John Bright, the son of Jacob Bright, a self-made and successful cotton manufacturer, was born in Rochdale on 16th November, 1811. Jacob was deeply religious and sent John to Quaker schools in Lancashire and Yorkshire. This Quaker education helped to develop in Bright a passionate commitment to political and religious equality.
After his formal schooling came to an end, Bright joined the rapidly expanding family business. He also became involved in local politics and joined the campaign to end compulsory tax support of the Anglican Church in Rochdale.
In October 1837, Joseph Hume, Francis Place and John Roebuck formed the Anti-Corn Law Association in London. The following year Richard Cobden joined with Archibald Prentice to establish a branch of this organisation in Manchester. In March 1839 Cobden was instrumental in establishing a new centralized Anti-Corn Law League. Cobden was now able to organize a national campaign in favour of reform. Cobden was a friend of Bright and suggested he should join the League. Bright agreed and over the next few years he toured the country giving speeches on the need to reform the Corn Laws. Bright was an outstanding orator and he drew large crowds wherever he appeared.
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