Written anonymously, signed only as a ‘friend’, this notice warns readers of the (perceived) dangers of political reform.
Its author(s) brandish reformers as immoral, irreligious and untrustworthy, whose attempts to organise public support for suffrage will only continue until they ensure their own political enfranchisement. Ultimately, the poster warns, ‘Want, Poverty, and Starvation, be the inevitable Consequences of this new System’. It ominously signs off, ‘Beware of them!’, in italicised, bold and enlarged type.
The poster is approximately A4 size. It was intended to be displayed on walls and to be seen by members of the public in towns and cities. Visibility is heightened by the different font types.
What is the significance of its date and place of publication?
This single sheet was printed in 1819, a year of great political unrest and social discontent. Produced in Newcastle, this was a city that was in relatively close proximity to Manchester, site of the 1819 Peterloo Massacre. It is likely that the poster was written and published by local inhabitants who wished to distance themselves from the Lancashire protestors.
That Newcastle is a northern city is significant. In the early 19th century north England combined a high, dense population with great numbers of industrial workers that yielded startlingly poor political representation when compared with south England. In short, northern industrial workers had greatest reason to protest - and were, inevitably, most feared by those in power. This poster reveals this anxiety, being ‘particularly’ addressed ‘to the pitmen, keelmen, manufacturers in Northumberland and Durham’. Pitmen worked in mines, keelmen on boats carrying coal.