Friday, 2 March 2012

1,000 backers of John Frost

Around 1,000 Chartist contributors to the Frost Defence Fund are now named in a page on Chartist Ancestors.
Most Chartists were taken wholly by surprise by the Newport rebellion (pictured left) and were shocked by its bloody failure. Its leader, John Frost, was, after all, among the least likely of the more prominent Chartists to have become involved in such a scheme.
Though there is now good evidence that similar risings were being prepared for the North of England as part of a co-ordinated insurrection to force a change of government, neither Feargus O’Connor nor most of the Chartist leadership were aware of the plans.
Once they had got over their surprise, however, thousands of Chartists began to pour contributions into a defence fund set up to provide Frost and his co-conspirators with the best legal aid. Even with this fund behind them, they were at first sentenced to death.
The Northern Star provided two huge lists of contributors to the Frost Defence Fund. The first, published on 18 January 1840 listed 1,345 donors. Not all used their real names – and many hid behind descriptions such as "A Friend of Frost". But many are traceable individuals.
A second, slightly shorter, list appeared the following week. I have not yet transcribed this, but will add it when I can.
Although money continued to pour in after this date, the editor of the Northern Star realised that if he continued to acknowledge every contribution, no matter how small, he would rapidly run out of space for anything else. On 1 February, he called an end to individual listings.