March 17 1812: Petition Against the Orders in Council

On March 17, 1812, the frame work knitters of Leicester presented a petition to the House of Commons opposing the Orders in Council. They felt that the restrictions imposed on trade was harming their industry, a harm that would be worsened in case of war with America.  Mr. Samuel Smith notes that the petitioners had conducted themselves in an "orderly and becoming manner" no doubt to contrast them to the Luddites. 
HC Deb 17 March 1812 vol 22 cc1-2 1

Mr. Samuel Smith presented a Petition from the Frame Work Knitters of Leicester, praying for the Repeal of the Orders in Council, in as far as regarded America, and also against the renewal of the East India Company's charter. The hon. member assured the House, that the present Petitioners had uniformly conducted themselves in the most orderly and becoming manner, and now came to the House, praying that the final stab might not, by a war with America, be a ruin to their manufactures. The present Petition was signed by 11,000 persons.

Mr. Babington concurred in bearing testimony to the temperate and orderly conduct of the manufacturers in Leicestershire who cast their eyes only to that House for relief. They now trusted to the wisdom of that House to avert from them, in the words of their Petition, the greatest of all calamities, starvation in a land of plenty.

The Petition was then read, setting forth "That the Petitioners feel them selves sorely aggrieved on account of the sad depression in their trade: and that it most clearly appears to them that the Orders in Council, as they relate to America, are the cause of this falling off of our commerce; 2 and that the Petitioners have been kept at restricted employ by the various speculations which have been carried on by their employers, in the hope that the Orders in Council would be repealed, and that ultimately a good understanding might be brought about between this country and America; and that, from this, it is clear that the measure prayed for is the last hope of the Petitioners; and, though they would not presume to dictate to the House, yet they cannot but consider America as placed by the belligerents in a most critical situation, and, as a war with one of the contending powers may be the result, a repeal of the Orders would, in fact, be a stumbling-block to France, and America would probably open her ports to our vessels, and throw herself on our protection; and that the Petitioners see with much concern the charter of the East India Company about to be renewed, seeing they engross the whole of the trade to the Eastern seas, without any advantage to the country, but only to themselves; and praying the House to take their Petition into early and serious consideration, and to adopt such measures thereon as to them shall seem meet."

Ordered to lie upon the table

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