People’s Charter of 1838: In 1837, six Members of Parliament and six working men, including William Lovett, (from the London Working Men’s Association, 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:
The Chartists obtained one and a quarter million signatures and presented the Charter to the House of Commons in 1839, where it was rejected by a vote of 235 to 46. Parliament, by a large majority, voted not even to hear the petitioners.
Many of the leaders of the movement, having threatened to call a general strike, were arrested. When demonstrators marched on the prison at Newport, Monmouthshire, demanding the release of their leaders, troops opened fire, killing 24 and wounding 40 more. The leaders of the movement: John Frost, Henry Vincent and Samuel Holberry. 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 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 in 14 English and 8 Scottish counties. Several Chartist leaders, including Feargus O’Connor, George Julian Harney, and Thomas Cooper were arrested, along with nearly 1,500 others. The 1848 petition On 10 April 1848, a new Chartist Convention organised a mass meeting on Kennington Common, which would form a procession to present another petition to Parliament.
The original plan of the Chartists, if the petition was ignored, was to create a separate national assembly and press the Queen 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. But it was the end of the movement. And finally I’d like to remark that 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.
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