he considered it his 
duty to pass the sentence of seven years' trans- 
portation across His Majesty's high seas upon 
each and every one of us." On the way back to 
prison, Loveless tossed to the crowd a scrap of paper 
on which he had written the following lines : — 

" God is our guide ! from field, from wave. 
From plough, from anvil, and from loom ; 

We come, our country's right to save. 
And speak a tyrant faction's doom. 

We raise the watchword liberty. 
We will, we will, we will be free 1 

" God is our guide ! no swords we draw. 

We kindle not war's battle fires ; 
By reason, union, justice, law. 

We claim the birthright of our sires. 
We raise the watchword liberty. 

We will, we will, we will be free ! " ^ 

In spite of the outcry raised by Trade Unionists, 
who stigmatised the act as one of unmitigated 
tyranny, the men were shipped off to Botany Bay. 
Though a pardon was eventually secured for them, 
this was not until 1836. 

Loveless, " Victims of Whiggery," pp. i f. 

FROM 1834 TO 1870 127 

The violence with which this harmless effort at 
self-help was suppressed is perhaps partly respon- 
sible for the fact that nothing is heard of similar 
combinations for many years to come, although 
in the towns Trade Unionism was everywhere 
increasing and higher wages were being won by 
united action. In 1866 an Agricultural Labourers' 
Protection Association was formed in Kent, " to 
organise the agricultural labourers with a view 
to the amelioration of their social condition and 
moral elevation, and to endeavour to mitigate the 
evils of their serfdom." The first step was to 
raise wages, and as labour was then scarce this 
was achieved without much difficulty. The result 
was that migration was checked, labour became 
more abundant, and employers thus getting the 
upper hand again, reduced their wages. When 
the Assistant Commissioner, Stanhope, visited the 
county in 1867 — 8, the Association had ceased to 
have any influence.^ Stanhope further reported 
that when machinery was first introduced into 
farm operations, labourers' combinations were 
formed to resist it, but without much success. 
Yet even in the sixties, strikes for an increase of 
wages were not uncommon in Lincolnshire at 
busy times of threshing. In the heath districts 
south of Lincoln, where bad conditions of work 

' Second Report, 1868-9, p. 105. 


were aggravated by lack of cottage accommodation 
near the farm, Unions were formed and supported 
by subscriptions for several months. Their object 
was to reduce the hours of work, since the man had 
to spend so much time in tramping from his home. 
But the Union came to an end before it had 
effected its purpose.^ 

There can be no doubt that the furtherance of 
education amongst agricultural labourers gave 
an impetus both to migration and to combinations 
for definite ends. A movement for the education 
of the poor had been consistently, if slowly, 
carried on since the foundation of the National 
Society in 1812. In 1843, however, education 
was still very poor except where the labourer 
made arrangements himself for the education of 
his children. This was in certain Northern dis- 
tricts. In Northumberland education was both 
good and general. " No greater stigma," it was 
said, " can attach to parents than that of leaving 
their children without the means of ordinary 
education, every nerve is strained to procure it." 
Almost every village had its school, where the 
children were taught reading, writing and arith- 
metic, and where night classes were often held for 
young men, while in sparsely populated districts 
shepherds often hired a schoolmaster for their 

1 Second Report, 1868-9, p. 105. 

FROM 1834 TO 1870 129 

children.^ In Yorkshire^ and in the South of 
England education was poor both in quantity 
and quality. In Kent, Surrey and Sussex, where 
the early employment of girls was not usual, 
their education was not much interfered with,^ 
but boys, both in these counties and in Wiltshire, 
Dorset and Somersetshire, were taken from school 
so soon as they could earn anything.* In Suffolk, 
Norfolk and Lincolnshire, the universal employ- 
ment of young children caused neglect of educa- 
tion.* The Report in i860 on the Educational 
Condition of the Poor, and those of 1867 — 9 on 
the Employment of Women and Children in 
Agriculture, reveal that the voluntary system was 
still ineffective. The schools were inadequate and 
the teaching supplied was often poor, while even 
where good schools existed attendance was 
irregular, and the children left as young as eight 
or nine to work in the fields.® With a view to 
overcoming these obstacles, a Bill for compulsory 
part-time education for agricultural children was 
introduced in the House of Commons in 1867.'^ 

1 Report on Empl05mient of Women and Children, 1843, 
pp. 122, 292. 

2 Ih., p. 292. 
8 lb., p. 150. 

' lb., pp. 40 — 42, 152. 
' lb., p. 217. 

« Report, 1867-8, pp. 72 f., 79 f-, 84, 185, 189 ; Second 
Report, 1869, p. 80. 

' Hansard, vol. 189, 437 f. 

F.L. K 


But the House was to be opposed to the com- 
pulsory principle for yet another decade, and the 
Bill had to be dropped. As in 1843, education 
was still most advanced in the North.^ Further 
South, in Bedfordshire, 34 per cent, of the women 
could not sign their names, and in Cornwall 
42 per cent., in Nottinghamshire 43 per cent., and 
in Lancashire 49 per cent, were thus illiterate.^ 
Yet girls almost always had longer at school than 
the boys. Nevertheless, education was making 
headway sufficient to cause uneasiness in the 
breasts of farmers. Poor though it was, it gave 
a stimulus to migration. The Dorsetshire farmers 
were " especially suspicious of education," for 
they found that all the young men who were 
sufficiently well-educated to find work elsewhere 
fled the low wages on their farms.^* Of the 
Somersetshire farmers it was said that they 
" do not see the good of what they call over- 
education ; it raises a man above his work, 
he thinks himself fit for higher employment, 
and goes away to the towns or railways, con- 
sequently there is a scarcity of labour, and 
men who stay behind are less fit for their 
work than those who migrate, and require 

» Report, 1867-8, pp. 158, 159. 

^ Quoted in the course of the 1867 debate from a paper on 
Mortality and Marriages (Hansard, op. cit.), 
» Second Report, 1868-9, P- 80. 

FROM 1834 TO 1870 131 

the same, nay even higher wages." ^ And again 
we hear that farmers consider that " more than a 
httle [education] is very much too much ; they 
are afraid that labourers will be spoiled for field 
work. . . . Their object is to keep the school 
down and not to let it rise beyond a certain level, 
and in consequence of this their contributions to 
the school funds often amount to a small sum."^ 
•It was admitted that " the object of the labouring 
class in seeking [education] is not to make their 
children better agricultural labourers, but to 
enable them to rise to a higher sphere in life."^ • 
Those who have followed the story of the degra- 
dation of the labourer will feel with Mr. Fawcett 
that one of the chief virtues of education was the 
encouragement it would give to migration. " If 
the labourers of Dorset and Wiltshire were 
educated and knew what was going on in other 
parts of the country," he declared in a fine speech 
during the debate of 1867, " they would acquire 
a spirit of enterprise and energy. They would 
never be content with the miserable wages of 
ten shillings a week, but would betake themselves 
to localities where they would receive a higher 
amount of compensation."* Education was, 

' Second Report, 1868-9, p. 200. 

2 Ih., p. 68. 

» lb., ib. 

* Hansard, vol. 189, 487. 

K 2 


indeed, and was partially seen by the labourer 
to be, one of the best means of reducing that 
surplus supply of labour which placed him 
at the mercy of the farmer, and compelled 
him to adopt remedies which but increased 
his wretchedness. Farmers in the North had 
no need to fear education, for they had 
eliminated the danger of shortage in supply 
by paying fair wages. The same means 
lay to the hands of the Southern farmer. 
But he preferred to try to " keep the school 
down." And many of his social superiors 
shared this point of view. Onslow could say in 
the House, in the debate on the Education Bill 
of 1870, which made compulsory the provision of 
public elementary schools, that he trusted " there 
would be no attempt to establish a very high class 
of education in our rural schools, as over-education 
would have the effect of driving away manual 
labour from the country."^ The ignorance and 
apathy, which is not contentment, of the rural 
working classes should be tenderly preserved, it 
would seem, in order that they might be willing 
to labour as the beasts of the field. This is a 
view which has not wholly disappeared even 
amongst educated people in the year of grace 

• Hansard, vol. 229, col. 1930. 

FROM 1834 TO 1870 133 

(5) Difficulties and Incidental Dangers of 
Action Taken and Proposed. 
In conclusion, one word must be said as to the 
effects generally of the various solutions which 
were applied to the agricultural labour problem. 
In the North it had been an employers' problem 
and, as we saw in the preceding chapter, it had 
been solved by higher wages. Wages were higher 
both in actual rates and, owing to the long hire 
system, in total amount. The long hire system 
had its disadvantages, as was pointed out by the 
Assistant Commissioner, for the labourer, when 
once his contract was made, was at the mercy of 
a bad master or steward.^ But the advantage of 
receiving his wage in sickness and bad weather 
recognisedly outweighed the drawbacks of the 
system. The result was that in the North the 
labourer's problem was practically non-existent ; 
consequently, the employment of very young 
children was rare, education was not sacrificed, 
and low feeding had not to be resorted to in order 
to escape the workhouse. In the South, the 
problem was one of the very existence of the 
labourer, and it would appear that most of the 
attempts to solve it but led to its accentuation. 
Allowances and family labour certainly did so. 
Charity in aid of wages, whether it took the form 

• Report, 1867-8, p. 112. 


of doles or of clothing and coal clubs, was of 
doubtful benefit. A country clergyman, who knew 
well the difl&culties of the poor, declared that in 
parishes where help from charitable persons was 
forthcoming, the labourer's rent was raised or 
his wages were reduced.^ One of the Assistant 
Commissioners of 1867 was of the same opinion as 
to charitable support of schools. He considered 
that in parishes where the labourer was assisted 
in this way the imposition of low fees had a 
tendency to keep down wages.^ This, of course, 
is not an objection which could be raised against 
completely free education, since under the free 
system conditions are alike in all districts. He 
considered also that it was a mistaken kindness 
for landlords to charge low rent, since this, too, 
prevented wages from rising. Wages would neces- 
sarily rise if rents rose, as was the case in the 
neighbourhood of London.^ Whether allotments 
kept wages down is a more difficult question. 
They were certainly most general in the district 
where wages were lowest, but this is not in itself 
a proof that they were the cause of low wages. 
A Northamptonshire clergyman considered they 
did have the effect of preventing wages from 

* Report on Emplo3mient of Women and Children, 1843, 
p. 76. 
' Second Report, 1868-9, P- 138. 
» lb., p. 148. 

FROM 1834 TO 1870 135 

rising.^ But the Assistant Commissioner for that 
county could find no information leading to this 
conclusion. He admitted, however, that " if a 
farmer knew that his labourer is in the habit of 
spending a portion of his strength upon his own 
land, he will be unwilling to pay him as much as 
he would if he knew that the whole of his strength 
is given in return for his wages. Probably, too, 
if a labourer knows he can make something by 
his allotment he will be willing to accept less 
from his employer than he otherwise would." 
But he pointed out that wages had risen within 
the last thirty years although allotments had 
increased. This fact is not, however, of much 
weight, for the rise in prices and the increase in 
migration must be taken into account. There 
can be very Uttle doubt that where wages were 
raised it was due chiefly to migration or to a 
shortage of labour from some other cause. Any 
device, therefore, which had the effect of recon- 
ciling the labourer to his lot tended to prevent a 
rise in wages. At this date, however, the Com- 
missioner seems to have been right in saying that 
the men who held allotments were too few, and 
the amount of land held was too small to have 
any appreciable effect on wages.^ 

1 Report, 1867-8, p. 693. 
» lb., p. 180. 


The Commissioners of 1867 were well aware 
that wages both were at the root of rural difficulties 
and were sensitive to every change in the other 
conditions of the labourer's life. They constantly 
laid stress on the higher wages and better condi- 
tions of the North. Yet, as one of their number 
pointed out, " to say ' raise the wages,' is easy ; 
but it is very difficult for the farmer to do so. 
There is pressure brought to bear upon him from 
above and below. Everyone, except perhaps the 
farmer himself, wishes to see the wages raised. 
Nay, he would be willing to raise wages if he could 
do so without impoverishing himself ; but with 
the present great demand for land the rents paid 
by the farmers are gradually rising, and it is im- 
possible for them to pay higher rents and higher 
wages at the same time. At more than one 
meeting of Guardians that I attended it was stated 
that the wages could never be raised till rents were 
lowered, and that as long as rents continued to 
rise, the least that could be expected is that wages 
shall not fall. It is equally difficult to expect the 
landlord to lower his rent in the face of a rapidly 
increasing demand for land and to expect the 
occupier to raise wages in face of an increasing 
demand for rent." Rents, of course, fell only when 
agriculture was depressed and the farmer was no 
more inclined to pay higher wages then than in the 

FROM 1834 TO 1870 137 

good years when his rent was being raised. It 
was always one thing or the other. Meanwhile, 
so long as there was no compulsion upon landlords 
and farmers to come to some adjustment, the 
labourer must suffer. In the next period the 
labourer attempted to apply that compulsion by 
combined action with his fellows, with what 
success we shall see. 



The wages question was recognised by the 
Commissioners of 1867 as the radical cause of the 
agricultural labourers' problem. The year 1872 
saw the engineering of the best organised and 
most direct effort which had yet been made to 
raise wages. The action of some Warwickshire 
labourers inspired a movement for agricultural 
unions which was destined to spread through the 
whole country and agitate the wages rates. But 
the Union men found that in tackling the wages 
question they were confronted with innumer- 
able difficulties. The labourers whom they were 
attempting to combine were ignorant, socially 
depressed, politically insignificant, lacking in 
wholesome ambition. High wages might secure 
for them the social weight which would bring 
with it respect and political power ; the better 
housing, which in itself would be uplifting; the 
release of their children from toil which hindered 
education ; the means of rising in life, which would 
foster self-esteem and hope. But it was hard with 
conditions as they were either to unite the labourers 


in a common cause or to win them higher wages. 
The temptation to fight by flank movements and 
indirect fire was great. And, almost from the 
first, this was the policy of the Unions. While 
they still carried on the main struggle against low 
wages and long hours, they sought to impose 
allotments and benefit societies between the 
labourer and the pauperism which rendered him 
useless as a Unionist, and they strove to win the 
pohtical power which would lessen the opposition 
to his right to combine, and might even win by its 
own means the chief object of that combination. 
It cannot be said that they were wrong. Although 
the Trade Unions concentrated for many years 
upon improvement in the conditions of work, the 
labourer's case was different, and deductions as to 
the wisdom of their policy cannot be drawn from 
the greater ultimate success of the Trade Unionists 
and the less success of the agricultural. Still it has 
to be admitted that the strength of the new unions 
was deflected from what originally was their main 
object, and though on their collapse much was 
achieved, the labourer's problems had not been 

(i) The Early Unions. 

Labourers' Unions had been attempted before, 
as we know. Omitting the Tolpuddle effort, 


which was too long ago to have any influence in 
the seventies, there were Unions in Buckingham- 
shire and Hertfordshire in the late sixties, while 
Unions supported by contributions and working 
by means of strikes had been formed in Lincoln- 
shire. And in 1871 an extensive Union had been 
set on foot in Herefordshire. Starting in the 
village of Leintwardine, where it had been urged 
on by the rector, it spread through six counties, 
and enrolled 30,000 members. Its objects were 
those of Girdlestone, whose work no doubt 
inspired it. Wages were raised through the 
creation of a scarcity of labour by means of 
migration and emigration. The surplus labour 
was sent to Yorkshire, Lancashire and Stafford- 
shire, while about forty men were emigrated to 
America. The result was a rise in wages by 
2s. a week in Herefordshire itself, where wages 
had been often as low as ys., and in other 
counties where the Union took hold, improvements 
were also effected.^ The Herefordshire Union 
probably had an influence in Warwickshire, but 
as in 183 1, the chief impetus came from the Trade 
Union boom amongst industrial workers. There 
was a widespread revival in Unionism throughout 
England in 1871 — 2. The success of a strike in 

• " Joseph Arch : the Story of His Life. Told by Himself," 
p. no. 


Newcastle led to others in all the principal towns, 
the reports of which spread into rural districts. 
Here the questions of shorter hours and better 
wages could be more intelligently discussed than 
hitherto, for cheap newspapers were now available, 
while in most villages there were " some men who 
at one time or other in their lives had worked in 
towns and had some knowledge of Trade Unions 
and their practices." ^ Some such men perhaps it 
was who, in the village of Westerton-under- 
Weatherley, near Leamington, wrote to a local 
newspaper describing the hardship of their lives. 
This was read by fellow labourers in Charlcote, 
near Wellesbourne, one of whom had been in the 
Black Country, and they resolved to make an effort 
to improve their equally wretched conditions by 
combining for higher wages. On February 7th, 
1872, they held an open air meeting at Wellesbourne, 
which was reported in the Leamington Chronicle,'^ 
the movement thus having the assistance of 
advertisement in the Press from the first. But 
they needed a leader and bethought them of 
Joseph Arch, the son of a peasant proprietor, with 
something of a local reputation as a labourer who 
had travelled, and had made his way in the 
agricultural world by the acquisition of skill in 

» Eraser's Magazine, 1872. " The Agricultural Strike." 
a Labourers' Union Chronicle, 1873, December 20th. 


hedging and other special branches of farm work. 
He was also a Primitive Methodist preacher, and 
had thus developed a power of oratory. He 
agreed to speak for them on February 13th. The 
news spread from farm to farm by word of mouth, 
and when the night came the size of the meeting 
astonished its promoters. A thousand persons 
were gathered under the chestnut tree which 
spread its branches over the village green ; to 
them Arch made a simple but inspiring speech 
during a breathless silence, and when he had 
finished, the names of those who wished to join 
the new Union poured in so rapidly that the 
secretary could hardly write them down.^ A 
letter was then sent round to employers requesting 
2S. 2d. a day, and the limitation of the working 
day to the hours of 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. with a half 
day ending at 3 p.m. on Saturday.^ The letter 
was treated with contempt, and on March nth, 
200 Wellesbourne men struck work. Unlike most 
strikes, this attracted a fair measure of public 
interest and sympathy ; Matthew Vincent, the 
editor of the Leamington Chronicle, was through- 
out a good friend to the movement, and the 
labourers owed a great deal to the favourable light 
in which he placed it before the pubhc. The 

' Heath, F., " The English Peasant," p. 52. 

' The Congregationalist, 1872. " Labourers in Council." 


Daily News also was of service ; Archibald Forbes, 
the war correspondent, was sent to Warwickshire 
and wrote a series of special articles,^ which 
reached a wider public than that of the Leamington 
journal. Meanwhile, Henry Taylor, a carpenter, 
who was the secretary of the new Union, issued 
appeals to the Trade Unions throughout the 
country, and general public subscriptions began 
to come in. The Union movement spread through 
the country and when, on March 29th, the War- 
wickshire Union was finally inaugurated, there 
were sixty-four branches containing some 5,000 
members. The meeting was presided over by 
Auberon Herbert, M.P., and was supported by 
other of the labourers' friends ; a donation of £100 
was received, and letters of six members of Parha- 
ment were read at the meeting.^ The news was 
now spreading further afield than Warwickshire, 
and Unions were formed all over the country. 
Such action on the part of mere field labourers was 
regarded as insolence by all too many of the 
farmers, landlords and clergy ; it was said that 
the men were ruining the " good relations between 
employers and employed," and destro5dng the 
feelings of " generosity " on the part of masters 
towards their men. The Unions were accused of 

> Arch, op. cit., p. 83. 

' Labourers' Union Chronicle, 1873, December 20th. Calendar. 


being the work of paid agitators. But though 
there is no doubt that the movement received 
great aid from Trade Union men, the skilled trades 
furnishing many of the new Union officials, the 
labourers' desire to combine was genuine and 
spontaneous. The lead given by Warwickshire 
gave them courage to try. In April a meeting of 
labourers at Shoreham spontaneously resolved to 
form a Union in Kent, on the same basis as that of 
Warwickshire,^ and a few days later the Agri- 
cultural Labourers' Union for Kent was formed 
with Maidstone as its centre.** Though wages 
there were nominally 13s. a week, the compulsory 
abstinence from work in rain or frost reduced the 
average earnings to 105. or lis. for sixty-three 
hours' work.** In the hamlet of Horcutt, in 
Gloucester, the men formed a Union " in a rough 
sort of fashion by themselves without any external 
assistance from more experienced agitators." Their 
objects were a minimum wage of 15s. a week, and 
the exclusion of married women from field work, 
which " they considered injures their own chances 
as women are paid at the lower rate and set to 
work which men ought to do." ' In South Devon 
more than a hundred men and boys of Buckland 
Monachoum formed a Union to raise their wages 

' Times, 1872, April 20th, 26th. 
^ lb., April 30th. 
' lb., April 29th. 


of gs. to IIS. a week to an average of 15s. all the 
year round, and appointed a committee to draw 
up rules.^ Meanwhile in the Midlands, Unionists 
were striving to form the labourers of Gloucester- 
shire, Worcestershire, Herefordshire and Shrop- 
shire into a Union of 30,000 members, and nightly 
meetings were held. Such a one took place one 
moonhght night in an orchard, in a district which 
the Commissioners of 1867 had reported to be one 
of the most wretched.^ On the side of the hill 
where the meeting was held lay a tract of common 
land covered with gorse and heather, and studded 
with cottages which were mere hovels, and in 
which the greatest poverty prevailed. It was the 
iU-paid, ill-housed, ignorant men spoken of by the 
Commissioners in this district who met under the 
moonlit fruit trees, and with a new hope in their 
hearts pledged themselves to union. To such 
small Unions throughout the country the War- 
wickshire Committee sent a circular letter inviting 
them to join in forming a National Union. A 
Congress of Delegates from Norfolk, Suffolk, Kent, 
Dorset, Yorkshire and other counties was held at 
Leamington on April 30th. WiUiam Morrison, 
M.P., presided, and other friends of the labourer 
were present, among them Girdlestone, Jesse 

■ Times, 1873, April 30th. 
' lb. 
F.L. L 


CoUings, Auberon Herbert, George Howell, Lloyd 
Jones, and Charles Trevelyan, as well as Arch and 
Strange, the secretary of the old Herefordshire 
Union.^ Many of the delegates spoke of their 
sufferings, and with eloquence and ability, though 
they prefaced their remarks with apologies for no 
learning. Their frequent use of preachers' phrases 
revealed the indebtedness of the new movement to 
the Methodist revival. The tone of the speeches 
was temperate ; the men repudiated all idea of 
coercion or of " serving masters out," and declared 
their willingness " to let bygones be bygones." 
One or two men from the towns whose speeches 
were fiery were called to order .^ In the evening a 
public meeting of 3,000 persons inaugurated the 
National Agricultural Labourers' Union, with 
Arch as president, Henry Taylor as secretary, and 
Matthew Vincent as treasurer. 

It is not possible here to follow the growth of 
the National Union night by night and week by 
week, nor that of the other Unions which worked 
outside its fold. For the next two years the work 
went on quietly. Arch, Taylor, George Shipton, the 
secretary of the London Trade Council, and other 
delegates from the Central bodies, gave up their 

' Labourers' Union Chronicle, 1873, December 20th : Calendar; 
Congregationalist, 1872 : " Labourers in Council." 
' Congregationalist, op. cit. 


whole time to the widening and strengthening of 
the movement, and together with the local 
secretaries held constant meetings. " Night by 
night during seed-time and harvest, summer and 
winter, in barns, cottages and ' conventicles,' in 
public rooms, in ' pounds,' and in sheepfolds, 
in market places, on village greens and by the 
roadside, meetings have been held, addresses have 
been given, members have been enrolled ' in 
union,' ' branches ' have been formed." Gala 
days there were, too, when the members and their 
wives and daughters, who gave real assistance by 
their keenness for the movement, paraded the 
street with brass bands, flags, banners, and 
" suitable mottoes." Meetings followed at which 
the men were urged to keep strong " in union," 
to keep their wives and daughters at home, and 
to have ever an eye for Canada. Such a meeting 
was held at Wicken, where 800 marched to the 
village green and sat down to tea at tables lent 
by the vicar and spread with the good things 
provided by three labourers.^ Even the small 
branches had their festivals. At Garford, near 
Newbury, where there were twenty-six members, 
they and their families met under the elm trees, 
ornamented with wreaths of flowers made by 
the school children, while a Union flag was put 

• Labourers' Union Chronicle, 1873, August and. 

L 2 


in the stump of an old tree. At six o'clock they 
sat down to " nice cake and tea " provided by 
labourers' wives. " After tea speeches, songs, 
and about to do accounts, when a friend came 
in and put five shillings on our books, wishing us 
every success."^ Songs were very popular at 
these meetings : — 

" Ours are the voices that for ages were unheard. 
Ours are the voices of a future long deferred ; 
Cry all together, we shall speak the final word. 
Let the cause go marching on ! " 

Such were the refrains that stirred the heart of 
the peasant from end to end of England. For 
there were few districts between the Humber and 
the Channel in which Unionism was unrepresented, 
the local societies being affiliated to one of the 
four or five central organisations, of which the 
National Agricultural Labourers' was the chief.^ 

Small strikes took place in some districts,' and 
in Oxfordshire a good deal of indignation was 
aroused in 1872 against the Government by its 
permitting the employment of soldiers in harvest 
work to break the strike.* But striking was not 
encouraged except as a last resort. Farmers, 

' Labourers' Union Chronicle, June 21st. 

' Congregationalist, 1876 : " Agricultural Labourers' Move- 

" Times 1872, June nth, October i8th ; Labourers' Union 
Chronicle, 1872, onwards. 

* Times, August 20th, 22nd, 30th, September i6th. 


especially during haymaking and harvest, granted 
some rise before such pressure was brought to 
bear. The National Union claimed to have raised 
wages by is. to 4s. a week. Wages were, however, 
by no means the only question with which the 
Unions concerned themselves. Shorter hours, 
better housing, exclusion of married women from 
field work, migration and emigration, were all 
subjects both considered by the Union leaders 
and discussed in local meetings. And other 
matters than the conditions of labour were included 
from the first in the National Union's platform. 
At the inaugural meeting Jesse Collings spoke of 
rural education. Sir Baldwin Leighton on allot- 
ments and cow-lots, the Rev. J. W. Leigh on 
co-operative farming. The land laws and land 
monopoly were discussed at the mass meeting of 
labourers and their friends at Exeter Hall, in 
December of the same year. In small village 
meetings, too, enclosures, education and other 
subjects were considered. The Labourers' Union 
Chronicle had been started in Jime, with Matthew 
Vincent as editor, and did much to educate the 
labourer in all the poUtical, economic, social and 
agricultural questions of the day. From 1873 
the extension of the franchise and the disendow- 
ment of the Church received considerable attention 
in its pages, and interest thus awakened in the 


franchise question is reflected in the speeches of 
labourers at insignificant httle village meetings. 

It is doubtful whether the inclusion of these 
wider objects in the Union programme was not 
a cause of weakness. Arch, looking back at the 
work of the Union, regretted " the cart of agricul- 
tural reforms stuck before the Union horse." 
The mistake, if mistake it were, was largely due 
to the union of politicians with labourers. The 
politicians, though their support was invalu- 
able to the labourers, underestimated the diffi- 
culties of righting mere conditions of labour, 
and eager for their own reforms, loaded them 
too early into the cart. The Trade Unions, 
though they had been in existence long before, 
did not enter the poUtical field until 1878.^ And 
Trade Unions had far more of the elements of 
strength than had the agricultural. Their mem- 
bers were better able to pay subscriptions, and 
the constant intercourse with each other kept 
them firm in their common objects. 

(2) Difficulties of the Unions, Collapse. 

The agricultural Unions had to meet all the 
usual difficulties inherent in forming and preserving 
combinations of workmen, and were beset as well 
by special difficulties. Their members could not 

I Howell, " Conflicts of Capital and Labour, 1878," p. 174. 


contribute at Trade Union rates, yet the cost 
of forming and preserving Labourers' Unions 
was greater. Constant meetings were necessary 
to keep the movement strong amongst men who 
were scattered and who were so much at the 
mercy of their employers. Acts of petty tyranny 
were constantly being practised, and with the 
greatest success, for men threatened with the 
loss of their allotments, or with loss of work if 
they joined the Union, dared not stand firm by it. 
The system of letting cottages with farms now 
appeared as a greater grievance than ever before. 
Labourers complained at their meetings that the 
sub-letting of cottages by farmers enabled them 
not merely to discharge their men, but to turn 
them and their families from their homes.^ In the 
Cirencester district farmers gave the men notice 
to quit their cottages, and resolved to let in the 
future only by the week, in order that any Union 
man might be easily evicted.^ Landowners and 
clergy united with the farmers in the persecution 
of Unionists. As landlords, as magistrates, as 
poor law guardians, as the dispensers of charities, 
they had great powers of oppression. Cases of 
tyranny were constantly reported by the local 
secretaries, a few instances only of which must 

1 Times, 1872, June 27th. 

* Labourers' Union Chronicle, 1873, September 13th. 


here suffice to show what the labourer had to 
meet. Not infrequently landowners and farmers 
in their capacity of magistrates refused to allow 
open-air meetings to be held, on the plea of 
obstruction of the highways. A test case was 
fought out over a meeting held by Arch and 
Mr. J. C. Cox in 1873. They were charged at 
Farringdon Petty Sessions, a Bench which had 
fined several Union delegates before, but in this 
case Queen's Counsel was employed by the 
defendants, and the local justices dared not 
confirm the charge.^ But the magistrates still 
had great powers of persecution left them. They 
avoided giving police protection to labourers' 
meetings,^ which were not infrequently disturbed 
by employers. In the Brampton district an 
innkeeper was threatened with the loss of his 
licence if he permitted meetings to be held on his 
premises.^ Unionists were constantly summoned 
for trivial offences, or for leaving their work at 
the end of the week. As they were paid by the 
week they had really a right to do so, but not 
infrequently they were fined. Yet when the 
Union tried a case against a farmer in the Swaffham 
district, where several men had been so fined, for 

' Arch, op. cit., p. 137. 

^ Hansard, 1873, ccxvii. 805 ; Labourers' Union Chronicle, 1873, 
October 4th. 

' lb., 1873, June 14th. 


discharging his men without notice, the case was 
dismissed.^ " In serving summonses for such 
cases they send them about two days before they 
have to appear before the Bench, so there is no 
time to get a solicitor to defend the cases, and if 
the parties summoned want to adjourn the case 
they will not allow them."^ In a trumped-up 
case at Compton Abbas, two men were taken 
into custody and kept in prison nine days before 
they were tried. One employer was heard to 
remark, " They are Union men, give it them." 
Nothing could be proved against the men, and 
they had to be dismissed.^ This sort of thing 
was so common that Auberon Herbert, in the 
House of Commons, moved to appoint a Commis- 
sion to inquire into the powers of county magis- 
trates, " with special reference to their repeated 
convictions of labourers for trivial offences, or 
for no offence at all." But he was counted out. 
In the committal of some labourers' wives to 
prison on a charge of impeding strike-breakers, 
the Oxfordshire magistrates went too far. Public 
indignation was aroused, and the Chipping Norton 
case became proverbial for the " justice " of 
county magistrates.* The landed interest also 

' hdbourers' Union Chronicle, August 2nd. 

» lb. 

' lb., 1873, August 2nd ; cf. Times, 1872, July 2nd, 26th. 

* Arch, op. cit., p. 142. 


used-its power as Poor Law Guardians to victimise 
Unionists. One man was refused relief or a 
ticket for the house in Warwickshire ; another, 
in Hampshire, was refused a coffin for his child. 
It was alleged that guardians were strict where 
Unionists were concerned in forcing them to 
contribute to the support of aged parents.^ As 
trustees of charities, the gentry and clergy also 
abused their powers. In Clopton, Suffolk, the 
churchwarden gave notice that " the society calling 
itself the National Agricultural Union having 
ordered strikes in a portion of the county of 
Suffolk, all members of the same in this parish 
have notice to give up their allotments, and will 
be struck off the list of parochial and bread 
charities."^ In a parish near Aylesbury, charities 
were withheld, but the men here had enough spirit 
to open a correspondence with the Charity 
Commissioners.^ The clergy, for the most part, 
sided with squire and farmer. It was two clergy- 
men magistrates who were to blame in the Chipping 
Norton affair, and oppressive guardians and 
untrustworthy trustees numbered clergy in their 
ranks. The country vicars were not above the 
pettiest acts of oppression ; two young women 

' Labourers' Union Chronicle, 1873, August 2nd. 
•^ lb., 1874, April i8th. 
* lb., 1873, June 7th. 


were turned out of the choir of a Buckinghamshire 
church because they spoke at labourers' meetings ;^ 
one old Suffolk woman was threatened by the 
parson with the loss of her allotment if she allowed 
her barn to be used for a meeting,^ and another 
Suffolk parson gave the Unionists notice to quit 
the glebe allotments.^ " The Church has once 
more shown itself not the Church of the Nation 
but the Church of a class," wrote in 1874 a 
prominent statesman of the present day.* The 
labourers had many excellent friends amongst the 
clergy, such as the Bishop of Manchester, Girdles- 
ton, Attenborough and others ; and lesser men 
whose names are now forgotten subscribed to 
the labourers' funds, took the chair or spoke at 
meetings, and lent the church field for the accom- 
modation of the speakers and their audiences.* 
But the little acts of tyranny by less enlightened 
parsons aroused a feeUng of severance between 
labourers and the Church. So, too, with land- 
owners ; the majority perhaps were opposed, 
but many were sympathetic, they raised wages 
unasked, and spoke up at dinners of agricultural 
societies for the Unions and for moderation and 

' Labourers' Union Chronicle, 1873, July 19th. 

" lb., 1873, July 5th. 

" lb., 1874, April i8th. 

* lb., 1874, March 21st. 

» lb., 1873, June 7th, July 5th, 26th, October nth, etc., etc. 


justice on the part of farmers and landlords.^ 
The landowner's position was a compUcated one, 
for those who were willing to act fairly by the 
labourer yet had duties to the farmer too. The 
Duke of Bedford was a " good friend of the 
labourers," ^ yet he held that farmers must have 
the right to evict labourers from their cottages ; 
his cottages were built " for the accommodation 
of those who work upon the farms, and their 
appropriation must follow that arrangement." ' 
Lord Denbigh issued a circular to all the labourers 
on his estate, saying he had never opposed the 
Union and would not support tenant farmers in 
any attempt to impose unfair conditions of work 
or wages. But cottages were for the men who 
worked upon the estate, and he would not restrain 
farmers who gave notice to their tenants.* Thus 
the housing difficulty comes up again. Both the 
landowner's frequent good-will and his difficulties 
were, however, put into the shade by the ill-will 
of the many, and whereas the Union movement 
had opened with every disposition on the men's 
part to good feelings and moderation towards 

• Times, 1872, April 30th, May 28th, December loth, etc. ; 
Labourers' Union Chronicle, 1873, June 21st, 28th, etc. ; cf. 
June 14th, etc., re friendly farmers. 

" Labourers' Union Chronicle, 1872, August 2nd. 

' lb., 1874, April nth. 

' lb., 1873, June 2ist. 


those above them,'^ a feeling of class distrust and 
of isolation was created, and the Union movement 
became more bitter. The bitterness of that date, 
the grudging spirit and suspicion so often found 
to-day, were not the work of demagogues and 
paid agitators, but of the farmers, clergy and 
gentry of the seventies and eighties. The labourer 
has more time than the townsman to chew the 
cud of memory. 

The lump of prejudice and injustice in the 

Church and the landed interest would have been 

leavened in time by the more enlightened of their 

numbers, but there was a difficulty which the 

Unions had to meet less hopeful of removal. 

This was one which had always beset the labourer, 

the difficulty of limiting the supply of labour. 

In such limitation lay the best chance of raising 

wages. But the farmer had great powers of 

self-protection. He could alter his methods of 

cultivation, almost his line of business. He could 

put down crops which required less labour, or 

allow the land to lie idle for a time. Thus, and 

by the use of machinery, he was able to economise 

in labour whenever he felt the pinch. And the 

pinch he felt but slowly, for he possessed wide 

sources of supply in the general labourers, the 

casual workers of the towns and immigrants 

' Times, 1872, April 20th, May i6th, December 5th, nth. 


from Ireland. By the use of such outside labour 
he constantly evaded the men's demands. In 
1872 soldiers were employed in several districts 
to gather in the harvest ;^ next year, when the 
outcry raised against the authorities had com- 
pelled them to forbid such use of the military, 
the farmers obtained an ample supply of labour 
from Ireland and the towns, by issuing, it was 
said, false reports as to wages.^ Those who were 
compelled to raise wages in haymaking and 
harvest, or during the busy season on pasture 
farms, were able to reduce them again as soon as 
the winter set in. This occurred both in 1872 
and 1873, and many Unionists were dismissed 
even though they were prepared to accept lower 
wages.^ In 1872, so soon as harvest was over, 
many Dorsetshire farmers lowered the wages of 
their men, in some cases by as much as five shillings 
a week.* They also reduced the amount of work 
put into the land to a minimum ; men were 
dismissed and others were locked out until they 
accepted their employer's terms.° The land of 
course suffered, but that was the landowner's and 

' Labourers' Union Chronicle, 1872, August 22nd, etc. 

" lb., 1873, August 30th, September 13th. 

^ lb., 1872, June nth; 1873, July 12th, September 20th, 
October 4th, etc. ; Times, 1872, October i8th. 

' Times, 1872, September 30th. 

' Labourers' Union Chronicle, 1873, October 25th ; 1874, 
January 25th, February 7th. 


the nation's loss rather than the tenant farmers ; 
even as early as 1873 the harvest revealed the 
under-cultivation of the land.^ In Suffolk, farmers 
combined together and borrowed labour from 
each other. ** And they employed women and 
children, presumably the families of non-Union 
men, to replace Unionist labour. This gang 
system was " a great curse to the labourers," 
and it was said the farmers were " acting as bad 
cis locking out."^ But as was pointed out at a 
laboiurers' meeting, " as long as we hve in their 
cottages they will force us to send our boys out 
to work."* The evil system of raising wages in 
harvest time instead of paying a fair wage through- 
out the year was also denounced by the labourers. 
It was but in the nature of things that farmers 
should introduce foreign labour from the towns, 
Ireland and elsewhere, and that they should form 
their own unions, such as the Oxfordshire and 
Adjoining Counties Association of Agriculturalists, 
started in 1872, the Farmers Protection Society 
in Dorsetshire, and the National Federation of 
Employers, formed at the close of the year 1873. 
That any Union would have to expect. But 
the pecuUar powers of self-protection which 

' Labourers^ Union Chronicle, 1873, September 20th. 
» lb., 1873, September 27th. 

• lb., 1873, June 7th. 

♦ lb., 1873, July 5th. 


farmers possessed placed special difficulties in 
the way of Agricultural Unions. 

The results were that the Unions always had some 
hundreds of names on their relief list, and that 
very early in their career recourse had to be had to 
emigration. Joseph Arch had been at first opposed 
to it, as emigration robbed the nation of its best 
men, and he recognised that there was really no 
surplus of good labour on the land.^ But migra-^ 
tion did not give sufficient rehef, and as early as 
September, 1872, the National Union was com- 
pelled to adopt definite emigration schemes.^ 
There was still reluctance among the men to leave 
their homes, but constant articles in the Labourers' 
Union Chronicle, and persuasion by delegates at 
village meetings, overcame this to a great extent. 
All the year through men were emigrated, largely 
by the aid of public subscription, and the numbers 
rose to hundreds regularly every winter.^ In 
July, 1873, Arch went to Canada to prospect, and 
made excellent arrangements with the Canadian 

' Times, 1872, December loth. 

' Labourers' Union Chronicle, 1873 : Calendar. Arch, op. cit., 
p. 40, says lack of education was a difficulty both in migration and 
emigration. Men could not write, and dared not leave home. 

' Times, 1872, September 30th, October i8th, December loth ; 
Labourers' Union Chronicle, 1873, September 13th, 20th, Octo- 
ber nth, etc. July 13th, Arch announced at a meeting that in 
five months 7,000 men had been engaged to make railroads in 
New Zealand alone. 


Government for the financial assistance and 
reception of his members. 

All the difficulties inherent in Agricultural 
Unions became apparent in the great struggle of 
1874. A small Suffolk branch asked, in " moderate 
and conciliatory language," for a rise in wages of is} 
The farmers replied by locking them out at the end 
of February. By the close of March the lock-out 
had spread into the neighbouring counties and into 
Hampshire, Warwickshire and Gloucestershire, and 
2,000 men were out. The number rose to over 
8,000 by the beginning of May, and eventually 
the total number reached 10,000.^ Some were 
locked out because they had asked for a rise in 
wages, but others, and " by far the greatest 
number," merely because they were Union men.^ 
The expenditure in relief was inevitably immense ; 
^^21,365 was paid for strikes by the National Union 
alone in 1874 — 5. The public supported liberally. 
Contributions came in from gentry and clergy,* 
and labourers throughout the country collected 
their pence at village meetings. But by far the 
greatest support came from the Trade Unionists 
and the general working-class population of the 
towns. Demonstrations were held to express 

' Times, 1874, August 22nd. 

^ Hasbach, op. cit., p. 285. 

» Labourers' Union Chronicle, 1874, March 21st. 

* lb.. May gth, i6th, 23rd. 

F.L. M 


sympathy with the labourers in many of the 
manufacturing cities,^ such as that in Manchester, 
where there was a procession of 300,000 through 
the city, followed by a meeting addressed by Arch. 
There £192 13s. 3^. was collected " chiefly in 
pence during the procession through the streets." ^ 
A hundred labourers from the Newmarket 
district were sent on a march through England, 
holding demonstrations and collecting subscrip- 
tions.^ " Men of England, you, the toilers in 
mines and at forge and loom, and you their 
generous employers, remember this is not simply a 
peasant's question, it is a condition of England 
question." Such had been the appeal of the National 
Union to the trades.* And they responded nobly. 
They recognised clearly, of course, the advan- 
tages to themselves of Agricultural Unions. The 
wretched conditions of the field labourer were 
pulling down conditions of work in the towns, 
where the immigration of numbers of first-rate 
men from the country was increasing competition. 
They realised that improvement in the status of 
the industrial classes must go side by side with 
improvement in the conditions of rural labour. 

' Labourers' Union Chronicle, 1874, May gth (Birmingham, 
Liverpool, Leeds), April aStli (Manchester), April 29th (Bolton), 
May 5th (Liverpool), May 6th (Wigan), May gth (Hahfax), 
May nth (Bury), etc. 

^ lb., 1874, June 27th. 

' lb., 1874, July 4th, nth, i8th, August 8th. 

' lb., May gth. 


The first must be ephemeral miless the second also 
were achieved. But none the less generous was their 
sjTmpathetic response to the new Unions' appeals. 
The money was spent in rehef of the locked out 
men and in emigrating and migrating all for whom 
the openings or the money could be found. Week 
by week the National Union Executive Committee 
reported the removal of men in twenties and 
thirties from district after district. All too often, 
however, the fresh men locked out equalled the 
number of those who were now off the reUef Usts. 
Every effort was made by the labourers' friends to 
mediate. Samuel Morley, M.P., and George Dixon, 
M.P., were in close touch with the two parties at 
Newmarket and Leamington. Arbitration suc- 
ceeded in the case of the Lincolnshire Labour 
League. The farmers against whom it was opposed 
recognised the men's right to unite, and the 
League withdrew certain of its rules.^ But the 
mediation elsewhere was unsuccessful. The men 
did not show themselves unreasonable but, as was 
the general opinion of the press and the dis- 
interested pubUc, the employers did. They were 
out, the Times correspondent as well as Arch 
averred, not to protect their wages bills, but 
to break down the combination of the men.^ 

■ Labourers' Union Chronicle, 1874, May 30th. 
" lb., 1874, April 4th ; Times, 1874, August 9th. 

M 2 


Dr. Eraser, the Bishop of Manchester, one of the 
Commissioners of 1867, declared in an article in 
April, that the result of the farmers' obstinacy 
was that the seed was not sown and the land was 
being grossly neglected, while labour was driven 
from the country.^ Again we see how the farmer, 
from the very nature of his work, possessed a 
peculiar strength. The Times correspondent 
wrote that " the farmers affect to be able to do 
without the labour of the men, but the fact that 
at Chippenham (near Newmarket) half-a-dozen 
girls have been prevailed upon to do the ordinary 
work of farm labourers, such as hoeing in the 
fields, by the presentation of dresses, etc., indicates 
that the employers are really suffering inconveni- 
ence." In spite of this and though the Union 
delegate was making conciliatory proposals, the 
farmers refused to take back their men unless they 
gave up the Union.^ Newmarket was the centre 
of the disturbed districts, and there weekly meet- 
ings were held on the Severals in order to keep a 
good heart in the men, who flocked into the town 
from surrounding villages. They formed in pro- 
cession, men, women and children, wearing blue 
favours, and marched through the town, headed 
by a brass band and flags, to the Heath. There 

> " Are the Farmers of England going mad." 
' Times, 1874, April 7th. 


they were addressed from wagons by the Union 
delegates and by emigration agents, who took 
down the names of the men who wished to emi- 
grate.^ But in June, the numbers at the weekly 
meeting were falling off. At the end of July the 
blow fell. The financial resources of the National 
Union were nearly exhausted,^ and at the usual 
meeting on the Severals it was announced that the 
Union could no longer support the men, and they 
must find work, but not give up their tickets, 
" which they promised not to do." ^ The failure 
was regarded by those who knew not as a defeat, 
but as a temporary check. The Times corre- 
spondent declared that there was no sense of total 
defeat amongst the labourers. And the farmers 
had failed just as much. They were no more 
united than the labourers, and throughout the 
struggle half the Union labourers in Suffolk had 
been kept in employment.* If at the end of the 
lock-out neither side appeared to be victorious, 
" the sequel proved that the men conquered. At 
this moment (1876) they are receiving the higher 
wages which they demanded ; they are maintain- 
ing the Union which their employers conspired to 
destroy, and are extending it on every side. The 

1 Labourers' Union Chronicle, 1874, April nth. 

2 lb., August 8th. 

3 lb., July 25th. 

* Times, August 29th. 


Suffolk district instead of being one of the weakest 
is now both in men and funds the strongest in the 
Union, and is enKsting recruits at the rate of 
several hundreds per month." ^ Though the lock- 
out revealed the difficulties of the Agricultural 
Union movement, and tried its strength severely, 
it was really other causes which brought about its 

There had never been complete union within 
the Unionist ranks. Various organisations had 
stood outside the National's fold, not approving 
either of its policy or its political tendencies. 
The National Union believed in centralisation ; 
local secretaries there were, but the branch 
societies were not autonomous ; they took their 
policy and their direction from the Central 
Executive Committee, and to it forwarded the 
greater part of their subscriptions. Other Unions, 
the majority of which hung together in the Federal 
Union of Agricultural and General Labourers, held 
aloof from what they considered this autocratic 
government. They were also not in agreement 
with the political views of the National Union, 
which even in 1873 was strongly Liberal, nor did 
they consider that work for political objects was 
advisable. Then, in the autumn of 1875, came a 

' Congregationalist, 1876 : " Agricultural Labourers' Move- 


split within the National Union itself, Matthew 
Vincent and others, feeling perhaps the failure of 
1874, agreed that the labour problem was not to 
be solved through the raising of wages by Trade 
Union methods, but through the re-instatement of 
the labourer on the land. Allotments were 
regarded as the first step, and the revival of the 
class of small farmers and the institution of 
co-operative farms were to follow. 

The National Union Executive opposed the 
policy, a part of which had already been tried 
without great success, and the rest of which could 
very doubtfully be carried into effect. Vincent 
and his followers thereupon formed the National 
Farm Labourers' Union. Its members contri- 
buted a penny a week to a Land Fund ; small 
farms were eventually to be bought ; and all 
possible pressure brought to bear upon the 
Government in order to acquire Crown lands for 
small farms.^ 

In addition to dis-union amongst the labourers' 
leaders, the year 1875 saw the beginning of an 
agricultural depression. The American Civil War 
and the Franco-German war had for the time kept 
up com prices, and delayed the general adoption 
of new methods of farming, and those farmers who 
had not altered their agricultural economy upon 

1 Labourers' Chronicle and Industrial Pioneer, 1876, January ist. 


the introduction of Free Trade suffered severely 
when the general peace allowed the full effects of 
Free Trade to be felt. The cheapening and 
quickening of transport which took place at the 
same time increased the English farmer's pre- 
dicament.^ The depression lasted until agricul- 
turaUsts generally substituted those branches of 
farming in which there was little or no foreign 
competition, for the traditional branches of English 
agriculture. The acceleration did not set in until 
1880.^ Meanwhile farmers were hard pressed, 
owing to the high rents fixed in the period of 
prosperity of 1850 onwards, the fall in the prices 
of their produce, and the demand of their men for 
higher wages. Consequently, many farms were 
given up, and land everywhere was under-culti- 
vated, growing weeds rather than crops, as the 
farmers again sought to save expenses by reducing 
their wages bill.^ With many men standing 
unemployed through this reduction in the demand 
for labour, the Unions could not oppose that 
reduction in the wages of those who were employed 
to which the driven farmer now took recourse. 
When in district after district wages were 
reduced, the Union leaders could but advise the 

' Levy, " Large and Small Holdings," pp. 75 f. 

2 lb., p. 78. 

» Arch, op. cit,, pp. 303 f. 


men to submit. Emigration was continued, but 
in the face of the great economy in labour it was 
ineffective in maintaining the wages of those who 
remained on the land. They fell by is. to 3s. 
Naturally the Unions could not retain their 
members.^ Not only could the men little afford 
subscriptions from their lower wages, but they 
were unwilling to contribute to an organisation 
which brought them, apparently, no material 
advantages. Added to this, the stalwarts in most 
districts, who might have kept the Union spirit 
aUve, had been emigrated. Further, the Agri- 
cultural Unions had always largely depended on 
the contributions of the better-paid artizans in 
the towns, but in 1879 there was a general depres- 
sion from which the Trade Unions suffered acutely,^ 
and financial assistance was no longer forthcoming 
for agricultural labourers. The membership of 
the National Union which had been 71,835 on 
April 30th, 1873, and 86,214 the following year/ 
sank to 55,000 in 1877, 24,000 in 1878, and about 
20,000 in 1879 and 1880. There was a revival, 
especially in Norfolk and Suffolk,* during 1883, 
but in 1889 the Union had only 4,254 members. 
Meanwhile, many of the smaller Unions had dis- 
appeared altogether, though the Kent and Sussex 

• Arch, op. cit., p. 300. 

" Webb, " Trade Unions," p. 31.9. 

• Labourers' Union Chronicle, 1874, June 13th. 

• English Labourers' Chronicle, 1884, January 5th 


Union was said to have over 10,000 members. 
But both it and the National Union were now 
living upon their capital.^ Joseph Arch attributes 
the marked decline of the National Union to the 
fact that its work had been largely achieved. In 
1884 the franchise was extended, and the men now 
thought that they could get what they wanted by 
the vote.^ The sick benefit society, which had 
been formed in the Union in 1877, was, in his 
opinion, also largely responsible for the decline. 
In 1888 it was " pulling the Union to the ground." ^ 

(3) Revival in the Nineties. 

In 1890 the Agricultural Unions saw a revival. 
Again the industrial population gave the impetus. 
The success of the Trade Unions of unskilled 
workers, culminating in the victory of the dockers, 
aroused the Union spirit in farm labourers. And 
the dockers took active measures to stimulate it. 
It had been brought home to them very forcibly 
by their frequent defeats that the cause of the 
working class, whether rural or urban, was one. 
The existence of a mass of ill-paid labourers in the 
country placed the unskilled workers in the towns 
at the mercy of their employers. The strike of the 
employees of the South Metropolitan Gas Company 

' Hasbach, op. cit., p. 296. 
' Arch, op. cit., p. 376 
• Arch, p. 380. 


had failed owing to the ease with which its 
managers had obtained blackleg labour ; the 
Dockers' strike a few months later succeeded only 
owing to the fact that it took place at hay and 
harvest time.^ The Dockers' delegates at the 
Trade Union Congress were instructed to urge 
upon the meeting the need of organising agri- 
cultural labourers, since most of the blacklegs 
were drawn from their ranks " owing to their 
scanty and unorganised condition."^ Delegates 
from the Dockers' Union were active in Oxford- 
shire and Lincolnshire in 1890.^ Many new 
Unions were formed and some of the old now 
revived. The old Kent and Sussex Labourers' 
Union was reorganised under the name of the 
London and Counties Labour League, and extended 
its branches through the south-eastern counties. 
The Norfolk and Norwich Amalgamated Labour 
Union was estabUshed in that county, while in 
Suffolk, the Eastern Counties Labour Federation, 
founded in May, i8go, soon had 3,000 members in 
the villages around Ipswich, and by 1892 spread 
into Essex and Cambridgeshire, and had 174 
branches containing 10,000 members.* Its success 
stimulated the activity of the National Agricul- 

' Congregationalist, 1891, X. p. 35. 

^ lb; p. 34- 

« Church Reformer, XI. p. 112. 

' lb., 1891, X. p.'i3i ; Hasbach, op. cit., p. 297. 


tural Labourers' Union in those parts of the 
eastern counties where it was still a power. Its 
membership rose from 4,254 in 1889, to 14,000 in 
1890.^ In Norfolk alone it had 12,000 members in 
1891, and in Essex, 1,335, while in Suffolk many 
new branches were formed/ and in 1892 the work 
was extended into Bedfordshire and Lincolnshire.' 
But the " distrust left in men's minds by the 
breakdown of the old Union " was said to be a 
very real and serious hindrance to its reorganisa- 
tion. Hence the need for the new Unions and 
their greater success.* 

The Land Restoration League assisted in the 
work of revival. Its red vans with literature and 
speakers were sent from village to village in Suffolk 
in 1891, and to Berkshire, Bedfordshire, Somerset- 
shire, Herefordshire and Yorkshire in 1892 and 
1893. In the six months' campaign in 1891 the 
League claimed to have trebled the number of 
members.^ In 1893 the Wiltshire Agricultural and 
General Labourers' Union was organised, and 
though at first the work seemed hopeless, by 
Whitsuntide it had forty-two branches and 1,400 
members." But though the revival thus spread 

1 Hasbach, p. 298. 

" English Labourers' Chronicle, 1892, January 2nd. 

' lb., January i6th, March 4th. 

* Church Reformer, XI. 1892 : " The Agricultural Labourer." 

» lb. 

e lb., XII. p. 137. 


to the South-west of England and to Herefordshire 
and Warwickshire, Unionism had httle force 
beyond the south-eastern counties. The new 
Unionists met with some opposition,^ the Red 
Van agitators especially, their political views 
being peculiarly obnoxious to the landed interest, 
and they and their van were liable to be overturned 
or pitched into the river.^ But nothing like the 
hostihty of the seventies was shown. 

The new Unions differed from the old in that 
general labourers everjAvhere were encouraged to 
enrol ; secondly, the attempt to organise labourers 
from a distant centre was given up, even by the 
National Union itself. Experience had taught 
Unionists that " constant and watchful help of 
experienced leaders " was necessary if the scattered 
members of a rural Union were to be held together. 
It was impossible to keep enthusiasm alive, or to 
get the men to pay subscriptions regularly, when 
their leaders were a central executive somewhere 
in the distance.* Thirdly, the new organisations 
did not attempt to combine Union work with 
that of sick benefit societies. The wages of 
labourers were recognisedly too small to bear both 
charges, yet since migration might still play a 

> Church Reformer, XI. pp. 142, 161 ; English Labourers' 
Chronicle, 1893, January 7th, 28th, April 15th. 
» lb., XII. p. 212. 
» 76., XI. p. 112. 


prominent part in Union work, sick benefits could 
not be paid unless the subscriptions were very 
high. " It is the best Hves in the actuarial sense 
which are being drawn from the villages," and the 
old and feeble remained on the land and in the 
Union in disproportionate numbers. Sick benefits 
had given rise to serious trouble in the National 
Union, and more lately a severe epidemic of 
influenza had so heavily taxed the resources of 
the London and Counties Labour League as to 
give rise to a serious financial crisis in that body. 
" The moment the pinch comes and the ready 
payment in full claims for sick pay and burig,l 
money becomes impossible, the younger men 
refuse to go on pa57ing their subscriptions, and 
only the old members remain."^ Lastly, the new 
Unions trusted to the power of the vote rather 
than to that of strikes.^ They did not, however, 
abandon the old policy of combining political 
aims with the attainment of better conditions 
of work. Again this was due largely to outside 
influence, for the assistance of the Land Restora- 
tion League naturally led to the inclusion of wider 

The new movement had considerable success in 
raising wages in those localities where the Unions 

' Church Reformer, p. 113. 
> lb., p. 114. 


were strong, and even managed to prevent 
reductions in the winter.^ But the area of its 
influence was distinctly Umited. And it was but 
short hved. The drought of 1893 brought a poor 
harvest, less work during harvest for the men, and 
less profits for the farmer. To meet the agricul- 
tural crisis he reduced Wages and his labour power 
as soon as the harvest was in. In Norfolk there 
were so many men out of employment through the 
changing of farms, and other farms doing with as 
few men as possible, that the men were losing 
heart and becoming disorganised.^ They dropped 
away from their Unions, or left them upon migra- 
tion. The winter was peculiarly severe, and with 
unemployment rife and wages lowered, the men 
could not afford their subscriptions, and still more 
of them dropped away. In 1894 nine Unions 
were still in existence ; in 1897 there were six, 
with a membership of 3,879. Ten years later, 
only two remained, one in Norfolk and the other 
in Dorset.® 

The second collapse, in 1894, discredited the 
emplo57ment of industrial methods in the solution 

> English Labourers' Chronicle, 1892, January 2nd, gth ; 1893, 
March 4th; Church Reformer, 1892, XI. p. 112; XII. 1893, 
p. 137 ; MiUin, " Life in our Villages," p. 32. 

2 English Labourers' Chronicle, 1893, August 19th, October nth, 
December 30th. 

» Hasbach, op. cii., pp. 302, 359- 


of agricultural problems, both with the labourer 
and his friends. Centralised and local Unions had 
both been tried. Unions freed from the burden of 
sick benefits, and Unions offering that added 
attraction, had each had their day. But the 
insufficient wages of the rural labourer, the ease 
with which the farmers could obtain general, 
casual or industrial blacklegs, or could reduce their 
demand for labour by the use of mechanical con- 
trivances and changes in their methods of farming, 
the isolation of the labourer, and the loss of home 
which followed loss of work, had allowed of the 
permanent success of neither. Added to these 
obstacles was the impossibility of winning any 
fight without weakening the Union. The surplus 
supply of labour had to be reduced by migration 
and emigration ; both depleted the ranks of the 
most determined men, and left the countryside 
without its natural stalwarts. In the first nine 
years of its existence the National Union alone is 
said to have been responsible for the emigration 
of 700,000 persons.^ 

(4) Results of the Union Movement. 
Wages Question. 

Still, the Unions had done much. By their 
weekly papers and in their nightly meetings they 

' Prothero, " English Farming," p, 411. 


had educated the labourer in a variety of social, 
economic and political subjects ; they had 
awakened him to his true condition ; given him 
an outlook, given him ideas, and given him a 
spirit which the EngUsh peasantry had not known 
for a hundred years. Such bitterness as was 
instilled into him — and there was bitterness — was 
not primarily the fault of the Unions. Their 
educational value was real, and it was lasting. 
The Unions had been, too, of real assistance to 
the labourers' friends in their passage of the 
Education Bill of 1876, the Allotments Acts of 
1882 and 1887, and the Small Holdings Bills of 
1892 and 1894. The work of Jesse CoUings and 
other indefatigable champions of the labourer 
would have been carried on without the assistance 
of the Unions. But the very existence of organised 
bodies of labourers awoke others less devoted 
and discerning to the need for action, and the 
Unions may well claim to have hastened the 
passage of these measures into law. How far 
they really affected the extension of the franchise 
is another question. The agricultural labourers 
formed but a small section of the classes enfran- 
chised in 1884, and it is hardly possible that they 
could have been left out if an extension was to 
be made at all. Still, they took their share in the 
fight There was hardly a village meeting which 
F.L. N 


did not express itself in favour of the suffrage, not 
a mass demonstration in which the labourer was 

With respect to the main object of the 

fight, the increase of wages, the Unions had 

achieved temporary successes. Wages had been 

raised in the summer, and more permanently in 

those districts where the surplus labour had been 

most successfully reduced. But frequently there 

had been reductions again in the winter. And 

rises were effected, of course, largely because the 

seasons were good. This was acknowledged even 

in the Labourers' Chronicle ; the better wages 

of 1873 were admittedly due " largely to the 

prosperous year and heavy crops of fruit and 

hops." ^ The agricultural crisis of 1893 saw a fall 

in wages, in some districts to rates lower than 

they had been for many years ; in one parish 

in Essex, 8s. was accepted.^ Finally, we have 

to notice a behef that obtained amongst some of 

the Unionists themselves, namely, that even 

where the rate of wages had been raised by the 

Unions, real wages had not risen, or at any rate 

not to the same extent. They considered that 

prices rose with the rise in the rates of wages, and 

that they were therefore in no better a position than 

• Labourers' Union Chronicle, 1874, January 17th. 
"^ lb., 1893, December 30th, 


formerly.^ How far they were right it is hard 
to say. We know, however, that it had been 
maintained previously by educated people that 
the local shopkeeper and others put up their 
prices whenever the labourer's financial position 
was improved, whether by low rents or by charit- 
able doles and assistance. It was pointed out in 
respect to the dockers that the rise they had 
effected in wages was a tempting source of exploita- 
tion to their landlords, and that there was a 
serious risk of a large part of their gain in wages 
going to increased rents.^ In the country an 
increment in wages was far more exposed to the 
greed of landlords, for there was infinitely less 
competition amongst them, and infinitely less 
choice of dwellings for the labourer in the country 
than there was in the town. Further, the 
labourer's wages, far more than those of the 
artisan, were at the mercy of the business 
propensities of the village shopkeeper, who, except 
in a few favoured districts, had no competitors. 
Perhaps one of the lessons to be learnt from the 
Union movement is that higher wages in them- 
selves may be of little value to the labourer. 
Though prices naturally rise with the increased 

1 Labourers' Union Chronicle, 1873, August 2nd. 
' Pall Mall Gazette, 1889, September 8th ; Church Reformer, 
1889, VIII. p. 232. 

N 2 


demand that follows widespread and general 
prosperity, an unnatural and artificial rise is 
liable to take place locally upon improvements 
in the financial position of the rural labourer, 
and unless fair rents and opportunities of fair 
marketing can be secured for him, the higher 
wages may be of little value. 



The disappointed Unionists and their friends 
found solace in the various social and political 
measures which, undoubtedly hastened by their 
movement, promised amelioration in the labourer's 
lot. There was an augury of better things in 
another direction, namely, the improvement in the 
general conditions of agriculture, and an improve- 
ment in a special condition, the relations of em- 
ployer and employed. But the latter was as yet 
too slight to be appreciated, while it was not 
sufficiently recognised that the interests of farmer 
and labourer are fundamentally identical for the 
former to afford much consolation. Nevertheless, 
developments along these lines constitute one of 
the more promising signs of the period. 

(i) The Agricultural Revival.^ 

The changes which were taking place in agri- 
culture, by strengthening the foundations of the 
farmer's prosperity, were destined favourably to 
affect the labourer's position. The depression of 

'■ Levy, op. cif., Chapters III. and IV., full account. 


English agriculture had been mainly due to the 
continuance of methods of farming which were 
suited only to periods of high corn prices. Large 
farming and extensive corn-growing had made the 
fortunes of farmers during the war. But it was 
the fortunes then made which were largely 
responsible for the depression of the succeeding 
thirty years. The rise in rents, the breaking up of 
valuable pasture, and the enclosure of much poor 
land, the working of which required a large 
expenditure of capital, were not features of 
agricultural economy which could be changed all 
at once. As compared with those of to-day, corn 
prices were high under the Com Laws and 
remained at much the same level for thirty years, 
in spite of Free Trade. But they were not 
high enough to suit the war period methods of 
farming, and, save in some exceptional years, the 
arable farmer was none too prosperous. It is 
therefore somewhat surprising to find that 
although in 1846 the fear of a fall in corn prices 
led to some revival of stock-farming and to other 
changes for the better, agriculturalists for the 
most part continued to farm upon the old lines 
until the eighties. The truth is that the profits to 
be made from other branches of farming were not 
great enough to overcome the conservatism of 
English farmers and the difficulties in the way of 


transference from one branch of agriculture to 
another. Here again, com prices were responsible ; 
though they injured the arable farmer by being 
too low, from the consumer's point of view they 
were high, and he could not ofEer any great 
demand for other farm produce. In the eighties 
the case was altered. The fall in the price of com, 
due to the cheapening and quickening of trans- 
port, brought about the yet greater depression of 
arable farmers. On the other hand, it led to the 
increased purchasing powers of the industrial 
population, and there was a corresponding increase 
in the demand for fruit, vegetables, milk, eggs and 
poultry. The market for such produce was yet 
further enlarged in the nineties by the importa- 
tion of frozen meat. Farmers now had a double 
inducement to abandon com growing in favour of 
dairying, market-gardening, and stock-farming, 
which was profitable in spite of the importation of 
frozen meat if carried on for the production of 
first-class meat and for breeding. The change 
took time, of course. Although the men who 
were already established in these branches of 
farming were obviously prospering, corn-growing 
had become second-nature to the farmer, and he 
tended to be averse to any change. And there 
were economic as well as psychological obstacles in 
its way. Poor arable land could not be trans- 


formed into pasture, and new methods of farming 
could not be introduced, without a considerable 
expenditure of time and money. " Unreasonable 
complaints were made against the obstinate 
conservatism of agriculturalists, because they 
were unable to effect a costly change of front as 
easily as a man turns in his bed. The aims and 
methods of farming were gradually adapted to 
meet the changed conditions. As wheat, barley 
and oats declined towards the lowest prices of the 
century, increased attention was paid to grazing, 
dairying, and such minor products as vegetables, 
fruit and poultry. The corn area of England and 
Wales shrank from 8,244,392 acres in 1871, to 
5,886,052 acres in 1901. Between the same years 
the area of permanent pasture increased from 
11,367,298 acres to 15,399,025 acres." ^ The change 
to the more productive branches of farming was 
meanwhile assisted by the reversion of landowners 
to small farms, which were generally speaking 
much better suited to those branches than were 
large farms. Consequently, landlords found that 
large tenant farmers were not forthcoming, while 
there were numerous applicants for the medium- 
sized and smaller holdings ; and in spite of 
increased cost of buildings, economic considera- 
tions led to the division of the larger units. 

' Prothero, " English Farming," p. 378. 


Between the years 1885 and 1895, farms of 50 to 
300 acres increased from 104,073 to 106,955, while 
those of 300 to 1,000 acres and over decreased 
from 16,148 to 15,578.^ Unfortunately, this 
tendency, so well suited to the agricultural needs 
of the day, and so necessary now to the prosperity 
of English farming, was hampered by the non- 
economic preference of landowners for large farms. 
The social and political motives of their landowner- 
ship, and their sports and game preserving, which 
will have to be considered in connection with the 
small-holding movement, stood in the way of 
agricultural reform. In spite of this, however, the 
promise held in the development of the lesser 
branches of agriculture was great enough to give a 
tremendous impetus to the acquisition of technical 
skill. Marvellous technical progress was made in 
stock-breeding, dairying, market-gardening and 
poultry-farming,^ and with the aid of new scientific 
knowledge the farmer drove ahead. The improve- 
ment in his position which was thus taking place 
was furthered by the action of the Legislature in 
his interests. A series of Acts, starting with the 
Ground Game Act of 1880, were passed for his 
assistance, chief amongst them being those which 
reHeved him from the burden of tithes, protected 

1 Levy, op. cit., p. 96. 

» Prothero, op. cit., pp. 384, etc. 


him from adulteration, secured him compensation 
for improvements, and safeguarded his stock, so 
far as was possible, from contagious diseases. 
Equally valuable was the Government's assistance 
in the realm of education, whether by the distri- 
bution of leaflets through the Board of Agriculture, 
grants in support of technical instruction, or 
County Council classes. From this combination 
of causes, the changes in the market and in agri- 
cultural production, and the new encouragement 
and protection given to the farmer, agriculture 
saw a marked revival towards the close of the 

(2) Recognition of Common Interests. 
{a) The Labourer. 
Labourers, however, were far from appreciating 
their interest in the farmer's prosperity, and, as 
we have said, found no cause for self-congratula- 
tion in his increased stability. Events within the 
memory of many of them might have shown that 
the labourer could not prosper, and never had 
prospered, when the farmer was depressed. 
Whether the causes of his depression were high 
rents, bad harvests, low prices or high wages, 
or their combination, the result so far as the 
labourer was concerned was the same — ^less employ- 
ment. But superficially it seemed as though their 


interests were opposed. The labourer wanted 
low prices and high wages, the farmer exactly 
the reverse. Arch had always maintained that 
this opposition was apparent only, and had 
championed the tenant-farmer in respect both to 
compensation for improvements and for damage 
by game. Other of the early Union leaders 
followed in his footsteps. But although the 
Union journals and meetings had disseminated 
economic and general agricultural knowledge, the 
rank and file of labourers were stiU far from the 
wider point of view to which Arch and his seconds- 
in-command had attained. Indeed, the immediate 
effect of Unionism was the clouding of the horizon. 
When the hard-won increase in wages was lost in 
1875 and 1893, labourers tended to regard the 
reduction as due to the farmer's inherent wicked- 
ness and lack of good faith ; they overlooked the 
pressure laid upon him by the agricultural crises 
of those years. The Unions, in fact, incidentally 
fostered a distrust and hostiUty on the part of 
the labourer towards his employer which has not 
completely disappeared to-day. The offers of 
membership in the Chambers of Agriculture had 
been repulsed with suspicion in the seventies 
and later ; and Lord Winchelsea's attempt, in 
1893, to form a Union of all agriculturalists, 
landowners and labourers included, met with a 


poor response from the labourers. In fairness to 
them, however, it must be admitted that this 
was largely due to the fear that, although Lord 
Winchelsea wished politics to be omitted from 
the Union, protection would be its eventual 
object. For this reason the Union leaders stood 
aloof and encouraged the rank and file to abstain 
from joining.^ As to class feeling generally, the 
labourers had not met with that treatment from 
their employers which would render them quick 
to appreciate their common interests. When 
Winchelsea asked Lord Salisbury what he thought 
as to the chance of the ultimate adoption of his 
scheme, the latter replied : " You will find the 
difficulty chiefly in the older generation of 
labourers, who remember that when times were 
good they were badly treated, and who look 
therefore with a good deal of suspicion upon any 
overture made to them by the other two classes." ^ 
In Mr. Prothero's words, " Slow-witted as Hodge 
proverbially is, his memory is singularly tenacious. 
Deeply hidden in the recesses of his intricate 
mind lurk vague theories of lost rights and more 
distinct traditions of past wrongs."* On both 
rights and wrongs from the time of the enclosures 

' English Labourers' Chronicle, 1893, January 7th, 14th, 
28th, etc. 
a lb., 1893, May 13th. 
' " Pioneers and Progress of English Farming." 


onward, the labourer had been instructed by his 
Chronicle. Only time and continuous good treat- 
ment could remove that suspicion of employers 
which was to be found in almost every village, 
and is clearly revealed in all the later articles in 
the labourers' weekly journals. 

(b) The Farmer's Awakening — Its cause. 

On the farmer's side the perception of mutual 
interests was only now palely dawning. Hitherto 
such a sufficiency of labour had been at his com- 
mand that he had regarded the welfare of his 
employees as a matter immaterial to himself. 
But a change of attitude was being forced upon 
him which, though not complete to-day, and 
but slight in the eighties and nineties, is one of the 
more hopeful features of that period. It was the 
deterioration in his labour supply, both quanti- 
tatively and quaUtatively, which forced him to the 
new point of view. The land would not yield its 
best, he learnt, if labour was grudging or, through 
the flight of men from the land, even lacking. 
The report on agriculture of the Royal Com- 
mission on Labour, which appeared in 1893, bore 
witness to a shortage of labour and an inferiority 
in that still available. The best of the men were 
leaving the land, and the labour of those that 
remained was poor, either because they were old 


or because they were half-hearted in their work. 
Complaints were most frequent in Norfolk and 
Suffolk; but with a few exceptions they were 
heard in every district.^ Men were not to be had 
for the really skilled work, and everjrwhere there 
was a difficulty in obtaining men to look after 
the stock, which made itself especially felt in the 
pasture counties. Though such work meant 
regular employment and better pay, it entailed 
longer hours. Mr. Rider Haggard, who made a 
tour through England in 1901 and 1902, found 
that one of the chief difficulties against which 
English farming had to contend was this lack of 
labour. His evidence as to complaints in the 
decline, both in quality and quantity, is identical 
with that of the Commission ; even where there 
was not an actual deficiency there was a decline 
in efficiency.^ Although farmers employed more 
machinery where the work allowed of it, while 
in the West some had given up dairying and 
taken to grazing, farming was carried on often 
under great difficulties.^ In some districts it was 
said that there was not half enough labour.* The 
decline in quaUty was attributed by farmers to 

1 Part I., Bear's Report, p. i8 ; Part III., Wilson Fox, pp. 33, 
56, 66, 102, 103. 

" Haggard, " Rural England," pp. 23, 29, 141, etc. 
» lb., pp. 28, 30, 149, etc. 
' lb., p. 29. 


education, which prevented a boy's thorough 
apprenticeship in his work ; ^ to the migration 
of the younger and best men to the towns, leaving 
only the old and unfit on the land ; ^ and to the 
shortage in supply, which rendered the men 
fearless of dismissal.^ The Commissioners pointed 
out that additional causes were the unwillingness 
of men to learn the skilled work, as, for example, 
stock-tending, and the supersession of much of 
the old skilled work by machinery.* Further, the 
decrease in the number of all-round skilled men 
on the farms was due to the tendency of such 
men to leave the ranks of daily labourers and 
set up for themselves as independent jobbers. 
" These men, while finding work in the neighbour- 
hood during busy seasons, take jobs all over the 
country at other times, and often remain idle 
rather than accept the wages paid to unskilled 
labour." ^ The labourer's own explanation of the 
decline in efficiency was probably as true as any 
of the reasons adduced by his employers. " A 
constant perseverance in sweating processes," 
said the Chronicle, commenting on the Report 

1 Haggard, "Rural England," pp. 23, 141. 

^ lb., pp. 22, 141 ; Haggard, " Farmer's Year," pp. 338, 408 ; 
Report of Royal Commission, 1893, P- 18, etc. 

s " Rural England," p. 23. 

* Part II., Chapman, pp. 17, 50 ; Part VI., Wilkinson, pp. 13, 

s Royal Commission, etc., 1893, Part IV., Richard's Report, 

P- 77- 


of the Commissioners, " will be met by a resolution 
on the part of the workman to give no more labour 
than that for which he is paid. Poor pay will 
produce poor work. It has often been pointed 
out that the farm labourer ,^ like all other workmen, 
can accommodate his services to the scale of his 
wages. He can give a half-crown's worth of 
work in a day if he receives half-a-crown for it, 
or two shillings' worth if that be the wages paid 
him. To talk of skilled workmen in a department 
of a great national industry that yields compara- 
tively bad wages, and no material or social 
improvement, is to speak of that which no reason- 
able person has a right to expect. Under such 
circumstances, spiritless and indifferent labour is 
all that the workman is paid for. Good work 
is certain to be produced by good pay ; bad work 
by bad pay. It is useless to blame the men."^ 
But this was a view not held by employers, except 
perhaps in the extreme North. 

The decline in the quantity of labour was due 
partly to the compulsory education, which pre- 
vented the employment of children. Many 
farmers complained of the difficulty of obtaining 
boys. And in part it was due to the disinclination 
of women to engage in farm work. Women were 
very generally employed in many Norfolk parishes 

' English Labourers' Chronicle, 1893, June 24th. 


pulling and cleaning roots, stone-picking, weeding 
com and singling turnips. Both here and in the 
district of Witchford, in Cambridgeshire, gangs 
were common. The Norfolk gangs were composed 
chiefly of girls and widows, the farmer contracting 
for their services with the gang-master. In the 
Glendale district of Northumberland the hind 
still agreed to supply so many women workers 
and generally employed his own daughters. But 
though women's labour was a definite feature of 
agricultural economy in these districts, and was 
to be found in other parts of the country also, 
it had decreased almost by half since the last 
report. In 188 1 the number of women engaged 
in agriculture had been 40,346 ; by 1891 it had 
fallen to 24,150. This reduction is to be explained 
partly by the Gangs Acts and Education Acts 
which by rendering children unavailable for the 
gangs, led to their decline. Where the gang 
disappeared women's employment tended to dis- 
appear ; women had been useful in a body, but 
were not so useful if they had to be engaged and 
employed singly. Further, the whole influence 
of the Unions had been directed against women's 
labour, and even where, as in Norfolk, their 
employment was still common, there was said to 
be an increasing objection to it on the part of 
fathers and husbands ; it spoilt their own labour 
F.L. o 


market, and, moreover, they liked their wives 
to look after the home.^ Public opinion also was 
becoming increasingly opposed to women's labour 
in the fields, and the influence of parson and squire 
was exerted to prevent it. In the village of 
Tuddenham, near Bury St. Edmunds, the incum- 
bency of one clergyman of the eighties saw the 
agricultural labour of women transformed from 
the universal rule to a thing almost unknown. 
There, and in other parishes throughout the 
country, the flow of women's labour was diverted 
from agriculture into domestic service. The 
change probably would not have taken place if 
economic and social conditions had not given the 
opportunity. But public opinion ripened just 
when a general rise in the standard of living 
increased the demand for servants and contracted 
the sources of former supply ; the daughters of 
small tradesmen, farmers and artisans now became 
clerks, shop assistants, or entered upon other 
work which was considered higher in the social 
scale. Better education gave them the chance 
to do so, just as it gave the labourer's daughters 
that notion of manners and refinement which 
opened the door for them into private houses. 
Above all else, however, the farmer's labour 

1 Report of Royal Commission, etc., 1893, Part III., Wilson 
Fox, p. 68. 


problem was caused by the rural migration 
That migration had begun, as we know, from the 
moment when the decline in the conditions of labour 
set in, and had received a tremendous impetus 
from the Union movement, which was brought 
into being by the continuance of bad conditions. 
But now a change for the better was taking place 
in the labourer's fortunes, and it might have been 
supposed that migration would diminish. 

(3) Conditions of the Labourer 1880 to 1911. 

The improvement which took place during the 
ten years from the rise of the Unions was perhaps 
not sufficient to check the migration. The Royal 
Commissioners on the depressed condition of the 
agricultural interest speak of a marked change for 
the better in the labourer's position in 1881 ; but 
as we know, the increase in wages won by the 
Unions was but ephemeral, while unemployment 
was rife and prices remained at much the same 
level as in the seventies. The Report of the 
Royal Commission on the Housing of the Working 
Classes, published in 1885, reveals that rural 
housing was far from satisfactory, and, indeed, 
that there had been but little improvement since 
1867. In the next ten years, however, there was 
an essential change for the better in conditions 
generally, and Mr. Rider Haggard found this 

o 2 


change still in progress in the following decade. 
The Commissioners of 1893 found that superiority 
still lay with the North. There, rates of wages 
were higher and employment was more regular, 
the hirings still being for longer periods than in the 
South. Northumberland still preserved its 
peculiar system of labour, Cumberland still had 
its "indoor farm-servants, while the married men 
both in that county and in Lancashire, though 
nominally engaged by the week, were in fact 
regarded as part of the permanent staff. Similar 
conditions prevailed in Wales. Wages were com- 
paratively high owing to the competition of 
mining and manufactures, and this same cause, 
combined with the prevalence of pasture farming, 
led to long hirings and regular employment. 
Hours tended to be longer than in England, but 
the chief grievance of the labourer was bad 
lodging and board in the farmhouses. In the 
rest of the country, conditions had certainly 
improved. In the South, rates of wages were only 
slightly higher than in 1870, and lower than in 
1881, and the labourer's total income tended to be 
lower than in 1867, since wife and children now 
contributed less or nothing at all. The rate of 
wages was as low as los. in the districts visited by 
the Commissioners in Wiltshire and Dorsetshire, 
los. 6d. to I2S. in Hampshire, Sussex, Berkshire, 


Oxfordshire, Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire, Cam- 
bridgeshire, Essex, Suffolk and Norfolk, and in 
Somerset, Gloucestershire, Worcester, and War- 
wickshire.^ But real wages had risen. In the 
first place, the hours of work were shorter, and in 
the second, prices of provisions were lower. 
Thirdly, there was an increasing tendency to pay 
in money rather than in kind. Lastly, employ- 
ment was more regular. The increasing difficulty 
of obtaining labour had compelled farmers to 
make sure of a definite supply, and even those men 
who were nominally daily or weekly labourers 
were now, many of them, as permanently engaged 
as in the North. Mr. Chapman reported that in 
the districts visited by him in Berkshire, Cam- 
bridgeshire, Devon, Cornwall and Shropshire, 
" the majority of farmers, in order to prevent 
their labour supply running short in spring or 
summer, and to keep the men on good terms, 
make a point of employing as many as possible all 
through the year." * And in Wiltshire many 
farmers were keeping on their men " wet or dry, 
in order to have a sufficient supply of labour in 
the busy season." ^ Thus the labourer's position 
was improved by an increase in real wages. 

1 Hasbach, op. cit., p. 323. 

' Royal Commission, etc., 1893, Part II., Chapman's Report 
pp. 20, 59. 
• Ih., Part v., Spencer's Report, pp. 8, 13. 


He now also possessed greater powers of supple- 
menting those wages. By 1892 the majority of 
labourers in the low wage districts had allotments 
where they had not gardens. Mr. Prothero, 
writing in 1888, said that " few cases remain in 
which the want is not supplied." He estimated 
that three-fourths of the agricultural labourers, 
farm servants and cottagers in England and Wales 
had potato grounds, cow-runs, or field or garden 
allotments, and that a considerable number of 
those who were without were lodgers or sons 
living with parents.^ The Commissioners of 1893 
found that allotments were unusual in the North, 
since there, as before, the comparatively high 
wages of the labourer freed him from the necessity 
of supplementing his income by extra work. And 
in those districts which were visited in Devon and 
Shropshire there was no demand for allotments as 
the labourers mostly had good gardens.^ But in 
districts where there was a demand for them 
there was generally a sufficient supply. And their 
value to the labourer had increased, both because 
continuous intensive culture had rendered the soil 
more productive, and because the curtailment of 
hours of work gave him more time to spend upon 
his allotment. The average size was a quarter of 

' " Pioneers and Progress," p. 232. 

» Report of Royal Commission, etc., 1893, Part II., p. 36. 


an acre, the annual value to the labourer being 
reckoned at £1 to 30s. ; ^ but the amount of produce 
raised would of course tend to vary with the nature 
of the sou. Canon Stubbs, who kept some of the 
land he let for allotments in his own hands, states 
that the average value of his allotments during the 
years 1878 to 1882 was 17s. 2ii.,per quarter acre, 
but he allowed for the cost of labour in his estimate 
of expenses.^ George Cadbury, on the other hand, 
gives a higher estimate, for he values the produce 
of one-eighth of an acre at ys. 6d. a week where 
fruit and vegetables were grown/ 

The question arose again in the nineties as to 
whether the increase of income from allotments 
kept wages down. Millin, who made a short tour 
through some of the southern counties for the 
Daily News in 1891, stated that, much against his 
will, he was obUged to beheve that this was the 
case. " The competitive principle in its action is 
as certain as the law of gravitation, and it tends 
gradually to bring down their wages to the point 
at which they can subsist only by the help of their 
allotments." He added, however, that of covirse 
if the young men leave, labour would rise in price, 
" but allotments tend to make them more con- 

1 Report of Royal Commission, etc., 1893, Part II., p. 36. 
' Stubb's " Land and the Labourer," p. 14. 
5 Millin, " Village Problems," p. 42. 


tented and to keep them on the land." ^ In short, 
he concluded from what he had seen and heard 
that allotments might have a depressing effect if 
migration ceased, or was checked by their economic 
value or social attractiveness. The Commissioners 
touched upon this question in 1893. Mr. Chapman 
disputed the idea that if a man had an allotment 
the farmer was justified in paying lower wages, 
"It is a fallacy to speak of allotments as if they 
were a part of a man's earnings which are to go to 
the credit of the farmer. That is not the case. 
They are a means by which the labourer turns his 
leisure to account and enables him to live upon 
less than he would otherwise find it necessary to 
demand." ^ Mr. Bear more directly deals with 
the question. That wages were lowered by allot- 
ments, he said, " is obviously true up to a certain 
point where their possession prevents labour from 
becoming scarce in a district. But if the point 
which farmers can afford to pay for such labour as 
they can obtain is reached, the lack of allotments 
would not make them pay more. They would 
throw all their land down to grass, and do with 
hardly any labour. The question of rent comes 
in here, of course, but land all in grass would 
command as much rent as land partly arable." 

1 Millin, "Village Problems," p. 24. Cf. Millin, " Life in our 
Villages," pp. 63 f. 

2 Op. cit.. Part II., p. 36. 


Allotments, in his opinion, then, would lower 
wages only if they checked migration, and this he 
said emphatically they did not do. He added, 
" Besides, even if allotments tend to lower wages, 
it is because they make men too comfortable to 
migrate excessively. There is every reason to 
beheve, too, that the value of allotments to 
labourers is a great deal more than any increase 
in wages which they would obtain by the painful 
method of making themselves scarce if they gave 
up their plots of land." ^ 

Improvements in other conditions of the 
labourer's life had also taken place by 1893. 
Housing was better, though as we shall see, there 
was still some shortage in supply and stUl many 
very bad cottages. There were better oppor- 
tunities for insurance ; the old village clubs had 
died out, and men now joined the larger and 
sounder societies. And drunkenness had decreased 
amongst the men, though there was said to be a 
slight increase amongst the women. 

Turning now to a matter with which the Com- 
missioners did not deal, the labourer's social 
position, we find that again progress had been 
made. This was due largely to a change in the 
labourer himself. The work of the Unions had 
been valuable in inspiring him with a new self- 

' lb.. Part I., p. 24. 


respect, and that spirit had been strengthened by 
education and the grant of the franchise. The 
new generation of labourers had grown up under 
the Education Act of 1876, and better education, 
however much our system may be criticised, 
made a difference in the labourer, which led 
naturally to a change in the attitude towards him 
of his social superiors. His leaders recognised 
the change ; they perceived with satisfaction the 
diminution of that autocratic and overbearing 
spirit of parson and squire towards the labourer, 
which had been keenly felt and resented, whether 
by those who dared to voice their feelings, or by 
those who preferred others to speak for them. 
They set the change down to the self-interest of 
parliamentary vote-catchers.^ There is no doubt 
that the extension of the franchise, whatever its 
value politically to the labourer, had a great social 
value. Politically, he now was a member of the 
farmer's and landowner's world, and no longer in 
some underworld of his own ; he was a man not a 
thing, and the new consideration which had to be 
paid him during elections automatically extended 
itself into daily life, a:nd influenced the every-day 
manner and conduct of his superiors towards him. 
But the Union leaders' explanation of the change 
was hardly fair ; there is no doubt that the 

' English Labourers' Chronicle, 1893, January 7th, loth, etc. 


extension of more liberal ideas amongst farmers 
and landlords was also due to improvement in the 
labourer himself, through education and other 

The upward tendencies, economic and social, 
which were apparent in 1893, continued in the 
following decade, as Mr. Rider Haggard found in 
his tour at the opening of the new century. This 
being the case, it may well be asked why the 
labourer was leaving the land. It is probable 
that more improvement had taken place in the 
decade of 1880 to 1890 than in the whole course of 
the previous eighty years, and that the rate of 
progress though slower in the next ten years was 
stiU considerable. But the rate of migration did 
not slacken. It was not so great as it had been 
in the decade of 1861 to 1871, but migration then 
was explainable by lack of employment. This 
did not appear to be the main reason now for 
farmers were complaining of shortage of labour. 

(4) Causes of the Rural Migration. 

The Census Report of 1871 lays stress on the 
attraction of the towns and the comparative 
monotony of agricultural life as causes of the rural 
exodus. And the farmers blamed education for 
the loss of their labourers ; it unfitted a lad for 
farm hfe, made him discontented, and encouraged 


him to seek a more lively career in the towns. 
There is no doubt that both played a part in 
migration. Better education gave the young 
men a chance of obtaining work elsewhere, and 
almost everyone had some relative in the towns 
whose life there contrasted brightly with his own. 
But, as Dr. Hasbach points out, " it was a very 
superficial view which attributed the exodus 
solely to the neighbourhood of the railways 
and the pleasures of the great towns. . . . The 
labourers did not depart where good allotments 
could be obtained, where good houses could be 
had at a fair rent, where, as on Lord ToUemache's 
estates, three acres of pasture were provided with 
every cottage, or where they had a good hope of 
becoming independent. This was repeatedly re- 
marked in Cumberland and Lancashire. There 
much arable land had been turned into pasture, 
and mines, and great manufacturing towns with 
their pleasures were in the neighbourhood, but 
nevertheless the labourers migrated very little : 
the farm-servants received high wages and saved 
so that they might some day be able to rent a 
small farm." There was some evidence given to 
the Commissioners of a desire for a less dull and 
less monotonous life, but it was " infrequent, and 
probably relates rather to the women than the 
men ; and secondly, it does not appear whether 


the motive was not rather the shorter hours of the 
industrial workers, together with the possibiUty of 
independence during leisure. One of the Assistant 
Commissioners expresses this view without any 
quahfication ; and it is supported by the fact 
that there was a special difficulty in keeping 
unmarried cowmen and married stablemen." ^ 

Pleasure-seeking was not the real reason for the 
rural exodus : the causes were social and economic. 
The lack of freedom in village life was undoubtedly 
felt irksome by the younger generation, as is clear 
from the labourers' journals. The " old semi- 
feudal, patronising relationship " still hngered on 
in many villages. The labourer resented the fact 
that " nine-tenths of the population in the country 
parish have at this moment not merely less share 
in local government than belongs to French 
peasants, but less than belonged to French 
peasants during the eighteenth century monarchy. 
The humblest member of a Presbyterian congrega- 
tion in Scotland is made to realise that he is a 
citizen, but the ordinary English farm labourer, 
accustomed to depend on the clergyman in 
spiritual matters, has to depend on the squire for 
his cottage, and on the farmer for his wages, and 
does not feel himself a citizen." ^ Much the same 

1 Hasbach, Op. cit., pp. 344, 345. 

'^ English Labourers' Chronicle, 1893, March 25th. Article by 
George Broderick. 


complaint came from two parsons who attacked 
the feudal character of rural life. Not tidy foot- 
paths and gabled roofs, but progressive freedom 
was the village need.^ The town offered that 
progressive freedom and the chance of rising in 
the social scale. 

Bad housing was another cause of migration. 
There had been much improvement since 1867, 
but the actual condition of the cottages was 
very far from satisfactory ; sub-letting by farmers 
and the consequent insecurity of tenure was a 
serious cause of dissatisfaction ; rents were often 
high for very poor cottages ; while actual 
deficiency of house-room led to migration even 
when the other conditions were not bad. In the 
Western district there was some deficiency, as 
more old cottages had been pulled down than new 
rebuilt. The structural condition was generally 
good, but in Harlington some were " more like 
inferior stables and lofts than human dwellings."^ 
In Suffolk the lack of surplus cottages kept up 
rents. There was a great difference between the 
cottages in close parishes where they were owned 
by large landlords and those in open parishes where 

• Fry, F. C, " Social Policy for Churchmen," in Economic 
Review, 1892. Cf. Taylor, A. D., " Hodge and His Parson," in 
Nineteenth Century, 1892. 

" Royal Commission, etc., 1893, Part I., Bear's Report, 
p. 21. 


the owners were small men. In the former, all 
conditions, including water supply and rentals, 
were generally good. But the cottages owned by 
small tradesmen and speculators were often in 
a deplorable condition, with low ceilings, only 
5j feet high in parts, and with windows but a 
foot or two square. In such cottages as had two 
bedrooms, many were " little better than a 
passage," and had no window.^ Similar conditions 
prevailed in Norfolk. Yet the rent of such 
cottages was often as high as £$, while large 
landowners, for better cottages, were charging 
about half that sum.^ In Cambridgeshire the 
housing was " the worst feature." Most cottages 
were owned by small proprietors. The opinion 
of the medical officer of one district was that few 
were fit for habitation.^ Both in this county 
and in Berkshire, where again many cottages were 
owned by small men, a single bedroom was usual, 
the rooms were often as low as 5 or 5| feet, 
and with few exceptions they were " absolutely 
neglected with regard to repairs." Cottages which 
were above the average were those of landowner 
and squire. The high rents charged by small 
landlords led the labourer to take in lodgers, 
without whose presence it is easy to see there 

1 Royal Commission, etc., 1893, Part III., p. 35. 

" lb., p. 70. 

' lb.. Part II., pp. 81, 67. 


could have been ample overcrowding.^ Sons who 
might have found work oii the land were naturally 
influenced to leave it by the discomfort of such 
homes, in which perhaps a tribe of younger children 
were growing up. The general verdict of the 
Commissioners was that in spite of the real progress 
which had been made by large landlords, housing 
conditions were still often very bad. 

Economic considerations were, however, the 
main cause of the rural exodus. Farmers would 
have liked to have at their command a surplus 
supply of labour upon which to draw for occasional 
work. But irregular wages, which was all that 
the surplus supply could count on, were not 
sufficient, even with the aid of allotments, to 
support a man all the year through. The Com- 
missioners of 1893 found that regularity of 
employment had increased, but this meant that 
casual workers were leaving the land. Men turned 
off after harvest were compelled " to drift into the 
towns or the workhouse," ^ and sons living at 
home and working as daily labourers, then as 
now, when a period of slackness came, joined the 
police or enlisted rather than be " kept " by their 
parents, although in a month or two perhaps there 
would be another job for them. Even where 

' Royal Commission, etc., 1893, Part II., p. 82. 
" Millin, " Life in our Villages," p. 23. 


work was regular, economic considerations drove 
men from the land. Rates of wages were, as we 
have seen, still very low in many counties in 1893. 
It is a favourite defence of farmers that earnings 
are much higher than rates owing to perquisites 
and to extra payment for overtime, piece work 
and harvest work ; but according to the labourer, 
the increase of wages by these means is not so great 
as at first sight might appear. Mr. Bear worked 
out the earnings of a skilled day labourer in the 
Woburn district, who was in regular employment, 
though he did not receive wages in illness. His 
average weekly earnings, including piece work 
and harvest payments, was 15s. a week, this 
being 2S. more than the weekly rate of wages.^ 
The average wages of other and ordinary day 
labourers in the same district, whose earnings were 
similarly examined, he found to be 14s. 'jd., 
including harvest money and the value of the 
beer allowed them.^ Shepherds and stockmen 
earned on the average is. bd. extra a week, or had 
free cottages. But labourers very well knew, and 
the Commissioners also recognised, that many 
men could not count upon such averages. The 
tendency towards regular employment was increas- 
ing, but Mr. Wilson Fox found that in Norfolk and 

1 Royal Commission, etc., 1893, Part I., p. 21. 

2 Ih., p. 20. 

F.L. P 


Suffolk many men lost time in bad weather. On 
large farms jobs were often found for them if the 
-rain prevented field work, but he " constantly 
came across men who had to lose time." In this 
respect these counties were the worst, for the 
men might be sent home in the middle of the day 
if the weather turned bad, in which case they 
received only the half day's wage. This is still 
customary on small farms in Suffolk, whatever 
may be the case in Norfolk. The labourers 
whom Mr. Wilson Fox questioned considered 
that they lost a shilling a week on the average by 
the wet and dry system.^ In Mr. Chapman's 
district one-fourth of the men were employed on 
the wet and dry system ;^ and Mr. Bear found 
that in his district most day labourers lost time 
in wet weather, " though farmers say they always 
find something for the men to do."* A Sussex 
man maintained that what the ordinary labourer 
lost in wet weather was more than what he gained 
at harvest.* The ordinary weekly wage of many 
labourers was thus diminished, and extra pay- 
ments were, as the labourers pointed out, pay- 
ments for extra work. Thus Suffolk horsekeepers 
and stockmen worked from 4.30 or 6 a.m. 

• Royal Commission, etc., 1893, Part III., p. 34. 
" lb., Part II., pp. 20, 59. 

8 lb.. Part I., p. 9. 

* English Labourers' Chronicle, 1893, June 17th. 


to 6 or 7 p.m. in summer, the longer day being 
most usual, and from 5 or 6 a.m. to 5 or 6 p.m. 
in winter, and they had Sunday work. Generally 
speaking, they had a 13 or 14 hours' day in place 
of the 8J or loj hoMis worked by ordinary 
laboturers.^ For harvest work, Suffolk men usually 
received a lump sum of £7 to £g, and took their 
chance of being delayed in wet weather, in which 
case the weekly average might fall very low. 
This system obtained elsewhere, and the opinion 
of labourers as to harvest work generally was 
that wages for it did no more than pay for the 
extra labour ; the wages were earned ten times 
over, some said ; and, at any rate, since a nine 
day week was often put in during harvest, and 
more food was of course necessary, laboiurers 
objected that harvest earnings should not be 
estimated in full in computing weekly averages.^ 
It is true that the men handled the extra money, 
but seeing that it was earned only by extra and 
severe labour it is not a matter for much surprise 
if they thought themselves better off in the towns, 
where an equal or greater sum could be earned 
for an eight or ten hours' day. It was exactly 
the same in the case of allotments, from which 

» Royal Commission, etc., 1893, Part III., p. 34. Cf. 
Part I., p. 9. etc. 

^ English Labourers' Chronicle, 1884, January 12th, etc. ; 1893, 
June 17th, 24 th. 

P 2 


an increase of income was secured only by 
extra labour. Moreover, that increase was not 
always obtainable. The Commissioners found 
that allotments were generally, but not invari- 
ably, obtainable, and that in some dis- 
tricts they were not provided under those con- 
ditions which alone, the Commissioners agreed, 
rendered them of value, namely, fair rental, 
suitable soil, proximity to village, and absence of 
hampering rules. Thus Mr. Chapman said of 
his district that the supply was not equal to the 
demand,^ and that at North Witchford, in 
Cambridgeshire, allotment land was in the hands 
of speculators who were letting it at the rate of 
£13 an acre. Rentals in Mr. Spencer's district, 
Dorsetshire, Somerset, Wiltshire, Surrey, Essex, 
Kent and Worcestershire, varied from £x, a rent 
no more than the farmer paid, to as much as £8 
an acre.^ In Norfolk and Suffolk some of the 
allotments were so far from the villages that the 
men would not take them.* In the Ascot district 
the soil was unsuitable, and their tenants gave 
them up.* That labourers did not find the 
allotment system satisfactory is clear from the 

■ Royal Commission, etc., 1893, Part II., p. 55. 

> lb.. Part v., p. 17. 

« lb.. Part III., pp. 37, 71. 

* lb.. Part II., p. 55. 


criticism by Union leaders of the Commissioners' 

Allotments had, at any rate, some influence in 
keeping men on the land. " I have no doubt," 
wrote Mr. Spencer, " from what I have heard and 
seen, that allotments tend to make labourers 
contented, help them to eke out a livelihood when 
the wages are small, and tend to keep men on the 
land."^ Mr. Bear, on the other hand, said that 
allotments did not prevent migration, but did 
keep some on the land who without that power to 
supplement wages might have been forced to go.* 
But the value of allotments with respect to the 
rural exodus lay largely in the interest they added 
to rural hfe ; and there were many who were 
not to be won to remain by their tie with the 
soil when their economic condition could be 
bettered in the police force or army, or in the 

For after all, agricultural work offered a young 
man iis. to 15s. a week, and he had no prospect 
of earning more, however long his service. Nor 
had he much prospect of saving against old age. 
" The pauper allowances which reward the most 
industrious career," said Mr. Prothero, in 1888, 
constitute one of the worst aspects of rural 

1 English Labourers' Chronicle, 1893, June 24th. 
^ Op. cit., p. 18. 
• Jb., Part I., p. 24. 


life.^ The Commissioners of 1893 also give the 
desire for higher wages or the prospect of provision 
for old age as the main cause of migration ; 
Mr. Bear stated that all the men he questioned 
said that this was so, and he was sure it was 
correct.^ " Young men constantly seek service," 
wrote Mr. Chapman, " in the police force, the 
post office, or railways, or in tramway companies, 
where the pay is often small, but the rise is 
certain and a pension probable."^ Mr. Rider 
Haggard urged that the migration was purely 
economic ; the labourer left the land because 
the land could not pay him sufficient ; there was 
no lack of applicants for the post of groom, keeper, 
under-gardener, in which the work was compara- 
tively light and the pay a few shillings a week 
better. Maltsters also could find plenty of labour, 
and of the very best class. Better housing, 
education and holidays would not suffice if the 
labourer was getting 12s. or 13s. a week and 
thought he could get 20s. or 25s. by going to the 
town.* And this was now becoming the general 
Not only were rates of wages higher in the towns 

1 " Pioneers and Progress," p. 224. 

2 Op. cit., p. 18. 

Op. cit., Part II., p. 12. 
* " Farmers' Year," p. 464. 

« lb., p. 462, Correspondence ; Millin, " Village Problems " ; 
Prothero, op. cit. ; Wiltshire Times, 1893, February 4th. 


but real wages also were higher. More, it is true, 
had to be paid for rent, but provisions were no 
dearer than at the village shops, and country 
produce, eggs, milk, butter, far from being 
cheaper in the country, was often unobtainable. 
In spite of the general improvement which had 
taken place by 1893, it still had to be admitted 
by the Commissioners that, " It is only necessary 
to compare the weekly budgets with the weekly 
earnings to realise that the large majority of 
labourers earn but a bare subsistence, and are 
unable to save anything for their old age or for 
times when they are out of work. An immense 
number of them live in a chronic state of debt 
and anxiety, and depend to a lamentable extent 
upon charity."^ " The great majority of agricul- 
tural labourers who outlive their power of work 
have no resource for the support of their old age, 
except the poor law."^ Or again, " The general 
condition . . . judged by appearances, has greatly 
improved. His standard of life is higher, he 
dresses better, he eats more butcher's meat, he 
travels more, he reads more, and he drinks less. . . . 
All these things combined are of considerable 
importance, but they give an impression of pros- 

1 op. cit.. Chapman, pp. 12, 17, on Berks, Bucks, Cambs, 
Devon, Herts, Oxon, Salop, Cornwall. 

" Ih., Spencer, p, 70, Dorset, Essex, Wilts, Somerset, Kent, 


perity which is hardly borne out by the facts 
when they are carefully examined."^ The 
labourer's son knew the facts from the inside, and 
he migrated. 

(5) Farmers' Solutions for the Mutual 

The agricultural labourer's problem thus became 
the farmer's problem. While making all allow- 
ance for the facts that he desired a surplus supply 
and that, even if he had possessed that supply, he 
would still have complained if the best and strongest 
men deserted the land, there is yet no doubt that 
he was really feeling the pinch. Consequently, he 
began to see that his interests and those of the 
labourer were not opposed, and for the sake of 
solving his own problem he did what he could to 
solve the labourer's. Opposition to allotments 
died down. " The best farmers are beginning to 
realise," wrote Mr. Chapman, " that the supply 
of labour is maintained by such opportunities 
afforded to the labourer of working a bit of land 
for himself ; and that a man who is pleased 
with his allotment is a better man to work with 
than one who is wholly discontented." ^ Hours of 

' Royal Commission, etc., 1893, p. 44, quoted Hasbach, op. cit,, 
p. 326. 
" lb., Part II., p. 37. 


work were shortened and defined. Piece work 
was increasingly offered by many farmers where 
it was found that the men appreciated it. In 
Suffolk many farmers extended the system to the 
satisfaction of their men, who considered they 
could earn 2s. 6d. a day under it,^ Mr. Wilson 
Fox thought that much improvement could be 
effected if it were generally adopted/ but some 
farmers were opposed as they considered that the 
men scamped the work, and others found it more 
difficult to organise.^ On the other hand, in 
many districts the men were opposed, since it 
tended to increase unemployment, and they con- 
sidered that the farmer set too low a price ; while, 
where the ground was in a bad condition through 
years of insufficient cultivation, they did not find 
it profitable.* Meanwhile, farmers were coming 
to the opinion that weekly wages lay at the root 
of the matter. The labour and wages questions 
were the chief topics of conversation in Hertford- 
shire.^ The Norfolk Chamber of Agriculture 
Hstened, in 1899, to what would have been regarded 
as heresies in earUer years, and discussed the 
better methods of remunerating skilled agricul- 

' Royal Commission, etc., 1893, Part III., p. 34. 

^ lb., p. 6g. 

» lb., p. 34- 

' Hasbach, op. cii., p. 335, from the Report, 1893. 

6 Haggard, " Farmers' Year," p. 462. 


tural labour.^ One farmer went so far as to 
propose a Wages Board.^ And by 1901 many 
farmers had raised their wages.' " The point 
which I hope farmers will remember is that high 
Wages do not necessarily mean dear labour. In 
Lincolnshire, Yorkshire and the North generally 
wages are much higher than in the southern 
counties, yet labour is no dearer, for the labourer 
is a better man owing to his better food, clothing, 
etc., and more than repays by his intelligence and 
capacity the extra amount given him in wages." * 
So wrote Mr. Turner in igii. This was in essence 
what the Union leaders had pointed out since 
1872 ; and it was a point which farmers were 
beginning to see, though it was as yet far from 
being generally recognised. 

Yet, although it is obvious that farmers might 
have the power both to improve immediate 
material conditions and to make of agricultural 
work something of a career by raising wages, their 
profits might not always allow of a rise sufficiently 
attractive. In Kent, where single men could 
earn £1 a week, and married men £2 with the aid 
of wife and children, there was a shortage in labour 

' Haggard, " Farmer's Year," p. 464. 
" English Labourers' Chronicle, 1893, January 21st. 
" Haggard, " Rural England," pp. 28, 30, etc. ; " Farmers' 
Year," p. 462. 

* " Land Problems," p. 132. 


in 1901, and Mr. Rider Haggard came to the 
opinion that no wage that the employers could 
pay seemed to be sufficient to induce the men to 
stop.^ In North Wiltshire the farmers had raised 
wages and stiU the men were leaving, and their 
employers declared that a further rise was econo- 
mically impossible.^ Farmers not infrequently 
make such statements ; still it did not follow that 
unless rents were considerably reduced the South 
Country farmer could afford the wages given on 
farms which had been consistently well-cultivated, 
and where their occupiers had at their command 
labour with a good tradition behind it. Nor 
could aU soils allow of wages which would enable 
the farmer to compete for labour against other 
employers, and except through wages he had little 
control of the conditions of rural Ufe. Housing 
improvements were not within his power and 
often not within that of his landlord. He had 
Uttle influence over the social conditions of village 
life, and he could not offer the labourer a career 
by giving him access to the land. The farmer's 
power to solve his problem and that of the labourer 
was therefore limited. The State, however, was 
now coming to the aid of both. That migration, 
which was the result of the labourer's problem 

I " Rural England," pp. 149, 174. 
" lb., pp. 28 f. 


and the cause of the farmer's, had attained a 
magnitude where it ceased to be a matter only 
of agricultural concern ; it had assumed a 
national significance and become a national 



(i) " Back to the Land." 

If the recognition of the identity of farmer's 
and labourer's interests was but slowly dawning 
at the opening of the twentieth century, the 
national significance of the labourer's problem was 
already a commonplace. The industrial classes 
of the towns had realised in the eighties that the 
cause of agricultural and industrial workers was 
one and the same. The danger to themselves of 
masses of Hi-paid labour in the country, the great 
rural immigration into the towns, the contraction 
of what should have been the best market for 
home manufacturers, had forced upon them the 
fact that the two great industries of agriculture 
and manufactures must prosper or suffer together. 
Social reformers of urban conditions were also 
keenly alive to the significance of rural conditions. 
" In recent years," wrote Lord Carrington, " they 
have come to see that the solution of many problems 
of the town is to be found in the country, and 
increasing attention is being paid to the causes of 


the rural exodus and the best means by which it 
can be arrested." ^ Meanwhile, the general public 
was alarming itself over the matter. 

The Census figures revealed a decrease in the 
rural population which created general concern ; 
the number of agricultural labourers in England 
and Wales had fallen from 962,348 in 1871 to 
870,098 in 1881 ; ^ while the number of males, 
including farmers and others, engaged in agricul- 
ture was only 13-8 per cent, of the total male, 
population in 1881, whereas it had been i6'8 
in 1871, and 21 "2 in r86i ; a fall by half, therefore, 
took place in twenty years.^ The increase in 
gamekeepers and other employees in private 
rural work was far too slight to afford any consola- 
tion to those who saw a national danger in the 
decline of the rural population. Moreover, the 
Census figures showed an actual decrease of 
population in many of the mainly agricultural 
counties, while as a whole the rural population 
had increased in a much smaller proportion than 
had the urban. There was no change in these 
tendencies during the next twenty years. The 
number of agricultural labourers fell to 780,777 
in 1891 and to 732,927 in 1901. The total number 
of males engaged in agriculture had again declined, 

'■ Introduction to Slater's " Enclosure of Common Fields." 

^ Hasbach, op. cit., p. 296. 

' Porter, ed. Hirst, " Progress of the Nation," p. 40. 


and again the mainly rural counties were showing 
either an actual decrease in population or a lower 
rate of increase than the urban districts. 

A Parliamentary Report of 1890 voiced the 
general opinion that this depopulation of the 
countryside was a serious national danger. " All 
agree," the Committee stated, " that the existence 
of a numerous and prosperous peasantry is a 
condition of national safety, and that the more 
general distribution of ownership in land would 
lead to the security of property, and to the 
contentment of the population. . . , The prospect 
of improvement for the thrifty and industrious 
labourer is a matter of the highest social 
importance. It is the chief means by which a 
remedy can be found for that migration from the 
country into the towns, which has to some extent 
depopulated the rural districts, and has, at the 
same time, intensified the competition for employ- 
ment in the manufacturing towns. "^ 

Thus the idea gained hold that efforts must be 
made to effect a re-settlement upon the land. 
That idea had a force behind it which no desire 
to assist the labourer had ever before possessed. 
It lay in his vote, and in the common bonds 
between him and the new class of industrial 

1 Report from Select Committee on Small Holdings, 1890, 
p. iii. 


voters, who had been amongst the first to see the 
connection between agricultural and industrial 
problems. The franchise was extended in 1884, 
and instantly there was a distinct briskening up 
in legislation, which became also more ambitious. 
The labourer's friends within the House no longer 
addressed empty benches. There was a different 
tone there on agricultural matters, and only five 
years after the labourer was enfranchised the 
Government took up a Bill which was in essence 
one of Jesse CoUings'. The organised labourers 
had realised that the good intentions of busy 
legislators would be transformed into action when 
the vote was won, and they had consistently 
worked for it since 1872. Subsequent years 
proved how right they were. 

The earUer movement for the restoration of the 
labourers to the soil had been prompted by 
philanthropic feeling towards the half-starved 
peasant, and was promoted chiefly by private 
societies for the furtherance of the allotment 
system ; the new movement at the close of the 
century received its impetus from the recognition 
of national needs and was promoted by the 
Legislature. And its objects were more ambitious. 
Although the allotment system was strengthened, 
attempts were now made to recreate the class of 
peasant proprietors and cultivators. Acts of 


Parliament are dull reading, but it is necessary 
to follow the course of legislation step by step, 
since after the labourer was enfranchised reform 
emanated from ParKament. 

(2) Extension of Allotments. 

The new movement took place first in efforts 
to improve the allotment system. Although the 
Commissioners of 1867 had found allotments in 
most districts, they admitted that the supply was 
not always equal to the demand. Between 1867 
and 1881 many of the allotments which had been 
created had disappeared. They had been granted 
" only by the friendly disposition of landowners," 
and if the land were asked for by their larger 
tenants the extension of the labourer's lease 
might be refused. Much land, which the labourers' 
intensive culture had rendered more valuable, 
thus fell back into farmers' hands.^ Moreover, 
the Commissioners of 1867 had pointed out that 
allotments were not always satisfactory even 
where they existed, either because of exorbitant 
rents or distance from the village. Their tenants 
were also not infrequently subjected to hampering 
rules and conditions of tenancy. The Unions 
had strongly resented the allotment holder's 
dependence on the good will of the landlord, 

1 Hasbach, of. cit., p. 304. 
F.L. Q 


fanner and parson, and had striven to obtain a 
supply of allotments free from objectionable 
restraints. They petitioned the Charity Com- 
missioners to compel the uSe of trust land for their 
purpose, but without success. Their failure, 
together with the shortcomings of the allotment 
system as it then stood, explains the efforts of 
Mr. Jesse CoUings and others to persuade the 
Legislature to come to the labourer's assistance. 
For many years, however, Parliament proved no 
very effective champion. Mr. CoUings succeeded 
in obtaining the Allotments Extension Act of 
1882, which marks a new and important departure 
in the movement ; it contained compulsory clauses 
with regard to the letting of certain charitable 
trust land, the trustees of which were to give the 
labourers every year the option of hiring it in 
allotments of one acre and under. Mr. CoUings 
had intended that appeals for its use should be 
directed to the County Court. The House of 
Lords greatly reduced the value of the Bill by 
replacing the County Court by the Charity 
Commissioners, who had already proved them- 
selves unsympathetic, and by a clause giving to 
the trustees power to refuse to let " unsuitable " 
land. The Act thus aUowed of considerable 
evasion by unfavourable trustees, who demanded 
that rents should be paid in advance and placed 


other obstacles in the way of intending tenants.'^ 
The only remedy the labourers had in such 
situations was to " appeal to a permanent body 
sitting in London whose actions made the Bill 
a necessity, and whose hostility to the principle 
of the Bill was openly avowed."^ An Allotments 
Extension Association was formed in order to 
fight the trustees and Commissioners.' But the 
clumsy machinery of the Act gave all the advan- 
tages in the contest to its hostile administrators. 
So far as Jesse CoUings and his friends were 
concerned, the only result of this opposition was 
to drive them to go further, and it was only because 
the Government felt obliged to bring in a measure 
of their own that Jesse Collings did not push on 
with a Bill which he introduced in 1887. The 
Government Act of that year followed along its 
hues. The compulsory system was extended, for 
it had been made clear that compulsion was 
necessary. Six parliamentary electors might 
petition the Sanitary Authority to provide allot- 
ments, and that authority was given powers to 
rent or buy land, compulsorily if necessary, for 
the provision of allotments not exceeding one 
acre for any one person. So far all was well. But 

1 Hasbach, op. cit., p. 307 ; Report on Charitable Trusts Act, 
1884 ; English Labourers' Chronicle, 1884, March 29th, etc. 
' English Labourers' Chronicle, 1884, June 28th. 
» lb., 1884, January 19th. 



the Sanitary Authority was left to decide whether 
there was a sufficient demand for allotments. 
Thus the Act of 1887, Uke that of 1882, opened 
the door to evasion. " The labourers were 
entirely dependent on the good will of the Sanitary 
Authority ; the authority might demand the rent 
in advance, the rent must be sufficiently high to 
cover all expenses, in which, of course, the high 
fees of the necessary legal proceedings were 
included. If the authority resolved on compulsory 
purchase landowners could demand 10 per cent, 
above the value of their land " for disturbance," 
and 15 per cent. " for severance," i.e., for the 
loss of a part of their estate.^ 

The Allotments Act, of i8go, attempted to 
overcome some of these difficulties by giving a 
right of appeal from the Sanitary Authority to 
the County Court, which was empowered to take 
over the duties of the former if it failed to take 
action. The Rural Labourers' League, at a 
meeting presided over by Mr. Joseph Chamberlain 
in 1892, claimed that 100,000 labourers had been 
able to secure allotments under these Acts, but 
the Labourers' Chronicle pointed out that the 
tenants of these allotments were many of them 
tradesmen and artisans, they were by no means 

• Hasbach, op. cit., p. 315. 


all agricultural labourers/ And the Commis- 
sioners of 1893 found that the demand for allot- 
ments in rural districts still exceeded the supply. 
This was not entirely the fault of the Sanitary 
Authorities. Though it is true that only 56 out 
of 518 authorities had taken action by 1893/ it 
was the mechanism of the Act that was largely 
at fault. Mr. Chapman declared that " there is 
good reason for the complaint constantly made, 
that with every desire on the part of the authorities 
to supply the want, there is so much trouble 
involved in putting the law in motion that the 
Allotment Act seems really useless except as a 
means of stimulating public opinion."^ In this 
respect, namely the impulse it gave to land- 
owners to provide allotments voluntarily, the Act 
was generally admitted to have been of service. 
Many Sanitary Authorities had no need to take 
action because by private effort the work had 
been done.* By 1890 the labourer undoubtedly 

• English Labourers' Chronicle, 1892, February 27th. 

^ Contemporary Review, Wilkinson, J. F., " Pages in the 
History of Allotments." , 

' Royal Commission, etc., 1893, Chapman's Report, p. 55. 

' Returns of the cases in which Rural Sanitary Authorities, 
under the Allotments Act, 1887, and County Councils, under the 
Allotments Acts, 1887 and 1890, have acquired land by compul- 
sory purchase, purchase by agreement, and hire by agreement 
. . . giving also the reasons where rural authorities have not pro- 
vided land, 1892. (" No application " and " Privately supplied 
in suf&cient quantity," are the general reasons. Similar returns, 
1895, 1898). 


had greater facilities than ever before for obtaining 
a plot of land,^ and though the Commissioners 
found that conditions of tenancy were by no 
means always favourable, the Cottage Gardens 
Compensation for Crops Act, of 1887, at least 
ensured him compensation if he were ejected. 
Thus progress had certainly been made. But 
the allotment system was still not wholly satis- 
factory, whether because the administrative 
authorities failed to provide a sufficient supply of 
land, or because too many of the allotments were 
rented highly owing to the difficulty of procuring 
land, or depended for their existence on the 
good will of landowners. By the Local Govern- 
ment Act of 1894 an attempt was made to set 
these matters right. The compulsory hire of 
land which this Act allowed gave the opportunity 
for offering allotments at a lower rent than where 
the land had to be purchased. And this power 
of compulsory hire was put into the hands of the 
new democratic parish councils, The parish 
councils, however, proved not so democratic as 
might have been hoped, and again the good 
intentions of the Legislature were foiled by bad 
administration. By 1906 very few parish councils 
had taken action.^ Consequently, in 1907, allot- 

* Returns of Allotments and Small Holdings, 1890. 
" Jebb, L., " Small Holdings of England," p. 44. 


ments were included in the Act of that year for 
small holdings, the development of which must 
now be considered. 

(3) Small Holdings, 

The question of small holdings and peasant 
proprietorship had been agitated at various times, 
but it was not until the eighties that, owing to 
the reaUsation of the national significance of the 
rural exodus, any action was taken. In 1888 and 
1889 Jesse CoUings succeeded in getting Select 
Committees appointed to consider the question of 
small holdings. The Committees reahsed that 
even the larger allotments of several acres in 
extent would not suffice to build up the rural 
population. They were, therefore, ready to adopt 
some scheme of small holdings. But they were 
not prepared to allow powers of compulsory 
purchase, and were in favour of peasant pro- 
prietorship rather than of tenancies. When, there- 
fore, a Bill was passed in 1892, the main principles 
of Jesse Collings' scheme were either omitted or 
not emphasised. There was no clause for com- 
pulsory purchase, and though the ostensible 
object of the Act was the creation of small pro- 
prietors, small tenant farmers and agricultural 
societies for co-operative production, it was 
facilities for properties, not tenancies, which really 


were given. Small holders who could not pur- 
chase their land might take it on lease, but the 
area was in their case limited to fifteen acres, and 
its value to a rental of £15 per annum. Moreover, 
the County Councils, with whom lay the adminis- 
tration of the Act, were to take action upon the 
petition of one or more electors only after an 
inquiry as to whether there was sufficient demand : 
the decision lay with them, and they were not 
inclined to favour tenancies. Nor were the pur- 
chasing clauses of the Act very easy for small men. 
A purchaser had to pay on the spot one-fifth of the 
money. Of the remainder, one quarter might 
remain as a permanent charge on the land, but 
the rest had to be paid off in half-yearly instal- 
ments of interest and capital. The capital for 
the preliminary purchase of land, whether for 
properties or tenancies, was lent by the State at a 
low rate of interest ; the County Councils, there- 
fore, were able to secure the necessary money. 
But they made little use of their powers, and 
between 1892 and 1906 only 170 acres had been 
acquired, although labourers were in favour of 
the scheme and there was a keen demand for 
holdings.^ The failure of the Act, however, 
though due partly to the indifference and laxity 
of local authorities, which were less progressive 

' Small Holdings Report, 1906, Index, pp. 444 and 445. 


than any section in the House of Commons, was 
primarily due to causes over which the best of 
them had no control. Experience in the case of 
allotments might have shown that the power 
compulsorily to acquire land was a necessary 
adjimct to the success of the scheme ; but the 
lesson had not been learnt, and the consequent 
dif&culty of obtaining land at a price small holders 
could afford was a serious obstacle in the path of 
small holdings. It is a commonplace that land 
has a social value apart from its economic value. 
" In no country is the possession of land so much 
desired for social and political reasons as in 
England," writes a German student of English 
agriculture. " Land-ownership gives the rich man 
social standing and very often the possibility of a 
political career." ^ This social value of land both 
limited the amount that came into the market 
and rendered the price of such land as was to be 
sold higher than its economic value for agricul- 
tural purposes. It will be remembered that 
although good rents could be had for small farms, 
and there were numerous applications for them, 
many landowners preferred to lower the rents of 
large farms, which without this assistance could 
find no tenant, rather than cut them up into 
smaller units for which there was a demand. 

' Levy, op. cit., p. ii8. 


Small holdings were even less desirable from the 
landlord's point of view, since to a greater extent 
they lowered the sporting value of estates and 
reduced the select privacy and general amenities 
of the neighbourhood. The law of entail also had 
the effect of keeping land out of the market, or of 
raising its price above the economic value, since 
sellers had to prove their right to alienate the land 
in question, and the legal expenses were naturally 
added to the cost price.^ 

The second of the chief reasons for the failure of 
the Act was that it offered the labourer what in 
most cases he did not want, namely, ownership. 
At a mass meeting in London in December, 1891, 
which was attended largely by labourers, a resolu- 
tion was passed in favour of tenancy ; ownership 
was not desired. Even the better class labourers 
too often had not the capital to pay down one-fifth 
of the price of the land and building and still have 
sufficient working capital for the cultivation of 
their holdings. Dr. Levy reckoned the amount 
necessary at ;^400 for a holding of thirty acres, and 
after this was paid the small holder would still 
have to meet the yearly payments of the remainder 
of the purchase-money.^ The English Labourers' 
Chronicle, the chief organ now of the Unionists, 

' Levy, op. cit., pp. ii8 — 124. 
» lb., p. 133. 


pointed out these difficulties, and from the first 
expressed doubts as to the practicabihty of the 
scheme.^ Arch's opinion of the Act after a year's 
trial was that it was a farce ; " the reason it does 
not work is because it has a purchasing clause. 
That clause means keeping the labourer off the 
land ... To make a man purchase the land was 
to put a mill-stone round his neck." ^ Un- 
fortunately, the question of ownership and tenancy 
was now dragged into the realm of party politics. 
The Conservatives supported the former policy, 
the Liberals the latter, and included compulsory 
purchase in their programme. Consequently, the 
Act of 1892 was left unamended for fourteen 

Meanwhile, the small holdings movement was 
carried on by large landowners who appreciated 
the national value of the reform. Lord Carrington 
being one of the foremost. The success of the 
small holders whom they created, and of such men 
as were able to get on to the land under the Act of 
1892, strengthened the movement by showing 
that small holdings economically, as well as socially, 
were a sound departure. Although small holdings 
for fruit and vegetable growing did best, it no 
longer could be urged that they were suited only 

' 1892, February 27th, and 1893, April 29th, etc. 
» lb., 1893, October 14th. 


to very limited districts, and to horticulture. If 
the cultivator abstained from corn growing and 
arable farming, which were not suitable for small 
areas, he had every chance of success. Small 
farmers who carried on mixed farming had a 
struggling existence, owing chiefly to their in- 
ability to borrow capital upon reasonable terms.^ 
Many of the small holders, it is true, added to 
their income by engaging in occasional work for 
the farmer, or had some other trade to fall back 
upon, such as carrier work ; while others were 
principally tradesmen and combined the cultiva- 
tion of a holding with their work as butchers or 
shopkeepers. Nevertheless, the economic sound- 
ness of small holdings was established. If the 
small holder could not cultivate by intensive 
capital, he could and did farm by intensive labour, 
and therein lay the chief cause of his success- 
The labour which he expended upon his holding 
was ungrudging, and the land responded. The 
small holding produced more per acre than the 
large farm, while on spade-cultivated allotments 
the gross produce was 25 per cent, greater than 
that of land farmed by the usual methods.^ 

While the practical work of small holders was 

' Wilkins, L. (Jebb), " Small Holdings Controversy," p. 19. 

" Ashby and Bolton King, " Statistics of some Midland 
Villages," in Journal of Royal Economic Society, 1893 ; Hasbach, 
op. cii., p. 349 ; Levy, op. cit., pp. loi f. 


thus doing its share to promote the scheme, 
opinion was becoming more definite as to the 
fomidations upon which that scheme must rest. 
It was increasingly recognised that the creation of 
properties rather than tenancies, even had it been 
favoured by the labourer, was not the method best 
suited to advance the social motives of the Act. 
" The smaU freeholder, helped on to a holding at 
agricultural prices by State aid, is at the mercy of 
temptations to part with it owing to the enhanced 
value offered by neighbouring landowners with 
game preserves to be kept quiet, retired trades- 
men, week-enders." ^ There was also a danger 
that small cultivators might purchase their 
holdings by money raised on mortgage during an 
agricultural boom, " only to find themselves 
ruined when the wave of depression set in." ^ In 
either case the State would have to do its work of 
reviving the peasantry all over again. 

The new Small Holdings Act, introduced in 1907, 
aimed at overcoming the difficulties of the acquisi- 
tion of land, the laxness of County Councils, and 
the burden and danger of purchase, which had 
rendered the preceding Act unsatisfactory. The 
Councils were now given powers of compulsory 
purchase and compulsory hire, the interests of 

1 Wilkins, L. (Jebb), op. cit., p. 17. 
» lb., p. 20. 


landowners being safeguarded by a number of 
clauses. It had been proved in the case of allot- 
ments that the possession in itself of compulsory 
powers led to voluntary agreements, so that com- 
pulsion not often had to be used. It was expected 
that this would be the case with small holdings, 
but it was clear that the principle of compulsion 
must be contained in the Bill. To ensure that 
action should be taken by the County Councils the 
Board of Agriculture was constituted the final 
administrative authority. Its Small Holdings 
Commissioners were to ascertain the demand for 
holdings, and if the County Councils in districts 
where there was a demand had not taken action, 
and continued to refuse to do so, the Commissioners 
were to take over the work, the expenses of which 
were to faU on the local authority. Tenancies 
were now placed upon as favourable a footing as 
properties ; the financial arrangements were made 
easy for the tenant, and he was secured from 
disturbance provided he fulfilled the terms of his 
lease, while compensation for improvements were 
of course ensured. The Small Holdings and 
Allotments Act, 1907, came into force on 
January ist, 1908, and during the years 1908 and 
1909 County Councils acquired 60,889 acres for 
the purposes of the Act/ whereas under the earlier 

^ Levy, op. cit., p. 147. 


Bill only 790 acres had been acquired in fourteen 
years. Of the land acquired under the later Act, 
34,234 acres were purchased, and at a price fair to 
landowners and small holders alike. But the 
applications for holdings greatly exceeded the 
number created, and the administration of the Act 
has been considerably criticised.^ The fact that 
administration rests in the hands of a body of 
permanent officials and of councils upon which 
landlord and sporting interests predominate was 
felt to be a danger by the more ardent supporters 
of the movement, and in 1909 a Land Club 
League was formed, its aim being to watch over 
the working of the Act. The success of the move- 
ment from 1907 onwsirds was largely due to the 
adoption of co-operation among small holders. 
Agricultural Co-operative Associations had been 
strongly favoured by the Act of 1907, and in 1909 
there were fifteen small holdings societies, culti- 
vating 1,893 acres. The Small Holdings Com- 
missioners, in their report of 1910, stated that 
" the experience of the last two years has 
strengthened our conviction that the method of 
establishing [small holdings] with the best prospect 
of success is to acquire an area of land and to let it to 
a properly constituted Co-operative Association." ^ 

1 Levy, Op. cit., p. 148. 

3 " Annual Report on Small Holdings," 1910, p. 14. 


" It is nevertheless necessary," writes Dr. Levy, 
" to beware of ascribing such an extension of 
small holdings as has yet been achieved either to 
voluntary reforming zeal or to the Small Holdings 
Acts. Neither has been in any sense a main cause, 
of the progress shown by the statistics. Even so 
far as they have been effective, it has not been 
because their aim was socially justified, but 
because it was economically possible. ... If the 
branches of agriculture which form the proper 
domain of the small farmer were still unprofitable, 
all attempts artificially to create small holdings 
would be unsuccessful."^ It was, in fact, that 
change in the market which rendered com growing 
unprofitable and the lesser branches of agriculture 
remunerative which made possible the social 
policy. A change back in the market does not 
seem probable, but the small holder would not 
remain on the land if economic changes should 
render his work unprofitable. Whatever his love 
of the land, the small man obviously cannot afford 
to indulge it at the expense of economic 

' Levy, op. cit., p. 152. 


There can be little doubt that the worst of the 
labourer's troubles now are ended, never to return. 
In the future it is possible that Enghsh agriculture 
may see another revolution ; the cheap corn that 
Canada and foreign countries can now put into 
our market owing to their possession of huge 
areas of -virgin soil, their lower taxation, or, as in 
Russia, cheaper labour, may from changes in these 
conditions so rise in price as to give an impetus 
to English corn growing once again. A new 
movement towards large farming then might 
occur ; but the extreme depression of Enghsh 
agricultural labour in the early nineteenth century 
was due not merely to a more violent economic 
and social revolution than any future changes in 
the market can possibly bring about ; it was 
aggravated by the Poor Law policy of allowances, 
which depressed wages, morally injured the 
labomrer, and increased competition in the agri- 
cultural labour market by the stimulus it gave 
to the rural birth rate. Then the sudden abolition 
of the system forced the labourer to adopt a 
method of self-help, namely, the utilisation of the 
F.L. ^ 


wage-earning powers of his family, which led to 
identical results. The slow recovery has been 
due to the curtailment of the farmer's labour 
supply both by the decrease in women's and 
children's employment, and the flight of male 
labour from the land ; to changes in the market 
which, on the one hand, have allowed the farmer 
to develop new and more profitable branches of 
agriculture, and on the other, have opened the 
door to the labourer's return to the land as an 
independent cultivator ; and lastly, to more 
enlightened legislation. The institution of Old 
Age Pensions has remedied one of the worst evils 
of agricultural life, and State Insurance promises 
mitigation of the penalties of illness from which 
the labourer and his family have hitherto suffered 
great hardship, and even permanent ill-effects, by 
reductions in their already low standard of living. 
Yet agricultural life still has its unsatisfactory 
features. Though education and the vote have 
done much to improve the social position of the 
labourer, the worst elements of the old feudal 
village life still obtain in many parishes. There 
are still landowners and still parsons who virtually 
deny the labourer's right to a mind and a soul of 
his own, and if the undue influences which they 
bring to bear upon the labourer are often hard to 
define, they are none the less real and resented. 


In this respect urban life has a great advantage 
over rural hfe, and until progressive freedom is 
allowed to the village it cannot be a matter for 
surprise if the younger generation quits the 
countryside.^ This is not a point which it is worth 
while to emphasise here ; it is one which can best 
be verified by personal inquiries, and no written 
word will convince those who have no know- 
ledge of rural conditions of the extent to which 
this petty tyranny still prevails. As to local 
government, generally speaking it is undemo- 
cratic, since the classes below the rank of shop- 
keepers and farmers are rarely represented on 
the County and Rural District Councils, and 
fear of increasing the rates of the classes they do 
represent tends to encourage local administrators 
to shelve matters which might involve heavy 
expenditure, such as housing, small holdings, and 
allotments, matters which closely affect the 
labourer. Turning now from the social to the 
economic aspect of the labourer's case, housing 
remains an acute problem. Between 1884 and 

1 The Preliminary Report of the Census, 1911, shows that the 
increase in the population is again less in rural than in urban 
districts, but the disproportion is not so great as it was ; and 
that in twelve EngUsh and three Welsh counties the rate of 
increase has actually risen since 1901, a fact which may be 
due merely to growth of suburbs, etc. But between 1891 and 
1911 there has been a serious fall in population in several 

R 2 


1907, sanitation improved, but shortage of dwell- 
ings increased, and the structural condition of 
many cottages became worse ; cottages could not 
be built in accordance with the increasingly 
stringent sanitary and building regulations at a 
rent the labourer could afford ; few local autho- 
rities took action under the optional Housing Acts 
of 1890 and 1900, for action meant increasing the 
rates ; and if reformers forced the condemnation 
of cottages, the inmates had nowhere to go. The 
Select Committee of 1908 found that local autho- 
rities did not do their duty under the Sanitary and 
Housing Acts, and that those who tried to do so 
were met by every possible obstacle. The new 
Act of 1909 was therefore made compulsory. It 
enforces periodical inspection and the closing of 
dwellings unfit for habitation. Further pressure 
is brought to bear by the Insurance Act, 191 1 : if 
it is proved that excessive illness in any locality is 
due to bad housing, and that the local council has 
not applied the Housing Acts satisfactorily, the 
council is liable to be charged with the extra 
financial burden thus placed on the Insurance 
Fund. Thus a chief obstacle to reform, local 
reluctance to increase the rates, has been overcome. 
But the outlook is still not very bright ; the rent 
that the labourer can afford is too low to make 
private building profitable, and public building is 


proceeding at a far slower rate than the closing of 
cottages under the Acts. The memorandum of 
the Local Government Board on the results of the 
last Act from 1909 to 1912, reveals that while 312 
cottages have been built, 1,453 have been closed ; 
thus the dearth has been increased by 1,141 dwell- 
ings. There is a danger that while the standard 
of such cottages as exist will rise, the combined 
forces of the Housing and Insurance Acts will 
increase the shortage and aggravate the housing 
problem in one of its most serious aspects. Unless 
the labourer's wages are raised, or unless the State 
finances the building of cottages to be let at un- 
remunerative rents, the rural exodus must con- 
tinue, if for no other reason than lack of dwellings.^ 
As to wages, the latest official return, that of 1907, 
gives 17s. 6d. as the average weekly earnings for 
the whole country. But many labourers receive 
only I2S. to 15s. a week ; and even with the aid of 
allotments, family earnings and payment for piece- 
work and harvest, their income is too low to permit 
a wholesome standard of living and housing. 
" There was not an important industry in which 
those engaged in it were so miserably paid," said 
the Chancellor of the Exchequer in reply to a 
question in the House of Commons. " Their 

' For full account, cf. Aronson, " Our Village Homes," Chapters 
VI. and VII. 


wages and their housing conditions were a perfect 
scandal, . . . Land was not cultivated in a 
good many districts owing to the scarcity of labour, 
because the conditions were not attractive enough 
to induce men to remain there." ^ These state- 
ments were affirmed by the Solicitor-General,^ and 
the Agricultural Wages Boards Bills,' introduced 
on May 7th and 27th, by members of the Con- 
servative and Labour parties respectively, reveal 
the concurrence of opinion as to the unsatisfactory 
condition of agricultural workers. Their condition, 
in fact, calls for a continuance in efforts for reform. 
Small holdings alone cannot solve the labourer's 
problem, though its every aspect must be affected 
by their sound development. The labourer may 
see his old dignity return to him when, with a 
holding as his goal, he becomes in truth a journey- 
man farmer. Hope, prospects, a career, will no 
longer lie only in the towns. A practicable ladder 
will be reconstructed from plot to a few acres, and 
from the few to the more, by allotments and small 
holdings on tenancy, which allow to a greater 
extent than properties the possibility of movement. 
Mounting up the ladder, he will rise not only 
economically, but socially. So far as the farmer 

' standard. May gth, 1913. 

" Times, June 2nd, 1913. 

« lb., May 8th and 28th, 1913. 


is concerned, the greater the extension of small 
holdings, the less should be his labour problem. 
For the sons of small holders, with the prospect of 
independence before them on the land, and no 
longer despised as at the bottom of the social scale, 
a sore point now, will not need to seek betterment 
in the towns. The townsman's evils, too — over- 
crowding and competition — ^will therefore be 
decreased. Meanwhile, the nation will be recon- 
stituting that independent peasantry which it has 
come to desire. At present, however, the small 
holding movement affects only the few, and its 
extension is blocked by the continuance of un- 
satisfactory conditions of hfe and work which 
prevent those labourers who most need a change 
in their circumstances from bringing that change 
about by making a start as independent cultivators. 
The problem of the labourer proper, therefore, 
still remains, and the question how to increase his 
wages still has to be answered. 

That increase could take the form of a rise in 
his rate of wages or of an increase in their purchas- 
ing power. Co-operative stores would be of the 
greatest value in the latter respect. They have 
existed for many years in certain districts, but 
speaking generally, the labourer's shopping is still 
mainly carried on with the small privately owned 
village store, or with the shghtly larger shop in 


the neighbouring market town. The village shop- 
keeper, who sells only in small quantities and runs 
the risk of bad debts, necessarily charges a higher 
price for his commodities than are charged in town 
shops which have a wider trade and are supported 
partly by the large orders of the better-to-do 
classes. But there are obvious difficulties in the 
way of any general extension of co-operative 
stores, while there is always the possibility that 
an increase in real wages by such means might 
keep rates of wages low, as was said to be the case 
in the past in parishes where philanthropic assist- 
ance was given to the labourer, or where, so it was 
sometimes averred, he could eke out low wages by 
means of allotments. As to rates of wages, the 
agricultural history of the last two centuries 
shows how inadequate have been the rises volun- 
tarily granted, and how of the three chief economic 
factors in the farmer's profits, prices, rent and 
wages bill, it is the latter over which he has most 
control, and the latter which has been the first to 
be altered in bad years. 

The old Unions were not strong enough to 
prevent reductions in wages, and although there 
has recently been a revival of Unionism, not only 
in the eastern counties, where the movement never 
quite died out, but in the Midlands also, the 
difficulty of raising rural wages by collective 


bargaining is as great to-day as it was in the 
nineties. Rural Unions, the members of which 
are not merely ill-paid, but are also isolated and 
scattered, are faced with pecuhar obstacles. Wage 
Boards and the institution of a minimum wage 
would be of more value than Unions to the agri- 
cultural labourer. Against State interference and 
compulsory raising of wages, which any scheme for 
a minimum wage would involve, it can be urged, 
and is probably true, that the worse paid labourers, 
the South countrymen, are not worth more than 
they now receive. But in criticising the labourer 
it has to be remembered that for several genera- 
tions the conditions of agricultural work have 
driven the best and most intelligent labour from 
the land ; that inconsiderate treatment in the 
past has not been conducive to whole-hearted, 
ungrudging work in those that remained, and that 
this and poor wages and poor feeding are respon- 
sible for the lower value of labour in the South. 
Superiority has not always rested with the North, 
as we have seen ; before the Agricultural Revolu- 
tion the Norfolk peasant was considered by a 
competent judge to be the best of his kind. There 
is every reason to believe that better wages would 
not merely keep some of the best men on the land, 
but would also improve the quality of the labour 
now at the farmer's command. The usual objec- 


tions to a fixed minimum wage are that it would 
inflict great hardship on the old men, who would 
find their services dispensed with ; and secondly, 
that if wages are raised above what the industry 
will bear as carried on at present the farmer must 
change his industry ; he would decrease his arable 
land, and there would consequently be less em- 
ployment. But any scheme for a minimum wage 
could be made sufficiently elastic to allow of vary- 
ing rates for different grades of workers, as well as 
for local variations in living expenses. In neither 
of the Wages Bills, introduced in May, 1913, was 
it proposed to establish a " flat " rate. The con- 
version of arable to pasture might be a temptation 
to the incompetent farmer, but one object of the 
agricultural education scheme now on foot will be 
to encourage the disappearance of the farmer who 
makes a profit of ys. 6d. per acre, when £2 3s. can 
be made.^ The value of the land laid down to 
grass in the last thirty years in the Midlands, is not 
such as to encourage the intelligent farmer to adopt 
this device wholesale. Stock farming on bad land 
is an expensive pursuit ; either the farmer must 
pay for large quantities of other foodstuffs, or be 
content with poor profits for poor stock. Leicester- 
shire pastureland, which fattens stock without the 
assistance of other feeding, is not to be created at 

' See Appendix. 


will. There are, however, other difficulties in 
connection with raising rates of wages. Real 
wages do not necessarily rise in proportion. 
Experience goes to prove that the value of a rise in 
rates of wages may be negatived by that artificial 
rise in rents and in the price of commodities which 
the absence of competition amongst landlords and 
shopkeepers in the country-side makes all too easy. 
A really high minimum wage would render the 
labourer indifferent to artificial rises in prices. 
But to enforce a minimum wage such as would be 
practicable, without ensuring that the rise in 
wages should be real, might be of little value to 
the labourer, while it imposed upon the farmer a 
financial burden uncompensated by the better 
labour which higher real wages presumably 
would create. Thus, while an increase of real 
wages by opportunities for co-operative pur- 
chase might keep rates low, an increase in rates 
of wages might bring little or no increase in real 
wages. Thus much does the history of the 
labourer suggest. 

The last chapters of his story have still to be 
written, for the final solution of the labourer's 
problem hes in the future. It is to be hoped that 
the next attempt at a remedy may, through the 
united efforts of aU parties and of all classes, prove 
to be this final solution. If aid be not given him. 


the labourer must continue to solve his problem 
by methods of his own, which have not been in 
the past, and in the future are not likely to be, 
conducive to the general prosperity of the 



Agricultural Education ; Co-operation ; Sportsmen 
and Farmers ; Credit Banks. 

Two schemes which are now on foot, though not 
directly affecting the labourer, promise ultimately 
to be of service to him. The one is an extensive 
system of agricultural education designed for the 
assistance of farmers and small holders ; the other 
is the promotion of credit societies for the benefit 
of the latter class. 

The prosperity of the labourer must depend 
largely, as it has done in the past, on the prosperity 
of his employer. At present, although great 
technical progress has been made of recent years 
in agriculture, there are many farmers who lag 
behind the times. Mr. Christopher Turner, one 
of the foremost authorities on agricultural subjects, 
is emphatic as to the difference between the show 
men, the " star " farmers, and the average farmer. 
He made an interesting comparison of fifty-six 
farms, as alike as possible in soil, buildings and 
market facilities, and found that on some the 
gross yield of foodstuffs was £12 per acre and on 
others only from £7 to £3 or less. At the time of 


his inquiry the average yield per acre of land 
under cultivation in Great Britain was a little 
tinder £4, "a low yield considering the richness of 
our soil." * As Mr. Turner points out, the English 
farmer met foreign competition by cutting down 
expenditure ; he reduced his labour bill, reduced 
his tillage, ploughed four inches deep instead of 
six, neglected his hedges and ditches and drains. 
To the labourer such poor farming and the 
consequent limitation of his employer's profits 
is of real moment. But the matter has also 
a national aspect, for the land is not yielding as 
much as it could. Fortunately the interests of 
the nation and the labourer fundamentally coin- 
cide with those of the farmer, for from his point of 
view starving the land is false economy ; whereas 
under scientific farming, an acre can yield a net 
profit of ;^3, poor farming can bring profits as 
low as ys. 6d. an acre.^ Here the dissemina- 
tion of agricultural knowledge can be of aid, 
and at last the nation is awakening to the 
fact that education is the basis of agricultural 

The projected scheme is for a graduated 
organisation ranging from advanced research work 
to elementary education. Research institutes, 
to which ^30,000 a year will be devoted from the 
Development and Roads Improvement Funds, 
will have for their object the study of different 
sections of agricultural sciences. Technical advice 

1 " Land Problems," 1911, pp. 55 f. 
" lb., pp. 80 f. 


to farmers, to which £12,999 a year has been 
assigned, will be provided by " scientific workers 
stationed at collegiate centres serving groups of 
counties. These workers will make a special 
study of the needs of particular localities." 
Agricultural education, for which £325,999 has 
been granted for the period ending March 31st, 
1916, will be supphed by lecturers in universities 
and colleges, by teachers employed at farm schools 
to instruct pupils whose circumstances and pre- 
vious education prevent their attending college 
courses, and by peripatetic teachers whose work 
will lie amongst those who cannot attend the 
schools. Winter short-courses wUl be provided at 
the farm schools for those who have had practical 
experience on the land since leaving the elementary 
schools, while summer courses will be provided 
if required by local conditions. They will be 
open to the sons and daughters of farmers and 
small holders. So well graded a scheme is a 
great advance upon anything we have known 
before ; hitherto the local authorities have been 
left to cope with agricultural education, and have 
spent about £80,000 a year. 

This better education and the new facilities for 
research must, amongst other things, promote the 
industrialising of agriculture. A start has already 
been made, the cultivation of sugar beet and of 
tobacco being two of the most notable experiments. 
Under the auspices of the National Sugar Beet 
Association, the cultivation of beet is prospering 
in Norfolk and Essex, while experiments in 


tobacco are being made in Norfolk, Suffolk, 
Hampshire, Surrey, Worcestershire, Warwick- 
shire, Gloucestershire, Carnarvon and Kirkcud- 
brightshire. The research institutes should be of 
value in developing other subsidiary industries^ 

Apart from its direct advantages the new system 
of education will necessarily have an influence in 
promoting co-operation, which, in Mr. Turner's 
words, " would do more for the immediate benefit 
of agriculture than anything else." While the 
large farmer can act as his own co-operator, both 
medium and small farmers and small holders work 
under unfavourable conditions, both in purchasing 
and in distribution. The small or comparatively 
small man purchases at a disadvantage, for his 
orders for seed and other raw material of his 
business are not large enough to secure him whole- 
sale terms. He also labours under a disadvantage 
in distribution. He cannot market his produce 
either in the bulk or with the regularity which 
fairly enough secures for the foreigner those cheap 
rates as to which there is sometimes complaint 
at home. Thus he is often unable to compete 
with the foreigner in his own market. Both for 
purchasing and distribution difficulties co-opera- 
tion is the solution, and has proved its success 
wherever tried. But the English character and 
English social organisation render the extension 
of co-operation slow and uncertain. " In little 
village communities," writes Dr. Levy, " the 
ground is prepared for co-operative action. . . . 
But England is the land of capitaHst agriculture. 


Neighbours are not known to one another as they 
are in the village community. They Uve outside, 
more as in the Celtic type of settlement, and this 
in itself prevents the intimate and friendly 
relationships to be found among the true villagers. 
The English countrjmaan can hardly be defended 
from the charge of being extraordinarily suspicious. 
He does not trust his neighbours, and would rather 
go alone than in company. Moreover, the whole 
idea of association is much more strange to him 
than to the peasantry of a country where the 
village community is still a reality. In the village 
community any number of things are already done 
in common." The English farmer has to be 
"entirely re-converted to the co-operative mind."^ 
This re-conversion cannot but be assisted by the 
extension of better education. 

Education may have, too, an effect in limiting 
sports, especially game preserving, in agricultural 
districts. At present the tendency is all the other 
way, since new men, bankers, merchants and 
tradesmen are bujdng up estates for the social 
prestige they confer and are putting more and 
more money into preserving. It can, of course, be 
claimed that the farmer receives compensation for 
damage inflicted, and that the existence of hunting 
or shooting is taken into consideration when his 
rent is fixed ; sports bring money into the country- 
side, some of which is spent in the country, while 
fox-hunting gives general pleasure and increases 
the social amenities of the neighbourhood for more 

' Levy, " Large and Small Holdings," p. 198. 
F.L. S 


than the subscribers to the hunt : the classes 
which indulge in these sports have been and are of 
service to the nation in local administrative work 
and in local work generally, and the nation would 
lose more by their going abroad for their pastimes 
than it would gain in the increase of gross produce 
per acre which might follow if their sports were 
curtailed. From the agricultural point of view it 
can be urged that the economic loss to the nation 
is considerable owing to the best agricultural use 
not being made of the land ; that the farmer does 
not avail himself of the right to compensation, 
whether because of the difficulty of estimating it, 
because he dare not be a troublesome tenant, or 
because no material damage is inflicted, he suffers 
simply because he fears to incur it : he does not put 
down the crop best suited to his land and his stock 
because last year it was devoured by game ; he 
gives up keeping a good breed of hens because he 
will get a bad name if he asks for more than the 
price of a common fowl for those devoured by the 
fox. There is thus a divergence of opinion on the 
matter, due probably not merely to self-interest, 
but to poor farming. The man who farms for low 
profits can obtain those profits in spite of sports. 
When the weeds of technical backwardness and 
lack of co-operation are cleared from the land, 
such damage as is inflicted by hunting and shoot- 
ing will become more evident, and though it might 
prove a difficult matter for legislation to deal with, 
landowners, or at any rate landowners of the old 
class, who have already supplied pioneers for the 


various movements of agricultural reform, may 
give the lead again. 

Whilst every advance in the farmer's prosperity 
is of vital importance to the labourer, the establish- 
ment of small holders on a sounder footing is also 
of concern to him. At present their prosperity 
and therefore their multiplication is hampered by 
various circumstances. Lack of co-operation and 
its possible extension have already been considered. 
Where small holdings are concentrated in a more 
or less narrow district, co-operation is succeeding 
well, but where they are scattered amid farms of 
various sizes, combination is difficult until the 
farmers are ready to join in. 

The other chief difficulty in connection with the 
small holding is that its cultivator has little or no 
credit and has great trouble in obtaining capital. 
Consequently, he lives from hand to mouth, and 
economic waste is forced upon him even though 
he may know the best course to pursue. Germany 
possesses a vast system of co-operative credit ; at 
the close of 1911, there were 14,506 credit societies 
affiliated to thirty-seven central banks. Loans 
are granted by the local societies generally on the 
personal pledge only of one or two friends of the 
appHcant, in other words, character is accepted as 
security. A scheme is now on foot in England 
which should give the small holder here some of 
those facilities for obtaining capital which are as 
necessary to him as to his German counterpart. 
A number of leading joint stock banks are pre- 
pared to offer advances to rural credit banks for 


the assistance of small holders and allotment 
holders. The scheme, which is at present regarded 
as experimental, is to be worked through the 
registered co-operative credit societies, at present 
about forty in number, whose operations with 
agriculturaUsts generally are already extensive. 
No one is to be admitted as a member to the local 
society unless he lives within a certain circum- 
scribed area and is personally known to most of 
his fellow members, and he must be approved by 
the committee as a man of good character. Loans 
to members are to be granted only on approved 
security, and must be utilised for a specific purpose, 
while no member will be permitted to take out on 
loan more than £50 at one time. The proposed 
scheme is, therefore, not so favourable to the 
small holder as is the German, but it should 
nevertheless be of real value. 


Act of Elizabeth re acreage per 

cottage, repeal, 1775. .30 
Agricultural depressions — 
1875 — 1880.. 168 
1893, fall in wages, 178 
1894.. 175 
Agricultural education, neces- 
sity for extending, and pro- 
jected schemes, 252 — 259 
Agricultural Labourers' Pro- 
tection Association, 127 
Agricultural labourers' unions- 
agricultural depression, 
1874, 1894, effects upon, 

169, 175 
difftculties of, 150 — 170 
disunion among, 166 
limitations of, 248 
lock-out, 1 874.. 1 61 — 165 
neglect of farmers' point 

of view, 187 
recourse to emigration, 160 
revival, 1890. .170 
value of work of, 176 — 
Agricultural revival, 1880 on- 
wards, effect on the labourer, 
181— 186 
Afford, Lincolnshire, allot- 
ments in, 84 
Allotments — 

early movement for, 55 

1814— 1834..81— 85 

extension of, new move- 
ment for, 225 — 231 
progress in, 198 — 201 
unsatisfactoriness of, 212 
value of, criticised, 213 

Allotments Acts, 1882, 1887, 
agricultural labourers' unions 
assistance to passing of, 177, 

Allotments Act, 1888, lines of, 

Allotments Act, 1890, lines of, 

Allotments Extension Asso- 
ciation formed, 227 

" Annals of Agriculture," 43, 

Arch, Joseph, 146, 150, 162, 
170, 187 
champions cause of open- 
air meetings, 152 
emigration encouraged by, 

Small Holdings Act, 1892, 

criticised by, 235 
Wellesboume labourers' 
combination for higher 
wages led by, 141 — 142 
Assington, Suffolk, 123 

Barnard, Thos., allotments 

promoted by, 56 
Bear, Mr., 209 

on agricultural wages, 210 

on allotments and wages, 

200, 213 

Bedford, Duke of, attitude 

to agricultural labourers' 

unions, 156 

Benefit clubs, progress in, 1834 

— 1870. .116 — 118 
Benefit societies, promotion of, 



Buckland Monachoum, Devon- 
shire, agricultural labourers' 
union in, 144 

Byfield, Northamptonshire, 
allotments in, 84 

Cadbury, George, on allot- 
ments, 199 
Caird, on agricultural condi- 
tions, 100, loi, 102 
Carrington, Lord — 

allotments promoted by, 

identity of rural and urban 
problems stated by, 221 
— 222 
small holdings movement 
encouraged by, 235 
Castleacre, Norfolk, gang sys- 
tem of agricultural labour 
in, 94 
Chapman, Mr., 197 

Allotment Act, 1890, cri- 
ticised by, 229 
on agricultural wages, 210 
on allotments, 200, 212 
on economic causes of 

migration, 214 
on farmers' attitude to 
agricultural problem, 
Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire, 
unjust prosecution of agri- 
cultural union at, 153 
Church, oppression of agricul- 
tural labourers' unions, 154 

Clopton, Suffolk, unjust treat- 
ment of agricultural union 
members at, 154 
Collings, Jesse, 146, 149, 177, 
Allotments Extension Act 
obtained by, 226 

Collings, Jesse — cont. 

small holdings question 

brought forward by, 231 

Commissioners of Enclosure, 

procedure, 21 — 23 
Common pasturage, 7 — 8 
Compton Abbas, union men 

charged at, 153 
Co-operation, causes militating 
against introduction of, 255 
— 256 
Co-operative Stores — 
promotion of, 106 
value of, 247 — 248 
Com, rise in price of, beginning 
of enclosure movement, 16 

Cottage accommodation — 

conditions, 1880 — 1911.. 

1867 report on, 106 — iii 
present-day conditions, 244 
Cottage Gardens Compensation 

for Crops Act, 1887. .230 
Cox, J. C, champions cause of 
open-air meetings, 152 

Daily News, 143 
Davies — 

allotments promoted by, 56 

on enclosure, 28, 29 

on necessity for minimum 

wage, 63 
on wholesale system of 
bujdng food supplies, 37 
Denbigh, Lord, attitude to agri- 
cultural labourers' unions, 
Denson, of Waterbeach, 83 

of labourers, 1834 — 1870. . 

102 — 103 
of labourers, reform sug- 
gested, 54—55 
Dixon, George, M.P., 163 



Eastern Counties Labour 

Federation founded, 171 
Eden, on industrial revolution, 

Education, conditions of la- 
bourers', 128 — 132 
Education Bill, 1876, agricul- 
tural labourers' unions' assis- 
tance to passing of, 177 
Emigration — 

encouragement of, 1826 — 

1834.. 85— 87 
increase in, 1834 — 1870.. 

118 — 122 
National Union's encour- 
agement of, 176 
Enclosures, 16 — 31 

one cause of labourer's 
ruin, 2 
English Labourers' Chronicle, 
Small Holdings Act, 1892, 
criticised, 234 — 235 

Farmers — 

agricultural depression in 

18 14, consequences to, 

agricultural revival, i8i 

attitude of, to agricultural 

labourers' unions, 158 
awakening to perception of 

common interests with 

labourers, 189 
solutions for agricultural 

problem, 216 — 220 
unions started, 159 
Farmers' Protection Society, 


Farringdon Petty Sessions, 
charge against labourers' 
open-air meetings preferred 

at, 152 
Fawcett, H., speech on agricul- 
tural education, 131 

Federal Union of Agricultural 
and General Labourers, dis- 
agreement with National 
Union, 166 
Fraser, Dr., Bishop of Man- 
chester, 123 
on cottage accommoda- 
tion, 1867. .109 
support of agricultural 
labourers' unions, 164 

Game Laws, convictions under, 

1827 — 1830.. 81 
Gang system — 

in agriculture, 92 — 93 
in Norfolk and Cambridge- 
shire, 192 — 193 
moral effects of, 98 — 99 
Garford, Newbury, 147 
Gilbert's Act for minimum wage 

for labourers, 59 
Girdlestone, Canon, 145 

rural migration movement 
organised by, 120 — 122 
Glendale, Northumberland, 

gang system in, 193 
Ground Game Act, 1880. .185 

Haggard, Rider, 195, 203 

on economic causes of 

migration, 214 
report on English fanning, 
Hasbach, Dr. — 

on enclosures, 21 
on rural migration, 204 
Heath, Francis, 120 
Herbert, A., 143 

county magistrates' power, 

protested against by, 153 

Herefordshire, labourers' union 

movement in, 140 
Hodges, 86 



Home-crafts, source of income 

to labourers, 11 
Horcutt, Gloucestershire, agri- 
cultural labourers' union in, 
House of Commons — 

Allotment Bills in, 1834 — 

1870. .112 
Bill for education of agri- 
cultural children in, 129 
— 130 
Education Bill, 1870. .132 
Select Committees to con- 
sider agricultural mat- 
ters, 1820 — 1836. .68 
HoweU, G., 146 

Howlett, on labourers' degra- 
dation, 42 

Industrial classes, rural mi- 
gration, effects upon, 4, 20 
Industrial revolution, 31 — 32 
Insurance Act, 1911. .242, 244 
Isle of Axholme, opposition to 
enclosures in, 20, 24 

Jones, Lloyd, 146 

Kent, shortage of agricultural 

labour in, 1901 . .219 
Kent, Mr.— 

on allotments, 56 
on wholesale system of 
buying food supplies, 
urges increase of labourers' 
wages, 58 — 59 
Kent Agricultural Labourers' 
Union, 144 

Labourers — 

agricultural revival, 1880, 
effect on, 181 — 186 

agricultural unions move- 
ment, 138 — 180 

Labourers — continued. 

allotment movement, 1834 
— 1870. .Ill — 116 

allotments and emigration, 
1814— 1834..81— 87 

average present-day earn- 
ings, 242 

benefit clubs and societies, 
progress, 1834 — 1870.. 
116— 118 

causes of downfall, 2 — 3 

conditions before 1760, 6 — 

conditions of, 1834 — 1870 
. .101 

conditions of, 1880 — 191 1 
■ ■ 195—203 

co-operative movement, 
122 — 128 

criminal efforts of, to 
remedy state of affairs, 

date of loss of indepen- 
dence, 2 

dependence upon village 
shopkeeper for supplies, 

economic and social im- 
provement, i88£3 — 191 1 

educational movement, 
128 — 132 

1 8 14 agricultural depres- 
sion, consequences to, 

enclosure, its effects upon, 
16 — 31 

entire dependence of, on 
wages desired by land- 
owning classes, 40 

industrial revolution's 

effects upon, 31 — 32 

migration, 44 — 53 

migration and emigration, 
1834 — 1870. .118 — 122 



Labourers — continued. 

new movement to assist, 
bcised on recognition of 
identity of rural and 
urban interests, 221 — 

physical and moral deteri- 
oration of, arising from 
agricultural and indus- 
tricil changes, 41 — 42 

position of, at present 
time, 243 — 244 

public efEort to improve 
condition of, 1787.. 54 

recourse to parish allow- 
ances, and consequences, 
65—66, 6g — 77 

recourse to wage-earning 
capacity of wives and 
children, 90-— 100 

remedies to supplement 
wages, dangers of, 133 

rise in prices, effects upon, 

rise of wages does not pre- 
vent shortage of, 218 — 
rural migration, influence 
upon industrial classes' 
attitude to rural prob- 
lem, 4 
shortage of, 1893, and 

causes, 189 — 195 
small holdings, 231 — 240 
small holdings, prospects 

afiorded, 246 
strikes, 142, 148 
wages system, inadequacy 
of, 32—33 
Labourers' Friend, 83 
Labourers' Friend Society, 
allotments' movement fur- 
thered by. III — 112 

Labourers' Union Chronicle, 
149, 178, 228 
emigration encouraged in, 
Land Club League formed, 239 
Land Restoration League, agri- 
cultural unions^ revival 
assisted by, 172 
Leamington, congress of dele- 
gates of agricultural unions 
at, 145 — 146 
Leamington Chronicle, service 
of, to agricultural unions' 
movement, 141, 142 
Leigh, Rev. J. W., 149 
Leighton, Sir B., 149 
Leintwardine, Herefordshire, 

Levy, Dr. — 

on co-operation, its diffi- 
culties in England, 255 
views on small holdings, 
233. 234, 240 
Lincolnshire Labour League, 

Local government, lack of 
labour representation in, 244 
London and Counties Labour 
League — 
founded, 171 

sick benefits, payments a 
drain on, 174 
Long Buckley Self-Assistance 

Industrial Society, 124 
Loveless, trial of, 125 — 126 

Methodist revival, influence 
upon agricultural labourers' 
movement, 146 

" Middlemarch," reference, i 

Middlesex, opposition to en- 
closures in, 24 

Midlands, agricultural 
labourers' unions in, 145 



Migration — 

economic causes of, 214 
increase in, 1834 — 1870.. 
118 — 122 

Millin, on ailotments, 199 

Minimum wage — 

arguments for and against, 

scheme, 58 — 64 
Morley, S., M.P., 163 
Morrison, Wm., M.P., 145 

National Farm Labourers' 

Union formed, 167 
National Federation of Em- 
ployers, 159 
National Society, 128 
National Sugar Beet Associa- 
tion, 254 
National Union of Agricultural 
Labourers, constitution, 
emigration encouraged by, 

emigration schemes of, 160 
inaugurated, 146 
membership, decrease in, 

1874 — 1880. .169 
relief money paid out in 

1874. .161 
sick benefits, pa5rment a 
serious drain on, 170, 

work of, 146 — 150 

Norfolk, agricultural wages in, 

Norfolk and Norwich Amal- 
gamated Labour Union 
founded, 171 

Norfolk Chamber of Agricul- 
ture, agricultural problems 
discussed at, 217 — 218 

North of England, labour prob- 
lem less acute in, reasons, 
87— go, 133 

Old Age Pensions, 242 

Onslow, 132 

Oxfordshire and Adjoining 
Counties Association of Agri- 
culturists, 159 

Parish allowances, labourers' 
recourse to, and consequences, 
65 — 66, 69 — 77 

Peasant proprietorship, econo- 
mic and political considera- 
tions in early nineteenth 
century miUtating against, 

Poor Law, parish allowances 
system, its consequences, 73 

Poor Law Reform Act, 1795. . 

Prices — 

fall of, consequent upon 

Free Trade, 102 
rise in, serious effects upon 
labourers, 35 — 37 
Prothero, Mr., 188, 198 

on agricultural wages, 1888 

Royal Commission on Housing 
of the Working Classes, rural 
housing referred to in report 
of, 195 
Rural Labourers' League, 228 
Rural migration — 

causes and effects, 44 — 53, 

205 — 216 
causes other than econo- 
mic leading to, 203 — 
Rural population, decrease in 
1881. .222 



Sausbury, Lord, i88 

Shipton, G., 146 

Small holdings — 

influence of, on labour 

problem, 246 
lack of capital and credit 
hinders furtherance of, 
national interest in, com- 
mencement, 231 

Small Holdings Act, 1892, prin- 
ciples of, and failure, 231 — 

Small Holdings and Allotments 
Act, 1907, principles of, and 
administration, 237 — 239 

Small Holdings Bills, 1892, 
1894, agricultural labourers' 
unions' assistance to passing 
of, 177 

South Metropolitan Gas Com- 
pany, strike, 170 — 171 

Speenhamland minimum wage 
scheme, 63 

Spencer, Mr., on allotments, 

Sport, influence of, on far min g 
methods, 256 — 257 

Stanhope, 127 

Stock-farmiag, its dependence 
upon system of common pas- 
turage, 8 — 9 

Straage, 146 

Stubbs, Canon, on allotments, 

Sufiolk, agricultural wages in, 

Swafiham, 152 

Taylor, H., 143, 146 
Threefield system, 8 
Tolpuddle, Dorset, labourers' 

demand for rise in wages, 124 

— 126 

Trade unions — 

financial support of la- 
bourers' lock-out, 1874 
influence upon agricultural 

unions, 170 — 171 
priaciples of, influencing 
agricultural unions, 140 
strength of, compared with 
agricultural unions, 150 
Trevelyan, G., 146 
Tuddenham, 194 
Turner, C, 218, efiect of agri- 
cultural education on farm- 
ing yields pointed out by, 
252 — 253 

Unions ChargeabiUty Act, 
1865. .106 

Village government of agri- 
cultural matters, 15 
Vincent, Matthew, 142, 1 46, 149 

Wages (agricultural) — 

average present-day, 245 
boards, advantages of in- 
stitution of, 248 — 249 
conditions, 1880 — 191 1 . . 

196 — 197 
payments in kind, 104 
rates, 1893. .209 
rise of, insufficient to pre- 
vent shortage of labour, 
Warwickshire Agricultural 

Union, 143 
Wellesboume, labourers in, 
combine for higher wages, 



Whithead, Mr., Bill for estab- 
lishing minimum wages 
scheme, 60 
Wicken, 147 

Wilberforce, allotments pro- 
moted by, 56 
Wilson-Fox, Mr., on agricul- 
tural wages, 209 
Wiltshire Agricultural and 
General Labourers' Union 
founded, 172 
Winchelsea, Lord — 

allotments scheme of, 56 
attempt to unite land- 
owners and labourers, 
1893.. 187— 188 
on enclosure, 29 
on landowners' desire for 
labourers entirely depen- 
dent upon wages, 40 — 41 

Witchford, Cambridgeshire, 

gang system in, 193 
Women and children's labour 
in agriculture — 
decline of, 193 — 194 
exploitation of, a direct 
consequence of labourers' 
starvation wages, 90— 
wages of, 99 

Young, A. — 

allotments promoted by, 

on enclosures, 19 
on labourer's' degradation, 
Young, Sir W., minimum wage 
scheme of, 59 — 60 


HD1534.D92 •""""'""""■"•"'* 
^'"iMiiMi'i??,?"''*''' "^* history of a moder 

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