What is Chartism

Chartism was a working-class movement during the 19th century that advocated parliamentary democracy and social and economic reform.


The movement was first advocated by William Lovett in 1838 and lasted until 1848. At that time, the right to vote was very limited. The movement got its name from the People's Charter of 1838. William Lovett wrote the charter
William Lovett was the main advocator of the Chartist Movement. (1)
which was then launched by The London Working Men's Association. In the Charter, The London Working Men's Association demanded six essential changes in the parliamentary system. {1} These changes were:

  • Universal male suffrage.
  • Annual elections.
  • Secret ballot voting.
  • No property qualifications for members of the parliament.
  • Equal electoral districts.
  • Payment of parliament members. {2}
1848 petition was rejected due to forged signatures. (2)

Political elites considered the movement dangerous and they rejected and suggestions of dealing with the chart's demands. As a result, the government completely ended the Chartist movement in 1848. Although the movement did not accomplish any immediate reforms, it started the first ever mass working political party; The National Charter Association {3}

One of the Chartists' meetings (3)
One of the Chartists' meetings (3)

Important Figures

William Lovett was part of the London Men's Working Association. He set up a committee to form the People's Charter in 1838

As a campaigner, Ernest Jones made controversial speeches that landed him in jail (4)

Ernest Charles Jones was a poet and novelist who was involved with the campaign of the Chartist movement

Fergus O'Connor was the owner of the newspaper, The Northern Star, that strengthened the bond between the working class and held the Chartist movement together.
Fergus O'Connor can be considered as the main person who held the Chartist movement together (5)

Key Terms

Chartist - An individual who contributes the People's Charter. The term chartist was derived from the ideas of Chartism. {4}

Universal male suffrage - Universal male suffrage is a voting right in which the specified age of all adult males are allowed to vote in a political system, regardless of class, property, or any qualification. {5}

Secret Ballot - Secret ballot is a voting system which the voter's decision of a certain candidate is anonymous in an election. It is a method to prevent any outside influence on the voter. {6}

Relation to Liberalism

Chartism is an opposition to classical liberalism because they believed in universal suffrage while classical liberalism favors the interest of the individual. A principle of classical liberalism that the Chartists were fighting to have is the individual rights and freedoms that applied to the Bourgeoisie. Chartism is a movement interested in reforming classical liberalism which makes it more left-wing than classical liberalism.

The cover page of an edition of The Northern Star. The Northern Star had a huge impact on the Chartist movement (6)


1. Roberts,S. (2009). Chartism & The Chartists.
Retrieved from http://www.thepeoplescharter.co.uk/

2. Christison, Fielding, Harding, Meston, Smith, Zook, (2009). Perspectives of Ideology (pp. 132-133)
Canada, Ontario: Oxford University Press.

3. Chartism (Summary). (n.d.). In The British Library.
Retrieved March 5, 2012 from http://www.bl.uk/learning/histcitizen/21cc/struggle/chartists1/summary/chartism.html

4. John Cannon. (2002). The Oxford Companion to British History.
Retrieved from http://www.encyclopedia.com/topic/Chartism.aspx

5. Universal Suffrage. (2012, March 2). In Wikipedia, the free encyclopaedia.
Retrieved March 4, 2012, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Universal_suffrage

6. Secret Ballot. (2012, February 29). In Wikipedia, the free encyclopaedia.
Retrieved March 4, 2012, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Secret_ballot

(1) from http://gerald-massey.org.uk/lovett/index.htm
(2) from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chartism
(3) from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chartism
(4) from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ernest_Charles_Jones
(5) from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feargus_O'Connor
(6) from http://www.chartists.net/How-to-read-the-northern-star.