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Burdett, Sir Francis

Burdett, Sir Francis (1770–1844). A wealthy, patrician landowner, Burdett was an outstanding example of gentry or Tory-radical leadership of popular radical movements. For 30 years (1807–37) he was MP for the radical borough of Westminster, championing the cause of parliamentary reform and speaking out against corruption and patronage. When he was imprisoned in 1810 for a breach of parliamentary privilege, troops had to be called to disperse the crowds, in a manner reminiscent of Wilkes. Burdett provided leadership for the radical reformers during the lean years of the Napoleonic wars; but when the parliamentary reform movement grew after 1816, with strong working-class roots in the industrial districts, his popularity waned. His ideas, like those of his early mentor Horne Tooke, were derived from the past, and he justified reform by appeals to antiquity and custom, and the historic ‘rights of Englishmen’.

John F. C. Harrison

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