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Charles Bradlaugh

(1833-1891), Politician; MP for Northampton and freethinker; founder of National Secular Society

Sitter in 18 portraits
Bradlaugh left school at eleven and worked as a clerk to a coal merchant. He enlisted in the army in 1850 and served in Ireland until 1853. On his return to London he became a pamphleteer and writer about 'secularist' ideas under the pseudonym 'Iconoclast'. In 1880 he was elected as an MP, and claimed the right to affirm, a non-religious alternative to taking the Oath of Allegiance, but this was denied. Because all MPs had to take the Oath before taking their seat or voting, he effectively forfeited his seat in Parliament. With the support of his constituency he successfully recontested Northampton four times, and on each occasion pleaded his case to affirm. Finally in 1888 he secured an act to permit parliamentary affirmations.

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