Chartism: Working Class and Inclusive Cultural Community Essay Example
Chartism: Working Class and Inclusive Cultural Community Essay Example

Chartism: Working Class and Inclusive Cultural Community Essay Example

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  • Pages: 4 (831 words)
  • Published: June 18, 2018
  • Type: Essay
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In the history block of this module, you learnt about three explanations for Chartism’s support – a reaction to economic pressure, national political movement and an inclusive cultural community. What evidence is there in the extract above of examples of each of these factors? Which of the three, if any appear to dominate in this extract? The speech is a primary source of information reproduced on page 5 of the Northern Star newspaper, the main voice in print of Chartism (O’Day et al. , 2011, p107).

It is an extract of a speech made by an unknown speaker and chosen by the course team therefore one cannot be absolutely sure of the veracity of the piece as a true representation of the Chartist movement. This appears to be a politically motivated speech aimed at rallying support rather than an exposition of Chartism. I


t does include references to the audiences’ economic circumstances, as if needing to justify the political focus. More emphasis will be placed on the political and economic rhetoric as references to inclusivity are limited.

All three themes will be considered but the intention is to demonstrate that political action is the key theme of the speech. The Chartist movement came into being because of the economic circumstances of the working classes in industrial areas. This is reinforced by Asa Briggs who argues that Chartism was strongest in those older industrial areas where industry was dying or in newer areas where industry was expanding. Rural areas of the country had few or no supporters at all (Briggs 1959 Secondary Source 1).

The speech was made at a period of economic stress and high social tension (O’Day e

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al. , 2011, p117), and the first eight lines of Paragraph 4 of the extract concentrate on the economic theme. “Destitution in horrid form stalks through streets (Para 4 Line1), “its emaciated frames, its haggard features, its ragged clothing (Para 4 Line3) and “its skeleton-like, ghastly aspect” (Para4 Line 4). These references build a picture of the situation people found themselves in and moved workers to support the cause, but in the speech they are used almost as a sop for the audience.

Chartism’s longevity and spread across the industrial areas of the United Kingdom is thought to have been due to its appeal to all working class people. Events and opportunities for social interaction were provided enabling members to meet together and feel as if they were actively participating in the movement. In the extract there are very few references, compared to the other themes, to the inclusive cultural community and all refer to men. “Men, brethren of the human race” (Para1Line 1) and “Honourable gentlemen ... he working class only” (Para 3 Line1). While inclusivity was important in keeping the organisation popular it would seem from the limited references that this was not the main focus for the speaker. This was a time of working class discontent when workers and the movement as a whole were seeking answers to the social injustices they suffered. The speech was made at a time when Parliament and government were dominated by the aristocracy (O’Day et al. , 2011, p96).

Democracy was seen as a way of resolving the economic circumstances of the worker and political action was thought to be the mechanism to bring this about. Paragraphs 3

and 5 contain almost exclusively political rhetoric with the speaker seeking the audiences support. There are many references to support this,” the rich unnaturally elevated above the proper spheres of the mortal man” (Para2 Line 3) and “mustering your thousands to aid the death –struggle between the rich oppressor and the poor oppressed” (Para2 Lines 6/7).

The speaker excites the audience to increase the numbers supporting the movement and finishes the sentence with “or they will die in the struggle” (Para 5 Line 2/3) as a call to encourage greater support. Few references are made to the inclusive social community and the economic references are mainly concentrated in Paragraph 4 suggesting they were more to satisfy the audience than the main focus of the speech.

All three themes contributed to the movements support across the country with economics being the spur, political action the means for change and social inclusiveness the glue that kept the movement together. From the extract the audience appears to be most animated when political references are made, especially to the disparity between the wealthy ruling class and the poor oppressed worker. Gareth Steadman Jones argues that Chartism was foremost a political movement ot just a response to economic circumstances but reinforced by a “shared conviction articulating a political solution to distress” (Secondary Source 2 Steadman Jones 1983). From the tenor of the speech, the dominance of political references, and that it was made in favour of the motion “every male adult.... ought to have voice in the making of the laws by which he is governed” (Line 6/7 of the background information), it can be concluded that this is a political speech

aimed at enthusing the audience to support political action, as this was seen as the mechanism to achieve democratic reform.

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