Question: Identify the issues raised by the growth of Manchester and analyze the various reactions to those issues over the course of the nineteenth century.
Manchester, England, became a leading textile manufacturing center soon after its first mechanized cotton mill was built in 1780. Its population increased from 18,000 in 1750 to over 300,000 by the census of 1851, much of this made up of the working class and immigrants. In the 1832 Reform Bill, Manchester was granted representation in Parliament and middle class men received the vote. After Queen Victoria's visit in 1851, Manchester was granted a royal charter.
Source: the 1750 map: W.H. Thompson, History of Manchester to 1852, 1850's. The 1850 map: Adapted from Ashley Baynton-Williams,Town and City Maps of the British Isles, 1800-1855, late 1850's.
Source: Robert Southey, English Romantic poet, after visiting Manchester in 1807, Colloquies on the Progress and Prospects of Society, 1829.
A place more destitute than Manchester is not easy to concieve. In size and population it is the second city of the kingdom. Imagine this multitude crowded together in narrow streets, the houses build of brick and blackened with smoke: frequent buildings among them as large as convents, without their antiquity, without their beauty, without their holiness, where you hear from within, the everlasting din of machinery; and where, when the bell rings, it is to call the wretches to their work instead of their prayers.
People live longer because they are better fed, better lodged, better clothed and better attended in sickness, and these improvements are owing tothe increase in national wealth which the manufacturing system has produced. Mr. [Robert] Southey has found a way, he tells us, in which the effects of manufactures and agriculture may be compared. And what is this way? To stand on a hill, to look at a cottage and a factory, and to see which is prettier. Does Mr. Southey think that the English peasentry live, or ever lived, in substantial and ornamented cottages, with box hedges, flower gardens, beehives and orchards?
Source: Frances Anne Kemble, actress, poet, and dramatist, account of the inaugural journey of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, 1830.
Shouting "No Corn Laws,"* the vast Manchester crowd was the lowest order of artisans and mechanics, among whom a dnagerous spirit of disconent with the Government prevailed. Groans and hisses greeted the carriage, full of influential personages, in which the Prime Minister sat. High above the grim and grimy crowd of scowling faces a loom had been erected, at which sat a tattered, starved-looking weaver, evidently set there as a representative man, to protest against the triumphs of machinery and the gain and glory which wealthy Liverpool and Manchester men were likely to derive from it.
*The Corn Laws were tariffs on imported grain.
Source: Alexis de Tocqueville, French visitor to Manchester, Journeys to England and Ireland, 1835.
Everything in the outward appearance of the city attests to the individual powers of man; nothing to the directing power of society. Nowhere do you see happy ease taking his leisurely walk in the streets of the city or going to seek simple enjoyment in the surrounding country. A multitude passes along without stopping; it looks abstracted, its aspect somber and uncouth.
From this foul drain the greatest stream of human industry flows out to fertilize the whole world. From this filthy sewer pure gold flows. Here humanity atains its most complete development and its most brutish; here civilization works its miracles, and civilized man is turned back into a savage.
Source: Edwin Chadwick, public health reformer, Report on the Conditions of the Laboring Population of Great Britain, 1842.
Diseases caused or aggravated by atmospheric impurities produced by decomposing animal and vegetable substances, by damp and filth, and close and overcrowded dwellings, prevail among the laboring classes. The annual loss of life from filth and bad ventilation is greater than the loss from death or wounds in modern wars. The exposed population is less susceptible to moral influences, and the effects of education are more temporary than with a healthy population. These circumstances tend to produce an adult population short-lived, reckless, and intemperate, and with habits of sensual gratification
Source: Flora Tristan, French socialist and women's rights advocate, her published journal, 1842.
Unless you have visited the manufacturing towns and seen the workers of Manchester, you cannot appreciate the physical and moral degradation of this class of the population. Most workers lack clothing, bed, furniure, fuel wholesome food--even potatoes! They spend from twelve to fourteen hours each day shut up in low-ceilinged rooms where with every breath of foul air they absorb fibers of cotton,wool or flas, or particles of copper, lead or iron. They live suspended between an insufficiency of food and an excess of strong drink; they are all wizened, sickly and emaciated, their bodies thin and frail, their limbs feeble, their complexions pale, their eyes dead. If you visit a factory, it is easy to see that the comfort and welfare of the workers have never entered the buildier's head.
O God! Can progress be bought only at the cost of men's lives?
Source: The Lancet, British medical journal, founded and edited by Thomas Wakley, medical reformer, 1843.