With the exception of a
very few passages, this Autobiography of a Working Man was originally
written to be read after the author's death, and not before. Personal
circumstances which need not be further explained here, have changed
this purpose. Public circumstances have also had an influence to decide
the author on present publication.
The conspiracy of trades’ unionists and political lunatics, in 1834, in
which the author was solicited to take a part, which he did not take,
but of which he had seen enough, to know that calamities of direst peril
impended over the lives of some of the highest personages in the
kingdom, and that the vilest crimes which ever added atrocity to
treason, were within the measure of a day, and a probable incident, of
being ripe for action and development,—that conspiracy is related in the
latter chapters, which were written when the author had some
apprehension that the time when they were to be read—the time after
death—was precariously near at hand. He is now advised, that the
publication of these chapters may be of more use at the present, than at
a future time. If they be of use to warn working men of the perils into
which they are led by leaders whom they cannot control, he will gladly
confess that good has been done.
If the earlier chapters, which relate the events of his boyhood, and of
his farm-field life, be deemed satisfactory reading, and not obtrusive
of puerilities, or of private affairs which have no public uses, he will
feel sufficiently gratified.
If those chapters which contain a narrative of the author's military
life in the Scots Greys, fulfil the purpose he designs them to do, they
will inform such readers as care to know what his motives were in doing
what he and military associates did in Birmingham barracks, during the
great national crisis of May, 1832, when Reform, in its troubled passage
to the statute-book, was arrested, and thrust out of parliamentary
All the chapters were, at first, written in letters of affectionate
instruction for the use of the author's infant son, when he might grow
to manhood; but, since it has been designed to publish them for public
perusal, many of the reflections on men, on facts, on opinions, or on
principles, have been omitted. The author doubts if he be qualified to
make such reflections instructive to general readers. Wherefore he
prefers, with a few exceptions, to give the incidents of the
"Autobiography" in a continuous narrative.
9 April, 1848.