13th May 1787. Riot and Transportation.
Treason, arson, drilling under arms, poaching, political activity (as in swearing secret oaths), were crimes, in the late 18thc and early 19thc, punishable by Transportation.
It was Today in 1787 that Captain Arthur Phillip with a fleet of ships set sail from Portsmouth to ‘found’ a penal colony on the east coast of what is now Australia.(1)
At the time of the Napoleonic Wars and in the decades following, the government was increasingly worried that revolutionary fervour might spread here, especially after the bread riots and those connected with the Luddite (‘Captain Swing’) and the political reformist, Chartists.
Transportation was the favoured option for getting rid of malcontents and continued especially after the riots associated with the General Strike of 1842, which though influenced by Chartism, began with unrest of the Staffordshire miners.
It was to spread to Lancashire factories, mills and coal fields. to Dundee to South Wales and Cornwall, after the second Charter was rejected by Parliament in April.
Conditions in the growing industrial towns were dire-worse in many cases than the rural areas they had vacated. One focal point of unrest was the Staffordshire Potteries, which was to see the worst of the strikes, riots and crackdowns.
The spark came in June when W.H.Sparrow a Longton coal owner, disregarding the law, failed to a give a statutory fortnight’s notice before imposing a pay reduction, then The Earl of Granville’s pits and iron-works at Shelton tried to reduce wages in August 1842, resulting in riots and the reading of the Riot Act.
On 13th August the Chartist orator, Thomas Cooper arrived in Hanley and decreed that all labour cease until the Charter was law. On the 16th the Chief Magistrate, Thomas Powys gave instructions for troops to open fire on a procession in Burslem Square.
Houses were fired included those of the magistrate, local clergymen and mine-owners, resulting in 274 being brought to trial at a specially convened Assize Court.
146 were imprisoned with fifty-four transportations. Many chose to emigrate under their own steam with local lotteries held at Hanley, with the hope of starting a new life.
One result of the unrest was its formative role in the development of the Trade Union Movement, with The United Branch of Operative Potters (UBOP) founded in September 1843.
Another outcome by the end of 1842 the Staffordshire County Police was formed with its first chief constable.
(1) Eventually all told via Transportation, 160,000 convicts were to be sent to the Antipodes.
Ref: North Staffs Mercury 27th Aug. 1842.
Ref: Wikipedia 1842 General Strike and Transportation.