The History of Wandsworth Common

A Village Politician

John Buckley [Buckmaster]


by the Right Hon, A.J. Mundella, M.P.

The following pages are an interesting record of one whom I have known for many years as a practical and active worker in all social and educational effort. Some parts may read like a romance. The changes made in names and places are intended to prevent a too personal identification.

My friend's early life was spent among the farmers and farm labourers in the valley of the Chiltern Hills — for whom he still retains a warm sympathy; and his account of their life and character is told in his own way. Later on he was thrown among the artisans of a town who were carried away on the strong torrent of political excitement which set in soon after the passing of the first Reform Bill.

The Anti-Corn Law agitation, and the contested elections arising out of it, afforded a safer and wiser opportunity for assisting in the expression of the current and general discontent of which so many to-day remain ignorant.

Disowned by his relations, who were chiefly agriculturists, and treated, by his companions and friends with scorn and ridicule, he threw himself heart and soul into the Anti-Com Law agitation, until towards its close he attracted the attention of Lord Morpeth, who advised him to give up politics and turn his attention to the growing cause of public education. This he did with marvellous energy and success; and this was the turning-, and perhaps saving-, point of his future life.

The book cannot fail to be of interest to political believers of the past fifty years, and to offer encouragement to young men to assist in the settlement of questions which are now, or hereafter may be, agitating the country, by instructing them in the struggles and political history of the past, which have won for the present generation the rights and liberties they now enjoy. Ideas and principles which are treated with the scorn and contempt of one age become the faith of the next.

The early life of the author was full of sorrow and trouble. He had to fight his way through difficulties and trials under which most young men would have fallen. But he has now entered the autumn of life in comfort, and with the esteem of many friends. He has been spared to see the harvest and the full recognition of principles to which his humble efforts were early directed, and in which he was sustained in the darkest hours of temptation and diffienlty by the earnest conviction that what is just is right.

I shall be glad if a word of commendation from me will be of service in attracting attention to the simple, struggling life of a young reformer, who was not afraid to sow the good seed in the teeth of many a wintry blast.