GERRALD, Joseph (1763-1796)

GERRALD, Joseph (1763-1796)
political reformer, one of the "Scottish Martyrs"
was born in the West Indies on 9 February 1763. (Dict.Nat.Biog.) He was educated in England at Stanmore school, under Dr Parr, where he showed much promise. He inherited a somewhat involved estate from his father, married young, and was left a widower with two young children. He was in America for some years and practised as an advocate at Philadelphia. Returning to England, Gerrald was fired by the hopes raised by the French Revolution and joined the movement for political reform. In 1793 he published a pamphlet A Convention the Only Means of Saving Us from Ruin. In this he stated that the influence of 162 men returned 306 of the 573 members of the house of commons. He advocated that a convention should be elected that would really represent the people of Great Britain, and that there should be universal suffrage in the election of delegates. There was no machinery for carrying out his plans even if they met with general approval, but in November 1793 the "British Convention of the Delegates of the People associated to obtain Universal Suffrage and Annual Parliaments" met at Edinburgh. The delegates represented various political societies of the day in Scotland and England. The aims of the convention were most moderate, but Gerrald and others were arrested, and in March 1794 he was tried for sedition. It was felt that the case was prejudiced, and while out on bail Gerrald had been urged to escape, but he considered that his honour was pledged. At his trial at Edinburgh he made an admirable speech in defence of his actions, but was condemned to 14 years transportation. The apparent courtesy and consideration with which the trial was conducted could not conceal the real prejudice which ruled the proceedings. Gerrald was imprisoned in London until May 1795, when he was hurried on board the storeship Sovereign about to sail for Sydney. He arrived there on 5 November 1795. He was then in a poor state of health and was allowed to buy a small house and garden in which he lived. He died of a rapid consumption on 16 March 1796.
Gerrald was a man of great ability and eloquence who, sustained by his belief in the rights of mankind, willingly gave up his life to his cause. In the account of his death David Collins (q.v.) speaks of his "strong enlightened mind" and that he went to his death "glorying in being a martyr to the cause which he termed that of Freedom and considering as an honour that exile which brought him to an untimely grave". (An Account of the English Colony in New South Wales, 1798, p. 469). He was buried in the plot of land he had bought at Farm Cove and his name appears on the monument on Carlton Hill at Edinburgh. His son Joseph was provided for by Dr. Parr. Of Gerrald's associates, Muir and Palmer are noticed separately. William Skirving who was secretary to the convention was a Scotchman, a man of good character, educated originally for the church. He was sent to Sydney with Muir and Palmer leaving behind a wife and several children. He also was not treated as a convict and was allowed to take up land at Sydney which he tried to farm with little success. He died three days after Gerrald. Collins says of him "A dysentery was the apparent cause of his death, but his heart was broken". Maurice Margarot the least worthy of these men was the only one to return to Great Britain where he died in 1815.
Gerrald a Fragment; W. Field, Memoirs of the Life, Writings and Opinions of the Rev. Samuel Parr, vol. I; Lord Cockburn, An Examination of the Trials for Sedition Which Have Hitherto Occurred in Scotland; Historical Records of New South Wales, vol. II, pp. 821-86; Historical Records of Australia, ser. I, vol. I, pp. 568 and 771; J. A. Ferguson, Bibliography of Australia, vol. I, especially pp. 75-7; Edward Smith, The Story of the English Jacobins.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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  • Joseph Gerrald — (9 February 1763 – 16 March 1796) was a political reformer, one of the Scottish Martyrs .Early lifeGerrald was born on Saint Kitts, in the West Indies, the only son of an Irish planter. Gerrald was educated in England at Stanmore school, under Dr …   Wikipedia

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