Hannah More (1745–1833) was a well-connected writer and reformer who became one of the most prominent women of the pre-Victorian age. An evangelical Christian who believed that good society was based on good moral conduct, she campaigned against slavery and promoted education for the poor.
Her Village Politics of 1792 is a counter to the pro-revolutionary Rights of Man from the previous year by Tom Paine (1737–1809). More’s book, written under the pseudonym ‘Will Chip’, is addressed to ‘all the mechanics, journeymen and day labourers in Great Britain’. It takes the form of a dialogue between ‘Jack Anvil the blacksmith’, a solidly conservative supporter of the existing order, and ‘Tom Hod the mason’, who has taken Paine’s ideas of reform on board.
Tom’s political naivety is repeatedly exposed by Jack, who argues that France’s ‘liberty’ is in fact lawless chaos, and that British order gives people as much freedom and rights as they need. The villagers are urged to forget about revolution and to ‘mind your own business’.
Village Politics was a success, and encouraged More to continue. The Cheap Repository Tracts, written with colleagues shortly afterwards, was a series of 114 similarly conservative narratives intended to discourage popular protest. They sold in millions, and helped set the socially conservative tone of 19th-century Britain.