Saturday, 30 September 2017

Coming Soon





From the introduction:


The golden age of research into the Chartist Movement began in the late 1950s and came to an end in the mid-1980s. The publication of A.R. Schoyen’s The Chartist Challenge: A Portrait of George Julian Harney (1958) and Asa Briggs ed. Chartist Studies (1959) ushered in this highly productive period. Schoyen set the template for writing the biography of a Chartist. Briggs’ collection set in motion a process of bringing out local studies which within a decade-and-half had left virtually no town or region unexamined. The debate about nature of the movement begun by Gareth Stedman Jones’ lead essay in James Epstein and Dorothy Thompson’s The Chartist Experience (1982) and the appearance of Thompson’s own long-awaited single volume study The Chartists (1984) brought an effective end to this golden era. That is not to say that over the last thirty years interesting and important books and articles on Chartism have not appeared. Undeniably they have; but they have tended to complete long-recognised needs – a thorough and reliable narrative history or biographies of such leading figures as Ernest Jones and Bronterre O’Brien – rather than set out new approaches as earlier work had.


The Chartist Legacy (1999) exemplified the fragmentation of Chartist studies. Whereas the earlier volumes edited by Briggs and Epstein and Thompson had originated in, respectively, a shared intention to explore the localities or address a set of questions formulated at two weekend seminars at Thompson’s country house, the editors of this volume gave contributors a free hand to write about whatever they wanted and did not even ask them to consider the implications of the book’s title. The years after the mid-1980s might have seen scholars setting off to explore the small caverns of Chartism, but enough was being produced to merit a follow-up to the bibliography of the movement that appeared in 1978. This second volume, which I co-edited with Owen Ashton and Robert Fyson in 1995, not only listed all these new publications but also collected together a vast array of the manuscript sources to be found in the archives. The publication was celebrated with the largest spread of cream cakes at any gathering of Chartists or Chartist scholars, courtesy of Staffordshire University.

The present volume is intended as a supplement to The Chartist Movement: A New Annotated Bibliography. There is no overlap and it lists only material located or published since 1995. It will be seen that only a small amount of new manuscript material has been unearthed in the last two decades – of which the petitions on behalf of the leaders of the Newport rising in the Home Office papers in the National Archives are the most important. Similarly, most of the pamphlet and periodical literature is listed in the earlier biographies – though, after the disappointment of concluding that a copy of the much sought-after Shakespearean Chartist Hymn Book of the Leicester Chartists had not survived, the discovery of a Chartist hymn book from a few years later has proved to be an exciting substitute.

The number of postgraduate theses relating to Chartism produced in the last twenty years is instructive. Whereas, we were able to list 132 theses presented between 1978 and 1995, this book lists only 36 theses presented between 1995 and 2018. If Chartism is not exerting the magnetic pull on postgraduate students that it once did, those who have got the bug have continued to be extremely productive. Local studies have not entirely disappeared, with the Chartists of Ashton-under-Lyne, in a series of essays by Robert Hall, revealing much of interest about the movement. Literary scholars continue to analyse the poetry and fiction of the Chartists, and have shown signs of moving away from such favoured writers as Ernest Jones and Gerald Massey. There have also been early steps in new directions – including a growing interest in how satirical magazines presented the Chartists and in the mapping of Chartist meetings. The Chartist Movement may not feature as prominently as it once did in sixth form and undergraduate courses, but, in the twenty-first century, this impressive expression of the defiance and optimism of working people in the second quarter of the nineteenth century continues to fascinate.

Thursday, 28 September 2017

Whig reforms 1832-1841

During the 1833 and 1834 sessions Lord Althorp,[1] leader of the House of Commons, showed that the energy for further reform remained strong. Although ministers sympathised with and even promoted specific bills in general, legislation to improve the condition of the ‘lower orders’ such as factory, education and Poor Law reform resulted partly because of extra-parliamentary pressure and fact-finding Royal Commissions. Althorp’s record suggests, however, that the Whig government did have certain political principles as well as humanitarian concerns and that their actions cannot be seen simply as a response to external pressures.
Melbourne, Prime Minister briefly in 1834 and between 1835 and 1841 led a government that was far less radical that Grey’s.[2] There were various reasons for this. Melbourne fought General Elections in 1835 (called by the Conservatives after the minority government of Sir Robert Peel was defeated) and in 1837 (after the death of William IV). This reduced the Whig majority to 32 after 1837 and Melbourne had to rely on the support of the Irish MPs or the agreement of the Conservatives to get legislation through Parliament. By temperament Melbourne was not a radical reformer preferring gradual to fundamental change.
By 1835, Britain had experienced almost a decade of frenetic change and need a period of stability. Lord John Russell[3] offended radicals in the autumn of 1837, acquiring the nickname of ‘Finality Jack’, when he strongly defended the reform settlement and declared himself against further reform. By the late 1830s, however, the Whigs were showing signs of stress. Unemployment and manufacturing depression deepened after 1838 and the government appeared to have no answers to the economic and social problems facing Britain.
However, Melbourne’s government did introduce important reforms on church matters. The Ecclesiastical Revenues Commission that had been established in June 1832 to investigate the financial structure of the Church of England was not very effective and, during Peel’s minority administration in early 1835, a new Commission was set up to ‘consider the State of the Established Church’. Made permanent in 1836 as the Ecclesiastical Commission, it introduced a series of major reforms of the Church’s structure. These measures reinforced State control over the Church.

The following is a summary of reforming legislation passed between 1832 and 1841:

1833
Slavery abolished throughout the British Empire and £20 million allocated as compensation for slave owners. The abolition of slavery was clearly influenced by the extra-parliamentary campaign. It also redeemed pledges given to the electorate by many Whig candidates in the 1830 and 1832 General Elections. The measure disappointed humanitarians by delaying full emancipation of slaves until a period of ‘apprenticeship’ in limited freedom had been served (seven years for slaves who worked on the land, five years for the rest).
Factory Act passed but it applied only to the textile industry. It restricted the employment of young children and established an inspectorate to enforce the act. This laid the foundation for later social and industrial legislation.
£20,000 was granted to the voluntary societies providing elementary education. This established the principle of state-assisted education.
Reform of the law by Henry Brougham, Lord Chancellor establishing the central criminal court and the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.
Irish Church Temporalities Act abolished 10 Church of Ireland bishoprics and reduced the revenues of the remainder. Surplus revenues to be used for purely church purposes.
1834
Poor Law Amendment Act reformed the existing system of poor relief. It introduced workhouses and said that all relief should be in the workhouse. Parishes were grouped together into Poor Law Unions to improve efficiency and reduce costs.
1835
Municipal Corporations Act
1836
Commutation of Tithes Act legislated for tithes to be paid in money (a rent charge) based on the average price of corn in previous seven years. Tithes were paid to the Church of England and consisted of a tenth part of the main produce of the land (corn, oats, wood etc.) and a tenth part of the profits of labour. They were very unpopular, especially with Nonconformists and often difficult for clergymen to collect. The rent charge was abolished in 1925 and any remaining tithes in 1936.
Dissenters’ Marriage Act allowing Nonconformists to be married outside an Anglican church, in special circumstances by a civil ceremony. The registration of births, marriages and deaths made compulsory with the introduction of civil registration. This ended the Anglican Church’s monopoly of the registration of baptisms, marriages and burials.
Act enabling London University to grant degrees. This broke the monopoly of Oxford and Cambridge universities where students had to be Anglicans to take a degree. London University was open to all Protestants.
1838
The Pluralities Act placed restrictions on clerical pluralism (clergymen having more than one parish). Acts for building and enlarging churches were also passed.
1839
Education grant increased to £30,000 and government inspectors appointed to supervise the schools receiving the grant.
1840
Excess revenues of cathedrals were distributed to parishes with the greatest needs.

Problems for the Whigs

The Whigs faced threats to public order and property. They inherited the Swing disturbances across southern England when they came to power in November 1830. Melbourne, as Home Secretary urged local magistrates to act vigorously against rioters. Of the 1,976 prisoners tried in thirty-four counties 252 were sentenced to death though only 19 were hanged, 505 were transported and 644 were imprisoned. No other protest movement in this period was treated as severely.
The Whig governments faced other challenges to its authority in the first half of the 1830s. There were campaigns against stamp duties[5] on newspaper taxes, for factory movement, trade union activity on an unprecedented scale and the anti-Poor Law agitation, as well as the campaign for parliamentary reform. Radical working-class opinion was disappointed by the attitude of the Whigs to their demands. The Reform Act was seen as the ‘great betrayal’. The 1833 Factory Act did not meet the aspirations of the extra-parliamentary factory reformers. The 1834 Poor Law Amendment Act led to widespread opposition and attacks on trade unions culminating in the case of the Tolpuddle Martyrs.[6]
Chartism posed a more serious challenge to the government. Russell, as Home Secretary until late August 1839, initially behaved with restraint, assuming that its appeal was limited. By mid-1839, however, a harder policy had emerged as the Home Office recognised that local authorities could not manage without support. Drilling was banned. Six thousand regular troops were stationed in the north and leading Chartists were arrested, tried and imprisoned or, in some cases, transported.
The Whig party found itself under attack from a revitalised Tory party led by Sir Robert Peel and by internal divisions. The Tory party, trounced in the 1832 General Election revived and the Whigs saw their majority in the Commons gradually eroded. The number of Conservative MPs rose from 150 after the 1832 election to about 290 in 1835 and then 313 in 1837 and finally 370 when they won in 1841.
Some MPs who had voted for reform in 1832 returned to Conservative ranks. There was a long-running battle between Edward Stanley, the Irish Secretary, and Lord John Russell over the direction of Irish policy especially lay appropriation[7] contained in the Irish Temporalities Bill of 1833 but later dropped when it encountered opposition in the House of Lords. Russell, however, continued to urge the principle. This led to the resignation of four cabinet ministers, Edward Stanley, [8] Sir James Graham, the Duke of Richmond and the Earl of Ripon, the so-called ‘Derby Dilly’. [9] Policies, largely initiated by Russell, towards Ireland and in favour of nonconformists led to a gradual alienation of some of the government’s more moderate supporters in the House of Commons. Over thirty MPs who had voted for reform in 1832 crossed to the Conservative benches between 1833 and 1837.
In July 1834, the government was embarrassed by revelations that it had negotiated with O’Connell when deciding whether to renew the Irish Coercion Bill. This led to Grey’s retirement and his replacement by Lord Melbourne. Melbourne proposed that Russell should become leader of the House of Commons in November. William IV objected to this and Melbourne resigned. Peel formed a minority Conservative administration and gained about 100 seats in the early 1835 General Election. This did not give him a parliamentary majority and was forced to resign in April 1835. His defeat was made possible by the ‘Litchfield House compact’ of March 1835 when the Whigs and O’Connell’s Irish MPs agreed to cooperate to remove Peel. Melbourne returned with Russell as Home Secretary. The Whigs’ relations with the Crown improved with the accession of Victoria in June 1837. A close personal relationship developed between Melbourne and Victoria. This was exploited in the ‘Bedchamber crisis’ of 1839. In May 1839, the Whig majority was reduced to five and Melbourne decided to resign. The Queen, however, refused to change any of the Ladies of her Bedchamber who were all Whigs. Peel would not form a government under such circumstance—a very useful excuse for him as he would again lead a minority government--and Melbourne returned to office. This gave the Whigs two more years in power but Peel no longer supported them on moderate issues.
  --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
[1] John Charles Spencer, Viscount Althorp, 3rd Earl Spencer (1782-1845) preferred private life to politics but played a central role in Grey’s and Melbourne’s ministries as Chancellor of the Exchequer. She succeeded his father as Earl Spencer in November 1834 and left political life. He was not an eloquent speaker but had the confidence of the House of Commons because of his honesty.
[2] William Lamb, 2nd Viscount Melbourne (1779-1848) was Home Secretary 1830-1834 and Prime Minister in 1834 and against from 1835 to 1841. Though he led a Whig government, he was by nature conservative in his attitudes. He holds the distinction of being the last Prime Minister to be dismissed by the monarch (William IV in 1834).
[3] Lord John Russell, 1st Earl Russell (1792-1878) was a radical Whig politician, at least in his youth. He was Postmaster General 1830-1834, Home Secretary 1835-1839 and Colonial Secretary 1839-1841. He served as Prime Minister between 1846 and 1852 and again in 1865-1866.
[4] Henry Brougham, 1st Baron Brougham and Vaux (1778-1868) was a barrister and writer by profession. He helped found the Edinburgh Review in 1802 and London University in 1828. He was Lord Chancellor between 1830 and 1834 introducing radical reform of the legal system and supervising the passage of the Reform Act but never held office again.
[5] There was a stamp duty on newspapers. This was very unpopular as it pushed up prices. Many believed it was a government device for keeping information out of the hands of the working-class
[6] The Tolpuddle Martyrs were six farm labourers from Dorset transported to Australia for trade union activity. Their plight, seen by many of grossly unfair, proved an important focal point for radical activity in 1834 and 1835. Lord Melbourne refused to pardon them as Home Secretary but when Prime Minister he allowed Lord John Russell, his Home Secretary to do so.
[7] Lay appropriation meant using the revenues of the Church of Ireland for non-church or temporal activities such as funding non-denominational schools.
[8] Lord Edward Smith-Stanley, (1799-1869) 14th Earl of Derby (1851-1869) was Chief Secretary for Ireland 1830-1833 and Colonial Secretary 1833-1834 but resigned over the question of lay appropriation. He served in Peel’s government as Colonial Secretary 1841-1845 before resigning over the proposal to repeal the Corn Laws. He was later Prime Minister of Conservative governments in 1852, 1858-1859 and 1866-1868.
[9] Sir James Graham (1792-1861) backed Canning in the 1820s but supported the Whig government until 1834. He was Peel’s Home Secretary between 1841 and 1846.

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Whigs and constitutional reform 1830-1835

The Whigs supported the idea of both parliamentary and social reform. When they came to power in late 1830, they put parliamentary reform at the centre of their political agenda and it dominated debate until the Reform Act was passed in 1832. In addition to parliamentary reform, there was reform of the local vestries in 1831 and municipal government in 1835.

 
Reform of parliament in 1832 and of towns and cities, three years later and important developments in dealing with the poor, factory conditions and education marked the Whig governments as ‘reforming’ administrations and the 1830s as ‘the decade of reform’. The measures they introduced began a process of reform that was not completed until the 1870s.

 

1830 November
Wellington speaks against the need for parliamentary reform (2 November); government defeated on a vote (15 November); Wellington resigned the following day. Whig administration formed under Earl Grey.
 
1831 March
 
First Reform Bill introduced into House of Commons; passes Second Reading but only by one vote (302 to 302).
 
April
 
Government defeated on an amendment objecting to the reduction in the number of MPs for England and Wales at the Committee Stage. Parliament dissolved.
 
June
 
Whigs returned after General Election: the MPs split into 370 pro-reformers, 235 anti-reformers and 53 undecided. Second Reform Bill introduced into Parliament 24 June.
 
July
 
Second Reading carried 367 to 231.
 
September
 
Third Reading carried by 345 to 236 (22 September).
 
October
 
House of Lords reject the Bill by 41 votes (199 to 158) (8 October); widespread rioting in Nottingham and Derby (8-10 October) and Bristol (29-31 October) as a result of the rejection of the Bill.
 
December
 
Third Reform Bill introduced into Commons (12 December) and passes its Second Reading in the Commons before Christmas.
 
1832 January
 
William IV agrees to the creation of peers in order to ensure Reform Acts can be passed.
 
March
 
Reform Bill passes Third Reading in the Commons by 355 to 239 votes (22 March).
 
April
 
Reform Bill passes Second Reading in the Lords by nine votes (13 April).
 
May
 
Government defeat on Lord Lyndhurst’s motion led to the resignation of ministers. ‘Days of May’ (9-15 May) when Wellington asked to form an administration but is unable to do so. The King is compelled to recall Grey and confirm that peers will be created to ensure the passage of the Bill.
 
June
 
Reform Bill passes Third Reading in the Lords (106 to 22) and receives Royal Assent (4 and 7 June)
 
July
 
Scottish Reform Act passed.
 
August
 
Irish Reform Act passed.
 
December
 
General Election under the new franchise: Whigs 483 MPs, Tories 175.
 
The death of George IV and the accession of William IV in early 1830 had two important consequences. There had to be a General Election within six months of the death of the monarch. This meant that Wellington had to fight an election at least two years earlier than he expected with his party still deeply divided over the passage of Catholic Emancipation. George IV’s long-standing veto on the Whig leader was removed as William IV was prepared for Earl Grey to become Prime Minister.

When Wellington conceded Catholic Emancipation in 1829, he made himself very unpopular with his party and with the British people. His problems were made worse by the outbreak of revolution in France in July 1830[1] and the ‘Swing’ riots in August, both of which raised the threat of widespread public disorder in Britain. Despite his unpopularity, Wellington did well in the election and the Tories gained 21 seats. Parliamentary reform had been an important issue in some constituencies but concerns about economic conditions, the continuation of the Corn Laws and the effects of Catholic Emancipation and of the ending of slavery in the British Empire were also evident.
 
It was clear when Parliament reassembled in October 1830 that the question of parliamentary reform could not be ignored but Wellington ruled this out in a speech he gave on 2 November. This led to the fall of his administration when he was defeated on a crucial vote of the Civil List (monies paid to the monarchy) on 15 November. Both the Huskisson Tories and some ultra-Tories were prepared to vote against their party because of his attitude to further reform. Wellington no longer had the confidence of the House of Commons and resigned the following day. The Whigs formed a government making the introduction of parliamentary reform inevitable. The Whigs long-standing commitment to reform led to 18 months of frenetic activity inside and outside Parliament that culminated in the passage of the Reform Acts in mid-1832.
 
The Reform Act 1832
 
1. Disfranchising clauses
  • 56 rotten or nomination boroughs returning 111 MPs lost their representation.
  • 30 boroughs with less than 4,000 inhabitants lost one MP each.
  • Weymouth and Melcombe Regis gave up 2 of their 4 members.
  • 143 seats were made available for redistribution.

2. Enfranchising clauses
  • 65 seats were awarded to the counties.
  • 44 seats distributed to 22 large towns including Manchester, Leeds, Birmingham and Sheffield and to new London metropolitan districts.
  • 21 smaller towns were given one MP each.
  • Scotland given 8 extra seats.
  • Ireland gains 5 extra seats.

3. The franchise
  • In the boroughs, the franchise was given to all householders paying a yearly rent of £10 and, subject to a one year residence qualification, £10 lodgers (if sharing a house and the landlord not in residence).
  • In the counties, the franchise was given to 40s freeholders[2]; £10 copyholders[3] and long-lease holders and £50 short-lease holders or tenants-at-will.[4] Borough freeholders could also vote in the counties where they held land if their freehold was between 40s and £10 or if it was over £10 and occupied by a tenant.
  • Registration of electors for each constituency on an electoral roll revised annually.
  • Those with ‘ancient rights’[5] retained their vote until their death.
  • No secret ballot.
The Reform Act redefined who had the right to vote in both counties and boroughs. The electorate of England and Wales increased by 78 per cent between 1831 and 1833 rising from 366,250 to 652,777 but this still represented only five per cent of the population of England and Wales in the 1831 census. Parliamentary seats were redistributed, especially in England, provided MPs for areas of growing population and economic influence. 56 rotten boroughs lost both their MPs and 40 smaller boroughs lost one MP. These seats were then given (or redistributed) to places previously without their own MPs. While the Acts removed the most obvious defects of the unreformed system, they did not remove all the inequalities of representation: they did introduce democracy nor did not give the middle-classes control of the political system. As Earl Grey,[6] the Whig Prime Minister, observed that the Reform Acts were essentially ‘aristocratic measures’, which aimed at preserving the power of the landowner by aligning them with the propertied middle-classes.


Their achievement lay in establishing a political climate in which questions about reforming the constitution and discussion of new political ideas were acceptable and no longer considered revolutionary. Radical working-class opinion was disappointed by the attitude of the Whigs to their demands but they had not united in their attitude to reform between 1830 and 1832. Some radicals were prepared to accept limited household suffrage and to work with middle-class reformers; others led by Henry Hunt demanded manhood suffrage and were unwilling to collaborate. Either way, working-class aspirations were not met by the Reform Act and it was subsequently seen as the ‘great betrayal’.

Was 1832 an expression of change or continuity? Although contemporaries thought that the Reform Acts were middle-class measures, the reality was somewhat different. The urban middle-class were happy to elect MPs from the landed interest. The composition of the 1833 Parliament was not very different from the unreformed one. Between 70 and 80 per cent of MPs were still from the landed interest and no more than a hundred were from the professional and industrial middle-classes, a number comparable with elections before 1832.


Municipal reform

In July 1833, a Royal Commission was set up to consider the question of municipal reform. Its report, published in 1835, formed the basis of the Municipal Corporations Act that extended the principles of the 1832 Reform Act. Many towns were unincorporated. They had no charter giving them independent rights and under the control of the local magistrates and paid the county rate.[7] Corporate towns, so called because they were run by an elected corporation had charters, many of them dating to the Middle Ages. The distribution of incorporated and unincorporated towns was an accident of history rather than a consequence of size or importance. Many of the rapidly growing cities, like Birmingham, Manchester and Sheffield, were without corporations. Reform was necessary to take account of changes in population and the move from a rural-agrarian economy to and urban-industrial one.

There were pressing arguments for reform. Law and order was a growing problem for both national and local government. Many feared that large towns were increasingly ungovernable because of their undisciplined populations. The unreformed corporations tended to be largely Tory and Anglican which, was unacceptable to the emerging industrial urban elites with their Whig and Nonconformist sympathies. They believed that reform would allow for a degree of equity between the economic interests in towns. The corporations were generally self-electing. For radicals, this meant that urban elites could maintain themselves in power and exclude others (especially the middle-classes). Municipal reform was seen as a necessary part of parliamentary reform.

The Royal Commission criticised the inefficiency and corruption of the existing corporations. The government accepted the its proposals and the bill quickly passed the Commons. However, it met substantial Tory opposition in the Lords. Its passage was eased when the Whigs compromised on some of the contentious issues: aldermen were retained and made up a quarter of a council, councillors were to have substantial property qualifications and in boroughs with over 6,000 inhabitants the town was to be divided into wards. The bill became law in September 1835. Twenty-two new boroughs were incorporated within twenty years, including Manchester and Birmingham in 1838.
  • 178 corporations were abolished and replaced by elected councils.
  • A uniform household franchise was established by which all occupiers with a three-year residence qualification could vote for the first council and after that annually for one third of the council.
  • Each council elected its own mayor and aldermen.
  • All debates would be open and accounts publicly audited.
  • Corporations could take over the duties of local improvement commissions. Few councils took advantage of this permissive clause.
  • Corporations could levy rates.
  • Councils must form watch committees and could establish borough police forces.
  • The Act laid down procedures by which a town could petition for incorporation.



[1] The July Revolution in France resulted in the removal of the last Bourbon king, Charles X and his replacement by the more liberal Louis Philippe.
[2] Freeholders owned their own land.
[3] Copyholders were tenants who had a lease for 20 to 25 years giving them considerable security of tenure.
[4] Tenants-at-will had short-term leases and were consequently more easily ‘influenced’ by their landlords to vote the way they wanted with the threat of eviction of tenants did not.
[5] ‘Ancient rights’ applied to those who had the right to vote under the pre-1832 system.
[6] Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey (1764-1845) held office in 1806-1807 but had to wait until 1830 until he became Prime Minister, a position he held until 1834.
[7] Local government taxes were raised for either specific purposes (like building a local bridge) or to cover general spending. The county rate was a general tax.