William Lovett: Autobiography

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INTRODUCTION

BY

R. H. TAWNEY, B.A.
Fellow of Balliol College, Oxford.


THE Life and Struggles of William Lovett which is now reprinted from the first edition of 1876, is more than the mere autobiography which its title might suggest.  Lovett was a Cornishman, born in 1800 at Newlyn, who migrated to London in 1821.  From about 1825 onwards he was actively engaged in public work, and from 1836 to 1839 he was the spokesman of the political labour movement which started with the formation of the London Working Men's Association, and which developed into Chartism.  Place, whom he knew intimately, and whom Lovett esteemed as a "clear-headed and warm-hearted old gentleman," described him as a "man of melancholy temperament soured with the perplexities of the world," but "possessed of great courage and persevering in his conduct," and remarked, "his is a spirit misplaced." [1]  Though without either the cool adroitness of Place, or the gifts of the mob-orator which made and ruined O'Connor, he was enough of a personality to be the leader of working-class politics in London, at a time when London was more truly the political capital than it is to-day, and was evidently one of those who are born to be given office by any organisation with which they are connected.


    Lovett's career—thrown out of work by the competition of a new trade, excluded at first by the union from what afterwards became his profession because he had not served an apprenticeship, craftsman, coffee-house keeper, agitator, prisoner, journalist and schoolmaster—is an epitome of the social confusion in which the working classes were plunged during the passage of industry from the old order to the new.  As a member and afterwards president of the Cabinet-makers' Society, [2] store-keeper to the first London Co-operative Trading Association, secretary of the British Association for Promoting Co-operative Knowledge, a member of the Grand National Consolidated Trades Union which blazed up for a few months in 1834, founder and secretary of the London Working Men's Association, secretary of the Chartist Convention of 1839, secretary of the National Association for Promoting the Political and Social Improvement of the People, and a delegate to Sturge's Complete Suffrage Conference in 1842, he saw from the inside almost every popular movement of the thirties and forties. [3]  He attended the London Mechanics Institute, where he heard Birkbeck, and possibly Hodgkin, lecture; was a colleague of Cleave, Hetherington and Watson in their agitation for a free Press; [4] had his furniture sold because he refused to serve in the militia "on the ground of not being represented in Parliament"; [5] knew reformers and prophets of the old generation and the new, Cobbett, Hunt, Carlile, Cobden and Owen, whose principles he absorbed, while resenting his autocratic methods; denounced, to the annoyance of Place, who was working for unity, "the Whig Reform Bill"; [6] petitioned Parliament for temperance reform and the opening of museums on Sundays; reasoned with Melbourne as to the legality of Public meetings in Lincoln's Inn Fields, while "a posse of the new police were posted in the next room" to protect the minister against the deputation of desperadoes, [7] and fought the battle of the trade unions when they were threatened with a revival of the Combination Acts in 1837. [8]  Above all he was the secretary of the London Working Men's Association, and drafted the document which was afterwards published as the People's Charter. [9]  He was careful to preserve the manifestos and addresses, many of them written by himself, in which the various organizations with which he was connected, in particular the London Working Men's Association, expounded their views to the working-class public of Great Britain, Ireland, Canada, the United States, Belgium and France.  A considerable number of them, together with the famous Charter, are printed in the following pages.

    Lovett had certain limitations both of experience and of character which make his account of the Chartist Movement, if taken by itself, liable to mislead the reader.  His adult life was spent in London, and he was perhaps a little inclined to see the rest of England under the optical illusion which residence in London is apt to create.  Birmingham was his ultima Thule, and, a fact which had disastrous effects on the leadership and fortunes of Chartism, he did not know or understand the north.  Like most thoughtful workmen of the time he loathed the new industrialism—"children forced to compete with their parents, wives with their husbands, and the whole society morally and physically degraded to support the aristocracies of wealth and title."  But he was not himself of it.  A skilled craftsman and member of an ancient and exclusive trade union, he had no first-hand knowledge of industrial England, with its turbulent population of miners and cotton operatives, swept together, without traditions or organization, in towns which were little better than mining camps.  To that as yet undisciplined force, which, led by O'Connor, snatched the Chartist movement after 1839 out of the hands of London, and carried it forward on a wave of misery and violence to its ignominious collapse, Lovett, by temperament a student and a teacher, made little appeal.  Like Sir Charles Napier, [10] the most discerning and most chivalrous of enemies, who as general in charge of the northern command averted a collision compared with which Peterloo would have been child's play, he regarded the "physical force men" as the worst enemies of his cause.  But, unlike Napier, he does not seem to have understood the tempest of despair and indignation which responded to the denunciations of Bull and Stephen and Benbow, which prompted the midnight drillings on the moors, raised barricades in Staffordshire, and at Ashton-under-Lyne burst into the cry "O ye tyrants, think you that your mills will stand?" [11]  Hence, though his detestation of the egomania of the great charlatan O'Connor is intelligible enough, he perhaps exaggerates the mischief for which O'Connor was personally responsible, because he had not grasped the conditions which made him a power.

    Apart from these limitations there are several gaps in Lovett's story.  His account of the first Chartist Convention is disappointingly meagre.  Circumstances prevented him from having continuous and direct knowledge of the movement after 1839.  From August of that year to July, 1840, he was, much to his credit, in prison.  His description of Frost's rebellion in Wales, a mysterious episode which gave rise to the wildest theories and to endless recrimination, is, therefore, unreliable.  When he returned to London, in 1840, he was marked down for destruction by O'Connor, into whose hands the leadership of the movement had passed, and who, though not himself a very valiant warrior, would allow no compromise with the "moral force humbugs."  He founded a new organization, "the National Association of the United Kingdom for Promoting the Social and Political Improvement of the People," to carry on the agitation for the Charter, and attended on behalf of it the abortive Complete Suffrage Conference which was summoned by Sturge in 1842 in the hope of uniting reformers both of the working and of the middle classes.  But the main organ of the Chartist movement, such as it now was, was the National Charter Association, of which he had refused to become a member, and that Association was controlled by O'Connor.  Lovett continued to be prolific of organizations and an indefatigable pamphleteer.  After his release from prison he helped to found not only the National Association, but societies called the "Democratic Friends of all Nations," [12] and "the People's League," [13] and projected a "General Association of Progress." [14]  Addresses and manifestos poured from him.  His last petition to Parliament, proposing to establish "a Higher Intellectual and Moral Standard for Members of Parliament," [15] was inspired, appropriately enough, by the blunders of the Crimean campaign, and suggests that even in old age he retained the faith which can move mountains.  Apart from this he took no part in politics after 1850.  His old colleagues drifted off into other spheres of activity, Vincent into temperance reform, Cooper into preaching.  Lovett, as his book shows, had always been an enthusiast for education, and deserves the name of "the Chartist Schoolmaster" far more than Bronterre O'Brien, to whom O'Connor applied it.  From 1850 to 1877 education was his main interest, and his principal activity was in connection with the school established by the National Association.

    While Lovett's book contains only a fragmentary account of the later years of the Chartist movement, the picture which it gives of its genesis and earlier development is invaluable.  During the creative period, when doctrine was being formulated and methods thought out, the London Working Men's Association was the centre of Chartism, and Lovett was the centre of the Association.  From the first there was a double strand in Chartism.  On the surface it was a continuation of the demand for the reform of Parliament as a step towards political democracy, which had been advanced by Wilkes and Cartwright in the seventies of the previous century, which had been regarded with indulgence by some of the Whigs in the days of calm before the deluge, which had been reduced to a rational and systematic theory by the Utilitarians, and had been at once met and disappointed by the Reform Act of 1832.  Like the fathers of the movement fifty years before, the Chartists demanded manhood—Lovett himself believed in adult-suffrage and annual parliaments: their additions were the four other points, equal electoral districts, vote by ballot, payment of members and abolition of a proper qualification. [16]  It was characteristically English that what afterwards became a semi-revolutionary movement on the part of the working classes, of whom none had a vote and almost all appeared to most members of Parliament a band of ragged ruffians, should pour its grievances into the parliamentary mould.  Unfortunately it was hardly less characteristic that of the powers of this world hardly one had the wit to thank Heaven for the inveterate constitutionalism of his fellow-countrymen.

    Though the Charter was political, Chartism was largely economic.  It was, as Marx pointed out, the entry in politics, not merely of a new party, but of a new class.  The English counterpart of the continental revolutions of 1848, it was at once the last movement which drew its conceptions and phraseology from the inexhaustible armoury of the French Revolution, and the first political attack upon the social order which had emerged from the growth of capitalist industry.  The declaration that "all men are born equally free, and have certain natural and inalienable rights," marched hand in hand with the doctrine that "Labour is the source of all wealth." [17]  Capitalism upon a large scale and in a highly concentrated form was still sufficiently novel in the thirties to seem not only repugnant but unstable.  Among the hand-loom weavers who were starving then, there were men who could remember a period in their youth when they had been something of the village aristocracy described by Bamford, [18] and who were the more ready on that account to become the victims of O'Connor's fantastic land scheme.  It was the revolt against capitalism which made the magic of Chartism to thousands of men who were too wretched to be willing to subordinate the passion for economic change to the single issue of political reform.  Behind it lay two generations of social misery and thirty years of economic discussion, which had percolated into the mind of the working classes partly through popular papers, such as the Poor Man's Guardian and the Co-operative Magazine, partly through the teaching of the early English socialists, Thompson, Hodgskin, Gray, and above all, Robert Owen.  The essence of Chartism was, in fact, an attempt to make possible a social revolution by the overthrow of the political oligarchy.

    These two objects were not incompatible.  But in an age when the mass of the working classes were without either organisation or political experience, they were not easily pursued together.  The struggle between the conflicting interests of economic reform and political democracy, corresponding as it did to a difference in outlook between north and south, and to the rival policies of revolution and persuasion, ultimately broke up the movement.  The achievement of Lovett and of the organization which he founded was to create an Independent Labour Party which aimed at both, but which aimed first at political democracy.  It was, as Place said, "the first time that the desire for reform has been moved by the working people, and carried upwards." [19]

    The London Working Men's Association was established in June, 1836, as the result of two great disillusionments, the Reform Act of 1832 and the collapse of the syndicalist movement led by Owen in 1831.  The first had taught it to be independent of middle-class leaders.  "The masses, in their political organizations," writes Lovett, "were taught to look up to great men (or to men professing greatness) rather than to great principles.  We wished, therefore, to establish a political school of self-instruction among them, in which they should accustom themselves to examine great social and political principles, and by their publicity and free discussion help to form a sound and healthful public opinion throughout the country." [20]

    The failure of the Grand National Consolidated Trades Union had at once left an opening for a political movement, and emphasized the necessity of making the basis political reforms upon which the working classes agreed rather than social theories upon which they differed.  Lovett himself, though in later life he repudiated the ambiguous name of socialist, was in his youth a disciple of Owen, and believed "that the gradual accumulation of capital by these means (i.e. co-operation) would enable the working classes to form themselves into joint-stock associations of labour, by which (with industry, skill and knowledge) they might ultimately have the trade, manufactures and commerce of the country in their own, hands." [21]  But, on the principle of first things first, he was resolute that the London Working Men's Association should concentrate its energy upon securing political reform.  It was not to be "led away by promises of repealing the detested Poor Law, or any of the other infamous laws which Whig and Tory have united to enact, and to laud their excellence, unless the promise be accompanied by the pledge of universal suffrage, and all the other great essentials of self-government." [22]  "They had read and admired," wrote Lovett of a group which met in 1831 and later supplied the London Working Men's Association with some of its members, "the writings of Robert Owen, Peter (sic) Thompson, Morgan, Gray and others, and resolved to be instrumental to the extent of their means and abilities in spreading a knowledge of these works throughout the country.  They intended, however, to avoid the course taken by Robert Owen.  He had all along, though in his mild manner, condemned the radical reformers, believing, as he did, that reform was to be effected solely on his plan.  The radical reformers of the working classes, believing that his plan could only be carried out when the reforms they sought had been accomplished . . .  resolved to take up such part of his system as they believed would be appreciated by the working classes, and be the means of uniting them for Specific purposes." [23]

    The London Working Men's Association was, even at its zenith, an extremely small body.  The total number of members admitted between June, 1836, and 1839, was only 279. [24]  Its objects, which are set out by Lovett on pp. 94-95 of his Life and Struggles, were to agitate for parliamentary reform, for the freedom of the Press, and for the creation of a national system of education, and to collect and publish information upon social and industrial questions.  Its method was education and propaganda.  At a later stage in its career the character and policy of the movement started by the Association were transformed by the very success of its earlier efforts.  From the early months of 1837 onwards it employed "missionaries," who, by the end of the year, had founded over one hundred daughter associations in different parts of the country.  The publication of the People's Charter in June, 1837, enormously increased its prestige and multiplied its adherents.  Chartism was taken up by veteran agitators like Benbow, who could look back to the days of the Hampden Clubs and Peterloo, and politicians in search of a platform like Beaumont and O'Connor.  The agitations against factory slavery and the detested new Poor Law swelled the main movement and cast their own sombre colour upon it.  But for the first three years of its existence the policy pursued by the London Working Men's Association had nothing in common with the orgy of mob oratory in which Chartism finally collapsed.  Its appeal was to public opinion: its instrument argument and persuasion—"to publish their views and sentiments in such form and manner as shall best serve to create a moral, reflecting, yet energetic public opinion; so as eventually to lead to a gradual improvement in the condition of the working classes, without violence or commotion." [25]

    Lovett's policy of working for gradual reform through the pressure of public opinion was, of course, no novelty.  But it was in striking contrast both with Owen's apocalypse of a new moral world, which was to descend upon mankind "like a thief in the night," and with the whirlwind campaign of sterile denunciation and fantastic promises, which fed the vanity of O'Connor.  Neither economic circumstances nor the attitude of the ruling classes made Lovett's course easy.  At a time when whole districts lived on the edge of starvation, and when the Government seized every opportunity to crush peaceful attempts at organization, the restraint and foresight needed to concentrate on slowly won political changes, which, in turn, could only very slowly bring social amelioration, were qualities not easily to be maintained.  Revolt seemed a more direct route than persuasion.  "Propose to any working man," wrote Place, a veteran in popular movements, in 1835, the year before the foundation of the London Working Men's Association, "any great measure affecting the whole body, and he immediately asks himself the question, What am I to get by it? meaning, What at the moment am I to have in my hand or in my pocket? . . . He has not the heart to do anything even for his own advantage, if that advantage be remote, and he has no desire to stir himself for the advantage of other persons." [26]

    Lovett had no illusions as to the character and policy of the Government.  He had been dogged by its spies, had seen the savage onslaught upon trade unions from Dorsetshire to Glasgow, and knew that it at once hated and feared any symptom of independent political activity, even of independent thought, among the working classes.  In view of the preparations for rebellion made by influential men of the middle classes in 1832, he was justified in regarding with some impatience their sanctimonious denunciation of rebels impelled by far graver causes in 1839.  In language reminiscent of the Whig doctrine that a breach of the original contract absolves men from the duties of obedience, he argued that "when an attempt is made to destroy representative rights, the only existing bond of allegiance, the only power through which laws can be justly enforced, is broken, and the time has arrived when society is resolved into its original elements." [27]  Tireless in preaching moderation and patience, he was prepared to consider in the last resort what came to be called "ulterior measures."  It was he who drafted the manifesto of 1839, submitting to the decision of public meetings the question whether Chartists should support "the sacred month," and whether "according to their old constitutional right . . . they have prepared themselves with the arms of freemen to defend the laws and constitutional privileges their ancestors bequeathed to them." [28]  But he regarded violence as the last weapon of defence, not as part of his political offensive.  For the hare-brained rhetoric which made violence certain of occurrence and futile when it occurred, for the policy of coquetting with revolution while appealing, at the same time, to the spirit of the constitution, and of coming, to quote a characteristic specimen of O'Connor's oratory, "morally into collision" with the Government, he had all the contempt of the genuine craftsmen for the antics of the charlatan.  Down to the end he believed that one principal cause of the defeat of Chartism was that the advocates of physical force had driven all waverers on to the side of reaction.  "Whatever is gained in England by force, by force must be sustained; but whatever springs from knowledge and justice will sustain itself." [29]  It was necessary to choose whether to appeal to goodwill and reason, or to organize an insurrection, the fate of which it did not need the military experience of Napier to foretell.  He chose the former.

    The methods of the London Working Men's Association were determined by his choice.  "Such Associations," said Place, to whom Lovett owed much, and who attended the Sunday meetings of the Association in 1837, "can only succeed by long-continued, steady, patient, liberal conduct, accepting and using every kind of assistance which may at any time and in every way be available, making no absurd pretensions to anything, and especially not to superior wisdom and honesty, but acting with becoming modesty, but with indomitable perseverance." [30]  During the first three years of its existence, the Association carried out Place's programme.  Secrecy was to be eschewed.  There was to be no talk of violence.  Middle-class support, whenever possible, was to be enlisted.  Such use as possible was made of the not very reliable group of radical members of Parliament.  The committee appointed to draft the Bill embodying the Charter included, with six members of the Association, O'Connor, Roebuck, Leader, Handley, Thompson and Crawford. [31]  The presentation of the Petition of 1839 was entrusted to Attwood.  The choice was unfortunate.  Every war and every period of social crisis seems to produce strange doctrine as to currency.  Attwood was the leading prophet of the particular heresy which flourished in the thirties.  For the sake of it he had laboured in Birmingham for the Reform Bill of 1832.  For the sake of it he was prepared to swallow the Charter.  He regarded universal suffrage as a milestone on the stony way to the shining goal of universal paper.  And he introduced the Petition to the House of Commons in a speech which, if any hope of reasonable consideration being given it by the House had existed, was calculated to extinguish it for ever. [32]

    In the meantime the Association laboured to influence public opinion by a stream of reports, addresses and manifestos setting out the working class point of view as to contemporary political and social questions.  Of the petitions and addresses which are printed in the following pages some seventeen were issued by the London Working Men's Association and appeared in the three years between June, 1836, and August, 1839.  The majority of the remainder emanated from the National Association of the United Kingdom for Promoting the Political and Social Improvement of the People, which was founded by Lovett in 1840, soon after his release from prison.  The range of subjects covered by them is remarkable.  They give a broad and generous interpretation to the political aspirations of labour, and are singularly free from the exclusive preoccupation with immediate economic issues of which popular movements are often accused.  In addition to the agitation for the reform of the franchise, which was its main work, and the case for which it set out in the pamphlet, "the Rotten House of Commons," [33] it produced reports on the condition of the silk weavers of Spitalfields and on education. [34]  It issued a manifesto defining the attitude of the Chartists to the agitation for the repeal of the Corn Laws, in which, without imputing the motives afterwards ascribed by some Chartists to the manufacturing and commercial interests behind the free trade agitation, it combated the suggestion that an alteration of the tariff was more important than the enfranchisement of the working classes. [35]  In 1837, when the disorder accompanying a strike of cotton spinners in Glasgow led to the outrageous sentence of seven years transportation being passed on certain members of the union, and to the appointment by the Government of a Select Committee to inquire into the whole subject of trade unionism, the Association undertook much the same part as had been played by Place and Hume in 1824 and 1825.  It appointed a Trade Combination Committee, arranged with societies to send witnesses, issued an "Address to the working classes in reply to the attacks made on trade unions," and generally attempted, in 1837 a somewhat forlorn hope, to secure that the unions had fair play. [36]

    From the beginning the Association claimed the right of the working classes to be heard on international and colonial affairs.  It addressed a manifesto to the working classes of Belgium on the occasion of the imprisonment of Jacob Katz, [37] petitioned Parliament on behalf of Canada against the policy of coercion adopted by Russell, [38] sent an address of sympathy to the Canadian people, [39] and published manifestos to the working classes of Europe, [40] to the Precursor Society of Ireland, and to the Irish people. [41]  The National Association of the United Kingdom, which after 1840 did the work formerly done by the London Working Men's Association, was almost equally prolific.  It not only produced a number of manifestos on its special subject of Parliamentary Reform, but continued the international tradition of the older organization.  It denounced the reception of the Czar, on the occasion of his visit to England in 1844, [42] issued in the same year an "address to the working classes of France on the subject of War," [43] and in 1846, when feeling ran high on the question of the Oregon boundary, published "an address to the working classes of America on the war spirit sought to be created between the two countries." [44]  In 1848, when the French Revolution had revived for a moment the golden dreams of 1789, it sent a congratulatory address to the French, urging them to prepare themselves "intellectually and morally for the coming age of freedom, peace, and brotherhood." [45]

    These manifestos, the majority of which were by Lovett, contain in epitome the philosophy of Chartism.  Their fundamental ideas are four.

    (1) Social evils are the consequence of social institutions, and can be removed by altering them.  "When we investigate the origin of pauperism, ignorance, misery and crime we may easily trace the black catalogue to exclusive legislation." [46]  The speculations of the nineteenth century upon the causes of economic misery had begun with the debate between Malthus and Godwin, and in one guise or another most subsequent thought marches under one or other of those rival banners.  The argument that it is the natural tendency of population to press upon the means of subsistence had pacified uneasy consciences among the middle classes with the assurance that the evils of society were the work of nature, not of man, and after 1850, when economic fatalism had been reinforced by the triumphant gospel of evolution, the mind of labour for a time submitted to that creed.  From 1820 to 1850 the leaders of working class thought were in revolt against it.  They drew their weapons from the forgotten armoury of pre-Marxian Socialism.  Godwin, who explained to young men in 1793 the nature of the new force which was overthrowing thrones and castles in France, and whose "Political Justice" was reprinted in 1843, at the height of the Chartist movement, and Owen, who had found in Godwin a confirmation of his own doctrine of the all-importance of environment, had taught them that character is formed, not by man, but for man, that in a world where the external order was just and reason allowed full play he would progress swiftly towards perfection, and that there was no force within him, no original sin or intractable remnant of the tiger or ape to drag him down.  At the end of the eighteenth century Paine and Spence had turned on the English system of land tenure criticism which Chartists used in the thirties and forties.  A host of critics of capitalism, from Charles Hall, whose Effects of Civilisation appeared in 1805, to Hodgkin, who published his Labour Defended against the Claims of Capital in 1825, had pointed the antithesis between increasing wealth and increasing poverty.  Colquhoun, the first statistician of modern capitalism, and Ricardo, the Balaam of economic science, whose curious fate it was to supply the corner-stone to doctrines which he detested, by insisting that labour is the source of all wealth, had given a new sting to the inevitable question "Why, then, is the labourer poor?"  Above all, Owen had supplied reformers with an ideal for which to work, the Co-operative Commonwealth. [47]

    Chartism absorbed these ideas and made them the basis of a political movement.  If wealth is rightly distributed, there is sufficient for all.  "The country . . . has by the powers and industry of its inhabitants been made to teem with abundance, and were all its resources wisely developed and justly distributed would impart ample means of happiness to all." [48]  This abundance has been produced by the workers.  "Labour is the source of all wealth." [49]  Poverty is not due to scarcity but to unjust social institutions.  "By many monstrous anomalies springing out of the constitution of society, the corruptions of government, and the defective education of mankind, we find the bulk of the nation toiling slaves from birth to death—thousands wanting food or subsisting on the scantiest pittance." [50]  The land, "which a bountiful Creator bestowed upon all his children," is "engrossed and held in possession by comparatively few persons," who render no service in return for it, though in legal theory its tenure is conditional on the performance of public functions. [51]  Manufacturers and capitalists, "by their exclusive monopoly of the combined powers of wood, iron, and steam . . . cause the destitution of thousands . . . and have an interest in forcing their labour down to the minimum reward." [52]  As a result, the workers "submit to incessant toil from birth to death, to give in tax and plunder out of every twelve hours' labour the proceeds of nine hours to support their idle and insolent oppressors . . . The greatest blessings of mechanical art are converted into the greatest curses of social life." [53]  The theory of surplus value, in all but name, is already in existence.

    (2) From a social philosophy of this kind Syndicalism springs as readily as political agitation.  But Syndicalism had been discredited by the failure of the Owenite movement of 1834, and its failure left the field clear for a renewal of the attack on Parliament.  The cause of social evils is Government by a political oligarchy which has an interest in maintaining them.  "The people . . . now perceive that most of our oppressive laws and institutions, and the consequent ignorance and wretchedness to which we are exposed, can be traced to one common source—Exclusive Legislation, and they therefore have their minds fixed on the destruction of this great and pernicious monopoly, being satisfied that, while the power of law-making is confined to the few, the exclusive interest of the few will be secured at the expense of the many." [54]  Nothing is to be hoped from existing parties, for Whigs and Tories are equally the enemies of the working classes.  "One faction is hypocritically talking of liberty, the other is sparing no pains to destroy the spirit of freedom . . . and to restore Tory ascendancy and misrule." [55]  The House of Commons is not so much ignorant of social evils as indifferent to them.  "While our social evils and anomalies have repeatedly been brought before you, you—whose duty it was to provide a remedy—have looked carelessly on, or have been intent only on your own interests or pleasures.  Your own Commissioners have reported to you that thousands of infant children are doomed to slavery and ignorance in the mines and factories while their wretched parents are wanting labour and needing bread." [56]  The remedy is political democracy, "a Parliament selected from the wise and good of every class, devising the most efficient means for advancing the happiness of all." [57]

    The language of Chartism is sometimes reminiscent of Bentham's statement that the Government is a fraudulent trustee who uses "the substance of the people as a fund out of which fortunes might . . .  nay ought . . . to be made," that the king is "corrupter-general," the aristocracy at once "corrupted and corrupting," and that "Corrupter-General and Co." is, therefore, the proper title of the firm.  But the difference in spirit between such a work as James Mill's Government and democracy as conceived by Lovett is immense.  To the former the State is not a band of brothers, but a mutual detective society: the principal advantage of popular government is that there are more detectives, and therefore, presumably, fewer thieves.  To Lovett democracy is less an expedient than an ideal, the vision of liberty, fraternity, and equality which had intoxicated men's minds in the days before Liberalism was shorn of its splendours and its illusions.  He is, in fact, a "Social Democrat."  "To justly distribute the blessings of plenty which the sons of industry have gathered, so as to bless without satiety all mankind—to expand by the blessing of education the divinely mental powers of man, which tyrants seek to mar and stultify—to make straight the crooked path of justice and to humanize the laws—to purify the world of all the crimes which want and lust of power have nurtured—is the end and aim of the democrat." [58]

    The instrument by which popular government is to be established is Parliamentary Reform.  Manhood Suffrage is a natural right, for "as Government is for the benefit of all, all have equal rights, according to their abilities, to fill any of its offices; and, as the laws are said to be for the benefit of all, all should have a voice in their enactment."  It is in accordance with the spirit of the constitution and has been proved to be beneficial by foreign experience.  We are contending for no visionary or impracticable scheme.  The principles of our Charter were the laws and customs of our ancestors, under which property was secure and the working people happy and contented.  Nay, these principles are now in operation in different parts of the world, and what forms the strongest argument in favour of their general adoption is that, wherever they are in practice, the people are prosperous and happy." [59]  It is the only guarantee against misgovernment and the one remedy for economic oppression.  " When we contend for an equality of political rights, it is not in order to lop off an unjust tax or useless pension, or to get a transfer of wealth, power or influence for a party, but to be able to probe our social evils to their source, and to apply effective remedies to prevent, instead of unjust laws to punish." [60]  The argument that the masses are too ignorant to vote comes with a bad grace from governments which are at pains to keep them in ignorance.  "The ignorance of which they complain is the offspring of exclusive legislation, for the exclusive few from time immemorial have ever been intent to block up every avenue to knowledge." [61]  Political wisdom comes from the exercise of political power.  "Political rights necessarily stimulate men to inquiry, give self-respect, lead them to know their duties as citizens, and, under a wise Government, would be made the best corrective of vicious and intemperate habits."

    (3) The condition of any genuine democracy is education: to work for the creation of a national system of education is the first duty of reformers.  It is the one certain instrument of emancipation.  "Imagine the honest, sober, reflecting portion of every town and village in the kingdom linked together as a band of brothers, honestly resolved to investigate all subjects connected with their interests, and to prepare their minds to combat with the errors and enemies of society  . . . Think you a corrupt Government could perpetuate its exclusive and demoralizing influence amid a people thus united and instructed?" [62]  To withhold it is the most cruel of wrongs.  "Is it consistent with justice that the knowledge requisite to make a man acquainted with his rights and duties should be purposely withheld from him, and that then he should be upbraided and deprived of his rights on the plea of ignorance?" [63]  The governing classes have purposely made access to knowledge the privilege of the rich.  "Though the time has gone by for the selfish and bigoted possessors of wealth to confine the blessing of knowledge wholly within their own narrow circle . . . yet still so much of the selfishness of caste is exhibited in their fetters on the Press, in their colleges of restriction and privilege, and in their dress and badge-proclaiming charity schools, as to convince us that they still consider education as their own prerogative, as a boon to be sparingly conferred upon the multitude, instead of a universal instrument for advancing the dignity of man and for gladdening his existence." [64]  Education is "not a charity, but a right, a right derivable from society itself  . . . It is the duty of the Government to provide the means of educating the whole nation." [65] [Ed.―see also W. E. Adams', An Argument for Complete Suffrage (Section II.)]

    When Lovett wrote these words, four years had elapsed since Parliament made the first grant of £20,000 towards elementary education.  In the preceding thirty years two education bills had been introduced and rejected.  It was not till 1836 that the duty on newspapers was reduced, and not till 1855 that it was abolished.  "Ministers and men in power," wrote Place in 1833, "with nearly the whole body of those who are rich, dread the consequence of teaching the people more than they dread the effect of their ignorance." [66]  Historians of education have described the gradual process of enlightenment by which the ground was prepared for the establishment of something like a national system of education in 1870.  But they have done something less than justice to the popular movements which demanded access to knowledge at a time when plans for the education of the working classes were regarded by a considerable section of opinion as not less absurd, and considerably more dangerous, than the proposal to educate animals.  If public education in England still suffers from the defects of a system devised by one class for the discipline of another, it is partly because the efforts of working people themselves to promote it met in the past with frigid opposition.

    When Lovett wrote of "the hawks and owls of society seeking to perpetuate the state of mental darkness," and of "the Utopians who failed to perceive that God had made one portion of mankind to rule and enjoy, and the other to toil for them and reverently obey them," [67] he spoke from bitter experience.  The first and greatest of working-class educationists, he himself was one of the Utopians.  Like his friends, Place and Cooper, he had pursued knowledge with a passion which undermined his health, and which is not easily intelligible to those whose lines have been cast in more pleasant places.  He was zealous to make it accessible to others.  The background of his efforts was the doctrine and experiments of Owen.  "Any general character," Owen had written, "from the best to the worst, from the most ignorant to the most enlightened, may be given to any community, even to the world at large by the application of proper means; which means are to a large extent at the command and under the control of those who have influence in the affairs of men" [68]  What means these were he had shown at New Lanark.  Chartism, like Co-operation, absorbed eagerly this aspect of his teaching.  Its leaders in London were men who themselves had come into contact with education through the Mechanics Institute, or through the more informal gatherings for reading and discussion, like that held by "the liberals" in Gerrard Street about 1825, which, Lovett says, "first stimulated me to intellectual inquiry." [69]  The London Working Men's Association gave education a prominent place in its programme.  The fourth of its eight objects was "to promote, by all available means, the education of the rising generation, and the extirpation of those systems which tend to future slavery"; the last, "to form a library of reference and useful information." [70]  One of its earliest manifestos was an impassioned appeal for the creation of a national system of education.  Chartist schools and churches sprang up in different parts of the country, like the "Shakespearian Association of Leicester Chartists," taught by Cooper. [71]  The pamphlet "Chartism," which Lovett wrote in prison, was an educational tract rather than a political manifesto. [72]  The National Association for promoting the Political and Social Improvement of the People, which was founded in 1840, proposed to establish circulating libraries, to erect schools for children and normal schools for teachers, and to offer premiums for essays on educational subjects.  One school, at least, was actually established in London, and was managed for some years by Lovett himself.

    If the practice of these reformers was crude, their educational projects were more generous and enlightened than anything which has yet been brought into existence.  Education was to be free, universal, secular, financed from public funds, and administered by "school committees," elected by adult suffrage, and acting under a Committee of Public Instruction appointed by Parliament.  Training colleges were to be established, and none but certificated teachers were to be allowed to teach in the public schools.  No sanction was given to the arbitrary and mischievous division between elementary and secondary education, which is the misfortune of a system organized on a basis of class.  Elementary education was called by its right name—preparatory education—and was to be followed, as a matter of course, by the education of the adolescent.  There were to be Infant Schools, held as far as possible in the open air, for children between three and six years of age, Preparatory Schools for children from six to nine, High Schools for children from nine to twelve, and Finishing Schools or Colleges for all over twelve.  University education, like the earlier stages, was to be free.  The schools were to be open in the evening for the further education of adults.  Religious instruction was to be given out of the ordinary school hours.  "Surely, when abundant time can be found for imparting religious instruction beyond that dedicated to the purposes of the school, and when so many religious instructors of all denominations can be found ready to impart their peculiar opinions, it would seem to be more in accordance width those precepts of Christ, mutually to unite in morally educating our children, to dwell in peace and union, which are the great essentials of religion, than by our selfish desires and sectarian jealousies suffer ignorance, vice and diseases to prevail." [73]  Of course, no Government could be expected to notice such fantasies.  If any had, some dark chapters in social history might never have been written.

    (4) The cause of democracy is international.  The Governments of Europe take common action, when they can, to suppress all movements for reform.  "Though the despots of the world may quarrel for territory or plunder, they are cordially united to keep the people in subjection."  An agitation which threatens one is regarded as the enemy of all.  "The friends of freedom throughout the Continent have just cause to remember with feelings of execration the base conduct of the Government of England in secretly maintaining or openly opposing every attempt they have made to check the inroads of despotism or to advance the cause of democracy." [74]  The people are helpless, for they are not informed as to foreign policy; and governments, "by their well-organized system of falsehood too successfully imposed . . . on popular credulity." [75]  The statesmen who attack democracy abroad are the very men who stifle it, when they can, at home.  The tyranny from which the working classes suffer in England is the same as that which has ruined Ireland, which has produced an attack upon the liberties of the Canadian people, which used English soldiers and sailors to put down republican insurrections in Spain, and which on the Continent has led to the enslavement of Poland and Italy. [76]

    Lovett's indictment of the existing international system is naturally couched in somewhat general terms, as any criticism of a system jealously guarded from popular observation must be.  The claim that international policy should be judged by popular opinion marks more definitely, however, than any other point in the Chartist programme the emergence of a new force in public affairs.  It was hardly possible to be connected with political agitation in the London of the thirties without coming into contact with unquiet refugees from the continental reaction.  Lovett knew Mazzini, who opened a school in Greville Street. [77]  Poles, like Beniowski, [78] who played an ambiguous part in Frost's insurrection, dabbled in Chartism, as in every other revolutionary movement.  In 1844 Lovett took part in founding a society—"the Democratic Friends of all Nations"—composed of English radicals and exiles from France, Germany and Poland.  In such an atmosphere internationalism came naturally to those engaged in popular movements.  If the early English socialists anticipated the fundamental economic conceptions of Marx, it may be claimed as truly that the idea of the International, with its appeal "Workers of all lands, unite," was present to the minds of some of the leaders of Chartism.

    The London Working Men's Association was the first English organization to produce manifestos for foreign consumption.  They strike a note which has found since then a thousand echoes.  The common economic interests of the proletariats are more profound than its national divisions.  "We address you in that spirit of fraternity which becomes working-men in all the countries of the world . . . the subjugation and misery of our class can be traced to our ignorance and dissensions . . . the tyrants of the world are strong, because we, the working millions, are divided." [79]  The combination of the governments must be met by a combination of the peoples.  "Fellow-producers of wealth!  Seeing that our oppressors are thus united, why should not we, too, have our band of brotherhood and holy alliance?  Seeing that they are powerful through your ignorance, why should not we unite to teach our brethren a knowledge of their rights and duties?" [80]  The "aristocracy have waged" wars "for the preservation of their order."  But "the interests of our class are identified throughout the world," and consist, above all, in peace.  The working classes of all lands "by whose industry the munitions of war must be raised . . . who are mainly selected to be the tools and instruments of warfare . . . . who must perform the bidding of some aristocratic minion, were it to war against freedom abroad or to exterminate your brothers at home," [81] must unite to maintain peace.  When in 1844 there was tension between the French and English Governments, the National Association published an address to the French working classes urging a united protest against war, and proposing the establishment of "a Conference of Nations, to be composed of three or more representatives, chosen by the people of their respective countries, to meet annually, for the purpose of settling all international disputes that may arise by arbitration, without having recourse to war." [82]

    After 1842 the brains were out of Chartism.  After the fiasco of 1848 it collapsed altogether as an organized movement.  The worst period of economic misery was over.  The edge of the industrial system was slightly blunted by the Factory Acts of 1847 and 1850, and the Public Health Act of 1848.  In the triumphant outburst of commercial prosperity which began about 1850, both the idealism and the struggles of the heroic age were for a time almost forgotten.  The energy of the working classes was diverted from political agitation into building up co-operation and trade unionism on a firm financial basis.  Some of the reforms which the Chartists had demanded came at last, with the Reform Acts of 1867 and 1884, and the Ballot Act of 1872, though after the lapse of a generation and in an attenuated form.  Lovett lived to see the Education Act of 1870 and to denounce its inadequacy.  His own verdict on the struggles of his youth was that the Chartists had been right, and that political independence was the only hope of the working classes.  "Most of the reforms that have taken place in my day have been won rather in despite of the wealthy and titled classes, than owe to them their origin, though they might at last have been made the unwilling instruments for carrying them into effect.  So long, therefore, as those who are aiming at cheap and wise government help by vote or voice to place persons who have neither interest nor sympathy with them in the position of representatives or rulers, so long will they be putting obstacles in their own paths.  The industrious classes, therefore, would do well . . . to resolve to do their work themselves." [83]


――――♦――――


 
PREFACE.


THE commencement of the following pages I must attribute to the solicitations of some of my radical friends, who, when I had been talking of some of the events of my life, of the different associations I have been connected with, and of the various political struggles in which I have been engaged, have urged me to write the facts down, so that the working classes of a future day may know something of the early struggles of some of those who contended for the political rights they may be then enjoying; and of those who aided in establishing a free and cheap press, and in the diffusion of that knowledge which may have brought peace, plenty, and happiness around their dwellings.

    I shall offer no apology to the reader for the manner in which I have executed my task; as I have done it, as I best could, in those intervals of time not devoted to my labours for bread.  It may, perhaps, be objected, that I ought not to have introduced the Addresses and Documents of the Associations I have belonged to into my own history.  To this I reply that I have introduced nothing but my own writings, unless acknowledged; and I think that those who desire to know anything of me, would like to know what my opinions and sentiments were—(as well as great numbers who thought with me)—regarding the great questions of human right, social progress, and political reform; and these, in fact, constitute a great part of my own history.  Moreover, most of the principles and opinions enunciated in those Addresses are as important now as when they were first written; the opinions given are as true now as then; and the advice in them is as necessary, as most of the reforms aimed at are yet to be achieved.

    The Working Classes are still compelled to pay and obey at the mandates of exclusive legislators—Catholics, Jews, and Dissenters,—are in England still compelled to support a Church whose rule they hate, and whose doctrines they abhor.  Education is still regarded by vast numbers as a means of filling Churches and Chapels, instead of a glorious instrument of human elevation—vast revenues are still squandered on armies and warriors—and a privileged few still maintain an ascendancy for evil, in court, camp, navy, and senate-house.  The Working Classes are still to a vast extent following blind guides, and trusting to leaders and orators, outside their own ranks, to achieve that for them which their own efforts, self-sacrifices, and organization can alone effect.  They still, unhappily, undervalue mental and morale effort for raising their class and advancing the welfare of their country, and therefore the advice given to them from thirty to forty years ago may still be found useful.

    I have yet another reason for adding the documents of the Associations I have taken part in, and for giving a brief account of their proceedings; and it is this—That hitherto, little is found in history, or in our public papers, that presents a fair and accurate account of the public proceedings of the Working Classes; for if the Whig and Tory papers of the day ever condescend to notice them, it is rather to garble and distort facts, to magnify faults and follies, and to ridicule their objects and intentions; the pleasing of their patrons being more important with them than a truthful record.  In consequence of this unjust system the historians and writers of a future day will have only garbled tales to guide them—as those of past history have—and hence a caricature is oftener given of the industrious millions than a truthful portrait.

    It is very probable that, in reading the following pages, some ease-enjoying, pious believer in the excellence and purity of our social and political institutions, may be led to think that I have been a busy, restless, discontented fellow.  In forming such opinion of me he will be politically correct; and which disposition—unfavourable as it may appear to him—I am prepared to justify.  For it is one of the items of my political creed, that the man who sees the rights of the industrious many withheld by a privileged, idle, and incompetent few; who sees one law for the rich and another for the poor; and perceives injustice, corruption and extravagance daily sapping the vitals of his country, and remains a silent, passive, and contented spectator, is a soulless participator in the wrongs inflicted on his country and his kind.  In thus stating this, others, again, may be led to think me self-consequential and conceited; which, if they do so, I shall think—with all deference to their opinions—that they will do me an injustice, for the older I get the more I am finding out my great deficiencies, and perceive how lamentably ignorant I am on a great variety of very important subjects with which I ought to be acquainted; and to think how much more useful I might have been, in my humble sphere, if I had had that early education which I hope, at no distant period, will be realized for the rising generation, and which I have hitherto, and will in future do my best to promote.

    But whatever may be the political or religious opinions of those who differ from me, I would ask them—ought the great battle and struggles of life to be for the multitude, such as they are?  Seeing that the great author of our being has placed us in a world fitted with abundant means to secure the happiness of all, if justly administered, ought these means to be monopolized and applied to secure an excess of luxuries for the Jew, while the mass of the people are not only compelled to toil and labour to secure it, but to be very frequently destitute of the necessary means of subsistence for themselves and families?  Justice, I think, will cause them in their conscience to say they should not; for, though toil and natural evils are the conditions of life, they ought not to be augmented by social and political injustice.

    To account for any repetitions that may be found in the work—and which may have escaped me—I may state that it was begun in 1840, and has been added to from time to time up to the year 1874.



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