CARTWRIGHT, JOHN (1740-1824), English parliamentary reformer, was born at Marnham in Nottinghamshire on the 17th of September 1740, being the elder brother of Edmund Cartwright, inventor of the power-loom. He was educated at Newark grammar school and Heath Academy in Yorkshire, and at the age of eighteen entered the navy. He was present, in his first year of service, at the capture of Cherbourg, and served in the following year in the action between Sir Edward Hawke and Admiral Conflans. Engaged afterwards under Sir Hugh Palliser and Admiral Byron on the Newfoundland station, he was appointed to act as chief magistrate of the settlement; and the duties of this post he discharged for five years (1765-1770). Ill-health necessitated his retirement from active service for a time in 1771. When the disputes with the American colonies began, he saw clearly that the colonists had right on their side, and warmly supported their cause. At the beginning of the war he was offered the appointment of first lieutenant to the duke of Cumberland, which would have put him on the path of certain promotion. But he declined to fight against the cause which he felt to be just. In 1774 he published his first plea on behalf of the colonists, entitled American Independence the Glory and Interest of Great Britain. In the following year, when the Nottinghamshire Militia was first raised, he was appointed major, and in this capacity he served for seventeen years. He was at last illegally superseded, because of his political opinions. In 1776 appeared his first work on reform in parliament, which, with the exception of Earl Stanhope's pamphlets (1774), appears to have been the earliest publication on the subject. It was entitled, Take your Choice - a second edition appearing under the new title of The Legislative Rights of the Commonalty vindicated. The task of his life was thenceforth chiefly the attainment of universal suffrage and annual parliaments. In 1778 he conceived the project of a political association, which took shape in 1780 as the "Society for Constitutional Information," including among its members some of the most distinguished men of the day. From this society sprang the more famous "Corresponding Society." Major Cartwright worked unweariedly for the promotion of reform. He was one of the witnesses on the trial of his friends, Horne Tooke, John Thelwall and Thomas Hardy, in 1794, and was himself indicted for conspiracy in 1819. He was found guilty in the following year, and was condemned to pay a fine of £100. He died in London on the 23rd of September 1824. He had married in 1780, but had no children. In 1831 a monument from a design by Macdowell was erected to him in Burton Crescent where he had lived.
The Life and Correspondence of Major Cartwright, edited by his niece F.D. Cartwright, was published in 1826.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)