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Cartwright, Major John

Cartwright, Major John (1740–1824). The ‘Father of Reform’ was a Lincolnshire squire who devoted the best years of his long life to radical agitation and propaganda. From support of the American colonists, Cartwright moved to a critique of the political system. His most famous book, Take your Choice (1776), argued the case for manhood suffrage, secret ballot, annual elections, equal electoral districts, and payment of MPs, by reference to Anglo-Saxon precedent, thus foreshadowing the claims of advanced political reformers until chartist times and beyond. In 1780 he founded the Society for Constitutional Information. He welcomed the first stages of the French Revolution, but did not support Painite radicalism or the London corresponding society. For some years after 1805 he was involved in the politics of the radical borough of Westminster, and from 1812 in the Hampden club movement.

John F. C. Harrison

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Cartwright, John

John Cartwright, 1740–1824, English reformer and pamphleteer; brother of Edmund Cartwright. He had an early career in the navy. He declined to fight the American colonists and wrote American Independence: the Interest and Glory of Great Britain (1774). A major in the Nottinghamshire militia (1775–92), he was deprived of his commission in the hysteria at the time of the French Revolutionary Wars. He came to be called the "father of reform" for his advocacy of universal manhood suffrage, parliamentary and army reform, and abolition of slavery.

See F. D. Cartwright, ed., The Life and Correspondence of Major Cartwright (2 vol., 1826; repr. 1969); biography by J. W. Osborne (1972).

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