Papers: 1841-2

Pages 218-236

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

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117. [Place Collection, set 56, vol. 12. Jan.—Apr. 1841, f. 321]

London, 183, Tottenham Court Road
March 1841

Dear Sir,

The following Address (fn. 1) is intended to be submitted to all the leading Chartists throughout the kingdom that we can have access to, in order to obtain their signatures, when it will be printed and published as their joint address; previous to which it will be considered a breach of honour for any individual to cause its publication. It is also intended that the persons signing it shall form a provisional board of management for six or twelve months, (as may be deemed advisable,) to aid in forming the association by the sale of cards, or otherwise, after which the board of management is to be elected by the members according to the rules and regulations. By returning this to Mr Lovett, 183, Tottenham Court Road, signed or otherwise, by return of post, you will oblige yours respectfully,

William Lovett
John Collins
Henry Hetherington
John Cleave
George Rogers
Henry Mitchell

118. [Add. Ms. 27821, ff. 328-9]

183, Tottenham Court Road 1842


The want of a cheap & commodious place in which the Working & Middle Classes might hold their Public Meetings has long been experienced by all friends to the improvement of the people. The extravagant sums required for the use of our large public rooms prevent meetings from being held in them unless on occasions of great and urgent importance, & then only by those who can command the necessary funds, the consequence is, that the Working Classes, being too poor to hire such places are frequently compelled to hold their meetings in public houses. The members of the National Association have for some time past been endeavouring to provide a remedy for this evil, & have eventually succeeded in obtaining the lease of a large building in a central situation capable of containing upwards of two thousand persons. This place they intend to fit up as a Public Hall, to be used for Public Meetings, Lectures, Discussions, Musical Entertainments, & all objects promotive of the political and social improvement of the people. As this place will require considerable repairs entailing expenses beyond the present means of the Association, they have appointed a deputation to wait upon all those friends who may be disposed to render pecuniary assistance in furtherance of so desirable an object. The persons appointed have therefore requested me to write to you to ascertain your earliest convenience when you can favor [sic] them with an interview.

I am, respectfully, your Obed. Serv't,
Wm Lovett

P.S. I have been requested to subjoin the following objects of the National Association, & also to inform you that they have established a weekly periodical, price three halfpence, entitled the 'National Association Gazette'. It advocates the political, social & moral improvement of the people— it is opposed to all monopolies & contends for universal popular education, unconnected with any sect or party

Objects of the National Association

1 To unite in one general body, persons of all creeds, classes and opinions, who are desirous to promote the political and social improvement of the people.

2 To create & extend an enlightened public opinion in favor of the People's Charter.

3 To erect or obtain Public Halls, or Schools for the people, such halls to be used as Schools for the children during the day, & of an evening by adults for lectures, discussions, readings, musical entertainments etc.

4 To establish Normal or Teachers Schools, in such Towns or districts as may be necessary.

5 To establish Agricultural & Industrial Schools for the education & support of the orphan children of the Association.

6 To establish Circulating Libraries, to be sent in rotation from one town or village to another.

7 To print & circulate Tracts & Pamphlets promotive of the objects, as also a national periodical.

8 To offer premiums for School books, & such works as may promote the welfare of the people.

9 To send out Missionaries to explain the views & objects of the Association.

119. [Add. Ms. 27810, f. 1. Rough Minute Book of the Metropolitan Parliamentary Reform Association.]

At a meeting of the Radical Club held at Radley's Hotel, Bridge St., Blackfriars, on Monday the 31st of January 1842, it was resolved;

1st That the club do agitate for the People's Charter.

2nd That the following persons be a committee to consider the best mode of agitating for the Charter.

Francis Place, Peter A. Taylor, Sam'l Harrison, Wm H. Ashurst, John Epps M. D., J. Roberts Black, Col. Thompson, Geo Huggett, Hy Mitchell.

At a special meeting of the Radical Club held on the 7th March 1842, at Radley's Hotel, the committee reported that in their opinion the intention of the Club would be best carried out by concurring with a plan for a Reform of the House of Commons which had been sometime before agreed to by the following persons

Francis Place, J. A. Roebuck, John Travers, E. Frazer, J. Roberts Black, Jos. Philps, Sam'l Harrison, Thos Prout, Joseph Hume, Hy Ellis, Wm Molesworth, Geo. Bubb, John Temple Leader, Wm Geesin, J. C. Hector, Jos. Smith, Stephen Erratt, Dr. John Epps, Joseph Watts, Edward Rainford, E. W. Field.

120. [Add. Ms. 27810, ff. 91-4]

Dear Harrison Tuesday 15 Feb. 1842

I dare not come to the Radical Club. I regret it very much—and as I can communicate in no other way I claim your serious attention to what follows, in answer to the request contained in your note just now received at 4 p.m.

You liked Sturge's meeting, so did I—because it not only shewed the progress of opinion, but it was conducted much more rationally than might have been expected—the fault however of nearly every active political reformer is, that he mistakes indication for conclusions, acts upon them, is disappointed, vexed, does foolish things and thus plays the game of the enemy of us all—the Aristocracy.

This has been the case ever since 1776 when Major Cartwright first put reform of Parliament into a form in which it could be entertained to any useful purpose. It never was a matter of any concern to the working classes and of but very few indeed of those who were not either persons of property or what are called public men.

In Nov. 1792 was commenced the London Corresponding Society, whose story I begin to fear will never be told—there now remains no one but myself that can tell it. I have all the documents and publications of the society and much collateral matter of various kinds in pamphlets, books, newspapers, MSS and parliamentary proceedings—but I am called off and occupied with other matters of which none have cognizance, but those I serve and each of these either as an individual or as one of a small body gives himself no concern as to me, in respect to any thing else, and it would be absurd to expect it could be otherwise, whenever therefore any one of the matters I wish to occupy myself with is mentioned each one either wonders why I do not set about it, or why I have not accomplished it, his own affair, or the affair in which he is conversant with me, occupying only a portion of my time and according to his wishes, all the rest is applicable to the special purpose. This I fear must be my case to the end—one only way remains by which it can be put aside and that is now out of my power —namely removing some 3 miles or so farther from town.

The London Corresponding Society was a well organized well conducted business society. Its business consisted in good teaching. It was the first and last of the kind. It was seen by the men in power to be utterly inimical to the domination of the Aristocracy and they resolved to put it down, but even in the time of Pitt, Grenville and Dundas in the days of terror it required seven years to effect the determined purpose of the bitter unrelenting, never for a moment ceasing enmity of the aristocracy to put it out. In 1793-4 they put it down in Scotland by transporting for 14 years three brave Scotsmen and two englishmen who were deputies from the London Society—and by establishing a system which assured every man, that if he dared to shew his thoughts either by speaking or writing in favor of good government or of any approximation thereto—'Botany Bay' would be his future residence. This atrocious triumph of tyranny, led the King, Lords and Commons—the Aristocratic conspiracy against the people, to conclude that the people of England were as debased and vile as were the law officers of Scotland. They were not without reason for the conclusion— the numbers of the 'Society against Republicans and Levellers'—the City life and fortune men, whom, if I recollect aright, to the number of 3,000 had signed a declaration not merely to support the conspiracy in any thing informal, but in spirit to put down in any way—the Regicides, the bloody Jacobins, as any man who did not basely submit to their dictum was called —to do which they pledged their lives and fortunes—they had the assistance of Church and King Mobs in many ways but in none so decidedly as in the plundering and burning the house of Dr Priestly at Birmingham, and in a multitude of acts, scarcely less atrocious but smaller in extent. They therefore seized 11 and indicted 12 men of good character and high intellectual powers, for high Treason or as Earl Stanhope in the House of Lords truly said 'of a Suspicion of a suspicion of high Treason'. They never doubted that they could make out a case of constructive Treason, to which a Jury would say guilty and by the force of their verdict change the government to a despotism—they made a prescription list to commence with, in which among a very large number of others, was it is understood, I believe on sufficient evidence, the name of the present Earl Grey and eighty others— they failed—they caused a jury to be occupied during nine successive days in the trial of the worthy, exemplary man Thomas Hardy—the whole force in every way of the Government was employed for a conviction—Law officers conducted proceedings as infamous as any at the worst periods of our history,—the late Lord Eldon as Atty General led the bar—infamous as are many so called legal proceedings to be found in our history and in the State trials, there is not one, which, when the whole circumstances of the case are considered, including the different states of society can be equalled in infamy with the proceedings of 1794—the good man, the quiet harmless inoffensive man, who may be said never to have made an enemy and who certainly never contemplated the doing a wrong to any one was, after a trial which lasted nine days, acquitted. But the men whose thirst of domination could not be assuaged—went on, they brought John Horne Tooke to the bar, his trial lasted six days, but he also was acquitted—still the evil spirit could not be calmed, it brought John Thelwall also to the bar, his trial lasted four days, but he too was acquitted—the remaining nine were arraigned and discharged.

Tyranny was thus foiled and this Society continued its steady honest businesslike cause and after some time increased rapidly—the foul conspiracy then went to work in another way, and the Treason and Sedition Bills of Pitt and Grenville after much opposition both within and without the Houses of Parliament were passed into laws on the 18 Dec. 1795—by these the liberty of the helpless people was greatly circumscribed, and new fangled treasons were enacted—(I was at this time one of the General Committee when in our great committee room the delegates and sub delegates amounted to 120 persons).

Infamous as these laws were, they were popular measures—the people— aye, the mass of the shopkeepers and working people, may be said to have approved them, without understanding them—such was their terror of the French Regicides and democrats—such the fear that 'the Throne and the Altar' would be destroyed and that we should be 'deprived of our holy religion'—that had the knowledge of the Grand Conspiracy been equal to their desires, they might have converted the government into any thing they wished for the advantage of themselves.

All unauthorised societies were limited in number to fifty persons and this it was concluded would destroy the London Corresponding Society— but not so—the good and true and sensible men who at that time had been appointed to conduct it were neither to be dismayed nor in the least to be put from their purpose, they reorganised the Society anew and it went on —the necessary changes were made, as the Bills became law and tyranny was again defeated, there was no abandonment of purpose, no shrinking in any way—no lowering of tone—no dissention—no one who reads their publications, will say there was the least difference in tone—in no instance could the Atty General the diabolus regis, fix his crooked talons in them— and in those days of persecution, no ex officio was filed, no bills preferred against them for libel—this could not be borne and therefore in 1798 about one hundred men were seized, as smaller numbers were before them, the Habeas Corpus act was suspended as it had before been, the men were committed by the King's Cabinet Ministers to various Gaols and most of them subjected to penitentiary discipline—no legal charge was ever made against any one of them—green bags were presented to both houses of Parliament, containing reports so false, calumnious and altogether infamous as cannot now be believed by any one not intimately acquainted with the circumstances—a new act of parliament was passed to put down all political societies and among these the London Corresponding Society was put down by name and by special enactments.

Why was all this uneasiness? Why did the grand conspiracy fear its existence?—solely because the character of the society was not publicly demonstrative—it did hold public open air meetings, but these excepting two, were only when the conspiracy was legislating against them—they held occasional meetings, (not many) in Taverns, and each of these was called for by some special proceedings of the conspiracy—the character of the Society was good teaching—'Universal Suffrage and Annual Parliaments' were what is usually called its principles—but its especial and never for one moment suspended purpose, was to form a 'Political Public' and continually to increase its number—this made it useful—this made it feared, and its business character made its existence continuous—hence it became unbearable to the grand Conspiracy and hence its extinction.

There had been many Political Clubs and Societies—and many meetings of delegates prior to the existence of the London Corresponding Society. The Six points of the Charter (now so called) were all decided upon as things necessary to good government in April 1780—publicly by the sub committee of Westminster—the six volumes of political papers published by the Rev. C. Wyvill—the 'proceedings of the Society for Constitutional Information'—the writings of Major Cartwright and others, all shew, the desire there was among well informed men from 1780 to 1792 for a 'full and fair representation of the people in Parliament' the proceedings of the many societies that existed in common with the London Corresponding Society, from 1792 to 1798 shew the same desire—the many which have existed since, do the same. In 1836 the Working mans [sic] Association was commenced—this was the first association which can fairly be said to have consisted solely of working men, that proceeded on system—it went on well, it spread its influence in all directions and numerous societies were formed under the names of Working men's Associations—Radical Associations and Universal Suffrage Associations, but it and all of them partook too much of a mere club—this was unavoidable, it and they wanted means, i.e. money in sufficient quantities to become business associations—for its means, it did wonders—when, in 1838 the currency men of Birmingham, disappointed and vexed by their scheme being rejected by government, commenced an agitation for Universal Suffrage, which gradually spread out, so as to include the ballot and short parliaments—and then to the six points of the Charter the currency plan being at the bottom of all—amongst them were men of wealth and influence, they laid down a large plan, acted with great vigour and little judgment—the result was—the farrago of nonsense as a whole, called the 'National Petition'—the nonsensical and mischievous abortion, called the 'General Convention' and the 'National Rent'—their influence and their vigour, carried the whole body of the working men who were politically associated along with them and amalgamated them into one mass of most deplorable folly, every rational expectation was pushed aside, the Birmingham men were as certain as absurdity could make them, that their scheme of currency would be adopted by government—the working people became quite as certain that the Charter would be the law of the land in a few months, and folly and rashness unequalled was exhibited. All these persons thought as most of the politically associated working men still do, that—noise and clamour, threats, menaces and denunciations will operate upon the government, so as to produce fear in sufficient quantity to insure the adoption of the Charter—they have yet to learn that these notions and proceedings contain no one element of power—that the Government as mere matter of course will, as every Government must, hold people very cheap who mistake such matters, as have been mentioned, for power—in fact, in their political capacity, they have no power whatever, and can of themselves carry no useful political change into effect. They have proved not only as a body but as individuals without one solitary exception that they have not a glimpse of their own, much less of the actual condition or relation of the several portions of society, who must concur, before any great organic change can be even put in progress—proof so demonstrable and so demonstrated to those capable of seeing the whole case, never before was given—it lies in the general refusal to assist in procuring the repeal of the food laws, and especially in the manner in which they have shewn their determination to do wrong from want of knowing how to do right. In their abuse of the Corn Law repealers—in the scandalous epithets they have showered upon them and the middle class as a body and as individuals, which is still but too prevalent—their infamous conduct at many public meetings, all founded on the absurd notion that the Charter could be and can be obtained by themselves alone, and that when obtained they may do as they will. This is no exaggeration, in the least—there is not one speaker, one writer among them, who untill [sic] very lately has not labored [sic] to make the division between the working people and the middle class people, (and more especially they who advocate the repeal of the Corn Laws) as wide as possible—I speak from facts—I have copies of every publication put forth by or for them, and I can shew, that—each and all, has and have been active in the (to themselves and every body else) bad work—they act from feeling, not from reason, lamentable it is, that it should be so, but so it is— they do not see, they cannot see, that the repeal of the food laws must precede the enactment of the Charter—they believe to a man that the Reform bill was a matter of no importance—they do not perceive that the passing of that Bill was a most useful demonstration of popular opinion, they suppose too, that it was carried by the clamour of the working people —few indeed, in any rank, seem to understand the matter—the agitation among the working people was necessary—the exertions of all were necessary, but even these exertions would not alone have prevented the return to power of the Duke of Wellington on the 18th April 1832—it was the quiet operation of the tradesmen and others of London with other places on their bankers, and the fear that the same process would as it was about to be put into practice on the saving banks which caused the return of Earl Grey and his colleagues—this then was an operation of the people upon the aristocracy—upon the grand conspiracy against the people—it was the first of the kind—it was No. 1 and No. 2 must be the repeal of the Corn laws—the aristocracy lost no power over the House of Commons by the Reform bill, it was only changed—the change operated against them for a time, but it was not difficult to foresee how it would act in their favour, when the means of using the power it gave them should be understood— this was foreseen and clearly explained.

The aristocracy feel however that though their power over the House of Commons remains to them, they have suffered greatly in what is to them and to us, matter of great moment—they have lost consequence—and they know well that it is consequence, in a popular sense, which alone supports them as a class and that if it was wholly gone they would cease to exist.

This they know well and they will therefore make a stand—a brave one against No. 2—the loss when it must come, will not be like No. 1, but a loss in geometrical progression whose ratio is a high one—they know well too that whatever they lose in this respect can never be recovered—they have another cause too for resistance of smaller moment but yet a powerful one —loss of income—all the agitation—noise etc.—that can be made, will weigh but little with the grand conspiracy, they know that these alone, however general they may be, can effect nothing that they need care for, but the most shrewd and least proud, conceited or ignorant among them are apprehensive that the efforts making for a repeal of the Corn Laws, may lead to an operation like that of 1832—and to this, it should be our purpose to bring it—to this it will probably be brought and when the time has come, that it can be put in practise [sic] ten days will suffice—to compel an assurance of the total repeal of the food laws.

Look at the whole matter, look at it in all its bearings, and see, as you may, that this may be accomplished, without the Chartists, while they alone, can never have the least chance of carrying the Charter, neither numbers nor any thing which they can do, could in any conceivable case, carry the Charter.

Had the Chartists only kept aloof, and abstained from foolishly alarming the Middle Class, it is probable, that the progress of the repeal of the Corn laws, would be nearer than it is—but it is now well upon its legs, has learned to walk and is beginning to run.

The repeal of the Corn laws must precede the enactment of the Charter. It is now most extensively acknowledged by men of all castes, religious, moral and political, that to tax the people's food, to waste a large portion of the tax raised that the remaining portion may be pocketed by a comparatively small number of men, of whom, almost all are convinced are of no real use to society, is, not only grievous injustice, but practical and extensive robbery of all—more than this too has become known and the knowledge is spreading daily, that the food laws prevent the expansion of trade, commerce, and manufactures—throw out, and keep out of employment, thousands upon thousands of honest well disposed people, at the same time, that it reduces their wages—all this has been urged ever since 1814 when the first attempt at the atrocious laws was mooted to the present moment, but it has only been within the last two years that public attention could be drawn to the facts, but happily as they came to be understood, every one, not actually interested in the evil, who dare do so, will raise his voice against them—this has been brought about by the increase of the evil to an extent which has made it conspicuous to the blindest eyes—the dullest understand the moment it is pointed out or exhibited.

Now then ask yourself, lay this paper before any man, not resolved that he will resist evidence however plainly and condensely stated, and ask him —can these things be said, truly said of the Charter? It stands out, a bold truth, some day to be acknowledged generally, but that is all that it can be for a long time to come—men must be much more rational—much wiser than they are, before they will be able to see what good government consists of, before they will go for the Charter, on the only grounds on which it can ever be obtained—namely—a sound act of justice. It never can be carried on the ground on which it was gravely put at a large meeting at Birmingham and has been mooted ever since—namely 'a Bread & Cheese Question'.

This brings me to our present question. 'What should be done in agitating for the Charter?' The case seems clear, the road one, and one only— and a good, solid, level, broad road it is.

I have shewn that all the parliamentary reform associations, one only excepted were mere clubs, meeting, now and then, to talk, to print an address, to promote a petition and to die away.

The steps to be taken should be the establishment of one association in London, which should have an office conducted by an able, active, energetic but discreet man—who should have as many clerks, as he might find necessary.

He to be responsible to a business committee of the association—the office being open daily would be a central place, where might be efficiently transacted all the requisite business—one material part of which would be an active carefully conducted correspondence with thousands of individuals, and the consequent establishment of hundreds of similar associations—the proceedings of every one of which should be made known, weekly, through a common medium, which can as easily as legally be accomplished— if there be a desire for such associations—in other words, if there really be a desire for such an extensive reform in the commons House of Parliament.

To these societies every body generally—nobody particularly should be requested to become a member.

The purpose of all should be, by every means which could be used, to convince every one, that good government consists in all having the right of voting, secured, as its exercise must be, by certain other particulars.

I am satisfied that no other plan can be efficient.

This would be move No. 3—a move of infinitely more importance than all other moves put together.

Move No. 2 will be a sacrifice of dignity, of revenue to some extent, to the aristocracy—Move No. 3 is annihilation to them, it will be a long time before the people necessary to make the change will concur in it—the aristocracy will make an ultimate stand against it & fight it out.

Much has been written and said of our admirable government of checks —yet we never had a government of checks—our government can never be a government of checks—No man can shew that in any one case since the revolution of 1688 it has been a government of checks—It has all along been a grand conspiracy against the people and whenever the house of Commons has made a stand, it has always been in consequence of a dispute between the members of the Aristocracy—and the question has always been which of the disputing parties shall for a time, be dominant.

Lord Grey said he would stand by his order. Lord John Russell said he would oppose whatever measure should be proposed which had a tendency to bring the house of Commons into collision with the House of Lords— He might as truly have said 'You are the tools of the Aristocracy—the would be refractory members must and shall submit'. There is and there will be a majority in this house, who do and will make common cause with the aristocracy and with them compose a grand conspiracy against the nation. Is not this so? has it not always been so—will it not continue to be so, untill the people do really chuse the members of the House of Commons? and when they do, will the house be talked to in this way? will they act as they have and do still act? will they not be in collision with the House of Lords? One only answer can be given—they will, and then what? aye that is the question—who is to give way?—the Commons backed by the people? not they—the Lords? not they—see the beautiful system of checks—things are then brought to a stand still? not they—will the Commons—will the people be stultified? not they—what then? why, the Commons will vote the Lords useless, the people will support them—the army will abandon or shoot them—and there goes the beautiful system of checks. Let no man deceive himself, there can be no checking of a representative body by a body which represents nobody but appears personally to do its own business against the representative body—no all the power must be with the Aristocracy or none—their is no medium, there can be none— Yet our silly chartists have persuaded themselves to believe most firmly, that the mere apprehension, excited by their talk and nothing else, will induce these Aristocrats to give them the Charter—oh no—the training which must lead to this, has not yet commenced.

And this leads to the next question—has the time come when the training can be commenced? I reply, I do not know, but I am willing to try what can be done, upon the plan, before stated.

I will waste no time in merely meeting to be useless. The first thing to be agreed to, is, what do we mean by Reform of Parliament? I reply—the six points of the Charter—but I object to the use of the word 'Charter'—1st as an inappropriate expression for Acts of Parliament—but 2nd and mainly— as a word brought into disrepute and calculated to impede, if not, to prevent all progress.

Next I object to 'Universal Suffrage' for the 2nd reason—and I would not push aside the means of propagating sound knowledge likely to lead to important results by insisting upon 'Annual Parliaments'. Here then is what I mean and what was agreed to by those, who signed the book which contains the project, only expressed in a more concise manner.

Metropolitan Parliamentary Reform Association


1 To obtain for every man of the age of 21 years the right of voting for a representative in the House of Commons.

2 To equalize the number of voters for each such representative.

3 To shorten the duration of Parliament.


Each man shall be registered in some one polling district and no more. To secure to each man this important right it is necessary

1 That each man whether he be the occupier of a whole house or of only some part of a house as a lodger or is a servant or an inmate in any house, who has been rated to some parochial or corporation rate or tax for 6 months, shall be put upon the district voting register in which he resides and upon payment of the voting rate shall receive his polling card.

2 That each man whether he be the occupier of a whole house or of only some part of a house as a lodger or a servant or inmate in any house if he be not rated as before mentioned, may cause himself to be rated to the voting rate and when he has been rated for 6 months and has paid his rate he shall receive his voting card.

N.B. No fee shall be taken, nor no more money shall be levied than is sufficient for the payment of the election expences [sic] in each district.

3 That the country be divided into as many polling districts as there may be representatives in the House of Commons.

4 That the duration of parliament may be shorter but shall not be longer than 3 years.

5 The day of election and of dissolution of parliament to be certain and unalterable by the will of any person or persons.

6 That every man who is eligible to vote, shall be eligible as a representative.

7 That the right of voting be exercised secretly by way of ballot.

8 That each representative be paid for his attendance in the House of Commons.


121. [Add. Ms. 27810, ff. 97-8]

Dear Harrison

Monday 21 Feb. 1842

I sent you a note written yesterday—this may be considered a continuation.

It seems to me that the Committee should make a written report to the Club, to be entered upon their minutes.

It also seems to me that it should be somewhat after the following form.

Your Committee appointed on the (30 Jan.) for the purpose of etc. etc. Report

That having taken the whole matter into their consideration are of opinion that the intention of the Club will be best carried into effect by adopting a plan sometime since proposed and signed by a number of well judging persons. In this plan all the points of the Charter so called are preserved, excepting only that the duration of Parliament is not limited to one year, but cannot exceed three years.

In the plan recommended for adoption by the Club, certain words which have become obnoxious to great numbers of persons are carefully and judiciously avoided—as—

'Universal Suffrage' a term very vague in itself, but well understood to mean the right of voting for members of Parliament by every man in the Nation.

'Charter' a word which in its usual acceptation has no application for the purpose for which it is used.

'Household Suffrage' words which have been used in a very vague manner, and of which the meaning has never been clearly defined.

The words 'Universal Suffrage' and 'Charter' and the appellation to those who support the 'Charter' of 'Chartists' have been used by nearly all, if not every Chartist Association and at every public meeting of those, denominating themselves Chartists, not only in a vague obnoxious manner, but as words of fearful import, which have as they were intended they should driven away vast numbers of the best informed and most useful members of the community.

Under the name of Chartist well meaning inconsiderate men and other misled men have in very many cases, all over the country from the extreme west to the extreme east and from Brighton in the south to nearly the extreme north of Scotland, denounced every man who is not a working man, applied to him, the grossest epithets and most atrocious intentions and conduct, have threatened them with vengeance and in some places, have proposed plans for the seizure and division of their property—numbers of misled men and others of bad character, under the self denomination of Chartists have gone from place to place and in the most violent manner disturbed and dispersed meetings of various kinds.

That these and other unwarrantable acts—and the countenance and support given to such conduct from time to time by every periodical publication favorable to Chartism—and by every Chartist Association— have as they could not fail to do—and as in most cases they were intended to do, caused the most fearful apprehensions of mischief among the middle classes—whom it would therefore be utterly unreasonable to expect would concur in any plan of reform which retained either of the words Universal Suffrage or Charter.

Every observing, every reasoning man, understands the association of ideas, which certain words give rise to, and no one who has any considerable knowledge of mankind would expect to succeed in any project headed with words, which by their association excited apprehension of evil, and it has in the opinion of your Committee become necessary that in proposing a scheme of suffrage as extensive as are the men of the United Kingdom, the words objected to should be omitted, the more especially as it will be seen that neither of them are at all necessary for the promotion of the most extensive representation of the people in parliament.

Your Committee object to the words Household Suffrage since under any honest definition of the words—they would exclude a large majority of the men of these kingdoms—and because they have become reasonably obnoxious to the political portion of the working people and defraud them of what they justly believe would of all things most contribute to their well being—namely, the power to vote for representatives in parliament.

Your Committee are of opinion that they cannot honestly perform the duty with which they have been charged, by suppressing or in any way paltering with matters of such serious importance to many millions of people—they are confident that these opinions will be countenanced by the Club, and they fully expect concurrence in the opinion they entertain that the reformers of this country have made sufficient progress in correct thinking to hear the truth and to act upon it, however its announcement may be obnoxious to many—they are not in a condition to carry out any extensive plan of reform or to support (if they possessed it) any system of government which should deserve the appellation of 'good government'.

Your Committee have had laid before them a plan of a permanent association for promoting and maintaining the most extensive reform in the Commons House of Parliament.

For the plan, see the close of Report.

Your Committee recommend the adoption of the plan and that as many of your members as chuse shall sign it, and assist to carry it into practise [sic].

Your Committee have been informed, that it was, and is the intention of the persons whose names are attached to the plan, that one general association should be formed in London.

That rooms as offices for business, should be taken, a comprehensive yet precise system of business be adopted and a well qualified man of punctual business habits be placed at the head of it, with power to engage from day to day, such assistance as may be found necessary to carry on the concerns of the association with precision & dispatch.

That correspondence should be carried on with individuals (not with associations) all over the kingdom, that similar associations should be formed in as many places as possible without delay and increased from time to time.

That the terms on which members may be admitted into associations and the amount of their contributions shall be settled by each association for itself in accordance with the circumstances of each particular case.

That in as much as the matter is of national importance it shall be conducted with the consideration so serious a matter deserves and requires.

That it will not therefore enter into any dispute with any other body whatever, nor with any other individuals, neither will it indulge in imputation or fault finding with any body of men, who may in any manner intend to promote the well being of their fellow men however much they may think the parties mistaken or whatever may be their conduct towards this association or any of its members—but believing their cause to be just, will leave to time and the good understanding of their fellow men to decide upon the conduct of the association—confident that if they act honestly, discreetly and free from all sinister intention, they will progress continually and ultimately succeed in the attainment of their object.

N.B. Means can be adopted to have a weekly communication of what passes in all the associations—by means of a stamped paper which shall not come under the claws of the Lawyers.

P.S. It strikes me (Harrison) that if any thing is published by the Radical Club that it should appear at once as proceeding from the Club without reference to any individual and if therefore the Committee on tuesday determine so, and then call a meeting of the Club—that any paper laid before them should be considered as laid upon the table by an indifferent person.

I am sure it will produce more effect in this way than in any other.

I hope to have some remarks in writing from all who may read the rough drafts.

Hume was here today during two hours—he is most anxious to be doing and he will be at the Club meeting.

Black was here and Hume was told some truths, which he did not like to hear, but he promised to conform. He however without understanding the scope of any argument will be for making alteration in parts, but this he shall not do in any paper of mine—if he will put his propositions on paper, I will give them all the consideration of which I am capable, as I will those of any one else—you, at least will give me credit for not being very fastidious about words nor inapt to receive suggestions and to work them out.

If you determine to print, I suppose the proceeding will be thus

The Committee will decide on some course and agree to recommend it to a meeting to be called of the Club—the Club will decide as to what it will do & if it agrees to print, then the papers will be sent to me for revision and the Committee be ordered to see them printed—probably in octavo and not exceeding one sheet of 16 pages.

(Thanks for your note) Yrs truly Francis Place

122. [Add. Ms. 27810, f. 100]

Dear Place Croydon 21 Feb'y 1842

Dr Black gave me yr paper no. 4 today which I have read carefully & entirely approve. I suppose there is a no. 2 & 3 which I have not yet seen. I will send no. 4 to Mr Harrison & tomorrow the Committee meet at my counting house when the matter is [to] be fully discussed.

I think the present time most peculiarly favourable to carry out such a plan as you propose—it will meet the views of all honest Chartists & neutralise the influence & power of such men as Feargus O'Connor who must either join in or make himself comparatively a cypher—it will also induce them to join us in our agitation for the repeal of the Bread Tax & convince them of the sincerity of our intentions.

If a number of our Radical Club will sign such a document I think we should advertise it & the names in the newspapers (communicating it to Sturge & S. Crawford & obtain their co-operation with us) & if funds can be raised (& without that we can do nothing) we should forthwith go to work—either Lovett or the Editor of the Nonconformist would make capital managers, the latter especially who is a capital & effective writer, much more so than Lovett. I have most fears upon the subject of funds— what hopes have you upon that point.

I was, as you were, very much pleased with the unity & enthusiasm of the Conference they were the most glorious public meetings I ever witnessed & I feel a proud satisfaction in the honour conferred upon me of presiding in such an assembly.

You do not say how you are. I hope better & wish you were able to be at our Committee—but you must run no risks—we can at this juncture especially ill afford to lose you & such as you.

Yours dear Place
ever most sincerely
P. A. Taylor

123. [Add. Ms. 27810, f. 106]

Dear Place

I have seen Taylor who tells me he has written you chiefly on the subject of Black and his qualifications as Sec'y—he says he shall be guided entirely by your opinion (which he knows will be an honest one) as to his being the most fit—the only other party of whom he has thought was Milne the editor of the Nonconformist. Taylor has some recollections of Blacks neglects etc. more especially in the Craven St Corn law Soc'y, and speaking of this it occurs to me that Col. Thompson on Monday at the Strand read a letter which he had rec'd from Wood a printer for work done in 1836-7 for that defunct soc'y but that the Col. having been Chairman at some one meeting he calls upon him to get the amount for him £9. Of course the Committee all disclaim it—but I told the Col. that I thought he had better speak to you about it—& to let us subscribe rather than let the papers charge us with such arrears—I said I would pay £1—but if so I shall not subscribe this year to our society & I shall give this as the reason—now if Dr Black had to do with this affair at first & never brought it forward as also the former business of the Newspaper Stamp arrear which some of us were called upon last year to pay. I confess it augurs ill for future management but you are the best judge & you will observe that I do not connect Black with these matters having only some faint recollection of his having to do with them.

I have written to Mr Hume briefly explaining what we have done. Taylor thinks he should take the Chair—get the report rec'd & adopted & prepare a resolution recommending an association etc. which may be printed & that names be obtained forthwith. I wish it could be fine enough on Monday for you to be with us.

Yrs etc.
S. Harrison

N.B. Roebuck is in the country & sends an excuse. 3 March 1842

124. [Add. Ms. 27810, ff. 104-5]

Dear Taylor Brompton March 3 1842

Black is not the man which if I could command the manufacturer of men I would have made for me, but under circumstances I think he is by far the best man we are at all likely to procure. He has more means for the purpose than any one else can have—and he has a very ardent desire to prove that he has the precise habits necessary for the office.

When the Anti Corn Law association was formed it was impossible to lay down precise rules for conducting the business—and when the time came it was impossible to carry them into practice and the association has done less in every department than it would have done had we started with a good organization and with money.

If we start at all in the Reform association we shall have both—since unless we have both, neither you nor Harrison—nor I—will go on with it.

And 1st as to money—an effort must be made to raise £500.

2nd In the mean time an organisation for business can be perfected. It will be our fault if it be allowed to be either deviated from or neglected in any particular.

3 By the time money has been obtained if it can be obtained we shall be ready to call the subscribers together to appoint

i. a business committee for a year

ii. The Business committee to adopt the plan of business.

iii. To appoint a secretary.

If we can proceed thus far we shall be firmly on our legs—I concur with you in thinking that town after town will come in rapidly. If it be not so, then we shall have learned what cannot be otherwise known—that the time has not yet arrived when men are either wise enough to understand their own position or to anticipate the probability of the impending evils—and we must wait let whatever may happen.

If they are wise enough to comprehend their position then we shall get a float and go right ahead.

Yours truly
Francis Place

125. [Add. Ms. 27810, ff. 108-9]

Dear Harrison Saturday evening 5 Mar. 1842

I return the so called report you left with me; here are my remarks upon it.

I object to it in toto, as one of these conventional, compromising proceedings, which drivvles [sic] down good purposes to nothing.

How stands the matter? Thus.

1 I drew a draft of a report—and gave the reasons why I thought it should be somewhat of the kind I had made it.

2 This draft was objected to as containing references not needed, and because it reasoned on circumstances which could well be omitted.

3 It was therefore cut down in committee, and written instructions were sent to me for another, omitting the objectionable matter.

4 I drew another strictly conforming to the instructions of the committee

5 This has been laid aside altogether, and another written which has all the vices and objections of the first draft, put into the worst possible form.

This is I believe a correct account of the proceedings.

The Report I drew was for the purpose of having upon our Minute Book, an entry which, under any circumstances, all could refer to as a text of our plain honest proceedings.

When it was objected to by the committee, I gave it up at once. This I should not have done, had it been written by any one but myself, and I immediately conformed to the directions of the committee and drew another.

This second draft you informed me was approved of by Taylor.

Without any cause assigned this has been put aside, the directions of the committee evaded, and all the objections made to the first report reinstated, and in the worst possible form.

In paragraph 1 it says, the intention of the Club will be best carried into effect by the formation of a distinct association etc. This is equivocal—does it mean by the Club—or by someby [sic] else? If it is intended that the new society should be formed by others, then it should have said so.

Then comes a list of 6 objects. It seems to me to be absurd to put them as they are here put. As I put them, they are in the words of a former agreement which, if any thing is done, MUST be retained. The wording in Black's book was the work of three months consultation and discussion and were the only words to which those who signed them, would consent to put their names. They agreed that they should not be again changed, lest we should have to go through all the disputing again. In Black's book as consenting thereto are the names of Hume, Harrison, Travers, Black, Place, Roebuck, Molesworth, Leader, Philps, Prout, Epps, Rainford, Field, all members of the Club, and thus more members of the Club have signed the plan than will probably attend on Monday at the dinner.

Paragraph 2 avoids the only reason why the words which have become obnoxious notwithstanding the written obstructions of the committee to me, are retained. They are essential, and should not be omitted.

Paragraph 3 It is as absurd as unbecoming to say—'that we respect those who entertain a prepossesion [sic] in favour of the Charter'. Not one of us does so. What does any one of us know of any of the body of Chartists, excepting as individuals and these but few—but as we know them by their public acts. And not one of us who is acquainted with their public acts, can respect those whose conduct has been so reprehensible as theirs has been in almost all cases, not to say as might of many—very many of them be said—that they are atrocious.

Were this paragraph to become public the noisy, violent, unprincipled O'Connorites would treat it and us as we should deserve. They would call us, in the plainest terms—'lying imposters', and caution their followers to have nothing to do with the 'ten more humbugs'.

The words which compose the latter part of the paragraph are devoid of sense—they have no meaning or I am too stupid to find any.

Paragraph 4 I for one can say I have no fear, because I shall not be frightened nor even surprised at any thing that may happen. But this I can also say, without much or any chance of making a mistake, that if the riotous Chartists, and these are all, or nearly all who have for many months past shewn themselves in public meetings, will—if ever they have the opportunity, make fearful work enough. (Vide Cooper & Markham at Leicester)

Paragraph 5 is inconsequent.

'If the Chartists have been violent.' 'The Commons have been negligent.'

Whence we are left to conclude that 'two blacks make a white'—Should we write thus?

Paragraph 6 The reference to the Corn Law League is out of place, is see sawing. The inference that they have effected no beneficial change is in bad taste—and equivocal. They have effected some, I should say a considerable change—and a very beneficial one, they have made a difficult subject plain, and caused many thousands of people to whom it was obnoxious to entertain it and act upon their convictions. This is the whole, that they could do, and the forerunner of great good. The paragraph is useless, unless it be to shew cause to the Chartists why the League should be repudiated.

Paragraph 10 I—'doubt'—very much—the very best that we can do, by the most perfect organization will be an experiment, to ascertain how far the sort of people who must take the lead before any thing can be accomplished, are disposed to concur, and act together—if they in considerable numbers will act on one simple plan, for some time steadily—all who are worth having of the honest working people will fall in.

Of any argument to work well our committee is a very bad specimen.

I believe—after much serious thinking & conversing with all sorts of people, especially Chartists—and reading at great cost of time, almost every thing that has been published on the movements of the people during the last five years—that even the doing as much may remove—'doubt', can be done in no way but that which is contained in Black's book.

The latter part of this paragraph has no meaning.

Paragraph 11 is liable to the charge of ambiguity, and as being an attempt at deception. If the members of the Club—who have not already signed Black's book are prepared to sign that book—why not say the project agreed to by many members and other persons who are willing to assist in carrying the said plan into effect.

The whole report seems to me to be a sad falling away from any thing like a steady purpose, and utterly incapable of being made useful.


126. [Add. Ms. 27810, f. 25]

Metropolitan Parliamentary Reform Association,
Office, No 9 John Street, Adelphi, London,

Sir, 1842

We take the liberty to enclose a prospectus and an address by which you will perceive the utility of our proceedings.

The Association was projected more than a year ago, but its establishment was delayed as it was thought the time was not come when it could be proposed with the success which circumstances now promise.

Amongst its most active supporters are Henry Warburton, Esq., Joseph Hume Esq. M.P., John Temple Leader Esq. M.P., William Williams Esq. M.P., Howard Elphinstone Esq.M.P., John Bowring Esq.M.P., John Marshall Esq., Swynfen Jervis Esq., Thomas Potter, Jun. Esq., Messrs. John Travers, Peter Alfred Taylor, Thomas Prout, William Ellis, Francis Place, William Henry Ashurst, Dr John Epps, Samuel Harrison, Richard Taylor.

The plan of the Association while it includes every reformer who desires 'Complete Suffrage' for the people, carefully avoids all the usual causes of ill will and contention amongst reformers.

It will neither take offence at the proceedings of others, not enter into disputes with any, however much its organization or proceedings may be impugned.

The Association to be as eminently useful as it is hoped it will be must make its proceedings as generally known as possible, and inasmuch as what concerns all should have the countenance and support of all. We respectfully apply to you to aid in the good work, by promoting as far as you can, the establishment of similar associations, and by inducing other persons to assist in the same way.

We invite correspondence with individuals, and shall be much obliged by your supplying us with the names of as many persons as possible who may seem to you likely to attend to applications like this now made to you.

All enquiries respecting the establishment of similar associations and the laws relating thereto will be prompty answered.

By order of the Committee

P. A. Taylor
J. Robts Black


  • 1. For text see Life and struggles of William Lovett, 202-7.