Friday, 2 March 2012

William Lovett born 8 May 1800

Chartist anniversaries fall thick and fast in May. On 7 May 1839, the first Chartist petition was presented to Parliament, and today is the birthday of William Lovett, the man who wrote the text of the People’s Charter and served as secretary to the First Chartist Convention of 1839.

Lovett was born at Newlyn near Penzance. His father died at sea before William was born, so he was brought up by his mother, aunt and grandmother in a strict Methodist household. Moving to London in 1821 if not earlier, he became active in radical politics.

Lovett played a part in early trade unionism, the co-operative stores movement and other causes, refused to serve in the militia – at some personal cost – and joined the National Union of the Working Classes.
It was on his initiative that the London Working Men’s Association was founded in 1836 and it was this body from which the Charter emerged.

In truth, there was nothing new about the Six Points, all of which had long been part of the radical canon. Neither did Lovett or the LWMA organise the famous petition to Parliament (this originated with the Birmingham Political Union).

And, had the organisation of Chartism been left to Lovett and his LWMA comrades, it is likely that it would scarcely merit a footnote in the history books. They were unable even to print copies in time for its launch.

But Lovett was a man of great principle, who went to prison for his Chartist activities and played an honourable if not always effective part in the radical politics of the day. Lovett died on 8 August 1877, and is buried in Highgate Cemetery.

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