The Tolpuddle Martyrs – Sentenced to Seven Years’ Transportation on 18 March 1834 – The British Newspaper Archive Blog

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The Tolpuddle Martyrs – Sentenced to Seven Years’ Transportation on 18 March 1834

Newspaper reports from March 1834 on the trial of the Tolpuddle Martyrs

At the Dorchester Assizes on 18 March 1834, the following six men:

James Brine
James Hammett
George Loveless
James Loveless
Thomas Standfield
John Standfield

were sentenced to seven years’ transportation in Australia.

The men worked as agricultural labourers, and their crime was to swear a secret oath as members of ‘The Friendly Society of Agricultural Labourers’. At this time, these friendly societies were similar to the trade unions of today. At its root, however, this case was really all about the rights of workers to protect themselves against the imposition of lower wages by employers.

The law that saw them prosecuted and convicted, though, was a little known law of 1797, which prohibited people from swearing oaths to one another. A local landowner had written to the Prime Minister, Lord Melbourne, complaining about the ‘union’, and this is how the matter ended up in court. So the guilty verdict and harsh sentence were seen as an attack on the working class and their rights of workers to protect themselves by forming labour organisations.

The jury deliberated for a full five minutes, before finding the men guilty.

The Archive contains some fascinating news reports about the Tolpuddle Martyrs, including the campaign to free them (and the massive petition with 800,000 signatures), and their eventual return to England.

To mark the day, we’ve posted two newspaper stories from March 1834 that report on this historic episode.

newspaper report on the tolpuddle marytrs|

Devizes and Wiltshire Gazette – Thursday 27 March 1834

Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

http://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/viewer/bl/0000360/18340327/015/0003

newspaper report on the tolpuddle marytrs|

Exeter and Plymouth Gazette – Saturday 22 March 1834

Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

http://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/viewer/bl/0000267/18340322/009/0003

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