Chartist riots

4 November 1839

Chartist riots


  • Intro

    In 1838, the London Working Men's Society published The People’s Charter, which demanded six key changes to the British electoral system, including universal male suffrage. These demands formed a central doctrine for radicals wishing to reform the political system. Support for the Charter spread rapidly and its advocates became known as the Chartists.


    The Chartists were divided over how best to achieve the six points of The People's Charter. Some advocated the use of education and 'moral force' to achieve Parliamentary reform and others 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 4 November 1839. Thousands of Chartists from South Wales marched on Newport and 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 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 in The Ipswich Journal on 9 November 1839, 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'.


    Shelfmark: British Library Newspaper Archive

Find out more about the Chartist riots Here

Explore more timeline content: