Why Did Chartism Fail?

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Why did Chartism Fail? * Chartism failed because of economic factors – it was simply a ‘knife and fork question’ * Chartism failed because of the inherent weakness of the movement and internal divisions within the movement * Chartism did not really fail in the truest sense of the word – it was defeated by the state
Economic Factors
Some historians have argued that improving economic conditions ensured the Chartist movement faded after 1848 – there had been worsening economic conditions in the period after 1837 which gave rise to the chartist movement. After this period, the lessening economic instability, growing prosperity and rise in living standards after 1848 removed basis for widespread discontent. In economic
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Inherent Weakness
Chartism was a more ‘knee-jerk’ reaction to economic circumstance and exhibited characteristics of political movement. The movement was riddled with inherent weaknesses – divided leadership, regional differences and underlying tactical naivety. 1. Leadership - Bitter personal rivalry between O’Conner and Lovett made divisions with movement over strategy and tactics much worse. Basic split between moral and physical force approaches could not be bridged, after 1840; the movement was fragmented into splinter groups. Fragmentation had a regional dimension: North of England (O’Conner was most influential) continued to favour physical force; Scotland, Christian Chartism became increasingly popular; and in Midlands there was backing for Sturge’s Complete Suffrage Union. Physical force also prominent in that it alienated any lasting middles-class support for movement 2. Tactics – Chartism pushed itself into a tactical corner. Once govt. had made clear that it would not be intimidated by tactics of mass platform or petitioning, chartist leadership desperately needed to define its approach in one direction only, but this did not happen. Moral force ‘New Move’ accelerated growing diversification of movement. Physical force Chartists

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