John Binns (1772–1860), the son of a Dublin ironmonger, was educated at a local school and then at a classical academy. In 1786, he was apprenticed to a soap-boiler in Dublin. He became actively involved in radical politics when he and his brother moved to London in 1794. Towards the end of 1794, while working as a plumber’s mate, he joined the London Corresponding Society, founded in 1792 to press for parliamentary reform. This was the most democratic of all the reform societies, charging a subscription of 1d. per week and thus drawing its members from all ranks of society. When Binns became a member the Corresponding Society was just overcoming the crisis of the 1794 treason trials, which led to the resignation of several of its founding members after they were imprisoned, tried, and acquitted. Binns rapidly became one of the next generation of leaders, acting as chairman of the general committee for six months and chairing the mass meeting held at Copenhagen Fields on 26 October 1795. Other newly prominent figures in the Corresponding Society included the journeyman tailor Francis Place (see pp. 273–4), whose programme of self-improvement Binns shared: he visited Place in the evenings to read aloud while Place continued to work. One of the books they read together in this way was Political Justice. During the popular agitation against the Two Bills to prohibit ‘Treasonable Practices’ and ‘Seditious Meetings’, introduced in November 1795 with the aim of suppressing the reform movement as a whole, Binns also took part in the meetings of radical debating societies in London. In 1796 he was sent as a Corresponding Society delegate to Birmingham, where he was arrested for sedition and held in jail for over a year. After his trial and acquittal in August 1797, he left the Corresponding Society, but continued to associate with radicals and subsequently joined the United Irishmen. In 1798 he was tried for high treason and acquitted, and in 1799 he was arrested again and held without charge until early 1801. The following July he sailed for America, where he remained for the rest of his life, becoming an influential newspaper editor in Pennsylvania.