Page:The Chartist Movement.djvu/49

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CHAPTER I


THE CHARTER AND ITS ORIGIN


The Chartist Movement, which occupied so large a space in English public afiairs during the ten years 1838 to 1848, was a movement whose immediate object was political reform and whose ultimate purpose was social regeneration. Its programme of political reform was laid down in the document known as the " People's Charter," issued in the spring of 1838. Its social aims were never defined, but they were sufficiently, though variously, described by leading men ia the movement. It was a purely working-class movement, originating exclusively and drawing its whole following from the industrialised and unpropertied working class which had but recently come into existence. For the most part it was a revolt of this body against intolerable conditions of existence. That is why its programme of social amelioration was vague and negative. It was an attempt on the part of the less educated portion of the community to legislate for a new and astounding condition of society whose evils the more enlightened portion had been either helpless or imwilling to remedy. The decisive character of the political aims of the Chartists bespeaks the strength of political tradition in England.

The "People's Charter" is a draft of an Act of Parliament, a Bill to be presented to the House of Commons.[1] It is drawn up in a clear and formal but not too technical style, with preamble, clauses, and penalties, all duly set forth. It is a

  1. The Charter is divided into thirteen sections:

    I. Preamble.
    II. Franchise.
    III. Equal Electoral Districts.
    IV. Registration Officer.
    V. Returning Officer.
    VI. Deputy Returning Officer.
    VII. Registration Clerk.
    VIII. Arrangement for Registration.
    IX. Arrangement for Nominations.
    X. Arrangement for Elections.
    XI. Annual Parliaments.
    XII. Payment of Members.
    XIII. Penalties.