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James Watson

For Nobel Laureate and co discoverer of DNA, see James D. WatsonIn 1799, James Watson, who became a much-imprisoned freethought publisher, was born in Yorkshire. As a young worker in Leeds, he joined a radical reading club and became a freethinker. At age 23, Watson moved to London to assist publisher Richard Carlile at his shop, taking over when Carlile was imprisoned in 1822. Carlile had expressly opened the shop to publish and sell periodicals that would challenge "Six Acts," a suppressive law passed in 1819. Watson was arrested in 1823 for selling Elihu Palmer's Principles of Nature, and was sentenced to a year at Coldbath Fields prison for blasphemy. He took advantage of his confinement to read rationalist writers. Released in April 1824, he learned the skills of the printing trade directly from Carlile, and also worked for another radical publisher, Julian Hibbert. In 1827, Watson joined the Owenites (see Robert Owen), and became an agent for Owen' Cooperative Trading Association. In 1830, Watson opened his own publishing house, specializing in hand printed and bound volume-classics by freethinkers such as Thomas Paine, Lord Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley, selling for one shilling each. In 1831, the irreverent publisher organized a feast to counter a government-ordered fast. In 1832, he began publishing Working Man's Friend, an unstamped newspaper (stamp laws had a chilling effect on publishers of newspapers and pamphlets), for which he was sent to prison for 6 months in 1833. For selling Poor Man's Guardian, Watson was imprisoned 6 months in 1834-35. In the 1840s, Watson campaigned against blasphemy laws, and, with George Holyoake, published the anti-Christian journal, The Reasoner. D. 1874.An untaxed and absolutely free press became his main object in later years. He died at Burns College, Hamilton Road, Lower Norwood, on 29 November 1874, and was buried in Norwood cemetery. A grey granite obelisk erected by friends commemorated his "brave efforts to secure the rights of free speech". A photographic portrait was in the Memoir by William James Linton.More: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Wa...
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