Chartism

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Chartism was a movement for political and social reform in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland during the mid-19th century, between 1838 and 1850. It takes its name from the People's Charter of 1838, which stipulated the six main aims of the movement as:[1]

Chartism was possibly the first mass working class labour movement in the world. Its leaders have often been described as either "physical force" or "moral force" leaders, depending upon their attitudes to violent protest. Chartists were largely unsuccessful at convincing Parliament to reform the voting system of the mid-19th century; however, this movement caught the interest of the working class. The working class's interest in politics from that point on aided later suffrage movements.

Contents

Origin

Chartism followed earlier Radical movements, such as the Friends of the People Society and the Birmingham Political Union which demanded a widening of the franchise, and came after the passing of the Reform Act 1832, which gave the vote to a section of the male middle classes, but not to the working class which was then, because of social and industrial conditions, emerging from artisan and labouring classes. Many Radicals made speeches asserting the betrayal of the working class and the sacrificing of their interests by the misconduct of the government, in conjunction with this model.

Chartism included a wide range of organisations. Hence it can be seen as not so much a movement as an era in popular politics in Britain. Dorothy Thompson described the theme of her book The Chartists as the time when "thousands of working people considered that their problems could be solved by the political organisation of the country."

In 1837, six Members of Parliament and six working men, including William Lovett, (from the London Working Men's Association, set up in 1836) formed a committee, which then published the People's Charter, containing the six objectives listed above.

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