Deportation of Chartist William Cuffay


Chartist William Cuffay


  • Intro

    The electoral system in the early 1800s was very different from that of today. The majority of people had no say in the way the country was run. The Chartists were a political group who fought for electoral change - their People’s Charter (1838) demanded among other things that all men should be able to vote.


    William Cuffay (1788 - 1870) was a prominent London Chartist. Born on a merchant ship in the West Indies in 1788, Cuffay was the son of a freed slave. He worked in London as a tailor, and first became involved in politics when he was fired from his job after taking part in the Tailors' Strike of 1834. Convinced that workers needed representation in Parliament, he became sympathetic to Chartism.


    In 1839, Cuffay helped form the Metropolitan Tailors’ Charter Association and was later voted president of the London Chartists in 1842. Cuffay took part in planning for an uprising in London after the Chartist's third petition to Parliament was rejected. Although Cuffay probably only played a small part in the plans, he was arrested and sentenced to deportation to Tasmania for 21 years. The newspaper article displayed here, published in The Northern Star on 4 August 1849, gives details of donations that people made so that he had some money when he arrived in Port Phillip, Australia. Despite a pardon three years later, Cuffay stayed in Tasmania and played an active role in politics there until he died in poverty in 1870.


    Shelfmark: British Library Newspaper Archive

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