The Newport Rising


The Chartists were divided over how best to achieve the passing into law of the six points of The People's Charter. Some, such as William Lovett and other members of the London Working Men's Association, advocated the use of education and 'moral force' to achieve Parliamentary reform. Others, however, believed that 'physical force', to varying degrees, might be necessary. The most infamous event in the history of Chartism was the Newport Rising, which took place in Newport in Wales on 4th November 1839.

A number of factors meant that both the Chartists and working classes in south Wales were particularly discontented at this time. The popular Chartist speaker and publisher of The Western Vindicator, Henry Vincent, had been arrested in May 1838 for making inflammatory speeches, and sentenced to 12 months in gaol. In addition, the Chartist petition that was presented to Parliament was rejected. Furthermore, many of the people of south Wales were living in poverty and the industrial areas had become the focus for a huge amount of public anger. In an attempt to avoid a revolt, the local Newport Chartist John Frost made speeches discouraging violence, but he did agree to join a protest march on Newport.

The exact purpose of the march remains unclear. This newspaper article suggests that the marchers' intention was to seize 'the whole of South Wales to erect a Chartist kingdom', but it is unlikely that this was the march's real objective. The marchers had planned to travel in three groups and meet at a location outside of Newport before marching together, but there were delays and this had given the town's authorities time to prepare. The Chartists grouped outside the Westgate Hotel, but when they tried to enter, soldiers were lying in wait and fired shots, killing 22 marchers and wounding many more. The remaining Chartists then retreated. The leading Chartists present, including John Frost, were sentenced to be hung, drawn and quartered, but after protests from all over the country, the sentence was reduced to transportation.

This newspaper article, published a few days after the uprising, describes the events as they happened. It is clearly written from a strong anti-Chartist perspective, referring to them as 'deluded men' and praising the military for their 'cool and determined conduct'.

Taken from: The Ipswich Journal
Date: Saturday, November 9, 1839
Copyright: By permission of the British Library Board
Shelfmark: Newspaper Archive, Colindale