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Early Chartist meeting notes

1836

Early Chartist meeting notes

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  • Intro

    The London Working Men’s Association was established in 1836 by cabinet maker William Lovett, publisher Henry Hetherington and printers John Cleave and James Watson. Besides circulating information for the good of the working classes, the association wanted ‘to seek by every legal means to place all classes of society in possession of their equal, political, and social rights’. The association discussed the ideas that would later form the central document of what became known as the Chartist movement: The People’s Charter. 

     

    This minute book of the London Working Men’s Association from 18 October 1836 contains demands for ‘Universal Suffrage, the protection of the Ballot, Annual Parliaments, Equal representation, and no property qualification for members [of Parliament]’. These are five of the six points published two years later in The People’s Charter. The additional point in the 1838 charter is ‘Payment of Members’ (of Parliament).

     

    Shelfmark: Add.37773, ff.16v-17

  • Transcript

    Early Chartist meeting notes

    On the 18 October the committee reported when after considerable discussion the following resolutions were adopted.

     

    1st That the members of this association have no confidence in either Whig or Tory government believing both parties to be alike, the enemies of just legislation, and obstacles in the way of the establishment of peace and happiness in the country.

     

    2nd That therefore one of the especial objects of our union shall be to instruct and caution our brethren against helping directly or indirectly to put down one of these parties and set up the other, as by so doing they will be instrumental in perpetuating their own social and political degradation.

    3 That without seeking any particular form or theory of Government we nevertheless, desire to have, and we call upon our brethren to demand as a first and an essential measure, an equal voice in determining [sic] what laws shall be enacted or plans adopted for justly governing the country.

     

    4 That to these ends Universal Suffrage and the protection of the Ballot —Annual Parliaments—Equal Representation and no Property Qualification are all essential.

     

    5 That with these grand objects in view we caution our fellow-men not to be diverted, nor led away by paltry questions of either policy or expediency; nor to place any confidence in men who under the guise of reformers; i Refused to repeal the rate paying clause by which the suffrage is much limited. ii Resisted the plan of voting by ballot. iii To shorten the duration of parliaments. iv Who voted for the slavery of Factory Children and spurned the application of 80,000 Hand Loom Weavers. v Who repealed the Malt tax on one night, and rescinded their own resolution the next night. vi Who hypocritically enquired into agricultural distress yet refused assistance and even to make a report thereon. vii And who, to complete the catalogue of their iniquities, passed the infamous Poor Law Bill.

     

    6 That we are therefore ardently desirous that all minor questions shall give place to the major, equal political rights, and we now call upon our brethren to arouse from their apathy and to become active in the prosecution of this great good.

     

    7 That we respectfully call upon the Farmers of England whose interests are identified with our own, and who like us under the present withering system are daily sacrificed to wealth and title to make common cause with us recover their just rights, and to have their state burthens reduced to their means of bearing them.

     

    8 That we call upon the Agricultural Labourers of the United Kingdom who are being reduced to beggary and wretchedness to unite with us to have their grievances redressed.

     

    9 That we also call upon all those benevolent and ardent friends in Town and Country whose interests may be opposed to ours in the present conflicting state of things but who are nevertheless zealously contending for equal rights and laws and justice for man, to come forward and cordially to unite boldly to demand a parliament in which all interests shall be represented.

     

    10 That we feel assured that such a combination, all obnoxious and factious rivally [sic] would soon sink into oblivion, and give place to men who having no sinister interests apart from those of the people will labour diligently and wisely, to make all the sources of this favoured country tend to promote the happiness of the whole of its people.

     

    From: 'London Workingmen's Association: Further papers', London Radicalism 1830-1843: A selection of the papers of Francis Place (1970), pp. 160-177. URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=39494 Date accessed: 28 January 2010.

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