Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Beales, Edmond

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BEALES, EDMOND (1803–1881), political agitator, was born at Newnham, a suburb of Cambridge, on 3 July 1803, being a son of Samuel Pickering Beales, a merchant who acquired local celebrity as a political reformer. He was educated at the grammar school of Bury St. Edmunds, and next at Eton, whence he proceeded to Trinity College, Cambridge, where he was elected to a scholarship (B.A. 1825, M.A.. 1828). Called to the bar at the Middle Temple in 1830, he practised as an equity draughtsman and conveyancer. For several years he greatly interested himself in foreign politics. He promoted the earliest demonstration on behalf of the Polish refugees, was a member of the Polish Exiles' Friends Society, and of the Literary Association of the Friends of Poland; was president of the Polish National League, and chairman of the Circassian Committee; a member of the Emancipation Society during the American civil war, of the Jamaica Committee under Mr. James Stuart Mill, and of the Garibaldi Committee. It was in connection with Garibaldi's visit to England in 1864 that Beales's name first became known to the general public. He then maintained the right of the people to meet on Primrose Hill, and a conflict with the police occurred. At that time he published a pamphlet on the right of public meeting, but it was as president of the Reform League that Beales became best known. In 1864 a great political agitation in connection with trade societies was begun. The first public meeting of the association was held in the Freemasons' Tavern under the presidency of Beales, who from that time till his promotion to the judicial bench was identified with the principles of manhood suffrage and the ballot. In 1865 the association developed itself under the name of the Reform League. The Reform Bill introduced by Earl Russell's government in 1866 was heartily supported by the league, and after the rejection of that measure by the House of Commons the league renewed its agitation for manhood suffrage and the ballot. Then followed gigantic meetings in Trafalgar Square, which the conservative government vainly endeavoured to suppress. Sir Richard Mayne, the first commissioner of police, issued a notice to the effect that the meeting announced for 2 July 1866 would not be permitted. Beales, however, stated his determination to attend the meeting, and to hold the government responsible for all breaches of the peace. This step led Sir Richard Mayne to withdraw the prohibition, and the meeting of 69,000 persons was held without a single breach of the law. Then came the memorable 23 July, and the immense gathering near the gates of Hyde Park, when Beales displayed great courage and coolness. While he and the other leaders were returning from the Marble Arch to Trafalgar Square, the mob pushed down the iron railings surrounding the park, which they entered in large numbers, but they were eventually driven out by the combined efforts of the military and the police. The following day Beales had an interview with Mr. Spencer Walpole, the home secretary, and afterwards proceeded to the park and caused intimation to be given that no further attempt would be made to hold a meeting there 'except only on next Monday afternoon (30 July) at six o'clock, by arrangement with the government.' The mission of the league was virtually at an end when Mr. Disraeli's Reform Bill passed in 1867. Beales resigned the presidency on 10 March 1869, and three days later the league was formally dissolved. Beales was a revising barrister for Middlesex from 1862 to 1866, when, in consequence of the active part he had taken in political agitation, the lord chief justice, Sir Alexander Cockburn, declined to reappoint him. Mr. Beales was an unsuccessful candidate for the Tower Hamlets in 1868. In September 1870 Lord Chancellor Hatherley appointed him judge of the county court circuit No. 35, comprising Cambridgeshire and Huntingdonshire. He died at his residence, Osborne House, Bolton Gardens, London, on 26 June 1881.

He published various pamphlets on Poland and Circassia, and on parliamentary reform; also a work on the Reform Act of 1867.

[Men of the Time (1879); Times, 28 June 1881; Irving's Annals of our Time; Annual Register, 1866. pp. 98-102; McCarthy's Hist. of our own Times, iii. 360, iv. 80, 84.]

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