SADLER, Michael Thomas (1780-1835), of 25 Albion Street, Leeds, Yorks.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1820-1832, ed. D.R. Fisher, 2009
Available from Cambridge University Press



6 Mar. 1829 - 1831
1831 - 1832

Family and Education

b. 3 Jan. 1780, yst. s. of James Sadler (d. ?1800) of Old Hall, Doveridge, Derbys. and Frances, da. of Rev. Michael Ferrebee, rect. of Snelston, Staffs. educ. by Mr. Harrison of Doveridge. m. 30 Apr. 1816, Anne, da. of Samuel Fenton of Leeds, 7 ch. d. 29 July 1835.

Offices Held

Ensign, Yorks. (W. Riding) vols. 1804; capt. Leeds light inf. 1820; common councilman, Leeds.


Sadler, whose paternal ancestors were minor Derbyshire squires, while his mother was of Huguenot descent, was largely self-taught and developed an early interest in mathematics and theology. At the age of 17 he wrote his first ‘stinging’ pamphlet, An Apology for the Methodists, with whom his parents, though members of the Church of England, were in sympathy. Mary Howitt of Uttoxeter recalled him as a youth of ‘gentlemanly bearing, handsome dress, intelligent face, and pleasant voice’.1 He settled in business in Leeds in the firm of his elder brother Benjamin, and in 1810 they went into partnership with the widow of Samuel Fenton, as Irish linen importers. Six years later he married the Fentons’ eldest daughter, thereby allying himself with one of Leeds’s foremost Anglican dynasties. He took an active part in the intellectual life of the town, read papers to the Philosophical Society, which he helped to found in 1819, and became chairman of the library committee. Privately, he wrote poetry and metrical versions of the Psalms. He was actively engaged in philanthropic work, and knew Richard Oastler and the Reverend George Stringer Bull.2 Drawn into political activity, he contributed to the Tory Leeds Intelligencer, became a prominent member of the local Pitt Club and delivered a speech against Catholic claims at a public meeting in 1813. Four years later he published his First Letter to a Reformer, a reply to Walter Fawkes’s† advocacy of parliamentary reform.3 His prominence in Leeds politics was well established by 1825, when a correspondent of Lord Milton* drew attention to his ‘very considerable oratorical and poetical talents’.4 In 1827, following the formation of Canning’s ministry, he corresponded with the former home secretary Peel, reporting the temper of West Riding politics, applauding Peel’s resignation and rejoicing that, locally, the ‘loyal party’ had prevailed decisively over a motley crew of Catholics, radicals, Whigs, Jacobins and liberals, ‘or to give them a generic name ... all the Canningites’.5 His political philosophy was greatly influenced by his Evangelical piety. He told a Leeds Tory gathering in 1826 that he wished ‘to extend the utmost possible degree of human happiness to the greatest possible number of human beings’. He lectured on the poor laws, defending them in opposition to the views of political economists. He investigated the principles of demography, and in 1828 published an anti-Malthusian essay on Ireland; its Evils and their Remedies, in which he argued for the establishment of poor laws there. He detested the laissez-faire economics and individualism then in vogue, which he believed were destroying traditional society.6 He was appalled by the new industrialism, particularly the factory system, ‘calling infant existences into perpetual labour’ and depraving morals.7

When his Member Clinton resigned his seat for Newark because he felt unable to oppose the Wellington ministry’s concession of Catholic emancipation in February 1829, the 4th duke of Newcastle offered to bring in Sadler ‘as a bulwark of the Protestant cause’.8 Sadler accepted and declared his candidature as a supporter of the ‘Protestant Ascendancy’, rational economy, free trade if ‘mutually beneficial’ and ‘practical reforms’ that did not ‘destroy the integrity of the constitution’. After a hard-fought contest with the common lawyer Serjeant Wilde*, brought forward to oppose the ducal interest, he was returned.9 Meeting Sadler in London, 8 Mar., Newcastle found him ‘full of energy and a most intelligent man’, and gave him

what he considered to be most useful advice as to his parliamentary proceedings so as to gain the favour of the House and to obtain a willing hearing; his Yorkshire dialect is rather broad, but that is the only thing against him.10

He took his seat the following day, and presented and endorsed several petitions against emancipation, 11 Mar. In a long and emotional maiden speech, 17 Mar., when he ‘was listened to at least with attention’, he challenged Parliament’s authority to proceed ‘in this work of counter-revolution’ without making a fresh appeal to the people, dismissed the notion that emancipation would pacify Ireland and condemned Peel’s apostacy.11 The anti-Catholic Lord Lowther* reported that although he was

nervous and unused to the tact of the House ... it was admitted even by his opponents that he displayed great force, power and energy of mind. He gave Peel a great dressing and in good taste. If he is not too old to learn to accommodate himself to the etiquette or forms of the House he will be a prominent debater.12

The poet Robert Southey*, who had long admired Sadler’s politics and talents, thought he had ‘answered my expectations’.13 Henry Bankes*, another sympathizer, reckoned the speech was ‘very powerful and able’; and even the Whig Lord Howick* admitted that his effort, which had been ‘amazingly cried up by his party’, did ‘show some power of speaking’.14 The backbencher Hudson Gurney thought he spoke ‘in the tone of a Methodist preacher’.15 Newcastle believed that Sadler’s ‘striking and eloquent speech’ had ‘astonished the House and astounded his antagonists’; but the cabinet minister Lord Ellenborough noted that ‘he made some good hits, but will never have power’.16 Sadler divided against the second reading of the relief bill, 18 Mar., and next day vouched for the genuineness of the London and Westminster anti-Catholic petition. He voted against a clause of the bill, 23 Mar., and on the 24th ironically observed that rather than continue to exclude Catholics from a few offices of state ‘we ought to abandon the entire constitution’ to them. His vehement speech against the third reading, 30 Mar., evidently did not enhance his reputation. The Whig Henry Howard* told his mother that Sadler, ‘the most perfect specimen of a canting Methodist I ever saw’, was ‘awfully fallen off’ and ‘cheered but little by his own party’; while another Whig, James Abercromby*, thought he ‘failed completely’.17 Gurney decided that he was ‘no great matter after all and ... will very soon preach to the winds’.18 Sadler supported inquiry into the silk trade, 13 Apr., when he castigated ministers for their blind adherence to free trade, and 1 May 1829, when he voted to that effect. On 7 May he presented and endorsed a petition for the introduction of poor laws to Ireland and, having been called to account by Wilmot Horton for certain allegations respecting the emigration committee in his tract on Ireland, he objected to government ‘wasting its resources in so fruitless and anti-national, and practically so cruel, an attempt as that of lessening the population’ and advocated cultivation of wastes at home. On 4 June he again rejected that ‘modern metaphysical jargon, miscalled political economy’ and clashed with Wilmot Horton over the interpretation of demographic statistics. He protested against the passage of the anatomy regulation bill, which would operate ‘almost exclusively upon the poor’, 19 May. He presented and endorsed the Blackburn petition complaining of manufacturing distress, 12 June, and deplored ministers’ decision to adjourn Parliament without attending to the problem. At the postponed celebratory election dinner at Newark, 24 July, he expounded his political philosophy at length: he denounced Catholic relief as ‘a base compromise’ and advocated the encouragement of domestic industry and care for the ‘just rights and essential interests’ of every rank of society ‘and above all, the labouring classes ... whose prosperity is the foundation of that of all others’. Newcastle reflected that Sadler had accomplished much to their mutual benefit in the borough.19 In late July Sir Richard Vyvyan*, writing to Newcastle on the state of parties, named Sadler as a potentially ‘powerful’ recruit for the Ultras. A month later he asked Sadler whether he was prepared to take office in a putative coalition ministry, noting that the Morning Journal had already listed him as vice-president of the board of trade in one such. In his reply, from the ‘obscure sea-bathing village’ of Redcar, where he was pursuing his anti-Malthusian studies (the result was his Law of Population (1830)), Sadler said he had ‘no objection to form part of a ministry founded upon such principles as you and I mutually adopt’. At the same time, Vyvyan was told by his coadjutor Sir Edward Knatchbull* that notwithstanding Sadler’s ‘great talents and great information’, he would ‘never be a minister, assuredly not under George IV’. But Vyvyan insisted that Sadler was ‘a man of vast force and information’, that ‘the manufacturing interest look on him as one of themselves’ and that, though lacking in social polish, he was ‘as much a gentleman as Peel, if not in outward appearance and manners, at least in nobleness of mind’.20 In October 1829 Vyvyan duly listed Sadler as one of the ‘Tories strongly opposed to the present government’. In September he had addressed a meeting of the shipping interest at Whitby on the state of the country and the evils of free trade.21

Sadler voted for Knatchbull’s amendment to the address, 4 Feb. 1830, and next day took exception to ‘the extraordinary levity’ with which some Members treated the economic condition of the country, criticized absentee Irish landlords, blamed the resumption of cash payments for adding to the cost of government and called for stringent retrenchment. When in early February he and Clinton Fynes Clinton, Newcastle’s Member for Aldborough, decided ‘forcibly to take up the cause of the liberty of the press as connected with the late ex-officio prosecutions for libel’, Newcastle had no doubt that their ‘temperately though spiritedly managed’ campaign would ‘produce considerable effect’.22 Having called for information on the prosecutions, particularly that of the editor of the Ultra Morning Journal, 11 Feb., Sadler on 2 Mar. gave notice of his intention to try to amend the law of libel, but he did not follow it up. He voted against the transfer of East Retford’s seats to Birmingham, 11 Feb. When the Newark petition seeking to prevent renewal of the duke of Newcastle’s crown leases at Newark came before the House, 1 Mar., he opposed referring it to a committee and defended his patron against the charge of boroughmongering and exercising ‘undue’ electoral influence; he was a teller for the majority against inquiry. Newcastle was pleased with his speech, which he thought as ‘prudent and highly principled, as it was beautiful’; but John Cam Hobhouse* thought he had ‘floored Sadler’ in his reply.23 Sadler presented a petition from aggrieved landowners against the Leeds and Selby railway bill, 4 Mar., and immediately opposed its second reading, urging caution on railway development. Later that day he argued that pluralism in ‘the civil establishments of the country’ was more alarming than in the church. On 16 Mar. he presented and endorsed the Leeds manufacturers and operatives’ petition complaining of distress and condemned government’s economic policy. He voted to abolish the Bathurst and Dundas pensions, 26 Mar., and against Jewish emancipation, 5 Apr., 17 May. He presented and supported a licensed victuallers’ petition against the proposal to open the beer trade, 8 Apr., spoke and voted against the second reading of the sale of beer bill, 4 May, and voted for Knatchbull’s amendment to it, 21 June. He was added to the committees on the truck and population bills, 3 May. He supported Yorkshire petitions for protection of the shipping interest, 6 May, contending that without reduced taxation, free trade and competition were ‘worse than a fallacy’. He voted to reduce the salary of the assistant secretary of the treasury, 10 May, and for inquiry into privy councillors’ emoluments, 14 May. Entrusted with the Macclesfield petition against the administration of justice bill, 27 May, he endorsed its opposition to reform of the palatinate jurisdiction of Chester; he voted against going into committee on the bill, 18 June. He presented a petition from Westmeath for an Irish poor law, 28 May, and on 3 June spoke at length on his own scheme for such legislation. Unwilling to divide a hostile House, he withdrew his proposal but gave notice of his intention to renew it should the current select committee not recommend a system of poor laws for Ireland. He voted for reduction of the South American consular grant and abolition of the death penalty for forgery, 7 June, and divided for economies in other areas of the consular and colonial services, 11, 14 June. He presented and endorsed a Newark petition against the employment of juvenile chimney sweeps, 10 June, and next day presented Irish petitions against the increased stamp duties and for poor laws. He took exception to the petition presented on behalf of Richard Carlile against the civil disabilities of Jews on the ground that its substance contradicted the New Testament, 16 June 1830.

Sadler stood for Newark at the general election of 1830 and was returned in second place ahead of Wilde.24 In the July Edinburgh Review (li. 297-321) Macaulay savaged his Law of Population, especially its crucial ‘blunder in mathematical nomenclature’. Sadler published a Refutation in November, but Macaulay got the better of him.25 Ministers listed him among the ‘violent Ultras’, and he voted against them in the division on the civil list which brought them down, 15 Nov. 1830. On the appointment of Brougham as lord chancellor he was rumoured to have received an invitation to stand for Yorkshire.26 He endorsed the prayer of the Whitby petition to abolish the duty on seaborne coal, 13 Dec., and supported Littleton’s bill to end truck payments, 14 Dec., when he again attacked the ‘dry and barren generalities’ of free trade and ridiculed Hume’s reasoning on wage settlements. On 20 Dec. 1830 he presented petitions from Newbury for increased duties on foreign flour and from Ireland for equalization of the Galway franchise between Catholics and Protestants. He spent part of the Christmas recess furthering his investigation into the condition of ‘the poor, and poor labouring peasantry’ in the agricultural districts; and on 4 Jan. 1831 he told Stanley Giffard that ‘very much may be accomplished in their behalf, by means at once simple and efficacious’.27 On 3 Feb., however, he deferred his proposal to introduce a bill to better the condition of the labouring poor. That day he opposed the bill to abolish the oath of abjuration. Deploring the reduction of the barilla duties, 7 Feb., he dismissed the ‘pernicious notions misnamed political economy’, but said he would support the Grey ministry ‘whenever I can do so consistently with my principles’. He gave his view of their budget to Giffard, 11 Feb.:

It was I believe ... felt on all hands to be a failure ... and above all cheerless in its general aspect as affording little or no surplus, and consequently little prospect of meeting any additional demands without fresh impositions or of reducing taxation much below its present amount in future. It was, however, the budget of political economy.28

He warmly welcomed Hobhouse’s bill to regulate and restrict child factory labour, 15 Feb. On the 16th he argued that distress was attributable to a cause other than overpopulation and pressed for the development of uncultivated land. Next day he opposed the proposed levy on steamboat passengers, which would hit poor Irish migrant labourers and allow Irish landlords to ‘continue without restraint their culpable system of absenteeism’. On 18 Feb. he declared that only ‘wise and graduated poor laws’ could rescue Ireland from recurrent famine and distress. He condemned Howick’s Malthusian emigration scheme and pledged himself to produce a ‘practical plan for the relief of the people’, 22 Feb. He favoured the immediate committal of the calico duties repeal bill, 8 Mar. Having attended the public meeting convened by merchants and ship owners of London, he endorsed their petition against relaxation of the timber duties, 15 Mar. Requested to support the kelp growers’ petition, 16 Mar., he affirmed that the reduction of duties on imported barilla would cause great hardship and that in parts of Scotland ‘the people are hardly able to obtain the means of subsistence’. On 18 and 30 Mar. he again maintained that Irish distress would only be alleviated by the introduction of poor laws and dismissed the government’s relief proposals as ‘utterly inadequate’. He voted against the second reading of the reform bill, 22 Mar., questioned the alleged enthusiasm of the people for it, 28 Mar., and disputed the crown’s right to suspend writs, 30 Mar. According to Mrs. Arbuthnot, the Ultras were ‘voting with Mr. O’Connell, who sits whispering with Mr. Sadler all night, and Sir F. Burdett, with the object of breaking down the government’.29 He was put up to second Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment, 18 Apr., but by all accounts his speech fell flat, and against the background of a noisy and inattentive House, Spring Rice reported that Sadler had ‘given us extracts from all imaginable books to prove the rotten boroughs are the salvation of England’.30 He duly divided in the majority, 19 Apr. He later received the freedom of Dublin for ‘his able and eloquent resistance to the reform bill’, but at Newark his effigy was burnt and ‘thrown hissing hot into the Trent’. On the advice of his agents Newcastle withdrew him from Newark and at the ensuing general election put him up for Aldborough, where he came in unopposed.31 He was nominated without his consent at Norwich and got 977 votes. He wrote to his son on the eve of the new session:

It is calculated that the ministers will have a majority in the Commons of above 100, but that they will be in a minority in the Peers, except a large batch is made. Time alone will show ... Yesterday I was at a grand party of the opposition at which there were many dukes and nobles ... It was a party ... of all the Tories and we all shook hands. The duke of Newcastle and Sir Robert Peel were reconciled ... Its being supposed that I am true to my principles and have employed my abilities be they what they may in furthering them ... was the consideration that moved the duke of Newcastle to promote me to a seat; but if the constitution is destroyed, neither he nor anyone will have it in his power to countenance men these distinctions, many years.32

On the address, 21 June 1831, he called for more decisive action to relieve distress in Ireland, and by his own account ‘was listened to and much cheered in what I said’.33 Next day he announced his intention to renew his proposed measure of relief, clashed with the Irish secretary Smith Stanley and urged the House to force absentee landlords to bear some responsibility for the relief of the poor. On 28 June he took issue with Robert Slaney over the poor laws, and on the following day declared that the House ought to compensate individuals for legislation affecting their livelihoods. Presenting an Irish petition against the Beer Act, 30 June, he reiterated his plea for relaxation of the malt duty. He then spoke and voted in the minority of 13 for reductions in public salaries. Initially embarrassed by his mistaken belief that government intended to reduce the import duty on wax, 1 July, he welcomed its retention as a safeguard to cottage industry. He also advocated replacing the duty on printed calicoes with a tax on raw cotton, because the poor would bear the brunt of the new levy. On 8 July he approved the employment of criminals in the reclamation of uncultivated land, as opposed to detaining them in penitentiaries. Addressing a weary House, 11 July, he deemed it harsh to increase the tax on Cape wines while lowering that on wines generally consumed by the wealthy. He presented petitions concerning poor rates and emigration, 13, 18 July 1831. Sadler voted against the second reading of the reintroduced reform bill, 6 July, and for the adjournment, 12 July. At this time Greville noted that all concerted opposition by the Tory party seemed to have ceased, but that ‘there is still a rabble of opposition, tossed about by every wind of folly and passion, and left to the vagaries and eccentricities’ of, among others, Sadler.34 On 15 and 21 July he drew attention to the inconsistent application of the disfranchisement criteria. Maintaining that Yorkshire was ‘inadequately represented’, 22 July, he argued that ‘if you purpose to destroy our ancient institutions, it is the more necessary that those you erect on their ruins should be based upon some intelligible principles, either of property or population’. He condemned the bill’s ‘iniquitous levelling system of qualification’, 27 July, when he briefly protested on his constituents’ behalf against the disfranchisement of Aldborough and spoke and voted for Chippenham’s retention of two Members. He spoke against the enfranchisement of Gateshead, 5 Aug., objected to urban freeholders having votes in counties, 24 Aug., and was in a minority of 38 for preserving freemen’s voting rights, 30 Aug. He divided against the passage of the bill, 21 Sept. 1831.

On 29 Aug. 1831, after many frustrating delays, he brought on his motion for an Irish poor law, but although a number of Members spoke in its support, it was rejected by 64 votes to 52. Yet Sadler told Oastler that ‘even the ministers themselves, acknowledge [the division] to be a defeat’; and The Times, hitherto disparaging of his endeavours, remarked that ‘his speech ... was able and eloquent, nor are we among those who consider it a defect, that he treated the subject broadly’.35 He presented further petitions for Irish poor laws, 2, 3 Sept. He brought up petitions from Galway to equalize voting rights between Catholics and Protestants, 13 July, 2 Sept., 18 Oct., and paired against the Maynooth grant, 26 Sept. He objected to the grant for New South Wales because colonization was redundant in the face of English agriculture’s dependence on Irish labour, 25 July. On Sabbath observance, he stressed the need for rest on humanitarian grounds, 2 Sept., when he presented and endorsed petitions from Lancashire cotton weavers for a protective export duty on cotton yarn. On 11 Oct. he moved a resolution for improving the condition of the rural poor in England, principally through the provision of better housing and the allocation of allotments. He introduced and had printed a bill to effect this, 18 Oct. 1831.

Commenting on the distressed condition of the glove trade, 15 Dec. 1831, he warned government that ‘people are not to be fed by abstract notions of political economy’. He objected to the anatomy bill that day, presented a hostile petition, 2 Feb., and spoke against its third reading, 11 May 1832. He voted against the second reading of the revised reform bill, 17 Dec. 1831, and its committal, 20 Jan. 1832. He criticized the £10 householder qualification, 2 Feb., voted against the enfranchisement of Tower Hamlets, 28 Feb., and divided against the third reading, 22 Mar., and the second reading of the Irish reform bill, 25 May. He endorsed the Leeds petition to reform the Irish tithes system and establish poor laws there, 23 Jan., when he also spoke in favour of inquiry into the condition of the country as a whole. He supported a petition for investigation of the state of the silk trade, 21 Feb. He backed the call for the accurate registration of births and deaths, 23 Mar. On 19 June he proposed to make permanent provision for the Irish poor by taxing absentees, but was defeated by 77-58. He divided against government on the Russian-Dutch loan, 26 Jan., 12 July, and was in the minority of 16 against the Greek loan, 6 Aug. He spoke in favour of remission of the death penalty for forgery, 31 July, and presented petitions for relaxation of the criminal code, 2 Aug. On 7 Aug. 1832 he alleged that he had been excluded from the silk trade select committee as a notorious advocate of protection and called for abolition of the redundant board of trade. Next day he drew unfavourable comparisons between the conditions of colonial slaves and factory children, opposed the civil list payments bill and moved to reduce the lord chancellor’s salary by £2,000; he was a teller for the minority of six.

Sadler had become increasingly aware of the need for decisive action to regulate child factory labour. In correspondence with Oastler in September 1831 he wrote:

I not only concur with Mr. Hobhouse’s factory bill; but, as I have expressed to him over and over again, I go much beyond it. Had he not taken it up this session, I should have done so, as my views and feelings are very strong upon that subject.

When Hobhouse withdrew the measure in the face of strong opposition, Sadler assumed the lead in Parliament, despite Hobhouse’s warning to Oastler that if he persisted in his determination to limit working hours to ten, he would ‘not be allowed to proceed a single stage with any enactment’ and would ‘only throw an air of ridicule and extravagance over this kind of legislation’. This was not a view shared by Oastler, who suggested that when the reform bill became law, Sadler should contest the new parliamentary borough of Leeds in order to make factory reform an electioneering issue. In November 1831 Sadler told Oastler:

The question of factory labour never has been taken up with sufficient energy in Parliament; and the law, as at present carried, is not only nothing, but actually worse than nothing ... I am persuaded, and all I hear and read confirms me in conviction, that TEN hours can never be receded from by those who love children, or who wish to obtain the approbation of Him who was indeed their friend and lover. I am sorry, therefore, to see that Sir John Hobhouse has not only conceded his bill, but his very views and judgement to the political economists, who in this, as in many other things, are the pests of society and the persecutors of the poor ... I had rather have no bill, than one that would legalize and warrant their excessive labour.36

He introduced his bill to regulate the labour of children and young persons in mills and factories on 17 Jan. 1832: it prohibited the employment of children under nine, limited those under 18 to ten hours daily work and banned night work for those under 21. He presented numerous petitions in favour of factory reform throughout February, echoing the fervour of Oastler’s extra-parliamentary campaign in support of the ten hours bill. On 6 Feb. he met the duke of Sussex and persuaded him to present favourable petitions to the Lords.37 Countering a hostile petition, 7 Mar., he said that workers were ‘entitled, from their extreme poverty and helplessness, to the protection of Parliament’, and presented numerous supportive petitions, including those endorsed by public meetings at Leeds and Manchester. He presented several more petitions, 14 Mar. In a passionate, moving and graphically illustrated speech of three hours (subsequently published), 16 Mar., he moved the second reading of his bill. On government’s insistence that further inquiry was necessary, it was referred to a select committee, which, under Sadler’s painstaking chairmanship, met 43 times and heard 87 witnesses between 12 Apr. and 7 Aug. He told his wife, 17 Mar.:

I spoke last night and I believe pretty well. Old Mr. Marshall [John Marshall*] was under the gallery ... but I made a piece fly at his son Billy [William Marshall*] who smiled while I was describing the misery of a factory child. Lord Althorp proposed him on the committee but I said I could not allow it and would divide the House upon it. I said I would not have one factory man upon the list and he yielded. The great physician here Mr. Blundel was under the gallery and said that all I said physiologically was quite correct. The House after all did not like it, I am persuaded; but the country is up, and will not have [children] to be worked 12 hours a day for a cotton lord in the land.38

He continued to present petitions in favour of reform throughout the rest of March, and on the 26th he derided those which purported to endorse the existing factory system. According to Macaulay, there was ‘a strong and general feeling in the House of Commons, that something ought to be speedily done for the protection of children’, but ‘also ... a general feeling that the details of Mr. Sadler’s bill have not been well considered’.39 Despite illness, he addressed the York meeting called ‘to break the yoke of infantile slavery’, 24 Apr.40 He steadily presented favourable petitions and spoke for reform in June and July. On 30 July he complained of the subsequent victimization of witnesses who had given evidence before the inquiry. On 8 Aug. 1832, after much arduous work, he presented the select committee’s report to the House. Its shocking revelations had a profound effect on public opinion.41 A month earlier Sadler had explained something of his current political philosophy in a letter to Giffard:

I repeat perhaps too little in accordance with the views of some whom I highly respect and revere, but they are such as can alone give our party in the north the slightest chance, and restore it to the affections and surround it by the power of the people though I hope I did not take them up for that purpose, but from a thorough belief and conviction that the grounds of our political adherence being smitten from under us, by the rascally Whigs, it better suited the principles as well as being the only policy of the true Tories to check for themselves some intelligible principles of actions, rather than to fight their battles in defending the fragments of the system which they have left us. In a word I lean to the people, not indeed to the mob ... but to the neglected, abused and deserted people, whose principles we may form and whose affections we may [win] if we think fit, but without whom we shall be found as powerless as our enemies could wish us ... I have then stated that in some few of the large towns, I would have given the operative classes some direct political influence, that though averse from short, I am not the defender of septennial parliaments ... as to the ballot they may fight about it that please. It is I know Lord Brougham’s ‘security’. I despise it as such, and I think it would be quite as favourable to the higher as to the lower classes, and in fact do neither good nor harm to either.42

Sadler stood for Leeds at its first parliamentary election in December 1832 but, after a bitter contest, which revolved largely around the principles of social reform, he was defeated by his old adversary Macaulay and John Marshall, son of the eminent flax manufacturer. He remained active in the factory movement, and in late 1833 accepted an invitation to contest a by-election at Huddersfield, but was defeated. Too ill to take up a renewed offer to stand for Leeds following Macaulay’s resignation in February 1834, he played some part in the extra-parliamentary opposition to the Poor Law Amendment Act that year, but withdrew to Ireland, where he had business interests, settling at New Lodge, Belfast. He was invited to contest Birmingham and South Durham in 1835, but the breakdown of his health as a consequence of over-exertion made a public life impossible, and he died of heart failure in July. According to an obituary, it was generally understood that his ‘severe study and great anxiety’ had hastened his early death.43 No will or administration has been found.

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: Simon Harratt


See R.B. Seeley, Mems. of Life of Sadler (1842); R.V. Taylor, Biographia Leodiensis, 354-62; J.T. Ward, ‘Michael Thomas Sadler’, Univ. of Leeds Rev. vii (1960-1), 152-60; K. Lawes, Paternalism and Politics (2000); Oxford DNB.

  • 1. Oxford DNB.
  • 2. E. Kitson Clark, Hist. Leeds Phil. Soc. 14, 24, 36; C.H. Driver, Tory Radical, 20-21.
  • 3. Seeley, 17, 29.
  • 4. Fitzwilliam mss, Tottie to Milton, 6 June 1825.
  • 5. Add. 40394, f. 86.
  • 6. Seeley, 41-42, 49-81.
  • 7. Popular Movements ed. J. T.Ward, 61.
  • 8. Nottingham Univ. Lib. Newcastle mss Ne2 F3/1/100; Notts. Archives, Tallents mss, Newcastle to Tallents, 28 Feb. 1829.
  • 9. Nottingham Jnl. 7, 14 Mar. 1829.
  • 10. Newcastle mss Ne2 F3/1/114.
  • 11. The Times, 18 Mar. 1829.
  • 12. Lonsdale mss, Lowther to Lonsdale, 17 Mar. 1829.
  • 13. New Letters of Southey ed. K. Curry, ii. 334.
  • 14. Dorset RO, Bankes jnl. 166; Grey mss, Howick jnl. 17 Mar. [1829].
  • 15. Gurney diary, 17 Mar. [1829].
  • 16. Newcastle mss Ne2 F3/1/128; Ellenborough Diary, i. 397.
  • 17. Cumbria RO, Howard mss D/HW8/481/14; Brougham mss, Abercromby to Brougham [31 Mar. 1829].
  • 18. Gurney diary, 30 Mar. 1829.
  • 19. Full Report of Newark Dinner, 24 July 1829, pp. 5-13; Newcastle mss Ne2 F3/1/161.
  • 20. Cornw. RO, Vyvyan mss, Vyvyan to Newcastle, 20 July, reply, 15 Aug., Vyvyan to Sadler, 22 Aug., reply, 26 Aug., Knatchbull to Vyvyan, 26 Aug., reply, 31 Aug. 1829.
  • 21. The Times, 23 Sept. 1829.
  • 22. Newcastle mss Ne2 F3/1/203.
  • 23. Ibid. F3/1/210; Add. 56554, f. 70.
  • 24. Nottingham Jnl. 7, 14 Aug. 1830.
  • 25. Macaulay Letters, i. 275, 284-5, 312, 315, 318.
  • 26. Nottingham Jnl. 27 Nov. 1830.
  • 27. Add. 56359, f. 69.
  • 28. Ibid. f. 71.
  • 29. Arbuthnot Jnl. ii. 332.
  • 30. Add. 51569, Ord to Lady Holland [18 Apr.]; 51573, Spring Rice to Holland [18 Apr.]; 51655, Mackintosh to Lady Holland [19 Apr. 1831].
  • 31. Nottingham Jnl. 30 Apr.; Newcastle mss NeC 4527; Tallents mss, Newcastle to Tallents, 23 Apr.; The Times, 2 May 1831.
  • 32. LSE Lib. Archives, Coll. Misc. 62 I 13, Sadler to son [30 June 1831].
  • 33. Ibid. Sadler to son [21 June 1831].
  • 34. Greville Mems. ii. 165.
  • 35. Alfred [S.H.G. Kydd], Factory Movement, 127-8; The Times, 31 Aug. 1831.
  • 36. Alfred, 127-31; Driver, 93.
  • 37. J.T. Ward, Factory Movement, 56.
  • 38. LSE Coll. Misc. 62 I 7.
  • 39. Macaulay Letters, ii. 117.
  • 40. Poor Man’s Advocate, 135.
  • 41. Oxford DNB; Seeley, 379.
  • 42. Add. 56369, f. 80.
  • 43. The Times, 29 July 1835.