John Bright

John Bright by Albert Bruce Joy

By Albert Bruce Joy, Albert Square. Stone.

Listen to Manchester historian and broadcaster Jonathan Schofield offering his view of the statue of John Bright.

There are just names and dates on this one. What did he do?

John Bright was another social and political reformer that Manchester is proud of. His biggest claim to fame was as founder member of the Anti-Corn Law League with Richard Cobden.

Anti-Corn Law League? Were they against cereal crops?

It wasn’t the corn they were against but the taxes levied on it. The price of grain was so inflated by the Corn Laws that ordinary people were struggling to feed themselves. Bright was also a firm believer in the principle of Free Trade, which was hindered by the Corn Laws.

Oh, I see. Did they manage to get the Corn Laws abolished?

Yes! After eight years of campaigning peacefully the Corn Laws were repealed in 1846 by the Prime Minister, Robert Peel, whose statue is in Piccadilly.

What did Bright do after that?

In 1847 Bright was elected as MP for Manchester and quickly won the respect of the other MPs at Westminster with his thoughtful and well-argued points of view. As a Quaker, Bright was strongly opposed to slavery and encouraged the cotton workers of Manchester to support Abraham Lincoln during the American Civil War (1861-65). He remained in politics until the end of his life and never wavered from his radical convictions.