Count, William
Unpublished Manuscript, labor themed novel by William Count, early Labor Party candidate, of Bristol, England, circa 1877-1878

Small quarto, 307 manuscript pages, bound in ¼ blue cloth, with paper-backed limp boards, possibly a self-made binding, spine chipped, boards worn and stained, some minor staining to preliminary pages, otherwise very good, minor tanning at edges, written in ink, in a legible hand. The volume also includes 15 pages of tipped in manuscript corrections and/or emendations, not dated, however since Count ran for office for the breakaway Liberals as an early Labor Party candidate in 1877 and 1878, we can assume it was written contemporaneously with his political activities. The book's pages are numbered, with pages 291-292 being repeated, but with different text. The work apparently was never published, no work with this title, or anything remotely similar appears in OCLC.

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On the front cover of this volume the title of the volume is written in ink: "The Representative or an Official Visit to Dublin, being a Series of Photographic Sketches of Life, Character, Scenes, & Utterances." At the bottom of the front cover, the author signs his name and address, "William Count, 18 Waterloo Place, Bristol."

           Our author, William Count, appears to be one of the early Labor Party candidates that broke away from the Liberal Party in the 1870s and ran as a Labor candidate in the Bristol Municipal Elections of 1877 and 1878 for Saint Philip's Ward. He lost both elections to the Liberal Party candidate, but along with others, he helped pave the way for the rise of the Labor Party in England.

William Count (1827-1902)

The 1881 English Census shows William Count enumerated with his wife Louisa at St. Philip's Ward, Bristol, England - the same ward from which he ran for elected office. They lived at 18 Waterloo Place, the same address written on the front cover of the manuscript offered here.

William Count was born on 29 March 1827, at London and baptized at St. Luke's, Chelsea, London. He was the son of Francis and Mary Count. His father was a shoemaker and William followed him in that profession. William had at least two siblings, sisters Mary and Louisa.

William's wife Louisa was born about 1835. The couple had no children living with them in 1881, although an earlier Census of 1871 does show a sixteen year old daughter Jane Count, also born in London. On both the 1871 and 1881 Census, William was listed as a boot maker. Going back to the 1861 Census, William and his wife are found at Cheltenham, England. He had already started his career as a boot and shoemaker. The household also included a twelve year old son Robert Count who was born in Brighton, showing the family had moved from London, to Brighton, to Cheltenham, then to Bristol where they show up on both the 1871 and 1881 Censuses.

William Count appears to have died about the year 1902 at the age of seventy-six.

         Early Labor Party Candidate

The Labor Party's origins date from the late 19th century. At the time it had become apparent that there was a need for a new political party to represent the interests and needs of the urban proletariat, a demographic which had increased in number and had recently been given franchise. Some members of the trades' union movement became interested in moving into the political field, and after further extensions of the voting franchise in 1867 and 1885; the Liberal Party endorsed some trade-union sponsored candidates.

The first Lib–Lab candidate to stand was George Odger in the Southwark by-election of 1870. In addition, several small socialist groups had formed around this time, with the intention of linking the movement to political policies. Among these were the Independent Labor Party, the intellectual and largely middle-class Fabian Society, the Marxist Social Democratic Federation and the Scottish Labor Party. In the 1895 general election, the Independent Labor Party put up 28 candidates but won only 44,325 votes. Keir Hardie, the leader of the party, believed that to obtain success in parliamentary elections, it would be necessary to join with other left-wing groups.

According to a book by David Large, The Municipal Government of Bristol, 1851-19011, William Count was active in the local labor politics of Bristol in the last quarter of the nineteenth century. In the late nineteenth century, the Liberal and Conservative Parties were content to share power on Bristol's council.  However, by the 1880s, the Liberal party found it increasingly difficult to retain the allegiance of its working class supporters. In St. Philips ward in 1877, working class elements felt a need for independent representation and challenged Christopher Thomas, a leading Liberal, former Mayor, and head of a major soap manufacturing business, who had represented the ward for the past twenty-nine years.

Thomas was not rejected by the ward meeting of Liberal voters "merely for the social sin of being respectable," as the Conservative press approvingly noted. But Thomas was sharply attacked by T. M. Kelly, as an unsuitable candidate since he was a Director of Bristol Water Company and hence had a vested interest at a time when the Council was seriously contemplating purchasing the Company.

Kelly, an Irishman and one time building laborer, had been the driving force behind the establishment of a laborer's trade union, The Bristol, West of England, Trade and Provident Society, which was part of the intense trade union activity which characterized the 1870's in Bristol.

After being ejected from the ward meeting which readopted Christopher Thomas, Kelly and his union allies, who had formed a Working Man's Reform Association, nominated William Count, a boot and shoemaker who had been adopted at a noisy torchlight meeting of three or four hundred members of the Association. The Association nominated him to run for a candidate "to revolutionize the grand old Tory city of Bristol" as a representative of Labor.

The Association worked hard for Count who polled a respectable 520 votes. Christopher Thomas polled three times as many, but the working men believed they had gained a moral victory and Kelly declared that he would sever all ties with the Liberals "because of their attitude to working men." He felt that the events in St. Philips in the following year justified him: the supporters of Lewis Fry, the Liberal candidate, attacked Count for standing again, impugned his character, and accused him of being surrounded by spongers.

Kelly, Count and their supporters by provoking electoral contests in the 1870s to secure "direct labor representation" as Kelly called it, set a precedent for others to challenge the existing parties at the polls. In the 1880's and 1890's fifteen candidates calling themselves representatives of Labor stood for election in Redcliff, St. James, District, St. Pauls, St. Philips, both north and south, Easton and St. George. Labor triumphed for the first time in 1887 in St. Pauls when R.G. Tovey, who doubled as secretary of the Trades Council and the Labor League, defeated long serving Liberals. By 1901 Labor had three sitting councilors in Bristol.

Besides running for council, William Count was the general secretary of the National Union of Working Women and a member of the Bristol Trades Council. He wrote a pamphlet (20 pp) published in 1880 entitled Electoral Reform, published by George Vickers in London, which went to at least three editions by 1881.

         Reference:

1. Large, David. The Municipal Government of Bristol, 1851-1901, Bristol: Bristol Record Society, 1999, pp. 7-10.

         Description and Sample Quotations:

The manuscript is written in a fictionalized novel format. The original manuscript title page was used as a paste down against the front board. The author, as the title suggests is traveling on his way to Dublin on official business, presumably as a labor representative. The novel stops with Chapter 11 on the table of contents page and states "To be continued."

The novel has labor related themes and dialogues that the author creates centered on certain topics that he introduces. Most of the novel is in the form of dialogue between the author and those he meets while traveling on the train. Those topics introduced in the characters' dialogue are: Trade Unions, Game Laws, Landlords, Farmers, Waste Lands, Allotments, the Radical Party, the Liberal Party, the Tory (Conservative Party), Free Trade, Industrialization in the work place, Political Economy, Reforms, Credit, Debtors, etc.

The first two pages of the volume include a table of contents, which reveals the topics and places covered. The table of contents reads as follows:

"Contents

Chapter the First - Page 5th. The commencement of the Journey; From Bristol to Mangotsfield; Proving how much easier it to reprove the faults of others than to rectify our own.

Chapter the Second - Page 22nd.  From Mangotsfield to Gloucester - Sundry views propounded regarding Racing, Fox Hunting, Total Abstinence, &c. proving how self interest endeavors to lacquer Vice on purpose to make it appear golden.

Chapter the Third - Page 39th. From Gloucester to Cheltenham, with Observations regarding the depression of Trade, Trades Unions, Strikes, & touching upon the Cost of Drink, with certain ideas regarding Entail and Primogeniture, with views suggesting sundry Reforms.

Chapter the Fourth - Page 72. From Cheltenham to Ashchurch, with views of rather a pronounced Character upon The Game Laws, also giving an account of a few especial prejudices, with suggest Reforms of great importance.

Chapter the Fifth - Page 78th. From Ashchurch to Worcester. Wherein views are promulgated regarding Education; Improvement for Debt; The Laws regarding Creditor and Debtor; - also suggestions of improvement; with a slight glance at Theatres, Dancing, Novels, &c.

Chapter the Sixth - Page 146. From Worcester to Broomsgrove - Upon Civil Government -pointing to probable Reforms.

Chapter the Seventh - Page 179. From Broomsgrove, to Camp Hill, with one or two views regarding Political Economy.

Chapter the Eighth - Page 194. From Camp Hill to Birmingham - Upon Machinery - Free Trade - Reciprocity, &c.

Chapter the Ninth - Page 223. A stroll through Birmingham - Upon a Sample of People's Palace - and Divorce.

Chapter the Tenth - Page 252. From Birmingham to Wolverhampton - Wherein views are expressed regarding the Tory - The Liberal and the Radical Party.

Chapter the Eleventh - page 284. From Wolverton to Stafford. Views regarding Landlords, and Farmers - with certain benefits suggested from allotments - waste lands, &c. (to be continued)"

According to the table of contents, the author/narrator never gets to Dublin, rather the novel leaves us off as he travels from Wolverton to Stafford, discussing landlords, farmers, and the benefits of allotments, waste lands, etc.

Landlords, Farmers, Waste Lands, Allotments, the Radical Party, the Liberal Party, the Tory (Conservative Party), Free Trade, Industrialization in the work place, Political Economy, Reforms, Credit, Debtors, Etc.”

         The following are some examples of the novel showing the labor related theme of the book:

         Page 33-35:

"As far as liberty with a lot of prejudiced people - they would only allow you the Liberty to do the same as they do. - Now acting upon this principle - suppose the Legislature were to pass a law compelling every man to drink half a pint of Beer a day whether he likes it or no - Oh, what a tirade of Patriotic indignation would it cause? "What outrageous Tyranny" would be the cry! But would it be more tyrannical to compel a man to drink half a pint of beer a day than to compel him to go without against his inclination? Now I have noticed many in the higher Circle of Society those who talk largely and somewhat vehemently upon this question - go to their mansions and what do you see? Draw the curtain there they are indulging in home potations of course in what they term a moderate way, and yet these are the persons who preach and talk and tell the workmen to go without that which they find so beneficial to themselves. Now in my opinion there is too much sentiment engrafted upon this question - a sentiment that won't bear rigid investigation.

What are the working men of this country advised to go without? First of all, of course they ought to go without their beer! That great curse of Society! As the stereotype cant of the day is pleased to term it! And then is not another set of shrewd economical Philosophers telling them how advisable it would be to leave off eating meat; - yes, actually Meat! That vegetables being a Natural production of the Earth, it naturally follows that it is a natural article of Food - and as a result easy of digestion, they speak of course of the economy of the thing - how easily procured at lesser cost, but as to meat?"

Page 46-48:

"Mr. Pipe seemed to have suddenly awakened to the dull realities of life for casting his eyes along the seat he singled out - with that [intentive] feeling for which I can give no explanation - the Workman sitting in the opposite corner 'Plenty of Work Mate?' he exclaimed in a kind of tone that carried its own answer.

"Well, not too much o' that" answered the stranger, as suiting his words to the comprehension of the enquirer - Trade depression - Trade depression! I'm sick and tired of it. Strikes and Lock Outs seem all the go, - here have I travelled all round the West of England, and not a ghost of a chance for a stranger, talk about Trades Unions! I wonder what would become of poor fellows like I - if it wasn't for the relief we receive from them?

Now I think the two unassuming ladies felt really anxious to obtain genuine information upon most topics, and although one of them was holding a smelling bottle to her nose, nevertheless she vouchsafed to enquire 'Do you not think these Trades Unions are the cause of The depression of Trade? Do you not think they are calculated to cause an infinite amount of mischief?...

Well! Answered the Workman assuming a totally different manner of expression and with a sparkle in his eye. 'I know that it's becoming fashionable to consider so; But for my part - I think there are various causes producing it - one of them is no doubt over production! Another is - the Land Laws under which we suffer; - then there is another Wars and the rumors of Wars! Then taking into consideration the unlimited amount of Labour performed by machinery - and the vast and ever growing population, these are the causes I think and not Trades Unions."

Count appears to have taken a heavy stance against the land laws of his day, wanting a reform to them to get more land into the hands of more people:

         Page 93-94:

"'What would you advise' echoed the footman. 'First of all' answered Mr. Bowler, 'let me ask ourselves does the present land laws work well in any shape for the benefit of the Nation? What advantage are the results of the present system? Do they in the slightest degree afford compensation for undoubted evils? Even the natural capabilities of the soil which may be under cultivation are not brought forth and why? Through not granting the right of tenure to farmers? What inducements have they to spend their money upon manure, and so on...And as to the poor labourers, God help them! Their system is but an mere principle of Southern slavery without the responsibilities which used to be attached to ownership. Why I would advise the Abolition of the Game Laws! What would I advice? The self same Law that tis carried out in all our colonies. That none should hold possession of Land - after a certain number of years, unless they could show signs of cultivating it! What would I advise? That land should be as easily purchasable without restrictions the same as any other specie of property! Look at the vast success which has attended the numerous little landed proprietors of France, it is to the soundness of their condition that the prosperity may, the very existence of that Nation may be ascribed. They are the mainstay of their country and on them the principle hope of the future depends - how changed from that old condition of wretchedness - when the land was monopolized by a few by the law of hereditary succession to the eldest born and that at the sacrifice of the rest of the family. What would I advise? The abolition of the law of Entail and primogeniture!"