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1843: Heckling during Cuckfield Corn Law address causes tense exchanges

Updated: Mar 2, 2021

Morning Chronicle - Tuesday 19 September 1843



[from a correspondent]

It appears that a young Anti-Corn-law lecturer, (1) named Buckmaster, in a recent “agitating-expedition" through the southern counties, pulled up at Cuckfield, in Sussex, where he delivered a lecture to the labouring and working classes of the district on the evils of the "bread tax," as it affects their wages, condition, comforts, Independence, and moral and physical existence, and that he was so well received as to be induced to comply with a request to deliver a second address its the locality, choosing the agricultural branch of the subject, and the market-day for the delivery, as most suitable to the farmers, who were to form his audience, and of whose attendance he had a regular bumper.

Old image of the High Street circa 1870, where market was held

In the course of the address, all things were going on smoothly, the young lecturer scattering his Anti-Corn law seeds and truisms with a lavish hand, and the farmers drinking them in with that degree of thirst that "high rents" and "great discouragements," may be supposed to have engendered, when, all of a sudden, attention was for the moment drawn away from him and fixed on

Dr. Byass, a gentleman of Conservative politics, resident in the neighbourhood, who, flinging up the window of the inn at which he had had a dining party, opened up on the lecturer in the following terms:- "Halloo! there. You ought to be dragged through a horse-pond" [laughter, surprise, and shouts of derision from the meeting, Mr. Buckmaster looking perfectly astonished].

The Doctor: You have come here to prey upon the vitals of these poor men, and ought to be well ducked [laughter and cheers, amidst which Mr. Buckmaster was seen to shrug his shoulders].

The Doctor: Were the meeting of my mind, they would forthwith deal with you.

Mr. Buckmaster (amid cries from the doctor's friends of "hear, hear," began to fear “manipulation," more especially as the doctor, "suiting the action to the word," flung three hands-full of wheat at him, amid loud cries of "order, order," "shame, shame," laughter, and great confusion).

The Doctor: You are paid by Cobden to come down here [cheers] You are a " bully" of the League laughter], You are nothing but a “snob" [great laughter]. You are "a liar" [order, order]. I say so. Men are best off when bread is dear [shouts of laughter and cries of "oh, oh"]. You come here to set men against their masters [cries of "no, no," "order, order," and "go on, Buckmaster," "go on, go on," "bravo." cheers, and much uproar].

Mr. Buckmaster accordingly resumed, observing that he hoped the doctor knew more of physic than he seemed to knew of the corn-laws; when he was again interrupted by

The indignant Doctor, who offered half-a-crown to any one who would "throw a pail of water over the anti-corn- law lecturer." when

A voice (amidst much laughter) cried out, "Hold, enough two can play at that game;" a hint which had the effect of throwing “a damper" on the experiment.

In the course of the above scene, a constable of Cuckfield volunteered his assistance to "the doctor," and offered rudeness to the lecturer, for which the great body of the meeting were about to handle him roughly, had not Mr. Buckmaster interposed in his behalf.

The lecturer then had "his say" out, and the meeting separated.

Photograph in the public domain (Albert Burtenshaw) -- follow the link for more information....

(1). The Anti-Corn Law League was a successful political movement in Great Britain aimed at the abolition of the unpopular Corn Laws, which protected landowners' interests by levying taxes on imported wheat, thus raising the price of bread at a time when factory-owners were trying to cut wages.

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