On 8th May 1919 John Maclean stood before Edinburgh’s High Court charged with sedition. His speech from the dock has since been immortalised as a defining moment of a distinct Scottish radical tradition. Maclean’s stand has come to symbolise, in his own terms, “working class morality” against the “capitalist morality” of the imperial state which was fighting the Great War at home and abroad. The Scottish Labour History Society is republishing the speech from the dock to mark its centenary. One hundred years on, Maclean’s revolutionary rhetoric and life deserve an appraisal that extends beyond the hagiographic story of martyrdom which has enthused a diverse spectrum of the Scottish left in the last century.
The text of the speech is accompanied by two essays – based on original research – which contextualise Maclean to reveal the complex development of a political outlook which was shaped by family, religion, class, nationhood and imprisonment. An introduction and concluding essay are themed around understanding Maclean from a twenty-first century vantage, underlining the personal and collective cost of his relentless and self-sacrificing activism.