What was the difference between the political and economic issues
What was the difference between the political and economic issues within the Chartism movement?
Chartism was a political reform movement that started in London in the year 1838 and went on for about twenty years after that. The movement was a national rebellion by the British working class, against poor working and living conditions and low wages in the society, especially in the light of heavy and rapid industrialization. In effect, economic reform was the ultimate goal of the movement. However, this goal was formulated into real, practical and achievable political priorities, mainly universal male suffrage.
This was because the movement itself was triggered by certain political circumstances and decisions that were seen to be debilitating to the working class man. With the advent of machines in factories, the demand for human labour decreased rapidly. Factory workers took advantage of the situation to lower wages and treat with disregard the conditions of work and living of the laborers. The burden of taxes fell on the poverty ridden man, with wages being deducted, especially after the abolition of income tax in 1816. There was a series of economic crises in England, most notably in the period that the Whigs party held power, blatantly leaving the office in a massive debt.
Faced with these circumstances, the poor turned to the political system to support them. There was huge support from the poor for the much anticipated Reform Act. However, when it did come, the Reform Act of 1832 was a bitter disappointment to the working class man- it did not address the vote of the non-propertied citizen. Moreover, the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834 took away the only hope left: government relief. It forced the poor and unemployed into dismal and terrible workhouses in order to scrape by. This was accompanied by other political decisions that simply catered to the employers, not the workers. This allowed the employers themselves to be rather arrogant, countering strikes with lock-outs, and using similar strategies which disenfranchised the poor worker further. This was a dark time for the working class who saw the government as unbothered about the lives of its poor people.
The Charter of 1838 was an attempt to gain some sense of control in the political decisions that ultimately affected the working class. The artisans saw hope in the idea that they could chose who governed them, in the democratic ideal of participatory rule. Thus, they lobbied indirectly for economic change through a movement that demanded the political right to vote for every male resident.