Chartism Essay

The working class in Britain was a class that made up the majority of the poplulation, but did not have representtation in the British government. This lack of representation led them to have horrible working conditions, low wages, and widespread poverty throughout the working classes. The people became frusterated and during the 1830’s and 1840’s a new movement, Chartism, came about to solve their problems. Chartism was an attempt to link the economic plight of the working to a program of political reform.

The Chartist movement is a complex movement that is viewed as both revolutionary by the Physical Force Chartists and the Middle Class, it is viewed as moderate by the Moral Force Chartists and the Traditional Rulling Classes.

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The Physical Force Chartists were a small group of working class individuals that were willing to do anything to get political rights. The political rights they wanted were listed in the “People’s Charter”and called for universal manhood suffrage, annual parliament elections, a secret ballot, no property requirements for parliament, equal representation, and payment for the members of parliament (Doc1).

The physical force chartists wanted these rights so bad that they would do anything, such as viloence to obtain them. Physical force chartists saw other chartists that were not willing to work and implement the “People’s Charter” no matter at what cost as lazy, and an impedement to the movement suceeding, going as far to say if these people in the city do not work everything else is useless (Doc4).

This lack of establishment of the moral forces most likely did lead to their demise because if action and authority were not expressed, the movement would be and did, become recognized as a puny and unthreatening movement by the ruling classes. The ruling classes saw the movement as so unthreatening they released the Physical Force leader, Feargus O’Conner, the “terror to tyrants” from jail (Doc5). After being released from jail, Feargus O’Conner attended a meeting that called for a general strike that would cripple the British economy, but lead them closer to political rights (Doc6).

The year The Communist Manefesto was published, and the year of the French Revolution, the Physical Force Chartists took inspiration to call for a working class revolution. They intentionally used the French Revolution because they believed it would create an essence of fear. They start the article with “Glory to the Proletarians”and this statement directly calls for a European style working class revolution (Doc8). This revolution never succeeded, and was the fall of the Chartist movement.

Moral Force Chartists were the more moderate working class individuals that wanted to use more “mainstream” ways to gain political rights. One “mainstream”way of obtaining their rights were to pass the “People’s Charter” through parliament instead of using force to gain the listed arguements. Another differentiating view of theirs was the definition of Universal Manhood Suffrage. They saw this right as having, “a right to have a good coat to his back, a comfortable abode in which to shelter himself and his family, a good dinner upon his table, and as much wages for that work as would keep him in plenty…”(Doc2).

So, their views were far more moderate and humble than that of the Physical Force Chartists, all they wanted was a fair share of life. The Moral Chartists saw physical force as a right to the Constitution, based upon Two Treatises of Government by John Locke, they considered the worst thing short of the right to vote is violence (Doc3). The Moral Force Chartists mimick the high-class, namely the middle class, of British society. They host tea parties sand balls and this shows how moderate they are. The Moral Chartists caused the chartist movement to be considered unthreatening, and eventually caused its demise.

The Traditional Ruling class of Britain (landowners, the Prime Minister, and the monarchy) are basically uneffected by the chartist movement and because of this consider it unthreatening and very moderate. They were not afraid, even of the physical force chartist leader, Feargus O’Conner, who they released from jail (Doc5). The Chief of Police at the time even let massive Chartist meetings to occur, showing even more how they were not considered as a threat (Doc10). The Traditional Class saw the demands of the chartists as radical, but because they showed no indications of violence, saw their actions as very moderate. They even knew that any actions committed would not be by the masses, but rather the individual because of lack of communication and resolve(Doc10). So, overall the Traditional Class viewed the chartists as a movement based upon revolution, but acted upon in moderation.

The Middle Class viewed the Chartist movement as a threatening and extremely radical movement. The Middle Class viewed the working classes as violent, upon the basis of the French Revolution. They saw the working classes as radical because they wanted to gain rights, that they had fought for, and just barely gained. The Middle Class was in panic, and expected a revolution because they believe that the chartists are determined to have their wishes granted (Doc9).

The Middle Class would also consider the working classes as radical because of the people involved in their movement, more specifically women (Doc7). Women had no rights and are at this time, in higher classes, nothing more than a wealth status. They are barely educated and stay at home, doing nothing because even the kids were taken care of by a nanny and the food was cooked by a cook. So, the Middle Class could not fathom why women should vote, and questioned their ability to vote. The Middle Class viewed the Working Class as a violent threat to themselves and to England’s stability.

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