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.
- Full title:
- To the whole population of England, but more particularly to the pitmen, keelmen, & manufacturers in Northumberland and Durham. Friends & fellow subjects, allow me to offer the following considerations to your perusal [etc.]
- estimated 1819, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne
- Handbill / Ephemera
- Usage terms
- Public Domain
- Held by
- British Library
- Article by:
- Ruth Mather
- Romanticism, Power and politics
In August 1819 dozens of peaceful protestors were killed and hundreds injured at what became known as the Peterloo Massacre. Ruth Mather examines the origins, response and aftermath of this key early 19th century political event.
- Article by:
- John Mullan
- The novel 1832–1880, Power and politics
Middlemarch is set in the period leading up to the 1832 Reform Act. Professor John Mullan explores how George Eliot uses the novel to examine different kinds of reform and progress: political, scientific and social.