Engraved membership card completed in manuscript for Mr Robt. Waller, member no. 24,388, and endorsed by Manchester Anti-Corn Law activist John Brindle. Central engraved vignette inscribed 'Stephenson & Royston Del & Sc' depicting a starving family praying to the heavens beneath the slogan 'Give us this day our daily bread'. Very good condition with just minor toning and dust soiling. A rare item.
An attractive piece of ephemera evoking the influential campaign of one of the most important early mass-political movements in British history, as well as a key chapter in the development of free trade. The National Anti-Corn Law League, founded in 1838 with the MPs Richard Cobden and John Bright as leading figures, was established to agitate for the abolition of the unpopular Corn Laws; these protected landowners' interests by levying taxes on imported wheat, with the consequence of raising the price of bread at a time when factory-owners were driving down wages. An influential, and successful, early instance of large-scale organisation for political ends, the League held mass rallies up and down the country, although with a focus on London and, particularly, Manchester. As Briggs writes: 'The League marked the emergence of the first powerful national lobbying group into politics, one with a centralised office, consistency of purpose, rich funding, very strong local and national organisation, and single-minded dedicated leaders. It elected men to Parliament. Many of its procedures were innovative, while others were borrowed from the anti-slavery movement. It became the model for later reform movements.' (The Making of Modern England, p.116). Ultimately, Manchester formed the epicentre of the League's activities, with its headquarters based in the city, and with the cause of free trade itself becoming synonymous with the 'Manchester School' of political economy.
Stock code: 17154