Chartism grew in the 1830s out of the working class discontent and disillusion with the Whig government and the 1832 Reform Act. The working classes had gained nothing from the 1832 Reform Act. Chartism was a working class political organisation, with branches over Britain. There main aim was to change the parliamentary system so that the working class would have greater influence in politics.
Chartism grew up their demands in a 6 point list known as the People's Charter. In 1839,1842 and 1848 the Charter was presented to parliament in the form of petitions containing millions of signatures. It was rejected by the Commons. After 1848, the movement gradually died out. At the time it was regarded as a failure, all their points were eventually achieved.
Factors influencing the creation of the Chartist Movement
Main cause was the overwhelming feeling of misery amongst the working classes along with their belief that they were not getting fair treatment by the wealthly and governing classes. There were a Range of grievances:
- Poor Conditions in factories, workshops and mines- The Factory Act of 1833 brought in a 12 hour limit to the working day for people under 18, but only in textile factories. The act was not enforced effectively. Serious injury and death were common in many factories were the dangerous machinery was not fenced off. Conditions in mines were even worse.
- Poor living conditions- Industrial towns and cities were overcrowded and unhealthy, with no proper sanitation or sewage disposal. There were constant epidemics of cholers, typhoid, tuberculosis and diphtheria. Approx one third of children under the age of 5 died.
- Disillusion with the 1832 Reform Act- Hopes for democracy after this act was passed were not to be realised. The working classes had not been given the vote, and in some boroughs working men actually lost the vote after the act. Pocket boroughs remained, as did corruption of different kinds during elections due to open poll
- The collapse of Trade Unionism- In the late 1820s a number of trade unions had been formed, and Robert Owen had attempted to form a national union in the form of the Grand National Consolidated Union in 1833. The failure and collapse of emerging trade unions, many of their supporters joined the Chartists.
- Anger at the 1834 Poor Law Amendment Act- The Poor Law Amendment Act set up the workhouse system. The new system of indoor relief was very unpopular. Workhouses were deliberatley made as miserable as possible. Due to unemployment, fluctuation in wages and debt people found themselves in the workhouse through no fault of their own. The act ignored the causes of poverty and unemployment, instead the poor were blamed.
- Trade depression, unemployment and hunger- Immediate cause of Chartist outbreaks. It was about social and economic issues. The most consistent supporters of Chartism frequently suffered falling wages and unemployment, but from 1837-1842 there was also a trade depression which affected workers in most industries. This made many attracted to…