Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Breaking News from the 1830's ( plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose)

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

 (Or more famously plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose  an epigram from Jean-Baptiste Alphones Karr.)


In 1830 there were food or "Swing" riots" in England.  These  so-called  riots were in fact legitimate protests by agricultural workers who found themselves out of work, impoverished, and starving,  as a result of  increased mechanization of farm work..

It was said of them " The Swing Riots had many immediate causes, but were overwhelmingly the result of the progressive impoverishment and dispossession of the English agricultural workforce over the previous fifty years, leading up to 1830.  In parliament Lord Carnarvon had said that the English labourer was reduced to a plight more abject than that of any race in Europe, with their employers no longer able to feed and employ them"

Lord Carnarvon apart there were other responses from middle class folks. 

See this:

" Another straw in the wind was the reaction of  William Henry Gambier, tackled at in the evening by a mob from Maidstone. (Kent).

"We are starving"  declared their leader John Adams, a journeyman shoemaker.

Gambier, son of the local Rector at Langley, replied that " the present King was desirous of doing all that could be done and I have no doubt that Parliament had the same disposition, and that they should wait until Parliament met".

Super comfort for empty bellies in 1832: "Wait until Parliament meets".

In 2014 the hungry unemployed have to wait until Senator Harry Reid (D) gets his finger out and pushes for legislation to restore unemployment payments for the (formerly working ) poor. They must "Wait until Congress acts". 

Of course they can stay on the breadline for a few more weeks/months/years.


(Quotations from "Perilous Question, Reform or Revolution? Britain on the Brink, 1832, by Antonia Fraser, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, Great Britain, 2013))

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