Key Questions 1. Who were the Chartists? 2.What did the Chartists believe in? 3.What were the long and short term causes of Chartism?
Chartism was a working class movement from 1839 to 1848. Chartism wanted sweeping changes to the political system of Britain and above all it wanted it Six Points (The Charter) introduced:
Every man over 21 to have the right to vote
A secret ballot to be introduced
A MP did not have to own property of a certain value or above to become a MP
All MP's to be paid to allow working men to serve in Parliament
All constituencies to be equal in terms of population size
Elections to Parliament to be held every year so that MP's would have to answer to their voters if they had not performed well.
The leaders of the Chartists were an odd group. There were the head strong like Feargus O'Connor and John Frost who wanted to use force to get Parliament to accept the Charter. Others like William Lovett wanted to use more peaceful methods to persuade Parliament to accept change.
This mixture of persuasion and the use of force did not make for strong leadership in the Chartists. No one knew for sure which direction to take.
One of the methods used by the Chartists to persuade Parliament was the collection of petitions. The theory was that Parliament would be impressed with the number of people who supported the Chartists and would push through popular change.
Petitions were collected in 1839, 1842 and 1848. The last petition had 5 million signatures on it but it was a farce. Many of the signatures were faked...........Queen Victoria's signature was on the last petition !! The Chartists movement collapsed.
Ironically, five of the Chartists demands were eventually passed by Parliament. Only the demand for an annual Parliament has never become law as it is believed that a government needs more than a year to show how it has improved society - the same being true for MP's - they need more than a year to prove that they are doing well for the people they represent.