Ch 14 The Organisation of the Working Class


Hits: 4210

Chartism & The Chartists

The research and publications of Stephen Roberts




WILLIAM AITKEN (1814?-69). A schoolmaster who was active in the militant 'physical force' centre of Ashton-under-Lyne, Aitken spent most of 1840 in prison and, after the collapse of the strikes of 1842, emigrated briefly to the United States. He published verse, and subsequently became an uneasy supporter of the Liberal Party. He committed suicide during the writing of his autobiography.

THOMAS ATTWOOD (1783-1856). Founder of the Birmingham Political Union in 1830 and, after the passing of the Reform Bill, elected as one of the town's MPs, 'King Tom' presented the Chartist petition of 1839 to the House of Commons. He split soon after with the Chartists, resuming his interest in currency reform.

JONATHAN BAIRSTOW (dates unknown). An energetic and effective lecturer and editor of the Chartist Pilot in 1843-4, Bairstow became embroiled in quarrels with Thomas Cooper, eventually vanishing from sight.

GEORGE BINNS (1815-47). The composer of a long poem called the Doom of Toil (1841), Binns formed a close political partnership with James Williams. The two men ran a bookshop in Sunderland, enabling Binns to travel as an agitator throughout the Durham coalfield. They were imprisoned in 1840 and Binns later emigrated to New Zealand, where he died.

PATRICK BREWSTER (1788-1859). A Scottish minister and moderate Chartist, associating himself with teetotalism and class collaboration. Well known as a public speaker, he debated with Feargus O'Connor in 1839 and 1841.

PETER BUSSEY (1805-69). 'Fat Peter' was a Bradford publican and highly committed radical, who was almost certainly involved in underground planning for a national rising in late 1839. He escaped to the United States after the Newport Rising, not returning home for fourteen years.

JOHN CAMPBELL (1810-74). Elected to the executive of the National Charter Association in 1841, Campbell was an active lecturer. He made his living as a bookseller, an activity he continued after his emigration to the United States in 1843.

WILLIAM HENRY CHADWICK (1829-1908). Known as 'last of the Manchester Chartists', Chadwick was active in 1848 and was imprisoned. A campaigner for the Liberals in later life, he remained immensely proud of his Chartist past.

THOMAS CLARK (1821?-56). 'Paddy' Clark began his Chartist career in Stockport, and became a close associate of Feargus O'Connor. He was elected to the executive of the NCA in 1843 and subsequently managed the affairs of the Land Company. A powerful lecturer, he repeatedly urged the Chartists and the Irish repealers to make common cause. His support for an alliance with middle-class reformers after 1848 eventually led to rows with other Chartist leaders, including O'Connor.

JOHN COLLINS (1802-52). A Birmingham Chartist, who worked closely with William Lovett. Imprisoned in 1839-40, the two men produced Chartism. A New Organisation of the People (1840).

SAMUEL COOK (1786-1861). Active in the radical cause in Dudley for some thirty years, Cook was imprisoned on several occasions, including in 1839 and 1842. If not campaigning on local issues of prices and public health, this highly committed working class politician was raising money for Garibaldi.

THOMAS COOPER (1805-92). With Cooper as their 'General', the working people of Leicester rallied to the Chartist cause in the early 1840s. Incarcerated for two years, Cooper composed his ambitious political poem, the Purgatory of Suicides (1845). Though he subsequently quarrelled with O'Connor, he continued to espouse radical opinions, editing two interesting journals in 1849-50. His autobiography (1872) eloquently recounts his radical, literary and religious activities.

WILLIAM CUFFAY (1788-1870). Transported in 1848, Cuffay was the son of a Caribbean slave and a prominent London Chartist. He died in Australia.

THOMAS AINGE DEVYR (1805-87). A radical journalist in the north of England, Devyr became involved in insurrectionary plotting in 1839-40. He fled to the United States, where he continued to write, editing a series of journals and eventually producing a volume of reminiscences (1882).

CHRISTOPHER DOYLE (1811-?). Having made his name as a Chartist lecturer, Doyle worked full time as a director of the Land Company. He was a close friend of fellow Irishman, Thomas Clark, eventually supporting his breach with O'Connor.

JAMES DUFFY (1794?-1843). Involved in the Chartist rising in Sheffield in January 1840, Duffy was imprisoned for three years. He supported himself by lecturing to Chartist audiences after his early release because of ill health.

THOMAS SLINGSBY DUNCOMBE (1796-1861). Radical MP for Finsbury, Duncombe presented the Chartist petition of 1842 to the House of Commons and took up the cases of imprisoned Chartists.

WILLIAM ELLIS (1809-71). One of the Chartist 'martyrs', Ellis died in Tasmania after being transported for an act of arson he did not commit. The story of the life of this talented man in Australia after 1843 is very tragic: he was often convicted of drunkenness and other offences.

JOHN FROST (1784-1877). The most famous of the Chartist 'martyrs', Frost was transported for his involvement in the Newport Rising of 1839. He was very well known as a Chartist before the Rising, and also greatly respected locally, having been a magistrate and mayor of Newport. He returned to Britain in 1856, still a radical but mostly devoting his later years to spiritualism.

ROBERT GAMMAGE (1815-88). Author of the first history of the Chartist Movement (1854), Gammage was a national leader in the early 1850s. His admiration for Bronterre O'Brien is reflected in his book.

GEORGE JULIAN HARNEY (1817-97). A superb journalist, editor of the Northern Star (1845-50) and his own periodicals, Harney was one of the outstanding leaders of the Chartist Movement. Clearly associating himself with physical force (he brandished a dagger), he worked in London and Sheffield but also travelled extensively as a lecturer. He knew Marx and Engels well, and in 1845 founded a society which supported European revolution, the Fraternal Democrats. He spent much of his later life in the United States, §nally returning to Britain in 1888; the journalism of his final years includes affectionate reminiscences of his Chartist colleagues.

HENRY HETHERINGTON (1792-1849). A London radical and newspaper publisher, Hetherington signed the People's Charter and worked closely with William Lovett.

WILLIAM HILL (1806?-67). The first editor of the Northern Star (1837-41), Hill was a Swedenborgian minister.

JOSHUA HOBSON (1810-76). The second editor of the Northern Star (1843-5) and also its publisher for six years, Hobson later became a Tory journalist.

SAMUEL HOLBERRY (1814-42). One of the Chartist 'martyrs', Holberry led die Chartist rising in Sheffield in January 1840 and died in prison in June 1842. 50,000 lined the route of his funeral procession.

SUSANNA INGE (dates unknown). A London Chartist lecturer, Inge contributed briefly to the Northern Star.

ERNEST JONES (1819-69). The last of the Chartist leaders, Jones entered the movement as a poet, lecturer and denouncer of Feargus O'Connor's critic, Thomas Cooper, in 1846. Very prominent in 1848, he went to prison. He edited a series of journals, keeping the Chartist cause alive in the 1850s with the People's Paper. The final phase of his political career was spent building bridges :owards popular Liberalism.

WILLIAM JONES (1809-73). One of the Chartist'martyrs', Jones was transported for his involvement in the Newport Rising of 1839. He died in poverty in Australia.

SAMUEL KYDD (1815-92). A very able man who became a successful barrister, Kydd worked as an anti-free trade Chartist lecturer in Scotland and the north of England and, in 1848-9, was one of the movement's key national agitators. By the 1850s he had clearly adopted the radical Tory views of his friend, Richard Oastler.

JAMES LEACH (1806-69). A well known Manchester Chartist, Leach was imprisoned in 1848. As a pamphleteer, he wrote about the factory system and the need for an alliance with the middle class.

JOSEPH LINNEY (1808-87). Operating from Manchester and then the Black Country, Linney was imprisoned in 1842-4. He remained a working class politician after his release, eventually supporting the Liberal Party.

WILLIAM LOVETT (1800-77). The author of an autobiography (1877) which greatly shaped early writing about the movement, Lovett is seen as the voice of moderate moral force Chartism. Though he drafted the People's Charter and remained steadfast in his support for manhood suffrage, he never joined the National Charter Association. His influence on the movement was considerably less than that of Feargus O'Connor. Imprisoned in 1839-40, he subsequently developed his ideas through the National Association for the Political and Social Improvement of the People.

ROBERT LOWERY (1809-63). An eloquent missionary for teetotal Chartism and later the owner of a temperance hotel, Lowery's political allegiances moved from the middle class reformer, Joseph Sturge, to the Liberal Party.

PETER MURRAY McDOUALL (1814-54). A surgeon who became involved in Chartism in 1838, McDouall was soon very well known as a lecturer. He edited one of the movement's best periodicals, McDouall's Chartist and Republican Journal(lMl). Imprisoned in 1839-40 and 1848-50, he died in Australia.

GERALD MASSEY (1828-1907). Active in late Chartism, Massey produced poetry for the movement's journals. He later published volumes of verse; his volume on spiritualism (1871) was described by Thomas Cooper as 'the craziest stuff I ever saw in print'.

JOHN MITCHELL (1806?-45). An admirer of Wiliam Lovett, Mitchell promoted teetotalism and moral force views amongst the Aberdeen Chartists. He was a prolific poet.

JAMES MOIR (1806-80). A supporter of the radical cause in Glasgow for many years, Moir lent his support to Christian Chartism, middle class reform organisations and eventually the Liberal Party.

JAMES BRONTERRE O'BRIEN (1804-64). A man with a theoretical mind (but probably also an alcoholic), O'Brien was described as 'the schoolmaster of Chartism' by Feargus O'Connor. His talents as a journalist were clear to the readers of the Northern Star, but his contributions ended with his quarrel with O'Connor. It was an embittered break and never mended: Bronterre subsequently ran a series of his own small journals which were read by a very loyal but small band of followers.

FEARGUS O'CONNOR (1794-1855). Greatly underrated for more than a century, O'Connor was the most important of the Chartist leaders. A superb orator, powerful, defiant, humorous, his arrival in each town on lecturing tours was a major event. O'Connor's leadership was highly personalised - he often referred to the sacrifices he made - but there can be no doubt that he provoked strong loyalties. Working people rallied around him at times of dissension, and some of them named their children after him. He founded the Northern Star in 1837, which soon established itself as the voice of a national protest movement. O'Connor more than any other single individual held the Chartist Movement together. He was responsible for setting up the National Charter Association in 1840 and the Land Company in 1845. He was the only Chartist elected an MP.

ARTHUR O'NEILL (1819-96). Pastor of Birmingham's Christian Chartist Church, O'Neill was imprisoned after the strikes of 1842. He formed his lifelong friendship with Thomas Cooper during his incarceration.

ROBERT PEDDIE (1803-?). The leader of the Chartist rising in Bradford in January 1840, Peddie was imprisoned for three years. A romantic revolutionary, he published a volume of poetry.

LAWRENCE PITKEITHLY (1801-58). A well known West Riding Chartist, Pitkeithly was an advocate of emigration.

JOHN RICHARDS (1772?-1856). Imprisoned at the age of 70, 'Daddy' Richards was a dedicated advocate of the Chartist cause in the Potteries: he attended the National Convention at 1839 and was still addressing meetings in 1848.

REGINALD JOHN RICHARDSON (1808-61). Author of one of the most interesting Chartist pamphlets, the Rights of Women (1840), Richardson was a Manchester activist. He contributed regularly to the Chartist press, aligning himself in the early 1840s with O'Brien.

WILLIAM PROWTING ROBERTS (1806-71). Active in Wiltshire, 'Black lack' was a solicitor who became the legal champion of both the miners and the Chartists. He was treasurer of the Chartist Land Society, fittingly dying at a house he had acquired at Heronsgate.

HENRY SOLLY (1813-1903). A Somerset Unitarian minister, Solly lent his support to Chartism and the Complete Suffrage Union. He wrote a great deal, including two volumes of interesting memoirs (1893).

JOSEPH RAYNER STEPHENS (1805-79). In the late 1830s Stephens joined forces with O'Connor to fiercely condemn the 1834 Poor Law to meetings throughout the north of England. A former Methodist minister, he was imprisoned in 1839-41. Hugely popular in the early years of Chartism, he remained a public figure, opposing teetotalism and the Sunday closing of public houses for the rest of his life.

JOSEPH STURGE (1793-1859). A Birmingham Dissenter, Sturge launched the Complete Suffrage Union. In 1842 Chartists attended this middle class organisation's conferences. Sturge also campaigned for corn law repeal, teetotalism and peace.

JAMES SWEET (1804-79). Determined organizer of Nottingham Chartism for more than a decade, Sweet was a close associate of O'Connor, who became the town's MP. He later addressed meetings of the Reform League.

JOHN TAYLOR (1805-42). Flamboyant in his dress and the user of insurrectionary language, Taylor was one of the movement's romantic revolutionaries. He was arrested on two occasions, but not imprisoned.

HENRY VINCENT (1813-78). An energetic and effective Chartist lecturer, Vincent championed teetotalism and, in due course, an alliance with middle class reformers. He became O'Connor's 'little renegade'.

MARY ANN WALKER (dates unknown). For Punch a hilarious figure, Walker was a London Chartist lecturer.

CAROLINE MARIA WILLIAMS (dates unknown). From a middle class background and a schoolteacher, Williams contributed periodically to the Northern Star in the early 1840s.

JOHN WATKINS (1809-50). From an upper middle class background, Watkins led the Chartists of Whitby. He was perhaps initially drawn to Chartism as an act of rebellion against his family. His brief imprisonment in 1840 greatly pleased his neighbours. He wrote a great deal, including poetry and eventually an attack on O'Connor.

JAMES WATSON (1799-1874). A London printer and publisher, Watson worked closely with Lovett throughout the 1830s and 1840s. He published smaller Chartist periodicals, including the Cause of the People (1848) and Cooper's Journal (1850).

JOHN WEST (1811-87). One of the most determined of the Chartist lecturers, West was an Irishman. He was imprisoned in 1848-9; decades later old Chartists were raising money to relieve his poverty.

THOMAS MARTIN WHEELER (1811-62). Author of a Chartist novel, Wheeler worked closely with O'Connor. He attended every Chartist Convention between 1839 and 1851 and served as secretary of the Land Company.

GEORGE WHITE (1812-68). A remarkable man who, defying arrests and imprisonments, fought for the suffrage for the whole of his adult life. An Irish woolcomber active in Leeds, Birmingham and Bradford, White was imprisoned in 1840,1843-4 and 1849. Very suspicious of middle class radicals, he wrote a great deal, including political pamphlets and verse. At his second trial he refused to continue unless he was provided with a glass of wine and a sandwich.

JAMES WILLIAMS (1811-68). Imprisoned with his political ally, George Binns, in 1840, Williams later supported an alliance with middle class radicals. He was a well known figure in Sunderland all his life, working as a councillor and newspaper editor.

ZEPHENIAH WILLIAMS (1784-1877). One of the Chartist 'martyrs', Williams was transported for his involvement in the Newport Rising of 1839. In Australia he eventually became a wealthy mine owner.

© 2008 Stephen Roberts


Hits: 2583


The Taff Vale decision



The Labour Representation Committee, in which ILP politicians and socialists were active from the beginning, at first received only fitful and tepid support from trade unionists and the TUC.

Then, in 1901, came the House of Lords decision upholding the Taff Vale Judgement, which ruled that a trade union could be sued and compelled to pay for damages inflicted by its officials.

It now became clear to the TUC and the Parliamentary Committee that, if the right to strike was ever to be preserved as an essential instrument of trade union policy, then the new principle embodied in the Taff Vale decision must be reversed by Parliament.

If this was to be done, the trade unions must secure greater and more influential representation in Parliament.

If the TUC’s Parliamentary Committee was incapable of achieving this on its own, then a working arrangement must be sought with the Labour Representation Committee politicians, socialists and all - for the joint, or complementary, endorsement of Parliamentary candidates.

In the event, at the 1906 general election, the working arrangements worked like a charm. Fifty‑four Labour candidates, of various sorts, were returned; in some cases greatly to their own surprise.

And, in the same year, the new Liberal Government under Sir Harry Campbell‑Bannerman, finding that a very large number of Liberal MPs had pledged themselves during the election campaign to support the TUC Parliamentary Committee's own Trade Disputes Bill, felt obliged to accept the principles of the TUC's Bill and pass them into law.

And the Lords deemed it wiser not to obstruct the Bill's passage.

Thus was restored to trade unions the degree of legal immunity which had been theirs before the Taff Vale Judgement.

And, as Henry Pelting put it, 'the unions had secured from the ballot box the respect for their privileged position which had been denied them in the courts.'

The next alarm on the legal front was destined to arise out of yet another House of Lords decision, upholding the Court of Appeal's Osborne Judgement of 1909, which ruled that it was unlawful for trade unions to contribute to political funds

We use cookies to improve our website and your experience when using it. Cookies used for the essential operation of the site have already been set. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, see our Privacy Policy.

I accept cookies from this site