Hypocritical Cant, Politics, Satire, Social Justice, Transported

Of Triumphant Emancipation From Waged Slavery!

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Of all the righteous deeds that ever took place beneath the sun this was the best, of all the pleasures that from justice should ever transpire this was the most enduring.  To see now the gates to Newgate Prison opening slowly and the prisoners both dazed and bemused stumbling forth. T’is a clear, cold, day my friends and one as will be etched in the memories of those who reluctantly did the liberating for some time to come. To have made reparations for a great social wrong and to have been made to do it, for fear of blossoming scandal! Why, even the bells of St Sepulchre ring out exultant over this triumph!

Look there my brothers and sisters look there! T’is the Union Rep! Valiant yet shrewd, heroic and yet longsuffering! Borne away upon the bowed shoulders of the silk mill workers, they whose reputations once smeared and sunk in calumny, now stand vindicated. An open cart stands a’fore the prison gates and as they place him down in it there he stands, waving his arms aloft and waiting for silence. All necks are stretched eagerly in his direction, all starved faces upturned. So many earnest faces, so many hope filled gazes from those who have braved the workhouse and prison for this victory.

“My Brothers and sisters! I stand before you as a man humbled by your sacrifices! For whilst I have slept comfortably upon a prison bed, many amongst you have braved the charity of Mr Ethelbert-Smythe and his workhouse!”.

Hearing the muttered curses and surveying the scarce hidden rage of the workers the Union Rep smiles inwardly, he continues “Ours has been a great sacrifice, family members transported to the colonies ne’er to be seen again if our masters had their way!”. Here and there loud sobs and howls of rage may be heard and still the Union Rep speaks on,”We have lost much my brothers and sisters, so much and yet in the end, they as called themselves our masters were forced to defeat! The eight hour day is ours my friends! It is ours and with it decent pay!”

“How much?” cries first one soul then another, for though word has reached them all, they will not believe it until he as has led them says it is so.

“Five shillings a piece for every adult, two shillings for every child”. Silence and something worst than silence, a thousand faces struggling betwixt faith and disbelief, five shillings? Five? They glance at each other, they look up at the stolid face of a man who has never yet lied to or misled them. Five shillings? Can it be true? After all this hardship and heartache? To return to work with improved wages and working conditions? Without further transportations or hangings? Can it be so? The adults struggle with this good news, but the children roar exultantly,“Hurrah for the Union Rep! Hurrah Hurrah for the Union Rep!”. And soon their cheers are joined by their mothers and fathers, their aunts and uncles, their brothers and sisters and grandparents, in short all the vast, grimy forest of indigent poor bearing London aloft on its shoulders. “Hurrah for the Union Rep!” the cart makes its way through the crowds that throng it and is soon lost amongst them as it is driven back to that place from whence it came,St Giles.

“Can it be true? Are they indeed freed? It seems but a dream! Would that my brother were here to enjoy this sight!”

Wendy Woodbine tilts her beribboned bonnet at the cart as it passes her, “T’is certainly strange” remarks the young man with her, tilting his hat with one hand, whilst the other, gloved in grey leather, rests upon an elegantly carved cane, “One would think he was royalty!”

Not since the funeral of that venerable fireman Master Braidwood, have such crowds lined the streets and thronged the byways of London. Not since the hanging of Mother Birthe-Rugge has there been such high spirits and good humour. See there calmly marching the chimney sweeps, red scarves tied around their necks, their scarlet banners held aloft for all to see. The music hall entertainers trail behind them, armed with musical insturments and waving their bowler hats in the air, whilst the ladies twirl their skirts and dance to the tune ‘Oh Susannah!’.

All the traders along the way have shut up shop, and now they also line the streets cheering and waving their caps in the air,”Hurrah for the silk mill workers, hurrah, hurrah and down with the rich!”. Hurrah and down with the rich! What a cry to freeze the heart and chill the bones of the aristocracy were it to be taken seriously! But only a few of its members are present and they are wholly disinclined to attend to the brayings of an impoverished mob. See there that glossy black carriage with the Westminster Palace coat of arms emblazoned upon it. But pray who is seated within it? None other than the Prime Minister and Palmerston!

“Is all in order?” asks the Prime Minister, Lord Palmerston nods,

”Yes, but there were complications”

“What complications? How hard can it be to make off with a carpet bag?! Don’t tell me its still here! Lord Grid-Iron cannot still be in England!”

“A robbery was attempted by American secessionists and foiled by the Bow Street Police”

“By whom?!” The Prime Minister looks horrified but Lord Palmerston smiles,

“Mr Thickett-Kane whom we now have under arrest, fortuitously Inspector Depta was on hand with his men and so was able to take matters in hand”

“But what would he want with Lord Grid-Iron? Please tell me they shot the ingrate! The carpet bag, where is it now?”

Lord Palmerston pulled out his pocket watch, glancing down at it he said, “At this precise hour he’ll be aboard the Resurgam and on his way to the Americas, I don’t expect we shall ever lay eyes on him again

“But what if he should think to return?”

“He will already have been apprised of how much the government knows, about his business dealings in the Crimea, t’is an act of high treason he has committed. I feel sure that once he comes to his senses he will consider his imposed exile a mercy!”

“Excellent! Now tell me, how goes our venture in the Crimea?”

One hundred and eighty dead from the failed Light Brigade charge in Balaklava, five hundred dead at the Battle of Inkerman…in fact this ‘venture’ fares not very well at all. Truth be told with statistics as inconvenient as this mounting up like the bodies of the dead, t’is a relief that such as Lord Tennyson exist. “Why such soaring prose as his stirs the patriotic and urges us on to further bravery, for ours is a just cause!” declares the recalcitrant Palmerston. The carriage glides on through the crowds with its politicians deep in discourse and wholly oblivious to the power of the poor that will, in due course, bring about the downfall of the cabinet, if these politicians but knew it!

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ACCESSIBILITY, Hypocritical Cant

The Bells Of St. Sepulchre

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Silence. In the streets that surround Newgate, in the Old Bailey that stern, unyielding matriarch that, emptied at last, squats stolidly alongside the prison, having supervision of its inmates. Silence, falling warmly upon the householders of Sloane Square, wrapped snugly in eiderdowns in well-heated bed chambers.

Not so for the men of Newgate prison, tossing and turning fitfully in their beds as the bells of St. Sepulchre toll sombrely overhead. The iron clanging of these bells in no way resembles the delicate wedding chimes of St Paul’s Cathedral, for the bells at St Sepulchre’s have only one main purpose and that is to act as harbinger’s of impending death. There is to be another execution a’fore the gates of Newgate and several more will pass unremarked at Wandsworth Gaol for the ruling classes have not yet finished doing as they would have wished with the silk mill workers of London. Does Father London weep for his infants that are no more? He may weep in vain, the hearts of the rich are unmoved.

The Nunneries have been shut for months all the well-fed employees lying restfully a-bed; the music halls have aggressively stood their ground, there will be no unbridled frolics, no licentious entertainments, no debauched drinking sessions whilst the working classes of the capital are forced to bleed, and starve, and tramp about in mourning weeds! And all for asking that their wages and their working conditions be improved!

Silence, cold and unyielding, mired in death and disease in the midst of a prison whose tenants sleep uneasily. And yet there is one who does not sleep, and yet another, and another and another. Slipping across the walls of the prison, opening prison gate after prison gate. Quietly oh so quietly! They steal from cell to cell opening doors, letting prisoners out, who in turn steal across other walls, and slither across other courtyards, till at last nearly all who are sane, and who wish to live are awakened and ready. “For better pay and conditions!” the cry rings out and soon becomes a roar,”For us, our children and our children’s children!” cries another.

The prison governor is asleep, the Union Rep reclining in his cot takes time to stuff his pipe, and slowly lights it. He savours the first puff, langourously draws in the next, pauses on the third, for he now hears the increasing clamour and see’s the torrent of freed inmates pouring into the courtyard from left and right. Now the prison governor is awakened and creeps from his bedchamber to that of the Union Rep who is sat fully dressed pipe in hand.

“Well, they are all gathered” says he calmly, taking a seat on the only chair the room furnishes. A prison Governor seated calmly in discussion with a prisoner who has just incited an uprising in his prison? How can this be? Like the black death or the pox, a malaise has spread throughout the chattering classes of London, quite unlike the deathly torpor those diseases bring. For this malaise is typified by a staunch and intractable determination to see justice of a kind never before seen, done. The judges and the barristers are perplexed by this intractability. Present the evidence as the barristers and the judges might, they can persuade no more juries to vote in favour of hanging the remaining five hundred silk mill workers Newgate prison holds. No more than they can persuade them to vote unanimously in favour of the transportation of anymore prisoners, to the harsh penal colonies of Australia.

The Broadsheets suggest that the governments reaction to the demands of the silk mill workers has been excessively harsh. And then of course there is the disappearance of Lord Grid-Iron, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and those unbridled revelations of his licentious behaviour and financial immorality. Is it true he had a hand in arming the insurrectionists who attempted to blow up the Theatre Royal? Heaven forbid!

“Prosperity! For our children! And out childrens children!” the cries ring out, gather force and bring the Union Rep and the prison Governor to their feet. “Well old friend” says the prison governor firmly shaking the Union Rep’s hand,

“T’is time!”  but the Union Rep shakes his head. In spite of the flaming pyres being held aloft and carried to and fro by prisoners, whose running feet patter thunderously across the prison yard, in spite of the roars of determination, the time is not yet. He pauses, lights his pipe, cocks an ear and listens intently and then, he hears it, t’is like the first slight wave to hit a shore and t’is greeted instantly by silence. It builds it rises and it overtakes that of the men and women within the stone walls of Newgate, but that is because of the immensity of their silence. T’is the shrill war cry of the Chimney Sweeps! The prison Governor looks at his friend in stark disbelief, “but the last of them’s only got out of Great Ormond Street Hospital yesterday morn!” the Union Rep puffs slowly on his pipe, a triumphant look stealing over his face,”T’is Time to mount the battlements!” he declares.

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