Why Did Chartism Fail?

1648 words 7 pages
Why did Chartism Fail? * Chartism failed because of economic factors – it was simply a ‘knife and fork question’ * Chartism failed because of the inherent weakness of the movement and internal divisions within the movement * Chartism did not really fail in the truest sense of the word – it was defeated by the state
Economic Factors
Some historians have argued that improving economic conditions ensured the Chartist movement faded after 1848 – there had been worsening economic conditions in the period after 1837 which gave rise to the chartist movement. After this period, the lessening economic instability, growing prosperity and rise in living standards after 1848 removed basis for widespread discontent. In economic
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Role of State
How did the State deal with Chartist threat? 1. Coercive Power - the conventional idea that the state used ‘coercive power’ (John Saville 1990) to suppress the movement. Successive British governments dealt with Chartists in same repressive way in which they had responded to earlier waves of popular radical protest. 2. Reforms – Reforms introduced by Peel’s Conservative Govt. between 1841-46 weakened Chartism
Chartist movement did not simply fail – defeated by government’s combination of repression and reform. * Repression
Repression was a recurrent theme – 20 chartists were firstly killed during Newport Rising of Nov. 1839 and over 500 Chartists, including leading figures such as Lovett and O’Conner were imprisoned during June 1839-June 1840. Peel’s govt. also ordered large numbers of troops and special constables to restore order during Plug Plot. Following end of strikes, over 1,500 workers were arrested and imprisonment and transportation followed. In April 1848, Chartists who had gathered on Kennington Common meeting were confronted by 7,000 troops, 4,000 regular police constables and many thousands of special constables sworn in specially to deal with signs of disturbance. State was undoubtedly in a strong position to exercise its control during 1839-48 – given middle-class support gained in result of 1832 Reform Act; historians argue that