Thursday, October 27, 2011

Thursday Thoughts: James P. McPherson: A Chartist? A Radical? A Liberal?

Top of my head sort of post, but I've been a'thinkin' about the milieu that surrounded James P. McPherson just prior to his immigration to America -- and how those philosophical threads have been woven into the lives of his descendants.

Because I have no idea of where this search will lead, I will start off with what I call my "historian's cha-cha" -- one step back, three steps forward -- my own little dance of facts.

I know that
     J.P.  was a flax dresser in the flax mills of Dundee;
     J.P. was but a teenager at the time of
           1832 Reform Act,
           1834 Poor Laws,
           1838 publication of the Peoples' Charter;
    the flax mills, and particularly the hecklers, of Dundee were in the forefront of reform activity;
    the unstamped British press was the vanguard of radical, liberal thought and activity;
    workers would meed in alehouses to read the unstamped papers and discuss the issues of the day.

I know that in the early days of Chartism (1837-1839), there were mass rallies of workers (printers, shopkeepers,shoemakers, tailors, stone workers, carpenters, blacksmiths, miners, and of course the great mass of textile workers).  Chartist marches extending one to two miles in length proclaimed their support with songs,homemade banners and flags, and ending with speeches.  Men, women and children were all part of the early marches; women were particularly adamant about the repeal of the Poor Law for fear of draconian measures that would lead to disintegration of the  family unit, but they also fully supported their husband's goal of suffrage.

J.P. has not left me with specific words as to feelings about the Scotland, or the British Isles*,  from whence he came.   So now I piece together tidbits from his tersely written diary, an 1841 letter, genealogical information about him, his family and friends, and of course delving into 19th century British history.

Where this will all lead, I know not --- but once I start, I canna stop.  May we all enjoy the ride.

*I believe that J.P. would fully subscribe to this description of his birth: English by law, Scots by birth, and Highlander by the Grace of God.

~ ~ ~

© Joan Hill, Roots'n'Leaves Publications


  1. What interesting times he lived through! I can see you are enjoying the ride. I smiled at the Highlander but the Grace of God...and thought of my great-grandfather in full Highland dress. Perhaps I'll post it one day.

  2. Cassmob, love to see your great-grandfather in full Highland regalia!! Thanks for reading.

  3. What an interesting post! I'd heard the term chartism before, but never knew much about it until I read this post. It's so interesting to think about the historical context and how ancestors were part of those times.

  4. Sheryl, thanks for reading and commenting. I believe, it is not only interesting to see our ancestors in the context of their times, but also to see how those historical elements have shaped our view and actions. Pretty amazing stuff.

  5. Dance away, Joan! I am looking forward to seeing where this pursuit leads you!

  6. Thanks for reading and commenting, Jacqi. Right now I have more questions than answers, but looking forward to the journey and the dance --- cha-cha-cha!