Friday, 2 March 2012

A radical cause after Chartism

The disappearance of Chartism as a mass movement in the early 1850s and bitter internal battles over the future of the movement dispersed Chartists in all sorts of directions. But the continuing interest of some in international politics provided several opportunities for ad hoc radical activities.
I have now added a page to Chartist Ancestors on the Ingraham Affair, or Smyrna Affair as it is also known.
At a time when the British left saw the United States military as a force for liberty, Captain Duncan Ingraham of the US Navy became the embodiment of the cause when in July 1853 he threatened to open fire on a much larger Austrian warship in the Turkish port of Smyrna if it did not release a businessman who had emigrated some years earlier to the United States.
Ingraham’s threat succeeded, and the businessman, a Hungarian by the name of Martin Koszta or Kosta, was able to return to the United States and seek citizenship.
The US naval commander was awarded a Congressional Gold Medal for his actions, but he also won the admiration of a number of leading London Chartists whose involvement with Chartism was now at an end or drawing to a close as the movement went into permanent decline.
Under the chairmanship of GWM Reynolds (pictured above), the publisher of the only surviving successful Chartist newspaper, Reynolds’s Newspaper, a group of former National Charter Association general secretaries and executive committee members formed themselves into a testimonial committee.
They then collected thousands of small donations of a penny or two a time, until when the sum of £90 was reached, they were able to buy a gold watch and send it via the US ambassador to London to Ingraham.
Chartist Ancestors now has a page recording this strange post-Chartist episode, and listing the names of some 450 of those who subscribed to the Ingraham Testimonial Fund.