The structure of rural employment was rotten to the core. In reality it was against the interest of the majority of the population, but a large-scale rebellion was necessary to sweep away this whole corruption. Whatever the reason might be, it is not surprising that discontent and resentment of the poor grew, waiting only for an occasion to burst into open. This occasion came in After the relatively good years of early and middle s, the exceptionally harsh winter of brought considerable deterioration. In many places the worsening of the labourers' situation coincided with the ratepayers' efforts to diminish the poor rates.
However, apart from the obvious exception of East Anglia, where everything indicated an explosive situation, the contemporary observer could hardly have prognosticated a general outbreak of discontent, as virtually nothing heralded it. Nevertheless, all the immediate causes of setting off the situation were present: "We can sum up the causes of the outbreak of as follows.
The condition of the southern labourer was such that he required only some special stimulus - admittedly it would probably have to be exceptionally powerful to overcome his demoralised passivity - to produce a very widespread movement. The economic conditions of produced a situation which made his already bad situation worse, and almost certainly increased both rural unemployment, the attempts to diminish in some way or another the financial burden of poor relief on the rate-payers, the discontent of farmers and all those who depended on agriculture. The combined effect of continental revolution and British political crises produced an atmosphere of expectation, of tension, of hope and potential action.
They did not provide the actual spark. In North and East Kent it may have been Irish labourers and threshing machines, in the Weald the cut in poor relief, elsewhere in the country other local factors may have revived action here and there in those occasional villages where, for one reason or other, a tradition of resistance and action survived. The details are irrelevant.
The rioting counties were, without doubt, the poorer ones, the "Swing" movement mainly affected the region of cereal farming South and East, where wages were especially low, 9s.
The revolt broke out totally unexpectedly near Canterbury in Kent on 29 August , where labourers broke into the farm of an especially unpopular tenant, and they smashed his threshing-machines and fired the ricks. This was the actual spark that set off the situation, and the example was rapidly followed everywhere in the next three months in other counties too.
The movement extended quickly in East Anglia, the Midlands and in the Southern counties. The main target of the rioters was the machinery that made their work superfluous, but arson was also common, corn ricks were burned and other property was destroyed.
Rebels also demanded higher wages, and money extortion from farmers was frequent too. The movement also took the forms of threatening letters, wages meeting, attacks on justices and overseers, riotous assemblies in order to enforce a reduction of tithes and rents.
- The Way of THE KINGS MEN.
- How To Get Back Up Every Single Time Youre Knocked Down (The Sub 4 Minute Extra Mile Book 12).
- The Swing Riots | The Age of Revolution,.
- Article Metrics!
In two cases even workhouses were attacked and sometimes the rioters demolished iron foundries which manufactured threshing machines. William Cobbett described the situation as follows: "The working people in almost all, if not all of the counties of England, are in a state of commotion; all across the South, from Kent to Cornwall, and from Sussex to Lincolnshire, the commotion extends. It began by the labourers in Kent entering the barns of great farmers, and breaking their threshing machines; The labourers of England see, at any rate, that the threshing machines rob them of the wages they ought to receive.
They therefore began by demolishing these machines. This was a crime; the magistrates and jailors were ready with punishments; soldiers, well fed and well clothed out of taxes, were ready to shoot or cut down the offenders. Unable to resist these united forces, the labourers resorted to the use of fire, secretly put to the barns and stacks of those who had the machines, or whom they deemed the causes of their poverty and misery.
(PDF) Captain Swing in Sussex and Kent part 1 | Helena Wojtczak - inkananrene.ga
The mischief and the alarm they caused by these means go beyond all calculation. The events spread quickly, and the pattern was the same everywhere: a band of 20 to 50 men broke into the barns, destroyed the threshing machines they found, and then they went on to the next village. They never spent much time at one place, in most places disturbances did not last for more than a few days. At some villages the mere news of machine breaking was enough for local people to follow the example.
Invariably the soldiers arrived at the riots after they had died down, but where they met the rioters they used force to stop them. Many churches and farms within the area were damaged by the rioters, and quite a few landowners were obliged to give in to the rioters demands. To illustrate the problems a labourer from Henfield showed his itemised expenses and income. His food and rent came to 14 shillings and one and a halfpenny about The cost of clothing, footware and heating added on meant that he was getting deeper in debt with no way out.
Outcome The riots continued sporadically until when those arrested were sent for trial. In East Sussex 9 men were sentenced to execution, to be transported to the colonies mostly for arson, and were imprisoned for varying periods. They were called the Swing riots after the eponymous Captain Swing.
The threatening letters were sent to farmers and landowners which demanded that wages increase and which often told farmers to desist in their employment of threshing machines. Landowners and farmers also had their farm buildings and hayricks set alight. The blaze began in the southeastern part of Kent County, where the insurgents demolished several machines that were used for threshing and even threatened the farm owners.
The revolt eventually reached Lincolnshire, Yorkshire, and Nottinghamshire, making it one of the biggest popular uprisings since the Peasant Revolt of The mode of action of the rebel workers was similar. Threat letters, which were usually signed by the leader of the uprising, Captain Swing, would be delivered to magistrates, large landowners, parish clerics, and local Poor law enforcement officials. These letters generally demanded increased wages, a reduction of the tithe, and the abolition of the threshing machines by the proprietors themselves, failing which the workers threatened to do so.
Captain Swing in Sussex and Kent Rural Rebellion in 1830 by Matthews Mike
If the warnings were ignored, the workers would organize themselves in groups of hundreds of and openly threaten the landowners with reprisals if they did not respond to their grievances. The retaliation was followed by the destruction of agricultural machinery, workhouses, and granaries for tithing, and then insurgents dispersed or went to nearby villages. The struggle against tithing and threshers was also supported by many magistrates and landowners who opposed little resistance to the destruction of thousands of agricultural machines throughout the country.
However, the crackdown ordered by the government and implemented by Home Secretary Lord Melbourne was harsh. Local magistrates, accused by the government of being soft, were replaced by a special committee that consisted of three judges charged with bringing to justice those who took part in the revolt in the districts of Buckinghamshire, Berkshire, Wiltshire, Hampshire, and Dorset. The promises sometimes extorted on rising wages and the tithe reduction was not always honoured. Numerous arrests took place and the trials resulted in 19 hangings and convictions in Australia.
Swing riots reinforced the social and political malaise in England in the s. It had a great influence on the policies that were pursued by the successive Whig governments. This policy led to the New Poor Law of The New Poor Law made the living conditions of the poor even worse and more painful by putting an end to charity in gifts and cash.
This was to avoid the development of a mentality that made people be needy and think that they need to be helped.
The importance to be given to swinging riots in the beginnings of the class struggle in England is still debated by contemporary historians. School History is a growing library of premium quality history worksheets, teaching resources and online history courses for use in the classroom. We pride ourselves on being a safe website for both teachers and students. Skip to primary navigation Skip to main content Skip to footer.
Related CAPTAIN SWING in Sussex and Kent: Rural Rebellion in 1830
Copyright 2019 - All Right Reserved