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Revolutionary connection: "the Incorruptible" Maximilian Robespierre and the "Schoolmaster of Chartism" Bronterre O'Brien.

CHARTISM WAS THE most important popular reform mobilization in nineteenth-century Britain, but it was not exclusively British and, in recent decades, historians have been paying more attention to its international connections. Clearly, Chartists were influenced by events in the empire, Europe, and the United States. Much remains to be learned about the international aspects of Chartist ideology and, in particular, the linkages that were made between Chartism and the examples and inspiration presented by revolutions abroad. Nobody did more to explain and justify these linkages than Bronterre O'Brien (1804-64), who was dubbed "the schoolmaster of Chartism," because of his attempts to clarify the movement's intellectual basis. O'Brien was one of the few Chartist leaders who had celebrity status, though he broke with other leaders--and, indeed, mainstream Chartism--in the early 1840s. His reputation among historians is somewhat mixed, but his thoughts about revolution offer suggestive revelations about the gap between Chartist achievement and Chartist potential, and about the figure of Maximilian Robespierre (1758-94), the most controversial ruler of Revolutionary France during the 1790s. Robespierre was O'Brien's idol. He featured regularly in O'Brien's newspapers and was the subject of a major book by O'Brien and two substantial pamphlets. What follows is an exploration of O'Brien's use of Robespierre as a model revolutionary and O'Brien's efforts to persuade British radicals that Robespierre's goals and principles offered the best route to political, social, and economic democracy.

During the 1790s and subsequently, Robespierre's name was blackened by his enemies. As the French Revolution changed course several times, it was Robespierre who came to be regarded as the author of the Terror. His path to power opened up in the spring of 1793, and responsibility for repressive dictatorship and reckless bloodletting was placed upon him. July 1794, which saw his overthrow and execution, was a watershed in French history, and in due course his career gave rise to conflicting interpretations. Modern scholars have tried to get beyond conventional accounts and to understand more clearly Robespierre's background, motives, and methods. John Hardman, for example, has examined his administrative machine, recognizing that Robespierre's public image and speeches can only reveal so much. (1) Ruth Scurr stresses his fixation with virtue. (2) He took no bribes. He did not seek sexual partners. Nothing mattered more than the Revolution. In making himself "the Incorruptible," however, he became an extremist, unable to tolerate ideas or behavior that did not accord with what he thought the Revolution should be. To Peter McPhee, Robespierre's early life did much to shape his political career. (3) He was from a broken home and experienced first-hand the pain inflicted by social inequality. Later, he tried to eradicate these problems for the good of everybody.

Contrary to these dispassionate assessments, Robespierre's reputation was contested ground in the nineteenth century, when the legacy of the French Revolution was still very palpable. To offer a verdict on Robespierre was to make plain one's own position for or against democracy and reform. His character and values became rhetorical devices that could be used for present political purposes. Outside France, Robespierre had no more devoted apologist than Bronterre O'Brien. Once O'Brien had a public platform, he determined to use it to popularize what he took to be Robespierre's principles and to apply them to contemporary Britain.

Despite O'Brien's prominence, he remains an elusive figure. Unpublished personal material is rare, which necessitates reliance on his publications. He completed few of his large writing projects, however, and important shorter pieces from the early part of his career were not expanded later. There is only one modern biography of O'Brien, appearing in 1971 but mostly written before the Second World War. (4) For a long time (from the 1840s to the 1940s), O'Brien was regarded as central to Chartism, especially by writers on the political left; yet he has no entry so far in the important Dictionary of Labour Biography, which began publication in 1972, and, in general, he has been marginalized in recent Chartist scholarship. (5) Contemporary descriptions of O'Brien are largely unfavorable and he receives scant attention in the memoirs of other Chartists, probably because of his estrangement from the mainstream movement.

James O'Brien was born in Ireland. (6) In 1822, he proceeded to Trinity College, Dublin, where he won prizes for his academic accomplishments. In 1830 he moved to London and soon gained notoriety as "Bronterre," a champion of the workers' demand for political, social, and economic rights, writing for the most influential of all plebeian radical publications, the Poor Man's Guardian. (7) He was prominent in the campaign against restrictions on the press. He discussed class antagonism, Owenism, the poor laws, and factory conditions, and pushed for the ballot and an extension of the suffrage. (8) O'Brien wrote for several publications in the 1830s and 1840s, but attempts to establish newspapers of his own were not blessed with success. He lacked a sound business sense; he could be quarrelsome, which did not endear him to fellow radicals who might otherwise have given help and advice; and he was normally in debt. (9) Dorothy Thompson contends that Chartism would not have been a viable movement without a national organ like the Northern Star, and that O'Brien's short-lived papers were inadequate. (10) Though this is true, it should be remembered that O'Brien's own writing for the Northern Star was partly responsible for its popularity and impact. In addition, he contributed to the evolution of Chartist communication and language and to the broader development of a politicized press shaped by working-class pride and a break from previous literary fashions and opinions. (11)

If there was a danger of ambiguity, because of the tension between an economic or class-based analysis and the tendency in radicalism to prioritize political relationships, this was something that O'Brien was aware of and at times explicitly addressed. As he explained in response to a correspondent who had asked about his opinion of shopkeepers, much depended on the conduct arising from class identity, not so much the class identity itself. He would not condemn a shopkeeper simply because he was a shopkeeper, but employed the term shopocrat "in order to distinguish the good from the bad, the politically honest from the politically dishonest, those to whom we are hostile and those to whom we are not." (12) Class identity rested on economic function, social status, and political rights, but although the hierarchical structure of society was evil and wrong, individuals within that structure were not necessarily evil and wrong. If most people of the commercial middle class and landed aristocracy were the workers' enemies, O'Brien decided, some were not, because they were willing to extend rights to all people, not just parts of it. (13)

Remarks like these offer a reminder that radicals used a mixture of words, ideas, and symbols drawn from popular constitutionalism, economic analysis, the American and French Revolutions, natural rights, public and personal morality, local and national traditions, class relations, and other sources. (14) While the "constitutional idiom" was, for many, the dominant mode of communication and spur for action, other idioms were employed as well, and the Chartist era--largely because of O'Brien--saw the merging of an older rhetoric (political corruption, aristocratic rule, monopolies, and heavy taxation) and a new paradigm (class conflict, economic exploitation, the labor theory of value, and capital-versus-labor). Chartism was never monolithic. Many Chartists rejected O'Brien's principles and accepted much of the liberal political economy that he condemned, while many prioritized non-economic concerns. But O'Brien's ideas remained influential, especially in the organizations and locations where his followers were most numerous.

From the outset, O'Brien maintained that moderate reforms were of no use. The key to everything was manhood suffrage, which O'Brien expected to result in tangible social improvement: "meat and drink and clothing, good hours, and good beds, and good substantial furniture for every man and woman and child who will do a fair day's work." (15) O'Brien told the workers that "your poverty is the result, not the cause of your being unrepresented" and that they were subjugated because of a network of monopolies, in lawmaking as well as in the land, machinery, and resources. (16) Dissecting Chartist language and the mindset behind it, Gareth Stedman Jones suggests that the suffrage was not a matter of inherent individual rights but a "practical and corporate" demand, "closely tied to the Chartist analysis of the cause of the condition of the working classes." (17) Hence O'Brien's point about property and representation: the workers lacked property because they lacked parliamentary representation, not the other way round. Stedman Jones views Chartism as a movement of the politically excluded rather than a class movement shaped by workers' experience of the Industrial Revolution. It can be argued, however, that no distinction was made between the political and the social in the era of Chartism. People did not separate their problems into different categories but met them all as part of a lived reality. Indeed, O'Brien exemplifies the "multiplicity of beliefs" in Chartism. (18) It had more behind it than a sense of political exclusion.

What O'Brien envisaged was "an entire change in society ... a complete subversion of the existing order of the world ... [t]he working classes aspire to be at the top instead of at the bottom of society, or rather that there should be no top or bottom at all." (19) He wrote that nobody could expect hawks not to prey on doves. Why then should the people look for morality on the part of their landed and moneyed oppressors? (20) He discussed the factors behind class formation, and his writings about the middle class and its power tell against the thesis that "middle class" was an imagined construction, not a material reality but a political and linguistic device used to describe British society in these years. (21) O'Brien's attacks on the middle class did not go down well with some of those who read his works or heard his speeches. One Oldham radical was prompted to write to the Northern Star in 1838 to protest that the middle and working classes were not natural enemies. (22)

O'Brien insisted that reforms should reduce the number and limit the power of non-producers, safeguard for the workers the fruits of their labor, and enable the productive classes to take up a legislative role in order to promote social and moral transformation. (23) This owed something to the ideas of Robert Owen, but if the two men agreed on goals, they differed as to means. While O'Brien continued to advocate universal suffrage, which would transfer to the people the ability to make laws, Owen eschewed political action, arguing that the better society lay through cooperative practices and education. To O'Brien, this offered only slow and partial change, whereas radical legislation would bring immediate results (including nationalization of the land, currency reform, an overhaul of the banking system, and a role for the state in production and distribution). Utopian elements in O'Brien's creed were less important than the practical proposals he made for social and economic change. Nevertheless, he did respect utopian schemes, notably the setting up of model communities. (24)

During the 1830s O'Brien focused increasingly on land reform. This was a matter of concern to most Chartists, and by the mid-1840s O'Brien was writing about the nationalization of the land and a system of tenancies to be held from the state. He also thought of extending public ownership to utilities and related enterprises. O'Brien was one of the principal nineteenth-century advocates of the people's "resumption" of the land, and some historians see him as a pivotal figure connecting land reform programs of the 1920s and 1930s with those of the late eighteenth century. (25) O'Brien was convinced that no law could supersede a pre-existing common entitlement to the earth and its produce. He sought "a complete subversion of the institutions by which wealth is distributed," and urged readers to think more deeply about liberty, sovereignty, and natural rights. (26) O'Brien's position conflicted with an alternative vision in Chartism, developed by Feargus O'Connor, who favored the expansion of private peasant proprietorship. O'Brien insisted that this would obstruct change by strengthening conservatism and individualism. (27) In the resulting quarrel, O'Brien did much to shape wider debates about property rights, workers as consumers, and the laissez-faire state. (28)

The basis for his perspective on all these questions is to be found in his ideology of revolution, as informed by Maximilian Robespierre. O'Brien greatly admired the core democratic and libertarian principles of the French Revolution. (29) He became interested in the career of Francois Noel (Gracchus) Babeuf (1760-97), who had been executed in 1797 after leading the "Conspiracy of the Equals," an abortive coup that was designed to reverse the drift towards pragmatic moderation and return the Revolution to a more egalitarian path. Hoping to facilitate a better understanding of the French Revolution in Britain, O'Brien planned to write a number of books and visited Paris several times in the mid-1830s to collect material. On one occasion, he met the surviving lieutenant of Babeuf, Philippe Buonarroti (1761-1837). O'Brien's annotated translation of Buonarroti's History of Babeuf's Conspiracy was published in 1836. (30) Babeuf and Buonarroti had both been disciples of Robespierre. The first volume of O'Brien's biography of Robespierre was published in 1838. The planned subsequent volumes did not appear, but there were shorter pieces on Robespierre and O'Brien presided over annual events held to celebrate Robespierre's birthday.

Why was O'Brien drawn to Robespierre? Clearly, he was attracted to and readily embraced Robespierre's politics, but personal affinity played a part too. Both men had difficult lives. Both were awkward, lonely, irritable characters; neither was stable or likable. Robespierre was reclusive, austere, and neurotic. His mother died when he was young and his father was rarely present. Robespierre was an unremarkable small-town lawyer who had been brought up in poverty by his grandfather and aunts. He was a provincial nobody who became somebody through revolutionary politics. O'Brien's personal story was similar in some respects. His father died when he was young. The family was poor, but education offered a way out. O'Brien had legal training, which he gave up for politics. He left Ireland and never went back. His life was a struggle, and his relationships, health, finances, and public status were never what they should have been. There was a sense of failure; nothing really satisfied him. If O'Brien's self-righteousness did not quite match that of Robespierre, he was no less preachy and zealous. Both O'Brien and Robespierre were convinced they knew best.

In theorizing about revolutions, O'Brien gave vent to his own opinions on a range of issues and emphasized in particular the need for thorough social and economic reorganization. (31) He attacked liberal political economy and tried to explain "capitalist warfare" and the growth and nature of industrial society. He urged workers to organize in pursuit of the political rights without which they could not secure social equality. While different locations and historical periods became part of his analysis, pride of place was retained throughout by Robespierre's France.

O'Brien sought to popularize Buonarroti's maxim that improvements in any state would bear an exact proportion to the amount of influence wielded in that state by the working classes. (32) Robespierre had tried to build democracy in France, O'Brien explained, but after his demise his plans died with him and the workers were denied their share of power. Since then, in Britain as in France, it had become apparent that the workers would get nowhere unless they first gained political rights. These could then be used to transform society. O'Brien maintained that it was not enough simply to win the vote. Nor would the removal of this or that despot be sufficient: the principles behind despotism had to be destroyed. To O'Brien, equality was the cardinal requirement and equality meant that everyone received a fair share of what society had to offer. Nobody would be able to take someone else's share and success for each person would depend on individual merit and effort.

Laws had to be framed by the people. (33) Robespierre had wanted this for France, and the "democratic" French Constitution of 1793 might have worked well, had external dangers, internal disorder, Robespierre's fall, and a clash of parties not interfered with its implementation. The 1795 Constitution marked a betrayal because it provided for a taxpaying franchise. As for Buonarroti's belief that the 1793 Constitution was a step towards the eradication of economic individualism and private property, O'Brien decided that these goals could not be endorsed, because private property would be appropriate in a system that tended towards social equality. If a man possessed more than his neighbor through his own efforts, this was a legitimate distinction, but he should be prevented from using the power his property gave him to steal the neighbor's property and add it to his own. The problem was not private property, O'Brien emphasized, but the laws that governed it. This was certainly the case in "reformed" Britain after 1832. Parliament was not representative; instead of benefiting the people, legislators had approved the persecution of trade unionists, coercion in Ireland, the New Poor Law, flogging in the army, and "taxes on knowledge." According to O'Brien, the interests of the people would continue to be disregarded until the people made the laws, and this could not happen without a democratic suffrage.

History seemed to be repeating itself. (34) In the early stages of the French Revolution, some useful reforms had been introduced, but the people had not grasped liberty in all its fullness or removed the danger that aristocratic tyranny would give way to oppression by the propertied middle classes. Though Robespierre and his party had tried to prevent this, the French Constitution of 1795 gave power to citizens with money. Was Britain not in the same condition? O'Brien looked over the course of British history and identified the ending of feudalism in the seventeenth century and the Reform Act of 1832 as two significant shifts. More had to be done, though, before the people could be free. In Britain and France alike, progress required an adjustment in the relative rights of labor and capital. Capitalists disliked reform. They wished to defend the system that suited them: "usurers and profit-mongers are not only the worst of tyrants, but they are the authors and abettors of all tyranny," and their wealth gave them control over others, which they used to enrich themselves further. (35)

The opportunity that arose during the Reform Crisis of 1830-32 in Britain had been lost. The 1832 Reform Act had not delivered rights and justice and the reformed parliament had descended into "struggles between adverse bands of factionists for the right of tyrannizing." (36) Had the people tried harder they might have secured manhood suffrage, but only middle-class aims had been accomplished, and the results were being experienced in the legislation passed by the reformed parliament. The purpose of Britain's dominant elites was to ensure that all wealth, property, and influence remained in their hands. The Robespierre regime in France had promised something different. It represented another lost opportunity. Democracy had been denied to both the French and British peoples. In France, under the July Monarchy from 1830, power was wielded by bankers and merchants. The right of association was curtailed, meetings banned, the press censored. (37) Robespierre had not desired or expected this, and neither had Babeuf and Buonarroti. O'Brien reminded his readers that "there was a time when millions of human beings were ready to seal with their blood the doctrines we are now propagating." (38) It was important to understand the lessons of the past correctly. Unfortunately, history was written by the wrong people. "Have no faith in history," O'Brien instructed, "a mass of fabrication, concocted ... not with any regard to truth, or the interests of humanity, but to deceive the multitude, and thus to bolster up all the frauds and villainous institutions of the rich." (39)

O'Brien's Life and Character of Maximilian Robespierre was the corrective. As well as honoring Robespierre and his principles (for nobody had suffered more in O'Brien's view from lies and exaggerations), this book was designed to meet other needs. It was meant to defend the cause of democracy and the reputation of democrats against their enemies; to create a "new public opinion"; to uncover the nature of "our deadliest foes," the aristocracy and "rich middle class," and to counter the latter's domination of the press; to advance the campaign for political and social regeneration by explaining why the French Revolution failed to do so; and to "shake the credit of 'history' and the authority of great names ... hitherto used in support of liberticidal systems." (40)

In this book, O'Brien discussed Robespierre's background, rise to prominence, and, repeatedly, the ways in which Robespierre would have improved France, and all humankind, had he been able. Much of the book was given over to O'Brien's evolving ideology of revolutions and the relevance of Robespierre's intentions and experiences to post-1832 Britain. O'Brien elaborated upon his earlier claims that the French Revolution had been suborned by anti-popular forces and turned against the principles that were generally supposed to be behind it:
   Why were the oppressed poor, in whose behalf it was pretended the
   revolution was made--why were they the principal sufferers by it?
   Ah, my radical friends of England! This is a question which no
   scoundrel "historian" has yet answered. [There could be but one
   conclusion:] All the evils and horrors of the revolution arose from
   the fact that it was only a middleclass revolution. [Though some
   proletarian leaders had for a time enjoyed a share in government,
   they were:] cut off, one by one, by the middle classes till there
   was no leader left, and then came the finale--the utter subjection
   and impoverishment of the laboring people. (41)


Things might have gone differently. O'Brien paid tribute to the heroic spirit of the people; the will for freedom, rights, and justice; the "physical force" that was seen in the storming of the Bastille; the decrees of the National Constituent

Assembly of 4 August 1789. Tragically, however, the spirit of the people was misapplied. Dishonest reformers were able to contain "physical force" and the revolutionary masses "allowed themselves to be humbugged ... before the work was completed." (42)

The "parent and supporter" of all the methods used to stop the march of liberty was the taxpayer franchise. (43) It ensured that the French Revolution would mark a limitation of rights, not their enlargement. In France and elsewhere it was the worst of sins. Groups that favored "money-qualifications" for voting were precisely those that pushed for war in the early 1790s. They were therefore responsible for a huge loss of life and treasure, all because they did not want to see liberty flourish in any part of Europe, and war debt became another tool for them, as in Britain, where the upper and middle classes were using the system of public finance to keep the people in subjection. Robespierre had opposed efforts to restrict the suffrage in France, and it was not his fault that the French Revolution took the wrong path. The real culprits were those who wanted to "helotize" the laboring population. "In no country where property qualifications exist can there subsist even the semblance of general happiness." (44)

In the early part of the French Revolution, with aristocrats and clergymen sitting in the National Assembly of 1789 and National Constituent Assembly of 1789-91, and the Third Estate under middle-class influence, fundamental change had been impossible. (45) The main aim of these assemblies had been to protect the middle classes, the territorial aristocracy, and the clergy. Could a similar goal not be seen also in Britain's 1832 Reform Act? 1832 represented a compromise: the landed elite and the moneyed elite agreed to share power, and the people were to be excluded and plundered as before.

Here, O'Brien contended, was a reenactment of what had happened during the French Revolution. The anti-revolutionary schemes of the dominant factions in France were also those of the landed and moneyed elites in Britain. In both countries political rights still depended on property qualifications. Not for nothing would O'Brien subsequently emerge as a vocal advocate of the "national convention" (or alternative parliament) as the means to press for the Six Points of the People's Charter. But for the present he was intent on using his book on Robespierre to advertise the blessings of democracy and to show why France and Britain had not become democratic.

Democracy could not function without the widespread ownership of property. (46) From the establishment of feudalism onwards, O'Brien argued, the people had been dispossessed of the land that was rightfully theirs. In France, landowners had gradually taken even the wastes and commons to which the public had natural and legal title. Robespierre had attempted to reverse this during the French Revolution but came up against well-entrenched apologists for property rights. In fact, Robespierre's opinions about the land were influenced by developments in Britain. Enclosures in the eighteenth century had placed Britain on a par with France in terms of the dispossession of the people. This "robbery" accelerated, with about six million acres enclosed between 1792 and 1820. To O'Brien's way of thinking, the reign of George III (1760-1820) had seen a catastrophic combination of reverses for the British people--chiefly the long wars, the massive debt, and the increasing rate of enclosure--all of which benefited the landed and moneyed interests while burdening, impoverishing, and dejecting everyone else. Robespierre had seen clearly the course of events in Britain and wished to block its replication in France. An honest democrat, he detested Britain's political and social institutions. He knew that they damaged the British people and all other peoples, for they were destructive of liberty and happiness in general. British efforts to incite others to take up arms against the French Revolution gave added proof of this, as did the low reputation of Robespierre in "respectable society" in Britain. Despite the great man's ideas and exertions, France had not been permitted to embrace democracy; the evils he had observed in Britain only increased; and the "July Days" in Paris in 1830 represented yet another false dawn, for what emerged was not a democracy but a "liberal-bourgeois" regime under the sway of wealthy property owners.

No revolution could succeed anywhere unless it respected the beginnings made by Robespierre and the guidelines laid down by O'Brien:
   A revolution to be effective must begin at the bottom, instead of
   at the top of society. It must originate with the productive
   classes, and the first blow must be struck at the profit-monger. If
   you succeed against him, all the superior grades are brought down
   and made to disappear in due course; for they all grow out of and
   are sustained by him. (47)


For a revolution to work, it had to involve the equalization of classes and, thereby, a redistribution of political and economic power.

Towards the end of the Robespierre book, O'Brien took issue with some of the statements made in Thomas Paine's Rights of Man. (48) He was probably motivated in part by the knowledge that Robespierre had not liked or trusted Paine, but O'Brien also had genuine disagreements with Paine's interpretation of the French Revolution. In particular, he denounced Paine's "unaccountable praise of the National Assembly." Paine had regarded the National Assembly as a democratizing force, but O'Brien looked in detail at the franchise qualifications it approved and pointed to exclusions and limitations that precluded democratic representation. O'Brien decided that "Paine was a mere middle-class reformer when he wrote his Rights of Man." The truth of the matter, according to O'Brien, was that the National Assembly did nothing important to benefit the working classes, and instead "did them an infinity of mischief." One example was its ecclesiastical policy. It robbed the church, the people's "only friend," and gave the spoils to the landed and moneyed interests, the people's enemies. The support that had been given by the church to hospitals, schools, and charities was lost, and although church property was declared to belong to the nation, in effect this was a "flagitious money juggle" that enriched the middle classes, especially property owners, fund-holders, government agents, and lawyers. (49)

When there was talk of "a British Robespierre" arising to help secure the Charter, O'Brien declared that nobody had done more than Robespierre for the human race "out of all the public characters that have figured within the last fifty years in France, England, or the United States." (50) Nobody came close. Not past radical heroes like Major Cartwright, Henry Hunt, or William Cobbett; nor current leaders such as Birmingham radical Thomas Attwood, or the Irish "Liberator" Daniel O'Connell, or the closest thing that Chartism would have to a national figurehead, O'Connor. Not the great British statesmen of the eighteenth century who had at different times advocated reforms, Lord Chatham, Edmund Burke, Charles James Fox, and Pitt the Younger; and not the leaders of the American Revolution George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and James Madison, or their democratic successor Andrew Jackson.

O'Brien made these points in the lecture room as well as in the radical press. In July 1839, for instance, he made two appearances in Leeds to "rapturous expressions of applause." (51) In the previous year he had issued an open challenge, inviting anyone to meet him face to face before an audience, so confident was he that he could uphold his opinion of Robespierre.

By the late 1830s, O'Brien had the basics of his radical creed already in place, and these shaped his role and aspirations in the early years of Chartism. He called for thoroughgoing structural change that would bring, through manhood suffrage, social equality and economic justice. (52) His frustration mounted as the Chartist movement splintered. The working classes were following the wrong leaders, radical nostrums were firmly resisted by the elites that controlled government and parliament, and O'Brien's personal disappointments multiplied (though influential, he did not have the status and respect he thought he deserved, and his journalism was not making enough money for him and his family). Even though he went on advocating revolution in the 1840s, he admitted to doubts. The necessary energy and enthusiasm seemed to be lacking in Britain. As he had done previously, O'Brien argued that land reform was a general panacea. A government resting on the Charter, he wrote, would gradually restore the land to its "true and natural" owner, the nation. He rejected land purchase proposals. Britain should first be democratized, he thought. Once the people had their rights, they would have the whole of the land restored to them without having to buy any part of it. O'Brien disapproved of "socialists" who had argued that the land should be purchased. His response to them was that it would take too long and cost too much. In any case, he did not see how it was possible to buy up all the land. He disagreed with Robert Owen's idea that the people could get the land without the Charter, maintaining that there could be no social change without a prior political change. Owen held that no people had ever gained anything by political revolution, but O'Brien replied that even if this were true, there was no reason not to seek benefits for the people through revolution now. The Magna Carta had been a "revolution" for the aristocracy and the 1832 Reform Act a "revolution" for the middle classes. Why could the Charter not be a "revolution" for the nation as a whole?

The events of 1848-49 across Europe gave ample opportunity for further comment and analysis. O'Brien was initially excited by but quickly saw the flaws in the 1848 Revolution in France. He translated and printed the new French Constitution and wrote several articles about it, and his line of argument was accurately summed up by the motto he adopted at this time, borrowed from Robespierre's colleague Louis Antoine de Saint-Just: "Those who make half-revolutions but dig a grave for themselves." (53) Before long he was again taking examples from the work of historians to illustrate his point. He condemned "liberal" and "bourgeois" accounts of the first French Revolution, especially those of Adolphe Thiers, one of the leading politicians of the July Monarchy (published in ten volumes, 1823-27), and the academic and journalist Francois Mignet (published in two volumes in 1824). (54) Such accounts of revolution, O'Brien declared, praised parties and ideas that were actually anti-revolutionary. These accounts came from writers who could not appreciate or understand democratic sentiment, who personally opposed it, and who wanted power to be kept out of the hands of the artisan and laborer. This was also the desire of the ruling elites in Britain. They had welcomed and contributed to the effort to put down democracy in France in the 1790s, massively (and criminally) increasing the nation's debt in the process, and in 1848-49 they had the same end in view. (55)

Thiers and Mignet had both disparaged Robespierre, and this was one of the reasons why O'Brien so despised them. He had to discredit their assessments of Robespierre in order to reinforce his own. O'Brien remained sensitive about Robespierre's reputation within and beyond Chartist circles.

Some indication of Robespierre's standing among Chartists can be gained from their primary organ of information and communication, the Northern Star. There was an abiding interest in Robespierre. The Northern Star frequently advertised writings about him, including O'Brien's book. (56) There was also plenty of editorial comment, historical and contemporary material (sometimes from other publications), letters, poetry, and other items included in the Northern Star that mentioned Robespierre. Some of this was negative. (57) Mostly, however, it cast Robespierre in a positive light. (58) The same is true of the speeches and toasts at Chartist meetings and dinners or at other events reported in the Northern Star. There were unfavorable comments about Robespierre (59) but also a great deal of praise. (60) Several of the favorable speeches were those of O'Brien himself. Another prominent speechmaker in this vein was George Julian Harney, who had worked for a time in the Poor Man's Guardian office, adopted some of O'Brien's ideas, helped to establish the East London Democratic Association, and served as a delegate to several national Chartist bodies. Harney wrote for the Northern Star and became its editor in 1845. He was also one of the leaders of Chartist internationalism, principally through the Fraternal Democrats. Before Harney's tenure as editor, O'Brien complained more than once about the Northern Star's policy regarding Robespierre's reputation and ideas. He wanted not divided loyalties but unequivocal praise for "the Incorruptible." (61)

Within the Chartist movement, there may have been those who continued to associate Robespierre with tyranny, intolerance, chaos, and bloodshed; but there were also many Chartists who accepted O'Brien's assessment of Robespierre. For them, Robespierre was an icon. He was part of British radicalism's mental furniture, and it did not seem out of place to eulogize him in print or to drink a toast to his memory at, for instance, a dinner celebrating the birthday of Henry Hunt. Indeed, when events in Paris in 1848 prompted a surge of attentiveness to French politics and history, a preference for radical solutions made Robespierre's career relevant and meritorious to many more people than before.

Outside the Chartist movement, however, this preference was much weaker. In the broader spectrum of British opinion there were political, historical, and cultural obstacles that denied foreign examples a welcome, even among reformers. Linda Colley has shown that British versions of liberty, patriotism, and constitutionalism were to some extent defined in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries in a way that distinguished them clearly from, and in superiority to, French versions. (62) In this context the French Revolution was not something to be admired or imitated, and its outstanding personalities, above all Napoleon, were not friends to Britain but dangerous enemies. In the mid-nineteenth century, debates about British reform, government, and nation were influenced by European (and American) developments, but, as demonstrated by Jonathan Parry and Robert Saunders, the link between these developments and Britain's situation was disputed. (63) In a similar fashion, political exiles from Europe, including the Italians studied by Maurizio Isabella, were carefully selective about elements of the British political system that they were willing to sanction and later recreate when they returned home. (64)

Ideological interaction between British and European reformers was hardly straightforward in these circumstances, and the dominant figures of the French Revolution could be judged in contrasting ways. Simon Bainbridge has pointed to a "battle for the imagination" with respect to Napoleon, as the latter became a polemical, linguistic, aesthetic, and political instrument, with philosophers and poets placing their own meaning on his words and deeds even while they also used him, and what they thought he represented, to understand themselves and their society. There was a "real" Napoleon, but there were also many "fabricated" Napoleons. (65) Robespierre was no less serviceable. Indeed, what Robespierre believed might at times have been less important to O'Brien than what O'Brien could assert he believed. In these cases the agenda was O'Brien's, not Robespierre's. Conservatives who opposed revolution regarded Robespierre as a devil, and while some reformers respected him, others maintained that he had given revolution a bad name. The latter could define themselves against his extremism. (66) The figure of Robespierre became one of the foremost "tropes of revolution" of the nineteenth century--flexible, contingent, contested. (67) All this had implications for the reception of O'Brien's claims about Robespierre within Chartism and in British society more generally.

The 1848 Revolutions and their aftermath, as well as his links with international committees and conversations with political exiles in London, led O'Brien to join more actively in debates about Europe. (68) He wrote of the affinity between Chartism and like-minded mobilizations abroad. Margot Finn has connected this with the rise of a "social definition" of patriotism, one that made patriotic language and symbol easier to draw upon. (69) Chartists were able to include their own values and goals in this new definition, and when prominent foreign "patriots" visited Britain for political rallies and celebratory dinners, Chartists would accept what they liked and reject what they disliked from among the principles that these visitors expounded. In the case of Hungarian rebel Lajos Kossuth (1802-94), who came to England in 1851, O'Brien objected to his belief that national independence went hand in hand with liberal economics, but he shared some of Kossuth's other ideas and was pleased that these had an airing on Kossuth's tour, for Kossuth's fame ensured that many people listened to him who would never have listened to home-grown democratic orators. This was a period, as Finn explains, in which an evolving "radical patriotism" was used to express class differences and press for reforms. (70) Gregory Claeys shows that Kossuth and O'Brien did cooperate, briefly, with O'Brien presenting the Hungarian as an "illustrious democrat" who believed in freedom and the principles of all "true Englishmen," not as an anti-socialist, middle-class liberal. (71) The differing interpretations among British radicals at this time reflected an ongoing tension between traditional opposition to monarchical and state power and newer arguments about economic inequality and class power. O'Brien himself was a little inconsistent. Sometimes he preached international fraternity and publicized reform movements abroad, and yet in 1852 he declared that political exiles from Europe could expect no help until the people of Britain had secured full rights.

O'Brien also engaged at length with the ideas of Louis Blanc, the French socialist who had been a member of the provisional government in Paris in 1848. (72) Blanc had since taken refuge in England. O'Brien hoped that the British government would not prevent him from writing and speaking, but he rejected some of Blanc's ideas and while reprinting several of Blanc's works without comment, to others he attached detailed criticisms. Blanc had recommended the formation of a temporary dictatorship in Paris, in an effort to "save" the 1848 Revolution, but O'Brien stressed that whatever body was in charge of any revolution anywhere, whatever it was named, whatever powers were given to it, the first task was to cleanse it of "bourgeois" interests, because unless this was done the revolution could not succeed. He also endeavored to distance himself from Blanc's socialism. Common ownership of everything, O'Brien argued, might one day be possible and desirable, but it was not an immediate goal. Until the people made the right kind of revolution, and gained the power to refashion state and society as they desired, the question of what that new state and society should look like could not be decided.

O'Brien was still much in demand as a speaker in these years, especially in London. He invariably referred to Robespierre, and he was invariably cheered and applauded. (73) In the early months of 1849 he spoke at a "Public Festival" to mark Thomas Paine's birthday and at meetings celebrating the first anniversary of the 1848 Revolution in France. In March 1850, he addressed a "numerous audience" as president of the newly established National Reform League. In June 1850, he was one of the main speakers at a meeting organized to protest against moves in Paris to place restrictions on the franchise. In October 1851, he was the guest of honor at a public supper, and in December 1851 he was among the most vocal opponents of Louis Napoleon's coup in France. At a radical soiree in April 1852, one of the toasts was "Prosperity to James Bronterre O'Brien, the consistent and talented advocate of the principles and character of Robespierre." In addition, O'Brien was regularly to be seen and heard at events celebrating the birthday of Robespierre.

O'Brien continued to write and lecture but his outlets became more limited and (partly because of ill health) the opportunities fewer than before. The most detailed political expositions occurred in two writings from the late 1850s, the Elegy on the Death of Robespierre, a two-penny pamphlet of 16 pages, and the Dissertation and Elegy on the Life and Death of the Immortal Maximilian Robespierre, which ran to 94 pages and sold for a shilling. (74) In these works O'Brien mostly repeated arguments he had made previously, though with further examples and evidence to substantiate his interpretations.

He still believed that Robespierre was "the greatest Reformer and Legislator the world has yet known," and he suggested that Robespierre's ideas now inspired "the most advanced schools of reform" in Britain and Europe. (75) O'Brien considered Robespierre, in essence, a good Chartist, one who stood for a democratic suffrage, full rights for the working classes, no distinctions between "active" and "inactive" citizens, no money qualifications for the vote, no martial law or "military usurpations" of any kind, no capital punishment, a free press, and full freedom of assembly, organization, and petition. Had Robespierre had his way in France, the revolutionary epoch would not have been like "a plum pudding without the plums," there would have been no Terror, and the reaction against "democrats and friends of the poor" could not have happened. (76)

It was a pity that radicals of the 1850s had no Robespierre to lead them. In France, following the coup of Louis Napoleon in 1851, reform was kept down by a standing army. The wealthy middle classes were in charge. They had been the victors in 1789, 1830, and 1848, and they would never entertain a constitution of the type Robespierre had wanted. (77) In Britain, the Richard Cobdens and John Brights of the day were misguided and foolish. They were creatures of the middle classes. They aimed at only partial reform, opposed democracy, and diverted the people's reforming energies by complaining about what were really side issues: church rates, game laws, succession duties, the prerogatives of the House of Lords. In O'Brien's view,
   A cancer is preying on the heart or stomach of the nation, and our
   state-doctors ... are busy at work to cure it by paring away at
   some corns on its toes. What were the real evils of France in
   Robespierre's time are still the real evils of France and England,
   only enormously aggravated. They are, on the one hand, outrageously
   unjust fundamental laws on land, credit, and commercial
   interchange, which make property almost synonymous with robbery,
   and industry with poverty, by giving to aristocratic sybarites and
   mercantile vampires the great bulk of the fruits of other men's
   industry; and on the other hand, the usurpation of all the powers
   of the state by those said sybarites and vampires, in order to
   perpetuate their own rule and, with it, their own irresponsible
   power of dragooning, plundering, and enslaving the nation. (78)


For more than thirty years, Bronterre O'Brien had been developing a prospectus for revolution that he regarded as generally applicable. There had never been a successful revolution because, to be categorized as such, the result had to be "an entire change in society," meaning that the working classes should not remain at the bottom, or more accurately, that there should be "no top or bottom at all." A Robespierre-like figure was probably necessary to the process, but even if he was not, it was useful to have one and Robespierre himself was the model revolutionary. His democratic principles were essential to a genuine revolution. In O'Brien's opinion they prioritized political rights, social equality, and economic justice; and, importantly, they promised to place legislative power under popular control. O'Brien ruled out property qualifications for the vote. These, he thought, could not be correct or acceptable anywhere at any time. But nor did the abolition of private property indisputably make for true revolution: the main point was to alter the laws respecting property, so that land and wealth did not give their possessors the ability to oppress others. The public finances were part of this problem, which meant that changes affecting the currency and national debt had to be part of the revolution. O'Brien considered himself faithful to the democratic ethos of Robespierre when he specified that the revolution must occur from the bottom up rather than the top down. Change had to be thorough and there could be no compromise with existing elites. In particular, the middle classes had to be prevented from carrying the revolution in a direction that suited them, and history books were no guide because they were written by the wrong people. The history books had ridiculed, condemned, and lied about the exemplary Robespierre, but O'Brien was certain that Chartism would not have splintered and collapsed had its supporters adhered to the principles and methods of "the Incorruptible." He was drawn to Robespierre for political and ideological reasons, through a personal empathy, and because Robespierre was a contrivance as well as a real historical figure--and, as a "trope of revolution," he was available for use in precisely the ways that O'Brien wanted.

(1.) John Hardman, Robespierre, London: Longman, 1999.

(2.) Ruth Scurr, Fatal Purity: Robespierre and the French Revolution, London: Chatto and Windus, 2006.

(3.) Peter McPhee, Robespierre: A Revolutionary Life, New Haven, CT: Yale UP, 2012.

(4.) Alfred Plummer, Bronterre: A Political Biography of Bronterre O'Brien, 1804-1864, Toronto: U. of Toronto P., 1971.

(5.) David Stack, ed., Lives of Victorian Political Figures: James Bronterre O'Brien, London: Pickering and Chatto, 2007, xi-xii, xxi-xxiv, 25-6, 47-8, 61-2, 71, 109, 1434, 174, 180; Thomas Kemnitz, "Recent Work on the Chartist Movement," Newsletter: European Labor and Working Class History 2, 1972, 25-7; Ray Faherty, "Bronterre O'Brien's Correspondence with Thomas Allsop: New Evidence on the Decline of a Chartist Leader," Newsletter: European Labor and Working Class History 8, 1975, 28-33; R.G. Gammage, History of the Chartist Movement, 1837-1854, New York: A.M. Kelley, 1969; Theodore Rothstein, From Chartism to Labourism, London: Lawrence and Wishart, 1983; G.D.H. Cole, Chartist Portraits, New York: St. Martin's Press, 1965. Stack's edition of documents, and Ben Maw, "The Democratic Anti-Capitalism of Bronterre O'Brien," Journal of Political Ideologies 13, 2008, 201-26, are exceptions to the marginalization trend.

(6.) Bronterre's National Reformer, 7 January 1837; Gammage, Chartist Movement, 71-2; Plummer, Bronterre, 15-34; Cole, Chartist Portraits, 242-3; Dorothy Thompson, "Ireland and the Irish in English Radicalism before 1850," in James Epstein and Dorothy Thompson, eds, The Chartist Experience: Studies in Working-Class Radicalism and Culture, 1830-1860, London: Macmillan, 1982, 120-51: 129; Patricia Hollis, The Pauper Press: A Study in Working-Class Radicalism of the 1830s, Oxford: Oxford UP, 1970, 313.

(7.) Stack, Bronterre O'Brien, xii-xiv, xxviii, xli, 1-2, 17. In Gaelic, bron is "sorrow" or "mourning" and tir means "land" or "country." Stack suggests that O'Brien combined the Gaelic bron with the French terre because the name "sorrow of the land" was both "a powerful affirmation of his self-perception as a spokesman for the poor and dispossessed" and a signifier of the "amalgamation of Irish and French radicalism," upon which his politics were based.

(8.) Plummer, Bronterre, 37, 43-5, 48-9, 52-3, 56-7; Malcolm Chase, Chartism: A New History, Manchester: Manchester UP, 2007, 14-16; Stack, Bronterre O'Brien, xiv-xv, xli, 1-2, 17-18; Cole, Chartist Portraits, 239, 241-3, 246; Dorothy Thompson, The Chartists: Popular Politics in the Industrial Revolution, New York: Pantheon, 1984, 14, 17, 23, 29, 31-2, 35-6, 42; Asa Briggs, "The Local Background of Chartism," in Asa Briggs, ed., Chartist Studies, London: Macmillan, 1959, 3-28: 18; Gammage, Chartist Movement, 72-3, 76; David Jones, Chartism and the Chartists, London: Allen Lane, 1975, 37-8; J.T. Ward, Chartism, New York: Barnes and Noble, 1973, 54, 64-6, 69-71, 77-8, 150; Edward Royle and James Walvin, English Radicals and Reformers, 1760-1848, Lexington, KY: UP of Kentucky, 1982, 149.

(9.) Plummet, Bronterre, 73-6, 84-8, 139-40, 152, 165-7, 176-7; Thomas Kemnitz, "Chartist Newspaper Editors," Victorian Periodicals Newsletter 5, 1972, 1-11: 1-2, 4-5; Jones, Chartism and the Chartists, 97, 99-100; Gammage, Chartist Movement, 206; Ward, Chartism, 77-8, 107-8, 144, 150-1; Thompson, The Chartists, 37-8, 42, 49-50, 268-9; Chase, Chartism: A New History, 16, 44, 236, 241; Hollis, Pauper Press, 108, 291; Stack, Bronterre O'Brien, xv-xviii, xix, xli-xliv, 18, 61-2, 71-2, 88, 109-10, 131-2, 1734, 180, 192, 219, 226; Cole, Chartist Portraits, 244, 246, 248-50, 254, 259.

(10.) Dorothy Thompson, Outsiders: Class, Gender, and Nation, London: Verso, 1993, 52-3.

(11.) Joel Wiener, review of Paul Murphy, Towards A Working-Class Canon: Literary Criticism in British Working-Class Periodicals, 1816-1858, Columbus, OH: Ohio State UP, 1994, in Albion 27, 1995, 689-90; Paul Pickering, "Class without Words: Symbolic Communication in the Chartist Movement," Past and Present 112, 1986, 144-62: 144-6, 152.

(12.) Operative, 18 November 1838.

(13.) British Library, General Reference Collection, "Bronterre's Letters," 1836, no. 1; James Bronterre O'Brien, The Life and Character of Maximilian Robespierre, London: J. Watson, 1838, 259-60; British Statesman, 15 May, 25 June, 9 June, 27 Aug. 1842; Poor Man's Guardian and Repealer's Friend, 1843, nos. 1, 11; National Reformer and Manx Weekly Review, 25 May 1847.

(14.) James Epstein, "The Constitutional Idiom: Radical Reasoning, Rhetoric, and Action in Early Nineteenth-Century England," Journal of Social History 23, 1990, 553-74: 557-8, 569; Jones, Chartism and the Chartists, 37-40, 64, 111, 171-2, 180-2, 185-7; Royle and Walvin, English Radicals, 169-70; Thompson, The Chartists, 105; Hollis, Pauper Press, viii, 100, 203-4, 207, 210, 218-58, 286-90, 293, 299, 302; Brian Harrison and Patricia Hollis, "Chartism, Liberalism, and the Life of Robert Lowery," English Historical Review 82, 1967, 503-35: 505, 522, 526; Hummer, Bronterre, 216-46; John Belchem, "Chartism and the Trades, 1848-1850," English Historical Review 98, 1983, 558-87; Cole, Chartist Portraits, 263-5; Ward, Chartism, 222-6, 231-2; Chase, Chartism: A New History, 336, 338, 356; Stack, Bronterre O'Brien, xx-xxi, xxix, xlvi, 180, 191-2.

(15.) Operative, 17 March 1839. See also "Bronterre's Letters," 1836, nos. 1, 5-6, 9; Bronterre's National Reformer, 11 Feb. 1837; O'Brien, Life and Character of Robespierre, 276-88, 311-12, 352-3; British Statesman, 25 June, 9 July 1842; Poor Man's Guardian and Repealer's Friend, 1843, no. 8; Power of the Pence, 16 December 1848.

(16.) Bronterre's National Reformer, 15 January 1837.

(17.) Gareth Stedman Jones, "The Language of Chartism," in Epstein and Thompson, eds, Chartist Experience, 3-57: 16-17.

(18.) David Lloyd and Paul Thomas, "Culture and Society or Culture and the State?" Social Text 30, 1992, 27-56: 43, 49-50.

(19.) Poor Man's Guardian and Repealer's Friend, 19 October 1833.

(20.) Bronterre's National Reformer, 7 January 1837.

(21.) Dror Wahrman, Imagining the Middle Class: The Political Representation of Class in Britain, 1780-1840, Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1995.

(22.) D.S. Gadian, "Class Consciousness in Oldham and Other North-West Industrial Towns, 1830-1850," Historical Journal 21, 1978, 161-72: 167; R.A. Sykes, "Some Aspects of Working-Class Consciousness in Oldham, 1830-1842," Historical Journal 23, 1980, 167-79: 178.

(23.) Plummer, Bronterre, 31-3, 35, 37, 40-2; Hollis, Pauper Press, 266; Jones, Chartism and the Chartists, 37-8; Ralph Miliband, "The Politics of Robert Owen," Journal of the History of Ideas 15, 1954, 233-45: 237; Stack, Bronterre O'Brien, 2, 122, 144, 174, 219; Poor Man's Guardian, 7 December 1833; "Bronterre's Letters," 1836, no.7; Bronterre's National Reformer, 4 March 1837; British Statesman, 5 June 1842; Poor Man's Guardian and Repealer's Friend, 1843, nos. 3, 7-8; National Reformer and Manx Weekly Review, 3 October 1846, 24 October 1846, 5 December 1846, 19 December 1846, 26 December 1846, 30 January 1847, and 6 March 1847; Power of the Pence, 27 January 1849, 24 February 1849, and 3 March 1849; Social Reformer, 18 August, 1 September, and 6 October 1849.

(24.) British Statesman, 23 July 1842; Poor Man's Guardian and Repealer's Friend, 1843, nos. 3-7, 13; National Reformer and Manx Weekly Review, 6 February 1847, 13 February 1847, 20 February 1847, 6 March 1847, 13 March 1847, 20 March 1847, 27 March 1847, 3 April 1847, 10 April 1847, 17 April 1847, 24 April 1847, 8 May 1847, 22 May 1847, 29 May 1847; Gregory Claeys, "John Adolphus Etzler, Technological Utopianism, and British Socialism: The Tropical Emigration Society's Venezuelan Mission and its Social Context, 1833-1848," English Historical Review 101, 1986, 351-75: 357-8, 364; Joel Nydahl, "Introduction," in The Collected Works of John Adolphus Etzler, 1833-1844, Delmar, NY: Scholars' Facsimiles and Reprints, 1977; Frank Manuel, "Toward a Psychological History of Utopias," Daedalus 94, 1965, 293-322: 298; Social Reformer, 11 August 1849, 1 September 1849, 15 September 1849, 6 October 1849, 13 October 1849; Wilbur Shepperson, "Some Plans for British Immigration to Texas in 1849 and 1850," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 63, 1960, 43949.

(25.) Plummer, Bronterre, 179-83; Stedman Jones, "Language of Chartism," 32, 34; Cole, Chartist Portraits, 256-7; Gregory Claeys, "A Utopian Tory Revolutionary at Cambridge: The Political Ideas and Schemes of James Bernard, 1834-1839," Historical Journal 25, 1982, 583-603; Stack, Bronterre O'Brien, xvi, xlii, 61, 72; E. Eldon Barry, Nationalization in British Politics: The Historical Background, Stanford, CA: Stanford UP, 1965; T.M. Parsinnen, "Thomas Spence and the Origins of English Land Nationalization," Journal of the History of Ideas 34, 1973, 135-41.

(26.) Richard Ashcraft, "Liberal Political Theory and Working-Class Radicalism in Nineteenth-Century England," Political Theory 21, 1993, 249-72; "Bronterre's Letters," 1836, nos. 1, 7; Bronterre's National Reformer, 7 January 1837, 28 January 1837, 25 February 1837, 18 March 1837; O'Brien, Life and Character of Robespierre, 13-14, 280, 303-6, 313, 519-21; British Statesman, 6 August 1842; Poor Man's Guardian and Repealer's Friend, 1843, nos. 1, 3-8, 10-11, 13; National Reformer and Manx Weekly Review, 3 October 1846, 10 October 1846, 17 October 1846, 24 October 1846, 14 November 1846, 21 November 1846, 5 December 1846, 19 December 1846, 2 January 1847, 9 January 1847, 16 January 1847, 23 January 1847, 6 February 1847, 13 February 1847, 20 February 1847, 6 March 1847, 27 March 1847, 3 April 1847, 10 April 1847, 17 April 1847, 1 May 1847, 8 May 1847, 15 May 1847; Power of the Pence, 23 December 1848, 30 December 1848, 6 January 1849, 20 January 1849, 27 January 1849, 3 February 1849, 10 February 1849, 3 March 1849, 24 March 1849, 14 April 1849; Social Reformer, 25 August 1849, 1 September 1849, 22 September 1849, 6 October 1849, 13 October 1849, 20 October 1849; James Bronterre O'Brien, A Dissertation and Elegy on the Life and Death of the Immortal Maximilian Robespierre, London: Holyoake and Truelove, 1859, 4-5, 21-2.

(27.) Plummer, Bronterre, 180, 185-9; Stack, Bronterre O'Brien, xviii, 144; Joy MacAskill, "The Chartist Land Plan," in Briggs, ed., Chartist Studies, 304-41: 305, 307, 315, 340; Ward, Chartism, 170, 180; Gammage, Chartist Movement, 267-9, 272-4; Cole, Chartist Portraits, 259-60; Jones, Chartism and the Chartists, 131; Stedman Jones, "Language of Chartism," 43; Malcolm Chase, '"Wholesome Object Lessons': The Chartist Land Plan in Retrospect," English Historical Review 118, 2003, 59-85, and idem, "Chartism and the Land: 'The Mighty People's Question'," in Matthew Cragoe and Paul Readman, eds, The Land Question in Britain, 1750-1950, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010, 57-73; Thompson, The Chartists, 305-6; W.H.G. Armytage, "The Chartist Land Colonies, 1846-1848," Agricultural History 32, 1958, 87-96; Angus Macintyre, Review of Alice Hadfield, The Chartist Land Company, Economic History Review 24, 1971, 301-2; Poor Man's Guardian and Repealer's Friend, 1843, nos. 7-8; National Reformer and Manx Weekly Review, 17 October 1846, 24 October 1846, 19 December 1846, 9 January 1847, 17 April 1847, 1 May 1847, 15 May 1847, 22 May 1847; Power of the Pence, 31 March 1849; Social Reformer, 25 August 1849.

(28.) Thomas Horne, Property Rights and Poverty: Political Argument in Britain, 1605-1834, Chapel Hill, NC: U. of North Carolina P., 1990; Noel Thompson, The Market and its Critics: Socialist Political Economy in Nineteenth-Century Britain, New York: Routledge, 1988; Frank Rosenblatt, The Chartist Movement in its Social and Economic Aspects, London: Taylor and Francis, 1967; Peter Gurney, "'Rejoicing in Potatoes': The Politics of Consumption in England during the 'Hungry Forties'," Past and Present 203, 2009, 99-136: 101-2, 136.

(29.) James Bronterre O'Brien, Buonarroti's History of Babeuf's Conspiracy for Equality, London: H. Hetherington, 1836; idem, Life and Character of Robespierre, 3-11, 12, 15, 17, 21-2, 24, 41-5, 83-96, 217, 219-22, 256-7, 274, 276, 280-2, 3034, 307-10, 313, 350-3, 468-70, 519-22; idem, An Elegy on the Death of Robespierre, London: Holyoake and Truelove, 1857, 2, 14-15; idem, Dissertation, 4-5, 7-15, 20-2, 32, 34, 36; "Bronterre's Letters," 1836, nos. 2, 5-7, 9; Bronterre's National Reformer, 11 March 1837; Power of the Pence, 18 November 1848, 16 December 1848, 17 March 1849, 24 March 1849, 7 April 1849; Social Reformer, 18 August 1849, 1 September 1849. See also Frank and Fritzie Manuel, eds, French Utopias: Ah Anthology of Ideal Societies, New York: Schocken, 1971, 245-58; Plummer, Bronterre, 59-72; Stack, James Bronterre O'Brien, xv, xli-xlii, 179-80; Gammage, Chartist Movement, 73-5; Jones, Chartism and the Chartists, 37; Jennifer Bennett, "The London Democratic Association, 1837-1841: A Study in London Radicalism," in Epstein and Thompson, eds, Chartist Experience, 87-119: 112; Cole, Chartist Portraits, 245-6; B.H. Moss, "Republican Socialism and the Making of the Working Class in Britain, France, and the United States," Comparative Studies in Society and History 35, 1993, 390-413: 408-9; James Epstein and David Karr, "Playing at Revolution: British 'Jacobin' Performance," Journal of Modern History 79, 2007, 498-530: 501; John Dinwiddy, "English Radicais and the French Revolution, 1800-1850," in Francois Furet and Morta Ozouf, eds, The French Revolution and the Creation of Modern Political Culture: The Transformation of Political Culture, 1789-1848, Oxford: Pergamon, 1989, 447-66.

(30.) O'Brien, Buonarroti's History.

(31.) Plummer, Bronterre, 74-7, 80, 83-4, 87-8, 92-3, 113,130; Cole, Chartist Portraits, 248-9; Thompson, "Ireland and the Irish," 140-1, and idem, Outsiders, 109-12, 116, 124, 126-7; Jones, Chartism and the Chartists, 83, 88-9, 114; Iorwerth Prothero, "William Benbow and the Concept of the 'General Strike'," Past and Present 63, 1974, 132-71: 139; T.M. Parsinnen, "Association, Convention, and Anti-Parliament in British Radical Politics, 1771-1848," English Historical Review, 88, 1973, 504-33: 528, 530; Chase, Chartism: A New History, 161.

(32.) "Bronterre's Letters," 1836, no. 2.

(33.) "Bronterre's Letters," 1836, nos. 7, 9.

(34.) "Bronterre's Letters," 1836, no. 9.

(35.) "Bronterre's Letters," 1836, no. 9.

(36.) "Bronterre's Letters," 1836, nos. 5-6.

(37.) The power of the propertied middle classes in the July Monarchy has been discussed in Roger Magraw, France 1815-1914: The Bourgeois Century, New York: Oxford UP, 1986, 89-155; Hugh Collingham, The July Monarchy: A Political History of France, 1830-1848, London: Longman, 1988; Jill Harsin, Barricades: The War of the Streets in Revolutionary Paris, 1830-1848, New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002, 39-64; Sarah Maza, The Myth of the French Bourgeoisie: An Essay on the Social Imaginary, 1750-1850, Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 2003, 131-92; and David Pinkney, Decisive Years in France, 1840-1847, Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 1986.

(38.) Bronterre's National Reformer, 11 March 1837.

(39.) Ibid.

(40.) O'Brien, Life and Character of Robespierre, 3-5.

(41.) Ibid., 217.

(42.) Ibid., 219-22.

(43.) Ibid., 251.

(44.) Ibid., 252-7.

(45.) Ibid., 276-80.

(46.) Ibid., 303-11.

(47.) Ibid., 468-70.

(48.) Ibid., 519-22; Thomas Paine, Rights of man: being an answer to Mr. Burke's attack on the French revolution, London: J. Johnson, 1791.

(49.) O'Brien, Life and Character of Robespierre, 519-22.

(50.) Northern Star, 25 August 1838.

(51.) Northern Star, 25 August 1838, 22 September 1838, 13 July 1839.

(52.) Poor Man's Guardian and Repealer's Friend, 1843, nos. 5, 8.

(53.) Power of the Pence, 18 November 1848, 25 November 1848, 9 December 1848.

(54.) Adolphe Thiers, Histoire de la Revolution francaise, 10 vols, Paris: Lecointre et Durey, 1823-27; Francois Mignet, Histoire de la Revolution francaise, 2 vols, Paris: Firmin Didot, 1824.

(55.) Power of the Pence, 17 March 1849, 24 March 1849.

(56.) Northern Star, 17 February 1838, 24 February 1838, 10 March 1838, 24 March 1838, 31 March 1838, 9 June 1838, 16 June 1838, 22 September 1838, 6 October 1838, 23 March 1839, 13 June 1840, 4 December 1841, 9 April 1842, 21 November 1846, 5 December 1846, 19 December 1846, 2 January 1847, 30 January 1847, 13 February 1847, 27 February 1847, 13 March 1847, 27 March 1847, 4 December 1847, 1 January 1848, 7July 1849, 5 January 1850, 27 April 1850, 4 May 1850, 29 June 1850, 6 July 1850, 13 July 1850, 20 July 1850, 27 July 1850.

(57.) Northern Star, 24 February 1838, 6 February 1841, 5 November 1842, 8 July 1843, 11 January 1845, 17 August 1850, 7 September 1850.

(58.) Northern Star, 25 August 1838, 1 July 1843, 7, 14 September 1844, 17 April 1847, 4 December 1847, 13 May 1848, 15 July 1848, 9 September 1848, 21 October 1848, 6 January 1849, 3 February 1849, 24 February 1849, 17 March 1849, 21 April 1849, 23 June 1849, 20 October 1849, 3 November 1849, 5 January 1850, 8 June 1850, 15 June 1850, 20 July 1850, 17 August 1850, 28 February 1852, 20 March 1852, 24 April 1852, 1 May 1852.

(59.) Northern Star, 11 August 1838, 18 August 1838, 22 December 1838, 27 April 1839, 25 October 1845, 1 June 1850, 31 May 1851.

(60.) Northern Star, 17 November 1838, 27 April 1839, 25 May 1839, 16 November 1839, 5 December 1840, 27 September 1845, 26 September 1846, 21, 28 October 1848, 3 February 1849, 3 March 1849, 14 April 1849, 5 May 1849, 3 November 1849, 5 January 1850, 16 March 1850, 4 May 1850, 8 June 1850, 1 March 1851, 5 April 1851, 12 April 1851, 25 October 1851, 20 December 1851, 3 April 1852, 10 April 1852, 17 April 1852.

(61.) See for example Northern Star, 18 August 1838, 25 August 1838, 14 August 1841.

(62.) Linda Colley, Britons: Forging the Nation, 1707-1837, London: BCA, 1992, 284-5, 306-8, 311-12, 365-6, 368, 370-2.

(63.) Jonathan Parry, The Politics of Patriotism: English Liberalism, National Identity, and Europe, 1830-1886, Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2006; Robert Saunders, Democracy and the Vote in British Politics, 1832-1867, Farnham: Ashgate, 2011, 131-59.

(64.) Maurizio Isabella, Risorgimento in Exile: Italian Emigres and the Liberal International in the Post-Napoleonic Era, Oxford: Oxford UP, 2009, 9-11, 122-7, 145-6, 149, 210-11.

(65.) Simon Bainbridge, Napoleon and English Romanticism, Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1995, 6, 11, 207-8.

(66.) See for example Keith Hanley, "Describing the Revolution: Wordsworth, Freud, and Lacan," in C.C. Barfoot and Then D'haen, eds, Tropes of Revolution: Writers' Reaction to Real and Imagined Revolutions, 1789-1989, Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1991, 90-113: 111-13; and C.C. Barfoot, "Parody and the Classic Art of Political Partisanship in the Anti-Jacobin," in Barfoot and D'haen, eds, Tropes, 127-93: 142, 147-8.

(67.) See C.C. Barfoot and Then D'haen, "Introduction," in Barfoot and D'haen, eds, Tropes, 7-9: 7-8.

(68.) Henry Weisser, "Chartist Internationalism, 1845-1848," Historical Journal 14, 1971, 49-66.

(69.) Margot Finn, "'A Vent which has Conveyed our Principles': English Radical Patriotism in the Aftermath of 1848," Journal of Modern History 64, 1992, 637-59: 644, 650, 655, 657-9.

(70.) Ibid.

(71.) Gregory Claeys, "Mazzini, Kossuth, and British Radicalism, 1848-1854," Journal of British Studies 28, 1989, 225-61: 251-2, 257.

(72.) Social Reformer, 11 August 1849, 18 August 1849.

(73.) For the public appearances listed in this paragraph, see Northern Star, 3 February 1849, 3 March 1849, 16 March 1850, 8 June 1850, 12 April 1851, 25 October 1851, 20 December 1851, 10 April 1852.

(74.) O'Brien, Elegy on Robespierre; O'Brien, Dissertation.

(75.) O'Brien, Elegy on Robespierre, 2, 15.

(76.) O'Brien, Dissertation, 32, 34, 36.

(77.) O'Brien, Dissertation, 15.

(78.) O'Brien, Dissertation, 21.

Michael J. Turner is the Roy Carroll Distinguished Professor of British History at Appalachian State University, North Carolina. Born in England, he read Modern History at Oxford. He has published widely in the fields of British political history and foreign policy.
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