86. [Add. Ms. 27819, ff. 32-5]
This was the first of a series of proceedings of a public kind taken by the
working people in their own name, and emanating from a formal body
which led to matters of very extensive and serious importance, and has in
many cases proved disastrous mainly from want of patient perseverance.
The false notions of their leaders, and the ready acquiescence of the too
credulous people, faults from which it was not possible for the working
people to be free from, any more than those are who are better off in the
world, and better educated, and having much more leisure than men who
are compelled to work twelve hours a day for a subsistence. These facets
may indeed be said to pervade every class and are amongst the greatest
impediments to improvement.
It will have been seen that there was great difficulty in getting up the
Working Mens Association, that it required much time perseverance care
and temper, and it may be fairly inferred that few men could have gone on
with it as Dr Black did, and still fewer who could have established it as he
did. The circumstances are curious in themselves and serve to shew how
very difficult it is where there is no sinister interest in any of the parties to
promote and consequently no disposition to pander to the mistaken notions
of the people to induce them to become active in forming and conducting
societies calculated to promote their own well being, the good to be done
being remote. To shew this and to satisfy the readers that this was not a
wild speculation got up to promote the personal advantage or to gratify the
love of distinction of some silly person are amongst the reasons why this
account, which is only a sketch has been written.
The plan of proceeding did not please many whose want of knowledge
of the actual condition and notions of the disappointed disorganized
working people, led them to anticipate proceedings by large bodies of
them, some therefore who had taken part in the previous proceedings,
abandoned the association, quarrelled with its members and in their
eagerness to become notorious—popular—as they believed made an effort
to form an association more conformable with their own notions.
At the head of these were Mr Feargus O Connor and Augustus Hardin
Feargus O Connor was the son of Roger O Connor the brother of
Arthur O Connor who had been an exile in the United States of America
ever since the Irish Rebellion in 1798. Feargus O Connor became a member
of the House of Commons after the passing of the Reform Bills in 1832,
and since he has ceased to be a member of Parliament he has taken whatever means he could to lead and mislead the working people. His associate
Beaumont was a very extraordinary man, his excentricities [sic] sometimes
bordered upon insanity, but he meant well to the working people at all
times, even when his actions were most likely to be injurious to them. He
would have served them had he known how but the abberrations [sic] of
his intellect led him to adopt measures which while they injured him in his
pecuniary concerns were producing consequences to them directly the
reverse of his intentions.
The unfortunate state of Mr Beaumont and the ignorant self-willed
perseverance of Mr O Connor were great impediments to the progress of
the working people in the right way and the consequences of the exertions
of these two men were the disunion and holding back of very considerable
numbers of working people.
The first endeavour of O Connor and Beaumont was to prevent the
publication of the Address of the working mens Association. Failing in this
they next endeavoured by causing dissention among the members of the
association to break it up, and failing to accomplish this, by direct means,
they hoped to accomplish it by indirect means, they attempted to establish
an 'Universal Suffrage Club', in the expectation that they should be able to
induce them to become members of it.
Their proposition went to this, that the men who composed the club,
instead of conducting their own affairs, should submit to have them
ordered by O Connor and Beaumont, to this the working men would not
consent, the society they had formed being an experiment for the purpose
of ascertaining how far the men of their own class were able and willing to
conduct their own affairs without leaders from any other rank in society.
Failing in this project, they set another on foot and on the 10 of June
they published a paper headed thus.
'At a General Meeting of the Central Committee of the Metropolitan
Radical Unions (there were no such unions in existence F.P.) held at the
True Sun Office on Friday the 10 June 1836 for the purpose of forming a
Working Mans Club, it was resolved,—unanimously that the following
prospectus of the Club be published in the True Sun—Radical—and Unstamped Newspapers.'
This was followed by another address dated the 17 June.
These addresses were both signed
Feargus O'Connor Treasurer John Russell
On the 24 June there was another pretended meeting of the Central
Committee for forming a Working Mans Club, and an address was voted,
this was followed by another to the Radical Reformers of Manchester from
the pretended Universal Suffrage Club. The entrance to this Club was, it
said, 20/- to be paid quarterly, and it was announced, 'That in consequence
of representations being made by several bodies of working men of the
high rate of entrance and subscription which would exclude them from
becoming members of the Club. It was resolved to meet the wishes of the
working men the entrance should be 2/6 and the annual subscription 10/payable quarterly.'
Neither of these associations were established.