The Peel Web
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Pilling was the father of nine children and was alleged to have been the 'father' of the Plug Plots. The Chartists were not directly involved in the episode and blamed the Anti-Corn-Law League for causing the strikes. Fifty-nine men, including Feargus O'Connor and the National Executive of the National Charter Association were charged with seditious conspiracy. After a preliminary hearing at Chester and after a claim that the Plug Plots were instigated by the Chartists (and this would lead to the end of property, law and order) local Chartists from the factory trades persuaded the Trades Conference at Manchester to declare for the Charter. Richard Pilling was tried at the Spring Assizes in Lancaster for his part in the Plug Plots. This is his own defence.
Gentlemen of the Jury, I now leave my case in your hands. Whatever it may have been with others it has been a wage question with me. And I do say that if Mr. O'Connor has made it a Chartist question, he has done wonders to make it extend through England, Ireland and Scotland. But it was always a wage question, and ten hours bill with me. I have advocated the keeping up of wages for a long time, and I shall do so till the end of my days. And, if confined within the walls of a dungeon, knowing that as an individual I have done my duty; knowing that I have been one of the great spokes in the wheel by which that last reduction of wages was prevented - knowing that by means of that turn-out thousands and tens of thousands have eaten the bread which they would not have eaten if the turn-out had not taken place, I am satisfied, whatever may be the result. With these observations I shall leave you to perform your duty. I have no doubt but you will, by your verdict, allow me to return to my loving wife, and loving children, and to my employment. My master has told me, coming away, that if I return again he will not take advantage of me as long as I am a good workman. With these considerations I leave my case with you, hoping and trusting you will not rely on the garbled statements given by the witnesses about the turn-out, but on the honesty and sincerity of the individual before you. And, now, Gentlemen of the Jury, you have the case before you; the masters conspired to kill me, and I combined to keep myself alive.
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