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Extracts from the handbook of the People's Charter Union, 17 April 1848
(Catalogue ref: HO 45/2410A, part 4, f. 5)



The Object of our Union is the attainment of the People’s Charter–the recognition by the legislature of our right of political equality, with such provisions as seem necessary for the fair and efficient exercise of that right for the public good. That is to say: –our Union seeks the enactment of UNIVERSAL SUFFRAGE–the admission to the franchise of every man of twenty-one years of age, of sound mind and unconvicted of crime; EQUAL REPRESENTATION – the division of the United Kingdom into equal electoral districts; THE ABOLITION OF THE PROPERTY QUALIFICATION now required of Members of Parliament, and of all qualifications except the choice of the Electors; VOTE BY BALLOT – to prevent bribery and intimidation; ANNUAL PARLIAMENTS – to insure the responsibility of the members to their constituents; AND THE PAYMENT OF MEMBERS – rendered necessary by the abolition of the present property qualification. These are the points of the Charter which we desire to have established as the law of the land: …

We are told that–“The mass of the people are not fit for the franchise.” We answer – the exercise of the franchise will be their best education. – “There must be some test of intelligence.” Where will you have it? Reading and writing, what is called education, will not be sufficiently clear. They are not knowledge, but only the tools of knowledge. – “The difficulty of election.” A sufficient number of polling places will obviate that.–“The swamping of the intelligent by the unintelligent.” Then, as now, we believe, intelligence will know how to win its way. It will scarcely be intelligence else. …

But we claim the Suffrage not merely as a right, but as a means of duty. We believe that, it is not good for a nation that any of its members should be without the political education which teaches a man to care for the interests and honor of his country. We believe that, only by the free and concurrent action of all its members is it possible for a nation to develop all its best capabilities, to reach its highest destination.

We disclaim all desire of injuring others, all sympathy with acts of outrage or disorder. We desire by peaceable and legal means, and by them alone, to alter and amend the institutions of the country: by establishing its legislative system upon the only true basis–the ascertained will of the majority, at once the guarantee of present order, and the promise of peaceful growth and happiness for the future.

Glossary  Transcript

Parliament; lawmakers

universal suffrage the right of everyone to vote; defined in this source as the right of every man of 21 years of age and over, but today defined more widely
ballot the act or method of casting a vote, especially a secret one
franchise right to vote
obviate avoid; remove a difficulty
concurrent agreeing; pursuing the same course or seeking the same goals
disclaim deny; renounce
ascertained discovered; figured out
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