James Epstein – The Lion of Freedom

Feargus O’Connor and the Chartist Movement, 1832-1842

cover of The Lion of Freedom

298pp paperback  156x234mm
ISBN 978-0-9929466-1-6

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This book offers an evaluation of the political leadership of Feargus O’Connor, the most prominent leader of the Chartist movement.

This study covers the period from 1832-1842 — from O’Connor’s election to Parliament through to the establishment of his ascendency over the national leadership of the Chartist movement. Central to this study is a consideration of the principal institutions of national radical leadership, organisation and agitation — the platform and the mass demonstration, the Chartist Press and National Charter Association. While O’Connor came to prominence in the familiar role of the radical gentleman orator at the mass demonstration which heralded the advent of Chartism, he was able to turn his appeal as a charismatic demagogue towards the creation of more permanent and democratic forms of working-class organisation and leadership.

Not simply a political biography of O’Connor, this book offers a general history of Chartism and provides an interpretive framework for understanding this complex political movement.

With a new preface.




1 The Roots of Leadership: 1832-1837
I. Radical Member of Parliament: 1832-1835
II. The Oldham By-Election: O’Connor’s ‘English Political Birthplace’
III. London Radicalism
i. Metropolitan Radical Associations
ii. The Universal Suffrage Club
IV. Northern Radicalism
V. O’Connor, O’Connell and the English Radicals
VI. The Central National Association and the London Working Men’s Association
2 The Northern Star
I. The Establishment of the Northern Star
II. The ‘People’s Paper’ and the Chartist Movement
i. The Star and its Readers
ii. Staff
iii. The Star, Chartist Democracy and National Organisation
3 The Coming Together of Chartism: 1838
I. The Demagogue
II. The Coming Together of Chartism
i. O’Connor and the Anti-Poor Law Agitation
ii. The Great Northern Union and the National Petition
iii. O’Connor and the Birmingham Political Union: August 1838
III. The Birth of the Chartist Platform
i. The Mass Demonstration
ii. The Rhetoric of Violence and the Right to Arm
IV. Moral Force/Physical Force
4 The Quest for Working-Class Power: The National Convention of 1839
5 The Risings and After
6 The People’s Champion and the People’s Party
I. The Caged Lion
II. The National Charter Association and the Reorganisation of Chartism
III. The Question of Chartist Direction, Unity and Democratic Leadership
IV. The Promised Land
7 The Middle-Class Challenge and Chartist Strategy
I. The Middle-Class Embrace: 1840-1841
II. The 1841 General Election
III. The Crisis of 1842
i. Complete Suffrage
ii. The Strikes of Summer