9 May 1903

THE ASHTON VACCINATIONS PROSECUTIONS
Goods to be Seized and Sold
Indignation Meeting on the Market Ground

The agitation which has been going on for some time in regard to vaccination prosecutions in Ashton has at length culminated in the levying of distraint upon the four conscientious objectors to vaccination who were fined at the Ashton Borough Police Court on March 2nd last. On that occasion, it will be remembered, Councillor R A BARRETT was summoned by Mr William HUGHES, vaccination officer, for disobeying an order to have his three children vaccinated.

The proceedings were taken under section 31 of the Vaccination Act, 1897, which provided for the vaccination of every child under 14 years of age, under a penalty for non-compliance of 20s. On January 31st Mr HUGHES gave notice to Councillor BARRETT that he was in default in respect to his children, Eric, aged 11, Annie and Alice Maud, and he was requested to have them vaccinated within 14 days. Dr HAMILTON, the public vaccination officer, called at Councillor BARRETT’s residence to vaccinate the children and he refused to have them vaccinated.

Similar summonses were also taken out against Messrs BAINBRIDGE, BARKER and WELCH. The following were the fines: BARRETT £3 10s 6d, BAINBRIDGE £3 0s 6d, BARKER £2 1s, and WELCH £2 1s; total £10 13s. Dr COOKE, who was in the chair, said the Bench had decided to make orders for these children to be vaccinated. They recognised the fact that when the Act came into force in 1898, the defendants had the option of getting exemption certificates.

They did not, however, take advantage of that, therefore the Bench, under the circumstances, considered there was no option on their part but to make an order, which, however, would last for six weeks. If the children were not vaccinated within that time action would, of course, be taken by the vaccination officer.

As a result of the prosecutions the Ashton Anti-Compulsory Vaccination Society was reformed, and indignation meetings were held, at which a fund was opened for resisting the demands of the vaccination officer. A number of conscientious objectors to vaccination came forward and banded themselves together for this purpose.

Marking the Goods
On Friday of last week, the police authorities, acting under a warrant to do so, entered the houses of the objectors and marked various articles of furniture with the mark of the Crown, the broad arrow, as being realizable assets for the purposes of recovery of the fines. In the case of Councillor BARRETT, the amount of the fine had in the meantime grown from £3 10s 6d to £4 7s, and the articles marked in his case consisted of a large bookcase, sideboard in the drawing-room, and hat stand in the lobby. In the case of Mr BAINBRIDGE a pianoforte was marked, and in the other two cases various articles of furniture were marked.

Five days are supposed to elapse, not counting Sunday, after which notice of sale, before taking proceedings for distraint. The Chief Constable is anxious to carry out his share in the proceedings with as little inconvenience as possible and to facilitate the duties of the auctioneer, with a minimum of discomfort. The question as to whether the goods will be taken on the Market-ground and disposed of there or sold at the respective houses of the parties concerned, has not yet been decided.

Indignation Meeting on Ashton Market Ground
In spite of the dampness of the weather, there was a large gathering on Ashton Market Ground on Thursday night, when an indignation meeting was held under the auspices of the Ashton Anti-compulsory Vaccination Society.

The first speaker was Mr M T SIMM, who spoke of the large sum paid in vaccination fees, and the effects of vaccination on the system. He advocated purer sanitary arrangements in connection with old property. He spoke of the meeting being a sort of kick-off. The fight must go on until the other side gave up. They were not going to sit down quietly and see police officers and vaccination officers entering the homes of people against their will.

The parents’ wishes ought to be respected. No one in the town could give them a good scientific basis as a reason for vaccination. The vaccination officer had instructions from some one in London. If those in London were going to call the tune, they ought to pay the piper. – (Applause.) As the vaccination officer was paid by the ratepayers, they ought to have some say as to what his work should be, and as to his course of conduct. They must protest against this new form of tyranny. – (Applause.)

Councillor R A BARRETT referred to the duty of citizens to obey the law, but, he said, a law must so obnoxious, so contrary to common sense and reason,, and might so trespass upon the common right of every man that it might be their bounden duty to fight against it. He felt it his duty to object to the application of the vaccination law. His children were in a healthy condition of body. To enforce the vaccination law was not to secure the health of children.

As regards claiming exemption, he was determined not to appear before the magistrates, who, although they were not so ready to call upon oneself to observe the law, were not prepared to administer it, and he was not going to be catechised and questioned. He was prepared to take the consequences. The whole thing seemed to be really a farce. It was a question largely of catchments. He questioned whether the vaccination officer was doing his duty in this respect.

There were thousands in the same position in other parts of the country who were not taking the line he was doing. The whole thing was a question of money making. – (Hear, hear.) One of his children was 12 years of age, and in a short time would have been outside the vaccination officer’s power. Another was a fine lad of 11 years of age, and another a girl aged 8 years.

It was not that he could not pay the money, because he was in that position that he could pay; but he protested in the name of those who could not pay, and it was for those men for whom he was working. – (Applause.) He hoped his action would help to protect those not able to pay. – (Applause.) He did not want to make himself notorious, and pose as a martyr. He along with others wished to show that there was such strength of opposition in the town that they would find it was not all roses if they were going to prosecute working men not able to face the music.

As regards extorting the money in the way intended, articles had been marked in his house which were ten times the value of the amount wanted. – (A voice: “Shame.) He believed it was the same in the other cases. In the case of Mr BAINBRIDGE they had even marked a piece. – (Laughter.) If the articles were to be removed from the house for sale they would cause a lot of inconvenience and disturbance.

In administering a law, it ought to be done with a minimum of discomfort to those concerned. Some valuable article in the house might have been marked which could easily have been removed without inconvenience. This, however, was a small matter compared with the principle for which they were fighting. They could mark the whole house if they liked, and himself as well, and take him if they had the power. – (A voice: He daren’t.)

He hoped the ratepayers would help them, and see that they got fair play. In conclusion he referred to the insanitary conditions of various parts of the town, and described vaccination as a dangerous, disease-producing practice. They hoped shortly to be able to be able to bring a man of great ability from London, who would speak to them on the subject.

Mr M T SIMM moved the following resolution: “That this meeting of the citizens of Ashton lodge their protest against the action of the authorities in invading the houses of the people, and prosecuting them for refusing to have their children vaccinated. Mr RADCLIFFE seconded.

Mr Joshua TAYLOR, in supporting, entered into a scientific explanation of vaccination. Some years ago, he said, they took a census of the district, and found that 80 per cent of the ratepayers of that district were against the prosecutions. Yet those ratepayers paid the wages of the man instituting these prosecutions.

They had a Government in power which had been spending the taxpayers’ money in doles to all but the man who laboured and earned the money. He could not see why Councillor BARRETT and the others should be prosecuted when such a large number should be allowed to go free. He himself had been fined 22 times in that court for his own children. He had been fined six times for one child, and had his goods sold on the Market Ground. It was a piece of tyranny to select children of such an age.

The resolution was carried unanimously. Addresses were delivered by Mr HART (Clayton) and others.

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