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All the various shades of reforming sentiment had been fused for the moment by the enthusiasm of the people into one absorbing desire for the Reform Bill of 1832. But when that object was gained, the extreme members of the Liberal party resumed their former position. In a few years they had grown into a party - formidable by their numbers and enthusiasm and by the reasonableness of many of their demands, but enfeebled by injudicious leadership, and by the employment of physical force for the attainment of their purposes. The leaders of this agitation embodied their demands in a document which they termed the People's Charter. It embraced these six points: - Universal suffrage; annual Parliaments; vote by ballot; abolition of property qualification for a seat in the House of Commons; payment of members; equal electoral districts.

In judging to-day the Chartists of fifty years ago, it is necessary to admit, that while we reprobate many parts of then-conduct, we have availed ourselves largely of their doctrines. We have made the suffrage all but universal. We have adopted voting by ballot. We have abolished property qualification. Much of Chartism is now embodied in British law, and all o it was worthy to form the theme of peaceful discussion. But the mass of the Chartist party had not yet risen to the height of seeking their ends by peaceful means. They deliberately chose violence as better fitted for their purpose. Numerous riots occurred, not unattended with bloodshed; and the government, after much forbearance, was obliged to arrest the leaders of the misguided people. During a period of ten years the agitation maintained a formidable vitality. These were mainly years of suffering among the labouring population. Employment was irregular; wages were low; the price of food was kept artificially dear; crime was increasing. Chartism, having its roots in the suffering of the people, expressed, by very rude methods of utterance, the belief that all that suffering was the product of selfish and unjust legislation.

The establishment of a republic in France inspired the Chartist leaders for a supreme effort. The habitual suffering of the period had been intensified by a recent commercial panic, and consequent difficulty in finding employment. Meetings were held everywhere. Incitements to insurrection were addressed to multitudes rendered fierce by hunger, and were received with enthusiasm. A demonstration which it was hoped would intimidate all opponents was resolved upon. A petition of unparalleled dimensions was to be made ready. A meeting on a similar scale was to be held, and a procession of half a million persons would attend the monster petition on its way to the House of Commons. If the overthrow of the monarchy and the setting up of a republic were to be effected by this vast accumulation of popular force, that would be a speedy and therefore a desirable method of gaining long-delayed justice.

Government provided London with defence beside which the forces of insurrection were ludicrous. Two hundred thousand men - special constables and soldiers - were enrolled to meet the expected danger. The Duke of "Wellington did not deem it unworthy of his fame to assume the direction of the arrangements. The bank, the post-office, and other public buildings were strongly fortified and garrisoned. Troops, supported by artillery, were stationed near the bridges. When all necessary dispositions were made, the Chartist leaders were informed that their meeting would not be interfered with, but their procession would not be allowed. The demonstration was, after all, sufficiently harmless. It amounted only to a meeting, at which thirty thousand persons were addressed in the terms customary at such gatherings. A procession was not attempted, and the monster petition, when presented to the House of Commons, was found to contain, not six million signatures as alleged, but two million, many of them fictitious. Ridicule fell upon the cause whose purposes were so poorly supported by performance. Dissension crept into its counsels. Its adherents withdrew in disappointment, and allied themselves with reformers of greater moderation. Under the influence of free trade, the demand for our manufactures began to expand, and employment became abundant. Returning prosperity sapped the foundations of a movement which originated iii calamity and suffering; and the agitation for the People's Charter soon passed into forgetfulness.

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