William Lovett's Chartism.

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In 1876, one hundred years after the American Declaration of Independence of their nation, the author, of a declaration of independence of his class, published his life story.
The working class organiser, William Lovett wrote the famous 'six points' of the People's Charter, 'for the equal representation of the people':
Universal Suffrage; Equal Representation; Annual Parliaments; No Property Qualification; Vote by Ballot, and Payment of Members.'
( Lovett clearly owns these ideas were not original to himself. )

It used to be the custom to say that all these points but annual parliaments were achieved, long after Chartism disappeared.
The US House of Representatives has biennial parliaments. That early radicalism has not been realised generally, tho.

Later, some realised that equal representation required voting to be counted proportionally. Largely, the parties have taken for themselves monopolies of the proportional count. The result has been that all people are equal but parties are more equal than others.

Parties have favored list systems that treat votes as their own personal property to allocate as they please to the candidates on their lists. This lack of democratic principle has brought about any number of arbitrary electoral fixes, pretending to be 'PR' or 'some form of proportional representation.'

In other words, voting systems that use party lists are akin to the old property qualification laws, in all their irrational holds over others.
William Lovett criticised the anomalies of Household Suffrage for

the thousand legal quibbles of house, tenement, land, rating, and taxing which have rendered the Reform Bill a nullity; and which have wasted a countless amount of time and money in the vain attempt to unravel their legal and technical mysteries. And that they might be assured that the adoption of a Household Suffrage would not settle the great question of representative right; for the excluded classes would keep up and prolong the agitation, and be more and more clamorous as the injustice towards them would be more apparent.

Much the same can be said for so-called proportional representation that only extends a Partisan Suffrage of the proportional count to the exclusion of every other possible prefered personal characteristic that candidates possess, by age, sex, race, creed, work, class, language, personality type or whatever.

Like household suffrage, voting systems of the world have become a chaos of legal quibbles and technical mysteries. This is especially true of list votes, which are so much fodder for the parties to share out the seats between themselves. Party lists usurp the guiding principle of the voters' right to elect candidates ( that is supplied by the transferable voting system, in a proportional count ).

William Lovett included Female Suffrage in his draft of a Bill. He later regretted that other Chartists talked him out of it, as too unrealistic an aim.
Of the Working Mens Association, which he founded in 1836, he says:

And as our object is universal, so ( consistent with justice ) ought to be our means to compass it; and we know not of any means more efficient, than to enlist the sympathies and quicken the intellects of our wives and children to a knowledge of their rights and duties; for, as in the absence of knowledge, they are the most formidable obstacles to a man's patriotic exertions, so when imbued with it will they prove his greatest auxiliaries. Read, therefore, talk, and politically and morally instruct your wives and children; let them, as far as possible, share in your pleasures, as they must in your cares;

The modern American movement of Kids Voting shows that educating children in political issues and making voting a family affair increases turn-out.

In 1837, Lovett prepared 'what we believe to be a loyal and outspoken address' to the newly enthroned Queen Victoria. She was warned of the false counsel of Whig and Tory. With their exclusive interests, they would divide her from her people.
This was like an anticipation of Disraeli's Tory Democracy and Radicalism but with the working class taking the initiative to ally with the chief aristocrat. Victoria, like Wellington, however, was no believer in universal suffrage.

Six years after the 1832 Reform Bill, Lovett's election address said:

But it has been urged, as a plea to keep up exclusive legislation, that the people are too ignorant to be trusted with the elective franchise. Are Englishmen less enlightened than Americans? - and has the exercise of their political liberty proved them not to have deserved it? - Nay, in our country, are the unrepresented as a body more ignorant than the present possessors of the franchise? - Can they possibly return more enemies to liberty, more self-interested legislators than are returned by the present constituency to Parliament? The ignorance of which they complain is the offspring of exclusive legislation, for the exclusive few from time immemorial have ever been intent in blocking up every avenue to knowledge. POLITICAL RIGHTS necessarily stimulate men to enquiry - give self-respect - lead them to know their duties as citizens - and, under a wise government, would be made the best corrective of vicious and intemperate habits.

This passage is still relevant. Public apathy is the logical outcome of politics being made an exclusive profession by politicians seeking a career out of it. Most governments have denied the voters an effective choice of representatives and individual policies. Instead, voters are patronised by the take-it-or-leave-it manifestos of the parties. No surprise, if so many people decide to leave it.

In 1840, Lovett founded the National Association for science and technics education, artistic recreations, libraries, cultural society with the aim:

to rescue our brethren from the thralldom of their own vices, and from servilely imitating the corruptions and vices of those above them.

The profound truth of this observation is revealed in Thorstein Veblen's The Theory of the Leisure Class.

Lovett's addresses tend to be burdened with the grace notes of heroic rhetoric. But they have perception and clarity, and, if repetitious, are at least forceful. In other words, they are in Tom Paine's style, earnest with a desperate hope.

The lack of much sense of humor may be excused by the condition of the eighteenth and nineteenth century English working class. Lovett himself was lucky to find work at last among furniture-makers. For a while, this aristocracy of labor resented his presence in their closed shop.
English furniture was accurately joinered but lacked style. French furniture was superbly artistic but you could practically throw the drawers in. So, Lovett tells us, with a rare departure from seriousness.

Lovett shared Paine's abhorrence of physical force to gain one's ends. The catastrophes of violent revolution have proved them right. Lovett was a 'moral force' Chartist simply because force is amoral or without principle:

We are of the opinion that whatever is gained in England by force, by force must be sustained; but whatever springs from knowledge and justice will sustain itself.

In 1844, as secretary to the Democratic Friends of All Nations, he claimed:

Let but the same daring mind and resources which have so often warred with tyranny, and so often been worsted in the conflict, be once morally applied and directed, and citadels, armies, and dungeons will soon lose their power for evil.

This was to prove true of the downfall of East Europe's Communist one-party states. ( Tho, it seems the evils, of ethnic strife, also have been liberated. And corruption also thrives on being privatised. )
Absolutism dreads 'one word of truth'. And pioneer English reformers battled against the tax on knowledge, thru a stamp-dutied press; against social class education; and against secret diplomacy's war conspiracies.

The reformers had their romantic hot-heads for revolutionary secrecy. Lovett recalled of the 1831 National Union of the Working Classes and Others:

we had no trifling number of such characters; and night after night was frequently devoted to prevent them, if possible, from running their own unreflecting heads into danger, and others along with them.

This mentality is well exemplified in A Radical Song, which reflects a blood-thirsty demoralisation after the Napoleonic wars. Its 'freedom' is of the free-booter, the bully and the yob. Speaking of the Devil, one line ( one can well believe in the light of history ) reads:
And should he prepare us in hell a warm berth,
We'll forestall him by making a hell upon earth.

Lovett believed in the moral force of being bold and honest in a just cause, as would enlist public sympathy, rather than be secretive and excite suspicion and persecution.
In 1845, Lovett's National Association address reasoned against anti-democratic conduct, as a means to a professed democratic end, by the physical-force Chartists.
In his 1838 Irish address, he complained

that the principles we advocate have been retarded, injured, or betrayed by leadership, more than by the open hostility of opponents.

Lovett's 1836 Belgian address was the first international working mens address. Many followed, both to Europe and North America. One such speech to the French made five points, which deserve as much historic recognition as 'the six points' of the People's Charter.
The five points are a prototype of the United Nations Charter:

1) a protest against all war as against morality, religion and human happiness;
2) a Conference of Nations, with representatives chosen by the peoples to settle national disputes by arbitration;
3) war expenses to go to education and the improvement of the people;
4) 'to set an example to other nations of that justice, forbearance, morality and religion they preach to their own people.'
5) to set bounds of justice to territorial acquisition.

Another fertile idea, from Lovett, was a General Association of Progress to unite reformers in their diverse aims, rather than leave them divided and weak.

From 1849, Lovett turned most of his attention to education. For example, he didnt think spelling should be taught as an irksome and disagreeable task but as a game and amusement. He knew that to learn work that is useful it had best be enjoyable for its own sake.

R H Tawney's introduction to The Life and Struggles of William Lovett is a diligent summary.

Richard Lung.

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