William Cobbett.

Cobbett's poor man's friend; or, A defence of the rights of those who do the work and fight the battles online

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Entered according to act of Congressin the year of our Lord 1833.
by John Doyle, i n the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the
Southern DUriei ofNew-York.


I. Introduction. To the Labouring Classes

of this Kingdom Brewing Beer, - 5
II. Brewing Beer, continued, - - - - 23

HI. Making Bread, 41

IV. Making Bread, continued Brewing

Beer Keeping Cows, - - - - 59
V. Keeping Cows, continued, Keeping

Pigs, 73

VI. Keeping Pigs, continued Salting Mut-
ton, and Beef, - - - - 86

VII. Bees, Geese, Ducks, Turkeys, Fowls,
Pigeons, Rabbits, Goats, and Ewes,
Candles and Rushes, Mustard, Dress
and Household Goods, and Fuel,
Hops, and Yeast, 98

VIII. Selecting, Cutting and Bleaching the
Plants of English Grass and Grain,
for the purpose of making Hats and
Bonnets Constructing and using

Ice-houses, - - 122

ADDITION. Mangel Wurzel Cobbett's Corn, 151
INDEX, - - - - - - - 158


No. I.


1. THROUGHOUT this little work, I shall number
the Paragraphs, in order to be able, at some stages of
the work, to refer, with the more facility, to parts that
have gone before. The last Number will contain an
Index, by the means of which the several matters may-
be turned to without loss of time ; for, when economy
is the subject, time is a thing which ought by no means
to be overlooked.

2. The word Economy, like a great many others,
has, in its application, been very much abused. It is
generally used as if it meant parsimony, stinginess, or
niggardliness ; and, at best, merely the refraining from
expending money. Hence misers and close-fisted men
disguise their propensity and conduct under the name
of economy ; whereas the most liberal disposition, a
disposition precisely the contrary of that of the miser,
is perfectly consistent with economy.

3. ECONOMY means management, and nothing
more ; and it is generally applied to the affairs of a
house and family, which affairs are an object of the
greatest importance, whether as relating to indivi-
duals or to a nation. A nation is made powerful and
to be honoured in the world, not so much by the num-
ber of its people as by the ability and character of that
people ; and the ability and character of a people de-
pend, in a great measure, upon the economy of the
several families, which, all taken together, make up
the nation. There never yet was, and never will be,



a nation permanently great, consisting, for the greater
part, of wretched and miserable families.

4. In every view of the matter, therefore, it is de-
sirablej that the families of which a nation consists
should be happily off: and as this depends, in a great
degree, upon the management of their concerns, the
present work is intended to convey, to the families of
the labouring classes in particular, such information
as I think may be useful with regard to that manage-

5. I lay it down as a maxim, that for a family to be
happy, they must be well supplied with food and rai-
ment. It is a sorry effort that people make to persuade
others, or to persuade themselves, that they can be
happy in a state of want of the necessaries of life.
The doctrines which fanaticism preaches, and which
teach men to be content with poverty, have a very per-
nicious tendency, and are calculated to favour tyrants
by giving them passive slaves. To live well, to enjoy
all things that make life pleasant, is the ri^ht of every
man who constantly uses his strength judiciously and
lawfully. It is to blaspheme God to suppose, that he
created man to be miserable, to hunger, thirst, and
perish with cold, in the midst of that abundance
which is the fruit of their own labour. Instead, there-
fore, of applauding " happy poverty," which applause
is so mucn the fashion of the present day, I despise the
man that is poor and contented; for, such content is a
certain proof of a base disposition, a disposition which
is the enemy of all industry, all exertion, all love of

6. Let it be understood, however, that, by poverty,
I mean real want, a real insufficiency of the lood and
raiment and lodging necessary to health and decency ;
and not that imaginary poverty, of which some per-
sons complain. The man who. by his own and his
family's labour, can provide a sufficiency of food and
raiment, and a comfortable dwelling-place, is not a
poor man. There must be different ranks and degrees
in every civil society, and, indeed, so it is even amongst
tbe savage tribes. There must be different degrees of


wealth; some must have more than others ; and the
richest must be a great deal richer than the least rich.
But it is necessary to the very existence of a people,
that nine out of ten should live wholly by the sweat
of their brow; and. is it not degrading to human nature,
that all the nine- tenths should be called poor ; and,
what is still worse, call themselves poor, and be con-
tented in that degraded state ?

7. The laws, the economy, or management, of a
state may be such, as to render it impossible for the
labourer, however skilful and industrious, to maintain
his family in health and decency ; and such has, for
many years past, been the management of the affairs
of this once truly great and happy land. A system
of paper-money, the effect of which was to take from
the labourer the half of his earnings, was what no
industry and care could make head against. I do not
pretend that this system was adopted by design. But,
no matter for the cause; such was the effect.

8. Better times, however, are approaching. The
labourer now appears likely to obtain that hire of
which he is worthy ; and, therefore, this appears to
me to be the time to press upon him the duty of using
his best exertions for the rearing of his family in a
manner that must give him the best security for hap-

Einess to himself, his wife and children, and to make
im, in all respects, what his forefathers were. The
people of England have been famed, in all ages, for
their good living; for the abundance of their food
and goodness of their attire. The old sayings about
English roast beef and plum-pudding, and about Eng-
lish hospitality, had not their foundation in nothing.
And, in spite of all refinements of sickly minds, it is
abundant living" amongst the people at large, which
is the great test of good government, and the surest
basis of national greatness and security.

9. If the labourer have his fair wages ; if there be
no false weights and measures, whether of money
or of goods, by which he is defrauded ; if the laws be
equal in their effect upon all men : if he be called
upon for no more than his due share of the expenses


necessary to support the government and defend the
country, he has no reason to complain. If the large-
ness of his family demand extraordinary labour and
care, these are due from him to it. He is the cause
of the existence of that family*; and, therefore, he is
not, except in cases of accidental calamity, to throw
upon others the burden of supporting it. Besides,
" little children are as arrows in the hands of the giant,
and blessed is the man that hath his quiver full of
them/' That is to say, children, if they bring their
cares, bring also their pleasures and solid advanta-
ges. They become, very soon, so many assistants
and props to the parents, who, when old age comes
on, are amply repaid for all the toils and all the cares
that children have occasioned in their infancy. To
be without sure and safe friends in the world makes
life not worth having ; and whom can we be so sure of
as of our children ? Brothers and sisters are a mutual
support. We see them, in almost every case, grow up
into prosperity, when they act the part that the im-
pulses of nature prescribe. When cordially united,
a father and sons, or a family of brothers and sisters,
may, in almost any state of life, set what is called
misfortune at defiance.

10. These considerations are much more than
enough to sweeten the toils and cares of parents, and to
make them regard every additional child as an addition-
al blessing. But, that children may be a blessing and
not a curse, care must be taken of their education.
This wort! has, of late years, been so perverted, so
corrupted, so abused, in its application, that I am al-
most afraid to use it here. Yet I must not suffer it to
be usurped by cant and tyranny. I must use it: but
not without clearly saying what I mean.

11. Ed vent nm means breeding up, bringing vp,
OTre'irim? /'/> ; and nothing more. This includes
every thin:? with regard to the mind as well as the
body of a child ; but, of late years, it has been so used
as to have no sense applied to it but that of book-learn-
ing, with which, nine times out of ten, it has nothing
at all to do. It is, indeed, proper, and it is the duty


of all parents, to teach, or cause to be taught, their
children as much as they can of books, after, and not
before, all the measures are safely taken for enabling
them to get their living by labour, or for providing
them a living" without labour, and that, too, out of the
means obtained and secured by the parents out of their
own income. The taste of the times is, unhappily, to
give to children something of book-learning, with a
view of placing them to live, in some way or other,
upon the labour of other people. Very seldom, com-
paratively speaking, has this succeeded, even during
the wasteful public expenditure of the last thirty years ;
and, in the times that are approaching, it cannot, I
thank God, succeed at all. When the project has
failed, what disappointment, mortification and misery,
lo both parent and child ! The latter is spoiled as a
labourer : his book-learning has only made him con-
ceited : into some course of desperation he falls ; and
the end is but too often not only wretched but ignomi-

12. Understand me clearly here, however ; for it is
the duty of parents to give, if they be able, book-learn-
ing to their children, having first taken care to make
them capable of earning their living by bodily labour.
When that object has once been secured, the other
may, if the ability remain, be attended to. But I am
wholly against children wasting their time in the idle-
ness of what is called education; and particularly in
schools over which the parents have no control, and
where nothing is taught but the rudiments of servility,
pauperism and slavery.

13. The education that I have in view is, there-
fore, of a very different kind. You should bear con-
stantly in mind, that nine-tenths of us are, from the
very nature and necessities of the world, born to gain

''. our livelihood by the sweat of our brow. What rea-
son have we, then, to presume, that our children are

|fcot to do the same ? If they be, as now and then
one will be, endued with extraordinary powers of mind,
those powers may have an opportunity of developing
themselves j and if they never have that opportunity,


the harm is not very great to us or to them. Nor does it
hence follow that the descendants of labourers are
always to be labourers. The path upwards is steep
and long, to be sure. Industry, care, skill, excellence,
in the present parent, lay the foundation of a rise,
under more favourable circumstances, for his children.
The children of these take another rise ; and, by-and-
by, the descendants of the present labourer become

! !. This is the natural progress. It is by attempt-
tin^ to reach the top a; leap that so much
misery is produced in the world ; and the propensity
to make- ;>ts has been cherished and encou-

ed by the strange projects that we have witnessed
of late year- lor making the labourers virtuous and
hfipjn/ by giving them what is called education.
The education which I speak of consists in bringing
children up to labour with steadiness, with care, and
with skill ; to show them how to do as many useful
things as possible ; to teach them to do them all in
the best manner ; to set them an example in industry,
sobriety, cleanliness, and neatness ; to make all these
hahitual to them, so that they never shall be liable to
fall into the contrary ; to let them always see a good
tiring' proceeding from labour, and thus to remove
from them the temptation to get at the goods of others by
violent or fraudulent means, and to keep far from their
minds all the inducements to hypocrisy and deceit.

15. A nd, bear in mind, that if the state of the labourer
has its disadvantages when compared with other call-
ings and conditions of life, it has also its advantages. It
is free from the torments of ambition, and from a great
part of the causes of ill-health, for which not all the
riches in the world and all the circumstances of high
rank are acorn pensation. The able and prudent labourer
is always safe, at the least ; and that is what few men
are who are lifted above him. They have losses and
crosses to fear, the very thought of which never enters
his mind, if he act well his part towards himself, his
family and his neighbour.

16. But, the basis of good to him, is steady and


skilful labour. To assist him in the pursuit of this
labour, and in the turning of it to the best account, are
the principal objects of the present little work. I pro-
pose to treat of brewing Beer, making Bread, keeping
Cows and Pigs, rearing Poultry, and of other matters ;
and to show, that, while, from a very small piece of
ground a large part of the food of a considerable fami-
ly may be raised, the very act of raising it will be the
best possible foundation of education of the children
of the labourer ; that it will teach them a great number
of useful things, add greatly to their value when they
go forth from their father's home, make them start
in life with all possible advantages, and give them the
best chance of leading happy lives. And is it not much
more rational for parents to be employed in teaching
their children how to cultivate a garden, to feed and rear
animals, to make bread, beer, bacon, butter and cheese,
and to be able to do these things for themselves, or for
others, than to leave them to prowl about the lanes and
commons, or to mope at the heels of some crafty, sleek-
headed pretended saint, who while he extracts the
last penny from their pockets, bids them be contented
with their misery, and promises them, in exchange
for their pence, everlasting glory in the world to come ?
It is upon the hungry and the wretched that the fana-
tic works. The dejected and forlorn are his prey.
As an ailing carcass engenders vermin, a pauperized
community engenders teachers of fanaticism, the very
foundation of whose doctrines is, that we are to care
nothing about this world, and that all our labours and
exertions are in vain.

17. The man, who is doing well, who is in good
jbealth, who has a blooming and dutiful and cheerful
and happy family about him, and who passes his day
of rest amongst them, is not to be made to believe,
that he was born to be miserable, and that poverty,
the natural and just reward of laziness, is to secure
him a crown of glory. Far be it from me to recom-
mend a disregard of even outward observances as to
matters of religion ; but, can it be religion to believe
that God hath made us to be wretched and dejected ?


Can it be religion to regard, as marks of his grace,
the poverty and misery that almost invariably attend
our neglect to use the means of obtaining a compel.
in worldly things? Can it be religion to regard as
blessings those things, those very things, which God
expressly numbers amongst his curses? Pov
never liml> a place amongst the blessings promiseffl
by God. His blessings are of a directly op

corn, wine and oil ; a smiling

land ; a rejoicing people ; abundance for the body anJj
irladnrxv of tii these are the blessings which

istrious, the sober, the careful,

and tin- upright. Lrt no man. then, believe that, to
be poor ami v :' God's favour; tnJ

let no man remain in ii; if he, by any honest

ids to all sorts of evil consequences.
Want, horrid want, is the great parent of crime. To
have a dutiful family, the^ father's principle of rule
must be love not fear. His sway must be gentle, on
he will have only an unwilling and short-lived obediJ
ence. But it i uen to be gentle and]

good-humoured amidst the various torments attendant]
on pinching poverty. A competence is, therefore, the!
first thinj to be thought of ; it is the foundation of all
good in tne labourer's dwelling; without it little but]
misery can be expected. " Health*, peace, and compeJ
fence," one of the wisest of men regards as the only I
things needful to man : but the two former are scarcely I
to be had without the latter. Competence is the!
foundation of happiness and of exertion. Beset with!
wants, having a mind continually harassed with fears I
of starvation, who can act with energy, who can]
calmly think ? To provide a good living, therefore,!
for himself and family, is the very first duty of every I
man. "Two things," says AGDR, "have I ask
deny me them not before I die : remove far from me
vanity and lies ; give me neither poverty nor riches ;
feed me with food convenient for me : lest I be foil
and deny thee ; or lest I be poor and steal."

19. A grxyd limng therefore, a competence, is th*


first thing to be desired and to be sought after ; and, if
this little" work should have the effect of aiding only
a small portion of the Labouring Classes in securing
that competence, it will afford great gratification to
their friend WM. COBBETT.

Kensington. 19th July, 1821.


20. BEFORE I proceed to give any directions about
brewing, let me mention some of the inducements to
do the thing. In former times, to set about to show
to- Englishmen that it was good for them to brew beer
in their houses would have been as impertinent as
gravely to insist, that they ought to endeavour not to
lose their breath ; for, in those times, (only forty years
ago,) to have a house and not to brew was a rare
thing indeed. Mr. ELLMAN, an pld N man and a large
farmer, in Sussex, has recently given in evidence, be-
fore a Committee of the House of Commons, this fact ;
that, forty years ago, there was not a labourer in his
parish that did not brew Ids own beer ; and that now
there is not one that does it, except by chance the
malt be given him. The causes of this change have
been the lowering of the wages of labour, compared
with the price of provisions, by the means of the paper-
money ; the enormous tax upon the barley when made
into mall ; and the increased tax upon hops. These
have quite changed the customs of the English people
as to their drink. They still drink beer, but, in gene-
ral, it is of the brewing of common brewers, and in
public-houses, of which the common brewers have be-
come the owners, and have thus, by the aid of paper-
money, obtained a monopoly in the supplying of the
great body of the people with one of those things
which, to the hard-working man, is almost a necessary
of life.

21. These things will be altered. They must be
altered. The nation must be sunk into nothingness,



or a new system must be adopted ; and the nation will
not sink into nothingness. The malt now pays a tax
of 4s. 6d* a bushel, and the barley costs only 3$.
This brings the bushel of malt to Ss. including the
maltster's charge for malting. If the tax were taken
off the malt, malt would be sold, at the present price
of barley, for about 3s. 3d. a bushel ; because a bushel
of barley makes more than a bushel of malt, and the
tax, besides its amount, causes great expenses of
rious sorts to the maltster. The hops pay a tax of
2t/.f a pound ; and a bushel of malt requires, in ge-
neral, a pound of hops ; if these two taxes were taken
off, therefore, the consumption of barley and of hops
would be exceedingly in lor double the pre-

sent quantity would bt J, and the land is

always ready to send it forth.

22. It appears impossible that the landlords should
much longer submit to these intolerable burdens on
their estates. In short, t _;et off the malt tax,
or lose those estates. They must do a great deal
more, indeed ; but that they must do at any rate. The
paper-money is fast losing its destructive power ; and
things are. with regard to the labourers, coming back
to what they were forty years ago, and therefore we
may prepare for the making of beer in our own houses,
and take leave of the poisonous stuff served out to us
by common brewers. We may begin / ' ly ;
for, even at present prices, home-brewed beer is the
cheapest drink that a family can use, except milk, and
milk can be applicable only in certain cases.

23. The drink which has come to supply the place
of beer has, in general, been tea. It is notorious that
tea has no useful strength in it ; that it contains
nothing nutritious; that it, besides being good for
nothing, has budness in it, because it is well known
to produce want of sleep in many cases, and in all
cases, to shake and weaken the nerves. It is, in fact,
a weaker kind of laudanum, which enlivens for the
moment and deadens afterwards. At any rate it oom-

' 4a 6d. English, equal to one dollar.
* 2d. English, equal to four cents, nearly.

I.*] BREWING. 15

municates no strength to the body ; it does not, in any
degree, assist in affording what labour demands. It
is, then, of no use. And, now, as to its cost, compared
with that of beer. I shall make my comparison ap-
plicable to a year, or three hundred and sixty-five days.
I shall suppose the tea to be only five shillings the
pound ; the sugar only sevenpence ; the milk only two-
pence a quart. The prices are at the very lowest. I
shall suppose a tea-pot to cost a shilling, six cups and
saucers two shillings and sixpence, and six pewter
spoons eighteen-pence. How to estimate the firing-
I hardly know; but certainly there must be in the
course of the year, two hundred fires made that would
not be made, were it not for tea drinking. Then
comes the great article of all, the time employed in
this tea-making affair. It is impossible to make a fire,
boil water, make the tea, drink it, wash up the things,
sweep up the fire-place, and put all to rights again, in
a less space of time, upon an average, than two hours.
However, let us allow one hour; and here we have a
woman occupied no less than three hundred and sixty-
five hours in the year, or thirty whole days, at twelve
hours in the day; that is to say, one month out of the
twelve in the year, besides the waste of the man's time
in hanging about waiting for the tea ! Needs there
any thing more to make us cease to wonder at seeing
labourers' children with dirty linen and holes in the
heels of their stockings ? Observe, too, that the time
thus spent is, one half of it, the best time of the day.
It is the top of the morning, which, in every calling
of life, contains an hour worth two or three hours of
the afternoon. By the time that the clattering tea
tackle is out of the way, the morning is spoiled ; its
prime is gone ; and any work that is to be done after-
wards lags heavily along. If the mother have to go
out to work, the tea affair must all first be over. She
comes into the field, in summer time, when the sun
has gone a third part of his course. She has the heat
of the day to encounter, instead of having her work
done and being ready to return home at any early
hour. Yet early she must go, too : for, there is the


fire again to be made, the clattering tea-tackle again
to come forward ; and even in the longest day she
must have candle light, which never ought to be seen

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Online LibraryWilliam CobbettCobbett's poor man's friend; or, A defence of the rights of those who do the work and fight the battles → online text (page 1 of 19)