Dictionary of National Biography, 1912 supplement/Pratt, Hodgson

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1548048Dictionary of National Biography, 1912 supplement, Volume 3 — Pratt, Hodgson1912William Benjamin Owen

PRATT, HODGSON (1824–1907), peace advocate, born at Bath on 10 Jan. 1824, was eldest of five sons of Samuel Peace Pratt by his wife Susanna Martha Hodgson (d. 1875). After education at Haileybury College (1844–6), where he won a prize for English essay in his first term, he matriculated at London University in 1844. In 1847 he joined the East India Company's service at Calcutta, subsequently becoming under-secretary to the government of Bengal and inspector of public instruction there.

While in India Pratt showed much sympathy with the natives, stimulating the educational and social development of the province of Bengal, and urging on the Bengalis closer relations with English life and thought. In 1851 he helped to found the 'Vernacular Literature Society' which published Bengali translations of standard English literature, including Macaulay's 'Life of Clive,' 'Robinson Crusoe,' Lamb's 'Tales from Shakespeare,' and selections from the 'Percy Anecdotes' (see Reports of Transactions, 1854–7). Pratt acted as secretary till 1856. He also started a school of industrial art. In 1857 Pratt was at home on leave and at the close of that year he contributed to the 'Economist' articles and letters dealing with Indian questions, social, political, educational, and religious, which were published collectively in a pamphlet. The spread of the Indian Mutiny recalled Pratt hurriedly to India, which he left finally in 1861.

Settling in England Pratt immediately threw himself into the industrial co-operative movement, in association with Vansittart Neale, Tom Hughes, and George Jacob Holyoake. He met Henry Solly in 1864 and became a member of the council of the Working Men's Club and Institute Union (founded by Solly in June 1862). In its interest he travelled up and down the country, encouraging struggling branches and forming new ones (see Pratt's Notes of a Tour among Clubs, 1872). He was president from 1885 to 1902. With Solly he also started trade classes for workmen in St. Martin's Lane in 1874. In 1867 he was a vice-president with Auberon Herbert, W. E. Forster, George Joachim Goschen, and others of the Paris Excursion Committee, through whose efforts over 3000 British workmen visited the Paris Exhibition of that year (see Pratt's preface to Modern Industries: Reports by 12 British Workmen of the Paris Exhibition, 1868).

At the same time Pratt, who had a perfect command of French, was an ardent champion of international arbitration. On the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian war of 1870 he pleaded for the peaceful settlement of the dispute. Two years later he joined in an appeal to M. Thiers, the French premier, for the release of Elisée Reclus, the geographer, who had thrown in his lot with the Commune, and had been taken prisoner (Eugene Oswald, Reminiscences of a Busy Life, pp. 518–21). In 1880 he joined William Phillips and others in founding the International Arbitration and Peace Association, becoming first chairman of the executive committee. Four years later (1 July 1884) he founded, and for some time edited, the association's ‘Journal’ (still continued under the title of ‘Concord’). In behalf of the association he visited nearly all the countries of Europe and helped largely in the formation of many kindred Continental societies—in Belgium, Italy, Germany, Austria, and Hungary. He took part in many international peace congresses at Paris and elsewhere from 1889 onwards. For the association Pratt translated Elie Ducommun's ‘The Programme of the Peace Movement’ (1896) and he summarised in English Descamps's ‘The Organisation of International Arbitration’ (1897). Pratt's persuasive advocacy of international arbitration and industrial co-operation bore good fruit, and his work was appreciated by governments and peoples at home and abroad. But his disinterested and retiring disposition withheld from him any general fame. On his friends' recommendation his claims to the Nobel Peace Prize were considered in Dec. 1906, when the award was made to Theodore Roosevelt. A few years before his death Pratt grew convinced that the only complete solution of industrial and social problems lay in socialism.

Pratt, who suffered much from defective eyesight, spent the last years of his life at Le Pecq, Seine et Oise, France, where he died on 26 Feb. 1907. He was buried in Highgate cemetery. He married (1) in 1849 Sarah Caroline Wetherall, daughter of an Irish squire; and (2) in 1892 Monica, daughter of the Rev. James Mangan, D.D., LL.D. She survived him with one daughter. A portrait in oils by Mr. Felix Moscheles hangs at the Club and Institute Union, Clerkenwell Road, London. The Annual Hodgson Pratt Memorial Lecture and travelling scholarship for working men, as well as prizes, were established in 1911.

[Concord, March 1907; The Times, 5 March and 14 Nov. 1907; Henry Solly, These Eighty Years, 1893, ii. 243–4, 434 seq.; B. T. Hall, Our Fifty Years (Jubilee History of the Working Men's Club), 1912; Frédéric Passy, Pour la paix, 1909, p. 113; Memorials of Old Haileybury College, 1894; information from Mr. J. F. Green and Mr. J. J. Dent.]

W. B. O.