The Chartist Movement/Chapter 17
THE DECLINE OF CHARTISM
(1) The Plug Plot and its Consequences (1842–1843)
Chartism stood helpless when the combination of Whigs and Tories had thrown out of Parliament the National Petition of 1842. The autocrat of Chartism had staked everything on a false move. Once more "moral force" had failed to convince the representatives of the middle -class electorate. Once more there only remained the trial of "physical force." But, however much he might bluster, O'Connor was neither willing nor able to fall back upon the alternative policy of the hot-bloods whom he had so often denounced. And O'Connor still dominated the movement to such an extent that a course of action of which he disapproved was condemned to futility. Hence the tameness with which organised Chartism bore the destruction of its hopes. Hence the weakness and incoherence of the measures by which the stalwarts of the party strove to maintain the Chartist cause after the failure of the Petition. Hence, too, their eagerness to adopt as their own any passing wave of discontent and claim the storm as the result of their own agitation.
The collapse of the Petition was followed by a few protests, much violent language in the Northern Star, and a few public meetings, notably in Lancashire, where the speaking was even more unrestrained than were the leading articles of the Chartist organ. A notable instance of these assemblies was the great gathering held on Enfield Moor, near Blackburn, on Sunday, June 5. Its business was "to consider the next steps to be taken to obtain the People's Charter." Marsden of Bolton put before the crowd the fatuous proposal that the people should collect arms and march in their thousands on Buckingham Palace. "If the Queen refuses our just demands, we shall know what to do with our weapons." But nothing came of this or any other similar manifestations of Chartist statesmanship. It looked as if the leaders could no longer carry on an effective agitation.
The outbreak of a widespread strike in August added a real element of seriousness to the situation in the North. Here again Lancashire was the storm-centre, but the strike movement broke out simultaneously in other districts, ranging from Glasgow and Tyneside to the Midlands, where the colliers in the Potteries and in the South Staffordshire coal-field went out. It is very doubtful whether the strike had much directly to do with Chartism. Its immediate cause was a threatened reduction of wages, which was answered by the workmen in the Lancashire nulls drawing the plugs so as to make work impossible. For this reason the operatives' resistance to the employers' action was called in Lancashire the Plug Plot.
Whatever the origin of the strike, the Chartist leaders eagerly made capital out of it. They attributed the proposed reduction to the malice of the Anti-Corn Law manufacturers, anxious to drive the people to desperation, and thus foment disturbances that would paralyse the action of the Protectionist Government. In a few days the country was ablaze from the Ribble to the confines of Birmingham. At a great meeting of the Lancashire and Cheshire strikers on Mottram Moor on August 7 it was resolved that "all labour should cease until the People's Charter became the law of the land." A similar resolution was passed at Manchester and in nearly all the great towns of Lancashire. On August 15 the same resolution was passed at a meeting on Crown Bank at Hanley, at which Thomas Cooper presided. Despite his exhortations to observe peace and order, serious rioting broke out.
The Chartists' leaders now gathered together at Manchester, where the Executive Council of the National Charter Association was joined by delegates from the Manchester and West Riding areas. It first assembled on August 12, but members came in by slow degrees. It met in Schofield's chapel and was dignified by the Northern Star with the name of a conference. In this MacDouall took the lead, and was not displaced from it even when O'Connor, Campbell the Secretary, and Thomas Cooper, hot from his stormy experiences in the Potteries, joined the gathering. Cooper has left a vivid account of his escape from Hanley by night, and of his vacillation between his desire to stay with his comrades in the Potteries and his wish to be in Manchester, where he rightly felt the real control of the movement lay. He trudged along the dark roads from Hanley to Crewe, a prey to various tumultuous and conflicting thoughts. But he was sustained by the noble confidence that O'Connor would be at Manchester and would tell everybody what to do. At Crewe he took the train and found Campbell the Secretary in it. Campbell, now resident in London, was anxious to be back in his old home and see how things were going there. As soon as "the city of long chimneys" came in sight and every chimney was beheld smokeless, Campbell's face changed, and with an oath he said, "Not a single mill at work! Something must come out of this and something serious too!"
The conference speedily resolved that the strikers should be exhorted to remain out until the Charter became law. To procure this end, MacDouall issued on behalf of the Executive a fierce manifesto appealing to the God of battles and declaring in favour of a general strike as the best weapon for winning the Charter. But divided counsels now once more rent asunder the party and made all decisive action hopeless. Even in the delegates' meeting it had been necessary to negative an amendment denying any connection between the existing strike and Chartism. At Ashton-under-Lyne the strikers declared that they had no concern with any political questions.
The fatal blow came from O'Connor, to whom simple men like Thomas Cooper had gone as to an oracle for guidance. Even in the Convention his puppets had supported dilatory tactics. In a few days O'Connor fiercely attacked MacDouall in the Northern Star, for "breathing a wild strain of recklessness most dangerous to the cause." Good Chartists were advised to retire from a hopeless contest, reserving their energies for some later season when their organisation should have been perfected. The strike, far from being a weapon of Chartism, was a crafty device of the mill-owners of the Anti-Corn Law League to reduce wages and divert men's minds from the Charter.
Riots and disturbances further complicated the situation. Cooper had fled from the burning houses of Hanley and the fusillade of soldiers shooting men dead in the streets. Now the trouble spread northwards into Lancashire and the West Riding. Shops were looted, gas-works attacked, trains were stopped, two policemen were killed in the streets of Manchester. Troops were rapidly poured into the disaffected districts. There were over two thousand soldiers with six pieces of artillery in Manchester alone. At Preston and Blackburn the soldiers fired on the crowd; Halifax was attacked by a mob from Todmorden. Widespread alarm was created, but there is little evidence that the disorders were really dangerous. O'Connor strongly urged peaceable methods in a public letter. "Let us," he said, "set an example to the world of what moral power is capable of effecting." His violent pacifism was largely attributed to lack of personal courage.
The vigorous action of the Government soon re-established order. Then came the turn of the leaders to pay the penalty. The panic-stricken authorities put into gaol both those who had advocated rebellion and those who had spoken strongly for peaceful methods. O'Connor himself was apprehended in London, while William Hill, the editor of the Northern Star, was taken into custody at Leeds. Cooper was arrested soon after his return home to Leicester. But there was long delay before the trials were concluded, and many were released on bail, among them Cooper and O'Connor. The most guilty of all, MacDouall, evaded, by escape to France, the consequences of his firebrand manifesto. In the course of September the strike wore itself out. The workmen went back to the mills and coal-mines without any assurances as to their future wages. The economic situation was as black as was the course of politics. With a falling market, with employers at their wits' end how to sell their products, there was no chance of a successful strike. The appeal from the Commons to the people had proved a sorry failure. Once more the Chartists had mismanaged their opportunities through divided counsels and conflicting ideals.
The discomfited remnant that was still free fiercely quarrelled over the apportionment of the blame for the recent failure. There was a strong outcry against the old Executive. It was denounced for insolence, despotism, slackness, wastefulness, and malversation. A warm welcome was given to a proposal of Cooper's that the Association should receive a new constitution which dispensed with a paid Executive. As a result of an investigation at a delegates' meeting towards the end of the year, the Executive either resigned or was suspended.
MacDouall was made the scapegoat of the failure. He it was who had given the worst shock to the credit of Chartism. How many tracts might have been published and distributed with the money lavished upon MacDouall. In great disgust the exile renounced his membership of the Association. However, he came back to England in 1844, and at once made a bid for restitution. His first plan was to drive home the old attack on O'Connor by an attempt to set up a separate Chartist organisation for Scotland independent of the English society. At the same time he denounced O'Connor for his ungenerous exploitation of his pecuniary obligations to him in the hope of binding him to him and gagging him. It was O'Connor, too, who had advised him to run away in 1842 in order to throw upon him the whole responsibility for the Plug Riots. Both accusations are only too credible, but no trust can be given to MacDouall's statements. His veracity and good faith are more than disputable, and his constant change of policy was at least as much due to self-interest as to instability. He was one of the least attractive as well as most violent of the Chartist champions. It is startling after all this to find that in 1844 O'Connor was welcoming MacDouall back to the orthodox fold and that the Glasgow Chartists raised the chief difficulties in the way of the ostentatiously repentant sinner. There was no finality in the loves and hates of men of the calibre of O'Connor and MacDouall.
Though its prospects were increasingly unhopeful the Complete Suffrage agitation was not yet dead. At Sturge's suggestion a new attempt was made to bridge over the gulf between Suffragists and Chartists, which Was found impossible to traverse at the Birmingham Conference. With this object a second Conference met on December 27, 1842, also at Birmingham. Sturge once more presided over a gathering which included representatives of both parties. The Suffragists were now willing to accept the Chartist programme, but they were as inveterate as ever against the use of the Chartist name. To the old Chartists the Charter was a sacred thing which it was a point of honour to maintain. Harney thus puts their attitude:
Give up the Charter! The Charter for which O'Connor and hundreds of brave men were dungeoned in felons' cells, the Charter for which John Frost was doomed to a life of heart-withering woe! … What, to suit the whim, to please the caprice, or to serve the selfish ends of mouthing priests, political traffickers, sugar-weighing, tape-measuring shopocrats. Never! By the memories of the illustrious dead, by the sufferings of widows and the tears of orphans he would adjure them to stand by the Charter.
The Conference was carefully packed by the O'Connorites, but there was more than O'Connorism behind the pious enthusiasm that clung to the party tradition. Nor can the Sturgeites be acquitted of recourse to astute tactics to outwit their opponents. Knowing that they were likely to be in a minority, they got two lawyers in London to draft a new Bill of Rights which they laid before the conference in such a way that they burked all discussion of the Charter in its old form. The New Bill of Rights embodied all the "six points" of the Charter, but the old Chartists bitterly resented the tactics which gave priority to this new-fangled scheme. Lovett came out of his retirement to move that the Charter and not the Bill of Rights should be the basis of the movement. He sternly reproached the Sturgeites for their lack of faith. O'Connor himself seconded Lovett's proposal and strove, though with little effect, to conciliate with his blandishments the stubborn spirit of his old adversary. But even their momentary agreement on a common policy united for the time the old Chartist forces. In the hot debate that followed, the doctrinaire tactlessness of the Sturgeite leaders added fuel to the flames of Chartist wrath. "We will espouse your principles, but we will not have your leaders," said Lawrence Heyworth, the most offensive of the Sturgeite orators. Years afterwards Thomas Cooper voiced the general Chartist feeling when he declared "there was no attempt to bring about a union—no effort for conciliation—no generous offer of the right hand of fellowship. We soon found that it was determined to keep the poor Chartists at arm's length."
In the end Lovett's resolution was carried by more than two to one. Thereupon Sturge and his friends retired, and the Conference broke up into two antagonistic sections, neither of which could accomplish anything that mattered. The failure practically put an end to the Complete Suffrage Movement, which was soon submerged in the general current of Radicalism. No doubt the dispute in the form in which it arose was one of words rather than things, but it was no mere question of words that brought Chartists of all sorts into a momentary forgetfulness of their ancient feuds to resist the attempt to wipe out the history of their sect. The split of the Conference arose from the essential incompatibility of the smug ideals of the respectable middle-class Radical, and the vague aspirations of the angry hot-headed workman, bitterly resenting the sufferings of his grievous lot and especially intolerant of the employing class from which Sturge and his friends came. The deep gulf between the Complete Suffragist and the Chartist is symbolised in the extreme contrast between the journalism of the Nonconformist and that of the Northern Star.
The Birmingham failure was another triumph for O'Connor. He had dragged even Lovett into his wake and could now pose more than ever as the one practical leader of Chartism. It was to little purpose that Lovett, shocked at the result of his momentary reappearance on the same platform as his enemy, withdrew, with his friend Parry, from the O'Connorite Conference. The remnant went to a smaller room and finished up their business to their own liking. If Chartism henceforth meant O'Connorism, it was because O'Connor, with all his faults, could upon occasion give a lead, and still more because, lead or no lead, it was O'Connor only whom the average Chartist would follow.
The failure of this last effort at conciliation was the more tragic since it was quickly followed by the conclusion of the long-drawn-out trials of the Chartists, accused of complicity in the abortive revolt of the summer of 1842. Some of the accused persons, notably Cooper and O'Connor, were still on bail at the Conference and went back to meet their fate. Their cases were dealt with by special commissions which had most to do in Staffordshire and Lancashire. The Staffordshire commission had got to work as early as October, and had in all 274 cases brought before it. Thomas Cooper was the most conspicuous of the prisoners it dealt with. Acquitted on one count, he was released on bail before being arraigned on another charge. He finally received a sentence of two years' imprisonment, which he spent in Stafford Gaol. In prison he wrote his Purgatory of Suicides, a poetical idealisation of the Chartist programme, which won for him substantial literary recognition. Most of the Staffordshire sentences were much more severe than that of Cooper, fifty-four being condemned to long periods of transportation. In Lancashire and Cheshire the special commission was presided over by Lord Abinger, Chief Baron of the Exchequer, whose indiscreet language gave occasion for a futile attack on him by the Radicals in Parliament. But the actual trials do not seem to have been unfairly conducted, and the victims were much less numerous than in Staffordshire. O'Connor was found guilty, but his conviction, with that of others, was overruled on technical grounds. His good fortune in escaping scot-free, while other Chartist leaders languished in gaol or in exile, still further increased his hold over the party. It was another reason why O'Connorism henceforth meant Chartism.
(2) O'Connor's Land Scheme and the Chartist Revival (1843-1847)
We have now seen the process by which O'Connor was established as the autocrat of Chartism. But the desperate struggle for supremacy had not only eliminated O'Connor's enemies; it had almost destroyed the Chartist movement itself. It was not only that the Complete Suffragists had been ejected from the movement, that Lovett was permanently alienated and O'Brien brutally silenced; that Cooper and scores of the rank and file were in prison and MacDouall in dishonourable exile. Even within the depleted ranks of the Chartist remnant there was now a deplorable lack of interest and activity.
The sluggishness, which sapped the prosperity of the whole movement, extended even to the inner circle of agitators and organisers who stood round O'Connor's solitary throne. It is best evidenced in the postponement of the Chartist Convention, which, first summoned for April 1843, did not assemble until September 5, when it met at Birmingham. The list of delegates present contained but few of the famous names of earlier Chartist history, but O'Connor himself represented the London Society, while of the rest Harney was perhaps the bestknown of the delegates. During the months of waiting, O'Connor had been thinking out plans of reorganisation which, while professing to give a much-needed stimulus to the decaying cause, aimed grossly and obviously at the promotion of the interests of the autocrat. Accordingly the object of the Convention was pompously given out as "to consider and devise a plan for the organisation of a society to enforce upon public attention the principles of the People's Charter and to devise means for their practical accomplishment." With this motive two schemes were laid before the assembly. One was' a device for the stiffening up and centralisation of the existing machinery of the National Charter Association. The other was the enunciation of a new policy of Land Reform with which all the future history of Chartism is closely bound up.
A new Executive had to be chosen for the Association. Up to now O'Connor had proudly stood aloof from it, preferring to control the machine from the outside. He was now so anxious to get everything under his own direct control that he condescended to accept office. He announced his acquiescence in characteristically grandiose terms:
I am now about to enter into a reacknowledgement of a Solemn League and Covenant with the working classes during that period for which they have imposed upon me duties and a responsibility which nothing but their own good conduct would have induced me to undertake.
Humbly accepting the patronage of the descendant of Irish kings, his meek followers promptly elected O'Connor as their Treasurer, hoping, no doubt, that the rents of his mythical Irish estates and the more certain profits of the Northern Star would fill up the emptiness of their coffers. As Secretary of the Executive the defaulting John Campbell was replaced by T. M. Wheeler, a member of the stafi of the Northern Star, and a dependent of O'Connor. The efiect was to put the Executive in the hollow of the autocrat's hands. O'Connor, in fact, was responsible for the whole scheme; he had set it forth in the Northern Star so far back as the previous April. It involved much more than mere changes of personnel, for the crowning new proposal now was to establish the headquarters of the organisation in London.
The change was easily agreed upon, but its motives and results deserve some consideration. There were obvious motives of convenience in favour of establishing the Chartist machine in the political centre. London had in the days of the Working Men's Association been the birthplace of the movement, and it was only gradually that its centre of gravity had shifted towards the industrial North. Meanwhile the current of London Radicalism had begun to drift into very different channels, and there were few representative leaders in the South save those with whom O'Connor had quarrelled. Harney voiced the higher argument for the change when he declared that transference to London was necessary to "regenerate" the capital. But for O'Connor himself the chief motive was that he himself now lived in London and his simple wish was to exercise control with a minimum of trouble to himself. Perhaps one object was to get away from the Anti-Corn Law League, whose offices were in Manchester. But however these things may be, the result was to cut off O'Connor and his following from the fierce democracy of the West Riding and Lancashire, which had hitherto been his whole-hearted support. It left the field free for the Anti-Corn Law agitators, and left them in triumphant possession. It did little to open up new areas of propaganda. But for the rest of Chartist history the centre of interest becomes once again the South, and the South was so little converted that the net result could only be regarded as loss.
Rather more than a year after the removal of the Executive to London, the southward trend was further emphasised by the transference to the capital of the Northern Star, the one supremely successful journalistic venture of the Chartist movement. Even the Northern Star had suffered from the lethargy which in 1843 and 1844 had fallen upon every aspect of Chartism. It lost its editor when Hill quarrelled with O'Connor and threw up his post in disgust. It fell off seriously both in circulation and influence. In the palmy days between 1839 and 1842 the Star had been not only the oracle of northern industrial discontent, but a veritable gold-mine to its proprietor, and the source of the lavish subventions with which he sustained the tottering finances of the cause. But the greatest prosperity of the Star had been in the early days of its identification with Chartism. Founded in 1837 before the Charter had been devised, it was not before 1839 that it had grown into the position of the leading Chartist organ. It was in the great year 1839 that the Star had attained the highest point of its prosperity. But after the great year 1839 the sales of the Star had steadily declined. Even in 1840 it had only half the circulation of the previous year: each succeeding year was marked by a further drop, and by the summer of 1843 the state of affairs was becoming critical. It was the logical consequence of the establishment of the Executive in London in 1843 that the organ of the party should follow on the same road. Accordingly in the autumn of 1844 the office of the paper was transferred from Leeds to London. Specious reasons for the change were given. The Star was not a local but a national paper; news came later to Leeds than to London; O'Connor's residence in London interposed constant difficulties in the way of publication in Leeds; London was the centre of Government and faction, and the Star must be there in order to fight the enemy on the spot. But if the step had been undertaken in the hope of reviving its sales, the result finally was the completion of its ruin. The Star, which first came forth from its London office on November 30, 1844, was something very different from the old Yorkshire newspaper. It was now called the Northern Star and the National Trades Journal, and a desperate effort was made to win new readers by appeals to the Trades Union element which in earlier days had seemed of little account. Before long it almost ceased to be a Chartist paper at all. The methods and spirit of the old Star had been nurtured in the fierce and democratic atmosphere of the West Riding and Lancashire, and the transplanted organ retained enough of its traditions to fail in making a strong appeal to the south-country readers on whose support it was henceforth mainly dependent. And it was a bad day for O'Connor's influence upon the most blindly devoted of his adherents when he removed from their midst their favourite organ. Even eighty years ago north-country opinion was inclined to resent the dictation of "metropolitan" journalism.
We must now return to the Birmingham Convention of 1843. There the crowning triumph of O'Connor was the somewhat reluctant acceptance by its obsequious members of the grandiose schemes of land reform which were now taking a superficially definite shape in the brain of the agitator, and to which he Was to devote his main energies for all that remained of his tempestuous life. How these plans originated in his mind will demand an even further retrospect. Despite incoherencies and insincerities O'Connor remained possessed by certain fundamental principles or prejudices during the whole of his public life. His hatreds were as sincere as they were fierce, and chief among them was his deep-rooted hostility to modern industrialism and all its works. His abhorrence of machinery, the factory system, the smoke and squalor of the factory town, the close-fisted and selfish employers with their eagerness for cheap labour, sprang not only from his real sympathy with the down-trodden weavers and colliers whose cause he voiced, but also from the country gentleman's enthusiasm for agriculture and the land, and the Irish landlord's appreciation of the advantages of small spade cultivation. His remedy for the evils of the factory system, as shown in the northern towns, had persistently been to bring the people back to the land. Against the horrors of Manchester and Leeds, as he knew them, he set up the ideal of the Irish land system, not as it was, but as it might be, if the huge rents drawn from the toiling colliers were to be diverted to the benefit of the cultivating class and to buying up fresh estates to be divided into small farms. So early as 1841 he had beguiled his imprisonment in York Castle by writing a series of Letters to Irish Landlords, which must have afforded strange reading to the operatives who devoured the Northern Star. In them he ingenuously exposed to the men of his own class his anxiety to preserve the estates of the landlords from the grasp of the manufacturers, who would soon, he was convinced, use the political monopoly, conferred on them by the Reform Act of 1832, to lay hands upon the landed property of the country gentry. He advised the Irish landlords to provide against this danger by abandoning the system of large farming and high rents, and by allocating a sufficient portion of their estates to peasant holdings. To get the peasant to work zealously at the intensive cultivation of his little plot, he must have security and freedom; but so great are the virtues of the system that the prosperous and active cottier can not only earn a good living but pay a high rent, provided that this rent is yielded in corn actually grown, and not in fixed money payments. If this system is good for Ireland, it is equally good for Britain. Within twenty years of its general adoption twenty million landholding peasants, entrenched on the soil and living in contentment and comfort, tempered only by the idyllic simplicity of happy village life, will be an army which will save Ireland and Britain from the domination of cotton-spinners and iron-masters, and give the land and the gentry their true place in controlling the destinies of a free nation. It is a strange phase of a novel New Englandism; a new physiocracy wherein the land yields its produit net for the benefit of the community.
Between 1841 and 1843 the same note is repeatedly struck with the difference in tone required for an audience of operatives rather than for one of landlords. The workmen themselves must unite and by subscribing small sums allow some happy members of their order to make a start. Three or four acres are enough. Cultivated by the spade, and producing crops of potatoes, roots, and cabbages, these little plots will yield such profits, over and above the farmers' support, that they will form a fund which will enable other comrades to forsake the mill and the mine for the invigorating labours of the field. The result will be that the greedy mill-owners and colliery proprietors will find their looms and mill s deprived of labour. Then their only way to carry on their trade will be to bribe their hands not to remove to the land by wages so ample that town and country alike will enjoy the blessings of opulence. The security for all this to the poor man will of course be the People's Charter. When the Charter is won, his vote will secure him the permanent possession of his prosperity. Even before the Charter is secured, and that will not be a long time, the champions of the good cause can organise the resources which will enable a beginning to be made in this most beneficent social revolution.
We now see what O'Connor meant by declaring at Birmingham that something practical must be adopted to save the declining Chartist cause, and how in his megalomania he built up his new Tammany Hall in London, where as chief boss he could pull the wires that were to win the Charter, restore the golden age, make unnecessary the new Poor Law, and turn the artisan classes from there misguided faith in Bright, Cobden, and Free Trade. On the incoherencies of the system, as O'Connor expounded it, it is needless to dwell. They are written large in every detail of the scheme. But there is no need to doubt the sincerity of the strange mind which could convince itself and others of the practicability of such a plan. After all there were sound elements in O'Connor's principles which have appealed, and will continue to appeal, to social reformers of many types and ages. But the fantastic details were as vivid to the agitator as was the honest repugnance to the black sides of industrialism on which his weird calculations were based. His cry was now, "The Charter and the Land"; and he extolled the "Real Chartism which is the Land as a tree market for labour, and the Vote to protect it." From the moment he had made the Land Scheme his own, he could talk of nothing else.
Despite the enthusiasm of O'Connor, both the Chartist cause and the Land Scheme still languished. Even in the Birmingham Convention the warning note was feebly sounded. In the Manchester Convention of 1844, held, unlike that of 1843, at its proper time in April, the final touches were given to the reorganisation scheme. The organisation was henceforth to be the "National Charter Association of Great Britain," and its object was "to secure the enactment of the People's Charter by peaceful legal and constitutional means." Membership was proved by possession of a card, which cost 3d. and was to be renewed annually. There was also a subscription of a penny a week to the General Fund. There was an Executive Committee of five, elected by the annual Convention, and a General Council, chosen by the Executive. The old officers were renewed, and O'Connor was unanimously re-elected by the grateful Convention. But the resolution of the Convention, not to proceed with the Land Scheme on account of the difficulty involved in enrolment, must have brought him face to face with the insecurity of his position. Most of the delegates declared in favour of separating the Land Scheme from the agitation for the Charter.
The apathy, discernible in 1844, was somewhat lessened in 1845. At the National Convention, held on April 21 at London, there was more feeling in favour of the Land Scheme, though there were still good Chartists who were afraid lest it should swallow up Chartism. A committee drew up a scheme for a "Chartist Land Co-operative Society," whose shares of £2:10s. each could be purchased in weekly instalments of 3d. and upwards, and whose design was to "show the working classes the value of land as a means of making them independent of the grinding capitalist," and "the necessity of securing the speedy enactment of the People's Charter, which would do for them nationally what this society proposes to do for them sectionally " But up to the end of the year the net subscriptions available for the purchase of land amounted to less than £2700. It seemed then that, however much O'Connor might flog the twin steeds of the Charter and the Land, their pace remained terribly slow, and even at that pace they could not keep step with each other.
The real sincerity of Chartism had always been its cry of want, its expression of deep-felt but inarticulate economic and social distress. Chartism was the creed of hard times, and it was unlucky for O'Connor and his plans that between 1842 and 1845 there was a wave of comparative prosperity that made those who profited by it forget the distress that had been so widespread between 1836 and 1842. It was only in Ireland that misery still grew apace until its culmination in the potato famine, and in Ireland there never had been any Chartism to speak of. But in England and Scotland it was becoming clear that better times were at hand. The harvests were good, though bread remained dear; there was a great impetus in railway construction; the textile trades, notably the cotton industry, were rapidly increasing. The Chartists themselves recognised the improved outlook, and they were hardly convincing when they warned their following that prosperity would not last long without the Charter. The gross fact remained that the return of economic progress was cutting away the very foundations of the Chartist movement.
The ebb and flow of prosperity and misery largely depend on causes deeper seated than the operations of Governments. Yet the unheroic but effective administration of Sir Robert Peel had already begun to teach the ordinary man that substantial benefits might accrue even from an upper-class Ministry, kept in power by a middle-class House of Commons, This was notably the case with their factory legislation, their successive readjustments of the national . finances, and their legal and administrative mitigations of the doctrinaire harshness of the New Poor Law, as carried out by convinced Benthamites. The result was that men, who, a few years earlier, had been ready converts to Chartism, found more immediate and practical ways of working out their salvation. Unemployment was becoming less common; wages were tending towards the up grade; many of the worst scandals of the factory system were being grappled with. A moderately prosperous artisan discovered a new outlet for his energies in aiding in the great development of trades unionism that was now beginning. Emigration to rich and undeveloped lands beyond the ocean began to afford a more hopeful outlook to surplus population; than the doubtful experiments of O'Connor's Land Scheme. For those who still clung to panaceas there were rival Land Schemes which seemed as attractive, and were as unsound, as that of O'Connor himself. And there were still orthodox adherents of the old Chartist political programme who complained that O'Connor's Land Scheme was but a device to divert the attention of the people from the vital "six points." To this O'Connor's only answer was that he brought in the land question, before they won the Charter, to show to what purpose the Charter was to be applied when obtained.
The return of prosperity was neither general nor deepseated, but it had the more profound effects in diminishing Chartist zeal, since the constant dissensions and jealousies, that had repeatedly rent asunder the party, had spread among the rank and file a widespread distrust of the leaders which often amounted to complete disillusionment. Not only was the failure of Chartism due to the decrease of misery; it was also brought about by the decrease of hopefulness.
The results of O'Connor's unscrupulous treatment of his foes within the party now came home to roost. Nowhere was there fiercer opposition to the Land Scheme than from the malcontents whom the dictator had drummed out of the Chartist army. O'Brien bitterly denounced the Land Scheme from the point of view of doctrinaire Jacobinism. If the Land Scheme succeeded, he declared, it would set up a stolidly conservative mass of peasant holders who would make all radical change impossible. "Every man," said the National Reformer, "who joins these land societies is practically enlisting himself on the side of the Government against his own order."
As time went on, even O'Connor felt the need of trimming his sails to meet tie new breezes of opinion. He began to hedge in his attitude to the Corn Law question, and henceforth generally spoke of Cobden with some measure of respect. In a Chartist Convention held on December 22, 1845), at Manchester the party abandoned its opposition to the repeal of the Corn Laws on account of the threatened scarcity. O'Connor now sang the praises of Peel. Under his administration Toryism had become progressive. A Chartist meeting at Ashton, presided over by O'Connor, unanimously declared in favour of Peel as against Russell. O'Connor was more than wavering in his ancient opposition to Trades Unionism. The Star, now removed to London, gradually posed as a trades union organ. Yet a few months earlier it had spoken contemptuously of "the pompous trades and proud mechanics who are now willing forgers of their own fetters." But O'Connor still sought out any new source of discontent, hoping to bring new recruits to his cause by adopting their principles. Thus a proposal of the Government to reorganise the militia resulted in another new departure. This was a Chartist "National Anti-Militia Association," which was announced as "established for the protection of those who have a conscientious objection to the service and who will not pay others to do for them what they object to themselves. " No vote! No musket! " now became a Chartist cry. Their sensitive consciences revolted against the not very martial obligation of taking their turn in the militia ballot, or of paying a substitute in the event of the lot being adverse.
It was another sign of O'Connor's conciliatory temper that he attempted to re-establish friendly relations with Thomas Cooper, who was released from Stafford Gaol on May 4, 1845. Cooper was more anxious at the moment to secure the early publication of the Purgatory of Suicides than to take up his old propaganda. He was, however, clearly flattered when O'Connor sought out his society, listened with interest to the poet's readings from the Purgatory, and offered to bear the expense of printing the work at the office from which the Star was issued. His acceptance at once opened the way to renewed friendship, but O'Connor soon dropped poetry for politics. "Occasionally," wrote Cooper, "I called on O'Connor and conversed with him; and he invariably expounded his Land Scheme to me and wished me to become one of its advocates. But I told him that I could not, and I begged him to give the Scheme up, for I felt sure it would bring ruin and disappointment upon himself and all who entered into it." At first the patrician kept his temper at the workman's presumption; but he soon grew haughty, and denied Cooper his door. Thus the ill-assorted pair drifted back into coolness, and from coolness to the "real and fierce quarrel" which finally ended Cooper's relations to O'Connor and Chartism.
The Land Scheme still required further advertisement if it were to hold its own against the bitter hostility and the widespread indifference which it encountered. The Land Society underwent a further reconstitution; it was "provisionally registered" in October 1846, and early in 1847 reached its final status as the National Land Company. Its capital was to be £130,000 in 100,000 shares. Branches were to be set up all over the country, and a Land Bank was to be started to facilitate its operations. But O'Connor was to be the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Land Company with absolute control over its operations. Its object was to buy estates in the open market and divide them up into small holdings. All persons anxious to become landed proprietors were to buy as many shares in the Company as they could afford. To encourage the poorest not to despair of owning his plot of ground, a low minimum of weekly subscription for shares was fixed, and a single share could be purchased for 26s. The proprietor of two shares might hope to receive a house, two acres of land, and an advance of £15 to stock it. The holder of one share had a claim on one acre and an advance of £7:10s. The order in which the share-holder was to participate in these benefits was to be determined by ballot. As soon as the fortune of the lottery gave the lucky investor Ms chance, it was the Company's business to find the land, prepare it for cultivation, erect a suitable cottage, and advance the loans which would start the new proprietor in his enterprise. In return the tenant had simply to pay to the Company a rent of 5 per cent per annum. With this rent the Company was to go on buying and equipping more land, until every subscriber to its capital was happily established on his little farm. The impossibility of carrying out such a scheme need hardly be indicated. How could the "surplus hands," the outcasts of the factory system, find the money to buy even one share in O'Connor's Company? How could the town-bred artisan cultivate his little holding without knowledge, capital, equipment, or direction? Could such tiny plots, unskilfully tilled by amateur farmers, be made capable of supporting even the most industrious and capable of the new owners? How could such ill-equipped amateurs compete successfully against the capitalist farmer, skilled in his trade and provided with all the machinery and tools required for modern farming? If this were impossible, how was the Company to get back its "rent" without which it could not extend its operations? How could a sufficient supply of land be procured in a country where great capitalist landholders looked with jealousy upon an independent and self-sufficing peasantry? Moreover, the cotton lords and the railway kings, the successful heads of the professions, the thrifty landholders with a traditional title were all eager to become purchasers of any land offered for sale, and were able and willing to pay a price far beyond the economic value of the land, on account of the social and political prestige still associated with a proprietary estate. Even had this not been the case, the inevitable result of the operations of a great land-purchasing company was bound to speedily raise the already inflated price of land, to the extent of making commercial investments in estates extremely difficult. And so small a sum as £130,000 would do little towards setting up a peasant proprietary in the teeth of a thousand obstacles.
The difficulties of the new enterprise were complicated by O'Connor's extraordinary indifference and ignorance in all matters of business. His own finances were a mystery. At one time he boasted of his estates and capital, and posed as running the movement and financing the Star out of his own pocket. At others he appeared in his truer colours as a reckless and extravagant spendthrift, unable to find funds for the most necessary purposes. Under his later management the Star, once a mine of wealth, had become less and less prosperous. He kept no accounts; he could not make the simplest calculations; he destroyed balance-sheets; he took no trouble to give his Company a legal position; he gave himself the airs of a prince. Moreover, his incapacity to transact business was no longer a mere matter of temperament. Reckless living, a constant whirl of excitement, heroic but futile exertions had undermined his constitution and sapped his faculties. The seeds of insanity were already sown, and the Chartist autocrat was rapidly ceasing to be responsible for his actions.
If a shocking man of affairs, O'Connor had still enough wit left to be an ideal Company promoter. His plausibility, his sanguine temperament, his driving force, his rare command over words, his power over his followers, his magnificent assurance, his reckless unscrupulousness, his extraordinary and ubiquitous energy were still adequate to give his Company a good start. The greater part of the capital asked for was subscribed; six small estates were purchased in the open market and broken up into small allotments. The first of these, an estate of about one hundred acres near Watford, was rechristened O'Connorville, and eager artisans set to work to prepare it for its tenants. No device of advertisement was neglected. There was a cricket match on Chorley-wood Common, where O'Connor captained a team of bricklayers against an eleven of carpenters and sawyers, employed in getting O'Connorville ready for the Chartist settlement. In this the bricklayers won by twenty-eight runs. "The workmen," says the enthusiastic Star reporter, "having proclaimed a half-holiday, appeared as respectable and much more healthy than the Oxford and Marylebone boys." A Chartist cow, named Rebecca in compliment to the South Welsh destroyers of turnpikes, supplied milk for the needs of the workmen. There was later a ceremonial inauguration of O'Connorville on August 17, for which Ernest Jones, O'Connor's latest recruit, wrote a rather commonplace poem:
See there the cottage, labour's own abode,
The settlers soon flocked in, proud to be the pioneers of a great social experiment. One of the allottees was a handloom weaver from Ashton-under-Lyne, who brought his loom with him and employed the time not required for cultivating his allotment in weaving ginghams from yarn supplied from Manchester. Nor did the Hertfordshire settlement stand alone. Within less than two years four other estates were purchased, each covering a wider acreage and commanding a higher price than O'Connorville. There were two sites near Gloucester, one at Minster Lovel near Witney, and another at Dodford near Bromsgrove. A fifth purchase near Gloucester was never completed. It is characteristic of the change that came over Chartism that all these sites were in the South and West Midlands. But the shareholders came largely from the North, and in one week it was boasted that a quarter of the subscription contributed was drawn from Lancashire.
O'Connor found a capable and energetic lieutenant for carrying out his Land Schemes in Ernest Charles Jones (18191869). Like O'Connor, Jones was a man of family, education, and good social position. His father, Major Jones, a hussar of Welsh descent, had fought bravely in the Peninsula and at Waterloo, and became equerry to the most hated of George III.'s sons, Ernest, Duke of Cumberland, after 1837 King of Hanover. The godson and namesake of the unpopular duke, Ernest Jones was born at Berlin, brought up on his parents' estate in Holstein, and educated with scions of Hanoverian nobility at Luneburg. He came to England with his family in 1838, but his upbringing was shown not only in his literary tastes and wide Continental connections, but by his very German handwriting and the constant use of German in the more intimate and emotional entries in his manuscript diaries. He entered English life as a man of fashion, moving in good society, assiduous at court, where a duke presented him to Queen Victoria, marrying a lady "descended from the Plantagenets" at a "dashing wedding" in St. George's, Hanover Square. He was gradually weaned from frivolity by ardent literary ambitions, but was soon terribly discouraged when publishers refused to publish, or the public to buy, his verses, novels, songs, and dances. In 1844 he was called to the Bar, but hardly took his profession seriously. Domestic and financial troubles soon followed. His father and mother died and his speculations failed. In 1845 there was an execution in his house; he was compelled to hide from his creditors and pass through the bankruptcy court. He had now to seek some sort of employment, but apparently failed to find anything congenial to his mystic, dreamy, enthusiastic temperament. He does not seem to have been destitute, but he lived in a fever of excitement and alternating hope and depression. He felt cut away from his bearings, living without motives, principles, or ambitions, until he began to find a new inspiration in attending Chartist meetings. He was soon so fully a convert that, when his first brief came from the solicitors, it gave him far less satisfaction than the applause with which his Chartist audiences received his vigorous recitation of his poems, and the honour of dining four or five days running with O'Connor. Yet many years later he could inspire the boast that he had "abandoned a promising, professional career and the allurements of fashionable life in order to devote himself to the cause of the people." He assiduously attended committees and rushed all over the country to make speeches at meetings. He offered himself as a candidate for the next Convention because he wished to see "a liberal democracy instead of a tyrannical oligarchy." He reveals his sensitive soul in his diary.
I am pouring the tide of my songs over England, forming the tone of the mighty mind of the people. Wonderful! Vicissitudes of life—rebuffs and countless disappointments in literature—dry toil of business—press of legal and social struggles—dreadful domestic catastrophes—domestic bickerings—almost destitution—hunger— labour in mind and body—have left me through the wonderful Providence of God as enthusiastic of mind, as ardent of temper, as fresh of heart and as strong a frame as ever! Thank God! I am prepared to rush fresh and strong into the strife or struggle of a nation, to ride the torrent or to guide the rill, it God permits."
Jones was altogether composed of finer clay than O'Connor. His real sincerity and enthusiasm for Ms cause were quite foreign to the temperament of his chief. But there were certain obvious similarities between these two very different types of the " Celtic temperament." Not only in sympathetic desire to find remedies for evil things, but in deftness in playing upon a popular audience, in violence of speech, incoherence of thought, and lack of measure, Jones stood very near O'Connor himself. Henceforth he was second only to O'Connor among the Chartist leaders. For the two years in which he found it easy to work with his chief, Jones's loyal and ardent service did much to redeem the mediocrity of O'Connor's lead. In his political songs he set forth, always with fluency and feeling, sometimes with real lyrical power, the saving merits of the Land Scheme. Nor was he less effective as a journalist and as a platform orator. Not content with the publicity of the Northern Star, whose twinkle was already somewhat dimmed, O'Connor set up in 1847 a monthly magazine called The Labourer, devoted to furthering the work of the Land Company. In this new venture Jones was O'Connor's right-hand man. And both in prose and verse no perception of humour dimmed the fervour of his periods:
Has freedom whispered in his wistful ear,
A modest but undoubted Chartist revival flowed from all this strenuous effort. O'Connor now sought a place in Parliament, and in 1846 offered himself for election in Edinburgh against Macaulay, who had vacated his seat on taking office in Lord John Russell's new ministry. His address is noteworthy for throwing over one of the "six points" of the Charter. Vote by ballot, hitherto a Chartist panacea, was rejected because it "put a mask on an honest face." O'Connor did not, however, go to the poll, transferring his electoral efforts to Nottingham, where he was beaten in the poll by Sir John Cam Hobhouse, the sometime Radical friend of Byron and Francis Place, but now shut up in the straitest school of Whiggery as one of the tamest of Cabinet ministers of the Russell Government.
The Chartist cause fared better at the general election of 1847. It was one of the surprises of that election that O'Connor was chosen member for Nottingham while Hobhouse was put at the bottom of the poll. There were a good many other Chartist candidatures, but most of them were not persevered in beyond the public nomination at the hustings, and the inconclusive verdict of the popular show of hands. But the few Chartists who went to the poll did not share the leader's good fortune. Ernest Jones was badly beaten at Halifax, and the nearest approach to a second Chartist victory Was at Norwich, where J. H. Parry nearly defeated the Marquis of Douro, the eldest son of the great Duke of Wellington. It was, however, a new thing to have even one Chartist able to voice the party's point of view in the House of Commons, the more so since its representative was the vigorous personality who stood for the cause in the public mind. Even in the heyday of Chartism, it had only been through the benevolence of some sympathetic Radicals, like Thompson and Crawford, that the Chartist standpoint could be indirectly expounded in Parliament.
O'Connor did not make much of his position in Parliament. He talked of bringing in a bill to legalise his Land Company, which the experts had already pronounced to be illegal. But he was as much an Irish Nationalist as he was a Chartist, and the House of Commons after O'Connell's death offered an irresistible temptation to him to revert to the first role he had ever played in politics. His chief work in Parliament was now in obstructing and denouncing the Whig ministers' Irish Coercion Bill. It almost looks as if he had ambitions to oust John O'Connell from his uneasy succession to his father as the Irish leader. But his eccentricities were now verging towards insanity, and his language had become extraordinarily violent. His methods went down on Chartist platforms, but he never gained the ear of the House of Commons.
(3) Chartism and the Revolution of 1848
In 1848 a new impetus was given to the Chartist movement by the revolutionary disturbances which broke out in nearly every country of western Europe. The example of the foreign proletariat in revolt, and particularly the expulsion of the monarchy of July in favour of a French Republic with a social policy of national workshops, stirred up British malcontents to imitate the glorious doings of the Parisian revolutionaries.
Up to this point Chartism has presented itself to us mainly as a particularly British manifestation of specifically British grievances. But the problem of misery and its remedies had its universal as well as its insular aspect, and from the early days of the Working Men's Association, torn which Chartism sprang, the cosmopolitan side of the common cause had not been lost sight of. The Chartist pioneer, Lovett, made it the pride of the Working Men's Association that, as early as 1836, it had introduced to Europe the mode of international addresses between working men of different countries. For a decade the workers of the West, wrestling with legitimism, and the fruits of the Holy Alliance, and finding no salvation in the bourgeois rule which seemed the only alternative to traditional class domination, had looked for guidance from the comparative freedom of English political and social development. While Chartism stood in revolt against the middle-class ascendancy, established by the Reform Bill, the French Revolution of 1848 marked the triumph of the opposition to the similar principles of bourgeois ascendancy which had come in with the citizen king of the French. Thus the Continental democratic leaders hoped for assistance from the Chartist pioneers of proletarian revolt, while the Chartists themselves rejoiced to find brethren and allies among the workers beyond seas.
One link between Chartism and the Continent had always existed in the family connections of Feargus O'Connor. His uncle, Arthur O'Connor, a priest-hating aristocrat, who had taken a leading part among the United Irishmen, had done his best to induce Lazare Hoche to effect the liberation of Ireland by bringing a Jacobin army across the Channel. On his release from prison in 1803, Arthur O'Connor had settled down in the land of Revolution, had been made a general by Napoleon, had become a French citizen, and had married a daughter of the philosopher Condorcet. He was still living in a country house that had once belonged to Mirabeau, and, though over eighty years of age, remained active enough to send home furious attacks on O'Connell and his clerical following. Thus the French Revolutionary tradition had almost as much to do in moulding O'Connor's policy as had his Irish nationalist antecedents. Lesser apostles of Chartism had drunk deeply in the French Revolutionary spring. James O'Brien had glorified the Jacobinism of Robespierre and the Communism of Babeuf in writings which had been widely read in Chartist circles. If O'Brien were now virtually lost to the party, Harney's Jacobinical sentiments, MacDouall's exile in France, and Ernest Jones's German upbringing and relations with German revolutionaries, had all multiplied the dealings between the Chartist leaders and the Continent. There was now in England a considerable band of foreign exiles, chief among whom was Giuseppe Mazzini. Thus it was that the revolutionary movements on the Continent were closely followed in Chartist circles, while Continental rebels repaid the compliment by studying the methods of Chartism in England. The Chartist outlook Was no longer merely local.
In 1845 Feargus O'Connor made a tour in Belgium and came home full of a desire to emulate the Flemish methods of small intensive farming, which he held up for admiration to those who wished to participate in his Land Scheme. Were England cultivated like Flanders and Brabant, it would, he declared, be able to maintain a population of three hundred millions. But O'Connor did not simply go to Belgium to study its agriculture. At Brussels he had treaty with a band of German democratic communists then in exile in the Belgian capital. This body welcomed him with a congratulatory address, signed among others by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. These men, young and little known at the time, had just begun that long association which was to be of such significance in the later history of socialistic theory and practice. Engels had already become during his earlier residence in England the chief link that bound to English Chartism the extremists of the German revolt against the social order.
Friedrich Engels (1820-1895), the son of a well-to-do cotton-spinner at Barmen, was brought to Manchester in 1842 in the interests of a branch of his father's firm, established in the cotton area of south-east Lancashire. His residence in this country between 1842 and 1844 bore as its chief fruit an elaborate study of the condition of the English working classes at that period, which was first published in 1845. It also resulted in Engels being brought into relation with English Chartists and Socialists, from whom he learnt a more concrete method of dealing with economic problems than had prevailed among his German teachers. He wrote for the Northern Star, and became friendly with O'Connor and Jones. On leaving England for Paris, Engels began there his intimacy with Karl Marx (1818-1883), a young doctor from Trier, whose Jewish origin and Radical views made an academical career impossible for him in Prussia. Marx was now, under Engels's guidance, sitting at the feet of the French social reformers. He gladly widened his reading to include the pioneers of English socialism and profited much by it, learning, for instance, from Hodgskin some of the characteristic doctrine which he set forth to the world twenty years later in Das Kapital. Expelled from Paris at the request of the Prussian Government, Engels and Marx next took up their quarters at Brussels, where O'Connor found them. At Brussels they were free to think and write as they chose, while awaiting the upheaval which they foresaw^to be imminent in their native country. When even orthodox Radicalism denied Marx a hearing, he was sure of publicity for his views in the friendly pages of the Northern Star. Thus, when he was forbidden to denounce Free Trade in a conference at Brussels, O'Connor printed his written speech for him in that organ. A " League of the Just," reorganised by Marx and Engels as a "League of Communists," took up under their guidance an open educational propaganda. With branches in London, Paris, and Brussels, it became a powerful body.
London, as the chief haven of refuge for the exiled revolutionary, furnished more abundant opportunities than even Brussels for fraternal relations between the Chartists and their foreign allies. Thus Harney and Jones attended, on July 14, 1846, the celebration of the anniversary of the fall of the Bastille by a Democratic Society of French exiles. At this gathering Jones made a terrific speech on behalf of the fraternity of nations, while Harney drove home his moral by urging the French to forget Fontenoy and the English to forget Waterloo. Moreover Harney and Jones were both members of an international society of German origin called the Deutsche Bildungsgesellschaft für Arbeiter. Jones was an active member of a committee for the regeneration of Poland, and Harney energetically got up meetings in favour of the Poles.
There was a danger lest absorption in international schemes of revolution might not limit the directness of the Chartist appeal to the British proletariat. In the early months of 1848 the conflict between the older and newer Chartist ideals was already making itself felt. There was the natural impulse to profit by the recrudescence of interest in the movement to carry on an agitation on the good old lines that had so often been tried and found wanting. A new National Petition had already been arranged for, and it was another proof of the ascendency of O'Connor that his aristocratic dislike of the ballot was allowed to prevail over the sacred traditions of the Six Points, consecrated by ten years of agitation. The Petition asked for the Charter, but henceforth the Charter was a Charter of Five Points. The Sixth Point, the Ballot, was quietly dropped. Yet it must have been a real stimulus to men, who had long lived in a backwater, conscious, despite their own assertions to the contrary, that the general public was little heedful of their doings, to learn that crowds were flocking on every side to sign the Petition, and that there was every prospect of making a braver show than even in the glorious days that preceded the collapse of the Petition of 1842. With February came the news of the ignominious flight of Louis Philippe and the supersession of the citizen king by a Radical Republic with socialistic leanings. The Northern Star rejoiced in the triumph of the " Paris proletarians," and declared that " as France had secured for herself her beloved Republic, so Ireland must have her Parliament restored and England her idolised Charter." It scathingly compared the glories of the national workshops of revolutionary France with the miserable "bastilles" of the English Poor Law. Something more novel and drastic than mass meetings and petitions was necessary, if the men of England were to follow effectively the example of the heroic sovereign people of France.
In March disturbances broke out all. over the country. On March 6 there were food riots in Glasgow. A mob paraded the town, looting the shops and crying " Bread or Revolution," "Vive la République." Everywhere great damage was done and keen alarm excited. At Bridgeton, an eastern suburb of Glasgow, the soldiers fired on the crowd and shot five men dead. On March 7 there was a less formidable movement at Manchester, a feature of which was the attempt of the mob to clear the workhouse "bastille" in Tib Street of its inmates. There was also wild rioting at Aberdeen, at Edinburgh, and in many other places. In London a meeting, called for Trafalgar Square on March 6 to protest against the income tax, was, owing to its injudicious prohibition by the police, turned into a Chartist demonstration. George M. W. Reynolds, a journalist who had long upheld the claims of foreign revolutionaries, took the chair, and motions were passed sending congratulations to the French Republic, and declaring the adherence of the meeting to the Charter. The police sought to disperse the assembly, but were driven into Scotland Yard. Towards nightfall there ensued slight disturbances, the breaking down of the railings round the Nelson Column and the smashing of lamps in front of Buckingham Palace. The dispersal of the crowd by the palace guard showed that there was not much danger in the outbreak. Where there were not riots, there were meetings to demonstrate sympathy with the French Republicans. At a gathering of Fraternal Democrats, who cheered the French Republic and the Charter, Ernest Jones declared that "the Book of Kings is fast closing in the Bible of Humanity." He was sent with Harney and McGrath to Paris to convey in person the Chartists' congratulations. There was another demonstration on March 13 on Kennington Common.
The Convention met on April 3 in London, where forty-four representatives came from about thirty-six towns. On April 4 serious business began with a proposal from Bronterre O'Brien, whose revolutionary enthusiasm now brought him once more to a meeting controlled by O'Connor. But he came not to bless but to curse, and poured abundant cold water on the ardent schemes of the executive. Bronterre upheld the view that, as the Convention only represented a small fraction of the nation, it should limit its action to presenting the new petition, and that a larger assembly should be summoned to consider ulterior measures. By this dilatory measure time would be gained to prepare for revolution. In opposition to this the executive moved resolutions that in the event of the petition being rejected, a National Assembly should be convoked. This body was to draw up a memorial to the Queen to dismiss her Whig Ministers and choose others who would make the Charter an immediate Cabinet question. Reynolds, the hero of the Trafalgar Square disturbances, had stepped into some prominence as a Chartist leader. He now moved an amendment to this, proposing that on the rejection of the Petition the Convention should declare itself in permanent session, and proclaim the Charter the law of the land.
In the end the Convention decided in favour of the convocation of a National Assembly, consisting of delegates appointed at public meetings, and empowered to present a National Memorial to the Queen and to remain in session until the adoption of the Charter. Elaborate plans for the constituting of the Chartist Commonwealth of the future were now in the air. The aim before the zealots was a Revolutionary assembly that would secure the extension of the Republic from France to England. Even before the Convention had met, O'Connor had sketched in the Star an ideal polity which had many affinities with the French Constitution of the Year Three, and included a House of Commons, elected after the Chartist fashion, a Senate or House of Elders, rather of the pattern of the Conseil des Anciens, and an Executive Council of five, like the Executive Directory, but with a President chosen for life. Local government was to be provided for by each electoral district choosing twelve justices of the peace, whose mandate was to magnify their office by overthrowing all centralisation. Projects of this sort show; how the Chartist leaders had widened their platform. Unluckily they could not agree on the same plan, and events soon made their deliberations abortive.
The National Petition was now ready for presentation, and, according to O'Connor and Jones, had been signed by something approaching six million persons. The Convention publicly announced that it was to be handed in to Parliament on Monday, April 10, and convoked for that day a mass meeting of sympathisers on Kennington Common. The plan was for the Petition to be carried solemnly to Westminster, accompanied by an imposing procession. The great multitude of Chartists, reinforced by any friends of the cause who cared to join, was to convince the timid aristocrats of the strength of the people's cause and terrorise them into the immediate concession of the Charter. In other cities sympathetic demonstrations were to show that zeal for the Charter was not limited to the capital.
The greatest alarm was created by the proposed action of the Chartists, and the publicity chivalrously given to the proposed meeting gave the administration the opportunity of taking adequate precautions to deal with the threatened disorder. The Government lawyers discovered a law of the Restoration period which forbade the presentation of a petition by more than ten individuals. An Act was hurried through Parliament making certain seditious deeds felony. Among such acts were "seeking to intimidate or overawe both Houses of Parliament," and "openly or advisedly writing or speaking to that effect." An army of special constables approaching 170,000 in strength was hastily levied, among their number being Louis Napoleon, the future Emperor of the French. The Duke of Wellington, still Commander-in-chief though on the verge of his eightieth year, was entrusted by the Cabinet with the direction of all the measures necessary for defence, and the Tory veteran appeared in the Whig Cabinet to deliberate with it on the steps to be taken. His plans were judicious and promptly carried out. All available troops were collected, and carefully massed at certain central points from which they could be easily brought to defend the bridges over the Thames, and watch the two miles of road that separated Kennington Common from Westminster Bridge. But they were carefully hidden out of sight and few suspected the strength of the forces reserved for emergencies. The discipline of the streets, even the control of the passage over the bridges, was left to the new police and to the civilian special constables who were everywhere in evidence. In Kennington and Lambeth peaceable citizens carefully barricaded their houses and kept within doors. On April 10 a great crowd assembled on the open space of rough grass then known as Kennington Common. No attempt was made to stop the bands of Chartist processionists who marched from all parts of London to the rendezvous. Soon the Chartists were there in force, and with them were many adventurous spirits, attracted by curiosity or love of excitement. But the alarm as to what might happen was so real and widespread that the assembly was far smaller than the organisers of the demonstration expected. While O'Connor boasted of a gathering of half a million, more impartial observers estimated the crowd as something in the neighbourhood of 20,000. O'Connor drove up in a cab, and was ordered by the chief commissioner of police, Mr. Richard Mayne, to come and speak to him. He looked pale and frightened, and was profuse in thanks and apologies when Mayne told him that the meeting would not be stopped but that no procession would be allowed to cross the bridges over the Thames. He then harangued the assembly, advising it to disperse. The leader was followed by Jones, Harney, and other popular orators. Small as the mob was, it consisted of spectators quite as much as sympathisers. It listened good-humouredly to the speeches and scattered quietly after they were over. The processionists, however, were no longer allowed to cross the bridges in force, and a few heads were broken before they accepted the inevitable and made their way home in small detached groups. Meanwhile O'Connor had driven to the Home Office, where he reported to the Home Secretary, Sir George Grey, that the danger was over, and repeated the thanks and assurances that he had already made to the commissioner. The Petition duly reached Parliament in three cabs, and the day of terror ended in the shouts of laughter that greeted its arrival in the House of Commons. Meanwhile similar precautions had been attended with similar results in the other great centres where Chartist violence had been expected. When April 10 dawned in Manchester, cannon were found planted in the streets, and dragoons patrolled the chief thoroughfares with drawn swords. Thousands of miners and factory hands marched out from Oldham, Ashton, and the other manufacturing towns to the east, and many of them bore pikes and other implements of war. As they approached the city, they were warned of the danger that confronted them and were persuaded to return to their homes.
Chartism never recovered from the tragic fiasco of April 10, 1848. The panic fears that had preceded it were now turned into equally unthinking and more provocative ridicule. The Petition came out badly from the scrutiny of the Commons Committee on Petitions. The gross number of signatures was somewhat less than two millions, and many of these were in the same handwriting. The Committee solemnly drew attention to the fact that among the signatories were " the names of distinguished individuals who cannot be supposed to have concurred in its prayer," such as "Victoria rex, 1st April," Prince Albert, the Duke of Wellington [who was supposed to have signed seventeen times], and Sir Robert Peel. " We also," continued the Committee, "observed another abuse equally derogatory of the just value of petitions, namely the insertion of names which are obviously altogether fictitious." "Mr. Punch," "Flatnose," "Pugnose," and "No Cheese" were examples of this reprehensible tendency. Even including such efforts of the practical joker, there were fewer signatures to the Petition of 1848 than to the Petition of 1842. It Was to no purpose that O'Connor blustered in the House of Commons and declared the great things that he proposed to do. The Petition was dead and was never resuscitated.
A few stalwarts still insisted on the summoning of the National Convention which was to take the "ulterior measures threatened if the Petition were disregarded." Accordingly a National Convention met on May 1. O'Connor opposed its meeting, and took no part in its proceedings. The half-hearted and irresolute assembly set up a new Executive, in which Jones and MacDouall were the leading spirits; but neither Convention nor Executive could decide on any practical steps to secure the acceptance of the Charter in Parliament. Within a fortnight the Convention broke up for good. Lack of funds and a more paralysing lack of interest effectively stayed the hands of the Executive.
A further diminution of O'Connor's reputation now came from the collapse of his Land Scheme. The promises of 1846 and 1847 had not been realised; the little groups of land settlers were very far from earning their living and providing the surplus of profit to the funds from which new lands could be bought; the allotment holders of O'Connorville and its like were in many cases reduced to dire distress. Many were in danger of having to fall back on the cruel charity of the New Poor Law. Rumours of incompetence and malversation were so rife that there was a great outcry against the whole plan. Finally the House of Commons took the matter up and appointed a committee of investigation, which reported in August strongly against the National Land Company and all its works. The Company was an illegal scheme; it could not fulfil the expectations held out by the directors to the shareholders; its books and accounts had been most imperfectly kept; the original balance sheets signed by the auditors had been destroyed, and only those for three quarters were producible in any form. One point only in the damning catalogue of error could in any wise be construed in O'Connor's favour. The Committee reported that the confusion of the accounts was not attributable to any dishonesty on O'Connor's part. The irregularity had been against him, not in his favour, and a large sum of money was due to him at the moment. The conclusion of the Committee was that power should be given to wind up the undertaking, and relieve the promoters of the scheme from the penalties to which they might have incautiously subjected themselves. In September Parliament accepted the report. It dealt such a blow to O'Connor's diminished prestige that the strongest of men could hardly have recovered from it. The Land Scheme, like the Petition, had ended in ridicule and contempt. It was small consolation to the fallen leader that his colleagues regarded him as a fool rather than as a rogue.
A minimum of disturbance and protest followed the collapse of April 10. As after the failure of 1842, there was a certain amount of agitation and rioting, but the disorders of the spring of 1848 fell as far short of those of the summer of 1842 as the Petition of 1848 fell short of the Petition of 1842. There were tumults in Aberdeen in April, occasioned by the election of a delegate to the Convention. In May there were several successive disturbances in London on Clerkenwell Green, now a favourite meeting-place of Chartists; and at Bishop Bonner's Fields in the Tower Hamlets. In Manchester the vigilance of the police prevented any outbreak, but on July 14 there was a collision at Ashton-under-Lyne between a mob, armed with pikes, and the special constables, supported by a small military force. In the course of it the mob did to death a policeman, who was wrongly identified with a constable who had given evidence against MacDouall, who had long plied his trade as an unqualified medical practitioner at Ashton, and was something of a local hero. In London several secret deposits of arms and weapons were discovered by the police in August.
These circumstances gave some justification to the numerous arrests and trials which vindicated the dignity of the law. Ernest Jones was sentenced to two years' imprisonment for his share in the troubles at Clerkenwell Green and Bonner's Fields. In August MacDouall received a similar punishment, while in September William Cuffey and others were condemned to transportation for life. The most chilling circumstance for the last victims of Chartism was the profound indifference shown to their threats and sufferings. But their foolish schemes of impracticable rebellions no less than the eagerness with which they incriminated each other might well have disgusted a public less attuned to anti-Revolutionary panic than the disillusioned men of 1848.
(4) The Last Stages or Chartism (1849-1858)
I After the Chartist collapse of 1848 there remains nothing; save to write the epilogue. But ten more weary years elapsed [before the final end came, for moribund Chartism showed a strange vitality, however feeble the life which now lingered in it. But the Chartist tradition was already a venerable memory, and its devotees were more conservative than they thought when they clung hopelessly to its doctrine. It is some measure of the sentimental force of Chartism that it took such an unconscionably long time in dying.
O'Connor had survived with difficulty the double catastrophe of the National Petition and the Land Scheme. But he still remained member for Nottingham, and, though his parliamentary activity was now rapidly declining, he still spoke and voted upon occasion. There was a last flash of the old O'Connor spirit when, in 1849, he indignantly denounced the seventy of the treatment meted out to Ernest Jones, when the Chartist captive incurred the wrath of the prison authorities by refusing to pick oakum. But it was a sign of failing power or interest when he delayed bringing forward until that same session of 1849 his long-promised motion in favour of the principles of the National Petition. He was, however, voted down by 224 to 15, and, when in 1850 he once more revived his proposal, he suffered the ignominy of a count-out. It was O'Connor's nature to shout with the crowd, and these deadening experiences led him to seek parliamentary notoriety in other channels. Early in 1852 he sold the Northern Star to new proprietors, who forthwith dissociated it from the Chartist cause. His last parliamentary appearances were when he spoke on Irish subjects. If this were no new experience for a politician who never swerved in his allegiance to the Irish national idea, it showed demoralisation that he should make overtures to the Cobdenites, and worship the gods whom he had of old contemned. But O'Connor's career was now nearly run. The shadow of insanity had long been brooding over him and the end came the more quickly by reason of his intemperate habits. At last he was removed from the House of Commons under deplorable circumstances. In 1852 he outrageously insulted a brother member and was committed to the custody of the sergeant-at-arms. Next day he was pronounced insane and placed in an asylum. He died in 1855, and the huge concourse that attended his funeral at Kensal Green showed that the last years of failure and sickness had not altogether destroyed the hold he had so long possessed over his followers.
Ernest Jones gradually stepped into O'Connor's place. His imprisonment between 1848 and 1850 had spared him the necessity of violent conflict with his chief, and after his release he had tact enough to avoid an open breach with him. His aim was now to minimise the effects of O'Connor's eccentric policy, and after 1852 he was free to rally as he would the faithful remnant. He wandered restlessly from town to town, agitating, organising, and haranguing the scanty audiences that he could now attract. His pen resumed its former activity. He sought to replace the fallen Northern Star by a newspaper called Notes to the People. Jones was an excellent journalist, but there was no public which cared to buy his new venture. It was in vain that he furiously lashed capitalists and aristocrats, middle-class reformers, co-operators, trades unionists, and, above all, his enemies within the Chartist ranks. He reached the limit when, under the thin disguise of the adventures of a fictitious demagogue called Simon de Brassier, he held up his old chief to opprobrium, not only for his acknowledged weaknesses, but as a self-seeking money-grabber and a government spy. It was in vain that Jones denied that his political novel contained real characters and referred to real events. Simon de Brassier's sayings and doings were too carefully modelled on those of O'Connor for the excuse to hold water. But however great the scandal excited, it did not sell the paper in which the romance was published. After an inglorious existence of a few months Notes to the People came to an end, and the People's Paper, Jones's final journalistic venture, was not much more fortunate. It dragged on as long as sympathisers were found to subscribe enough money to print it. When these funds failed it speedily collapsed.
The scandal of Simon de Brassier showed that Jones was almost as irresponsible as O'Connor. In many other ways also the new leader showed that he had no real gift for leadership. He was fully as difficult to work with, as petulant and self-willed, as O'Connor had ever been. He threw himself without restraint into every sectional quarrel, and under his rule the scanty remnant of the Chartist flock was distracted by constant quarrels and schisms. Meanwhile the faithful few still assembled annually in their Conventions, and the leaders still met weekly in their Executive Committees. But while each Convention was torn asunder by quarrels and dissensions, the outside public became stonily indifferent to its decisions. Jones himself retained a robust faith in the eventual triumph of the Charter, but he soon convinced himself that its victory was not to be secured by the co-operation of his colleagues on the Chartist Executive. He now grew heartily sick of sitting Wednesday after Wednesday at Executive meetings where no quorum could be obtained, or which, when enough members attended, refused to promote "the world's greatest and dearest cause," because minding other matters instead of minding the Charter. He was one of the last upholders of the old Chartist anti-middle-class programme; but he preached the faith to few sympathetic ears. In 1852 he withdrew in disgust from the Executive, but came back again when the Manchester Conference of that year adopted a new organisation of his own proposing. This Conference, however, made itself ridiculous by persisting in the old policy of refusing to cooperate with other parties pursuing similar ends, and after 1853 no more Conventions were held. The release in 1854? of the martyrs of the Newport rising—Frost, Jones, and Williams—showed that in official eyes Chartism was no longer dangerous. For the five more years between 1853 and 1858 Jones still lectured on behalf of the Charter, and could still, in 1858, rejoice with his brother Chartists on his vindication of his character against the aspersions of Reynolds. With his passing over to the Radical ranks the Chartist succession came to a final end.
During its long agony many attempts were made to revivify Chartism on lines independent of the official organisation. Now that O'Connorism was no more. Chartist pioneers, whom the agitator had driven from the field, came back with new schemes for saving the Charter. But in all of these the Charter was but an incident in a long programme of social reconstruction. In effect politics were to be relegated to the background, and the Charter was to be a symbol of Radical reforms. The first proposals came from William Lovett, who, in May 1848, a month after the failure on Kennington Common, started the People's League, which was to combine with the Charter national economy, the abolition of indirect taxation, and a progressive tax on property. Lovett found so little response that in a few months the new society was wound up. Even more discouraging was the reception of a half-hearted attempt of Thomas Cooper to start in 1849 a new form of Chartist agitation by way of individual petition. Jones would have nothing to say to it, and Cooper so completely gave up the idea that he does not so much as allude to it in his autobiography.
Other plans came from more Radical-minded Chartist seceders. Conspicuous among these was a scheme set up by Bronterre O'Brien with the goodwill of G. W. M. Reynolds These two established a National Reform League which aimed at combining with the political programme of the Chartists large measures of social reform, notably the nationalisation of the land, which had always been a leading principle of O'Brien. It kept on good terms with the National Charter Association, Reynolds forming a link between them. Yet this compromise between political Chartism and the visions of abstract Socialism never prospered, and O'Brien soon transferred his support to another equally abortive society. And even in the thin ranks of orthodox Chartism there was still schism. In 1850 a National Charter League was founded by Thomas Clark in open opposition to the Charter Association. This advocated a more moderate programme and an alliance with the "Manchester School," and had the ambiguous advantage of the secret backing of Feargus O'Connor. Nevertheless at died in infancy. A final attempt to combine the various projected organisations in a single body proved equally [abortive. The fewer the Chartists the more they were divided. Harney, Jones's ally in fierce attacks on the Charter League, soon quarrelled himself with Jones and fell into schism. Later on, Reynolds assailed Jones with even greater fierceness, accusing him of malversation of funds and of other gross acts of dishonesty. At last in 1858 Jones was compelled to vindicate his honour in a libel action, from which he emerged absolutely triumphant. It was sheer despair of such allies that at last led Jones to drop the Chartist cry.
Individual Chartists survived the Chartist organisations for another generation. Down almost to the latter years of the I nineteenth century there was hardly a populous neighbourhood where some ancient Chartist did not live on. He was generally in poor, often in distressed circumstances, but he enjoyed the respect and esteem of his neighbours, was brimful of stories of the hard struggles of his youth, and retained amidst strangely different circumstances a touch of the old idealism which had ever shone with a purer flame among the rank and file than among the leaders. Some of the older Chartists had still work before them which had been suggested by their earlier struggles. Some of the younger Chartists made names for themselves in new directions.
Of the last Chartist leader, Ernest Jones, there is still something to say. In 1858 he initiated a National Suffrage Movement and accepted the presidency of the organisation established for that end. It became, under his guidance, one of the forces which, after a few years of lethargy, renewed the agitation for reform of Parliament, and was a factor in bringing about the second Reform Act of 1867. In 1861 he transferred himself from London to Manchester, where he resided until his death, writing plays and novels, agitating for reform, watching the movement of foreign politics, and winning a respectable practice at the local bar. Here his greatest achievement was his able defence of the Fenian prisoners convicted in 1867 of the murder of Police Sergeant Brett! He remained poor, but obtained a good position in Radical circles, contesting Manchester in 1868, when, though unsuccessful, he received more than ten thousand votes. He died in January 1869, and the public display which attended his burial in Ardwick cemetery was only second to that which had marked the interment of O'Connor.
Jones's bitter enemy, George W. M. Reynolds (1814–1879), survived for another ten years. He ended as he had begun, as a journalist, and Reynolds' Weekly Newspaper, started by him in 1850, and still published, early obtained a position as the organ of republican and extreme labour opinions. Three of O'Connor's enemies still had much work before them. Robert Gammage, the historian of Chartism, found, after the collapse of the movement, a new occupation in the practice of medicine at Newcastle and Sunderland, from which he only retired shortly before his death in 1888. Lovett survived until 1877, mainly absorbed in his declining years in the work of popular education, which had always seemed to him the most essential condition of social progress. Cooper lived on until 1892, even more divorced from politics than Lovett, and finding consolation in his last years in upholding in his lectures the evidences for Christianity. Frost, the Newport rebel, after his return to England, lived quietly near Bristol, where he died in 1877 when over ninety. Notable among the younger men, who could still strike out fresh lines, was George Jacob Holyoake (1817-1906), the young Birmingham Chartist whose long public life ranged from the Bull Ring Riots of 1839 to his many battles for co-operation and secularism, continued until a very advanced age. Even more noteworthy was the career of William James Linton (1812-1898), who, after he had thrown off the trammels of O'Connorism, won reputation as an ardent political reformer, a true poet, and, above all, as the most distinguished wood-engraver of his time.
The great band of Chartist patriarchs show that the reproaches of mediocrity and ineffectiveness, often levelled against the movement, must not be pressed too far. Nearly all of them beguiled their old age by setting down in writing the reminiscences of their youth, or in treating in some more or less general fashion of the history of the Chartist movement. Their memoirs share fully in the necessary limitations of the literary type to which they belong. There are failures of memory, over-eagerness to apologise or explain, strong bias, necessary limitation of vision which dwells excessively on trivial detail and cannot perceive the general tendencies of the work in which the writers had taken their part. But, however imperfect they may be as set histories of Chartism, we find in most of them that same note of simplicity and sincerity that had marked their authors' careers. If these records make it patent why Chartism failed, they give a shrewder insight than any merely external narrative can afford of the reasons why the movement spread so deeply and kept so long alive. They enable us to understand how, despite apparent failure. Chartism had a part of its own in the growth of modern democracy and industrialism.
(5) The Place of Chartism in History
Contemporaries, whether friendly or hostile to Chartism, had no hesitation in declaring the movement] fruitless. The initial failure to gain a hearing for the National Petition was complicated by unending faction among the Chartists, and culminated in the great fiasco on Kennington Common. Then, after a few frenzied efforts had been made to keep the cause alive, it slowly perished of mere inanition. The judgment of its own age has been accepted by many later historians, and there has been a general agreement in placing Chartism among the lost causes of history.
That there is some measure of truth in the adverse judgment can hardly be gainsaid. The Chartist organisation failed; the individual Chartists were conscious of the wreck of their hopes. But how many of the greatest movements in history began in failure, and how often has a later generation reaped with little effort abundant crops from fields which refused to yield fruit to their first cultivators? A wider survey suggests that in the long run Chartism by no means failed. On its immediate political side the principles of the Charter have gradually become parts of the British constitution. If on its broader social aspects there was no such complete and obvious vindication of the Chartist point of view, this is due partly to the fact that the Chartists had no social policy in the sense that they had a political platform, and partly to the obvious truth that it is harder to reconstitute society than it is to reform the political machinery of a progressive community. Yet even here Chartism may claim to have initiated many movements which are still with us, both in Britain and on the Continent. Accordingly we shall take a much truer view of the place of Chartism in history, if we disregard the superficial judgments of despairing agitators and contemptuous enemies, and look rather at the wider ways in which Chartism has made its influence felt upon succeeding generations. From this point of view Chartism deserves a much more respectful consideration than it has generally received. Hard as it is to study it in isolation from the other tendencies with which it was brought into close relations, either helpful or hurtful, it is not impossible to dissect out the Chartist nerve and trace its ramifications into regions of the body politic which, though apparently out of relation to Chartism, were yet unconsciously amenable to its stimulus. Let us work out this point of view in somewhat greater detail.
We may begin with political Chartism, for though Chartism was in essence a social movement, yet, for the greater part of its active existence, it limited its immediate purpose to the carrying out of a purely political programme. Here the consummation of its policy was only deferred for a season. Its restricted platform of political reform, though denounced as revolutionary at the time, was afterwards substantially adopted by the British State without any conscious revolutionary purpose or perceptible revolutionary effect. Before all the Chartist leaders had passed away, most of the famous Six Points became the law of the land. A beginning was made in 1858, the year of the final Chartist collapse, by the abolition of the property qualification for members of Parliament. Next followed vote by ballot, established in 1872. More tardily came the accomplishment of a third point, when in 1911 members of the House of Commons voted themselves pay for their services. If the other three points have not been carried out in their entirety, substantial progress has been effected towards their fulfilment. Two great strides were ' made in the direction of universal suffrage by the Reform Acts of 1867 and 1885, which extended the right of voting to every adult male householder, and to some limited categories beyond that limit. In 1917, in the midst of the Great War, Parliament is busy with a third wide extension of the electorate which, if carried out, will virtually establish universal suffrage for all males, and, accepting with limitations a doctrine which Lovett considered too impracticable even for Chartists, will allow votes to women under a fantastic limitation of age that is not likely to endure very long. The changes of 1867 and 1885, with the more drastic ones under discussion in 1917, will bring about something as nearly approximating to equal electoral districts as geography and a varying increase of population make possible. Its effect will be the greater since the drastic limitation of plural voting, and the abolition of the freeholder's time - honoured qualification, make voters, as well as votes, more nearly equal in value. One only of the Six Points has been regarded as undesirable, namely the demand for annual parliaments. Yet even here the recent curtailment of a normal Parliament's life from seven years to five is a step in that direction.
Even minor articles of the Chartists' programme, not 'important enough to be included in the Six Points, are either adopted or in course of adoption. The payment of returning officers for their services, the relegation to the rates of the necessary expenses of elections, the shortening of the electoral period, with the view of concentrating elections on a single day, are now approved, and it will be a short step from a maximum of two votes to the Chartists' veto of all plural franchises. Thus as far as political machinery goes the Chartists have substantially won their case. England has become a democracy, as the Chartists wished, and the domination of the middle class, prepared for by the Act of 1832, is at least as much a matter of ancient history as the power of the landed aristocracy.
In the light of the adoption by the State of the whole of its positive programme it is hard to reproach Chartism with failure. But let us not overstress its success. Against it we must set the fact that not a single article of Chartist policy had the remotest chance of becoming law until the movement had expired. It was only when Chartism ceased to be a name of terror that the process of giving effect to its programme was taken up by the middle-class Parliaments of the later Victorian age. The pace only became quick when, after 1867, Parliament, with each extension of the franchise, grew more susceptible to working-class pressure. But the Chartist programme was only the first step towards the consummation of the Chartist ideal. The most optimistic of Chartist enthusiasts could hardly have believed that a new heaven and a new earth would be brought about by mere improvements in political machinery. Behind the restricted limits of avowed Chartist policy lay the vision of social regeneration that alone could remove the terrible evils against which Chartism had revolted. The latest phases of Chartism after 1848 fully recognised this fact, but the machine, which had failed at the moment to work out its political programme, could not be reconstructed by its discredited makers for the discharge of still more difficult tasks. Accordingly the social ideals of Chartism attained even a scantier degree of realisation through direct and immediate Chartist action than did its political programme.
In estimating the measure of success won, when the time was ripe, for the Chartist social programme we must apply the same tests that We have used in studying the execution of its political reforms. We must determine the extent to which its social and economic ideals have been taken up, and made practical, in the sixty years that have elapsed since the extinction of the movement. The real difficulty before us is, however, to discover what were the broader visions of the Chartists. They were well agreed in the diagnosis of the obvious social diseases of their time; they could unite in clamouring for the political reforms which were to give the mass of the people the means of saving themselves from their miseries. Beyond this, however, the Chartist consensus hardly went. It was impossible for them to focus a united body of opinion in favour of a single definite social ideal. The true failure of Chartism lay in its inability to perform this task. Political Chartism was a real though limited thing; social Chartism was a protest against what existed, not a reasoned policy to set up anything concrete in its place. Apart from machinery. Chartism was largely a passionate negation.
The Chartists need not be severely reproached for their lack of a positive policy. It was a fault which they shared with the chief English parties of the time. It was a limitation which was inevitable in the existing circumstances. The new Britain, in which we still live, had been slowly arising out of the old England which had preceded the Industrial Revolution. The forms and trappings of the old system still cumbered the ground though the reasons for their existence were rapidly passing away. There was no prospect of such sweeping changes as those which, after 1789, rudely destroyed the mediaeval survivals in government and in society which had been much more noticeable in eighteenth-century France than in nineteenth-century England. There was the less need for political revolution in England since her political institutions, unlike those of France, were still sufficiently sound to be capable of legal adaptation to their new social environment. It was necessary then that the first reforms should be political, and that both these, and such social ameliorations as were immediately possible, should be rather the removal of restrictions than the establishment of positive principles. The first business of every reformer was to clear away evil survivals that could no longer justify themselves. Thus it was that within twenty years it was practicable to abolish the excessive cruelties of the criminal code, to initiate the first timid attempts to mitigate the brutalities of the factory system, to remove the more glaring disabilities imposed on Nonconformists and Roman Catholics, to repeal the anti-combination laws, which had made the healthy development of Trades Unionism impossible, and to cut away unworkable and harmful restrictions on freedom of trade between the United Kingdom and the rest of the world. It was thus that the Benthamites, the only reformers who acted upon principle, could erect the very practical test of utility into a philosophical doctrine, and preach the unrestrained freedom of the individual as the panacea for all the evils of society.
Chartism then was the union of men who agreed in a negative policy of protest against restrictions which were the source of infinite misery and unrest, but whose positive policy was narrowed down to a sensible but limited political programme which, when realised, left the root of social evils hardly touched. That this should be so was unavoidable, since Chartists were profoundly disagreed as to what use should be made by the proletariat of the political power which they claimed for it. Every conceivable wave of doctrine flowed from some portion or another of the Chartist sea. Ideas the most contradictory, dreams the most opposite, were strongly and passionately expressed from one section or other of the Chartist ranks. Many Chartists were, like O'Brien and Harney, frank revolutionaries, who wished a complete breach with a rotten and obsolete past and desired a thorough-going reconstruction of the social order. But even these differed among themselves. Some desired the erection of an autocratic and Jacobinical state which would dragoon the individual into progress on socialist hues. Others, even among those who shared the socialist ideal, were as suspicious of state control as the Benthamites or as Robert Owen, and believed that their goal could best be attained by free voluntary association. Another school, headed by Lovett, was brought by the rude teaching of experience to modify its original abstract doctrine in the direction of a practical compromising individualism. Its final faith was that all would be well when positive restraint on freedom was removed, and when the spread of popular education, organised by private associations, untrammelled by state or clerical interference, had been secured. While all these varied types looked to the future, there were many Chartists who gazed back with such longing to a mythical golden age that they were not so much conservative as reactionary. Men like Joseph Stephens of Ashton, the ToryProtectionist, the ally of Oastler and Sadler, made a much more direct appeal to the industrial North than did Jacobins like O'Brien and Harney. O'Connor himself in his sincerer moments was much more akin to Stephens than to the revolutionary crew which he inspired to battle. Thus Chartism represented not one but many social ideals. Two essentially divergent Chartist types struggled unhappily in a single Chartist organisation.
Much has been written about the various schools of Chartism. There have been many superficial attempts to divide Chartists, both in their own time and later, into the partisans of moral and physical force. But the dispute between O'Connor and the physical force men was a mere difference as to method; it did not touch the fundamental problem of the Chartist ideal; it corresponded to what is found in one shape or another in the history of every revolution. Moreover, there was little sincerity in the physical force party. To a large section of it, notably to the Birmingham Political Union, the appeal to arms was a game of bluff calculated to terrorise the governing classes into submission. To another section it was even less than this; it was simply a blatant device to attract attention. There was little depth then in the physical force cry. Even more superficial than the division between the champions of moral and physical arms is the attempt to split up Chartism into schools, arising from the miserable personal rivalries that did so much to wreck the movement as a force in practical politics. The clearest way of dividing the Chartists into schools is to group them into two sections, a reactionary and a progressive section. While men like Stephens and O'Connor looked back to the past, and strove to bring back those good old days which all history proves never to have existed, Chartists of the type of Lovett and Cooper turned their eyes to the future and sought the remedy for past evils in a reconstruction of society which frankly ignored history.
These schools correspond roughly to the agrarian and the industrial schools. The past which Stephens and O'Connor wished to reconstitute was the rural England, as they imagined it to have been, before the Industrial Revolution. A nation of small farmers, a contented peasantry, rooted to the soil, and capable by association of controlling its own destinies, was to replace the sordid industrialism of the factory system, which to men thus minded was so hopelessly bad as to be incapable of improvement and was to be ended as soon as practicable. On the other hand, the school of Lovett and Cooper accepted the Industrial Revolution and tried to make the best of it. These men saw that the country had necessarily to remain preponderatingly industrial and commercial, and sought to recast society in the interests of the industrial classes, exploited by the capitalists. From these efforts came the most idealistic school of Chartism which recognised that the first step in all improvement was the moral and intellectual regeneration of the workers. At the other end of the scale were the coarsely material Chartists, whose object, narrowed by their miserable conditions, was limited, to palpable and tangible benefit-for themselves. There Were further cross divisions. The northern crowd of factory hands and miners had a spirit very different from that of the south-country Chartists who looked for guidance to the London artisans and agitators. The midland movement, centring round Birmingham, was conspicuous for the part played in it by the "respectable" middle class. To some extent, but not by any means universally, the northerners tended towards physical force and the southerners towards moral force. Then, again, there was the line of demarcation between the individualists and the socialists, also to some extent following the local division of south and north. It was the socialistic wing that had the more clearly cut policy, and the one which carried on most fruitfully the Chartist tradition to the next generation. The great Chartist following had, we may safely say, no policy at all. It followed its leaders with touching devotion into whatsoever blind alleys they might go. The plain Chartists had nothing to contribute to Chartist doctrine. A moving sense of wrong, a fierce desire to remedy the conditions of their daily life, were the only spurs which drove them into agitation and rioting. Hence the incoherence as well as the sincerity of the whole movement.
It followed from the contradictory tendencies within their ranks that Chartists could agree in little save in negations, whether in their social or in their political activity. Nothing kept Chartists together long, save when they made common cause against some obvious and glaring evils^ Thus they united their forces easily enough when they fought manfully against the New Poor Law or for factory legislation and declared in chorus their abhorrence of the Manchester Radicals, like Bright and Cobden, who opposed it in the interest of the manufacturers. When a more positive remedy was sought, the divergent schools parted company. We have seen this when the agrarian proposals of O'Connor were opposed, not only in detail but on principle, within the Chartist ranks. A stolid and prosperous peasant democracy was hateful to Jacobin Chartism, because it would be hostile to all change as change, and would therefore stop any idealistic reconstruction of society.
Whatever else it was not, Chartism certainly was an effort towards democracy and social equality. Nowadays the gulf between classes is bad enough, but it is difficult for the present generation to conceive the deeply cut line of division between the governing classes and the labouring masses in the early days of Victoria. It was the duty of the common man to obey his masters and be contented with his miserable lot. This had been the doctrine of the landed aristocracy of the past; it was equally emphatically the point of view of the capitalist class which was using the Reform Act to establish itself in an equally strong position. Against the autocracy' both of the landlord and of the capitalist Chartism was a strong protest. Every Chartist was fiercely independent and eager that the class for which he stood should work out its own salvation. It is this which makes the most reactionary Chartist idealisation of the past differ from the Young Englandism which was expressed most powerfully in Disraeli's Sybil. The Chartists rejected the leadership of the "old nobility," of the landed aristocracy and the priest, almost as hotly as they resisted the patronage of the plutocrat and the capitalist. In finding no place for the independence of the worker the Young England scheme of salvation parted company from all Chartism.
There was the same conflict in the Chartist social outlook as in their ideals of reconstruction. To some Chartists the war of classes was the necessary condition of social progress, and their characteristic attitude was the refusal of all co-operation between working men and those who did not gain their bread by manual labour. To others of a more practical temperament experience showed that it was wise to unite the proletariat with the enlightened middle classes in common bonds of interest and affection. Yet even thezealots for class war could not dispense with the guidance of men of higher social position, "aristocratic" deserters from their own class, and middle-class men, like the preachers, barristers, apothecaries, shopkeepers, and journalists who were so numerous that they left but few positions of leadership open to real working men. And it is typical of the deep-rooted habit of dependence and deference in early Victorian society that the men who resented the patronage of Young England lords and cotton kings should have been almost entirely unconscious of the blatant condescension involved in O'Connor's supercilious attitude to his followers. But it would be bewildering to develop still further the varieties of social type included within the Chartist ranks.
The religious outlook of Chartists was as varied as their social ideals. To the timid folk who trembled at Chartism without even trying to understand it. Chartism meant irreligion even more than it meant revolution. And it is clear that to most Chartists organised middle-class religion was anathema. "More pigs and fewer parsons" was a famous cry of Chartism on its most material side. Chartist leaders, like Hetherington and Cleave, handed on to Lovett and Holyoake the uncompromising free-thought of revolutionary France, until, under the tatter's auspices, it crystallised into the working-class "secularism" of the later nineteenth century. Yet a strain of exalted mysticism gave force and fervour to many Chartists. We have seen how many Chartist leaders were ministers of religion. Even among the doubters there were elements of spiritual emotion, sometimes extinguished by environment, but at other times kindled into flame by favourable conditions. Thomas Cooper, a Methodist preacher in his youth, the missionary of free-thought in his mid-career, the unwearied vindicator of the Christian faith in his old age, belonged at one time or another to all the chief religious types of Chartism. There was, too, a serious movement for the formation of so-called Chartist churches, though these never comprehended all the religious fervour of the Chartist fold.
The differences of general ideal and social status, the contrasts in method, faith, and conduct explain to some extent the constant feuds which made it hard for the Chartist organisation to follow up a single line of action. The utter inexperience of the Chartist leaders in the give-and-take of practical affairs, their abhorrence of compromise, the doctrinaire insistence on each man's particular shibboleth still further account for their impotence in action. We must not complain overmuch of these deficiencies; they, too, flowed inevitably from the conditions of the time. The working-men leaders had had no opportunity of learning how to transact business one with another. The law denied them any participation in politics, central or local. The still-enduring Six Acts threw all sorts of practical difficulties in the way of the most harmless associations. No political society could lawfully have branches or correspond with kindred organisations or impose on its members a pledge to any categorical policy. Even the right of association in the interest of their own trades had been a boon of yesterday for the British workman, and, when given, it was hampered by many restrictions and limitations. There was never more danger of the plausible tongue prevailing over the shrewd head. Men with little education and untrained in affairs moved in an atmosphere of suspicion, the more so as they were exacerbated by real suffering and inevitably prone to class jealousy and intolerance. The leaders of higher social position taught them little that conduced to moderation, business method, or practical wisdom. The men who most easily won their confidence were the windbags, the self-seekers, the intriguers. Yet there was a better type of Chartist leader, and the touch of complacent self-satisfaction, the doctrinaire impracticability, and the limited outlook of a Lovett or a Cooper must not blind us to their steady honesty of purpose, to their power of learning through experience to govern themselves and others, to their burning hatred of injustice and to their passion for the righting of wrongs. Yet, making all allowances, Chartism as an organisation was ineffective, just as Chartism as a creed possessed no body of coherent doctrine.
In tracing the influence of Chartism on later ideals we must look to the individual rather than the system, to the spirit rather than the letter. But it would be unjust to deny the variety and the strength of the stimulus which the Chartist impulse gave towards the furtherance of the more wholesome spirit which makes even the imperfect Britain of to-day a much better place for the ordinary man to live in than was the Britain of the early years of Victoria. The part played by the Chartists in this amelioration is not the less important because, as with their political programme, the changes to which they gave an impetus were effected by other hands than theirs. At first their efforts were mainly operative by way of protest. They were seldom listened to with understanding, even by those who sincerely gave them their sympathy. As early as 1839 Thomas Carlyle's Chartism had shown his appreciation of the social unrest and burning sense of wrong that underlay the movement, but Carlyle understood the mind of Chartism as little as he understood the spirit of the French Revolution. His remedy of the strong saviour of society was as repulsive to the Chartist as was the sham feudalism of Disraeli's Sybil. It was a time when the mere attempt to describe social unrest was looked upon with disfavour by the respectable, when a book so conservative in general outlook as Mrs. Gaskell's Mary Barton (1848) could be denounced for maligning the manufacturers, and when the chaotic fervour of Kingsley's Alton Locke (1850) could be interpreted as the upholding of revolutionary principles. But the setting forth by men of letters of the social evils, first denounced by Chartists, spread knowledge and sympathy, and at last some efforts at improvement. The complacent optimism of a Macaulay, the easy indifference of a Palmerston to all social evil in the best of all possible Englands became tolerable only to the blind and the callous. Men of the younger generation, too young to take active part in the Chartists' work, gratefully recognised in after years the potency of the Chartist impulse in the formation of their views.
The Chartists first compelled attention to the hardness of the workmen's lot, and forced thoughtful minds to appreciate the deep gulf between the two "nations" which lived side by side without knowledge of or care for each other. Though remedy came slowly and imperfectly, and was seldom directly from Chartist hands, there was always the Chartist impulse behind the first timid steps towards social and economic betterment. The cry of the Chartists did much to force public opinion to adopt the policy of factory legislation in the teeth of the opposition of the manufacturing interests. It compelled the administrative mitigation of the harshness of the New Poor Law. It swelled both the demand and the necessity for popular education. It prevented the unqualified victory of the economic gospel of the Cobdenites, and of the political gospel of the Utilitarians. If the moderate Chartists became absorbed in the Liberal and Radical ranks, it gave those parties a wider and more popular outlook. In a later generation rival political organisations vied with each other in their professions of social reform. The vast extension of state intervention, which has been growing ever since, was a response on thoroughly Chartist lines for the improvement of social conditions by legislative means. A generation, which expects the state to do everything for it, has no right to criticise the early Chartist methods on the ground that one cannot interfere with economic "laws" or promote general well-being by act of parliament. The whole trend of modern social legislation must well have gladdened the hearts of the ancient survivors of Chartism.
In the heyday of Chartism public opinion dreaded or flouted the Chartist cause. In the next generation the accredited historians of political and parliamentary transactions minimised its significance and dealt perfunctorily with its activity. Yet Chartism marks a real new departure in our social and political history. It was the first movement of modern times that was engineered and controlled by working men. Even its failures had their educational value. Its modest successes taught elementary lessons of self-discipline and self-government that made the slow development of British democracy possible without danger to the national stability and well-being. Its social programme was, like its political doctrine, gradually absorbed into current opinion. It helped to break down the iron walls of class separation, and showed that the terrible working man was not very different from the governing classes when the time came for him to exercise direct power.
Nor was the Chartist message for Britain only. The crude experiments of Chartism were watched at the time with keen interest by reformers from other lands, and have been studied in later days with much more curiosity in Germany, France, and America than in the island of its birth. It was the first genuinely democratic movement for social reform in modern history. It was the first stage of the many-tongued movement which transferred the bourgeois demand for liberty, equality, and fraternity from the purely political and legal to the social sphere, and was thus the unconscious parent of Continental social democracy. Hence its anticipation of the cry for a universal proletarian brotherhood which was to cut across national lines of division by organising the laborious classes of all lands in a great Confederation of all workers. The first efforts towards international brotherhood came from the Chartist leaders, and their methods were studied by the revolutionaries of the Continent and adapted to the conditions of their own lands. Thus a movement, which was only to a limited extent socialistic at home, became an important factor in the development of abstract socialism abroad. It is strange that in the evolution of Continental socialism the Chartists should have played a more direct part than did Robert Owen and the whole-hearted pioneers of the British socialist movement. It was from the Chartists and their forerunners that Marx and Lassalle learned much of the doctrine which was only to come back to these islands when its British origin had been forgotten. Europe is still full of "the war of classes" of the "international" and other disturbing tendencies that can in their beginnings be fathered on the Chartists. There is no need to discuss here the value of these points of view. However they may be judged, their importance cannot be gainsaid. As a result of such tendencies our own generation has seen a much nearer approach to the realisation of Chartist ideals than the age of our fathers. It need not be afraid to recognise that, with all their limitations, the Chartists have a real place in the development of modern English politics and society. In stumbling fashion they showed to the democracies of the West the path which in our own times they have first striven seriously to follow. Many of the problems which still vex the reformer were first attacked by the Chartist pioneers.
- Annual Register, lxxxiv. 11. 102.
- The Life of Thomas Cooper, pp. 190-91. Compare T. E. Ashworth, The Plug Plot at Todmorden, p. 16. "The 'turn-outs' visited every mill In the Todmorden valley first raking out the fires from beneath the boilers and then knocking the boiler-plugs out."
- This is Cooper's view, Life, pp. 190-91. That it was widely spread is clear from the Manchester Courier, August 13, 1842, and still more from The League Threshed and Winnowed, League Hypocrisy, The Treachery of the League, and other contemporary pamphlets, collected in Manchester Free Reference Library (P. 2507). A foolish speech of Cobden in the House of Commons on July 8, threatening outbreaks, is often quoted as a proof. Dolléans' Chartisme, ii. 210-25, elaborately discusses the origin of the strike and Inclines towards connecting both Chartists and Anti-Corn Law League with it. But it would be safer to assume that the League, like the Chartists, made what capital it could out of the situation. The Machiavellian policy attributed to it Is hardly credible. But none of these Interrelated movements worked independently of the other. Their isolation only exists in the narratives of their historians. It is remarkable, however, how both the political and the free trade writers Ignore the very existence of Chartism. Even Morley's Life of Cobden is not exempt from this reproach.
- Manchester Guardian, August 13, 1842, gives its terms.
- Life of Thomas Cooper, pp. 191-9.
- Northern Star, August 20, 1842.
- Life of Thomas Cooper, p. 206.
- Ibid. pp. 210-11. The Times, August 19.
- The Times, August 15.
- Northern Star, August 27.
- Ibid. August 20.
- Times, August 17.
- Northern Star, January 25, 1845.
- Northern Star, December 10, 1842. But compare ibid. December 3.
- Ibid. January 7, 1843.
- Ibid. December 10.
- Ibid. December 17, 1844.
- British Statesman, December 17.
- Northern Star, February 17, 1844. Compare ibid. November 23 and December 28.
- Ibid. February 15, 1842.
- For a very frank view of the morality and motives of MacDouall, "the doctor," as he calls him, see Alexander Somerville's Autobiography of a Working Man (1848), pp. 474-8. It is only fair to say that Somerville was bitterly prejudiced against MacDouall as a violent and cowardly apostle of physical force. In the time of the 1839 riots Somerville had written his dissuasive Warnings to the People on Street Warfare. He was now quite out of sympathy with Chartism and a strong critic of O'Connor's Land Scheme. Cobden in 1849 suggested him to Bright as the best man to write a "temperale and truthful" history of Chartism," reviewing with advantage the bombastic sayings and doings of Feargus and his lieutenants." "It would be certain to elicit a howl from the knaves who were subjected to the ordeal of the pillory" (Morley's Life of Cobden, ii. 54).
- Northern Star, August 1 and 8, 1846.
- An allusion to Thomas Spencer, Herbert Spencer's uncle. Herbert Spencer himself was a "Sturgeite" delegate for Derby at the Conference. Ibid. December 24, 1842.
- Ibid. January 14, 1843. Harney was a representative of Sheffield at the Conference along with three like-minded colleagues.
- Noncomformist, December 31, 1842. This paper gives good accounts of the proceedings from the Sturgeite point of view. It should be compared with the opposite standpoint expressed in the Life of Thomas Cooper.
- Ibid. pp. 222-44.
- See, for instance, the testimony of Thomas Carlyle in Life of Thomas Cooper, pp. 282-3.
- The statistics are in Annual Register, lxxxiv. ii. 163.
- A vote of censure was moved on February 21, 1843, by T. Duncombe and lost by 228 to 73. Most of the free traders, including Cobden and Villiers, voted with the majority (Northern Star, February 25, 1843).
- See the list of delegates present in Northern Star, September 9, 1843. O'Connor was the only London representative.
- Ibid. August 26.
- Northern Star, September 16.
- Ibid. April 1.
- In 1839 It was said that the Star sold 35,559 copies a week. But compare above, p. 173, note 1, tor an even more extravagant estimate for part of that year. The returns of the stamps issued show that its average weekly circulation in 1840 was 18,780 in 1841, 13,580, and in 1842, 12,500 (Parliamentary Papers, 1843, xxx. 544). In 1843 the circulation from July to September averaged 9700, and from October to December 9000 a week (Ibid., 1844, xxxli. 419).
- Northern Star, October 19, 1844, the date of the public announcement of the impending change. The last number published at Leeds was issued on November 23.
- They appeared in the Northern Star between July 10 (No. 1) and August 7 (No. 5), 1841.
- See, for instance, O'Connor's extraordinary argument in Northern Star, May 15, 1843, that a man with four acres under potatoes, cabbages, and turnips could clear £100 a year at a moderate estimate by spade cultivation. O'Connor's figures worked out to £305, and he allowed only £100 surplus to show his moderation. The Leeds Mercury replied that at this rate all landlords would raise their rents twentyfold.
- See O'Connor's answer to the Leeds Mercury in Northern Star, June 3, 1843. It is simply that the Mercury leaves the magic effects of the Charter out of the question.
- Northern Star, September 16, 1843.
- Ibid. April 27, 1844.
- Ibid. April 20.
- Ibid. April 26 and May 5, 1845.
- Northern Star, December 13 and 20, 1815. Report ot Land Conference at Manchester.
- Ibid. May 3, 1845.
- See, for instance, the rival scheme of Carpenter in Lloyd's Weekly Newspaper for 1845, and O'Connor's answer to it in Northern Star, June 21 and 28, 1845. Compare the Land Scheme, mooted at a conference at Exeter, 1845, in conjunction with a project for a general union of trades (Ibid. July 12, 1845).
- Northern Star, May 20 and June 24, 1843, Letter of Thomas Smith of Liverpool: "According to this new, light of Mr. O'Connor all our efforts to obtain what we have called our rights, all negotiation on behalf of the Charter, now prove to have been but superfluous and mischievous impertinence.
- Ibid. July 15, 1843. Speech of O'Connor at Manchester on July 8.
- See the valuable suggestions on the relative value of material and moral forces in the falling away of Chartism, and generally the whole of the chapter in Dol16ans, ii. 317. Compare Slosson, The Decline of the Chartist Movement, pp. 115-38, ch. iv., "The Improvement in the Condition of the Working Classes after 1842."
- National Reformer, quoted in Slosson, Decline of the Chartist Movement, p. 88. It was O'Brien's own organ.
- Northern Star, December 27, 1845.
- Ibid. December 20.
- Ibid. November 1, 1815.
- Ibid. February 7, 1846.
- Ibid. January 17, 1846.
- Life of Thomas Cooper, p. 258. Compare ibid. chapters xxiv. and xxv. for Cooper's subsequent relations with O'Connor.
- Life of Thomas Cooper, pp. 273-4.
- Ibid. pp. 277-8. Cooper himself refers to Gammage's History of the Chartist Movement for details of the final rupture.
- Northern Star, July 11, 1846.
- Ibid. August 22.
- Manchester Examiner, December 5, 1846
- Northern Star, November 21, 1846. In one week Lancashire contributed £292:17:8 out of a total subscription of £1331:4:9½. There was much rejoicing over these large totals.
- For instance, the long entries in his diary under September 2, 1839, and more shortly in the remark under September 10. "Bought a pair of boots. Mein Herz bricht!" Jones's manuscript diary is preserved with much other material for his biography in the Manchester Free Reference Library [MSS. 312 A. 17, 18]. Its two volumes range from July 3, 1839, to May 9, 1847. For other diaries and note-books of Jones, see later, note 1 on page 299. The diary has been used to some extent by David P. Davies in his Life and Labours of Ernest Jones (Liverpool, 1897). Among the numerous Jones tracts in the Manchester Library is a curious pamphlet, Ernest Jones. Who is He? What has He Done? It was an attempt to justify his career when he stood for Manchester in 1868, and is not unskilfully done, though in too apologetic a strain. Some statements are demonstrably false, notably that he never had any connection with O'Connor's Land Campaign. The pamphlet excited critical rejoinders, such as Mr. Ernest Jones and his Candidature by G. W. Mason, which accuses Jones of having written Who is He? himself. However this may be, it was clearly drawn up imder his inspiration. Both pamphlets are merely electioneering. No one can read his diary without being convinced of Jones's fundamental sincerity despite many weaknesses and affectations.
- A few entries from the diary illustrate this. "I played a walzer of my own composition;" "I have now three songs being set to music by Benedict;" "I went to the Queen's grand birthday drawing-room;" "married to Jane [Atherley], June 16, 1841, dashing wedding; offered a poem to thirty-two different publishers." Under November 3, 1842, he records that five plays of his and one novel, besides numberless minor pieces, had been refused by publishers.
- On September 20, 1845, he was appointed secretary to the Leek and Mansfield (Macclesfield?) Railway at a salary of four guineas a week, and began work at once.
- He was gazetted bankrupt in January 30. 1846 (London Gazette, January 30 and February 2, 1846). His first recorded attendance at a Chartist meeting was on January 28 of that year, where he "spoke over the Chartist organisation."
- Ernest Jones. Who is He?
- Northern Star, May 9, 1846.
- MS. Diary, October 8, 1846.
- Northern Star, March 7, 1846.
- The numbers were Walter (of the Times) 1830; O'Connor, 1340, elected; Gisborne, 1089; Hobhouse, 974, not elected (Northern Star, July 31, 1847).
- Jones only got 279 votes, while the lowest successful candidate obtained 506.
- The numbers were Peto, 2414; Douro, 1723, elected; Parry, 1648, not elected.
- Northern Star, December 4, 1847, called J. O'Connell "a lick-spittle spaniel only fit to be kicked." His crime was wishing to keep on terms with the Whig ministry.
- Thus he addressed the Weekly Despatch: "You unmitigated ass! You sainted fool! You canonised ape! There is not a working man in England who has not more confidence in me than in any banker in the world, and so he ought, you nincompoop!" (Northern Star, September 25, 1847).
- Lovett's Life and Struggles, pp. 98-100. In that year the W.M.A. sent an address to Belgian workers and received an answer from them. In 1844 Lovett joined in forming a society of the "Democratic Friends of all Nations," largely composed of refugees, which aimed at promoting international brotherhood by pacific addresses.
- Northern Star, September 20, 1845. With characteristic incoherence O'Connor wrote in the Star of September 27 that the Belgian peasants were in terrible tribulation through a failure of the harvest.
- Northern Star, July 25, 1847.
- F. Engels, Die Lage der arbeitenden Klassen in England (Leipzig, 1845), translated by F. K. Wischnewetzky as The Condition of the Working Classes in England in 1844 (London, 1892).
- Northern Star, October 9, 1847. The conference was on September 17-19.
- Northern Star, July 18, 1846.
- Ibid. March 21 and 28, 1846.
- Northern Star, March 25, 1848.
- Ibid. March 18.
- Ibid. March 11.
- Ibid. March 4.
- Northern Star, April 1.
- A letter of Lord John Russell to the Queen, dated 2 p.m., giving a useful summary of the events of the morning, is in Letters of Queen Victoria, ii. 168-9. There is a coloured hut very accurate account in Annual Register, xc. ii. 50-54 (1848).
- See the interesting reminiscences of the old Chartist, William Chadwick, quoted from the Bury Times of February 24, 1894, in Slosson, p. 100. Russell had reported to the Queen that "at Manchester the Chartists are armed and have bad designs" (Letters of Queen Victoria, ii. 109).
- The conclusions of the Committee are quoted in Slosson, pp. 91-92. The evidence and report are set forth at length in Parliamentary Papers, 1847-8, xix.
- Annual Register, xc. 11. 59.
- Ibid. p. 80.
- Annual Register, p. 103.
- Ibid. p. 104.
- Cuffey, a notorious London Chartist, is perhaps the Chartist leader most often mentioned in Punch, whose attitude to the men of 1848 was much less 83Tnpathetic than It had been to the heroes of 1842. Cuffey, for instance, is never spoken of without ridicule. But the change of tone in this widely read paper reflects the change of sentiment in its middle-class readers with regard to the Chartist movement.
- Dierlamm, Flugschriften literatur der Chartistenbewegung, pp. 9-10, brings out this new tendency very clearly.
- See for Jones's later years the remarkable collection of pamphlets and manuscripts about Mm preserved in the Manchester Reference Library. The election of 1868 produced a good deal of biographical literature, both for and against him. His "business diary" shows that between 1860 and 1862 [MSS. 312 A 19), he had a good many briefs, and another note-book (ibid. A 21), that he devoted some attention to his legal studies.
- Dierlamm, pp. 8-9, has some excellent remarks on these heads.
- For Chartism in its relations to organised religion see H. U. Faulkner's "Chartism and the Churches" in Columbia University Studies in History, ete.lxxiii.No.3(1912).
- See, for instance, the pleasant story of the "conversion" of Anthony John Mundella, then a boy of fifteen, by Cooper's earnestness at a Leicester meeting (Life of Thomas Cooper, p. 170).