Land Reform and Working-Class Experience in Britain and the United States, 1800-1862

By Jamie L. Bronstein | Go to book overview

7
The Land Plans, Politics, and the Press

Were the name of Chartism altered to some other ism, still preserving however the principles whole and entire, how many thousands of persons would exclaim, "Ah, this is indeed a glorious system! I shall give my instantaneous adhesion to it." . . . Those who have been taught by influential friends, by habit, by the press, and by constant outpourings of aristocratic and middle class virulence to look upon Chartism as a monstrosity and its adherents as brigands, would rush to array themselves under the standard of the same doctrine with another name.

--Reynolds' Political Instructor1

Resolved, That the land monopoly is at the foundation of the state of things, and that it is the duty of the State, which is but another name for the people, to adopt the policy of land limitation . . .

-- 1851 Industrial Congress 2

In the case of American and British land reform, as I have tried to demonstrate, the ideologies developed were similar on both sides of the Atlantic, having come from a common storehouse of ideas; and organizational structures mirrored each other, having evolved through a process of transatlantic communication. Thus it is (at least in part) to the state and other institutional structures that the historian must look for an answer to the question of why in the end the paths of American and British working-class land reform diverged. 3 This chapter discusses the way in which political contexts, and oppositional public opinion managed by the middle-class press, influenced the course of radicalism. In Britain, an increasingly centralized and autonomous state was able to justify direct intervention into the working-class land-reform movement through a Select Committee investigation. Because working people were not considered to be free agents, the government had to protect

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