Correspondence of James Watson

Administrative / Biographical History

Watson, James (1799–1874), radical and publisher, was born at Malton, Yorkshire, on 21 September 1799. His father died when he was barely a year old. His mother, ‘a Sunday school teacher’, taught him to read and write

During 1825 he became a compositor, and was employed in printing Carlile's Republican, and for some time in conducting his business. In the intervals of work he suffered privation, and in 1826 was struck down by cholera. When he recovered, he became a convert to the co-operative schemes of Robert Owen, and in 1828 he was storekeeper of the First Co-operative Trading Association in London in Red Lion Square and was a member of the British Association for the Promotion of Co-operation (1829–35) and the National Union of the Working Classes (1831–8). He became a bookseller in 1830 and worked with Hetherington, Cleave, and Lovett in the production and the distribution of the Poor Man's Guardian. In December 1832 he launched the Working Man's Friend and Political Magazine, an influential journal advocating factory legislation, universal suffrage, and repeal of both the newspaper duty and the union with Ireland.

About 1870 anxiety about the health of his wife induced a serious decline of Watson's own powers. He died at his home, Burns Cottage, Hamilton Road, Lower Norwood, London, on 29 November 1874, and was buried in Norwood cemetery, where a grey granite obelisk erected by friends commemorated his ‘brave efforts to secure the rights of free speech’.

Source: viewed 2/02/12