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Thomas Attwood, parliamentary record: hard times in 1833

July 7, 2011

Hansard records that MP Thomas Attwood said he was well aware that every one of the industrious working classes throughout the Kingdom had, for the last seven years, been obliged to submit to much larger and more severe reductions in their incomes:

He was well aware that the agricultural classes – the farmers – had been under the necessity, for years, of submitting to the annihilation of their whole income, and that they were only enabled to get anything from their land in cases where they were contented to break up their land and force crops year after year, to the ultimate impoverishment and ruin of their farms. 

He was well aware, also, that the manufacturing classes had for years lost all hope of obtaining any income from their invested capital, and that they had been living on the principal, which was gradually diminishing to nothing. 

He was also aware that all the working classes had, for the last seven years, existed, it might almost he said, without any income; and it was now high time that the unproductive classes should be called upon to share in the burthens which the general depression had thrown hitherto altogether upon the industrious and productive portion of the population. 

His proposal 

It was now also high time that the military, whom, he must be allowed to say, he honoured for the services they had rendered, should also he called upon to submit to the general reduction, and that the pay, which had been raised from 6d. to 13½d a day, in consequence of the rise in prices, should be again brought to its former level. He did not grudge the soldier his pay, but he must say, that it was not fair to continue the military at the full rate of the war pay, whilst the pay of the agricultural labourers throughout the kingdom had been reduced two-thirds of its former amount. 


This passage has some parallels with the current situation but reports indicate that the military rank and file today are receiving very low pay. 

What would Attwood have made of our benefits induced ‘poverty’ trap which make it more profitable for some to refuse work?

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