Published In

Victorian Review

Document Type

Working Paper

Publication Date

1991

Subjects

lawyers; liberalism; capitalism; nineteenth century; legal history; marxism; chartists; working class; bond; miners; Christianity

Abstract

This essay assesses the history of one of Britain's most important lawyers for the working class through a critical review of Raymond Challinor's ground-breaking work. The life of W. P. Roberts spanned crucial decades of the nineteenth Century. Admitted to the lower branch of the legal profession in Bath in 1827 W. P. Roberts converted from Toryism in the first decade of his professional life to emerge as a leading figure in the Bath Working Men's Association by 1837. Apparently motivated by a deeply-held Christian belief in an essential human dignity, Roberts' consistently employed the law as a shield in the defence of working people, a platform from which to denounce injustice, a prod with which to encourage collective action, and a weapon with which to bludgeon the perpetrators of injustice. Variously he was a local activist in Bath and Wiltshire (1837-), delegate to Chartist conventions, political prisoner, solicitor to Karl Marx, lawyer for the Northumberland and Durham miners' county unions (1843), and lawyer for the Lancashire Miner's Association (1845-).

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