Joseph Gerrald

(1763—1796) political reformer

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(1763–96), celebrated radical reformer and political transportee. Son of a wealthy West Indian planter and later educated at a Hammersmith boarding-school under the close tutelage of the Whig man of letters Samuel Parr (1747–1825), Gerrald became a prominent orator and activist in the Society for Constitutional Information and the London Corresponding Society during the early 1790s [see corresponding societies]. His best-known publication, A Convention the Only Means of Saving Us from Ruin (1793), advocated an ambiguous popular convention as the best means of restoring the ancient democratic Anglo-Saxon heritage on the basis of indirect manhood suffrage and equal electoral districts. Both the latter were also aims of the ‘British Convention of the Friends of the People’, summoned by Scottish reformers in Edinburgh in December 1793, to which Gerrald and Maurice Margarot were elected as English delegates. Given the punitive reputation of the Scottish legal system, delegates knew themselves to be courting great danger, especially since they took delight in employing French Jacobin modes. Arrest, prosecution and sentence of several of the ringleaders to fourteen years' transportation rapidly followed. Though the prospect of such a sentence meant likely death for Gerrald given his fragile health, he refused to take the advice of friends who urged him to skip bail.


From An Oxford Companion to the Romantic Age in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Modern History (1700 to 1945).

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