In Britain, the tough times of the late 1830s and 1840s, sometimes called the “hungry forties”, and the underwhelming increase in voters in the Reform Bill of 1832 gave birth to a political movement named Chartism. Chartism was a movement based on improving the political, social, and economic conditions of the working class and is considered the first mass working class movement in the world. The main points of the Chartist movement are defined in the People’s Charter, a document calling for six changes: universal manhood suffrage, the end of the property requirement for Parliament members, annual elections, equal electoral districts, and an income for Parliament members (Doc. 1). During the years of the Chartist movement there was much debate over how extreme and revolutionary they truly were. While many from the higher classes considered Chartism revolutionary and some individuals within the movement were willing to use violence, most Chartists were people who were only willing to try and pass the People’s Charter through the current system.
Almost all of the people in any class above the workers would believe the Chartist movement to be revolutionary based on how radical it was at the time. The middle class, who had successfully achieved their goal of suffrage with the Reform Bill of 1832, turned into a more moderate to conservative and satisfied class that would perceive any other movements as an attack on what power and wealth they had accumulated. In turn, they would try to protect it. One middle class merchant in April 1848 would express his fears of revolution to his wife, erroneously predicting a revolution within the next 2 years, if not within days (Doc. 9). The upper class of landed gentry would have also been very against such movements as Chartism so as to prevent any further loss in power. They had already lost significant political power to the middle class and were now sharing it with them through the Victorian Compromise.
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