The Chartist Movement (5)
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CHAPTER XII

THE CHARTIST REVIVAL
(1840-1841)


FOR six months after the trial of Frost Chartism slept.  The chief leaders were imprisoned and there was no organisation to keep alive the agitation.  A few of the former leaders were still active.  Harney was engaged in Scotland, apparently as a paid lecturer, in the employ of the Scottish Chartists.  Some activity was called forth by the organisation of petitions on behalf of Frost.  There was a delegates' meeting at Birmingham in September 1839, but there is no information as to its doings except that it discussed plans for organising the movement. [420]  Three "Conventions" assembled at London, Manchester, and Nottingham in January, March, and April 1840.  They were all concerned with Frost's case.  The first was apparently connected with the futile outbreaks at Sheffield and elsewhere.  The other two were of a milder character, though there was some bickering between the delegates, those representing the hosiery districts being still eager for violent courses.[421]  The advocates of petitioning as a means of releasing Frost were able to carry the day, James Taylor taking a leading part in the discussions.[421]  Petitions began to be extensively signed.  In fact, more signatures were obtained on behalf of the three Newport victims than for the National Petition itself.  Dr. Wade attended a levιe on February 19, dressed in full canonicals, as etiquette required, and presented seven petitions on Frost's behalf.[422]

    During the spring of 1840, however, the Chartist world was deluged with suggestions for a reorganisation, or rather an organisation of the movement, for hitherto there had been singularly little machinery, except the Convention, for keeping together the rank and file and educating them in the principles and aims of the reformers.  From this time onward the agitation took on a much sounder and more educational character.  The Scots were the pioneers, though the original inspiration was due no doubt to the methods of the Anti-Corn Law League, and in a lesser degree to the London Working Men's Association.

    The origin of the Scottish organisation is thus described by one of its authors: "In the autumn of 1839, when the cause of Liberty was suffering severely in England from the injudicious conduct of a number of its supporters and the persecution waged against it by an unprincipled Whig Government, who by spies and emissaries were endeavouring to excite the people to violence in order that every aspiration of freedom might be the more easily suppressed, the people of Scotland deemed it expedient to hold a great national delegate meeting for the purpose of devising a system of enlightened organisation and of suggesting such measures as might be considered necessary to promote sound and constitutional agitation in that critical period of the great movement."  This meeting took place on August 15, 1839, at the Universalist Church, Glasgow.  It was attended by seventy delegates, who represented fifty towns and populous places.  It was recognised that the real line of advance lay in convincing public opinion, and two measures were decided upon to further this object.  Firstly, paid lecturers — "missionaries" — were to be sent out to agitate in a more thorough fashion than hitherto; and secondly, a series of small tracts, or pamphlets, was to be published to give a proper view of their grievances and demands.  These tracts were to form "a complete body of sound political information, embracing in its scope the cause, nature, and extent of our wrongs, the rights which civilised society owes to us, and which we inherit from our Creator; as also the appalling details of legislative misrule, the enormities which a reckless aristocracy have (sic) perpetrated on those over whom they have tyrannised, and the power which an organised nation would have in redressing its own grievances, so as to induce the people, by imbuing their minds with this knowledge, to concentrate their energies on the acquisition of their liberty."  This was the origin of an excellent little publication which ran from September 1839 to October 1841, under the name of the Chartist Circular.  An elective Committee of fifteen members was constituted, with the title, "Universal Suffrage Central Committee for Scotland," and so the organisation got under weigh.  Harney seems to have been one of its paid lecturers, having temporarily shelved his physical force ideas.  In March 1840 he was recommending English Chartists to follow suit,[423] in a letter to the Northern Liberator.

    Harney's letter is one of many which were communicated to the Chartist press about this time, all with the same object — organise, organise!  They show how far the reaction from the exaggerated confidence of the previous year had gone, and suggest that there is some dim realisation of the necessity for hard spade work before the foundations of success can be laid.  Harney relates how the failure of the late Convention had ruined the Chartist cause in the Border counties.  He suggests a programme of organisation and systematic petitioning.  He touches on a question which was to exercise many Chartist minds in the next few years — namely, the Free Trade agitation.  He declares unremitting war upon it, and urges Chartists to attend Anti-Corn Law meetings in force to procure the rejection of all resolutions proposed there.  His scheme of organisation includes a permanent paid central committee which shall sit at Manchester.  There shall be local county leaders who will act as teachers of Chartism and as enemies of the people's enemies, especially of the priests.  These men will in fact stand between people and patricians like the tribunes of the people at Rome.[424]

    R. J. Richardson from his cell at Liverpool made public a scheme of organisation — a high-falutin affair culled from the Constitution of the United States, Freemasonry, Rousseau, archaeology, and R. J. Richardson.[425]  It had all the essentials of a bad constitution.  The Dumfries Chartists submitted another constitution in which an elective Convention played a part "to focus attention upon horrifying wrongs and oppressions."[426]  Robert Lowery had another scheme in which the contesting of Parliamentary seats was the chief feature.  Significantly enough, Lowery will hear no more of Conventions.[427]  "Republican" wrote a series of articles in the Northern Star in support of a "permanent, secret, and irresponsible" directory, which would control the movement.  He, too, will hear no more of Conventions.  The old Convention was too large and heterogeneous.  The members had not the necessary knowledge or integrity.  All they did was to produce "puerile manifestos" and "the still more ridiculous National Holiday."  Their imbecility had ruined the cause.  He recommends a local organisation in small sections or classes with a county corresponding secretary and a "Great Central and Secret Directory" of seven to rule the whole.  This scheme, strongly insurrectionary in aspect, "Republican" defended sturdily in the pages of the Star, complaining on one occasion that the attention of Chartists is too easily diverted from their main purpose to such things as Frost's trial and O'Connor's imprisonment.[428]

    A very characteristic scheme was recommended by O'Connor.  Nothing could exhibit more clearly the inferior calibre of O'Connor's mind than this effusion.  He was perhaps the only leading Chartist who was devoid alike of idealism and of statesmanship.  The first essential was the foundation of a daily newspaper.  Just as he later transformed Chartism into a land gamble, so now he would transform it into a newspaper syndicate, flourishing on those profits which O'Brien so heartily detested.  O'Connor wants 20,000 men to subscribe 6d. a week for forty weeks.[429]  £6500 will be raised in subscriptions from readers, and £3500 he will provide himself.  The paper will pay ten per cent upon the £20,000 share capital.  For the first year, however, the profits will be devoted to other purposes.  Twenty delegates were to sit in London from April 15 for eight weeks, receiving each £5 a week.  As many lecturers would lecture, also for eight weeks, at the same rate of pay.  Five prizes of £20 were to be given for essays on subjects selected by the Convention.  £200 would be left in the hands of the proprietor for a defence fund, and the rest of the £2000 would be applied to miscellaneous purposes.  The delegates and lecturers would be elected by show of hands and would be under the control of a "committee of review."  The Convention would have a permanent Chairman and a Council of five to prepare all business for it.  After a digression to show that he has spent £1140 in the people's cause, out of the profits of the Northern Star (which he later denied to exist), O'Connor concludes by showing how compact his machinery will be.  The Convention will be the representative body of Chartism, the council its digestive organ, the lecturers its arteries, the people the heart, the Morning Star (the paper to be) its tongue, the committee of review its eyes, £2000 a year its food, and Universal Suffrage its only task.

    That this scheme was put forward in all seriousness is indicated both by the general tenour of O'Connor's career and by the fact that it was published in the Northern Star,[430] a few days before the great delegate meeting at Manchester which was convened for the purpose of establishing a permanent organisation of the Chartist forces.  It was apparently brought under review by that meeting.  O'Connor's scheme would have established more effectively that quasi-Tammany organisation which he succeeded in establishing to a lesser degree through the Northern Star.  As proprietor of the two papers O'Connor would have turned the Chartist movement into an extensive machine for booming his publications.  He would have had lectures, delegates, council, and committee in his pocket.  He would have debased the pure currency of Lovett, O'Brien, and Benbow by this scheme, just as he did by the Land Scheme later on.

    Along with these various plans of reorganisation came the revival of local bodies which had been put out of action by the debacles of 1839.  We read in April of the formation of a Metropolitan Charter Union of which Hetherington was the leading figure.[431]  It proposes the union of all Radical, Charter and similar associations into one great body, and hopes to proceed by the circulation of tracts and a penny weekly publication, by founding co-operative stores, coffee-houses, and reading-rooms.  Its objects were "to keep the principles of the People's Charter prominently before the public, by means of lectures, discussions and the distribution of tracts on sound political principles, or by any other legal means which may be deemed advisable.  To promote peace, union and concord amongst all the classes of people." . . . "To avoid all private and secret proceedings, to deprecate all violent and inflammatory language and all concealment of the views and objects of this Association."  This last suggestion was a very significant comment upon the recent events.  Most of the names of the Committee of this society are new.  It decided, perhaps for lack of funds, not to send a delegate to the Manchester Conference in July, but did actually send Spurr, one of the old Democratic Association.[432]

    In April, too, the Northern Political Union of Newcastle was reorganised for "the attainment of Universal Suffrage by every moral and lawful means, such as petitioning Parliament, procuring the return of members to Parliament who will vote for Universal Suffrage, publishing tracts, establishing reading rooms."  Weekly lectures were also delivered, Lowery being the first speaker.[433]  The Leeds Radical Association was re-established on the same lines.[434]  In Lancashire there was no little activity, and the system of lecturers was in full swing in June.  In June also the West Riding Chartists were meeting by delegates in preparation for the Manchester Conference in the following month.[435]  The Carlisle Radical Association rose again.[436]  All things considered, this revival in the spring of 1840 was a remarkable tribute to the vitality of Chartism.  The movement was much more localised than in 1839, but within its narrower bounds it was stronger and healthier.

    On July 20 twenty-three delegates met at the "Griffin," Great Ancoats Street, Manchester, to restart the Chartist movement.  Lancashire and Cheshire districts were represented by eleven of the delegates; Yorkshire had two, Wales one, Scotland one, London, Nottingham, Leicester, Loughboro', Sunderland, Carlisle, and one or two other places being also represented.  Of ex-Conventionals only James Taylor, Deegan, and Smart were present.  One or two names destined to be of some repute appear here for the first time.  One was that of James Leach, a Manchester operative, whose forte was opposition to the Anti-Corn Law agitation.  Another was that of R. K. Philp of Bath, a man somewhat of the type of Lovett.

    The first task of the delegates was to review the many plans of reorganisation and agitation which had been submitted to the Chartist public.  O'Connor, Lowery, O'Brien, Richardson, Philp (who submitted a Press scheme, drawn up by W. G. Burns, intended to combat O'Connor), Benbow (who sent a scheme too long to read), the West Riding delegates, and several anonymous individuals, including "Republican," had set forth their ideas in various schemes.  Some were for no Convention, others were for annual Conventions, but nearly all recognised the importance of regular subscriptions and of the machinery to collect and administer the funds so obtained.  Pamphlets, tracts, lectures, and the organisation in small local bodies were also generally agreed on, and these were embodied in the final scheme of the National Charter Association, which, with the same title, but with varying purpose, held the field for a dozen years.

    The object of the National Charter Association was "to obtain a full and faithful representation of the entire people in the House of Commons, on the principles of the People's Charter."  None but peaceable and constitutional means, such as petitions and public meetings, were to be adopted.  Members were to be admitted on signing a declaration of adhesion to the principles of the Charter, on paying twopence for a card of membership and a weekly subscription of one penny.  All members were to be registered by the Executive.  The local organisation was to be in "classes" of ten, a system which had been in use since 1830 amongst London Radicals, and which was based originally on the Methodist class organisation.  The class leader was to collect subscriptions.  These classes were to be combined into "wards" each with a ward-collector, and the wards again into a larger unit for each town.  Each large town would have a Council with Secretary and Treasurer, and each county a similar Council.  The whole was to be governed by an Executive of five with Secretary and Treasurer, to be elected on January 1 each year on the nomination of the counties.  The executive members were to be paid 30s. a week, and the Secretary £2.

    The measures recommended to the attention of Chartists were, first, the attending of political (i.e. Anti-Corn Law) meetings to move amendments in favour of the Charter; second, sobriety; and third, the adoption of O'Brien's election plan.  This plan, which was a revival of the "legislative attorney" scheme which came to grief at Peterloo, consisted in proposing Chartist candidates at every Parliamentary election, regardless of the lack of qualification and other disabilities which afflicted poor men.  These were to be elected by show of hands at the meetings, and afterwards, though they would not go to the Poll, be regarded by all Chartists as their true representatives.  It is difficult to say what O'Brien really intended by this scheme, though an article by him on the subject [437] suggests that an attempt might be made to constitute a rival Parliament to that at St. Stephen's, and even to uphold it by force.  The Chartists later made considerable use of the opportunity which these bogus nominations offered to air their views at election times, and Harney appears to have made a very effective attack upon Palmerston at Tiverton by these means.

    The Manchester Scheme was afterwards drastically revised so as to evade the vague and dangerous scope of the laws on Corresponding Societies and Conspiracy.  The publishers of the Northern Star applied to Place for advice.  Place certainly regarded the scheme as illegal.  "The people in the North, some of them are organising on the Manchester Delegate Assembly plan, by which every man of them makes himself liable to transportation."[438]  Place had written a pamphlet on the law respecting political bodies of this description in 1831, and the Northern Star people evidently desired a copy of it.  Very likely as a result of Place's advice, various changes were made.  The election of local officials by their own localities was dropped, as each district thereby assumed the character of a branch, and the arrangement was therefore illegal.  Instead, the Chartists in any town where Chartists reside should elect two or more members of a great General Council, out of which local secretaries and treasurers would be selected, as well as the Executive Committee.  The General Council would elect these various officers.  Thus nominally the suggestion of districts or branches was eliminated, and the National Charter Association assumed the character of a single undivided body with a Council of several hundred members.  As all declarations not required by law were illegal, the voluntary declaration of adhesion to the principles of the Charter had to be omitted.[439]  These details will suffice to illustrate the difficulties which harassed political agitation in these times.  It is a tribute both to the shrewdness of the Chartists in evading and to the scruples of the Government in administering bad laws that no prosecution under the Acts 39 Geo. III. c. 79 and 57 Geo. III. c. 19 was instituted during the Chartist agitation.  The revised constitution of the Association was much more cumbrous than the original, and for various reasons did not work very well.  Nevertheless even a bad constitution will help to produce results if energetically worked, and the Chartists were at least men of energy.  The National Charter Association proved an efficient agitating body and succeeded for many years in recruiting new men of zeal and ability, like Thomas Cooper, Ernest Jones, George Jacob Holyoake, and William James Linton.

    The new organisation got under way rather slowly.  James Leach and William Tillman, both of the Manchester district, acted as chiefs of a provisional Executive Committee.  In August 1840 they issued an appeal for the prompt payment of subscriptions.  Local Chartist organisations were dissolved and absorbed into the new Association, but owing to the belief that the Association was illegal, this went on very slowly.  By February 1841 there were only eighty "localities" registered.[440]  Another cause was operating to discourage recruiting, namely the provision that members' names should be registered.  This was apparently necessary on account of the mysterious Acts of 1799 and 1817, but it aroused one Chartist to call the Association "the Attorney-General's Registration Office for Political Offenders."[441]  This was no doubt the original intention of the clause in the Acts, and it apparently aroused no little doubts in the minds of many Chartists.  In the spring of 1841 the revised constitution was promulgated, and a more rapid growth followed.  By December 1841 there were 282 localities, [442] with apparently some 13,000 members.  The membership is stated in April 1842 as 50,000.  In the spring of 1841 the provisional Executive gave place to a regular elected Committee, consisting of MacDouall, Leach, Morgan Williams, John Campbell, George Binns, and R. K. Philp.  Campbell, a Manchester man of no great ability or importance, also acted as Secretary.[443]  Abel Heywood, the well-known bookseller, of Oldham Street, Manchester, acted as Treasurer until the removal of Campbell to London in 1842 caused that office to pass to Cleave, since it was convenient for both Secretary and Treasurer to live in the same place.  But the treasurership of so impecunious a body was little more than a sinecure.  The growing preponderance of Manchester in the movement is a noteworthy matter and indicates a further stage of localisation.

    The Scottish and the Manchester reorganisations were by no means the only result of the Chartist revival, but they were the two most important.  Nothing is, in fact, more surprising than the variety of enterprises which sprang up during this phase of the movement, and nothing illustrates more clearly the great moral revival which Chartism engendered than the remarkable character of some of these movements.  It is worth while to consider those which are associated with the names of Arthur O'Neill of Scotland and Birmingham, William Lovett of London, and Thomas Cooper of Leicester.

    On the one side the moral force Chartists relied for their beliefs upon that faith in the omnipotence of human reason which was characteristic of the earlier phases of the French Revolution, and is conspicuous in the writings of Godwin and Shelley.  Reason was to them an irresistible moral force.  "How," asks Lovett, "can a corrupt Government withstand an enlightened people?"  This was the principle on which Lovett would have based the Chartist agitation.  It is the text of his pamphlet on Education and of his later book called Chartism.  Lovett, however, had come to divorce his moral life from the teachings of Christianity.  Arthur O'Neill, on the other hand, a young enthusiast in his early twenties, made no such distinction.  The result was with Lovett, Educational Chartism; with O'Neill, "Christian Chartism" — two movements which ran on in close kinship.

    The Christian Chartist movement was in some measure a protest against the exclusiveness and the Toryism of the Established Church, and against the repellent narrowness of some of the Dissenting bodies, notably of the Wesleyan Methodists.[444]  It was also partly due to a desire to base democratic principles upon the strong rock of Christian doctrine, and partly to a genuine missionary zeal, a desire to brighten the lives and minds of the poor, the ignorant, and the neglected.  Christian Chartism was always accompanied by educational effort.  The Church at Birmingham, the best-known and the most famous of the Chartist churches, was run on purely voluntary lines by Arthur O'Neill and John Collins, with occasional visits from Henry Vincent and others.  It consisted of a political association which studied democratic thought as laid down in the works of Cobbett, Hunt, Paine, and Cartwright, and a Church whose purpose was to further temperance, morality, and knowledge.  It had schools for children and for young men, and a sick club.[445]  O'Neill seems to have had no little success in the Birmingham area.  He was on good terms with the working people and even with their employers.  An iron-master in the district allowed him the use of a large room "which was crowded to suffocation every Sabbath afternoon from half-past two till a quarter past four."  A Wesleyan minister, who was no friend to Chartism, describes O'Neill's methods thus:


    O'Neill called himself a Christian Chartist and always began his discourse with a text, after the manner of a sermon; and some of our people went to hear him just to observe the proceedings and were shocked beyond description: there was unmeasured abuse of Her Majesty and the Constitution, about the public expenditure and complete radical doctrines of all kinds.  They have a hymnbook of their own and affect to be a denomination of Christians.  This is the way they gained converts here, by the name.  There were very few political chartists here, but Christian Chartist was a name that took.  It is almost blasphemy to prostitute the name of Christian to such purposes.[446]


    A Government Commissioner sent to inquire into the causes of the strike which engulfed Chartism in the Black Country in 1842, actually attended a "Christian Chartist Tea Party" at Birmingham, where O'Neill was the chief speaker.  He thus reports O'Neill's sermon:


    The necessity of their new Church was evident, for the true Church of Christ ought not to be split up into opposing sects: all men ought to be united in one Universal Church.  Christianity should prevail in everyday life, commerce should be conducted on Christian principles and not on those of Mammon, and every other institution ought to be based on the doctrines of Christianity.  Hence the Chartist Church felt it their duty to go out and move amongst the masses of the people to guide and direct them by the principles of Christianity.  They felt it incumbent upon them to go out into the world, to be the light of the world and the salt of the earth.  The true Christian Church could not remain aloof but must enter into the struggles of the people and guide them.  The characteristic of members of a real Church was on the first day of the week to worship at their altar, on the next to go out and mingle with the masses, on the third to stand at the bar of judgment, and on the fourth perhaps to be in a dungeon.  This was the case in the primitive Church and so it ought to be now.[447]


    If this sermon is the worst which the Commissioner in spite of the "pain" which his attendance caused him can report, we may safely assume that the Wesleyan minister's account is not without bias.  O'Neill was an opponent of insurrectionary methods, so that the Bible did not in his hands become the explosive force which Stephens had made it.  He was, however, prominent in all local industrial movements; in the strike of colliers in 1842 he was one of the men's spokesmen, thus carrying out his own precepts even to the dungeon itself.

    O'Neill was not the only Christian Chartist preacher.  There was a similar church at Bath where Henry Vincent was a regular preacher.  Vincent had forsworn his earlier insurrectionary views and was now a devoted preacher of temperance.  In fact "temperance Chartism" was in the way of becoming a regular cult until, along with Christian Chartism and "Knowledge Chartism," it came under the ban of O'Connor, to whom knowledge and temperance were alike alien.  Scotland was also the seat of Christian Chartism; Paisley and Partick were flourishing centres of it.  But the strength of Christian Chartism at Paisley rested not so much on the Chartist Church itself as on the ardent partisanship of one of the parish ministers of the Abbey Church.  Patrick Brewster, a strenuous opponent of O'Connor and a member of the Anti-Corn Law League, held his charge at Paisley from 1818 to 1859, and to the horror both of the Presbytery of Glasgow and of the heritors, who had appointed him, preached Chartist sermons of astonishing vehemence.  Here is a paraphrase of Ecclesiastes iv. 1:


    There is then one master grievance, one all-reaching, all-blasting evil: one enormous, atrocious, monstrous iniquity: one soul-blighting, heart-breaking, man-destroying, heaven-defying sin, which fills the earth with bondage and with blood, which aids the powerful and strikes the helpless, which punishes the innocent and rewards the guilty, which aggrandises the rich and robs the poor, which exalts the proud and beats down the humble, which decries truth and pleads for falsehood, which honours infamy and defames virtue, which pampers idleness and famishes industry: one GIGANTIC VILLAINY, the root and cause, the parent and protector of a thousand crimes . . . committing wrong and miscalling it right, committing robbery and calling it LAW, nay, in the sight of heaven, committing foul murder and calling it JUSTICE.[448]


    Many men felt like Brewster in those days.  Think of the poor religious stockinger's "Let us be patient a little longer, lads.  Surely God Almighty will help us soon," and the rejoinder, "Talk no more about thy Goddle Mighty; there isn't One.  If there was, he wouldn't let us suffer as we do!" [449]

    The Partick Chartists ran an evening school five nights a week, [450] whilst at Deptford there was established a "Working Men's Church," whose members were said to study the New Testament in Greek![451]  All these institutions were run on thoroughly democratic lines.  The articles of the Paisley Church provided for belief in the Scriptures, in Christ, and the Atonement; for the election of all officers, by universal suffrage and by the ballot; for the repudiation of pew-rents, and for voluntary contributions only.

    This Christian Chartist movement does not seem to have struck a deep root.  It was but a protest in the name of democratic Christianity against the "oppressions that are done under the sun" on behalf of those "who had no comforter," and it died away with the approach of better times.  Nevertheless the efforts of Vincent, O'Neill, Collins, and the like, who leavened the mass of Chartists doctrine with some moral ideals, ought not to be neglected by the student of the movement.  It is the tragedy of Chartism that it came to be controlled by one whose influence was fatal to ideals.

    The movement initiated by Lovett was of a somewhat different character, and needs perhaps more notice.  In the latter months of their imprisonment Lovett and Collins had been allowed, as a result of strenuous efforts on the part of their friends and themselves, better diet and the use of pens, ink, and paper.  Lovett kept up a brisk correspondence [452] with Place, defending his own conduct, and that of the Chartists generally, against the criticisms of the veteran politician.

    Some of these letters are interesting enough to quote.  On May 10, 1840, Place recommended the reinvigoration of the Working Men's Association, which he considered "was beyond all comparison a more important Association than any previous society of working men had ever been."  It ought to be revived and extended into all parts, "but," says Place, "it may be objected that the plan of working-men's associations will be difficult — will move slowly — true, this is unfortunate, but moving a nation is a great work, it can go but slowly, it cannot be hurried."  Place suggested that it was stupid not to accept less than the Charter; for partial schemes, such as the repeal of the Corn Laws, might in the long run carry them further than the measure of justice embodied even in the Charter.  Lovett replied on the 19th that he had no hopes of a repeal until a thorough reform of Parliament was accomplished:


    And when I remember that the agitation for the alteration of the Corn Laws did not commence till after the people were actively engaged in contending for the suffrage, and when I know that a vast number of those who talk of giving the people cheap bread, spurn the idea of giving them the suffrage, I very much doubt the sincerity of their professions. . . . But after the great body of the Radicals in different parts of the country have resolved to give up their various hobbies of anti-poor-laws, factory bills, wages protection laws, and various others, for the purpose of conjointly contending for the Charter, I think I should be guilty of bad faith not to follow up the great object we began with.


    Lovett, curiously enough, did not agree with Place as to the value of the working-men's associations.  They were too poor to be effective.  They excluded all but working men and were more literary than political in character.  They were seldom able to get up public meetings or to attempt anything involving expense.  They had no organ.  The working-men's associations were but small knots of men and inadequate to carry through a great movement.[453]  Consequently Lovett came to the conclusion that he must appeal to the middle class as well as to working people, if anything was to be accomplished.  In spite of this the whole correspondence turns on the question whether the middle-class Radicals ought to come out for the Charter or the Chartists for Free Trade.  Lovett was obdurate for the former, and Place for the latter.

    It was in this state of mind that Place received from Lovett, some time in March 1840, a parcel containing a letter and a manuscript.  The former was dated March 18, and related that both had been smuggled out of Warwick Gaol by way of a friend, as Lovett feared that the manuscript would be confiscated if despatched through the usual channels.  The manuscript was a little book called Chartism, and had been written in the gaol by Lovett and Collins.  In all probability Lovett wrote practically the whole of it.  Lovett asked for Place's opinion on it.  It was to be corrected according to his criticisms and amendments and published on the day of their liberation.  Lovett adds: "I have now resolved to write a memoir of my own life; perhaps you will think this a little bit of vanity."  This resolve was not carried out till 1876.  Place, however, was very unfavourable towards the book written in prison, and succeeded, consciously or otherwise, in delaying the publication till some time after the release of the two Chartists.[454]

    The little work was an expansion of the tract on Education, published by the London Working Men's Association some four years before.  It commences with a defence of democratic principles and an attack on the "exclusive" system then in vogue.  This part is written with equal vehemence and ability.  It gives vent to that throbbing and vibrating sense of injustice which is throughout characteristic of Lovett.


    The black catalogue of recorded crimes which all history develops, joined to the glaring and oppressive acts of every day's experience, must convince every reflective mind that irresponsible power, vested in one man or in a class of men, is the fruitful source of every crime.  For men so circumstanced, having no curb to the desires which power and dominion occasion, pursue an intoxicating and expensive career, regardless of the toiling beings who, under the forms of law, are robbed to support their insatiable extravagance.  The objects of their cruelty may lift up their voices in vain against their oppressors, for their moral faculties having lost the wholesome check of public opinion; they become callous to the supplications of their victims.[455]


    Incidentally Lovett gives his views upon the resort to force.


    We maintain that the people have the same right to employ similar means to regain their liberties, as have been used to enslave them. . . . And, however we may regret, we are not disposed to condemn the confident reliance many of our brethren placed on their physical resources, nor complain of the strong feelings they manifested against us and all who differed in opinion from them.  We are now satisfied that many of them experience more acute sufferings, and daily witness more scenes of wretchedness than sudden death can possibly inflict, or battle strife disclose to them.[456]


    Lovett now proceeded to outline his scheme for a "new organisation of the people," which is what he conceives Chartism to be.  This organisation is contained in the "Proposed Plan, Rules, and Regulations of an Association to be entitled 'The National Association of the United Kingdom for Promoting the Political and Social Improvement of the People.'"  The objects of the Association were tenfold.  First, "to unite in one general body persons of all CREEDS, CLASSES, and OPINIONS who are desirous to promote the political and social improvement of the people"; second, "to create and extend an enlightened public opinion in favour of the People's Charter and by every just means to secure its enactment so that the industrious classes may be placed in possession of the franchise, the most important step to all political and social reformation."  The third object was to erect Public Halls and Schools for the people wherever necessary.  There were to be Infant, Preparatory, and High Schools; the halls were to be used also for Public Lectures, Readings, Discussions, Musical Evenings, and Dancing.  Each school was to have playgrounds for both sexes, gardens, baths, a museum, and a laboratory.  The establishment of Normal Schools, of Agricultural Schools, the creation of travelling libraries, the publication of tracts and pamphlets, the presentation of prizes for essays on education, the employment of missionaries, and the discovery of legal means whereby the members may be able to control the Association in a democratic fashion are the remaining objects of this Association.[457]  A vast system of education on a purely voluntary basis was the object of Lovett's speculations.

    The funds for the scheme were to be raised by voluntary contributions.  Suppose, says Lovett, that everybody who signed the National Petition would subscribe one penny a week.  This would give an income of £256,600 a year, devoted to the following purposes:
 

Building of 80 schools or halls at £3000 each

£240,000

710 travelling libraries at £20 each

14,200

20,000 tracts per week at 15s. per 1000

780

4 missionaries at £200 per year

800

Printing, postage, salaries, etc.

700

Surplus

         120

 

£256,600


    No provision is made for the upkeep and staffing of the schools.

    Lovett now proceeds to explain the advantages of the scheme.  A people so organised "would not use its energies in meeting and petitioning: it would not year after year be only engaged in the task of inducing corruption to purify itself: but it would be gradually accumulating means of itself and amusement, and in devising sources of refined enjoyment to which the millions are strangers: it would be industriously employed in politically, intellectually and morally training fathers, mothers and children to know their rights and perform their duties: and with a people so trained, exclusive power, corruption and injustice would soon cease to have an existence."[458]  He repudiates the notion that he agrees with those who say the people are too ignorant to be entrusted with the franchise.  The franchise, in fact, would be the best means of education.  Nevertheless an unenlightened electorate would never realise the full social consequences of its enfranchisement without education, which is, therefore, necessary to ensure complete freedom.[459]  Lovett's thesis is this: the people ought to share completely in making the laws by which they are governed.  They have even the right to use force to recover the liberties of which they have been deprived by force, but unless they are educated they will never realise the benefits which they seek to extort by their valour.  By education and organisation they will become possessed of a moral force which no exclusive governing body can resist, and by their enlightenment they will use to the fullest extent and to the best effect the liberties they have won.

    After a short dissertation upon the enfranchisement of women, a doctrine of which Lovett and some of his followers remained convinced champions,[460] Lovett plunges with evident satisfaction (for he was a born pedagogue) into a description of the kind of education he will have in his schools.  It is crammed with knowledge and ideas.  Lovett read nearly all the important English books on education and such of the German writers as were accessible in translations; Combe, Pestalozzi, Wilderspin, Hodgskin, Dr. Southwood Smith all appear in the footnotes.  Every aspect of education is treated, and much emphasis is laid upon the importance of hygiene, physical training, playgrounds, and gardens, as might be expected in the days of the Public Health Agitation.  This little book may well be recommended to all students of English education.  Hatred of State control of education, belief in the Lancasterian organisation, and thoroughgoing secularism are other features of the scheme.[461]

    Such was the scheme on which Place's opinion was requested.  Place had outlived much of the enthusiasm which characterised his earlier attachment to the cause of education for he was already in his seventieth year.  He criticised the scheme as impracticable.  He preferred the scheme outlined in the Address on Education published in 1837.  The chief difference between the two schemes was that the former presupposed a grant from Government for the building of schools, the second was entirely voluntary.  Lovett replied that he was convinced that the people had a greater disposition to support the scheme than Place believed, and if it were once started the country would rally round it.  Place, however, returned to the charge and called the scheme a "Chartist popedom"; he said it was "sectarian" as it was purely Chartist — which was of course exactly what it was intended to be.  The Charter, says Place, would not be obtained within a quarter of a century, and so he returns to his old thesis, urging Lovett to support the agitation for the Repeal of the Corn Laws, which was more immediately necessary and practicable.  Place can find no language strong enough to describe his contempt for the Convention of 1839 and for the "Big O's" of the North, in fact for the whole movement since May 8, 1838.  The whole correspondence between the class-conscious and very sensitive enthusiast and the wire-pulling old politician is very instructive.  The upshot was that Lovett published the work in spite of Place and felt some bitterness at the delay which the latter had caused.

    Lovett was released on July 25, 1840.  A great ovation was arranged for the two prisoners at Birmingham, and the plan of the National Charter Association was to be made public on this occasion.  Lovett, however, declined to attend on the plea of ill-health, and Collins received the honour alone.  James Leach spoke as temporary chairman of the new Association, and voiced the enthusiasm with which the new organisation had been conceived.  Lovett went to Cornwall, but attended a dinner in his honour at the White Conduit House in London on August 3.  After refusing the offer by Samuel Smiles of a good appointment on the staff of the Leeds Times, he settled down in London, where he started a book shop in Tottenham Court Road, and floated his National Association Scheme.  The National Association was inaugurated in the spring of 1841, when an address was published and circulated throughout the country as in the case of the London Working Men's Association.  A large number of Chartists expressed their approval by signing the address — a step which caused them many pangs.  The first meeting took place in November when a London branch of the National Association was started; Hetherington became Secretary; Vincent, Cleave, Watson, Mitchell, and Moore rallied round their old leaders.  C. H. Neesom and R. Spurr, old opponents of Lovett and former advocates of insurrection, now joined hands with him.  J. H. Parry, a barrister (afterwards Serjeant Parry) and a great advocate of women's enfranchisement, joined also, as did W. J. Linton, the artist and poet, who left interesting reminiscences of Lovett, Watson, and others.  The National Association repudiated entirely the O'Brienite attitude towards the middle class, and the Chartist policy of spoiling Anti-Corn Law meetings.  In 1842 it acquired a disused chapel in Holborn, renovated it at a cost of £1000, and so opened the first hall of Lovett's dreams.  It was unfortunately the only one, and lasted but seven years.  For reasons which will be given later, this movement obtained no root in the Chartist soil, and Lovett gradually drifted into that educational work in which his heart was, and so found a rest from political excitement.
 
    The life of Thomas Cooper of Leicester, called "the Chartist"[462] (1805-1892), was in every way remarkable.   The son of poor parents, robbed early of his father, Cooper passed rapidly through the varied rτles of shoemaker, teacher, musician, Wesleyan local preacher, newspaper reporter, Chartist lecturer and leader, Chartist prisoner, outcast and poet, teacher of morals and politics (a more educated though less forceful Cobbett), secularist, convert, anti-secularist, dying at the great age of eighty-seven.  The mere recital gives a clue to the character of Cooper — an impulsive man but intensely loyal where his convictions or sympathies were enlisted — a hero-worshipper apt to turn iconoclast.

    Cooper's career is an extremely interesting example of how Chartists were made.  He was an entirely self-taught man.  He acquired an incredible amount of learning under the most disadvantageous circumstances.  Latin, French, Greek, Mathematics, Music, English Literature (especially that stand-by of the humble reader, The Pilgrim's Progress) — all came alike to him.  Radical notions he acquired from some trade unionists of his acquaintance, though such ideas were beyond doubt the common possession of all the reflecting members of the working classes.  Like most self-taught people, Cooper lacked that balance of judgment which comes largely by contact with other minds, and he was apt to act hastily upon half-truths.  He also had no little opinion of himself, as a glance at his autobiography will show.  A brilliant but impulsive intellect, Cooper flared up suddenly in the Chartist world, and as suddenly disappeared.  But in the years 1841-42 there was no leader so successful as he.

    Whilst acting as reporter for a Leicester paper, Cooper was requested near the beginning of 1841 to report a Chartist meeting in the town.  It was to be addressed by John Mason, a shoemaker of Birmingham.  It is remarkable how many shoemakers failed to stick to their lasts in those days; Collins, Benbow, Cooper, Mason, Cardo are all cases in point.  Cooper found some twenty ragged men in the room when he arrived, but the place quickly filled up with men and women, all equally poor and ragged.  The speeches were sensible and temperate, and they told Cooper nothing new.  On leaving the meeting, however, his attention was drawn to the clatter of the knitting-frames — and that at an hour approaching midnight.  Inquiries revealed to him the fearful poverty which drove starving men and women to toil at such a time for such wages — less than a penny an hour.  The crying injustice of the frame-rent system completed his conversion.[463]  From that day he was a Chartist, and his Chartism grew more vehement daily.  In our days revelations of this sort would at once produce an agitation for the reform of the frame-rent system, and it is very significant of the passionate and unpractical temper of those times that Cooper seems never to have thought of any such thing.  The opposition which such a campaign would have to meet, and the poverty and recklessness of the poor employees themselves would have rendered its successful conduct all but hopeless.  To men so situated as these stockingers (who had proved their own helplessness in many a futile strike) the Charter had become a kind of charm or fetish, through which every evil would be exorcised, and every social wrong be avenged.  In the year 1841 every poor man with a real grievance tended to become a Chartist.  Chartism was the grand, all-containing Cave of Adullam for men who were too poor to build up their own barriers against economic oppression.

    So Cooper became a Chartist.  His conversion was quickly followed by the loss of his situation, and he thenceforward devoted himself wholly to the cause of the stockingers.  He ran several newspapers in succession, conducted innumerable meetings, and rapidly acquired an immense following which he proceeded to organise.  He took a large hall of meeting, and christened his flock the "Shaksperean Association of Leicester Chartists."  By the summer of 1842 he claimed 2500 members.[464]  He divided them up into classes, which went under such names as the "Andrew Marvell," "Algernon Sydney," "John Hampden" class.  He devised a kind of uniform, gave to his adherents a pseudo-military organisation, and proudly bore the title of "Shaksperean General."  Is it too far a cry to assume that Cooper was the originator of ideas afterwards developed by William Booth at Nottingham?  By these means — the magic of uniform and badges — Cooper developed a really ferocious esprit de corps amongst his followers, who idolised him.  But he was not content with demonstrations.  He took pains to give his disciples education in an adult school, and amusement of the right sort.  Cooper has preserved for us some Chartist hymns and songs of no little merit which were composed by himself and some of his Shakespereans.  Through the comparatively prosperous days of 1811 (there was a temporary revival of trade) Cooper kept his following in hand.  He kept their minds occupied, prevented them from brooding, interested them in recreative pursuits.  A by-election provided excitement; visits from various noted Chartists afforded variety, and in general Cooper succeeded in brightening and cheering the lives of many who would otherwise have fallen victims to despair.  He believed and taught his followers to believe in the vague and vain promises of O'Connor that the Charter would yet be carried.[465]  Even this hope did not, however, remove the feeling of desperation which began to grow during the terrible months of 1842, when starvation knocked at every stockinger's door with greater insistence than ever.  The poor folk gradually got out of hand; Cooper was equally carried away by the scenes of terror and suffering, and was hurried into the catastrophe which in August ruined Chartism for the second time.[466]

    Thus the great movement got once more under weigh.  With new men and new methods, Chartism made great progress during 1840 and 1841.  The new organisation tended towards much greater efficiency.  It separated the wheat from the chaff, those who applauded at meetings from those who worked and subscribed for the cause.  One sign of this greater efficiency is the fact that a petition on behalf of Frost, handed in May 1841, received over two million signatures, far more than the National Petition of 1839.  Lecturers were hard at work.  Local newspapers again sprang up — such as those published by Cooper in Leicester, by Philp at Bath, by Beesley for North Lancashire, by Cleave in London, and by the Scottish Chartists.  Physical force was for the time being abandoned; efforts were concentrated upon gaining steady adherents, and upon preventing the spread of the Anti-Corn Law campaign.  In August 1841 O'Connor was released from York Gaol, six weeks before his time, and a process of disruption at once began, and did not cease until it had reduced the Chartist body to a fanatical sect of unreasoning O'Connor-worshippers.

――――♦――――

 
CHAPTER XIII

CHARTISM VERSUS FREE TRADE
(1842-1844)


REVIVED Chartism found itself competing, both for the attention of the public and the allegiance of working people, with a very powerful rival.  This was the Anti-Corn Law League, whose agitation began almost simultaneously with the publication of the Charter and ran alongside it until 1846.  The Chartists early discerned the danger to their cause which was threatened by the Free Trade agitation, and took up a definitely hostile attitude to it.  But the earlier years of the Anti-Corn Law movement gave little promise that it would become a very serious rival to the Chartist propaganda.  Its petitions and motions in the House of Commons were rejected with little ceremony, and the Chartists only saw in these non-successes further proofs of their belief that without political reform no important social improvement could be achieved.  During 1839 the working classes were preponderatingly on the side of the Charter, but the ignominious collapse of Chartism, the imprisonment of the leaders, and the temporary abandonment of agitation, gave the Anti-Corn Law League an opportunity which it did not let slip.  With large funds, able and eloquent leaders, and unswerving purpose, the Free Traders made great headway.  The solid mass of the middle class was behind them, and this was the class which had the preponderating influence in the majority of the electorates which returned the reformed House of Commons.  Moreover, it probably required no great persuasion to bring over all the better-paid and more educated artisans and operatives, who were beginning more and more to share the political and economic ideas of the Radical middle class.  The extent of the Free Trade forces in 1842 may be gauged from the fact that in the Parliamentary Session of that year 2881 petitions, signed by 1,570,000 persons, were presented; and this was repeated year after year.

    When the revival came the Chartists took up with vigour the task of counteracting the Free Trade Campaign.  By debates, polemics, and the smashing of meetings they carried on for three years the hopeless struggle, until in August 1844 a personal meeting between O'Connor and Cobden destroyed the Chartist case and ended the feud.[467]  The Chartist arguments against the rival agitation were derived largely from James O'Brien.  It was detested as a middle-class movement, started to suit the interests of the manufacturers — a charge to which Cobden pleaded guilty.  The repeal of the Corn Laws would simply hand over the working class to the manufacturers and money-lords.  The ruin of agriculture, which was inevitable if the laws were repealed, would drive thousands of agricultural labourers to the towns, there to compete and reduce wages.  High prices meant high wages, they argued; therefore, if the manufacturers cried "cheap bread" they meant "cheap labour."  Furthermore, if prices were so reduced, the chief benefit would go to those who lived upon fixed incomes — the "tax-eaters," fund-holders, clergy, and sinecurists.  The reduction in prices would be equivalent to an enormous increase in the National Debt, and thus benefit the public creditor at the expense of the labourer who has to pay the taxes.  Unless, therefore, as O'Brien argued, there were some readjustment of the currency and of contracts for debt, the result of the repeal of the Corn Laws would be disastrous to the industrious classes.

    These were the theoretical grounds of opposition.  There were other reasons, too, which appealed to Chartists.  Some few, like James Leach and West of Macclesfield, were convinced Protectionists, and tried to answer the Free Traders with arguments in kind.  Other Chartists regarded the Anti-Corn Law League as an insidious middle-class attack upon their own agitation, as a movement deliberately devised to turn attention from the Factory and Poor Law questions, on both of which Cobden took an unpopular view.  The Free Trade agitation was claimed by the Chartists as originally a working-man's agitation.  It certainly figured largely in the agitation connected with the name of Hunt, and "No Corn Laws" was a cry at Peterloo.  The middle classes, it was argued, had refused to aid in the agitation then, but were now ready to take it up in opposition to another propaganda, which threatened their own newly acquired political dominion.  Unfortunately for Chartist solidarity, however, there was no complete unanimity in the opposition to the Anti-Corn Law League.  Not every Chartist was opposed to the League, and not every Chartist was hostile to Free Trade.  Some were quite prepared to leave the League alone to press the one question while they agitated for the Charter; others were afraid that the League would swallow up their own movement.  Some believed that the Corn Laws were an atrocity which ought to be removed; others were Protectionists, like Feargus O'Connor.  Some believed that the League was wasting its time, since Free Trade would never be attained without the Charter, and were therefore anxious to gain middle-class support for a joint programme of Charter and Free Trade.  In fact every variety and combination of views existed amongst the Chartists upon this question.  If there was a definite line of demarcation amongst them, it was between the agriculturists and the industrialists.  Many Chartists, whose views are represented by O'Connor and O'Brien, regarded the industrial system as a whole as something unnatural, and they therefore harked back to a purely agricultural society, which O'Brien visualised as communistic and O'Connor as individualistic.  Others accepted the industrial system and tended to be Free Traders.  From other evidence, of which more will be said later, it appears likely that the most ardent followers of O'Connor's later "back-to-the-land" cry were the unfortunate industrialists who had been crushed by the competition of steam — the handloom weavers and stockingers.  These men had long been crying for Protection — protection of wages and protection for their handicraft.  Free Trade and Competition had no attractions for them.

    A few samples of Chartist argumentation may here be cited.  The Free Traders at Sunderland had called upon the Chartists there to aid in their agitation.  Williams and Binns were the Chartist leaders; they were sensible and moderate men who agreed that the Corn Laws were an intolerable evil, but they replied that they could not agree to co-operate merely upon the merits of the question.  "What," they ask, "is our present relation to you as a section of the middle class?  It is one of violent opposition.  You are the holders of power, participation in which you refuse us; for demanding which you persecute us with a malignity paralleled only by the ruffian Tories.  We are therefore surprised that you should ask us to co-operate with you."  They proceed to describe how the middle class press had denounced them as low adventurers, and their schemes as impracticable; how it had ignored their proceedings except to pour contempt and ridicule upon them.  The middle class had urged the prosecutions for treason and sedition, had hounded on the police and imprisoned the people's leaders.  The people cannot co-operate with them, for their failings will not permit them to do so.  Nor will their principles, for Chartism aims at something higher than the repeal of a tax.  It aims at the stoppage of tyranny and slavery at their source.[468]  So the attitude of the local magistrates, mill-owners, and gentry in the summer of 1839 was resulting in its natural consequences.  The "asking-for-troops" face, which Napier so graphically describes, gave place to the prosecution-for-sedition face.  The terror of July and August was avenged with a carnival of arrests, trials, and imprisonments which only embittered the relations of Chartists and the higher classes.  The whole odium was thrown on to the middle class, and we cannot be surprised if leaders like Williams and Binns, smarting under imprisonment, vented their feelings in bitter denunciations of the whole body which they vaguely felt to be the cause of their failures and misfortunes.

    The arguments of James Leach speak for themselves.  In a debate with a Free Trader at Manchester he laid down seven propositions.  First, that the workers had been duped by the middle class over the Reform Bill, and might therefore be duped over the Repeal of the Corn Laws.  Second, that the evils of which the workers complained were due not to agricultural protection and the consequent depression in trade, but to machinery.  Third, that the increase of trade which the League promised as a result of repeal would not be of any benefit to the labourer, for as the cotton trade had increased the wages of the handloom weavers had decreased.  The argument here is, more trade more machinery, more machinery less wages.  Fourth, that England would not be able to compete with foreign countries through the export of manufactures, partly because the foreign countries would raise protective tariffs and partly because wages were very low in foreign countries, and we should have to reduce wages accordingly.  Fifth, that the reduction of wages was the real object of the masters who took part in the agitation.  Sixth, that no good could be done until the profit-mongers were deprived of their monopoly of political power.  Seventh, that the real solution of the problems of unemployment and surplus population was the land.  It may be said that, even allowing for garbled reporting, the Free Trader's arguments were hardly good enough to convince a less prejudiced opponent than Leach.[469]

    The Northern Star of course took a prominent part in the controversy.  In January 1842 it produced the following argument to prove that the extension of foreign trade, so ardently desired by the Manchester men, was no matter for which the working classes should show enthusiasm.  It gives the following statistics of foreign trade:
 

 

Official value
of exports.


Real value.


Taxation.

1798 . . . .

£19,000,000 £33,000,000 £16,000,000

1841 . . . .

£103,000,000

£51,500,000

£53,000,000

 
    Thus the extension of foreign trade meant that we had to give five times as much labour and raw materials to produce one and a half times as much goods in 1841 as in 1798.  The labourer had to give five times as much labour for one and a half times as much wages.  In addition to this he had to pay over three times as much in taxation.  Arithmetically considered, the labourer was paying proportionately ten times as much taxation in 1841 as in 1798.

    Suppose now, the argument proceeds, we abolished all our foreign trade, what then?  We should lose fifty-one and a half millions a year.  But we could easily reduce taxation by forty-eight millions, and our loss would only be three and a half millions.  On the other hand, we should gain all the vast stores of food and clothing which are now annually exported; these would be divided out at home instead.[470]

    Truly political economy was no mystery to the leader-writer of the Northern Star.

    A very terse analysis is given by T. J. Dunning.  The National Income as a whole is divided into Wages, Profit, Rent, Taxation, falling respectively to the Labourer, Capitalist, Landlord, and Tax-receiver (fund-holders, clergy, pensioners, civil servants, sinecurists, army, navy, etc.).  The prices at which goods are sold must be sufficient to allow each of these his share.  In order that corn may yield this price a duty is imposed upon cheaper foreign corn; the repeal of these duties will lower the price of corn, which reduction will have to be borne by some or all of the above classes.


    I apprehend it cannot affect the labourer for he is already ruined, nor the farmers, unless the cultivation of corn is to be stopped, for they are said to be on the brink of ruin it must therefore fall upon the landlord or the tax-receiver or both but these have the making and repealing of the laws. It is highly probable, therefore, that unless these men are in perfect ignorance of the matter, which by the way is not unlikely, these laws will still be unrepealed.[471]


    In this controversy, therefore, the Chartists were hopelessly out-argued by Cobden, Bright, W. J. Fox, and the rest.  Both in theory and methods the League was far superior.  Nevertheless those who follow Place in condemning as futile and foolish the opposition of the Chartists to the League forget that the opposition was one of passion and sentiment rather than of dialectics.  The Chartists feared that the cause for which they had struggled and suffered would be smothered in the dust of a conflict between two factions which they considered to be equally inimical to it.  They hoped, through their new organisation, to win to their side the large body of the industrious classes, and they hated the Leaguers for queering their pitch.  When the two agitations began, there was no reason to suppose that the one would be any more successful than the other.  No one described Chartism as "the wildest and maddest scheme that had ever entered into the imagination of man to conceive," as Melbourne described the repeal of the Corn Laws.  The Chartists, therefore, had as much right to expect co-operation from the middle class in the Charter campaign as the middle class from the Chartists in the Free Trade campaign.  The opposition was perfectly natural.  It was indeed futile and foolish.  By the system of upsetting League meetings the Chartists accomplished little, and they only brought themselves into bad odour.  When they debated, they often had to beat a ridiculous retreat.  But poor, uneducated men, stirred by passion and resentment, are poor debaters in any case, and the disturbance of opposition meetings was as much a symptom of helplessness as of anything else.  It was a counsel of despair, and it is unfortunate that the Northern Star writers, who ought to have known better, should have encouraged this vain and absurd practice by declaiming in big headlines about "triumphant victories" over the League, "the Plague" as they were pleased to call it, and by assuming to believe that such "victories" were rendering service to their cause.

――――♦――――

 
CHAPTER XIV

O'CONNORISM
(1841-1842)


ON August 30, 1841, Feargus O'Connor was released from York Gaol, six weeks before the period of his imprisonment was complete.  With this event the Chartist Movement commences another phase.  It is the period of the development of the absolute personal supremacy of O'Connor.  It is interesting to see how this supremacy was attained.  There are several factors in the process, the personal gifts of O'Connor himself, the Northern Star, which ruthlessly manufactured and exploited opinion, the ignorance of his followers, and the fact that leaders inclined to independence of opinion were at work in separate organisations, and so left the National Charter Association at the mercy of O'Connor.

    Of O'Connor's personality something has already been said.  A jovial, tactful, obliging person, to whom no exertions were wasted which procured one more adherent, a boon-companion of a highly entertaining character, suiting his conduct exactly to the standards of his company, a racy and not too intellectual speaker, a master-hand at flattery and unction, a poseur of talent and resource, O'Connor was well equipped to gain the affections of uneducated men to whom sympathy with their hard lot was more than dissertations upon democratic freedom and exhortations to self-culture.  Social antipathy, not political bondage, was at the bottom of Chartism, and the immense exertions of O'Connor, a member of the favoured classes, in the cause of the poor, vain, futile, and self-glorifying as those exertions were, were nevertheless a passport to the fidelity and affection of many thousands of followers.

    There is a repulsive aspect to this relationship in the manner in which O'Connor exploited this intense loyalty.  That this exploitation did not exhaust the sources of affection is a witness alike to the intensity of the feeling and the blind ignorance of the followers.  O'Connor had that rare commercial instinct which enabled him to derive profit from the most unlikely sources.  Nothing escaped his notice — the Northern Star, his imprisonment in York Gaol (though only remotely connected with Chartism), and the bad memories of his followers, were alike sources of profit and power.  A few samples may be given.

    On the eve of his commitment to York Castle O'Connor penned an article of Napoleonic arrogance [472] to his followers.  It is a farewell message:


    Before we part, let us commune fairly together.  See how I met you, what I found you, how I part from you, and what I leave you.  I found you a weak and unconnected party, having no character except when tied to the chariot wheel of Whiggery to grace the triumphs of the Whigs.  I found you weak as the mountain heather bending before the gentle breeze.  I am leaving you strong as the oak that stands the raging storms.  I found you knowing your country but on the map.  I leave you with its position engravers upon your hearts.  I found you split up into local sections.  I have levelled all those pigmy fences and thrown you into an imperial union. . . .


    Early in 1841 he produced a long recital of his political career and addressed it to the English People.[473]  It culminates in the amazing assertion:


    Now attend to me while I state simple facts.  From September 1835 to February 1839 I led you single-handed and alone.


    In this way O'Connor, in true Napoleonic fashion, succeeded in throwing a haze of legendary magnificence about the early dubious venturing of his post-Parliamentary career.  The last statement was a master-stroke.  When he wrote, February 1839 was but two years past and memories reached back to it; it was not safe to allegorise the career of the Convention.  Nor was it expedient, for by giving up his leadership at that moment, O'Connor divested himself of responsibility for the futilities which followed.  He followed up this bold step a week later by presenting a version of his career as a Conventional.  He had always opposed physical force.  In fact, in the Convention he had alone opposed the idea of a Sacred Month, and had succeeded in putting a stop to it.  He had always opposed the talk about arms, not as illegal, but as inadvisable.[474]  The truth was, that having steadfastly shouted with the larger crowd, O'Connor could safely claim to have supported and opposed every policy which the Convention discussed.

    Along with this process of self-glorification, O'Connor endeavoured successfully to enlist sympathy for his sufferings in gaol.[475]  From the first week of his imprisonment O'Connor was able to publish in the Northern Star long accounts of his evil plight, his ill-health, the despondent verdicts of the doctors, the ruthless tyranny of governor and Government.  These accounts were followed by multitudinous meetings of protest.  A fortnight after his commitment to gaol the reports of these meetings occupy six closely printed columns on the front page.  On July 11, 1840, O'Connor's article upon the subject occupied eight columns.  These whinings, which aroused the contempt of Lovett and others, were not the sentimental drivelling of cowardice, but the manoeuvres of a diplomat who knew what he was about.  He was establishing a claim to Chartist martyrdom.  His imprisonment was for a serious libel upon the Warminster Guardians, and was therefore not a Chartist affair, except in so far as he had later become a Chartist.  But he affected to believe that the case had only been pressed to get him out of the way, just, as his release was supposed to be dictated by craft and fear.[476]  So the O'Connor legend grew.  The mere fact that O'Connor was able, nearly every week, to write long articles to his paper, does not encourage belief in his sufferings.  Nor does the remarkable energy which he displayed from the moment of his release support such belief.  That the confinement did cause some discomfort is beyond doubt, but whether, as a result, O'Connor could, like John Collins, stick his hard felt hat inside the waistband of his trousers [477] may be doubted.

    From the gaol, too, O'Connor was able to take no little part in the conduct of the National Charter Association.  His plan for the reorganisation of the movement had already received attention.  In the early part of 1841 a project was on foot for a second Petition, combining the requests of the National Petition with one for the release of various prisoners, especially Frost, Williams, and Jones.  O'Connor proposed that a Convention of ten should be elected to supervise the Petition.  He suggested a list of twenty persons who might be elected.  When the election was complete nine out of ten of his nominees were elected.  The tenth was Collins, who raised a great storm in the Convention.[478]  The proceedings of this body show that even careful selection of delegates was not an antidote to disunion.  O'Connor followed up this manoeuvre with another of the same kind.  He drew up a list of eighty-seven individuals whom he described as Chartists who may be trusted.  All the Lovett men are omitted, as well as Collins and the Christian Chartists.  It was a purely partisan selection.  Thomas Cooper, for the time a blind follower of O'Connor, is described as a host in himself.  O'Brien and Benbow find places, but Rider and Harney do not, being on the staff of the Star, and therefore not available for organising and delegate work.  The obvious intention was to ensure the selection of these men in the choice of officials and representatives.  The list was joyfully accepted and resolutions of confidence passed in the "old list" and "the 87."[479]

    In this development of O'Connorism, in which personal loyalty to O'Connor was at least as requisite as sound Chartism, the Northern Star played a great and decisive part.  It was the only really prosperous Chartist paper, and stood head and shoulders above its struggling contemporaries.  The great collapse of 1839 dragged down many rival newspapers, and those which took their places were Chartist pamphlets rather than newspapers, for they were unable to publish "news," being unstamped.[480]  The Chartist body was unable to support more than one journal of any size, and so the Northern Star shone alone in the firmament.  It was almost the sole source of Chartist news, and it was the chief channel of communication.  Its able and unscrupulous editor, William Hill, employed it exclusively to further the despotism of its proprietor.  He suppressed news and garbled it.  He allowed attacks upon suspected individuals and prevented replies.  He made and unmade reputations in his columns.  Through the Star the policy of Chartism was made and directed.  Not that the rank and file were unable to obtain a hearing in its columns, far from it; but preference was given to particular persons, and opinion was overriden by the ipse dixi of editor or proprietor.

    Not merely on the journalistic side was this newspaper a potent O'Connorising instrument, but its commercial side was exploited, too, for the same purpose.  A newspaper must have agents, distributors, reporters, and so on, and O'Connor and his staff had built up an efficient body of news-collectors and news-distributors.  Naturally none but Chartists were eligible for this purpose.  O'Connor, however, was not content with this perfectly legitimate employment of Chartists; he strove deliberately to turn his employees, reporters, and agents into instruments for furthering his personal supremacy.  We have seen how he offered to pay a Convention, and how he offered to turn Chartism as a whole into a newspaper syndicate under his control.  These projects came to naught, but he attained part of their purpose by the use of the Star.  He turned Chartist leaders into paid reporters,[481] and paid reporters into Chartist leaders, and he used them, as in the case of Philp at Bath, to eliminate from the movement men of independence.[482]  He ruthlessly exploited financial obligations, as in the case of O'Brien.[483]  He allowed his newspaper agents to fall into debt if he thought he could keep a hold on them thereby.[484]  So great became the power of the newspaper that a new species of lθse majestι became possible.  Deegan was solemnly tried at Sunderland on the charge of speaking evil against the Northern Star; he was mercifully acquitted.[485]  Cases of Anti-Northern-Starism became possible and not infrequent.  Thus, as Place relates: "O'Connor obtained supremacy by means of his volubility, his recklessness of truth, his newspaper, his unparalleled impudence, and by means of a body of mischievous people whom he attached to himself by mercenary bonds."[486]

    There is, however, another side to the matter.  Says Thomas Cooper:


    Feargus O'Connor, by his speeches in various parts of the country and by his letters in the Northern Star, chiefly helped to keep up these expectations (i.e. that the Charter would soon be obtained).  The immense majority of Chartists in Leicester, as well as in many other towns, regarded him as the only really disinterested and incorruptible leader.  I adopted this belief because it was the belief of the people: and I opposed James Bronterre O'Brien and Henry Vincent and all who opposed O'Connor or refused to act with him.[487]


    Nothing shows more clearly the strength of O'Connor's influence than that a leader of Cooper's calibre should unhesitatingly follow the crowd of which he was supposed to be leader, in its blind adoration of that famous demagogue.  It would be idle to suppose that O'Connor in no wise deserved this fidelity; men do not gain such homage without cause or merit.  But O'Connor's character was such that no man of independence, talents, and integrity could long co-operate with him.  O'Brien, Cooper, William Hill, Gammage, Harney, Jones, and a crowd of others served him with zeal and quitted him with contumely.  Yet there was something gained by the supremacy of O'Connor.  The disunion which had been so disastrous in 1839 was avoided, and the National Charter Association stood as a very enthusiastic and very hopeful compact body.  The ruthless and unsparing ostracism of the anti-O'Connorite leaders is a tribute to the desire for solidarity in the rank and file as well as to the jealousy and power of O'Connor.  But within the association movement was restricted, criticism was gagged, and initiative discouraged.  Chartism became the faith of a sect rather than the passionate cry of half a nation.

    On his release from prison O'Connor at once jumped into the saddle.  He was greeted with tremendous ovations.  The great Huddersfield demonstration deserves special mention.  The following is a list of the banners and mottoes:


1. Full-length portrait of O'Connor.

2. Banner setting forth the points of the Charter.

3. "We demand Universal Suffrage."

4. Justice holding the scales with Equal Rights balanced against the People's
    Charter.

5. "The Charter our Right."

6. "Equality of All before the Law."
    "Taxation without Representation is Tyranny and ought to be resisted."

7. "The Right of every Man to Liberty is from God, from Nature, from Birth, and from
       Reason."
       "The whole of the principles contained in the People's Charter we demand."
       "God save the Queen, for we fear no one else will."
       "The Glorious Republic of America, and soon may England imitate that country:
       its people happy and contented."

9. "England expects every man to do his duty."
     "God helps those who help themselves."

10. "The Land, the Land, the right of every living man."
       "The Rights of Labour, soon may they be acknowledged throughout the world."

11. "Every man his own Landlord."
       "Down with the accursed factory system, the school of immorality, profaneness,
        wickedness, and vice of every description."

12. "England, Home, and Liberty."
       "No Bastilles: the Right of every man to live upon his native land."

13. "Equal Representation.
       "No distinction before the Law."

14. "Honesty is the best policy: No Humbug: No Corn Law Fallacies: the full rights
       of all we ask, no more we demand, this we will have."
       "God gave the earth for man's inheritance: a faction have taken it to themselves.
       Justice, Justice, Justice!"

15. "Universal Suffrage."


Then came:

Operatives sixteen abreast
The Carriage


drawn by four greys; postillions, scarlet jackets, black velvet caps and silver tassels; containing the People's Champion


F
EARGUS O'CONNOR, ESQUIRE,

along with Messrs. Edward Clayton, Robert Peel, and other friends.


Transparent lamps on each side.
Green silk flags on each side of the carriage.
Operatives sixteen abreast.[488]


    Apart from their variety, which embraces everything from opposition to the League to overthrowing the monarchy, the aspirations blazoned on the banners are remarkable for the significance already attached to the land as a factor in national regeneration.  O'Brien, Leach, O'Connor, Hobson (publisher of the Northern Star), and many other leaders were in various ways agitating the question, and a movement was already on foot which was destined to swallow up the Chartist movement itself.

    Another example of O'Connor worship may be quoted:


    Working Men of Huddersfield and vicinity Arouse, Arouse! and join the ranks of Freedom. Shake off the chains of servile bondage.  Be Men, Men determined no longer to be serfs, or wear the galling mark of Slavery.  Up then in your wonted might, and show to your oppressors, you know how to estimate such men as O'CONNOR, who will be in Holmfirth at Noon on Saturday, December 4, 1841.[489]


    As a matter of fact the arrangements for O'Connor's reception fell far short of what was intended, on account of his unexpected release.  Special demonstration committees were set on foot in Lancashire and Yorkshire, and demonstrations were arranged for York, Leeds, Sheffield, Manchester, Colne, Keighley, Halifax, Bradford, Todmorden, Bolton, Stockport, Huddersfield, Dewsbury, Barnsley, Rochdale, Middleton, and Blackburn.[490]  These demonstrations were of course intended to be a great recruiting tour, but unfortunately the fates decided against them.  O'Connor showed himself, however, perfectly indefatigable.  Early in November he made a successful tour throughout Scotland where, in spite of his declarations against physical force, he took pleasure in attacking Brewster and his Chartist "Synod" at Glasgow.  His report on this journey is written in a style strongly suggestive of megalomania.[491]  A few days later he was quitting London for a tour in Lancashire and Yorkshire, visiting Stockport, Ashton, Oldham, Rochdale, Heywood, and Bolton in five days.  At Stockport there was so large a crowd that the floor collapsed.[492]  He then visited Dewsbury, Bradford, and Halifax.  If O'Connor attained supremacy within the National Charter Association, it was partly because he worked for it, for none of his followers, Cooper perhaps excepted, could compare with him in activity.  He rejoiced in the work; he enjoyed the excitement and the applause.  Controversy he almost welcomed, as if politics were a great Donnybrook.  Year after year his herculean frame enabled him to continue, but the malady which was slowly unseating his reason caused his feats of endurance to be less and less controlled as the years went on.  Chronic incoherence characterised his later activities.  But in these earlier years O'Connor's ubiquity and superhuman energy were invaluable to the cause.  He brought in recruits wherever he went.  He kept the agitation alive through good report and evil report.  So far as Chartism spurred on governments and public opinion to a more sympathetic treatment of the poor and the industrious classes, O'Connor must not be denied some of the praise for the good which indirectly ensued from his immense activities.

    From the moment of O'Connor's release the policy of the National Charter Association took on a firmer shape.  Much had been done since the Manchester Delegate Assembly of July 1840.  A lively agitation was organised; a Convention had been held, and a petition, very successful in point of signatures at least, had been presented in May 1841 by T. S. Duncombe to the House of Commons, praying for the release of the Chartist convicts.  Duncombe's motion that the Queen be requested to reconsider the cases of all political prisoners was lost only on the casting vote of the Speaker, who declared that the motion was an interference with the Royal Prerogative.[493]  On the occasion of an O'Connor demonstration at Birmingham in the September following, MacDouall, as one of the Executive, put forward a programme of agitation which included another National Petition and Convention.[494]  All efforts were to be concentrated upon these objects and the Petition was to be presented in 1842.  The organisation was strung up to a higher degree of activity.  Delegate meetings, representative of large areas, were called to supervise the arrangements.[495]  In October 1811 the Executive published the programme outlined by MacDouall.  The Convention was to meet on February 4, 1842, and to sit for four weeks.  The Petition was to be presented without any delay such as occurred in 1839.  The Convention was to consist of twenty-four delegates, for each of whom a sum of £15, exclusive of travelling expenses, must be furnished by the constituents.  The representatives would be nominated by ballot and elected in public meetings.  The Executive would stand for election and the "parliamentary candidates" would have a prior claim to the suffrages of the Chartist body.[496]  Thus the intention was to bring the renewed agitation to a climax early in 1842.  Nothing was specified as to the subsequent proceedings, and there was no foolish talk about ulterior measures.  But before the Convention met or the Petition was presented, much water flowed under the bridge, and in it many Chartist hopes foundered.

――――♦――――

 
CHAPTER XV

FALSE DOCTRINE, HERESY, AND SCHISM
(1841-1842)
 
(1) O'CONNOR'S BREACH WITH LOVETT (1841)


WHILST striving, with energy and success, to establish his supremacy over the National Charter Association, O'Connor was carrying on a vigorous campaign against all rival and parallel organisations within the Chartist world.  In this warfare he had the enthusiastic and unquestioning support of the great mass of the members of the Association, who were anxious above all to avoid the schisms and disunion which had been so devastating in 1839.  Even allies were not tolerated if they aspired to independence; there must be one army and one leader.  Thus the personal desires of O'Connor and the intolerant notions of his followers worked together for the same ends.

    The first rival scheme to come under O'Connor's ban was the National Association for Promoting the Improvement of the People, which, as we have seen, was being inaugurated by Lovett and Collins.  The opposition between Lovett and O'Connor was the opposition of two completely different personalities.  Lovett was a thin, delicate, nervous, retiring, serious, and ascetic man to whom life was a tragedy, made bearable only by self-abnegation and devotion to the welfare of others.  O'Connor was a great, burly, bouncing, hail-fellow-well-met, to whom the essence of life was political agitation, involving crowds, excitement, applause, and authority, the end and purpose of the agitation being but secondary.  The two were totally incompatible.  Lovett lacked the saving grace of a sense of humour, and O'Connor jarred on him, whilst to O'Connor the intellectual and moral purposes of Lovett were foreign and unintelligible.  All these things were against any hearty co-operation from the very beginning.  Lovett detested the personal ascendancy of O'Connor; it was against his principles.  He also suspected O'Connor's sincerity in the people's cause.  O'Connor no doubt returned these feelings with interest.  He took no further notice of Lovett and Collins when they were incarcerated, and their appeals for better treatment in prison were totally ignored by the Northern Star [497] which found space for many columns of O'Connor's whining.  Lovett fell into an intense detestation of the great Northern demagogue, and from the moment of his release nothing could induce him to bury his resentment and co-operate with the National Charter Association.  Lovett carried with him many sincere and able men, but they were officers without companies.  The rank and file marched with the Irishman, whose controversial methods may be gauged from the following.

    Even before Lovett's new Association had been launched these incompatibilities were threatening Chartism with a new schism.  Lovett was designing his National Association to supplement rather than to supersede the National Charter Association.  But as the latter fell more and more under O'Connor's control, Lovett's refusal to work with it had the inevitable consequence of suggesting that he was dividing the Chartist forces at a moment when unity was especially necessary.  O'Connor took full advantage of his enemy's mistake and attacked him and his friends with unrestrained violence.  The onslaught began with an article, written by O'Connor, in July 1840, denouncing the refusal of the London Radicals to take part in the Manchester delegate meeting, a refusal, dictated partly by lack of funds, which was afterwards rescinded.  The worst enemies of the suffering multitudes, says O'Connor, are the better-paid members of their own order.  "Of all parts of the kingdom the masses have least to expect from the leaders of popular opinion in the Metropolis.  The fustian jackets, the unshorn chins, and the blistered hands are as good there as here, but the mouthpieces which undertake to represent them appertain, generally speaking, to an altogether different class."[498]  A week later O'Connor tersely declared that "London is rotten."  This particular article contains one of the earliest references to the Land Scheme of the future, a scheme which was more alien than ever to Lovett's Chartism.  In this fashion was O'Connor leading Chartism away from the original ideas of its founders, among whom he could in no wise claim to be.  Not content with O'Brien's denunciation of the middle class, he still further narrowed the appeal of Chartism by his denunciation of the higher ranks of the working class.  The great working-class party which Lovett conceived of, and still more the possible co-operation of the more liberal of the middle classes, became more and more impossible of realisation.  The truth was that for really intelligent working men O'Connor had no appeal.  Hence his dislike of London and his preference for the factory and handloom-weaving areas.

    These attacks upon Lovett provoked a reply from W. G. Burns, who averred with some asperity that "so long as Feargus O'Connor connects himself with any agitation, the object of which is to benefit the masses, that benefit will never be enjoyed, and he does not wish they should enjoy it."[499]

    Soon afterwards Lovett's book Chartism appeared, and was very loudly praised by the more sympathetic London press.  The Northern Star contented itself with sarcastic comments.[500]  When, however, in March 1841 the "Address of the National Association to the Political and Social Reformers of the United Kingdom" was published, the storm of obloquy broke.  This Address was circulated throughout the Chartist world.  It set forth the objects of the National Association, as already described in Chartism, and it was accompanied by a dissertation in the true Lovett style.


    In addressing you as fellow-labourers in the great cause of human liberty, we would wish to rivet this great truth upon your mind: you must become your own social and political regenerators or you will never enjoy freedom.  For true liberty cannot be conferred by Acts of Parliament or by decrees of princes, but must spring up from the knowledge, morality, and public virtue of our population. . . . If therefore you would escape your present social and political bondage and benefit your race, you must bestir yourselves and make every sacrifice to build up the sacred temple of your own liberties. . . . ,

    Tracing most of our social grievances to class legislation, we have proposed a political reform upon the principles of the People's Charter. . . . Believing it to have truth for its basis and the happiness of all for its end, we conceive that it needs not the violence of passion, the bitterness of party spirit, nor the arms of aggressive warfare for its support: its principles need only to be unfolded to be appreciated and being appreciated by the majority will be established in peace.

    But while we would implore you to direct your undivided attention to the attainment of that just political measure, we would urge you to make your agitation in favour of it more efficient and productive of social benefit than it has been hitherto.  We have wasted glorious means of usefulness in foolish displays and gaudy trappings, seeking to captivate the sense rather than inform the mind, and ageing the proceedings of a tinselled and corrupt aristocracy rather than aspiring to the mental and moral dignity of a pure democracy.  Our public meetings have on too many occasions been arenas of passionate invective, party spirit, and personal idolatry . . . rather than schools for the advancement of our glorious cause by the dissemination of facts and the inculcation of principles.[501]


    This last paragraph is in every way worthy of attention.  It is a splendid utterance of an idealist of democracy.  Nor is its praise of "the mental and moral dignity of a pure democracy" more remarkable than the attitude Lovett betrays towards agitation.  It is the agitation itself, not the attainment of the Charter, which will bring freedom.  But this agitation must be far different from that which has hitherto been conducted; it must be based upon education, self-sacrifice, self-activity, not upon wild talk of insurrection, arms, and violence, leading to cowardly desertions and imprisonments.  In Lovett's mind the Charter has ceased to be a bill to be introduced into Parliament, but has become a democratic ideal which will realise itself through the strivings of the people for self-culture.  Chartism is the organisation of an enlightened people; with class-war, land schemes, conventions, petitions, and Parliaments it has simply nothing to do.  It is in the hearts and minds of the people, which, when they are properly attuned one to the other, will produce the mighty song of freedom.

    On April 17 there appeared the Northern Star's reply to this address.  It took umbrage at the references to "gaudy trappings," and made the inevitable reply "as to personal idolatry, we shall only add in addition to what has already been said 'sour grapes."'  It denounced the notion of forming a separate association.  Were the "six" who were responsible for the new Association more entitled to public confidence than the Executive of the National Charter Association?  Was the London move not in fact a scheme of O'Connell, Roebuck, and Hume to split the Chartist body and gain over a part to Household Suffrage?  Had not Roebuck pronounced the National Charter Association illegal?

    O'Connor through his deputy, Hill,[502] now proceeded to pour scorn upon Lovett's educational scheme.


    Will some good fellow furnish us next week with an appropriate dialogue between one of the architects laying the foundation stone of the first Hall — the new Temple of Liberty — and a handloom weaver with nine children awaiting its completion as a means of relief?


    How would O'Connor use the quarter of a million annually raised under the scheme?  He would subsidise a hundred "independent" members of Parliament at £1500 a year each; a Parliamentary committee at £1750 a year; one hundred missionaries at one hundred pounds a year each; and a balance of £74,730 would still be available for other purposes.


    Now what would our friends think of such an appropriation clause, the enactment of which would, we fancy, put us in less than two years in joint possession of all the Town Halls, Science Halls, Union Halls, Normal and Industrial Schools, Libraries, Parks Pleasure Grounds, Public Baths, Buildings and Places of Amusement in the kingdom, ready built, furnished, stocked, and raised to our hands?


    The writer of the article alleged that it would be perfectly easy to buy dozens of members of Parliament at the price offered.  This from an enemy of "corrupt" legislation!

    Hill wrote the article, he tells us, with great pain.  It was evident that those who had signed their names to the document had been deceived, and he adjured these misguided friends to confess their error and "manfully to ask pardon."  "But should it be otherwise and should the sword be drawn, why then, we throw away the scabbard."[503]

    This is a fair sample of this journal's controversial style.  The generally low tone, allegations of treachery, sowing of suspicion, bludgeon-like satire, and the mixture of cozening and threats are thoroughly typical.  It was unfortunately all too effective.  The very next week a number of letters and resolutions appeared in the Northern Star from various persons and societies begging pardon, or echoing the Star's denunciations.  Lovett had certainly not erred on the side of tact in his method of propagating his new scheme.  He sent copies of his address to various Chartist leaders in person, selecting of course those likely to be favourable or those whom he knew.  They were requested to sign if they approved and return it to Lovett, who thereupon published the address with their signatures under the title of the National Association.  Thus many members of the National Charter Association found themselves approving of another body which was now pronounced to be a secret Whig-Radical dodge to smash the Chartist body.  But even though Lovett had been a little sharp in his dealings, the tone of some of the recantations was sufficiently disgusting.  They were collectively described by the Star as "rats escaping from the trap," and the National Association became the "new move."  The "new move" was described as "the selfish and humbugging scheme of Lovett and Co." who were "a Malthusian clique," "milk-and-water patriots" into whose eyes gold-dust had been thrown.  One resolution spoke of the "base, cowardly, and unjustifiable conduct of the unprincipled leaders of the new move in their continued efforts to heap odium and discredit upon that tried man of principle and unceasing advocate of the people's rights, Feargus O'Connor, Esq."  Leach at Manchester solemnly burned a presentation portrait of Collins.  In towns where one single Chartist had signed the document the whole body of Chartists there hastened to dissociate themselves from him and it, as if from a fatal contagion.  Some who recanted explained that they had never read the document but took the signatures as a sufficient guarantee.  M'Crae, Craig's successor in Ayrshire, begged his country to forgive him for signing.  George Rogers, the bold tobacconist of 1839, actually alleged that his signature was used without his consent, and the Northern Star hinted that there might be others similarly deceived.  A very curious sample of recantation is furnished by the Trowbridge Chartists, once the favourite henchmen of Vincent and his physical force notions.  After sending to the paper a very temperate remonstrance on the subject of its invective and mischief-making, they nullified this by sending a letter immediately afterwards, in which they withdrew all their charges and roundly denounced Lovett's scheme as a Whig plot.  It would be interesting to know what wires were pulled to produce these contradictory results.[504]  Week after week the campaign went on.  The more the respectable newspapers praised Lovett's address, the more the Northern Star denounced it.  It was "a new mode of canvassing for support for Mechanics' Institutes, and the Brougham system of making one portion of the working classes disgusted with all below them."[505]  Lovett replied to these attacks, but in the nature of things his arguments could have little effect.[506]  Not all those who signed the address were cowardly enough to desert.  Vincent and Philp claimed to be at once members of the National Association and of the National Charter Association.  They were powerful in the Bath area, and special measures had to be taken by O'Connor and his followers to eliminate them.  Vincent boldly defended his position, while Cleave, Hetherington, and Neesom engaged in fierce controversy with O'Connor and Rider.[507]  It must be confessed, however, that the victory rested with the large battalions.  Lovett found no general support amongst the Chartist ranks.  He was compelled more and more to seek middle-class support, and outside London he gained few adherents.[508]  His Association became a society of political and educational virtuosi.  It was among other things an avowed supporter of the enfranchisement of women, a policy which alone sufficed to put it out of the pale of practical politics.  So the leaven of idealism was ejected from the Chartist mass.


 
(2) THE ELIMINATION OF O'BRIEN (1841-1842)


    O'Brien was also to be eliminated.  For years he had been regarded as the friend and mentor of Feargus O'Connor, who had bestowed upon him the title by which he became honourably remembered, "the Chartist Schoolmaster."  His articles in the Northern Star during 1838 had done not a little both for Chartist theory and for the reputation of that journal.  In the Convention of 1839 O'Brien and O'Connor were generally faithful allies, but it is probable that the seeds of disagreement were already sown.  O'Brien seems to have been as devoid of business acumen as O'Connor was rich in it.  None of his independent journalistic ventures were successes.  His personal habits seem to have been very irregular.  He was a somewhat cranky, uncertain-tempered individual, impatient of restraint — in short, a man whose intellectual genius was crippled by unfavourable circumstances, and whose temper was fretted by troubles which ensued from instability of will and conduct.  He was reckless always, especially in money-affairs, inclined to fits of moroseness, occasionally gloomy and splenetic, a difficult character indeed.  Financial difficulties seem to have put him into O'Connor's hands,[509] a situation which O'Brien's temper could ill brook.  O'Brien further conceived that O'Connor had behaved treacherously to him on the occasion of his trial in April 1840.[510]  For eighteen months O'Brien was incarcerated at Lancaster.  Towards the end of his imprisonment he was able to contribute to the pages of the Star, so that the breach was by no means complete.  The newspaper had every reason to desire a continuation of the connection with so able a writer, and one upon whose authority its anti-middle-class teaching was largely based.  In April 1841 an article appeared which showed that O'Brien's views on this point were undergoing a significant change.[511]  He put forward the thesis that the enormous political power of the middle class is as nothing compared with their social power.  In fact political power is a consequence of the social power, which is derived from wealth, position, and social functions.  Clearly O'Brien was turning his former teaching upside down.[512]  He had hitherto taught that the power of legislation was the basis of social power, and the instrument of social improvement.

    This reversal was too sudden for O'Brien himself, and he began to hedge a little.  He succeeded after all in coming to the conclusion that the middle class was still the most implacable enemy of the working class, but he was clearly wobbling.  The statement that the Reform Act of 1832 was a consequence of the social influence of the middle class, paved the way for the co-operation with part of that class, a policy which O'Brien advocated in 1842, as a means of gaining another and greater Reform Act.

    Thus O'Brien, like Lovett, was drifting from the old Chartist moorings now occupied by the National Charter Association.  In the summer of 1841 came the General Election which returned Peel to power and began the great financial revolution which ended in the Repeal of the Corn Laws.  The Chartists were much agitated by the question as to what policy they ought to pursue in the party conflict.  Some time previously they had endorsed the suggestion of O'Brien that Chartists should help neither party, but that Chartist candidates should be put forward at each nomination and carried at the hustings on the show of hands.  But on May 29 and June 19, 1841, O'Connor came along with the advice to Chartists to support the Tories rather than the Whigs in the actual polling.  On this O'Brien joined issue with his wonted vehemence.  Unless, he said, fifty real Chartists are elected to the House of Commons or two or three hundred, elected by show of hands, are summoned to a great national council, there would be a bloody revolution.  Such a council would be a means of rescuing the people from desperate courses.  How, it is not clear.  O'Brien denounced O'Connor's advice to vote Tory as madness.  It would mean the annihilation of Chartism if the Tories were returned.[513]  He further objected to O'Connor's habit of assuming to speak for the whole Chartist body, and of regarding his (O'Brien) views as those of an individual.[514]  He said that O'Connor's paper ought to have been moving in the election campaign three months before, instead of coming with its Chartist-Toryism at the last moment.  O'Connor replied that he was advocating election plans as early as 1835 and referred to an article of September 1839 on the subject.  He defended his advice.  If, he said, the Whigs were re-elected they would have another seven years in which to exercise their callousness.  The Tories were bound to be weaker than the Whigs, so that the latter would not be badly defeated, but adversity would tame them into accepting the alliance of the Chartists in future.  O'Brien replied that O'Connor had favoured him with eight columns, when half a column would have said enough to show him that O'Connor would never convince him that it was right for Chartists to vote Tory.[515]  In controversy O'Brien was more than a match for his opponent.

    In the ensuing election, neither O'Connor nor O'Brien seems to have carried the day with the Chartists.  Certainly the Tories won, and it is possible that Anti-Poor Law feeling, which was at the bottom of a good deal of Chartism, induced many Chartists to go with the Tories.  It certainly was so at Leicester, as Cooper relates.  So far O'Connor's advice was the feeling of a great part of the Chartists.  The Salford Chartists on the other hand, after careful consideration, decided to support Brotherton, a prominent Anti-Corn Law man,[516] who, perhaps through their support, secured his election.  It is clear that cross-currents of opinion were already influencing Chartist policy.  At Northampton the intervention of MacDouall, who went to the poll, actually prevented the return of a Tory.[517]

    O'Brien himself stood for Newcastle-on-Tyne.  His election address is perhaps the first ever written in a prison.  It is worth quoting.  The candidate calls himself a "Conservative Radical Reformer in the just and obvious meaning of the words."  He advocates unqualified obedience to the laws even where they are bad and vicious, so long as the people have an opportunity of altering them in accordance with the will of the majority.  He stands for the inviolability of all property, both public and private, but amongst public property he includes church rates, public endowments, and unappropriated colonial lands which the aristocracy are appropriating just as they seized the land of this country.  He also considers that the State has a right to interfere with private property where the public weal is at stake, but compensation ought to be given in just measure.  He will oppose all monopolies, whether of wealth, power, or knowledge.  He will therefore oppose the Bank of England monopoly and take away from the other banks the right to issue notes.  A really National Bank under public control would be substituted if he had his way.  He will equally oppose all restrictions upon trade, commerce, and industry, especially the Corn Laws, which, with the concentration of landed property through enclosure, are the chief causes of the present distress.  He will vote for total and immediate repeal, provided that there is an equitable readjustment of public and private obligations in accordance with the increased purchasing power of money.  He will demand the abolition of all further restrictions upon the Press, the disestablishment and disendowment of the Church of England, the adoption of a system of direct taxation of property, the reduction of indirect taxation, and the exclusion of placemen of every description from the House of Commons.[518]

    With the exception of a few words this address might have been written by Cobbett.  It was a good and sensible document, but it was scarcely a distinctively Chartist pronouncement at all.  It only had one reference to the Charter, for O'Brien no doubt wanted to appeal to a wider public than the Chartists of Newcastle.  Not many election addresses, issued in that election, one ventures to think, contained as much good sense as the one composed in Lancaster Gaol.  It shows however, how much O'Brien was drifting from the somewhat Ishmaelite standpoint of O'Connorite Chartism.

    The Newcastle Election gave rise to a curious legal point.  O'Brien and two other candidates stood for two seats.  Though absent, O'Brien carried the day on the show of hands; he did not go to the poll, and the other two were declared elected.  O'Brien's committee decided to petition on the ground that the two had been elected neither by show of hands nor by the poll.  Counsel actually thought O'Brien was the person elected, though, of course, he had not the requisite financial qualification.  The cost of petitioning was, however, prohibitive and no further steps were taken.[519]  It stirs the imagination to think of O'Brien in the Corn Law debates.  How he would have laid about him!

    O'Brien was to be released in October 1841.  His popularity was still great in the Chartist world, and a movement was at once set on foot to give him a great ovation, and to raise a fund to enable him to start a newspaper.[520]  He refused the demonstrations; they would cost money; working men would lose employment and wages by attending.  Let Chartists give O'Connor an expensive ovation if they liked.[521]  The "press fund," however, went on with the result that O'Brien became part owner and editor of the British Statesman,[522] a Radical weekly which started in March 1842.  The Statesman was at first largely an Anti-Corn Law journal, but O'Brien gave it a somewhat different complexion.  It was never a Chartist paper in the O'Connorite sense.  Like all the rest of O'Brien's ventures, it died an untimely death.  In the latter months of 1841 O'Brien was still very active as lecturer and agitator, but in the early part of 1842 events occurred which brought to a head the various enmities and rivalries which the policy or person of O'Connor had aroused.


 
(3) THE COMPLETE SUFFRAGE MOVEMENT (1842)


    In 1842 the focus of Chartist interest once more shifted to Birmingham, which, since the riots of July 1839 had not figured very prominently in Chartist affairs.  The Chartists of that town were divided in allegiance between Arthur O'Neill and the official leaders, like George White, a Northern Star reporter, and John Mason, whose eloquence had helped to convert Cooper at Leicester.  The old Birmingham Political Union was of course dead and buried in oblivion.  A "Birmingham Association for Promoting the General Welfare," with T. C. Salt for a chairman, was in existence in October 1841, but no more seems to be known about it than the notice recorded by Place.[523]  In 1842, however, Birmingham was the centre of a movement which at first bade fair to carry Chartist or Radical principles into regions which O'Connor never knew, a movement in fact which carried no less a person than Herbert Spencer in its train.

    This was the Complete Suffrage Movement.  It was a kind of middle-class Chartism.  There are two distinct aspects to Chartism as generally conceived down to 1840, and as conceived after that date by the National Charter Association.  On the one hand, it is an agitation for the traditional Radical Programme; on the other, it is a violent and vehement protest from men, rendered desperate by poverty and brutalised by excessive labour, ignorance, and foul surroundings, against the situation in life in which they found themselves placed.  This protesting attitude had been brought, by the teachings of leaders and the prosecutions of authority, to a pitch of bitterness hardly now conceivable.  In this second aspect alone was Chartism an exclusively working-class affair, and in this respect alone could there be no middle-class Chartism, for such a thing would be a contradiction in terms.  At the same time there was nothing to prevent middle-class people from supporting the principles of the Charter (which had successively been favoured by every social class from the Duke of Richmond to Richard Pilling, cotton operative), or to prevent them from sympathising, in the name of humanity, with the sufferings of the working folk.  Such middle-class sympathisers, however, found it difficult, in the year of grace 1842, to give their opinions practical expression.  They found the field of political and social reform agitations more than comfortably occupied.  On the radical side there were the Anti-Corn Law League and the various Chartist organisations; on the conservative side Factory Legislation and Repeal of the Poor Law of 1834 were still the stand-by of social reformers.  For Radicals the claims of the League or of Chartism were naturally paramount, but between the two there was a great gulf fixed.  However much they sympathised with Chartism, middle-class leaders could scarcely hope to find any great following amongst their own class for the Chartist programme.  Preoccupation with Free Trade, the class-war teachings of some Chartists, and the futile excuses of others, prevented that.  Nor could middle-class leaders find a place within the National Charter Association.  The predominance of O'Connor prevented that, except they were prepared to occupy a very subordinate position.

    The Complete Suffrage Movement was a well-meant, ill-conceived, but not wholly unsuccessful attempt to solve this difficulty.  Its author was Joseph Sturge (1793-1859), a Quaker corn-miller and alderman of Birmingham, a zealous and prominent anti-slavery advocate, and now an adherent of the Free Trade Movement.  Sturge was a typical Quaker, honest, upright, and benevolent.  Prosperity in business had not blinded his eyes to the distress and poverty of thousands of his fellow-citizens, and it was this which moved him along the path of political agitation.[524]  Sturge was hardly a deep-thinking man and, being a little pig-headed and hasty-tempered, had few special gifts for dealing with men more addicted than he to disputations and contentions.  Rectitude and sympathy were his qualifications for leadership, and though they carried him far, it was not far enough.

    Sturge, like many other Quakers and Radicals, had taken a part in the work of the Anti-Corn Law League, but he had apparently come to the conclusion that the Repeal of the Corn Laws could never be attained, "except by first securing to the people, a full, fair, and free representation in the British House Of Commons."[525]  He had also, as a true Quaker, been much disturbed by the growing alienation between the middle and the working classes, which he traced, like the Chartists, to the evils of class legislation.  During 1841 he published in the Noncomformist, which periodical became the organ of the Complete Suffrage Movement, a series of articles afterwards reissued under the title "Reconciliation between the Middle and Working Classes."  This reconciliation was to be accomplished by a combined agitation for "full, fair, and free" representation of the people in Parliament.  In recommending the "Reconciliation" to his readers Sturge writes: "The Patriot and the Christian fail in the discharge of their duty, if they do not by all peaceable and legitimate means strive to remove the enormous evil of class legislation. . . . I earnestly recommend these conclusions to the candid and impartial consideration of those who wish to be guided in their political as well as religious conduct by the precepts of the Gospel."[526]  Sturge's political ideas were, therefore, very much like the Christian Chartism which flourished at Birmingham.  He entirely adopted the Chartist point of view with regard to the Free Trade agitation.  Though many other middle-class people adopted the class-legislation theory, they did not apply it in the same way as Sturge did.

    The Complete Suffrage Movement originated at an Anti-Corn Law Convention, held in Manchester on November 17, 1841.  The delegates had met and the main business of the Convention was over, when Sturge commenced an informal talk about the "essentially unsound condition of our present parliamentary representation."  The other delegates expressed their agreement with these sentiments, and requested Sturge and Sharman Crawford, M.P., to draw up some sort of a manifesto on the subject.  This was done, and a number of the delegates, including a majority of the Manchester Council of the Anti-Corn Law League, put their signatures to the document, which became widely known as the "Sturge Declaration."  In December the Declaration was printed and circulated, mainly amongst middle-class Radicals, and in January 1842 a number of the Birmingham signatories united under the name of the Birmingham Complete Suffrage Union. This body, following the lines laid down by Sturge in the "Reconciliation," decided to appeal to the industrious classes. This was done by circulating the Declaration and inviting signatures from those who approved. The Declaration reads thus:


    Deeply impressed with the conviction of the evils arising from class legislation and of the sufferings thereby inflicted upon our industrious fellow subjects, the undersigned affirm that a large majority of the people of this country are unjustly excluded from that full, fair and free exercise of the elective franchise to which they are entitled by the great principle of Christian equity and also by the British Constitution, "for no subject of England can be constrained to pay any aids or taxes, even for the defence of the realm or the support of the Government, but such as are imposed by his own consent or that of his representatives in Parliament."[527]


    Signatories were also asked to express their approval of a motion upon the subject to be introduced into the House of Commons by Sharman Crawford.  Approval of the Declaration carried the right to be invited, either in person or by delegacy to a Conference at Birmingham where the question of future proceedings was to be discussed.[528]

    Such was the origin of the Complete Suffrage Movement.  It progressed rapidly for it had very influential support, especially from philanthropically disposed men like Sturge himself.  Benevolence and peace-making were in fact the chief motives which drove Sturge into the agitation, and the character which he gave to the movement attracted ministers of religion, especially those of the Dissenting Churches.  The newly founded Nonconformist, [529] ably edited by Edward Miall, became the organ of the movement.  Josiah Child of Bungay, a clerical rebel of some note, Scottish theologians like John Ritchie and James Adam, Methodist Unitarians like James Mills of Oldham, Quakers like John Bright and others, betray the Radical Nonconformity which was at the bottom of a great deal of English political agitation.  Even the Anglican clergy who sympathised with the movement, such as the Rev. Thomas Spencer, incumbent of Hinton Charterhouse, near Bath, uncle of Herbert Spencer, the Synthetic Philosopher,[530] and the advanced Radical, Dr. Wade, vicar of Warwick, with whom we have made acquaintance already, had very much of the Nonconformist in them.  Complete Suffrage Unions were rapidly started in every important town, and by the end of March 1842 some fifty or sixty were in course of formation; places as far apart as Aberdeen and Plymouth being included in the list.[531]

    What the connection between the Free Traders and the Complete Suffrage Movement exactly was, is difficult to say.  Certainly between the League and the Sturge unions there was no connection of an official kind.  Nor was the Sturge movement an outgrowth of the Free Trade agitation; it had an independent origin in the mixture of philanthropy and Radical theory which was not uncommon in those days.  Sturge himself was of opinion that the Free Trade movement was likely to be futile in view of the existing state of Parliamentary representation, but there is little or no evidence that his middle-class followers shared this view.  The Complete Suffrage Movement did receive the support of large numbers of Corn Law Repealers, and even of men actively engaged in the work of the League — men like John Bright, Charles Cobden,[532] Archibald Prentice, ex-Chartist and later historian of the League, and Francis Place, who placed his vast stores of political wisdom at the disposal of Free Traders and Sturgeites alike.  These men were all Radicals and supported Sturge because they were Radicals, though it is not too much to suppose that many of the rank and file of the Free Traders were not sorry to have a kind of second string in the Radical movement initiated by Sturge.  The Complete Suffrage leaders acted totally independently of the Free Trade movement, and if they sought support, they sought it on the common basis of radical beliefs.  When they began to recruit working-class support, it was on the same basis.  In short, the Complete Suffrage Movement was an honest attempt to organise a single Radical body without distinction of class or interest.  The suspicions of the Chartists that it was a dodge of the League to draw off support from Chartism were quite unfounded.

    The appeal of the Complete Suffrage Union to the working classes was answered almost exclusively by those Chartists who, for various reasons, were at loggerheads with O'Connor and his friends.  Lovett saw in the Declaration an opportunity for that co-operation of all classes which he so much desired, and he no doubt looked forward to a revival of the agitation for the Charter upon the idealistic lines laid down in Chartism.  O'Brien also began to sympathise with the Sturge movement, but his motives are less easy to discover; pique and a growing personal dislike for O'Connor were probably the chief.  O'Brien could not stand the patronage of one so inferior to himself.  He found allies in the Bath Chartists, and their exceptionally able leaders, R. K. Philp, Henry Vincent, and W. P. Roberts, all of whom were rapidly falling away from their allegiance to the National Charter Association, no doubt for the same reason which made it impossible for any man of independence and spirit to tolerate for long the yoke of O'Connor.  The Christian Chartists, to whom Sturge and his pietist ways appealed strongly, rallied round the new movement.  Arthur O'Neill, John Collins, Robert Lowery, R. J. Richardson, and Patrick Brewster, a bitter opponent of O'Connor, fell into line with Lovett, Vincent, O'Brien, and Collins.  Thus the Sturge movement was rapidly becoming a rallying-ground for all the ablest anti-O'Connorite Chartists.  A goodly proportion of the moral force leaders of the 1839 Convention were now arrayed under the banner of "Reconciliation."  The forthcoming Conference was likely much more to resemble a great Chartist Convention than any of the assemblies which the National Charter Association could muster.

    This was a prospect which O'Connor and his followers could hardly face with equanimity, and a strenuous counter-campaign was at once organised.  The first steps were taken against those members of the National Charter Association who were suspected of sympathising with the rival movement.  Of these R. K. Philp and James Williams of Sunderland were the chief.  Philp was actually a member of the Executive and Williams was a very able and influential leader in his district.  The attack on Philp was carried on with unparalleled virulence.  His speeches were falsified, resolutions garbled, letters of denunciation were printed, and letters of defence suppressed, in the pages of the Northern Star.  No efforts was spared to make Philp appear a traitor and a schismatic, and all the arrangements which a well-devised Tammany system  could invent were put into operation, with a view to securing his rejection at the next election of the Executive.[533]  Philp, however, was scarcely happy in his defence.  He said he had only signed the Declaration so as to have an opportunity of persuading the Complete Suffrage leaders to accept the Charter — an explanation which was scarcely satisfactory to either side.  The excommunication of Philp brought about a great schism in the Bath district, and the Chartists of Wootton-under-Edge actually elected O'Brien to sit in the coming Conference at Birmingham.  In Sunderland Williams showed fight and disregarded O'Connor's threats.  He declared that he had signed the Declaration because he approved of its vindication of the people's right to the franchise.  If O'Connor wanted to denounce him, Williams was ready to take up his challenge.[534]

    The next step was to attack the Sturge movement in set terms.  It was a dodge of the Anti-Corn Law League, and the Chartist cause was doomed to be lost if it was in any manner mixed up with that of the League.[535]  Complete Suffrage was denounced because it apparently did not involve the other five "points" of the Radical Programme,[536] and a comparison was drawn between the "Charter Suffrage" and Complete Suffrage.

    The Charter Suffrage would not rob any man while it would protect and enrich all: while Complete Suffrage would merely tantalise you with the possession of a thing you could not use, and would entirely prostrate labour to capital and speculation.  The Charter Suffrage would, firstly, more than treble our production now locked up, restricted, and narrowed, while it would cause a more equitable distribution of the increased production.  Complete Suffrage would not increase the production while it would monopolise all that was produced.  Repeal of the Corn Laws without the Charter would make one great hell of England, and would only benefit steam producers, merchants, and bankers without giving the slightest impetus to any trade, save the trade of slavery, while it would from the consequent improvement and multiplication of machinery, [537] break every shopkeeper and starve one half of our population.  On the other hand the Charter would in less than six months from the date of its enactment, call forth all the industry, energy, and power of every class in the State.[538]

    This was followed by an article from O'Connor who denounced Complete Suffrage as "Complete Humbug," and said that Sturge, being a banker and corn-merchant, was striving, for interested reasons, to draw Chartists into the Anti-Corn Law Movement.[539]  Nothing could have been more unjust or untrue than this charge.

    Meanwhile the plans for the Conference at Birmingham were being elaborated, and it was fixed for April 5 and the following days.  O'Connor thereupon ordered a meeting of delegates and others at the same place and on the same days.  Every delegate was to bring with him as much money as his constituents could collect.[540]  The delegates were apparently to sit as long as the money lasted.

    Thus on April 5, 1842, two rival conferences met at Birmingham.  The Complete Suffrage Conference consisted of 103 members.  The majority of these were representatives of the middle-class supporters of the movement, but the workers were represented by Vincent, Lovett, O'Brien, Neesom, John Collins, James Mills, Robert Lowery, R. J. Richardson, and Dr. Wade, all ex-members of the 1839 Convention.  Besides Vincent, the Bath Chartists had a champion in the Rev. Thomas Spencer.  Mial, Bright, and Prentice were present.  The National Association was represented also by J. H. Parry, a barrister of great ability and a pungent controversialist.

    The proceedings commenced with the usual formalities.  Sturge was elected to the Chair.  A committee was appointed to examine the credentials of delegates.  Parry and Vincent were on this committee, which rejected the credentials of several adherents of O'Connor who tried to obtain admission.[541]  Five avowed, but apparently not extremist, members of the National Charter Association were actually admitted.  How they came to escape the censure and earn the adulation of O'Connor is a mystery, but such was the fact.  Various other formalities were despatched, and the real proceedings commenced with the presentation of the report of the Birmingham Complete Suffrage Union.

    The important proceedings took a rather significant course.  Down to the Conference, no specific statement of the nature of the political programme involved in Complete Suffrage had ever been issued.  It is very probable, judging from the discussions in the Conference, that the originators of the movement were not prepared to adopt as complete a scheme as the Chartists.  Some "modified Charter" was probably what they had in view.  The Chartists present had evidently come with the express intention of moving the adoption of the Charter in toto, and they placed a motion to that effect, in Lovett's name, upon the order paper.  So far Philp's declaration was supported by fact.  The result was surprising.  One after another the six points of Chartism were carried.  All attempts to cut away anything from the abstract completeness of the Radical Programme failed.  The original resolution, making representation coextensive with taxation, was abandoned in favour of one basing the franchise on natural, original, or inherent right.  A resolution in favour of freedom of elections was displaced in favour of an explicit demand for the ballot.  Bright's preference for Triennial Parliaments was shared by a small minority only of the delegates.  There was an inordinate passion for unanimity until the delegates found themselves committed to the Charter in all except name and associations.  Sturge was by no means pleased with the result of the discussions.  He thought the first four points carried ought to be sufficient,[542] but he hoped for the best.  He disliked the Charter because of its association with violence and terrorism.  Nevertheless Lovett brought forward his motion in favour of the adoption of the Charter.  It merely pledged the Complete Suffrage leaders to call a second Conference, in which there would be more working-class delegates, at which the Charter would at least be taken into consideration.  He made a good speech, urging that the adoption of the Charter would be a guarantee of sincerity, and would enlist on their side the support of the millions.  Edward Mial seconded the motion, though he spoke very strongly against the unwisdom of the Chartists in pressing their claims so far.  O'Brien violently declared himself on the side of Lovett, and the debate was long and excited.  During the evening session Lovett and his Chartist colleagues agreed to abandon the exclusive claims of the Charter, and merely insisted that it should be considered along with other similar documents.  It is clear that much feeling was aroused by the victory of the extremists, and very great distaste was expressed of the Charter and its associations.  Many delegates thought that, having conceded the contents, they might reasonably refuse the name; the Chartists, on the other hand, thought it silly to strain at that gnat after having swallowed the camel.  However, the amended resolution was carried unanimously.

    The conflict was thus put off till a future date.  The Chartists truly had reason on their side.  They were men who had done honour to the Chartist creed, and who had little or no part in the evil associations attached to the name.  They were proud of their exertions in the cause, and their sacrifices had brought them honour and influence amongst their fellow-workmen.  To surrender the name, because some had made it a by-word, was to them unthinkable, for their purpose was to cleanse Chartism from its evil associations, a purpose which might be accomplished if their middle-class friends would adopt the name.  These, on the other hand, had to consider whether they would achieve more by making a fresh appeal to the Radicals of all classes, or by adopting an older cry which was still potent.  In short, the problem was whether they would lose more middle-class support than they would gain of working-class support, if they adopted the Chartist programme.  This conflict of sentiment and policy was left to be decided later.  Meanwhile the Chartist were no doubt satisfied with their gains; their principles had been adopted and their Charter not rejected.  With the people of Birmingham they were still popular, for at the great public meeting with which the Conference closed, Lovett, O'Brien, Vincent, Mills, Richardson, Neesom, and Lowery were the speakers.  It was a Chartist meeting with Sturge in the chair,[543] but all the speakers, O'Brien included, spoke in favour of union with the middle classes in the great cause of political and social regeneration.

    Following the Conference the Complete Suffrage Petition was drawn up.  It was dated in good Quaker fashion on the 5th of the fourth month, and contained all the "six points" now so familiar.  But the struggle between the old Chartists and the Complete Suffragists had resulted in a final split between them, and the O'Connorites pursued their independent action for the whole Charter, regardless of the rival movement.  When the Suffrage Petition came before the House of Commons, Sharman Crawford, member for Rochdale, moved on April 21 that the House should discuss in Committee the question of the reform of the representative system.  His motion was of course rejected, the figures being 67 for and 226 against.  All the Radicals and Free Traders voted for it.[544]

    So matters stood in the Chartist world in the spring of 1842.  The National Charter Association, active and virulent, was still organising its Petition and, like certain celestial bodies we read of, giving off in its convulsions an ever-increasing ring of detached fragments.  The other Chartists were endeavouring to gain a new support in the Complete Suffrage Movement.  Popular Radicalism was organised into three distinct sections under O'Connor, Lovett, and Sturge, and the outcome of the triangular struggle was doubtful.

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NOTES

Chapter XII


420Northern Liberator, October 6, 1839.

421Northern Star, January 10, 1840; February 8, 1840; February 15, 1840 March 14, 1840; March 21, 1840.

422Southern Star, February 23, 1840.

423Northern Liberator. March 21, 1840.

424Ibid. March 21, 1840.

425Northern Star, June 20, 1840.

426Ibid. April 25, 1840.

427Ibid. May 2, 1840 ; May 16, 1840.

428Northern Star, May 9, 1840 ; May 30, 1840 ; June 20, 1840.

429.  It is significant of the incoherence of O'Connor's mind that he allots only £5000 of capital to these weekly subscribers at a later stage of his article.

430.  1 July 18, 1840.   O'Connor actually appointed persons to collect subscriptions for the paper.

431Northern Liberator, May 2, 1840.

432. Northern Star, June 20, 1840; August 29, 1840.

433Northern Liberator, April 11, 1840.

434Ibid. May 2, 1840.

435Northern Star, June 27, 1840.

436Northern Liberator, April 4, 1840.

437Southern Star, February 23, 1840.

438.  Place Collection, Hendon, vol. 55, p. 710.

439Northern Star, February 27, 1841; March 6, 1841.

440Northern Star, December 4, 1841.

441Northern Liberator, November 28, 1840.

442Northern Star, December 11, 1841.

443Ibid.  June 7, 1841, gives the number of votes recorded for each, ranging from 3795 to MacDouall to 1130 for Philp.

444.  For Christian Chartism see H. U. Faulkner, Chartism and the Churches in Columbia University Studies in History, Economics, and Public Law, vol. lxxiii. 3, 1916.

445Northern Star, August 28, 1841.

446.  Parliamentary Papers, 1843, xiii. p. cxxxii.

447.  P. cxxxiii.

448.  P. Brewster, The Seven Chartist and Other Military Discourses libelled by the Marquis of Abercorn and Other Heritors of the Abbey Parish, Sermon I. (Paisley, 1842.)  Brewster was a younger brother of Sir David Brewster, the famous physicist.

449The Life of Thomas Cooper, p. 173.

450Northern Star, September 26, 1840.

451Ibid. October 30, 1841.

452.  See volume 55 of Place Collection at Hendon, pp. 348, 538, 546, 550, etc.

453.  Letter of May 19, 1840.

454Lovett, Life and Struggles, p. 236.

455Chartism, 1840, p. 4.

456.  P. 21.

457.  Pp. 24 et seq.

458.  P. 47.

459.  Pp. 55-60.

460.  Pp. 61-2.

461.  Pp. 63 et seq.


462 The Life of Thomas Cooper, 1872.

463The Life of Thomas Cooper, p. 179.

464Northern Star, July 23, 1842.

465The Life of Thomas Cooper, p. 179.

466.  Pp. 173 et seq.



Chapter XIII


467.  They debated at Northampton on August 5, 1844.  O'Connor's case was so feebly stated as to set rumours circulating among his own followers to the effect that he had been bribed to allow Cobden to enjoy a stage victory.  O'Connor's own account in the Northern Star, August 10, has the merit of including a generous testimony to Cobden's ability.   "He is decidedly a man of genius, of reflection, of talent, and of tact.... He has a most happy facility of turning the most trivial passing occurrence to the most important purpose.  I am not astonished that a wily party should have selected so apt and cunning a leader."  Gammage, History of the Chartist Movement, p. 255, says that the debate was the greatest victory ever won by the League over the Charter.

468Northern Star, May 23, 1840.

469Northern Star, October 3, 1840.

470Ibid. January 29, 1842.

471Charter, January 27, 1839.



Chapter XIV


472Northern Star, April 25, 1840.

473Ibid. January 16, 1841.

474Northern Star, January 23, 1840.

475.  No more extraordinary example of self-glorification can surely be found than the stanzas written by O'Connor in York Gaol and intended to be recited by Lovett and Collins at the reception in Birmingham.  There are thirty-one in all.


1. From East to West, from North to South,
    Let us proclaim the Charter!
    We'll send all tyrants right about
    Who dare oppose the Charter.

3. In England's name her own King John
    Once tried to sell her Charter.
    But England's sons now dead and gone
    All rose for England's Charter.

5. Will Lovett, Collins, and the rest
    Who suffered for the Charter,
    In old St. Stephen's shall be placed
    To rule us by the Charter.

7. O'Connor is our chosen chief,
    He's champion of the Charter
    Our Saviour suffered like a thief
    Because he preached the Charter.


    As the poem progresses the quality declines, but stanzas 24 and 25 are interesting:


24. The sons of men must have their field
      Protected by the Charter.
      The earth will then profusion yield,
      Made fertile by the Charter.

25. The gaols are full; the Whigs did bribe
      To damn the People's Charter.
      But for their wives we will subscribe
      In honour of the Charter.


476Northern Star, August 28, 1841, Leading Article.

477.  See the account in Lovett's Life and Struggles.

478Northern Star, May 8, 15, 22, 29, 1841.

479Ibid. April 24, 1841 ; May 1, 1841.

480.  A list of eleven Chartist papers in the Northern Star, October 23, 1841.  Few were of importance as compared with the Star itself.

481.  George White, Harney, Rider, Griffin, Cooper, Lowery, and others were connected in this way with the Star.

482Northern Star, March 12, 1842; March 19, 1842.

483.  See below, pp. 236-7.

484.  Case of R. Lowery, Northern Star, February 13, 1841.

485Northern Star, February 13, 1841.

486.  Additional MSS. 27,820, p. 3.

487Life, p. 179.

488Northern Star, December 11, 1841.

489Ibid. November 27, 1841.

490Ibid. August 21, 1841.

491Ibid. November 13, 1841.

492Ibid, December 4, 1841.

493Northern Star, June 5, 1841.  For, 58; against, 58.

494Ibid. September 25, 1841.

495.  See the cases of Bath (Northern Star, October 16, 1841), and Birmingham (Ibid. November 6, 1841).

496Northern Star, October 9, 1841.


Chapter XV


497.  Place Collection, Hendon, vol. 55, P. 580.

498Northern Star, July 4, 1840.

499Northern Star, July 18, 1840.

500Ibid. October 3, 1840.

501.  Place Collection, Hendon, vol. 55, pages following 710 not indexed.

502.  The Trowbridge Chartists attributed this to Hill.

503Northern Star, April 17, 1841.

504Northern Star, May 1, 1841.

505Northern Star, April 24, 1841.

506Ibid. May 1, 1841.

507Ibid. May 1, 1841; May 8, 1841.  Neesom lost all his bookselling business on account of his support of Lovett.

508.  The Christian Chartists were on his side, but they did not count for much.  O'Neill and Lowery signed the Address.

509Northern Star, May 30, 1840, case of Mrs. O'Brien and the Southern Star.

510.  Gammage, 1854, p. 270.

511Northern Star, April 17, 1841.

512.  O'Brien recanted somewhat of this argument later in the same year (Northern Star, November 20, 1841) at Whitechapel.

513Northern Star, June 19, 1841.

514Ibid. June 26, 1841.

515Ibid. July 3, 1841.

516Ibid. July 10, 1841.

517.  Figures were: Whig, 981; Whig, 970; Tory, 884: MacDouall, 170 (Northern Star, July 3, 1841).

518Northern Star, July 10, 1841.

519Northern Star, July 31, 1841; August 14, 1841; August 7, 1841.

520Ibid. October 9, 1841; October 16, 1841.

521Ibid. August 14, 1841.

522Ibid. July 16, 1842.

523.  Additional MSS. 27,921, p. 315.

524.  Sturge visited the West Indies and America in the cause of Abolition (Brief Sketches of the Birmingham Conference, published by Cleave, 1842).

525.  Letter to Chairman of A.C.L. Conference, Sun, July 28, 1842.

526Reconciliation, Introduction.

527.  Quotation from Blackstone.

528.  For all preceding see Report of Proceedings of the Middle and Working Classes at Birmingham, April 5, 1842, and Following Days, London, 1842, pp. iii. et seq.

529.  Sturge was one of the founders.

530.  Herbert Spencer, then a youth of twenty-two, who had been taught by his uncle at Hinton Charterhouse, took some part in the Complete Suffrage agitation, being honorary secretary of the Derby branch.  See also later, p. 264.

531Report of Proceedings, etc., p. 6.

532.  Brother of Richard.

533.  R. K. Philp, Vindication of his Political Conduct, 1842.  I am bound to say that I believe Philp with some little reservation.

534Northern Star, April 9, 1812. Philp, Vindication, etc

535Northern Star, March 12, 1842.

536.  These suspicions were not at first unfounded. See below.

537.  For trade which is not improving!

538Northern Star, March 26, 1842.

539Ibid.

540Ibid. April 2, 1842.

541Northern Star, April 16, 1842.

542.  Omitting Annual Parliaments and payment of M.P.'s.

543British Statesman, April 16, 1842.  For the best report of the Conference see Report of Proceedings, etc., above cited.

544British Statesman, April 24, 1842.



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