The Diaries of John Bright

By John Bright; R. A. J. Walling | Go to book overview

CHAPTER IV THE FIVE YEARS' WAR

1

THE memorable meeting of the Seven Men in Manchester which inaugurated in earnest the campaign for untaxed food was held on September 24, 1838, at the York Hotel. The Anti-Corn-Law League was therefore three years old when Bright began to fulfil his solemn compact with Cobden.

That, of course, was not the inception of the movement. Joseph Hume, Grote the historian, Molesworth the Colonial reformer, Roebuck and other Philosophical Radicals had formed an Anti-Corn-Law Association in London two years earlier. But though these eminent men understood never so well the science of Political Economy--and pursued with never so brilliant logic the great argument that like minds, from Adam Smith to Pitt, had endeavoured to apply to practical fiscal politics--they understood not at all the art of appealing to the imagination, the emotions and the altruism of the nation.1 They could never have raised the towering wave of popular feeling which swept away the Corn Laws, emancipated the nation from the deep depression of mind and the fearful suffering of body into which agrarian Protection had plunged it, and brought in the great era of plenty and prosperity. That task was left for the practical men, the industrialists, the merchants, the workmen of the North who lived in the midst of the welter of misery created in the manufacturing towns by twenty years of food taxes. Nor could they ever have persuaded the farmers, as Cobden and Bright persuaded them, that the Corn Laws were as injurious to rural as to urban England.

The resurrection of Free Trade as a vital issue in English politics, after the long régime of high protection, high rents, scarcity, starvation

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"The free-traders," Lord Sydenham said with a pang, "have never been orators since Mr. Pitt's early days. We hammered away with facts and figures and some arguments; but we could not elevate the subject and excite the feelings of the people." ( Morley "Cobden," Chap. 6.)

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The Diaries of John Bright
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Editor's Note v
  • Contents vii
  • List of Plates ix
  • Foreword xi
  • Chapter I John Bright's Memoir of His Youth 1
  • Chapter II the Near East 16
  • Chapter III the Memoir Continued 52
  • Chapter IV the Five Years' War 56
  • Chapter V a Victorian Love Story 82
  • Chapter VI Ireland in the Hungry 'Forties 95
  • Chapter VII the Struggle with Palmerston 108
  • Chapter VIII the Angel of Death 155
  • Chapter IX an Interlude Abroad 203
  • Chapter X Member for Birmingham 231
  • Chapter XI the Friend of the North 252
  • Chapter XII the Triumph of Reform 293
  • Chapter XIII the Irish Church 314
  • Chapter XIV in and Out of Office 338
  • Chapter XV the New Imperialism 364
  • Chapter XVI Irish, Boers and Fellaheen 415
  • Chapter XVII Reform and the House of Lords 493
  • Chapter XVIII Home Rule and the End 522
  • Index 563
  • Index 565
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