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1 December 2014

The Returning Officer: Cows I

By Stephen Brasher

In 1865, the Union general William T Sherman issued special field orders for the confiscation of land in Confederate states to be granted to freed slaves. This led
to the slogan “40 acres and a mule”, describing the size of the envisaged smallholdings.

In 1885, the Liberal Jesse Collings started a land campaign with the slogan “Three acres and a cow”, coined by Eli Hamshire, the “rustic sage” of Ewhurst, Surrey. Collings was MP for Ipswich (1880-86) and Birmingham Bordesley (1886-1918), switching to the Liberal Unionists, then to the Tories.

Supporting the Tory at an 1895 election meeting, he stood up to speak and Liberals in the audience “did not shout or make a noise . . . but took off their coats, turned them inside out and, having put them on again, sat quietly down”. 

Stephen Brasher