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;1t:R. OWEN'S REPLY TO THE…

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;1t:R. OWEN'S REPLY TO THE REMARKS OF THE EDITOR OP THE PRINCIPALITY" ON THE ABER- DARE STRIKE AND THE TRUCK SYSTEM. TO THE EDITOR OF THE PRINCIPALITY. SIR,—In pursuance of the promise I made to you, I proceed to answer the remarks contained in your paper of the 19th ult., wherein you state that your readers, whatever they may think of you, cannot charge you with pandering to the passions- of the working men, as you deem the capitalist to be the most successful and most industrious labourer;" and that whatever -was opposed to the interest of the capitalist was also opposed to the interest of the workmen, who, depend on him for labour. And you then state that you had not been sparing in your cen- -sures of the Aberdare strike, which, whiltit crippled commerce l ,mid injured trade, did in no degree benefit the men themselves. Now, sir, I take it that these remarks unexplained are calcu. lated to injure the Aberdare colliers in the opinion of the pub- lie, as it would lead (uncontradicted) right-minded men to be- lieve that the Aberdare colliers were the authors of that strike but as it is well known that it was the masters who struck for r a reduction of wages, and not the colliers for a rise, it is but just that those who caused the strike should take the censure. I have, therefore,, considered it my duty as the friend and advo- cate of the Aberdare colliers, which I shall always be as long as they are quiet and peaceable, to set the matter right with the public; and as I am sure you will not like it to be believed that you would pander to th, masters more than to the men, .you .will not think me wrong ih giving a short history, through your paper, of the facts, which are as follows. It appears that about Christmas last the masters of the Aberdare colliers simul- > taneously gave them a month's notice to leave their service, with an understanding that they would be reduced twopence a g ton at the end of it, and required to sign an agreement for • twelve months. Let it be remembered that the notice was given • just after the cholera had been making its ravages through the district, and at that time all was difficulty and distress. The -colliers, as was their duty, worked out their month's notice quietly and peaceably, and took in their tools at the end of it, but refused to work at the reduction of twopence in the ton, and also refused to sign the agreement for twelve months, there being greater objections to the agroment than there were to the Teduetion, and the head and tail of their offending was sticking 1.0 their refusal for four months, when they were ultimately forced to give in, in consequence of strange colliers from the Forest of Dean being induced, as I am instructed, by the in- fluence of strong beer and four shillings a day's wages, to come into the work. And unless it is to be upheld that the collier has no right to put a price upon his own labour, which is his only capital, and ought to be by law and justice as much pro- tected as the master's coal, which every county rate-payer well knows is sufficiently protected, for if a poor man's child touches a pound of such coal, although it may be taken from a rubbish tip, he is taken up, prosecuted, convicted, and punished as a thief at an expense to the county of some JE14 or Z15. Now surely if there is so much punishment attached to stealing a bit of the master's coal, there ought to be some protection thrown around the workman's labour, who, from the inflammable nature of the air in which he works, has not one moment's cer- tainty of life from the time he enters the pit in the morning until he leaves it in the evening for he has not only to depend on his own caution, but he has also to depend on the care of his fellow workmen, as we have too often seen that one incau- tious spark from the lamp of one workman has dealt death to fifty or one hundred at the same time. I say that labour such as this, on which we all depend for so much comfort, ought to have the most special protection, and any master who would use unfair means to reduce such wages beyond its fair level, ought, in order to understand how to appreciate the full value of a day of such labour, to be compelled to cut his own coal for twelve months and whilst I admit that masters should be masters, I leave it to the public to judge whether going into a strange land and bringing over a lot of strangers, stuffing them with beer, and paying them for a time more than the colliers of the district required, merely for the purpose of putting the screw on their own colliers, and starving them into compliance, was a fair mode of reducing such wages. It appears to me to be an advantage taken of the helpless position of the workmen, and something like a conspiracy to obtain the workmen's labour at the master's own price-a position from which I fear the workmen of this county will never be relieved until they begin to think more and drink less, for it will be quite impossible for any one to serve them unless they begin in being honest them- selves. I have felt it my duty on their behalf to give this ex- planation, but at the same time I wish it to be understood that I am no encourager of strikes, and I should like to see a little more give-and-take principle-a little more extenuation and less coercion between master and man—for I am quite sure that if difficulties came on the trade the men would fairly meet them if they were properly explained. With regard to the truck system, there can be but one opi- nion—that it operates very unfairly against the interest of the working men, but as there is no truck at Aberdare it may not be fair to observe on it in this letter. I will therefore give you my observations in your next on that system. I am, Sir, your Qbedient servant, J. G. H. OWEN. Pontypool, May, 1850.

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