Sir: As a descendant of two of the Tolpuddle Martyrs, Thomas and John Standfield, I must correct Polly Toynbee's commonplace error: they were not convicted of forming a trade union, a lawful activity under an 1832 Act. Rather, their crime was to administer an illegal oath, under the Administration of Oaths Act, 1797.
This and the Mutinies Act of the same year were designed to prevent the enticement away from service of men during the Napoleonic Wars. The 1797 Act was used by vested interests to frustrate the intentions of the 1832 Act.
C H STANDFIELD