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Frost, John

Frost, John, born, on May 25, 1784, at Newport where be became a prosperous draper and tailor. Despite his radical views, published in many local pamphlets, he was elected to that town's first municipal council in 1835 and served as its magistrate, as its mayor (1836-37), as an improvement commissioner, and as a guardian of the poor. To publicise his political opinions, which were largely inspired by the writings and speeches of William Cobbett, he established The Welchman, a left-wing periodical, in 1831.

Frost joined the Chartist movement which attracted a substantial following in Wales at a time of great economic hardship. He associated himself with the more militant wing of the movement and made several inflammatory speeches at its first National Convention in 1839. Frost presided occasionally over the Convention before returning to Newport to lead the more aggressive elements within the organization. These activities culminated in a confrontation with local authorities on the night of 3-4 November 1839, in which approximately 20 Chartists were killed or wounded when the crowd reacted violently to the imprisonment of Henry Vincent, a popular a ctivist. With two other Chartist leaders, Frost was convicted of treason and sentenced to death, but, following considerable Chartist agitation, the Melbourne Cabinet commuted this penalty to exile for life in Tasmania. After being granted a full pardon in 1856, Frost returned to England and, until his death at Stapleton, near Bristol, on July 27, 1877, devoted his last two decades to writing and lecturing, mainly on the horrors of deportation.

Keith A.P. Sandifo rd


Briggs, A. "Chartism in Wales", Chartist Studies (London, 1959).

Cole, G.D.H. Chartist Portraits (New York, 1965).

Hovell L, M. The Chartist Movement (Manchester, 1918).

Schafer, D.F. "John Frost (1784-1877)", Biographical Dictionary of Modern British Radicals (Brighton, 1984), II:211-15.

Thompson, D. The Early Chartists (Columbia, S.C., 1971)

Ward, J.T. Chartism (London, 1973).

Williams, D. John Frost: A Study in Chartism (Cardiff, 1939).

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Holly Johnston revised this file ( on March 5, 1997.

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© 1997 James Chastain.