Transactions of the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters
volume XII, Part II (1899)
Jones, Edward D.
Chartism -- a chapter in English industrial history, pp. -529 PDF (6.3 MB)
Jones- Chartism. and other vagaries. No one, except the Chartists, has asked for it, and they will rest satisfied with nothing short of the whole. The middle classes are content, and so are nineteen- twentieths of the working people; but this will be of no avail against indistinct terrors, ignorant uneasiness, and speculative, not social, policy. A sanitary bill would, in five years, confer more blessing and obliterate more Chartism than universal suffrage in half a century; but the world, when ill at ease, flies always to politics. and omits the statistics of the chimney-corner, where all a man's comfort or discomfort lies. 1 There is a good deal of wisdom in this comment but no one now thinks of call- ing the movement for the " enlargement of the franchise " which so fundamentally reconstructed English government, a "vagary.' To the argument of this extract it is only fair to append the Chartists' answer which might assume the form of a ques- tion: What chance of success would a sanitation bill or any other radical measure of reform have had in the old aristocratic Parliament supported by a restricted suffrage? The violence of the French Revolution ended Chartism by opening the eyes of the more conservative and reasonable classes of England to the dangers toward which extremists were lead- ing agitation. It precipitated the division of society into two classes; on the one hand, those who felt they had more to gain than to lose by the maintenance of the existing order, and, on the other, such as believed they could improve their fortunes by revolution, As soon as this destinction was clearly drawn Chartism was at an end. Chartism introduced the masses to the larger issues of social and political life, and it is not to be wondered at if they blund- ered after the fashion of a player learning a new game. It must not be forgotten also that many criminal and violent men and many demagogues preyed upon the Chartist movement. We should discriminate their acts from the acts and opinions of the majority. A, few turbulent Physical Force leaders engineered the farce of 1848; the majority staid quietly at home. A view of Chartism to some degree sympathetic, is necessary to enable 'Hodder, I" Life, etc." p. 393. 526
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