Thursday, June 21, 2007
Uxbridge Progressive Chartist - John Bedford Leno
John Bedford Leno (1826-1894)
Chartist Leader and Poet
He was friends or meet with Owen, Marx, Jones, Harney,Morris, Kossuth, Garibaldi, Palmerston, Disraeli, Derby, Gladstone
His Autobiography "Aftermath" printed 1892 (only copy held by Uxbridge Library)
Born 29th June 1826 at No 14 Bell Yard, Uxbridge
Grandfather landlord of Catherine Wheel Public House in Cross Street,Uxbridge. His Father was a footman and Mother was a lady's maid and ran a Dame School
Left school aged 11, then a cow boy for his aunt at Stanwell Moor, rope maker, postman and many other jobs became an apprentice printer aged 14 starting at 6 in the morning and travelling 16 miles to work and back
When young he states he was to young to go to the Turks Head Public House were "intellectual gatherings" were held.
He left home after his second year of apprenticeship, however at the end of his apprentice printer was made bankrupt (as were many others) and Leno had to seek work abroad, tramping thousands of miles. He returned to Uxbridge in 1848 "disheartened and penniless" he then bought a press and went into printing
Married twice First wife "Sarah" 2 sons and 4 daughters, second wife 1 son and 4 daughters
"She (Sarah) lies in Finchley cemetery the daughter of a small Harefield farmer"
Leno had read the Northern Star Chartists paper and had gone on to help establish branch of Chartists in Uxbridge But Leno would recall that he and his friends were personally to scared "act of cowardice" to attend the Great Chartist Rally in London on 10th April 1848 convinced their would be violence from the Soldiers
He along with Gerald Massey and others Kimber, Hudson, Gurney, produced a manuscript paper which became the Uxbridge Pioneer.
Leno recalls that "The first number was hardly in existence before a split occurred among the conductors, owing to political differences and Gerald Massey and myself proposed to start a new paper in opposition"This paper became famous as The Uxbridge Spirit of Freedom
The Uxbridge Spirit of Freedom had been started with 15s raised from friends and the first edition arrived in April 1849
The chief contributors was Massey and Leno (as well as George Redrup and Edward Farrah a Shoemakers and John Rymill of Northampton)
Leno recalls "In order to attract attention Massey proposed that my brother Frederick then a mere youth should be dressed in imitation Guarde Mobile clothing, the reason given for the selection being the Civil Corps of Paris had joined the People." "How the clothing was obtained I do not remember, but on market day my brother was so dressed and to be seen vending to the farmers town and country people the first issue of this terrible in earnest treasonable publication"
According to later editions of the Spirit of Freedom 900 copies of the first edition were sold and secured "such a furore in the tory town of Uxbridge, as supposed ensued in the Temple when Christ upset the money changers" and the publication denounced from pulpits in the town.
John Bedford Leno in his autobiography "The Aftermath" states: "We had read the Northern Star and most of the Chartists' Publications then in existence and possibly turned to fthe idea that the effectiveness of an article was dependant upon the amount of treason it contained."
The Northern Star reported on the first edition of the Uxbridge Spirit of Freedom "Such a publication appearing in Manchester or Leeds would be nothing wonderful; but we must say we are agreeable surprised to find a small town like Uxbridge containing men who not only dare think of themselves, but who also determined to give free thoughts utterance, with the view of hastening the political and social emancipation of their order; and we most earnestly we wish them success"
The Uxbridge Spirit of freedom was also well received by Chartist leaders William Howitt and W.J. Linton. Howitt stating "Working men thus ably and eloquently advocating their own rights"
Leno states "After eight or ten numbers had been published Massey who had formed an acquaintance with Walter Cooper and Thomas Shorter both lecturers, the later at the Working Men's College. Left Uxbridge to take a berth as Secretary to the Tailors Association in Castle Street off Oxford Street within a month I was at his recommendation sent to take charge of the Working Printers Association" .
"Both Massey and myself on arriving in London were able to command a leading position".
Leno was narrowly defeated in an election the the Chartist Executive in 1850
"I had determined to be of the rank & file rather than a commander"
"In truth I was for rebellion and civil war, and despaired of ever obtain justice or what I then conceived it to be, save by revolution. while bitterly opposed to thoughts savouring of physical force now, i still hold that given certain condition its use is fully justifiable, the fact being that those who condemn its use in favour of right, seldom object to its use when wrong is to be conserved We have the examples of America, of France, of Italy of England before us, to confute those who declare that nothing is to be done by force but in nations where tyranny prevails and every attempt to obtain right is met with imprisonment, rebellion and war are justified"
"In my long life, I have had but one strong desire and that has been justice and freedom to all mankind"
Leno had marched with Fergus O'Connor from Windsor to set up his Land Colony at O'Connorville, Rickmansworth
Leno was a close fiend of George Julain Harney and attended the First International held in a cafe for French Exiles in Chapel street off Oxford Street. Leno became a member of the First International was a member of the International which meet in an upstairs room of Jacques Coffee Shop.
Leno was on the Board of the Chartist paper the Red Republican
Leno helped organise protest of 10,000 of Bonaparte visit in 1888 and organised the massive welcome demonstration for the great Italian liberator Garibaldi He helped print revolutionary leaflets to flood Russia in aid of Alexander Herzen
Leno from his early days a socialist, initially revolutionary but later Christan Socialist in his autobiography he states "With regard to socialism, i feel persuaded there is justice at the bottom of it, there is however no well thought out or rather satisfactory and its advocates seem to me to eager" Leno meet Karl Marx on several occasions and seems to have worked with George Eccarius a close associate of Marx
He went to Boston in America, but the employment opportunity fell through
He wrote for the"Commonwealth" The Future, The Christian Socialist, The Workman's Advocate, The and various other publication
Leno's "Song of the Spade", first published in the Dispatch, attracted the attention of Edward Capern 1819-1894), the Bideford postman, who said it one of best labour songs ever. His 100 Songs of Labour sold extensively in Britain and also in America
John Bedford Leno carried out organising work on behalf of the Joseph Arch new union for Agricultural labourers in 1872 many home counties, but especially Buckinghamshire, and Berkshire. he was also active in the eight hour day movementIn later life he was Election agent for Mr Rickman and James Acland Liberal Parliamentary candidate
Leno was a great admirer of Fergus O'Connor the great Irish liberator and Chartist leader Leno had marched with Fergus O'Connor from Windsor to set up his Land Colony at O'Connorville, Rickmansworth. And later organised funeral for O'Connor when Williams and O'Dally were imprisoned
Leno states "I had determined to be of the rank & file rather than a commander"
"In my long life, I have had but one strong desire and that has been justice and freedom to all mankind"
John Bedford Leno also wrote a book on Shoe making "The art of boot and Shoemaking - A practical handbook
Died 31st October 1894
buried at Uxbridge Cemetery
A plaque to John Bedford Leno was errected on the site, the chapel at the Kingston road end was demolished in the early 1950's and may have been lost then.
Reviews of the Uxbridge Spirit of Freedom
The sight of such a work has given us unfeigned pleasure. Go on, ye high spirited sons of toil, and the example ye have no nobly set in Uxbridge shall be imitated elsewhere.
It is a thoroughly democratic journal and boldly written vindicator of the rights of the proletarian. We cordially wish it success, let the enemies of Justice look to it.
This little periodical is highly creditable to the working class - it is full of a glowing spirit of freedom and independence. There is much talent displayed in it and the poetry, especially of Mr.Massey is of high promise. We recommend the work to the patronage of the industrial clashes .-
Standard of Freedom.
It is full of the talent and fire of true democracy, its' poetry is usually of a high order.
A thorough-going advocate of democracy, plainspeaking, and fearless utterance characterise every paper.
I have just received the first number of your "Spirit" and am very much pleased with it. I trust you will succeed.
William Howitt expressed his pleasure at seeing "working men thus ably and eloquently advocating their own rights."
Quotes from August. No5 Uxbridge Spirit of Freedom.
John Rymill of Spring gardens, Northampton
He (and his bothers also of Northampton) associated with Red Republican, and Friends of the People both Chartist/radical paper run by Harney
wrote for The Uxbridge Spirit of Freedom articles such as "Englands true nobility" and "Why are we poor"
John Rymill also wrote for John Small (Buckingham) "The Progressionist" and that periodical was acquired by R.G. Gammage was turned into a weekly periodical but lasted just 48 editions
John Rymill refers tin the Uxbridge Spirit of Freedom edition 7 article Something for Democrats to do October 1849 of the Chartist prisoners "immured in gloomy dungeons" or
"Transported far from their land of birth, because they loved it, not wisely, but too well"
He also refers to Clayton and Holbery were murdered by horrible prison discipline of the base, brutal, and bloody whigs and that another victim has fallen Williams
he ends withthe following rallying call
"Solders of Democracy, unfurl the red banner-
Red! blood red! ay, wherefore not!
the Freeman's and, but ernest sign!
Arouse, from all lethargy! stand up in glorious manhood - and do battle for our common rights; spread the flag of Chartism to the breeze; political and social justice be the watch-word!
We fight to vanquish tyranny - we fight to punish wrong-
we fight to free the slave
Hurrah! hurrah! for the fight!
John Rymill I understand was also involved/established the Northampton Democratic Tea League
Chartist rosette, white blouses, black belts,green caps with red stripes