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John Cartwright (1740-1824)

Three Reformist pamphlets 1817-19

RCIN 1124213

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  • This is a collection of tracts by the reformer John Cartwright advocating parliamentary reform in the early nineteenth century. It is bound in blue goatskin and is tooled with symbols connected to the Radical movement: the cap of liberty, the dates 1215 (Magna Carta) and 1688 (the 'Glorious' Revolution) and the name 'Alfred' after the famed 1740 opera by Thomas Arne, which saw the first performance of the patriotic anthem 'Rule, Britannia'.
    John Cartwright was born in 1740 and served as a naval officer during the Seven Years War (1756-63) but refused a lieutenancy at the outbreak of the American War of Independence (1775-83) due to his political beliefs. He instead spent the war serving as a major of the Nottinghamshire militia.
    Following his dismissal from the militia, Cartwright moved to London and fully associated himself with the Radical movement that was gaining support in Britain. Radicals sought a more equal parliamentary system in the country. They supported the abolition of so-called 'rotten' boroughs and aimed for the enfranchisement of millions of voters by extending suffrage and creating new constituencies in rapidly growing towns across the country.
    Cartwright believed in the establishment of annual parliaments and universal suffrage and wrote several pamphlets on the matter. These pamphlets evoked figures from the past, such as Henry V (popularly known as Harry Hotspur) and John Hampden, who were shown as supporting the case for reform. Cartwright was also involved in the London Corresponding Society and helped to found the Hampden Clubs, which aimed to further the cause for reform beyond the capital. In 1819, he was invited to a meeting of reformers at St Peter's Field, Manchester. A cavalry charge which killed fifteen people ensured that this meeting became known as the Peterloo Massacre, and its aftermath shaped the reformist agenda for years to come.
    Cartwright died in 1824 and it would be a further eight years until some measure of reform was approved by Parliament. It would be another century until universal suffrage was finally attained in Britain.

  • Alternative title(s)

    A Bill of rights and liberties ... [and] New preamble ... [and] A Bill, entitled, An Act for securing the rights and liberties ...

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