Posted on by Opher
The Chartist aims were simple; they wanted one man one vote for all men over the age of twenty one who were sane and not criminals and payment for MPs (So that those other than the extremely wealthy could stand).
That sounds very reasonable to me. I mean it wasn’t as if they were asking for votes for women. Heaven help us if anyone thought that women might be intelligent, knowledgeable or able to exercise the right to vote.
But no. Even this step was thought a step too far. The establishment believed that if you allowed the poor to vote they might vote for things that would stop them being poor. The only way they could be richer was by taking money out of the pockets of the wealthy. The idea was preposterous. Equality!! Freedom!!! Once one lot had it the rest would follow!! Before you knew it the eighteen year olds and women would be after the vote!! And then what??? The country would go to the dogs!!
Giving the vote to ordinary people was asking for trouble it threatened the status quo and had to be resisted.
We are only talking about the mid nineteenth century here. It’s not a thousand years ago. This was the time when only the wealthy were allowed to vote. Strangely they always voted to protect their own interests and keep ordinary people down. Inequality was rampant.
The Chartists did not believe in revolution or violence. They wanted to exert their power by sheer force of numbers. Their idea was to hold mass meetings and sign petitions. These petitions were signed by millions or ordinary people.
They demanded justice and empowerment
They wanted the right for all men to have a vote. For that to be made in secret and for the representation through the country to be fair.
It became a mass movement, particularly in the North, Midlands and South Wales.
Rejection of their demands by government led to strikes. There were some outbreaks of violence. The State hit back by imprisoning hundreds.
The Church, to its discredit, stayed out of the argument.
In 1848 the Chartists held a protest rally on Kennington Common attended by upwards of 150,000. A petition of an incredible 6 Million was handed in demanding the right to vote. It was ignored. The government ordered the deployment of troops and was prepared for an uprising. They feared a revolution along the lines of the continental revolutions.
It looked like the Peterloo massacre on a larger scale!
In the event it passed peacefully.
The Chartists did not achieve reform but they set a tone.
It wasn’t until 1867 that urban working men were given the vote and not until 1918 that we achieved one man one vote. We haven’t yet had a hundred years of power!
The rights of women took a lot more struggle and effort.
The rights we have are the result of the efforts of millions!! We should exercise them with great care. They are easily removed.