Little Bits of History

Good Lord

Posted in History by patriciahysell on March 13, 2015
Portrait of Lord Byron by Richard Westall

Portrait of Lord Byron by Richard Westall

March 13, 1809: Lord Byron takes his seat in the House of Lords. George Gordon Byron was born in 1788 and was an English poet and leading figure in the Romantic movement. His father was a Captain who first seduced the married marchioness of Caemarthen, who divorced her husband to marry the Captain and after she died, he found an heiress from Aberdeenshire, Scotland to marry. She was George’s mother. When George was ten, he inherited the English Barony of Byron of Rochdale. The Captain managed to squander both wives’ fortunes.

Byron’s education was spotty as his mother would often remove him from school. He was born with a foot deformity (or perhaps had a childhood case of polio) and overcompensated having “violent” bouts. He was sent to Harrow in 1801 and stayed until July 1805 and was an undistinguished student while there. He was known to lack a sense of moderation and proved this when he fell in love with Mary Chaworth in 1803, and then refused to return to school. He returned in 1804 and met John FitzGibbon, 2nd Earl of Clare who became a friend for life with the two meeting up again in Italy in 1821. He next went to Trinity College, Cambridge.

Byron first took his seat in the House of Lords on this day but left London soon after to spend time on the Continent. He returned and on February 27,1812 gave his maiden speech as a defender of the Luddites. These English textile artisans were being put out of work by the automation taking place during the Industrial Revolution. Their dissatisfaction led to the breaking of industrial looms. One of their main areas of operation was Nottinghamshire. The Frame Breaking Act of 1812 made this a capital offense. In his speech, Byron made many sarcastic references to the “benefits” of the automated process which he felt made inferior goods at the price of putting people out of work. He was solidly against it.

The Act was rushed through as an emergency measure and received royal asset in March. There was agreement between both sides that something must be done and this was a last resort effort. The issue was with the more liberal side feeling not everything else had already been tried. About 60-70 Luddites were hanged while the statue was in force but not all death sentences were due to this act alone. Judges preferred to use previously enacted legislation to sentence. The Act was repealed in 1814. Instead of death, the new law required life transportation instead. Even that was repealed in 1817. Byron did not remain in England. He left for the Continent again in 1816 and remained there until his death. He was helping Greece with its fight for independence when he became ill. Treatment included bloodletting which eventually led to his death on April 19, 1824. He was 36 years old.

But whilst these outrages must be admitted to exist to an alarming extent, it cannot be denied that they have arisen from circumstances of the most unparalleled distress.

These machines were to them an advantage, inasmuch as they superseded the necessity of employing a number of workmen, who were left in consequence to starve.

By the adoption of one species of frame in particular, one man performed the work of many, and the superfluous labourers were thrown out of employment. Yet it is to be observed, that the work thus executed was inferior in quality, not marketable at home, and merely hurried over with a view to exportation.

The rejected workmen, in the blindness of their ignorance, instead of rejoicing at these improvements in arts so beneficial to mankind, conceived themselves to be sacrificed to improvements in mechanism. In the foolishness of their hearts, they imagined that the maintenance and well doing of the industrious poor, were objects of greater consequence than the enrichment of a few individuals by any improvement in the implements of trade which threw the workmen out of employment, and rendered the labourer unworthy of his hire.  – all from Lord Byron’s speech

Also on this day: The Talkies – In 1923, Lee de Forest demonstrated his process to record voices synchronized with film.
Microsoft IPO – In 1986, Microsoft had its Initial Public Offering.
Ballinglass Incident – In 1846, three hundred tenant farmers were evicted.
Dunblane Massacre – In 1996, a gunman entered the Dunblane Primary School with guns blazing.
Kitty Genovese – In 1964, Kitty was attacked and murdered.


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