Birmingham “unity” conference 1842

Throughout 1842, after the rejection by Parliament of the second People’s Charter petition, moves were made to try to unite the middle class reformers of Joseph Sturge’s Council of the Complete Suffrage Union and the more working class National Charter Association in a single body.

In April of that year a conference organised in Birmingham made considerable headway in bringing the two organisations together around a common programme. Despite the doubts of some CSU delegates about the value of annual Parliaments, the ballot and the payment of MPs, substantial agreement was reached on all substantive questions of aims and policy – until the question of the name of the new organisation arose.

In his The Decline of the Chartist Movement, first published in 1916, Preston William Slosson writes: “[William] Lovett and the other Chartists insisted that, having adopted all the points of the Charter, the conference should adopt the name as well; the Complete Suffragists wished some other name to be chosen, regarding the old term as too much associated with the physical-force methods of the past. The delegates could reach no agreement upon the point, and wisely determined to let the question remain unsettled until December. Some practical rules and methods of action were provisionally agreed upon, the conference adjourned, and the Chartists for the first and last time entered upon a campaign with considerable middle-class support.”

A second conference to try to determine a common programme was called to take place in the saloon of the Mechanics Institution, New Hall Street, Birmingham from 27 to 30 December 1842. Weeks of jockeying for position now ensued, with each faction trying to send the most delegates (and with the Chartists trying to ensure that their supporters were sent as delegates of the Complete Suffrage Union’s branches so that the costs would not fall on their supporters).

Things did not start well. T.Beggs, a Nottingham delegate, presented a series of resolutions, supporting the six points of the Charter, asking that the conference support “such means only for obtaining the legislative recognition of them as are of a strictly just, peaceful, legal and constitutional character” and – the principal sticking point – take as the basis for discussion a Bill of Rights prepared by the council of the Complete Suffrage Union.

Slosson reports: “The two measures were substantially identical, as both parties to the conference admitted, but there was an absolute deadlock over the term ‘Chartist’. Lovett, as leader of the Chartist faction at the conference, proposed in the interests of harmony that both bills be withdrawn or both be considered clause by clause. But all attempts at conciliation failed, and Lovett’s original motion carried by the decisive majority of 193 to 94.”

When it became clear that the Charter had the support of the majority of delegates, Joseph Sturge resigned from the chair and withdrew from the conference with many of his supporters to continue their discussions at Wilkins’s Temperance Coffee House. Further splits followed as the conference went on, and by its end the 300 to 400 delegates present at its opening had fallen to just 37.

From this date on Feargus O’Connor was to be the undisputed leader of the Chartist movement (as well as the proprietor of its main newspaper, the Northern Star).

The names below are those listed in the Northern Star of 14 January 1843 as having been delegates at the conference. The table also records their votes on two key questions before the conference. Broadly, those supporting the amendment were Chartists, and those supporting the motion were complete suffragists.

Delegates to the “second Sturge conference”, Birmingham 1842

 MotionAmendment
Airdrie
Wm Bradiea
Alnwick
Joseph Forster1
James Atkinson1
S.Haycock1
Aberdeen
James H Wilson1
John Mitchell1
William Chilton1
Archibald McDonald1
Arnold
Alfred Anthony1
William Talbert1
Arbroath
Charles Crawford1
Archibald Prenticea
Abraham Duncan1
Peter Higgins1
William Thornton1
Feargus O'Connordblerturn
Anderston
Patrick O'Higgins1
William Parkesdblerturn
Laurence Pitkethleya
Andrew Harleya
Barrhead
William Cotton1
Belper
James Vickers1
Brighton
C.Brooker1
J.H.O'Briena
L.T.Clancy1
W.Feest1
Blackburn
William Beesley1
Rev William Hill1
George Mortimer1
Mellin Moore1
Barnsley
John Vallance1
Frank Mirfielda
Bath
Rev T.Spencer1
John Hopkins1
Bromsgrove
Matthew Hall1
Henry Prosser1
Brechin
Joseph Hume MPa
Bury
Thomas Kay1
Edward Murliss1
Bilston
Benjamin Skidmorea
John White1
Bradford
John Smith1
Peter Driver1
John Arran1
Joseph Hammond1
Bridport
Charles Sturge1
Charles Clarke1
Banbury
Robert Cockerill1
Robert K Philp1
E.French1
Bridgewater
Thomas Hill1
F.J.Thompson1
Birmingham
Arthur O'Neilneu
Francis Parkesa
Feargus O'Connor1
George White1
John Followsa
John Horsley1
Bradford (Wilts)
G.Rolf1
C.Truman1
Peter Sibrcea
Joseph Gardner1
Buckby (Long)
John Eyre1
Bristol
Arthur Allbrightdblerturn
John Palmera
J.Johnston1
C.Coarda
Felix W.Simeon1
Henry Onion1
Robert Henry Williams1
John Newman1
Basford (New)
Thomas Rowland1
George Harrison1
Campsie
Con Murray1
Crawley Rowley &c
Jno Blanchfield1
Cambridge
Thomas Woods1
Richard Thurlborn1
John Winfield1
John Hunt1
Carlisle
Walter Thorn1
George Richardson1
Cupar
Rev E.S.Prycea
William Morganneu
William Bigga
John E.Wynna
Crediton
Jonathan Burridge1
Samuel Sidwell1
Colchester
J.B.Harveya
Edward Miall1
William Lovett1
Rev J.Alsoppa
Cheltenham
Augustus Newtona
William Hollis1
William Milson1
Chalford
Richard Workman1
Cirencester
Thomas Taylor1
Ceres
Arthur Albright1
Richard Dell1
Coventry
Peter Hoey1
John Starkiea
Dunshalt
James Adams1
Dunfermline
J.P.Roger1
Andrew Fleming1
James Inglisa
Derby
G.Stevenson1
John West1
Herbert Spencer1
Samuel Pendle1
Dundee
O.J.Rowland1
William Davidson1
Doncaster
Charles Buckleya
Thomas Wright1
Robert Clarkea
Arthur Albrightdblerturn
Dartmouth
Charles Chalkera
Hugh Huttona
Dumfries and Maxwelltown1
John Humphrey
-- Pattersona
Devizes
G.W.Anstie1
George Westley1
Charles Watson1
William Akerman1
Dalkeith
John Thomasona
Exeter
W.Wilkinson1
E.Davy1
Edinburgh
Rev Dr Ritchie1
Robert Lowery1
John Dunlop1
Henry Rankin1
Joseph Sturge1
Thomas S.Duncombe MPa
East Wemyes
John Browna
Elderslie
Charles Thorpe1
Forfar
B.Oakley1
William Cooper1
Falmouth
Julius Palmera
William Daviesa
Josiah Pumphrey1
Henry Morgana
Frome
W.P.Roberts1
R.Dormana
Glasgow
George Andersona
Thomas Ancott
James Moir1
James Adams1
Samuel Kidd1
John Colquhoun1
Galashiels
Rev Robert Blaira
Greenwich
Charles Forth1
Gatehouse
Robert Somersneu
Greenock
George Roberts1
Hammersmith
William Watkins Wynn1
Hebden Bridge
James McVitty1
Hanley
Moses Simpson1
James French1
Hull
William Webster1
Edward Preston Mead1
Daniel Moloney1
William Padget1
Hamilton
Archibald Walker1
Hawick
Thomas Davies1
Halifax
Edward Taylor1
Benjamin Rushton1
Huddersfield
James Shaw1
Thomas Vevers1
William Cunningham1
Edward Clayton1
Ipswich
Henry Vincenta
William Fraser1
D.McPherson1
William Garred1
Rev P.Mursella
Kettering
Rev William Robinsonneu
Edward Jenkinsona
Kilmarnock
William Cottondblerturn
Kirkaldy
Joseph Cobley1
G.B.Haynes1
B.Beesley1
Dr Gloverneu
Kendal
William Stutely1
William Harrisona
Joseph Perry1
Joseph Gardnerdblerturn
Keighley
Joseph Firth1
King's Lynn
John Fielda
F.Evansa
Joseph Corbetta
James Fowella
Kirrimuir
Colonel Thompsona
London – Southwark
John Maynard1
John Rose1
John Kelsey1
John Fussell1
Lambeth
John George Dron1
John Sewell1
Henry Ross1
James B.Brown1
Finsbury
J.Knight1
J.Cluer1
John Campbell1
Henry Hetherington1
Mary-le-bone
John Humphries Parry1
Thomas Lucas1
Robert Buchanan1
Thomas M.Wheeler1
Tower Hamlets
Reverend Dr Wade1
W.Robson1
P.McGrath1
G.Wilson1
Westminster
James Christopher1
J.Skelton1
Ruffey Ridley1
William Clarke1
City of London
Edward Mantz1
Charles Bolwell1
Lye Waste
Joseph Sturmey1
Liverpool
Bernard McCartney1
William Jones1
Thomas Smith Esq1
Henry Jones1
C.G.Gwilliams1
Samuel Cowan1
Leeds
Thomas Fraser1
William Brooke1
Joshua Hobson1
William Barron1
Leslie
Josiah Pumphreydblerturn
Francis Dickinson1
Leith
Robert Picken1
T.B.Eunson1
Loughborough
John Skevington1
Leicester
Thomas Cooper1
Jonathan R.H.Bairstow1
James Duffy1
Robert Jackson1
Mansfield
William Smith Lyndon1
Reverend William Hilldblerturn
Markinch
William Tullisa
John Childsa
Reverend George Cheatlea
Richard Jenkinson1
Market Harborough
Richard Whiteman1
Benjamin Carter1
Melksham
John Owena
Joseph A.Lander1
Merthyr Tydvil
William Mills1
B.Habard1
Merioneth
-- Evans1
Maryhill
Daniel O'Connella
Joseph Gardnerdblerturn
Manchester
James Leach1
Christopher Doyle1
William Dixon1
Jeremiah Lane1
P.M.Brophy1
Thomas Railton1
Newburgh
J.C.Perry1
Samuel Fox1
Newcastle-upon-Tyne
J.Sinclair1
Feargus O'Connordblerturn
A.Fussella
William Hopkinsa
Newport, Isle of Wight
Thomas Pierce1
Nottingham
Samuel Bean1
W.H.Mott1
Thomas Beggs1
R.T.Morrison1
Newtown (Montgomoryshire)
Thomas Morgana
John Lanea
Northwich
Hugh Huttona
Peter Sibreea
Jacob Dixona
James Green1
Newark
Richard Collins1
James Saunders1
Northampton
-- Clarkea
--Holywella
-- Thomea
-- Barkera
Oldbury
C.Vaughana
W.Ball1
Oldham
Henry Chappell1
Francis Lord1
James Greaves1
John Westdblerturn
John Crowder1
Pollockshaws
Charles McEwan1
Paisley
Patrick Brewster1
Robert Cochrane1
Joseph Corbettdblerturn
W.C.Pattisonneu
Preston
William Mattinson1
Richard Marsden1
Renfrew
Henry Sansuma
Patrick Brewsterdblerturn
Redditch
William Parkes1
Rutherglen
W.C.Pattisondblerturn
Charles McEwandblerturn
Rochdale
James Taylor1
Thomas Livseya
Royton
James Mills1
Thomas Lees1
Reading
Lawrence Heyworth1
George Goodrick1
James Vines1
Henry Jamesa
Radford
James Saunders1
Rothall
John Wilmot1
Sudbury
Reverend T.Swan1
John Waltersa
George Lambert1
Robert Wright1
Stroud
Samuel Paul1
Stewarton
Reverend William Stokes1
Strathavon
Feargus O'Connordblerturn
George Whitedblerturn
Stourbridge
T.H.Morgan1
John Chance1
Selby
Edward Berley1
Stockport
Thomas Clarke1
John Atkinson1
Stirling
Reverend H Solly1
William Leaslie1
John Childsdblerturn
Colonel Thompsondblerturn
Southampton
F.C.Cooper Esq1
John J.Ecklessa
South-Shields
David Potts1
George Ashtona
Saltcoats
James Henderson1
John Patterson Reid1
Sunderland
Joseph Sturgedblerturn
W.P.Robertsdblerturn
Thomas Thompson1
James Williamsneu
Sutton-in-Ashfield
William Oliver1
William Parker1
Shutford
T.P.Wrench1
Stonebere
Walter Inglis1
Salford
F.Warren1
Robert McFarlanea
John Millera
John Millingtona
George Smitha
Smethwick
William Hackett1
Mark Gilbert1
Sheffield
Rebard Abbotta
Samel Parkes1
George J Harney1
William Beesleydblerturn
Trowbridge
James Watts1
W.P.Robertsdblerturn
Tonbridge
Christopher Dickinsona
D.T.Rowlinson1
Todmorden
James Fieldena
Henry Shephard1
Taunton
William Bramana
William Harrisondblerturn
Tolcross
P.O'Higginsdblerturn
L.Pitkethleydblerturn
Vale of Leven
Con Murraydblerturn
West Bromwich
John Powell1
George Wilkes1
Wolverhampton
John Humber1
John Willcox1
Wednesdbury
Benjamin Danks1
William Thomason1
Warwick
Charles French1
James Green1
Henry Frencha
Joseph Shephard1
Winchcomb
John Sexty1
Walsall
John Crowa
Andrew Aitkena
John Griffith1
John Mason1
Wellingboro'
William Gent1
James Robinson1
Warrington
B.A.Dromgoole1
Worcester
Robert Hardy1
Henry Stone1
Charles Sharpea
John Hawkins1
J.D.Stevenson1
James Hardinga
J.W.Blackwella
-- Griffithsa
Woodbridge
Joseph F.Taylor1
Rev. H.Taylora
Westbury
William Taylora
John Collins1
Wooton-under-Edge
James Bronterre O'Briendblerturn
James Butlerdblerturn
West Kilbride
Joseph Eames
John Gibbonsa1
Wooldale
Joshua Hobsondblerturn
Rev W.Hilldblerturn
[Note-In the foregoing list, the Italic a means absent; and neu means neutral. The othre marks explain themselves. It is right that we should state that all the neutrals are not set forth. The marks were not entered at the time opposite the name of the delegates, by the Secretary, he only taking down the votes. The votes are rightly set forth: but seven of those represented as absent, were present, but declined to vote. From memory we have picked out seven out of the fourteen; but are not able to recognise the other seven. - Ed. N.S.]
Source: Northern Star, 14 January 1843