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Royal Naval Biography/Cartwright, John


JOHN CARTWRIGHT, Esq.
(Better known as Major Cartwright, the celebrated political agitator).
[Commander.]

This officer was descended from a family, the head of which represented the borough of Retford, during the reign of Charles I. One of his brothers, Charles Cartwright, Esq., was author of “A Journal of Transactions and Events during a Residence of nearly sixteen years on the coast of Labrador,” 3 vols. 4to. published in 1793; and another, the Rev. Edmund Cartwright, D.D., rector of Goadby Merwood, co, Leicester, and prebendary of Lincoln, a gentleman of extraordinary mechanical talents, and author of several works.

Mr. John Cartwright was born, we believe, at Marsham, co. Nottingham, in 1740; and entered the royal navy just in time to witness the demolition of Cherbourgh, by the forces under Lieutenant-General Bligh and Commodore Howe, in August, 1758[1]. He was likewise present, and behaved well, at the battle between Hawke and De Conflans, near Quiberon, Nov. 20th, 1759. After attaining the rank of lieutenant, we find him proceeding to Newfoundland, in the Guernsey 50, bearing the broad pendant of Commodore Hugh Palliser, by whom he was appointed to the command of a cutter on that station, in 1766. About four years afterwards, he went on half-pay, and began to write political pamphlets. In 1775, he became major of the Nottingham militia; and in the following year, declined serving at sea under Lord Howe, because he disapproved of the American war. On account of his repeated attendance at seditious meetings, his right of succession to the vacant lieutenant-colonelcy of the above regiment was, on five successive occasions, set aside by the Duke of Newcastle, then lord-lieutenant of the county; and he was at length finally dismissed from that corps, in 1792. From this period, down to the day of his death, in 1824, he was continually before the eye of the public, as the most indefatigable of all the preachers of radical reform, annual parliaments, and universal suffrage. It is a singular fact, that, on the 25th Oct. 1809, nearly forty years after he had quitted the navy, this gentleman’s promotion to the rank of commander was announced in the London Gazette. We shall here give a list of the principal of his printed works, which, exclusive of innumerable contributions to newspapers and magazines, amount to at least fifty volumes octavo.

“American Independence the Interest and Glory of Great Britain,” 8vo. 1774. – “A Letter to Edmund Burke, Esq. controverting the Principles of Government laid down in his Speech of April 9th, 1774,” 8vo. 1775. – “Take your Choice, Representation and Respect, Imposition and Contempt, Annual Parliaments and Liberty, Long Pariiaments and Slavery,” 8vo. 1776, (reprinted in 1777, under the title of, “The Legislative Rights of the Commonalty Vindicated.”) – “A Letter to the Earl of Abingdon, discussing a Position relative to a Fundamental Right of the Constitution, contained in his Lordship’s Thoughts on the Letter of Edmund Burke, Esq.” 8vo. 1777. – ”The People’s Barrier against undue Influence and Corruption,” 8vo. 1780. – “Give us our Rights,” (a letter to the electors of Middlesex), 8vo. 1782. – “Internal Evidence; or an Inquiry how far Truth and the Christian Religion have been consulted by the Author of ‘Thoughts on a Parliamentary Reform[2],’” 8vo. 1784. – “Letter to the Duke of Newcastle, respecting his Conduct in the Disposal of Commissions in the Nottingham Militia,” 8vo. 1792 – “Letter to a Friend at Boston, and to all other Commoners who have associated in support of the Constitution,” 8vo. 1793. – “The Commonwealth in Danger; with an Introduction containing Remarks on some late Writings of Arthur Young,” 8vo. 1795. – “A Letter to the High Sheriff of the County of Lincoln, respecting the Laws of Lord Grenville and Mr. Pitt, for altering the Criminal Law of England respecting Treason and Sedition,” 8vo, 1795. – “The Constitutional Defence of England, Internal and External,” 8vo. 1796. – “An Appeal on the Subject of the English Constitution,” 8vo. 1797; enlarged and reprinted in 1799. – “A Letter to the Electors of Nottingham,” 8vo. 1803. – “England’s AEgis; or the Military Energies of the Empire,” 2 vols. 12mo. 1803-6. – “The State of the Nation, in a Series of Letters to the Duke of Bedford,” 8vo. 1805. – “Reasons for Reformation,” 8vo. 1809. – “The Comparison; in which Mock Reform, Half Reform, and Constitutional Reform, are considered,” 8vo. 1810. – He was also the author of several papers in “Young’s Annals of Agriculture.”

The subject of the foregoing sketch married, in 1780, the eldest daughter of Samuel Dashwood, of Wells, co. Lincoln, Esq.