« PreviousContinue »
At their first meeting, held on the 13th April, 1839, these gentlemen constituted themselves a Provincial Executive Council :— George Wilson, Esq., Chairman of the Executive Council of the League. W. Rawson, Esq., Treasurer.
On the 10th of April, 1839, they published the first number of their official paper, The Anti-Corn-Law Circular. The first number contained an article entitled “The modern History of the Corn-Laws,” by Mr. Cobden. The first volume of fortnightly numbers was concluded in April, 1848, at which time the paper was enlarged, and published by the name of The Anti-Bread-Law Circular, down to the 23rd of September, 1843. The paper then came out as the League, under the editorship of Mr. Paulton, and so continued until the 4th of July, 1846, ceasing only with the enactment of the law which was to take effect for the extinction of the Corn-Law in 1849. The Editor of the Anti-Corn-Law Circular, and first Secretary to the League, was Mr. John Ballantyne, brother to Mr. Thomas Ballantyne, already named in this section. On the night of the 31st of January, 1849, while a grand jubilee was being celebrated in the Free Trade Hall, Manchester, to mark the expiry of the law which became extinct at 12 o'clock, John Ballantyne died. The first prominent event after the formation of the League, was the banquet at Manchester, held on the 13th of January, 1840. This was attended by deputies from AntiCorn-Law Associations in all parts of the kingdom, and by several public men of eminence, of whom the most popular and attractive was Daniel O'Connell. At the meeting of deputies and members of council after the banquet, Mr. George Wilson read a report of what had been done in the preceding year, to this effect :— In pursuance of the resolutions of the delegates assembled
in London, in March last, to persevere in the endeavour to procure a total and immediate repeal of the corn and provision laws, the council appointed by them to carry this resolution into effect immediately proceeded to act upon their instructions. They have printed and circulated throughout Great Britain 150,000 copies of various pamphlets in favour of repeal, which have been placed in the hands of, probably, not fewer than one million of readers. They established the Anti-Corn-Law Circular, which has reached its twenty-first number, and of which 160,000 copies have been issued and sent to all newspapers favourable to a repeal; and club-rooms, mechanics' institutes, public news-rooms of importance, members of parliament, peers, and other public and influential bodies and personages. The “Circular” has been found an admirable means of communication with the friends of Free Trade throughout the empire, and to furnish brief facts and arguments to other periodicals. Its influence is, perhaps, best to be measured by the marked consideration in which it is held by the whole, but particularly the anti-free-trade press. Quotations from it appear in nearly two hundred newspapers, weekly, and it is regularly noticed, and quoted by the leading London journals. Every day the number of articles on the Corn-Laws in the periodical press, increases, Newspapers, in our interest, have been lately started; and many which formerly wavered, or were silent, now speak boldly in our favour. Four hundred lectures have been delivered by the lecturers engaged by the League, in the principal towns in England and Scotland, in the agricultural districts, and such places as were likely to influence the conduct or return of members of parliament. Six hundred thousand persons have been addressed, besides, probably, not fewer than two hundred thousand more by Mr. Greig, of Leeds; Mr. Chadwick, of Arksey; Mr. Wood, of Campsall Hall; Mr. Levison, of Doncaster; Mr. Plint, of Leeds; Messrs. Wells, Gaskell, and Simmons, of Cheltenham : Dr. Epps, of London: and various members of the Manchester Operative Anti-Corn-Law Association. In not one instance have they been defeated in discussion, or unsuccessful in carrying the public with them. From the peasantry and operatives they met with strenuous support; and, in discussions, where particular persons have opposed their views, the parties have been left in a minority at lecture meetings even by their own body. The expenses incurred in so extensive a course of agitation have necessarily been very great; and the result has been to bring out the following state of expenditure, and present pecuniary position of the League :
if s. d. Receipts ...... ...... ... - - - 2484 8 6 Expenditure. if s. d. By cash paid for Lectures........... ------------- 1236 l 11 — Printing................... .............. 872 9 0 Wages................. . ................ 146 2 6 Sundries................. ............... 78 9 74 —— Advertisements ... .................... 57 4 9 — Rent................. ............ -------- 7 17 6 — Bank expenses........................... 0 2 6 -- Engraving .............................. 16 14 6 £2415 2 34 By cash in hand.......... - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 8 8 13 Bank.................... ............... 60 18. I £2484 8 6
The League is in debt £1,200; but against that there have have been received, in addition to the sums mentioned above, £40 from Preston, £50 from Derby, and £500 from Glasgow.
The Council have to congratulate their constituents upon the very favourable position in which the cause has been placed by the operations above detailed.
The change in the public mind, generally, has been most striking ; many of the wealthy and extensive merchants and manufacturers who, six months ago, were in a state of antagonism, are now strenuous advocates of repeal; and the altered tone of conservative candidates for parliament is not less encouraging. A great accession of strength to our cause in the government has been made since the dissolution of parliament; but the most favourable point in the aspect of our affairs is, that there is a strong disposition manifesting itself on the part of religious bodies, and of the philanthropic world, to espouse this cause in preference to all other public questions.
Whilst they gratefully acknowledge the assistance they have received from so many sources, the Council cannot refrain from reporting to the deputies, that they have been drawn, irresistibly, by the experience of the last year, to the conviction that they are mainly indebted to the justice of their cause for the progress that has been made; and they cannot too earnestly recommend to the deputies to adhere to the fullest extent, to the principle upon which the League is based, viz.: the total and immediate repeal of the corn and provision trade. The treasury is empty—the League is in debt to a considerable amount—a concurrence of circumstances favourable to agitation now exists which may never happen again. A pound spent now is of more efficacy than five at an after period. f the public wish to command success, they will contribute largely and generally. All that is wanted to attain success is zeal, firmness, and liberality on the part of their friends. The banquet was held in a large pavilion, thirty-five wide by fifty yards long, erected, for the purpose, in St. Peter's Fields, where the meeting of 1819, called to petition against the corn-laws, was dispersed by the yeomanry, and upon which the Free Trade Hall was erected in 1843. It was made of timber, begun and finished in eleven days. Its frame-work and pillars contained 4,500 cubic feet; flooring of the pavilion, anterooms, and store-rooms—(the latter about as large as the pavilion)—17,100 of three inch plank; the roofs, walls, and galleries, 54,000 square feet of timber; for the tables, in the pavilion and galleries, 3,200 lineal feet, each table two feet wide, and two feet four inches from the floor; for the seats and forms, 5,740 lineal feet, each seat one foot in width. There was a space of two feet between the forms—four feet between the tables. A ton and a-half of lead was used for guttering. The walls were draped with calicoes; the area lighted by twenty-four chandeliers. The tables were twentyfive, running across, and two for principal guests, raised, and abutting from one side. Various mottos were displayed, such as a “Fixed duty is a fixed injustice,” alluding to the proposal of the Whigs of that time to substitute a fixed duty of 8s. on wheat, instead of the Sliding Scale of duties; also, the names of the lords of parliament, known to be in favour of abolishing the Corn Laws, “Fitzwilliam,” “Radnor,” “Westminster,” “Brougham,” “Clarendon,” and “Durham.” As it was intended to give a dinner on the following day to the working classes at a lower rate of admission, the
the quantities of edibles brought into the stores were large. Instead of the usual mode of contracting with some hotelkeeper to furnish the dinner at so much per head, the provisions were purchased by members of the committee themselves, and the requisite cookery was conducted under the management of able superintendents, in the kitchens and cellars close by, and shortly before occupied as Bywater's Hotel. Notwithstanding the short period of time allowed them, and which, in one instance, was materially curtailed, (a tradesman who had undertaken to supply the glass, relinquished the order after having had it for more than a week.) everything was carried on with energy and spirit. To remedy the consequence of this delay, Messrs. Thomas Mollineux & Co. undertook to complete the order, and immediately commenced the manufacture of wine glasses to supply the demand. Orders were dispatched to several eminent purveyors in Cumberland for a supply of hams and tongues ; other agricultural districts were laid under contribution for turkeys and geese; an experienced baker was employed to supply the dinner buns and bread; one of the committee roceeded to Liverpool, and purchased a number of hogs#. barrels, and boxes of fruit, either from the ship or wholesale dealers; and to Mr. William Ibbotson, of the Globe Works, Sheffield, was entrusted the order for the thousands of knives and forks required for the occasion. Of the solid viands for dinner, such as beef and mutton, hams and tongues, turkeys and capons, veal and minced pies, bread, &c., not less than a thousand lbs. weight, or, in round numbers, four tons and a-half, were provided ! But this was exclusive of the dessert, in which the fruit, biscuits, “crackers,”&c., were estimated by chests, barrels, and boxes. The dinner service and other articles of earthenware numbered ten thousand pieces; the wine glasses, bottles, decanters, and other articles of glass, about ten thousand more ; the knives and forks, about sixteen thousand pieces; the supply of wines extends to two pipes of fine rich port, . ten years in the wood; two butts of fine old sherry ; and an ample stock of champagne, hock, claret, and red hermitage. At half-past five o'clock, Mr. John Benjamin Smith took the chair; and when those who accompanied him to the chief table had taken their seats he said :—“On the present occasion, instead of the usual grace, I shall call upon the Rev. Thomas Spencer to ask a blessing ; and I request you will observe becoming silence.” The Rev. Thomas Spencer, who was at the chairman's