First Chartist Convention, 1839: the General Convention of the Industrious Classes

After the best part of a year collecting signatures for their first great petition, the Chartists met to prepare its submission to Parliament.

The idea of calling a Convention to oversee the petition and what was to come after it was without precedent. But as the Chartist movement – as yet unnamed – began to coalesce around the Six Points and the petition during 1838, so it became clear that a national steering body was required.

This is one of a number of articles dealing with the First Chartist Petition. See also:
Organising the first Chartist petition – 1839
Full text of the petition – 1839
Presenting the First Chartist petition – 1839
Chartist Convention – 1839
Document: Petition for the People’s Charter

To stay within the law, the first Chartist Convention would need to be made up of no more than 49 members, each elected at public meeting rather than as a delegate from any given organisation (see the list of those elected). In practical terms, it would need financial support – a National Rent’ made up of contributions. The initiative for this came from the Birmingham Political Union, but was seized and acted on by Radical opinion throughout the country, with first of Chartism’s ‘monster meetings’ taking place to elect delegates on Kersal Moor, just north of Manchester.

Large-scale demonstrations continued to take place throughout the autumn of 1838, some held by torchlight, causing consternation among the authorities. At times the Chartist tenor of these meetings merged with anti-poor law feeling, adding to the groundswell of anger.

Delegates to the convention, 1839

The General Convention of the Industrious Classes met for the first time at the British Coffee House, Cockburn Street, on 4 February 1839. They would move on just two days later to a Radical and by all accounts shabby drinking club called the Honourable and Ancient Lumber Troop just off Fleet Street. Few there had any illusions that Parliament would accept and enact the Six Points. But for most delegates, the Convention’s remit went far beyond simply compiling and presenting the petition. Indeed, much of the debate was precisely about what else should be done, and when it should be attempted.

Among the ulterior measures debated by delegates, either publicly or more quietly behind the scenes, were:
• A concerted withdrawal of savings from the banks;
• Abstention from taxed items such as beer, tea and coffee;
• Exclusive dealing – boycotting the businesses of those hostile to the cause; and
• A general strike or ‘sacred month’.

It was in connection with this final option that many Chartist localities began to stockpile pikes and even firearms, ready to defend themselves against the use of the military to enforce order, and to begin drilling, often under the guidance of former soldiers.

The Chartist historian Malcolm Chase in Chartism: A New History says that the main divide within the Convention was not over whether to adopt ulterior measures, but when to do so: either immediately or as an option following the rejection of the petition.

The following account of the Convention was written by the author of the Charter, William Lovett in his autobiography, The Life and Struggles of William Lovett in his pursuit of Bread, Knowledge and Freedom (Trubner & Co, London, 1876).

William Lovett on the first Chartist Convention…

The General Convention of the Industrious Classes originated with the Birmingham Political Union, as did also the National Rent Fund, the proposal for a Sacred Month, the plan of Simultaneous Meetings, and the first National Petition. This last document was, I believe, drawn up by the late Mr. R. K. Douglas, then editor of the Birmingham Journal, an able and talented writer, and a keen, clear, eloquent speaker; one, in fact, of the most efficient men delegated to the Convention. The delegates to this body were, for the most part, appointed by very large bodies of men. The Birmingham meeting was composed of 200,000, the Manchester meeting of 300,000, that of Glasgow of 150,000, of Newcastle of 70,000, and other towns equally large in proportion to their population. The number of delegates composing the Convention was fifty-three, many of them representing several places, with the view to economy. Of this number three were magistrates, six newspaper editors, one clergyman of the Church of England, one Dissenting minister, and two doctors of medicine, the remainder being shopkeepers, tradesmen, and journeymen. They held their first meeting at the British Coffee House, Cockspur Street, Charing Cross, on Monday, February 4th, 1839, and subsequently met in the hall of the Honourable and Ancient Lumber Troop, Bolt Court, Fleet Street. On their first assembling the Birmingham delegates proposed me as secretary, and, though the proposition was at first strongly opposed by some of the physical force party, I was eventually elected unanimously. This, it would seem, gave great offence to [Feargus] O’Connor, who was not present when the election took place, for at the next meeting he posted up a notice of motion, by the adoption of which he thought he should get rid of me as secretary. It was to the effect that persons accepting any paid office in the Convention should resign their delegation. Finding, however, that I had resolved to offer my services gratuitously as secretary, rather than resign my privilege as a delegate, he withdrew the notice he had given.

Not intending in this memoir to give a particular history of all the doings of the Convention, I shall confine myself to a few of the most prominent particulars, sufficient perhaps to show the causes that marred the great object we had in view, that of creating and extending a public opinion in favour of the principles o f the People’s Charter. Soon after our assembling the subject of the Queen’s speech from the throne became a question for discussion, in consequence of a passage in it charging some portion of the people with “disobedience, and resistance to the laws”. This induced us to put forth an address to the people (drawn up by Dr. Taylor), in which the charge was repudiated, and in which the Whigs were reminded of their own resistance to the laws, for the forcing of the Reform Bill, when Mr. William Brougham and Lord Fitzwilliam in particular publicly declared their resolution of resisting the law by the nonpayment of taxes.

The rules and regulations for conducting our proceedings, drawn up by myself, were next agreed to, and a barrister consulted for ascertaining the legality of our objects, whose opinion, though very guardedly worded, seemed satisfactory to the members. On the collection of the petition sheets from different towns it was found that many parts of the country, in which there had been no political organization, had done little or nothing towards procuring signatures. This caused us to delay its presentation for a few weeks, and in the interim to send out a number of our members as missionaries to different parts of the country, with the view of making the principles of the Charter more generally known, and for obtaining additional signatures to our petition. The instructions given to our missionaries were, “to refrain from all violent and unconstitutional language, and not to infringe the law in any manner by word or deed.” Mr. James Paul Cobbett, delegate from Yorkshire, seems to have been alarmed by this resolution to send out missionaries, and shortly afterwards brought forward a series of resolutions, to the effect that the whole business of the Convention should be to present the national petition. This proposal, not being agreed to by the members, that gentleman gave in his resignation. The delay, too, in presenting the petition. gave great offence to the physical force party, and more especially to the Democratic Association of London, at the head of which was Mr. George Julian Harney, one of the most indiscreet, if not the most violent among them, for he scrupled not to flourish his dagger at public meetings, in order to give point to his perorations.* This party, being joined by a few of the most hotheaded and enthusiatic members of the Convention, were very industrious out of doors in censuring and denouncing us for our delay at their various meetings, and also created much excitement, division, and loss of time in the Convention by their insane and foolish conduct. It was to gratify this party that O’Connor brought forward his motion for calling the public meeting at the Crown and Anchor, on March 11th, at which meeting the physical force party displayed such violence and folly as to cause the Birmingham delegates, Messrs. Salt, Hadley, and Douglas, to secede from us. It may be necessary, however, to state that this violent party were greatly in the minority, both for numbers and talent, till the resignation of the Birmingham delegates and other resignations that speedily followed, whose places were supplied, for the most part, with men of less reasonable views. During the delay that took place in the presentation of the petition, those of the members not engaged as missionaries employed themselves in the discussion of a variety of questions brought before them. About the first of those questions was that of “ulterior measures,” or measures to be adopted if the petition should be rejected. This was introduced by Bailie Craig, of Ayrshire, but which question it was judged prudent to postpone until after the presentation of the petition. The “grievances of Ireland” also gave rise to a long discussion, but very little practical benefit, as did also “the suffering in the manufacturing districts,” the factory system,” the “New Rural Police Bill,” and several other subjects. In fact the love of talk was as characteristic of our little house as the big one at Westminster. Among the letters read one morning was one from the London Democratic Association, containing a series of resolutions passed at one of their meetings, to the effect, “that if the Convention did its duty the Charter would be the law of the land in less than a month;” “that no delay should take place in the presentation of the national petition;” and that every act of injustice and oppression should be immediately met by resistance.” A motion that this ultra communication should not be received gave rise to a very long discussion, in which the conduct of three members, Harney, Ryder, and Marsden (who took part in the meeting referred to), was very warmly reprobated and condemned. They having expressed their approbation of the resolutions referred to during the debate, a motion was brought forward at the next meeting by Mr. Whittle, the editor of the Champion, to the effect that they should be called upon to offer an apology for, and disclaimer of the resolutions addressed to the Convention. They having refused to do this, a motion was brought forward the next day for expelling them, when they deemed it advisable to make the apology required, after they had thus wasted three days of our time.

Another subject, about this period, which produced great excitement in the Convention, as well as throughout the country, was the conduct of Lord John Russell’s Ministry towards Mr. John Frost, of Newport (one of our members), whom they struck from the roll of magistrates for attending two Chartist meetings in London. It was thought, however, that Mr. Frost’s straightforward and independent letter to Lord John Russell, in reply to the charge made against him, formed a more serious offence in the eyes of his little mightiness, than the ostensible one of attending the meetings. That Mr. Frost’s conduct, as a magistrate and a man, was greatly estimated by his townsmen may be judged of by the fact that, on the first rumour of his exclusion, a testimonial was transmitted to the Home Secretary on his behalf, signed by most of the leading and influential men of the town, men of all political creeds and opinions.

In the beginning of April Mr. Richardson brought forward a motion, of which he had given previous notice, relative to the right of the people to arm, and in a long speech quoted a great many authorities, ancient and modern, in support of his views. A resolution to the effect “that it was admitted by the highest authorities, beyond the possibility of doubt, that the people of this country had the right to use arms,” was finally agreed to, it having been supported by Messrs. O’Brien, Fletcher, M’Douall, Harney, Neesom, and O’Connor, and opposed by Halley, Carpenter, Burns, Rogers, and others.

One day towards the latter end of this month O’Connor got up and called the attention of the Convention to the fact, that in the indictment sent up to the King’s Bench against the Rev. Mr. Stephens, the jurors had declared on their oaths, that the Convention was an illegal body. On the following day he proposed “that on Monday, the 13th of May, the Convention should commence holding its sittings in Birmingham.” No reasonable argument having been adduced in favour of such a motion, and thinking, moreover, that it seemed a cowardly proceeding, I thought it well to propose an amendment to the effect “that we continue to hold our sittings in London till after the presentation of the petition, and until we had come to some vote respecting the introduction of the People’s Charter to Parliament.” My amendment having been lost by a majority of seven, and other objections having been taken to O’Connor’s motion it was postponed to a future day.

On the 6th of May the national petition was taken to the residence of Mr. Attwood, in Panton Square, that gentleman, in conjunction with Mr. Fielden, having promised to present it to parliament on the following Monday.

When all the sheets of this bulky document were united it was found to be nearly three miles long, and signed by 1,283,000 persons, all of them, I believe, the genuine signatures of men earnest in their desire for the suffrage, however they may have differed about the means of obtaining it. On our arrival at Mr. Attwood’s, that gentleman informed us that he was then doubtful when he should be able to present it, as Lord John Russell’s resignation from the Ministry was expected that evening. We informed him that we were desirous that he should present it as early as possible, and that he should also take the earliest opportunity to move for leave to bring in a Bill entitled the People’s Charter. This last he refused to do, as he said he did not agree with all the points of it, especially that of electoral districts. A long conversation then took place regarding what he would do in the matter, which, he said, would altogether depend on the manner in which he was treated by the House of Commons when he presented the petition. In fact the issue of paper money was more important to Mr. Attwood than the People’s Charter. One of our members, Mr. Vincent, having been arrested on the 10th of May, 1839, on a warrant by the magistrates of Newport, on a charge of conspiracy and sedition, Fergus O’Connor again brought forward his motion for adjourning to Birmingham. The topics of his speech were, the change of ministers; the arrest of Vincent, the safety of the Convention, and the sympathy and support we should have if we adjourned to Birmingham. In this proposal he was supported by many delegates who had previously opposed it, as the change in the ministry had rendered it doubtful when the petition would be presented. There were others who opposed it on the grounds that we had not yet agreed to the project of “ulterior measures,” of which so much had been said. And here I deem it necessary to give a brief history of our “Manifesto of Ulterior Measures,” for reasons hereafter stated.

As many members of the Convention lodged at the Arundle Coffee House, opposite St. Clement’s Church, a number of us were induced to subscribe a small sum for the purpose of retaining the first floor of that place to ourselves, it being a very convenient place for assembling together to talk matters over when we were not engaged in the business of the Convention. As many of the physical force party, on those occasions, as well as in the convention, had talked largely of “ulterior measures,” without seeming to entertain any very clear ideas on the subject, many of the more prudent portion thought it necessary to call a meeting of the delegates together in that room for the purpose of talking the matter over and arriving at some definite opinion on the subject, rather than trust to its being hastily introduced to the convention by some hot-headed member without thought or consideration. A meeting of the delegates was therefore called at the “Arundle” for the purpose of talking the subject over among ourselves before it was introduced publicly to the Convention. At this meeting a large number of the delegates attended, a chairman was appointed, and every member present called upon in rotation for his opinion regarding the ulterior measures to be adopted should the prayer of the petition be rejected. As their secretary, I took notes of the opinions given and conclusions arrived at, which in the course of the week I embodied in the form of a manifesto, and laid before them at their next meeting at the same place. At that meeting the Rev. Mr. Stephens attended, and, after the manifesto was read over, he and others were very complimentary in its praise. It was then resolved that we should hold another meeting at the rooms of the Working Men’s Association for the purpose of discussing it clause by clause. After it had been thus discussed it was all but unanimously agreed to, the only, dissentient being Mr. Halley, of Dunfermline. Being thus far agreed to, it was resolved that we should publicly name a committee the next day in the Convention for considering the subject of ulterior measures. We did so, the committee named being Messrs. Frost, O’Connor, Bussy, Pitkeithley and Mills, together with myself as secretary. The manifesto as prepared was laid before them, and, after some slight verbal alterations, was agreed to, and ordered to be laid before the Convention as their report. Before, however, this could be done, O’Connor had proposed the adjournment to Birmingham, as before described; so that when the manifesto was brought before the Convention, it was resolved “that the further consideration of it be deferred till we got to Birmingham.” To that town we accordingly went on the 13th of May, and were welcomed by a vast assemblage of the people, whose excitement about this period had been greatly increased by the arbitrary conduct of their local authorities regarding the right of meetings in the Bull-ring, coupled with Lord John Russell’s letter to the magistracy offering arms to any association of the middle classes that might be formed for putting down the Chartist meetings. The day after our arrival at Birmingham the consideration of the manifesto took place, which, after some trifling amendment, was adopted, and ten thousand copies of it ordered to be printed and circulated. At the next meeting O’Connor proposed that in the event of any attempt being made to interfere with the simultaneous meetings, about to be held, the delegates should repair to Birmingham, declare their meetings permanent, and “recommend the observance of all the measures contained in the manifesto.” During the Whitsun holidays the delegates repaired to their different constituencies for the purpose of attending the simultaneous meetings, and for ascertaining the opinion of the people regarding the manifesto. O’Connor (and others who have since condemned that document) spoke at several of those meetings, but not one word did they say in opposition to, or in repudiation of it at that time, but when I was cooped up in Warwick Gaol he had the impudence to boast that he was the man that prevented the Sacred Month from taking Place! although, as described, he was an active party in recommending it. He subsequently on several occasions endeavoured to persuade his dupes that I was the concoctor of the violent measure, although himself and his disciples were the first to talk of arming, of the run upon the banks, and the Attwood project of the sacred month. I mention these facts in no way to disclaim the hand I had in it, although I believe that I did an act of folly in being a party to some of its provisions; but I sacrificed much in that convention for the sake of union, and for the love and hope I had in the cause, and I have still vanity enough to believe that if I had not been imprisoned I could have prevented many of the outbreaks and follies that occurred.

* Our friend Harney has since redeemed his past violence and folly, by his intelligent writings and moderation in the cause of right and justice.

Ulterior measures

As Lovett explains in his autobiography, when the Convention broke for the Whitsun holidays at the end of May, delegates were sent back to their constituencies to sound out opinion about the ‘ulterior measures’ that should be adopted if Parliament rejected the petition. These measures came at the end of a lengthy manifesto agreed ‘after some trifling amendment’ soon after the Convention moved from London to Birmingham. On their return from their constituencies, however, it became clear that many delegates were uneasy at the idea of a sacred month or advising their constituents to arm themselves.

But Lovett’s involvement in the Convention had ended by the time these issues were thrashed out, having been arrested and imprisoned in Warwick Gaol for signing, as secretary to the Convention, a resolution condemning the authorities for their suppression of riots at the Bull Ring in Birmingham.

The manifesto drawn up by the Convention recommended:

That at all simultaneous public meetings to be held for the purpose of petitioning the Queen to call good men to her councils, as well as at all subsequent meetings of your unions or associations up to the 1st of July, you submit the following questions to the people there assembled: –

1. Whether they will be prepared, at the request of the Convention, to withdraw all sums of money they may individually or collectively have placed in savings’ banks, private banks, or in the hands of any person hostile to their just rights?

2. Whether, at the same request, they will be prepared immediately to convert all their paper money into gold and silver?

3. Whether, if the Convention shall determine that a sacred month will be necessary to prepare the millions to secure the charter of their political salvation, they will firmly resolve to abstain from their labours during that period, as well as from the use of all intoxicating drinks?

4. Whether, according to their old constitutional right – a right which modern legislators would fain annihilate – they have prepared themselves with the arms of freemen to defend the laws and constitutional privileges their ancestors bequeathed to them?

5. Whether they will provide themselves with chartist candidates, so as to be prepared to propose them for their representatives at the next general election; and if returned by show of hands such candidates to consider themselves veritable representatives of the people – to meet in London at a time hereafter to be determined on?*

6. Whether they will resolve to deal exclusively with Chartists, and in all cases of persecution rally around and protect all those who may suffer in their righteous cause?

7. Whether by all and every means in their power they will perseveringly contend for the great objects of the People’s Charter, and resolve that no counter agitation for a less measure of justice shall divert them from their righteous object?

8. Whether the people will determine to obey all the just and constitutional requests of the majority of the Convention?

* This was James Bronterre O’Brien’s plan

Delegates to the first Chartist Convention

William Lovett was clear that 53 delegates made up the Convention. The actual numbers are more fluid – both because some delegates were replaced during the course of the Convention, and because others either never took their seats, or attended for just part of the time, so that the number of those meeting never rose above 50. The following list is an attempt to consolidate the names given in a number of sources, with brief biographical details where possible. Their constituencies are given in brackets.

W G Burns, ‘a shoemaker and newsagent… fiery temperament.*** (Dundee)

Peter Bussey, the landlord of a beerhouse, ‘he was a happy specimen of the burly Old English publican; his uncouth manner rendered him an especial favourite of the Bradford Democrats, who regarded his bluntness as a proof of his genuine honesty”*; fled to America 1839, but returned and died in Horsforth near Leeds, 1869. See Chartists in America (Bradford)

William Cardo, shoemaker, pro-physical force; later arrested in Newport after the Newport rebellion and ‘hustled out’ of the town by its mayor; implicated by informers in putative wider uprising; later accused of being part of a Tory conspiracy.**** (Marylebone)

William Carpenter, editor of The Charter, see also his entry in Chartists in America (Bolton)

William Carrier, presented with a silk scarf by the married ladies of Trowbridge at a mass meeting on 30 September 1838, once attended a meeting ‘on a white charger, and dealt out the most unmeasured invectives against the Government’; he was later charged with sedition and sentenced to two years’ hard labour. (Trowbridge and Bradford)

John Cleave, kept a booksellers shop in Shoe Lane, publisher of the Weekly Police Gazette ; active in radical politics in the capital since at least 1829, founder member of the London Working Men’s Association; remained loyal to Lovett in the break with O’Connor, joining his National Association.**** See Knowledge Chartism. (London)

James Paul Cobbett, son of the radical journalist William Cobbett, and a barrister; married John Fielden’s daughter; resigned from the Convention when it rejected his appeal for it to limit its activities to presenting the petition. (Yorkshire and Manchester)

John Collins, a slightly built man of undistinguished appearance, yet he had a pleasant voice and unaffected manner’; recent recruit to the Birmingham Political Union council in 1838, he was despatched to Scotland to enlist the support of radicals; ‘dedicated to his task as perhaps only one who is rising in political or social rank can be’; arrested July 1839 after the Bull Ring riots and gaoled for a year; ‘sank into mental and physical debility’ before his death about 1850**. (Birmingham)

Bailie Hugh Craig, Kilmarnock draper and leader of the political union, returned to Scotland at the end of April to contest the Ayrshire parliamentary election, and on his return to the Convention resigned over the move to Birmingham and ‘ulterior measures’ being considered by delegates to enforce the Charter***. (Ayrshire)

Christopher Dean, operative stonemason, elected to replace Wroe following his resignation.***** (Manchester)

John Deegan, ‘working man’, later arrested in 1843 for having ‘at a public meeting in Rochdale recommended the people to arm’*, see also his entry in Chartists in America. (New Mills)

Robert Kellie Douglas, editor, Birmingham Journal , took on the task of drafting the Charter petition but relinquished it on having doubts about many of the six points, ‘a more practical hand at organising and directing things. But he was erratic and moody and, while respected, was not well-liked or trusted’.** (Birmingham)

Abram or Abraham Duncan, prominent Glasgow trade unionist, rallied support for ‘moral force’ before the Convention; later lectured on Chartism and teetotalism, and became pastor of a Chartist church for Arbroath, Alloa and Falkirk.*** (Dumfries)

George Edmunds, attorney’s clerk who led agitation for parliamentary reform 1816-19; the son of a Baptist minister, ‘he had dark, curly hair on a large head, clear, piercing eyes, and a round, well-proportioned face’; least radical of the founders of the Birmingham Political Union; first of the Birmingham delegates to resign from the Convention; later became clerk of the peace in Birmingham.** (Birmingham)

Fenny, arrested after the Convention in Manchester ‘for various political offences’.* (Wigan)

Dr Matthew Fletcher, ‘a medical man of sorts’ who tried to galvanise the Convention to oppose the Rural Police Bill with a bloodthirsty speech that he later complained had been garbled by the press; essentially an opponent of the New Poor Law, he would later claim that the Charter had been put forward by supporters of the Act to divert opposition.**** (Bury – elected at Manchester)

John Frost, magistrate and former mayor, later transported for leading the Newport rebellion (Newport)

William Gill, ‘a working man’*. (Sheffield)

Benjamin Hadley, pearl button manufacturer, born 14 July 1791, a ‘stern and inflexible character’ with a dissenting background, his ‘style of speaking was little short of frenzied’; currency reformer and founder member of Birmingham Political Union; resigned from the Convention after the Crown & Anchor meeting of the O’Connorites; emigrated to Albany, Australia, 1839.** Alderman of Birmingham and warden of St Martin’s in the Bull Ring.**** (Birmingham)

Alexander Halley, ‘a working man of Dunfermline noted for moderation, mild language and sound sense’.*** (Dunfermline, Paisley and elsewhere)

George Julian Harney, founder of the East London Democratic Association, to the left of the London Working Men’s Association; later editor of the Northern Star; later founder of the Fraternal Democrats which built links with European socialists including Karl Marx and Frederick Engels; owner-editor of the Red Republican. (Newcastle)

Richard Hartwell, compositor and founder member of the London Working Men’s Association, won over to physical force Chartism by experiences lecturing in the North and Midlands; formerly treasurer of the Dorchester Labourers Fund ‘which position he lost under grave suspicion of dishonesty’.**** (London)

Henry Hetherington, born 1792, became a printer and fell under the influence of Robert Owen. Vastly influential in the campaign against stamp duty (tax on newspapers), and an early member of the London Working Men’s Association; respected moral force Chartist and newspaper publisher; died of cholera, 1849. (London)

Charles Jones, ‘tall and commanding, with a bold profile, dark flashing eyes, and curly raven hair’, he had been destined for the Church but threw himself into the Chartist cause instead and was ‘utterly discarded by his family connections’*. (North Wales)

Robert Knox, favoured alliance with the middle classes.**** (Durham)

George Loveless, one of the Tolpuddle Martyrs, he never took his seat.**** (Dorset)

William Lovett, secretary to the Convention and author of the Charter; a leading light in the London Working Men’s Association, he was gaoled after the Convention and parted company with the mainstream of Chartism thereafter, devoting himself to education. See Knowledge Chartism. (London)

Robert Lowrey, tailor, (Newcastle)

Peter Murray M’Douall, elected in place of Stephens; born in Scotland but raised at Ramsbottom, Lancashire, he became a medical doctor, ‘rather short but possessed a straight and well erected frame; in personal appearance he was decidedly handsome’*. (Ashton)

Richard Marsden, impoverished handloom weaver who moved from Manchester to Preston during the slump of 1829; radicalised by his experience of the Convention, he went on the run after fellow delegates began to be arrested, but was arrested in Bolton in July 1840; charges eventually dropped; often reliant on money collected by fellow Chartists to feed his family.****** (Preston)

Patrick Matthew, ‘a prosperous grain dealer and landed proprietor… a well educated man with decidedly Radical opinions’, he returned to Scotland in early April to consult his constituents because of concerns over the ‘intemperate language and ultra character of the major party of the Convention’; resigned rather than return as instructed by a delegate meeting of 9 April.*** (Dunfermline, Paisley and elsewhere)

Mealing (Bath)

James Mills, Methodist Unitarian, later joined forces with Joseph Sturge and his Complete Suffrage Union.**** (Oldham)

James Moir, tea merchant and figurehead of Glasgow Chartism. (Glasgow)

Richard Moore, ‘a carver in wood, an honest, unobtrusive man’; founder member of the London Working Men’s Association and later of William Lovett’s National Association. (London)

George Frederick Muntz, born 1794, he took over his father’s metal-rolling mill in 1811 but made his fortune after discovering a new alloy; a founding member of the Birmingham Political Union, Ultra-Tory in politics and an ally of Attwood in the cause of monetary reform. ‘In appearance he was most unusual: he was very heavy and muscular, and in a day when shaving was almost universal he sported a bushy black beard. In his faded blue coat and baggy trousers, with an outsized walking stick in his hand and with a noticeable swagger to his gait, he was an unmistakable figure in Birmingham’.** (Birmingham)

Philip Henry Muntz, younger brother of George Muntz ‘and an equally large and bearded but less volatile man’ who had chaired the Birmingham Political Union in 1835. Muntz was part of the delegation to Glasgow that launched the Charter petition, but was also among the first to resign from the Convention over the threat of physical force in support of the Charter. In 1867, Muntz was elected a Liberal MP for Birmingham.** (Birmingham)

Charles H Neesom, 1785-1861, a master-tailor, he moved from Scarborough to London in 1810, becoming active in radical politics; founder of the East London Democratic Association; arrested in London after the Newport uprising as a member of an alleged plot to overthrow the government, he later softened his politics and joined William Lovett in his National Association. (Bristol)

Nightingale (Manchester)

James Bronterre O’Brien, born 1805 in Ireland and educated at Trinity College Dublin; active in radical journalism, taking over the editorship of the Poor Man’s Guardian when Hetherington was gaoled; tried to find a third way between physical and moral force schools, but was gaoled for 18 months in 1840 for sedition; broke with O’Connor to join the Complete Suffrage Union; died 1864. (London and Manchester)

Feargus O’Connor, born 1796 in Ireland; early ally of Daniel O’Connell but later split with him after attempting to seize leadership of the Irish radical MPs; joined the London Working Men’s Association early on, but found a powerbase in the North with Richard Oastler and Joseph Rayner Stephens in campaigning against the New Poor Law; for more than a decade the moving force of the Chartist movement through the National Charter Association, Land Association and the Northern Star , which he owned; notorious for destruction of all rivals within Chartism, but lost power after 1848; became mentally ill and died in 1855.

Osborne (Brighton)

John Pierce, thimble manufacturer whose ‘elfish appearance… belied his belligerent temperament’; emigrated to New Zealand and died in a boating accident, 1840.** (Birmingham)

Lawrence Pitkeithley or Pitkeithly, Huddersfield merchant, see also his entry in Chartists in America (West Riding)

John Richards, ‘an old veteran worker’* (Staffordshire Potteries)

Reginald James Richardson, secretary of the Manchester Political Union and veteran of the campaign against the New Poor Law, printer and bookseller operating from 19 Chapel Street, Salford; advocated the right of Englishmen to possess arms; resigned to be replaced by Tillman, and later gaoled for nine months for inciting riot and rebellion.***** (Manchester)

William Rider or Ryder, ‘a working man’; resigned his seat at a mass meeting on Peeps Green in July 1839 declaring that ‘there were not eight honest men in the Convention’*. (West Riding)

George Rogers, ‘mild mannered tobacconist’ who nevertheless spoke of ‘signing the petition in red’ at the Crown and Anchor meeting on 16 March which so alienated middle class delegates. Joined William Lovett in the National Association, but then claimed his signature had been forged when attacked by the Northern Star . **** (London)

Thomas Clutton Salt, lamp manufacturer and Ultra Tory, frequently involved in public arguments arising from the fact that his conduct was ‘characterised by great enthusiasm but little discretion’; widely regarded as a good-hearted man, he first came to attention in 1826 when he led a protest against ‘fiscal oppression’; early recruit to the Birmingham Political Union; fell into bitter dispute with O’Connor and eventually resigned from the Convention at the end of March 1839.*** (Birminghan)

W Villiers Sankey, the son of a member of the last Irish Parliament before union*; ‘Greek scholar, philologist, mathematician, astronomist, medical theorist and graduate of Dublin and Cambridge’, initially one of the more radical voices of the Convention, he resigned in protest at the move to Birmingham and the threatened use of physical force***.(Edinburgh)

John Skevington, “veteran in the Radical cause”*; represented his town at the Unity conference of 1842; may also have been the James Skevington charged at the Lancaster Trial of 1842 alongside O’Connor and others (Loughborough)

Smart, ‘an old gentleman’* (Leicester)

George Henry Smith, arrested after the Convention in Manchester and found guilty of sedition (Liverpool)

Rev Joseph Rayner Stephens, Ultra-Tory opponent of the New Poor Law, forced to stand down before the Convention began after being arrested and recanting his radical beliefs – despite which he was imprisoned for 18 months*. (Ashton – elected at Manchester)

Dr John Taylor, advocated at a speech in Glasgow that Chartists should favour Chartist shopkeepers; tried with McDouall to dissuade rioters at the Bull Ring during the Convention, but ‘the reward which Dr Taylor received for saving the lives of two policemen, and inducing the people to throw down their arms, was an arrest without a warrant, at two o’clock in the morning, and made with all the brutality common to Jacks-in-office’; ‘Poor Dr Taylor, utterly disappointed in the results of the Chartist movement, and broken in health by incessant agitating, retired to the house of his brother-in-law, an Irish clergyman, hwere he rapidly sank, and in a short time breathed his last.’* (Newcastle)

James Taylor, Methodist Unitarian preacher who lived in Rochdale and preached throughout East Lancashire.**** (Rochdale – elected at Manchester)

William Tillman, replaced Richardson following his resignation, later charged along with Richardson and William Benbow with incitement to riot and rebellion.***** (Manchester)

Tite (Reading)

Henry Vincent, born London 1813, but moved to Hull as a child; after completing apprenticeship as a printer, returned to London, joining the London Working Men’s Association; powerful advocate of Chartism on tours of the West Country and Wales, he was arrested – thus providing a pretext for the Monmouth uprising; imprisoned again soon after his release; married Lucy Cleave, daughter of John Cleave; firm advocate of temperance, over which he parted company with Feargus O’Connor; remained a member of the National Charter Association but also backed Joseph Sturge’s Complete Suffrage Union; contested several parliamentary seats; died 1878. (London)

Rev Dr Arthur Wade, ‘The active part he performed at the time of the Consolidated Trades’ Union; the warm sympathy he manifested on behalf of the Dorchester labourers, and the interest he always took in anything that related to the working class, had gained for him their general confidence and esteem, which was doubtless enhanced by the curious fact that he was a clergyman of the Established Church.’* Non-resident vicar of St Nicholas’, Warwick, ‘leaned towards radicalism and was the only extremist on the council’ of the Birmingham Political Union.** (Nottingham)

Warden, ‘Belonging to the extreme physical force school, he deemed all moral means of agitation, beyond what was necessary to marshal the democratic forces, as mere waste of time’*. (Bolton)

James Whittle, editor, Champion. (Liverpool)

James Roe or Wroe, printer and bookseller in Great Ancoats Street, Manchester; active since Peterloo, former superintendent of the Radical Union School Room, imprisoned for selling radical literature.***** (Manchester)

* The History of the Chartist Movement 1837-1854, by R.G.Gammage

** The Birmingham Political Union and the Movements for Reform in Britain 1830-1839 , by Carlos Flick, Archon Books, Connnecticut, 1978.

*** The Chartist Movement in Scotland , Alexander Wilson, Augustus M Kelley, New York, 1970

**** The Chartist Movement , Mark Hovell, Manchester University Press, second edition, 1925

***** Chartism in Manchester 1838-58 , by Edmund and Ruth Frow, Manchester Free Press, 1980

****** Richard Marsden and the Preston Chartists, 1837-1848, by J E King, Centre for North West Regional Studies, University of Lancashire, 1981