March 5, 1812 Frame Breaking Bill becomes law

On March 5, 1812, motion in the House of Lords was brought for the third reading of the Frame Work bill, known popularly as the Frame Breaking Bill. The second reading had taken place on February 27, 1812, when Lord Byron had given his first speech in the House of Lords in opposition to the bill.
The debate of March 5, 1812 is reproduced below.


HL Deb 05 March 1812 vol 21 cc1166-8 1166

On the motion for the third reading of this Bill,

The Earl of Carlisle, without again entering into his objections to the Bill, could not but observe, that there was another Bill before the House (the Nottingham Watch and Ward Bill), which ought to have preceded the Frame Bill. They ought first to have tried the operation of the other Bill; and, possibly, its effect might have been such, as to preclude the necessity of passing the Frame Bill at all. He should, therefore, still recommend, that the third reading of this Bill should be postponed for some time, till they found what would be the effect of the other. He did not mean to accuse the ministers of cruelty and inhumanity, in hurrying forward a measure of this kind: possibly they might be in possession of information which justified them in proposing it; but then, why not communicate that information to the House, in order to justify their lordships in passing this law? He 1167 would ask whether it was decent,—whether it was dignified, to pass so serious a penal law on such grounds as they had at present to stand upon? The usual attention and humanity of the noble and learned lord on the woolsack must have been forgotten on this occasion; and he was surprised that it should have been attempted to carry through so serious a law without furnishing their lordships With better information.

The Earl of Liverpool, after the countenance which their lordships had already given to the Bill, did not think it necessary to say any thing now on the subject, except in answer to what had been stated with respect to another Bill before the House. The principle of that Bill was old, and required no great time to settle its application in this instance; but a good deal of difficulty had been experienced in arranging the details, and much time consumed in the necessary communications with the magistrates. This was the reason that the Bill had not preceded the Frame Bill. The present Bill was more simple in its details, whether right or wrong; and with respect to that he would only remark, that it did nothing more than give the same protection to this manufacture which was already enjoyed by other manufactures of a similar kind, carried on by machinery: and it ought also to be remembered that the measure was only temporary.

The Earl of Moira expressed his conviction, that one of the greatest mischiefs attending the present proceeding, was its tendency to mislead the House into an idea that they had corrected the evils in question, when in reality the case would be found widely different; that it would only augment and exasperate the disorder; it was like applying a piece of hot plaister to a cancer, and expecting from such a remedy, the extirpation of the corroding and fatal disorder. In order to eradicate the great and increasing evil, the whole system of the government of the country must be completely and radically altered. It undoubtedly became the justice of the House, to endeavour to extirpate such a dangerous species of offence, but it no less became their justice to endeavour to prevent those distresses which gave rise to them; and to try to ameliorate the situation of the starving manufacturers. They should think and seriously consider what the effect of such a measure must be on the desperation of an individual, divested 1168 of the means of supporting his family, because all application of his manual industry was denied to him. That miserable system of corruption which for some years past had usurped and abused the name of government, must be corrected, if they meant to bring home the minds of men and Britons to that loyalty and affection for their constitution and government, upon which alone rested the stability of its institutions and the safety of the country; if they meant to unite every British heart, as they ought to be united, in support and in defence of the empire; in order to effectuate this work they must torn their minds to many different objects. There could be no safety to the state, no permanent or general system of prosperity or amelioration expected, but from a total change in the system upon which the government of the country was administered.

The Bill was then read a third time and passed.

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