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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. [509]-529 PDF (6.3 MB)


Page 526


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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