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Way In

Carry on up the chartists

WIChartists.jpg

Chartist meeting, Kennington, 10 April 1848 Feargus O'Connor led this greatest Chartist meeting and took their petition for reform to Parliament. They had all been planning to march to Parliament, but Prime Minister persuaded O'Connor to come alone to avoid violence. The organisers estimated 300,00 attended; the police said 15,000.

 


The recently discovered Chartist Hymnbook will soon be available on CD, recorded by Garth Hewitt, the musician, vicar and founder of Amos Trust.
The very existence of the hymnbook was not generally known, until a copy was found in a cigar box at Todmorden Library in Lancashire.

Chartism is usually considered a secular movement, being a working- class campaign for political reform in the 1830s and 1840s. Their demands were universal adult male suffrage, a secret ballot, the abolition of property qualifications for MPs, payment for MPs, equal-sized constituencies, and annual elections.

The hymnbook however suggests that the campaigners had no interest in keeping religion out of the public sphere:

Shall victim after victim fall
A prey to cruel class-made laws?
Forbid it Lord! on Thee we call,
Protect us and defend our cause.

Hewitt say he wants the hymns to be heard again, 'to highlight the responsibility of Jesus' followers to make our voices heard on behalf of the marginalised.

'It was the first mass labour movement for political reform - and they had a hymnbook! Christian songs about justice are not new!'

Find out more - and contribute to the costs of the project - at garthhewitt.org.