Labour Theories and Paper Currencies: The Economic Concerns of William Cobbett’s ‘Address to the Journeymen and Labourers,’ and Percy Bysshe Shelley’s ‘Men of England &c- A song’, Paul Stephens
Cobbett’s reformist pamphlet ‘Address to the Journeymen and Labourers’ (1816) attempts to demystify the political and economic causes of the miseries of its intended readership, tracing with populist verve the links between labour exploitation, paper currency, and the national debt. Shelley’s furious poem of 1819, produced in the aftermath of the Peterloo Massacre, indicated how little had changed during the interim period. The following essay aims to provide a brief introduction to each text, considering aspects of their respective treatment of value creation through the labour process. While Shelley’s poem is illuminated
by Cobbett’s populist economic journalism, so issues of fiction and fabrication foregrounded by Shelley’s poetics draw out the presence in Cobbett’s article of labour theories of value developed by the classical political economists.