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Posts Tagged ‘1820s’

It is not clear whether there was an active group under this name, as the evidence is only in letters written to Richard Carlile’s publication, The Republican, between 1824 and 1826. It is clear though that there were individuals active in Aberdeen, calling themselves freethinkers and republicans.

Carlile (1793 – 1843), a Devon tinsmith, turned journalist and propagandist, was a follower of Thomas Paine (1737 – 1809), author of The Rights of Man (1791-1792), one of the founding father of the United States of America, and an honorary citizen of the new French revolutionary state. The followers of Paine were shaped by his ideas of the twin evils of ‘kingcraft’ and ‘priestcraft’. Carlile had established his publication, The Republican, in 1819, following the Peterloo massacre, yet he was soon imprisoned for 3 years for sedition and blasphemy for his publication and for republishing the writings of Paine.

What is clear then is that there were followers of Carlile and readers of his publications. In February 1824, in a letter to The Republican, a William Taylor of Aberdeen, writes that ‘the friends of liberty held a meeting here, on Thursday the 29th ultimo. for the purpose of celebrating the anniversary of the birth day of Thomas Paine’….The individuals who composed it were chiefly from amongst the working classes, and of that description of them, who have taken the liberty to think for themselves, and who have also taken considerable pains in forming a correct opinion as to what would ultimately have a tendency to promote their own happiness, and that of society at large’. Taylor goes on to state the birthday toasts which included Paine, Carlile, the independence of America, the Mechanics’ Institutions and Liberty.

A later letter to The Republican in December 1825, from a George Weir, states that ‘The Friends of Free Discussion in Aberdeen, desire to congratulate you on your liberation from the Dorchester Bastile’. In 1826 another letter of support is written from Aberdeen, by a William Inman from Woodside.

References: The Republican, Victorian Infidels: the origins of the British Secularist Movement 1791 – 1866 (Edward Royle, Manchester University Press, 1974) and Radicals, Secularists and Republicans: Popular Freethought in Britain 1866 – 1915 (Edward Royle, Manchester University Press, 1980).

Sources: unknown.

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William Lindsay was born in Newhills parish, son of a shoemaker, and followed that trade for a period. Lindsay then established himself as a newsagent and bookseller in the Gallowgate in the 1840s. He was a member of many radical political groups throughout his life.

In 1837 he became a member of an Owenite socialist committee which was formed after a lecture in Concert Court, Broad Street, held by the Owenite Robert Buchanan. A committee was formed with the purpose of keeping the subject of socialism before the attention of the people of Aberdeen. Buchanan started a democratic paper in Glasgow and Lindsay was appointed as the Aberdeen correspondent. In 1841 Lindsay and colleagues invited Robert Owen to Aberdeen and he came in 1842 and lectured in the hall of the Royal Hotel.

Lindsay also joined the Aberdeen chartists, was a founder member of the Aberdeen Liberal Association in 1877, founder member of the Northern Co-Operative Company and was a member of the Aberdeen Workmen’s Peace Association from 1875.

Lindsay was involved in other social issues, and in the 1840s, along-with fellow delegates from the different trades and sympathetic professional men and merchants, formed a Committee of Sympathy which provided food to poor families on Sundays.

Related entries: Committee of Sympathy, ‘Owenite Society’ and The Utilitarian Society (Aberdeen).

References: Some Notes Personal and Public by William Lindsay (W & W Lindsay, Aberdeen, 1898) and Aberdeen 1800 – 2000 A New History (W Hamish Fraser & Clive Lee (eds.), Tuckwell Press, 2000).

Sources: unknown.

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There had been attempts to form an earlier society, in the 1788 – 1792 period, but that had proved unsuccessful. The Aberdeen Anti-Slavery Society though was founded at a public meeting at the Exchange News Rooms in Union Street in March 1825 (following the formation of organisations in Glasgow and Edinburgh in 1822/1823). Its officers and committee members came from a wider circle than just the city of Aberdeen, including towns and villages across the north-east. The Society was active in campaigning and sold anti-slavery publications via George Brantingham’s grocer shop in the Gallowgate (Brantingham, a Quaker, was a key player as Society treasurer and also in later years after the Society folded and was revived under a different name).

The Society ended in 1833 and was replaced in 1836 by a new Aberdeen Emancipation Society (it lasted until c.1853). Also, in 1840, an Aberdeen Ladies’ Emancipation Society was formed, with a group called the Aberdeen Ladies’ Anti-Slavery Association then active from 1843 – c.1849. Another organisation of the same name but perhaps a different organisation appeared again in 1857 and was active until c.1866.

References: article by C Duncan Rice ‘Abolitionists and Abolitionism in Aberdeen’ (Northern Scotland, 1972), The Scots Abolitionists 1833 – 1861 (C Duncan Rice, Baton Rouge, Louisiana State University Press, 1981), Aberdeen and the Abolition of Slavery in the British Empire, 1770-1833 (Glen Doris, unpublished dissertation, 2007), issues of The Anti-Slavery Reporter (British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society) and website ‘A North-East Story: Scotland, Africa and Slavery in the Caribbean’.

Sources: A few printed items, mainly annual reports are held at University of Aberdeen Library.

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