John Frost (Chartist)

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John Frost (25 May 1784, Newport, Monmouthshire — 27 July 1877, Stapleton, Bristol) was a prominent Welsh leader of the British Chartist movement in the Newport Rising.

John Frost's father, also John, kept the "Royal Oak Inn", in Thomas Street, Newport [1] (a blue plaque honouring Frost's birthplace is located on the side of the old Post Office in the High Street, marking the approximate street location). John was mainly brought up as an orphan by his grandfather, a bootmaker, He was apprenticed to a woollen draper in Bristol and was later a shopman in London. Frost's political affiliations were greatly influenced by Thomas Paine and William Cobbett. John and Sarah Frost worshipped at Hope Baptist Chapel, situated behind the present day Commercial Street and Skinner Street and their eight children were all baptized there.[1]

Frost's mother Sarah died early in his childhood and he was brought up by his grandparents. He was apprenticed as a bootmaker to his grandfather and left home at the age of sixteen to become a draper's apprentice and tailor, first in Cardiff, then Bristol and later London. He returned to Newport in 1806 to start his own business, which became prosperous. He married a widow Mary Geach in 1812 and over the course of eleven years they had eight children. He was held in great esteem and affection for his appealing character, sense of justice, selflessness, consistency, principles and democratism.

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Political career

In 1821, Frost became embroiled in a dispute with a Newport solicitor, Thomas Prothero, who was also Town Clerk, over his uncle's will. In a letter Frost accused Prothero of being responsible for the former's exclusion from the will. Prothero sued for libel and Frost was ordered to pay £1,000. Frost then accused Prothero of malpractice. Again, Prothero sued for libel and again won. In February 1823, Frost was imprisoned for six months and told in no uncertain terms that further accusations against Prothero would lead to a longer sentence.

After his release Frost turned his anger against Prothero's friends and business partners, notably Sir Charles Morgan of Tredegar House and Park, a major Newport and South Wales landowner and industrialist. In a pamphlet of 1830, he accused Morgan of mistreating his many tenants and advocated electoral reform as a means of bringing Morgan and others like him to account. An appreciation both of Frost's literary skill and his mounting exasperation can be gained easily from a consideration of his early letters, to Sir Charles Morgan himself amongst many others[2] In the early 1830s Frost increasingly became a champion of universal suffrage.

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