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Were the Corn Laws Justified?

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Introduction

Adam Wright 19th January 2003 Were the Corn Laws Justified? Plan Yes Distress in areas of agricultural importance, majority of pop not urban, + bankruptcies War food supply Political + social stability- Radicals Vote winner No Starvation instigates political awareness Free market interference-trade war, industrialists, depresses manufactured goods Trio of legislation anti common man The Corn Law was a potentially dangerous bill introduced in 1815 after three years of good harvests. It was instigated with the support of Lord Liverpool the current Prime Minister who saw the Corn Laws as a temporary measure to create stability in the agricultural sector in the immediate post-war years. The Corn Laws were potentially disastrous because they, along with the abolishment of Income tax and the creation of the Game laws, were seen as a return by the ultra-Tory's to a single-issue, single class government. That issue being the wants and needs of the landed classes. I personally believe that the Corn Laws led to large swathes of the urbanised population become unreasonably politicised in their demands to parliament with the catalyst for this potentially revolutionary actions being the starvation of the working classes and thus the Corn Laws. Lord Liverpool's justification for the Corn Laws was the appalling state of agriculture in England in the post war period. England faced a unique set of financial and economic problems bought about by the end of the war. ...read more.

Middle

The huge majority of landowners who were in the houses of commons and Lords meant that Lord Liverpool really had little choice in the course of his actions. The make up of the Government of England and the electorate made sure that this law was more than the temporary measure it was designed to be. To many on the outside this rightly looked like a attempt by the agriculturally based land owners to secure their incomes while leaving the poor and the emerging industrialist out in the cold. This Act was a sure vote winner for Liverpool and strengthened the already strong bonds between the landowners and government. Therefore in this sense that Corn Laws were not justified. The landed classes provided justification for not allowing universal male suffrage was that they educated few were the only people responsible enough to look after the needs of the country and all areas of society. The working classes realised due to the Corn Laws, especially in urban centres, that they were being underrepresented and this created the politicisation of the masses. Liverpool set the ball rolling with the corn actions that led to the most serious challenge to the then current English democratic process. In purely a morality sense the corn laws extended period in operation led to many of the under represented Widespread hunger caused by the Corn Laws combined with a general nose dive in the economy which was exasperated by the unique short term financial and economic circumstances ...read more.

Conclusion

Liverpool and his old fashioned inward looking government would not have had the benefit of this hindsight. They didn't know that Britain's heyday as the workshop of the world was on the horizon. Instead they saw a worrying social situation around them and pressured by their counterparts were forced to take action. But the morality of such an action taken in what today would be called a recession or depression is highly questionable and is in my eyes the greatest reason why the Corn Laws were not justified. Parliament as the greatest social organ in a democracy that should have represented the rights of all was in my eyes mistaken in letting their citizens starve for a slim chance of economic recovery in a single sector of the country's economy-agriculture. The British Government had decided to choke one group of citizens, the urban based working classes, to create a wealthier group of large land owners-ironically the largest group of MP's. In my eyes protecting no part of the economy would have been the best idea. No economic area would flourish but neither would any industry be choked. A free market mentality would be painful but would result in more efficient techniques in manufacturing and agriculture. All the Corn Laws seemed to do was underline the injustices that were allowed to happen because of the lack of universal suffrage. It also highlighted how inward looking and self centred the Ultra-Tory's were as well as highlighting urban electoral under representation. ...read more.

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