Grand Meeting in the Potteries : Northern Star Newspaper, 17th November, 1838 :
On Wednesday morning last, the town of Hanley presented a heart-stirring scene to the lover of liberty. Early in the morning, the drum and fife were heard, announcing that the day had arrived, when the voice of the Potters was to join that of their brethren in the demand for freedom.
At about 9 o’clock, a procession began to move with flags and music to collect the army of regeneration. They then divided into groups, and went to meet their friends expected to arrive from the various districts. At half-past eleven, the procession moved with hearty cheers and flying banners to the place of meeting. The thousands marched in good order, each district marshalled under their own banners, with flags bearing appropriate mottos, some of which we are enabled to give, which were as follows :
No Tax-hunting Parsons
May our actions be guided by peace, truth, justice and love.
These are the weapons we use to gain our rights Peace on earth ; good will towards men Glory to God in the highest
No Statecraft. No Priestcraft
Liberty or Death
United we stand ; divided we fall
By Union we conquer.
Divided we perish
Reform in Church and State
We die to live
No New Poor Law. No separation of man from wife, nor mother from children
No tax upon bread
Support our labour ; not tax our industry
Plenty of food for eight hours’ labour
Splendid Silk Banner of the Pottery Union, with the Five Great Principles at Full length on one side...
Hanley & Shelton Political Union, established in 1838 : Better to die with the sword than to perish with hunger. Be faithful, be watchful. The naked clothed, the hungry fed. May Britain’s sons united be free.
In another time of depression, 1842, there was a second petition, claimed to have 3,750,000 signatures, including 10,000 from North Staffordshire, which was again rejected.
Strikes and protest meetings were suppressed in many parts, though the events in the Potteries were "the most destructive riots, resulting in the largest number of prisoners being arrested, imprisoned and transported of all the disturbances in Britain throughout the Chartist period." (R Anderson & R Fyson, The Chartists &, Rioters).
But note that the start of the disturbances was a miners’ strike against wage reductions from July 11th. The strike spread and had a serious effect on other industries. Contact was made with other areas and the miners saw their strike in a national context rather than just local. (Fyson) The political movement of Chartism was developing its own strategy. There had been some hope of manufacturers like the Ridgways adopting the Charter in 1842 ; at the same time, Chartists were active in opposition to the new Poor Law. They also soon offered support to the striking miners and, of course, some miners were Chartists.
When North Staffordshire was experiencing a severe crisis of depression, strike and political action, news arrived that at Manchester the Trades Conference there had called for a general strike for the Charter and asked other towns to do the same. On Monday 15th August, 1842, Chartists and miners combined declared that "all labour cease until the People’s Charter becomes the law of the land." This was followed by turning out those at work in the potteries and pits in and around Hanley and an increasingly inflamed situation..
House of Commons report on the Chartist Petition of 1848.
The number of signatures has been ascertained to the 1,975,496. It is further evident to you Committee, that on numerous consecutive sheets the signatures are in one and the same handwriting. Your Committee also observed the names of distinguished individuals. Among which occurs the name of Her Majesty, Duke of Wellington, Sir Robert Peel, etc. etc. Your Committee have also observed the insertion of numbers of names which are obviously fictitious, such as ’No Cheese’, ’Pug Nose’, ’Flat Nose’.