Michael Thomas Sadler

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Michael Thomas Sadler.

Michael Thomas Sadler (3 January 1780 – 29 July 1835) was a radical British Tory Member of Parliament (MP), opponent of Catholic emancipation and leader of the factory reform movement. In the British House of Commons he led the movement for a work-day restricted to 10 hours or less for individuals under 18 years of age.

Early years[edit]

Michael Sadler, the son of James Sadler, was born in Snelston, Derbyshire, on 3 January 1780. According to tradition his family came from Warwickshire and was descended from Sir Ralph Sadler. His family practiced the religion of the Church of England but he later rejected their views and became sympathetic of the Methodist Church or Methodism. One of his earliest publications was An Apology for Methodists written in 1797. In 1800 he moved to Leeds and began to work with his father and in 1810 he started a company with his brother selling Irish linen. During this period of his life he became less interested in business and more interested in the experience of the poor which stayed with him for the rest of his days.[1]

In Parliament[edit]

In 1829 Sadler was offered the seat of Newark in the House of Commons, and appointed a part of Parliament by the Duke of Newcastle. He accepted and was elected with a majority of the votes, 214 to be exact. He quickly established himself as a speaker and at the 1831 election moved to the seat of Aldborough in Yorkshire.[2] Though he had moved up in the societal ladder, his interest in the poor remained. While in office Sadler wrote a series of pamphlets to inform the public such as On Poor Laws for Ireland reflecting the Irish Poor Laws being enforced in Ireland and, The Factory Girl's Last Day in 1830.[1]

Monument in Woodhouse Cemetery

On 16 March 1832, Sadler attempted to introduce legislation in order to limit a child's work day (under the age of 18) to ten hours a day. He described in his own words the suffering that many children were facing in the factories but members of the Parliament still refused to pass the bill. This bill involved the following:

  • a ban on labour for children 9 years old and younger
  • a ten hour work day for people age nine to 18
  • time in the day included for meals
  • two hours of free time on Saturday
  • and a ban on working all night for children under the age of 21.

Even though this bill was rejected, it led to members agreeing to look into the issue one more time. This time around Sadler formed a committee in which he was the chairman, and provided testimonies of 89 workers, including Elizabeth Bentley who started work at a flax mill at age 6.[3] This committee included men such as John Cam Hobhouse and Thomas Fowell Buxton who were also reformers for labor. These testimonies later became known as The Sadler Report.[1]

Aldborough was disenfranchised under the Great Reform Act, and at the 1832 election Sadler stood in the newly enfranchised seat of Leeds. There he went up against John Marshall a man who had more pull in Leeds. Sadler lost the election and his seat in Parliament.[4] Though he was no longer a part of Parliament, his report was finally published in 1833. When Sadler's report was released to the public British citizens were appalled with the graphic details of factory life. Sadler also eventually found out that workers who testified were being dismissed and ceased with the interview process.[1] The report led to increased pressure on the British Parliament to protect children worker's rights. Lord Ashley, son of the 6th Earl of Saxbury, took his place as the leader of the factory reform movement.[1]

He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in June 1832.[5]

He died in New Lodge, Belfast in 1835 and was buried in Ballylesson churchyard. There is a Grade II listed statue of Sadler in St George's Fields (the former Woodhouse Cemetery) in Leeds.[6]


His mother's father, Michael Ferrebee, who served as rector of Rolleston, Staffordshire, was the son of a Huguenot father.


He opposed Malthus's population doctrine, arguing that fertility actually declines with rising income. He was famously attacked in the Edinburgh Review by Thomas Macaulay. He is generally seen as one of the opponents of the Classical school in economics.

He also authored the work Law of Population.

Major works[edit]

  • Ireland, Its Evils and their Remedies, 1828
  • The Law of Population, 1832
  • Sadler report, 1832


  1. ^ a b c d e Michael Sadler's Early Life and Reforms
  2. ^ Leigh Rayment's Historical List of MPs – Constituencies beginning with "A" (part 1)[self-published source][better source needed]
  3. ^ W.O. Henderson (2006). The Industrial Revolution on the Continent: Germany, France, Russia 1800-1914. ISBN 0-415-38202-5. "Elizabeth Bentley, age 23, lives at Leeds, began work at the age of six ..." 
  4. ^ Craig, F. W. S. (1989) [1977]. British parliamentary election results 1832–1885 (2nd ed.). Chichester: Parliamentary Research Services. p. 177. ISBN 0-900178-26-4. 
  5. ^ "Library and Archive Catalogue". The Royal Society. Retrieved 11 October 2010. 
  6. ^ English Heritage, details of listing

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Sir William Henry Clinton
Henry Willoughby
Member of Parliament for Newark
1829 – 1831
With: Henry Willoughby to Feb 1831
William Farnworth Handley from Feb 1831
Succeeded by
Thomas Wilde
William Farnworth Handley
Preceded by
Viscount Stormont
Clinton Clinton
Member of Parliament for Aldborough
With: Clinton Clinton
Constituency abolished