Friday, 2 March 2012

Chartism's high tide - 2 May 1842

On 2 May 1842, the second of the three great national Chartist petitions demanding the Six Points was presented to Parliament.

As I have pointed out before, there were in fact six petitions in all, but those of 1839, 1842 and 1848 were the three that Chartism is remembered for, and there is good reason to draw a veil over the final post-1848 attempts to mobilise popular opinion.

In May 1842, however, Chartism was at its peak. The second petition ran to 3,315,752 names, was six miles long and weighed in at a massive six hundredweight (or 305kg).

The petition was carried to the Houses of Parliament on the shoulders of 16 trade union delegates, and was so large that the doors to the House of Commons had to be dismantled for it to enter the chamber.

Thomas SlingsbyDuncombe, the great radical MP and friend of the Chartist movement presented the petition. But his motion for the petitioners to be heard at the bar of the House was defeated by 287 votes to just 49.

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