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How far were the Anti Corn Law League responsible for Peel's repeal of the Corn Laws?

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Introduction

How far was The Anti Corn Law League responsible for the repeal of the Corn Laws? The Anti Corn Law League's part in the resolve over the issue of repeal was due chiefly to their mighty effort in drawing mass attention to the subject, bringing it to the forefront of the political agenda. They had one aim - to see to the complete removal of the tariff on corn. Led by dynamic and intelligent politicians, the league organised themselves using new and innovative ways to spread their message. They capitalised on the contemporary social, economic and religious discontent of the lower and middle classes, of which the Corn Laws were felt as being imposed at their expense. Armed with the interest to relieve social distress and a potential 'class war' the league did all it could outside and inside Parliament to pressurise Peel. Peel's need for 'good government' swept the beliefs of the pressure group into the political tide; the famine in Ireland, Peel's own party politics and Britain's international stance were all factors included in the decision of repeal. It was by no means that Peel's ultimate decision was the fruit of the Anti Corn Law League's labour alone. The Anti-Corn Law League was founded by Richard Cobden and John Bright in 1839 Both of these men believed in the idea of Free Trade, where no import taxes should be levied whatsoever. ...read more.

Middle

This effective organisation made raising awareness possible, communicating their message in all social spectrums. Without adopting an antagonistic approach whereby violence and heavy disruption of Britain would have wreaked havoc, the League's method of educated debate served them as staunch opponents. As an opposition group, the League threatened Peel's political future. Peel's background was of the textile mills, therefore he would have been partial to free trade. However, as leader of the Conservatives, in theory, he was obliged to uphold Conservative values i.e. maintaining the Corn Laws. His personal belief was that Britain's stagnant economy was due to their protectionist stance. As a result he needed an excuse for repeal. If he had given in to the demands of a pressure group in the form of the ACLL, not only committing treason to his party, he would have appeared weak and ineffectual. From1840 to 1842, failed harvests meant that basic foodstuffs were in short supply and consequently more expensive. Protective tax on wheat made it more expensive, jeopardous to the poorer population. The potato crop in Ireland had failed in 1845 causing widespread famine. Europe itself was facing similar problems of poor harvests so already there was a general pressure on the government to reconsider its protectionist stance of the 1815 Corn Laws, which was obstructing the way for cheap bread. ...read more.

Conclusion

The repeal was marked by the sale of innumerable emblems, among them crude statuettes of the Prime Minister, Sir Robert Peel as well as commemorative china inscribed with words of thanksgiving." - Nicolas Bentley. The Anti Corn Law League did succeed in bringing the issue to the forefront of politics and subjecting Peel to extra parliamentary pressure despite his declared rejection of this idea. They had the means and organisation to start a revolution and it was the right condition in England to create the uprising. Peel knew along with the social climate changing beneath him, the only way to stablise Britain was to go with the general consensus even if it meant turning his back on his party, something he was now accustomed to. Looking out for the country's interests rather than agricultural elite's profits, the League placed the issue of repeal right in front of him and it was up to Peel to take the final step. The devastating famine in Ireland allowed Peel to save himself from party humiliation as he could demonstrated his 'humanitarian attitude' which would coincide with the need to repeal in England. The Anti Corn Law League, did as much as it could to push for repeal ad it showed the social discontent and I believe that they were half responsible for repeal of the Corn Laws. ...read more.

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