CHARTISM. A Radical reform movement which grew to culmination in England from 1838 to 1848. Its name originated in the Na tional or People's Charter. which embodied the scheme of reform under six specific titles: (1) The right of voting to every male and every naturalized foreigner resident in the kingdom for more than two years, who should be 21 years of age. of sound mind, and unconvicted of crime; (2) equal electoral districts; (3) vote by ballot; (4) annual Parliaments; (5) no property quali fication for members; and (6) payment of mem bers of Parliament for their services. The Re form Bill of 1832 had failed to satisfy the work ing classes, and after a terrible period of com mercial depression and want., an unsuccessful attempt was made to institute it greater reform in the House of Commons, whereupon six mem bers of Parliament and six workingmen drew up the charter, which was hailed by large num bers of persons with enthusiasm. Immense meet ings were held throughout the country. many of them attended by two or three hundred thousand people. Fiery orators fanned the excitement, and, under the guidance of extremists, physical force was spoken of as the only means of obtain ing justice. The more moderate were overruled by the fanatics, and the people, aroused by suf fering. were easily wrought into frenzy by those who assumed direction. The Chartist propa ganda was vigorou..ly carried on by Feargus O'Connor in the Northern Star, an organ which attained phenomenal circulation. in the autumn of 1838 torchlight meetings were held. Their danger was obvious, and they were at once pro claimed illegal. Some of the leaders were ar rested, amid intense excitement, and imprisoned. A body ealling itself the National Convention, elected by the Chartists throughout the kingdom, commenced sitting in Birmingham in May, 1839. It proposed various means of coercing the legisla ture into submission, recommending a run on the savings banks for gold. abstinence from excisable articles, exclusive dealing. and. as a last resort. universal cessation from labor. During its it ting a collision took place with the military in Birmingham. Public meetings were forbidden, and alarming excesses were committed by the irritated mob. In June, 1839, a petition in favor of the charter was presented to the House of Commons, ostensibly signed by 1,280,000 persons. The House refused to name a day for its consid eration and the national convention retaliated by advising the people to cease from work through out the country. This advice was not followed,
but the disturbance increased, and in November an outbreak took place in Newport, which re sulted in the death of ten persons and the wound ing of great numbers. For their part in this insurrection three leaders were sentenced to death. but their punishment was afterwards com muted to transportation. In 1842 great riots took place in the northern and midland districts, not directly caused by the Chartists, but en couraged and aided by them after the disturb ances began. In the same year an attempt was made by Joseph .Sturge to unite all friends of popular enfranchisement in a complete suffrage union, hut he only succeeded in dividing their ranks. In 1848 the turmoil in France created great excitement in England, and much anxiety was felt lest an armed attempt should be made to subvert the institutions of the country. Two hundred thousand special constables were en rolled in London alone, among which nuinher was the subsequent Emperor, Napoleon 111. A serious outbreak was expected in London on the day O'Connor named in Parliament as the time when he would counsel violence if his demands were not met. On the fateful day, however, he ad vised the assembled multitudes to disperse to their homes, and thenceforth lost his influence with the masses.
In the lang,uage of Charles 1. (q.v.), the op ponents of Chartism denied that men as such had a right to vote; their right was to he well governed, and universal suffrage was more likely to destroy society than to confer happiness or insure justice.
From 1848 Chartism as an organization grad ually (lied, owing to the improvement in the circumstances of the people which followed the repeal of the corn laws. The principles of the elmrter were not new, and since then the chief points have become law, for which consumma tion a certain amount of credit must be given to this agitation.
The Chartist leaders included Feargus O'Con nor, Attwood, Lovett, Stephens, Vincent, Ernest Jones, Thomas Cooper, and others. Consult: Life of Thomas Cooper: An Autobiography (Lon don, 1880) ; Carlyle, Chartism (London, 1839) ; Kingsley, Alton Locke (London, 1s56) ; and Gammage, History of the Chartist Movement (London, 1894).