Calendar (New Style) Act 1750 | reaction and effect

Reaction and effect

An Election Entertainment (c. 1755), a painting by William Hogarth, which is the main source for "Give us our Eleven Days".

Some history books say that some people rioted after the calendar change, asking that their "eleven days" be returned. However this is very likely a myth, based on only two primary sources: The World, a satirical journal of Lord Chesterfield; and a painting by William Hogarth.[7]

Chesterfield was behind the Act. He wrote to his son, "Every numerous assembly is a mob, let the individuals who compose it be what they will. Mere sense is never to be talked to a mob; their passions, their sentiments, their senses and their seeming interests alone are to be applied to. Understanding have they collectively none." Here, he was boasting of his skill in having the Bill passed through the Lords; the 'mob' in question was his fellow peers.[citation needed]

When the son of the Earl of Macclesfield (who had been influential in passing the Act) stood for Parliament in Oxfordshire as a Whig in 1754, dissatisfaction with the calendar reform was one of a number of issues raised by his Tory opponents. In 1755, William Hogarth produced a painting (and an engraved print from the painting) loosely based on these elections, entitled An Election Entertainment, which shows a placard carrying the slogan "Give us our Eleven Days" (on floor at lower right). An example of the resulting incorrect history is by Ronald Paulson, author of Hogarth, His Life, Art and Times, who wrote that "the Oxfordshire people ... are specifically rioting, as historically the London crowd did, to preserve the 'Eleven Days' the government stole from them in September 1752 by changing the calendar".[7]

Thus the "calendar riot" fiction was born. The election campaign depicted concluded in 1754, after a very lengthy contest between Court Whigs and Jacobite Tories. Every issue between the two factions was brought up, including the question of calendar reform. The Tories attacked the Whigs for every deviation, including their alleged favouritism towards foreign Jews and the "Popish" calendar. Hogarth's placard, part of a satire on the character of the debate, was not an observation of actual crowd behaviour.[7]

There were, however, legitimate concerns about tax and other payments under the new calendar. Provision 6 (Times of Payment of Rents, Annuities) of the Act stipulated that monthly or yearly payments would not become due until the dates that they originally would have in the Julian calendar, or in the words of the Act "[Times of Payment of Rents, Annuities] at and upon the same respective natural days and times as the same should and ought to have been payable or made or would have happened in case this Act had not been made".[2]

Several theories have been proposed for the odd beginning of the British tax year on 6 April.[8] One is that from 1753 until 1799, the tax year began on 5 April, which corresponded to 25 March Old Style. After the twelfth skipped Julian leap day in 1800, it was changed to 6 April, which still corresponded to 25 March Old Style. However it was not changed when a thirteenth Julian leap day was skipped in 1900, so the tax year in the United Kingdom still begins on 6 April.[9][10] However Poole thought that quarter days, such as Lady Day on 25 March, marked the end of the quarters of the financial year.[11] Thus, although 25 March Old Style marked the beginning of the civil year, the next day, 26 March Old Style was until 1752 the beginning of the tax year. After removing eleven days in 1752, this corresponded to 6 April New Style, where it remains today. Although Poole's theory is supported by one dictionary,[12] the Oxford English Dictionary as well as other sources state that quarter days mark the beginning of their respective quarters.[d][13]

In Appalachia, some Scots-Irish settlers resisted the changeover mandated by the Calendar Act by continuing to celebrate Christmas on January 6 (N.S.), referring to the day as Old Christmas.[14]

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