Benjamin Flower (1755–1829) was an English radical journalist and political writer, and a vocal opponent of his country's involvement in the early stages of the Napoleonic Wars.
He was born in London, the son of a prosperous tradesman, George Flower, and Martha Fuller, sister of William Fuller. Richard Flower, who helped found Albion, Illinois and wrote on the English Settlement in the state, was his brother, and Richard's sons George Flower (cofounder of the Settlement) and Edward Fordham Flower therefore his nephews. His sister Mary married John Clayton.
Flower was given a legacy in 1778, when his father died, but lost the money in speculations. John Clayton took this badly, and blackened Flower's reputation, breaking also the family link. to a share in his father's business. Flower was in business in 1783 with William Creak, a London dealer in tea, but Clayton interfered, and Flower had to take a job as a clerk.
Radical and publisher
From the early 1780s Flower belonged to the Society for Constitutional Information. In 1785 he accepted an engagement to travel in business on the Continent for half the year, spending the other half with the textile Smale & Dennys at Tiverton. He visited the Netherlands, Germany, and Switzerland, and spent six months in France in 1791.
In 1799 Flower was summoned before the House of Lords for an alleged libel on Bishop Richard Watson, whose political conduct he had censured. After a short hearing he was adjudged guilty of a breach of privilege, and sentenced to six months in Newgate Prison and a fine. Flower's attempts to obtain revision of the proceedings by application to the court of king's bench were unsuccessful.
On his release, Flower gave up his newspaper, and established himself in business as a printer at Harlow in Essex. In 1808 he brought a legal action against his cousin John Clayton, junior, winning token damages. In his last years he retired to Dalston. There William Johnson Fox became a family friend, touring the Highlands with the Flowers, after they had been brought together by Southwood Smith.
Flower died at Dalston on 17 February 1829. Fox became guardian to his daughters, eventually at the cost of his own marriage.
An advocate of the French republic, Flower was not a republican at home. His paper was identified by opponents as an organ for Rational Dissent. As a publisher he undertook joint ventures with Joseph Cottle, Joseph Johnson, and Henry Symonds who had published Rights of Man.
In religion Flower was a conservative Unitarian, according to the Dictionary of National Biography. On the other hand E. P. Thompson identifies the Cambridge circle of Coleridge, Flower, and Frend, with George Dyer, John Prior Estlin and Gilbert Wakefield, as "radical Unitarians".
Flower testified to his own background, stating that his father was a deacon at White's Row Meeting-house in Spitalfields, an Independent congregation. St. Andrew's Cambridge, the Baptist Stone-Yard Chapel, was noted for the reformers in its congregation. Flower edited the works of Robert Robinson, the pastor there.
In 1793 Flower became editor of the Cambridge Intelligencer, and held the post to 1803. His brother Richard, a farmer and staunch liberal, had a considerable share in establishing the publication. It was almost the only provincial newspaper in the country which denounced the war with France, and advocated the removal of the grievances of the Dissenters on the broad grounds of religious liberty. The first issue started publishing the Sins of Government by Anna Letitia Barbauld. Flower's hostility to the war was again expressed in National Sins Considered (1796).
Flower carried on a monthly magazine, The Political Register, from 1807 to 1811. His other publications were the Life of Robinson accompanying the works, a preface to his brother Richard's Letters from Illinois, and some pamphlets on family affairs.
He was visited in prison by Eliza Gould, who had herself suffered for her liberal opinions. Shortly after his release he married her. She died in 1810, leaving him two daughters, Sarah Flower Adams and Eliza Flower.
- Timothy D. Whelan, ed. (2008). Politics, Religion and Romance: The Letters of Benjamin Flower and Eliza Gould Flower, 1794–1808. National Library of Wales. p. xiv. ISBN 9781862250703.
- Smith, Adam I. P. "Flower, Benjamin". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/9760. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
- Stephen, Leslie, ed. (1889). "Flower, Edward Fordham". Dictionary of National Biography 19. London: Smith, Elder & Co.
- Celia Morris (1 January 1992). Fanny Wright: Rebel in America. University of Illinois Press. p. 66. ISBN 978-0-252-06249-0.
- Stephen, Leslie, ed. (1887). "Clayton, John (1754-1843)". Dictionary of National Biography 11. London: Smith, Elder & Co.
- Timothy D. Whelan, ed. (2008). Politics, Religion and Romance: The Letters of Benjamin Flower and Eliza Gould Flower, 1794–1808. National Library of Wales. p. xvi. ISBN 9781862250703.
- Timothy D. Whelan, ed. (2008). Politics, Religion and Romance: The Letters of Benjamin Flower and Eliza Gould Flower, 1794–1808. National Library of Wales. p. xvii. ISBN 9781862250703.
- Timothy D. Whelan, ed. (2008). Politics, Religion and Romance: The Letters of Benjamin Flower and Eliza Gould Flower, 1794–1808. National Library of Wales. p. xx. ISBN 9781862250703.
- Stephen, Leslie, ed. (1889). "Flower, Benjamin". Dictionary of National Biography 19. London: Smith, Elder & Co.
- Kenneth R. Johnston (25 July 2013). Unusual Suspects: Pitt's Reign of Alarm and the Lost Generation of the 1790s. Oxford University Press. pp. 355–. ISBN 978-0-19-965780-3.
- Richard Gravil; Lucy Newlyn; Nicholas Roe (1985). Coleridge's Imagination: Essays in Memory of Pete Laver. Cambridge University Press. p. 167. ISBN 978-0-521-03399-2.
- Webb, R. K. "Fox, William Johnson". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/10047. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
- English Dissent. CUP Archive. p. 37. GGKEY:UGD38TZ8G4J.
- Minogue, Ralph A. "Cottle, Joseph". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/6407. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
- Cyril Ehrlich; Christina Bashford; Leanne Langley (2000). Music and British Culture, 1785–1914: Essays in Honor of Cyril Ehrlich. Oxford University Press. p. 124. ISBN 978-0-19-816730-3.
- E. P. Thompson (13 October 1994). Witness Against the Beast: William Blake and the Moral Law. Cambridge University Press. p. 59. ISBN 978-0-521-46977-7.
- Benjamin Flower; Rev. William Clayton; John Clayton (1808). A statement of facts, relative to the conduct of the Reverend John Clayton, Senior, the Reverend John Clayton, Junior, and the Reverend William Clayton: the proceedings on the trial of an action brought by Benjamin Flower against the Reverend John Clayton, Junior, for defamation, with remarks. Printed by B. Flower. p. xi.
- Timothy D. Whelan (2009). Baptist Autographs in the John Rylands University Library of Manchester, 1741–1845. Mercer University Press. p. 440. ISBN 978-0-88146-144-2.
- Flower, Benjamin (1792). The French Constitution; with Remarks on Some of its Principal Articles; in Which Their Importance in a Political, Moral and Religious Point of View, is Illustrated; and the Necessity of a Reformation in Church and State in Great Britain, Enforced (Second ed.). London: G.G.J. and J. Robinson. Retrieved 11 January 2013.
- Timothy D. Whelan (2009). Baptist Autographs in the John Rylands University Library of Manchester, 1741–1845. Mercer University Press. p. 83 note 152. ISBN 978-0-88146-144-2.
- William McCarthy (23 December 2008). Anna Letitia Barbauld: Voice of the Enlightenment. JHU Press. p. 340. ISBN 978-0-8018-9016-1.