Crude Thoughts

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The Letters of Robert Bloomfield and His Circle, Edited By Tim Fulford and Lynda Pratt
TEI

Crude Thoughts by George Bloomfield* 

When the famous Cobbetcame first from America Driven out by The Government as A Man who could not Live even under A popular Government, he started as a pitite  [1]  but pit did not give him much Countenance, finding he could not get on in this way Cobbet took to his old way of abuse,  [2]  in which he is excelled by none, I at that time found out what his object is, If any party would give him A Lucrative job we should have heard no more of Cobbet, Thus Jack Wilkes when he acquired the Chamberlainship of the City of London, we heard no more of his Liberty &c  [3]  A good job would have quieted Cobbet in the Same way

But what Astonish me most is his impudence !!— he now stand forward as a Champion of the people,  [4]  though it is notorious to Every body he has allways on all occasions joind his brother Farmers in all their allarms of Famine &c though it is self evident there never was a real Scarcity at no time Last war, there never was a time but if A man had not Money to give the Farmers their price but he might have had thousands of Loads of Corn !!  [5]  The great man at Holkham  [6]  is just such another has encouraged Corn bills Maschenery &c or what ever had a tendency to Distress the poor, But Cobbet has at Last thrown of the Mask,  [7]  and steped forward as A manager of the great Drama, that is to be play’d, (ie) A compleat revolution of property, he evidently wish to be arbitrator and no doubt would take care of himself

I well rem[em]ber when Cobbet was sent to Newgate for abusing the Government for having Supported the Officers against the rioters at Ely,  [8]  My Friend Mr James Graystone  [9]  the Cutler was woefully wrath he sent me the Regester requesting my oppinion &c Now it happend a few Months previous to this Cobbet had boldly said that the scarity was real, that there was not Corn Enough to last till Harvest he Was quite sure flower would be 10 Shillings pr Stone &c  [10]  This had soured my mind, and never was I better pleasd in my Life then when I found the Scoundrel was got into Newgate !! I wrote a few Lines which I called Extempore  [11]  and with them sent a note expressive of my outragious joy at Cobbets being Safe in Coop &c when next I Met Mr G he roasted me unmercifully as being an Old Whig more odious far to the Radicals then the Torys themselves,  [12]  some times he Stile me Whig Sometimes Tory As he is A staunch Radical he hate Whigs and Torys, this makes me Very Glad that Cobbet at the Norfolk Meeting  [13]  opened to full View the Designs of the Radicals and thus it is now Clear who are Whigs and Torys, And who are Revolutionists

But what Strikes me amid all this party Hubbub not A Single Word has been said as to the real cause of the Distresses of the Country, no one said A Single Sillable about the true case of our distresses The population of Ireland is Trebled of course labour fail But Doubtless Ireland had great plenty of Corn lock’d up by the Laws of property, A hungry population was none the better for that, who had no Employment and of Course no Money to buy, thus they starv’d to Death: The Cry for More Work is the cry for More food: And here young men have no employmen of course no Money to buy, and therefore the cheapness of provisions is no blessing to them they must poach or starve to Death, And it is rumourd Soldiers will be employd to guard the Game, and I dread the Consequence

But there is A Revend Gentleman the first Letter of whose Name is George Glover who has made a Most Miraculous Discovery, he has found out that if The Irish had their Claims it would Make all right in Ireland!!  [14]  as if toloration would give employment to the overgrown population !! —

But it is no Laughable Matter to see a Devine a follower of the Meek and Lowly Nazerene roaring in a publick Meeting Endeavouring to out mouth such a Villain as Billy Cobbett  [15] 

Geo. Bloomfield

Well Stt Bury Stt Emds

Jany 18th 1823

* MS: private collection. This document should be compared with George’s 1822 poem. Friendly Hints Affectionately Addressed, by an Old Man to the Labouring Poor of Suffolk and Norfolk. Both are conservative responses to the protests by agricultural labourers that swept across Suffolk and Norfolk in 1821, 1822 and 1823. The causes were poverty and scarcity; the protesters threatened farmers and burned barns and ricks. BACK

[1] William Cobbett (1763–1835), the journalist and campaigner, returned to Britain from America in 1800 and started The Porcupine, a paper supporting the repressive policies of William Pitt (1759–1806), Prime Minister 1783–1801. BACK

[2] When in America, Cobbett had been convicted of libelling Benjamin Rush (1746–1813). By 1804 he was favouring radical politicians in his journal The Political Register and attacking Pitt, who again became Prime Minister in May of that year. BACK

[3] John Wilkes (1725–97), the campaigner for liberty of the press and reform of parliament. Wilkes was made a sheriff of the City of London in 1770 and Lord Mayor in 1774; his credentials as a radical ‘friend of the people’ were damaged in 1780 during the Gordon Riots, when he ordered troops to fire on a mob attacking the Bank of England. BACK

[4] Having become a freeholder in the county, Cobbett addressed the Norfolk meeting on 3 January 1823 and carried a motion that it should petition parliament for measures to relieve rural poverty. See note 36 below. In his Political Register, 45 (January-March 1823) he repeatedly attacked the Norfolk farmers and landowners for profiteering during the shortage at the labourers’ expense. On 8 February he also launched a Norfolk newspaper to further the reformist campaign; it ran for thirteen issues. BACK

[5] Cobbett had, in his 1816 Address to the Journeyman and Labourers of England, urged the discontented rural poor to campaign for a reform of parliament rather than protest about high corn prices, which he then attributed to bad harvests rather than to the greed of farmers and landowners. Cobbett farmed at Botley, Hampshire, from 1805–20. BACK

[6] Thomas William Coke (1754–1842), the landowner and agricultural reformer of Holkham Hall, Norfolk. While a critic of government measures against peaceful protest, and an advocate of parliamentary reform, Coke was also a defender of farmers’ and landowners’ incomes, opposing taxes on grain and favouring laws designed to prevent the importation of cheap foreign corn. BACK

[7] That is, by 1823 Cobbett was inciting the labouring poor to protest by attacking the farmers and landowners as profiteers in a time of bad harvests whereas in 1816 he had defended them from this charge. BACK

[8] In 1810 Cobbett was found guilty of treasonous libel and gaoled in Newgate after campaigning in The Political Register against the flogging at Ely of local militiamen who had protested about their officers’ corruption. BACK

[9] A James Grayston was listed in Pigot’s Directory of Suffolk for 1823–24 as being a haberdasher in Bury St Edmunds. BACK

[10] In 1809 Cobbett had alerted readers of The Political Register to the way in which paper credit allowed farmers and landowners, by deferring payment of their debts, to hoard grain until its price rose. By spring 1810, however, he was attributing the current high price of food to a scarcity caused by poor harvest. See The Political Register, 16 (1809), 747–48 and 17 (June 1810), 935–36. BACK

[11] Untraced. An Elizabeth Graystone was a china and glass dealer in George’s town, Bury St Edmunds, in 1823–24, while a ‘J. Grayston’ was listed as a haberdasher. Pigot’s Suffolk Directory. BACK

[12] Old Whigs failed to make common cause with radical Whigs against Tory government, although sharing their desire for a reform of parliament. The causes of this failure were the Old Whigs’ suspicion of popular, extra-parliamentary campaigning and protest. BACK

[13] Having become a freeholder in the county, Cobbett addressed the Norfolk meeting on 3 January 1823; his proposal that it should petition parliament for a reform of parliament was carried. The controversial petition, regarded in the Commons as unprecedented in its frankness, set a radical agenda on behalf of the starving labourers. It requested parliament ‘1. To suspend, by law, for one year, all distraints for rent, and to cause distraints to be set aside where they have been begun. 2. To suspend all process for tithes, for the same period. 3. To suspend, for the same period, all processes arising out of mortgage, bond, annuity, or other contract affecting house or land. 4. To repeal the whole of the tax on malt, hops, leather, soap, and candles. These measures, so analogous to others, taken by your honourable House under circumstances far less imperious; these measures, so easily adopted, so free from the possibility of inflicting wrong, pad, at the same time, so necessary to relieve your petitioners from the daily alarm in which they live, so necessary to afford, them a hope of escaping from the pains and disgrace of the lowest pauperism and beggary; to believe that these measures, measures of bare protection from further wrong and ruin; to believe that these will be refused to your suffering petitioners, would be, to suppose the existence of that callousness of heart which your petitioners are far indeed from imputing to your honourable House’. See Hansard, House of Commons Debates, 24 April 1823, vol. VIII, cc1253–60. BACK

[14] In his Remarks on the Bishop of Peterborough’s Comparative View of the Churches of England and Rome (1821), George Glover (1778–1862) had argued that the removal of laws restricting the roles Catholics could play in society (Catholic emancipation), would benefit Ireland, afflicted as it was by disaffection from the Protestant parliament in London by which it was governed. Glover was Rector of South Repps, Norfolk and Archdeacon of Sudbury, Suffolk. According to Jeremiah Finch Smith, The Admission Register of the Manchester School (Manchester, 1868), p. 197, Glover was no friend to protesting agricultural labourers: he was ‘an active magistrate’ and signally distinguished himself’. ‘In the riots which prevailed in the agricultural districts on the first introduction of machinery for threshing corn, his own neighbours participated. Hearing that a mob was on its way to North Walsham, he mounted his horse, overtook the rioters upon the road, and, riding into the midst of them, with his own hand captured the ringleader, who was secured, and taken to North Walsham, and so dispersed the mob’. BACK

[15] Presumably Glover had been one of those recorded as simultaneously addressing the crowded Norfolk county meeting of 3 January 1823. BACK

Published @ RC

September 2009