AUTHOR: Richard Oastler was born to a linen merchant in 1789 and later moved to Leeds. He was an Anglican, Tory and protectionist as well as a strong advocate for the abolition of slavery in the West Indies. He was also against Roman Catholic emancipation.
CONTEXT: “Yorkshire Slavery” was written in 1830 after Oastler met with John Wood, a manufacturer in Bradford who introduced the atrocities of the factories to Oastler. The Industrial Revolution had taken off around 1820, therefore, around the time “Yorkshire Slavery” was written in 1830, the revolution was in full force.
LANGUAGE: Oastler uses confidence and information in order to portray his points. However, he also seems horrified and shocked when describing the conditions of factories and the stories about child workers being abused.
AUDIENCE: In this piece, Oastler addresses the English nation, as many of them were unaware of the issues within the factory. He even states, “my attention had not been particularly called to the subject of the factory system, until I had that fact communicated to me.”1 As mentioned above, his encounter with John Wood opened his eyes towards what was really occurring within the factories and he felt obligated to share it with the English nation.
INTENT: As previously mentioned, Richard Oastler was an advocate for children’s rights in the factory only after he met with John Wood. However after learning all of the information, he was compelled to share it with the nation in order to bring about change and help the workers.
MESSAGE: Oastler’s overall message is understood to be that the children are being overworked in an inhumane and cruel way. He states that there are some things he would “never [dare] to publish” because of how awful they are (“Yorkshire Slavery” 1). Beyond the working conditions within the factory, he also advocates for shorter work hours, arguing that the children grow up with out knowing what it is like to be loved because they hardly see their parents. Oastler makes the argument that the child workforce is dehumanizing and needs to change.
WHY? As stated before, Richard Oastler had met with a manufacturer in Bradford before writing “Yorkshire Slavery.” During this meeting, he discovered the evils of the factory and the struggles the child workers face; he promised himself he would not stop doing everything in his power to help the workers of the factories.
- Yorkshire Slavery 1 [↩]