Friday, August 14, 2009

When your forebear was a traitor

Family history has been a long time passion, albeit one that tends to ebb and flow, for this blogger. Part of the problem is being in the right place, i.e. where the recourses are, to effectively pursue this interest. However, thanks to technology and other interested parties I’ve recently been able to pull together some of my previous writing on the family story and have posted it on Cartledge Chronicles.

Now I don’t expect many would be inclined to get excited over someone else’s family history, but there are broader elements to this one. For a start I’m not inclined to the idea of lists (family trees) for their own sake, only as a research tool. But the stories are something else again.

The focus of these chronicles is my great-great grandfather James (1810 - 1877) who, shock horror, was a radical and in a recent book branded a traitor as well. James was an active participant in the Manchester Chartist movement, radical for seeking many of the social democratic rights we now expect and enjoy.

While I was busy resurrecting articles from long defunct websites (thanks to WayBack Machine) I was also delighted to come across an Australian book, Unrespectable radicals?, one of the few recent works on Chartism. But alas, one of the writers branded James a traitor, and my hackles rose.

Of course he had good reason. Following the civil unrest in the North of England, in which James featured, there were mass arrests, resulting in Lancaster trial, 1843. It was in this trial James again featured, giving Queens evidence against hiss associates.

The essay writer ascribes James’ change of heart to ‘saving his bacon’, a notion I’ve never been able to accept. Certainly I can see the prima facie case for such a notion, but t my mind it simply does not accord with the character I have been researching for so many years. Anyway, the story is there to see, it is a story which has encouraged my political views and my hunt to resolve the traitor claim.


lindsaylobe said...

A wonderful posting about your ancestral history with great photos.

I agree with you that most likely your great great grandfather's testimony was more likely a reflection of his disagreement with the methods and radical actions of some in the chartist movement at that point in time.

He may have decided to take a more pragmatic long term view on the future to align himself to others who exhibited a more effective, measured leadership stance.

Best wishes

Cartledge said...

Lindsay, thank you. I particularly appreciated the inter-textual reference - pragmatic.
I should stop referring to this as family history. To my thinking James is the real subject, the one who has captured my mind.
I don't dare consider myself a radical in any sense, but then I doubt he really was either.
Traitor or not he has won me over.