Childs, John Filby


English radical Noncomformist printer, opposed compulsory church taxes and royal bible printing monopoly



Autograph ID: 6281
Condition: Very good, tiny spindle hole at center, slight right angle stain at lower left
Description: “(1783-1853) English printer, political radical, successful lobbyist against the monopoly on printing the Bible, congregationalist active against church rates (a tax formerly levied in each parish in England and Ireland for the benefit of the parish church; these rates paid the expenses of carrying on divine service, repairing the fabric of the church, and paying the salaries of officials connected with it). Nonconformists had conscientious objections to supporting the Established Church. In 1836 at a public meeting in London, a central committee, the Church Rate Abolition Society was formed to co-ordinate the efforts of local Societies. In 1837, Parliament made concessions to the Nonconformists, a more acceptable marriage ceremony and the civil registration of births, deaths, and marriages, but the parish rate remained compulsory until 1868. Born at Bungay, Suffolk, he carried on the family printing business founded in 1795. With Joseph Ogle Robinson, he projected the series of cheap “Imperial octavo editions of standard authors”, which sold well to the public for many years. The select committee of the House of Commons appointed in 1831 to inquire into the monopoly of the King’s printers’ patent arose from a meeting between Childs, his brother and partner Robert, and MP Joseph Hume on the subject of cheap bibles and the continuance of a printing monopoly. Childs told the committee that he and his brother employed over a hundred hands, and had printed editions of the Bible with notes (thus eluding the patent) for many years. A staunch nonconformist, Childs suffered imprisonment on account of his conscientious refusal to pay church rates in May 1836. His incarceration was the subject of a debate in the House of Commons, with a reference by Sir Robert Peel to “the Bungay martyr.” In 1837, agitator Daniel O’Connell visited Bungay and the Childs brothers took a leading part in receiving him. In 1841 the Childs brothers and others established “The Nonconformist” newspaper, for many years edited by Edward Miall, whose early work was supported by a group including John Childs.

7 1/2 x 4 1/2 ALS to Mr. (William) Lovett, Bungay, April 15 1842. Childs declines to further speak publicly, two sentences in the “Nonconformist” are a correct representation of what he said, and trusts that the Birmingham meeting “will be as bread cast upon the waters” and earnestly longs for a “kind feeling between the masters, & workmen.”

WILLIAM LOVETT (1800-1877) British activist best known for his role in the Chartist movement, an 1838-50 campaign for parliamentary reforms to correct inequities remaining after the 1832 Reform Act. A self-educated member of the Cabinetmakers Society, he rose to national political prominence as founder of the Anti-Militia Association (“no vote, no musket”) and was active in wider trade unionism through the Metropolitan Trades Union and Owenite socialism. In 1831, during Reform Act agitation, he helped form the National Union of the working Classes. After passage of the Reform Act he campaigned to repeal taxes on newspapers. In June 1836 he co-founded the London Working Men’s Association. In 1838 Lovett and fellow Radical Francis Place drafted a parliamentary bill, the foundation of the People’s Charter. In Feb. 1839 the 1st Chartist Convention met in London, and unanimously elected Lovett its Secretary. A proponent of the idea that political rights could be garnered through political pressure and non-violent agitation, Lovett retired from overt political activity after a year in prison on the charge of seditious libel 1839-40. While in prison he co-wrote “Chartism, a New Organisation of the People”, which focused on Chartist Education. In 1841 he formed the National Association for Promoting the Political and Social Improvement of the People, to implement his New Move educational initiative through which he hoped poor workers and their children would be able to better themselves. The New Move did not generate popular support; membership never surpassed 5000, and education was limited to Sunday schools. He later devoted himself to the National Association for Promoting the Political and Social Improvement of the People, seeking to improve lives of poor workers and their children by means of a Chartist educational program. He believed in temperance and in teaching methods founded on kindness and compassion. He wrote his autobiography in 1877 and died impoverished that year. ”
Type: Letter

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