Linton- Life in the Collections
34) A Practical Work on the Management of Small Farms.
After his release from prison in 1841, the Irish orator Feargus O’Connor had proved in the disputes about political directions to be the most assertive leader of the Chartist Movement. With his brilliant and incessant political platform performances he had managed to transform the formerly rather elitist Chartism into a real mass movement which was to become the People’s Tribune of the crowded industrial North.
O’Connor’s repeated threats of physical force had led to a fatal split of the National Charter Association, most notably with those sections of the London Working Men’s Association which had conceived themselves as the intellectual avant-garde of the movement. Linton held O’Connor responsible for the final failure of the Chartists’ cause. He accused him for having broken up “the coherence and the morale of the party and, aided by arbitrary arrests and imprisonments for ‘seditious’ speaking, much of it provoked by government spies, caused at last an insane attempt at insurrection in South Wales. After that came disheartening lukewarmness, with intermittent bluster, indifference, and so an end to all hopes of popular success.” (Memories)
O’Connor had written his manual on farming to back his Land Plan, which he had introduced to the public in the course of the Chartist convention in Birmingham in 1843. The scheme was to found a company, to set up a fund, sell shares to the workers and to invest the profit in buying estates. These would then be parcelled into small allotments and distributed to the investors by a system of lottery. The Plan was finally launched in 1845, but proved disastrous. By 1850, the company was bankrupt and the few settlers, industrial workers, who were inexperienced as farmers, got evicted. Linton thought of O’Connor’s Plan as impractical for the large majority. Instead, he and his circle of friends of the Moral Force faction favoured an alternative conception on a much larger but also much more idealistic scale – the general nationalization of land. Such a reform, which was based on a general expropriation, was fundamentally opposed to O’Connor’s pragmatic approach to distribute small properties. Nevertheless, his farming manual was also widely read in Linton’s circle and was distributed in London by his publisher James Watson.