One of the facts everyone knows about the Chartists is that they presented three petitions to Parliament.
But they didn’t. There were actually four national Chartist petitions calling for the adoption of the Charter. There was one national drive to collect signatures on lots of local petitions. And there was one enormous petition in 1841 seeking the release of Chartist prisoners.
This page brings together a collection of related articles for each petition. For each of the larger and best known petitions, there are articles on how the petition was organised, the efforts made to present it to Parliament, and on how it was received by the House of Commons. Where possible there are also links to original documents.
The chart beneath shows the rise and fall in support for the Chartist cause, with 1848 highly contested. Presenting the petition Feargus O’Connor had claimed (against the advice of other activists) that it contained 5,700,000 signatures while the parliamentary authorities put the number at no more than 1,900,000. The truth probably lies somewhere in between.
These links go to separate pages on each petition.
Petition for the prisoners, 1841
Petition on behalf of the Chartist prisoners – 1841
Second Petition for the Charter, 1842
Organising the Chartist petition – 1842
Chartist Convention, 1842
Presenting the Chartist ‘leviathan’ petition – 1842
MPs vote to ignore the leviathan petition – 1842
Document: Engraving to commemorate the petition – 1842
The leviathan petition in numbers – 1842