Skip to main content

1838 People's Charter

The 1832 Great Reform Act, which made wide-ranging changes to the electoral system, did little to increase the political rights of the working classes. In 1836, cabinet maker William Lovett formed the London Working Men's Association, which in 1838 published a People's Charter. Presented as a popular Magna Carta, its famous ‘six points' demanded universal male suffrage, the removal of the property qualification for MPs, annual elections, equal constituency sizes, payment for MPs, and secret ballots in elections. Its supporters, known as Chartists, launched a petition in Glasgow backing its aims. They collected 1,280,958 signatures and Thomas Attwood MP presented it to Parliament in 1839. MPs refused to debate the charter, leading to riots and even an armed uprising in Newport, South Wales in which at least 22 Chartists were killed. More petitions were mounted, but the movement declined after internal disagreements and a Government crackdown. By 1918, however, all but one of its demands had been met.