neighbouring in the Victorian slum is one of three cases I consider in a chapter of Other People’s Struggles, my research project on the problems of ‘outsiders’ in social movements. The cases come from the long nineteenth century, and the other two are the anti-slavery movement and the Chartists. I am comparing them as examples of what I term causes and combinations. Causes are social movements where the participants are campaigning on behalf of others, and combinations are social movements where they are campaigning on their own behalf. I think that such movements work quite differently.
The medallions above were designed by Josiah Wedgwood in 1797, based on the seal of the Anti-Slavery Society, the society of white British abolitionists. Anthony Appiah suggests that the Wedgwood medallion enjoins the viewer to ‘see me as someone like yourself’. But that is not quite right, for the motto and kneeling image are at odds with each other. The motto makes, in the form of a negative interrogative, an assertion of status and equality which the docile, pleading image denies. The slave is not ‘someone like yourself’, because he is placed on his knees as the white abolitionists – the invisible objects of his appeal – are not, have not been, and never expect to be. It is a piece of ventriloquism, captured in abolitionist Thomas Clarkson’s comment that the words are produced ‘as if he were uttering the words himself’.
The medallion is a good illustration of one important characteristic of the anti-slavery movement, which is that it was disjoint campaigning: that is, collective action on behalf of others. In Other People’s Struggles, my research project, I distinguish disjoint campaigning from conjoint campaigning, which is collective action on one’s own behalf. In one chapter of the project, I contrast the anti-slavery movement with two other cases: the mid 19th century Chartists, and late 19th century movements for poverty relief, both of the conjoint ‘neighbouring’ and ‘self-help’ kind, and the disjoint charitable kind.
JOSIAH WEDGWOOD, HENRY WEBBER AND WILLIAM HACKWOOD, AM I NOT A MAN AND A BROTHER (‘THE WEDGWOOD MEDALLION’) (c.1790s) (WHITE JASPER WITH A BLACK RELIEF AND MOUNTED IN GILT-METAL) / ENGRAVING OF THE WEDGWOOD MEDALLION, IN ERASMUS DARWIN, THE BOTANIC GARDEN: A POEM IN TWO PARTS (1791).
The Chartists are one of three cases I consider in a chapter of my research project on Other People’s Struggles. The other two are the late 18th and early 19th century anti-slavery movement and late 19th century movements for poverty relief, both of the conjoint ‘neighbouring’ and ‘self-help’ kind, and the disjoint charitable kind.
The mid 19th century Chartists are an intervening case both chronologically and conceptually. They have variously been seen as a democratic people’s movement, and as a working-class one, but their leaders – men like Feargus O’Connor, whose leadership is celebrated in the Chartist song The Lion of Freedom (1841) above – were not workers or disenfranchised. He and other gentlemanly chartists are interesting example of how ‘outsiders’ participate in social movements which seek primarily to benefit others.
IMAGE CREDIT: THOMAS COOPER, THE LION OF FREEDOM, ORIGINALLY PRINTED IN THE NORTHERN STAR AND LEEDS GENERAL ADVERTISER, 11 SEP 1841, AND INCLUDED IN PETER SCHECKNER (ED.), AN ANTHOLOGY OF CHARTIST POETRY: POETRY OF THE BRITISH WORKING CLASS, 1830s to 1850s (1989), 143-4.