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____________________