Thaddeus O’Malley. The Working Man’s Bill of Rights (1848)

The Irish National Guard, 29 April 1848, Vol 1, no.2, p.6

[Note from Editor of The Irish National Guard at the start of the article]: This paper, drawn up by the workman’s tried friend, the Rev. Thaddeus O’Malley, embodies the points of the ‘Charter,’ which specially regard the workman. But it does something more and something better. It distinctly sets forth the real substantial grievances which oppress the working classes in this country, and boldly applies to them the only efficient and radical cure.


1. God has given this fertile land to the people, who under his providence are born on it, for their plentiful sustenance – and what God has given no man or set of men shall take away, or any part thereof.

2. Not one acre therefore of this land shall be held by any but Irishmen, or by persons adopting this country as their own, and residing habitually in it. And the better to secure that-

3. Not one acre of this land shall be held by any one holding land in any other country, and accordingly –

4. An act shall be passed in the very first session of the next ensuing Irish parliament, enabling all such persons, whether individuals or corporate bodies, to sell out with the utmost facility and dispatch, whatever lands they may hold in this country (this principle of an easy transfer of lands to be made applicable at the same time to all lands), or to effect exchanges of lands in Ireland for lands in Great Britain, or to apportion lands in Ireland amongst the younger sons and daughters or other relatives of British proprietors upon the condition, as above, of their adopting Ireland as their home – all lands of alien proprietors not so disposed of within a given time to be sold by auction and the proceeds remitted to the owners.


5. The owners in fee of the lands of Ireland shall be held as stewards entrusted by the Irish community with the superintending management thereof, and charged with the duty of improving to the utmost, both by instruction and example, the cultivation of the soil. And as further security for its more productive cultivation (the only true ground of right of property in land) –

6. The tenant farmers holding under those owners shall hold their lands with as secure and permanent a tenure as that of the landlord himself, upon the simple and palpable condition of paying punctually the stipulated rent. And

7. No lands shall be held by any mediate tenancy, but shall be held, however small their measurement, directly under the owner; all private interests here concerned to be equitably dealt with.

8. All Irish tenant farmers holding five acres or upwards shall have a right to sell their occupancy for whatever it will bring in the open market, the incoming tenant being obliged to pay up all arrears of rent.

9. The rent to be paid for land shall be settled from time to time by a Baronial Court, to consist of nine persons, three to be landowners of the barony selected by the tenants, and three to be farmers selected by the landowners; the remaining three to be persons wholly disinterested; as being neither owners nor farmers of land, and to be chosen as umpires by the other two-thirds conjointly.

10. Rent of land shall be apportioned upon the principle of an equitable dividend of the sum of the produce between the three parties; the owner, the farmer, and the agricultural labourers; and

11. The dividend of this latter party – that is, of the actual cultivators of the soil – being they who are the real producers of the whole, shall be the first set apart, and shall be equivalent to a wages of at least 9s. a week at present value of money, for any adult labourer (giving eleven hours each day), with, in addition, a comfortable cottage, and half an acre of garden, rent free, for every head of a family located on the farm – of which heads of families there shall be a given number for every 100 acres, according to the award of the baronial board.

12. The price of agricultural labour shall be settled from time to time by a board, consisting in equal numbers of employers and of labourers – of employers selected by labourers, and labourers selected by employers, and of persons who are neither, but disinterested umpires between them, and chosen by the others conjointly; and that price may be rated either by the time, or by the piece, or task.

13. Small farmers holding under ten acres, and doing themselves all the work necessary for their cultivation, shall be free to pay their rents in kind – that is by a certain proportion of the produce, to be assigned from time to time, as aforesaid, by the baronial board.


14. All waste lands in Ireland now lying unreclaimed, and so unappropriated by any attempt at cultivation (the only true mode of seizing land), shall be the property of the Irish people; and more especially of the numerous class of them who earn their daily bread by their daily toil, the nominal owners, not being corporate bodies, to be compensated out of the coffers of the state for their nominal intererst therein, in so far as such interest may be found to be appreciable.

15. This patrimony of the poor of Ireland (which a gracious Providence has preserved for them) shall be vested in a commission to be called “The Administration of Public Succour” – that commission to be appointed by a majority of the votes of the elected guardians of the poor throughout the country.

16. The “Administration of Public Succour,” besides being charged with the superintendence of the relief to be given to the helpless poor, shall also be empowered and required (being wholly untrammeled in their oprerations by any form of local settlements) to take into their service all the able-bodied labourers for whom in the present circumstances of the country, employers could not find work, at the rate of wages here defined, setting them to cultivate those wastes, and, according as they are reclaimed, locating them in families upon them as free tenants in small, undividable holdings of (never less than) five acres – thus constituting them farmers on the poor’s estates, whose constantly accruing rents will fill up quickly the coffers of the “Administration of Public Succour,” and soon enable them to pay off the moneys borrowed upon the security of those estates.

17. The revenues of the “Administration of Public Succour,” which shall be over and above its expenditure, its debt being discharged, shall be employed in promoting the comforts, and enjoyments, and intellectual culture of the whole body of the working classes, in the erection of public fountains and public baths, and popular libraries or popular promenades, or other public places, with appliances for healthy exercise or recreation and amusement.


18. As God has given this land, and the fatness thereof to the Irish people, so also has he given for their free use, the lakes, and streams, and rivers teeming with their further supplies of living food.

19. Every encroachment upon this free gift of God, under the name of rights of fishery, is a manifest usurpation, and shall be abolished.

20. It shall be free to all to fish in lake or running water, subject only to the regulations as to season, and mode of fishing, prescribed for the preservation, or for the improvement of the fishery itself, and as such, to be faithfully observed by the whole community now interested in it; and the more fully to facilitate to all, the exercise of this right of fishery.


21. No lands through which streams or rivers run, or in which natural lakes are formed, shall be so enclosed as to prevent a free access to their banks at all points, save where they touch upon the domestic privacy of the garden and pleasure grounds; and –

22. With the same reservation, the whole face of the country shall be allowed to gladden its whole family with its full freshness and beauty; and for this purpose, as well as also for its manifest public convenience, pathways, with turnstiles, and stepping-stiles, shall be run through all demesnes or other enclosed grounds, in such directions as may be best adapted for the double end of business and of pleasure.

23. Covers and preserves shall be sacred from any intrusion but any game issuing from them, may be shot or taken by any man on his own ground, save when it is actually under the pursuit of the hunter or the fowler; and subject also to the regulations which regard the preservation of the species.


24. Every trade, whether carried on in factories or otherwise shall be regulated so far as respects the price of work, and other details of moment by the decisions of a committee, consisting in equal proportions of employers, chosen by the workmen, and of workmen chosen by employers, and of umpires chosen by both conjointly.

25. That committee shall fix from time to time the minimum price of every piece of work done by the trade; it shall be such as to enable an average workman to earn, working ten hours a day, a comfortable subsistence for self and family.

26. It shall not be lawful for any employer to offer to any workman less than the appointed minimum of the time being but it shall be lawful for the superior workman, and he shall be entitled to demand something beyond the minimum, according to the rate of excellence of the work done by him, a rate to be graduated in three or more scales by the committee.

27. The employer shall be perfectly unshackled in selecting his workmen out of the body of their comrades; but he must be controlled by the committee as to the number of the apprentices he may take, and what length of time they are to serve.

28. When work is to be priced, not by the piece but by the day, the working day shall not exceed ten hours, and for every hour beyond that there shall be an extra allowance, according to a graduate scale to be drawn up by the committee, the day wages in such cases to be such as is provided in art. 25.

29. These regulations for the organisation of labour shall apply in all their force, and in every particular, to female employers and female workers, or to male employers of workmen – that is to say, females, in every branch of the work done by them, shall be protected by regulations, in the drawing up of which they must themselves be parties, which will secure them always a fair day’s wages for a fair day’s work, the same way – namely, as for their fathers or brothers – a day of ten hours, with extra allowance for time beyond that; or shall secure them a fixed price for every piece of work delivered, and at a rate which shall enable every unprotected female, who has an average capacity for work, to earn within the ten hours a decent subsistence.


30. Every species of labour as well as that of the trades and of agriculture, shall be protected by similar regulations, either its price shall be fixed by piece, by joint-committees, as organised above, or by the day – the day never to exceed eleven hours, except with the provisio in Art. 28: and, in either case, securing to the adult able-bodied labourer a minimum of 10s. a week of present money value.


31. As provided above in the case of surplus agricultural labourers, every workman, whether tradesman or otherwise, who may not be able to procure employment in the ordinary market, shall have a right to fall back upon the “Administration of Public Succour,” and demand employment there.

32. That administration, in return for their work, shall provide them with all necessaries, and shall open an account with each, and, in so far as the value of the work exceeds the cost of his maintenance, shall either locate him advantageously upon their reclaimed estates, giving him either a cottage and garden, or small farm, or else providing him with an outfit equivalent to his claim.


33. The taxation which is levied upon the consumption of articles used by the working classes is a fraud, and shall be redressed.

34. Taxation is the price which society pays for the advantages which society confers. The working classes enjoy very little of those advantages; while they are themselves the creators of most of them, and should therefore, on both accounts, be exempted from any share of it.

35. Everything consumed or used by the working classes ought to be as cheap as God gives it, or man can make it; and our whole system of customs and excise shall be reformed accordingly.

36. The deficit of the public revenue occasioned thereby shall be made good by a direct income tax reaching every species of property and every species of income over 100l, per annum.

37. And whereas, in proportion to the extent of their income, the rich non-working class enjoy the more of the benefits of the social system, and are the better able to pay for them, and are, besides, the largest consumers of the taxes themselves, the tax upon income shall be levied upon them in a gradually ascending ratio of per centage for every additional 1000l a year.


38. As securities for the maintenance of the workmen’s rights – every working farmer (holding five acres) and every regular tradesman, and every labourer who is head of a family, being respectively of a full age and of sound mind, and unsullied by any civil offence, shall have a vote in returning members to our House of Commons, and give that vote by ballot – and

39. Every such farmer and every such tradesman shall have a right to bear arms and be inscribed in the muster-roll of the IRISH NATIONAL GUARD.


[This pledge already taken by a great many Dublin workmen, does not require any one to administer it. It may be given and taken mutually by the workmen themselves one to another, and in any number, but not lower than three, so that there may be amongst the pledgers, at least one of each sect and party into which our working men are unhappily divided, and two of different crafts.]

“We, workmen of different crafts, and parties, and sects, pledge ourselves to renounce for ever the senseless feuds that have sundered us too long, whether religious, or political, or factional, we pledge ourselves to enter into and combine with a grand national brotherhood of our comrades of all crafts, including the workers of the soil, throughout the whole length and breadth of the land; we pledge ourselves to diffuse to the utmost of our power the healing spirit of that brotherhood, with a view to the more orderly establishment of our social and political rights, as set forth in the “WORKMAN’S BILL OF RIGHTS;” we pledge ourselves to use unceasingly and unflinchingly, every legitimate and prudential means at our command in asserting those rights, until we shall have won them, sanctioned and guaranteed to us for ever by the legislative enactment of a national parliament; to all this we pledge ourselves solemnly, heart and hand, before God and our country.”

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