94. [Add. Ms. 35151, ff. 21-2]
Fellow Citizen 18 October 1837
I send you a copy of the third report of the Poor Law Commissioners
and I beg you to read it carefully. I mean the Report which occupies 73
I know how difficult it is, in a vast number of persons how impossible it is
to remove preconceived opinions however erroneous they may be. Unfortunately a vast majority of our people, like indeed all other people, have
not the capacity to receive new ideas, after they are—say 25 years of age—
and this is the great impediment to general improvement, the reason why
improvement in really useful knowledge goes on so slowly as it does. With
this immense majority unless any new opinion that presents itself coincides
with some old opinion, which they have they know not how obtained and
for which they can give no accurate reasons,—they become incapable of
examining the ground on which it has been formed and if therefore it be an
erroneous opinion in error they must remain as long as they live.
Now I want you who can reason—to read this report—to attend to the
facts—to put this question to yourself, and to answer, as free from prejudice as you may be able. Will the New Poor Law as it is, and as it is likely
to be administered—elevate the character,
1st of that class of persons who have hitherto been the most depraved
and debased. The Farm servants? Or will it not?
2nd Will it do the same by all, who are not really and truly vagabonds in
the worst sense of the word? Or will it not?
If you decide that it will, you will approve of it, if you decide that it will
not you will disapprove of it.
If you decide that it will you will have decided on several material points
1st The certainty, as it appears to me, of getting rid of the utterly degrading and demoralising system of making paupers which has been in existence
upwards of 100 years.
2nd That men who became paupers and continued paupers for any
considerable time were very seldom, scarcely ever again made useful to
their fellow men in any way.
3 That any attempt made to induce such men to join other men in any
attempt at improvement morally or politically must fail.
4 That whenever two thirds of England and Wales, a full half probably
a much larger number of labourers were put into this condition, the effect
was gradually to bring down, all sorts of labourers to an approximation to
their own condition, in means of living and in understanding.
5th That at any amount of suffering to a comparatively small number of
persons, it would [be] advisable to get rid of a system which so long as it
continued could not fail to degrade the whole body of working people.
6th That children bred up as paupers could not make respectable men
7th That children brought up in the Work-houses on the old system were
unlike other children, were in fact qualified for evil courses, their condition
being utterly inimical to any good purpose. That under the new system those
unfortunate children will be extricated from the baneful effects of the old
system and be placed in circumstances very superior to any in which it was
ever possible to place them under the old system.
8 That if these be facts then the new poor law, will on a large scale, be
one of the best possible means of preparing the common labourers and
many others gradually to respect themselves and others, and thus prepare
them to concert with the intelligent bodies of working men now being
established to move systematically towards obtaining that knowledge which
can alone enable them permanently to improve the condition of them all.
Observe that I make no reference to what is best or what is worst in
government, my only purpose being to induce you to inquire seriously and
to decide honestly, this question. Will or will not the present Poor Law aid
in improving the large mass of common labourers throughout the country
and be a step on the road towards that state which is so much desired by you
and me and our fellow labourers in the good cause.
95. [Add. Ms. 27844, f. 271. Written after Lord John Russell's 'Finality
229 Strand Nov. 24/37
My Dear Sir,
A new state of things in the March of Reform having now
commenced I think there will be but little difference of opinion as to the
course which Radical Reformers should pursue. The Westminster Reform
Society met on Wednesday evening last, to determine if a Dinner should
take place and instead of eating & drinking being uppermost in their minds
a public meeting was resolved upon (see the Chronicle & Advertiser of this
Morning) which I think may be held about next Monday week.
Now I want you to do some work for us—I want your Master Mind to
be put into a state of activity as in olden times to produce the requisite
Resolutions & possibly a petition to the House of Commons also to get us
what funds you can. I have become in the first instance answerable for the
We contemplate a Meeting at the Crown & Anchor the time is not
suitable for Covent Garden. I sincerely hope that you are well—I could not
attend the meeting of the Radical Club last night in consequence of residing
out of town & the illness of my wife but I think that each member should
now be called upon to convene meetings in the locality in which he resides
for if there be inactivity now Radical Reform will be thrown overboard for
My Dear Sir
To Fras Place Esq. Thos Prout
96. [Add. Ms. 27844, ff. 272-5]
Mr Prout on the part of some persons who were about to call a public
meeting of the Electors of Westminster wrote to me and requested I would
propose resolutions and a petition—This I did—and accompanied them
with the following observations.
Here are resolutions and a petition such as I am sure ought and I hope
will satisfy your committee.
The first 4 resolutions are simple truths. I have put them in the present
words, and form and order, as a continuation of the old mode of proceeding
in Westminster. Westminster took the lead for many years as well in the
declaration of opinions, as in the good teaching sort of way in which they
were put and they produced good results.
It is fit that Westminster should now again take to its old respectable
station and lead the people on as far as possible on the road to liberty.
There is nothing new in any of these resolutions, nor need there be. In
1780 at a great public meeting of the Electors a committee was appointed to
make a report on the state of the Representation of the people and to
propose a plan of reform. They reported at length and proposed—Annual
Parliaments—Universal Suffrage—Voting by Ballot—No money Qualification for members—The Country to be divided into equal Polling Districts
—The election to be taken at the same time on a day certain.
Thomas Brand Hollis and Charles James Fox were the chairmen of the
committees and they signed the Report & Declaration.
In 1819—Westminster went for Annual Parliaments, Universal Suffrage
and Voting by Ballot. It must I think take its old position again in an open
manly way or some of the large towns will take the lead and Westminster
instead of being the good teacher will be looked upon as a worn out old
Don't on any account use the words extension of the suffrage—if you do
there will be plenty of men present to ask what the words mean, the chairman will be embarrassed and an amendment will be proposed which will be
carried that the words Universal Suffrage be substituted and the meeting
will be made contemptible.
1 That the Electors of Westminster never did by any act of theirs admit
that the acts to reform the representation of the people in the house of
commons, were, or could be final measures.
2 That during very many [years] preceeding the passing of the reform
Acts in 1832 the electors of Westminster never ceased to require from the
Legislature such acts as would secure to the whole people, 'full, free and
equal right to elect representatives to serve in parliament'.
3 That upon every occasion when the electors of Westminster petitioned
the house of commons for an extension of the right of suffrage they always
coupled that request with another, namely that such acts might be passed
as would restore to the people, the short parliaments which for centuries
were enjoyed by their ancestors.
4 That on many such occasions the Electors of Westminster prayed the
house of commons to protect the electors from all undue influence and
intimidation, and from bribery and corruption by passing a bill which should
direct the votes of the whole people to be taken by Ballot.
5 That the declaration made by Lord John Russell in the house of
commons on the 20th of November last 'That voting by Ballot—Extending
the Suffrage, and Triennial Parliaments were nothing else than a repeal of
the Reform Act, to all of which he was opposed, and the tacit consent of the
whole of her majesty's ministers to this declaration evinces a determination
in them to withold from the people all further reform and is nearly a
repetition of the declaration of the Duke of Wellington which caused his
expulsion from office.
6 That the declaration of Lord John Russell that it was always intended.
That the Reform Acts should give a preponderance to the Landed Interest in
the Election of Members of parliament is a declaration that it was intended
to give to the aristocracy the power to appoint a majority in the house of
That by the direct enactments of the Reform Acts,—by the direct and
indirect influence—by the bribery, corruption and intimidation of the
Aristocracy this intention has been accomplished.
That the power of the aristocracy thus to place a majority of members in
the house of commons will wholly prevent any measure whatever being
carried in parliament, unless it accords with the wishes and conforms to the
interests of the aristocracy, to the utter exclusion of all influence of the
people in what should be their own house.
That the pretence that the Reform Acts were intended to restore to the
people their share in the legislature, and their wholesome controul [sic]
over the aristocracy, was intended to be, and is a gross fraud upon the
That it is therefore necessary that the reforms proposed in the preceeding
resolutions of this meeting, should be demanded and insisted on by the
people until they have been obtained and a due share of the government of
the country has been thus secured to them.
7 That a petition to the house of commons embodying these resolutions
as follows be presented to the House of Commons—
The etc etc etc petition
That—(here take in the 1, 2, 3, & 4 resolutions and then as
That your petitioners have been disappointed at finding that the house of
commons during the five years which have passed since the first step towards
a reformation of the representation of the people in your honourable house,
—has made no advance in carrying the intentions of the reform acts into
That your petitioners have been further disappointed and sorely aggrieved by various reports which they believe are true of a determination
of her majesty's ministers to resist all attempts to procure for the people any
of the above named necessary amendments without the whole of which
there never can be even an approximation to a full fair free and equal
representation of the people in your honourable house.
Your petitioners therefore pray that your honourable house will forthwith take into your serious consideration the allegations contained in this
petition and grant
First—That the votes of the whole populace shall be taken by ballot.
Second—That the duration of parliament shall be restored to the shortest
period consistent with the duties of your honourable house.
Third—That the right of suffrage be extended to every man of twenty one
years of age who is capable of exercising that right.
97. [Add. Ms. 27844, ff. 277-9]
229 Strand Dec. 1 1837
My Dear Sir
The Committee met last night & feel very thankful to you for
your kindness in framing Resolutions & Petition & for your offers & [?] in
every way to assist us—but they think that it would be improper at this
time to advocate Universal Suffrage, they suppose that the Constituencies
are not yet sufficiently offended with the Ministry to adopt so decided a
course. The Committee imagine that we should meet the Ministry upon
their own ground & claim—that which they deny & in the first instance
compel them to entertain the question & when that is accomplished then
will be the time to name the kind of Reform desirable to have. Whether this
be the wise course to pursue will admit of a difference in opinion but it was
the general opinion of the Committee & the other course could not be
Many thanks for your present of the pamphlet on Bribery & Intimidation etc.
I have no doubt of our meeting being well attended. We have written to
above 50 including the Minority you mention but a request from you will
have weight with many.
Again thanking you individually
My Dear Sir
To F. Place Esq.
P.S. I enclose the Resolutions agreed to.
1st That to secure to the People of the United Kingdom the right of
choosing their Representatives in Parliament, to guarantee to them, the
free & conscientious enjoyment of that right, against intimidation & corruption—& to provide for the responsibility of their Representatives, were
the paramount objects of Parliamentary Reform at the passing of the Reform
Bill, & will continue to be so until the House of Commons faithfully
represents the Nation at large. That altho' from the rottenness of the
system into which changes were introduced by the Reform Bill, such
changes were necessarily amongst the first improvements demanded in the
representation, yet for the absolute & lasting security of the great ends of
Parliamentary Reform, further alterations of an equally important character were, & still are, required in the Electoral System, & to which those
effected by the Reform Bill, were introductory & preparatory only. That
this meeting deplores the fact that five years have been permitted to elapse by
the party who introduced the Reform Bill & who (with the exception of a
short interval) have enjoyed political supremacy in the Councils of the
Empire during the whole of that time, without any attempts being made by
them to place the Electoral System upon the solid basis of an extended
suffrage, freedom of choice & frequent appeals to the Constituencies. That
the consequences of such remissness to secure Parliamentary Reform in its
full extent, to the Nation, by apt prompt & vigorous measures have been
most disastrous to the cause of Freedom & Good Government in this
country. That in as much as the Reform Bill increased the number of Electors, the opportunities for the exercise of Coercion & corruption have become multiplied, and as no measures have been introduced to protect the
Constituencies against the perpetration of those flagrant offences, they are
committed to an extent and in a manner more relentless & determined than
was ever witnessed in this country at any former period. That whilst the
independence & morality of the Electoral body is rapidly declining before
these growing, & at present, irresistible evils, & the responsibility of the
House of Commons to the Constituencies of the Empire is daily becoming
less, the progress of useful & practical Amendments in every department of
the State is arrested, & the benefits of the first steps already made towards
improvement by the Reform Bill, entirely lost to the People.
It is therefore with sentiments of the deepest concern & regret that this
Meeting looks upon the declaration made by one of Her Majesty's Ministers
& tacitly assented to by his Colleagues in Office, that the Reform Bill is a
final measure which the Electors of Westminster never considered it to be;
& of the avowal made by the same Minister of his permanent hostility to
the only measures by which a full fair & free choice can be made of National
Representatives, & by which such Representatives can be made responsible
to the People.
2nd That to secure one of the great objects of Parliamentary Reform,
viz a faithful representation of the People in the House of Commons: a
further extension of the Suffrage is required.
3rd That to protect Electors in the Conscientious exercise of the
Suffrage, from the influence of intimidation & corruption, another of the
great objects of Parliamentary Reform, it is necessary that the voting for
Members of Parliament be by way of Ballot.
4th That in order to render the Representatives of the People responsible
for the due discharge of the Trust reposed in them, another of the great
objects of Parliamentary Reform, it is necessary to shorten the duration of
5th That the system of Registration created by the Reform Act and the
present mode of Appeal to a Committee of the House of Commons do
from their complication & uncertainty afford innumerable opportunities
for causing vexation, annoyance, & expense as well to the Constituencies as
the Representatives & require immediate Alteration.
6th That a Petition embodying these Resolutions be presented to the
House of Commons, & that it be presented by our Representatives
Colonel D. L. Evans & J. T. Leader Esq. who are hereby requested to
support the prayer thereof.
98. [Place Collection, set 56, vol. 1. 1836-May 1838, ff. 8-9. Place's introductory comments on various documents and newspaper cuttings in this
May 8th Page 202 'The Peoples Charter, being the outline of an act of
Parliament to provide for the just Representation of the People of Great
Britain in the Commons House of Parliament embracing the Principles of
Universal Suffrage, No property qualification, Annual Parliaments, Equal
representation, Payment of Members and Vote by Ballot. Prepared by a
committee of twelve persons, Six Members of Parliament and Six Members
of the Working Mens Association and addressed to the people of the United
The paper called the Charter was not however prepared by any committee.
The members of Parliament who were members of the committee never
assembled never gave themselves any trouble about the matter. Mr Roebuck promised to draw a bill but his parliamentary duties and his long
continued deplorable state of health totally prevented his keeping his
promise—and the members of the Working Mens Association who were
members of the committee found it too complicated and difficult in several
respects for them. In this state Mr Lovett the Secretary earnestly intreated
me to draw the bill. To this I consented provided the working mens
Association would discontinue to countenance those who at various meetings abused the middle classes, calling them harsh names, imputing all
manner of evil intentions to them and thus unnecessarily making enemies
where they needed friends, and provided that he Mr Lovett would bring
me a paper stating in exact words what were the points—and how his
coadjustors thought they might be put into language the least offensive to
any body since if any among them thought that any offensive expression
was necessary I would not draw the bill. Mr Lovett was for himself
satisfied and in a few days afterwards brought me the paper I had requested.
I then drew the bill, and sent the draft to him with a letter requesting him to
shew, the draft and the letter to Mr Roebuck. In the letter I requested
Mr Roebuck to revise the draft, and assured both the Working mens
association and Mr Roebuck that whenever the time should come when it
would be necessary, that if he should be unable or disinclined, or no one
more competent than myself should be found to convert the draft in as
perfect a bill as it could be made, and give the reasons for every enactment,
that I would do it myself.
Mr Roebuck thought the draft sufficient and was also at the time too ill
and too much occupied to attend to the business and the draft was printed
under the somewhat equivocal appellation of a Charter a name the Working
Mens Association would not give up.
The Working mens association had been very diligent in circulating its
very clever addresses, several of its members had been out as volunteer
missionaries and the number of similar associations which had been formed
by them was very great, and the circulation of the charter with the request
in page 10 of the address which preceeds it—'that other Working Mens
associations, would examine it and suggest improvements until it is so
perfected as to meet as far as possible with general approbation' etc. caused it
to be well understood by many thousands of persons. It was reprinted in
some newspapers and long extracts were also published in a large number of
It was this circulation, and the great increase of Working mens associations which induced the Political Union at Birmingham to take up the
matter. The addresses of the Working mens Association—the countenance
they met with in a great many newspapers, the concurrence with the association of a considerable number of members of the house of commons, the
circulation and sale of the Charter, and the numerous addresses from other
similar associations gave to the association a credit and an amount of popular consideration which had never before been given to any body of working
men on the question of Reform.
99. [Add. Ms. 27820, ff. 184-5]
A copy of 'the peoples Charter', having been presented to the Radical
Club with a letter recommending it to the notice of the members—Copies
were ordered to be purchased and one to be sent to each of the members
and a special meeting was called for the purpose of considering its contents.
At this meeting it was resolved.
1st That the principles of Universal Suffrage. No property qualification.
Annual Parliaments. Equal representation. Payment of Members and Vote
by Ballot as contained in the proposed 'outline of an act to provide for the
just Representation of the People in Parliament' and called 'the Peoples
Charter' be recognised and approved of by this Club.
2nd That the secretary be directed to acquaint the Working-Mens
Association that this club approves,
i of the principles of the Peoples Charter.
ii That they offer the accompanying suggestions for the approval of the
As it was expected that these resolutions would lead to a conference a
committee of the following persons was appointed viz. Francis Place,
William James Fox, James Roberts Black, William Henry Ashurst, Thomas
Prout, Henry S. Chapman, Thomas Falconer. A conference having been
appointed Colonel T. Perronet Thompson and Mr Joseph Hume M.P.
were invited and attended, when several alterations in the details were
100. [Place Collection, set 56, vol. 2. July-Dec. 1838]
6 Upper North Place
Grays Inn Road
Dear Sir, Aug. 30th 1838
I am requested by the Working Men's Association to inform you
that last meeting night the following list of persons was selected, by ballot,
to be proposed at the Great Meeting, which is to be held in Palace Yard
on the 17th September, as proper persons to represent London in the
general committee that is now being formed. I doubt not of your being
aware—that at all these large meetings Delegates are to be chosen to the
amount of 49 in all, whose duty it shall be to take charge of the Peoples
Charter and the National Petition and to otherwise promote the cause of
Radical Reform. Several have already been elected for Birmingham and
other towns, and we hope you will see the necessity at this critical period for
uniting your talents and energies to promote the cause of the people as well
as to prevent any folly or mischief that may arise if men like yourself stand
apart or refuse to act in concert together.
I remain on behalf of the Association
W. Lovett Sec'y
F. Place Esq.
21 Brompton Square
J. A. Roebuck
J. B. O'Brien
P.S. An early answer in compliance will oblige etc.
101. [Add. Ms. 35151, ff. 86-7]
10 Sep. 1838
To Mr Wm Lovett
You will not I fear find the business on the 17th in Palace
Yard all plain sailing. I see by the Posting Bill that the High Bailiff has
called 'a meeting of the Inhabitants of Westminster', but has not used the
word 'others', as I told you I thought he would not. Every one I have seen
since you were here is in favour of a repeal of the Corn Laws. Each one
agrees that this is just the time to commence vigorous proceedings the crops
being short and bread dear—as the English Merchants have bought up all
the corn which can be spared in the Baltic and at Odessa; all that has been
saved from former seasons and left little which is not the produce of the
present season, and as our next harvest must be a scanty one we not having
produced enough for our consumption for many years, so the price of
bread must be very high this time next year, and proper exertions may under
such circumstances compel the repeal of the Corn Laws. They argue too that
the Peoples Charter is not a measure that can be accomplished for some
years to come, and that exertions may be made for a repeal of the Corn
Laws now that the time is favourable, at the same time too that exertions
are made to convince the people that the Charter is a great and most important measure, and also—if that be possible to convince the Legislature that
it will be expedient for them to repeal the laws so justly complained of by
the people. To me this reasoning appears sound and conclusive, and I
therefore concur with them in thinking it is wise to make the most of present
and probable events.
Mr Crawfurd is writing a series of letters in the Glasgow Argus.
Colonel Thompson has undertaken to collect fallacies on the Corn Laws
from the Newspapers, and from late Speeches in Parliament, to answer
them seriatim, and the Sun is to insert these papers every Monday and
Wednesday. He and others have written to the Editors of many newspapers
and requested them to copy from the Sun which many will do. These
proceedings must then go on, they cannot be stayed and if they could they
ought not to be stayed. I think that with a little judicious management you
may turn them to account for the Charter. Should you so determine great
care must be taken to keep the two questions distinct. In no case where it can
be avoided should they be confounded. The Charter must be continually
held forth as the general and all comprehensive measure, the Corn Laws as a
very momentous measure though only one of detail. He who is desirous to
have the corn laws repealed should have impressed on him the necessity
of promoting the adoption of the Charter as the means of causing the repeal
of all laws which embarrass Trade and Commerce and are in any way inimical to the welfare of the people and preventing any such laws being again
From what you told me I apprehend an attempt will be made at the meeting to set aside all proceedings respecting the Charter, and if it does not
succeed, then to endeavour to vote an adjournment of all proceedings to
some distant day and to substitute a petition against the Corn Laws in its
stead. This will be a very dishonest proceeding. The meeting is called for a
specific purpose, and for any body of men without due and proper notice
of their intention to propose that the proceedings of which due and proper
notice has been give shall be set aside, or in any way embarrassed with
widely different propositions which the people have not been called together
to discuss is as dishonourable and dishonest as any public proceeding can
be; yet this was not very long ago the deliberate course agreed to be pursued by the 'Associations of the Working Men'. To their disgrace be it
spoken—though only as a bye gone act never to be repeated. You will
recollect that when a public meeting was about to be called, for the one
measure which would have told at that time—The Ballot—that the intention to hold the meeting was abandoned, simply and only because the
working people declared their intention to come to the meeting in great
numbers and there propose and carry Universal Suffrage for which the
meeting was not called. Depend upon it, and that too especially, in public
proceedings 'Honesty is the best Policy'.
To quarrel is to do mischief, extensive mischief, therefore whoever may
chuse to quarrel with you, heed them not, do you quarrel with none; but as
you cannot have your own way, take no part in any ill natured proceedings,
and on no account because others may behave improperly, and act impassionately, do you follow their bad example. If your proposition should be
opposed defend it, recollecting however that opposition may justly be made
by those who may think the proposition unlikely to be useful, according to
their notion of what may be useful—do you in such a case let it be put to
the vote, and adopted or rejected as the people chuse. Whichever way they
may decide you will have no cause of complaint.
No one can on any ground be justified in proposing a petition against
the Corn Laws at the meeting, as the Inhabitants have not been called
together to consider that question. Should any one propose to set aside the
Charter for the purpose of proposing the Repeal of the Corn Laws, I advise
you and your friends to take matters as coolly as possible and avoid most
carefully all passion and invective and imputation, and to argue the matter
on its own merits solely. Its merits are great and should not be lost sight of
on any account, however offensive and unjust the conduct of others towards you may be, and pray remember that I am giving you the advice I
have frequently under similar circumstances followed myself. The case is
simply this. You have put forward in plain concise clear language a most
important object. You have called a public meeting in the most correct and
orderly way, to discuss the subject in the hope and expectation that the
meeting will adopt the propositions. The meeting has been called and the
expenses have been paid by those who thinking it most important have
determined to go through with the business and never under any circumstances to abandon it, and for any number of persons to come and attempt
to set aside the very purpose for which the meeting is called and the expenses incurred, not by negativeing [sic] the propositions, but by proposing
other resolutions relating to something for which the meeting is not called,
and for which no notice having been given nobody can be prepared to
expect is a proceeding so very disorderly, dishonourable and disgraceful that
I hope no such course will be persisted in, but if it is that it will be treated
by the assembled people as it deserves to be. There is but one honest way
of proceeding, and that is, to determine the matter for which the meeting
is called and that done, they who think that any other subject should be
discussed at such a meeting, may sign a requisition to the High Bailiff to
call another meeting for the purpose. This mode of proceeding will I have
no doubt put you right at once, if it should not, it is plain that the people
are not friendly to your propositions, but that they should be so, it is impossible to imagine. If you proceed thus you will put yourselves before the
Nation as a body of plain, honest, sensible, discreet men and compel even
your enemies to respect your proceedings and this under present circumstances you can effect in no other way.
Pray think of these things dispassionately, think also of collateral
matters, and then you will be better qualified to cope with the enemy should
he attempt to interrupt or set aside your proceedings.
Your opponents will be very generally honestly disposed men though
there will be some among them who are sad rogues, it will be your duty as
far as it may be in your power by conciliatory conduct to prevent the honest
men being misled by the rogues.