Friday, 2 March 2012

William Lovett: author of the People's Charter

William Lovett was without doubt the Father of the People’s Charter. He had been a founder member of the London Working Men’s Association, and of radical bodies before that, and was a natural choice to draft its political platform.
The third in our series of profiles and portraits of delegates to the General Convention of the Industrious Classes – otherwise known as the First Chartist Convention – offers a fairly detailed account of his life up to 1839, and shortly before his arrest and imprisonment for sedition.
Both words and text are taken from Lovett’s own newspaper, The Charter. In all, there were 12 such profiles, all of which will be added to Chartist Ancestors in due course. The page on William Lovett can be seen here.
Nominally, the Charter was the work of 12 men – six drawn from the ranks of the London Working Men’s Association, and six sympathetic MPs. The Charter, and its famous six points, were, however, almost entirely the work of Lovett – albeit based on many previous radical programmes.
It is important to distinguish the Charter and the petitions which supported it. The first was a draft parliamentary bill extending the franchise to all working men; and the petitions raised numerous grievances, many of which, they contended, could be solved by enacting the Charter.
And while the Charter was the work of the London Working Men’s Association, the first petition originated with the Birmingham Political Union. It was the marriage of these two things and the building of a mass platform (that is, popular support) that first made Chartism unique.