Chartist Movement, or Chartism

Definition: The Chartist Movement, or Chartism, was an attempt in Britain to build an independent political party devoted to the interests of working people.

The movement began in 1837 and inspired a general strike in August 1839. A mass demonstration in Newport in November 1839 was met by troops who fired on the crowd and killed at least 15.

The name Chartist came about because the movement advocated a charter for reform of the British political system.

The proposed charter included six points:

  • Universal suffrage (i.e., all men in society would be allowed to vote)
  • Secret ballots
  • Annual Parliaments
  • Removing property requirements for Members of Parliament
  • Payment of Members of Parliament
  • Equal electoral districts

Members of the movement published their own newspaper, the Northern Star, which enabled the spread of Chartist ideas for a number of years. Yet attempts to force Parliament to accept the points of the proposed charter repeatedly failed.

By the time the Chartist Movement faded away in the mid-1850s the six points of the charter had been rejected. But in later years all the points of the charter, except annual Parliaments, would be instituted.