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A memento of Napoleon

Morna Daniels


ON 5 May 1821 Napoleon died in exile on his island prison of St Helena. Amongst those Englishmen particularly affected by the news was John Cam Hobhouse, the eldest son of Sir Benjamin Hobhouse. His mother was a dissenter, and Hobhouse himself had attended a school run by a Unitarian before going on to Westminster. It was not surprising, therefore, that his anti-Establishment sympathies inclined him to radicalism. While an undergraduate at Cambridge he became a close friend of Byron, with whom he travelled to Spain, Albania, Greece and Constantinople. In 1819, supported by Sir Francis Burdett and the radical tailor Francis Place, he unsuccessfully contested Westminster as a radical against George Lamb, the official Whig candidate. In December that year the House of Commons committed him to prison until the end of the session for breach of privilege by his assertion in a pamphlet that only troops prevented Parliament being dissolved by popular protest. Despite this, in the General Election of 1820 he defeated Lamb and was returned for Westminster.

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