Papers relating to the National Petition and 'The Charter'

Pages 188-203

London Radicalism 1830-1843: A Selection of the Papers of Francis Place. Originally published by London Record Society, London, 1970.

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102. [Add. Ms. 27820, ff. 199-201]

On the same day a large Bill was posted. As follows

Metropolitan Demonstration in favour of the Peoples Charter and the National Petition

In pursuance of a Requisition to me addressed for the purpose of convening a public meeting of the Inhabitants of the City and Liberty of Westminster to take into consideration the propriety of petitioning parliament to pass into a law the outlines of a proposed act of Parliament intitled the Peoples Charter the object of which is to extend the Right of Suffrage and to enact such other Reforms as will effectually secure good and cheap government.

I do appoint such meeting to be held in Palace Yard on Monday the 17 September at twelve o clock.

Francis Smedley
High Bailiff of Westminster

August 29 1838

The High Bailiff called a meeting of the Inhabitants of Westminster which all the duty of his office entitled him to do, but the Working mens Association took upon themselves to supersede the authority of the High Bailiff and in a large Placard to announce a Metropolitan meeting in Palace Yard, the High Bailiff in the Chair, a liberty which none had ever before taken and was altogether improper.

At a meeting of the committee of the Working Mens Association five resolutions were adopted, and ordered to be proposed at the public meeting, a sixth was afterwards added, they were as follows [Printed].

1 That this Meeting are of opinion that the true cause of all the corruptions and anomalies in legislation, as well as the distress and difficulties of the commercial, manufacturing, trading, and working classes, is, that our Representative System is based upon exclusive and unjust privileges; and, therefore, believe that the time has arrived for establishing that system on a foundation more in accordance with principles of justice, brotherly love, and with the increased knowledge of the people.

2 That the principles of representation, as defined by the 'People's Charter', are just and reasonable, embracing, as it does, Universal Suffrage, No Property Qualification, Annual Parliaments, Equal Representation, Payment of Members, and Vote by Ballot; which, in their practical operation, would, in the opinion of this Meeting, be the means of returning just Representatives to the Commons House of Parliament—persons who, being responsible to, and being paid by the people, would be more likely to promote the just interests of the nation than those who now constitute that assembly. This Meeting, therefore, solemnly adopt the 'People's Charter' as a measure of justice they are resolved by all legal means to endeavour to obtain.

3 That the National Petition now read, as agreed to at Birmingham, Glasgow, and other towns, embodying the same principles as the Charter, be adopted and signed by the persons composing this assembly, and be presented to the House of Commons preparatory to the 'People's Charter' being introduced.

4 That this Meeting recommend the people of the United Kingdom to hold Meetings and to appoint Deputations to request their Representatives to support and vote for the 'People's Charter', and to support the prayer of the National Petition.

5 That the following eight persons be appointed by this Meeting to unite with the Delegates that may be selected by other Meetings in different parts of the Kingdom to watch over the Charter and Petition when they are presented to Parliament.

6 That this Meeting warmly congratulate the French people on the practical efforts they are now making to obtain their elective rights; and earnestly hope that the National Guards of France will defeat the schemes of despots by emancipating their country.

The committee also appointed persons to move and second the resolutions thus

1 Lovett and Hetherington 2 Simpson and Cleave 3 Vincent and Hartwell 4 Moore and Whipple 5 Welford and Rogers.

It was customary at Westminster to permit any one who wished to speak, to do so, but none unless they were householders to move or second a resolution. The Working Mens Association put aside not only the inhabitant householders but even residents one (fn. 1) only of the movers or seconders appointed by them being resident in Westminster. . . .

This was an extraordinary proceeding in all its parts. The committee of the Working Mens Association went the length of excluding even the electors from the hustings, they admitted no one to the hustings but by a card, and no one knew where to apply for a card. Their own friends were more than the platform could accommodate.

103. [Add. Ms. 27820, ff. 202-19]

The Meeting in Palace Yard Westminster on the 17 September.

The people began to assemble early and at the time when the chair was taken the number assembled was estimated at 15,000.

The platform which is intended for the accomodation [sic] of those who manage the business those who intend to address the audience, the reporters for the newspapers and persons of distingtion [sic], is a very strong piece of carpenters work. It is put together by iron straps, long screws and nuts and can be put up in less than two hours, and will hold 100 persons conveniently. When set up in Palace yard the floor on which the people stand is level with the projecting window of the Kings Arms Tavern and the only access to it is through the Tavern.

The Ground in front of the platform descends gradually to the Great Door of Westminster Hall.

Mr Smedley the High Bailiff took the Chair at 1 o clock.

Close by him were John Temple Leader Esq. M.P. for the City and Liberty—Mr Dillon Browne M.P. Colonel Thompson The Reverend W. J. Fox. These were the only conspicuous persons and one of them and but one was a resident in Westminster.

From various parts of the country were the following persons.

Ebenezer Elliott from
John Fraser
Abraham Duncan
R. K. Douglas
P. H. Muntz
R. J. Richardson
R. Lowrey
F. O Connor

Hugh Williams
J. Jones
and 28 other
Arch'd Downie
G. F. Dennis
Jonathan Beaumont
Reeves, Allen &
Garrod & Birch
R. Hewett
G. Taylor
G. Layton
J. Leary
J. Muagglethwhite
T. Smith
Stirling etc.

Ipswich etc.
[sic] Worcester

On taking the Chair the High Bailiff said. I have convened this meeting in consequence of a requisition addressed to me numerously signed by the Inhabitants of Westminster. The object of the meeting, as stated to me, is to take into consideration the propriety of petitioning parliament to pass a law with such amendments and modifycations [sic] as may be deemed necessary founded on the Peoples Charter.

Mr Lovett opened the business. He said that from the commencement of the present agitation, different portions of the press as each represented different parties, had attributed to the Working-mens Association different intentions. This they had also done by different associations and meetings. Singular enough said he, they will have it that we mean quite differently to what we say we mean. In order therefore that there may be no mistake as regards the object of this meeting, I have been requested on the part of the Working-mens Association to say that whatever speculative opinions we may entertain they form no part of our present agitation. We mean what we say when we declare, that the 'Peoples Charter' contains a full measure of political justice, which would give to the people the means of redressing all wrongs, and that with Gods help we meant to obtain it.

The National Petition embraces all the objects and the same principles of just representation as the Charter, and having already been hallowed by the approbation of hundreds of thousands of signatures will I trust be respected by this assembly.

We have embodyed [sic] these principles of Radicalism in the form of our Charter in order that we may not be agitating for one thing and at the eleventh hour be cheated with another.

We shall be told of the unreasonableness of our demand, of the necessity of taking our rights just as our lords and masters please to give them by instalments. We have been listening to them these six years and the instalments given to us have been, a coercion law for Ireland, several oppresive [sic] measures for Great Britain. Revolution and Distruction [sic] for Canada. We want no more such instalments.

We say if political power belongs to the people at all, it belongs to them in its plenitude, it belongs to them to the full extent of enabling them to restrain evil doers and to elect those who will do good.

He made a long speech, on these topics and moved the first resolution. . . .

John Temple Leader said the sight before him was glorious. It was a vast assemblage of working men met to consider what were their rights and to determine by every legal means to gain the moral influence in the country which would enable them to assert and to maintain them.

In former times when many thousands of people were called together the meetings were convened by a few leading men not of the working classes, who spoke to the masses for the purpose of inducing them to aid any purpose of their own and what was the consequence? This, the passions of the people were appealed to and the leaders having thus gained the notoriety they sought they deserted the people whom they had deluded. The people must trust to themselves. Every man amongst them had cause and reason to judge for himself and ought not let his judgment by [be] blinded by others.

This meeting was called by working men, it had been addressed by working men, they did not speak to the passions of their hearers, they gave reasons and used arguments, quite as well as was done in the house over the way, yet we are told the people ought not to have the franchise, they are by far too ignorant and don't know how to use it. For my part I never heard better arguments nor the English language better spoken than today. Such being the case, I recommend the working people to look to themselves and to themselves alone. I look upon this meeting and the agitation out of which it has sprung as a great step in a grand moral struggle. They must go on in this way, it was agreed that it was a grand moral struggle in which they would succeed.

He spoke of the state of Ireland and of the proceedings in Canada for the purpose of demonstrating the mismanagement of the Government.

It had been asserted by many prudent well meaning men that all the agitation and all the organization going on amongst the working men all over the country would lead to nothing but waste of time and loss of money. I deny it. I assert that you will get every thing you want if you agitate prudently and organize discreetly, but suppose you do not get all you want, will it not be better, more honourable and more worthy of englishmen to struggle against difficulties and all the obstacles which are or may be opposed to them? To persevere though defeated again and again would be more honourable than to sit down quietly and submit to their opponents. (Loud cheers)

He contrasted the proceedings of former times with those present and said the proceedings of other times were no longer adapted to our circumstances and must be discontinued. Magna Charter [sic] was a good thing in past ages. The Reform Bill was another Charter but it had not been carried out and was a failure. There said he is the Peoples Charter, holding up the publication, and round it I call on you the working people of London to rally. (cheers) This is your Charter, this is what you must support until you obtain it. (loud cheers)

He contended that it was in itself an answer to all objectors and concluded by saying. May you go on and prosper. . . .

Mr R. J. Richardson of Manchester said I stand here before you as the representative of the starving hand loom weavers of Lancashire. I am here this day to support the National petition and the Peoples Charter, and I will tell you why. I see a great and mighty nation possessed of all the requisites for good, a nation which has been called the admiration of the world and I now see it degraded both at home and abroad.

The people of Lancashire have long been struggling for the National Petition. In 1819 they met on the blood stained field of Peterloo for the very same petition and they will not shrink from it.

There the people have begun to arm themselves. I have in many places seen the arms over the fire places. They had determined not again to petition, but the National Petition has come most opportunely, yet still they would not have signed it, had it only prayed, they signed it because it demanded.

If the people again fail, if they have no redress of their grievances I cannot say what will be the consequence. The rifles will be loaded. That will be the next step, and I defy the power of any government, or any armed numbers any armed Bourbon force to put them down. It is of no use to disguise the matter, secrecy is the ruin of all things. Every thing will be done openly by the people of Manchester of Lancashire and it will be done constitutionally—legally.

Now for the peoples Charter, they demand it because it contains Universal Suffrage, because it gives them a vote in the choice of representatives. (loud cheering) They are justified in demanding it. Is it too much for those who produce all the food, all the clothing, all the luxuries of life, who fight all the battles of the country, to ask for a voice in the choice of representatives. Is not the whole system of the country from the Parish officer up to the Queen elective. Does not the Archbishop when he crowns the queen, ask the people whether they will have her for their Queen, and as matter of course do not the people in the abbey say 'yes'. She swears to maintain inviolable all the rights and liberties of the people, which our forefathers established, but which a corrupt government and a base parliament have perverted and are now hurrying the queen to danger. I will tell you what the people of Lancashire are going to do. They intend to hold a great meeting in Manchester on monday next. An aggregate meeting when they expect 300,000 men to be present of these two thirds will be fit to bear arms. I am sure the people will rally round the standard of real reform, that they will demand in a voice of thunder, Universal Suffrage, Annual Parliaments, Vote by Ballot, etc. If these things are not granted woe to them that interfere between the people and their God. The spirit of freedom is manifesting itself, in every town village and hamlet, whether commercial manufacturing or agricultural. All breath[e] the same essence of liberty, and the democratic storm now blowing throughout the empire will blast and overwhelm every petty consideration. The people will sweep away the scum of the aristocracy and all who oppose them; and they will ultimately have a republic, which is far from their intention at present. . . .

Mr Hethering[ton] would wind up the business of the day by moving a vote of thanks to the High Bailiff, for his courtesy in calling the meeting and the propriety and urbanity with which he had presided over it. It was carried by acclamation.

The High Bailiff returned thanks. He said that he should always be ready on proper requisitions, to call meetings as long as he considered the purpose for which they were called was constitutional.

It was said that at the least 30,000 persons attended during the proceedings many coming and going away again in consequence of their not being able to hear what was said.

It seems to me to be necessary to observe that

1st This was a very remarkable meeting, in which for the first time the electors took no part and the inhabitants of any sort so little as not to make themselves known as such at the meeting.

2nd as shewing the ardent state of feeling of the working people to an extent never before witnessed in Westminster. Few indeed of the middle class took part in these meetings any where Birmingham alone excepted.

The expense to the working people in sending delegates to London must have been very considerable, the distances from which many of them came were very great, and the purpose, to attend once at a meeting, had never before been sufficient to induce them to contribute their money for such a purpose.

3rd The speeches were almost wholly those of working men, yet they were as Mr Leader truly observed as much to the purpose and as well delivered as those in the house of commons usually were. It may be as truly said that [they] would bear comparison with those made at public meetings by their betters.

4th In respect to the concoction and conducting of the meeting. The Working Mens association which was composed almost wholly of working men and those of them who were not men working for wages were very small tradesmen only one remove from the others. They were altogether strangers to the Inhabitants who let them do just as they pleased, they themselves taking no part whatever in the proceedings. The High Bailiff permitting proceedings directly at variance with the custom of Westminster.

Of the twenty two persons who made speeches only two were inhabitants of Westminster, and of those who either moved or seconded resolutions one only was an inhabitant.

No known inhabitant in any of the long accounts given of the meeting was noticed as being on the Platform.

The expenses of meetings of the Inhabitants are always borne by those who promote them and by the donations they receive. These expenses consist of notices, advertisements—Placards—Bills, men to carry bills on poles, the expenses of the Tavern and the charge for putting up and taking away the platform. These have varied from £40 to £100 and can seldom be held for a less expence [sic] than £60. In this case they were all, or nearly all paid by the Working Mens Association.

Of the men chosen as delegates one only was a resident within the City and Liberty and he Hetherington was a newsvendor and pamphlet seller in a small way.

The delegates chosen for the General Convention and said to represent the Metropolis were

1 John Cleave Newsvendor and pamphlet seller Shoe Lane Fleet Street
2 Henry Hetherington do do Strand
3 William Lovett Journeyman Cabinet maker Grays Inn Lane
4 Henry Vincent do Printer St Pancras
5 Robert Hartwell do do Lambeth
6 James Bronterre O Brien writer for radical publications—nowhere
7 Richard Moore Carever [sic], chamber master Hinde Street Bloomsbury
8 George Rogers Tobacconist High Street St Giles's.

No public meeting for the same purpose was held in any other of the Metropolitan Boroughs.

The speech of Colonel Thompson was as he said in reference only to a particular subject, namely the impropriety of any attempt to introduce any subject for which the meeting was not called.

This was occasioned by the Sun, and Morning Chronicle newspapers recommending the Inhabitants to attend and move a resolution for the repeal of the corn Laws and thus altogether supersede the purpose for which the meeting had been called.

On a previous occasion the working men who usually took part in public meetings threatened, a number of middle class men, who were about to hold a public meeting at the Crown and Anchor Tavern for the purpose of supporting Mr Grote who was about to make a motion in the House of commons, for Vote by Ballot, that they would muster their force and move as an amendment, Universal Suffrage, and it was thought advisable not to hold the meeting. The leaders in this disgraceful matter were Hetherington Cleave and Lovett. These three men, and their followers alarmed at the recommendations of the Sun and the Chronicle, now applied to the persons whom they had prevented holding the meeting for ballot. It was remarked to them that they by their conduct had brought the difficulty upon themselves, but in as much as all such proceedings were wholly dishonourable and dishonest they would interfere to prevent the Corn Laws being brought before the meeting to be held in Palace Yard. Observing that the rule ought to be that whenever a meeting was called for one purpose people came prepared to speak to and to hear and attend to that subject and no other. That forcing another on their attention for which they were not prepared and when the persons who took an interest in that subject not being called upon to be present were absent was a proceeding which any man ought to be ashamed even to contemplate. In this the three concurred. Efforts were made and the two newspapers not only withdrew their recommendations but apologised for having made it and recommended that no such matter should be brought before the meeting.

At the meeting in Palace Yard Mr Duncan said that the Radicals at Edinburgh were resolved to attend all meetings in Scotland and move Universal suffrage as an amendment, for whatever purpose the meetings might be called. For this he was applauded by the multitude and neither Hetherington, Cleave nor Lovett said one word in reprobation of his or their conduct. It will be seen that as the number of foolish and of evil disposed persons became associated as Chartists they adopted the course recommended by Mr Duncan, and being a very numerous body many amongst them as there were good reasons for concluding were paid to intrude into all sorts of public meetings and by their motions as amendments, and by their riotous conduct broke up the meetings, and these were called in the news papers devoted to the Chartists 'Glorious triumphs' these foul proceedings were assisted by Hetherington and Cleave and countenanced by Lovett. When O Connor became the Great Leader of the Chartists, associations were formed under his direction and the direction of his people they made intrusion and rioting one of the articles of their confederation.

104. [Add. Ms. 27820, ff. 354-8]

A meeting was held at the large room in Theobalds Road, called by some of the members of the Working mens association, to consider the present state of affairs respecting the National Petition and the Peoples Charter. Mr Hetherington in the Chair.

Mr Hartwell said the meeting was called by himself and some others for the purpose of telling the people of the Metropolis the state of feeling in the country on the great objects of the Association. To hear from O Connor Vincent and others what was the excited state of the country, and to shew them that the apathetic state of the Metropolis was a disgrace to the working people congregated therein. The time was come when the men of London should either give in their adhesion to the principles of the peoples charter and the National Petition or to avow their dissent. It was necessary to say that they who were not with us were against us. It would not be enough for the men of London to say that they agreed to the principles, they must firmly and steadily support them, and be prepared to do all that the Convention should say was for their benefit. Any man who flinched from that was not a friend to the working people.

He described his tour in the West of England, the state of the people their dependence and destitution the tyranny of their employers and their superiors of the Magistrates and Parish authorities, and the reduction of their wages to 7/- a week and the charge they made to them of 9/6 a bushel for flour.

He announced a great meeting about to be held in Suffolk and requested some of those who were present to go to the meeting. He had applications from numerous places in the West of England requesting the association to send down deputations. He thought that the working men of London agitated as they would be in the ensuing month would join their efforts for the Charter and the National Petition. If the Convention were not supported in the Metropolis, the place of their meeting he knew not what responsibility might be cast upon them.

He moved a resolution. 'That those persons who approved of the Charter should pledge themselves to support the Convention'.

Mr O Connor addressed the meeting. He called upon the men of London to imitate the men of the north. He abused all persons and classes of persons, and in his usual manner he spoke to the worst feelings of the most ignorant of his audience. He said the Ballot and the repeal of the Corn Laws might be offered to them, but they must refuse both until they had the suffrage.

Mr Vincent also made a rambling speech, and the resolution was passed.

At this time there was much ill blood between O Connor and the Working-mens Association. It had gone on increasing from the first formation of the Association. The differences between the parties had been increased by the conduct of O Connor who looked at their proceedings with an evil eye, and had omitted no opportunity to bring the association into disrepute, and had, a short time before calumniated several of its leading members. Vincent and Hartwell both members of the association were desirous of a convulsion of any sort in the hope that it might lead to a revolution. Vincent had a family taint of insanity which at times made him uncontroulably [sic] desirous of mischief. At other times, he was mild considerate and good natured and was generally liked by those who knew him. Hartwell was a cunning ill disposed man, an intriguing, undermining reckless fellow who at length became disliked and shunned by his fellows. Hetherington was an honest man, with too little brains to guide him. One who always intended to do good but seldom understood the way to accomplish his own wishes, an odd character, true to his word, firm and unmoveable when set on for any purpose, yet easily led on other occasions, confiding and misled, abused and cheated by almost any one who would take a little pain with him.

The two first were dupes and partizans of O Connor. Hetherington disliked him and spoke of him without reserve as he thought he deserved to be spoken off [sic]. These three were the only members of the Workingmens Association who took part in the proceedings, and Hartwell acknowledged that the meeting had been called by himself and a few other persons.

O Connor had made progress in Foley Street Marylebone. In Theobalds Road near Holborn, and he and his new confederates therefore called another meeting in a very large room in the City Road near the northern part of Finsbury Square, an account of which was published in the Northern Star and in two or three other newspapers.

It was thus announced in the Northern Star.

'The National Convention. The Working-Mens Association. On thursday night the 20 Dec. there was a numerous meeting of the members of this association at the Hall of Science Commercial Place City Road for the purpose of taking into consideration the present state of the Country, and to determine upon the most efficient means of organizing the men of London in support of the National Convention.'

Mr O Connor was unanimously called to the Chair.

He commenced by abusing the Morning Advertiser, for having endeavoured to keep the people away from the meeting. He said, Whig like, O Connell like, it denounces me and cautions the people to beware of Feargus O Connor, and yet this very paper justifies the use of physical force, if it be necessary (great applause). He then abused the Morning Chronicle which had, he said, also denounced him. He challenged the whole Whig Press of London to come before him and face him, and in this way he went on to an extent, the report of which occupies a whole column in the Northern Star.

He denied having ever recommended or in any way encouraged the use of arms or what was called Physical Force. He had always taught the men of the North to depend on moral force alone. But by moral force he did not mean the moral power of the Scotch Philosophers (cheering) nor their chippings of the Excise and their attacks upon the Tea-pot. (great laughter)

He then came back to the Morning Advertiser, dwelt on it and the whig press for some time and then said the whole of that press were doing their best to set the moral force, and the physical force men together by the ears.

He then travelled to Ireland, still abusing the Morning Advertiser & the Chronicle and proceeded, in his way to state, his doings in that country. He then turned upon O Connell and abused him for some time. He then went to Edinburgh where he had been denounced but he would be in Edinburgh early in January and would then see if the men of Edinburgh would not be put to shame for what they had done. He called upon the whole people to meet in tens of thousands on the day the National Petition should be presented to the house of commons. He advised them to be resolute and to send in to the speaker and inform him that they would wait for an answer to the prayer of the petition.

He again returned to the Morning Advertiser and said, if ever I gave any one a good pickling I have given one to the Editor of the Advertiser.

He was going to Ireland to form an Union, and he would accomplish his purpose spite of O Connell and all his combinations.

This was Mr O Connors way of carrying forward the purposes for which the meeting was called, by taking no notice whatever of them.

Mr Whittle the Physical force delegate from Liverpool, said the people were entitled to Universal Suffrage and he pledged the meeting to obtain it. He scolded the Morning Advertiser and Chronicle.

He praised Mr Stephens, and declared that he was as good a man as ever lived. He praised O Connor. He declared that the National Petition had been signed by two millions and a half of people, (It had not been signed by one third of that number) and would soon be signed by more than three millions. He had much pleasure in moving

'That all the manifold evils of which the people complain are attributable to class legislation and can only be put an end to by Universal Suffrage.'

Mr Ireland seconded the resolution.

Still no allusion to the business for which the meeting was called.

Mr R. Moore a member of the Working-mens Association said 'Mr O Connor has made attacks upon friends of mine which I cannot permit to pass without notice.' He was well acquainted with Mr Duncan and Mr Frazer, he knew that they were as conscientious, well meaning, honest and determined friends to the cause as it was possible men could be; and he was sure their conduct could not be justly impugned for any thing they had done, much less because they had reprobated language which they thought likely to injure the good cause. He protested against the attack Mr O Connor had made upon these good men.

Mr Lovett: They had been called upon by Mr O Connor to put down any one who came there to produce dissension,—they might think that he had come there for that purpose; he assured them that he had not; but he was one who believed that the sentiments sent forth through the columns of the Northern Star and the Champion had been very prejudicial to the interests of those who were earnest in their wish for Universal Suffrage—(cries of 'No, no'). He expressed merely his own opinion, and wished to force it upon no person, but he trusted, though he differed from them, they would hear what he had to say. Mr Stephens might be a very good man, and might be a very humane man, but he had used language to the injury of their cause, and therefore they deprecated him. The language of Mr Stephens had kept away many from joining their ranks—(disorder). He had an experience of ten years in Radicalism, and he could say it was because of the language,—the violent language,—used in 1830 and 1831 that prevented the working classes from then obtaining many of their objects—(uproar). He could assure them it was true, and he could mention names. One he would give them. Benbow, at the Rotunda, said it would make his heart glad to hear of the burning of Bristol. Such expressions were extended by means of the Press, and a meeting which was to have been presided over by Mr Wakley was obliged to be given up in consequence. It would not have been allowed for fear of consequences, when such language was allowed to be spoken, and even applauded. The language of Mr Stephens has operated in the same manner. Many who would have joined us have kept back, because they saw language used calling upon the people to use the torch and the dagger, to bite with their teeth, and to tear with their nails— (uproar, applause and hissing). If it was doubted, he would read the very passages from the Northern Star and the Champion. As Feargus O Connor found fault with the friends of the cause in Edinburgh, he at once denounced them as enemies, and that merely because they deprecated language such as he had read—(hissing). He (Mr L.) thought they were deeply injuring their cause by using or approving such language; indeed he thought they ought to deprecate it. They were doing much harm to the cause by condemning all classes. There was not a class in which they had not thousands of friends; then why try to alienate them by denouncing them wholesale—(hissing and applause). It could only do harm by driving away many of their friends, then only those would be left who by using violent language will hurry them into some premature outbreak, and the moment they had done so they would leave them and become their bitterest enemies —(disorder). He did not think their cause would be promoted by abusing in coarse language the New Poor Law, or any other partial grievance— (hissing). . . . He would like to see the people educated—(hissing)—he would like to see noble powers and resplendent talent engaged in calling up the moral and mental energies of the people—(cheers). Instead of spending a pound to buy a useless musket, he would like to see it spent in sending out delegates among the people—(loud cheering and hissing). He was anxious to be understood clearly. If the people were to be called upon to arm—if they were to go on using violent expressions which must lead to mischief, he would have nothing to do with them—(uproar)—but if they were disposed to go on agitating as they had done for two years, he would do all in his power to forward the cause—(laughter and cries of 'No waiting.') If they were willing to push onward in a reasonable endeavour to arouse the moral and mental energies of the people, he would be one of them; he was one of them in heart; but if there was to be any arming, any fighting, he was not one of them—(cheers and hisses).

Mr O Connor was received with tremendous cheering. 'Words are but wind, actions speak the mind.' When he arrived that evening, four resolutions were put into his hand, one of them strongly reprobating the Edinburgh Delegates, but he at once said, 'No; don't move it, for it can do no good, and can only cause dissension;' and on his advice it had been withdrawn—(cheers). Not a word had fallen from his lips to cause dissension among the Radicals. Mr Lovett had asked who had done most for the cause. He (Mr O Connor) could only say that he had spent seven thousand pounds in it—(cheers). He had never travelled a mile, or eat [sic] a meal, but at his own expense—(loud cheers). He had formed upwards of 200 Associations and had created a feeling in the country that no man on earth could allay. He did not agree in every word that fell from Mr Stephens, but he was the friend of every man who had humanity at his heart, and that man was Mr Stephens. He for one would not be content to wait for two years— (cheers)—it might do very well for those who made a profit of it; but he thought they were now ready, and ought to proceed at once—(cheers). They might fight their open enemies, but oh save us from our pretended friends. . . .

105. [Add. Ms. 27821, ff. 22-4]

On Sunday the 27 Jan'y [1839] was published the first number of the peoples paper 'The Charter'. (fn. 2) It was a large paper containing 16 pages each page 12 inches wide and 18 inches long, and was sold for sixpence.

The Title was 'The Charter. Established by the Working Classes.'

The Editor (fn. 3) of this paper was a particularly ill qualified man for his office, he had been a journeyman tradesman, then a sectarian preacher, was then employed upon a newspaper, and succesively [sic], on several others, every one of which he assisted to destroy. It was he who first suggested the Charter newspaper and being a very cuning [sic] fellow succeeded in persuading the Working mens Association to assist in its establishment. It was to be conducted by a committee of working men from different trades as set forth in the prospectus. The committee were led to suppose that Mr Carpenter would be able to employ the best talent in the country for each of the departments which he represented as necessary for carrying on the paper in a manner very superior to any other weekly paper. This was to be wholly under his direction, for which and his own able editorship he was to receive £30 a week. He never employed any able man, but got the paper up any how he could and pocketed the money.

The Paper having been announced as the political organ of the working men of London and also as the Official paper of the General Convention of which the Editor and several of the committee were elected members, it was sure to command a considerable sale amongst the middle classes, many of whom were very desirous to learn from time to time as much as they could of their proceedings. This had been calculated upon, and of the second number more than 5,000 were sold. It was not expected that many advertisements would be sent to it and it was therefore calculated that 7,000 must be sold to cover its expenses, but the projectors were sanguine and entertained no doubt that the sale would exceed 10,000. The first number was a poor thing and disappointed the expectations of many.

On Sunday the 2nd of feb'y was published No. 1 of a rival paper called The Chartist. It was not quite half the size of the Charter, was printed on bad paper and very much worn type. Its price was only 2½d.

It commenced thus. 'To our Readers,—For the real wealth of England— for those who produce, for the mighty many this paper is started.'

It then says that 'the conductors well know the wants and privations of their labouring fellow men, and have perseveringly enquired, and reflected most anxiously how to supply their wants and how to remove their privations.' This is followed by a dissertation on the value of sixpence to a working man, and it asks how it is possible for most amongst them who are desirous to have an useful newspaper can pay sixpence a week for one. Every man should have a newspaper of his own to read when he has the time—at his leisure moments, and thus whilst he receives information and instruction save him from being driven to the Beer Shop where alone he can see a newspaper. To save him from this to promote his comfort and to give him wholesome mental food in abundance for 2½d a week is the purpose of the paper.

This is followed by an exhordium [sic] well adapted to its readers, and intended to induce them to purchase the newspaper. It promises itself that in a fortnight, it will be found at every working mans fire side. It proceeded in a lively saucy stile [sic] but excepting the editorial articles it contained but little that the working people cared much about.

No. 2 of the Charter dated the 3rd of february contained accounts of proceedings at several public meetings, and an ill written attempt to persuade one and all to oppose the repeal of the Corn Laws. This advice was grounded on what O'Connor and others had carefuly inculcated, namely that though the law was iniquitous the present attempt to procure its repeal was a contrivance of the middle class to increase their own profits and to lower the wages of the labourer, and the certainty that the corn and all other oppressive laws would be repealed when the Charter should, as it soon would, be the law of the land.

106. [Place Collection, set 56, vol. 6. Sept.—Nov. 1839, ff. 257-8. Printed.]

Charter Office, 16, Catherine Street, Strand November 14, 1839

Sir,—The Managing Committee of The Charter Newspaper respectfully solicit your attention to the following brief statement of the present position and future prospects of the Paper, and request your assistance towards extricating the Paper from its present difficulty, and placing it on a permanent footing.

The Charter was established by a number of Working Men, in January, 1839, to be managed by a Committee chosen from amongst the Subscribers, and any profits that might accrue from its publication, to be appropriated to some public purpose connected with the moral, social, or political improvement of the Working Classes.

The Paper, from various causes, but chiefly from the want of the necessary fund to expend in placarding advertising, and otherwise pushing a New Paper, has never yet cleared its expenses; and the loss, upon an average, about £5 per week, exclusive of Editor's Salary, has fallen chiefly upon the Committee of the Paper, who are all Working Men, and unable longer to bear this expense. They would regret the necessity of giving up the Paper, feeling convinced that with the assistance of those Friends favourable to the object, they would now, in the course of a few weeks, be enabled to command a sale which would clear the expenses.

The Weekly Sale is now between 2,300 and 2,500; but in consequence of the large size of the Paper, and the quantity of matter contained in it, it will take an extra 1,000 to clear itself. This might be obtained if the Committee had at their disposal about Four or Five Hundred Pounds. The liabilities of the Paper are now about One Hundred Pounds. In the hope that you will feel disposed to render them some assistance, to prevent the necessity of relinquishing the Publication of the Paper, a deputation from the Committee will wait upon you, and who will answer any questions, or afford you any information on the subject.

We remain, Sir

Yours Respectfully,
The Managing Committee
Robert Hartwell, Publisher

Mr Hartwell 15 Nov. 1839

Dear Sir

I have received your printed paper and think the mode you have adopted is the only chance you have of putting the paper on its legs—and that even a very poor one.

I saw 5 men yesterday all of whom had taken the paper and had dropped it. I talked with them about the paper and said that if they and others were disposed to support it, any two of them for the others could investigate the state of the concern. They however declined and one of them said that he had dropped it, as had also the committee of the 'Reform Club' because it abused and held out the middle classes as little better than monsters, in this the others concurred, and said, if the working people were determined to stand alone, and to make war on the rest of the community they must themselves provide the means of maintaining their paper and their other means of offence. I thought myself bound to tell you this, for I believe that if the scolding etc. complained of could be refrained from and the paper continued on 'till the men, who are out of town returned, money might be raised to carry it on, if upon enquiry it should appear probable that it would be continued.

I send you a list of the members of the Radical club. They are all supporters of Universal Suffrage, but I very much fear that you will meet with the objection from them which I have mentioned. Yet they are promoting a subscription for Lovett, and have passed a resolution very properly condemning the conduct of Govt towards Lovett and Collins.

You will see by the paper inclosed that they did not order it to be inserted in the Charter. I was not at the meeting.

Yours truly
Francis Place

107. [Place Collection, set 66 f. 9]

85 Cornwall Road
Lambeth March 2 [1840]
Monday Evening


The money you were kind enough to advance for the use of the Charter Committee not having yet been paid I deem it necessary to write you a few lines accounting for the delay. It was only last week that the Committee were enabled to dispose of the paper, which they have done to Messrs Welford and Gaskell of the Statesman late Weekly True Sun. The Committee have decided that all borrowed money (which amounts to about £37) shall be paid before any other claims on the paper; they are to receive weekly instalments from the Statesman for six weeks (in proportion to the sale, as per agreement) and I can assure you that your loan, with that of Messrs Harrison and Travers will be amongst the first discharged; I hope either the close of the present or the beginning of next week. I thought it right to communicate the above to you, fearing that you might think we had forgotten you.

I am Sir
Yours Respectfully
Robert Hartwell

P.S. If you have occasion to write to me you will please address as above, my residence, as I have left the Charter Office and am working as journeyman on the Statesman Newspaper. I am sorry to say it will be some time before I recover the loss I have sustained by the failure of the Paper.

108. [Place collection, set 56, vol. 12, Jan.—Apr. 1841, f. 14]

6 August 1840

Mr Gotobed,

You were one of the persons who obtained £5 of me upon a serious understanding that it was to be repaid from the sale of the paper, it was to enable you to bring out, and it was lent for no other purpose. You obtained through me, £5 from Mr Harrison and £5 from Mr Travers. Mr Harrison now writes to me on the subject for himself and Mr Travers, and desires me to tell him why the money was not returned as it came to hand from the sale of the paper as was conditioned, and why he has heard nothing about the matter for months past. Shall I tell him that you are Swindlers, or what shall I tell him, or will you tell him any thing yourself. It would be needless for me to write to Hartwell to receive notes in reply which are disgraceful dishonest shuffles.

In almost every case where money has been concerned I have been ill treated and cheated by working men and it vexes me much as it does Mr Harrison to find, that in this respect, at least, they differ from all other men in being utterly dishonest.

Your obedient Servant,
Francis Place


  • 1. Hetherington. See Add. Ms. 27835, f. 128.
  • 2. See below, Appendix, pp. 249-54.
  • 3. William Carpenter.