A Working Man Jack Strike.

Jack Strike makes fools of us all;
He leads us head first into trouble:
Like a child, with soap suds and pipe,
He sends up his wonderful bubble.
Will he never get any more sense
Than coming when work is not needed?
If he comes when markets are full,
The old fool should never be heeded.
Had he come nine months ago,
When cotton goods were very much wanted,
His friends could have carried their ends,
And his foes might then have been daunted.
Or if he had waited a while,
Until our trade should revive,
We might welcome him then with a smile,
And say “Jack Strike’s to our interest’s alive.”
Any fool but Jack Strike can see
That every dog has his day
When each in his turn can say what he likes
And nearly have his own way.
But Jack Strike is impatient: he cannot wait;
Discretion with him is a crime:
He wastes his resources and cripples himself
With kicking and struggling before it’s his time.

Title:Jack Strike

Author:A Working Man

Publication:Ashton And Stalybridge Reporter

Published in:Ashton-under-Lyne

Date:April 6th, 1861

Keywords:politics, work


Even before the outbreak of the American Civil War, Lancashire’s cotton industry was in trouble. In the boom years of the late 1850s, overproduction had left markets glutted, so that in early 1861 manufacturers were looking to protect their profits from the drop in prices of finished cotton goods. In many cotton towns, attempts to drive down wages led to industrial disputes including strike action. The author of “Jack Strike”, who himself purports to be “A Working Man”, urges his colleagues to avoid this route as ineffective and more damaging to workers than to employers. As the author points out, withdrawal of labour at a time of low demand leads only to the exhaustion of resources – it would be better to wait until labour was again in demand. Unfortunately for the cotton workers of Lancashire, this was to be a long wait. Though some manufacturers took advantage of the shortage of raw cotton to sell stockpiled goods at higher prices, this was no solution to the employment crisis. For the operatives involved in industrial action prior to the outbreak of the Cotton Famine, scant resources were stretched even further to cover a prolonged period without work. – RM