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Bradlaugh commemoration 2009

Charles Bradlaugh (1833-1891)

MP for Northampton 1880-1891

Radical leader and campaigner for social and political justice

A sincere friend of the people, his life was devoted to freedom, liberty and justice.

Sunday 27rd September 2009

The commemoration will commence at 3pm by the statue of Charles Bradlaugh at Abington Square, Northampton. A small exhibition of his life and work will also be presented.

Issued by Tony Upton (chair) Chris Pound (secretary) Peter Mulligan (projects) Details from:

The Charles Bradlaugh Society, c/o 5 Woodland Avenue, Abington, Northampton NN3 2BY Tel. 00-44-1604-715793 e-mail:

Background - Bradlaugh, Charles , 1833-91, British social reformer, a secularist. Former English soldier who served in Ireland. Editor of the free-thinking weekly National Reformer from 1860 and later associated with Annie Besant founder of the Match Girls Union. He was an early advocate of woman's suffrage, birth control, free speech, national education, trade unionism, and other controversial causes of the day.

In 1880, Bradlaugh was elected to parliament for Northampton constituency. Rather than take a Bible oath to be sworn in as a Member of Parliament, Bradlaugh, an atheist, demanded the right to take an affirmation. Convoluted legal actions began and continued for six years. Representing himself, he was the most proficient lay litigant in England. Bradlaugh and his supporters organised a national petition and he presented a list of 241,970 signatures calling for him to be allowed to take his seat.

The seat was vacated by order of the House of Commons but the people of Northampton re-elected him at three by-elections (1881, 1882 and 1884). Once, as the last victim of this particular punishment, he was imprisoned in the Clock Tower. On another occasion he was literally thrown out of the Palace of Westminster.

Eventually, in 1886 - after the 1885 general election - he was allowed by the Speaker to take the oath at the beginning of the session, before objections could be made. Inside parliament Bradlaugh proved himself a diligent and respected member.

Bradlaugh was also a strong critic of Britain's foreign policy and opposed the military involvement in South Africa, Sudan, Afghanistan and Egypt. Charles Bradlaugh died on 30th January 1891. 3,000 mourners attended his funeral. A statue was erected in Northampton by voluntarily public subscription as a mark of esteem by the people of Northampton.

A collection of his work is held in the Northampton Central Library.

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This document was last modified by Mick Carty on 2009-09-21 17:00:14.
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