ROBERT WILLIAMS BUCHANAN (1841 - 1901)

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ROBERT BUCHANAN SNR.

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ROBERT BUCHANAN SNR.

 

I should apologise for the rather random nature of this page. It would take another website, and time I don’t have, to do full justice to Robert Williams Buchanan’s father - the Socialist missionary, follower of Robert Owen, lecturer, poet, journalist and newspaper proprietor: Robert Buchanan.

 

Robert Buchanan Snr.’s entry in The Dictionary of National Biography, 1886.

Buchanan, Robert (1813–1866), socialist, was born at Ayr in 1813. He was successively a schoolmaster, a lecturer advocating the socialistic views of Robert Owen, and a journalist. Manchester was an important centre of Owenism, and Buchanan settled in that town, where his small books were published. These are: 1. ‘The Religion of the Past and Present Society, founded upon a false fundamental principle inimical to the extension of real knowledge opposed to human happiness,’ Manchester, 1839. 2. ‘The Origin and Nature of Ghosts, Demons, and Spectral Illusions generally, fully and familiarly explained and illustrated,’ Manchester, 1840; this is a sensible pamphlet, in which some of the commoner causes of hallucination are exposed. 3. ‘An Exposure of the Falsehoods, Calumnies, and Misrepresentations of a Pamphlet entitled “The Abominations of Socialism Exposed,” being a refutation of the charges and statements of the Rev. Joseph Barker,’ Manchester, 1840; this went through two editions. 4. ‘Concise History of Modern Priestcraft, from the time of Henry VIII until the present period,’ Manchester, 1840; this is a bitter attack on the church of England. A chapter is devoted to the ‘persecution of the socialists,’ and another sets forth the ‘crimes of the clergy.’ 5. ‘The Past, the Present, and the Future,’ Manchester, 1840. In the preface to this work the author disclaims ‘pretensions to the character of poet,’ but adopts blank verse, from a strong natural love of poetry and a belief in its superiority as a vehicle for instruction. ‘The object of the writer is .. to contrast the evils of the old world with advantages of the new moral world of Robert Owen.’ 6. ‘Socialism Vindicated’ is a reply to a sermon preached by the Rev. W. J. Kidd, Manchester, 1840. Mr. Kidd was the rector of St. Matthew's, which was opposite to the ‘Hall of Science’ built by the Owenites in 1839. The socialists were prosecuted for having lectures on Sunday and charging for admission, contrary to the statute of Geo. III, c. 79. They were prepared to show that the ‘collection’ had been a voluntary one, but as their witnesses declined to take the oath there was no legal defence, and they were fined. The building was registered as the meeting- house of a society of dissenters by the name of ‘Rational Religionists.’ Mr. Kidd, aided by Mr. T. P. Bunting, the son of the well-known Wesleyan minister, the Rev. Jabez Bunting, induced the stipendiary magistrate to tender to Buchanan the oaths which by statute were required from dissenting ministers. Mr. Bunting then managed to elicit from him a declaration that he did not believe in the orthodox doctrines of damnation. This was a fatal objection, and after several adjournments Buchanan was fined 50s. for refusing to take the oaths of supremacy, &c. After the decline of Owenism, Buchanan, who was a contributor to the ‘Northern Star,’ the organ of the chartist movement, but never joined its physical force section, removed to Glasgow, where he became editor of a newspaper, and there was born, on 6 Aug. 1841, his son Robert, who attained distinction as poet and dramatist, and died 10 June 1901. Buchanan died at this son's house at Bexhill, Sussex, 4 March 1866.

     [Sutton's List of Lancashire Authors; information supplied by Mr. Abel Heywood, J.P., Manchester; Manchester Guardian, June and July 1840.]
                                                                                                               W. E. A. A.
                                                                                                               [William Edward Armytage Axon]

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Robert Buchanan Snr.’s Works

Of the six works listed in the D. N .B., only one is freely available online.

1. The Religion of Past and Present Society Founded Upon a False Fundamental Principle Inimical to the Extension of Real Knowledge, Opposed to Human Happiness: A Lecture Delivered in the Social Institution, Salford, March 10, 1839 (Manchester: A. Heywood, 1839, 23 pp.)

2. The Origin and Nature of Ghosts, Demons, and Spectral Illusions generally, fully and familiarly explained and illustrated (Manchester: A. Heywood, 1840, 64 pp.)

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3. An Exposure of the Falsehoods, Calumnies, and Misrepresentations of a Pamphlet entitled “The Abominations of Socialism Exposed,” being a refutation of the charges and statements of the Rev. Joseph Barker, and All Others who Have Adopted a Similar Mode of Opposing Socialism (Manchester: A. Heywood, 1841 (2nd ed. 1880), 48 pp.)

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4. A Concise History of Modern Priestcraft, from the Time of Henry VIII until the Present Period (Manchester: A. Heywood, 1840, 172 pp.)

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5. The Past, the Present, and the Future: a poem (Manchester: A. Heywood, 1840, 72 pp.)
Available at Hathi Trust.

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6. Socialism Vindicated: in reply to a sermon entitled “Socialism denounced as an outrage upon the laws of God and man,” preached by the Rev. W. J. Kidd, in St. Matthew’s Church, Camp Field, Manchester, on Sunday morning, July 12th, 1840 (Manchester: A. Heywood, 1840, 8 pp.)

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Newspaper Cuttings

The Northern Star (2 June, 1838)

BLACK AND WHITE SLAVERY.

BY ROBERT BUCHANAN.

 

Does Brougham’s master mind, strive to arrest
The oppressive despots of the Indian West,
Because his wish, and object is to see
The black and white, both happy, and both free?
Would that my feeble pen could answer yes,—
Then might the feeling heart with fondness bless
The sacred effort, to emancipate
The negro’s limbs,—and right to vindicate.
But sad to tell, the rich can sympathise
With Indian wrongs—yet turn away their eyes
From labour’s sons—the slaves of power, and pride—
Which fill our boasted land on every side.
The true philanthropist will always aim
To free each form who bears the human name;
Freedom and Justice, to the black and white,
Will be his watchword, and his soul’s delight.
The true religionist is he who can
With honest zeal defend the rights of man;
Who views the slave, beneath an Indian sky,
And sea girt Britain, with an equal eye,
And sees, where’er the tyrant’s powers enthrall,
An insult offer’d to the Lord of all.
Not so, the loud and motley throng, whose tongues.
Seem now inspired with trans-Atlantic wrongs.
From them, no help, our home-bred slaves obtain,
Their ragged children cry for bread in vain;
Unmoved by native wrongs, they can behold,
Young England’s health and morals pledged for Gold;
The blooming morn of childhood turn’d to gloom
And youth, the victim of an early tomb.
The factory slave in vain may aid implore,
Deaf are their ears, and closed is mercy’s door,
The love of wealth coined from the wretches blood,
Absorbs their minds; too strong to be subdued;
For negroes’ rights they safely may declaim,
There interest lights up no hostile flame,
But England’s helots claim no passing sigh,
Because the British “planter’s” standing by;
And while he seems to weep for slaves abroad
Rules all beneath him with an iron rod;
Exacting with a Shylock’s murderous will,
From bleeding industry, and native skill,
The produce of their toil;—and yet the knave,
Looks grim, when called a tyrant by his slave.
In vain may Brougham ever think to claim,
A good man’s blessing, or a Patriot’s name,
Not all his thunderings for the Ethiop race
Can save him from contempt—from black disgrace—
England, then cries aloud behold the man,
The base concocter of the hellish plan,
To rob the humble of the last defence
The law afforded, and to banish hence,
The landmarks of the poor, which long had stood,
Between their birthright, and a vulture’s brood.
Be honest, ye who cross the western sea,
To set the negro from his fetters free.
If you desire that tyranny shall die,
For universal freedom raise your cry—
At home show by your conduct, to the poor
You wish to raise them from oppression’s door,
To elevate them in the social scale;
Their rights surrender, and their wrongs go heal—
Then may you hope to see the glorious day,
When wrong and slavery shall have pass’d away;
And liberated men, with loud acclaim,
Rejoice in showering blessings on your name.

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The New Moral World (10 August, 1839 - Vol. VI, p. 672)

     DUNDEE, AUGUST 1, 1839.—I have had my hands completely full this last fortnight, having lectured in Kilmarnock three times; in Paisley as often; besides holding forth in Johnstone, Barrhead, Kelbarchon, Greenock, and Glasgow. My reception and success in Kilmarnock was most flattering, being more decidedly favourable than in any new place I have ever lectured in. Though opposed by a gentleman on the practicability of the Social system the last evening, three-fourths, at least, of a large meeting, by their exhibition of feeling, gave unequivocal proofs of their aversion to competition, and their leaning to the side of co-operation. Mrs. Hamilton was also present, and made a rigmorole speech against Socialism, which very few present could know the meaning of, it was so incoherent. She had been lecturing there on Phrenology in connexion with Christianity and, what do you think, ANIMAL MAGNETISM!! Verily, this is an age of quacks and gulls. Her success, however, among the weavers of Kilmarnock, has been very small. In Paisley, I had an opponent in the person of the Rev. Mr. Kennedy, Methodist preacher, who confining himself principally to the asking of questions, by way of being extremely ignorant of the principles, though the ignorant gentleman had previously thought himself wise enough to lecture repeatedly on Infidel Socialism, and denounce Mr. Owen and his followers. The gentleman was extremely mild, and the audience very well satisfied with the answers given.
     I should have left Glasgow for Liverpool yesterday, as my exchequer was getting rather low, from the great quantity of travelling I have had in attending to give the various lectures, had I not received notice on Sunday, by a letter from the Central Board, to proceed forthwith to Dundee, and give a course of lectures, to thwart the opposition of a body called the Philalethean Society, who have organized themselves to war against “Infidelity,” under the name of Socialism. I arrived here last night, and have seen some of the friends. I commence a course of four lectures to-morrow evening in a large hall. The friends have had a very good hall of their own. This place, from all I can see and hear, is the ripest in Scotland, and a strong under current being in favour of free inquiry, and a very intelligent working population. 70,000 is the number of inhabitants in the town. It is a large commercial and manufacturing emporium, and the only place in Scotland where steam boats run on Sunday! A stationed Missionary will be wanted here immediately, as there is a good country round. When my course of lectures are finished I shall come direct to Manchester, which will be in about ten days; by that time Jones will be ready to come down. I have been much pleased since I came down with the improved feeling.
                                                            
                                                                ROBERT BUCHANAN.

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The Charter (3 November, 1839)

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The following items relate to the court case mentioned in the D. N. B. article above, concerning the dispute with Rev. W. J. Kidd and the administering of oaths.

The Guardian (27 June, 1840 - p.3)

     THE INFORMATION AGAINST THE SOCIALISTS.—On Wednesday morning, Mr. T. P. Bunting again attended at the Borough Court, and stated to the sitting magistrates, Daniel Maude, Esq. and C. J. S. Walker, Esq. that, in reference to the informations laid by the Rev. W. J. Kidd, of St. Matthew’s Church, against the three socialists, Messrs. Robert Owen, James Rigby, and Robert Buchanan, in which he had applied to the court the preceding day, he had since ascertained that the two former, Owen and Rigby, had quitted or did not reside in the district, and therefore it was useless for him to apply for summonses for them. He should therefore only apply for a summons against Robert Buchanan. The summons was granted, and we believe is returnable this day.

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Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser (27 June, 1840 - p.6)

FURTHER INFORMATIONS AGAINST THE SOCIALIST LECTURERS.

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Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser (4 July, 1840 - p.6)

SOCIALIST INFORMATION AGAINST THE VICTORIA GALLERY OF SCIENCE.

[followed by]

PROCEEDINGS AGAINST THE SOCIALISTS.

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Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser (4 July, 1840 - p.5)

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The Courier (8 July, 1840)

     HORRIBLE AVOWAL OF A SOCIALIST.—A man named Robert Buchanan, a “Socialist,” has been fined at Manchester in the mitigated penalty of 50l. for refusing to take the oaths and declarations contained in the Act of the 19th of George III., entitled “An Act for the further relief of Protestant Dissenting Ministers and Schoolmasters.” The Socialists received money at the Hall of Science, Manchester, where their lectures were given, and as the building had been registered in the Court of the Bishop of the diocese as a place of religious worship for a body of protestant Dissenters called “Rational Religionists,” the defendant was called upon to take the usual oaths administered to Protestant Dissenters. Before tendering the oaths the magistrates thought it necessary to inquire whether he believed in the sanctity of an oath, when he unblushingly avowed his disbelief in a future state. Of course this was tantamount to refusing the oaths, as well as the declaration, and he was proceeded against for the penalty incurred thereby, which ranges from 10l. to 100l., and, as we have already stated, the defendant was fined in a mitigated penalty, it having been proved that he had lectured in the building in question.

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The Staffordshire Gazette (17 October, 1840 - p.3)

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Robert Williams Buchanan was born in Caverswall on 18th August, 1841. According to the following report, his father was back in court in Manchester on that day.

The Staffordshire Gazette (26 August, 1841 - p.1)

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On the 23rd August, 1841,  Robert Buchanan Snr. was in Manchester discussing with Rev. J. R. Stephens “the truth and practicability of Socialism” at a public meeting held at the Hall of Science.

The Northern Star (28 August, 1841)

[Apologies for the quality of the scan.]

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In 1841 Robert Buchanan Snr. had edited his own paper for a short time, in Manchester, The Rational Religionist and Independent Inquirer into Social and Political Economy, Religion, Science and Literature. After 1841, however, details of his life become scarce. According to his entry in the current D. N. B.:

“A serious physical assault on Buchanan at a Methodist chapel in Whitehaven, Cumberland, in January 1842 brought his missionary career to a close.”

The Buchanan family then moved to London, where Robert Buchanan Snr. worked as a journalist for The Sun and was the London correspondent for the Birmingham Pilot. He retained his links with the Owenites, and in November 1848 joined the board of the new League of Social Progress. In 1851 he moved back to Scotland, buying The Glasgow Sentinel (raising the money on a life insurance policy) on 18th April, 1851. In 1852 and 1854 he stood (unsuccessfully) as a candidate in the Glasgow municipal elections. A second child, Margaret Anne, was born on 24th March, 1853 but died seven weeks later on 11th May. Buchanan added the Penny Post, Glasgow Times and the Leeds Express to his newspaper ‘empire’ but in 1860 was declared bankrupt. Details of this period and his business practices are available in the Buchanan and the Law section of the site and there is also a section on The Glasgow Sentinel. After his bankruptcy, he and his wife returned to London. In 1864 he accompanied his son to Denmark to report on the Second Schleswig- Holstein War for The Morning Star. Robert Buchanan Snr. died on 4th March, 1866 at his son’s house in Bexhill; he was 54 years old. On 10th March, he was buried at St. Peter’s Church, Bexhill.

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On 15th August, 2015, I visited the Church of St. Peter in Bexhill in search of the grave of Robert Buchanan, Socialist missionary, follower of Robert Owen, and dedicated atheist. I didn’t find it. The sea air had eroded the inscriptions on the majority of the old gravestones, so, if Robert Buchanan’s still stood, there was no way of discovering it.

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Poetry
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Essays
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The Fleshly School Controversy
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Buchanan and the Law

 

The Critical Response
Harriett Jay
Miscellanea

 

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