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Milton Keynes rallies in support of the Corn Laws

Updated Saturday 21st January 2017

On January 23rd, Milton Keynes celebrates 50 years as a new town. But the history of the villages which came together to form the heart of modern Milton Keynes reaches back far further - as this report of a meeting against the Anti Corn Law League in 1844 shows.

Protection to British Industry

The Buckinghamshire Anti-League Association

(From our own Reporter)

Newport Pagnell, Thursday

Yesterday afternoon the farmers of Buckinghamshire, following the glorious example set them by those of Essex, made their first active demonstration against the League.

In this, as in other counties, the report of the Essex meeting appears to have struck upon a sympathetic chord. No sooner did the farmers attending this market learned what had been done at Chelmsford than they formed themselves into a spontaneous meeting, and determined to form a county association, and to raise a fund, in order to counteract the efforts of the League within this district.

They accordingly, by public advertisement, convned the meeting of yesterday. The requisition for the meeting, signed by some of the principal tenant-farmers of the neighbourhood was as follows:

Protection to Agriculture
We, the undersigned, tenant farmers of the three hundreds of Newport, in the county of Buckinghamshire, deeply impressed with importance of following the steps of the meeting held at Chelmsford, for the protection of agriculture, and of opposing the ruinous projects of the Anti-Corn Law League, do request that all tenant farmers who agree with us will attend a meeting at the Swan Hotel, in Newport Pagnell, on Wednesday, the 10th day of January instant, at three o'clock in the afternoon, to adopt such measures as may be thought requsite to carry into effect the above objects.
Thomas Smith, Lathbury
Joseph Atterbury, Milton Keynes
W Price, Newport Fields
W Horwood, Wolverton
George Scriven, Willen
Thos Scrivener, Stanton Bury
R Ratliffe, Wolverton
Thomas Wesley, Newport Pagnell
Thomas Armstrong, Newport Pagnell
George Pike, Chichley
W Hipwell, Newport Pagnell
E Greaves, Haversham
W Payne, Little Linfod
Joseph Bull, Castle Thorpe
George Payne, Milton Keynes
Thomas Wilson, Walton
W Whitworth, Willen
Fras. Smith, Loughton

The present meeting, therefore, like its predecessors sprung wholly from the tenant farmers of the county, and is, independently of all questions of improvement, essentially for the protection of agriculture.

Moreover, it appears that it is to Lord Spencer's recent declaration that the present active demonstration is mainly to be attributed. Many of the farmers here attend the Northamptonshire markets, and when they found Lord Spencer deserting them they thought it time to step forward and defend themselves.

The meeting was held, after the meeting was concluded, in the large room of the Swan Hotel. The meeting was more fully attended than any meeting of farmers in Newport Pagnell was ever known to be.

Most of the occupiers of land within ten miles were present, and many came from the furthest parts of the county to represent their respective districts.

About 200 occupiers in the whole attended the meeting, which, considering the usual small attendance at the market, greatly surprised even those who had convened it.

[...]

Mr Edmund Greaves, of Haversham, was voted to the chair.

The Chairman having thanked them for the honour they had done him, and having with that modesty which is common to all chairmen proclaimed his sense of his own unworthiness to fill that office, which was, as usual, denied by the meeting, opened the business of the day reading the requisition we have already given.

For his own part (he said) he was no orator. He would, therefore, at once, come to the point. (Hear, hear)

He thought it was high time that something was done by the farmers in opposition to the League. They had stool still quite long enough - (hear, hear) - and consequently had allowed the League to gain a predominance which it would not otherwise have obtained.

He had in his hand a little pamphlet, which had been circulated by the Essex farmers, and which many of them had seen. If the facts stated there,as regarded the free importation of corn, were correct, it behoved them to exert themselves to the utmost for their own salvation.

It appeared that the gross produce of agriculture was almost £300,000,000 yearly, whilset the produce of manufactures was £173,000,000, being but little better than one half. (Hear, hear.)

And how much of that did they suppose was taken by the insulted and despised home market?

Fully £126,000,000, leaving only £47,000,000 to be exported, for which export sake it was required by the League that British agriculture should be destroyed. (Hear, hear.)

Yet the League told them that the home market was unimportant, and that they did not care whether it remained or not. But, in such a case, what was to become of the population engaged on the soil? In agriculture there were employed - of males, above twenty years of age, 2,470,411, whilst all the manufactures of the kingdom only employed 710,551. (Hear, hear.)

Were then the great mass of the population to be destroyed for the aggrandisement of the smaller portion? Were the two millions and a half of male agriculturalists above twenty to be ruined for the benefit of the seven hundred and ten thousand manufacturers? And would it benefit them after all? (Hear, hear.)

If this statement were correct, could there be any doubt that it was fully time they made a move and united, in order to prevent themselves from being cried down by the Anti Corn Law League, or trampled under foot by the manufacturers. (Hear, hear.)

He called on all present, and on all in the neighbourhood, to come forward and exert themselves to the uttermost for the protection of agriculture. (Cheers)

Originally published in the Morning Post, Friday, January 12th, 1844.

 

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