Charles Allen Du Val

His life and works

Anti-Corn Law League

Charles Allen Du Val supported the Anti-Corn Law League which was founded in Manchester in 1838 and led by John Bright (a Rochdale mill-owner) and Richard Cobden (a Bolton calico manufacturer).

The League campaigned to have the Corn Laws repealed. They had been introduced in the economic slump following the battle of Waterloo which prohibited grain imports. Protests had resulted in the bloodshed in Manchester’s Peterloo in 1819. The Corn Laws symbolised aristocratic and growers’ self-interest at the cost of starving people. In September 1838 mill owners and local politicians joined protesters in Manchester at the York Hotel in King Street to form the Anti-Corn Law League. Support grew so fast that a temporary Free Trade Hall had to be built in Peter Street to hold their protest meetings, later replaced in stone.

The League became a powerful lobbying machine, aided by pictures of its leaders which adorned the thousands of its cards, flags, newspapers and stationery. In one week in February 1843 a million tracts were mailed. Henry Ashworth, a prominent member, related that the appeal of these images “soon became objects of such interest that Messrs Agnew undertook to publish the portraits of the principal advocates as a commercial speculation”. These were engravings of original portraits painted by the young Charles Allen Du Val. (1)

Eventually in 1846 the Corn Laws were reluctantly repealed by Sir Robert Peel.

(1) Anthony Howe and Simon Morgan Rethinking Nineteenth-century Liberalism: Richard Cobden Bicentenary Essays (2006) page 48.