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Correspondence of Richard Oastler

Reference Number(s) GB 1499 ROC/15/2
Dates of Creation 1833-1836
Physical Description 3 items

Administrative / Biographical History

Richard Oastler, 1789–1861, factory reformer, was born on 20 December 1789 in St Peter's Square, Leeds, the eighth and last child of Robert Oastler (1748–1820), a local linen merchant, and his wife, Sarah Scurr (d. 1828). He attended a Moravian boarding school from 1798 to 1810 and became a commission agent. Oastler did this job for ten years and in 1820 was appointed as steward for Thomas Thornhill, the absentee landlord of Fixby, a large estate near Huddersfield.

In 1830 Oastler met John Wood, a worsted manufacturer from Bradford, who agonised over the need to employ children in his factory. After a lengthy meeting Oastler decided to join the struggle for factory legislation.

Personal Names

Oastler, Richard. ( 1789-1861) factory reformer

Letter from Richard Oastler and William Stocks to Robert Owen

Reference Number(s) GB 1499 ROC/15/2/1
Dates of Creation 11 Nov 1833
Physical Description 4 pages

Scope and Content

This manuscript letter opens with Oastler (writing on behalf of himself and Stocks) explaining that, due to previous commitments, they are unable to meet Owen in Bradford. However, he believes their presence unnecessary for the success of Owen's plans as, in all likelihood, Bradford people "may be willing to Co-operate for the real benefit of the Working Classes" [? with the introduction of an eight hour working day].

The news that John Fielden plans to take a "lively interest" in the matter causes Oastler to "rejoice" as he believes Fielden to be a man fixed with "undoubted confidence of the operative classes"; he will prove to be "most valuable auxiliary".

Oastler asserts that both he and Stocks have a "strongest desire to be co-workers" with Owen, this despite believing Owen's decision to call Public Meetings in different districts is "premature". However, they feel uneasy in proposing and defending a scheme they do not "thoroughly understand", and therefore they recommend Owen take a more cautious scheme. Owen is advised to make connections with individuals in different districts, and only once made should he call a central meeting where those gathered could "coolly and deliberately" discuss their views and "take counsel" from Owen. Oastler explains that more information of Owen's plans is required - both in terms of the "superstructure" he wishes to raise and also to establish of what "foundations" it will lay. With this information established, they would then be in a better position to explain the plans to others when questioned.

Oastler feels the "short Catechism" he presented to Owen at Huddersfield should be "generally circulated" prior to any meeting taking place, so that people may have their minds "prepared to receive the whole development of the scheme".

Oastler closes the letter by asking Owen not to judge it in an "unfriendly light", it is just the case that Stocks and he are wary of embarking on a plan without first thoroughly understanding it.

Note

Stamped number: 664

Subjects

Working class
Factory system
Working hours
Working conditions

Personal Names

Fielden, John. ( 1784-1849) social reformer
Stocks, William. ( fl1830s) chief constable of Hudderfield

Corporate Names

Grand National Consolidated Trades Union

Geographical Names

Bradford
Huddersfield

Letter from Richard Oastler to Robert Owen

Reference Number(s) GB 1499 ROC/15/2/2
Dates of Creation 22 Nov 1833
Physical Description 4 pages

Scope and Content

Manuscript letter, in which Oastler declines Owen's invitation to attend a meeting called at Manchester for the 25th November. At this meeting Owen intends to call for an 8 hour working day and Oastler believes this would do "more harm than good" and cites a number of reasons for this view. Oastler has proposed a cut to 10 hours himself, and explains that, while he could never argue against an 8 hours' bill, he would need to be convinced by voting majorities at Public Meetings to switch from his campaign for 10 hours to the one Owen has begun for 8.

Oastler closes by writing that he hopes "Lancashire takes the lead" and if they do he is sure that "Yorkshire men will not be backward in coming forward".

On the reverse, a note, signed R.O., states that it is impossible to meet at Bradford and "we have said all we can say".

Note

Stamped number: 668

Subjects

Working conditions
Working time
Factory system
Working class

Geographical Names

Manchester
Lancashire
Yorkshire

Letter from Richard Oastler to Robert Owen

Reference Number(s) GB 1499 ROC/15/2/3
Dates of Creation 19 Oct 1836
Physical Description 3 pages

Scope and Content

In this manuscript letter Oastler writes of being presently very busy with work. Amongst his current tasks are publishing the pamphlet The Law and the Needle, writing several pages per day for 'Letter to the Millowners' and "keeping the press going" in Manchester. This is all in addition to his work as Steward at Fixby Hall; all in all enough work for "5 heads and 10 pairs of hands".

Oastler believes both he and Owen have "labour enough" before them and remarks he "cannot cease" until he dies.

The letter closes with Oastler stating he and his wife pray for Owen and wish to hear often from him.

Annotated in pencil on the rear is written "he himself told me he was a Moravian" and the initials "W.P." [William Pare].

Note

Stamped number: 832

Subjects

Press
Publishing

Geographical Names

Manchester

Correspondence of James Bronterre O'Brien

Reference Number(s) GB 1499 ROC/15/3
Dates of Creation 1832
Physical Description 1 item

Personal Names

O'Brien, James Bronterre. ( 1805-1864) chartist and reformer

Letter from James Bronterre O'Brien to Robert Owen

Reference Number(s) GB 1499 ROC/15/3/1
Dates of Creation 27 May 1832
Physical Description 4 pages

Scope and Content

Manuscript letter, in which O'Brien advises Owen to model his soon to be formed London Association [at Gray's Inn Road] along the lines of the Birmingham Political Union - a matter of "utmost importance" O'Brien believes.

O'Brien, working from an idea put forward by Mr [William] Pare, and having been convinced by the energy and zeal of his "brother Co-operators", believes the public are well prepared to pay attention to their cause. Through "judicious organisation" a new public opinion" can be swayed in their favour, and he believes such organisation has been shown in the "Constitution of the Birmingham [Political] Union".

O'Brien discusses at length the importance of public opinion; he believes that governments have no other basis of support, and therefore it is of "vital importance" to gather this opinion and "concentrate it on the Social System". Owen's Gray's Inn Road association should be formed of a "more popular character".

O'Brien offers Owen detailed advice on the best method of launching his new association. Once the "intoxication of delight" manifest following the passing of the Reform Bill has subsided a large public meeting should be called. At this meeting, the reasons for forming the Society should be laid out in a carefully constructed document before individuals of "all classes". All those willing to pay 1s per quarter are to be admitted as members, therefore ensuring an "attendance of great numbers of the working classes" and if properly arranged it should be possible to achieve "5 to 10,000 members".

Further detailed discussion relating to the setting-up of the association follows, before O'Brien closes by informing Owen of his intentions to publish a weekly newspaper in London to advocate the "new system of Society"; considerable support for this venture has been secured by O'Brien.

Note

Stamped number: 546

Subjects

Electoral reform
Working class
Social reform

Personal Names

Pare, William. ( 1804-1873) co-operator

Corporate Names

Birmingham Political Union

Geographical Names

Birmingham
London

Correspondence of Bowen O'Connor

Reference Number(s) GB 1499 ROC/15/4
Dates of Creation 1850
Physical Description 1 item

Letter from Bowen O'Connor to Robert Owen

Reference Number(s) GB 1499 ROC/15/4/1
Dates of Creation 24 Mar 1850
Physical Description 8 pages

Scope and Content

Manuscript letter, in which O'Connor writes at length at his dissatisfaction with society, religion and governments and discusses personal matters; asks Owen to help him.

Note

Stamped number: 1780


Correspondence of Edmund O'Darnell

Reference Number(s) GB 1499 ROC/15/5
Dates of Creation 1830
Physical Description 1 item

Letter from Edmund O'Darnell to Robert Owen

Reference Number(s) GB 1499 ROC/15/5/1
Dates of Creation 16 Mar 1830
Physical Description 1 page, 1 printed card

Scope and Content

Manuscript letter declining Owen's invitation to deliver lectures at the Royal Institution [of Great Britain]. The reason given for declining the offer is due to the Owen's proposal not coming within the "objects of the Institution".

Note

Stamped number: 209

Corporate Names

The Royal Institute of Great Britain

Correspondence of William Offord

Reference Number(s) GB 1499 ROC/15/6
Dates of Creation 1856
Physical Description 4 items

Administrative / Biographical History

William Offord, Richmond, Surrey was a Methodist by faith. Around 1842 he was expelled from the Wesleyan Society, and such was the anger felt by Offord he wrote a book on the matter entitled 'Wesleyan Persecution' which was published in 1846. In 1849 he left for America and the Shaker community at New Lebanon, New York, where he son would later rise to the Elder of the community.

Subjects

Religion
Publications

Geographical Names

New Lebanon -- New York
London

Letter from William Offord to Robert Owen

Reference Number(s) GB 1499 ROC/15/6/1
Dates of Creation 26 Oct 1856
Physical Description 1 page

Scope and Content

Manuscript letter, in which Offord writes he would like to deliver to Owen some Shaker works from Frederick Evans. After Owen has read them, Offord would like for them to meet up and discuss the works prior to his impending departure [to New Lebanon, New York].

Note

Stamped number: 2650

Personal Names

Evans, Frederick William. ( 1808-1893) reformer

Letter from William Offord to Robert Owen

Reference Number(s) GB 1499 ROC/15/6/2
Dates of Creation 15 Aug 1856
Physical Description 2 pages

Scope and Content

In this manuscript letter Offord writes he has yet to hear from Owen regarding their plans to meet. Offord is soon to return to America and is concerned that he must get back the manuscript he lent to Owen before he does so.

Note

Stamped number: 2651


Letter from William Offord to Robert Owen

Reference Number(s) GB 1499 ROC/15/6/3
Dates of Creation 29 Aug 1856
Physical Description 3 pages

Scope and Content

Manuscript letter opening with Offord outlining his plans for his return to America with his son and daughter via a sailing packet from London. This is despite reservations of the safety of such a method of crossing the Atlantic. Once in America, he will then deliver Owen's works as Owen requested him to do.

In response to a query from Owen, Offord writes that at no time did Daniel [his son] act "deceptiously" when he was a "medium" and nor was he asked to do by Mr. Evans.

Owen is thanked for all the kindness he has shown to Offord, "a mere stranger", and is wished well in his labours to "upheave the old, erroneous and wicked systems and forms of society".

Note

Stamped number: 2636

Subjects

Spiritualism

Personal Names

Offord, Daniel. ( 1845-1911)

Letter from William Offord to Robert Owen

Reference Number(s) GB 1499 ROC/15/6/4
Dates of Creation 26 Oct 1856
Physical Description 2 pages

Scope and Content

In this manuscript letter Offord writes of his return to the United States from Britain and of delivering Owen's works to a number of individuals across the North-Eastern states. Offord, a Shaker, has returned to New Lebanon, New York, and has taken his son Daniel and daughter Emily to live with him. A number of Owen's letters and publications were given to Frederick Evans [the elder of the community] and Offord notes they were "kindly" received.

Note

Stamped number: 2603

Personal Names

Offord, Daniel. ( 1845-1911)
Evans, Frederick William. ( 1808-1893) reformer