Page:The Chartist Movement.djvu/50

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THE CHARTIST MOVEMENT

lengthy document, occupying some nineteen octavo pages, but brevity itself in comparison with a fully-drawn Bill for the same purpose from the hands of a Parliamentary draughtsman. The preamble is as follows:

Whereas to insure, in as far as it is possible by human forethought and wisdom, the just government of the people, it is necessary to subject those who have the power of making the laws to a wholesome and strict responsibility to those whose duty it is to obey them when made.

And whereas this responsibility is best enforced through the instrumentality of a body which emanates directly from, and is immediately subject to, the whole people, and which completely represents their feelings and interests.

And whereas the Commons' House of Parliament now exercises in the name and on the supposed behalf of the people the power of making the laws, it ought, in order to fulfil with wisdom and with honesty the great duties imposed on it, to be made the faithful and accurate representation of the people's wishes, feelings, and interests.

The definite provisions fall under six heads—the famous "Six Points" of the Charter. First, every male adult is entitled to the franchise in his district after a residence of three months.[1] Second, voting is by ballot. Third, there will be three hundred constituencies divided as equally as possible on the basis of the last census, and rearranged after each census. Fourth, Parliament is to be summoned and elected annually. Fifth, there is to be no other qualification for election to Parliament beyond the approval of the electors—that is, no property qualification. Sixth, members of Parliament are to be paid for their services.

Besides these fundamentals of a democratic Parliamentary system, there are minor but highly important provisions. The Returning Officers are to be elected simultaneously with the members of Parliament, and they are to be paid officials. All elections are to be held on one and the same day, and plural voting is prohibited under severe penalties. There is no pauper disqualification.[2] All the expenses of elections are to be defrayed out of an equitable district-rate. Canvassing is illegal, and there are to be no public meetings on the day of election. A register of attendance of the members of Parliament is to be kept—a logical outcome of payment. For the infringement of the purity of elections, for plural voting,


  1. Residence of three months is only mentioned casually. In connection with registration.
  2. Added in 1842.