Song about the early reform movement on Tyneside.
It had been hoped that the end of the Napoleonic Wars would be followed by a period of peace and prosperity. However the five or six years after 1815 were a period of intolerable privation for the people of Tyneside. The sudden stop in demand for armaments and war materials threw many ironworkers, factory operatives and miners out of work. The number of unemployed was further aggravated by thousands of discharged soldiers and sailors who found it impossible to find jobs. Civil unrest was rife as the lower classes protested against low wages, unemployment and food shortages. Unfortunately this discontent only succeeded in fuelling the governing classes fear of revolution, which had become another effect of the war. This resulted in the restriction of individual liberties, especially the right of public meeting, and an increased military presence, 'we expected that when it com peace, the army and navy reduced ... but, alack-day, we've been seduced.'
This harsh attitude provoked radicals such as Major Cartwright and William Cobbett to demand a reform of Parliament. Reform societies multiplied on Tyneside and following a visit by Cartwirght in 1815, the Political Protestants of Newcastle and Neighbourhood was organised to work for the radical programme. Tracts and pamphlets on political subjects filled the local press and of particular influence was William Cobbett's Political register. This song was written in support of Cobbett's views and reflects the general feeling of the working-classes at the time.
Newcastle was the second largest producer of chapbooks in the country at the time of this book's publication. 'The Newcastle Songster' was printed by J. Marshall, one of the most prominent chapbook printers in Newcastle during the early nineteenth century. This book forms part III of the 'Songster' series and is perhaps easier to date than parts I and II. Although it is not clear whether preceding parts of the 'Songster' were published before or after John Bell's 'Rhymes of the Northern Bards, 1812, the appearance of songs such as 'XYZ' in part III indicate the publication date to be no earlier than 1814.
The book contains some of the region's best known traditional songs. From 'The Skipper's Wedding' to 'Newcastle Fair', the book has offerings from well known Tyneside composers such as John Selkirk and would have been extremely popular among the local population.