The Framework Knitters Declaration 1812

This entry is part [part not set] of 15 in the series Reformers and Radicals
This entry is part [part not set] of 4 in the series Agricutural Revolution

The issuing of this declaration by the framework knitters was in response to the machines that as the workers saw it was bringing down wages and producing inferior quality goods. The framework knitters (also called stockingers), launched the Luddite protests in Nottingham in 1811, justifying their actions by referring to the 1663 Charter of the Company of Framework Knitters.

Through the Charter, the Company was established to protect the English stocking industry against the trade being moved to other countries for example, William Lee, the inventor of the knitting loom, had removed his own frames and artisans to France, although most returned to England after his death.

The charter served as a moderating hand amongst the Midland frameworkers, they, through the charter had a sense of right accorded to them by that document. So although the Midland frameworkers were at the heart of the Luddites, they were less revolutionary than their Yorkshire counterparts. The framework knitters, had a document which provided regulation for their trade and the addressing of grievances. It was this document that seemed to moderate their behaviour.

The codes and values embodied in the Charter were written in London which was the center of stocking manufacture in the C17th and early C18th. When the trade moved into the Midlands the charter went with them. The masters and assistants in the stocking trade were aware of the issues facing the entire community, national and local. Migration from one community to another was one way of sharing in the new industrial economy and the charter helped bind them all together.

The charter provided the ‘framework’ for the frameworkers. There were legal mechanisms to ensure quality of work. There were also mechanisms for prosecuting those selling substandard goods or undercutting prices and for licensing apprentices. Most importantly the charter was used to justify the violent breaking of the stocking frames which were having the effect of driving down wages and producing inferior goods.

The purpose of the declaration.

Although little or no frame breaking seems to have taken place in Nottinghamshire in 1811, the Luddites who wrote the declaration seem to believe the power of the charter to be so great that it could nullify even an Act of Parliament, that is the act that made frame breaking a felony.

Whereas by the charter granted by our late Sovereign Lord Charles the Second by the Grace of God King of Great Britain France and Ireland, the Framework knitters are empowered to break and destroy all Frames and Engines that fabricate Articles in a fraudulent and deceitful manner and to destroy all Framework knitters Goods whatsoever that are so made And Whereas a number of deceitful unprincipled and intriguing persons did attain an Act to be passed in the Twenty Eighth Year of our present Sovereign Lord George the Third whereby it was enacted that persons entering by force into any House Shop or Place to break or destroy Frames should be adjudged guilty of Felony And as we are fully convinced that such Act was obtained in the most fraudulent interested and Electioneering manner And that the Honorable the Parliament of Great Britain was deceived the motives and intentions of the persons who obtained such Act We therefore the Framework knitters do hereby declare the aforesaid Act to be Null and Void to all intents and purposes whatsoever As by the passing of this Act villainous and imposing persons are enabled to make fraudulent and deceitful manufactures to the discredit and utter ruin of our Trade. And Whereas we declare that the aforementioned charter is as much in force as though no such Act had been passed. And We do hereby declare to all Hosiers Lace Manufacturers and proprietors of Frames that We will break and destroy all manner of Frames whatsoever that make the following spurious Articles and all Frames whatsoever that do not pay the regular prices heretofore agreed to the Masters and Workmen – All point Net Frames making single press, and Frames not working by the rack and rent and not paying the price regulated in 1810 – Warp Frames working single Yarn or two coarse hole – not working by the rack, not paying the rent and prices regulated in 1809. Whereas all plain Silk Frames not making Work according to the Gage – Frames not marking the Work according to quality Whereas all Frames of whatsoever description the Workmen of whom are not paid in the Corrent Coin of the Realm will invariably be destroyed. Whereas it hath been represented to the Framework knitters that Gangs of banditti have infested various parts of the Country under the pretence of being employed in breaking of Frames and hath committed divers Robberies upon our Friends and Neighbours I do hereby offer a reward of one thousand pounds to any person that will give any Information at my Office. I have two thousand Pounds as secret money any person that will give any Information of those villainous and false rumours of the Frame Breakers (any one that will come forward may depend upon the greatest Secresy and the same reward.

Given under my hand this 1st day of January 1812.
God protect the Trade. Ned Lud’s Office
Sherwood Forest.

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