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"Internal disunity was the main reason for the failure of Chartism"

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Introduction

"Internal disunity was the main reason for the failure of Chartism" To what extent do you agree with this claim? Chartism was a movement established and controlled by workingmen in 1836 to achieve parliamentary democracy in order to achieve social and economic reform. The People's Charter, formed in 1838, was established mainly for parliamentary reform of the problems remaining after the Reform Act of 1832. As many working class people were disappointed that they still couldn't vote. This disappointment became anger after the passing of the 1834 Poor Law. From this, the London Working Men's Association was formed, with William Lovett as their leader, and later on the organisation became the Chartists. The six main demands of the chartists were as follows; votes for all men, equal electoral districts, payment for MPs, the secret ballot, annual general elections, and abolition of the requirement that MPs be property owners. In general, the working classes were miserable living in increasing poverty and increasingly convinced those above them were putting them in the worst conditions possible. The sizes of boroughs still varied too much, and there was no secret ballot, so corruption and intimidation was still a problem. Many therefore turned to Chartism as a way to continue the fight, and consequently caused a significant backing to the movement. ...read more.

Middle

This allowed the government to play down, or even laugh off large-scale events such as the great Chartist demonstration on Kennington Common (10th April 1848) with great conviction, even if it seemed anything but a failure at the time. Coupled with the facts that the government held fast against the points of the Charter and the army remained loyal, it is testament to the leadership qualities of Feargus O'Connor (his organisation and speaking especially) that meetings of this standing could take place at all. However, the government capitalised fully on Chartism's failure to achieve any of its main points and this must be seen as a hugely responsible factor in the movement's downfall. Another way, in which the government's strength was highly influential in the failure of Chartism, was its use of specialised 'reforms', such as The Factory Acts (1844 and 1847) and the repealed Corn Law (1846). While the Chartists wanted to force changes through, such as Universal Suffrage, people saw other, less radical measures allowed through. This was to undermine the Chartist message that no reform could come before political reform, and is a mark of the intelligence of the government. These short-term measures employed by the government helped to appease many people, forcing back progress made by the Chartists. ...read more.

Conclusion

Despite obstacles, such as the three failures to pass the petition, the geographical separation of many supporters, a personality clash that exposed the disparity of ideologies within the movement and the isolated nature of many Chartist protests, O'Connor and his "Northern Star" newspaper acted as a backbone to the movement. Ultimately there must not be too much blame attached to Chartism's leaders to explain its failure, as there was organisation and popular support (300,000 people at peaceful 1838 protests), coupled with the belief and superb speaking skills of O'Connor to raise the belief in audiences. However the ability of the government to control Chartism's strengths by constantly undermining them proves a crucial factor for the failure of Chartism. In my opinion the major reason for the failure of Chartism is the strength of the government who acted calmly to control Chartism's growth with propaganda and strong physical force. Of course there were weaknesses amongst the leadership, but there is every indication that the movement could have succeeded, such was the nature and quantity of support. This was inspired by O'Connor and his "Northern Star", therefore making him both essential and a burden, due to his splits with other Chartist leaders, to the movement. Likewise, the context both aided and hindered Chartism. The greatest achievement of the leaders was to bring political ideas filled with hope to the working classes, which was in my opinion a success for the movement. ...read more.

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