Joseph Sturge and the Complete Suffrage Union

Joseph Sturge was born into a farming family in Gloucestershire in 1783.  He was a Quaker.  During the 1830s, Sturge was central to the anti-slavery movement, both in Britain and internationally.  He returned to Britain in 1842, and began to work for Parliamentary reform.

Sturge and his Complete Suffrage Union commenced talks in February 1842 ‘in the Birmingham tradition’ – working towards Parliamentary reform through a unity of the middle and working classes.  87 delegates from towns around Britain met in Birmingham Town Hall between 5 and 8 April 1842.  Sturge stressed class unity and peaceful means to gain their aims. 

During the summer of 1842 the second great Chartist Petition was presented to Parliament, and rejected.  Huge strikes broke out around the country, as Chartists were angered by harsh prison sentences for Chartist leaders.

A second Conference was held on Newhall Street in Birmingham in December 1842.  400 delegates attended.  Middle class delegates wanted to drop the Chartist name, which had become associated with violence, but many Chartists, who had worked, been imprisoned and suffered in that name, refused to drop it.  No agreement could be reached and the conference broke down.

Sturge later stood for Parliament on a programme of Parliamentary Reform, but he was not elected.