« PreviousContinue »
William Labrey, Market Place.
It was announced that subscriptions of 5s. each would be received by the members of the provisional committee. The above-named individuals, or the firms with which they were connected, subscribed, in 1845, towards the £250,000 Fund of that year to the amount of ten thousand six hundred pounds, besides having been large subscribors during more than seven years of the arduous contest. On Thursday evening, October 25th, 1838, Mr. Paulton delivered his first lecture on the Corn Laws, to one of the largest audiences ever assembled in the Corn Exchange,
every ticket of admission to the lecture-room having been eagerly sought for and obtained by the public some hours previous to its commencement, and many applicants were necessarily disappointed. About seven o'clock the committee of the Anti-Corn-Law Association took their seats on the platform, and John Benjamin Smith, Esq., having been called upon to preside, in introducing Mr. Paulton, said, he would take the opportunity of stating the objects for which the Association had been established :—It had been established on the same righteous principles as the AntiSlavery Society. The object of that society was to obtain the free right for the negroes to possess their own flesh and blood; the object of this was to obtain the free right of the people to exchange their labour for as much food as could be got for it; that we might no longer, by law, be obliged to buy our food at one shop, and that the dearest in the world, but be at liberty to go to that at which it can be obtained cheapest. It was an object in which men of all political opinions might unite without compromising those principles, and it was a fundamental rule of the Association that no party politics should be mixed up in the discussion of the question. It might seem to be a work of supererogation to prove that a man had a right to a big loaf; but when we see the nobles of the land, the majority of our senators, and men of wealth and education contending that the indulgence of an appetite for big loaves was fraught with consequences no less serious than the ruin of the landowner, the farmer, the labourer, and ultimately of the nation, it was then that lectures, like these, became necessary to shew the absurdity and fallacy of such assertions. Mr. Paulton was a big loaf man, but if any of the little loaf men, or any of the noble lords who occasionally came amongst us on visits of humanity, to enquire into the condition of the poor factory children, or the wretchedness of the hand-loom weavers, would favour us with a lecture to make us sensible of the benefits we derive from little loaves, as friends of free discussion, as well as of Free Trade, he thought he could promise them, from the meeting, a fair and patient hearing. Mr. Paulton's lecture occupied more than two hours in the delivery, but there was not the slightest appearance of weariness on the part of the audience, and the lecturer retired amidst loud and long-continued cheers. The second and concluding lecture took place at the Corn. Exchange, on Thursday evening, November 1st, to a still more crowded audience than before. Mr. J. B. Smith
again introducing Mr. Paulton, said, it was gratifying to notice the increasing interest which was manifesting itself on this question, as shewn by the application of other towns soliciting his services to give lectures there on the Corn Laws. The committee were endeavouring to effect an arrangement with him for this purpose, and hoped to obtain his powerful aid in thus spreading the knowledge he was able to impart on this question. He reminded the audience that these lectures were given gratuitously, and said it was gratifying to observe that the lecturer was actuated by no mercenary motives Mr. Paulton again excited the enthusiasm of his auditors. At the conclusion of his lecture he quoted the following lines from Byron's “Age of Bronze,” which have been frequently used by other speakers since :
“For what were all those landed patriots born ? To hunt, and vote, and raise the price of corn. Safe in their barns, there Sabine tillers sent Their brethren out to battle Why? for rent. Year after year they voted cent. per cent. ; Blood, sweat, and tear-wrung millions. Why? for rent. They roared, they dined, they drank, they swore they meant . To die for England. Why then live for rent : And will they not repay the treasures lent : No Down with everything, and up with rent Their good, ill, health, wealth, joy, or discontent, Being, end, aim, religion—rent, rent, rent s” *
On the chairman rising to move a vote of thanks, and expressing his hope that every man who could afford 5s. would become a member of the Anti-Corn-Law Association, an individual at the other end of the room said he should like to know what they thought would be a practical way to obtain the repeal of the Corn Laws. The chairman said the establishment of such Associations as this. The man, amidst the confusion of parties leaving their seats, said something about universal suffrage being the only chance for the working man. The vote of thanks having been carried with loud cheers, Mr. Paulton, in acknowledging it, said, however important the suffrage might be, the repeal of the Corn Laws was not less important on that account ; and he saw no reason, therefore, why they should lose sight of the Corn Law question. He conceived that
* they would not be the worse prepared for battle for suffrage by first filling their bellies. In The Manchester Times of the 10th of November, the public were congratulated on the rapid progress of the new agitation, thus:—The movement against the Corn Laws is likely to be the most formidable ever made. The apathy for which we have blamed the population of large towns has not existed, for all that has been wanted has been concentration of opinion, and this will be obtained by associations such as the one of which Manchester has set the example. There needs but a spark to ignite the mass of smouldering discontent. To supply this, let lectures be delivered everywhere, bringing into one view all the mischiefs that are occasioned by the starvation laws, and the certain ruin of our manufacturers and work-people by the refusal to receive agricultural produce in exchange for the roduce of their capital and labour. The landlord papers in the metropolis have taken alarm, and are abusing Mr. Paulton in good set terms for the boldness with which he denounces the robbery. We rejoice to think that he will soon deserve a larger share of their abuse.
. On Monday the 26th, and Wednesday the 28th instant,
he will lecture in the Birmingham Town Hall, a magnificent building, capable of containing from four thousand to five thousand persons, and we have no doubt that it will be filled on each occasion. In the mean time invitations pour in upon the eloquent lecturer from the large towns in our neighbourhood, and he has been pressingly requested not to omit the agricultural towns in Norfolk, where the opinion is fast spreading that the Corn Laws are injurious rather than beneficial to the farmers, the farm labourers, and all with whom they spend their money. The advantages of Association are the formation of a fund for diffusing information either by lecture or by pamphlet, and defraying the expense of petitioning, and, above all, creating an organization to bring numbers together in such force, and with such energy of purpose, as to secure the great object—the complete freedom of trade by the destruction of not only the corn monopoly, but all the other monopolies which hang upon this monster grievance. Deputations from Manchester, and other towns, assembled in London, in March, 1839, to support Mr. Williers on bringing forward his motion against the Corn Laws, by pressing such members of Parliament as they had in
fluence over to vote with him. When the motion was negatived by the House of Commons, a meeting of the delegates was held at Brown's Hotel, Palace Yard, to consult on the future policy of agitation which they should adopt to educate the public mind on the Free Trade question, and force it on parliament. At this meeting, Mr. Cobden, one of the delegates, in the course of an impressive address, said:—“Let the towns unite to resist the monopolist domination of the territorial aristocracy; let them imitate the League of the Hanse towns, which, in a former age, resisted the feudal aristocracy who robbed their commerce, and imposed upon them a yoke which could not be borne,” or words to that effect: some one of the listeners exclaimed, “let us have a League !” to which Mr. Cobden immediately rejoined, “Yes, an Anti-Corn-Law League !” This suggestion was enthusiastically applauded by the assembled deputies. No time was lost, on the return of the Manchester deputation, in carrying it into effect. At a meeting of the Association on the 27th of March, 1839, it was agreed, in pursuance of a resolution of the delegates, in London, that the Council of the Association should be empowered to draw up the reuisite rules for the government of the Anti-Corn-Law eague, and to , report, the same to that and the other Anti-Corn-Law Associations of the kingdom for their aproval. p At a meeting of the Council, held on the same evening, a Committee was, accordingly, appointed for that purpose, who prepared a draft of regulations, which, accompanied by a circular inviting them to join the League, was forwarded to the various Anti-Corn-Law Associations, and other parties throughout the kingdom. To this communication favourable answers were, at once, received.
At this meeting, the Council of the Anti-Corn-Law Association recommended the appropriation of £2,000 as their proportion of the £5,000 proposed to be raised for prosecuting the objects of the Anti-Corn-Law League during the ensuing twelve months; and, at a meeting of the subscribers, on the 2nd of April, called for the purpose, the recommendation was confirmed.
At a subsequent meeting, the following gentlemen were elected to represent the Manchester Anti-Corn-Law Association in the League.
T. Potter, Esq., Mayor.