Page:The Chartist Movement.djvu/54

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6
THE CHARTIST MOVEMENT

By this time the flood of controversy aroused by the Wilkes cases was in full flow, and the tide of Radical opinion was swelled by the revolt of the American Colonies. In 1774: Lord Stanhope, and in 1776 the famous Major John Cartwright, published more sweeping plans of Parliamentary Reform. Cartwright's scheme is set forth in the pamphlet, Take your Choice. Annual Parliaments and the payment of members are defended and advocated on the ground that they were "the antient practice of the Constitution," an argument which was a mainstay of the Chartist leaders. Payment of members was in force down to the seventeenth century, the oft-cited Andrew Marvell receiving wages from his Hull constituents as late as 1678. In claiming Annual Parliaments as a return to ancient ways Cartwright had the authority, such as it was, of Swift.[1] Universal suffrage, vote by ballot, and the abolition of plural voting also found a place in Cartwright's scheme, but he maintained the property qualification for members of Parliament.[2] Thus four of the six "points" of the Charter were already admitted into the Radical programme. It only required a few years to add equal electoral districts and the abolition of the property qualification.

These were added by a committee of reformers under the guidance of Fox in 1780. The whole programme figured in the interrupted speech of the Duke of Richmond in the House of Lords in the same year and in the programme of the Society of the Friends of the People (1792-95). The Chartists were not unaware of the long ancestry of their principles.[3] There was a prophetic succession of Radicals between 1791, when the first working men's Radical society—the London Corresponding Society—was founded, and 1838, when the Charter was published. Down to the outbreak of the French Revolution the Radical faith in England, as in France, was mainly confessed in middle-class and some aristocratic circles. Wilkes, Fox, Sawbridge, and the Duke of Richmond are types of these early Radicals. With the opening of the States-General and the rapid increase of terrorism in France the respectable English Radicals began to shelve their beliefs. On the other hand, the lower classes rallied strongly to the cause of Radical reform, and the Radical programme fell into their keeping, remaining their

  1. Life of Major John Cartwright, by his niece F. D. Cartwright, London, 1826, i. 82.
  2. Veitch, p. 48.
  3. Lovett, Life and Struggles, p. 168. The preface to the first (1838) edition of the "People's Charter" contains a brief history of the "Six Points from 1776 onwards.