Robert handled this opposition body even though this exposition lost him the support of the Bishops but in the Times Newspaper favourable news was spreading far and wide.
His idea of paying the right wages so that they could buy technology to provide the employment necessary to build roads, bridges and a proper national centre for people as he had in New Lanark. He thought it was common-sense. Robert stated if men and women were educated this brought happy living and that reprimanding punishment was not only cruel but stupid because conduct was caused by bad upbringing and bad surroundings.
After the meeting in London Robert was invited to France as a guest of the French Academy. He set off with an introduction from the Duke of Kent, Father of Queen Victoria and travelled into France with his idea. They called Mr Owen's plan the 19 principles.
Robert's plan of 19 rules for New Lanark was one that parents be answerable for the conduct of their children in their households and even their lodger, every man and woman was capable of working in some legal and useful employment. Robert was often accused of a disbelief of religion so he wrote there are a very great variety of religious sects in the world and they are all equal.
Before long Robert Owen’s plan ran into trouble with his latest partners particularly with William Allen the Quaker, beginning to have severe doubts about the whole adventure not on financial grounds, and not because they were greedy men, but due to rumours of concern about Robert’s casual freedom in the schools.
William Allen was requested to give an address on Christianity and at his visit Robert had a Bible put at his bedside. Robert was away often from New Lanark and he wasn’t paying enough attention to it's affairs so William Allen and two other partners presented Robert with an ultimatum. He must dismiss some of the teachers and bring in more orthodox instructors to be heads of the schools. Dancing must no longer be taught and music only in form of Psalms and Scriptures was to be a regulated part. All males at the age of 6 should wear trousers. This was an accusation that Robert was an agnostic to Religion.
Roberts rule 18 ran as follows...
That as there are a very great variety of religious sects in the world, which are probably adapted to different constitutions under different circumstances, seeing there are many good and conscientious characters in each, it is particularly recommend as a means of uniting the inhabitants of the village into one family. That while each faithfully adheres to the principles which he most approved at the same time all shall be charitable to their neighbour's and show respect towards their religious opinions and not presumptuously suppose that theirs alone are right.
I have put this in full as there are more that could be put as at this time. Robert provided free medical care which was undertaken by a qualified Surgeon employed by the Company and each worker contributed six pence of their wages to a sick fund and was able to draw payment if unable to work. A register of births, deaths and marriages for the village was also kept. The original ledger, which runs from 1815 to 1855, is in the Glasgow University Archives.
Despite extensive campaigning lecturing and publication of pamphlets Robert failed to persuade other manufacturers to shorten working hours and to do away with child labour. He believed that improving conditions could still result in a profitable business.
Robert was getting so unpopular with his outspoken opposition towards organised religion but he couldn’t do anything about it as he was not in full control of his finances. In 1825 he sold the mills at New Lanark to Charles and Henry Walker the sons of one of his Quaker partners. In 1825 Robert still had shares in other mills which his Son Robert Dale Owen looked after as he was thinking about his travels.
So after enormous and unqualifying success particularly after 1813 with scope and money he was able to write two essays on the Formation of Character which was widely read over the next 12 years as visitors came in their thousands to look at the Mills.
Long after the French wars the customers of production that had bought cloth, leather, goods and arms for soldiers had caused unemployment. Robert had made New Lanark a tolerable and a happy place.
Robert went to London to try with the Parliamentary Committee about the Poor Law, spending weeks at that time with people who wanted to reform Parliament. Robert handled it badly, loosing his head in an argument to deliver the debate against all religions as keeping people in such ignorance they could not realise the truth when it was explained to them. This explosion lost him the support of the Bishops and the Times Newspaper, which had first been favourable towards his people, was inclined to write it off as a piece of foolishness on the part of a distinguished industrialist and philanthropist whose heart was in the right place.
In New Lanark schools were growing, flourishing and spreading. Robert had ideas about education, environment and community outside London and the United Kingdom. He was invited to go to France as a guest of the French Academy by Robert’s friend the Duke of Kent, father of Queen Victoria, who gave him an introduction.
Robert spent some time travelling all over Europe with his pamphlets on Philosophy and practicable suggestions. In France Robert’s sister-in-law joined him from London to go on a grand tour of Italy to Geneva and Switzerland where Robert met people of like-minds.
Coming back to Britain, he went to Ireland for 6 to 8 months familiarising himself with interesting tours of textiles factories. Robert saw famine, food riots and the miserable conditions of the poor and unemployed. He went to Port Patrick, Donahue Belfast and Dublin. Robert wrote to his wife Caroline about being with a Bishop, Lord and Duke. Robert also went to County Cork in Limerick and Tipperary and Kerry with the expectation that further advertisements would appear in the newspaper and a report on the British and Foreign Philanthropic Society (the views of society).
Robert was ill for his last lecture in Ireland and he asked Doctor Charles Orpen to read the rules and regulations. He did not read even a few brief observations of Robert’s own views on anti-Christian tendencies and clearly the response caused Robert to think twice about his next meeting. People who had supported Robert said he was the anti-Christ and this caused uproar.
After this he gained a hearing. Robert stood up and said to the audience his sole purpose of coming to Ireland was to promote peace and comfort to all, to remove the wretchedness and misery of the neglected and suffering in the world. Robert also said he had no intentions to interfere with their religion. It was then that General Brown of County Wexford offered to lease a thousand acres and donate £1,000 to start up a place with a Church, Chapel, Meeting House. The people who became involved in this project were called Owenites.
To continue reading about the life and work of Robert Owen please click... here
To view the photographs taken at the Robert Owen Memorial please click... here