George Julian Harney, the son of a seaman, was born in Depford on 17th
February, 1817. When Harney was eleven he entered the Boy's Naval School at
Greenwich. However, instead of pursuing a career in the navy he became a
Hetherington, the editor of the
Guardian. Harney was imprisoned three time for selling this unstamped
This experience radicalized Harney and although he was initially a member of
the London Working Man's Association he became impatient with the
organisation's failure to make much progress in the efforts to obtain
universal suffrage. Harney was influenced by the more militant ideas of
In January 1837 Harney became one of the founders of the openly republican
East London Democratic Association. Soon afterwards Harney became convinced
of William Benbow's theory that a
Holiday (General Strike) would result in a uprising and a change in the
At the Chartist Convention held in the summer of 1839, Harney and
convinced the delegates to call a
Holiday on 12th August.
O'Connor, argued against the plan but was defeated. Harney and Benbow
toured the country in an attempt to persuade workers to join the strike.
When Harney and Benbow were both arrested and charged with making seditious
speeches, the General Strike was called off. Harney was kept in Warwick Gaol
but when he appeared at the Birmingham Assizes the Grand Jury refused to
Disappointed by the failure of the
Holiday, Harney moved to Ayrshire, Scotland, where he married Mary
Cameron. Harney's exile did not last long and the following year he became
the Chartist organizer in
During the strikes of 1842 Harney was one of the fifty-eight Chartists
arrested and tried at Lancaster in March 1843. After his conviction was
reversed on appeal, Harney became a journalist for Feargus O'Connor's
Star. Two years later he became the editor of the newspaper.
Harney became interested in the international struggle for universal
suffrage and helped establish the Fraternal Democrats in September 1845. It
was through this organisation that Harney met
Karl Marx and
Harney persuaded both men to write articles for the
Star. Excited by the Continental Revolutions of 1848, George Julian
Harney travelled to Paris in March, 1848 to meet members of the Provisional
Harney was now a socialist and he used the
Star to promote this philosophy.
O'Connor disagreed with socialism and he pressurized Harney into
resigning as editor of the paper. Harney now formed his own newspaper, the
Republican. With the help of his friend,
Harney attempted to use his paper to educate his working class readers about
socialism and internationalism. Harney also attempted to convert the trade
union movement to socialism.
Red Republican published the first English translation of
The Communist Manifesto. The
Republican was not a financial success and was closed down in
December, 1850. Harney followed it with the Friend
of the People (December 1850 - April 1852),
Star of Freedom
- December 1852) and The
1853 - March 1853).
After The Vanguard ceased publication
Harney moved to
and worked for Joseph Cowen's newspaper, the
Northern Tribune and after travelling to meet French socialists
living in exile in Jersey, Harney became editor of the
Jersey Independent. Harney's support for
the North in the
Civil War upset Joseph Cowen and in November 1862 was forced to resign.
In May 1863 Harney emigrated to the
For the next fourteen years he worked as a clerk in the Massachusetts State
House. After his retirement he returned to England where he wrote a weekly
column for the
Chronicle. George Julian Harney died on 9th December, 1897.
R. G. Gammage,
History of the Chartist Movement (1894)
Harney's talent was best displayed when he wielded the pen; as a speaker he
never came up to the standard of third class orators. The more knowing
politicians adjudged him to be a spy, but there was no ground for such a
supposition. Many a young man of inflexible honesty has been as foolish in
his day as was George Julian Harney.
Harney appeared to think that nothing but the most extreme measures were of
the slightest value. He was for moving towards the object by the speediest
means, and he seldom, if ever, stopped to calculate the cost. It might serve
very well for men who wanted a reputation for bravery to deal out high
sounding phrases about death, glory, and the like; but no body of men have
the right to organise an insurrection in a country, unless fully satisfied
that the people are so prepared as to hold victory in their very grasp; and
a conviction of such preparedness should be founded on better evidence than
their attendance at public meetings, and cheering in the moment of
excitement the most violent and inflammatory orator.
(2) George Julian Harney, speech at Derby, 28th
We demand Universal Suffrage, because we believe the universal suffrage will
bring universal happiness. Time was when every Englishman had a musket in
his cottage, and along with it hung a flitch of bacon; now there was no
flitch of bacon for there was no musket; let the musket be restored and the
flitch of bacon would soon follow. You will get nothing from your tyrants
but what you can take, and you can take nothing unless you are properly
prepared to do so. In the words of a good man, then, I say 'Arm for peace,
arm for liberty, arm for justice, arm for the rights of all, and the tyrants
will no longer laugh at your petitions'. Remember that.
(3) George Julian
Harney, speech in London on emigration that was reported in the
(5th January, 1850).
George Julian Harney declared that he had no objection to emigration,
providing the right persons were sent away - the idlers and the plunderers.
But he strongly objected to the transportation of the industrious classes.