Chartism

Chartism

Overview
Chartism was a movement for political and social
Society
A society, or a human society, is a group of people related to each other through persistent relations, or a large social grouping sharing the same geographical or virtual territory, subject to the same political authority and dominant cultural expectations...

 reform
Reform movement
A reform movement is a kind of social movement that aims to make gradual change, or change in certain aspects of society, rather than rapid or fundamental changes...

 in the United Kingdom
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland was the formal name of the United Kingdom during the period when what is now the Republic of Ireland formed a part of it....

 during the mid-19th century, between 1838 and 1859. It takes its name from the People's Charter of 1838. Chartism was possibly the first mass working class
Working class
Working class is a term used in the social sciences and in ordinary conversation to describe those employed in lower tier jobs , often extending to those in unemployment or otherwise possessing below-average incomes...

 labour movement
Labour movement
The term labour movement or labor movement is a broad term for the development of a collective organization of working people, to campaign in their own interest for better treatment from their employers and governments, in particular through the implementation of specific laws governing labour...

 in the world. Its leaders have often been described as either "physical force" or "moral force" leaders, depending upon their attitudes to violent protest
Protest
A protest is an expression of objection, by words or by actions, to particular events, policies or situations. Protests can take many different forms, from individual statements to mass demonstrations...

. Chartists were largely unsuccessful at convincing Parliament to reform the voting system of the mid-19th century; however, this movement caught the interest of the working class.
Discussion
Ask a question about 'Chartism'
Start a new discussion about 'Chartism'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum
 
Unanswered Questions
Recent Discussions
Encyclopedia
Chartism was a movement for political and social
Society
A society, or a human society, is a group of people related to each other through persistent relations, or a large social grouping sharing the same geographical or virtual territory, subject to the same political authority and dominant cultural expectations...

 reform
Reform movement
A reform movement is a kind of social movement that aims to make gradual change, or change in certain aspects of society, rather than rapid or fundamental changes...

 in the United Kingdom
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland was the formal name of the United Kingdom during the period when what is now the Republic of Ireland formed a part of it....

 during the mid-19th century, between 1838 and 1859. It takes its name from the People's Charter of 1838. Chartism was possibly the first mass working class
Working class
Working class is a term used in the social sciences and in ordinary conversation to describe those employed in lower tier jobs , often extending to those in unemployment or otherwise possessing below-average incomes...

 labour movement
Labour movement
The term labour movement or labor movement is a broad term for the development of a collective organization of working people, to campaign in their own interest for better treatment from their employers and governments, in particular through the implementation of specific laws governing labour...

 in the world. Its leaders have often been described as either "physical force" or "moral force" leaders, depending upon their attitudes to violent protest
Protest
A protest is an expression of objection, by words or by actions, to particular events, policies or situations. Protests can take many different forms, from individual statements to mass demonstrations...

. Chartists were largely unsuccessful at convincing Parliament to reform the voting system of the mid-19th century; however, this movement caught the interest of the working class. The working class interest in politics from that point on aided later suffrage movements.

Origin


Chartism followed earlier Radical
Radicalism (historical)
The term Radical was used during the late 18th century for proponents of the Radical Movement. It later became a general pejorative term for those favoring or seeking political reforms which include dramatic changes to the social order...

 movements, such as the Friends of the People Society
Friends of the People Society
The Society of the Friends of the People was formed in Great Britain by Whigs at the end of the 18th century as part of a movement seeking radical political reform that would widen electoral enfranchisement at a time when only a wealthy minority had the vote...

 and the Birmingham Political Union
Birmingham Political Union
The Birmingham Political Union was a political organisation in Great Britain during the early nineteenth century. Founded by Thomas Attwood, its original purpose was to campaign in favour of extending and redistributing suffrage rights to the working class of the kind set out in the Reform Bill of...

 which demanded a widening of the franchise
Suffrage
Suffrage, political franchise, or simply the franchise, distinct from mere voting rights, is the civil right to vote gained through the democratic process...

, and came after the passing of the Reform Act 1832
Reform Act 1832
The Representation of the People Act 1832 was an Act of Parliament that introduced wide-ranging changes to the electoral system of England and Wales...

, which gave the vote
Voting
Voting is a method for a group such as a meeting or an electorate to make a decision or express an opinion—often following discussions, debates, or election campaigns. It is often found in democracies and republics.- Reasons for voting :...

 to a section of the male middle class
Middle class
The middle class is any class of people in the middle of a societal hierarchy. In Weberian socio-economic terms, the middle class is the broad group of people in contemporary society who fall socio-economically between the working class and upper class....

es, but not to the working class
Working class
Working class is a term used in the social sciences and in ordinary conversation to describe those employed in lower tier jobs , often extending to those in unemployment or otherwise possessing below-average incomes...

 which was then, because of social and industrial conditions, emerging from artisan
Artisan
An artisan is a skilled manual worker who makes items that may be functional or strictly decorative, including furniture, clothing, jewellery, household items, and tools...

 and labouring classes. Many Radicals made speeches
Public speaking
Public speaking is the process of speaking to a group of people in a structured, deliberate manner intended to inform, influence, or entertain the listeners...

 asserting the betrayal of the working class and the sacrificing of their interests by the misconduct of the government, in conjunction with this model.

Chartism included a wide range of organisations. Hence it can be seen as not so much a movement as an era in popular politics in Britain. Dorothy Thompson
Dorothy Thompson (historian)
Dorothy Katharine Gane Thompson was a social historian, a leading expert on the Chartist movement. She entered Girton College, Cambridge, in 1942. During the war, her work as an industrial draughtswoman for Royal Dutch Shell interrupted her formal education...

 described the theme of her book The Chartists as the time when "thousands of working people considered that their problems could be solved by the political organisation of the country."

People's Charter of 1838


In 1837, six Members of Parliament
Member of Parliament
A Member of Parliament is a representative of the voters to a :parliament. In many countries with bicameral parliaments, the term applies specifically to members of the lower house, as upper houses often have a different title, such as senate, and thus also have different titles for its members,...

 and six working men, including William Lovett
William Lovett
William Lovett was a British activist who was a leader of the political movement Chartism as well as one of the leading London-based Artisan Radicals of his generation....

, (from the London Working Men's Association
London Working Men's Association
The London Working Men's Association was an organization established in London in 1836. It was one of the foundations of Chartism. The founders were William Lovett, Francis Place and Henry Hetherington. They appealed to skilled workers rather than the mass of unskilled factory labourers...

, set up in 1836) formed a committee, which then published the People's Charter in 1838. This stipulated the six main aims of the movement as:
  1. A vote
    Suffrage
    Suffrage, political franchise, or simply the franchise, distinct from mere voting rights, is the civil right to vote gained through the democratic process...

     for every man twenty-one years of age, of sound mind, and not undergoing punishment for crime.
  2. The secret ballot
    Secret ballot
    The secret ballot is a voting method in which a voter's choices in an election or a referendum are anonymous. The key aim is to ensure the voter records a sincere choice by forestalling attempts to influence the voter by intimidation or bribery. The system is one means of achieving the goal of...

    . - To protect the elector in the exercise of his vote.
  3. No property qualification for members of Parliament
    Parliament of the United Kingdom
    The Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is the supreme legislative body in the United Kingdom, British Crown dependencies and British overseas territories, located in London...

     - thus enabling the constituencies
    United Kingdom constituencies
    In the United Kingdom , each of the electoral areas or divisions called constituencies elects one or more members to a parliament or assembly.Within the United Kingdom there are now five bodies with members elected by constituencies:...

     to return the man of their choice, be he rich or poor.
  4. Payment of members
    Salaries of Members of the United Kingdom Parliament
    The current basic annual salary for an MP in the United Kingdom is £65,738. In addition, MPs are able claim allowances to cover the costs of running an office and employing staff, and maintaining a constituency residence and a residence in London...

    , thus enabling an honest tradesman, working man, or other person, to serve a constituency, when taken from his business to attend to the interests of the Country.
  5. Equal Constituencies, securing the same amount of representation for the same number of electors, instead of allowing small constituencies to swamp the votes of large ones.
  6. Annual parliaments, thus presenting the most effectual check to bribery
    Bribery
    Bribery, a form of corruption, is an act implying money or gift giving that alters the behavior of the recipient. Bribery constitutes a crime and is defined by Black's Law Dictionary as the offering, giving, receiving, or soliciting of any item of value to influence the actions of an official or...

     and intimidation
    Intimidation
    Intimidation is intentional behavior "which would cause a person of ordinary sensibilities" fear of injury or harm. It's not necessary to prove that the behavior was so violent as to cause terror or that the victim was actually frightened.Criminal threatening is the crime of intentionally or...

    , since though a constituency might be bought once in seven years (even with the ballot), no purse could buy a constituency (under a system of universal suffrage) in each ensuing twelve-month; and since members, when elected for a year only, would not be able to defy and betray their constituents as now.

The first wave


When these demands were first published in May, 1838, they received a lukewarm response from Northern Star
Northern Star (chartist newspaper)
The Northern Star and Leeds General Advertiser was a chartist newspaper published in the United Kingdom between 1837 and 1852.-Foundation:Feargus O'Connor, a former Irish MP forging a career in English radical politics, decided to establish a weekly newspaper in 1837...

's Feargus O'Connor
Feargus O'Connor
Feargus Edward O'Connor was an Irish Chartist leader and advocate of the Land Plan.- Background :Feargus O'Connor was born into a prominent Irish Protestant family, the son of Irish Nationalist politician Roger O'Connor...

 and other Radical
Radicalism (historical)
The term Radical was used during the late 18th century for proponents of the Radical Movement. It later became a general pejorative term for those favoring or seeking political reforms which include dramatic changes to the social order...

s, being seen as too moderate (Thompson, 1984, p. 58). But it soon became clear that the charter had struck a chord among common people. A large meeting was held on Kersal Moor
Kersal Moor
Kersal Moor is a recreation area in Kersal, within the City of Salford, in Greater Manchester, England, consisting of eight hectares of moorland, bounded by Moor Lane, Heathlands Road, St...

, Kersal
Kersal
Kersal is an inner city area of Salford, in Greater Manchester, England. The centre of Kersal is northwest of Manchester city centre, and north-northwest of Salford's conventional centre at Greengate....

 near Salford, Lancashire
Lancashire
Lancashire is a non-metropolitan county of historic origin in the North West of England. It takes its name from the city of Lancaster, and is sometimes known as the County of Lancaster. Although Lancaster is still considered to be the county town, Lancashire County Council is based in Preston...

 on 24 September 1838 which attracted a large crowd to listen to speakers from all over the country. Speaking in favour of universal suffrage Joseph Rayner Stephens was quoted as saying that Chartism was a "knife and fork, a bread and cheese question"

Dorothy Thompson quotes John Bates as saying:
There were [radical] associations all over the county, but there was a great lack of cohesion. One wanted the ballot, another manhood suffrage and so on... The radicals were without unity of aim and method, and there was but little hope of accomplishing anything. When, however, the People's Charter was drawn up... clearly defining the urgent demands of the working class, we felt we had a real bond of union; and so transformed our Radical Association into local Chartist centres...


The movement organised a convention of 50 to facilitate the presentation of the petition. This met in London from February, 1839 until May, when it moved to Birmingham. Though they took pains to keep within the law, the more radical activists were able to see it as the embryo of an alternative parliament (John Charlton, The Chartists p. 19). The convention called for a number of "ulterior measures" which ranged from calling on their supporters to withdraw their money from saving banks to a call for a "Sacred Month" (in effect, a general strike
General strike
A general strike is a strike action by a critical mass of the labour force in a city, region, or country. While a general strike can be for political goals, economic goals, or both, it tends to gain its momentum from the ideological or class sympathies of the participants...

). Meetings were held around the country and in June, 1839 a large petition
Petition
A petition is a request to do something, most commonly addressed to a government official or public entity. Petitions to a deity are a form of prayer....

 was presented to the House of Commons
British House of Commons
The House of Commons is the lower house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, which also comprises the Sovereign and the House of Lords . Both Commons and Lords meet in the Palace of Westminster. The Commons is a democratically elected body, consisting of 650 members , who are known as Members...

. Parliament, by a large majority, voted not even to hear the petitioners. When the petition was refused, many advocated the widespread use of force as the only means of attaining their aims.

Several outbreaks of violence ensued, leading to several arrests and trial
Trial (law)
In law, a trial is when parties to a dispute come together to present information in a tribunal, a formal setting with the authority to adjudicate claims or disputes. One form of tribunal is a court...

s. One of the leaders of the movement, John Frost
John Frost (Chartist)
John Frost was a prominent Welsh leader of the British Chartist movement in the Newport Rising....

, on trial for treason
Treason
In law, treason is the crime that covers some of the more extreme acts against one's sovereign or nation. Historically, treason also covered the murder of specific social superiors, such as the murder of a husband by his wife. Treason against the king was known as high treason and treason against a...

, claimed in his defence that he had toured his territory of industrial Wales
Wales
Wales is a country that is part of the United Kingdom and the island of Great Britain, bordered by England to its east and the Atlantic Ocean and Irish Sea to its west. It has a population of three million, and a total area of 20,779 km²...

 urging people not to break the law, although he was himself guilty of using language that some might interpret as being a call to arms. Frost's attitudes and stance, often seen as ambivalent, after setbacks and violence including loss of life, led another Chartist to describe Frost as putting 'a sword in my hand and a rope around my neck'. Nevertheless, Frost had placed himself in the vanguard of the Chartist movement by 1839. When another prominent member, Henry Vincent
Henry Vincent
Henry Vincent was active in the formation of early Working Men's Associations in Britain, a popular Chartist leader, brilliant and gifted public orator, prospective but ultimately unsuccessful Victorian MP, and later an anti-slavery campaigner.- Early life :Henry Vincent was born in High Holborn,...

, was arrested in the summer of 1839 for making inflammatory speeches, the die was cast.

Instead of the carefully plotted military rising that some had suspected, Frost led a column of marchers through South Wales
South Wales
South Wales is an area of Wales bordered by England and the Bristol Channel to the east and south, and Mid Wales and West Wales to the north and west. The most densely populated region in the south-west of the United Kingdom, it is home to around 2.1 million people and includes the capital city of...

 to the Westgate Hotel
Westgate Hotel
The Westgate Hotel is a historic building in Newport city centre and is famous as the scene of the 1839 Chartist riot, the so-called Newport Rising.It is located at the bottom Stow Hill.-Building history:...

, Newport
Newport
Newport is a city and unitary authority area in Wales. Standing on the banks of the River Usk, it is located about east of Cardiff and is the largest urban area within the historic county boundaries of Monmouthshire and the preserved county of Gwent...

, Monmouthshire
Monmouthshire (historic)
Monmouthshire , also known as the County of Monmouth , is one of thirteen ancient counties of Wales and a former administrative county....

 where he initiated a confrontation. Some have suggested that the roots of this confrontation lay in Frost's frequent personal conflicts with various influential members of the local establishment; others, that Chartist leaders were expecting the Chartists to seize the town, preventing the mail reaching London
London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

 and triggering a national uprising
Rebellion
Rebellion, uprising or insurrection, is a refusal of obedience or order. It may, therefore, be seen as encompassing a range of behaviors aimed at destroying or replacing an established authority such as a government or a head of state...

: it is generally acknowledged that Frost and other Chartist leaders did not agree on the course of action adopted.

The result of the Newport Rising
Newport Rising
The Newport Rising was the last large-scale armed rebellion against authority in mainland Britain, when on 4 November 1839, somewhere between 1,000 and 5,000 Chartist sympathisers, including many coal-miners, most with home-made arms, led by John Frost, marched on the town of Newport,...

 was a disaster in political and military terms. The hotel was occupied not only by the representatives of the town's merchant classes and the local squirearchy, but by sixty or more armed soldiers. A brief, violent, and bloody battle ensued. Shots were fired by both sides, although most contemporaries agree that the soldiers holding the building had vastly superior firepower. The Chartists did manage to enter the building temporarily, but were forced to retreat in disarray: twenty were killed, another fifty wounded.

Testimonies
Testimony
In law and in religion, testimony is a solemn attestation as to the truth of a matter. All testimonies should be well thought out and truthful. It was the custom in Ancient Rome for the men to place their right hand on a Bible when taking an oath...

 exist from contemporaries, such as the Yorkshire
Yorkshire
Yorkshire is a historic county of northern England and the largest in the United Kingdom. Because of its great size in comparison to other English counties, functions have been increasingly undertaken over time by its subdivisions, which have also been subject to periodic reform...

 Chartist Ben Wilson, that Newport was to have been the signal for a national uprising if successful. Older histories suggested that Chartism slipped into a period of internal division after Newport. In fact the movement was remarkably buoyant (and remained so until late 1842). Initially, while the majority of Chartists, under the leadership of Feargus O'Connor, concentrated on petitioning for Frost, Williams and Jones to be pardoned, significant minorities in Sheffield, East London and Bradford planned their own risings in response. Samuel Holberry
Samuel Holberry
Samuel Holberry was a prominent Chartist activist.-Early years:Holberry was born in Gamston, Nottinghamshire, the youngest of nine children...

 led an aborted rising in Sheffield on 12 January; police action thwarted a major disturbance in the East End of London on the 14th, and on 26 January a few hundred Bradford Chartists staged a rising in the hope of precipitating a domino effect across the country.

1842: Chartism's biggest petition and 'the General Strike'


'1842 was the year in which more energy was hurled against the authorities than in any other of the 19th century'. In early May, 1842, a further petition, of over three million signatures, was submitted, which was yet again rejected by Parliament. The Northern Star
Northern Star (chartist newspaper)
The Northern Star and Leeds General Advertiser was a chartist newspaper published in the United Kingdom between 1837 and 1852.-Foundation:Feargus O'Connor, a former Irish MP forging a career in English radical politics, decided to establish a weekly newspaper in 1837...

 commented on the rejection:
Three and half millions have quietly, orderly, soberly, peaceably but firmly asked of their rulers to do justice; and their rulers have turned a deaf ear to that protest. Three and a half millions of people have asked permission to detail their wrongs, and enforce their claims for RIGHT, and the 'House' has resolved they should not be heard! Three and a half millions of the slave-class have holden out the olive branch of peace to the enfranchised and privileged classes and sought for a firm and compact union, on the principle of EQUALITY BEFORE THE LAW; and the enfranchised and privileged have refused to enter into a treaty! The same class is to be a slave class still. The mark and brand of inferiority is not to be removed. The assumption of inferiority is still to be maintained. The people are not to be free.


The depression of 1841–1842 led to a wave of strikes in which Chartist activists were in the forefront, and demands for the charter were included alongside economic demands. Workers went on strike
Strike action
Strike action, also called labour strike, on strike, greve , or simply strike, is a work stoppage caused by the mass refusal of employees to work. A strike usually takes place in response to employee grievances. Strikes became important during the industrial revolution, when mass labour became...

 in 14 English and 8 Scottish counties, principally in the Midlands
English Midlands
The Midlands, or the English Midlands, is the traditional name for the area comprising central England that broadly corresponds to the early medieval Kingdom of Mercia. It borders Southern England, Northern England, East Anglia and Wales. Its largest city is Birmingham, and it was an important...

, Lancashire
Lancashire
Lancashire is a non-metropolitan county of historic origin in the North West of England. It takes its name from the city of Lancaster, and is sometimes known as the County of Lancaster. Although Lancaster is still considered to be the county town, Lancashire County Council is based in Preston...

, Cheshire
Cheshire
Cheshire is a ceremonial county in North West England. Cheshire's county town is the city of Chester, although its largest town is Warrington. Other major towns include Widnes, Congleton, Crewe, Ellesmere Port, Runcorn, Macclesfield, Winsford, Northwich, and Wilmslow...

, Yorkshire
Yorkshire
Yorkshire is a historic county of northern England and the largest in the United Kingdom. Because of its great size in comparison to other English counties, functions have been increasingly undertaken over time by its subdivisions, which have also been subject to periodic reform...

, and the Strathclyde region of Scotland
Scotland
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the...

. Typically strikers resolved to cease work until wages were increased 'until the People's charter becomes the Law of the Land'. How far these strikes were directly Chartist in inspiration 'was then, as now, a subject of much controversy'. The Leeds Mercury headlined them 'The Chartist Insurrection', but suspicion also hung over the Anti-Corn Law League
Anti-Corn Law League
The Anti-Corn Law League was in effect the resumption of the Anti-Corn Law Association, which had been created in London in 1836 but did not obtain widespread popularity. The Anti-Corn Law League was founded in Manchester in 1838...

 that manufacturers among its members deliberately closed mills to stir-up unrest. At the time these disputes were collectively known as the Plug Plot as in many cases, protesters removed the plugs from steam boilers powering industry to prevent their use. In the 20th century the term General Strike was increasingly used. Some modern historians prefer the description 'strike wave'. Unrest began in the Potteries of Staffordshire in early August, spreading north to Cheshire and Lancashire (where at Manchester a meeting of the Chartist national executive belatedly endorsed the strikes on the 16th). The strikes had begun spreading in Scotland and West Yorkshire from the 13th. Though the government deployed soldiers to swiftly suppress violence, it was the practical problems in sustaining an indefinite stoppage that ultimately defeated the strikers. The drift back to work began on 19 August. Only Lancashire and Cheshire were still strike-bound by September, the Manchester powerloom weavers being the last to return to work on 26 September.

Several Chartist leaders, including Feargus O'Connor
Feargus O'Connor
Feargus Edward O'Connor was an Irish Chartist leader and advocate of the Land Plan.- Background :Feargus O'Connor was born into a prominent Irish Protestant family, the son of Irish Nationalist politician Roger O'Connor...

, George Julian Harney
George Julian Harney
George Julian Harney was a British political activist, journalist, and Chartist leader. He was also associated with Marxism, socialism, and universal suffrage.-Early life:...

, and Thomas Cooper
Thomas Cooper (poet)
Thomas Cooper was a poet and one of the leading Chartists. He wrote poetry, notably the 944 stanzas of his prison-rhyme the Purgatory of Suicides , novels and, in later life, religious texts...

 were arrested, along with nearly 1,500 others. Around 250 were sentenced
Sentence (law)
In law, a sentence forms the final explicit act of a judge-ruled process, and also the symbolic principal act connected to his function. The sentence can generally involve a decree of imprisonment, a fine and/or other punishments against a defendant convicted of a crime...

 to prison for major offences, ranging from 16 months to 21 years; fifty more were sentenced to transportation to Australia
Convicts in Australia
During the late 18th and 19th centuries, large numbers of convicts were transported to the various Australian penal colonies by the British government. One of the primary reasons for the British settlement of Australia was the establishment of a penal colony to alleviate pressure on their...

. However, the government's most ambitious prosecution, personally led by the Attorney General, of O'Connor and 57 others (including almost all Chartism's national executive) failed: none were convicted of the serious charges, and those found guilty of minor offences were never actually sentenced. Cooper alone of the national Chartist leadership was convicted (at a different trial), having been involved in events leading up to the strikes in north Staffordshire, where violence was especially serious.

The mid-Forties


Despite this second set of arrests, Chartist activity continued. Beginning in 1843, O'Connor suggested that the land contained the solution to workers' problems. This idea evolved into the Chartist Co-Operative Land Company, later called the National Land Company
National Land Company
The National Land Company was founded as the Chartist Cooperative Land Company in 1845 by the chartist Feargus O'Connor to help working class people satisfy the landholding requirement to gain a vote in county seats in Great Britain. It was wound up by Act of Parliament by 1851.-Chartism:The...

. Workers would buy shares in the company, and the company would use those funds to purchase estates that would be subdivided into 2, 3, and 4 acre (8,000, 12,400 and 16,000 m²) lots. Between 1844 and 1848, five estates were purchased, subdivided, and built on, and then settled by lucky shareholders, who were chosen by lot. Unfortunately for O'Connor, in 1848 a Select Committee was appointed to investigate the financial viability of the scheme, and it was ordered that it be shut down. Cottages built by the Chartist Land Company are still standing and inhabited today in Oxfordshire
Oxfordshire
Oxfordshire is a county in the South East region of England, bordering on Warwickshire and Northamptonshire , Buckinghamshire , Berkshire , Wiltshire and Gloucestershire ....

, Worcestershire
Worcestershire
Worcestershire is a non-metropolitan county, established in antiquity, located in the West Midlands region of England. For Eurostat purposes it is a NUTS 3 region and is one of three counties that comprise the "Herefordshire, Worcestershire and Warwickshire" NUTS 2 region...

, Gloucestershire
Gloucestershire
Gloucestershire is a county in South West England. The county comprises part of the Cotswold Hills, part of the flat fertile valley of the River Severn, and the entire Forest of Dean....

 and on the outskirts of London. Rosedene, a Chartist cottage in Dodford, Worcestershire
Dodford, Worcestershire
Dodford is a village in the Bromsgrove district of Worcestershire, England, approximately west of Bromsgrove, officially founded on 2 July 1849 by members of the Chartist movement. It was one of five settlements created in the land scheme and retains a characteristic grid street plan, along with...

, is owned and maintained by the National Trust
National Trust for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty
The National Trust for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty, usually known as the National Trust, is a conservation organisation in England, Wales and Northern Ireland...

, and is open to visitors by appointment.

The Chartists also stood on forty occasions in general election
General election
In a parliamentary political system, a general election is an election in which all or most members of a given political body are chosen. The term is usually used to refer to elections held for a nation's primary legislative body, as distinguished from by-elections and local elections.The term...

s, starting with a by-election in Ayrshire in 1838. There were concerted campaigns in the election of 1841
United Kingdom general election, 1841
-Seats summary:-Whig MPs who lost their seats:*Viscount Morpeth - Chief Secretary for Ireland*Sir George Strickland, Bt*Sir Henry Barron, 1st Baronet-References:*F. W. S. Craig, British Electoral Facts: 1832-1987...

 and election of 1847
United Kingdom general election, 1847
-Seats summary:-References:* F. W. S. Craig, British Electoral Facts: 1832-1987* British Electoral Facts 1832-1999, compiled and edited by Colin Rallings and Michael Thrasher *...

, when O'Connor was elected for Nottingham. More commonly, Chartist candidates participated in the open meetings, called hustings, that were the first stage of an election. They frequently won the show of hands at the hustings, but then withdrew from the poll to expose the deeply undemocratic nature of the electoral system. This is what Harney did in a widely reported challenge against Lord Palmerston
Henry Temple, 3rd Viscount Palmerston
Henry John Temple, 3rd Viscount Palmerston, KG, GCB, PC , known popularly as Lord Palmerston, was a British statesman who served twice as Prime Minister in the mid-19th century...

 in Tiverton, Devon
Devon
Devon is a large county in southwestern England. The county is sometimes referred to as Devonshire, although the term is rarely used inside the county itself as the county has never been officially "shired", it often indicates a traditional or historical context.The county shares borders with...

 in 1847. The last Chartist challenge at a parliamentary poll took place at Ripon in 1859.

Chartism and Christianity


During this period the Christian churches in Britain held "that it was 'wrong for a Christian to meddle in political matters.'...All of the denominations were particularly careful to disavow any political affiliation and he who was the least concerned with the 'affairs of this world' was considered the most saintly and worthy of emulation." This was at odds with many Christian Chartists for whom Christianity was "above all practical, something that must be carried into every walk of life. Furthermore there was no possibility of divorcing it from political science." Rev. William Hill wrote in the Northern Star "We are commanded…to love our neighbors as ourselves…this command is universal in its application, whether as friend, Christian or citizen. A man may be devout as a Christian…but if as a citizen he claims rights for himself he refuses to confer upon others, he fails to fulfill the precept of Christ".
The conflicts between these two views led many like Rev. Joseph Barker
Joseph Barker (minister)
Joseph Barker was an English preacher, author, and controversialist. Of changeable views, he spent a period of his life in the United States, where he associated with leading abolitionists.-Life:...

 to see Britain’s churches as pointless. "I have no faith in church organizations," he explained. "I believe it my duty to be a man; to live and move in the world at large; to battle with evil wherever I see it, and to aim at the annihilation of all corrupt institutions and at the establishment of all good, and generous, and useful institutions in their places." To further this idea some Christian Chartist Churches were formed "where Christianity and radical politics were brought together and believed to be inseparable." Pamphlets expressing this combination of politics and Christianity were also created and vast audiences came to hear lectures upon the same themes by the likes of Rev. J.R. Stephens who was highly influential in the movement. Historian H.U. Faulkner states "The 'political preacher,' in the modern sense of the term, first came into prominence in the agitations incidental to the Anti-Corn Law and Chartist movements."

The Chartists were especially harsh on the Church of England for unequal distribution of the state funds it received resulting in some bishops and higher dignitaries having grossly larger incomes than other clergy. This state of affairs led some Chartists to question the very idea of a state sponsored church, leading them to call for an absolute separation of church and state.

Facing severe prosecution in 1839 Chartists took to attending services at churches they held in contempt "for the double purpose of displaying their numbers [sometimes in the thousands] and of registering their dissatisfaction at the position assumed by the church." Often they would forewarn the preacher and demand that he preach from texts they believed supported their cause, such as 2 Thessalonians 3:10 and 2 Timothy 2:6. In response the set upon ministers would often preach the need to focus on things spiritual and not material, and of meekness and obedience to authority citing such works as Romans 13:1-7 and 1 Peter 2:13-17.

The 1848 petition


On 10 April 1848, a new Chartist Convention organised a mass meeting on Kennington Common
Kennington Park
Kennington Park is in Kennington in London, England, and lies between Kennington Park Road and St Agnes Place. It was opened in 1854. Previously the site had been Kennington Common. This is where the Chartists gathered for their biggest 'monster rally' on 10 April 1848...

, which would form a procession to present another petition to Parliament. The estimate of the number of attendees varies depending on the source (O'Connor
Feargus O'Connor
Feargus Edward O'Connor was an Irish Chartist leader and advocate of the Land Plan.- Background :Feargus O'Connor was born into a prominent Irish Protestant family, the son of Irish Nationalist politician Roger O'Connor...

 estimated 300,000; the government, 15,000; The Observer
The Observer
The Observer is a British newspaper, published on Sundays. In the same place on the political spectrum as its daily sister paper The Guardian, which acquired it in 1993, it takes a liberal or social democratic line on most issues. It is the world's oldest Sunday newspaper.-Origins:The first issue,...

newspaper suggested 50,000). The most likely figure is 150,000. The government was well aware that the Chartists had no intention of staging an uprising. However, there were fears that a revolution would start spontaneously and the authorities were intent upon a large-scale display of force both to counter this threat and if possible stamp out Chartism in a year of revolutions across continental Europe. 100,000 special constable
Special constable
A Special Constable is a law enforcement officer who is not a regular member of a police force. Some like the Royal Canadian Mounted Police carry the same law enforcement powers as regular members, but are employed in specific roles, such as explosive disposal technicians, court security, campus...

s were recruited to bolster the police force. In any case, the meeting was peaceful. However the military had threatened to intervene if the Chartists made any attempt to cross the Thames.

In a separate incident, rioters in Manchester
Manchester
Manchester is a city and metropolitan borough in Greater Manchester, England. According to the Office for National Statistics, the 2010 mid-year population estimate for Manchester was 498,800. Manchester lies within one of the UK's largest metropolitan areas, the metropolitan county of Greater...

 attempted to storm the hated workhouse
Workhouse
In England and Wales a workhouse, colloquially known as a spike, was a place where those unable to support themselves were offered accommodation and employment...

. A pitched battle resulted with Chartists fighting the police, eventually the mob was broken up, but rioters roamed the streets of Manchester for three days.

In Bingley, Yorkshire, a group of ‘physical force’ Chartists led by Isaac Ickeringill were involved in a huge fracas at the local magistrates court and later prosecuted for rescuing two of their compatriots from the police.

The original plan of the Chartists, if the petition was ignored, was to create a separate national assembly and press the Queen
Queen regnant
A queen regnant is a female monarch who reigns in her own right, in contrast to a queen consort, who is the wife of a reigning king. An empress regnant is a female monarch who reigns in her own right over an empire....

 to dissolve parliament until the charter was introduced into law. However the Chartists were plagued with indecision, and the national assembly eventually dissolved itself, claiming lack of support.

The petition O'Connor presented to Parliament was claimed to have only 1,957,496 signatures – far short of the 5,706,000 he had stated and many of which were discovered to be forgeries (some of the false signatories included Queen Victoria
Victoria of the United Kingdom
Victoria was the monarch of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland from 20 June 1837 until her death. From 1 May 1876, she used the additional title of Empress of India....

, Mr Punch and 'Pugnose'). But many people were illiterate, and did not know how to write their own signatures. Though O'Connor mishandled the defence of the petition in the House of Commons, Chartism survived the episode. The high-point of its threat to the establishment in 1848 came not in on April 10 but in June. The banning of public meetings, and new legislation on sedition and treason (rushed through Parliament immediately after April 10) drove a significant number of Chartists (including the black Londoner, William Cuffay
William Cuffay
William Cuffay was a Chartist leader in early Victorian London.- Background :Cuffay was mixed race, the son of a Gillingham, Kent woman and a slave from Saint Kitts, then a British colony. He was born in 1788 in Old Brompton, an area of the Medway Towns that is now in Gillingham...

) to prepare an uprising in August.

O'Connor has been accused of destroying the credibility of Chartism. This was a common theme in histories of the movement until the 1970s. Since the 1980s, however, historians (notably Dorothy Thompson) have emphasised the indispensable contribution O'Connor made to Chartism. Further, she argues that the causes of the movement's decline are too complex to be blamed on one man. There has also been increasing interest in Chartism after 1848: the final National Convention, for example was held in 1858.

Legacy


The apparent failure of Chartism as a political movement in the mid-19th century proved to be temporary. Five of the six points in the Charter were adopted by 1918.

Middle class parliamentary Radicals
Radicals (UK)
The Radicals were a parliamentary political grouping in the United Kingdom in the early to mid 19th century, who drew on earlier ideas of radicalism and helped to transform the Whigs into the Liberal Party.-Background:...

 continued to press for universal franchise, and were joined by some supporters of the Anti-Corn Law League
Anti-Corn Law League
The Anti-Corn Law League was in effect the resumption of the Anti-Corn Law Association, which had been created in London in 1836 but did not obtain widespread popularity. The Anti-Corn Law League was founded in Manchester in 1838...

, with John Bright
John Bright
John Bright , Quaker, was a British Radical and Liberal statesman, associated with Richard Cobden in the formation of the Anti-Corn Law League. He was one of the greatest orators of his generation, and a strong critic of British foreign policy...

 and the Reform League
Reform League
The Reform League was established in 1865 to press for manhood suffrage and the ballot in Great Britain. It collaborated with the more moderate and middle class Reform Union and gave strong support to the abortive Reform Bill 1866 and the successful Reform Act 1867...

 agitating in the country. The parliamentary Radicals joined with a section of the Whig Party and the anti-protectionist Tory
Tory
Toryism is a traditionalist and conservative political philosophy which grew out of the Cavalier faction in the Wars of the Three Kingdoms. It is a prominent ideology in the politics of the United Kingdom, but also features in parts of The Commonwealth, particularly in Canada...

 Peelite
Peelite
The Peelites were a breakaway faction of the British Conservative Party, and existed from 1846 to 1859. They were called "Peelites" because they were initially led by Sir Robert Peel, who was the British Prime Minister and Conservative Party leader in 1846....

s to form the Liberal Party
Liberal Party (UK)
The Liberal Party was one of the two major political parties of the United Kingdom during the 19th and early 20th centuries. It was a third party of negligible importance throughout the latter half of the 20th Century, before merging with the Social Democratic Party in 1988 to form the present day...

 by 1859. The Liberal William Ewart Gladstone
William Ewart Gladstone
William Ewart Gladstone FRS FSS was a British Liberal statesman. In a career lasting over sixty years, he served as Prime Minister four separate times , more than any other person. Gladstone was also Britain's oldest Prime Minister, 84 years old when he resigned for the last time...

, a former Tory, introduced the Reform Bill 1866, which did not pass the Commons and forced the resignation of the government.

However, Benjamin Disraeli's ensuing (minority) Conservative government carried through the Reform Act 1867
Reform Act 1867
The Representation of the People Act 1867, 30 & 31 Vict. c. 102 was a piece of British legislation that enfranchised the urban male working class in England and Wales....

, doubling the electorate in the process. Furthermore, the Ballot Act of 1872 introduced the secret ballot. Only the last of the Chartist aims – annual Parliaments – never came to pass.

Chartism was also an important influence in the British
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 colonies. In 1854 Chartist demands were put forward by the miners
Mining
Mining is the extraction of valuable minerals or other geological materials from the earth, from an ore body, vein or seam. The term also includes the removal of soil. Materials recovered by mining include base metals, precious metals, iron, uranium, coal, diamonds, limestone, oil shale, rock...

 at the Eureka Stockade
Eureka Stockade
The Eureka Rebellion of 1854 was an organised rebellion by gold miners which occurred at Eureka Lead in Ballarat, Victoria, Australia. The Battle of Eureka Stockade was fought on 3 December 1854 and named for the stockade structure erected by miners during the conflict...

 on the gold
Gold
Gold is a chemical element with the symbol Au and an atomic number of 79. Gold is a dense, soft, shiny, malleable and ductile metal. Pure gold has a bright yellow color and luster traditionally considered attractive, which it maintains without oxidizing in air or water. Chemically, gold is a...

 fields at Ballarat
Ballarat, Victoria
Ballarat is a city in the state of Victoria, Australia, approximately west-north-west of the state capital Melbourne situated on the lower plains of the Great Dividing Range and the Yarrowee River catchment. It is the largest inland centre and third most populous city in the state and the fifth...

, Victoria
Victoria (Australia)
Victoria is the second most populous state in Australia. Geographically the smallest mainland state, Victoria is bordered by New South Wales, South Australia, and Tasmania on Boundary Islet to the north, west and south respectively....

, Australia
Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

. Within one year of the military suppression of the Eureka revolt, all the demands, except annual parliaments, had been met.

The English Radical Alliance, a minor party formed in 2009, draws much of its inspiration from the Chartists and other English Radicals.

In these ways, Chartism left a deep and permanent mark on the course of social history in Britain and wider world. It was the first widespread and sustained effort of working class self-help directed at reforming parliamentary democracy and the constitution. It gave impetus to eventual political reform and to trade union organisation and is therefore of lasting importance to social historians.

See also

  • The Peterloo Massacre
    Peterloo Massacre
    The Peterloo Massacre occurred at St Peter's Field, Manchester, England, on 16 August 1819, when cavalry charged into a crowd of 60,000–80,000 that had gathered to demand the reform of parliamentary representation....

     of 1819
  • The Newport Rising
    Newport Rising
    The Newport Rising was the last large-scale armed rebellion against authority in mainland Britain, when on 4 November 1839, somewhere between 1,000 and 5,000 Chartist sympathisers, including many coal-miners, most with home-made arms, led by John Frost, marched on the town of Newport,...

     of 1839
  • The General Strike
    1842 General Strike
    The 1842 General Strike, also known as the Plug Plot Riots, started among the miners in Staffordshire, England, and soon spread through Britain affecting factories, mills and coal mines from Dundee to South Wales and Cornwall....

     of 1842
  • The Eureka Rebellion of 1854, in Australia
  • William Cuffay
    William Cuffay
    William Cuffay was a Chartist leader in early Victorian London.- Background :Cuffay was mixed race, the son of a Gillingham, Kent woman and a slave from Saint Kitts, then a British colony. He was born in 1788 in Old Brompton, an area of the Medway Towns that is now in Gillingham...

  • Ernest Charles Jones
    Ernest Charles Jones
    Ernest Charles Jones , was an English poet, novelist, and Chartist.- Background :Born in Berlin, he was the son of a British Army Major, equerry to the Duke of Cumberland, afterwards King of Hanover. In 1838 Jones came to England, and in 1841 published anonymously The Wood Spirit, a romantic novel....

  • Richard Spurr
    Richard Spurr
    Richard Spurr was an English cabinet maker and lay preacher who was imprisoned for his part in leading the political movement Chartism.- Early life :...

  • Alfred Walton
    Alfred Walton
    Alfred Armstrong Walton was one of the lesser-known British Radical politicians of working-class origin in the mid-Victorian era...

  • George Odger
    George Odger
    George Odger was a pioneer British trade unionist. He is best remembered as the head of the London Trades Council during the period of formation of the Trades Union Congress and as the first President of the First International.-Early years:...


Further reading

  • Chase, Malcolm (2007). Chartism: A New History, Manchester University Press, ISBN 9780719060878 (online preview)
  • Charlton, John (1997). The Chartists. The First National Workers' Movement, Pluto Press, ISBN 0745311830 (online preview)
  • Goodway, David (1982). London Chartism, 1838-1848, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 052189364X (online preview)
  • Frost, Thomas (1880). Forty Years' Recollections: Literary and Political, Samson Low, Marston, Searle, and Rivington.
  • Hovell, Mark (1918) The Chartist Movement
  • Pickering, Paul (2008) Feargus O'Connor: A Political Life ISBN 9780850365610
  • Rosenblatt, Frank F. (1916; reprinted 2006). The Chartist Movement, Taylor & Francis, ISBN 0415381932 (online preview)
  • Edward Royle (1996) Chartism (Longmans, 3rd edition)ISBN 05822980805
  • Saville, John (1987) 1848: The British State and the Chartist Movement, Cambridge University Press. ISBN 052139656
  • Scheckner, Peter (1989). An Anthology of Chartist Poetry. Poetry of the British Working Class, 1830s-1850s, Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, ISBN 0838633455 (online preview)
  • Thompson, Dorothy (1984). The Chartists: Popular Politics in the Industrial Revolution. New York: Pantheon. ISBN 0-394-72474-7

External links



Resources

Articles