Tag Archives: brass crosby

Liberal Tradition in Honiton

Who says that Honiton does not have a Liberal tradition? Admittedly it is going back a bit to the 18th century but Honiton did have a radical and liberal leaning MP then, Stockton born Brass Crosby.

It was in the days of Rotten Boroughs, so you may say nothing to be proud of there, but that was the system that there was then, and to his credit, he was part of a group of leading City of London politicians that were calling for constitutional reform that included ending Rotten Boroughs. In 100 years’ time it could be said that politicians of today had no mandate from the people as they were elected under the undemocratic first past the post.

This is an extract from the book I wrote, “Bold as Brass?” helpfully published by Christine Headley after reading about him in an LDV post!

A number of radical Whig Aldermen who were passionate about preventing the erosion ofrights and liberties of citizens stood in parliamentary elections. These were times of “Rotten Boroughs” and in 1768 he became the MP for Honiton “a small town in Devon with a comparatively liberal franchise”,37 which he continued to represent until the dissolution in September 1774.38 After the founding of the Campaign for the Abolition of the Slave Trade in 1787, there were anti-slavery meetings and petitions in Exeter and many Devon towns including Honiton. Joseph Sturge, a successful businessman there founded the British and Foreign Anti Slavery Society in 1839, the forerunner of today’s Anti Slavery International (ASI) which recently campaigned successfully for the Modern Slavery Act.So it appears that over two centuries ago Honitonians not only campaigned against the British slave trade but were also involved in the campaign to end slavery throughout the world.39 There is no record of Brass Crosby ever actually visiting the town, as was common in the rotten boroughs of the day. A visit to local libraries and reference archives shows no
information of the happenings in Parliament other than regurgitating what the London press was saying about the events. The only other reference to Honiton and Parliament that has turned up is that the lace-making town sent a lace jabot to Bernard Weatherill when he was Speaker of the House of Commons.

37 Brown, Alba Theodore Grant, 1933. Half Lights on Chelsfield Court Lodge, Liverpool.
38 http://www.histparl.ac.uk/volume/1754-1790/constituencies/honiton
39 Midweek Herald, Honiton, 5 May 2017. Honiton history: What has the slave trade to do with us?

Brass Crosby’s actions are those that we Liberals should be proud of.

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