This is the second of two posts on the ‘Top Progressive Moments of the 19th Century’ in the UK. You can read the first part here.
7. Publication of ‘On Liberty’ (1859)
Described as the most influential English-speaking philosopher of the 19th century, John Stuart Mill was a proponent of the ethical system of utilitarianism, which proposed a social system that prioritised maximising people’s happiness and reducing human suffering. In his work ‘On Liberty’, Mill emphasised the importance of individuality and discussed the dangers of a ‘tyranny of the majority’. It was an influential work, forming the basis of liberal political thought, and has remained in print continuously since its original publication.
6. Release of the Tolpuddle Martyrs (1836)
In 1832, six men from Tolpuddle in Dorset founded the ‘Friendly Society of Agricultural Labourers’, which was in effect a trade union. They were protesting the reduction in agricultural wages brought about by increasing mechanisation. Although technically trade unions were no longer illegal following the repeal of the Combination Acts in 1825, an obscure 1797 law banning people from swearing oaths to each other meant that the men were prosecuted and sentenced to transportation to Australia. The ‘Tolpuddle Martyrs’ were freed in 1836 following a mass political march and petition, and the support of Home Secretary John Russell. Continue reading