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Chartists meet at Kennington Common

Posted in Anniversary, Politics on Wednesday, 30 March 2011

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10 April marks the anniversary of  the Chartist Demonstration at Kennington Common in 1848.

picture, Chartist, Kennington Common, demonstration, politics, right to vote

Chartist demonstrators at Kennington Common

The Chartists – probably the first working class labour movement – took their name from the People’s Charter of 1838 and fought for voting reform. Certain middle class males had been given the right to vote in 1832 prompting radicals to speak out. The People’s Charter stipulated that every man over 21 could vote, but Parliament would not be pressured into making it law. Even a petition with over 3 million signatures submitted in 1842 was ignored.

A mass meeting was organised at Kennington Common, attendance estimates varying from the government’s figure of 15,000 to Feargus O’Connor’s figure of 300,000.  The demonstration was peaceful and O’Connor presented another petition to Parliament, claiming it had over 5,700,000 signatures – it proved to have far less, 1,957,496. This was certainly enough for Parliament to rush legislation through to ban public meetings and introduce new laws of sedition and treason. However, within a few years Parliament passed the Reform Act 1867 which gave the vote to working classes.

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