CHARTIST MEETING AT COALBROOK VALE.
(From a Correspondent.)
(see the original Monmouthshire Merlin edition of this translation)
Transcript from Monmouthshire Merlin by Ray Stroud
Some excitement had been for a few days raised amongst the Iron Works bordering upon the counties of Monmouth and Brecon, by a report that a large Chartist meeting would be held at Nantyglo or Coalbrook Vale, on the 1st of July, at which Mr. Frost, and one of the other great guns of the day, were to preside. Early in the day great crowds of strangers began to crowd in from Merthyr, Sirhowy, Pontypool, and Blackwood, and were observed to hang about Brynmawr, Nantyglo, and Coalbrook Vale.
At about 12 o'clock, a party were seen; with a cart in front, containing two harpers, flags and banners accompanying them; the people, men and women, walking five abreast, on their way from Coalbrook Vale to Brynmawr; and amidst, or almost immediately preceding them, a curious looking object, seemingly unnoticed, or uncared for, but by a party of masons and carpenters, who walked with it, on a board covered with shavings, raised on their shoulders. On a nearer approach it proved to be in unfortunate man who had just fallen off an engine-house, at Blaina, and was being carried home by his companions; as they thought, dying.
The procession had, as nearly as could be observed, about ten or twelve flags and banners, three-fourths of which were calico: the banners, all-the flags, chiefly so.
Small white flag - " The People's Charter."
Great calico banner, about two feet square; on a deal frame.
“The Queen and Charter — Peace, Law, Order."
Tri-coloured silk flags.
Great white calico banner, with letters of red paper, or calico, stuck or sewed on. — We have forgotten the inscription, but this really was a most ludicrous thing. It was, perhaps, to show that the Chartists were not over proud.]
Plain white silk flag, with red calico borders.
Great white calico banner, as above, but rather better in appearance, “Long live the People." — Motto, “Order."
Flag, three or four colours, “Peace, Law, Order—Union is Strength."
Green calico banner, about two feet square, Pontypool Workingmen's Association, established 3rd July, 1837."
Large green calico banner, "Universal suffrage, Annual Parliaments, Vote by Ballot, no Property Qualification, Payment of Members."
Banner, “Peace, Truth, Justice."
About half-past three o'clock in the afternoon; they returned in the same manner as they went up, though greatly augmented in their numbers, from Brynmawr, to hold their meeting at Coal- brook Vale; when, alas! a new trial awaited them. On passing the same identical spot, viz., the Nantyglo Furnaces, where the poor fellow had been carried by in the morning, but which we thought was treated by them equally cavalierly. This was no less than a funeral going the same way with themselves, and being in the midst them, they were obliged to file off on each side to allow it to pass through, and go before them —
Not a cheer was heard amidst that throng,
But their hearts with fear were quaking;
For in front a corpse was borne along;
An omen bad!
Its followers sad;
With downcast looks, the leading part of a motley procession making. However, they got safe and sound to their rendezvous at Coal brook Vale, where the meeting and speechifying really and truly began.
The meeting, at this time, which was its fullest, might have contained between 6,000 and 7,000 people, but though we noticed the procession walking, and examined the faces of every person, and now also saw them fairly encamped, we found, to our satisfaction, that they were all – all strangers. We had observed in the procession, while passing, about one dozen persons that we knew, and we could confidently assert that there were not two hundred of the inhabitants assembled.
What was our disappointment when, instead of seeing on the platform (if platform it was) a few Frosts, Vincents, &c., and half-a-dozen 'cute Brummagem coves, we only saw a sorry watchmaker, a ranting preacher, and two or three shabby-looking fellows we had never seen before, or wished to see again.
An elderly gentleman (?) in spectacles, was called to the chair, who, after carefully adjusting them, that he might see his way clearly, explained that it was a lawful and constitutional meeting and met with his full concurrence.
To our utter astonishment, our religious feelings were shocked by the proceedings commencing with prayer, but as we are unable to understand the Welsh 1anguage, we could neither appreciate or form a report on it.
Three or four Welsh speeches, delivered by different persons (strangers to us) followed, but their beauties were equally lost upon us; and we now arrive at the only part that we could comprehend, viz., the English speech of Mr. Jones, of Pontypool. He was there he said to explain the Charter; he went through the different stages of Vote by Ballot, Universal Suffrage, Annual Parliaments, No Property Qualification, and Payment of Members, by the summing up of which he found out that when all was accomplished to his entire satisfaction, England would be the glory and admiration of the world. — The Merlin newspaper seemed to have excited his peculiar indignation, he referred to the meeting in Duke's Town, and said that he had lately found out that the Merlin wore spectacles, which he supposed were of a diminishing power, as the number of that meeting was reduced by him seven times, or, in other words, of one-seventh of its reality.
Meanwhile the worthy chairman was most industriously peering in all directions through his own gig lamps, and, as they were no doubt of a magnifying power, he probably prompted Mr: Jones, who informed us that he thought this meeting consisted of twenty thousand persons, but he should not lie surprised if the Merlin reported it at two thousand. He denied the current opinion that the Chartists were dying a natural death, particularly when he addressed such a multitude; but he told them that though they were sturdy men, they were but slaves for all that, and, therefore, recommended them not to cheer, as it ill became slaves to exult. His recommendation was partially followed throughout, sometimes even painfully so.
The ministers and taxes came in for a lashing; —the government were but the servants of the people: and, of all others, the Whig government were the most odious. Beer, drank the poor, he said paid a tax of 200 per cent.; inferior wines and spirits, consumed by the middle classes, 166; while claret, and such like, that the gentlemen and nobility drank, paid only 35; thereby showing a difference of 165 per cent on the rich and the poor man's drink. Sugar, tobacco, and cigars, came in for an equally correct statement, which he wound up with a quotation from Scripture, only that he made use of a camel a instead of a needle's eye. Here, as indeed in many other parts of his address, we were surprised to see blasphemy and sanctified impiety so patiently listened to. We only hope his hearers were not of the same opinion as himself.
Universal Suffrage and Annual Parliaments were again a theme of discourse.
He next disclaimed all connexion with the former; said he had nothing to do with land or property, but gave a regular good piece of flattery to the iron-masters, and the workmen employed by them. Manufactures, property, and industry were what he wished to see protected. The bishops and clergy now came in for their share, and as Sam Weller might say, “If he didn’t give 'em a licking it's a pity." Church property and tithes were divided into three portions; one for the support of the clergy; one for the repairs of the church; and the remaining one for the poor. Of the first, he had no doubt; of the second, where were they ? and for the third, what man there could say he had received them ? He saw clearly all went to the clergy. Although he had a few minutes before (unintentionally we suppose) upset the farmers, he now took their part in tithes and rates; but the charges on mineral property were more especially objects of his hostility.
Sir Digby Mackworth had unfortunately come under his displeasure; he dubbed him cither a whig or a rogue, but a rogue certainly; but his friend, Summers Harford, he held up as a pattern, not only as a gentleman and an ironmaster, but as a man, being perfection in every respect. We were next much enlightened about workhouses: at a union workhouse in Some-where-shire, two boys were compelled to run away for harsh treatment, which, when inquired into, was found to be the feeding them with nothing but oat porridge, so thin that it run through them, without affording any nourishment, and to remedy which pounded resin was mixed to give it consistency.
We were now beginning to get tired, for the heat was oppressive, and what with the pushing and squeezing, we were several times nearly off our legs but we had yet much to undergo Mr. Vincent's wrongs and imprisonment were brought forward, and a subscription of 1d. a piece was proposed for him.
He said he did not know if there was a reporter there, but any one was at liberty to take down his words. He gave a humorous description of Lord Broughams' measure, the Beer Bill, and gravely informed us that the Lords and Bishops talked over it till they were tired, and then gave it up, because they found out it was dinner time, particularly because they wanted to go to dinner. What a pity it was he did not at once say it was because they wanted to sit down and enjoy a pot!
The Archbishop of Canterbury, and the clergy, generally, now came in for a second edition. Mr. Attwood's generosity and support of the Chartist cause were warmly applauded, and at length, to our great satisfaction, he concluded.
Another Welsh speech followed: it is needless to say we did not understand it.
At the conclusion a man jumped up and said, that the Chartists now in Monmouth and other gaols, were prisoners not in their own but the people's cause. The main chance was not forgotten penny tracts were sold, which were bought up greedily and the people dispersed about 7 o'clock peaceably.
As we said before, we suppose between six and seven thousand persons were assembled; possibly, about two hundred being inhabitants of the place.