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Chartist Petition, June 1839

In the years after the 1832 Reform Act an air of dissatisfaction became apparent regarding the legislative failure to enfranchise the nascent working classes. The Chartist movement would be born from such frustrations.

Coming to prominence in the mid-1830s they used a platform of public precipitative assembly to espouse their call for universal male suffrage. 1839 was a landmark year, in May a rally attended by their leader Feargus O'Connor in West Yorkshire drew a crowd of 200,000 and shortly after a petition was presented to Parliament containing 1,280,000 signatures. Thomas Attwood, MP for Birmingham was the unofficial Chartist spokesman within Parliament and he led a debate on the ‘National Petition' the following month

Further enfranchisement petitions were submitted to Westminster but by 1848 as revolution swept across Europe the Chartists began to slip from public consciousness. However Chartism would remain a seminal influence for the reformists who in the preceding decades forced through the legislation that became the second Reform Act.