contitutional question: chartists

Friday, March 19th, 2004

This speech by Benjamin Disraeli gives a good entrance into certain issues we might want to take into consideration as we move into tech and cuture issues in English Literature, especially concerning cultural movements, such as Chartism. I urge the BL students to read it and follow the hypertext links. I’ll have more to say about basic political party issues in a few days.

Two views of the Chartist movement, from different points of view, from Marjie Bloy of The Victorian Web:

Bronterre O’Brien, Operative, 17 March 1839

Universal suffrage means meat and drink and clothing, good hours, and good beds, and good substantial furniture for every man, woman and child who will do a fair day’s work. Universal suffrage means a complete mastery, by all the people over all the laws and institutions in the country; and with that mastery the power of providing suitable employment for all, as well as of securing to all the full proceeds of their employment.

Archibald Alison, “The Chartists and Universal Suffrage”, Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine September 1839

The working-classes have now proved themselves unworthy of that extension of the Suffrage for which they contend; and that, whatever doubts might formerly have existed on the subject in the minds of well-meaning and enthusiastic, but simple and ill-informed men, it is now established beyond all doubt, that Universal Suffrage in reality means nothing else but universal pillage… What the working-classes understand by political power, is just the means of putting their hands in their neighbour’s and that it was the belief that the Reform Bill would give them that power, which was the main cause of the enthusiasm in its favour, and the disgust of the failure of these hopes, the principal reason of the present clamour for an extension of the Suffrage.


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