Chartism: The People's Charter


The People's Charter


  • Intro

    This document, written in 1838 mainly by William Lovett of the London Working Men’s Association, stated the ideological basis of what became known as the Chartist movement. When the charter was written in 1838, only 18 per cent of the adult male population of Britain could vote (before 1832, just 10 per cent could). The working classes were poor and hungry, and as they were completely excluded from politics they had no way of changing their situation. The People’s Charter proposed six key points the Chartists believed were necessary to reform the electoral system and thus alleviate the suffering of the working classes. These were:


    • Universal suffrage (the right to vote)
    • No property qualification (for MPs)
    • Annual parliaments
    • Equal representation (across the whole country)
    • Payment of members (of parliament)
    • Vote by secret ballot


    The charter was launched in Glasgow in May 1838, at a meeting attended by an estimated 150,000 people. Presented as a popular-style Magna Carta, it rapidly gained support across the country and its supporters became known as the Chartists. A petition, populated at Chartist meetings across Britain, was brought to London in May 1839, for MP Thomas Attwood to present to Parliament. It boasted 1,280,958 signatures, yet Parliament voted not to consider it. However, the Chartists continued to campaign for the six points of the Charter for many years to come, and produced two more petitions to Parliament.


    Shelfmark: C.194.a.938

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