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 From The Magazine of Biography:

ERNEST JONES, ESQ.


A GENTLEMAN whose name, twenty years ago, was prominently before the public in connection with the Chartist movement, MR. ERNEST JONES, died at Manchester, after a brief illness, on the 26th of January, having just completed his 50th year.
 

Ernest Charles Jones, ca. 1867.


    Mr. Jones was born on the 25th of January, 1819, at Berlin.   His father, Major Charles Jones, of the 15th Hussars, was descended from an old Norman family, settled in the Welsh Marches, and was equerry to the late Duke of Cuinberland, who became King of Hanover under the title of Ernest I.   The King was Mr. Jones’s godfather.   Major Jones bought an estate in Holstein, and remained there with his family till 1838.   His son Ernest composed a number of poems when’ very young, which were afterwards published by Nesler, of Hamburg.   At 11 years of age he disappeared from home, and was found with a bundle under his arm trudging across Lanenberg to "help the Poles," who were then in insurrection.  Later he achieved some distinction at the College of St.  Michael Lfineberg.   In 1838 Major Jones removed to England with his family, and in 1841 young Ernest was presented to the Queen by the late Duke of Beaufort.   He married Miss Atherly, of Barfield, Cumberland, whose father and uncle were the heads of old Conservative families, but Mr. Jones clung to his Radical prepossessions.   In this year appeared the first of his larger works, a romance entitled "The Wood Spirit," published anonymously by Boone of New Bond-street.   Some songs and poems followed, and in Easter term, 1844, Mr. Jones was called to the Bar at the Middle Temple.

    He now commenced what promised to be a successful professional career on the Northern Circuit, but, in an evil hour for his position and prospects as a barrister, he joined the Chartists, and rapidly became their leader.   This was in 1845, when Sir Robert Peel’s government was in power.   Long before this, however, the Chartists had contrived to attract to their proceedings a considerable share of the public attention.   The body was called into existence soon after the passing of the Reform Act of 1832, and they demanded what they termed the six points of the People’s Charter, viz:—Universal suffrage, vote by ballot, annual parliaments, payment of the members, the abolition of the property qualification, and equal electoral districts.   To this day the only point which has been conceded is the abolition of the property qualifications for members of the House of Commons, and this was adopted in the same session that witnessed the admission of Jews to Parliament, that of 1858, when the Conservatives were in power.  Seven years before Mr. Jones took a prominent part in the agitation, the Chartists had assembled in great force in various parts of the kingdom, armed with guns, pikes, and other weapons, and carrying torches.   They conducted themselves so tumultuously that on the 12th December, 1838, the Melbourne ministry found it expedient to issue a proclamation against them.   At that time their headquarters was the borough of Birmingham, and the late Mr. Thomas Atwood was one of their most active leaders.   In August 1838 a monster petition was agreed to at Birmingham at a so-called "National Convention," and a few months afterwards it was p resented to parliament by Mr. Atwood.   On the 15th July in this year they committed great outrages in the hardware capital, but the most extraordinary part of their proceedings up to this time was reserved for the borough of Newport, in Monmouthshire.   The Chartists, on the 4th of November, collected from the mines and collieries in the neighbourhood to the number of 10,000, armed with guns, pikes, and clubs.   They divided themselves into two bodies, one being under the command of Mr. John Frost, an ex-magistrate, while the other was under the leadership of his son.  They met in front of the Westgate Hotel, where the magistrates were assembled with about thirty soldiers of the 45th Regiment, and a few special constables.   The rioters commenced breaking the windows of the house, and fired on the inmates, wounding the mayor and several others.   The soldiers returned the fire, dispersing the mob, which with its leaders fled from the town, leaving twenty dead, and many others dangerously wounded.   For his share in this fatal affray, Frost and others of the leaders were sentenced to death, but the punishment was commuted to transportation for life.   They received a pardon on the conclusion of peace with Russia in 1856.

    Such was the class of men with which Mr. Ernest Jones became connected in 1845.   To advocate the Chartist cause he not only gave up what promised to be a good and increasing practice at the bar, but he refused to accept any emolument for his services, and spent large sums in supporting what he believed to be the interests of the people.   Both on the platform and in the press he was indefatigable in enforcing the claims of the political section to which he belonged.   From time to time be issued The Labourer, Notes of the People, and other periodicals: and he established also The People’s Paper," which remained the organ of the Chartists for eight years.   In 1847 he unsuccessfully contested Halifax but it was the following year which marked a memorable incident in his chequered career.   On the 10th of April, 1848—a day when, according to the late Sir James Graham, the throne of Europe rocked, and constituted authorities trembled—the Chartists proposed to hold a mass meeting of 200,000 men on Kennington-common, to march them in procession to the house of parliament, and in this way to present a petition to the House of Commons.   This obvious endeavour to overawe the legislature was, however, frustrated by the energetic action of the authorities.   The Bank and other public establishments were guarded by military, and the approaches to Westminster bridge were commanded by artillery.   The consequence was that not more than 20,000 men assembled on the common, the monster petition which had been prepared was sent to the House of Commons in detached rolls, and no fewer than 150,000 persons of all classes, including the present Emperor of the French, were sworn in as special constables.

    During this excitement Mr. Jones delivered an inflammatory speech on 4th June, 1848, in Bishop Bonner’s Fields, London.  This speech the law officers of Lord John Russell’s government held to be seditious.  A warrant was accordingly issued against Mr. Jones, who was apprehended at Manchester on the night of the 6th, and immediately taken to London.   The trial took place on the 10th of July, and Mr. Jones, together with the other prisoners arraigned at the same time, were declared guilty, and sentenced to long periods of imprisonment.  The sentence against Mr. Jones was two years’ solitary confinement, and he was further ordered to find two sureties of £100 each, and to be bound in his own recognizances for £200 to keep the peace for three years.   His own published account of the severity of his treatment provoked a good deal of indignation.   He was kept in solitary confinement on the silent system, enforced with the utmost rigour for nineteen months he was neither allowed pen, ink, nor paper, but confined in a small cell, 13 feet by 6, varied only by a solitary walk in a small high-walled prison-yard.   He obeyed all the prison regulations, excepting as to picking oakum, observing that for the sake of public order he would seek to conform to all forms and rules, but would never lend himself to voluntary degradation.   To break his firmness on this point he was again and again, imprisoned in a dark cell and fed on bread and water.   On one occasion, while cholera was raging in London, this punishment was enforced, though the object of it was suffering from dysentery at the time, and he was consigned to a dark cell from which a man dying from cholera had just been removed.   But such efforts were in vain.   The prison authorities never succeeded in making him perform the degrading labour task.  In the second year of his imprisonment Mr. Jones was so broken in health that he could no longer stand upright.   He was found lying on the floor of his cell, and then only taken to the prison hospital.   He was told that if he would petition for his release, and promise to abjure politics, the remainder of his sentence would be remitted.   But he refused his liberty on those conditions, and was reconsigned to his cell.   While in prison he composed an epic, published after his release in 1851, entitled "The Revolt of Hindostan," entirely written with his blood on the leaves of the prison prayer-books.

    Soon after his release from prison his uncle Mr. John Halton Annesley sent for him and asked if he would give up the principles by which he was "disgracing" his family.  Mr. Jones was the old man’s only relative.   The answer he got from the advocate of democracy may be imagined from the fact that Mr. Annesley left all his property, said to be worth £2,000 a-year, to his gardener, a man named Carter.

    In 1853 Mr. Jones unsuccessfully contested Nottingham, and in 1857 he again tried his fortunes in that borough, but without avail.   Meanwhile his name had come before the public as the author of several poems, and amongst these were "The Battle Day" (1855), "The Painter of Florence" (1856), "The Emperor’s Vigil" (1856).  These were followed by "Beldagon Church" and "Corayda" in 1860.

    After the extinction of Chartism Mr. Jones returned to his practice on the Northern Circuit, and his name will be remembered in connection with the defence of the Fenian prisoners Allen, Gould, and Larkin, who were tried at Manchester in November 1867 for the murder of Police-Sergeant Brett.

    At the general election which took place in November 1868, Mr. Jones stood as the third liberal candidate for Manchester, but although be received 10,746 votes he was not elected.   On the Friday and Saturday preceding his death, in the novel experiment of a test ballot in that city, Mr. Jones received 7,382 votes, against 4,133 recorded for Mr. Milner Gibson as the candidate for the liberal party, should Mr. Birley lose his seat.  After a short illness he died at his residence in Wellington-street, Higher Broughton.   Mr. Jones was suffering from severe cold in the early part of the week, but was induced to leave his bedroom to attend a meeting of the Hulme and Choriton Working Men’s Association on the 20th of January.   He left a heated atmosphere to return home by cab, and incautiously left the window open.   It is supposed that the exposure to the weather aggravated his cold, for  the next day he was attacked by severe inflammation of the lungs, which was afterwards followed by pleurisy fever, under which be gradually succumbed.   He was informed of the result of the ballot on Sunday morning.  His last speech to the working men contains the following passage as reported in a local paper: "There was a personal reason why he desired soon to get into the House of Commons, and that was that he could not afford to wait very long.  What little work there was in him must be taken out speedily, or it would soon he lost altogether."

    His remains were conveyed to their last resting-place in Ardwick Cemetery, Manchester, on the 31st of January.   Several thousand persons joined in the procession.   The pall-hearers were Mr. Edward Hooson, Mr. Jacob Bright, M.P., Mr. Elijah Dixon, Mr. Edmond Beales, Mr. Alderman Heywood, Mr. T.  B.  Potter, M.P., Sir E.  Armitage, Mr. F.  Taylor, Mr. James Crossley, the Rev.  H.  M.  Steinthall, Mr. H.  Rawson, and Mr. Thomasson, of Bolton.   The carriers were Mr. Benjamin Whiteley, Mr. John Bowes, Mr. J.  Cunliffe, and Mr. T.  Topping (one of the Chartists arrested like Mr. Jones in 1848).   After the funeral service had been read, and the coffin deposited in a temporary grave (until a vault has been constructed), Mr. Beales delivered a brief funeral oration, in which he described the deceased as having combined with the condition of the scholar, the genius of the poet, the fervid eloquence of the orator, and the courageous spirit of the patriot, whom no prosecution could frighten from the advocacy of his principles, and whom no threatened loss of fortune or seductive offers of advancement could tempt to abandon them.   The whole proceedings were orderly.   Among the mutes who preceded the procession were four survivors of the memorable "Peterloo" massacre, as it was called, of 1818.

    The Daily News remarks that Mr. Jones "was one of those men of poetic temperament to whom any cause which they may espouse becomes a passion and a faith.   The very exaggerations of his career may be traced to the loftiness of his purpose and the simplicity of his motives.   His devotion to the popular cause made his life a continual sacrifice to what be conceived to be its interests, and if be represented the turbulent period of popular Radicalism, he was also one of the central figures of its martyr age.   Mr. Jones’s extreme opinions on some points were the result of his enthusiastic temperament, but his devotion to those opinions, his sacrifices for them, and his  eloquent defences of them, had.  at length  won universal respect.   The affection with  which a large class of working men regarded him was shown in his unsuccessful contests at Nottingham and Manchester,  and had just received conclusive proof in  the ballot in the latter city.   It is gratifying to see that the people can appreciate unselfish service.   Mr. Jones had lived down much of the suspicion and dislike of one class without having outlived the affection of the other.   Men of very different political views from his own would have been glad to see him in Parliament, where he would have been received as the earnest, honest, and eloquent exponent of views which are not now represented there.   He has died comparatively young, but he had  lived through the troublous time of his own career and of our domestic politics, and the esteem and regret of all classes will follow him to his grave.   In the most turbulent sphere of English political life, in the sphere which has always had unusual temptations for self-seeking, he lived and died an honest man."

_____________________

 

 
ERNEST JONES

(25.1.181926.1.1869)

Chartist and Socialist
by
Edmund and Ruth Frow.

The text of this article is reproduced by kind permission of
'The Working Class Movement Library', Salford.


    On 16 August, 1819, Magistrates in Manchester ordered the military to attack a huge crowd of people who had gathered on St Peter's Fields as a high point in the ongoing campaign to obtain democratic rights.   Seven months earlier in Berlin a son had been born to Major Charles Jones, a veteran of Waterloo and his wife, who was the daughter of a large landowner in Kent.   The baby was named after his godfather, the Duke of Cumberland to whom his father was equerry.   The two events were not as unconnected as at first appears.   Ernest Jones assumed the leadership of the campaign for the reform of Parliament when it had developed into the Chartist Movement and was deeply involved in it during the later 1840's to its decline during the last years of the fifties.

    Ernest Jones' upbringing gave no evidence of his later interest in radical politics.   He spent his early years on a small estate which his father bought in Holstein.   He was educated by two tutors and soon showed a literary bent which he later used to good effect in his political work.   As an only child he was given every encouragement.   When he was nine he had a story published in a juvenile collection while a small volume of poems was brought out by a Hamburg publisher in 1830 when he was eleven.   His literary interests extended to a knowledge of languages of which he was proficient in English, German, French and Italian, by the time he was eleven.

    Although his upbringing was rigidly upper class, he must have been aware of political discussions between his parents and their friends because in 1831, when the Poles rose against the Russians, he was found, after a three day absence, with a pack on his shoulder going to their assistance.

    After a successful school career in the aristocratic College of St Michael , he and his parents moved to England in 1838 where he followed the activities expected of a young man-about-town.   He continued to develop his literary and artistic talents.   He was presented at Court by the Duke of Beaufort and his diaries, meticulously kept from 1839-1847, show him to have led a hectic social life with theatre visits and association with the literary and artistic worlds.

    In the spring of 1840, he became engaged to Jane Atherly, the daughter of an old Cumberland family and they were married in June of the following year.   As part of his maturation process, he entered the Middle Temple in March, 1841 and was called to the Bar on 20 April, 1844.   His decision to adopt a legal career may have been influenced by the number of rejections that his poems and articles received from the editors of magazines and journals.

    In the autumn of 1844 he purchased an estate in Kent, Kearnsey Abbey.  He paid £57,000 for it, an enormous amount in those days.   There is a possibility that he hoped to obtain a Parliamentary seat through his ownership.   His ideas outstripped his resources, however and early in 1845 he was trying to sell it again.   His financial position deteriorated and in February 1845, his London house was sold over his head.   Things quickly came to a crisis and he received his final discharge from bankruptcy in March, 1846.   Having lost both his father and mother within a short time of each other in 1845, his life must have looked to be in need of serious re-orientation.

    In September he was appointed Secretary to the Leek and Mansfield Railway Company at a salary of £4.4sh a week.   It is not entirely clear what determined his allegiance to the cause of Parliamentary reform and working class politics.   His first political reference in his diary is on 21 January, 1846 when he spoke at a meeting in favour of Free Trade.   After February when he was discharged from the Bankruptcy Court he devoted his life to politics under the leadership of Feargus O'Connor in the Chartist Movement.

    The change in life style and class affiliation that was represented by Ernest Jones' acceptance of Feargus O'Connor's leadership and association with the Chartist Movement was dramatic.   His ideas had developed along left lines to the extent that he could say he wanted "a government that governs for the general good, instead of individual interest—a House of Commons that shall represent a people instead of a party....." [1] He asserted that the People's Charter alone would guarantee such results.   He repudiated the class from which he had come saying that he found them unworthy "of the privileges they enjoy, and of the powers they arrogate".   He said that as an honest man he could not support a system by which "the poor are robbed of their labour for the benefit of the rich, and slaves are still further insulted by being told that they are free ". [2]

    It was a grim time which led workers into taking action.   There was a belief that Parliamentary representation and the franchise would relieve the appalling conditions in which many people were living and working .   The experience of having been let down by the middle class in the 1832 Reform Act when comparatively wealthy ratepayers had been given the vote while poorer people remained disenfranchised had emphasised that changes had to be enforced rather than allotted.   So the movement that attracted Jones had a tradition of resistance to oppression, of struggle for rights and a basis in the culture and social activity of the workers.

It was the last aspect that attracted Jones.   He had accidentally seen a copy of the Chartist paper THE NORTHERN STAR during the winter of 1845 and finding that the political principles advocated coincided with his own, he sought the Executive and joined the National Charter Association.   He saw that he could make a useful contribution by using his talents as a poet and in August,1846 the first collection of his Chartist Poems was published.   Some of the poems had previously appeared in THE NORTHERN STAR.   The poetry was an immediate success and there were few meetings when one of them was not sung or recited.   This gave him immense satisfaction after so many rebuffs by the literary world.   To working people whose reading was limited or lacking, the sentiments in the poems struck a chord and could be remembered for passing on to others in the factories and homes.

My countrymen! why languish
    Like outcasts of the earth,
And drown in tears of anguish
    The glory of your birth?
Ye were a freeborn people,
    And heroes were your race:
The dead - they are our freemen -
    The living - our disgrace. [3]

    Jones had the gift of putting into words what his audience needed and wanted. His poems appeared in nearly every issue of the Chartist journals and he soon became involved in speaking engagements up and down the country. It was not long before he became involved in the leadership of the Chartist movement. To those who might question his credentials for leaving his aristocratic life and taking his place with the workers, he explained in a poem THE BETTER HOPE;—

A child of the hard-hearted world was I,
    And a worldling callous of heart,
And eager to play - with the thoughtless and gay,
    As the lightest and gayest, a part.

My father's house, in the lordly square,
    Was cold in its solemn state
And the sculptures rare - that the old walls bear,
    Looked down with a quiet hate.

Oh! then I looked back for my cold quiet home,
    As the hell-bound looks back for the grave;
But I heard a soul cry - who but cowards can fly,
    While a tyrant yet tramples a slave?

Then I bound on my armour to face the rough world,
    And I'm going to march with the rest,
Against tyrants to fight - for the sake of the right,
    And, if baffled, to fall with the rest. [4]

    When Jones associated himself with the Chartists, they had already been campaigning for seven years and had an extensive experience of different forms of struggle.   They were also well used to conducting wide-ranging discussion on theoretical matters. they had collected signatures to National Petitions in 1839 and 1842 which had fallen on deaf ears and they organised the first General Strike in the world, in 1842.   This activity had given the growing working class a confidence and feeling of empowerment that it had lacked .

His first public appearance was at a meeting oganised by the Democratic Committee For The Regeneration of Poland.   This was peculiarly fitting because he had felt a sympathy with the Poles as a young boy.   Jones' international upbringing and knowledge of languages led him naturally towards developing internationalism which Bronterre O'Brien and George Julian Harney in particular were fostering.   He joined The Fraternal Democrats where he became closely associated with Harney and where he met Karl Marx and Frederick Engels who strongly influenced his political development.

    As early as May,1846, he was elected as the delegate from Leeds to the forthcoming Chartist Convention and he joined the National Charter Association, the first working class political party in the world.  His social life underwent a considerable change and references in his diary indicate fewer theatre visits and social calls.  He lost his mother and father within months of each other in 1846 and he was confronted by his uncle with the choice of renouncing his politics or being disinherited.  He chose the latter and his life style reflected his wage earning status from that time.   His relationship with his wife and children appeared to be unaffected and they enjoyed a normal happy family life.

    As fellow solicitors, Ernest Jones and Feargus O'Connor had much in common. O'Connor took Jones to the North West to speak at an open air meeting on Blackstone Edge.   This was a Chartist Camp Meeting on a stretch of wild moorland between the West Riding of Yorkshire and Lancashire.   It was a traditional meeting place.   This first contact with industrial workers in their own setting, very different from the Southern areas to which he was accustomed, had a deep effect on him.   He wrote a poem, one of his best, describing the event.   It was sung to the tune The Battle Of Hohenlinden:—

O'er plains and cities far away;
All lorn and lost the morning lay,
When sunk the sun, at break of day,
        In smoke of mill and factory .

But waved the wind on Blackstone — height
A standard of the broad sunlight,
And sung that morn with trumpet might,
        A sounding song of liberty!

And grew the glorious music higher,
When , pouring with his heart on fire,
Old Yorkshire came with Lancashire
        And all his noblest chivalry;

The men who give - not those who take!
The hands that bless - yet hearts that break,-
Those toilers for their foeman's sake!
        Old England's true nobility

The distant cities quaked to hear,
When rolled from that high hill the cheer
Of HOPE TO SLAVES! TO TYRANTS FEAR!
        AND GOD AND MAN, FOR LIBERTY! [5]

    If the industrial workers impressed Jones , he also created a lasting memory.  An old Chartist who had been present wrote his reminiscences which were published in the Preston Guardian of 20 February, 1869

"The first time I heard Mr Jones was at Blackstone Edge in August , 1846, at a great Sunday camp meeting composed of some 25 - 30,000 persons.....Mr O'Connor introduced Mr Jones as his 'young and learned friend who had resolved to take the people - the legitimate source of all power — for his clients.' .......Mr Jones, on rising, was hailed by one of those hearty ovations which Lancashire and Yorkshire folk know how to accord to a popular favourite.." [6]

    His speech was so well received that his hand was nearly shaken off.   It was assessed as one of the most telling and effective speeches heard for many a long day.   Benjamin Rushton, a veteran campaigner spoke highly of him, but warned that if he remained true to the people, the government would strike him down with the strong arm of the law, a prophesy of singular accuracy.   Ben Rushton was a hand-loom weaver from Halifax and later, when Jones was campaigning in the town, they became became firm friends.   In 1853 at the old man's funeral, Ernest Jones delivered the graveside oration which was remembered as one of his finest speeches.

    At the Convention in Leeds on 3 August, 1846, he entered the debate on moral versus physical force by asserting that those who said they were physical force destructives were liars.   The Chartist ways were those of peace and order.   However, he warned ,  "On the other hand, a word for those who bid us bend in passive obedience to whatever the hand of power might impose.   Because we desire peace, we must not neglect our self defence.... let the world hear it, if they will but be honest and just, our enemies have no violence to fear." [7]

    At the time Ernest Jones became closely associated with Feargus O'Connor, the Land Plan by which workers were settled on plots of land with the means of obtaining a subsistence was occupying the Chartist movement.   He supported the idea although he was not fully in agreement with it, recognising it as a reactionary concept in a rapidly developing capitalist economy.   He joined O'Connor as joint editor of THE LABOURER, much of which was devoted to the discussion around the Plan.   He wrote a poem called O'CONNORVILLE dated 17 August, 1846:—

From feverish couch by o'ertaxed labour pressed
That yields man slumber, but denies him rest,
    More weary still, when smoky morning breaks,
    In crowded towns the pale mechanic wakes
But why to-day, at twilight's earliest prime,
When morn's grey finger points the march of time,
    Why starts he upwards with a joyous strength
    To face the long day-slavery's cheerless length?
Has freedom whispered in his wistful ear.
"Courage, poor slave! deliverance is near?"
    Oh! She has breathed a summons sweeter still.
    "Come! take your guerdon at O'Connorville." [8]

    By the beginning of 1847, Jones was already one of the leaders of the movement.   He was particularly active in the international sections as Chairman of the Polish Committee, an active member of the Fraternal Democrats and of the German Workers' Education Society.   He was in demand as a speaker and he accepted the job of sub-editing the Northern Star, O'Connor's Chartist newspaper, at a salary of £250 a year.

  In the first history of Chartism by R. G. Gammage, Jones was described as small in stature but having a stentorian voice with much eloquence, good delivery and brilliant language.   Benjamin Wilson an old Halifax Chartist said, "He had a noble and striking appearance, and by some might have been looked on as a proud man; he was quite the opposite.   If he had been, he would not have joined the Chartist movement, for it was composed chiefly of working men.   To have a few hours with Mr Jones at one of our private meetings was always a great treat.   He had many stories to tell of his experiences among all classes of society, from the highest to the lowest.   The way in which he could give expression to his thoughts was wonderful." [9]

    1847 and 1848 were years of intense activity in the Chartist movement.   In July 1847, Ernest Jones stood as Chartist candidate in the Parliamentary election in Halifax.   Although he won by a large margin at the hustings, he lost at the poll.   This was the start of his long association with the West Riding of Yorkshire and also his friendship with George Julian Harney which led to his meeting Frederick Engels who in turn introduced him to Karl Marx whom he had already met on a couple of previous occasions.   Marx and Engels had a considerable influence on his thinking.   They helped him to understand the scientific basis of society and to interpret the Charter as something more than Parliamentay representation.   Through them, he became a socialist with a clear vision of a better society.   As a fluent German speaker he would have been able to read The Communist Manifesto when it was first published in the Deutsche Londiner Zeitung in 1848.   Few of the other leading Chartists would have had that advantage.

    The authorities watched the Chartist activity with some alarm.  They took steps to contain the situation.   Special Constables were sworn in in large numbers in the large towns and troops were held in readiness.   But they acted carefully and laid their plans to remove the leadership in the belief that the steam would then be taken out of the situation.   The Chartists had been collecting signatures to yet another Petition which was to be presented by Feargus O'Connor to the House of Commons on 10 April , 1848.   Jones played a part in the Convention which planned a huge supporting meeting at Kennington Common.   But, faced with threats of arrest and a considerable armed force, O'Connor advised that the procession to Parliament be abandoned and Jones supported him.   In the event there was some confusion but the advice given by him to disperse quietly was taken and the meeting fizzled out.   Later he analysed the reasons for the apparent failure of 1848 and laid the blame on the "party bickerings and personal contention" [10] which beset the movement.   This, he contended was particularly seen in the differences between those who supported physical force and those who counselled moral force only.   The Government was able to use a tremendous array of force to further divide the movement and deprive it of leadership.

    At the Assembly in May, Jones moved a resolution calling for improvement in the organisation of the movement and an infusion of vigour into the propaganda.   He was elected a member of the Provisional Committee and he voted in favour of the dissolution of the Assembly in favour of a smaller Executive.   At a meeting in Bonner's Fields in Tower Hamlets in London on Sunday 4 June, he started by apologising for his lateness because, he said, "a man cannot be in two places at the same time. There was a meeting convened for Irongate Wharf, Paddington, and the Police I understood had forbidden that meeting taking place.   I was invited to attend it and therefore I did attend it." [11]   He went on to advise Chartists to stand fast by the Charter and to stand their ground in the face of police intimidation. He continued by calling for a tightening of organisation especially in classes where democracy would prevent dictation.   "Steer clear of all political outbreaks and partial rioting."   He advocated and ended by saying , "If you mean to do anything, see well first if you have the power to do it; and then, having made up your mind, do not let even death itself prevent you from carrying it into effect.......only preparation - only organisation is wanted, and the Green Flag shall float over Downing Street and St. Stephen's." [12]

    Two days later, on 6th when he was in Manchester for a meeting, he was arrested and charged with sedition.  Manchester was filled with dismay.  Ben Wilson recalled, "Mr Jones was advertised to address a meeting at the Odd Fellows Hall in this town.  When I got to the meeting, I ascertained that Mr Jones had been arrested the previous evening, and all appeared confusion and doubt whether any meeting would be held, when a gentleman from Manchester mounted the platform and announced that he had come to say a few words and explain the circumstances in connection with Mr Jones' arrest.   At the close of the meeting thousands congregated in the streets, talking the matter over in groups, and it cast a gloom all over the town, as Mr Jones was very popular here..." [13]

    The trial of Ernest Jones together with five other prominent Chartists took place in July, 1848.   He was sentenced to two years in prison for making what was termed a seditious speech which he agreed was accurately reported.   Shortly before the trial, he issued an open letter to Chartists in which he stated that he had joined the movement with his eyes open to the possible consequences and that he went to prison with the words, "THE CHARTER AND NO SURRENDER" on his lips. [14]

    In Tothill Fields, Millbank prison he was treated brutally.   The authorities apparently thought that they would kill him or at the least, break his spirit by the appalling treatment he received.   It was certainly a testing time for him.   Many Chartist prisoners at the time failed to survive the harsh conditions.   But Jones was determined to retain both his sanity and his convictions and whilst in prison he wrote some of his best poetry.

                   The Prisoner To The Slaves

From my cell I look back on the world - from my cell,
        And think I am not the less free
Than the serf and the slave who in misery dwell
        In the street and the lane and the lea.

What fetters have I that ye have not as well
        Though your dungeon be larger than mine?
For England's a prison fresh modelled from hell,
        And the jailors are weakness and crime.

In my cell, in my cell! - Yet I should not repine
        Tho' lying in Solitude's lap:
These walls will all crumble far sooner than time
        Can raze them by siege and by sap.

They may shut out the sky - they may shut out the light
        With the barriers and ramparts they raise:
But the glory of knowledge shall pierce in despite,
        With the sun of its shadowless days.

They may stifle the tongue with their silencing rules,
        They may crush us with cord and with block:
But oppression and force are the folly of fools,
        That breaks upon constancy's rock.

They shall hear us again on the moorland and hill,
        Again in street, valley and plain:
They may beat us once more - but we'll rush at them still -
        Again - again - and again! [15]


    After his release, a pamphlet was published in which a description was given of his suffering:—

"He was kept in solitary confinement on the silent system, enforced with the utmost vigour; for 19 months he was neither allowed pen, ink, nor paper, but confined in a small cell, 13 feet by 6, in utter solitude, varied only by a solitary walk in a high-walled prison yard.  He obeyed all the prison regulations in a most exemplary manner, excepting one, that as to picking oakum, observing, that for the sake of public order he would conform to all external forms and rules, but he would never lend himself to voluntary degradation.  Again and again he was imprisoned in a dark cell, on bread and water, in consequence, even the Bible being taken away from him." [16]

    But he had mental resources which were able to overcome such barbarity.  He made pens from feathers which he found on his walks in the prison yard.  He cut the quill with the razor which he was allowed to use once a week.  An inkwell he managed to make from soap and, before he was allowed ink once a week to write a letter, he filled it with his own blood with which he wrote a poem THE NEW WORLD.

    During his imprisonment, Jane Jones and the children were maintained by money collected by the Chartists, especially the Halifax organisation.   He was released in August, 1850 considerably weakened in health, but not in his adherence to the Charter.   A speech he made in Manchester soon after his release indicated that he had strengthened his opinions sufficiently to be able to say, "Two years ago I went to prison for speaking three words, ORGANISE! ORGANISE! ORGANISE!" He went on to repeat that message and added, "I went to prison a Chartist, but I have come out of it a Republican.... In the speech for which they arrested me I spoke of a green flag waving over Downing Street.  I have changed my colour since then. It shall be a red one now." [17]

    The world that Ernest Jones found on his release had changed considerably.   The excitement fuelled by the revolutionary events abroad and at home was dissipated.   In its place comparative prosperity had changed the mood of the workers.   The Chartist leaders had themselves been in prison or had emigrated and Jones found no leadership with which to associate.   O'Connor 's mind had begun to fail.   He went into an asylum in 1852 and died in 1855.   His cohesive charisma had kept the movement together and he left it without unity and without policy.

    Jones saw his main task as the re-organisation of the Chartist movement.   His ideas had progressed from thinking that the Charter was a panacea for the social ills of the time to an acceptance that there was a need for a fundamental social revolution.   On his release he joined a group associated with the RED REPUBLICAN , which George Julian Harney edited.   Its main call was for the Charter and something more and the 'more' increasingly became a recognition of the need for fundamental change in society with the working class taking its place as the leading class.

    His first public appearance was as the guest of the Fraternal Democrats at a supper in his honour on the evening he was released.   Although he said that he could not say much because he was weak and tired, he indicated the changes in his thinking.   A week later he was in Halifax where he received a tumultuous welcome and was presented with a purse with fifty sovereigns in it.   The whole town appeared to be on the streets and the description in Reynolds newspaper captures the occasion;

"The moment he made his appearance the air was literally rent with long-continued cheers of the enthusiastic multitude. As soon as he was seated in the carriage, the rush of people to shake hands with him was so great that the progress of the procession was for some time impeded..... every door and window were crowded with spectators - the very roofs and parapets were thronged..... Such an assembly has rarely been known in Halifax, and many came from a very great distance to join in the celebration of this happy day." [18]

    Jones did not spare himself.   He set out on a countrywide tour starting in the Midlands and going through the North to Scotland which he reached in October.   He found that although there was still evidence of discord among the Chartists, there was a growing realisation of the need for unity of purpose against the common enemy whom he characterised as 'the rich '.

    During the early fifties, Ernest Jones became closely associated with Karl Marx and Frederick Engels who regarded him as the outstanding Englishman on their side.   His recognition of the class division in society and the importance of winning working people to a programme of social reform to alleviate their working and living conditions was in accord with their thinking.   Under their guidance he developed his understanding of the class struggle and began to relate this understanding to wider issues.

    In 1851, O'Connor proposed that a conference be held in Manchester with the aim of restoring the unity of the Chartist movement.   But he had travelled towards the right whilst Jones had moved towards the left.   O'Connor was trying to establish links with middle class radicals and was wary of elaborating the programme in case he put them off.   To counter O'Connor's suggestion of a conference, the Executive Committee called a Chartist Convention to be held at the beginning of March 1851, on a programme of 'The Charter and Something More'.   O'Connor became isolated in his opposition.   In the event, the meeting was a failure.   Among the eight delegates present, representing only four localities, there were major differences of opinion.

    In London on 31 March, 1851, the Chartist Convention met and affirmed its support for the programme of a broad socialist approach to a radical change in society.   There were twelve points in the programme, the need for the State to assume control of land, the Church to be separated from the State, compulsory, universal education, the development of co-operation and the democratisation of the Armed Forces.   It was the blueprint for a social democratic state which was used as a basis for the remainder of the century by different groupings.

    Recognising the importance of the press, Jones worked closely with George Julian Harney after his release from prison.   He published articles in THE NORTHERN STAR, REYNOLDS, THE RED REPUBLICAN and FRIENDS OF THE PEOPLE.   Harney would have liked him to become co-editor of the last two, but as they were unstamped, he feared prosecution and preferred to co-operate with Harney in producing a new journal called NOTES TO THE PEOPLE.   The plan fell through however and Jones began publication on his own in 1851.

    The paper contained information on the Chartist Movement which was passing through an apathetic stage according to Jones.   It also reported on developments in the Co-operative Movement, news from industry, especially trades disputes and foreign information particularly from Hungary.   Jones also printed poetry, his own included and serialised his novel, A WORKING MAN'S WIFE, in the second volume.

    It was unfortunate for him that his attempts to formulate and build a mass political party based on socialism coincided with an economic situation which called for even wider divisions within the working class as technology advanced and the need for a skilled workforce developed.   This tendency further deepened the splits which had shown themselves in the Chartist Movement.   NOTES TO THE PEOPLE ceased publication in April, 1852 and THE PEOPLES PAPER began in May.   That continued until 1858.   Jones was beset with increasing difficulties.   There were quarrels among the members of the Management committee of the paper and inevitably it had to end.   Jones wrote to a friend in 1860,

"The papers are dead......I adhere to the Charter as ever, and shall work for it anew - at the same time I shall recommence practising at the Bar as a Barrister." [19]

    This he did after fourteen years when his energy, money and time had been given unstintingly to the Chartist movement.   His wife died in April, 1857 after enduring much hardship as a result of his activity.   As he became successful in his legal practice he moved in 1864 to Manchester to concentrate on the Northern Circuit.   Frederick Engels tried to contact him in 1865 to suggest that he be involved with the formation of the First International.   But he had difficulty as he was so often engaged in Court.   As Engels commented, "Business seems to be flourishing in the crime trade....." [20]

    In addition to his professional engagements, Jones did everything possible to revive the radical movement.   When the Reform League was started in 1864, he became one of its vice-presidents.   He always associated with the most radical section aiming at universal suffrage.   He retained his popularity as a speaker and was much in demand.   In 1867, he wrote to George Howell, the secretary of the League, "The fact is I am overwhelmed with invitations, and am, I fear, hurting the movement unintentionally". [21]   He explained that meetings were being held back in the hope that he would be able to give a date and he was finding it impossible to fulfil expectations.

    Although the Chartist movement as such had apparently expired after 1848, the fundamental principles were carried over to the following decade.   The more politically conscious of the workers continued to agitate for the justice of political rights.   There was nothing remotely resembling the militancy of the Chartists, but there was sufficient agitation for John Bright to write privately to Disraeli advising that a Reform Bill was necessary to kill the movement that was being built up in support of it.   In 1867, that Bill was enacted.

    Many radical candidates stood in the hope that the elections following the increased franchise in which many factory operatives voted for the first time would bring about the changes for which they had struggled.   Jones was asked by at least four constituencies to stand and he agreed to contest in Manchester.   The constituency returned two liberals and one Tory.   He polled nearly eleven thousand votes but in spite of his popularity there was insufficient support to get him into Parliament.   Frederick Engels commented:—

"Once again the proletariat has discredited itself terribly.   Manchester and Salford return three Tories to two Liberals.... Ernest Jones nowhere, despite the cheering.......It cannot be denied that the increase of working-class voters has brought the Tories more than their additional percentage, and improved their relative position." [22]

    The economic situation in the fifties and sixties was fundamentally different from the thirties and forties.   Britain was at the peak of its position as the workshop of the world.   The challenge to her supremacy did not become formulated as an opposition until the seventies.   Moreover, Britain had perfected the exploitation of her vast colonial empire from which the British workers benefited.   In the expanding world economy, the skilled workers in particular who had been the brains behind the planning of the 1842 General Strike, became essential workers.   They developed their strength through trade union organisation on a national scale and were able to mitigate the worst evils of the industrial system.

    Ernest Jones saw the need to change the political situation and gave his skill as a barrister and his energy to working through the Courts.   He settled in Manchester in 1861 where he re-married.   He was respected in his profession and much loved by the workers.   His most famous case was his defence of the Irishmen who were arrested after a Police Sergeant was killed in a rescue of two Fenians being transported in a prison van.   He was congratulated by the Judge on that occasion for his "proper and able defence" [23]

    In spite of having retreated somewhat from his most advanced position in his earlier association with Marx and Engels, during the early sixties he resumed his close friendly relationship with them.   They would have liked him to become active in the affairs of the International Working men's Association, but he was too involved in his legal work.   However, he did participate in the work of the Reform League which was based on a demand for manhood suffrage.   He became a Vice President in June, 1865 and was one of their most active speakers.

    Towards the end of the sixties, Ernest Jones had established himself as a lawyer, a popular radical politician and a notable speaker.   In his last years he tended to veer towards the middle class point of view although he was acknowledged as a defender of trade union rights and a firm believer in democracy.   His philosophy was that while he recognised the inherent evils of Capitalism, he said, "I am about to take the world as I find it, and see if we cannot make the best of it, such as it is, without any violent and sudden disruptions of Society." [24]

    In 1868, although adopted as Liberal candidate in the Parliamentary election, he was unable to stand because he had become seriously ill.   He spoke at Chorlton Town Hall on 20 January in spite of having a severe cold.   That evening he developed pleurisy and he died the day after his fiftieth birthday, 26 January, 1869.   The obituary notices in the papers were remarkably positive considering the way that he had been pilloried in them for most of his life.

    The funeral has been assessed as being the last great Chartist gathering.  The ceremony was public and many thousands of people, probably between 80,000 and 100,000 crowded the streets as the procession which started from his house in Wellington Street, Higher Broughton went along Bury New Road, through Strangeways, along Market Street and London Road to Ardwick Cemetery.   Many shopkeepers along the route closed their doors out of respect and as the demonstration gathered strength friends and political supporters increased the numbers.   Four old Chartists, veterans of the Peterloo Massacre led the procession.   They were followed by Mr Higham's brass band playing the DEAD MARCH from SAUL.   About fifteen hundred people followed in ranks of six abreast and they were doubled as the demonstration passed the Assize Courts and the Royal Infirmary.

    Among those in the carriages were the Executive Committee of both the Liberal Party and the Reform League.   There were also many private carriages in one of which was Thomas Topping who had been in prison with Ernest Jones in 1848.   At the cemetery, Edmund Beales delivered the Address.   He said that Ernest Jones combined "the erudition of a scholar, the genius of the poet, the fervent eloquence of the orator and the courageous and fervent spirit of the undaunted patriot who no persecution could frighten from the advocacy of his principles, whilst no temptation or threatened loss of fortune could tempt him to betray them." [25]

    He died a poor man.  After his funeral, his friends decided to launch an appeal to raise funds to support his widow and three children.   Meetings were held in and around Manchester and an advertisement was inserted in PUNCH.   In Halifax where he had been Parliamentary candidate in 1847 and had a large following of supporters, a committee was set up to raise funds.   John Snowden commented that they did "exceedingly well in Halifax". [26]   Benjamin Wilson of Salterhebble reported that he had raised between thirteen and fourteen pounds from forty subscribersall working men.   By the time the fund was closed in April, 1871, it stood at £2,942.

    At the same time, the memorial over his grave in Ardwick Cemetery was unveiled.   A contemporary description read,

"The monument was twelve feet high and was composed of three large blocks of granite each four feet six inches by twelve inches.  The blocks are surmounted by a slab of red polished granite with base and cap moulds on which is placed a block of grey stone, with panelled sides ornamented with the rose, thistle and shamrock.  The corner pillers are of red granite, with curved caps, upon which is laid another slab of red polished granite; surmounting this are two blocks of grey stone, the whole terminating with a draped funeral urn. On the left-handside panel is the following inscription:

Erected by public subscription to the memory of Ernest Jones, patriot, poet; born at Berlin 27 January 1819; died at Manchester 26 January, 1869.

Immediately below runs the epitaph:

Full of warm sympathies and generous desires, he freely toiled and suffered on behalf of the wronged and oppressed, and made himself honoured and beloved by the people whose welfare he sought throughout life, and in whose service he met an untimely death.

The front panel simply bears ERNEST JONES while below is an extract from his reply to Professor Blackie in DEMOCRACY VINDICATED......

'We say to you whatsoever ye would that men should do to ye, do ye even so to them
when you realise this, you have democracy, for democracy is but Christianity applied to the politics of our worldly life.'

The work was executed by Mr Peter Spence of Ardwick at a cost of one hundred pounds and it was favourable commented on by all." [27]

The unveiling ceremony was performed by Rev. S. A. Steinthal who said that principles last for ever.  Those gathered around the monument had come to testify that they still clung to the principles of which Ernest Jones had been so noble an exponent.   Elijah Dixon added that he had never known a man whose "talents and position were so freely and distinctly sacrificed for the public good". [28]

    Ernest Jones was not forgotten.   Over forty years later when the Trades Union Congress met in Manchester , a further ceremony took place in Ardwick Cemetary.   Manchester and Salford Trades and Labour Council had arranged for the monument to be renovated.   At their invitation, large numbers of Congress delegates assembled on Saturday afternoon, 31 August, 1913 for a re-dedication ceremony. An additional inscription had been added:

Whoso fadeth and dieth,
Yet his deed shall still prevail.

This memorial to Ernest Jones was restored and renovated by Manchester and Salford Trades and Labour Council and was unveiled and dedicated to his memory, yesterday (31 August, 1913) [29]

    Councillor Tom Fox, President of the Trades and Labour Council said that Ernest Jones had long preached "the gospel of justice to the common people, had suffered long imprisonment, and they for whom he worked and suffered would be cravens indeed if they permitted his memory to be forgotten"[30].   The unveiling ceremony was performed by W. J. Davis, the President of the Trades Union Congress who thanked the Trades council for having given him the opportunity of honouring the memory of a great champion of the people.

    However, the memorial was forgotten except for a few enthusiasts who visited the cemetery from time to time.   In 1960, when the area was converted into a playing field for the use of Nichols School, in spite of the efforts of the Antiquarian Society and others, the monument was destroyed.

    But Ernest Jones' ideas lived on and his poetry was perpetuated in his songs which were set to music and often sung at meetings.   In 1952, John Saville published a selection from his writings and speeches with a biographical introduction.   Merlin Press reprinted the two volumes of NOTES TO THE PEOPLE in 1967 and in America, THE PEOPLE'S PAPER became available both in print and on microfilm.   These offer a rich source of Jones' activity and ideas.

    More recently, in the mid-eighties, the twenty two facsimile volumes of documents of the Chartist Movement edited by Dorothy Thompson and published by Garland Publishing Incorporation include the full text of Jones' defiant letter THE RIGHT OF PUBLIC SPEAKING: A LETTER TO THE LORD CHIEF JUSTICE WILD (1846) which was written whilst he awaited trial. Also included are the five issues of EVENINGS WITH THE PEOPLE published in 1855.

    While the old Chartists would grieve at the loss of the Ernest Jones monument, some amends were made when Manchester City Council placed one of their blue plaques on his chambers at 52 Cross Street and Salford City Council followed with a plaque on the house at 71, Wellington Street West where he died and from where the funeral procession started in 1869

    Monuments are easier to destroy than ideas.   Ernest Jones still has a part to play.   January, 1969 is the centenary of his death.   It the right time to remind today's generation struggling to obtain justice that their situation is not new.   As Ernest Jones wrote from prison,  "What fetters have I that ye have not as well, though your dungeon be larger than mine? For England's a prison fresh modelled from hell, and the jailors are weakness and crime." [31]

 

_____________________

NOTES

1.

Northern Star. 9 May, 1846.

2.

Northern Star. 9 May, 1846.

3.

Ernest Jones, CHARTIST POEMS. 1846. Our Rally.

4.

Ernest Jones, CHARTIST POEMS. 1846. The Better Hope.

5.

Ernest Jones, CHARTIST POEMS. 1846. Blackstone Edge Or The 2nd August, 1845.

6. 

Reminiscences Of An Old Chartist. Preston Guardian 20 February, 1869.

7.

Northern Star. 8 August, 1846.

8.

Ernest Jones, CHARTIST POEMS. 1846.  O'Connorville or The 17th August, 1846.

9.

Benjamin Wilson.  STRUGGLES OF AN OLD CHARTIST. Halifax 1887.

10.

Northern Star. 15 April, 1848.

11.

T. A. Rothstein. FROM CHARTISM TO LABOURISM. 1929. Appendix pp334-6.

12.

John Saville.  ERNEST JONES, CHARTIST. 1952. Page 102.

13.

Benjamin Wilson. STRUGGLES OF AN OLD CHARTIST. Halifax 1887.

14.

OPEN LETTER TO THE CHARTISTS.  In John Saville ERNEST JONES, CHARTIST. 1952. Page 105.

15.

NOTES TO THE PEOPLE. Merlin Press Reprint, 1967. Page 339.

16.

Pamphlet, ERNEST JONES.  WHO IS HE?  WHAT HAS HE DONE? Manchester Reform League. Page 7.

17.

Northern Star. 26 October, 1850. Reprinted Saville Page 112.

18.

Reynolds News, October, 1850.

19.

Pamphlet. Stanley Broadbridge. Ernest Jones . (Chartist) A Fighter For Manchester's Working Class (duplicated). Letter to T. Hinde (?) Howell Collection.

20.

Frederick Engels. Marx/Engels Correspondence 1865.

21.

Letter Ernest Jones to George Howell. March 1867.

22.

Frederick Engels. Marx/Engels Correspondence 1867.

23.

George Howell. Biography of Ernest Jones in Howell Collection at the Bishopgate Institute. Quoted in Saville, Page 13.

24.

Ernest Jones, DEMOCRACY VINDICATED, A lecture Delivered to The Edinbugh Working Men's Institute on the 4th January, 1867.  Edinburgh, 1867.

25.

The Examiner and Times, January 1869.

26.

Benjamin Wilson. The Struggles Of An Old Chartist. Halifax 1887. pp 35/36.

27.

Manchester Examiner and Times 10 April, 1871.

28.

Manchester Examiner and Times 10 April, 1871.

29.

Copied from the monument in Ardwick Cemetery.

30.

Trade union congress Report 1913.

31.

Ernest Jones, THE PRISONER TO THE SLAVES.  NOTES TO THE PEOPLE. Page 339,  Merlin reprint 1967.

 



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