1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Arch, Joseph

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14020481911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 2 — Arch, Joseph

ARCH, JOSEPH (1826–  ), English politician, founder of the National Agricultural Labourers’ Union, was born at Barford, a village in Warwickshire, on the 10th of November 1826. His parents belonged to the labouring class. He inherited a strong sentiment of independence from his mother; and his objections to the social homage expected by those whom the catechism boldly styled his “betters” made him an “agitator.” Having educated himself by unremitting exertions, and acquired fluency of speech as a Methodist local preacher, he founded in 1872 the National Agricultural Labourers’ Union, of which he was president. A rise then came in the wages of agricultural labourers, but this had the unforeseen effect of destroying the union; for the labourers, deeming their object gained, ceased to “agitate.” Mr Arch nevertheless retained sufficient popularity to be returned to parliament for north-west Norfolk in 1885; and although defeated next year owing to his advocacy of Irish Home Rule, he regained his seat in 1892, and held it in 1895, retiring in 1900. He was deservedly respected in the House of Commons; seldom has an agitator been so little of a demagogue.

A biography written by himself or under his direction, and edited by Lady Warwick (1898), tells the story of his career.