Manuscripts and Special Collections

Joseph Sturge (1793-1859; philanthropist and reformer)

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A Quaker, and owner of a grain-importing business in Birmingham, Sturge left the running of the company to his brother after 1831 and dedicated himself to various reformist movements. He organised campaigns to end slavery, travelled in the Caribbean and the United States campaigning for emancipation, founded the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society in 1839, and sent large amounts of money to benefit freed slaves in Jamaica.

In Britain, Sturge was a member of the Anti-Corn Law League. In 1841, he founded the Complete Suffrage Union (CSU), which agitated for votes for all men. It had a more middle-class and nonconformist support base than Feargus O'Connor's National Charter Association.

In 1842 attempts were made to unite the two movements, but despite their substantially common objectives, the conference in December 1842 could not reach agreement and the CSU left, folding soon afterwards. Sturge continued to press for 'complete suffrage' in various unsucessful attempts to be elected to Parliament, including in Nottingham in 1842.

In the 1840s and 1850s, Sturge turned his attention to the peace movement. He organised conferences and travelled abroad to encourage the use of arbitration to solve international problems, and was president of the Peace Society. He also distributed money raised by the Society of Friends (Quakers) to various good causes.


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