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Tolpuddle martyrs. In 1834 six agricultural labourers from the village of Tolpuddle in Dorset, who formed a trade union lodge, were sentenced to seven years' transportation under an Act of 1797 forbidding ‘unlawful oaths’. Their leader, George Loveless, was a methodist and seems to have been in contact with delegates from Robert Owen's Grand National Consolidated Trade Union, who advised on the necessary ritual and initiation ceremony, including an oath of loyalty. Although unions were no longer illegal after the repeal of the Combination Acts, and the Tolpuddle men sought only to resist a reduction in wages, the government feared rural unrest, including rick-burning and machine-breaking. The harsh sentence provoked a campaign of petitions and mass demonstrations organized by the GNCTU. Two years later the six were pardoned. In 1838 they returned home, but five of them later emigrated to Canada.
John F. C. Harrison
Tolpuddle Martyrs Name given to six British farm labourers in Dorset, s England, who were sentenced to transportation for forming a trade union (1834). The government was worried by the growth of organized labour, but as unions were not illegal, the Dorset men were charged with taking a seditious oath. After a public outcry, they were pardoned in 1836.
Tolpuddle martyrs six farm labourers from the village of Tolpuddle in Dorset who attempted to form a trade union and were sentenced in 1834 to seven years' transportation on a charge of administering unlawful oaths. Their harsh sentences caused widespread protests, and two years later they were pardoned and repatriated from Australia.