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Richard Oastler's opposition to the Poor Law Amendment Act

Richard Oastler was born in 1789, the son of a Leeds clothier. He became the land steward for an estate at Fixby near Huddersfield in the West Riding of Yorkshire and was a leading campaigner in the Ten Hours movement for the reduction of working hours in factories. Oastler was a paternalistic Evangelical and a Tory radical. After the passing of the 1833 Factory Act, he turned his attention to the campaign against the 1834 Poor Law Amendment Act. In 1838 he was dismissed by his employer and later served a prison sentence for debt. He wrote prolifically on 'Yorkshire Slavery' as part of the Ten-Hour Campaign and produced many pieces opposing the Poor Law Amendment Act, of which the following are some examples.

What, Sir, is the principle of the New Poor Law? The condition imposed upon Englishmen by the accursed law is, that man shall give up his liberty to save his life. That, before he shall eat a piece of bread he shall go to prison, under circumstances which I shall speak of hereafter, in prison he shall enjoy his right to live, but it shall be at the expense of liberty, without which life itself becomes a burden.

The Rights of the Poor to Liberty and Life

Christian Reader

Be not alarmed at the sound of the title. I can not bless that, which GOD and NATURE CURSE. The Bible being true, the Poor Law Amendment Act is false! The Bible containing the will of God, - this accursed Act of Parliament embodies the will of Lucifer. It is the Sceptre of Belial, establishing its sway in the Land of Bibles!! DAMNATION, ETERNAL DAMNATION to the accursed Fiend!!

Damnation, Eternal Damnation (1837), frontispiece

The full text of the Book of Murder can be found here

Poor Relief before 1834
The 1832 Poor Law Commission


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Last modified 26 October, 2013

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