Tag Archives: slavery

Sing a Song of Sixpence

1787 Sixpence Size Comparison

1787 Sixpence Size Comparison

This sixpence is one of my favourite coins, and is pictured above with a current penny coin and a US cent for size comparison.

The sixpence was first issued in 1551 – the reign of Edward VI. He was the sickly son of Henry VIII and Jane Seymour, the King’s third wife. It continued in production in subsequent reigns, though it was not produced every year. One of the issues of George II was designed by John Sigismund Tanner, which is why those of you old enough to remember the 6d coin are all saying “Ah!” at the moment. Yes, that’s why it was known as a “tanner”.

Unfortunately, the Royal Mint website says that the name probably dates from the early 1800s and comes from the Romany “tawno”, meaning “small one”, which confuses things. Why the sixpence should be the small one when we had silver 4d and 3d coins at that time, is not explained, but let’s just say that I don’t consider the Royal Mint website to be 100% correct in all things.

There was a break in sixpence production between 1758 and 1787. This was partly due to a world shortage of silver, and partly due to the madness of King George, who was unable to authorise new issues. This led to the issue of unofficial token coins by local tradesmen, and the use of foreign silver coins as substitutes for the crown (five shillings) and half crown. The Bank of England also issued coins of  3 shillings and 1/6d, selecting these denominations to avoid conflict with the King’s coinage.

The design features a bust of the King wearing Roman-style armour and a wreath of laurels. He was not, as you can see, a handsome man. Looking at him brings stories of Princesses kissing frogs. The reverse has four shields representing the King’s claims to England/Scotland on one, and France, Hanover and Ireland on the others. He’d have been better off forgetting France and hanging on to America.

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In 1787 the average working wage was £15 – £20 a year – or around a shilling a day (working a six day week). A low level domestic servant could be on as little as £3 a year and a footman could earn £8 (about 6d a day) Servants were also given food, lodgings and clothing. It’s never easy comparing the cost of living, but this article is quite interesting.

So, what was happening in 1787?

February – in the newly independent America – Shay’s Rebellion fails. This was a rebellion by Massachusetts residents against government taxation policies. This seems familiar…

There would be two more rebellions a few years later – the Whiskey Rebellion and Fries’s Rebellion. Until I started writing about 1787 I had no idea American history could be so interesting.

On May 13 the Ships of the First Fleet left Portsmouth for Australia with around 700 convicts and 300 crew and guards. Or up to 1,500 people according to other accounts. It took them between 250 and 252 days to reach Botany Bay as they became a little strung out on the journey, though two days after 250 days at sea is still quite impressive.

The First Fleet is commemorated with a memorial, including a garden area with a barbecue. Because I’m trying to be a nice person, rather than a crabby old xenophobe, I will refrain from mentioning how it is typical of Australians to have a barbecue. It is not only their national symbol, alongside the kangaroo and the boomerang, but it is their way of rubbing it in that our weather is not as good as theirs.

Why Australia? Because the newly independent American colonies refused to accept our convicts. If we’d sent them to Canada, which would have been cheaper and less sunny,  I wonder if the Canadians would then have developed a love of cricket.

This mention of cricket is fortuitous as the first cricket game was played at Lord’s in this year and the MCC was founded. It was possibly cricket which killed Prince Frederick, eldest sone of George II and father of George III. He was a great patron of the game and died of an infection of the lung. In one version of the story this was caused when he was struck in the chest by a cricket ball, though others say a real tennis ball, and the dullest version of the story says it was pleurisy.

Also on a topic which has recently become topical, was the founding of the Society for Effecting the Abolition of the Slave Trade.  The movement for the abolition of slavery had been inspired by Pennsylvania Quakers and had spread to Quakers in the UK. The society was founded in 1787 because Quakers were prohibited from holding many civil offices and they sought to include Anglicans, who were not disadvantaged by religion, to increase the political reach of the society. (The Test Acts would be repealed in 1828, shortly before the abolition of slavery in British territory).

In 1787 freed slave Ottobah Cugoano published Thoughts and Sentiments on the Evil and Wicked Traffic of the Slavery and Commerce of the Human Species.

170px-Official_medallion_of_the_British_Anti-Slavery_Society_(1795)

Design by Wedgwood for the Society for Effecting the Abolition of the Slave Trade – it was on the seal of the society and appears on a number of other titems

 Six men were killed in 1787 when troops opened fire on striking weavers in Calton, just outside Glasgow. The weavers had become accustomed to wages of up to £100 a year (see the link about wages – £100 enabled one of the ‘middling sort’ to live comfortably), due to their skill and demand for their product but mechanisation was making things cheaper, and prices were falling. After a 25% wages cut they went on strike and six were killed when the troops opened fire.

It’s a story with many echoes through history, including the Luddites, the Peterloo Massacre, and the Scottish Insurrection.

That is probably enough for now. It has now run to over 1,000 words, and I have only kept it so short by cutting several hundred words. The trouble with the internet is that it makes it so easy to keep finding more and more information.

Wwood Slave

Wedgwood jasperware plaque, also made as a pendant and a brooch.

The War on Statues

I’ve used the Statue of Liberty as the header picture as I don’t have many statue pictures and if you’re going to borrow one you may as well borrow one of the best known and most symbolic statues in the world. This, however, is a post about statues in the UK and their history.

Having struggled to make sense of recent events, and tried in vain to to write about it in a suitable way, I am just going to write whatever comes to mind. These are my thoughts – warts and all. That’s a quote from Oliver Cromwell, by the way. He’s on the list of statues suggested for removal.

If people think that removing statues will improve their lives I will let them get on with it. Attempts to modify history are seldom successful, and I suspect the war on statues, particularly the vandalism element, will merely result in more conflict and less progress.

I see that a statue of Baden-Powell is to be taken down out of fear that it may be attacked. As the Bristol Police are refusing to take action over the Colston statue, we could be seeing an open season on statues.

Back in Bristol, a statue of Alfred Fagon, a notable local playwright, has been attacked with bleach in what is seen as a racist attack.

Captain Cook statue – on the list for removal

As Isaac Newton told us, in his Third Law of Motion, every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Life isn’t quite as tidy as science, and the reaction might be unequal. Look at the growing number of counter-demonstrations as an example.

Having mentioned Isaac Newton, I now have to point out that he was an investor in the South Sea Company and thus profited from slavery in the same way that Thomas Guy did. They want to remove Guy’s statue and rename the hospital, but they seem content to keep using the hospitals he helped to build. I suppose that means we have to pull down Newton’s statue and rename his Laws of Motion. However, I hope we will keep gravity.

If you think that I’m treating a serious subject with undue levity, I will stress that I’m not making light of death or racism, just the nonsense that surrounds and obscures the subject. I’ll leave you with a quote from a proper, serious politician.

“Why was that statue removed in the way that it was removed? Because for 20 years, protesters and campaigners had used every democratic lever at their disposal, petitions, meetings, protests, trying to get elected politicians to act, and they couldn’t reach a consensus and they couldn’t get anything done.”

 

 

And there was me thinking that the point of democracy was that you didn’t just smash things you disagree with. Democracy is rule by majority, and if the majority couldn’t care less then you need to educate us, not resort to violence.

Democracy, as Churchill said, is the worst form of government, apart from all the others, though the protestors don’t seem keen on Churchill either.

Statue of Thomas Paine at Thetford – was it really four years ago that we visited?

 

From Here to Modernity

A quick view of my day with lockdown observations.

I spent the early hours of the morning struggling with a blog post which I want to write, but which I can’t get right. I had already abandoned one yesterday and though I did manage to post, it was not about the things that were on my mind.

After no more than five hours I rose when the alarm went, made sandwiches, had breakfast and went to the Treatment Centre at Queen’s Medical Centre. Yes, time for a blood test. Parking was tight, as I didn’t get down until 9 am so I parked in a bay reserved for disabled parking. I don’t actually have a blue badge but I do have a walking stick and my knee was playing up. I was wrong, but I’m gradually becoming more selfish in my behaviour as I realise that being considerate just means that you are use as a stepping stone by the greedy self-centred people who actually run the country.

They now want all NHS staff to wear masks when dealing with the public and all members of the public to wear masks in hospitals. I took one with me just in case. I wasn’t asked to put a mask on when I arrived and I noticed that the receptionists and other staff weren’t wearing them. I checked later and this will all happen on June 15th, so they aren’t actually compulsory yet.

The phlebotomist had several attempts on my arms – one in the right, two in the left. She didn’t use the method I suggested, and decided to call a colleague in. There was nothing wrong with her technique but she just couldn’t get it right. I’m not a qualified phlebotomist, but as you may have noted, after the number of blood tests I’ve had I have picked up quite a lot of knowledge whilst being stabbed in the arm.

I was sent out to wait and drink water (which is supposed to make it easier to draw a sample) and they called a second patient in. When I was called through again the second phlebotomist took the blood quickly and efficiently while we all had a laugh about her friend’s failure. I do enjoy my blood-letting sessions – they are the only social life I have these days.

After that it was off to work for five hours in an empty shop. There wasn’t much to do so I cleaned the sink, the computers, the toilet and the door handles. When I went back to the computer I noted that two more orders had come in and then, on finishing those, found that another had come in. Sometimes the days seem to last forever.

I sent a text to the owner telling him we were running low on stationery and then sent another to Julia telling her I was running late, in part due to my co-worker failing to refill the drawers after using all the envelopes from two of them. I added three of those faces with steam coming out of the nostrils to indicate annoyance and sent it. Big, stiff fingers and touch screens are a bad combination and I sent it to the boss. Then I rang him to explain I had meant it for Julia.

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear…

The Post Office was empty, so Social Distancing was a doddle.

Then it was home to try again with the difficult blog post (it still proved difficult) and news that people want to take down the statues of Sir Francis Drake in Devon. He might have done a bit of slave trading, but they all did in those days, so if this continues, we will have to take down all our statues, replace them with images of liberal nonentities and rewrite our history. It was an evil trade, and I make no excuses for it, who does it help to label all historical figures, with hindsight, as evil racists?

It’s all getting a bit like 1984, though of course, that’s a tricky subject too, as George Orwell’s great-grandfather was a slave owner and, if things carry on the way they are going, we’ll soon be burning his books rather than reading them.

That is more or less the subject of one of the blog posts I am finding difficult. I don’t like modern life.

And that was my day.

I am now going to submit my grocery order for tomorrow. An hours struggling with TESCO’s rubbish website on a creaky old computer. This is the stuff dreams are made of.

 

Fast forward to Thursday and Stupidity

After the delay in posting Tuesdays events I’m going to give a quick overview of Wednesday and then plunge into Thursday – a much more interesting day.

Chickens, eggs, butterfly count (which included green-veined whites), Canadian visitor, made a get well soon card, a volunteer called to see if they could help us with anything (as if!), a discussion on seeing tigers in Indian National Parks, a meeting (which I avoided), another meeting (which I didn’t) and a feeling that things could be better.

Move on to Thursday and I managed to take a poor picture of an immature Green Woodpecker through a dirty windscreen. We’ve seen a few flying and heard many more but this was my first chance to get a photo. Still, it was better than the one of the Green-veined White butterfly I took on my phone yesterday.

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I then checked the office emails and found a gem from a local college.

To put it in perspective, we have them out on the farm for six days in a year. We charge £5 each (which we were told was all they could afford) so we take about £50 – £60 a day. If you cost it up strictly it takes about 16- 20 man hours to plan and deliver the visits, and we have to pay the farm rent for using  the facilities.

The college sent us a letter once, telling us it could send lecturers out if we needed any help delivering education and they would only cost us £70 an hour. Yes, they would charge us more for an hour than they are prepared to pay us for a day.

I didn’t read the payment terms because I was spluttering too much, but I can tell you their terms. They pay at the end of the month following the month in which the service was delivered. We had a visit from them in the first week of June and we got paid last week. And they wonder why small businesses have trouble.

Today we had a 300 word email which contained this gem of a paragraph.

As a part of our due diligence process we audit our suppliers on a regular basis and will only work with organisations who also commit to the eradication of slavery and human trafficking.  Our procurement appraisal process will incorporate a review of the controls undertaken by our suppliers and now also requires, from all suppliers, an annual statement of their commitment and actions taken to eliminate modern slavery.

I’m happy to eradicate modern slavery, but is this really going to help?

I will say no more.