Edward Porritt (essay date 1897)
SOURCE: A review of The Life of Francis Place, by Graham Wallas, in the American Historical Review, Vol. III, No. I, October, 1897, pp. 723-25.
[In the following review, Porritt favorably assesses Wallas's The Life of Francis Place, commenting that in the work Wallas "handled admirably the enormous mass of material at his disposal. " ]
The special value of Mr. Wallas's Life of Francis Place is at once obvious to students of English constitutional and party history of the period between the French Revolution and the abolition of the Corn Laws. Biographies and volumes of memoirs and letters coming within these sixty years have been published in large numbers during the last twenty-five years. First-hand material of this kind has been constantly growing in volume; but up to the present time there has been no authoritative book covering that part of the movement for constitutional reform with which Francis Place was so conspicuously identified. Place was never of the House of Commons. Although he began life as a working tailor, quite early in his career he had a shop of his own, and was exceedingly prosperous. In the days of the unreformed Parliament, it would have been easy for a man of his wealth to have bought a seat in the House of Commons, as was done by Hume, Ricardo, Romilly and other men who were on the popular side in the Reform movement. Place never availed himself of this opportunity; yet no man, in or out of Parliament, was more actively concerned in politics than he. His life was largely given up to politics. It was exclusively so from about his forty-sixth year. He was associated with the movement for the repeal of the Combination Laws; from 1807 to 1832 with the movement for the first Reform Bill; later on with the movements for poor-law reform and municipal reform; with the Chartist agitation; with the movement for the repeal of the taxes on newspapers; and finally with the agitation for the repeal of the Corn Laws.
In all these movements, Place was active as an organizer; often as a lobbyist; and continuously as an advocate of reform in any newspaper whose editor would print his letters. New light is thrown by Mr. Wallas's book on the agitation for the repeal of the Combination Laws, and also on the beginnings of the system of elementary education in England; for among his numerous activities, Place took a foremost part in the establishment of the British and Foreign Schools Society, an...
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