Chartism Failure Essay

We will begin the Chartist story in 1832 when the British Parliament passed the first Reform Act.

In the name of greater economic efficiency, it transferred responsibility for poverty relief from the local parish to central government commissioners.

The new law quickly produced some really gross mismanagement, and the unfortunate workhouse inmates were powerless victims.

But this failure was followed almost at once, by the remarkable new Chartist movement. It was a draft for an Act of Parliament, with 13 sections, to be presented to the House.

The Hammonds argue that something more than struggling for just wages and conditions had always inspired some of the older Chartists like Cobbett or O'Connell, and also the younger Oastler and O'Connor, leaders of the new movement about to emerge. The 13 sections outlined proposals to reform elections, so that Parliament could be truly representative.

By law, newspapers costing six pence or less now must pay for a government stamp, or their publication was illegal.

Penny or tuppenny papers had begun to flourish throughout England during the 1830s - the "Paupers' Press".

Whereas the Commons House of Parliament now exercises...the supposed behalf of the people the power of making laws, it ought in order to fulfil with....honesty the great duties imposed on it, to be made the faithful and accurate representative of the peoples' wishes, feelings and interests. This was a political and organisational master-stroke.

This was followed by the six points: (See footnote 3) The Charter was published in 1838. It drew together almost all the varied protest movements of the time, especially the widely different, but passionately angry, opponents of the new Poor Law. During 1838 huge "monster" meetings, torchlight processions, mass demonstrations and protests, were held not only throughout London, but even more so in the new industrial towns.

But the bitter struggle for a "tax and honest Press" was one of the many movements which throughout the 1830s paved the way for Chartism, "one of the most remarkable examples of working class politics ever seen in England" (See footnote 2) Around 1833-34, small groups of various kinds of workers, with various kinds of political beliefs - Friendly Societies, Working Men's Associations, Industrious Females, Owenites and many more - combined to form the Grand National Union, GNU.

Lord Melbourne's reformed government quickly met this "threat to property".


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