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Owen
Owen
448

the question of the employment of children in mills. The manufacturers of Glasgow endeavoured to injure Owen by charges, supported by the minister of Lanark, to the effect that he had used seditious language in his address on the institution for the formation of character. Sidmouth had already seen the address, and dismissed the charge as ridiculous. Owen attended the committee at every meeting for two sessions. He was disgusted by the concessions made by Peel to the manufacturers, and handed over his duty to Nathaniel Gould and Richard Oastler [q. v.]. The Factory Act of 1819 was the result of this agitation. Owen had proposed that no child under ten should be employed in any factory; that no child under eighteen should be worked for more than ten and a half hours; and that some schooling should be given, and a system of inspection provided (see Appendix in second volume of Life).

The distress which followed the peace led to the formation of a committee, under the presidency of Archbishop Sutton, for which Owen prepared a report, afterwards published, suggesting as the only remedy for the evils a system of educating and of 'villages of unity and co-operation' (own Life, p. 129). Sturges Bourne's committee on the poor law, then sitting, declined to examine him, and he decided to expound his views through the press. On 30 July 1817 he published a letter in the papers, followed by others on 9 and 10 Aug., announcing a meeting for 14 Aug. at the City of London Tavern. He circulated thirty thousand copies of these papers, besides other documents, at a cost of 4,000l. The mail-coaches were delayed twenty minutes beyond the hour of starting by his mass of papers. A crowded and successful meeting was held on the 14th, and adjourned to the 21st. Owen had been challenged to give his religious views. He had discovered that the religions of the world were the great obstacle to progress, and he resolved to announce this piece of news to the meeting, though expecting to be torn in pieces. He made the statement in the most dramatic fashion, and thereby, he thought, struck the death-blow of bigotry and superstition. A pause was followed by a few hisses, when an 'electric shock' seemed to pass through the audience, and a burst of 'heartfelt applause' drowned all dissent. Some 'political economists,' however, talked against time, and, to secure peace, Owen permitted his motion for appointing a committee to be negatived.

He declares that when the meeting met he was the most popular man of the day, and that the government was 'at his mercy' (Life. p. 158). Though allowance must be made for Owen's self-esteem, it is remarkable that after this declaration he retained so many supporters among the respectable. His simplicity seems to have disarmed antipathy. From this time he devoted himself to the propagation of his theories, and to schemes intended to give them effect. In the autumn he went abroad, with introductions to great men, including one from the Duke of Kent to the Duke of Orleans. He travelled with Professor Pictet of Geneva; they went to Paris with Cuvier, crossing the Channel in a French frigate. He was introduced to La Place, Alexander von Humboldt, and other distinguished men at Paris. He then went to Switzerland, where he saw Sismondi, visited Oberlin at Freiburg, Pestalozzi at Yverdun, and Fellenberg at Hofwyl. He visited Frankfort, where the Germanic diet was sitting, and afterwards Aix-la-Chapelle, to attend the congress of 1818. He saw many diplomatists, and presented papers to the Emperor Alexander, who treated him rather contemptuously. After another visit to Switzerland, he returned to England about the beginning of 1819. He offered himself in 1819 as a candidate for the Lanark burghs; but some of the electors were bribed in his absence, and he never entered parliament. His declaration of war against religion had alienated most of his supporters, and the newspapers had turned against him. A committee, however, was formed (26 June 1819) to carry out his plans, of which the Duke of Kent was president. The committee included not only high dignitaries, but such economists as Ricardo and Torrens. It failed, however, to raise 8,000l. out of the 60,000l. proposed, and was dissolved in December 1819 (documents in Appendix to Life, vol. ii.) The Duke of Kent died in January 1820. A meeting was soon afterwards held by the county of Lanark to consider the existing distress. Owen attended, and drew up a report (dated May 1820, and given in Life, vol. ii.)

Owen's political economy was heterodox and extremely crude. He held the common opinions about over-production and the bad effects of all machinery in displacing labour. He proposed to substitute the spade for the plough, and he announced the socialist doctrine that 'the natural standard of value' is 'human labour.' He advocated a scheme in which, as he says, he had been anticipated by John Bellers [q. v.], one of whose pamphlets he reprinted. He proposed to form village communities of two to three hundred families, partly on the New Lanark model, which were to be arranged round common buildings, and