Who were the Chartists?
They were people who campaigned for the right to vote for working men.
How did the governments react to the Chartists?
- In 1832 the Reform Act gave men owning property worth £10 the right to vote! but this still excluded the majority of men and all women.
- As a result, a new campaign for the right to vote began in the 1830s. The campaigners called themselves Chartists because they wanted the government to agree to their people's charter.
- As well as this the protest took place because of the poor law of 1834 which ended payments to help the poor unless they moved into workhouses where families were split up and had to wear workhouse clothes which made poverty look like crime.
Support for Chartism spread rapidly in the later 1830s. There were over 80 Chartist Associations for women alone. What made Chartism a mass movement was hunger and unemployement.
However, Chartism, in the years when food prices fell, support for Chartism also fell. In the more properous years after 1848, support for the Charter almost disappeared, although nearly all its objectives were eventually achieved.
- The chartist leaders could not agree on the best way to influence the governement
- The majority favoured peaceful methods: disturbing pamplets, mass meetings and persuasions.
- Another group believed that more violent methods should be used.
- Overall Chartism was a peaceful movement, although the government remained anxious in case it led to rebellion.
The Newport rising 1839
November 1839 about 3000 armed coalminers and ironworkers marched on the town of Newport, probably intending to hold a meeting in support of the charter and to protest about the arrest of chartist leaders.
The authorities were alarmed by information about men purchasing weapons and practising military drills.
The threat of violence led to soldiers opening fire on the protesters who seemed to be trying to take control of the town. Over 20 Chartists were killed.
In the following months, around 500 chartists were arrested and many were imprisoned for over a year.
The leaders of the Newport Rising were sentenced to death but their sentence was reduced to transportation.
The new police forces were used to prevent and stop possible violence in other places.
The last petition, 1848
1848 saw revolutions, inspired by hunger.
A mass meeting was held in London, which the leaders hoped would be followed by a march on Parliament with the petition. They hoped that such a show of power would force the politicians to accept their demands for reform.
However, the government was ready; placed cannons on London's bridge; ten thousand soldiers stood by in readiness, although they were kept out of sight so as not to provoke violence; thousands of special constables were also recruited to police the expected crowds.
The crowds watched in 1848 but they did not rebel!