The Great Meeting of Scottish Delegates which took place in Glasgow from 14 to 16 August 1839 marked a turning point in Chartist organisation.
A page on the events leading up to it, and a list of the names of delegates has now been added to Chartist Ancestors.
The first of the three great Chartist petitions had been rejected by the House of Commons on 12 July 1839, when by a margin of 235 to 46 MPs voted against even considering the grievances it raised. In response, the Chartist National Convention, now meeting in Birmingham, initially called for a “sacred month” (or general strike) to force Parliament to see sense.
It became clear, however, that the Chartists lacked both the support and the organisation in the country to make such a strike effective – not least in Scotland, where many smaller Chartist organisations were becoming concerned at the direction their leaders were taking.
With the leadership of the Edinburgh Chartists losing their grip on the wider Scottish movement, the Glasgow Chartists now came to the fore and, having won the support of other groups throughout Scotland to do so, organised a Scottish delegate conference.
The Great Meeting of Scottish Delegates, as it was called, both created a national organisation capable of directing Chartism for the first time, and cemented the power of the Glasgow Chartists by electing a central committee almost entirely drawn from the town.
Importantly, this precedent would inspire Feargus O’Connor, who attended as delegate from the Chartist Convention, and his supporters to reorganise Chartism by setting up the National Charter Association in July 1840
The Chartist Ancestors page on the conference lists delegates to the meeting and names those chosen to serve on the central committee.
See also Scottish Chartism on the Map.