Madness, Mutiny, & Milords

Mrs Emma Jane Simpson


October 25th 1831



I don’t know as I were ever interested in Parliament before. Just another pastime of the gentry, thought I, which has nought to do with ordinary folk.

Yet, since I have learnt my letters, I am able each day to peruse the newspapers which gets sent down from upstairs full twice each day. (And I have also learned the word ‘peruse’  which is what gentry says when they means ‘have a look at’).

Now, after reading that book of Mrs. Wollstonecraft’s , I learned that the better sort puts up ballots and votes for whom they want to have in Parliament.  (Unless they be the very top notch folk with titles and such, for they has no choice about it, but must needs help in running the country.)

Mrs. M shocked the whole nation when she wrote her book and let fall the idea that Ladies should also be able to take part in this balloting and voting – which is called “Having a franchise.” Which, while I be not certain-sure of how to say the word ‘franchise’, be simply a foreign word, (or so thinks I) for ‘vote’.

But, even in her wildest fancies, I doubt that even Mrs. M. would ever have thought of what has been a-going on of late: for the Common Man has, for most of this year, been clamouring for the franchise!

Nor has this been the first time, I now know. All know of the dreadful goings-on now called The Peterloo Massacre some years back. But I doubt I was the only one who knew not that this too had to do with this matter of Franchise. We thought it on a par with the Levellers, or the Swing Rioters, who was all protesting them great, belching ‘machines’ – the modern scourge of our country.

Yet now it seems as though men be muddled in their minds and talk of machines and franchises in the same breath; while the women stays at home and weep for their dead babies even as the older ones succumb to constant hunger and follow suite.

‘Tis terrible times we are living in; what with the enclosures and the machines, and country roads full of halt, staggering figures who longer have a roof over their heads.

So mayhap ‘tis no wonder the menfolk are ready to take up arms against their betters; for who be better? Those who starve or those who cause ‘em to starve?

While I cannot believe that the ton be interested in the down-at-heel, slubberdegullions of the lower orders, it seems some of ‘em also be smarting at the Lords in Government and wants them to come to order. So, on the 9th of this month did they put before Milords  a Reform Bill which was turned down.(Well, of course: would Milords take notice of a Bill which caused them inconvenience?). Howsomever, there was a great to-do about it in London and then, on the 14th, a mob attacked some Bishop Milords and the militia was called in.(They may call themselves Peelers till blue in the face. To me they still be militia. Bad cess to ‘em)

And now here we sits, in our kitchens and parlours all across the land, mortal afeared that the black days of the Swing Riots will be repeated a hundred-fold. And once again, the men will bash their daft, hard heads against one another, while each goodwife stares into the fire and dreads the noise of horses hooves bringing a message to tell ‘em their man is dead – or in Van Diemans Land.

And on top of all I’ve been called to Pimlico to physic 3 of the women who have taken uncommon fever in that crowded, filthy hole where I hates, always, to venture.