John Cartwright, an English political reformer, elder brother of the preceding, born at Marnham in 1740, died Sept. 23, 1824. At the age of 18 he entered the navy, but at 35 was still a lieutenant. Meantime the struggle between Britain and her colonies enlisted his sympathies for the Americans. In 1774 he published his "Letters on American Independence," and at the same time requested to be placed on the retired list, rather than fight against the colonists. Lord Howe vainly attempted to shake his resolution in this respect. Having retired to Nottinghamshire, where he possessed some property, he received a commission as major in the militia. His appointment gave great offence to the government, who signified their disapprobation so pointedly to the lord lieutenant that he refused Cart-wright the usual step of promotion to the lieutenant-colonelcy, although five successive vacancies occurred in that office. He retired from the regiment in 1792, and about this time removed to Lincolnshire. His name now becomes prominent in the history of parliamentary reform. He contended for annual parliaments and universal suffrage. These he supported with voice and pen, in cooperation with Dr. Jebb, Granville Sharpe, Home Tooke, Hardy, Thelwall, Cobbett, Hunt, and other liberals of the day.
Mainly through his instrumentality the citizens of Birmingham were induced to elect a delegate claiming a seat in parliament under the name of their legislatorial attorney, although that city, the third in the kingdom, had no representation in that body. For his share in this proceeding Cart-wright was tried in 1820 on a charge of sedition, and fined £100. Again, when procuring signatures in lluddersfield to a mammoth petition, he was arrested on a charge of exciting a riot, but released. The English liberals placed much reliance in the integrity of his purposes. Sir William Jones declared that his declaration of the people's rights should be written in letters of gold. Fox, in his place in parliament, said that few men united so complete a knowledge of the people's constitutional rights with such high intelligence and such conscientious views. His views on the American revolution were summed up in this sentence: "The liberty of man is not derived from charters but from God, and is original in every man." He was one of the earliest who maintained that the slave trade was piracy.