May 2011 Archives

The "People's Charter": a new acquisition

People’s Charter, An Act to provide for the just Representation of the People of Great Britain & Ireland in the Commons’ House of Parliament. London, Whiting (Printer) (1839) [Call number: (Ex) Oversize 2010-0068Q] Broadside, overall 20” x 20”, decorative border and text printed entirely in red, in 6 columns. Broadside has been in scrap album with part of brown guard still attached. In pencil at upper right: “Presented to the Commons by T.W. Attwood”

The “People’s Charter” was of major importance in the attempt to reform Parliament and obtain suffrage for men. Early in 1838 a group of the newly formed Chartists (one of the first working class movements in the world) met and decided to draft a document known as the “People’s Charter” which took the form of a Parliamentary Bill. It’s draughtsmen were William Lovett, secretary of the London Working Men’s Association, and Francis Place, a Charing Cross tailor. The Charter contained 6 demands: 1. Universal suffrage for men over 21. 2. Equal sized electoral distribution. 3. Voting by secret ballot. 4. End of property qualification for Parliament. 5. Payment for M.P’s 6. Annual election of Parliament. It was presented to Parliament by Thomas Attwood but suffered rejection. However the seeds of discontent were sown and after a period of meetings and riots the objects of their demands were mostly met.

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