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O'Brien, James (Bronterre)

O'Brien, James (Bronterre) (1805–64). Dubbed ‘the schoolmaster of chartism’. An Irish barrister, O'Brien was the most theoretical of the chartists and might have rivalled O'Connor for the leadership but for his unstable personality. An admirer of the French Jacobins and also of Robert Owen, he advocated revolutionary action, including physical force if necessary. But after imprisonment in 1840 for seditious speaking, O'Brien concluded that the use of force was impracticable, and supported a tactical alliance with middle-class radicals. He broke with O'Connor and elaborated plans for socialism and land nationalization through a National Reform League (1850). His influence was greatest in the early 1830s through his editorship of the Poor Man's Guardian and as a contributor to other radical journals.

John F. C. Harrison

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