Charles James Simmons Essay

Charles James Simmons Essay

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Simmons, Charles James (1893-1875), politician and evangelical preacher, was born on 9 April 1893 at 30 Brighton Road, Mosley, Birmingham. His father, James Henry Simmons (1867-1941), was a master painter and his mother, Mary Jane (1872-1958), a schoolteacher. They were Primitive Methodists, temperance advocates, and Liberals. His maternal grandfather, Charles Henry Russell (1846-1918), a Liberal, Primitive Methodist lay preacher and friend of Joseph Arch (leader of the Agricultural Labourers’ Union and MP), shared the family home. Simmons described him as ‘the greatest influence during my formative years’, the well-spring of the religious and political activism that was to characterize his career (Simmons, 6). Educated at Board schools, Simmons left formal education at the age of fourteen for employment in an assortment of jobs, including a tailor’s porter, telegraph messenger and salesman.
Visiting absent Sunday-school scholars with his aunt, Simmons was deeply affected by the squalid conditions in which some lived. He concluded that the causes of poverty were deeper and more complex than the temperance movement allowed. Aged sixteen, he confirmed his commitment to Primitive Methodism by becoming a lay preacher. His allegiance to evangelical religion and preaching never wavered. Converted to socialism at Birmingham’s Digbeth ‘model’ parliament in 1909, he was greatly influence by the oratory and Christian Socialism of George Lansbury. Rejecting Marxism, he embraced the ‘warm, human, inspiring’ variety of socialism he recognized in the Independent Labour Party (ILP) and the Labour Churches (Simmons, 17). Churchill’s deployment of troops to Birmingham during the 1911 Transport Strike completed Simmons’ alienation from the L...

... middle of paper ... Simmons died aged 82 on 11 August 1975.

Works Cited

George J. Barnsby, Socialism in Birmingham and the Black Country: 1850-1939 (Wolverhampton: Integrated Publishing Services, 1977). David Englander, ‘The National Union of Ex-Servicemen and the Labour Movement, 1918-1920’, History, February 1991, Volume 76, Issue 246, pp. 24-42. Hansard, Parliamentary Debates, 30 November 1954, col 54 and 18 March 1930 col 2050 – 2052. David Howell, ‘Simmons, Charles James ‘Jim’ (1893-1973), Dictionary of Labour Biography, Vol XIII (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010), pp. 339-352. Michael Hughes, ‘The Development of Methodist Pacifism’, Proceedings of the Wesley Historical Society, Volume 53, October 2002, pp. 203 - 215. Jim Simmons, Soapbox Evangelist (Chichester: Janay Publishing Company, 1972). The Times (London, England), 20 Mar 1930, 8 Feb 1949, 19 Aug 1975.

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