Flash for Freedom!

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Flash for Freedom!
First edition cover
AuthorGeorge MacDonald Fraser
Cover artistArthur Barbosa
CountryUnited Kingdom
GenreHistorical novel
PublisherBarrie & Jenkins
Publication date
Media typePrint (Hardback & Paperback)
LC ClassPZ4.F8418 Ro PR6056.R287
Preceded byRoyal Flash 
Followed byFlashman at the Charge 

Flash for Freedom! is a 1971 novel by George MacDonald Fraser. It is the third of the Flashman novels.

Plot introduction[edit]

Presented within the frame of the supposedly discovered historical Flashman Papers, this book describes the bully Flashman from Tom Brown's School Days. The papers are attributed to Flashman, who is not only the bully featured in Thomas Hughes' novel, but also a well-known Victorian military hero. The book begins with an explanatory note detailing the discovery of these papers and also discussing the supposed controversy over their authenticity. A reference is made to an article in The New York Times from 29 July 1969, which puts these claims to rest. Fraser hints that the article supports the papers' authenticity, although the opposite is true.

Flash for Freedom begins with Flashman considering an attempt at being made a Member of Parliament and continues through his involvement in the Atlantic slave trade, the Underground Railroad, and meeting a future president, detailing his life from 1848 to 1849. It also contains a number of notes by Fraser, in the guise of editor, giving additional historical information on the events described.

Plot summary[edit]

From Dahomey to the slave state of Mississippi, Flashman has cause to regret a game of pontoon with Benjamin Disraeli and Lord George Bentinck. From his ambition for a seat in the House of Commons, he has to settle instead for a role in the West African slave trade, under the command of Captain John Charity Spring, a Latin-spouting madman. Captured by the United States Navy, Flashman has to talk his way out of prison by assuming the first of his many false identities in America. After a visit to Washington, D.C., he escapes his Navy protectors in New Orleans and hides in a brothel run by an amorous madame, Susie Willinck. He is again taken into custody, this time by members of the Underground Railroad. Travelling up the Mississippi River with a fugitive slave ends badly once again, and the rest of the story has Flashman as a slave driver on a plantation, a potential slave himself, and a slave stealer fleeing from vigilantes; on the run, he meets, and is assisted by, Abraham Lincoln (still a junior congressman at the time). Eventually he ends up back in New Orleans at the mercy of Spring. This story is continued in Flashman and the Redskins.

At the end of the novel, Flashman claims that his escape with Cassy across the Ohio River was the inspiration for the anti-slavery novel, Uncle Tom's Cabin, with the names altered and the story focusing on the slave Cassy rather than Flashman.


Fictional characters[edit]

  • Harry Flashman - The hero or anti-hero.
  • John Morrison - Harry's Scottish father-in-law and wealthy mill-owner. An unattractive example of the Victorian capitalist class. The future Lord Paisley repeatedly laments the financial cost of his daughter's marriage while making use of Flashman's relatively high social status and popular fame. In "Flash for Freedom" he contrives to have his unwanted son-in-law shipped out of England to serve as supercargo on a slave ship.
  • Captain John Charity Spring M.A. - The formidable and eccentric captain of the Balliol College, a slave ship owned in part by Morrison. He continually utters Latin phrases (conveniently translated by Fraser). Spring reappears in Flashman and the Redskins and finally as a wealthy Cape Colony landowner in Flashman and the Angel of the Lord, where he settles his outstanding grievances against Flashman by having the latter kidnapped. By 1894 Spring is referred to as having "long gone to his account"; in Flashman and the Tiger.
  • Lady Caroline Lamb - A slave transported by the Balliol College whom Flashman "covers" and to whom he teaches some English and (to startle Spring) Latin phrases. Flashman gives her the name of a famous British aristocrat.
  • Susie Willinck - A New Orleans madame with whom Flashman hides out on his escape from the Naval authorities.
  • Cassy - A young female slave who helps Flashman escape from his imprisoners in Mississippi. Courageous and passionate she bemuses Flashman by her mixed judgments of his character.
  • George Randolph - An educated and intelligent quadroon who twice attempts to organize slave risings in the South. The anti-slavery underground railroad movement manipulates Flashman into escorting the fugitive Randolph to freedom in Ohio. The equally conceited and self-centered duo detest each other. Randolph is presumed dead after falling overboard from a Mississippi steamboat, but is reported as having reached Canada alive at the end of the novel

Historical characters[edit]

  • Benjamin Disraeli - The future Prime Minister, who Flashman calls a "cocky little sheeny". Although casually insulted by Flashman at Cleeve House, Disraeli is subsequently one of the few persons present to question his guilt as a card-cheat.
  • Lord George Bentinck
  • Fanny Locke
  • William Ewart Gladstone
  • King Gezo - King of Dahomey. Spring deals with him for slaves.
  • Dahomey Amazons - The army of King Gezo who butcher a small number of Spring's crew.
  • Abraham Lincoln - Future President of the United States. Flashman describes him as "an unusually tall man, with the ugliest face you ever saw, deep dark eye sockets and a chin like a coffin" and says, "just why I liked him I couldn't say; I suppose in his way he had the makings of as big a scoundrel as I am myself".


Fraser says the idea for the climactic trial sequence came from his wife.[1]


  1. ^ Fraser, George MacDonald (2002). The Light's On at Signpost. HarperCollins. p. 309. ISBN 978-0-00713-646-9.