English History: The Chartists
5 October 1839
The People's Charter
Source: The Peel Web.
Taken from Norman Gash, The Age of Peel (London, Edward Arnold, 1973), © Professor Gash.
This document was the first Charter produced in 1839 by the Chartists. They made a variety of demands for further reform of parliament. It was presented to the House of Commons by Thomas Attwood and was reprinted in the Chartist Circular, 5 October 1839. Benjamin Disraeli supported the hearing of the Charter in parliament.
Being an Outline of an Act to provide for the just Representation of the People of Great Britain and Ireland in the Commons' House of Parliament: embracing the Principles of Universal Suffrage, no Property Qualification, Annual Parliaments, Equal Representation, Payment of Members, and Vote by
Prepared by a Committee of twelve persons, six members of Parliament and six members of the London Working Men's Association, and addressed to the People of the United Kingdom.
An Act to provide for the just Representation of the People of Great Britain
and Ireland, in the Commons' House of Parliament.
Whereas to insure, in as far as it is best possible by human forethought and
wisdom, the just government of the people, it is necessary to subject those who
have the power of making the laws, to a wholesome and strict responsibility to
those whose duty it is to obey them when made:
And, whereas, this responsibility is best enforced through the
instrumentality of a body which emanates directly from, and is itself
immediately subject to, the whole people, and which completely represents their
feelings and their interests:
And, whereas, as the Common's House of Parliament now exercises in the name
and on the supposed behalf of the people, the power of making the laws, it
ought, in order to fulfil with wisdom and with honesty the great duties imposed
in it, to be made the faithful and accurate representation of the people's
wishes, feelings and interests.
Be it therefore Enacted,
- That from and after the passing of this Act, every male inhabitant of
these realms be entitled to vote for the election of a Member of Parliament,
subject however to the following conditions.
- That he be a native of these realms, or a foreigner who has lived in this
country upwards of two years, and been naturalised.
- That he be twenty-one years of age.
- That he be not proved insane when the list of voters are revised.
- That he be not convicted of felony within six months from and after the
passing of this Act.
- That his electoral rights be not suspended for bribery at elections, or
for personation, or for forgery of election certificates, according to the
penalties of this Act...
- Be it enacted, that for the purpose of obtaining an equal representation
of the people in the Commons' House of Parliament, the United Kingdom be
divided into 300 electoral districts.
- That each such district contain, as nearly as may be, an equal number of
- That the number of inhabitants be taken from the last census, and as soon
as possible after the next ensuing decennial census shall have been taken, the
electoral districts be made to conform thereto.
- That each electoral district be named after the principal city or borough
within its limits.
- That each electoral district return one representative to sit in the
Commons' House of Parliament, and no more. ...
Returning Officer and his Duties
I-III [Returning officers to be elected for each electoral district every
Arrangement for Nominations
- Be it enacted, that for the purpose of guarding against too great a number
of candidates, who might otherwise be heedlessly proposed, as well as for
giving time for the electors to enquire into the merits of the persons who may
be nominated for Members of Parliament, as well as for returning officers,
that all nominations be taken as herinafter directed.
- That for all general elections of Members of Parliament, a requisition of
the following form, signed by at least one hundred qualified electors of the
district, be delivered to the returning officer of the district between the
1st and 10th day of May in each year; and that such requisition constitute the
nomination of such person as a candidate for the district. ...
- that no other qualification shall be required for members to
serve in the Commons' House of Parliament, than the choice of the electors.
Arrangement of Elections
I-VI [Election of MPs to take place annually in June; electors to vote only
in the district in which they are registered' voting to be by secret
Duration of Parliament
- Be it enacted, that Members of the House of Commons chosen as aforesaid,
shall meet on the first Monday in June in each year, and continue their
sittings from time to time as they may deem it convenient, till the first
Monday in June the following, when the next new Parliament is to be chosen:
they shall be eligible to be re-elected.
- That during an adjournment, they be liable to be called together by the
executive, in cases of emergency.
- That a register be kept of the daily attendance of each member, which at
the close of the session shall be printed as a sessional paper, showing how
the members have attended. ...
Payment of Members
- Be it enacted, that every Member of the House of Commons by entitles, at
the close of the session, to a writ of expenses on the Treasury, for his
legislative duties in the public service, and shall be paid £500 per annum.