In this Article shall talk about chartism !

 The Chartism movement occurred during the 1830s-1840s so that national working class people could strive for better economic and social rights. The movement was based on the 6 pointer charter’ that they wanted for everyone. The pointers were, ‘A vote, a secret ballet, no property qualifications, payments of members of parliament, equal constituencies and annual parliaments’ This essay will be discussing how the Chartism movement came about and the tactics that they used to further their movement and how effective these tactics were in order to advance further for their main cause; to get their rights.

The Chartism movement was the first national workers movement of its kind and was a product from the industrial revolution due to the ‘social and economic’ problems at that time which lead to many causes that determined how radical the movement was formed[1]. To add to the tension that was building there was an ever widening gap between the rich and the poor. Edward Royle suggested there was a major division of society classes and how people generally lived in areas[2]. Certainly in this period there were economic problems in 1839, 1842 and 1848 which added to the distress of economic problems[3].

For their cause, the chartists used two types of tactics which were ‘moral force’ and ‘physical force’. An example of a moral force is the literature used. The printing press a few over the few centuries developed the idea and started to mass produce newspapers around the 1800s. This played a big part in the Chartism movement because some of the leaders wrote about their causes, what they were fighting for on weekly regular basis which was published on a Urban scale. Also some of the leaders of the chartists group owned some of the newspaper printing companies such as ‘the Northern Star’. Another tactic they used was regular circulation around then United Kingdom about their cause and ‘the 6 pointer charter’ that they wanted for everyone. Another “moral force” tactic used was using petitions on a wide scale and opening forums. This was only used in three occasions and all the petitions were presented to the parliament. The first petition got 1,280,000 signatures, the second petition consisted of 3,300,000 and the third petition put forward got 5,000,000 signatures. However, under close scrutiny it was found that they only had 2 million votes. Due to this reason, the petition was withdrawn and was not submitted to parliament. for example on an urban scale and also presenting one to the parliament. Each time, the petition was presented on a wider and vast scale. “The year 1842 ended very much like 1839:the national petition was rejected after a lengthy campaign which had achieved nothing”[4].This shows there was a lot of awareness of the petition going around but in the end the parliament still rejected the idea of their ‘6 pointer charter’ for their social and economic rights.

In addition, another tactic they used for the chartist movement was that they held mass ‘speeches’ for the leaders to talk about their movement and also to allow people to voice their views and concerns and any actions that they would take4.

The chartist movement, in relation to the “moral forces” used, was effective because they had many figure heads who had exceptional writing skills and they printed press which would have helped to attract more people to their cause. They were able to voice their concerns and information about their cause to a greater number of people on a wider scale and the communication between other chartist’s local leaders would have become easier, “to make the Chartist movement a mass movement”.

Moving on to the ‘physical forces’ used shows how radical the Chartists became in order to fight for their cause. Examples include the ‘Newport rise’ and ‘the plug plot riots.” The plug plots riots were about the sabotaging of factories and removing the boiler plugs and making the machinery malfunction. This was an example of a radical movement in that time. The ‘Newport rising’ was also an important point in the chartist movement in history especially after the rejection of the third petition they had presented to the Houses of Parliament. Henry Vincent was apparently giving ‘inflammatory speeches’ in front of many people and was imprisoned for 12 months alongside a few other leaders. This lead to a spark, of the use of ‘physical forces.’ They used physical forces by gathering together so that they could march into ‘Newport’. The chartist workers union were first chanting and protesting and demanding for their leaders and fellow chartist members to be let free. Within the thousands who marched to Newport on the 4th November 1839, the chartist forces and government forces both clashed. So it has been said that they both exchanged fire power however around twenty people were killed and around fifty were injured. Following on from that point, a brief while later, a few hundred protestors were arrested, imprisoned and deported to Australia. Another example of a physical force was the strikes that were happening in and around 1800 by the national workers from all of the factories, coal mines, and cotton industries. They refused to work so that they could achieve their goals for themselves and other workers in the charter union. [5] Fergus O’Connor believed in using brute force to be able achieve its means such able to show force or force bale to fight what they believe in O’Connor set out on an successful tour of the North, which led to the forming of a chain of radical associations in textiles towns such as Stockport, Rochdale and Keighley”[6].This shows how radical O’Connor was in regards to talking about the political message and about the chartist programme[7]and how far he was willing to go in order to spread his messaged around the United Kingdom and Ireland. As a result of this further violent confrontation happened between the authorities and chartists in several areas such as Yorkshire, Bradford, Dewsbury and Sheffield occured.[8] However this did not lead to the chartists demands being met showing that these physical force tactics were ineffective.

Another point to talk mention is the general strikes that the chartist’s movement did. They refused to work in the factories at that moment in time. After the petition was handed in to the government they started to become more radical in an long term sense and ‘general strikes’ were occurring all around the United Kingdom such as in Scotland, England and wales and some midlands counties. These strikes occurred between the years of 1839 and 1841.

The anti-poor law campaign was a campaign set up to try and stop this law being passed through parliament and the chartist group motive was delayed for about ten years. So in that sense this was an achievement in itself to prolong the process. In addition the middle class and the working class movement made an alliance to stop the anti-law getting passed through the parliament.

Another tactic the Chartists used to advance in their cause is through the use of newspaper press, as previously mentioned. The ultimate goal of the ‘Northern Star’ newspaper was to never lose sight of what they were fighting for and to always remind the readers about the universal suffering. So out of all the tactics used by the chartists this was the tactic which was effective because of how powerful this was in spreading the message. From the years 1837 they were selling 10,000 copies a week but just within a few years they were selling at their peak of 50,000 copies a week in 1839. This shows exactly how effective this tactic was due to their ability to sell their newspapers on a national scale and being able to distribute them fast. [9]

“It was a paper for the working class and read only by the working class”[10] This showed a sense of unity even though they were scattered all over England they had hope for a new born world. This tactic was successful in furthering there cause because through this they gathered support in the urban areas of England, Wales, Ireland and Scotland. They gained more support over this distributions of newspapers because there voice and their ideas of a ‘chartist’s pointer’ was being heard.

They had influences from speakers such as John Fielden and Joseph Rayner Stephens and O’Connor who started to change their tactics. So, instead of demonstrations from the moors the demonstrations would be towards the town Centre and markets where they had direct contact with property and public order. “It began first on 2 October in Stockport, where a crowd of Chartists supporters, meeting in the market square and armed with torches, proceeded to the town’s factory district.”[11]

In conclusion, the chartist movement was not immediately successful in the short term. They only achieved getting their message across and getting the government to be aware of the social and economic problems that the national workers had. However, in the near future, some 50 years later or more there charter was taken in consideration and the laws were passed. This shows that eventually the tactics that they had used were eventually noticed. Therefore in the long run all the fight for their cause and the use of the different tactics were effective. Although it took a long time, together they determined the future outcome and national workers gained their rights.

Reference and footnotes 

[1] Royle Edward, Chartism(Essex: Addison Wesley Longman Limited,1996).p.1

[2] ibid.p3

[3] Browne Harry, Acess to History in depth chartisim(London: Harry Browne,1999)p.6

[4] ibid.p82

[5] Charlton John, The Chartists The First National Workers’ Movement(London: Pluto Press,1997).p.50

[6] ibid,p.33

[7] ibid.p32

[8] ibid.p.48

[9] ibid p.33

[10] ibid.p33

[11] ibid.37
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